Monday Earworm: Broken Peach

This whole weekend Danny Elfman’s song “This Is Halloween” from Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas has been going through my head, and when I searched for a video of it, I discovered this little gem. It’s freaky.

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Witchy Weekends: Book Spine Poetry

I’m decorating my house for Hallowe’en today, and every year I do a fun mantel which includes some book spine poetry. I try to mix it up each year with different poems. Here are this season’s offerings:

the kingmaker’s daughter / drinking coffee elsewhere / a discovery of witches

 

And in honor of all the actual witches working in service each month in the protection of our country with their bindings:

four sisters, all queens / dime store magic / wicked / chocolat / reason for hope

 

And one more poem, just because it’s up on my mantel, even though it doesn’t have anything to do with witches:

lost / in the land of men / lonely werewolf girl / one hundred years of solitude

 

 

‘Tis the season.

The Triumphant Return of Witchy Weekends

Is this you?

Because if it is, then you’re like me. I can hardly wait for October 1st to start celebrating the Hallowe’en season. Sure, I technically start the last week or so of September by collecting decorations and thinking about costumes, but on the 1st things get kicked into high gear.

Sometimes on my blog — as any of you who have been reading for a while will know — I run series. And one which has been fun in the past is Witchy Weekends in October. So we’re going to try it again this year.

Today please enjoy this bonus earworm from Bloomfield, Kooper, and Stills. You can just click play and let it run in the background while you do other stuff since this one is only audio, no video. It’s iconic.

 

Witches #1

It is October, and even though the temperatures here in my tropical part of the world have dipped only into the low 80s — and we’ll take it, happily, because it’s what we can get this week — the Hallowe’en season is in full bloom. This year I’ve decided to celebrate the season on my blog by covering the topic of witches.

The popular image of witches, of course, is kind of insane: hags with green skin, stringy hair, warts and toads, flying on broomsticks while cackling and manipulating other people’s lives in nasty ways. The closest thing I can imagine coming to that in real life, honestly, is a middle school bully. I suppose we can thank The Wizard of Oz for the green skin and Macbeth and Greek mythology for the rest. When I went to college I met real witches, actual pagans, and I discovered not only that witches were real, but that they had absolutely zero to do with the fantastically grotesque Cotton Mather holdovers imprinted on our Early American cultural DNA. As one person put it to me, “No, we don’t follow the devil. Satan’s a Christian thing.”

October always makes me think a lot about witches, what they’re about. Their image is everywhere — or images, since there’s not just one picture of them anymore. We’ll cover the “witch as archetype” unit in the spring in my AP Gothic Lit. class. I’ll try to lead my class to explore what literature’s view of witches says about the Human Condition, what the humanity or lack of it in those witches reveals about the authors and readers dissecting them. We’re going to hold them up to the sparkling light of analysis and see what filters out.

One of the most famous witches in our popular consciousness is, of course, The Wicked Witch of the West, a wretched fiend who would destroy someone else’s dog on a good day and whose obsession with fashion might lead her to murder. If you’ve never read Wicked by Gregory Maguire, I suggest you should. It was transformed into a Broadway musical, one of those things that puts an author on the map, and while I enjoyed the musical and am extremely happy for Maguire’s resulting success, it doesn’t hold a candle to the novel (which ended up being the start of a critically acclaimed book series).

If Maguire had been a less kind man, if he had been able to stomach such a horrendous historical figure, this book would have been about Hitler. Let me explain.

During the (first) Gulf War, a traumatically awful case involving two adolescent boys and a toddler boy they’d abducted and murdered was making gory headlines in the UK. I won’t go into the details of what they did to this child they lured away from his mother in a shop, but suffice it to say the bodily things they did to torture this child before they put him on a train track for him to be squashed would give Hannibal Lecter nightmares. They perpetrators, middle-school aged boys themselves, were caught, tried, imprisoned.

But they were minors, and so eventually they got out of prison, as young adults.

Now, their names had been splashed across the media for their heinous crime. But when they got out of prison, they wanted to start over in life. They wanted new names. There was a debate over whether they should be allowed to have new names, or whether they should have to be saddled with those marks of Cain forever.

This got Maguire thinking about names, identity, villains, sympathy. Those boys were in the news. Saddam was in the news. Maguire thought about writing a book about someone who had to live with a villainous moniker — and wondered what it might be like if that person didn’t truly deserve that notoriety. What would it be like to write that person as a sympathetic character?

Well, when you want to think of a name that inspires horror, what name do you think of? Hitler.

But Maguire, rightly so, couldn’t stomach the idea of imagining that particular figure in a sympathetic way and sure didn’t want to write a book that might lead other people to do so.

So then what other name inspires fear and loathing? (Remember, this was before Harry Potter was published.)

The Wicked Witch of the West.

So he wrote Wicked.

WICKED cover

I loved this book because it did what I’d been trying, as a writer, to do in my own work: it told the swept-aside story, illuminating Otherness in a profound way. It broke down a flat image and built it roundly back up again, creating something gorgeous and meaningful in the process. In Elphaba I found myself, a girl who had always been different but not in a way valued by any other kid with social standing. There’s so much more to this character, as Maguire imagined her, than a cackling “I’ll get you, my pretty.”

more to Elphaba than you think

Maguire’s writing is, as always, imaginative and intelligent. The story is good, but the writing is, too, down at the level of word choice and sentence structure.

If you’re looking for something witchy to read, I highly recommend this book.

Happy Hallowe’en!

Happy Hallowe’en!

Remember my son’s blueprint for his eyeball costume?  (If you missed it before, click here.)

Well, Talented Engineer Dad made it happen.

 

Tiny Beowulf Zombie Eye
Tiny Beowulf looks so impressed by the impressionistic finesse with which Dear Husband painted that iris. And by the small motorized fan installed in the back so it doesn’t get too warm inside there.

 

And lest you think his grim expression means that we browbeat him into posing for this picture, check this out.

 

That's right, he was just pretending to be a zombie in that last picture!
That’s right, he was just pretending to be a zombie in that last picture!

 

I hope you’re all having a splendid costume day yourselves!

 

Go ahead, let your freak flag fly.
Go ahead, let your freak flag fly.

 

And just one final reminder:  you can still vote in our Government Shutdown Haiku Contest.  It’s approval voting, so click here to knock yourself out on all the entries you love best.

Try not to get too sick on candy this weekend.  Have fun!

Fashion Friday 10/11/13

It’s costume season around here — probably where you are, too, if you’re somewhere that celebrates or even acknowledges Hallowe’en. October is a big deal around here, and especially in our home. We love Hallowe’en. We love costumes and dressing up. I come from a family who always celebrated that holiday well, until a tragedy happened on a particular Hallowe’en in my youth. (Read about it here.)  And now, the holiday is back.

Tiny Beowulf agonized for a couple of weeks that Continue reading “Fashion Friday 10/11/13”

Hallowe’en from the Perspective of a Disaffected French Feline

Happy Hallowe’en!  Since I’m not actually capable of taking a decent picture of anything — not even an inanimate and stationery object in medium natural light, much less actual living people — I have to wait on friends and family members to send me their photos before I can share them.

In the meantime, here is something delightful for you to enjoy:

Henri Le Chat Noir — Hallowe’en

And please also take a look at Scotland-based author Marie Marshall’s blog, where she has graciously reviewed my website and some of my poetry.  One of my poems is also included in the review, so, you know, bonus.  Thank you, Marie.  🙂

Cheers!