Archive | October, 2011

Hayrides (and other Halloween horrors)

24 Oct

Safety expert Paul Van Gorkom. I assume. I never got around to asking for an actual mugshot.

What a great time of year.

With Halloween lurking just around the corner, there are haunted houses, hayrides, corn mazes and so many wonderful activities for kids.

These are are all great fun — if you want your child to die a horrible, gruesome death tha ends up on Fox News.

That’s right! Every one of those activities is a death trap, professional Nervous Nellie and safety expert Paul Van Gorkom tells me in a press release.

Well, that’s a relief. Halloween was getting quiet. Maybe too quiet.

For years, I’ve written about how poisoned Halloween candy is a myth. There was a case in 1974 where a father in Texas murdered his own son by poisoning Halloween candy. He apparently poisoned some other kids’ candy just to give himself an alibis. (Fortunately, none of the other kids ate the tainted treats.)

But that was just one isolated incident, and it only happened because the killer had a long-standing myth to exploit. By and large, Halloween candy is safe.


Hayrides, on the other hand, will kill you.

You can trust Van Gorkom, even though he has the perfect name for a mad scientist. He is the vice president of operations at Allied Barton Security Services, which provides “highly trained security personnel” (I’m thinking ninjas) to countless clients.

These are the kind of people who know how to survive hayrides unscathed and find their way out of corn mazes.

If you are foolish enough to tempt fate and go on a hayride, Van Gorkom pleads, be cautious when loading and unloading. Be sure the hayride is at a complete stop before doing either. If there are steps, they could be slippery.

These same safety precautions could apply to other moving vehicles as well. Personally, I am going to rethink the whole “tuck-and-roll” technique I taught me son for getting out of the car. It never occured to me to stop the car first.

Van Gorkom further stresses you should not walk in front of the hayride — or any moving tractor for that matter. I remember my grandfather Murray “Peg Leg” Henderson telling me the same thing.

Lest you mock Van Gorkom’s concerns, Fox News reports four people were hospitalized and 40 others injured in a hayride accident on Shaw Island in Washington state just last August.

A flatbed trailer carrying about 50 people collided with the tractor that was pulling it, dumping the passengers on the road in what was described as a “horrible but really cool freak accident.”

(OK, so that was my description.)

The driver of the trailer was going down a steep grade, which brings up a tip Van Gorkom overlooked. Don’t go on a hayride driven by an idiot.


Speaking of idiots, if you happen to be one yourself, stay out of corn mazes. Of course, that’s wasted advice. If you’re an idiot, you’re going to go inside anyway.

Van Gorkom suggests bringing a flashlight. This can also come in handy in locating your own butt (provided you also use both hands). He adds you should bring cell phones and stick with your fellow idiots.

That way, people will be able to laugh at you even more when you finally make your way out.

But seriously, folks, could anyone really get lost in a corn maze to the point where it becomes an emergency?

Cue Fox News.

Authorities in Danvers, Mass., tell Fox a family called 911 when they got lost in a seven-acre corn maze — taking advantage of the police department’s motto that says, “We Want To Be Bothered.” The family didn’t realize they were 25 feet away from the street.


Van Gorkom says haunted houses can also pose safety hazards. For instance, he says, you could be plagued by flies.

Or is that “The Amityville Horror”?

Swarms of flies or not, Van Gorkom says be careful. The floors could be slippery. Then again, that could just be the blood. Whatever. Don’t run and down the stairs, he says. This is fine in your own house where you no doubt have carpeting made out of bubble wrap, but a major no-no in a haunted house.

You should also carry a flashlight, he says, so one of the things that goes bump in the night isn’t your skull.

And that, people, is the kind of wisdom that propels a man into upper managment in a company that provides trained ninjas.

My favorite piece of advice? “Avoid smoking while in the maze as dry corn stalk could easily catch fire.”

Yes, that would be a problem. However, I would love  to see some arial footage of that.

Fox News?


Flicka, Ricka and Dicka: A sophisticated literary analysis

13 Oct
Flicka Ricka Dicka

Flicka, Ricka and Dicka are Swedish triplets in a series of children's books. This is not one of those books. Unfortunately. It would have made the series a lot more interesting.

In her stimulating reading of Jean de Brunhoff’s anti-colonialist book, “Babar Steps on a Bunch of Pygmies” (1937), Gertrude Sobolik analyzes the strategies through which colonialism pathologizes the colonized subject.

By excluding that subject from the fruitful self/other dynamics that create subjectivity, colonialism polices “the boundaries of cultural intelligibility.” In so doing, it also determines which individuals attain “full cultural signification” and those who simply get stomped on by an elephant in a green suit.

Through its dissemination of an imperialist power-knowledge, it arbitrates who shall (or shall not) have “unfettered access” to a rich self-identity. If, as psychoanalysis claims, the “I is an Other,” then “otherness constitutes the very entry into subjectivity” and “means you’re gonna get your pygmy ass stomped” (Identification 141-43).

But what happens when, as in the colonized context, this entry is blocked or severely curtailed?

How they hell should I know? This is a review of “Flicka, Ricka, Dicka and Their New Skates.”

Susannah Greenberg, the PR gal for children’s book publishers Albert Whitman & Co., asked me if I wanted a review copy. She explained Flicka, Ricka and Dicka are three blonde Swedish sisters who …

Say no more! Send me a copy immediately!

