And So We Celebrated Halloween

Our 2009 Pumpkin

H.o.p. drew the face. I carved the pumpkin, which was a tough one. H.o.p. talked about the smell of the pumpkin, how it was the smell of Halloween. “Nostalgia,” he said. I was unable to find the bag that holds our few Halloween decorations but he was determined and finally dug it out of a closet. We spread spider webs around the apartment and hung up fat bats in the doorways. He carefully laid out plastic skeletons in our chairs up front. No one can see them from the street but they are there.

Halloween night the weather was rainy and chilly. We drove to the old Decatur neighborhood, as we always do, as it turned into a great place to trick-or-treat our last year there and has remained so. One of the houses goes all out with gargantuan decorations, some mechanized, and that’s the house H.o.p. always hits first.

H.o.p.’s costume this year wasn’t one really for photographing. The costume last year was for photographing. This year his was rather simple and it was the performance aspect that he made the most of. He had it all planned out. A plain black hood mask with a torn shirt. “Trick or treat!” He gets his candy. And then the twist! For as he bowed and solemnly said, “Happy Halloween!”, he would take off his mask revealing a skull mask underneath.

He had a grand time. His interest, as ever, is not the candy but the performance and people hopefully enjoying it and then chatting them up afterward, because he always likes to talk to people afterward, for which reason he takes three times as long trick-or-treating as others. Most kids hit the door, get the candy and run. H.o.p. has never done this. H.o.p. instead wants to chat. Performance gives him an opportunity to chat. People generally start to talk when he does his thing and conversation is struck up.

In the car, on the way home, H.o.p. enjoyed running his hands through his candy. “Mmmm,” he said, “the smell of Halloween.”

H.o.p. Experiments with Playing Johnny Angel (3 photos)

H.o.p. as Johnny Angel, 2008, digital photo
Light box link

View On White

Halloween skull mask
H.o.p. in his skull mask
View On White

Halloween skull mask
H.o.p. in his skull mask
View On White

Yesterday, I posted a pic of a few of the paper flowers H.o.p made for Halloween. And how were they used?

Continue reading H.o.p. Experiments with Playing Johnny Angel (3 photos)

"This was the greatest Halloween!"

H.o.p. had wanted to be a Dalek. Faced, however, with the formidable challenge of making a Dalek costume, he eventually opted to be a mummy, which only required green, black and white make-up and some time spent tearing a sheet into bandages and then wrapping him up in them.

We returned to the old neighborhood (as we usually do) for Trick or Treat.

Halloween 2007, H.o.p. as mummy

These women were funny. “I’m laughing so hard my bandages are coming off,” H.o.p. said, and they were. But they managed to stay largely intact to the end of the night.

My primary concerns when wrapping were (1) doing the bandages in such a way that he could still use the bathroom easily and (2) allowing full freedom of movement and (3) ensuring none would come undone in such a way that they would pose a hazard when walking (didn’t want him tripping). Marty and I succeeded on all counts, but the result looked like a mummy with a bit of ninja and bedouin crossover. Still good enough that the photos don’t do the costume justice; the wrappings lose definition and blend together so they look like some kind of white garment.

No one confused H.o.p. with being anything but a mummy and he was bombarded with compliments by treaters and trick-or-treaters alike.

He can sure be a little hellion but damn is he sweet and considerate with other kids and one of the sweetest and politest trick-or-treaters you’ll ever meet in your life. “Trick-or-treat!” he says, then yes he does probe the candy for chocolate (if it’s held out for him to fish through) but takes no more candy than he is urged to do. The last thing on his mind is grabbing a handful and making a run for the next house. The special part of the event for him actually is the greeting and meeting. That’s what H.o.p. likes, he enjoys meeting the people. The candy is a nice aside. What he wants to do is meet you and have a pleasant exchange. Then he smiles and crows, “Thank you!” and wishes you, “Have a Happy Halloween!” half a dozen times before he makes it to the bottom of the stairs.

So the women in the above photo had an audience with H.o.p. He was there to entertain and be entertained. And they entertained and laughed uproariously and he loved it.

Though there are no trick-or-treaters around here, we decorated one of our windows with a carved pumpkin (H.o.p. drew the the face) and skeletons and a gravestone and eyeball lights. He was running out and in and out and in, checking the effect.

