Sunday, October 31, 2010

2008: Grimm Rapper

I'm 22, in college, and feeling pretty witty.  The only drawback was people actually expecting me to have some sort of Halloween rap prepared.

2003: Unmotivated

It was my senior year of high school, give me a break.  I was a lazy 17-year-old.

"The Halloween Tree" Chapter 19

I can't believe the book is over, the story finished, and my relationship with these characters forever put to rest.  It's always such a shame when a book ends.  Sigh.

First thing when I woke up, I pulled my copy of The Halloween Tree toward me, and began to read the final chapter.  It took a lot of self-restraint not to read it yesterday when I read Chapter 18.  I was so close to the end and I just wanted to keep going... but I felt it would be cheating somehow.  I did promise a chapter a day, and I'm proud to say that I stuck by that promise.

For those of you who've been reading these posts, and essentially following the story with me, I thank you.  And I hope it's been fun.

So Chapter 19 of Ray Bradbury's story brings us the final conclusion of the boys' Halloween adventures.  A woman passes them in the street, carrying mounds of burning charcoal over her shoulder, followed by a man with a small coffin resting on his head.  It seems to be a funeral procession, and Tom can't help wondering if Pipkin is inside the box.
"What do you think, lad?" asked Moundshroud.
"I don't know," cried Tom.  "I only know I had enough.  The night's been too long.  I seen too much.  I know everything, gosh, everything!"
But as overwhelmed as the boys feel, they know that they can't quit and go home.  They need to do something for Pipkin.  Anything.  So Moundshroud points out a tree similar to the Halloween Tree at his house, but instead of being adorned with jack-o-lanterns, it's covered in piñatas.  Each boy has a special piñata just for him, and he must break it.
And from the Skeleton piñata a thousand small skeleton leaves fell in a shower.  They swarmed on Tom.  The wind blew skeletons, leaves, and Tom away.
And from the Mummy
piñata fell hundreds of frail Egyptian mummies which rushed away into the sky, Ralph with them.
So all the boys, followed by Moundshroud, go whizzing through the sky through town alleys until they finally end up on another hill, in another graveyard.  But this one is empty.  Moundshroud finds a handle in the earth, and pulls open a door to the catacombs below.
The boys swallowed hard.
"Is Pip down there?"
"Go bring him up, boys."
"Is he
alone down there?"
"No.  Things are with him. 
Things."
"Who goes first?"
"Not me!"
Silence.
"
Me," said Tom, at last.
So Tom goes first, and empowered by his bravery the other boys follow closely behind.
For each step down was a billion miles lost from life and warm beds and good candlelight and mothers' voices and fathers' pipe-smoke and  clearing his voice in the night which made you feel good knowing he was there somewhere in the dark, alive and turning in his sleep and able to hit anything with his fists if it had to be hit.
And that's when they reach the bottom, and ahead of them they see a room full of dead bodies.  These are the people who's families were too poor to pay for their graves, who've been dug up and thrown down here unceremoniously.  The dry earth mummifies them.

But then they hear sobbing.  And way up ahead, past this room of mummified remains, they see a small figure weeping...
"Pipkin--?"
The crying stopped.
"Is that
you? whispered Tom.
A long pause, a trembled insuck of breath and then:
"...yes."
"Pip, for cri-yi, what you doing there?"
"I don't know!"
"Come out?"
"I--I can't. I'm afraid!"
"But, Pip, if you stay there--"
Tom paused.
Pip, he thought, if you stay, you stay forever.  You stay with all the silence and the lonely ones.  You stand in the long line and tourists come and look at you and buy tickets to look at you some more.  You--
"Pip!" said Ralph behind his mask.  "You got to come out."
"I can't." Pip sobbed.  "
They won't let me."
"They?"
And he's referring to those mummies.  To get out, he would have to run past them all.  They would stop him.  So Pipkin is afraid to leave, and with this news, the boys are afraid to enter.  What do they do?  And that's when Moundshroud speaks up.  They'd almost forgotten he was even there.
"Here, boys.  Save him with this."
Moundshroud reached into his dark cloak and brought forth a familiar white-sugar-candy skull across the brow of which was written:  PIPKIN!
"Save Pipkin, lads.  Strike a bargain."
And he breaks the candy into eight pieces and hands each of them a part of the skull.  He asks them if they truly want Pipkin to live, and they insist that they do.
"There, there, I see you mean it.  Well then, will you each give one year from the end of your life, boys?"
"What?" said Tom.
"I mean it, boys, one year, one precious year from the far-burned candle-end of your life.  With one year apiece you can ransom dead Pipkin."
The boys agree.  Every last one of them.  Even when Moundshroud explains how very serious the deal is and asks them to take a moment to think it through, they still say yes.
"Do you know what you pledge, boys?  You do love Pipkin, then?"
"Yes, yes!"
"So be it, boys.  Chew and eat, lads, eat and chew."
They popped the sweet bits of candy skull in their mouths.
They chewed.  They ate.
"Swallow darkness, boys, give up your year."
They swallowed hard, so hard that their eyes shone bright and their ears banged and their hearts beat.
And as soon as they've eaten the candy, Pipkin regains his strength and conviction.  He runs through the mummy-filled room at full speed and even passes his friends.  He just keeps on running...

Moundshroud begins to spin, and creating a cyclone he whirls all the boys up with him and they soar into the air for the very last time.  They soar over Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Iowa and finally arrive back home in Illinois.  They land on the roof of Moundshroud's house, and notice the skylight window where they can see down through every floor of his house.

The boys jump through the window and slide down the banister of the old house, each getting off on their own floor.  The Apeman is in the basement with the cavemen, Ralph is on the first floor with the other mummies, and Tom is clear up on on the top floor surround by candy skulls.
"Well, boys, do you see?  It's all one, yes? ... Night and day.  Summer and winter, boys.  Seedtime and harvest.  Life and death.  That's what Halloween is, all rolled up in one."
The boys have learned so much, but there is still one more thing to be known.  Did Pipkin live?  So they leave Moundshroud, head across the ravine, and back into their familiar neighborhood.  They head to Pipkin's house, and Tom goes in while the others wait.  After a while, he comes out.  With good news.

Pipkin is at the hospital, but he's doing fine.  He had to have his appendix removed.  With sighs of relief, the boys celebrate by jumping into the air and letting out a few happy tears.  They then decide to decorate Pipkin's front porch with jack-o-lanterns, simply not wanting to leave.  But eventually the time comes that they must all go home.  It is midnight, after all.

So each boy returns to his home, and as each door shuts, a candle on the Halloween Tree goes out.  Tom is the last one to go inside his house.  He stands on the porch for a while, thinking.
Mr. Moundshroud, who are you?
And Mr. Moundshroud, way up there on the roof, sent his thoughts back:
I think you know, boy, I think you know.
Will we meet again, Mr. Moundshroud?
Many years from now, yes, I'll come for you.
And a last thought from Tom:
O Mr. Moundshroud, will we
ever stop being afraid of nights and death?
And the thought returned:
When you reach the stars, boy, yes, and live there forever, all the fears will go, and Death himself will die.
And Tom went inside, and his pumpkin went out.  Only one remained lit on the Halloween Tree and it belonged to Mr. Moundshroud.  And with a small breath, he extinguished the candle, and disappeared himself like smoke.

Chihuahua Comics: Politicians Are Scary...

Saturday, October 30, 2010

2001: Convict

I'm 15 years old and already behind bars.

1997: Wizard, Lumberjack, and 50's Girl

We didn't feel the need to coordinate this year.  I'm 11, Daniel's 6, and Renee's 4

"The Halloween Tree" Chapter 18

We are so close to the end, I can almost taste it!

