Month: October 2011

Top Ten Literary Halloween Outfits

Now dressing as an author or literary character is probably not something many people consider because most people will not know who you are and you will spend most of the evening explaining to people who don’t read books who you are. Instead of looking at the negative side of the evening think about how superior you can feel.

10. Captain Ahab: Now this is a no-brainer. Get a peg leg, a little scar down the side of your face and carry a 8’10’ glossy of a white whale and ask party goers if they have seen the offending whale. It wouldn’t hurt to have a harpoon.

Captain Ahab proclaims: "Blacksmith, I se...

Image via Wikipedia

9. Holden Caulfield: Get yourself a hunting hat, carry around a broken record and crumbly old suit case. It helps if you can find a suit jacket for some snotty school like Pency Prep, but this outfit is more about drinking too much, being an ass and having a condescending attitude.

holden in the park

Image by carmela alvarado art via Flickr

8. Emily Dickinson: Wear a white dress, scribble lots of little poems on scraps of paper, don’t socialize too much and then lock yourself in a room upstairs.

A cabinet card copy of a daguerreotype of Emil...

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7. Jack Kerouac: Jeans, button down shirt, casual shoes, maybe a little grease in the hair and you are ready to roll. Now if your goal is to get outrageously drunk and out of control, this is the outfit for you. Later you can just explain to all your friends that you were, “Staying in character.”

Jack Kerouac by photographer Tom Palumbo, circ...

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6. James Joyce: Tweed suit, really thick glasses, possibly an eyepatch, hair slicked back and a small cane. Now no one will know who you are, but you can carry around a copy of Ulysses all night. For those of you going for the truly authentic author, Joyce also wore several watches, always had ink on his hands and liked to recite Dante when drunk, so you might want to brush up on your Italian.

James Joyce, 1 photographic print, b&w, cartes...

Image via Wikipedia

5. Gertrude Stein: Now I don’t want to sound too mean, but this outfit might be best attempted by someone male. Plain dress, hair up in a tight bun and comfortable sandals. Repeat the same phrase over and over and over all night long and then talk a lot of trash about other writers. You could pair this costume with a Pablo Picasso, or if you want to go crazy and have an ugly girlfriend, you could have her dress as Alice Toklas. (Yes, that was mean, but I couldn’t help myself.)

Portrait of Gertrude Stein, 1906, Metropolitan...

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4. Lady Brett Ashley: Ladies, if you want to misbehave this is the costume for you. Tight flapper dress, stylish cap, short hair and an attitude that says, “I’m ready to run away with any of you bullfighters here.”

"Where there's smoke there's fire" b...

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3. Ernest Hemingwaythe Paris years: Young Hemingway liked to dress like a French fisherman. Blue and white striped shirt, high-water pants cinched around the belly and a beret. You could bandage your head for a real touch of authenticity.

Ernest Hemingway, Paris, circa 1924.

Image via Wikipedia

2. Ernest Hemingway the later years: Do you have a grey beard? Well, then you are halfway home. This costume is more about attitude than anything else. Challenge people to fight, drink far too much and carry a shotgun.

American Author Ernest Hemingway aboard his Ya...

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1. Hester Prynne: Black dress, big red A stitched on the breast. Carry a baby if you like or if you have a toddler, bring them along and let them run wild. Guys that want to capture this time period have a couple choices: John Proctor or Arthur Dimmesdale, either way Adultery is part of your past. If you are Dimmesdale all you need is a red marker and an open shirt. John Proctor might your choice if you have a really young girlfriend who likes to accuse people of being witches.

Hester Prynne

Image by billhd via Flickr

Young Kids, Museums and Travel

When our kids were young we took them to London and Paris. There were people who asked, “Aren’t the kids too young to appreciate Europe?” Well, they may have been, but my goals were not to have them “appreciate” anything, I just wanted them to see the world from a different angle. I wanted them to have a mind altering experience early enough in life so they did not see the world as their enemy, which, in my opinion, is how many Americans view the world.

Now the trip did not always go smoothly, Emma might have been too young to care about the Elgin Marbles, but the trip did allow them to see the world is not a homogenized chunk of Home Depot, Starbucks, Wal-Mart, and Safeway strip malls crowding each American city. They came back to the USA with an understanding that things are different other places and that isn’t a bad thing. They tried new things and found out that “different” isn’t a threat to an American way of life that must be snuffed out. I believe that if more Americans traveled overseas, not just in military uniforms, the world would be a better place. Only 37% of Americans have passports. That statistic is probably skewed by economics (some people cannot afford to travel) but I believe there is a large group of Americans who never want to leave the country for any reason.

The trip also established two unintended consequences the first being that both of my children have the travel bug. I could not be happier. We went back to Europe with the kids in 2009. We visited Iceland, England, France, Germany and Denmark. Did the kids have a great time 100% of the time? No, but both of them are pleading for us to go back and see new places. You will not hear my kids say, “I hear the French don’t like us” or “What’s there to see in Iceland?” because they know that every place has its own magic. Now, maybe we could have established this idea here in the US, but if you travel much in the US you begin to see that corporations are doing a good job of making the American landscape all the same. Sure, Europe has some of the same problems, but the cultural differences between places is something that even the largest corporations cannot change.

The second unintended consequence of our travel is something more important and that is the shared memories of adventure. Some people have advised me to save money for the kids’ college years, but instead I have spent our money on travel. I have invested in memories instead of the future. Now this might be foolish but I don’t see the point in squirreling away nuts for the winter when those nuts have a pretty good chance of becoming rotten. Memories are investments also. They are the type of investment that always increases in value and my kids have memories they will be able to share with their families some day.

So, should you take your kids on a trip someplace far away before they are old enough to appreciate it? Yes, and then take them again, and again.


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