Halloween cupcakes still rest on the table. “For tomorrow,” says H.o.p. He’s waited all year for Halloween cupcakes.

He pronounced the day, “the greatest”!

Halloween 2007, H.o.p. as mummy
H.o.p. takes a self portrait

Frankenstein's beautiful monsters

So the veil between the physical world and spirit world thinned for an evening and a jackpot of candy came pouring through, the majority in orange, brown and gold wrappings, which I take it has to do with pumpkins and decaying leaves. Doing his duty in honoring the dead, H.o.p. dressed up as a zombie and returned to the old neighborhood for trick-or-treat as it is there where live the two gay guys who have the Penultimate Halloween House with Frankenstein on the lawn and the huge mechanical spider on the roof and skeletons and ghosts floating about the porch. We’d skipped the old neighborhood last year in favor of trick-or-treating with cousins in the burbs but out in the burbs the decorations were a bit too scary for H.o.p., dismembered limbs dressed up with gore, and one house in particular with a drunken reveller frightening kids had stuck with him through the entire year. Because of this and because he’d already had a nice full day Sunday of visiting with cousins, H.o.p. opted for the old neighborhood because, as he said, he really missed the Frankenstein house, where scary is all in fun and you walk away smiling and happily entertained rather than stumble away with your heart thump-thumping.

Kind of but not expressly Halloween fare, Marty and I watched this past weekend, “Ciao Manhattan” and “Pie in the Sky, the Brigid Berlin Story”. Edie Sedgwick dies and Brigid Berlin survives. What else is there to say about it all? I looked for something of universal merit in the films on these two society girls whose lives are far removed from 99.9% of those who will watch the movies but the point of privilege here is denying the universal for sake of the super exceptional me. Whatever appeal Edie had must have been mostly in person because the charm of Edie was lost to me, and the adulation heaped on her beauty was a puzzle as she seemed no more or less beautiful than millions of other girls in three hours worth of cosmetics–and though I understand she supposedly crafted a unique style I don’t trust that it wasn’t already roaming New York on persons not destined to be known. She was sad, but she was also a human with a lot of money at her disposal who tossed away $80,000 worth of inheritance in three months, which was quite a sum in the 60s, and I’ve some trouble dignifying that as simply tragic rather than grossly irresponsible and as pathetically corrupt as the preceding generation which certainly played its part in destroying her. The supposed moral is that Edie didn’t make it out alive but Edie is now glorified for living fast and beautiful and dying young.

“Ciao Manhattan” was admittedly shocking in its eye on the post-Manhattan Edie whose diet was barrels of prescribed pharmaceuticals and was also on a course of numerous shock treatments because she supposedly liked them so much she didn’t want to give them up after just three. I understand the damage her brain had suffered via the years of drug excess accounts for her being unable to stand up, she wasn’t just acting (she was acting out) but she must have still envisioned herself as being sexually enticing or else Edie wouldn’t have spent the entire film sans top showing off the wonder breast implants. The scene in which she performs her California post-Manhattan dance is about as painfully grotesque as it gets and though I hear she insisted upon the dance I’ve no idea if she really knew what she looked like, if she had seen the footage, and even if she had seen the footage when you consider that she wasn’t in her right mind at the time there’s no telling what she might have been seeing in her own blown-out head. But she had a story she wanted to tell or else she wouldn’t have threatened pulling out of the movie unless a staged version of her shock therapy was included. She probably wasn’t clear on what story she wanted to tell but in the end that doesn’t matter much. The fact she probably wasn’t clear on what story she wanted to tell is a big part of this story of a woman whose two older brothers committed suicide and who understood herself as being not much more than a very wealthy sexual object from Day One. Some have wondered also about the filmmakers and considered that they were only exploiting Edie in her sad state, and it is something I too wondered about briefly but then decided whatever, that Edie too had something she wanted to say and she was a twenty-eight year old woman and not an underage ingenue.

