Archive for October, 2011

Halloween Squared

October 31, 2011


October 31, 2011

Don’t get me wrong. I love Halloween! The candy, the costumes… well, hey, that’s pretty much enough to make a party in my book.  But like any party, all it takes is one gropey uncle or one spiked punch bowl to make it a miserable experience.  So that’s why I think it’s important to take note of what ruins a good Halloween.  Like the Special Dark lurking in a bag of Hershey’s miniatures, here are the 13 WORST THINGS ABOUT HALLOWEEN.

TV episodes where all the people have costumes far cooler and more expensive than real folks would ever have.  It’s a cool sitcom contrivance: the high school, college or office Halloween party.  It’s topical and can get you a decent promotional push.  But almost every time, the attendees are depicted wearing get-ups that would make even the late Stan Winston envious.  Theatrical make-up, tailor-made costumes.  In real life, it takes lots of time and money to make a really good Halloween costume.  And I’m not talking about taping some candy wrappers and a soda cup to your shirt and going as a movie theatre floor.  Something really cool can cost you big bucks or a good weekend or two if you’re making it yourself.  And yet every Saved By The Bell and 90210 has these kids running around dressed up like they’ve spent eight hours in the make-up trailer preparing to be an extra in Lord of the Rings.

The older trick or treaters.  Me, I stopped trick or treating in earnest when I was 11.  When I was 12, I got dragged along by some friends, even though I insisted we were too old (and I felt way guilty about it).  Still, every year I was in junior high and high school, after all the little kids had come to our door, the older kids would come by – kids my age – and beg for candy.  Most of them had very little in the way of costume, too.  Not saying they were naked, just wearing their every day street clothes and maybe and eye patch or a funny nose they’d hope would pass as a costume.  It was stupid, it was humiliating and these jokers weren’t fooling anyone.  They were past it.

The wanton vandalism. Eggs. TP.  Soaping the windows.  Destroying jack-o-lanterns.  Anyone who’s ever been a victim knows it stinks.  And it’s not as though someone took “trick or treat” as gospel and decided to get even with some old crone who gave them a popcorn ball.  No, they just decided to be punks and have a little fun.  Fun?  Seriously, what are you?  15?  And, if you are 15, grow the hell up.

Spiders.  I  know the decorations and themes are supposed to be scary but enough with the spiders.  I know that no one would have a real bloody skull floating in the punch bowl, but that spider on the table could be real and there isn’t enough candy in the world to make me want to brave a tarantula on the lazy Susan next to the ghost cupcakes.

The lights-outers. I’m not talking about the folks who have their lights out.  Nope, these good people are using the universal symbol of “no trick or treating please” – the unlit porch light.  I’m talking about the goofballs who turn off their porch light out as you walk up to the door!  Happened to me more than once when I was a kid.  Never forgot it and I’ll never understand it.

Bad Dracula impressions.  What is it about a person that makes them want to do an impression badly?  “I vant to suck your blood!”  Guaranteed the idiots who take great joy in doing this have never seen the original 1931 Bela Lugosi film.

Waiting for an adult.  That agonizing time between when you get home and get your costume on and the adult who’s taking you trick or treating gets home and gets ready.  And god help them if darkness falls and you haven’t set out on your trek yet.  Once, when I was about 7, I not only had to wait for my mother to get home but I then had to wait for her stupid boyfriend to come over and take me out trick or treating.  I’m sure the phrase, “But all the good candy will be gone!” was exasperatingly uttered more than once that night.

The Monster Mash. A bad song?  No way. It was cool. The first time you heard it when you were 8.  But ten million plays later, it loses its charm and novelty and makes you want to stab Bobby “Boris” Pickett in the chest with a wooden stake, an act made only slightly less satisfying by the fact that he died in 2007.

“And what are you supposed to be?”  People who don’t get your costume suck.  I’m not talking about people who can’t understand why the sorority girls all dress in green, forcing them to say with sheer glee as if they were the first to ever think of it, “We’re Gang-Green!”  Or those who can’t grasp the obscure TV, film or comic book references that are so esoteric they barely qualify as pop culture.  No, those costumes aren’t meant to be “gotten” by most and that’s why people do it.  No, I’m talking about when you’re six and you go trick or treating and you get to that door with the over-eager dowager who’s so pleased to be getting visitors and she says, “And what are you supposed to be?”  “Lady, I’m six, my mom bought the costume at Woolworth’s.  I’ve got a tail, I’m dressed in fur and I’ve got a cat mask on.  I’m a freakin’ cat!  My brother, the one with the white sheet and the two eye holes, he’s a ghost. And, right now, we’re both this close to knocking your fat arse down and taking all your candy and running.”

