Sunday, November 1, 2009


I can only imagine what trends in Halloween costumes might say about the state of our union. I had heard that the 'Kate kit' (of the over-fertile reality show - John and Kate Plus 8, now sans John) was a sell out. Of the narrow sliver of the 500,000 people wandering West Hollywood last night that I saw, there was only one Kate. Peacock flared hair, sunglasses on her head, Day-Glo white teeth. In the dark and the chaos I couldn't see if she had somehow abstracted the talk show tears, the raging lunacy of her estranged husband and his train of girlfriends, or the little cake-eating 8, but she looked way happier than she ought to.

Halloween in West Hollywood is not so much a rebel rousing holiday as it is a photo shoot. There is no actual 'parade' from what I can tell, but there is a promenade, and it is full of wannabe actors seeking the artificial adoring attention of anyone with a camera. There is more posing than drinking, which says a lot for an all adult street party in Los Angeles.

So, what were the trends and what might they mean? One Kate is a good sign - she's out. KISS is most definitely back, as is Wonder Woman. There were many witty, complicated costumes I had to think twice about . There was an iPod touch and his friend, the Tetras square, in a dialogue about technology. There were the pigs in blankets, who this year also had swine flu. There were amazing twenty foot skeleton puppets with red and blue blinking eyes and creepy, reaching articulated fingers. One guy had half his body sticking through a large white board, and I can only imagine he might be that rat that appeared recently on YouTube stuck in a crack in the sidewalk in New York.

The costume of the year, though, was Kate's replacement - the silver balloon that had no boy inside. Luckily for branding's sake, it was an odd shaped balloon, more like a space ship meets a blimp, oval and bulbous with a tumor balloon attached to its belly in the shape of a basket. This was the Heene family hoax, where teary parents pretended their child had climbed aboard a weather balloon and floated off to 10,000 feet. An emergency personnel search ensued, planes were launched, cameras arrived and rolled, and, like Geraldo's opening of the tomb, the thing turned up empty, the boy in a box in the attic at home the whole time. It's an atrocious story of fame-mongering, and a Halloween costume that I wish I could've seen close up. Clearly, the unique shape of the balloon was a necessity - any plain silver balloon and the costume (and media stunt) would have been unrecognizable. I saw three of them from a distance, two floating and one headpiece of a balloon, but couldn't see the rest of the get up from where I walked. Was there a commentary on the insanity of media coverage? the lengths to which people will go for something that mildly resembles fame? the state of child rearing in America? the gullibility of viewers? This is LA, so I'm going to say there was. We are not shy here about having harsh opinions, and using our bodies and our holidays to broadcast them.

In costuming and otherwise, creativity is a platform. We say something about ourselves and our world whenever we put our creative efforts out for others to experience. Which brings me to pie.

Evan Kleinman, host of KCRW's Good Food radio program, has been baking a pie a day since the beginning of the summer and talks about them and other food-related issues each Saturday on her 11am show. This week, though, she talked about Pie Lab. Pie Lab is a place that combines pies with causes. They recognized the powerful combination of baking and community and started sharing pies to make relationships with their neighbors. As their tagline says, PIE + CONVERSATION = IDEAS ; IDEAS + DESIGN = POSITIVE CHANGE.

According to their website:

PieLab, an initiative of Project M, is focused on community development and engagement in Hale County, AL.

PieLab is a welcoming community space on Greensboro’s Main Street that provides delicious pie and coffee, as well as retail and hospitality job training for local youth through the YouthBuild Program. More than simply a pie shop, PieLab operates as a community design center focusing on community development projects and small business incubation in Greensboro and the surrounding five counties.

If your ears don't automatically perk up at the reference to Hale County, AL, this is Mockbee territory. This is the heart of the Rural Studio. This is one of the poorest counties in the country, where Walker Evans came to photograph for the FSA and William Christenberry captured decades of rotting barns.

At the end of November they will open a permanent location for PieLab in Greensboro. It will be one the first new businesses to open on Greensboro's Main Street in years. I've been to Greensboro, Alabama, and this is a great idea. This would be a great idea anywhere.

Project M, the umbrella organization, describes itself like this:

We just want to change the world.

Sure, we may not be known in the in circles. We may not fill the pages of design annuals. And we may never see our names in lights. But, we do know how to save the rain forest with a waterproof book. We do know how to build a park with a postcard. And we know how to bring water to a community with a few pages of newsprint.

We are part of a design movement. We believe that ability equals responsibility. And we are not the only ones. So, we built a lab where designers like you can make a difference. We are building the tools that will build the future. And this is where you come in.

I believe it too, and it sure beats pretending to lose your child to get on a reality TV show. I might just go there and have me some pie and, while we're eating, help these guys in Southern Alabama continue to change the world.

1 comment:

easteighth said...

See, pie sounds like a fun way to build a good community.
Thanks for stopping by my new blog!
-Annie Lambla