And in this chapter we get a little taste (am I good or am I good?) of what Halloween is like in Mexico.  As the boys begin to descend and draw nearer to their landing, they can see that all the graveyards are full of candlelight.
"Is that the way they celebrate--"
"El Dia de los Muertos.  How's your grade school Spanish, Tom?"
"The Day of the Dead Ones?"
"Caramba, si!"
The kite disassembles once more and the boys land on a shore of a lake.  In the distance, through the mists, they can see a tall hooded figure standing on a small boat, slowly moving toward them.

They realize that Moundshroud is no longer by their side, and that the hooded figure must be him.  But he doesn't say anything.  He only gestures them inside the boat, and they float quietly along towards an island in the middle of the lake.
Far off on that dark island, there was a prickle of guitar sound.
A single candle was lit in the graveyard.
Somewhere someone blew a musical sound on a flute.
Another candle was lit among the tombstones.
Someone sang a single word of a song.
A third candle was touched to life by a flaming match.
And the faster the boat moved, the more guitar notes sounded and the more candles were lit high among the mounds on the stony hills.  A dozen, a hundred, a thousand candles flared until it looked as if the great Andromeda star cluster had fallen out of the sky and tilted itself to rest here in the middle of almost-midnight Mexico.
They get to shore and Moundshroud disappears again.  They follow the sounds of singing and guitars, until they are led right to a graveyard, bursting with life!
By every grave was a woman kneeling to place gardenias or azaleas or marigolds in a frame upon the stone.
By every grave knelt a daughter who was lighting a new candle or lighting a candle that had just blown out.
By every grave was a quiet boy with bright brown eyes, and in one hand a small papier-mache funeral parade glued to a shingle, and in the other hand a papier-mache skeleton head which rattled with rice or nuts inside.
Plates of cookies were placed on the gravesides, and the boys all decided that Mexican Halloween was better than the one they knew.  Tom thought it was interesting that he hardly ever visited the graveyards, and especially not at night... yet here, it was a party.

They hear someone singing "Cuevos de los Muertos" which Tom translates as "the skulls of the dead."  They see that the voice singing is the voice of a vendor selling candy skulls.  Even under the sombrero, the boys can tell that this vendor is really Moundshroud.
"Names! Names!" sang the old Vendor.  "Tell me your name, I give you your skull!"
"Tom," said Tom.
The old man plucked forth a skull.  On it, in huge letters was written:
TOM.
Tom took and held his own name, his own sweet edible skull, in his fingers.
Every boy has a candy skull all his own.  Ralph, Henry-Hank, Fred, George, Hackles, J.J., and Wally all catch their skulls as Moundshroud tosses them out.  But before they can take a bite, a group of Mexican boys run up and take the skulls from them.  The boy who takes Tom's skull candy is named Tomas.
"Hey," said Tom.  "He sorta looked like--me!"
"Did he?" said the Vendor of the Skulls.
Enrique takes Henry-Hank's.  Jose Juan takes J.J.'s.  Moundshroud tells them to chase after their Mexican clones to see what they are up to.  So they run out of the graveyard and into the plaza.  Suddenly all the lights of the stores turn on and firecrackers are being thrown in the streets.  Everywhere are pictures of people drawn to look like skeletons.  Toy skeletons are being sold in the streets.
Never before had the boys seen so many--bones!
"Bones!" laughed everyone.  "Oh,
lovely bones!"

"Hold the dark holiday in your palms,
Bite it, swallow it and survive,
Come out the far black tunnel of El Dia de Muerte
And be glad, ah so glad you are...alive!
Calavera...Calavera..."
They see the Mexican boys run towards their individual families, and Tom begins to think out loud.
"Oh, strange funny strange," whispered Tom.
"What?" said Ralph at his elbow.
"Up in Illinois, we've forgotten what it's all about.  I mean the dead, up in our town, tonight, heck, they're forgotten.  Nobody remembers.  Nobody cares.  Nobody goes to sit and talk to them.  Boy, that's lonely.  That's really sad.  But here--why, shucks.  It's both happy and sad.  It's all firecrackers and skeleton toys down here in the plaza and up in that graveyard now are all the Mexican dead folks with the families visiting and flowers and candles and singing and candy... Oh, heck, Ralph."
And that's when Tom realizes that they haven't seen Pipkin at all since they've been in Mexico.  He's popped up unexpectedly everywhere else.  But not here.  At this moment, Tom realizes that he may never see Pipkin again.  He shivers...

Pumpkin Potter Pizza Party

I finally got around to carving a pumpkin, which means Halloween is officially here!  My friend Kayla come over last night for the first time in--I hate to say it-- two whole months...  Horrible, right?  I promise we're good friends, we just get busy sometimes.

So she brought over two GIANT pumpkins (mine weighed 33 pounds!) and some pizza from Papa John's.  We popped in a Harry Potter movie, ate our pizza, caught up on the twists and turns of our lives, and then let the carving commence.  I'm not the greatest at pumpkin carving, but I did my best.

Brian's so funny.  He came home from work, took one look at it and said, "It's better than the one you did last year, honey."

Um... thanks?

Friday, October 29, 2010

1995: Candy

I'm a chocolate bar, Daniel's candy corn, and Renee is an M&M.  Our ages are 9, 4, and 2.  Aren't we sweet?

1993: Toy Soldiers

Matching costumes ... well, we are a boxed set.  I'm 7, Daniel's 2.

"The Halloween Tree" Chapter 17

So the gargoyles have come, and are now set in place as adornments to the great cathedral that is Notre Dame.  The boys are pretty impressed that they were able to bring them there with only the power of their whistling.  What else can their whistling do?
"Jehosophat," said Tom Skelton, on the parapet.  "We whistled all the stone griffins and demons here.  Now Pipkin's lost again.  I was thinking, why can't we whistle him?"
When I read that, I got so excited!  They're going to call Pipkin to them!  But Moundshroud just laughs... and I got disappointed... but then he tells the boys that Pipkin is still there!
"Look and find, lads, hide and seek!"
So they run throughout the cathedral, down stairs and hallways, until they finally spot him.  He's made of stone, protruding from the side of the building amongst the other gargoyles.  The boys walk out on a dangerous ledge to get near him.  It's high drama, high over the city.
 "Pip, for cri-yi, what you doin' here? called Tom.
Pip said nothing.  His mouth was cut stone.
But Tom is sure that it is Pipkin.  He's sure that he heard his voice before...so why won't he talk now?  But then the wind blows around them and through the gargoyles and out their mouths making a sound.  The wind is the key.  Pipkin can only speak when a gust of wind flows through him.
The wind blew sadly and the voice spoke as from deep in an old well:
"Been--so many--places--in just--a few--hours."
The boys waited, grinding their teeth.
"Speak up, Pipkin!"
But then the wind dies, and he can speak no more.  But just when all seems lost, the rain starts.  It begins to pour and Pipkin is given a new voice.
And this was best of all.  For the raindrops ran cold in Pipkin's stone ears and out along his nose and fountained from his marble mouth so that he began to utter syllables in liquid tongues, with clear cold rainwater words:
"Hey--this is better!"
He goes on to marvel over the places he has been.  He's been a mummy.  He's been a dog.  He wonders where he'll be next.  But the boys have something to ask him.  Something they need to know.
"Are you dead, Pipin?"
"No, not yet," said the cold rain in his mouth.  "Part of me in a hospital a long way off home, part of me in that old Egyptian tomb.  Part of me in the grass in England.  Part of me here.  Part of me in a worse place--"
"Where?"
"I don't know, I don't, oh gosh, one minute I'm yelling laughs, the next I'm scared.  Now, just now, this very minute, I guess, I know, I'm scared.  Help me, guys.  Help, oh
please!"
Rain poured out his eyes like tears.
They boys try to reach out to Pipkin.  To give him comfort, show him love, help him any way they can.  But a flash of lightning streaks the sky and shakes the cathedral.  The boys cling to something so as not to fall off, but the stone Pipkin isn't so lucky.  His head goes crashing to the ground below...