Despite every unvoiced criticism I have of the movie it’s worth viewing for its place in the “how did we get here from there” continuum, the American version of royalty excesses and star-tripping, the contortions of masochistic/sadistic glamor, the hand-in-hand unglued paranoia and self-absorption. It’s worth viewing as a purely American fairy tale in which a young man goes to California looking for the saucer people, happens upon Edie and is talked into babysitting her in her drained swimming pool bedroom papered wall-to-wall with the Edie of yesterday and instructing her on the art of building a flying saucer while her mother devoted herself to making pies. The film is a rambling, largely nonsensical incoherent mess partly because it is two films–the first was black-and-white footage in New York meant to chronicle the amphetamine-powered Beautiful People lifestyle, but the “actors” went AWOL and several years later a desperate attempt to complete the film happened with the California color footage–and still it is worth viewing, in particular as a complimentary piece to Warhol Factory alumnus Paul Morrisey’s “Frankenstein”, a film I saw when about 19 which scared the living daylights out of me. I know that one should be cool and cynical enough that Morrisey’s “Frankenstien” be appreciated for its comic value, but the spiritually-hollow me-me-me of the film was frightening precisely because of its revelry in its portrayal of decadent emptiness. Morrisey’s “Frankenstein” was released in 1973, while “Ciao Manhattan’ was released in 1972 and it seems that “Frankenstein” should have been released first and “Ciao Manhattan” a humanizing response to it. But that’s not how it happened. Instead we have Edie at Ciao’s end hooked up to the shock machine and charged through with electricity in a scene that certainly recalls every Frankenstein movie you’ve ever seen and seems a comment on the time and celebrity and money and exploitation. And I seriously have to wonder if Morrisey sat watching Ciao Manhattan and upon seeing Edie’s grotesque dance and her electric anti-renaissance thought, “Yes, yes, that’s it, my Frankenstein monster. That is my cut-up, pieced together, Beautiful People Warholian Factory Girl”. Though Morrisey’s “Frankenstein” horrifies me, I’ve got to admit that I’ve never seen a movie that quite depicts the pathologically-ill mindset of exploitation as his does. It sticks with you like a memory of your worst case of food poisoning, and if you’ve ever had a bad case of food poisoning then you know how scary that is. “To know Death Otto, you first have to f**k life in the gall bladder ” Frankenstien says, reminding of Warhol’s father dying of gall bladder illness (I believe) and if you know of Warhol’s father’s problems with his gall bladder then it seems a peculiar inside joke. But then Warhol a decade later, after years of amphetamine abuse, dies of a heart attack after gall bladder surgery, a sort-of self prophecy as he was scared he would die in hospital. And that’s sticky. Warhol was like velcro covered with velcro stickies that scared the hell out of him.

Which brings to mind another weirdness of life crazily spinning off on seeming inside jokes and co-operatively creating real puzzles of them. Edie’s mother in “Ciao Manhattan” makes pies, and Brigid Berlin is so obsessed with key lime pie in “Pie in the Sky” that she supposedly eats several in one sitting and states she has on the sly been eating pie after pie throughout the filming, incapable of controlling herself, causing her weight to begin to balloon again, which has been the bane of her existence, her mother’s preoccupation with her weight, her criticisms of it and beginning her daughter on amphetamines in an attempt to control it because she knew Brigid wouldn’t be happy fat, when instead it’s the mother who wasn’t going to be happy with a fat daughter. Which is one thing, but then I look up a published bio of Edie and what does it begin with but talking about the Sedgwick burial plots being called a pie. Very first paragraph. “Have you ever seen he old graveyard up there in Stockbridge? In one corner is the family’s burial place; it’s called the Sedgwick Pie…”

