Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Halloween Update

Thanks to the Journal News for putting my Halloween column on their news site. It can be found here: http://www.lohud.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20071030/NEWS02/710300312/1238/NEWS0219

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

The Great Halloween Post of 2007

Oh yes....it is here. The Great Pumpkin is getting fatter as we speak, the owls are practicing their best sinister looks (over the shoulder is in this year), and the store-owners are cackling and wringing their knotted hands as we buy the latest in hip plastic-tombstones. Yes! We are stocking up on mountains of sugar-rush, pre-packaged joy to unload in mass to the glucose-charged, screaming hoards of pudgy ninjas and historically inaccurate pirates....even the fruit supplies are running low from the old couples who always give away apples, thinking they are somehow saving the children (every street has one).

Oh, we are loading up on miles and miles of colored plastic and cheap, lead-filled, Chinese-imported face paint. The kids mouths are drooling like Pavlovian dogs, their fat little bellies shaking in anticipation. The greatest holiday in the history of holidays is arriving in all its spandex glory, and America, as always, has put it's own unique, neon-green-sparkled twist on the ancient celebration. But where does Halloween come from? Did people always dress up? And what is with that figure standing behind you right now as you read this? (Whatever you do, don't turn around, seriously)

Well, it turns out a lot of the Halloween traditions are oldies, as in "what is that stuff called 'iron'?" oldies. And you thought the whole "ladies-dress-naughtily-as-a-way-to-express-that-desire-yet-not-be-condemned-by-society" was a new fad, didn't you? Nope, it goes back quite a ways (more on that later). At any rate here is a brief history of Halloween. And hey, I want credit for not using any Halloween puns, such as "a brief hisssstory of Halloween"....whoops, I just did it. I witch I hadn't done that. I mean, I wish I hadn't done bat. I mean...oh never mind.

- Where does Halloween come from? Well, the ancient Celts believed winter began November 1st (or around thereof). In modern Gaelic this day is called "Samhain" (meaning end of summer). The beginning of winter was regularly associated with death, and was also the time for slaughtering animals for the winter. For the Celts, the eve before - October 31st - was when the separation between the living and the dead became obscured. Burial mounds were opened, and the spirits could aid the druids in predicting food stores for the coming winter. The Celts would perform rituals such as lighting bonfires to keep bad spirits from crossing over. And so it began...

- All Saints Day - what is the connection? Okay, now pay attention - All Saints Day is a Christian celebration which celebrates Saints and Martyrs. In the 9th century, Pope Gregory IV placed the holiday on....you guessed it....November 1st. This meant that All Saints Day and Saimhain fell on the same day. NOW, All Saints Day is also known as "All Hallows Day", and since October 31st is the evening before, Halloween was derived from "All Hallow Even." If this isn't confusing enough for you, look up the whole Florentine Calendar thing and how they measured the day starting at sunset. Loads of fun!

- Why costumes? One version is that people dressed up as spirits so they could "blend in" with the real spirits (remember the living and dead line was obscured). In addition, "All Souls Day", which falls the day after All Saints Day (confuuuuused yet?) was celebrated with costumes and parades. The traditions of these holidays seemed to overlap with time.

- Bobbing for apples - what exactly is going ON there? When the Romans took over much of Celtic Britain, their holidays began to incorporate themselves. A Roman Holiday celebrating the Goddess Pomona fell in late October, and her symbol was....wait for it......an apple! Okay, so the connection is weak - just stick your head in the bucket and don't ask questions, I always say.

- When did it come to America? The Puritans, or "The Badly Dressed Party Poopers" as the Indians called them, banished Halloween (along with pretty much everything else). However, Americans being Americans, we slowly began to get our groove on, and the traditions popular in Europe made their way to the colonies. Early celebrations included dancing, story-telling, and of course crazed, pumpkin-wielding headless horsemen.

- Speaking of pumpkins - The tradition of carving vegetables into lanterns goes way back in Britain and Ireland. The Irish would carve turnips into faces on Halloween as a prank - it is possible they brought this tradition with them to America, finding pumpkins to be more plentiful. In addition, pumpkins happen to ripen around Halloween, much to the delight of testosterone-fueled, fire-cracker brandishing male adolescents (guilty!).

- Why "Trick or Treat"? Well, it seems on All Souls Day Christians would beg for "soul cakes" which were square pieces of bread. The beggars would then say prayers for the donor's deceased relatives. In addition, Irish in America were particularly "prank-prone" on Halloween, blaming mischief on the spirits roaming about. "Trick or Treat" seems to be an evolution of going door to door in combination with a general prank-friendly atmosphere. This is before people sued for "ghost-costume-shock-trauma", of course.

