Pokémon: Is This Real Life?

20 years ago Pokémon was introduced in the United States with the release of Pokémon Red and Blue.

At the time I was 15 years old and probably skewed a little old for the games target audience. (Nintendo was clearly trying to corner the 10 year old asexual Venusian subterranean crabling demographic, of which I was obviously not a part of.)  Regardless I quickly came to love the game and its concepts and have been a huge fan ever since!

The original Gameboy games were genius, entertaining, strange, and fun.

The first cartoon series was goofy, endearing, and hilarious. (Also quite a bit was lost in translation which only seemed to make it better.)

The wave of countless Pokémon merchandise which followed was impressive, of course including some great toys which I also partook of.

The Team Rocket Meowth Balloon vehicle.  Which I personally own.

My personal interest in Pokémon can be traced back to a single specific moment which I distinctly recall.  I was in my bedroom at my childhood home and was reading a magazine or comic book (most likely an X-Men title) and I turned the page to a distinctive full page ad.  On that page I saw a crowd of small impish animals clustered together while a giant cartoon net was falling down over them.  In parenthesis the phrase ‘Got ya!’ was scrawled nearby and in the bottom corner of the ad was the (now synonymous) title and phrase, ‘Pokémon: Gotta Catch ‘Em All!

I instantly found the image very intriguing and I actually remember stopping to examine the ad, which was very odd for me at the time.  As a kid when I was reading comic books the ads would, at most, get a brief aggravated eye roll as I disappointedly realized that my storyline had been interrupted.  But there I was inspecting the cartoonish designs of these unknown creatures.

At the time I had no idea what any of them were.  There was a little barking rat, a squat yellow squirrel, some sort of floating rock creature, a fire breathing dragon, an evilly grinning purple spiky thing, giant insects, a tortoise with guns on its back, and a large stoic faced teddy bear.

I immediately loved the designs and style of these things and whatever Pokémon was, I was already sold.

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Pokemon really made me appreciate the aesthetic of ‘Demented Pet Shop’ 

That image was particularly difficult to find online and I have still been unable to find a clean image of it anywhere.  Everything I can come up with is either a scan, or like the image below, a picture of the ad itself.  (It is still one of my favorite Pokémon images and I’d love to one day get a print of it to hang in my office.)

Looking it over in my youth I saw that Nintendo was listed in the small print at the bottom of the ad I realized it was a video game of some sort which was exciting, however at the time I didn’t have a console, only the handheld Gameboy.  So alas I thought I’d have to wait until a friend picked it up in order to see what it was about.  Thankfully of course, that wasn’t the case.

From there it was a whirlwind of Pokémania!

I picked up Pokémon Blue first.  However once I realized I’d have to trade between the Red version in order to follow the mandate of the game, and indeed catch them all, I wound up buying the Charizard emblazoned Red Version as well.  (And although I eventually had several friends who played the game, initially I wasn’t sure I’d find anyone who was interested.)

Soon the Pokémon cartoon was in full swing as well, which became my first real experience with anime and the various tropes and staples of that animated genre.  I found the show really zany and hilarious, I loved all the characters, and it helped to flesh out the pixelated world of the games.

For years Pokémon was steadily on my radar.

1998 – Pokémon Yellow launched, essentially combining the continuities of the cartoon and the first two games.

August 1998 – Pokémon Stadium hits the Nintendo 64.  Probably my favorite Pokémon spin-off game ever made.  Not only could you upload and battle your Pokémon with friends on glorious 3D rendered battlefields, you could also play the Gameboy games on the big screen.  All that AND there were a ton of GREAT mini games that were fun, challenging, and really quite funny.

December of that year the Pokémon card game made its way into the mix joining the other card games I geeked out with, Star Wars, Babylon 5, Magic, and then Pokémon!

1999 – Super Smash Bros. hit the scene featuring the quintessential Pokémascot Pikachu.  With whom I would regularly use to provide a Smash Bros. smack down.

