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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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The Fourth of July – Righteous Anger Day

The Fourth of July – Righteous Anger Day

That’s it. It’s time to throw in the towel with Independence Day until everyone is finished with these bullshit shenanigans. Somehow, the Fourth of July has managed to fall into a position in which it means even less than the blatantly offensive Columbus Day. And Columbus Day is a day taken for one of the worst people who ever lived, a man who our public schools mythologize as if he were Perseus, and don’t tell you a single kernel of true information about.

The only major holiday of the summer has turned into a platform of grandstanding on whatever soapbox is available. It’s the day people either love or hate the United States the most and accuse any and all dissenters of being either racist or, well, uh, racist. (Yeah, the favored form of libel from the left has now been flipped around and become a weapon for the right as well. It’s like trench warfare. That, however, is another essay for another time.)

Once upon a time, the Fourth of July was one of the easiest days in the world. It never felt like there was any form of political polarization. Instead, the Fourth was the one day a year when everyone was able to put they’re political differences off to the side and celebrate the things this country actually gets right. Call it another side effect of the internet, but everything that was once good about Independence Day is long gone. Independence Day is another regular day, when you keep quiet and actively avoid all mentions of your home country – or any country at all – out of fear that whatever you have to say may be a loaded phrase.

Politicking has turned into a serious spectator sport in this country, and not in a good way. There are some people who are lifelong political hobbyists who enjoy all the little quirks and nuances of politics, and they’re the ones who frequently turn out to be the most knowledgeable. If you have a serious question about a particular stance or candidate, those are the people you flag down who will tell you everything there is to know. If you’re sitting on the fence about something in particular, those political hobbyists are life savers, because they’re the ones who can tell you all the minute details which will help you decide which policies are good or not.

People like that were a fringe people before the internet came along and provided everyone with a ready resource of useful information about everything politics. Now that the internet can call off all bets, political hobbyists…. Are still on the fringe. The difference is that now everyone takes views of politics like they see their favorite sports team, and therefore everyone has turned into the Monday Morning Quarterback. No shit is given to the little details that can make politicking a lot harder than it looks to the layman. Apparently, every politician – especially the president – is equipped with a magic want that can cut through all the checks and balances and all the legal jargon and technical jibberish that makes politics a giant Chess match.

Worse than that, they’re expected to cut through common human decency as well. I’m sure this is very easy to do when you have a thousand miles of nothing but milktoast white suburbs lying as a buffer between a voter and the real world, but getting to know different types of people is a real monkey wrench in polarizing political thought once you do it. Humanism is that thread that can take what should be an obvious and pragmatic choice of law or bill and cause its writers to add a few more lines of legalese.

Independence Day is now the day when all the resentment starts to foam over. We can be civil every other day of the year, but come the Fourth, we regress into comic book stock characters. Nuance runs off, and suddenly the country is either Saint Paul or Hitler. Maybe it’s time to call it off so there’s one less thing that pisses everyone off.

Christmas, Christianity, and Commercialism

Christmas, Christianity, and Commercialism

It’s the most maddening time of the year. Now, don’t get me wrong: I love Christmas. What I can’t stand is this whole Christmas season that leads up to it. It’s really fitting that the popular image of Santa Claus is what we use to symbolize this season. Santa is centuries old, but the jolly fat man dressed in red was popularized by the Coca-Cola corporation, and let’s face it: Christmas is a corporate holiday right down to the very core of its being.

As Jon Stewart said, Christmas has become so large now that it’s engulfing the other holidays, and yet a disturbingly large proportion of people in this country manage to trick themselves into thinking there’s some kind of phantom war on Christmas. Only in America could we possibly get away with this kind of chutzpah. Christmas season even has a kind of official kickstart day of its own now – Black Friday – which comes immediately right after the day we give thanks for the things that go right with our lives. Then we get a solid month and a half of Christmas themes which overrun into November as people physically beat up and trample over each other to grab the hottest new items which some corporations are undoubtedly holding shipments on in order to create a false sense of scarcity.

Then we manage to conjure up the idea that this feeding frenzy is somehow being done in the good name of a man who, if he were around today, never would have been an American. Even if he was born in this country, he probably would have cast off the misnomer of “American.” No matter what the circumstances, it’s extremely difficult for me to imagine Jesus Christ elbowing his way through a line of shoppers in order to grab a new TV and being the first in line of a corporate bait and switch scheme. I CAN, however, imagine Jesus – at least somewhat – buying out a stock of HD television sets and simply giving them away, no questions asked. That vision requires a certain bending of Jesus’s character too, although not nearly as much as Cowboy Jesus does.

