Happy Halloween, kids! This year calls to mind that scene from The Muppet Family Christmas where Fozzi Bear meets the wise-cracking snowman.
The finacial meltdown is come and gone. The banks were destroyed, but in three days they rose again. We lost some auto dealers, and a lot of little people really got stomped. Things still kind of suck all over, but not like it looked like they were going to for a while there.
And now it all seems so twenty minutes ago. Things may not be looking up, but now they're not looking so far down, and it is in the nature of people who are not dead to just accept and keep moving.
The signs were already apparent last Halloween. U.S. Census Bureau statisics, watched so closely on these pages over past holidays for indications of the nation's mood swings, showed no discernable drop off in economic activity last year. Just as many trick or treaters. Just as much candy made and consumed, as many pumpkins grown and carved. Just as many costumes rented. Just as much booze bought and belted. No need to even post a chart. The pattern over the last four years looks just like a southern California weather report.
Is our fresh young President hailed as some hero who brought us together and pulled us back from the abyss armed only with a heartful of hope and a pocket full of miracles? No. Already he is taken for granted as merely the latest guy to get us bogged down in an intractable war. One more uppity Kenyan looking to take over the country. (Wait, didn't he already do that with the election?)
And you guys? Face it; in these tired and still uncertain times, no one's thinking much about the kids. You're going to have to be on your own for a little while here. Jobs, careers, families, lives, things like that will need to be put on hold for just a bit whilst we clean up.
Lucky for you, you're almost grown. And already old enough to go out and tie one on, as your elders will undoubtedly be doing, this Halloween. You'll have no trouble recognizing them in the bars and on the streets. They'll be the ones staggering around in costumes.
But no need to dispair. I'm sure most of your generation will be right back on track by middle age at the latest. Just remember: It's always darkest before the dawn. That which doesn't kill us makes us stronger. Time like an ever-raging stream bears all our sons away. Alright, that last one is probably a little off point.
Growing up in New Jersey, I used to be good friends with a girl (your father was good friends with a lot of girls) on whose fireplace was affixed a plaque that read thus. "Light your fire and never fear. Life was made for love and cheer."
I used to think it was kind of sappy and would tease her about it. But the quote comes from a poem by Henry Van Dyke (1852–1933), who was a fair poet, and the poem, which I've only recently run down, expresses a sentiment pretty consistent with values I've tried to impart to you, at least during the Christmas season when I encourage all at our table to speak their minds and drink to excess.
Its title is "For The Friends At Hurstmont," and it goes like this.
Words to live by. Have yourself a good time this All Hallows Eve (All Saints Day Eve; yes, yes, Christian nomenclature), however you choose to spend it. Try to hand out more treats than tricks, and if you do imbibe, try to keep some of your capacity in reserve. Don't leave it all on the barroom floor. Remember, Christmas is coming.
A parting observation. In these furious, modern times, it often seems that those who fall the farthest rise the fastest, whether measured in trades processed on the floor of the NYSE or in smiles on the faces encountered in the bonus-laden corridors at Goldman Sachs. You know I'm proud of all of you in the career choices you've made, but it isn't too late for any of you to consider a career in investment banking.
And now, tonight's top stories ....
Police prepare for weekend-long Halloween celebration
September 22, 2009
By Jennifer Squires, Mercury News
SANTA CRUZ -- Halloween may be a scary sight in downtown Santa Cruz this year.
Although police again are preparing to have every officer on duty for the impromptu celebration that takes over Pacific Avenue each Oct. 31, the combination of budget cuts and the day Halloween falls on -- Saturday, this year -- could create a crazy atmosphere.
Since 2005, the year eight young men were stabbed during a street party, the city has spent $25,000 to $35,000 annually on a bilingual regional media campaign that reached as far as Santa Barbara, Fresno and Sacramento, according to police spokesman Zach Friend.
That funding was axed earlier this year, leaving police to rely on word-of-mouth and the residual effect of the crackdown in years past.
"The best that we can hope for is that information from previous years will carry over," Friend said.
The event draws about 25,000 people -- most in costume and many intoxicated -- to downtown every fall. The fact the holiday falls on a Saturday means more out-of-towners may be drawn to the rancorous event.
"We're assuming it will be a weekend-long party," Friend said. "Our goal is to try to allow people to have fun but we don't want people to get hurt."
Today the Santa Cruz City Council will consider and is expected to approve temporary "safety enhancement zones" downtown for the weekend of Halloween.
