Archive for category Misc ramblings

Need to Take a Break?

by John Morgan

Micro Fall and Halloween Breaks

The daily challenges that most of us face, seem to be growing in complexity and urgency.

Just reflect on recent conversations with family, friends and colleagues – almost everyone is tasked with doing more, with fewer resources.

Frankly, it is a bear just to hold your own – let alone gain any forward momentum. Dysfunctional, seems to best describe most of our personal and professional lives.

Fortunately, we can all take microbreaks that allow us to hit the mental refresh button.

For example, yesterday, I had a rare business need to take the train from Sacramento to San Jose, California.

It was a welcome change. I brought plenty of work with me to maximize my three-hour trip, but I was amazed throughout the course of the journey how wonderful and refreshing brief glances out the window were for my spirit.

As I boarded the train and peeked out the window, I could see the fascinating old railyard buildings. All in various states of disrepair, but thankfully, these buildings somehow seemed to walk that fine line of being “cool and intriguing,” rather than earning the moniker of: “Someone should do something about this mess –  it’s a menace to the community!”

Within seconds of leaving the station, passengers find themselves going over the Sacramento River. This is where two old ghost steam paddle wheelers  are alleged to materialize from time to time. Forever locked in an epic race to see who is the faster of the two vessels.

Old Town Sacramento can be seen along the eastern river bank. It is here where mysterious apparitions from beyond are reported to peer at tourists from the windows of surrounding old western buildings. Many more are said to interact with the living in the areas ancient underground tunnels.

Even Mothman has been reported on the Tower Bridge which can viewed just south of Old Sac.

In minutes, you pass one of the major wetland bird sanctuaries in North America as you travel across the Yolo Causeway. Ducks, geese, pheasants, pelicans, and even sandhill cranes can be viewed as you make your way over this large floodplain.  The influence of Fall was seen everywhere, even though the temperature outside was in the 90s.

The first station stop occurs near UC Davis and from the train you can see the agriculture student’s fields of corn and pumpkins. Next you travel through Dixon, which recently held the title for the world’s largest corn maze!

For the remainder of the journey, I was treated to sight after sight of images of Autumn and Halloween. From my window I could see the eerie looking Ghost Fleet in Suisun Bay, catch sight of the supposedly haunted  Alcatraz and USS Hornet, and view the Oakland Raider stadium, as well as view construction going on for the new 49er stadium in Santa Clara.

The entire trip afforded brief reminders of how beneficial it is to simply take a moment to reflect on the world outside our typical challenges and life routines.

Even if you cannot travel, simply view various web sites of places you would like to see or better yet, challenge yourself to explore subjects or places that you have never focused on before. A great starting point is to see where your blog is being viewed and make it a point learn more about the people and things in that part of the world. Which reminds me that I need to find out how Halloween is celebrated in Moldova!

Let’s face it, we all need to take a break from time to time. If nothing else, it will afford you a fresh perspective from daily grind. As always, we appreciate you taking a macrobreak with us here at Halloween for All.

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Americans Spend $370 Million on Pet Costumes

Halloween News

Proof that Americans are Nuts!

“Sorry Russell, the Only Jack
 We Want Around Here is on Our O-Lanterns!”

Admiral Cutie

According to a recent CNN survey, Americans are expected to spend $370 million this Halloween season on costumes for their pets! That is an increase of over $40 million over last year. Well, that is to be expected since we are living in such robust economic times – what better use is there for spending our excess discretionary boo bucks than on pet costumes?

In general, we here at Halloween for All don’t give a Shih Tzu how you spend your hard-earned greenbacks! However, if Reality TV has taught us anything,  it’s this: “All issues and problems with people and their pets originate in the gray matter – no matter how limited – found between the ears of the primate in that relationship.”

If you have ever watched an episode of “The Dog Whisperer or My Cat from Hell,  you will quickly discover that nearly all animal behavioral problems originate with the pet owner or guardian not treating the animal like an animal. In short, the two shows’ basic principle is this:

“STOP TREATING YOUR PETS LIKE THEY’RE PEOPLE!”