November 1999 – Pokémon Gold and Silver hit the scene and a new Pokémon adventure was under way, beginning a regular pattern of Poké games which have found success and innovations to varying degrees through the years.

With the most recent Nintendo 3DS games the handheld Pokémon world has been completely rendered in 3D and fully animated.  Pokémon are traded across the globe on international servers.  And friends can talk smack directly through their 3DS, in real-time, from across the country when battling online!

It really is impressive to see how the Pokémon franchise has . . . . EVOLVED! (Get it?)

Well now we have Pokémon Go, the franchise’s first foray into the mobile gaming market.

At first glance Pokémon Go appears to be a bit of a downgrade in terms of gameplay, essentially a simplified cell phone version of the Pokémon Card Game.  However upon closer examination it is much more than that.

From my experience with Pokémon Go so far, it appears to be a real world expression of the long established Pokémon universe and the best kind of fan service.  I mean this property is now 20 years old and there are very few people, children and adults alike, who don’t at least know who Pikachu is and Pokémon Go lets you bring that world out into the real world.

Part of the enduring appeal of the Pokémon games is the universe in which the game and show take place.  Across the various islands of the setting Pokémon and Pokémon training is a prevalent way of life and a common bond which the citizens of that world actively embrace.  The Pokémon are fantastical companions, champions, and partners in that world.  In the games there are people around every corner eager to show off their favorite Pokémon and put them to the test in battle.

Throughout the adventures of the games there are clumps of NPCs waiting to square off against you and your Pokémon team.  There are ill-prepared school kids with weak little Rattatas and Caterpies that they’ve caught in the school yard.  There are construction workers in hardhats working around cities with steely Magnemite companions.  Groups of swarthy leather clad punks may try to jump you with their poison types.  Cyclists and swimmers will challenge you along the way.  Criminals, old folks, librarians, shop keepers, EVERYONE has Pokémon in the Pokéworld, and because everyone has them everyone has something in common.

It’s just one of those quaint, fun, fictional universes where any individuals who try hard and do good will win, and eventually defeat the evil shadowy organizations like Team Rocket and others who secretly work against the ideals of that world by exploiting Pokémon for their own greedy ends.

I’ve had several conversations with friends over the years that involved, in some form or another, the phrases “Wouldn’t it be great if Pokémon were real.” OR “If I could live in a video game universe, it’d be the Pokémon universe.” OR “If I could just have one actual Pokémon it would be X, Y, Z.”  And watching the show those feelings are reinforced as you see the young idealistic trainers go off and adventure across the globe.

Now let me tell you a little story about Pokémon Go.

The other night at around 10pm I was letting my dogs out (my real life Pokémon, apparently I’m a terrible trainer though because they never battle for me.) and as the puggles were sniffing around I flipped out my cell phone and switched on Pokémon Go just to see if I might catch a Weedle or Bellsprout while I stood there in the backyard watching them pee.

Looking through the game I noticed a Pokémon silhouette nearby (for those who aren’t in the know that means there was a type of Pokémon lingering around which I had not yet captured.)  Being the Pokémaster I am I immediately knew that shadowed figure was the shape of an Electabuzz, a fairly rare find and something I hadn’t even seen yet in the game.

After the dogs had completed their business I ushered them back inside and set off to find this fabled electric type Pokémon.  Although navigating the in-game radar of Pokémon Go can be a bit tricky I was able to determine that the Electabuzz seemed to be on the next street over.

So I briskly began walking down the street and around the corner.

I could see the Electabuzz footprints diminishing, meaning I was moving in the right direction and getting closer.

As I approached the darkened corner I saw two other guys on bicycles come racing toward me up the street.  They were maybe in their mid to late twenties from what I could tell and their sudden appearance put me slightly on edge.  Although there wasn’t anything necessarily threatening about them, it was 10 at night, dark, the middle of the week, and I was now outnumbered.