And that's when Moundshroud suddenly says, "Mexico."
"Mexico?" asked Tom.
"The last grand travel of this night," said Moundshroud, still uttering, savoring the syllables.  "Whistle, boys, scream like tigers, cry like panthers, shriek like carnivore!"
"Scream, cry, shriek?"
"Reassemble the Kite, lads, the Kite of Autumn.  Paste back the fangs and fiery eyes and bloody talons.  Yell the wind to sew it all together and ride us high and long and last.  Bray, boys, whimper, trumpet, shout!"
And when the boys hesitate, Moundshroud just pushes them off the building.  As they fall, they scream and gasp, and their cries bring the kite to them!  It catches them in their fall, and Moundshroud latches on as the tail.  Off they soar to what I'm guessing is their final destination.

Fred Fryer, dressed as a beggar, notices below the real beggars of Ireland, going from door to door asking for food.  What a sad trick-or-treat!

But they fly on, and they fly fast.  Soon they are approaching Mexico and they can hear the hammering of the coffin makers in the streets.  Our chapter ends here, leaving me thoroughly anxious for the adventures Mexico might bring.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

1992: Ghosts

no money + white sheets = cheap family of ghosties

1991: Clown

Creepy Clown at age five... with my mother's red hair!

10 Reasons Why Clint McCance Should Shut Up

10.  Arkansas is already considered by many to be a backwards sort of inbred state...  they don't need the rest of the nation to see the horrible grammar and spelling their school board officials use.

9.  Everyone knows that the real reason he got so upset is that he likes to wear lavender on Wednesdays.  And lavender is not the same as purple.  Purple is gaudy and lavender is lovely.

8.  His poor kids probably feel like chopped liver right about now.  I mean, the whole world knows that he would shun them in a heartbeat if they gave him cause to.  They're probably so sad that the only thing keeping them from ending their own lives is knowing that it will just make their father happy.

7.  The man is clearly just jealous that we don't have a special day dedicated to him.  Maybe we could wear red for Redneck Day.  Or Republican Day.  Eh... same thing, really.

6.  He says, "I like that fags can't procreate" and then also says, "I can't believe the people of this word (he means world) have gotten this stupid."  Well, maybe if homosexuals COULD procreate, there wouldn't be any more STUPID people left!  Ha!  Take that, Clint!

5.  People have been so outraged by his comments that he's had to send his family out of state for their safety.  Now that they've seen what life is like outside of Arkansas, they're never going to want to return.  I think he's just lost his family for good...

4. If he keeps misusing Facebook like this, Mark Zuckerberg might get pissed off and return the social networking site to its Ivy League-exclusive roots.  Then we'd all be kicked off.  How could I possibly live without Facebook?  How will I talk to my friends?

3.  Now the Midland School District has to find his replacement.  That's got to be tough.  I mean, if they had to hire him in the first place, pickings must be slim out in those parts.  What will their ad say?  "NOW HIRING:  School Board Official.  Basic computer knowledge discouraged.  Must not have a Facebook account."

2.  He says, "I also enjoy the fact that they often give each other AIDS and die."  Thanks a lot, man, you just gave away what I'm getting Brian for Christmas!  Way to let the cat out of the bag!  Do you know how hard it is to return AIDS?  Even with a receipt?

1.  The only Clint anyone cares to watch on their home television sets is Clint Eastwood.  Now that's a real man.

Make A Halloween Wish

The retail store I work with likes to give back to the community, and this month's project was volunteering at a Halloween party for the Utah chapter of the Make-A-Wish Foundation.  Cool huh?  So Brian and I selflessly--from the goodness of our hearts--missed watching the entire cast of The Sound of Music on Oprah today and went down to Murray to bring a ghoulish smile to those kids' faces.  That is how giving we are.  We missed Julie Andrews on Oprah.

Our store was asked to be in charge of a booth, playing a game or making a craft with the kids.  My manager just recently made tie-dye t-shirts at her daughter's sixth birthday party, and it was a huge hit.  The kids loved it, and parents even commented that it was one of the best children's birthday parties they had ever been to.  They even emailed her pictures of the kids wearing the shirts!

However, not to speak ill of the foundation or what they do, but they were a little reluctant to let us make tie-dye shirts.  First they thought it would be too messy.  We assured them it wouldn't be.  But then--and here's the kicker--they thought it would be too boring!  "Just don't be offended if not many kids come to your booth," they said.

I guess when they said that, they meant, "Don't be offended if the line to your booth wraps around the building and the 100 shirts you brought with you aren't enough so you have to send people out to buy more."  Yeah.  That's right.  To quote my boss: "We were the hit of the party!"

We did it assembly-line-style.  The kids picked their t-shirt size and someone soaked it in water, twisted it up, and rubber-banded it.  It then went to the next person who dyed the shirt in the colors that the kids got to choose.  It was then wrapped in plastic wrap, placed in a Ziploc baggie with the child's name, and instructions on what to do with it were stapled to the bag.  All they have to do is let the shirt soak in the bag over night, rinse it in cold water, and let it dry.

I was one of the ones doing the dyeing, and Brian was bagging it up before he had to leave for work.  I stayed the whole time though, and dyed t-shirts for three hours straight.  Yep.  Three hours.  Right through Oprah.  It may sound grueling, but it was a lot of fun!  The kids were all dressed in their costumes and having a great time.  Some of the kids are too sick to go trick-or-treating, and this party is really all they have to celebrate the holiday.  I'm glad I was able to play a small part in their Halloween experience...

...and I got to go into the Wish Room!! It was so magical!

"The Halloween Tree" Chapter 16

Do you remember how yesterday's chapter ended with the boys whistling for the gargoyles to come?  Well, in Chapter 16 they come.

And that's it.
The unemployed of all midnight Europe shivered in their stone sleep and came awake.
Which is to say that all the old beasts, all the old tales, all the old nightmares, all the old unused demons-put-by, and witches left in the lurch, quaked at the call, reared at the whistle, trembled at the summons, and in dustdevils of propulsion skimmed down the roads, flitted the skies, buckshot through shaken trees, forded streams, swam rivers, pierced clouds, and arrived, arrived, arrived.
Moundshroud jokes about dumping boiling hot lead down on the creatures below, and the boys remind him that Quasimodo already did that.  These boys are sure educated on their Victor Hugo novels.  They are no dummies.  In fact, Tom catches on quick to what is going on:
"Does it make sense, Tom?"
"Sure.  All the old gods, all the old dreams, all the old nightmares, all the old ideas with nothing to do, out of work, we
gave them work.  We called them here!"
"And here they will remain for centuries, right?"
"Right!"
And the beasts thanked them.  A simple four-page chapter... and I'm not quite sure how this book is going to wrap up in the next three chapters.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

1989: Savage

Age three, wearing nothing but pasta noodles!

1987: Tiger

At the age of one, I was one ferocious feline!

"The Halloween Tree" Chapter 15

So Moundshroud and the boys are now in Paris, France.  These kids sure know how to rack up the frequent flier miles, I tell you what!  And I'm totally jealous of their travels.  Oh well.  At least I can escape through the magic of reading.

So, in Paris, they decide to build Notre Dame.  But then a bell is heard ringing in the sky, and with each toll, a voice is heard saying, "Help!"  Give you three guesses who's voice that is...
There, hung upside down over Paris, his head for a knocker, was Pipkin in a bell.  Or the shadow, ghost, or lost spirit of Pipkin, anyway... Pipkin's head banged the bell.  Bong!  And again: Bong!
Poor Pipkin!  First he's a mummy, then he's a dog, now he's a bell!