Cats are cats and dogs are dogs – isn’t that wonderment enough? Animals are great companions. It is impossible not to marvel at the parallel and mutually beneficial relationship that humans and especially cats, dogs and horses have developed and maintained through the passing ages.

Here at Halloween for All headquarters, we love animals. We have two cats, one dog, two rats, one hamster, one turtle, one bearded dragon (lizard), one tarantula, and two black widow spiders! In the spirit of full disclosure, we have adorned our dogs and cats – even the bearded dragon – in various costumes.

Is it the right and responsible thing to do? Certainly not, we can recognize that it is not beneficial to the animal. We cannot hide our bizarre compulsion behind the “Dolphin Show Get-Out-of-Jail-Free Tarot Card” disclaimer of “the tricks you are about to see here today are natural behaviors that can be observed in the wild.” We have yet to read about packs of wolves donning “Princess Leia” outfits before the hunt nor have we received reports of bearded dragons dressing like Elvis in the Australian Outback – until now!

 

So we are left with the conclusion that Americans are nuts!

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Corn Mazes – Field of Screams!

By John Morgan

“Help – I am Lost and I Haven’t
Even Entered the Corn Maze!”

Halloween is a big enough and versatile holiday to handle just about everyone’s tastes. Since Halloween is agile enough to please just about everyone, there are bound to be elements that simply are not your cup of cider.

At the risk of polarizing our readers (and we know who both of you are), we here at Halloween for All have a confession to make: corn mazes appeal to us as much as pork flavored ice cream – we are simply lost regarding their popularity.

So, if we understand it correctly, the allure of corn mazes consists of the following: you get to go to the country; you get to find a corn maze that suits your needs; you get to shuck out some boo dollars; you get to enter a hot, humid, perhaps bug infested corn field; you get to have hours – perhaps even days – of fun as you wander around seeking an exit. Is that correct (minus of course any effort on our part to describe anything remotely resembling fun)?

We are huge fans of critical thinking here at Halloween for All, it is the only way we can maximize the limited gray matter in our gourds. Therefore, we will apply Barbasol shaving cream to the problem and then whip out Occam’s Razor – which states that the simplest solution is often the best – and we will shave ourselves a solution in no time!

Ah, we have it! Don’t enter the maze. Even better, stay at home!

So in a real sense, you will be saving corn by not visiting a corn field. When you stay home, you won’t expend any corn ethanol; when you don’t use any corn ethanol, fossil fuels aren’t used in creation and transportation of the corn ethanol; when farmers decide that it is better just to grow corn in the former maze paths, additional corn will be grown; when additional corn is grown, more feed is available for domestic livestock; when more feed is available, pigs will multiply and get larger – which in turn can be used for making more pork flavored ice cream. It is the perfect win-win!

Isn’t it wonderful what you can do with properly applied critical thinking!?

However, we also realize that there are some corn haters out there who can not or will not be persuaded to not go into a corn maze no matter how compelling the arguments against it are! Therefore, we reluctantly will provide you with the following resources for your sick amusement:

One final warning before we select submit to this post, let us ask you this: Are corn mazes part of a complex, subsidized government effort, to keep us distracted and misinformed, in order to fog the collective memory of humankind regarding not the nature of corn mazes themselves, but the true alien menace – crop circles?

Quick, tell us, what came first, the corn maze or the crop circle? See for most you, you simply do not know or worse, you might even be thinking “I don’t care!” And if that is the case, wouldn’t that be exactly how the power elite would want you to feel.

“Cucurbita Panem et Circenses”

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What the Heck is a Goblin?

by John Morgan
Halloween Symbols

 GOBLINS

As a lifetime Halloween enthusiast, I have to come clean: I have never understood what the heck a goblin is. Oh sure, I have faked the funk enough: “Goblins,  I know all there is about goblins! They love hanging out with ghosts and you don’t even want to get me started on their subspecies, the Hobgoblin!”

