Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Halloween Play List

Like many genre writers, Halloween is my favorite holiday. I love the spookiness, the creepiness, the embracing of all things other. I love the colors, the candy, the make-believe.

With small children in the house, it's easy to get into the Halloween spirit early on. Come October 1, our decorations go up and I create a Halloween station on Pandora. This year I also created a Halloween play list on YouTube for the kids. It's totally spooky but not scary -- an important distinction, especially in my house. My 6-year old and 2 1/2-year old love spooky, but have a low tolerance for scary. What's the difference? Spooky is cute, fun, funny, silly.

Child-appropriate spookiness

Scary is, well...

"Are there any little children I can eat?"

Since my husband and I don't enjoy staying up all night with terrified children, we emphasize spooky in our Halloween fun and try to minimize the scary as much as we reasonably can. Don't worry, we're not total sticks-in-the-mud about it: we still have plenty of glow-in-the-dark skulls and skeletons around the house.

All children have varying tolerance levels for scariness, and are scared of different things. I know my oldest can handle most of "The Nightmare Before Christmas," but would be totally freaked out by the kidnapping of Santa Claus. Ghosts and most monsters he can handle; bad things happening to people, though, disturbs him beyond reason. And he loves. Santa. LOVES Santa. 

Whatever your kids like, and whatever disturbs them, I hope you and your family all have a fun, spooky, and safe Halloween!

The López Family Halloween Play List 2014

My kids love this intro. So far it's all they've seen of the movie. Some day, when the older one won't be so frightened of Santa Claus getting kidnapped by the Oogey Boogey Man, I'll let him watch the whole thing.

This is another movie we haven't watched yet. Not because of the ghosts; my 6-year old prides himself on not only not being scared of ghosts, but actively liking them. No, it's because of the scene near the end when Dana and Louis turn into those creatures. See above, re: bad things happening to people. I know that would give him nightmares for weeks. They still like the video, though.

True fact: I have the Addams Family theme song as the ring tone on my phone for whenever my parents call me. I can relate to the Addams Family: they think they're normal. So does my family. 

Who doesn't love this scene from "Beetlejuice?" 

True fact: I went through a major "Rocky Horror" phase in high school. My friend gave me the cassette (aging myself!) with the entire movie on it, including all the audience Partici-Pation, and I knew it all by heart. Still know most of it. And now my 6-year old knows how to Time Warp and can sing the song. Hashtag: Geek Parenting Done Right. Damnit, Janet!

Don't pretend you didn't watch this movie, and don't pretend you don't remember this scene. I mean, for pete's sake, Tim Curry sings about his tambourine. COME ON!

Remember SJP before "Sex And The City?" 

Another thing I won't show my kids yet: the actual "Thriller" video. But the song is still a Halloween staple.

And finally, because the 6-year old has gotten a little bit into Harry Potter (we're still working our way through "The Sorcerer's Stone." I've promised him he can watch the movie when we're done.) the HP movie theme song with some random visuals.

What's your favorite thing about Halloween? What's your favorite way of celebrating?

Wednesday, October 22, 2014


Spoiler alert: This post on spoilers contains spoilers.

Lately I've been thinking a lot about this phenomenon of "spoilers" and what they mean to us as writers, readers, TV and film watchers, and members of social media. Three instances in particular -- a book and two TV shows -- have raised the questions: Are there "rules" when it comes to spoilers? Are there statutes of limitations, and if so, how long are they? What is the responsibility of the spoiler-er vs the spoiler-ee? And what, exactly, is a spoiler?

Even River Song saying "Spoilers" here might be a spoiler!

A "spoiler," basically, is when you learn a twist or ending you usually didn't want to know about, usually before you've read/watched something you enjoy. Posting publicly the details of a last episode of a series, or the major twist of a movie, is a spoiler.

But what about that grey area -- people's reactions without details? I'm talking specifically about last week's "The Walking Dead" season 5 opener. Because we don't have cable, my husband and I watch TWD a day late. I know that a lot of my friends on Facebook watch TWD the night it airs, and so I was wary of going online last Monday, lest my eyeballs accidentally see a "spoiler" one of them may have posted. While I didn't see any details that would ruin the episode for me, I did see a lot of "OMG!" and "Best season opener ever!" and "Way better than I even expected! You outdid yourself, Walking Dead!"

