I feel my essay last year, Some Kinds Of Jack-O-Lanterns, With Such Warnings As Apply didn’t get enough attention when I first published it. So here’s the chance to give it some attention anew. Thanks for your attention, or the attention of whoever you got yours from.
Jack O’Lantern. The original and still classic. Carved by anyone who’s suspiciously vague about how they acquired a pumpkin.
Jack O’Lateen. Tall, triangular net of pumpkins mounted to the patio or house by a long yard, running fore-and-aft. Popular with coastal trick-or-treaters and people confident that their houses have little need to tack.
Jackal O’Lantern. Pumpkins carved by, or for use at events organized for, the local jackal community. Also welcome are hyenas, wolverines, and (per the famous 1712 Act of Parliament) “such badgers as are haveing a rotten daye ande do not wish to tallke aboutt-itt”. Honey badgers are customarily accepted, but this is a house rule, and should not be assumed.
Jonathan-O-Lantern. Jack’s grandfather, who’s swell and all but just a little bit formal in the way nobody has been since wearing hats stopped being a default.
Jake O’Lantern. Pumpkins which mean well but which are repeating jokes about Jake From State Farm or any other insurance-company commercial. Which is all fine except that you got it right away, and were a little amused, but they’re going to keep asking if you get it until you insist you’re riotously amused. Be ready for the trick: if you concede that you’re riotously amused for the sake of getting on with things, they will get smug about how they’re just that clever.
Jock-O-Lantern. Sports-themed pumpkin ready for a good workout session and good-spirited about it. Warning: is somehow sincerely disappointed that they never made that Hans and Franz movie.
Cyberlantern. The hardcore 1990s Internet-capable carving of a pumpkin. Features a device that, when you run it over a bar code printed in a Radio Shack catalogue, will take you to Radio Shack’s web site for that thing! Also if you want to watch a video, you can spend three hours downloading an update to something called a “codec” and then another two hours of downloading the video, which will let you see a postage stamp-sized frame of a movie, with ten short green horizontal lines on the picture, and then crash.
Jack-O-Lectern. Extremely worrying configuration of pumpkins in which they grow into something that a person urgently warning you about the Pagan Origins of Halloween stands behind.
Jeckle-Lantern. One of a pair of cartoon magpie pumpkins, possibly the one with the British accent. Maybe the Brooklyn one. Really fun to remember although if you go and actually pay attention you realize it’s mostly all right, really.
Jack-O-Lectern II. Further worrying configuration of pumpkins in which they grow into something that a person enthusiastically explains to you the Pagan Origins of Halloween stands behind.
Jack-y-Lantern. Carved in the style of that feminist newspaper that you could never figure out the publishing schedule of back in college. And that, you know, you took as being kind of flakes back in the day, but you’ve come to realize were right on all their major points about sexism and racism and ecological problems and the structures of companies and government and all that. And you’re starting to wonder if they had something about how it’s weird on Star Trek: The Next Generation people talked consistently about, like, Commander Riker and Mister Data and Counsellor Troi, but called the chief engineer just “Geordi”.
Jack-o-Lasers. Multiple thinly carved layers of internal shell allow this kind of carved pumpkin to amplify a single candle flame to the point it’s visible from the Moon. Or so they tell us, confident that we aren’t going up to the Moon to check these days.
Jack-O-Lectern III. An Internet-generated hoax. There is nothing you need do about this except shake your head at the folly of people who are not you, the lone person who never falls for dumb stuff.
Pterodactyl-Lantern. Great prehistoric flying pumpkins and they’re maybe even moving in packs! Flee to shelter!
Jack-O-Lectern IV. The most alarming possible configuration of pumpkins, in which they grow into something that a humorless STEM-type man debunking the Pagan Origins of Halloween stands behind.
Jack-O-Lanyard. A necklace-sized miniature lighted pumpkin perfect for going about to your work doing some tech stuff that nobody actually wants, but all the guys wear khakis and sometimes the group eats at Chili’s.
- Steak sauce
- Newly-manufactured four-door Honda Civics
- The Paleocene era (66 to 56 million years ago)
- The first season of The Dick van Dyke Show
- The British Crown Jewels
- First-printing Wings albums
- Stage magic involving hypnosis (non-Halloween-themed shows)
- Pokemon Peas and Carrots (scheduled release June 2017)
Pumpkin Is Back. Unexplained sign in the midst of a patch of those trees they have lining every Interstate-grade highway. It’s an invitation to wonder: pumpkin was away? I suppose technically. We worry a lot about pumpkin-spice things in fall and I guess it’s fall enough for most practical purposes around here. But pumpkin isn’t pumpkin-spice, as your pedantic friend on Facebook is already trying to contact me to complain about. I’m not on Facebook, but if you like I’ll give you some inaccurate names that might well be people your friend could complain to instead. Still, pumpkin what? Pie? Bread? Spice? Some other pumpkin product, such as pumpkin-inspired gatherings of squirrels? All great thoughts before you smash into the back of the Two Guys And A Pumpkin moving van that stopped short.