It is time to stop faking it until I make it. Today, I have decided to finally ferret out the little (they are little, aren’t they?) rascals.   Let me do a quick Google search. Ah yes, here we go…”the term goblin is a collective noun for evil spirits like redcaps and bugbears.”  Well, mystery solved then – this will be my shortest post to date.

(Note to self: If anyone asks me to explain redcaps or bugbears, I will just shake my head in pity, boldly state that they are goblins, put on a facial expression that conveys “what else could they possibly be?”, then turn and walk away in mild disgust).

As someone who currently is not much of a gamer, unless you count the occasional Spider Solitaire game while I am waiting for something to upload, I am guessing that I might be in the minority in my goblin quandary. Especially since we are now living in a post “Dungeons and Dragons” and World of Warcraft” age.

Maybe I am suffering from a mild form of amnesia.  I have always admired the Lord of the Rings, it’s quite possible that goblins were thoroughly described and chronicled throughout Tolkien’s classic series. After all, just by reading the series and watching the trilogy, I have through osmosis acquired an understanding of trolls, elves, and ring-wraiths and the like. If pressed, I would hazard that the LOTR character Gollum is probably the most goblin-like. Yet, I would not be in the least surprised if someone admonished me by definitively declaring that Gollum was a redcap, bugbear, or hobgoblin – whatever the heck they are?

OK, so let me see if I can at least get a handle on Hobgoblins. Let’s just go to Wikipedia, here it is: “Hobgoblins –seem to be small, hairy little men who—like their close relative, brownies”…STOP! STOP right there! Is someone messing with me? How come every definition of a goblin or goblin relative is defined as something resembling an even a more obscure mythical creature?

Great, it goes on to state that Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream character Puck is a hobgoblin. Now I am even more confused, wasn’t Puck a half goat, half devil looking thing like Phil from Disney’s Hercules?

At this point, I no longer give a @#%& jack-o-lantern what they are! It is time for me to break this infinite vague definition chain and just proclaim that all I know about goblins and their evil spirited kin is that they are now my least favorite Halloween characters!

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How to Get in the Halloween Spirit

By John Morgan

Welcome to September! If you love autumn and especially Halloween, then this is the time of year when you really start building excitement as the days grow shorter and the nights get cooler. To help you generate enthusiasm as Halloween pulls us all into its gravitational field, we thought you might enjoy these tips to help you get into a Halloween spirit:

 1. GO SPELUNKING!  

What is more eerie than going underground or reading the word “spelunking” for that matter?

Your senses will thank you for the change of scenery. There is stillness in a cave unlike anywhere else. Amazing and somewhat alien structures will captivate your eyes.

As you grow accustom to your adventure beneath the surface you will notice new earthy and mineral smells. If you do not have any caves in your area, you might want visit a local mine or take an underground city tour.

 2. VISIT AN OLD GRAVEYARD

Is there anything spookier than wandering through an old cemetery?

As you carefully and respectively make your way through the cemetery, clues will begin to unfold. Family stories begin to reveal themselves. Echoes of love ones eternally united, valiant heroes honored, and untimely tragedies can be heard as you walk back through time.

3. GO BIRD or BAT WATCHING

Halloween is filled with bird and bat images and lore. Seek out viewing areas where turkey vultures, crows, ravens, owls, as well as bats, are likely to be observed.

After all, it is virtually impossible not to get in the Halloween spirit when you sight a “murder of crows” or an “unkindness of ravens.” And did you know that Bats make up twenty percent of the planets classified mammal species?

So it is likely that you have some flying near you! Even if you fail to spot one these fascinating winged Halloween icons, we bet that you will still be happy for spending some quality time outdoors.

4. BUILD A BAT HOUSE

 We have all seen the news about the viruses that mosquitoes can transmit. Did you know that more people have died from mosquito carried diseases than all the wars in history combined?

