Alice Cooper ‘From the Inside’ pumpkin by my mate Dave Cook…. and a ‘Pumpkin Centipede’
The word Halloween is first attested in the 16th century and represents a Scottish variant of the fuller All-Hallows-Even (“evening”), that is, the night before All Hallows Day. Although the phrase All Hallows is found in Old English (ealra hālgena mæssedæg, mass-day of all saints), All-Hallows-Even is itself not attested until 1556.
Historian Nicholas Rogers, exploring the origins of Halloween, notes that while “some folklorists have detected its origins in the Roman feast of Pomona, the goddess of fruits and seeds, or in the festival of the dead called Parentilia, it is more typically linked to the Celtic festival of Samhain, whose original spelling was Samuin (pronounced sow-an or sow-in)”. The name of the festival historically kept by the Gaels and Celts in the British Isles is derived from Old Irish and means roughly “summer’s end”.
According to the Oxford Dictionary of English folk lore: “Certainly Samhain was a time for festive gatherings, and medieval Irish texts and later Irish, Welsh, and Scottish folklore use it as a setting for supernatural encounters, but there is no evidence that it was connected with the dead in pre-Christian times, or that pagan religious ceremonies were held.”
The Irish myths which mention Samhain were written in the 10th and 11th centuries by Christian monks. This is around 200 years after the Catholic church inaugurated All Saints Day and at least 400 years after Ireland became Christian.
Development of artifacts and symbols associated with Halloween formed over time. For instance, the carving of jack-o’-lanterns springs from the souling custom of carving turnips into lanterns as a way of remembering the souls held in purgatory. The turnip has traditionally been used in Ireland and Scotland at Halloween, but immigrants to North America used the native pumpkin, which are both readily available and much larger – making them easier to carve than turnips. The American tradition of carving pumpkins is recorded in 1837 and was originally associated with harvest time in general, not becoming specifically associated with Halloween until the mid-to-late 19th century.
The imagery of Halloween is derived from many sources, including national customs, works of othic and horror literature (such as the novels Frankenstein and Dracula), and classic horror films (such as the aforemnetioned Frankenstein, Dracula and The Mummy). Among the earliest works on the subject of Halloween is from Scottish poet John Mayne in 1780, who made note of pranks at Halloween; “What fearfu’ pranks ensue!”, as well as the supernatural associated with the night, “Bogies” (ghosts), influencing Robert Burns’ ‘Halloween’ 1785. Elements of the autumn season, such as pumpkins, corn husks and scarecrows, are also prevalent. Homes are often decorated with these types of symbols around Halloween. Halloween imagery includes themes of death, evil the occult or mythical monsters. Black and orange are the holiday’s traditional colors.
In Scotland and Ireland, Guising — children disguised in costume going from door to door for food or coins — is a traditional Halloween custom, and is recorded in Scotland at Halloween in 1895 where masqueraders in disguise carrying lanterns made out of scooped out turnips, visit homes to be rewarded with cakes, fruit and money. The practice of Guising at Halloween in North America is first recorded in 1911, where a newspaper in Kingston, Ontario reported children going “guising” around the neighborhood. According American historian Ruth Edna Kelly, the first reference to “guising” in North America occurs in 1911, another reference to ritual begging on Halloween appears, place unknown, in 1915, with a third reference in Chicago in 1920. Of course nothing is done on a small scale in the US, Halloween is now the second biggest holiday (after Christmas) in North America!
The War of the Worlds was an episode of the American radio drama anthology series ‘Mercury Theatre on Air’. It was performed as a Halloween episode of the series on October 30, 1938, and aired over the Columbia Broadcasting System radio network. Directed and narrated by actor and future filmmaker Orson Welles, the episode was an adaptation of H.G. Wells’s novel of the same name.
The first two thirds of the 60-minute broadcast were presented as a series of simulated “news bulletins”, which suggested to many listeners that an actual alien invasion by Martians was currently in progress. Compounding the issue was the fact that the Mercury Theatre on the Air was a “sustaining show” (it ran without commercial breaks), adding to the program’s realism. Although there were sensationalist accounts in the press about a supposed panic in response to the broadcast, the precise extent of listener response has been debated.
In the days following the adaptation, however, there was widespread outrage and panic by certain listeners who believed the events described in the program were real. The program’s news-bulletin format was decried as cruelly deceptive by some newspapers and public figures, leading to an outcry against the perpetrators of the broadcast. The episode secured Welles’s fame.
An mp3 version of the broadcast can be downloaded free from the Mercury Theatre on the Air website. Check it out here They also have excellent mp3 versions of Dracula, Rebecca and the 39 Steps for download.
If you’ve seen the trailer for ‘Warrior’ you know where the movie is headed in the third act but little about what takes place for the characters to get there. If you haven’t seen the trailer, don’t, just go to see the movie.
The story of a fractured family, estranged brothers Tommy (Tom Hardy) and Brendan (Joel Edgerton) torn apart by the abuse from their formerly alcoholic father Paddy (Nick Nolte), on a collision course via their entry into a Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) tournament. Tommy has returned from serving in the Gulf war with the Marines, while sparring at a local gym he knocks out a contender for an upcoming MMA tournament, and the video clip of the fight is a viral hit. His brother Brendan is a happily married father and teacher at a local shool, however, he suffers financial hardship due to a crippling mortgage and starts fighting in amateur MMA fights in local bar car parks for extra cash.
Both brothers manage to gain entry to the Sparta tournament, a winner takes all promotional event with $5m in prizemoney. Not exactly the most original story, there have been comparisons to the recent ‘The Fighter’ as well as ‘Rocky’ and any number of boxing movies. However this story is told so well that any comparisons are pointless lazy journalism; this movie isn’t about the fights, although there are many of them and they are brutal, it is about these three men, and how their joint past and disparate present lives come into renewed conflict. The physical fight that they are headed towards is nothing compared to the emotional battering they can’t leave behind. Through a series of exceptional set-pieces we are able to re-construct just how and why the family became so broken; the alcoholism of Paddy is the obvious catalyst from the outset, however that is only part of the story, how the family splintered and what drove a wedge between the brothers provides the drive and tension heading into the final act.
The three main actors are all perfectly cast and deliver exceptionally believable performances. Tom Hardy is terrifying as a man on the edge, driven to fight; obviously suffering from post traumatic stress disorder, Tommy is a powder keg of tortured emotions. On this evidence he will be awesome as Bane in next years Batman finale. Joel Edgerton as Brendan is the initially more likeable of the two brothers who wants everything for his family that was denied him as a child. His is a more restrained performance but no less enthralling. He has excellent support from Jennifer Morrison as Brendans wife Tess. Nick Nolte is fantastic as the reformed abusive alcoholic father Paddy, a man who is desperate to reconcile with his two sons. It’s a career highlight from Nolte who hasn’t been in much of note for some time. He delivers a heart-breaking turn as a man battling for the forgiveness and acceptance of his sons. Award winning.
I din’t know much about director Gavin O’Connor other than ‘Pride and Glory’ (2008) which had similar themes involving a family of New York policemen. On the evidence of those two movies, his strength seems to be in enticing great performances from ensemble casts, he is definitely one to watch. My only gripe would be the Hollywood styled ending that is slightly at odds with the grittier 2 hours that precedes it, however that is a minor complaint as it still works.
Quality: 4 out of 5 stars
Any good: 5 out of 5 stars