Furthermore, Christmas the season has become a kind of go-to attack against the Americans in the country who aren’t Christians, and that’s around 20-25 percent of us at the most wildly liberal estimate. I tend to identify with any one of the various non-religious people in the United States on any given day. Mostly, I call myself either an agnostic or an atheist, depending on how I’m feeling toward religion in general. Those who know me, though, know that I’m incontestably irreligious. I gave up organized religion years ago in a long and bitter fight with my own sense of cognitive dissonance, with my ideals of individual liberty clashing against everything every religious authority in my life had ever told me.

You would think the irony of Christmas commercialism would be a lot more obvious to people claiming to be Christians, but it seems like the people who wear their Christianity on their chests are the ones most oblivious to it. They’ve somehow managed to completely hijack their own holiday while spreading the blame on everyone but them. Which I guess makes sense in its own little way. The current version of Christianity is a religion which is about shifting blame onto someone who didn’t deserve it. Jesus dying for the sins of everyone? Yeah, it’s a pretty idea, but there’s a very sinister undertone to it which liberates its followers of personal responsibility. Believe in Christ and you’re saved no matter what sort of sadistic shit you’re into.

Christianity as introduced was a very radical lifestyle change which had nothing to do with religion. It emphasized the strength of community and the idea that everyone in said community was on equal footing; not equal footing as everyone having a theoretically equal chance to improve their living circumstances, but equal footing as the idea that no one had more power or greater status than another. It’s easy to see why the personal savior version of Christianity caught on – it doesn’t require very much work. Just abstain from – or limit – a few vices and condemn everyone to Hell and you’ve punched your ticket to a heavenly afterlife. Loving your enemies and standing up for the oppressed and forgotten requires a lot of going against human tribalism and accepting the fact that you’ll be defending people polite society would rather forget.

Instead, religion has become a de facto excuse to leave things the way they are. The religion that started as a method of rebelling against the Roman Empire and offering its untouchable low-caste members a way of empowering themselves is now the champion faith of a country which shows a lot of parallels to ancient Rome. And with a growing number of other people also starting to wake up to that fact, Christmas and this alleged war on it have become the rallying cry. People are very literally camping outside of large department stores and beating each other up over artificially-priced stuff a month and a half before Christmas, and yet, there’s a big war against it that no one seems to be waging anywhere I’ve ever lived. The vast majority of the country still claims Christianity as its religion, and most of them don’t even know the Pagan roots of virtually every aspect of our Christmas celebrations, and yet, somehow there’s a war on Christmas. Both the commerce capitol and national capitol of the United States throw fucking tax money at large, prominent, and garish display decorations to Christmas, and there’s somehow a goddamn war!

If you think I’m annoyed, yes, I am, because as an atheist, people keep finding ways to blame me for this war, despite the fact that the 20 million Americans who don’t identify with a religion don’t have any lobbying power. (As opposed to Christians, the only religion-related group that does.)

Yeah, how perfect it is that Christmas is considered the primary holiday.

10 Awesome Gifts for the Special One-Percenter in Your Life

It’s that time of year again! The time when all the gift-giving lists appear, giving you wonderful gift ideas at very reasonable prices. You’ll be able to find lists of gifts for your organic-living friend, your geeky friend, your friend who loves to build things, your pyromaniac demolitions expert friend, your friend who keeps used one-shave razors under the bed, and your friend who believes Santa Claus is real. And if you look hard enough, you’ll be able to find a great gift for your friend who is and does all of those previous things.

And that covers 99 percent of your friends. After that, there’s that trouble spot, the one percent friend. Who, thanks to a recent political movement, now has a term that can be applied: The One-Percent friend.

Buying gifts for your 99-Percent friends is pretty easy. All you have to do is look a little past the end of your nose in order to find a fitting, thoughtful, thrifty gift for the 99-Percenters you know. But what of that One-Percenter in your life for whom money isn’t an object?

Here’s a list of thoughtful gifts your One-Percenter will love.

An NFL Team
There’s nothing your one-percenter pal will love more than an new opportunity to make money hand over fist. The Detroit Lions and Arizona Cardinals may be losing, but if your friend owns an NFL team, he certainly won’t.

The NFL is a spectator sport which is priced for and advertised mainly to its secondary fans, with even the cheapest tickets exceeding three digits. Your friend will be able to rake in the dough through memorabilia, tickets, concessions, and advertising. And with one team or another always threatening to move if it doesn’t get a new stadium, he can pocket a little bit of tax money if he’s cheap and quiet enough.

Screaming Eagle Cabernet Sauvignon
Since your One-Percent friend probably already gets his cheap-ass labor from overseas, we can call this a little bit of a pro-American stealth gift. California’s Napa Valley is home to some of the most acclaimed and expensive wines in the world.