So obviously the boys need to figure out a way to save their friend, but how do they get up there?  Their brooms seemed to have died and won't take flight anymore.  Moundshroud can fly, but he insists that the boys need to be the ones doing the saving...
"Wait. Ah!  Inspiration.  We were going to build Notre Dame, correct?  Well then, let us by all means build it, there! and climb our way up to hard-skulled knock-the-bell sound-the-hour Pipkin!  Hop it, lads!  Climb those stairs!"
And with the mysterious magic that always accompanies Moundshroud's words, bricks fall into place underneath their feet.  With each step upwards, a stair is built to catch their fall.
So they ran on emptiness, with Moundshroud prodding, shoving after.  They ran on pure windy light only to have bricks and stones and mortar shuffle like cards, deal themselves solid, take form beneath their toes and heels.
Eventually the reach the very top where the bells are, but Pipkin is nowhere to be seen.  He's gone.  They must hope to run across him again, which I'm sure they will.  But for the moment, they admire the great cathedral they have just built!
"So even as the Romans cut down druid trees and chopped their God of the Dead to fall, we now with this church, boys, cast such a shadow as knocks all witches off their stilts, and puts seedy sorcerers and trite magicians to heel.  No more small witch fires.  Only this great lit candle, Notre Dame.  Presto!"
"Look about, boys.   Fine handiwork, eh? Centuries of toil done in a fast gallop and sneeze, right?  But, ah, ah, something beside Pipkin's missing.  What?  Glance up.  Scan 'round.  Eh?... Don't the place look awful plain, boys?  Awful untouched and unornamented?"
And at once all the boys shout "Gargoyles!" and Wally Babb couldn't be more excited (seeing as he's dressed as one).  What the place needs is gargoyles, and to get them to come, the boys must whistle.  And so the whistling begins and the gargoyles come running...

Ah!  I'm dying to know what happens!  Will they ever save Pipkin for good?

Only four more chapters, only four more chapters, only four more chapters.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Gleek Critique: "The Rocky Horror Glee Show" Episode

Finn dressed for the role of Brad.  We think he looks hot in glasses.  He should keep them.  Image property of Fox.

Sadly, there wasn't a new episode of Glee last week.  So instead, my friends and I all got together to watch the DVD of The Rocky Horror Picture Show to get ourselves prepared for tonight's episode.  Some of us have seen it already and just needed a refresher.  Some had been living under a rock, and needed an introduction.  The movie is such a bizarre cult classic that I find to be absolutely fantastic!

Now, I was worried when I heard Glee would be doing a homage to the film, mostly because the media has been making a stink lately over the immorality of the show.  After the girl on girl make-out session in the "Duets" episode, people were outraged saying that it was a "sex romp" on a family show.  Then of course, there's been all the talk about the Glee photo shoot in the new GQ Magazine.  Sherri Shepard had a cow over it on The View, claiming that ten-year-old boys who watch Glee are going to run out and buy the magazine so they can drool over Lea Michelle in her booty shorts.

Oh brother, people.   If you think Glee is a "family show" suitable for ten-year-olds...  you have a problem.

However, as risque and envelope-pushing as The Rocky Horror Picture Show might be, the Glee episode based on it was handled with great taste.  At least in my opinion.  Basically, it taught a lesson about freedom of speech and the value of art.

A basic summary of the episode:  Mr. Schuester is extremely jealous that Emma is dating Dr. Carl.  And it doesn't help anything, that she seems to be extremely happy with him.  In fact, she's getting over some of her OCD issues... I mean, she was able to go to a seedy theater to watch a midnight showing of The Rocky Horror Picture Show with crazy, noisy people dressed in costume.  So how can Will one-up that?  By having the New Directions kids perform the musical of course!  And to get even closer to Emma, he asks her to help him with the costumes.

Casting proves to be a problem.  Kurt refuses to play the transvestite Dr. Frankenfurter (Tim Curry in the movie version), Mike then decides to take it on but is forced to quit the show when his mother objects, until finally Mercedes agrees to do it.  Dr. Carl wants to get involved and play Eddie, mostly to keep an eye on Will and Emma.  Sam is going to play Rocky, but in the end, the role is decided to be too sexy for a student and Will decides to take it on.

In the end, it's discovered that Sue has been secretly writing an expose using the show as an example of the secularization of America's schools (all to win a local Emmy) and Will realizes that his intentions were not good in the first place.  He shouldn't put the kids through so much just for his own personal gain.

The Pros:
  • The show opened up exactly like the movie does, with Santana's red lips on the black background singing "Science Fiction Double Feature."  Same lettering and everything.  Great opening!
  • Sam makes one sexy Rocky!  Woohoo!
  • Speaking of sexiness, the scene where Emma sings "Touch A Touch A Touch Me" to Will, ultimately seducing him and ripping off his shirt, was amazing!  So hot!
  • Becky saying "Give me some chocolate or I will cut you" to Will.  Ha ha ha.  I love that girl.
  • "Time Warp" was a great way to end the episode!  So much fun!
The Cons:
  • Still no Puck!  Luckily though, the preview for the next episode shows that he is coming back!
  • I love Mercedes.  You know I do.  But a girl playing Frankenfurter is just lame lame lame.
  • In the end, they didn't perform the show for anyone but themselves.  LAME!  I would be so pissed if I was one of those students and had spent all that time rehearsing...

"The Halloween Tree" Chapter 14

In Chapter 14 of Ray Bradbury's completely intoxicating The Halloween Tree, the boys fly through the night on brooms and learn a thing or two about witches... oh, and that riding on brooms ain't so easy!
"But, Pip, it's awful hard to ride a broomstick, I find!"
"Funny you say that," said Henry-Hank.  "I agree."
Everyone agreed, falling off, hanging on, climbing back.
 To add to the difficulty of the situation, it's not just the nine of them on their nine brooms.  There are many brooms, hundreds of brooms, maybe even thousands upon thousands of brooms, all competing for the same airspace.  And with so many broomsticks, and the elements of the wind and the clouds and the darkness, the boys get pretty beat up in their flight.

Now, little gay boys, such as myself, hate getting hurt.  I get a paper cut and I'm complaining about it for days.  But straight boys?  Gosh, they love it!  Pain is so thrilling to them, and each cut or bruise is like an award they brag about...
"Hey, I got a bloody nose!" gasped Tom, happily, looking at the red on his fingers.
"Shucks!" cried Pipkin, going into a cloud dry and coming out wet.  "That's nothing.  I got one eye shut, one ear bad, and lost a tooth!"
 They're also unsure as to where exactly they are supposed to be going.  Pipkin has been saying to meet him for sometime now, but he's never been very specific as to where exactly.  And when Pipkin is suddenly swallowed up by a cloud, they have no way of following him anymore.
"Meet him in the air?" Tom snorted.  "Good grief, talk about horrible directions to nowhere!"
"See even more horrible directions!" said Moundshroud, sailing by on a broom that looked like a wet and angry cat on the end of a mop.  "Would you see witches, boys?  Hags, crones, conjure wives, magicians, black magics, demons, devils?  There they be, in mobs, in riots, boys.  Skin your eyeballs."
And down below they could see the witches!  Stirring cauldrons, making fires, yelling up at the night sky.  The boys are surprised, they never knew witches were real.
"Real?" Moundshroud, insulted, almost fell from his bramble-cat broom.  "Ye little gods and fishes, lad, every town has its resident witch.  Every town hides some old Greek pagan priest, some Roman worshiper of tiny gods who ran up the roads, hid in the culverts, sank in the caves to escape the Christians!  In every tiny village, boy, in every scrubby farm the old religions hide out. You saw the druids cut and chopped, eh?  They hid from the Romans.  And now the Romans, who fed Christians to lions, run themselves to hide.  So all the little lollygaggin' cults, all flavors and types, scramble to survive.  See how they run, boys!"
The witches below all run and hide, quick as black cats.  The boys begin to ask Moundshroud what the witches are able to do, and are disappointed to find out that witches only thought they had powers... really, they weren't able to do any of the stuff people thought they could do.

