Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Plotting and Planning

Ye gods, I must have written and rewritten this post 100 times!  Hyperbole of course, I can't have actually done it more than 5-10 times, but it does feel like I've scrapped everything many times more.  Nothing so far has seemed to feel right.  I guess the simplest thing to do is "begin at the beginning and go on till (I) come to the end; then stop".  So, here goes.

We've long since established how much I love Halloween so we're taking that as given.  But, since there are people who read my blog that I don't actually know personally and because those of you who do know me know that I'm nuts but may not know the method behind the madness, I feel like I should give you all a bit of explanation as to why I'm talking about Halloween in February.  For reference, if you haven't already seen them, go checkout my posts from October 2011.  One of the things that will be immediately obvious is that my decorations take a lot of work.  I didn't get to finish everything I wanted to do last year and that was largely due to bad planning on my part.  It still looked damn good, don't get me wrong, but I wasn't able to include all the ideas I had.  I see that as a problem, and a rather large one at that.  Better planning is what's needed, as anyone who has ever planned a big event or party will tell you.  I mean, look at how long it takes to plan a wedding!  People do that for years and it's not like the wedding stuff gets reused for the same thing each year thereafter.  Fact: the more you get taken care of early on, the more relaxed you'll be about the whole thing and everything turns out a lot better that way.

I've learned over the last couple of years that advance planning is the better route to go.  In years past I've gotten stuck needing things that I couldn't find and didn't have time to locate.  For instance, had I wanted to order plastic skeletons from a Chinese wholesaler I would have had to do so in January which doesn't really help you if you find out about it in August.  Then there's the fact that most of what I want to do has to be built.  Making one thing wouldn't be a problem, but I tend to go a bit overboard by making a lot and most of what I make doesn't work right on the first try.  Simply put, making things takes time and generally more than you had planned for.  With all of those things to consider, it makes sense to start planning early, odd logic though it may be.

Now that you know some of the reasoning behind it, I'm going to tell you a bit about what I want to do.  Once you see what I've got as a goal, it should be pretty obvious why I'm kicking off things now.

I've decided that I need to do rotating themes to help keep my party interesting and satisfy my need for a variety of different types of decorations.  I could just throw everything together, but that would be a disconnected mess and it would do nothing to improve my party.  I've chosen three themes that have some overlapping elements and by picking the ones I have I'll be about to manage a few extra themes, should the mood take me to do so.  The themes that I've picked are Mad Scientist Lab (which is the one I'm using for this year), Enchanted Forest, and Haunted House.  My 'bonus' themes can include Haunted Forest (Haunted House + Enchanted Forest) and Zombie Apocalypse (Mad Scientist Lab + Haunted House).

Making my theme choice now has done a few things that are unusually handy.  When I'm conflicted about any given prop I can now decide about it based on how many of my themes it would work for.  Something that can be used in all three will get preference over something that can only be used in one.  Since each theme will undoubtedly have a few things that are specific only to it (I can't see using test tubes for anything but the lab set up, for instance) I'll still have to get stuff that doesn't fit more than one theme.  However, storage of stuff should be far simpler because I can store the multi-use props in one place and just have a box or two that are theme specific.  Similarly, I should have a huge opportunity to save money on props.  By deciding on what I want to do now I've opened the opportunity jump on sales and clearance items.  I have a whole year to watch for sales and, because I know what my goals are for each theme, I won't have to wonder what might be useful next year when I hit the post-Halloween sales.  Very beneficial, don't you think?

As I mentioned earlier, this year's Halloween theme will be the Mad Scientist Lab.  I picked it for this year because I should be able to outfit it pretty cheaply.  The nice thing about actually being a scientist is that I have tons of text books and things that can be grabbed for prop use.  Instead of making chemistry book props, I can actually use my real books!  Plus I already have things like goggles and lab coats.  Oh, and my microscope and dissecting kit.  But, I'm going to need more than a few books and tools if this year is going to be anything like as impressive as I would like.  My current vision entails the dining room being the main lab bench, my living room will have to be some manner of research office, and the bathroom will be the 'decontamination' area as it already has a shower that I can hi-jack for a safety shower.  The various hallways I can just make eerie with lighting and signage, possibly a bit of webbing to give it the air of disuse.

To manage all that I'm going to have to make a bunch of stuff.  A large part of it is going to involve signs; 'high voltage', 'danger! biohazard!', and so on.  Those should be pretty easy, if prolific.  All I think I'll need is cardboard, spray paint, and stencils.  It's the rest of the stuff I want to do that's going to me complicated.  I'm going to need specimens, chemicals, experiments, failed experiments, equipment, and lighting plus I'm going to have to make a whole new menu.  I've been wanting to do that anyway.  Each year less and less food gets consumed.  It's time for a shake up!

My biggest dilemma was deciding what to do to the outside of my house.  Most people won't get to see inside so outside has to look good too.  Let me tell you, this took a ton of brainstorming and use of my references.  Yes, I have references for decoration making.  Mostly old movies like Frankenstein, The Little Shop of Horrors, The Rocky Horror Picture Show, and similar.  Nothing I though of was feasible.  It isn't exactly easy to make a one story brick house look like a mansion or abandoned asylum or something.  When I started thinking things like "well, if I could just cover the wall with stone"  I knew I had gone the wrong way.  Major construction projects just for Halloween effect is a little too out there, for now.  Maybe if I win the lottery, lol.  Then, suddenly, I had a brilliant idea dropped right in my lap!  I went to see The Woman in Black with friends for one of their birthdays.  (It's a great movie, by the way, I recommend it.  None of the meat grinder nonsense that's gotten so popular, this one actually uses cinematography and surprise to make it creepy.  I honestly wouldn't be surprised if it gets nominated for an Oscar for cinematography next year, they did that good a job.)  Anyway, shortly into the film they show a great shot of this neglected mansion which has a very overgrown look.  The building has vines all over it.  Vines!  They're the perfect solution!  I'll even be able to use them for my Forest theme!  So the grand plan outdoors is to make my house look creepy and overgrown in such a way that I can get it all up and down in a short period of time.  Since vines have a great ability to destroy brick, I can't just plant them around the foundations which means I'm going to have to use a combination of created vines with the natural ones that I can harvest off my trellis.

Are you excited yet?  I know I am.  What makes me even happier is that I can share all these ideas well in advance so that you guys can take them and use them in whatever form is the most helpful for you.  Sharing everything in October is wonderfully thematic, but not really useful if it takes a couple weeks to make something.  I've done the brunt of the planning already so that I can be on the lookout for bits and pieces (and sales!) for construction.  I don't want to detract from the yarn crafts by going too all out with this so I'm going to try very hard not to bombard you with massive amounts of Halloween stuff.  There will be periodic updates when I get something worked out so that it doesn't all come out at once.  Once decorating season hits my posts will probably turn to the ultimate assembly of the theme, but until then I'm going to try to keep the end product off the radar.  I need something for the grand finale, after all!



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