That would mean people who violate city ordinances, like being drunk in public, from Friday night to Sunday morning would have to pay triple the normal fine. The increased fines have been used for past Halloweens, as well as Fourth of July and New Year's holidays with some success, according to Friend.
Signs promoting those fines, as well as the parking restrictions and street closures will go up downtown and at UC Santa Cruz in early October.
"In recent years, we have helped the city spread the word about Halloween-night problems downtown and about the city's efforts to curtail those problems. We're planning similar communications with our students this year," campus spokesman Jim Burns said in an e-mail. "Our Student Affairs staff will also be working with UCSC's residential colleges to design alternative events on campus. And, students involved in UCSC's Good Neighbor Internship Program will be posting the city's triple fine' posters at campus bus stops and distributing them to our student residential buildings."
Although there is no money for the media campaign, the police department still has the means to cover overtime for officers over the weekend. There will additional cops on the street from Friday night to early Sunday, including officers from other police agencies such as the California Highway Patrol, the county Probation Department and the state Parole Office, Friend said. UCSC police will send five cops downtown Saturday night, according to Burns.
The extra cops on the street are to keep a lid on violence, especially gang-related incidents. The costumed chaos will be allowed, but police want to keep things under control. In recent years, there have been gang-related fist fights and man fell through a plate glass window and was badly cut.
Some downtown business owners are confident in the Police Department's effort to keep the party at a reasonable, safe level.
"The last several years it feels like the police have managed the scene very well given the amount of people we have downtown and the festivities," said Chip, the head of the Downtown Association who only uses a first name. "There's only so much we can do to prepare."
Taylor Swift Makes A Point In 'Hard-Core' Chewbacca Halloween Costume
By Jocelyn Vena, MTV.com
Taylor Swift might be a girly girl — frequently photographed wearing sparkly dresses and heels, with her hair perfectly curled — but when it comes to Halloween, Swift wonders why girls decide to be so provocative for the creepy holiday.
That's why she decided to go wacky instead of sexy last year.
"I think my most memorable Halloween costume was last year's Halloween costume. My best friend Abigail and I have always been sort of anti-teeny-tiny, little costumes," she said in an interview with CMT. "And so last year, Abigail and I dressed up as twin Chewbaccas, which was an actual Halloween costume."
She easily made her way around town as the "Star Wars" character without being spotted, since she was completely covered. "I got, like, the special-edition c ostumes," she said. "It was hard-core. It was really exciting for me."
The singer, who re-released her Fearless album this week, said it was just the right costume — even if people didn't really get it. "It was really, really wonderful. I just am never going to forget it. There was lots of Chewbacca noises being made," she said. "People were like, 'You're an abominable snowman.' I'm like, 'It's Chewbacca!' "
Plus, she wanted to make sure she kept with her mantra of not being sexy on what's supposed to be a scary holiday. "I felt all the girls in our school kind of used Halloween as an excuse to take all their clothes off and parade around," she said. "They would tan weeks in advance so that they could bare it all on Halloween. I'm like, 'That's not the point.' You're supposed to be scary."
Crowdsourcing Your Candy This Halloween
By Geoffrey A. Fowler, Wall Street Journal
Geeks and ghouls rejoice: The Internet has come up with a way to boost your Halloween haul.
The folks at Zillow.com have created their first Trick or Treat Housing Index, which draws on the site’s real estate data to determine the top-five neighborhoods in Seattle and Los Angeles to maximize candy intake this Saturday.
How’d they do that? “There is a common belief that wealthy neighborhoods are the Holy Grail for harvesting the most Halloween candy,” blogs Zillow’s Whitney Tyner. But to provide what it calls a more holistic approach, Zillow factored in home values alongside additional data on population density, neighborhood walkability, and local crime. “Based on those variables, this Index represents neighborhoods that will provide the most candy, with the least walking, and minimum safety risks,” she wrote.
In Seattle, the neighborhood of Wallingford came out on top. In LA, it was Venice. Alas, Zillow hasn’t calculated its index for other cities.
Top 2009 Halloween costumes: Dead celebrities
By Jessica Dickler, CNNMoney.com
NEW YORK -- In a year marked by some shocking celebrity deaths, Halloween feels even more macabre.
Recently deceased stars like Michael Jackson and Farrah Fawcett are popular choices this year. Other hot costumes include vampires and Kate Gosselin.
