The Return of Junkenstein black and white title screen.

Overwatch Halloween Skins

So, I just fired Overwatch up for the first time in a few days and noticed this video in the launcher:

Man, I hope it isn’t as hard to pick up these skins as it has been for previous events! They look awesome, especially Zen’s Cthulu look.

Zen's 2017 Halloween skin
Zen’s 2017 Halloween skin.
Reaper's and McCree's 2017 Halloween skins. I'm not too fond of Reaper's. The head makes me think of a dick for some reason.
Reaper’s and McCree’s 2017 Halloween skins. I’m not too fond of Reaper’s. The head makes me think of a dick for some reason.
Torbjorn's and Ana's 2017 Halloween skins. I'm digging the hippy look. Torb's costume is plain boring.
Torbjorn’s and Ana’s 2017 Halloween skins. I’m digging the hippy look. Torb’s costume is plain boring.
Mei's 2017 Halloween skin. Cute, but I'm not sure what it's supposed to be.
Mei’s 2017 Halloween skin. Cute, but I’m not sure what it’s supposed to be.
Symmetra's 2017 Halloween skin. Spooky!
Symmetra’s 2017 Halloween skin. Spooky!
And of course there's the Halloween brawl mode!
And of course there’s the Halloween brawl mode!

I’ll definitely be sinking some time into acquiring these. It’s nice to see more variety for character appearances. I wonder how many years it’s going to be before Overwatch has as much customization as Team Fortress 2? Or if it will ever be quite the same.

I wouldn’t mind seeing unique weapons in Overwatch that have kill counters on them. That was fun. But, you can’t inspect another character here so I’m not sure how useful a feature it would be.

The October “Zombie Apocalypse” Loot Crate

October 2013 Loot Crate Contents
October 2013 Loot Crate Contents

Getting a monthly box of surprise goodies every month is always a lot of fun. Sometimes, the anticipation is better than what actually comes out of the box, but this month the guys at Loot Crate really outdid themselves. I really love zombie movies and zombie shows, so the theme of this month’s box (“Survive”) was great to start with, but they really picked a great set of items to include. I was really surprised to see a book in the box, but it fits the theme perfectly.

"I Love Your Guts" greeting card.
“I Love Your Guts” greeting card.
"I Love Your Guts" greeting card inside page.
“I Love Your Guts” greeting card inside page.

The shirt is awesome. I’ll be wearing that tomorrow. I filled out the card and gave it to my wife. She thought it was really awesome and stuck it on the fridge.

The Zombie Survival Guide and fake tattoos.
The Zombie Survival Guide and fake tattoos.

I’m not sure when I’ll have a chance to read The Zombie Survival Guide. It’s been on my reading list for a long time already, but I’m always bogged down with reading for classes. Maybe this winter. Maybe.

8-bit zombie survival game icon pins
8-bit zombie survival game icon pins

Coney Island and Night of Horrors (Weekend before Sandy)

This post is long delayed. I meant to write it up and publish it on Monday, October 29th, but that night was the night Sandy flooded Lower Manhattan and caused our power to go out. By the time we got our electricity and internet back, I was scrambling to catch up on papers that needed to be written, reading for class (I use eBooks as much as possible) and generally in just getting life back into a rhythm. You know how it goes. Grocery shopping. Cleaning. Chores. Things just don’t do themselves, and when you spend all of your time trying to do the essentials, like finding food and water, things start to pile up. I really feel bad for the people that still don’t have power, even now.  But, that’s a story for another post.

A View of Coney Island from the Q Train
A View of Coney Island from the Q Train

On the Saturday of the last weekend of October, my wife and I went to see the “Nights of Horror” event at Coney Island’s Luna Park. The attractions seemed to be themed primarily for teens, but we had a great time anyway. We walked around the neighborhood, looked at the boardwalk, rode some rides, and walked through the two mazes. I wonder how torn up this place was after the storm?

Poster for Coney Island's Nights of Horror
Poster for Coney Island’s Nights of Horror

Right after getting off the Q train, we saw this mural:

Wall Mural by Coney Island Train Station 1

Wall Mural by Coney Island Train Station 3

Wall Mural by Coney Island Train Station 4

Wall Mural by Coney Island Train Station 7

I thought it was really surreal and cool so I took some photos of it and then enhanced the colors.  At the time I was taking the photos, I jokingly told my wife, “Just in case it gets washed away by the hurricane.”  I wonder if it’s still intact?  (Pictures of the rest of the mural is in the gallery at the bottom of the post.)

After having a junk food meal at McDonald’s, we walked down to the boardwalk to look around. I think I’d been there before, as a kid, but it’s been so long that I can’t be sure anymore. It was nice.

