It’s Halloween Time Again

Like many things today, pumpkins carving is a re-discoverd art that is reaching new heights
Contemporary pumpkin carving, Wikipedia

Always Evolving

Like many things today, pumpkins carving is a re-discovered art that is reaching new heights. No longer are we graced with just the toothy smile of a Jack O’Lantern, but instead, today’s pumpkin carvers have dedicated themselves to creating strange, eerie nocturnal scenes, like the one visible above.

My 2015 Halloween Rant

I can’t believe it’s Halloween time again. The frost may not yet be on the pumpkin because of global warming and the World Series may still be playing live on your flat screen TV, because of increased TV revenues, but the calendar actually says October 31, which means its All Hallows Eve, the night before All Saints Day. And to make things better for those who like to party on the evening proceeding All Saints Day, Halloween 2015 happens to fall on a Saturday.

Like everything else in America and the world, Halloween is changing. Of course, our world is changing too, so it not at all unexpected to see evidence of these changes on this popular holiday that occurs right before the popular Celtic holiday of All Saints Day. Evidence of these changes can be seen just by viewing the new array of costumes that are released every year right about this time.

A 2015 Halloween costume
A 2015 Halloween costume

On The Dark Side

This image represents some of the darker events of 2015
This image represents some of the darker events of 2015

Images like this one are all over the internet and it is not inconceivable that the recent transformation of this nation’s beloved Olympic star is not playing well among the general public. Perhaps this is just the tip of the iceberg or maybe just an overzealous outburst of the holiday season.

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A Word From Stieg Larsson’s Translator

view from Kebnekaise, highest point in Sweden
view from Kebnekaise, highest point in Sweden

Steven T. Murray is not a household name, but he is the English to Swedish translator for Stieg Larsson, a title that comes with just a little bit of clout. According to his blog, which is titled Stieg Larsson’s English Translator, Steven is capable of translating from Swedish, Danish, Norwegian and German to English. Now that’s an impressive list of languages. I always tune into his blog every now and then to see what is going on in the literary world of northern Europe.

Recently, I found a particularly interesting item posted by Steven, telling of a recent vampire novel that he had just put into English from Swedish. Now, I’m about the last person world to get interested in a vampire reading. I think I once read 50 pages of Anne Rice’s “Interview With a Vampire” and have yet to watch any vampire movies, unless you consider The Rocky Horror Picture Show to be one of that genre.

However, Murray’s most recent blog caught my attention so here’s the gist of it. Steven has just finished the translation from Swedish to English of a novel called “Nephilim”, by Asa Schwarz. The storyline is kind of humorous and very entertaining all at the same time. According to Steven, the plot goes like this: “these fallen angels, one of whom stowed away on Noah’s Ark when God was trying to wipe them out with the Flood, then interbred with humans and created a new race that has survived to the present day.” I hope that’s not enough words to count as plagiarism, but you had read the whole post at this link.

And while you’re at it here are a couple of more pictures of Sweden, courtesy of Wikipedia.

The Sweden to Denmark Öresunds bridge, Jonas Ericsson, courtesy of Wikipedia
The Sweden to Denmark Öresunds bridge, by Jonas Ericsson, courtesy of Wikipedia
Swedish palace by Kim Hansen, courtesy of Wikipedia
Swedish palace by Kim Hansen, courtesy of Wikipedia

P.S. The book is due to be published in Australia and the UK in 2011 by Sibling Press.

The House Of Seven Gables

House of Seven Gables
The House of Seven Gables in Salem, Massachusetts

The House of Seven Gables in Salem, Mass is a genuine 17th century sea captain’s mansion and by some streak of good fortune cannot considered to be one of the many Mardi Gras-Halloween tourist traps that have come to dominate this once-notorious American city. Every October this seaside Boston suburb goes all out to celebrate All Hallows Eve. In fact, a sure sign that Halloween season  is quickly approaching are the numerous brightly-colored outhouses plastic outhouses that line the street to accommodate the large street crowds that find Salen a nice place to spend the last day of October.