 Moundshroud explains that the word "witch" came from the word "wits" and that in those days, anyone who seemed to be smarter than the rest was said to be a witch.  And some of those people played along, and really believed it of themselves in the end.  From some distant place, a song is heard, which explains it all even more:
"The Broomworks makes
The Broom that looms
On sky in gloom and rising of the moon
That broom which, groom to witch, flies high
On harvestings of stormwind grass
With shriek and sigh to motion it
In ocean-seas of cloud, now soft, now loud...!
Did witches feel the night wind in their bed
And reel and dance with devils and the dead?
No!
But that is what they bragged and claimed and said!
Until whole continents, hellbent
Named 'witches' of the Innocent,
And did conspire
To burn old women, babes, and virgins in a fire.
Through all of Germany and France,
Ten thousand so-called evil witches
Hung to kick their final antic dance
No village but what shared a dread uproar
As each side named the other for a devil's pig,
Old Satan's sow, the Demon's maddened boar.
All Europe was a cloud of witches smoke.
Their judges often bound and burnt with them
For what?  A joke!
Until: 'all men are spoiled with guilt!
All sin, all lie!'
So, what to do?
Why, everyone must die!"
And as witches are rounded up below and put to death by hanging, the boys fly on.  Until they land on a street in Paris.

Monday, October 25, 2010

"The Halloween Tree" Chapter 13

I feel bad that I'm sitting here writing this on Brian's birthday.  Poor kid probably thinks I'm neglecting him, but I have to get it done.  And better now than later when we're out celebrating.  We have dinner reservations tonight at 6:30 and then hopefully it's off to see a movie.

Anyways today's chapter was pretty creepy I must say.  A lot darker than any of the chapters have been so far, and I find it fitting that so much evil would occur in Chapter 13, considering it's an unlucky number.  I wonder if he planned it that way.  Probably not... I'm just reading into things.

So the boys are still hiding from the destructive Samhain, and they hear in the distance some singing:
"O Samhain, God of the Dead!
Hear us!
We the Holy Druid Priests in
This Grove of Trees, the great Oaks,
Plead for the Souls of the Dead!"


Far away, these strange men by their bright fire lifted metal knives, lifted cats and goats in their hands, chanting:
"We pray for the souls of those
Who are turned to Beasts.
O God of the Dead, we sacrifice
These beasts
So that you will let free
The souls of our loved ones
Who died this year!"
The priests continue to chant things like "Let free! Let be!" and "O free! Go!" as the creepy-crawlies on the ground began to be blown about, screaming their little screams, and dissolving away "like a million snowflakes."  The prayers to Samhain are working, and the souls of their loved ones are released.

But just when all seems good, Roman soldiers (yes, in England) come to attack the Druid Priests.
"Soldiers of Rome!  Destroy the pagans!  Destroy the unholy religion!  Seutonius so orders!"
The soldiers strike down the holy trees, and Samhain trembles in the sky as if they have struck him.  The soldiers strike dead the pagan priests, and Samhain falls to the ground like a mighty tree, shaking the earth.  The Romans have won, and they begin to make some changes.  Here we get an interesting lesson on conquering world religions...
The druid priests bled in the grass as the boys watched and the Roman captain prowled the dead fires kicking the holy ashes.
"Here we shall build our temples to our gods!"
And so the Romans light fires and burn incense and place golden idols.  But just then, a star rises in the east, and the Roman idols melt away to resemble Mary and the baby Jesus.  The Roman soldiers' garb melts away as well, and they have now become Christians dressed in robes singing Latin.
"Aye, boys, see?  Gods following gods.  The Romans cut the Druids, their oaks, their God of the Dead, bang!  down!  And put in their own gods, eh?  Now the Christians run and cut the Romans down!  New altars, boys, new incense, new names..."
The wind blows all the candles and fires out, and they are plunged into darkness and rain.  This part symbolizes the...
"Why, bless me, boys.  It's the Dark Ages.  The longest darkest night ever."
But the boys barely even have time to register this statement, because they hear Pipkin's voice above them announcing that he is on a broom and that it's taking him away.  The other boys all notice that they are on brooms.  The brooms twitch, and rise a little, before lifting them up high into the night sky one by one.
"Brooms," muttered Moundshroud.  "The gathering of the Brooms.  The October Broom Festival.  The Annual Migration...  Hang on!  When attacked by a broom, only one thing to do, hold tight!"
And with that, all the boys, have now been whisked into the dark night air on broomsticks.  See?  I told you this chapter was a lot darker.  We were shown animal sacrifices and brutal human murders all in the name of Religion.  What a dark history our world has, don't you think?  And now that we're clearly moving on to a chapter on witches, I think things might get darker yet.  As Shakespeare said, "Something wicked this way comes."

Chihuahua Comics: Happy Birthday, Brian!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

"The Halloween Tree" Chapter 12

Okay, so last we left them they were falling from the sky.  This chapter starts off announcing the order in which the boys hit the ground, and the final two names are revealed to us.

Tom hits the ground, then Henry-Hank, Ralph, George, J.J. (who is our Apeman), Wally, Fred, and lastly "Hackles" Nibley (dressed up as Death).  J.J. is the only one who doesn't have a known last name.

Now, yesterday I was complaining that there wasn't enough action.  Well, Chapter 12 has more than enough!  This chapter is positively frightening!

They have landed in a large field of wheat, and Moundshroud warns them all to lie low, for he sees the Druid God of the Dead: Samhain!
For a huge scythe came skimming down out of the sky.  With its great razor edge it cut the wind.  With its whistling side it sliced clouds.  It beheaded trees.  It razored along the cheek of the hill.  It made a clean shave of wheat.  In the air a whole blizzard of wheat fell.
And with every whisk, every cut, every scythe, the sky was aswarm with cries and shrieks and screams.
Towering above them is a massive figure wielding this dangerous scythe, and Tom shouts out, "Mr. Moundshroud, is that you?  Mr. Moundshroud, let us be!"  But it isn't Mr. Moundshroud, and I'm not sure why Tom would think that it was.  How terrifying to believe your guide and teacher would be trying to kill you...  but I suppose they still don't trust the man completely.  But it's not him.  It reallly is...
"Samhain!" cried the voice in the fog.  "God of the Dead!  I harvest thus, and so!  All those who died this year are here!  And for their sins, this night, are turned to beasts!"
The scythe swings down and almost kills Hackles Nibley, knocking him to the ground.  Luckily only his costume is torn.  But all those unfortunate souls... they weren't so lucky.
And the harvest wheat, flailed up, spun round on the wind, shrieking its souls, all those who had died in the past twelve months, rained to the earth... By the hundreds and thousands the wheat heads snowed up in scatters and fell down as spiders which could not shout or beg or weep for mercy, but which, soundless, raced over the grass, poured over the boys.
Not just spiders, but centipedes and leeches and frogs and toads and jellyfish.  All kinds of tiny, miniature animals or bugs.  The boys are revolted and terrified, and suddenly begin to ponder aloud over their souls.
"I figure," said Ralph, panting, leaping, tears on his cheeks.  "I been pretty good most of my life.  I don't deserve to die."

"I'll be good!" prayed Tom Skelton.
"Lemme live!" added Henry-Hank.
The boys get mad at this Druid God and begin to call him names like "Roach Transformer" and "Flea Squasher" until the God gets angry and yells out "No!  Samhain!  October God.  God of the Dead!" and stomps his foot, crushing even more souls.

The boys all run away, and Samhain throws the scythe after them, hitting a tree and causing apples to rain down on them.  They dive and avoid their deaths.  Samhain screams so loud an avalanche occurs nearby, and Ralph, terrified says, "England is no place to be a sinner."