However before I could let my fears get the best of me one of the guys held up his cell phone and circled around the end of the street on his bike.

“You playing Pokémon?”  He called out to me cheerfully.

“I am actually!”  I said relieved.

“Are you looking for the Electabuzz too?”  He followed up.

“I am!”  I quickly replied.

Both of the cyclists chuckled and again held up their phones.  “It’s about three houses down this street!”  They informed me.

I thanked them and they rode on their merry way while I marched down the street, ran into that Electabuzz precisely where they said it would be, and captured that sumbitch right then and there!

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My Electabuzz cries himself to sleep every night because he knows he’ll never capture a gym

As I was smugly walking back to my house checking out the stats on my most recent catch I had a thought.

“That was a very Pokémon-esque interaction.”  I thought to myself.  “Just walking down the street hunting rare Pokémon, when suddenly I run into a pair of other trainers on bicycles, we have a brief encounter that sets me up for the big catch at the end.”

It was like something straight out of Pokémon Red/Blue like riding down Cycling Road or climbing the Pokétower.

“Maybe Pokémon finally is real?”  I concluded.

Well done Niantic.  Well done Nintendo.  Keep it fun fellow players.

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It Came From My Notebook!

Bonjour mon prouts!

So over the past year or so I realized that I simply wasn’t happy with the amount of writing I was doing at home, it simply wasn’t enough.  So I decided to put some effort into writing during my work hours as well.  So during my lunch breaks I’ve gotten into the habit of doing a few writing exercises to increase my output and experiment with different styles.  Whether it’s some badly written poetry, a few paragraphs about random thoughts, or a short stream of consciousness story; I’ve tried to spend at least a few minutes of my break everyday writing something.  If nothing else it at least helps stimulate my mind between the long bouts of cerebral drudgery that is my desk job.  Now my pocket notebook is filled with pages of crazy nonsense, fragments of greatness, interesting concepts, and profound thoughts in need of expounding.

As I was looking through my notebook searching for ideas or topics for this very blog I came across one of these exercises I wrote which I had completely forgotten about.  The concept for the writing was simple enough, I would sit down and begin writing the first thing that popped into my head and just go with it until my lunch break was over.  So with nothing much else to share this week I present to you the results of that writing exercise:

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There was a man who ordered a cheeseburger.

“No pickles.”  He asked.

With a nod the cashier complied, punched in his order, rang him up, and the man paid with cash.  

As the man stepped down to await his food another server pointed to the end of the counter and asked him to step down further and wait just around the corner.

With a shrug the man complied.  His shoes squeaked as he walked.

Around the corner was a short narrow hallway.  There the man waited for a moment, another moment, and longer.  Soon he began to worry he would be forgotten. (But don’t we all worry about that?)

As his worry really started to mount a heavy looking utility door at the end of the hall slowly opened outward.  From the doorway another server peaked out and looked at the man, waving him over.

“No pickles?”  She asked in a whisper.

The man nodded reflexively.

“Follow me.”  She told him.

Looking around the man slipped in behind the heavy looking utility door and followed the server in.  He just really wanted a cheeseburger.

The room beyond was dark and soon completely so.  The man lost sight of the woman he was following and began simply following the sounds of her steps through the murky space.  The path through which she guided him was long and twisted and the man bumped into several walls and corners in the dark.  (This must be a very large burger joint.)

Eventually the footsteps halted and in the silence the man stopped too.

As he stood there a single wood torch was lit in front of him and the small flame burned brightly in the recent total darkness.

“That is odd.”  The man thought.  With the scent of the burning flame harsh in his nostrils he stepped forward into the glow of the torch.  There on the other side of the flame sat an enormous cheeseburger the size of a small garage.

That is probably more odd.”  The man concluded.

Which is when the cheeseburger opened its eyes.  Three large human looking eyes inset atop the upper bun of the cheeseburger.  Looking down at the man, the bun-eyes narrowed.

