[Update: 10/13: Finally fixed the “Naked Ganesh Problem” - see bottom addendum]
[Update: 2/8/13: Came across a cool Ganesh costume for an off-Broadway show in NYC - see footnote 2 at bottom]
[Ed. Note: I sit here on a plane to India (via London) in the first week of December. Clearly, a perfect time to discuss this past Halloween, only 2 months late... Ok - actually I never covered Halloween 2011, where this story really begins, so really, I'm a year and 2 months late :-/ Sorry! You'll understand why by the end of this post - or if you don't care, feel free to just check the pix - it's a great costume!]
Lord Ganesh 2.0 at Work, Halloween 2012 (photo by Srabasti Mukherjee)
When this blog last left our Halloween costumed hero, in 2010, the costume was Disco Ball 5.0. The disco ball series are always impossible costumes to follow. No matter what costume I do the next year, many people say “Hey – no Disco Ball this year?” with a tone of mild disappointment.1
To make matters worse in 2011, I was working incredibly hard at a project at the office (one of the two most difficult stretches of my 10 years at Apple) & was dramatically stressed. I really had no time for a Halloween costume that would meet my standards. That being said, I could NOT miss Halloween – I LOVE Halloween!
I was caught in the all-too-common vise-grip of October: between my volunteer political efforts (October = election season) and my job (iTunes updates are often in October, due to our Christmas product cycle) and my own Halloween ambitions, it can be quite the pressure cooker.
The internal part of this pressure comes from my ambitious Halloween requirements. A fully ‘Deepian Halloween requires that:
- ‘Deep can skip Halloween, but will most likely be heartbroken about it.
- ‘Deep can only participate in Halloween if he has a costume that meets his standards. To wit: the costume…
- must impress ‘Deep
- must be primarily self-made
- must have high production values (at least attempted high production values)
- must have a “Wow” factor
- gets bonus points for: crowd-pleasing, interactive, clever, funny
- ‘Deep can possibly reuse a costume, but it is frowned upon.
So given all that, what to do?
I briefly considered skipping Halloween, as I always do when in the vise-grip, but the idea was too depressing, so I rejected it.
I then considered the idea of revisiting one of my older costumes (Sno-Globe really needs a 2.0! and I have plans for a Dinosaur 3.0), but none of those plans grabbed me enough. Additionally, I doubted I had the time to do those ideas justice.
And then it hit me – a high production-value, highly entertaining & RELATIVELY EASY costume:
- The elephant headed Hindu deity has long been a favorite of mine.
- I have never seen anyone do a Ganesh before, so it would be an original for me.2
- I’ve gotten really good at the “plaster+balloon = head of costume” technology, thus it would be easy!
- After the head, a store-bought inflatable “blimp suit” would make an excellent body.
- It would continue my pleasant, albeit naive, way of cherry-picking the parts of my ethnic heritage that I understand & that resonate.
The only downside I could see was the possibility of offending Hindus. Unfortunately, that’s a big downside.
I spent a decent bit of time considering it: in poking around online, I noticed that there were various festivals and events where Hindu gods were portrayed by people, so there was clearly no strict ban like in Islam. I also checked with various Hindu friends who all seemed to like the idea, so I was sure that at least SOME Hindus would like it. In the end, I decided that a lot would depend on how I played it & as long as I was generally respectful (which I genuinely am), it would probably be fine.3
It was GO for Lord Ganesh!
- “Rigid-Wrap” plaster sheets are my best friends!
- A large party balloon, a smaller party balloon & some cardboard made the frame.
- Spray-foam on the inside for strength & durability.
- Glitter, always glitter.
I was getting pretty happy with the result, but then my work deadlines exploded. It turned out that I had even less time than I expected & thus I didn’t get time to decorate the head properly or even find a blimp suit. All I could finish was a rough pass.
Luckily, in just putting the head on, I was still pretty excited about it. Even with its mediocre production values, I had reached the point where I enjoyed it – the “good enough” point. Lord Ganesh 1.0 hit the streets…
Lord Ganesh 1.0, Halloween 2011
People really liked it & more importantly, I had a blast that Halloween. Mission accomplished!
It did bother me a bit that I knew exactly how to make the costume so much better, with relatively little additional effort. I had just been caught short of time.
That brings us to this year. 2012 turned out to be one of the biggest and best years of my life, but unfortunately it has also been one of the hardest in terms of time and pressure.4
Luckily though, as far as Halloween was concerned, I knew exactly what I wanted to do & it would be relatively easy: FINISH GANESH!
A little more effort would yield a dramatically better costume:
- I found a “blimp suit” at a seasonal Halloween costume store (I hate those places!)
- I made a garland of paper flowers & wore party beads necklaces as well.
- I added PVC tusks (one broken as per mythological requirements.)
- I bought a small mouse finger puppet to be the mooshika, Lord Ganesh’s companion mouse.
- I repaired, repainted & strengthened the trunk.
- I made proper eyes & decorated his head.
The only part that was difficult was deciding how to decorate him & what sort of eyes to make. Just as I began to struggle to find something that would look good & yet remain within my limited artistic ability, a friend gave me a copy of Sanjay Patel’s excellent “Ganesha’s Sweet Tooth“. After that it was easy: Sanjay’s work had both the simplicity I hoped for and visual pop I really wanted.
I really really really love this costume & it is among my most satisfying On top of that, people really loved it to boot!
1. Amusingly enough, on years where I do a new version of the Disco Ball, inevitably numerous people also say “Oh – a Disco Ball again?” with mild disappointment. Apparently, I can’t escape the fact that I’m mildly disappointing. ⏎
2. I did eventually come across this one. [Update: 2/8/13: I came across a cool Ganesh costume in the NYT - they had a picture for an off-Broadway show in NYC called "Ganesh Versus The Third Reich" - check these out these two shots… ] ⏎
3. Indians liked it! I ran into many while wearing it & the most common reaction is asking for me to pose for pictures. And not just Indians; I was surprised and impressed at how many non-Indians got it. In fact, SF is a pretty Indophilic place, so most people not only got it, but really got into it. One of my favorites was this one guy who playfully jumped in front of me & yelled “I’m an obstacle! Remove me!” as I was roaming the streets…⏎
4.A brief summary of 2012 so far:
- January – Get Engaged
- Feb – Concoct Ambitious Wedding Plans
- March – Get Puppy
- January/February/March/April – Finish Ambitious Home Remodel
- April/May/June/July – Implement Ambitious Wedding Plans
- August – Get Married
- September/October – Work Like Hell To Get Caught Up on All Commitments That Have Fallen By The Wayside
- September/October/November – Work Like Hell on Actual Job to Release Major Products (woot iTunes 11 / Remote 3.0)
In fact, it is only now, in December that I have truly the time & space to relax! (though I’m enroute for an ambitious month long dash through India!)⏎
[Update: 10/13: The weekend before Halloween 2013, I need a costume & my 2013 costume was not ready, so I busted out my Ganesh 2.0 But I finally figured out how to add clothes (which had been bugging me) after a conversation with my friend Catherine Tullner ( a costume goddess!): I made suspenders out of clear plastic elastic and binder clips!“