An Unspeakably Great Mass Of Foam On The Median. This overstates things. It’s more of a speakable mass of foam, but that’s because there isn’t a whole lot to foam. Most of it is air and the parts that aren’t air are … water? Soap? Something, anyway. What makes it so speakable is that it seems to be going on for quite a way. A quarter-mile or more of dribbles of foam resting in the grass, almost all the way to the Pumpkin sign. Why foam? Is someone trying to scrub the highway? Sure it needs it, but why the median? Or is this what’s left over after an inadequate rinse job? If they’re rinsing, is it just washing the road or are they trying to dye the highway so it looks younger? But why would a highway want to look younger? Is it trying to attract a new partner after Old Business 17 got re-routed five years back? Ends at Thump Road, gateway to the industrial bubble district.
Lego Buck Rogers. Another inexplicable sign. Is this a movie? A toy line? One social commentator’s cryptic message about the recycling and mashing-up of ideas to produce a franchise that feels worn out at its newest? Is Buck Rogers different from Flash Gordon in any way we have to have an opinion about? Is it about leaving the spaceships all over the rumble strips on the edges of the road? Did they dispense foam on the median in the attempt to escape killer trucks? If so, why is it not Lego Foam?
Inexplicable speedup. The less-appreciated counterpart to those weird little vortices of tardiness that roll around highways. Those spots where everybody suddenly drops to like twenty miles per hour. Here for no especial reason all the traffic gets going twenty or even thirty miles per hour faster. This lasts until the spot is passed, which takes only a couple seconds. Many people don’t even know they were in it unless somebody remarks how they arrived as much as five seconds ahead of expectations. This happens maybe four percent more often than you would expect.
Highway Sign Displaying The Message “September 5”. This one seems straightforward enough, what with there being a September and it having a “5” in it. No warning about anything starting then, or ending then, or continuing then, or even not being done at all then. And it isn’t the 5th of September or any date particularly near it either, except on a cosmic or historical scale. Possibly someone hopes to raise the brand awareness of September. Or “5”. If it’s an attempt to raise awareness of 5 that might explain why it didn’t say “September 15”. That would bring “1” even more attention than it already gets.
Customers Welcome. Sign painted to the wall of the … cement shop? Had they not been taking customers before? Were they just sitting behind cement desks thinking how nice and peaceful everything was and then they got worried about meeting payroll? Or is the cement industry only now getting tired of old-fashioned ways? They’re now looking to sell cement to people who need cement for whatever it is they do? Maybe something like creating tiny Brutalist public libraries for their backyard patio? Easily the strangest customer appeal since the shop with the sign Nominated One Of Three Places To Buy Paint that was off the foamy exit like six months ago. Maybe they were celebrating the return of someone nicknamed Pumpkin up there? That kind of makes sense.
To close out Me Week, how about some of lists of stuff that I liked?
- Fifteen Things Humanity Got Around To Before The Writing Of ‘Hotel California’ and yeah, one of them’s wrong. Sorry.
- The Hardest Things To Understand In Old Movies to help you out before diving into anything made before about 1998.
- The Size of Rhode Island in terms of Football Fields and someone actually gave that a one-star vote! How could anyone not be interested in this? Also it inspired some doubts in my mind.
- What Average People Think Are Rodents Versus What Biologists Think Are Rodents and I know I’m going to be proved right about guinea pigs someday.
- My Reactions To Reading The Grimm Fairy Tales so now you don’t have to read them yourselves, although there’s some great and weird ones in there. Also some alarming ones.
- The Nations Of The World, As Represented In Amusement Park Figures And Art and tell me if it’s not true.
- Hamlet’s To Be Or Not To Be Soliloquy, In Order which I’ve totally got to do in an Open Mike night someday.
- Statistics Saturday: Risk That I Will Correctly Identify A Color By Its Name Alone, a softly despairing plea for words to mean better things.
And because the world is confusing and hurt-y, here’s one more. The Ingredients List For Libby’s 29 oz Can of 100% Pure Pumpkin brings a refreshing calm and sense of place to everything. I hope this helps.
I don’t know why, but this brings me a great sense of comfort in these confused times.
Since the above picture is kind of a flimsy thing to build a whole Statistics Saturday post around, here’s the same picture given a Photoshop filter to look kind of like a fresco and then spun around more or less around the word “pumpkin”. Don’t read while operating heavy pies!