What better or more environmentally friendly way to combat this threat than by encouraging the greatest mosquito eradicator of all time – the Bat – to do their leathery winged thing by building them a bat house.

5. TAKE A TRIP TO PICK YOUR OWN APPLES & NUTS

 These are two of the oldest symbols associated with Halloween. Harvest time is one of the most important events for any culture.

You owe to yourself to go out, roll up your sleeves, and track down and subdue your own fruits and seeds.

Plus, unlike most ventures, you will be in complete control of quality – if you do not like it, do not pick it. There is always another orchard just on down the road.

 6. GO TO A HAUNTED PLACE

 Every region has someplace that is considered haunted. All manner of structures and locations have accounts of strange things materializing and interacting with us mere mortals.

Whether you are a paranormal investigator or a firm skeptic, you will surely be entertained – perhaps even a bit frightened – as you explore around the edges of darkness and understanding.

7. WATCH A MOVIE, LISTEN TO MUSIC or READ A BOOK

Each of us has their own unique tastes in this category…so we will not even try to give recommendations on how to scratch your unique Halloween media selection itch.

However, if you do not find any movie, music, or reading options that appeal to you…why not flip the topic over and write and film your own short movie, compose your own music, or write your own Halloween story? This can all be done for your own entertainment; no critic ever need see or hear what you produce unless you want them too.

8. PAINT, DRAW or CRAFT A HALLOWEEN THEMED WORK

Here you get to let your imagination run wild! We hear some of you already saying, “but I am just not creative.” To that we say, “so what!”

Give it a try anyway, you might discover a hidden talent. It does not matter if you are creatively challenged or you are the next Grandma Moses, the goal here is to have fun and to get you in the Halloween mood.

9. GO SHOPPING!

 We get it, there is probably nothing scarier than looking at your finances, especially when your discretionary boo bucks have vanished quicker than the Invisible Man and your household budget is stretched beyond even Elastigirl’s breaking point!

However, there is shopping and then there is spending. Sometimes just wandering through the various stores fall collections, smelling the pumpkin spice candles, or scanning the costumes is enough to get us in that Halloween frame of mind.

It can also be fun to visit a thrift stores to create your own costume or take a trip to a farmer’s market to immerse yourself in the tastes, sights and smells of the season.

10. SURF THE WEB!

Hey, you found us all right – so you already know that there is a growing community online who share your passion for Halloween.

There are virtually limitless resources on the web to help you explore what fascinates you the most about this special time of year – and we thank you for allowing us to be one of them!

The ways to enjoy and foster the spirit of Halloween is as varied and dynamic as the people celebrating it.

As such, we welcome your recommendations on how you get into the Halloween spirit. You are encouraged to drop by anytime and we look forward to posting more fun activities and recommendations on how to make Halloween fun for all!

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Escape Velocity

(Reflections of a wayward Astronaut)

By John Morgan

One of the many great things about Halloween is its pure escapism.  For brief moments in time we are able to slip out of bounds and security of our daily lives’ and choose from an almost limitless variety of identities.  Our moods and interests are seldom static and Halloween is able to convey our dynamic forms of self-expression effortlessly.  The recent passing of my boyhood idol, Neil Armstrong, has me reflecting back on a time when my dreams and aspirations sailed to the stars, as well as through my neighborhood streets.

As a child growing up during the unprecedented Apollo Space Program, it’s hard to convey to later generations the scale, scope, and influence the space race had on all of us watching from home, school or work. When there was a launch or a landing you stopped whatever it was you were doing, no matter where you were, and you focused entirely on what was occurring out in space. The overarching sense of awe and wonder we reserved for NASA and our astronauts was nothing short of hero-worship.  They were the flesh and blood embodiments of humanity’s potential. Stretching the boundaries of what was possible beyond our imaginations.