Do those count as spoilers?

This image from the season 5 opener, "No Sanctuary," was
all over the internets long before the episode aired, leading
many diehard Deadheads to wonder if it was, in fact, a giant
spoiler, and with a legion of Daryl Dixon fans threatening
to riot if he was killed off the show.

I say no. Anyone familiar with the show knows that each episode is white-knuckley to a greater or lesser degree, and that most episodes contain some sort of twist or surprise. I knew the first episode of season 5 would be epic, and so my friends' reactions in no way ruined my enjoyment of seeing that episode for myself.

What about responsibility? Does everyone online have a responsibility to post "spoiler alert!" before posting details? How long can that go on? For TWD's first episode, I gave everyone I know, who may not have seen the episode yet, the benefit of the doubt and listed some questions I had under the heading "spoiler alert," with some space between that and my questions so that they'd be hidden to anyone who didn't want to accidentally read them.

After that I think it's fair game. If I take my time watching a show, I'm grown-up enough to know what I'm getting myself into when I go online. Beyond a reasonable grace period -- a night or two for others to catch up, longer for first and last episodes of a season -- I think posting spoilery details should be fine. If you are that afraid of your eyeballs accidentally seeing something -- a comment, a Facebook or Twitter "trending," or something on a forum or message board -- then it's easy enough to avoid those spaces. We all have reasons why we might not watch a show live, or the next night, but that doesn't mean the whole rest of the online world has to wait for you to catch up. If I'm too busy to watch my favorite prone-to-spoiler shows, then I'm probably too busy to spend a lot of time online, as well.

Spoiler? I don't care. Cute as fucking hell.

What about another grey area of spoilers? I read all of the Harry Potter books before the movies came out; I also read all of the Hunger Games books. My husband read neither of those series, but we were already coupled up when I read the last of the HP books and the entire HG trilogy. As I read, I'd tell him what was happening in the books; what I liked about them; what I didn't like; what I agreed with; disagreed with. I'd tell him plot details. I'd tell him the endings.

Did this ruin his enjoyment of the movies? Not at all. I'd say that unless you are a die-hard fan of something, knowing the outcome in advance does not ruin your enjoyment of the work. Sometimes the journey, the getting there, is the important part. Did anyone think that Harry would not defeat Voldemort? Did that make the final battle less exciting? Were the deaths of some of our favorite supporting characters any less heartbreaking? Does knowing that Katniss must win the Hunger Games in the first book make her story any less amazing to read?

You'd have to be living under a rock not to know what was coming.

In other words, which is more important: wondering whether or not Frodo will destroy the One Ring, or reading three books/watching three movies that chronicle his journey, and the other events taking place in Middle Earth?

I came late to the "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" world: I didn't start watching the show until seven years after it went off the air. Going in, I already knew certain major show events: I knew about Angel and his soul, I knew about Buffy's mom, I knew about Buffy and Spike, and I knew about Willow. Even knowing all those things going in, I can honestly say I did not like the series any less. In fact, I loved it quite a lot.

Which brings me to historical fact. As a fan of historical fiction, sometimes the outcome of a show or book is already well-known. I'm currently reading Helen Hollick's wonderful novel, "I Am The Chosen King," about the famous 1066 Battle of Hastings. I already know the outcome of that event; and anyway, 1000 years is well beyond even the most liberal statute of limitations on spoilers. The ending of the book will not be a surprise for me. What I'm interested in are the events leading up to the Battle of Hastings. The politics, the machinations, and especially the people. The real people behind the famous names. The Battle of Hastings did not happen out of the blue. It did not come out of nothingness. In this case, no spoiler alerts needed.

1000-year old spoiler courtesy of the Bayeaux Tapestry, circa 1080ish.

What about slightly less well-known history? My husband and I recently watched all three seasons of Showtime's "The Borgias," a family he and I know very little about. In this case, despite the passing of more than 500 years since the events depicted in the show, we had to avoid looking up any real-life Borgia family member to avoid show spoilers. But had we accidentally come upon some historical fact that might give away a meaningful event in the show, well, how angry could we get, really? It's been 500 years!

What do you think of spoilers? Do you post details on social media? Do you label them? How long do you give others before saying, "Not my problem anymore?"