Meanwhile over on the north shoreline quietly stands the House of Seven Gables with an intriguing silhouette that mildly suggests some of the mysteries that Nathanial Hawthorne penned to the building. This famous house has been a non-profit venture, since 1910 when Caroline Emmerton took over the place and started the House of Seven Gables Settlement Association, which has restored the unusual house to somewhat resemble its original condition with a few amusing exceptions that were put in place to match the storyline of Hawthorne’s popular novel.

Four out of seven gables
Four of the gables rendered in a somewhat ominous light

For all you architectural purists, a one-cent shop was added on the first floor, as was a secret staircase. Visitors today can climb the secret staircase (it is quite believable, but alas not part of the original design) from its hidden entrance in the wood closet in the living room and arrive in the second floor hallway of the very interesting colonial domicile. In fact the entire house is an architecture treasure and worth viewing for that reason alone.

Nearby at the harbor,  is the Friendship, a realistic replica of the actual ship that plied the four seas until it was seized during the war of 1812. Today it spends much of its time in the Salem port, but in the golden years of sail, these watercraft ventured around the world, trading as they went.  These ships made small fortunes for sea captains like John Turner, who built the house in 1668 (OK, that’s a little bit early for such a big ship, but you get the idea).

The Friendship, a real ship,
a modern-day replica of the original Friendship

Nathanial Hawthorne was born just around the corner from the House of Seven gables in 1804. His father was a sea captain, who died at sea when Nathaniel was 4 years old, and his grandfather was Judge Hathorne (Nathanial changed the family name slightly supposedly to avoid direct association with the infamous ancestor)who presided at the Salem Witch Trials and reportedly was one of the few involved who never regretted his participation or showed any remorse. So you it is easy to see that when Nathanial graduated from Bowdoin college in Maine and returned to his native Salem as a young man aged in his early twenties, he most likely had a lot on his mind.

The House of Seven Gables was Hawthorne’s second popular novel, following close on the heels of The Scarlet Letter, a literary effort that is probably more popular today. The Seven Gables  is a story about family shame and redemption, a topic that Nathanial understood very well because of his grandfather the judge. Readers should realize that the story that Hawthorne placed on the seven-gabled house does not parallel the real-life events that its actual residents experienced. Instead it is a colorful look at the inner world of Nathaniel Hawthorne  in the early 19th century.

Birthplace of Nathanial Hawthorne
The birthplace of Nathanial Hawthorne, which has been moved a few blocks and now sits next to the House of 7 Gables

Happy Halloween

Carved Pumpkins
Carved pumpkins in Portland, Maine

It’s hard to believe that Halloween has already come and past. As I write this the midnight hour has already passed and all Saint’s Day has officially begun. That’s all Halloween is anyway the last day of the Celtic New Year. November 1 is the first day of the new year and Halloween is just a contraction from the phrase All Hallow’s Eve, the night before All Saint’s Day when lost or departed souls return for a visit. That is why food is often left out so as to appease the spirits on the one day when they are allowed to roam around their old haunts.

ghost costume
sexy ghost costume

I can’t believe how big a holiday Halloween has become even approaching Mardi Gras status in such places as Salem, Massachusetts and Austin, Texas. Here in Maine Halloween parties seem to be as popular as ever but I decided to spend the evening at home watching  appropriate videos.

My choice of movies included the Assasination of Jesse James, Millers Crossing and the delightful High Spirits, a fun tale that takes place in a fictional castle in Ireland on Halloween.

The Haunting
poster for the Haunting

I was presently surprised by High Spirits and enjoyed the fine performances by Peter O’Toole and Daryl Hannah. Not the deepest movie of all times but a fun spoof on ghosts and castles. The special effects were excellent and helped make the movie an enjoyable ride.

Midnight signifies another milestone for me. It is the now officially the 1st of November and I can start my NaNoWriMo novel. I think I will put off this literary endeavor until tomorrow during the day when I have more energy. Besides I don’t want all the ghosts and goblins looking over my shoulder while I writr my great American novel.

Pin up
Pin up for a Halloween Witch