It was during those days, that my brothers and I were active in a junior rocket club in Southern California. I’ll never forget the launch of my Brother Bill’s first home-made rocket.  He crafted and christened his first rocket after the first manmade satellite:  Sputnik 1. To my brother’s credit, it was a solid representation of the Soviet orbiter. It was constructed of the finest round Styrofoam the local hobby store had to offer, and it’s four spindly Balsa wood legs stood the craft apart from the sleek mostly Mercury and Apollo recreations sharing the launch platform.

As I recall, there were four rockets in total on the launch platform that day. Word from mission control (a sordid collection of high school science students) came that the vehicles would be launched in sequence from left to right. That meant that Sputnik 1 would be batting clean-up.

The weather was typical for that time of year, warm smothering smog filled air with strong Santa Ana winds. You couldn’t have asked for more ideal conditions – all systems were go! The countdown had begun.  Five, four, three, two, one: fire rocket number one…perfect launch, perfect parachute deployment, perfect craft retrieval; fire two…another flawless launch and parachute deployment, however, the swirling winds made recovery difficult, but a determined ground crew retrieved the craft; Fire three…this rocket did Cape Canaveral proud, it soared well past the other two rockets high altitude marks and continued climbing effortlessly into the hazy sky before we spotted the plumes of its parachute open. Rocket three caught the wind and dozens of kids chased the rocket into the surrounding cactus and rattlesnake infested hills in a mad dash to retrieve the craft, before it and all its model rocket technology could fall into enemy’s hands and then be back engineered for their own nefarious purposes.

At last it was Sputnik 1’s turn – soon everyone would know the satellite’s dirty little secret. You have to understand that this all took place in the heart of the cold war. Tensions were high, national pride was at stake, all non-essential resources were channeled into the two rival nation’s model rocket space programs. Unbeknownst to our fellow rocket club members, this would be the Sputnik 1’s one and only launch. For such were the urgency and the madness to make this launch window that there was simply no time or budget to install a parachute. Either Sputnik 1 would achieve escape velocity and reach Earth orbit or it would come crashing back down to into a Styrofoam and Balsa wood disaster the likes of which the world had never seen!

Fire Rocket four! The electrical current went into the Estes rocket engine and puff…dud. My brother raced to the Sputnik 1, quickly replaced the engine. Fire Rocket four! Again, current surged, this time the potential orbiter merely responded by tilting to its side and slidding down the launch tower. Now we were all worried. Engine problems were common in those heady early days of model rocketeering, but none of us anticipated two consecutive engine failures. Détente was called between the Soviet and US rocket model builders. A trade agreement was reached and a new engine procured. The third engine was installed. Fire Rocket four! It was a picture perfect launch. The mighty little satellite cleared the tower and climbed nearly ten to twelve feet into the sky before careening wildly out of control. If there was a self-destruct button it would have been pressed. The little satellite had in an instant became a rocket-propelled demon and its four spindly legs looked like human barbecue skewers. Everyone ran for cover as the rocket shot all around seeking retribution for not having any fail safe mechanisms installed. Failure was not only an option – it was an inescapable inevitability! Thankfully, and we can only attribute it to an isolated wind shear event caused by everyone running for shelter in different directions, the satellite was forced back down to Earth where it spun harmlessly in tight circles until is engine ran out of fuel.

By now you might be asking yourself, “Why is all this in a blog supposedly dedicated to Halloween?” Frankly, I am not sure that it does. I am late to fascinating world of blogging (in fact, this is my first blog).  However, if I can tie any of the loose gossamer threads of my childhood story back to the anchor of why Halloween is so special, I would simply say this: Halloween allows all of us an opportunity to test drive our dreams or at the very least, experience the world from a different point of view.

To be successful toy and Halloween costume manufactures must keep their products relevant for their potential customers – it’s as true today as it was in the late 1960s. For me the spirit of Neil Armstrong and his fellow astronauts could be found in the form of Mattel’s action figure Major Matt Mason, astronaut extraordinaire.  His Halloween costume doesn’t look like much by today’s realistic standards, but I can assure you that to the boy looking out through the plastic face mask, it was real enough to transform our suburban neighborhood into an alien moonscape.