“No pickle?”  The burger asked.  It spoke with an invisible hinge, like a mouth with three lips.  A lip of bun.  A lip of burger meat.  Followed by another lip of bun.  

The man nodded.  “Yes, that is correct.  I ordered no pickle.”

And then the burger spoke again.  The cheeseburger regaled the man with countless hidden secrets of reality.  Occult knowledge which shapes out perceptions and which can alter the very fundamentals of existence.

The man listened wide-eyed and intently.  His mind was like a balloon full of mayonnaise and about to burst.  How long the cheeseburger spoke can not be accurately determined but when it finally finished speaking the chamber was filled with a deep silence the likes of which have not been experienced since the seconds before the Big Bang.

Slowly the man raised his hand and commented, “I just really want a cheeseburger.”

To which the giant cheeseburger closed its eyes and replied.

“You are the cheeseburger.” 

The man looked down and it was true, he was a cheeseburger and as he realized this he saw the enormous tri-eyed cheeseburger slump forward, open it’s bun and burger mouth, and eat the man up in a single gulp.  At that moment the man became the giant cheeseburger and the giant cheeseburger was him.

“Well this has been weird.”  He thought to himself before he decided to leave the chamber.

With a heave and a thrust the gigantic cheeseburger exploded into the sky, through the planet’s atmosphere, and into the majesty of the stars beyond.  For what else is there to do for a giant cheeseburger with an insight into everything but to take to the sky and wander the cosmos for the rest of eternity?

burger2.png

That is all!

The Killer in the Trees

This has been an odd winter in Northeast Ohio.  The season has been mostly snowless and warmer than usual.  Precisely the type of winter I despise.  If it’s going to be winter I’d prefer to have a thick sustained layer of snow across the landscape and a crisp windless day for which to enjoy strolling through said winter wonderland.  I know a lot of people say winter is depressing and ominous but there is something infinitely more unsettling to me about a winter that is snowless and lukewarm.  I personally have no desire to see denuded brown trees looming over dull muddied grass all set before a gloomy grey panorama of sky.

While pondering this failed attempt at a season I was reminded of a story from a recent season that was less of a disappointment.

This past summer I stumbled upon a wonder of nature previously unknown to me.  Some might describe it as a terror best left to obscurity.  Others would classify it as a specialty of niche predation which exemplifies the intricacy of evolution.  Though I suppose I might be getting ahead of myself. To the beginning!

I work at a desk, and not some fancy post-modern work space designed for maximum ergonomic comfort, but just a traditional computer, chair, desk type of desk.  Therefore I try to get up from my seat and get myself into motion whenever possible.

During my lunch breaks I’ve taken up walking around the manicured lawns and parking lots of the office park.  Rain, or shine.  Sleet or hail.  Every day at 1:30 I stretch my legs enjoying what limited range of nature is allowed to remain among the concrete and asphalt.

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Corporate Woods is a pleasant melange of corporate and wooded elements

As the summer escalated and the “park” aspects of the office park were at their greenest and most active I began to regularly encounter wasps.  Not just any wasps mind you, huge bright orange wasps with perpetually vibrating wings and a pretty intimidating complexion.  These wasps were always at the same spot during my circuit around the parking lot, along a stone retaining wall.  The wall is at the edge of the office park where the complex abuts against an actual park (a small municipal park which is little more than a glorified walking trail).

Anywho these wasps were particularly active and seemingly abundant.  If I found myself walking too close to the wall I’d inevitably encounter several of the orange behemoths zooming out from their roosts to encircle my head menacingly.  I at least assumed it was threatening though I never found myself chased by wasps or even encircled by them for more than a moment.  I did my best not to antagonize the inch long creatures but also didn’t hang around too long to find out how frightening they could be.

Regardless, I was now curious.

