Thursday, November 29, 2012

Packing away

 As of this writing tonight, all of the Halloween decorations from the front yard are down, and in the house. Most of them are packed away in their boxes. I'm attempting more organization of my Halloween things than I have ever done-- going so far as to take photos of everything I have, and in a neat computer file, organize the photos according to which numbered box they are in. This, as you may expect, with so many things, is a lenghty work in progress.

 A quick story about this process; of Halloween completely, finally, going away. Two weeks ago, on a crisp, cool November morning-- a Saturday-- I thought I heard someone on the porch. I pulled a curtain aside, and on my porch were three Jehovah's Witnesses, who had not yet rung the doorbell (who I had seen before.) They had not yet rung the bell, because they were too busy looking at the few decorataions-- a cloth-faced scarecrow, cornstalks, plastic jack o'lanterns and a seated skeleton. As I watched and expected them to begin to knock-- one of them took out a cell phone, while the other posed with my scarecrow and a group of pumpkins.

 I know a great little about the religion, and the nuances of faith and human experience that Jehovah's Witnesses have toward Halloween-- but I do know it is not celebrated. And there was something about seeing them get enough out of what I had left from All Hallow's Eve to want to snap a cellphone picture-- that made my jack o'lantern heart smile.

Monday, November 12, 2012

"Witch's Night Out" (1978)

 One of the unexpected joys of this past Halloween was finding a holiday TV special from my youth-- which I'd searched for in the past-- available and streaming online.

 "Witch's Night Out" from 1978 originally aired on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, but found later popularity when it aired on the Disney Channel every year from 1983 through the late 90's. I'm not sure which of those years the show would have made it's way to me, but I can tell you that the recorded VHS tape I would watch it on, repeatedly, was a highlight of the Halloweens of my youth.

image: 4gottenlore on Deviant Art
 For anyone who might not be familiar with the special, "Witch's Night Out" stars the voice of Gilda Radner as the Witch, who opens the show lamenting her past prime; an All Hallow's Eve Norma Desmond, of sorts. We are introduced to colorfully, uniquely drawn characters-- trick or treaters Small and Tender, their babysitter Bazooey. One thing that I didn't realize until recent Internet searching is that Malicious, the adult character in the town who hates Halloween, is voiced by the incomparable Catherine O'Hara, who would go on to voice Sally and Shock in "The Nightmare Before Christmas." 

 "Witch's Night Out" holds up so well, and not only on the shoulders of nostalgia. There is a witch being summoned like a fairy godmother and crashing through the window; changing into your Halloween costume's character; lost magic wands and, not the least of it all, the disco song "Witch Magic." For many years, it wasn't Halloween until I heard the chords of that song, and the lyrics "Witch... Magic... Halloween." Thanks to Veoh, I can relive that again, and watched this twice on Halloween. Enjoy.

Watch Witch's Night Out in Family  |  View More Free Videos Online at

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Happy Birthday, Bram.

 Today, November 8, 2012 is author Bram Stoker's 165th birthday. A day which has brought us a quite thoughtful Google doodle, and-- to my welcomed surprise-- a popular interest in Stoker's life and work online and in social media. 

Stoker has always been one of my favorite writers, even though I have read so little of his work other than "Dracula." As a man, Bram lived an incredibly interesting life-- one that would take many blog posts to get into, and one I am always looking to read more about. (I currently have an appealing and large biography of him sitting on one of my many bookshelves.)

 In looking through clips and passages and images to mark this post for Stoker's birthday, one comes up with a lot. Few other novels have been capable of creating a character which becomes larger than the book itself-- larger than the other books written because of it, than the movies made based on it, and so on. Although the legend and mythology of the vampire predated Stoker's work, Count Dracula has become synonomous with vampires, and certainly stands as the father of all modern appearances of vampires in popular culture-- as well as the father, in many regards, of modern horror in general. Devices that appear revolutionary in modern horror such as the pseudo-documentary that claims to be real evidence (for instance, the film "The Blair Witch Project") was done years ago with "Dracula" a novel written as all first hand accounts and diary/journal entires. At once, Stoker's novel is atmospheric, truly perfect Gothic horror tale; and, a very worthy piece of serious literature. I've written a bit about readings of "Dracula"-- there is so much in the novel; social commentary on what it means to fear the other (nationally, ethinically, sexually, religiously) abounds, but never hinders the effect the novel has at being such a successful horror story.

 I have many copies of "Dracula," and often can't resist buying new ones I see because I like a cover or a design. Perhaps my favorite copy (other than the worn paperback I devoured in grammar school when I first read it) is this hardback copy featuring the Edward Gorey illustrations. For all the wonderful movies spawned from "Dracula," all the pop-culture art and so on, there is nothing that has ever come up to the experience of reading the book. "3 May. Bistritz. - Left Munich at 8.35..."

 Happy Birthday, Bram.