And that's when they notice the dog.
A wild dog, mad with terror, raced up the rocks.
And its face, its eyes, something
in the eyes--
"That couldn't be--?"
"Pipkin?" said everyone.
"Pip--" shouted Tom.  "Is this where we
meet you? Is--"
But
whoom!  The scythe fell.
And yipping with fright, the dog, bowled over, slid down the grass.
An echo of the bark sounds like the word "meet" repeated over and over, and Tom wonders where.  Where are they supposed to meet Pipkin?

Saturday, October 23, 2010

"The Halloween Tree" Chapter 11

After all the excitement and peril and spectacle of the recent chapters, Chapter 11 of Ray Bradbury's The Halloween Tree was a bit of a let-down at first glance.  It was a short chapter, and didn't seem to pack that "wow" punch.

However, upon reading it a second time--this time not expecting any wild turn of events--I was able to appreciate it for what it was.  The chapter gives us a moment to pause and reflect, before we head off to another strange land.  And it also brings up some interesting Halloween facts.

When we last left the boys they were running to the top of a great pyramid.  Now that they are there, the boys look through a giant crystal lens and from their height, they can see far out into the world.  First, Moundshroud points out Greece, where the boys can see people bringing food out to their porches.
"Yes."  Moundshroud beamed.  "Their Festival of the Dead:  The Feast of Pots.  Trick-or-Treat old style.  But tricks from the dead if you don't feed them.  So treats are laid out in fine banquets on the sill!"
They hear all the doors suddenly slam at once.  Ralph (Mummy) notices that the people are spreading something black on their door posts, and Moundshroud informs him that it is pitch.  Apparently they spread pitch on their doors to prevent the ghosts form entering the home.  If they try it, they'll get stuck!

Then they turn the lens toward Rome, Italy where they can see people placing food on the graves in the cemeteries.  And as they all look, Mr. Moundshroud begins to sing as his body bursts apart into a million leaves:
"O autumn winds that bake and burn
And all the world to darkness turn,
Now storm and seize and make of me...
A swarm of leaves from Autumn's Tree!
...leaves...burn...
...change...turn...!
World turn!  Leaves burn!
Grass die!  Trees...fly!"
More leaves are blown from all over and mix in with the leaves that are Mr. Moundshroud.  The leaves surround the boys and lift them all from the ground.  As they fly, they hear someone below shout "Happy New Year!"
"Happy what?" asked Tom.
"Happy New Year!" Moundshroud, a flock of rusty leaves, rustled his voice.  "In old times, the first of November was New Year's Day.  The true end of summer, the cold start of winter.  Not exactly happy, but, well, Happy New Year!"
He then spots England, and the boys fall safely to the ground.  I wonder what they'll learn there?

Friday, October 22, 2010

"The Halloween Tree" Chapter 10

While reading Chapter 10, I was astounded by all that occurred!  The chapter seemed to go on and on, with one event leading into the next, and I thought to myself, "Wow, this is a long chapter."

Long?  This chapter had eight pages.  That's it.  I worry about my literary mind if eight pages seems to be a lot to me.  But it wasn't like I was bored and wanted it to be over, I just kept expecting to be cut off and left in suspense.  With the first few chapters being about three pages each, I've gotten used to that short length and these "lengthy" chapters are like a special treat that I'm unaccustomed to!

Now, back to the story.  Although they've been hearing Moundshroud's voice this whole time, the boys haven't actually seen him since he disappeared into the tomb.
"Quick, now, come find me!"  Moundshroud's voice, laughing, called them on.
So they run along the trail of mummy wrappings that led them down there in the first place, and finally they find the source of it, which is of course, a mummy.  But not just any mummy.  It's Mr. Moundshroud all wrapped up from head to toe.  He asks if one of them is dressed as a mummy, and Ralph steps forward.  He asks Ralph to unwrap him, and he does.
"Thanks, lad!  Free!  No fun being wrapped like some old funeral gift for the Land of the Dead.  But--hist!  Quick, boys, hop in the niches, stand stiff.  Someone's coming.  Play mummies, boys, play dead!"
They all hide just in time as a funeral procession walks solemnly past.  Several are carrying small toys and bowls of food, while some of the stronger ones carry a mummy case on their shoulders.  Ralph looks at the wrapped mummy, and realizes that it's about the same size as he is.  The size of a twelve-year-old boy.
"Pipkin!" cried everyone, hoarsely.
No, no, no, no, no! thought Tom.
"Yes!" cried a mouse voice, tiny, lost, wrapped away, kept, trapped, wild.  "It's me!  I'm here.  Under the mask.  Under the wrappings.  Can't move!  Can't yell.  Can't fight free...  Follow!  Meet me!  Find me at--"

"Follow you where, Pipkin?" Tom Skelton jumped down from his niche and yelled into the dark.  "Meet you
where?"
 But Moundshroud hushes Tom, and tells him he must wait.  He promises they will save Pipkin... just not yet.  Tom is truly worried at this point in the story.  His love for his friend is admirable, and his sense of urgency shows bravery.

Ralph looks at his wrappings, wondering aloud why he is dressed like a mummy.
"You are a mummy, boy, because that was how they dressed for Eternity.  Spun up in a cocoon of threads, they hoped to come forth like lovely butterflies in some far dear loving world.  Know your cocoon, boy.  Touch the strange stuffs."
"Why," said Ralph the Mummy, blinking at the smoky walls and old hieroglyphs.  "
Every day was Halloween to them!"
Mr. Moundshroud agrees, and points out that every day was Halloween to the prehistoric cavemen as well.  To illuminate his point, by some strange magic, a green light reveals some ancient cave-drawings on the wall before them, animating a scene before their very eyes.
Lightning struck.
Saber-toothed tigers caught the cavemen screaming.  Tar-pits drowned their bones.  They sank, wailing.
Lightning struck to burn forests.  One apeman, running, seized a burning branch and rammed it in a saber-tooth's jaws.  The tiger shrieked and fell away.  The apeman, snorting in triumph, tossed the fiery branch into a pile of autumn leaves in his cave.  Other men came to hold their hands out to the fire, laughing at the night where the yellow beast eyes waited, afraid.
Tom asks what any of this has to do with Halloween, and Moundshroud is shocked at the question.  It's so obvious to him, and he explains:
"When you and your friends die every day, there's no time to think of Death, is there?  Only time to run.  But when you stop running at long last--"
He touched the walls.  The apemen froze in mid-flight.
"--now you have time to think of where you came from, where you're going... Winter came on like a great white beast shaking its fur, burying him.  Would spring ever come back to the world?  Would the sun be reborn next year or stay murdered?  Egyptians asked it.  Cavemen asked it a million years before. 
Will the sun rise tomorrow morning? ... Halloween, indeed!  A million years ago, in a cave in autumn, with ghosts inside heads, and the sun lost."
With the teaching moment over, Moundshroud urges them on.  They walk back out of the catacombs and see before them an old pyramid.  Moundshroud says the last one to the top is a monkey's uncle and all the boys race ahead.  Tom is last and our chapter is finished.

Wasn't this chapter amazing?  I thought it was going to end after they discovered Pipkin was being buried in the tomb, but I was wrong.  It went on to talk about the cavemen too, and how even their primitive notions of death helped to shape what is Halloween.  I always knew Halloween celebrated the dead, but I always understood it how our mainstream society presents it ... as something scary and evil.  But I'm starting to realize that Halloween is based on the very human fear of death.  What lies ahead?  Is there a life after this one?