Every day I’d try to observe a little more about the wasps as I’d pass the wall.  I learned that the wasps emerged from small holes burrowed in the narrow strip of dirt between the curb and the wall.  Each of the holes seemed to be guarded by a single wasp.  As I would pass the sentinel wasps would launch themselves into the air and pass uncomfortably close until I hurriedly went on my way.  Strangely I never saw the wasps anywhere else throughout the park.  I mean I’m no wasp expert but these were fairly big bugs and hard to miss.  Yet I only seemed to see them by their nests and not out and about sunning themselves on leaves or carrying off small children.

wasp3

“Mind ya business square, find another flower to sniff.”

As the summer went on my interest in the wasps waned and I would simply cast the insects a sidelong glance and a how-do-you-do as I walked past the wall.  During hotter days I would wander into the cooler refuge of the small municipal park.  While on milder days I would sit on the lawn, in the shade of the commercially planted trees which are evenly spaced along the edge of the parking lot and I’d scribble out a few lines of compulsory, sun induced poetry.

It was while sitting in the grass one day, in the shade of a small tree, that my interest in the wasps returned to the forefront.  Out of the blue a loud buzzing sound erupted from somewhere in the tree.  I could hear rustling and leaves being batted around.  By the sound of it I was convinved it had to be a bird but why was it buzzing and falling?  I quickly closed my notebook and waited to see if my questions would be answered.  Then the falling, buzzing, rustling sound grew closer and came crashing out of the tree to land only a few feet away from me.

I instantly recognized the shape of a large cicada.

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Trivia: Cicada’s believe themselves to be the heroes of every story.  They’re always wrong.

That explained the buzzing.  However I quickly realized the cicada wasn’t alone and was in fact wrestling around on the ground with the biggest wasp I’ve ever seen in my entire life, and not just any wasp, it was one of my wasps from the wall only bigger!  Cicada’s are no small things themselves and this wasp was lording over the cicada, easily a full two inches in length.

I quickly realized that this was a fight to the death and the wasp clearly wasn’t about to lose.  The enormous wasp repeatedly jabbed its stinger into the abdomen of the struggling cicada until finally the buzzing died down and the cicada went still.

That’s when the crunching began.

Scooting in as close as I dared I could see the wasp already chewing on it’s prey and I could clearly hear the working jaws crunch the insects exoskeleton.

It was about this time that I realized I was really close to this scene and I really had no idea what it was or how temperamental it could be.  It was also about this time that the wasp took the air in tight circles around her kill and that brought her in close proximity to me!

I decided it was time to make a hastey retreat but I vowed to return to the spot after work to see exactly what was left of the cicada.

Spoiler alert: nothing was left.

Well of course I had to finally know what kind of exotic giant wasps I was dealing with.  As soon as possible I googled “Wasp that kills cicadas” and was immediately rewarded with the most obvious google response I’ve ever encountered.

Did you mean: Cicada Killer Wasp?

Yup that’s what they’re called.  Sphecius speciosus The Cicada Killer Wasp or Cicada Hawk.  They apparently exclusively eat cicadas and are crucial in keeping cicada populations in check.  They are solitary wasps and the females are larger and seem to do most of the actual cicada killing.  That was the lovely example I met beneath the tree.  The males remain back at their underground lairs guarding the nests.

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A giant CKW performing her namesake action!

Perhaps the most surprising thing about these voracious killers (they have killer in the name) is that they are quite docile.  The females have stingers with some degree of toxicity but are reportedly not that painful for humans.  Males just have barbs on their tails which they use for defense or frighten off rival males.  For the most part however the Cicada Killer Wasps are gentle giants and not at all aggressive.  It even states on Wikipedia regarding the males: “Although they appear to attack anything that moves near their territories, male cicada killers are actually investigating anything that might be a female cicada killer ready to mate.”

So even the close encounters when walking past the wall was just the wasp equivalent of cat calling.  Clearly I wasn’t what any of them were looking for.  Always the wasp’s maid, never the wasp.  Le sigh.

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Anywho it was an interesting discovery for me and one that I thought worth sharing with all you dear readers!  Take a look at the Cicada Killer page on Wikipedia, read up on these gentle giants, and keep an eye out for them.  Maybe you could even do them a solid and toss a cicada their way once in a while!