Nathan's on the Boardwalk
Nathan’s on the Boardwalk
A pier stretching out into the ocean from Coney Island's boardwalk area.
A pier stretching out into the ocean from Coney Island’s boardwalk area.

I’d like to go back and have a look around next summer. Hopefully by then the damage done to the area will have been repaired.

Car fatality at Luna Park Night of Horrors Entrance
Car ‘fatality’ at Luna Park Night of Horrors Entrance
Creepy Dead Chick With A Baby
Creepy Dead Chick With A Baby

Luna Park itself was done up pretty well. My favorite part of the whole themed event was the fact that they’d hired people to walk around in scary costumes and randomly scare people who weren’t paying attention. For example, they might get up behind you in line and lean in real close, and then scare you when you turned and found them right in your face. Or, you might be looking at a ride up in the air, and when you looked down, there’d be a person in costume standing right in front of you, staring at you. It was good fun.

Car coming down the track on The Tickler.
Car coming down the track on The Tickler.

The rides were good. We only went on a few, both because we were running out of time and because we just didn’t have the guts to get on some of them. There was one where you rode in a thing that looked like an airplane. The whole ride was spinning and each airplane-car was also spinning on an arm that took the plane into sort of a barrel roll. We took it easy. We stuck with the Tickler, a roller-coaster that spins like  a top while going down the track, and the swing that takes you way up and spins you around real fast. We also rode a thing that was like a giant surfboard that went back and forth like it was on waves, while also spinning in circles. That one was sort of relaxing.

I made the mistake of forgetting to take my hat off while we were riding The Tickler. There’s one long drop on it and after exiting the ride and looking, I saw that my hat was one among many laying on the rocks below the tracks. I talked to a few employees, all of which said they couldn’t do anything about it and told me to talk to someone else. I was beginning to feel like I was going to have to leave my hat behind, but it was frustrating because it was just out of arm’s reach. My wife got tired of me being a punk and just grabbed a nearby broom, hooked my hat and gave it back to me. Maybe I’m too conditioned to follow the rules?  Maybe it’s a leftover from my military days.

The entrance to one of the haunted mazes.
The entrance to one of the haunted mazes. I can’t remember its name.
The 'gatekeeper' to the funhouse/haunted maze.
The ‘gatekeeper’ to the funhouse/haunted maze.

None of the rides seemed particularly Halloween-themed, but there were two Halloween mazes. One was called the Cudie Farm. I can’t remember what the other one was called, but they were both set up in a similar fashion and both were a lot of fun to walk through. My wife was a lot more startled than I was, but I think she was just enjoying the moment. More than anything, I was interesting in how well done the costume makeup was on the employees, given the scale of the park.

The original Nathan's Famous at Surf and Stillwell Avenues.
The original Nathan’s Famous at Surf and Stillwell Avenues.

When we finished going through the mazes, we decided it was time to leave, but no trip to Coney Island would be complete without stopping in at Nathan’s Famous (the original Nathan’s) on the corner of Surf and Stillwell Avenues. I was tempted by seafood dishes, but I decided to get what Nathan’s is Famous for: the all beef hot dog. So, I got my chili cheese dog; my wife got her chili dog, and we stood there in the street watching the people while enjoying the good food. It wasn’t boring. A man dressed like a gay stripper Super Mario walked by.

Shore Theater. The sign was damaged the following Monday by Hurricane Sandy.
Shore Theater. The sign was damaged the following Monday by Hurricane Sandy.
Coney Island Train Station
Coney Island Train Station

But, then it was time to go home. Back to Manhattan. It felt disappointing. There was something comfortable about Coney Island. Maybe it was the lack of tall buildings. Maybe it was the atmosphere. Everything there felt more relaxed. We thought about how nice it would be to live in that area. Of course, we don’t think it would be that great to live there now, considering the recent catastrophe, but the place just has a really good vibe to it that I can’t describe. It’s casual in the way the Metropolitan Museum of Art isn’t. We’re really looking forward to going back.

The following gallery includes additional images of Coney Island and Luna Park:

The “Muslim” Halloween Costume

At one point, I had made a joke about dressing up as Osama bin Laden, or perhaps as a Taliban Mullah, for Halloween.  I could walk around with a stick and yell at women whose ankles were showing.  I know that’s blending in aspects of the Saudi Arabian religious police, but I thought it might be passable as good humor given that I’d be mocking the people that, by their actions, mock the religious system they claim to profess.  Of course, common sense prevailed and I shelved the idea as just being way too soon, especially in New York City, where a decade is likely not enough to erase the pain of loss that many experienced on September 11th, 2001.

For just a moment tonight, on the Q train in Brooklyn heading into Manhattan, I was surprised to see that someone hadn’t exercised the same level of judgment I had, and even worse, had gone beyond what I’d intended and had instead put on a costume that would mock an entire religion, rather than just “bad guys”.

