Halloween is HERE!

Loyal reader,

Here is Mike Berlin's deliciously dated and scintillatingly scandalous piece on our favorite of recently bygone holidays (no, not that one). Thank you Mike, staff writer extraordinaire, we love you. sincerely. -buzzsaw

I sit in the living room of my three-bedroom apartment and stare at the piling dishes, papers, and trash bags in the corner. We live in utter squalor. In a holiday attempt to be festive, three carved pumpkins decorate the room, swimming in a sea of clutter, rapidly rotting away. This is the spirit of Halloween in the den of three college juniors.

My stomach growls angrily at me and I get up to forage in the pantry. On the way, I pass a plastic bag filled with browning pumpkin guts leaking through to the floor from a carving session past. In the true spirit of Halloween, I imagine dust, cobwebs, and flying bats to present themselves in the kitchen cupboard, but instead I’m greeted by store brand Mac N’ Cheese.

Disappointed, I resolve to watch more Food Network in an attempt to absorb the enticing cuisine metaphysically through the television screen. It’s this and the promise of the free food that lies ahead which keeps me strong and weary of the two New York style pizzerias down the street.

It’s Halloween, and me and my nostalgia-starved friends are going to hit the town (of Ithaca) in search of free treats. Our first semester off the meal plan, and we were more than ready to gorge on free candy. For many this would be the first time in a decade.

We had never necessarily lost the spirit of Halloween, but our ideas had evolved. As college students, we became red cup toting, weekend warriors, parading up and down South Hill from party to party. Costumes became a bit more risqué.

I recall spotting Kurt Cobain and Courtney Love at a party the weekend past, complete with punctured veins drawn with eye makeup. In hand, they carried a cheap plastic baby doll, which they continued to throw around and inject with invisible heroin from a syringe stolen from the campus health center. For me, this hadn’t stirred up childhood memories of trick-or-treating, but I’d given them points for the make-up job. My weekend costume wasn’t quite suitable either.

I dressed in drag as Ann Coulter, equipped with a slew a neo-conservative ideals and a sign reading “End Women’s Suffrage Now!” Though I’m sure the residents of Ithaca would’ve appreciated the irony, I knew children would shudder in fear of my hairy legs protruding from a mid-length skirt.

Now, it’s time for a costume change. I leave the apartment and head to the kingdom of standard and cheap—the dollar store. Amongst the instant meal mixes and putrid hand soaps, there lies a corner filled with sparse Halloween themed items. There is a rack of flimsy plastic masks. Each resembles something Tom Cruise would peel off his face during a “Mission Impossible” movie. I choose one at random and grab fake police tape and a devilish pitchfork. A savvy $3 investment and I’m all set.

As friends start arriving to the apartment, it’s apparent that we all are cheaping out on our costumes. Both Steve and Evan are wearing similar masks to mine, possibly costing a few dollars more. Brittany is wearing a shiny orange wig. Cassandra is wearing makeup. I give her some police tape to wrap around and we call it “a-policewoman-entered-in-a-beauty-pageant,”—a spooky twist on the plot of “Miss Congeniality.”

Finally, we embark on our journey with danger in the air as Cassandra says, “A kid in my class said it’s illegal to trick-or-treat as college students.”

The three of us taller than six feet are a bit fazed, but we understand that Halloween is a time to be daring in the face of terror and disgruntled adults.

As the streets turn residential, kids of all ages, dressed as the Nickelodeon characters of their generation scurry about collecting their treats. It all seems the same at first, until I start to notice some children with cell phones in place of parents. One child is even dressed as a cell phone, occasionally yelling “Can you hear me now!”

My imagination goes wild thinking about the next generation of children navigating the streets with their GPS systems, plotting out the routes that turn out maximum candy collection.

We have our own methods, deciding to knock on doors with the porch lights on—none of this “ Turn left for the next Snickers Bar in .23 miles.”

We knock on our first door, highly anticipating, poised, waiting to say “trick-or-treat!!!” It’s Nicole from Research Methods in Psychology. She answers the door holding a bowl of candy, smiling shame into us. We move on, our bags a bit heavier and our tails between our legs.

The next few doors turn out pretty well with parents complimenting us on our spirit. They hand out generous fortunes of chocolate, as if we had more self control than children. One woman asks what we’re supposed to be. I hesitate and think: unlicensed plastic surgery gone wrong. Brittany replies, “These three are cheap monsters, she’s a beauty queen, and I’m a rockstar.” Very well put.

Steve adds in, “We’re all 14,” and gets a laugh all around.

After conquering a few more blocks, we turn down another street. Brittany and Evan sit the next few houses out, suspiciously smoking cigarettes on the adjacent sidewalks as we continue to ring doorbells. The spirit of Halloween begins to overtake us and we become quite chatty with the adults, teenagers, and small children who start to answers the doors with depleting candy bowls as the night goes on.

Eventually, our hunger catches us and we pull into a playground to lighten our bags for the walk home. Sitting on picnic tables, discarding wrapper after wrapper, I find this to be a great “young at heart” cinematic moment.

