The Grinch Who Stole Halloween

So I was driving to church this Reformation Day (October 31) (yesterday), and I saw a bunch of American tourists. Children. Walking the streets of suburban Brisbane. They were dressed in costumes. Most of them were dressed as vampires – though not the emo/street kid/Twilight/sparkly campire/Edward Cullen variety – the good old caped Dracula variety. So I am thankful for small mercies. It seems our costume shops still think the Count from Sesame St is the model vampire, and not a sulking never-aging teenager with a brooding face. And make-up. Man make-up. And permanently windswept hair.

I’m glad there weren’t too many twihards. That would have made this post even harder to write.

Halloween is a scourge threatening to infect our cities. Australia. It is time to stand up and be counted. This is not an Australian event. This is a commercial opportunity that Coles and Woolworths have seized on with the zeal of a grocer flogging MasterChef products and ingredients. Give Coles and Woolies a sniff and they’ll have a product range and a pallet full of overgrown pumpkins out for sale quicker than Usain Bolt wolfs down a KFC two piece feed after a race (and no, I’m not suggesting that just because he’s a black man from the Caribbean he likes to eat fried chicken – I’ll leave those PC mongers who watch ads and look for hints of racism to come up with that sort of pointless speculation). The man likes KFC. It’s a fact. Here. Look. It’s on the internet.

Look. Here he is eating some with his mum.

I’m not buying into promoting stereotypical racial tropes.

But America. Keep your over-sugared excuse for a holiday out of our country. We don’t want your obesity. We don’t want our children to be fat like yours. We don’t want to have to stock up on bags of sugared goodies or “tricks”1 in order to assuage our middle-class consumer guilt foisted on us by big commercial supermarkets looking to boost sales of confectionery and ghoulish paraphernalia.

We already have a cultural excuse to dress up in silly costumes. It’s called Book Week. And I’m still scarred by my experience attending one such event in primary school dressed in purple tights, undies on the outside and a pair of toy guns. That’s right. I went to book week as the Phantom.

Halloween is barely even worthy of Grinch status. It’s not a sacred day. I don’t care about its supposedly Catholic or Pagan or Roman origins. The etymology of the word is boring. Current usage determines meaning – and currently it’s a thinly veiled holiday designed to prey on the gullible and to use children as manipulative pawns in a game of excess. So parents who dressed their children, bought lollies, and took groups trick or treating, I quote an Australian media doyen at you: Shame. Shame. Shame.

That is all.

1 Why we’d want to promote kids to go door-knocking asking for “tricks” in the age of stranger-danger is beyond me.

Vampires V Zombies

This is an interesting article from N+1 comparing two undead species battling it out for supremacy in our pop-culture zeitgeist.

“For decades they [zombies] labored anonymously in the cinematic backwater of Voodoo Gothic, holding no real standing in the community of the Undead. The brightest star in that firmament has always been the vampire, with his elegantly alarming fangs and aristocratic lineage, and a philosophically instructive vampire vs. zombie class war is being conducted before our eyes today. Vampires are smart, agile, glamorous.”

In one corner, we have the suave, sophisticated, and dare I say sexy (if one finds the trailer trash look of that guy who plays Edward Cullen appealing), vampires (or “campires” as I like to call them. Seriously, they sparkle. Who’s afraid of the sparkling undead?). And in the other corner, weighing in at significantly more pounds, the lumbering, degenerate zombies. Both want to dine on human beings, both perpetuate their kind by oral transfer. Both are the subject of Hollywood fantasies (though you don’t really see too many “Zombie Romance” novels being written). They represent extremes of the undead spectrum – and we, being undeadist, like to discriminate. We love to love vampires, and love to hate zombies. Unless you’re a Blade or Van Helsing fan. Or even a Buffy fan.

Poor zombies. They deserve better, and all we want to do is bludgeon them in the head with a baseball bat.

Make it count: Vampire v Vampire

I like my vampires velvety and numerically savvy. Not brooding and sparkly.

So I like this picture.

Butterflies and Vampires

The sparkling vampires of Twilight have long annoyed vampire purists. Nowhere in the history of vampire mythology have vampires been said to sparkle like fairies.

But an enterprising student of science has made a connection by observing the behaviour of vampires in the realm of Twilight. Vampires are unusually strong for their size. Like insects. They feed on blood from other animals. Like insects.