That is all!

Friday Funny Pages: I Was Wondering Where They Got To

 

Today I grace your sightballs with a few precious panels from Star Wars: The Return of Tag & Bink Special Edition #1.  Written by Kevin Rubio with art by Lucas Marangon, I would dare to say that Tag and Bink are one of the most beloved Star Wars parodies of all time.  They are right up there with one of Rubio’s other Star Wars parody creations Troops.  Both Troops and Tag & Bink have an “in continuity” comedic style that masterfully fills in scenes and details that go unviewed in the movies, and with a hilarious goofball twist somehow it all winds up making perfect sense.  It’s difficult to explain here to the uninitiated, but let’s just say that if you are a Star Wars fan there’s a good chance you will enjoy Kevin Rubio’s take on the universe.  Although if you consider yourself a Star Wars fan and DON’T know who Tag & Bink are there’s a good chance you aren’t really a Star Wars fan.  Oh burn!

And because I was idle for a few weeks here, and missed one or two Friday Funny Pages, I will grace you with a BONUS panel from the issue.  This image takes place a little earlier in the book (as the setting should make obvious) and just happens to feature a small cameo from a character from one of my other sci-fi fandoms, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.  Yup, that’s Arthur Dent wandering around on Jabba’s sail barge.  Just another reason I enjoy these books so much and think Kevin Rubio is a genius.

This just gave me a thought.  I know there are plans for a Star Wars comedy cartoon series in the works with Seth Green at the helm, but if they really want that show to work they should get Kevin Rubio involved.  That would be television gold.

Just a suggestion.

That is all!

Is This A Post About Squirrels? Yes.

I know that there are a great many homeowners out there who dislike squirrels.  As a child I recall my own father hijacking my BB gun in order to pelt the arboreal rodents with a hail of BB fire in order to deter them from getting under our aluminum siding.  It didn’t really work of course.  That particular BB gun wasn’t really powerful enough to do significant damage at any distance further than three feet.  I’m sure those squirrels weren’t happy with the stinging bite of brass that harassed them, but they also weren’t really smart enough to correlate that pain with their attempts to live under our siding.  However that BB gun sat by the backdoor that entire summer, ready for action at the first sight of pesky varmints.  And that entire summer squirrels continued to try and pry back that loose aluminum until finally it was repaired, thus solving the problem and ending the crusade against the squirrels.

My wife Lauren and I have heard similar stories from friends and people we know who have had their own troubles with the bushy tailed acorn eaters, and as home owners ourselves it’s a problem we hope we never have to deal with.  For us squirrels have been a great source of entertainment throughout our relationship.  During our courting years I recall taking long walks around the neighborhood or hikes through the local parks and occasionally stopping to watch the antics of a group of scurrying squirrels.  When we were in college I remember one particular visit Lauren made to Rio Grande where we walked around the campus and came upon a small baby squirrel.  The little guy was doubtlessly scared and as he did his best to clamber up the nearest tree with his tiny squirrel hands he looked over his shoulder at us, raised his little tail, and pissed in our direction.  Whether it was out of fear, or to deter our chasing him, it was a delight!  Nowadays we enjoy watching the squirrels of our own backyard.  The frisky frolicking of spring time and the ridiculous manner in which squirrels pat the ground when burying their acorns in the fall, we are continuously finding the little bastards amusing.  Of course on occasion I have been forced to bludgeon to death half dead, semi paralyzed, squirrels who were not quite fast enough to outrun the great huntress Maple, our female puggle.  I have an efficient system for this though.  Using what I like to call my “Kill’n Shovel” I am able to end their mangled suffering with a quick whack and then make another pass to scoop them up and deposit them in a trash bag.