A cop car slowly drives down the street. With the ever present danger of minor scolding ahead we decide to head out, our stomachs full and our teeth sugared. “Mission accomplished, agents.” We peel of our plastic faces and continue to stuff them with chocolate. -Mike Berlin


A New Direction

I promise a full concert recap (with some freakin pictures and video) is on the way. To hold you over, here's a link to Matt Taibbi's election night column. He's been one of my favorite writers employed by a real magazine since his piece on John Kerry's robot publicity stunts 2 years ago. In other news, Rolling Stone still gives every cd three stars regardless of what the reviewer says. Well except for this.


Mailing it in

So. Election Day is tomorrow. I know I promised to give some reasons not to vote (the AARP's awesome, misleading commercial for www.dontvote.com caught my attention), but looking at my absentee ballot, I feel like the more important question is 'why the hell haven't I heard of anybody on this?' With 11 parties on the ballot I was familiar with where they generally stood. But the candidates? I knew they had names, and parties, and that was about it.

I flipped open this week's Ithacan and found a break-down of the midterm elections, and while there was a general summary of the latest scandals and a few sentences about the Democratic and Republican candidates, the rest of the candidates were relegated to the name-party combination I already had. Further in, I found an article arguing for not voting. While that idea, as you can probably tell, did cross my mind, the allure of mailing a letter was too much. So, as long as I was embracing the pretence of democracy, I figured why not give my vote to someone who I might actually agree with. Maybe if I was the only one they would send ME a letter.

So I did some research, which I am not going to share with you, but I do encourage everyone to google (the only research worthwhile) the Republican, Democratic, Independence, Conservative, Working Families, Green, Libertarian, Rent Is Too High, Socialist Workers, and Socialist Equality parties before tomorrow. Not that their websites will necessarily tell you the truth, but you might find something useful.

If you're voting absentee, it needs to be postmarked today at the latest, so you've either voted already or not (either way we can watch the exit poll results on tv and ponder over the futility of our efforts). If you want someone to tell you how to vote check out alt-weeklies the City Newspaper and the Ithaca Times for some decent ideas. The City's campaign for voters to write in REFORM for state assembly seems like a particularly good idea for the jaded.

If you don't care about politics, look for a full City on Film Show recap within the next few dates (with pictures and video). Read Popcorn Youth's interview with Bob Nanna. And if you're not sick of this yet, Bryan Kerwin's reflection on Elliot Smith is below. It's a little dated but what the hell.


Elliot Smith: Three Years Later
I credit one person with starting me on the path out of my blink-182 jones in high school – Elliott Smith. Like many people, I first became aware of Smith’s music thanks to Gus Van Sant and Good Will Hunting (you know, the movie where Matt Damon is good at math), and I was immediately drawn in. The sparse and haunting arrangements, the ghostly tremor of Elliott’s voice, the palpable angst – all the songs affected me in a way that pop-punk dick humor had yet to touch. I immediately went to the music store (and subsequently the internet) and collected as much Elliott as I could get my hands on.

When Smith passed away on October 21, 2003, I was a freshman in college, and it hit me right then that my generation had lost a great musician. We were too young to really absorb Cobain, but Elliott Smith was something of a contemporary, someone who was living and making music that distilled things about my life at the time I was living them. We all know the tendency of public opinion to inflate an artist’s importance after their death, especially if they died young, but this doesn’t apply to Smith – his genius was recognized every time he put out a record.

On the third anniversary of Smith’s suicide, we can look back at some of the things he left the world, most importantly, the music. Records like XO and Figure 8 still resonate as much now as when they were released, and I expect that’s a trend that will continue as new people discover them. There’s a clichéd sentiment that I will repeat here unabashedly: We’ll always have the music. Elliott’s family has also set up the Elliott Smith Memorial Fund, a charity organization that donates proceeds to Free Arts for Abused Children. For fans that have the same personal connection to his songs, and want to help out, check out www.sweetadeline.net for more information, and for tons of other stuff about Elliott Smith. -Bryan Kerwin


Election Issue!

So the Election Issue has been released. Pick up your copy either on the Ithaca College campus, one of our pickup locations around the Commons (No Radio Records and Junas come to mind), or at our Buzzsaw events, much like the one this SATURDAY. Just one correction I'd like to make: Joy Kucinkas wrote the excellent Little Miss Sunshine review in the most recent Election issue. By some demon force her name was erroneously omitted. I'm going to put a hold on the blog until the show this weekend is over, but when we come back get prepared for the ANTI-ELECTION blog entry. Yes, though the obvious reason why I will not be voting in this upcoming election is that the monroe county board of election has once again failed to mail me my requested absentee ballot, will I be able to ideologically support this bureaucratic bungle? Until Monday . . .

The City on Film, American Watercolor Movement, Skybox, I Need Sleep
Emerson Suites, Phillips Hall, Ithaca College, Ithaca, NY
All-ages. Tickets at the door: $5.

See you at the show.
-Andrew, MOC