Thursday, November 1, 2012

Thursday's thistles

Twelve ounces of irony: Red trash in the gutter tells the tale —Schools observed Red Ribbon Week last week, education's annual attempt to avert students from drugs.

(I wonder what impact the observance really has …)

Schools let the outside world know about it by tying tiny red ribbons to the chainlink fences encircling the playground, and jamming cups into the holes to spell out appropriate phrases ("We're drug free and proud!" "Don't do drugs!"). Wind and kids and passersby knock cups to the ground, making gibber of the words before the week's out.

Does anyone else note the irony that the phrases are often made with little red Solo™©® cups, evoking the summer's crass paean to the opposite advice?

On the fence outside the nearby Catholic school and church, someone had spelled — in white foam cups — FAITH! with a big rectangular frame of cups and red ribbons tied around the letters. Not sure what to make of it … a general encouragement? An alternate Red Ribbon Week slogan? Reaching out to the public school across the street, maybe over a test?

Hellowe'en: What a strange holiday, Halloween. Fraught. Fraught with fright, fraught with controversy. Fraught.

A take-it-or-leave-it holiday. Embrace or ignore, at least between few and far between handfuls of candy for the few folks for whom Halloween should mean anything, the little kids in dress-up.

I rarely hear the caterwauling anymore over Halloween's evil influence. All sides have gone to their corners, sitting out a tense détente. Horror movies still spill out of theaters, one torture-porn feature after another. Churches hold alternative events, commonly called harvest festivals (and doesn't that sound like fun? Celebrating how, before supermarkets and suburbia, folks gathered in the apples and wheat and made their own pie! Have a corn stalk!) or fall fun fests, or trunk-or-treat, where kids move from one car to another in the parking lot, drivers handing out treats in a sedate tailgate party manner. Everyone trying to ignore the 800-pound gorilla in the Angry Birds mask. What kid is gonna ever call it a harvest festival?

John Hersey's Dia de los Gigantes!
One church called its event a Candy Carnival, which carves closer to the bone but only trades one evil for another, and which is the lesser?

On the other side of the aisle, I've heard the holiday called Hell-o-ween. I may be late to the costume party, but I'm surprised that name hasn't been conjured before. 

Call it Dress-Up Day, because that's its purest distillation. A day to be something or someone else, to live in someone else's skin, superheroic or scandalous. No weapons, no blood, no war imagery or devil horns or scream masks though, please.

(I sometimes teach elementary school students to draw their own superheroes, and before I got going last time, the teacher launched into a long recitation reminding students of all the things they COULDN'T depict with their superheroes. So practiced, she sounded like the draft board sergeant in "Alice's Restaurant.")

My favorite iteration of the holiday is El Dia de los Muertos, with its roots in Latin America, for its graphic power and magic, but I'd rather its roots not get messed with.

To my delight, I just discovered this work (above) by John Hersey, one of the pioneers of digital illustration, even though it's been around since the San Francisco won the World Series in 2010. Hersey reimagined the Giants' devilish closer, Brawley-raised Sergio Romo, as a sugar skull, and despite Hersey's great breadth of work, it's his best selling image. Perfectly fitting for Halloween, when the Giants returned to The City to celebrate its 2012 World Series.

Proceed to party!

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