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Monthly Archives: October 2014

Be a Better Halloween Candy Giver

Be a Better Halloween Candy Giver

The premise everyone associates with Halloween also seems to be the one everyone is the most prone to screwing up. You can easily liken it to playing soccer or playing piano in that respect: It’s one of those things which you can very easily figure out what to do. Hell, it’s such such a stupidly easy thing to figure out in just doing the act in and of itself that it’s virtually instinctive. The problem is that so many of the people doing it take the skill for granted, and so they end up royally sucking at it, and they see no need to try to improve. For a society that claims to place a ton of value on the well-being and innocence of its children, we sure don’t care very much about giving out decent treats on Halloween. So, in the interest of being a good public servant, I’m now going to give readers a good list of what to give away and what not to give away for Halloween, along with a few quick guidelines on how to give.

1 – It’s okay to expect kids to say “trick or treat” and “thank you.” It’s not okay to expect a “please.” The “trick or treat” is basically a substitute way of saying “May I please have some candy?”

2 – If you must comment on the costumes, it’s a bad idea to make assumptions of exactly what people are dressed as. You can get away with turning it into a question if you really want to, but you don’t want to risk offending some poor kid because said kid looks like a completely different character than who s/he is claiming to be.

3 – There’s no such thing as an honor system on Halloween, especially if you’re giving away good candy. Unless you have an unlimited supply of self-replenishing candy, you can’t afford to leave a large bowl of candy on your doorstep with a note asking kids to take only one or two pieces. If you’re not personally supervising, kids are going to take as much as their palms will allow, and many have no qualms about diving back in for seconds. If you want to monitor how much candy the kids take, you have to personally sit on the stoop yourself, so don’t try to plan anything that will force you to leave a bowl sitting outside.

4 – If there’s a particular kind of candy you don’t like, don’t pawn it off on any kids. Why would you give them anything you don’t personally approve of?

5 – Along those same lines, don’t use Halloween as an excuse to just pawn off leftovers, either.

6 – Unlike a lot of other people who write out these things, I’m willing to personally endorse giving out healthier treats. What I’ll never endorse are pennies or religious literature. Pennies don’t buy anything, and not nearly enough people give them out on any given Halloween night to make them amount to anything; religious literature is not only tasteless, it turns you into a hypocrite as well. If you’re giving out tracts, guess what: You’re still participating in this Pagan holiday you claim to be against.

Good Candy

Mini-candy Bars
These are absolutely gold. All the taste of a full-size candy bar wrapped up in a smaller, more affordable package which can easily be bought and given away in bulk.

Peanut Butter Cups
These are the very best. No matter the size, peanut butter and chocolate is always a winning combination.

Nerds
A definite crowd-pleaser with 80’s aficionados, Nerds are nice little pebbles of candy which usually combine a pair of fruit flavors.

Peppermint Patties
Not outright healthy, but they don’t do nearly as much damage as a lot of the other candies I’m including on this list. The regular-sized York patties only have two fat grams and 140 calories, so if you’re a health nut looking to maximize the best of both worlds, these are by far your best option.

Junior Mints
Bite-sized, more liquidated versions of the above.

Starburst
Another tasty option which is friendlier to your body, Starburst candy really does unleash a gush of flavor into your mouth which you can still taste afterward.

Lifesavers
These are one of the few fruit hard candies that are served in packages which include a handful in a single serving. They’re delicious, juicy, and it’s easy to eat them in spite of their hard texture.

Necco Wafers
An unusual choice for people with more unusual palettes, I always did like these things. They’re simple and can be popped quickly and easily.

Raisinettes
No, Halloween isn’t a good time of year to let your instincts to good health rule you, but it’s easy to get away with it simply by cloaking the raisin in a nice veil of chocolate.

Boston Baked Beans
These fall under the “simple pleasure” category, offering a small shot of sugar covering a regular peanut. Boston Baked Beans are actually a great substitute for peanut M&M’s, except without the chocolate between the candy coating and the peanut. nd while no one should complain about receiving M&M’s of any kind of Halloween, let’s face it: The peanut flavor is dominated by the peanut.

Bad Candy

Candy Corn
Look, I realize these are a sign of the season, but they’re nothing but sickly-sweet sugar packs with a little bit of food dye. They taste nothing like traditional autumn harvest foods, and have nothing notable about them except those dye jobs. They don’t even really look like corn unless you stack them a certain way.

Now and Later
These seem to be ostensibly taffy-based candies. Every time you try to bite down into them, though, they turn out to be hard as diamonds, and then when you finally get them thawed, they take forever to chew and get stuck between your teeth for hours.

Bite-sized Candy Bars
These are nothing but less-satisfying versions of any of the bigger ones. The only reason they exist is because some evil corporation was trying a new way to save money. Plus they’re all wrapped up individually, which makes them a big pain to try to eat in succession.

Bubble Gum
Good for your teeth, so goes the advertisement (the sugar content argues otherwise), but that’s if you take the time to chew it. No one wants to spend ten minutes wearing out the flavor in a piece of gum when there’s chocolate sitting right next to them. Also, a lot of the gum has the texture of concrete as well, and that’s no good for anyone when they try to take that first bite down.

Jawbreakers
These have the same problem as bubble gum. They’re tough to eat, and they take an awful lot of time to finish off. Without trying to place too fine a point on it, the name Jawbreakers isn’t some exaggeration, either; it’s pretty easy to chip or knock out a tooth with one of these things in your mouth.

Tootsie Rolls
These are supposed to be chocolate-flavored taffy, but your standards for good chocolate would have to be awfully low for these things to qualify. They taste more like chocolate imitation than anything, and the texture reeks of harder candy corn than taffy.

