Five-link Halloween Friday
Halloween is on the way, so this week's Five-link Friday is all Halloween themed.
• The great Urban Legends Reference Pages, a.k.a. Snopes.com, has gathered together a batch of . My favorites: That somewhere in the U.S. is a so scary that no one has ever gone all the way through it, and the oh-so-creepy story of .
• Those of us who were around in the 1970s may recognize some of this from that era. Click on any item for a . Hey, isn't that font the same one used for their ? (Thanks to for the link!)
• I've linked to this before, but it's so good. Retrocrush dug up some of the . The Rubik's Cube costume remains the oddest — I'm thankful that none of the kids in my neighborhood were ever this lame. And I love the commentary: "How many poor kids that got stuck with this one had to hear, 'Hey Rubik, how about if I rearrange your face?' This very well may be the least popular costume of all time, 2nd only to the failed Parcheesi costume of 1974."
• Jenny of is one of the craftiest people on the Web. All of her are worth a look, but her is the best. The witch-finger cookies are so realistic and so creepy that I can't imagine eating one.
• Do not miss the over at X-Entertainment. Every day, Matt posts a new Halloween feature, usually revolving around some weird Halloween-themed food or toy he's found. How cool would it have been back in your trick-or-treating days to get in your bag? And I'm also entertained by Matt's reviews of regular food that gets a Halloween makeover, including .
Creative Halloween costumes
My childhood Halloween costumes were less than creative. I was Cinderella one year, complete with blue gown and sweat-inducing plastic mask. I was a gypsy about a million times, because all you need is a dress, shawl, and eight tons of costume jewelry.
But once I got to college, I was much more intrigued by the creative costumes my fellow students wore to Halloween parties. They often didn't require a lot of money, because we didn't have any. But they were the kind of goofy, have-to-think-about-it costume that made others laugh out loud. Here are just a few of the ones I remember. (Know about others? Send them in!)
• Laundry. Carve out the bottom of a cheap plastic laundry basket (the huge round kind) and wear it around your waist. Wear all one color, and pin random pieces of clothing all over yourself.
• Groceries. Similar to laundry, only make up a giant grocery bag to replace the basket, and pin lightweight food (or fake food) instead of the clothes.
• Liar, liar, pants on fire. Wear red pants or, even better, pants decorated with flames. Write down a bunch of lies and pin them to your outfit ("The check's in the mail," "No, that doesn't make your butt look big," "It's not you, it's me.")
• A road. Black T-shirt and sweatshirt, paint a white dotted line on your outfit, possibly draw a traffic sign and pin that on your back. For the more gruesomely inclined, flatten a stuffed animal you don't much care for...instant roadkill.
• A pencil or crayon. Yeah, they sell outfits for this, but you can also get away with picking the right colored clothes (all one color for a crayon, yellow with pink shoes/socks for a pencil). You can also get a huge piece of posterboard in the appropriate color, make straps and wear that over the clothes. Don't forget a paper pointy hat.
• Driver's license. Your head is the photo. Design a big piece of cardboard with the rest of your info, and cut out a hole in the right spot to stick your head through. Similar to...
• Milk carton, with your face as the "Missing" child.
• And my favorite, a very simple one for women, and for which I give full credit to my friend Kim: Wear any blue dress. Buy a plastic pair of devil horns, and possibly a pointy tail and pitchfork, if you can get them. You're the devil in the blue dress.
I KNOW you can do better than these...send them in. There's still time before Halloween.
The lullaby of Broadway
I have a confession to make, one that probably should have been confessed in our this summer. I love me some Broadway musicals.
The other day, I came to my door to leave for work and found myself singing "Good morning, Baltimore!" Which makes even less sense if you know that my front door is not located in Baltimore, but in Seattle — is the opening song from the John Waters' musical "Hairspray," which I'd just seen. (Lyrics include "Good morning Baltimore / There's the flasher who lives next door / There's the bum on his barroom stool / They wish me luck on my way to school...")
I admit, I sometimes think of the musical as an art form of yesteryear, the days of "Oklahoma" and "Annie Get Your Gun." And I love those oldies, I do. But even those of us who don't live in New York and London can occasionally get to a city showing one of the more modern musicals — "Rent" or "Little Shop of Horrors," "Hairspray" or "Hedwig." And coming to my city next spring, an intriguing sounding musical called a musical within a musical about a group of private-school girls putting on a production of that childhood favorite, "A Little Princess."
I'm not sure why I like musicals so much. I'm usually not much for happy endings, and musicals almost always have them. I'm not into chick flicks and romances, and musicals are usually full of them too. Maybe it's the same thing that attracts so many others, the idea that the world would be a better place if we all just went around singing what we're doing every day. That and the fact that they're so educational: I've learned that , that , and to .
But in-between musicals, there are still ways to get your Broadway fix. Satellite TV and radio both have dedicated show-tunes stations, and there's an easy Internet way as well. Just point your browser to , pick a decade, and you're off, free musical soundtracks filling the background while you work. (A fat lot better than whistling while you work, no matter what the Seven Dwarfs say.)
Want the latest Broadway news? is a good resource, as is and my pal Bill's . There's , after all.
Test Pattern Book Club: ‘Wonderland: A Year in the Life of an American High School’
There are books I read and then toss on a shelf, never to be looked at again. There are books I read and immediately donate to a charity or give away, just to get it out of the house. And then there are books like by Michael Bamberger. After finishing it, I went around for almost a week wanting to grab everyone I saw and say "You've got to read this!"
Bamberger, a senior writer for Sports Illustrated, became interested in Pennsylvania's Pennsbury High when he heard about their annual prom.
This is no ordinary high-school dance: Pennsbury's prom is a true event, and has been for 30 years. Kids arrive in exotic vehicles...not just the fanciest limo they can afford, but oddball rides — dog sleds, cement mixers, U.S. mail trucks, rickshaws.
While it's held in the school gym, you wouldn't know it: The students choose an elaborate theme months in advance, and work almost all year to turn that theme into a kind of magical reality. It's so spectacular that thousands of people come to the high school the day before the prom to simply walk through and admire the setup.
But the prom is only a part of the high-school life that Bamberger captures so beautifully. Like any high school, there are a million plots, subplots and soap operas swirling through the halls of Pennsbury.
One couple, Stephanie and Rob, have an infant son, and yet with all the wrenches that has thrown into their life, are determined to have this one night out, a reminder of the carefree days they've just left behind. Another student has been working tirelessly for months to try and get singer John Mayer (his song "Your Body is a Wonderland" inspires the title) to play at the prom.
Even the teachers get into the drama: One first-year female teacher leaves the school after an odd series of events in which she's reportedly seen at students' drinking parties, and particularly with one young male student, who claims she bought him a $179 sports jersey and a tattoo.
And in perhaps the most heartbreaking story, a student on vacation in Florida is killed when he darts onto a highway after having been drinking.
These are the stories of any community, any school, yet Bamberger has a gift for sharing them, and showing all sides of the issues. It's hard not to like the students, teachers and parents of Pennsbury, and to squirm when you see some of them making bad decisions. But the sheer fact that readers end up caring so much — and wanting John Mayer to just say OK, he'll play the prom — is a testament to Bamberger's deep research and writing skill.
There are a lot of teachers in my family who'd enjoy "Wonderland," but anyone who's been to high school would appreciate it as well. One critic said about a favorite book of mine, Bob Greene's 1988 that "if Bob Greene doesn't take you back to high school, you didn't go." The same could be said for Bamberger. "Wonderland" truly reminds readers of the joys and the sorrows that come when we fall down the rabbithole into the bizarre, horrible, wonderful world of high school.