- Mischief Night? In the US, Mischief Night falls on the 30th. For those that don't know (or were never a teenager) mischief night is like distilling the pranks of Halloween into a pure, potent form the night before. Again, this is likely an evolution of various prank traditions, although the severity of it varies from region to region. A notable modern Mischief Night occurs in Detroit, where it is known as "Devil's Night".

- The whole "sexy" costume phenomenon - is it new? Halloween may be the one night a year where women can show off as much as they want at the company party and no one has a heart-attack. Interestingly, there is a long tradition of this. For example, during the Regency period women of status could put on "shows" where they dance and dress scantily - all in the name of art. Another example is benefit concerts done by woman's charity organizations, where they can wear "showgirl" costumes, show off a little leg, etc. A chance to let loose and not be tsk-tsked by old-lady Marge from the yacht club. And so the tradition continues!

- The old "razor blade in the apple" - is it true? Well, yes and no. It seems there have been cases of razor blades in apples, but they are somewhat suspect and possibly hoaxes. It is true that in 2004 James Smith in Minneapolis was charged with putting needles in children's candy. However, these instances are much rarer than popular legend has it.

- What about some other customs?

~ After bobbing for apples, if you peel the apple and throw it over your shoulder it might form your Love's initial. Particularly good if his name is in Klingon.

~ To protect your children from spirits, try sprinkling a little salt in their hair (Note: Do not do this before sending to a man-eating troll).

~ Mexico celebrates "Dia De Los Muertos" or "Day of the Dead" on November 1st and 2nd. It is an interesting mix of old and modern cultures.

~ A variation of the bobbing for apples is to hang it on a string, or use a fork in your mouth (Also great if you run out of black-eye makeup).

~ In Ireland, women would put slugs in a plate of flour. The subsequent shape in the flour from the moving slugs would supposedly make the face of your future love. This is probably more useful in divorce cases.

~ In Scotland, children "guise", or walk from house to house and perform a song, poem or other way to earn the treat. Imagine American kids having to earn anything? I can hear the lawyers shuffling their papers now.

- So Jarod, what are you wearing this year? I'm not telling! But it may involve some sort of...(message cut off)

Well folks, that is all for now. There is so much more, and I encourage you all to do some research into Halloween's history. In the meantime, close your windows, light your candles, and please......don't give away fruit.

Monday, October 22, 2007

More Weekend Adventure

I did some more of my "take off and explore" this weekend. If you want to try something fun - do this: using the sun as a guide, get in your car and take off in a single direction. Use different roads to adjust accordingly. No maps, just go. You never know where you'll end up, or what you will find! Here are some things I happened upon this weekend:

An interesting dam for a mill, and then - suddenly - a Native American village! You never know when you will happen upon one.

An Indian longhouse. I can totally live in one of these....and I'm absolutely serious

Cool view somewhere in the middle of Connecticut. I also ended up at West Point - here are Napoleon's pistols and sword (the real thing)

General Yamashita's Sword. A WWI tank - or the first "SUV"

Remains of Fort Montgomery - a Revolutionary War Fort taken by the British. We were fighting with the British about something - probably who can hold the remote control.

Sing it with me - "sunnnset on the waaaaateerrr"

That's all, folks. Carry on.

Friday, October 19, 2007

I'm Here To Help!

Okay, for some reason there seems to be a particularly high content of "cutesy" stuff on the internet lately. Lots of posts about crying, hand-holding, snuggling with dates, etc. I mean, that's normally cool, but there is an EXPLOSION of it lately (I am guilty - posting cuddly pictures of my cat!). Everything is so "cute and romantic," it's like they've been putting solvable Hallmark cards in the water. But not to worry, I am here to help! In the interest of balance, here are few tidbits from a recent sword exhibit I put up. Feel free to growl, dance around a fire, or head-butt your best friend:

Exhibit case full of swords!

An 1833 Dragoon Saber - I mean, how cool is that?

1860 Light Calvary Saber - Used throughout the Civil War, AND makes a nice cake slicer! Eh?

1913 sword designed by none other than George Patton!!

Okay, so did I help anyone? If not, you can always see my posts on catapults! Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go watch Oprah.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Random Thoughts for Today

No intro to this one....in fact, the sentence you are reading right now is NOT an intro, just to be clear. Any said resemblance to an actual intro is entirely coincidental, and not legally binding. In addition, the word "introduction" has been left out of this intro to emphasize the non-intro-ness of the this non-intro. Except, of course, for inclusion in the last sentence, which has no bearing in this matter beside the actual emphasis in the non-intro-ness emphasising sentence.