Where I’m going with this is that the Warholian work and Factory-related work seems after a while to make a crazy kind of dream maze. One is challeneged to find in it what is real and what is not, what is art and what is the gimmick that fattens the bank account (Warhol was, after all, first an incredibly successful commercial artist). So everyone debates as to what’s real and what’s not in “Ciao Manhattan” and whether Edie was exploited or not. Was Morrisey’s “Frankenstein” high camp or art? Was Joe Dallesandro acting badly intentional or was his bad acting intentionally used or not? And when I reflect on the pheomenon, that sticky question that is glued on nearly every Factory-related work, as to what’s art and what’s life, what’s vanity as opposed to depiction of the vain, then the art of period is not defined by the individual elements but the whole shebang. I’ve finally decided that I doubt there’s a single piece of “art” in the Factory warehouse that is art in and of itself. The art is the whole of the Factory, every piece referencing another and with such eerie sphinx-like reflections and anticipations that you’re compelled to consider how Oedipus blinded himself in an attempt to escape the machinery of the gods while paying for his part in it (at least so goes one way of looking at it). If Warhol and Edie and Brigid and everyone else happened to be blind to what they were ultimately creating (which I suspect they were in as much as they defined themselves as so part and product that they were incapable of escaping what they were commenting upon) it is still art, art almost in spite of itself, though I suspect too that most onlookers don’t have a clue either as to what makes it so, rambling on about how Warhol showed art is also the everyday everybody’s soup can in which all can participate and hey see too everyone can make art if it’s the humble soup can. No, I think if most people really got the soup cans and Jackie Os and Marilyns they’d angriliy burn them all rather than honoring because it’s hell rather than the sweet ode to mom’s lunch that Warhol stated the soup cans to be. The whole of the Factory’s work condemns everyone for a rat’s maze inescapable exploitative meanness and guile. It’s twentieth century Bosch and a couple hundred years from now, just as many wonder how Bosch got away with his depictions, people are going to look at it the Factory’s Opus and wonder why in the hell those twentieth centuriers made their cathedral of it and bought it as a love poem rather than going out and sitting on the corner and crying.

Edie Sedgwick shocked out of her Frankenstein’s creation gourd, and purportedly wanting it (which means it was better to her than what she already had), acting out convulsions on the shock table, and Morrisey’s exploited, pieced-together Beautiful Frankenstein monsters are a key to the what carries the Factory beyond the self-infatuation and self-hatred of the Factory to the universal. It was Made in U.S. of A. and still is. It’s what’s on the menu. And somewhere deep inside people are indeed perhaps aware of the ferocity of what they were eating and being fed and what it meant, or else Warhol wouldn’t have been giving away as presents the Electric Chair art that just simply wouldn’t sell.

Oh, coolest costume and strangest sight of the night

Coolest costume was the kid dressed as a table. A big full blown 3 door widths size table with place settings.

And the most bizarre sighting of the night?

My brother, driving, asked, “Am I seeing what I think I’m seeing or are my eyes playing tricks on me?”

In front of us was a big black truck. Embedded in its mud flaps were red tail lights in the shape of iron crosses.

Yeah, we had a scary Halloween

Where I-85 meets I-285 in Atlanta is a well-known landmark called Spaghetti Junction, an insane wowzer of over and underpasses, on and off ramps, composed of 16 bridges, the tallest of which rises 100 feet in the air. It’s a scary place. A number of bad accidents there. The bridges are skinny things with mack trucks barrelling over them. There is no side of the road to them. Ask an Atlanta driver how’d they like to break down on one of those skinny Spaghetti Junction bridges.

So, it was evening rush hour and we were heading out to the suburbs where H.o.p. was to trick-or-treat with his cousins. He’s got his Halloween costume and bucket with him. We were groaning about the traffic but it was expected and was moving pretty briskly after a point. But we were all still kind of grumpy and things were feeling chaotic in the way that they feel chaotic when you’re in Atlanta traffic at rush hour and wondering if you’re going to get to where you’re going on time. We realized we probably would as we started up one of the Spaghetti Junction bridges. And we hear this pop somewhere in the vicinity of the engine. And the van starts to slow down.

We broke down on one of the Spaghetti Junction ramps. Broke down flat dead. We were in the left lane and there was no pulling to the right. Marty managed to guide the swiftly slowing car over to as far left on the bridge that there happens to be which isn’t much so half the van was sticking out into the lane. Cars and mack trucks are zipping up behind us and honking as they maneuver to pass. Like we would be sitting there if we had any alternative. Your auto is no safe place to be but to get out of it would be certain suicide. There’s no walking off this bridge. Marty called 911 and informed of the situation and they said the police would be there soon. I don’t know how long we sat there, maybe 15 to 20 minutes. Marty counted 4 times we were nearly rear-ended, while I was thinking about how if someone rear-ended us we’d go sailing right off the bridge and onto the interstate below. And it was twilight and quickly getting darker. I was thinking that if I thought it was dangerous and frightening sitting there in twilight, it was going to be loads of fun when it was dark. Marty says it’s one of the scariest situations he’s ever been in his life, which echoes my assessment of the situation.

I really really really didn’t want to be a headliner on the ten o’clock news.

