October 28, 2018

Photo Essay: Happy Bah-lloween with Goats in Costume

I kind of thought I was done with goat yoga. After all, it's been just an excuse to make friends with goats. I don't actually do much yoga while I'm there.

But it's Halloween, and Lavenderwood Yoga in Thousand Oaks was hosting a yoga session featuring baby goats in costume.

My hand was forced.

Given the time of year, the goats' pheromones were going crazy, so they were rubbing their heads on everything.

They weren't just head-butting (or butt-butting).

They were rubbing and pushing and getting all up in there—bonus points if you gave them a good firm petting where their horns should be.

It was the first class of the day, so the goats started out rambunctious but eventually calmed down in warm sun bliss.

Some of the goats were true babies—the youngest was three months old—but some were coming into their womanhood, already breeding or ready to be bred (which can start as young as eight months old).

At Lavenderwood, the goats aren't bred to have babies for sale—the breeding is to select the best genetic characteristics to make them good show goats.

They also serve as a 4H project for young girls interested in agriculture and animal husbandry.

They're some of the best behaved goats I've met.

Among the costumes were a witch...

...a lumberjack...

...and a king.

Photo by Cat Lukaszewski

My favorite one was dressed up as a jailbird—but in the end, I was a prisoner of her love. She snuggled my neck and I whispered sweet nothings into her ear. She leaned into every kiss.

What a treat.

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October 27, 2018

Photo Essay: The Special Effects House That Makes the Stuff of Your Nightmares Come to Life

The special effects and makeup company Alterian may have launched in 1984 with The Return of the Living Dead...

...but there's one project that just keeps on giving.


Alterian has managed to make the doll posessed by a serial killer even more menacing for such sequels as Curse of Chucky and Seed of Chucky—which are incredibly still shot with puppets and not CGI.

At its production house in Irwindale, the company offers a glimpse into some of the more cute and cuddly animatronic projects it's had a hand in, from everybody's favorite Wookiee... the nation's best firefighting bear.

But there's no doubt that their hearts belong to horror...

...and with selections from their filmography (like the mask from Happy Death Day)...

...and their offices look like a Halloween Hall of Fame.

But that particular set of skills has been applies to plenty of innocuous prosthetics projects, too...

Lobster alien from Bedtime Stories

...from John Travolta's drag stint in Hairspray and Johnny Knoxville's transformation into Bad Grandpa...

Bonsai the Geico cavemen and Gwyneth Paltrow's fat suit in Shallow Hal.

Bobo from Born to Be Wild

Although many of the puppets can be operated by hand, they may also be custom mechanized for remote operation.

Willy Beast from Warriors of Virtue

Even the most fantastical creatures are incredibly lifelike...

...and are operated to be anything but robotic (unless, of course, we're talking about Daft Punk).

It's unnerving to walk through offices and a studio that has so many disembodied heads, whether Michael Jackson's or Charles Manson's.

Though perhaps nothing is more disturbing than a disembodied head of a ventriloquist dummy...

...except, maybe, two of them.

There are plenty of characters in distress...

stunt double from Adaptation

...screaming for help...

...and wincing in bewilderment.

There are also plenty of fake cadavers with gored-out eyes and knives sticking out of their chests, but I can't show those to you without a "graphic content" warning. (Yes, they look that realistic.)

Characters in progress are also being sculpted, every wrinkle carved by hand and every fake hair threaded into the fake scalps.

There are body parts galore, whether you need a pair of ears, a set of mismatched limbs, or an entire shelf of heads.

Are they waiting to come to life on screen when the right project comes calling? Or is this a graveyard of discarded faces that will never be used again?

Do they come to life at night, when the lights go out? Do they dream?

Can anyone hear them scream?

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Photo Essay: Is This the Most Halloweeny Yard in LA? (Updated for 2021—Closed)

[Last updated 10/29/21 9:14 PM—The yard is not decorated this year. The house doesn't appear to have been sold, so I'm not sure why. Please do not disturb the residents.]

It's rare when I haven't heard of something Halloweeny in LA.

circa 2019

Most often, if I haven't been to a place, it's already on my map as a reminder to go.

But last weekend a friend shared some photos of a spooky yard display that I'd never visited, seen, or even heard of.

The only problem?

circa 2019

My friend didn't remember where it was, as she'd been introduced to it by someone else.

She had a vague idea of the area—Brentwood, Los Angeles—and that it was so large, it appeared to occupy two lots. (It's really just one.)

circa 2019

An internet search didn't turn up an address, GPS coordinates, or cross streets...

...but it became clear that the kids in the neighborhood knew where it was—and that it was for them.

I decided to try to find it anyway.

I planned on driving up and down every side street north and south of Sunset Boulevard in Brentwood.

circa 2019

I figured it wouldn't be much different than trying to find an unmarked cemetery in the desert.

But either I got lucky or strategized especially well, because all I had to do was make one right turn and drive a couple of blocks* before the Halloween display in question was in my sights.

It did not disappoint.

I suppose if you've got that much space, you'd better fill it up if you're going to decorate at all.

I witnessed some kind of possession or exorcism...

...and expressions of misguided maternal love.

I faced my own mortality.

I wished for finality and closure.

I saw what might me the future for any of us.

And if Hell is occupied by a red demon with candy-corn teeth, I hope I never go there to meet him.

I chose to go during the day not only because it would be easier to find in daylight, but also because I really wanted to see it.

I find everyday life frightening. I didn't need to be scared by the Halloween display.

But in the light of day, it's definitely... disturbing.

And it's masterfully curated.

I expected the Can-Can line of mummies to break out into a song and dance routine.

But some of them didn't look very jubilant...

...despite being accompanied by an enthusiastic pianist.

circa 2019

The thing that scares people the most is the idea of spirits getting loose.

But in reality, if they're here at all, they're trapped.

Even death might not have let them part ways with the things in life they'd rather leave behind.

circa 2019

The spirits are probably more panicked than you.

And if they're smiling through a skull full of teeth—and they're still here—it's probably just for show.

circa 2019

*For the privacy of the homeowners, I am also omitting the exact address. But get off the 405 at Sunset, make a right, and you'll find it. 

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