Here are some of the important connections you’ll need to make to fully accept this brilliant conclusion:

“What about vampires’ superhuman abilities? The Tiger Beetle is technically ‘the fastest running land animal’. The strongest animal is the world is the horned dung beetle. Insects also have incredible vision; most see colors invisible to humans and bees see in color at five times the speed we’re able. Vampires and other insects don’t breathe like we do, nor do they possess a human heartbeat. As an added bonus, invertebrates are notoriously hard to kill.”

Accepting all these factors led this particular blogger (and I confess I am convinced also) to conclude that vampires are in fact butterflies.

“Vampires are gorgeous, metamorphosis is a key part of their development, and they are natural experts at camouflage and mimicry. Some butterflies have even been observed feeding on blood.

Why do they sparkle? That’s easy: Vampires, like butterflies, are covered in tiny iridescent scales.”

And thus, the sparkling that has annoyed me so, is completely feasible as another step in the evolutionary scale of these larger than life insects.

Fantasy Finals

Ever wondered what fictional character would win in a fight?

From This is Indexed.

Know where you stand when you fall

Just in case you were wondering about the post death pecking order – chances are you’ll (until judgment day at least) be at the bottom.

When I use the word “chances” I don’t mean to suggest that there is any probability of zombies, ghosts, or vampires coming after you. But if you’re writing fiction and want to produce better characters then this will at least help you put things in perspective.

From here.

On Twilight, feminism, and ethics

Back in July Amy gave quite a reasonable point of view on the damage Twilight might do to young girls.

Here’s what she said…

“I am really worried about the worldview this presents to teenage girls (say 13 and 14 year olds). A lot of people in (US) Christian circles are jumping on Twilight as being okay for their kids to read (unlike Harry Potter – but you don’t want to get me started on how shortsighted that is) because they think it supports abstinence (which honestly, it really doesn’t – not having sex because you might kill someone is a lot different to choosing to for moral reasons).”

“Almost as soon as Bella meets Edward, she decides to give up college or any idea of a normal life (including seeing her family), so she can become undead like him. That’s right girls – find the right guy and just get him to look after you. You won’t ever have to think about looking after yourself.”

An opinion writer from the Herald has essentially regurgitated the same point of view.

She celebrates characters from chick literature of the past – like the girls from Little Women and Anne of Green Gables…

For more than a century, Jo March and Anne Shirley have been teaching little girls that there is more to life than hooking up with a rich, handsome bloke. Now, in 2009, we have a heroine who tells them that it’s worth their family, their education and their soul.

But in the same piece presents an interesting ethical dilemma as though it’s a fait accompli…

“They conceive a half-vampire, half-human child. Baby vampires are particularly dangerous, apparently, as they have as little restraint as any baby and have been known to slaughter entire cities when they’re hungry. But with customary thoughtlessness and confused morality, Bella refuses to have an abortion. Her decision puts a lot of people to a lot of trouble.”

Assuming, for a moment, that vampires are real… why is this refusal to have an abortion framed in such black and white terms? It would seem to be more complex than that…

Reality bites

Simone and Ben are continuing their love affair with vampires.

I’ve got bad news for them… Vampires are mathematically impossible.

Problem solved.

Seriously, these researchers have conclusively demonstrated (PDF) that vampires would wipe out the human population in just two and a half years… It’s pretty similar to the zombie study I posted a while back.

Let us assume that a vampire need feed only once a month. This is certainly a highly conservative assumption given any Hollywood vampire film. Now two things happen when a vampire feeds. The human population decreases by one and the vampire population increases by one.

Sounds like a reasonable assumption right… Here’s the conclusion…

“We conclude that if the first vampire appeared on January 1st of 1600 AD, humanity would have been wiped out by June of 1602, two and half years later.”

It seems this study was deemed quite controversial by other mathematicians and an economist who argued that other factors should have been considered. You can read about that where I found it – here.

High stakes photobombing

I must confess that I’m not really excited by the whole Twilight thing. Romantic vampires don’t sit well with me.

Friend Keagan doesn’t like the Twilight vampires because they shimmer. And vampires don’t shimmer. Everybody knows that.

Everybody also knows that vampires are African American and get in trouble for tax evasion. These Twilight kiddies are imposters, and must be dealt with

Please take one

Celebrating ads in bus shelters is easy – but what about ads that people put up illegally on walls and legally on notice boards? The tear off ad is time honoured, and tried and true.

Here are two that I like.

From Flickr.

Free paper.