Smarties
There are a lot of candies that should just be advertising themselves as nothing but generic, processed sugar pops, but no other candy is as blatant about it as Smarties.

Jolly Ranchers
These things can’t even be categorized. They’re another thing you can’t chew. And by that, I don’t mean you eventually can chew them, like Jawbreakers and hard candy, or that they’re soft candies like Now and Later which just got hard. No, Jolly Ranchers were made to be sucked, and they can be stuck in your mouth for upwards of 20 minutes.

Lemonheads
If your favorite cleaning product was broken down and processed into dried sugar, these are what it would taste like.

Dots
More processed sugar trying to masquerade as fruit flavor, there no no fruit to be had anywhere within. They just baked the sugar, injected some food coloring, and somehow put them at that weird medium where they’re chewy but still very hard to chew to the point where they keep getting stuck in your teeth.

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Learning English Again for the First Time

Learning English Again for the First Time

I love my language, and I get a kick out of thinking, toying with, and explaining the little quirks and nuances about English most of us don’t usually bother thinking about. I don’t believe offical recognition of English as an official language is an idea which is entirely without merit, either. But one of the things that drives me crazy about the people who want to promote that latter viewpoint is that they are frequently barely capable of properly speaking English themselves. I don’t just mean throwing a few emoticons into their regular text messages, either; we all do that. I mean that in regular, ordinary speaking and writing, they keep making juvenile mistakes which aren’t exactly major, but still enough to make me question their intelligence.

Well, guess what! In a shocking twist of fate and fortune that could only ever happen to me, upon transferring to my old college, too long had passed since the last time I had taken a proper English course, and so it was time for me to be a good student again and force myself through a whole new English class. And for a person who has been writing semi-professionally for 15 years, knows the language extremely well, and constantly complains that most people complaining about how English isn’t our national language suck at speaking it themselves, I’m rather clueless in knowing exactly what the hell I’m doing in a lot of the problems I’m given in that class. I’m not having some overwhelming amount of trouble, mind you; what’s going on is that when it comes to knowing what’s what in the English language, I’m not quite as smart as I thought I was.

English literature courses rely on cranial flexation in order to understand the theoretical and abstract from any given piece of literature. This is usually music to my ears; the theoretical and abstract are things my own brain gets along with just fine, better than a lot of the course material I’m required to study, in fact. I’ve written interpretations of a lot of movies, TV shows, and literature. You’d think finding and deciphering a theme would be second nature to me by now. As an author who is increasingly writing short stories, though, I am also well aware of the fact that when a writer sets out to write a piece of literature, we frequently write it with just the story idea in mind. Many authors will write up a guideline to help themselves flesh it out, but I feel like that would restrict me on the atmospheric level – I’m only trying it just now, and it doesn’t seem to be going well.

In other words, we have stories to tell. We don’t often write anything up with any idea of what themes can be culled from it; as long as the story itself gets told, I doubt most authors really care how their work is interpreted, and I’m sure most would read an interpretive essay with interest on the reader’s conclusions and how they came to those conclusions. The story I’m currently writing is about a luckless romantic trying to impress a girl he likes, and ending up in a fistfight with Mike Ditka in the process. Read that sentence again, and answer this quiz question: Do you think, with a story like that, I’m really giving a shit about themes or interpretations? I’m not. I’m just going with the flow of the situation, and hoping it turns out halfway decent.

This is kind of my specialty when I try to write fiction. Invent a character, invent an unlikely situation, and figure out how the character would adapt to the situation. I’m also working on a mystery story revolving around a hitman who also acts as a sort of detective for people who live under the law, but that one isn’t going quite as well. In the past, I’ve written works about a rock musician who had an out-of-body experience (that one was inspired by the story of Motley Crue member Nikki Sixx, which he talked about in the band’s autobiography); a guy who found a hidden treasure that made him rich beyond his wildest dreams and exactly what happened after he found all that money; a conversation between God (yeah, that God) and a suicide bomber, and others. I also wish I could write them faster, and that I could figure out where to send them without so much difficulty.

Themes were never the concern with any of them. Sure, I’ve tried to write a few of them within some sort of context, but context is something broader than theme, at least once the rules you’ve established for your fictional world are set up.

In layman’s terms, I think of the unusual situation, and set out to write a story about (mostly) ordinary, regular people in those situations. I tried writing a couple which vaulted off that form of literature – one was a science fiction story that worked nicely, the other is that mystery I mentioned about (I wish I knew how to be good at writing mysteries) – but mostly, that situational stuff is probably my niche.

Besides that, I’ve also got to worry about the subjects of sentences; the verbs of sentences; predicates; sentence fragments; and all those other little goodies that drove us crazy in elementary school which no professional author has ever used. Learning these has given rise to the personal realization that I’ve forgotten everything I’ve ever known about them.

To think that, during the past two semesters, I was learning calculus and needed my formal understanding of basic algebra to return to me. What should happen in that instance but my old algebra lessons actually coming back to me, and not being so cluttered or confusing that time. In fact, I was remembering my algebra – a subject I took twice in high school and four times in college – perfectly, and without any of the confusion or clutter that made it such a pain to learn. My second semester, when I took a class in human movement which involved physics, recalling my geometry took a little bit longer, but I still managed to do it when one of my professors was giving me help. Now here I am, fully taking a subject I studied and passed, and having trouble recalling rudimentary aspects of it, even though it’s something I’ve been doing now for a very long time and excelling at. I’m not very fond of my brain right now.