Local haunted houses.  Not saying they can’t be fun, but when the Jaycees decide to raise a little money and turn a closed-down Applebee’s into a haunted house for the Halloween season, it’s never really that scary.  It’s guys wrapped in toilet paper and Jell-o brain molds and people jumping out from behind doors.  Dude, I watched The Exorcist when I was 12, you wanna scare me, you better rip someone’s still-beating heart out of their chest with your fist and eat it.  All this is made more disappointing because I’ve seen it done right.  When I was a kid, a group of theatre students every year would rent some old spooky house and do it up and call it Scream In The Dark.  They’d get made up in amazing costumes and make-up and scare the roof off the sucker!  I went every year from when I was 10 to 17 and I was never disappointed. One year, I took a bunch of neighborhoods kids with me, all a few years younger than I was, and they were scared $#!&less!  One had to be led out crying by one of the staff because he couldn’t make it all the way through.  Awesome.

People who think it’s all about Satan.  First, do some research and study history.  It’s got to do with the Celts and the harvest and a bunch of other crap.  If you think dressing up as Gopher from the Love Boat is evil, you’ve got bigger issues than condemning a holiday that is sod all about the devil and more about getting all the candy you can carry.  And yet every year these righteous holes have their Hell Houses and trunk or treating to keep the good kids away from the bad kids who want to play chicken with the demons by dressing up and going door to door.

The lame stuff.  Toothbrushes.  Bible verses.  Candy apples.  And don’t even get me started on having to go to the hospital to X-ray your candy.

The Paul Lynde Halloween Special. Donny & Marie.  Florence Henderson.  Betty White.  Billy Barty.  Pinky Tuscadero.  Witchiepoo from H. R. Pufnstuf.  KISS.  And the funniest confirmed bachelor the 70s had to offer.  Now, this is true evil!

           Sparky MacMillan will rise out of the pumpkin patch. He flies through the air and brings toys to all the children of the world.


October 31, 2011

Like I said: I love Halloween!  It’s the most wonderful time of the year (in spite of what you may have heard in popular song). But like soap on your windows and TP in your yard, there are always things that can dampen your holiday spirits.  Kinda like a rotten apple lurking amongst the Romes in your bobbing tub, here are TEN MORE BAD THINGS ABOUT HALLOWEEN.

Candy Corn.  I come not to bury candy corn but to praise it. Why people want to turn this delicious confection into the fruit cake of All Hallow’s Eve is beyond me.  There’s tons of worse candy out there – Now And Laters, Necco Wafers, Nik-L-Nips and black licorice – to hate on.  Stop with the candy corn defamation.

Frankenberry and Count Chocula. These cereals rule. Yet they are only available during the Halloween season.  Why, General Mills?  Why?  These breakfast monster cereals should be available ALL YEAR ROUND!!!

Homemade Costumes.  Now, as a bloke who’s cobbled together pretty passable costumes for the likes of Flaming Carrot, Ash from Pokémon (complete with Pikachu), Space Ghost and the Legion of Super-Heroes’ Mon-El from materials he found or bought himself, this may seem like an odd castigation. What’s wrong with homemade costumes? Not a damn thing if you did it yourself. But when you’re a kid and mom wants to save a few bucks and decides to make you a Chewbacca costume out of an old mohair coat and some clippings off the family dog, well, you might as well get her to apply the “Kick Me” sign directly to your backside because your preteen ass is getting a whipping from every other kid whose parents decided that ten bucks for a K-Mart Darth Vader costume was a small price to pay for their precious snowflake’s Halloween happiness.

Moving Trick or Treating. You can have your blasted Halloween party whenever you like.  You can dress up and show off your Halloween spirit on any blasted day of the week that suits you.  But for the luvva Pete, trick or treating must be – should be – can only be – on October 31!  You move it from Sunday to Saturday and you’re a tool.  No matter what reason you give.  Kids should be able to Trick or Treat on Halloween.