One of the spookiest aspects of Halloween 2009 is its heavy reliance on recent obituaries, most notably the passing of the King of Pop.
"When you go to a party there will be a person dressed as Michael Jackson, no doubt," said Jalem Getz, president and CEO of Buyseasons Inc., the parent company of BuyCostumes.com.
Searches for the costume, which generally includes tight black pants, a leather jacket and, of course, a glittering glove, have gone up more than a 1000%, according to Getz.
Other popular dead celebrity costumes include Farrah Fawcett, Ed McMahon and infomercial pitchman Billy Mays.
Heath Ledger-inspired Joker costumes, as well as the Dark Knight, may also reappear this year.
Meanwhile, diehard Twilight and True Blood fans have breathed new life into classic vampire attire, and reality celebs John and Kate Gosselin will likely be well represented on the trick or treat circuit.
"People like to be current," Getz said of the current top choices. And no matter how grim, "we don't judge our customers," he added.
Also trendy this year? Saving money. According to the National Retail Federation's 2009 Halloween Consumer Intentions and Actions Survey, total Halloween spending is estimated to fall 18% to $4.75 billion, down from $5.77 billion last year.
Robert McCorkle, the manager of costumes at NY-based costume retailer Abracadabra, says that instead of buying packaged costumes, more people are piecing together looks with accessories and clothes from their closet, particularly when it comes to 60s, 70s and 80s costumes.
But that mentality has taken a noticeable bite out of costume retailers' bottom lines, including Abracadabra's. "Last year we were doing good around this time, with $5,400 at the end of the day, this year it's more like $3,200 to $3,400," McCorkle said of their daily revenue.
"The economy has caught up to Halloween this year," Tracy Mullin, president and CEO of the National Retail Federation, said in a statement. "Since retailers know that Americans will be looking to celebrate on a budget, there's no doubt we will see creative costume and decorating ideas in every price point imaginable."
The report found that the average consumer plans to spend $56.31 on Halloween merchandise this year, down from $66.54 in 2008.
Consumers plan to spend an average of $20.75 on costumes, which includes children's and pets' costumes, $17.99 on candy, $14.54 on decorations and $3.02 on greeting cards.
Halloween stores pop up in old retail haunts
October 26, 2009
The Associated Press and The Dallas Morning News (Maria Halkias)
The recession hasn't been so scary for Halloween stores. In fact, they're finding better haunts in the graveyards of failed retailers.
A family tries on costumes at a Spirit Halloween store in New York. Because Halloween falls on a Saturday this year - the best day, according to those in the industry, because more adults throw parties - retailers are hoping for brisk business.The seasonal sellers are taking advantage of the spate of retail bankruptcies and closings to open more – and larger – temporary stores this year in better locations. It adds up to an aggressive bid to capture cautious consumers' dollars in an industry that has grown rapidly over the past decade.
Halloween USA increased the number of temporary stores it has opened in the Dallas-Fort Worth area to 22 from 14 last year. The company has taken over a vacant Linens 'N Things on MacArthur Boulevard in Irving, space on Mockingbird Lane in Dallas that had been a Horchow Finale and a former Old Navy on Josey Lane in Carrollton.
Other stores are open in Arlington, Cedar Hill, Garland, Grapevine, Hurst, Irving, McKinney, Richardson and Plano. Because Halloween falls on a Saturday this year – the best day, according to those in the industry, because more adults throw parties – retailers are hoping for brisk business.
Despite the recession, market research firm IBISWorld Inc. expects 2009 sales for costumes and decor to rise 3 percent from last year, to $3.8 billion. Pennsylvania-based Halloween Adventure CEO Joe Purifico confirmed sales were "trending up" as the company headed into the important two-week stretch before Halloween.
But seasonal retailers – which make about 70 percent of their sales in September and October – face tough competition for market share from lower-priced retailers such as Target Corp. and Wal-Mart Stores Inc., so visibility is key.
The stores say they're not really saving much on rent, but spending similar amounts to get better locations.
Empty retail space from the closings of Circuit City, Mervyns, Linens 'N Things and Home Depot's Expo Design Center have given the temporary stores plenty to work with.
Suzanne Mulvee, senior economist at Property & Portfolio Research, estimates that there is 269 million more square feet in vacant retail space – the equivalent of about more than 5,000 full-size Best Buys – across the country compared with a year ago. That gives retailers bargaining power, she said.
"A year ago they were in the corner of the mall, where no one went to," she said. "Now there are all these choices."