Wait a minute. Did she say children’s book? Then take your time. I was expecting something completely different — especially given the name of the third sister. (She really ought to think about getting a different nickname before she reaches middle school.)

Flicka, Ricka and Dicka are spinoff characters from a series of books about Snipp, Snapp and Snurr — male Swedish triplets created by author/illustrator Maj Lindman in the 1930s. Their many boring adventures included “Snipp, Snapp and Snurr and the Red Shoes” and “Snipp, Snapp and Snurr and the Big Surprise.”

Trust me. The surprise is not all that big. It involves red shoes.

Still, I would love a review copy of “Flicka, Ricka, Dicka and Their New Skates.” I love reviewing books. Anyone who knows me knows I am as famous for my sophisticated literary criticism as I am for my juggling skills.

In fact, I can’t wait to actually read “Flicka, Ricka, Dicka and Their New Skates” to criticiz it. I will start now.

When you look at Flicka, Ricka and Dicka and Snipp Snapp and Snurr what you end up with is a sentence that uses the word “and” way too many times. You also get three stupid names that rhyme and three names that start with the same consonants and are also quite stupid.

What does this tell us about Maj Lindman? I think it is safe to say that she was high on marijuana (or “reefer” as it was known in the ’30s) when she created these characters.

Notice, too, that all the children have uniformly blue eyes and blonde, curly hair. What is Whitman trying to say here, especially in the context of the ’30s? I think she is saying, “Hey, if you’re a Nazi, you’re going to love these books!”

The books are obviously statements on conformity and homogeny in pre-war Europe. Footwear is also important to Lindman. New skates. Red shoes. The latter is obviously a metaphor for Stalinist Russia while the former alludes to Hitler skating across Europe.

Lindman and her blonde-haired, blue-eyed, chubby-cheeked protagonists hint, subtlety, at Aryan supremacy. Some of her imitators were not so subtle. As Hitler tightened his stranglehold on Europe, writer/illustrator Ludwig Carl Heinrich (a Frenchman) produced “Fritz and Schlitz and the Jew with the Really Big, Crooked Nose.”

Fritz and Schlitz had a brother, but his name was a slang term for excrement, so the Gestapo killed him on page 2.

Above all, it is important to remember that I just made that up. Likewise, I have never read any of Maj Lindman’s work. I am sure it is perfectly charming and absolutely sickening. The fact that the latest edition of “Flicka, Ricka, Dicka and Their New Skates” comes with paper dolls only serves to make me more nauseous.

Then again, 48-year-old men are probably not the target demographic for this book (one would pray to God).

Mental Vegetables: Meatless brains for vegan zombies

4 Oct
zombie calendar

There's just something about vegan zombies that is just such a turn off.


“Brains! Brains!”

Yes, everyone loves eating brains. Especially at Halloween. But all you have to do is listen to talk radio to know the human brain is dangerously high in fat.

Fortunately, the folks at Garden Goodies have a solution. Introducing … Mental Vegetables!

They are the size, shape and texture of brains while being completely meatless. Many vegan zombies — and there is a growing number of them — swear they cannot tell the difference. They often compare them to the McBrains offered by McDonald’s a few years ago (with a side of lady fingers) in an attempt to cater to the zombie market.

They say they taste just like McDonald’s chicken which, in turn, tastes like wet cardboard and school paste.

Garden Goodies, a company I completely made up, is not alone in offering zombies meatless alternatives. There is a real honest-to-god company too. Jennifer Mendelsohn of Formula PR sent me a press release ballyhooing Veggie Patch’s Meatless Meatballs as a Halloween treat.

Poor Jennifer. Imagine her burden. Halloween is coming up. Forget all the candy. We have to get kids psyched about meatless meatballs.

“Can I go over to Jimmy’s house for Halloween? Please! Please! Please! His mom is serving meatless meatballs! They taste just like shredded newspaper!”

I mean, who wants candy when you can just eat the pinata?

Yet Jennifer is nothing if not valiant. She has all sorts of ways to distract kids from the fact they are eating $#@! meatless meatballs.

For instance, you can disguise them as eyeballs. Just serve them over a tomato sauce and top them with a sliced olive. Eewww! That’s disgusting! Hate to break it to you, Jennifer, but most kids would rather eat a real eyeball.

There’s always Bug Bean Salad. Chop black beans, edamame and kidney beans into different sizes. The black beans represent ants, the edamame are grasshoppers and the kidney beans are beetles.

Show of hands, even among vegans. How many of you would eat that instead of a “fun-size” Nestle’s Crunch bar? (Fun-size gets quotes, by the way, because I see nothing partiuclarly fun about a candy bar the size of my pinky toe. Now a four-pound bar? That would be fun. Still, anything beats the hell out of beans.)

“If you’re interested in more Halloween-inspired foods or delicious recipes to make vegetable eating fun, I’d love to connect you with celebrity chef Missy Chase Lapine,” Jennifer says.

Uh, Jenn? First of all, I try very hard in life to avoid women named Missy. Secondly, anyone interested in healthy and/or vegetarian Halloween treats is really unclear on the whole concept of the holiday.

Halloween is supposed to decadent and depraved. Leave “Ozzie and Harriett” for Thanksgiving. It’s time for “The Addams Family.”

Now shut up and pass the brains.