Friday, October 23, 2015

Halloween Staff Picks: Candy guide, Oakland Cemetery, China Mieville, Ganksta N-I-P and more

Posted By , , , , and on Fri, Oct 23, 2015 at 4:04 PM

click to enlarge "I'm Not Scared"
  • "I'm Not Scared"

Arkansas Times Recommends is a weekly series in which Times staff members (or whoever happens to be around at the time) highlight things we've been enjoying this week.

I recommend some light frights from the Italian film "I'm Not Scared," which you can get on Netflix streaming. It is pretty and it is spooky. Sprooky. — David Ramsey

The irony of people thinking there's ghosts in the cemetery, somebody told me once, is that while there are plenty of dead folks in your average boneyard, very few of them probably shuffled off their mortal coil INSIDE the cemetery — which, if I remember my superstitious bullshit correctly, is how ghosts get attached to a place to begin with. That said, the dead do speak, and if we want to understand where we're going as a city, a community and a species, we should probably listen. To that end, my Halloween pick is the free cell phone tour of the storied Oakland & Fraternal Cemetery, at 2101 Barber Street in East Little Rock. Founded in 1860, Oakland & Fraternal is one of the city's largest graveyards, containing the mortal remains of scores of the famous and infamous lost to the misty fog of time. While looking at the tombs there is aesthetically pleasing — the Victorians, that dark and moody lot, sure could get up to building a quality sepulcher — Oakland's cell phone tour allows a visitor to get the historical background on the people planted below by calling in on their cell phone, and then either walking or driving from stop to stop. Behold as enlightening and surprising information about Little Rock high rollers of yore arises from the speaker of your phone like the scabby claws of the flesh-hungry dead. They're coming to get you, Barbara, and they're bringing burial custom trivia. For a history geek looking for some Halloween fun, it's a real treat. — David Koon

Every Halloween I try and pay tribute to the true pioneer of horror rap, Houston rapper Ganksta N-I-P, whose dedication to the grotesque and indecent approached a kind of transcendence. A partial list of his album titles: "The South Park Psycho," "Psychotic Genius," "Interview with a Killa," "Psycho Thug," "The Return of the Psychopath," "Still Psycho." His first album was released in 1992 — it sold 100,000 copies without a radio single. There couldn't have been a radio single, because it is without exaggeration, jarringly, line by line, and without interruption, horrifying. He's the kind of rapper who brags about drinking goats' blood and eating brains. Other rappers might threaten you, but N-I-P will threaten your kids, or your cats. This isn't some kind of weird juggalo thing either: He's a Houston rap legend, a friend and frequent collaborator of the Geto Boys. Start with his first record, which is a classic. — Will Stephenson


I know anything is possible but if you can top this costume for Most Obviously Phallic and Most Subtly Phallic and Most Off-Putting costume, you win. I recommend you try. — Bryan Moats

Because we’re all obsessed with categories, the books written by London author China Mieville are sometimes called “New Weird.” It’s a label meant to connote early 20th-century macabre writers like H.P. Lovecraft, in a time before speculative fiction had fully calcified into the genres of horror and fantasy and science fiction. Mieville has none of Lovecraft’s raging, child-like Anglo-Saxon chauvinism, but he’s got the same brilliance for pushing well beyond the boundaries of the uncanny and heading straight for the mountains of madness. I suggest you read his 2000 novel “Perdido Street Station,” which takes a machete to the suffocating (and thoroughly conservative) elf-and-dragon tropes of D&D fantasy, constructing in its place a metropolis writhing with poverty and crime, corruption and class struggle, sexual and mercantile predation, dream-devouring parasites and robot insurrection and apocalyptic insect cults, decay and life.

In an interview Mieville did that same year, he was asked to assess J.R.R. Tolkien, the all-revered patriarch of modern fantasy. “Tolkien's worldview was resolutely rural, petty bourgeois, conservative, anti-modernist, misanthropically Christian and anti-intellectual,” Mieville said. “In Tolkien, the reader is intended to be consoled by the idea that systemic problems come from outside agitators, and that decent people happy with the way things were will win in the end. This is fantasy as literary comfort food.” Get discomfited; pick up some China Mieville this Halloween. — Benji Hardy

Of all the frightening things that come with Halloween, perhaps nothing is more terrifying than bad candy. I’m not here to pass judgement, but nobody wants to be that person on the block giving out terrible candy — better you just hide in your bedroom with all the lights off and the television on low. But don’t fret: We’re here to help with this official tiered guide:

Gold Tier: First things first — some people maintain that the best Halloween candy is full-size candy bars, but that simply isn’t the case. Giving out full-sized candy is ostentatious, and it makes your neighbors look bad. In addition, the philosophy behind Halloween candy should be “death by a thousand cuts,” not immediate sugar overload. So the “fun size” versions of candy like Snickers, Kit Kat and Twix bars are the true gold standard. Mix things up—throw some Sour Patch Kids, Twizzlers and small packages of Skittles into the mix for people like me who prefer fruit candy over chocolate.

  • Disgusting.

Silver Tier: Being cost-conscious on Halloween means buying your candy in bulk, usually in huge variety pack bags. The downside to doing things this way is that you’re going to wind up with some also-ran candies mixed in with the good stuff. Giving out things like Almond Joys, Whoppers or little boxes of Milk Duds is perfectly acceptable, though, especially if you mix it up with some Lemon Heads, Sour Punch Straws or Airheads. Keep in mind that Airheads and Laffy Taffy are not the same, and should not be treated as equals.

Questionable Tier: This level of candy includes things like fruit-flavored Tootsie Rolls, non-Jelly Belly jellybeans and the Halloween version of the Cadbury Crème Egg. Candy of this sort is acceptable in only one instance: Toward the end of the night when you have either given out or eaten all of the good candy. By that time, people should be happy with what they get.

Never Tier: Unfortunately, this is the type of candy that makes up the majority of most people’s Halloween haul. Candy corn, Smarties and Necco Wafers are part of this group, and should never be handed out under and circumstances. Also falling into the “never tier” are candies like Sixlets, individual boxes of raisins and those weird chewy peanut butter candies wrapped in black or orange paper that somehow mysteriously appear at this time of year and hide the rest of the time. Have some self-respect and avoid these at all costs.

In closing, it should also go without saying that pennies, apples, unwrapped prepared foods and religious tracts are unacceptable as Trick-or-Treat items. You’re inviting the wrath of sugar-crazed children with any of these things, and while we can’t condone vandalism … well, just don’t do it. Happy Halloween. — Michael Roberts

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