Intricately-Carved Jack-O-Lanterns.  Sure they look neat, but download all the patterns your PC can handle; you will never be able to make it look like it does on TV or in the picture on the kit.  Better stick with triangle eyes and a goofy, snaggletoothed grin.

The Weather.  Let’s be honest. The last day of October is a crapshoot as far as weather goes.  It often rains and it can be chilly.  This doesn’t play much havoc with adult parties but if you’re a kid your way awesome He-Man costume just doesn’t have the same flair with that heavy coat your mom makes you wear.

The Psychos.  Whether the Halloween madmen and criminals exist or not is moot.  Whether anyone ever actually received an apple with a razor blade in it or a popcorn ball laced in LSD doesn’t matter.  The stories are there and they have persisted since that first kid rang that first bell with an alliterative demand for sweets.  And now Trick or Treating is a mere sanitized shell of the grand adventure it once was.  Back in my day, children would swarm the neighborhoods in hordes and mass bands of masked kinder would bang on any door with a jack-o-lantern.  Now-a-days, neighbors must be vetted or Trick or Treating limited to family members only or secure indoor festivals.  I mean, come on!  Halloween’s supposed to be the one day out of the whole damn year that you can and are encouraged to take candy from strangers (thus being the exception that proves the rule).

X-raying the Candy.  Once you’ve given in to the fear, what’s the next logical step?  Taking all that scrumptious unopened candy to the local general hospitale where good-intentioned medicos will zap it with enough electromagnetic radiation to sterilize a rhesus monkey in order to verify its safety.  So, congratulations.  You’ve now replaced the infinitesimal chance of biting into a caramel Red delicious with a Wilkinson Sword inside it with the less remote possibility of getting jaw cancer thanks to the bucket of irradiated candy you’ve just made.

Christmas Decorations. They are already on sale at stores and displayed prominently often right beside the Halloween stuff.  Now I’ve given up fighting the earlier and earlier onset of Xmas in retail – I swear I saw tinsel and ornaments next to the Independence Day supplies this year – but there is just something unpleasant and unsettling about Halloween and Christmas decorations right next to each other in your neighborhood box store.  And bloody hell, NO, it’s nothing to do with holy and/or unholy and how some religious freaks perceive a holiday that long ago became secular vs. a holiday that was never about Satan worship in the first place.  For me, I think it’s what the holidays convey. Halloween is all about fantasy and wish fulfillment … dressing up, candy, being someone you’re not.  And Xmas is all about stress and being uncomfortable… scheduling nightmares, awkward office parties and being crammed in with relatives you’d rather forget.  Stores, keep your Halloween supplies front and center until November 1. Then you can switch ‘em out with Christmas.  Meantime, keep them separate, well apart, ‘cuz ne’er the twain shall meet.

Wiccans.  Okay, yeah, we get it. Nobody likes to be stereotyped.  But you getting all up in arms and indignant because little girls want to dress up as something with more roots in the Wicked Witch of the West than your brand of New Age, Gaia-worshippin’ Earth Love is as ridiculous as the notion that you can be divined by drowning.

Sparky MacMillan is 18 feet of gut-crunching, man-eating terror!


October 30, 2011

In honor of Halloween, I thought it apropos to talk about a genre of film I normally don’t give two hoots for – the horror film or “scary movie.”  Not that there’s anything wrong with a good spooky flick, it’s just not what floats my particular celluloid boat. See, I have a pretty active imagination, so I’ll see even the tamest scary movie (Blair Witch Project, for example) and get unnerved by every creak and noise I hear in the apartment late at night for weeks on end.  It’s just not worth the strain on my psyche.

So, anyway, here’s a trip fown the macabre memory lane that is MY TOP 5 SCARIEST MOVIES.

5. Psycho. While some might argue (I would) that it isn’t a horror film but a prime example of Hitchcockian suspense, it is still a perfectly well-executed slasher flick.  If you watch it and don’t make double damn sure that bathroom door is locked the next time you take a shower then you aren’t human.

4. The Sixth Sense. Sadly, the big reveal was blown for me mere hours before I went to see this one.  I enjoyed it nonetheless but for weeks – no, let’s be honest – years afterward I couldn’t look in the bathroom mirror without fearing I’d see someone who wasn’t really there walk behind me.  Oh crap, I just scared myself a little.