Finally, a police car arrived. The towing service we’d called had said it would be 45 minutes before they could get someone to us. The policeman said that was no good and he’d get someone there in ten minutes. The blue flashing lights behind us on the bridge were a great relief. A mack truck would think twice before smacking those. I wondered what the policeman was thinking as we all sat there waiting for the tow truck. Was he hoping no one was going to rear end him and send him slamming into us? And if he wasn’t worried about that, then what was he thinking about.

He didn’t look real happy. He didn’t smile when he came up to talk to us. He frowned throughout.

It was longer than ten minutes but finally the tow truck came soaring up the bridge behind the police car and pulled over in front of the van. Oh, he looked like such a nice guy. A big smile. By now I’d convinced H.o.p. this was an Adventure! We climbed into the back of the tow truck into a cloud of petrochemical fumes where I promptly began to almost have an asthma attack, now that we were out of the van. I stifled it while the guy hooked up the van as quickly as I’ve seen done and as he climbed back in H.o.p. exclaimed, “This is an adventure!” and the tow truck driver grinned. As we drove off, H.o.p. crowed about how it was a very bumpy great adventure. The driver dropped us off at a Burger King on a nearby highway, which made H.o.p. even happier. He ate a burger and fries while we waited for my brother to come pick us up.

We just got the van out of the shop a couple weeks ago with a bill of over $800 for rebuilding the front end. We’d said, “Ah well, that’ll keep us running for a little while.”

Little while was right.

But we made it to the suburbs in time. H.o.p. went out trick-or-treating and came back with a full bucket.

Fierce pumpkins and happy cactus

First, a distant relation in Kansas sent me this link with a Flash on How to carve a pumpkin like a pro. I knew there would be a punch line but I didn’t know what. H.o.p. came running up behind me, “What game is that?!” I told him, “How to carve a pumpkin like a pro.” He pointed out what virtual face he wanted me to carve. I picked up the virtual knife to carve it. The punch line hit. H.o.p. stood beside me, silent for a couple of seconds, me wondering what he was going to do and say as he may love ghouls and monsters but his tolerance threshold for scary things is quite low. After a couple seconds of silence, he said, authoritative (a trace of dejection in his voice),”I know a better game than that.”

He thinks the pumpkin should instead grow legs and become a huge giant pumpkin.

Continue reading Fierce pumpkins and happy cactus

A couple of ghost animations by H.o.p.

All right, so family and friends are primed and expecting to see fabulous little animations (linked below) by H.o.p. Well, come on, what you’re going to be seeing are animations by a seven-year-old done on his rudimentary but pretty ingenious little Reader Rabbit program where you draw and overlay little sketches and can turn them into a movie, and I think H.o.p. is using it to great advantage, figuring out building of story and how to use POV, which he already has done for a while drawing lots of still images that are supposed to be a story. The more ambitious would be using Flash or some such, but working in Flash even makes me crazy.

They’re not detailed drawings and they fly by too quickly to see much of anything as he’s not doing a lot of frames in the ones below. He has better ones but these are the two he wanted me to film for Halloween. (I had to film them on his computer screen with the camera.) They’re very dark and elements are difficult to see at times, which is my fault in sizing them down and compressing them.

-The ghost (several frames)
-The ghost becomes two clouds
-The ghost reforms
-The ghost descends into the grave at night, headstone behind it
-Headstone against dawning blue
-Full day, headstone against white sky
-For some reason transition to night sky with moster (white dot)
-Monster (white dot with legs) lying on ground after tripping
-Ghost reappears at night and becomes two clouds again

-Human walking
-Transition to human running to edge of cliff
-POV of human looking over green edge of cliff to ground below (I was pretty impressed with this change in POV)
-Human falls over cliff (little spot of blue sky high above)
-Moby the robot appears for some reason
-Human on brown ground at bottom of cliff
-Human’s position changes
-Human covered now by red blanket in bed, it’s day (the thought bubble above shows the cliff was a dream)
-Transition to human getting out of bed and a ghost appearing behind him
-Human turns and sees the ghost which changes to look like a cloud
-The ghost now appears behind the human in a closet (the ghost against black background)
-The human turns and sees the ghost
-The ghost talks to the human
-They hug, being friends now
-They walk off toward the horizon.