Movie Reviews: The Horse Wasn't Overrated But This Movie Sure Is

Secretariat movie poster, property of Walt Disney Pictures.
Secretariat AVERAGE

Our roommate Ryan got special advanced screening tickets to this movie weeks before it was released.  She went with her mother, since both are huge horse racing fans.  Ryan's mom remembers watching the horse race on television, following his story on the news.  The horse captivated America in the 1970s.  People who never watched a horse race before were suddenly intrigued by this amazing horse Secretariat.

And after watching the movie, I can see why.  He won the Triple Crown in 1973, a feat that many in the business almost thought to be impossible anymore.  And he was incredibly fast, breaking many track records and even world records.  The movie ends with Secretariat winning at Belmont by 31 lengths!  Astounding!

So it's no exaggeration to say that Secretariat was one of the greatest racehorses ever.  However, to say that this movie was one of the greatest...  now that's a stretch.  Sorry, Roger Ebert, no matter how much nostalgia this film may evoke for the horse's many fans (including yourself) does not make it a four-star movie.

The story of Secretariat and his owner Penny Tweedy (played by Diane Lane) is quite inspirational.  It genuinely is.  The woman's father was a horse breeder, and after his death they need to save the farm.  But instead of merely selling it, she wants to bring it to life again.  When Secretariat is born, she realizes his potential in being a great racehorse and decides to invest all of her time and money into this dream, with her head held high and all the world against her.  That's powerful stuff right?  The problem with the movie though, is that the writers (Mike Rich and William Nack) seem to think that the story isn't really all that inspiring and they need to inject it with millions of over-dramatic speeches.  The result is a Lifetime Original Movie.

These "motivating" monologues all push the theme too much, and make it hard to swallow.  The horse-whispering scenes and sappy score instead of bringing tears to my eyes made me roll them, and some odd "I'm gonna kick your ass" stare-downs between Secretariat and his opponent Sham all made me laugh.  The storyline involving her radical, anti-war daughter was very diluted (about as real as a kid dressing up as a hippie for Halloween) and there just wasn't enough dimension to any of the characters.

Not even a horse would choke down something this sickeningly sweet.

Love movies?  Check out my Movie Page!

Baby Elena

Yesterday an old friend of mine named Michael was married to a beautiful girl named Heather in the Bountiful Utah Temple.  You see, Heather moved to La Junta, Colorado to attend the same junior college I was attending.  She and her friend Janice were the new girls in our small ward, and Michael really wanted to get to know them.  So the four of us went on a double date, me with Janice, and Michael with Heather.  Well, Janice and I didn't work out... for obvious reasons.  But Michael and Heather continued to date for years and are now happily husband and wife!

Now, while I was living with Michael's family in La Junta, we were all good friends with a young married couple named Ben and Chayla.  They were such fun to hang out with!  Ben is like a big kid, always making some joke and completely unable to sit still, and Chayla is just the sweetest and most charming woman you will ever meet.  We made a lot of good memories during that summer before I moved to Utah.   

Why all this history?  Well, Ben and Chayla were invited to Michael and Heather's wedding reception as was I.  And since I missed them, and they missed me, we decided to go to the reception together.  It was a great reception, and I was glad I got to see Michael and Heather, visit with Michael's brother Edward and his wife Lacie a little bit, gab with Michael's mom Tami for a while, and even see her parents whom I just love to pieces.  But the best part of the evening had to be the time spent with an adorable baby named Elena!

Ben and Chayla didn't come alone to pick me up, last night.  Oh no.  They arrived with Chayla's mother Cindy.  Another friendly face from my past.  But most importantly, they came with their ten-month old baby Elena.  Of course I had heard all about her birth and had seen baby pictures on Facebook, but this was the first time seeing her in person!

In the car she would hold tight to my finger and look up at me with those big beautiful eyes.  While at the reception I got to hold her and laugh as she continually stuck her tiny hands into my mouth.  Silly girl!  And the entire night, the feeling just grew and grew:

Thursday, October 21, 2010

"The Halloween Tree" Chapter 9

Things are just getting cooler and cooler, guys!  Last chapter ended with Moundshroud getting sucked down into the pyramid's dark tomb, and in this chapter the boys follow!  Here's how it happened:
Out of the darkness something rolled, rushed, flapped.
A long strip of mummy cloth snapped out into the sunlight.
It was as if the very tomb itself had stuck out its old dry tongue which lay at their feet.
The boys stared.  The linen strip was hundreds of yards long and might, if they wished, lead them down, down into the mysterious deeps below the Egyptian earth.
Tom (he's always the first, isn't he?) put his foot on the linen and a voice from within said, "Yessss," clearly encouraging him.  He began to walk along it, like on a tightrope, following it into the darkness.

The other boys follow, of course, and they begin to go faster and faster.  The pillars on either side are suddenly visible, and the stone drawings come to life.  They depict a glorious sun being murdered by some dark creature.  But as they run, the next pillar shows the sun burning bright again, before quickly being murdered.  Born again.  Dead again.  Over and over.

Tom thinks about how he would sometimes wonder at night if the sun had died, and how relieved he had been in the morning to see it alive again.  He also thinks in terms of winter and spring, how they are like a long night and a long morning.  But no matter how dark and dead things get, the sun is always reborn.

They see a depiction of an Egyptian God, and Henry-Hank recognizes it from some mummy movie he has seen.  Tom even knows his name: Osiris.
"Yessssssss..." hissed Moundshroud's voice from the deep tombs.  "Lesson Number One about Hallowen.  Osiris, Son of the Earth and Sky, killed each night by his brother Darkness.  Osiris slain by Autumn, murdered by his own night blood.  So it goes in every country, boys.  Each has its death festival, having to do with the seasons.  Skulls and bones, boys, skeletons and ghosts."
Through a hole, the boys can see out into the Egyptian village.  Now that it's dusk, the people have started placing food outside.  The boys learn that it's for the homecoming ghosts; a sort of "treat" laid out for them.  Lamps are light, and the smoke floats upward and looks like ghosts circling in the air.
And the shadows stepped up on the porches and, very gently, touched the gifts of food.
The chapter ends with a family setting an old mummy at the head of the table, and giving a toast in his honor. Isn't that fascinating?  Assuming this information is factual, I'm loving what I'm learning about Egypt!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Paychecks, Work Clothes, and Hobo Pee

I don't know if you know this, but when I first started working at Fancy-Clothing-Store-For-Rich-Faces (don't want to get fired, ya know) I was only getting like 8 hours a week.  Then it bumped up to like 12-15 hours.  You should have seen my paychecks.  Wow.  $58 huh?  Ooh.  This one's big.  $125!  "I'm so rich."  That was sarcasm.  It translates to: "I'm so poor I might as well roll over into the gutter and let hobos pee on my face."

But these past few weeks have been phenomenally better.  My last paycheck was about $250, and this next one should be about $330 or so after Uncle Sam takes out his sizable portion.  Rude!  And I know that most of you reading this probably got a bigger allowance as a kid than I'm making as an adult, but to me, bringing in $600 a month is a whole lot more beneficial than when I was contributing a mere $100.  All I can say is, I'm very thankful for Brian and the long hours he works at the Movie-Theater-In-The-Questionable-Part-Of-Town (our bosses really don't want us mentioning the workplace, sorry).

Now that I'm going to work more days a week, I'm suddenly very aware of the lack of work-appropriate clothes I have.  It wasn't so bad before when I only showed up once in a blue moon.  But now I'm starting to see the same people various times a week.  In fact, everyone I saw yesterday I saw today and will see again tomorrow!  They're going to find out that I only have like three work outfits!

So I have no idea what to wear to work tomorrow.  And worse yet, my boss mentioned that our district manager will be visiting.  "Yep, she'll be here tomorrow, Jack.  So wear something really nice, okay?  Something spiffy like what you've got on today."  Like what I've got on today?  Is she joking?  This is the only spiffy thing I own!  And it's not even that spiffy!  I've worn these pants every day this week...