What I’d like to see is an in depth animal documentary about the typical neighborhood animals of the American Mid-West.  I want one of those nest view cameras in place in a squirrel bungalow in order to see just what they do up there.  I want to see how the crows and squirrels battle it out for tree space.  I want to know the daily struggles of chipmunks, and the dangers of feral cats.  I’d like to learn just how much of a threat hawks are to neighborhood rodents.  I want to validate my theories that raccoons have created a sewer based Shangri-La and built a society and economy based on banana peels and fish heads.  If nothing else, though, the squirrels.  I want to know more about the squirrels.  It just seems to me that there is a very interesting subject there just waiting to be put on film.  Oh, and the documentary should be narrated by Eric Idle.  Yeah, I think that would be perfect.  Mull that over.

Now someone write a letter to Animal Planet or Discovery Channel or whatever and get this going.

That is all!

I Wish Every Day Was Halloween!

Halloween is approaching hopefully all of you boils and ghouls out there have your houses decorated, your candy bowls filled, and your costumes prepped.  Halloween is my favorite of the major holidays.  When October rolls around I try to bust out the skulls and pumpkin decorations as soon as possible, and the wife and I often disagree on how horrific the decorations should be.  Personally I don’t believe that any type of decorations should be blown out of proportion whether it’s a ridiculously involved Christmas light display, or a sprawling Halloween cemetery scene in your front yard with animatronic vampires, contrary to popular belief it is possible to over do it (and frankly your neighbors probably don’t want to look at your gaudy shit for a month anyway!)

I firmly believe that less is more, and that you can have some memorable decorations without going the Clark Griswold route.  The contention between my wife and I is how scary the decorations should be.  If it were up to me I would pass out the Trick or Treat candy between two poles decorated with mannequins made to look like impaled child clowns, along with a few skulls trickling blood from their eye sockets.  You know, nothing extravagant but enough to really hit home and creep the hell out of the kids that approach my doorstep.  If you want the candy, you’ve got to be brave enough to get it.  Lauren however is more inclined to do the whole family friendly schtick.  Some jack O’ lanterns, a Halloween sign on the door, and maybe we dress the puggles in goofy costumes (which is always a good time.)  Our decoration plans are seemingly in constant negotiation.

However despite my love for Halloween, and my enthusiasm for it, I generally hate this last week right before the big day.

It always seems like when October starts the world comes out guns blazing with Halloween excitement.  The weekends are chock full of horror movie marathons, costumes are on display every where you go, and the Reese’s pumpkins are seemingly around ever corner beckoning you to devour them.  As the weeks go on though, and we come to this last week before Halloween the ghoulish spectacle wanes.  It seems like there aren’t any good horror movies left on the upcoming television lineup, and the Halloween decor has already been put on clearance, torn apart, and decimated like a cabin full of virginal teenage victims who’ve fallen prey to a supernatural serial killer.  With retailers quietly displaying Christmas merchandise earlier and earlier each season, it has gotten so that when we’ve reached Halloween people are already bracing themselves for the X-Mas rush!  It seems like every year around this time I’m forced to summon forth my inner demonologist and take it upon myself to keep the spirit of Halloween bright and alive (or at least undead.)  Thankfully through my experience I’ve come up with a regular routine of grotesque activities that help me keep my thoughts dark and my nights sleepless!  Allow me to go over a few of them for you now.

Sign an exclusive deal with Count Chocula:

Like Peeps at Easter, and Candy Canes at Christmas, Count Chocula is a Halloween staple for me.  There was once a time when the Count and his buddies, Boo Berry, and Frankenberry could be found on the cereal shelves all year round, but those days are gone.  Now Count Chocula is a seasonal delicacy and I make sure to get as much of it as possible throughout the month of October.  There’s just something about chowing down on ghost and bat shaped cereal bits first thing in the morning that really helps keep the feeling of Halloween going!  Whether you’re a fan of the fumbling Frankenberry or the beatnik Boo Berry or the coco count himself, make sure to keep your shelf stocked with one of these, the scariest of the breakfast cereals.