During the course of our lives, we pick people that we admire and strive to improve ourselves by modeling our behavior and goals after the example they set.  If it wasn’t for Neil Armstrong and intrepid men and women of our space program, I would never have been in any model rocket club. Consequently, I would have never experience the infamous Sputnik 1 disaster nor would I have ever worn a Major Matt Mason costume which proved to be, “One small step for a child, one giant bag of candy for childkind.”

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In a Fall State of Mind

(Otherwise known as the wandering ravings from a confused mind)

By John Morgan

It looks like we have all managed to get through the dog days of summer in one piece. The days are getting noticeably shorter, the night wind whispers of cooler days ahead. As I write this entry, the sounds of the local youth football game echo off these Northern California hills and the honk of Canadian geese can be heard as they fly gracefully overhead making their seasonal migration to defecate all over the regions parks and golf courses.

Still, it’s all a refreshing change from the screams of kids convinced that the neighborhood pool merits continuous shrieks of absolute terror that are normally reserved for the most harrowing rollercoaster rides or Haunted House’s most frightening “gotcha” moments.

And there is no telling what I will do if I ever get my hands on the entitlement parents who bought their kids that go-cart which terrorizes our neighborhood at random intervals that seem to unerringly coincide with my deep REM sleep patterns!  I swear the decibel levels that vehicle puts out must dwarf those of a rocket launch (I will have to confirm with rocket scientists in Russia and China since we don’t make them anymore). When I first heard it, I was convinced that someone had managed to attach an amped up leaf blower to my home’s ventilation system.

My kids pleaded with me to do something about the noise. Now as my family will tell you, I am no shrinking violet when it comes to giving people a piece of my mind – that must account for why I have so little of it left anymore. But when I stepped outside to approach the youth I stopped dead in my tracks when I saw the unbridled joy on the lad’s face as he raced through our streets. In fact I stood transfixed – longing for the days when I could tap into that blissful state with ease.

As I watched him, my thoughts found that magical wormhole in the mind that transported me back to my own childhood. I stood there not only admiring his joy, but easily imagining the fun that my three brothers and I would have careening down our old neighborhood in such a contraption.  So, I went back into the house and told my kids that I would have wait to talk with boy’s parents about the noise issue…secretly hoping that someone else would sick the local homeowners associate behavior modifying specialists on him because I no longer had the heart to do it, it must be a younger man’s game.

Where was I? Ah yes, here in the Northern Hemisphere we are just being reminded of the effects that Earth’s gradual axis tilt has on all our lives. We are transitioning from summer to fall, something I have been longing for all summer long! Actually, I have been looking forward to since last Thanksgiving.

In just a few weeks, thousands of visitors will make their way to the apple orchards, pumpkin patches, craft fairs and vineyards known as Apple Hill (one hour east of Sacramento).  Our day trip there marks my family’s official kickoff of the Halloween season. If you are ever in the region it is worth the time and effort to check it out. Crowds can clog the streets on weekends, so if you can manage it, I would encourage you to see it during the week.

By mid September, the Bishop’s Pumpkin Farm in Wheatland, California will open for business.  This is always our second outing of our annual Halloween seasonal day trips. Hay and train rides, expansive you pick your own pumpkin fields, farm animals and machines, craft items, and food options galore ensure a good time for all. For me, the Bishop Pumpkin Farm manages to strike the right balance of family fun and entertainment value. It is one of those rare attractions, where you come away filled with warm memories of what you saw and did, rather than having those nagging “boy, that sure cost more than I was expecting” moments. Again, if you have a schedule that allows you to go during the weekdays you would be able to avoid most of the heavier crowds and you should enjoy the free weekday parking as well.

So there you have it! Just like a trick or treater that has noticed his bag getting lighter from a hole in the bottom, I too have glanced into my container and noticed there is nothing left other than to thank you for sticking with my bizarre post to the bitter end.

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