This particular wine is a mortgage at an average price of $2,618 a bottle. With fragrances of crushed berry, liquid stone, licorice pastille, violet, and graphite. It’s a little bit disorganized upon first taste, but then again, so is the economy.

Enzo Ferrari
What’s life in the fast lane without a fast car? The Enzo Ferrari can top out at 217 MPH and hit 60 from zero in 3.4 seconds.

Ha! I almost got that out without laughing. Yes, those speeds are real, but where is there a freeway where you can drive 217? Hell, they only get 14 miles per gallon! These suckers are status symbols. For $670,000, you should get your One-Percenter two, in case he decides to have some fun by driving one into his swimming pool.

Kizuna Encounter
You have to be a little nuts to try to complete a collection for any video game console, but there’s a special spot of insane for those who owned the Neo Geo. Even the cheapest games for that sucker hit three digits. And with less than twelve copies of this super-duper-rarity ever having been produced, you’re looking at a price tag of $10,000 and upward.

The game itself is a typical tag team fighter from SNK, the makes of quite a few popular fighting games, including Fatal Fury. Actually, in this case you can forget your One-Percenter. I’m a console collector. I’ll be happy to get a copy of this one.

Royal Copenhagen
You know what would go really well to serve Screaming Eagle in? Royal Copenhagen, a brand of China that graces the dinner tables of suck celebrities as Elton John and Oprah Winfrey.

Painted in beautiful leaf patterns, these simple, elegant pieces of china will set you back quite a variety of prices ranging from teacups ($1500 each) to dinner plates ($2150 each). A good five-piece set runs $8075. Hey, Oprah likes it, and if it’s good enough for the Queen of daytime talk, it’s certainly good enough for you!

Polo Equipment
If your One-Percenter is into sports, you might consider getting upgrades for his polo equipment. You can buy a perfectly healthy horse for less than $1000, but if you’re gonna get good polo gear for your friend, you need to do it right. That’s why you should first be setting aside $35,000 for a top-notch horse show jumper!

Of course, to actually ride the horse, you’ll need a good saddle, which is why Thornhill is there for you. Once you pony up (pun intended) $1995 for one of Thornhill’s platinum saddles, you’ll then need polo balls (Pro Chukker, Gold Box of 100 for $295), mallet ($120), and vented helmet ($230). And what if your friend is into other sports? They won’t be. Other sports just seem so 99 percent.

Vantare Platinum Plus RV
If your One-Percent friend like to rough it a little, this $2.5 million RV is just the ticket to let the world go during a long camping trip. It includes a 235-gallon gas tank which costs over $1000 just to fill up (you weren’t going to rudely present the RV without a full tank, were you?). It also features custom sculptures on the ceiling, marble steps to get up to the cabin, and if the towing car breaks down, there is a sports car which comes conveniently tucked underneath.

I remember once reading about a former US President who enjoyed hunting. He had his era’s version of the RV: Rail cars for eating and sleeping. He was also assisted on one trip by 1000 Sioux Indians. Wish your friend luck in trying to find any Indians willing to act as guides.

Almas Beluga Caviar
The word “almas” means diamond. It’s only a fitting title for this extremely rare caviar from a beluga, as it costs $25,000 for a single kilo.

There’s only one place in the world where this stuff is available, and that’s Caviar House and Prunier in London England’s Picadilly, where they sell it in a 24-karat gold tin. If you plan to glop it all over a cracker, better make it something better than the Saltines.

U2 – 20 Years of Achtung Baby – Uber Deluxe Edition
One-Percenters can be populists, right? Its been 20 years since the original release of the classic U2 album Achtung Baby, and U2 is celebrating it with a garish, overdone box set which might have gone better with their garish, overdone record Pop. It comes with the original Achtung Baby, the follow-up album, Zooropa, b-sides and reworkings of previously unheard material first recorded during the original sessions, four DVDs including a new doc called From the Sky Down, the concert video Zoo TV: Live from Sydney, and all the Achtung Baby music videos with bonus material. On the print side, there are five 7-inch vinyl singles in their original sleeves, 16 art prints taken from the original album sleeve, an 84-page hardcover book, a copy of Propaganda magazine, four badges, a sticker sheet, and a pair of Bono’s bitchin’ shades.

It doesn’t include any concert passes, but it does cost $630. You know, for the people.

The Hope Diamond
When all else fails, you can always go with the classics. The Hope Diamond is 45.52 karats and worth $350 million. It’s a little bluish diamond.

It’s also apparently famous for being a curse. Make of that what you will.