- You have never actually seen the present. By the time the light reflecting off any object hits your eyes, a tiny fraction of time has already passed. You are always looking at the past.

- Are Klingons dog people and Vulcans cat people? Just asking.

- George Patton invented a Calvary saber in 1913 (which was adopted by the US army) - one of the last official swords to be manufactured for use in combat. This information is a great way to break the ice when meeting your in-laws (make sure to blurt it out in mid-conversation with no frame of reference).

- The world of Blogger etiquette - is it polite to comment on someones blog if they comment on yours? I'm not sure of the answer to this, only I try my best to do so (if I find the blog interesting). Also, what are the rules on "biting your tongue?" For example, I generally find dating posts nauseating, but that doesn't give me the right to say so on someones blog. I suppose there are no set rules on this.

- If I were a woodchuck, I would insist on being called "Woodcharles."

- Have you ever noticed Tonya Harding and Britney Spears are never in the same place? Coincidence?

Well, that's all for today.


Okay, now that's all.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Weekend Adventure

This weekend, I did one my exploring habits, where I take off and find new places, no real agenda, etc. This time, I went up the Hudson Valley and found some cool stuff. Who wants to come with me next time?

Yes, I live Near Sleepy Hollow. The Real Sleepy Hollow.

Came across this bizarre line of people walking with balloons. It was some kind of "Light up the Night" Festival

Check out these pumpkins at the Cortlandt Manor.
Came across a car show. The first car is an homage to - Hey, if you don't know you've never lived in North Carolina. The second is this cool tank-like thing the police own.

A Ferrari - you want it, don't you? And a Firebird - how awesome is that?
The Hudson River.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

New Camera

For those that don't know, my last camera was destroyed as I fell waist-deep into a 50 foot wide pit of muck while fishing. You didn't think there was quick-sand in New York, did you? Well I have the ruins of a wrecked camera to prove otherwise. But hey, for my birthday I got - you guessed it - a brand new camera! So of course I must post the obligatory "new-camera-woo-hoo-I-can-take-pictures-again" pictures.

Waterfall at my secret fishing spot.

Mr. Cat in full "smug-mode." Once again, you must say that he is cute. Say it! Sayyyy it!

That's all, just a new camera. Carry on.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Jarod's Top Ten Reasons to Invade England.

So you just sacked Rome. You're feelin' good, walkin' with a strut....your carts are filled with the latest in wreath fashion. But now what? I mean, you can't possibly go back to wandering aimlessly, attacking small villages and burning those cute little huts. That was yesterday, folks -how passe. You are a STAR now, a successful brand. You need something bigger, brighter - something to really get the parchments gossiping - The solution lies before you like a giant, pale, foppish mound of earth.....England, baby! Why invade England, you ask? Well here are ten reasons to feed your PR people:

10 - Laugh at the dancing. Have you ever seen the English dance? It's like a herd of wildebeests throwing themselves repeatedly against an electric fence.

9 - No annoying "Sun" or "Blue Skies". Outside of England it's always "Isn't it a nice day?" or "Hey, great weather we're having." None of that malarkey in England.

8 - Watch the aliens build Stonehenge. A plethora of entertainment. Bring the wife and kids!

7 - No French. This is an added bonus to any situation, of course.

6 - Knock off those annoying bowler hats. It's true, bowler hats haven't been invented yet, but that won't stop you from knocking them off the English heads. Extra: try punching through the hats for further insult.

5 - No dentist drills. The English hate dentists, and you will never hear that annoying drill.

4 - Learn grammar. The English will be the first to correct your badly written war-chants. "It's not 'Burned to ashes' it's 'Burn to ashes'....you are confusing your tenses."

3 - Lose weight from the food. Have you ever eaten a "boiled hamburger?" Enough said.

2- Merlin is the hook up. Who better to get girls than a crazed, hooded figure that disappears into the mist?

And finally,

1 - Invade England, win a tapestry!

Well, that's all for now. Have a nice invasion!

Friday, October 5, 2007

Guest Bloggin' At Sarah's

Author Sarah Moffett asked me to write a guest post for her blog while she is away, and I am honored to do so - It goes up Friday the 5th, so "check it out" as the kids say. Here is her site: http://www.sarahmoffett.com/

For those that don't know, Sarah is the talented author of Growing Up Moffett: The Rise and Fall of Innocence in a Pathos Plagued Year. Her book has received excellent reviews, and she is currently working on her second. Go to Amazon and look her up!