Man dressed as a "Muslim" for Halloween.
Man dressed as a “Muslim” for Halloween.

Somewhere around Sheepshead Bay, a guy and his friends got on.  The guy was wearing traditional Arab Muslim clothing.  Or at least, sort of.  He had the kufi (?, long shirt), brimless cap, cotton pants and the sandals, but he wasn’t wearing them quite right.  The cap was way too small for him and the pants were rolled up, but not to above the ankles.  I don’t imagine he was too concerned about the details, but if you’re going to be a jackass, you might as well do it right.

He was laughing and joking with his friends and passing around a bottle of vodka on the train.  I heard them mocking the burqa, and commenting that the man’s female companion should have dressed up like a whore.  I heard the guy yell, “Kill the white people!  Kill, kill, kill, kill them all! [laughing] … Kill, kill, kill, kill…”  Another time, he said, “I’ve got a bomb!  Hit the deck!”

The situation was absurd to the point of being slightly surreal.  At what point does it become ok to turn free speech into hate speech, to degrade and disrespect an entire culture, just because you don’t agree with some elements of that culture?  And by elements, I mean some segments of the society, not elements that pervade the whole.  Violence perpetrated by Islamist groups is a problem, yes, but there are violent fools in every culture and we don’t claim them as representative and use them as justification for generalized insults.

Would it be OK for a person to dress as Jesus (I say Jesus, because his iconic look is the only recognized ‘Christian’ appearance) for Halloween and laugh and joke about blowing up buildings (Timothy McVeigh) and killing “niggers” (KKK)?  Would it be ok for a person to dress like a Jew for Halloween and laugh and joke about blowing apart Arab children with cluster bombs and white phosphorous, or starving people into capitulating (IDF)?  Would it be OK to dress as a Buddhist monk and then joke about using nerve gas in subway systems (Aum Shinrikyo)?  Or, to take it off the religious track and focus on the mockery of ethnicity, would it be OK for a person to dress up as a Negro Slave for Halloween?

Some things are funny and some things aren’t.  Just because we possess freedom of speech in the United States doesn’t mean we should toss the concept of appropriateness out the window and ‘say’ whatever we want.  We should still have some self-moderation and not generate what is essentially racist hate speech because we’re too stupid to understand the more complex realities in other parts of the world, and too lazy to find out.

Hey bro, I hope no one urinates in your beer tonight, but you deserve it.

2010 New York City Halloween Parade Pictures

Skulls on a shelf at a Walmart in Georgia.

I hope everyone had a Happy Halloween!  I spent my evening out on 6th avenue watching the annual Halloween Parade, which is said to be the largest Halloween event in the country.  I’ve gone to see it once before, in 2007 when I was here in the city on leave from Kuwait to visit family.

A picture of the crowd going up one side of 6th avenue.

It was pretty chilly out there, really crowded and it smelled funny.  Maybe it was just the area I was standing in, but I heard a few other people complaining about the smell as well.  There wasn’t much I could do about it.  I showed up an hour early and still was standing behind 3 rows of people.  I figured if I moved I might not get a spot as good as that anywhere else, so I just put up with it.  I didn’t hang around for the whole thing.  After the better groups of parade participants walked by, I figured I’d beat the rush of the crowd.  Getting jammed around by a crowd of mostly drunk people isn’t my idea of a good time.

I was hoping I’d get some better pictures this year, but most of them still turned out poorly.  I’ll share the better ones though:

2010 New York City Halloween Parade.

2010 New York City Halloween Parade.

2010 New York City Halloween Parade.

Barbie thought she was special so she was walking by herself.

2010 New York City Halloween Parade.

2010 New York City Halloween Parade.

2010 New York City Halloween Parade.

2010 New York City Halloween Parade.

This is the head of a skeleton horse, and it’s front hooves, if you’re wondering, plus some dead fish swimming around in the background.

2010 New York City Halloween Parade.

2010 New York City Halloween Parade.

2010 New York City Halloween Parade.

2010 New York City Halloween Parade.

2010 New York City Halloween Parade.

2010 New York City Halloween Parade.

Yes, they are naked and covered in body paint while dancing to the beat of a tribal drum.

2010 New York City Halloween Parade.

2010 New York City Halloween Parade.

This little girl was walking on stilts all the way down the parade route from Spring Street to 16th Street.

2010 New York City Halloween Parade.

These two guys were dressed as the stop and go signals for pedestrian crossings.

And that’s about it.  By this point I was starting to really feel the cold and my legs were starting to get tired, so I decided to head back home.  I hope you enjoyed the photos, and hopefully I can get some better ones next year!