Sigh.  That hobo/gutter idea is sounding better by the minute.  Nobody expects a hobo to change clothes.

"The Halloween Tree" Chapter 8

I really want to go fly a kite now.  Sure I'd rather fly with the kite, but if I can't do that the least I can do is watch one from the ground.  Watch as it loops and veers and soars on the wind.

Chapter 8 of The Halloween Tree continues with the boys and their mysterious host, gliding through the night with the aid of a bewitched and wondrous kite.
They yelled with delight.  They shrieked with ingasped, outgasped terror.  They rode across the moon in an exclamation point.  They soared over hills and meadows and farms.  They saw themselves reflected in dusky moon-bright streams, creeks, rivers.  They brushed down over ancient trees.  The wind stirred by their passing shook down whole government mints of coins, leaves, bright showering to the black-grassed earth.  They flew over the town and thought --
O look up! see! here we are! your sons!
The kite soars above and around the town, before returning back to where they started.  They see Moundshroud's house and the Halloween Tree again.  The plunge downward in rapidity, causing the candles in the pumpkins to go out, but as the kite swoops back up again, "the Tree blazed up with a thousand new cut-pumpkin frowns, glares, grimaces, and grins!"

Then the kite changes direction, leading them to the "Undiscovered Country" as Moundshroud calls it.  "The Past" is a term we might use.
"Two thousand, count them, years before Christ!  Pipkin's there, waiting!  I smell it!  Fly!"
Then the moon began to blink.  It closed up its eye and there was darkness.  Then faster and faster it began to wink, to wax, to wane, to wax again.  Until a thousand times over it flickered and in flickering changed the landscape below, and then fifty thousand times, so fast they could not see it, the moon extinguished and relit itself.
And the moon stopped winking and held very still.
And the land was changed.
And what's below them now?  EGYPT!  Not only do they see the pyramids and the the Sphinx and the River Nile sprawling out before their very eyes... but they are new!  These structures look a good 4,000 years younger... because they are!  They've gone back to the time of Ancient Egypt!

The kite "shook itself like a wild dog ridding itself of fleas" and the boys all fall off into the sand.  The kite, having served its purpose, shreds into a thousand pieces, just as an Egyptian tomb opens up in front of them.  The ripped paper from the kite is sucked into the tomb, followed by Mr. Moundshroud.

The boys, alone in the Valley of the Kings, look down into the tomb.
The tomb breathed out a sick exhalation of paprika, cinnamon, and powdered camel dung.  Somewhere, a mummy dreamed, coughed in its sleep, unraveled a bandage, twitched its dusty tongue and turned over for another thousand-year snooze....
The chapter ends with Tom Skelton calling out Moundshroud's name.  I can't wait to see what they'll discover in the tomb, and what we might learn from the Egyptians about Halloween.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

My Super New Cut

My new 'do.
I've been wanting to cut my hair for a while now.  I've just been getting tired of it so long.  And having to straighten it all the time.  I know.  Totally gay, right?

Brian is such a hard worker that he won a coupon for a free haircut at SuperCuts from his job the other day.  He gave it to me so I'd quit begging him to cut my hair for me.  So today I had some free time, and my good friend Wendy was able and willing to give me a ride.  She and baby Alison were able to witness the shearing of the locks.  Wendy was shocked to see that I would go as short as I did.  But at the rate my hair grows, it won't take too long for it all to grow back.

I'm off to work now.  I wonder what my coworkers will think.  I wonder what Brian and my roommates will think.  What do you think?  Do you like my hair better short or long?

Brian's Early Birthday

Brian blowing out his birthday candles... all 23 of them!
Sunday the 17th we bravely headed south into Happy Valley, a place of continual pleasantness and sweet smiling song (due partly to the gospel of Jesus Christ, but mostly to an abuse of painkillers).  Not many of our fellow Salt Lakers can withstand the sanctimonious glibness that is Orem, but we venture it time and time again. And what's more, we were headed that day straight to the grand mecca of Crazy Town...

The Kesler Home.

(Crash of thunder.  Flash of lightning.  Terrifying scream in the distance.)

We were there that day to celebrate Brian's 23rd birthday, although his birthday wasn't for another week.  We approached the front steps cautiously, narrowly avoiding the flashing claws of a most terrifying feline.  The door creaked ever so ominously as we entered, bracing ourselves for the horrors within.

In an eerily-lit kitchen we found them.  Candles flickered their ghostly pale light, throwing long dark shadows up the walls. 

"You're early," an old witch cackled, "we weren't yet expecting you..." She pressed her gnarled face right up into mine.  I could smell her cobweb breath blowing dankly into my nose, burning my eyes. "Dinner isn't ready, my pet."

At these words the old hunchback in the corner sharpened his knives with a terrifying screech of metal on metal.

"No," continued the witch, "dinner isn't quite ready.  You were both very naughty to come here so early.  When you weren't wanted."

She turned suddenly to the three ghoulish females hovering close by in the shadows.  One of the hags, dark as sin, fled from the gaze of the witch.  Like a cat she sprang to the nearest banister, and then up the stairs in two quick bounds, finding a sanctuary in the solitude.  The other two were too scared to move.

The witch moved slowly toward them, dragging a purpled and deformed foot behind her.  "You two!  Take your brother and his friend down into the dungeon.  You will wait there until I give word."

The taller girl, pale as death with hair as light as the moon, grabbed Brian forcefully and dragged him along with her.  The shorter girl, with hair dark as night but equally strong, gripped me in her vice-like claws.  I didn't put up too much of a fight.  I knew our torture would be unavoidable.

Down the dark winding stairs we went, without even a torch to lead the way.  Scurrying mouse feet echoed throughout the catacomb, and a distinct smell of rot and decay wafted over us as we plunged deeper into the gloomy abyss.

We waited there for what seemed like hours.  My stomach rumbled with hunger.  All I wanted was some food, dear God, why wouldn't anybody feed us?  Our keepers smiled their sinister smiles as they tortured us happily.  They threw things at us and sang their shrill songs.  They poked us in the eyes with their bony skeleton fingers and made us smell their feet.  It was horrible.

Just as I was about to let myself go and just die there on that cold stone floor, the old witch had joined us.  In my delirious state I thought she was there to kill us.  She hovered overhead and glared her evil eyes down at us, penetrating into our skulls.  A small smile pulled at either side of her mouth, turning into a gaping grimace of broken, yellowed teeth.  She burst into a terrifying shriek of laughter, an enormous cackle that shook the walls of our tomb and reverberated into our very souls.  A flash of lightning threw her chortling face into sharp relief, and her eyes seemed to flash at us like fire from a struck match.

I closed my eyes in fear and braced myself for the striking blow of death.  One of the hags was screaming my name, "Jack, Jack, Jack, Jack, Jack!"

"Jack, could you pour me some water."

I opened my left eye.  I could see Courtney sitting next to me, her mom across from me with Jenny at her side.  I opened my right eye.  Brian and his dad were seated furthest from me, and Amy was at my right, looking at me quizzically with her cup in her outstretched hand.

"The pitcher is right next to you.  Could you pour me some?  Or at least pass it over to me?"

"Yeah.  Sure," I said dazedly, coming out of my trance. 

"This is really good pot roast, Dad.  Thanks," said Courtney.

I looked down and sure enough, my plate had roast and potatoes and carrots and fruit.  In the middle of the table was a beautiful red velvet cake, decorated with festive fall sprinkles and candy corn embellishments.  The candles atop the cake reminded me that it was Brian's birthday dinner with his family.  Further down, at the end of the table, sat many birthday gifts waiting to be opened.

Brian leaned his head behind Amy, and motioned that I should do the same.  He whispered in my ear, "I think reading The Halloween Tree is affecting you.  No more ghost stories, okay?"

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