I'm almost 100% sure this record won a grammy.

Blast the scary music:

While on my way to work I make sure to set my iPod up to thrill me with some of the best of my Halloween related music.  Things like the theme from Halloween and Night on Bald Mountain are good for creeping yourself out in the early morning darkness.   If you need a little lighter fair, but still want to hit your Halloween groove you can try bands like the Cramps, or classics like the Monster Mash, and Thriller.  A couple of groups that deal almost exclusively with Halloween type themes and who I’ve come to appreciate all year around are Zombina and the Skeletones and Paul Roland.  Musically they’re very different but they both have their own unique darkness that ranges from bizarre and humorous to just plain creepy.  If you’d like to learn more about them click on their links.

Are they a cool band? Yes, they are a cool band.

Horror Movies:

This one really needs no explanation.  Watch. Horror. Movies.  Everyone has their favorites with varying ratios of gore to scare as well as classic to modern.  So I’ll leave the choices up to you.  Oh, and Tim Burton’s Nightmare Before Christmas is a must as well, just be ready to watch it again in a few months when X-Mas rolls around!  AND There is a bonus this year (and hopefully for many more years to come) with the television series’ The Walking Dead and American Horror Story!  Two great ongoing dramas that have thus far been filled with plenty of great storytelling as well as well crafted horror elements.  With the modern wonders of DVR you could conceivably save up your recordings of these shows for the end of the week and have a horror drama double feature!  Both shows are unique and will give you varying degrees of “the willies.”

Only on episode 3, and I can already say this show is a favorite of mine.

Other Things:

Take Halloween into your own hands!  If you wait for this last week to carve your pumpkins it can really help to keep those nostalgic Halloween feelings going, and helps ensure that your pumpkins don’t look like the Crypt Keeper by the time Halloween actually rolls around (unless of course you carved it to look like the Crypt Keeper.)  Personally around this time I also like to delve into some fine demented literature.  It’s always a good time to revisit my favorite paranormal superhero, Dr. Strange and his supernaturally macabre adventures.  Also this year I’m working on completing the entire collected works of H.P. Lovecraft which happens to coincide nicely with the holiday.  Finally look back at some other media that fits the themes of Halloween, for instance I plan on  rewatching the episode of the Star Wars Clone Wars cartoon entitled  Legacy of Terror, which features zombie Geonosians.  There’s even an episode of Babylon 5 called Day of the Dead which features a strange occurrence aboard the station where the dead return to the world of the living for a single night.

Undead Geonosians prowling the catacombs in search of clone brains.

Basically when others aren’t getting psyched for Halloween, sometimes you’ve gotta psyche yourself up.  Remember that Halloween is more than just bad movies, girls dressed like sluts, and tooth rotting candy.  Halloween is a holiday that allows us to briefly acknowledge the darkness of the world, and of ourselves.  Halloween expresses death and allows us to come to terms with the fear of all of our inevitable destinies, and Halloween allows us to revel in the mysteries and instinctive imagination of the human psyche!

Happy Halloween everyone, make sure to scare the piss out of someone special this year!

That is all!

The GIF That Keeps On Giving

I love a good animated GIF.  I’ve been stockpiling links to GIFs that I’ve seen across the web so that I can share them in a blog post such as this.  In fact I was struggling with how to title this blog, titles like “GIF Wrapping” and “The GIF Of Gab” came to mind.  Then I thought about “Don’t Look A GIF Horse In The Mouth” or “GIF Of The Magi” Where I would rank the GIFs on a scale of frankincense, myrrh, and gold.  Ultimately I thought that would take too much time, so I just posted them without flourish.  I wish I knew the procedures to make my own GIFs because I’ve had a few ideas recently, but alas I’m forced to simply admire other people’s handy work as they post them in comments and forum discussions.  I’ve come across quite a few that make me chuckle with their hypnotically repetitive animations of absurdity but we’ll start with the few gems seen below!  Enjoy, and put them to good use!