3. The Grudge. I didn’t even SEE this film and it made the list. I know the original Japanese movie was supposed to be better, but just the bloody commercial for this one  frightened me to my core.  WHAT THE HELL IS THAT THING COMING DOWN THE STAIRS?! I DON’T WANT TO KNOW!

2. The Exorcist. Need I say more?  Convinced myself that I could handle it at age 12.  Wrong!  My pal Chris and I stayed up late to watch it on HBO and I’ve regretted that move ever since.

1. Don’t Look Now. The scariest effin’ movie you’ve probably never heard of. But if you profess to be a connoisseur of scary movies, go get it.  Rent it, buy it, download it now. I won’t go into details but suffice it to say I (and an entire film class) was so freaked out by this thing that I vowed never to watch it again despite the fact that it was and is an excellent film.

Honorable Mention: Shriek Of The Mutilated. The WORST scary movie. Saw it on TV one Saturday afternoon when I was a kid and, even then, I could tell it was atrociously bad.  IMDB describes it as: “A group of college students are led by their professor into the mountains in search of the Yeti. The students start to be killed off one by one.”  I’ll save you the time by [spoiler!] revealing that it’s a cannibal cult that’s behind it all and the final scene is one of the kids being caught by the cannibals as her boyfriend is wheeled in on a tray, all trussed up.  The head cannibal sharpens his carving knives and drolly asks, “White meat or dark?”  No, not even Joel and the ‘Bots could have saved this one.

Company Lyin’

October 28, 2011

The gang at work took me out to a real nice restaurant to celebrate my many years with the company. Only, they made me pay. And, come to think of it, they didn’t tag along. And they told me to stay there for a long while – long enough, it turns out, to train my replacement and change the name plate on my office door.


I’m not sure if I should send them a thank you card or not.

Thanks For The Memories?

October 27, 2011

When I was in high school and people passed around their yearbooks, I’d always try to sneak in a passage that went something like this:

You are the coolest friend I ever had! Stay totally rad, bro! – Jazzbiscuit

Thing is – my nickname wasn’t Jazzbiscuit. No one I knew was called Jazzbiscuit; I made the name up. I just like the idea that there are dozens of former classmates out there who will occasionally reminisce over their old yearbooks and wonder, “Who the hell was Jazzbiscuit?!”

Merchant Irony

October 26, 2011

It’s Natalie Merchant’s birthday today and I wanted to take a moment to remember this wonderful lady. Not because she’s beautiful and talented but because she was my first wife. Oh, sure, she’ll disavow any knowledge of that marriage and even pretend she’s never even heard of me, but I will allow her that conceit, only because I know that our love is so very special and will always be the stuff of legend. Of course I could have dreamt all that, which is infinitely more possible. Happy Birthday, Natalie, my love!

Thar She Blows!

October 25, 2011

Forty-four percent of Americans have admitted to, when blowing out the candles on their birthday cake, wishing for wealth and power. 32% have owned up to wishing for sex of some kind. 18% have confessed to just wanting a really big, honkin’ slice of cake.

God Smack

October 24, 2011

“I believe in God, only I spell it Nature.” – Frank Lloyd Wright

So. Either he’s very enlightened and spiritual – or a tremendously bad speller.


October 23, 2011

Five Narwhal Complaints

Arctic waters are too damn cold

Tusking makes me feel awkward

Belugas be trippin’, yo!

Those Deadliest Catch goobers pee overboard

Me so horny


Five Odd Things I’ve Found In Cracker Jack Box

A hard-boiled egg

Supreme Court finger puppets

Nothin’ but Styrofoam peanuts


An even smaller box of Cracker Jack


Five Dates That Won’t Live In Infamy

Day The Man From Atlantis was cancelled

Day Pia Zadora was born

Attack on Paul Harvey

Any day The Family Circus sees print

Free Slurpee Day


Five More Ways to Leave Your Lover

Get down on your knees and beg, Greg

Key her car and get even, Steven

Suck down about 80 beers, Piers

Seek out the services of a madam, Adam

Dress up a mannequin to take her place, Chase


Five Reasons I Have A Man-Crush on Mandy Patinkin

He sings like a nightingale

He got Kelsey Grammer his gig on Cheers

He’ll leave a successful series if he feels like it

He played the villain in Elmo In Grouchland

He was Inigo freakin’ Montoya!

Sparky MacMillan left you by the house of fun.