Happy Halloween, kids! It's the 8th anniversary of our virtually spooky get-togethers. I don't know why I bother. This year 66.6% of you are just the other side of your bedroom doors. And if I really needed the input or output of the other 33.3%, it's less than a day's drive away. Plus, you're all eternally availabe online. Or I could even tweet you. (I have an account, but not even I think I have that much to say.) Old habits die hard. I always knew this was more for me than for you. You probably did, too.
This year's offering, sadly, marks a third straight year of discouraging economic news. Acutally things have been getting slowly better over the past three years, but nobody wants to hear that stuff. The country's in an awful snit.
It's not entirely clear why. Most people are comfortably employed. The market's up for the second straight year. Housing starts, manufacturing activity, GDP, consumer spenidng, all inching up, according to the Fed's October Beige Book report. Rail car loadings, private sector job creation, you name it, all up. Government spending in FY'10 was one thing that went down, only slightly, and so was the deficit. But it's all too slow, and too many people can't find work. And won't for a while. And too many people are losing their houses. And will for a while.
It's a great time to be rich though. If you've got money, just about everything else is cheap and easy, including evidently our votes. (Between '02 and '07, two-thirds of all income gains went to the top 1% of U.S. households, according to The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, and they held a larger share of income than at any time since 1928.)
Admittedly, It's a bad time to be poor, but when is a good time? And of course, you kids are still screwed. It's a bad time to be looking for your first job. Being new is just as marginal as being poor. But a local career consultant recently told The Charlotte Observer, “I can tell you that, much to my surprise, senior-level folks are changing jobs with ease.”
As I taught you so many times during your formative years, all we can do in the face of such troublingly unfair and contradictory indicators is, well, just to party.
Over 148 million Americans are expected to take part in some sort of Halloween celebration this year, according to the National Retail Foundation's 2010 Halloween Consumer Intentions and Actions Survey, And they're expected to spend more this year, comparable to 2008 levels.
“In recent years, Halloween has provided a welcome break from reality, allowing many Americans a chance to escape from the stress the economy has put on their family and incomes,” proclaims NRF head Matthew Shay. Well, everybody knows the economy could benefit from more consumer spending. Maybe this is the thing to pull us out of our long, sad funk.
Where will the money go? On a per-person basis, Costumes: $23.37; Candy: $20.29; Decorations: $18.66; greeting cards: $3.95. The NRF figures Halloween should pump $5.8 billion into the economy, hardly candy corn.
By my calculus, 148 million people spending an average of $66.28 should get you a larger windfall, more like $9.8 billion. Guess some of those folks still aren't wholeheartedly committed to making this recovery happen. The lengths some people will go to to see Obama fail. Or maybe, in that way that marketing people have, all the survey was really trying to say was that the $66.28 figure was just the average among people who were planning to spend $66.28 this year. (I think I've already snuck about that much in candy out of the bags mommy brought home a while ago and thinks she hid away.)
By the way, Americans will buy 50.7 million cases of beer for Halloween, more than they do for the Super Bowl and just slightly less than for Christmas and Thanksgiving. (The Nielsen Co.: two-week case sales.) Ah, autumn. It's my kind of season. Sometimes, I wonder if maybe what got us out of the Great Depression wasn't the repeal of Prohibition (1933)
Have fun out there tonight, guys. Just avoid the crazy people. No truck with Republicans 'til after All Souls' Day.
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Halloween House Goes Too Far, Neighbors Say
October 20, 2010
WKBN, Youngstown, Ohio
Dressing up your house with ghouls and ghosts for Halloween is nothing new, but some say a display in Niles is so disturbing they plan to protest it Wednesday afternoon.
The house on North Main Street is filled with baby dolls painted with blood and nails pounded in their heads, while others are dismembered. There's a sign on the display that reads "After Death Dollcare."
Residents have complained to the city zoning inspector asking him to force owner Krista Smith to take it down. City officials say there is nothing they can do because they would have to force everybody to take down their Halloween displays.
A neighborhood protest is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. Wednesday.
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.
Ghosts Aren't Nearly as Frightening as These Characters
By Elizabeth Holmes, The Wall Street Journal
Jersey Shore's Snooki, 'DJ Pauly D' Top Costumes; 'I Got a Distinct Look'
What's the scariest part of Halloween this year?
"Jersey Shore" costumes are topping many retailers' lists as the most popular outfit of the season.
It's the first Halloween since the notorious MTV reality show featuring a pack of raucous Italian-American 20-somethings began airing last December. Costumes based on Snooki's poofy hair and "The Situation's" rippled abs have been flying off store shelves.
This Halloween, costumes based on "Jersey Shore" stars Snooki, DJ Pauly D and The Situation are flying off the shelves. WSJ's Elizabeth Holmes reports.
"We've been going back to the vendors and reordering as much as we possibly can," says Kym Sarkos, vice president of merchandise for Spirit Halloween, a division of Spencer Gifts LLC, which predicts the costumes will be the top-selling get-up at more than 870 temporary Halloween stores this year.
Jersey Shore characters surpassed Lady Gaga to become the No. 1 Halloween costume chosen by young adults ages 18 to 24, according to a poll of 6,000 people by Brand Keys, a New York brand consultant. Other top sellers this year: Avatar characters, President Barack Obama, Iron Man and Buzz Lightyear.
MTV Networks, seeing the burgeoning potential of the adult Halloween costume market, launched its first reality-show costume line this year for Jersey Shore. Executives say they tried to reproduce the characters as accurately as possible.
"I got, like, a very distinct look," says Paul "DJ Pauly D" DelVecchio about the authenticity of the official Pauly D lacquered and sprayed hairpiece.
Mr. DelVecchio said he didn't care if people were buying the costumes to make fun of him. "Either good or bad, if you're talking about me, you're still talking about me," he said. "It's, like, free promotion."
Retailers who are selling out of the official Pauly D and Snooki wigs and other authorized wear are coming up with makeshift Jersey Halloween packages.
In a pinch, they're finding that they can put together a pretty good Snooki kit with skin bronzer, furry pink slippers, and one of last year's unsold Amy Winehouse wigs, imitating the troubled singer's beehive do.
Jersey Shore-themed Halloween parties have swept college campuses and young adult festivities. Party invitations often call for hair gel, spray tans and bikinis. Italian food, spiked punch and temporary tattoos are suggested by several websites advising viewers how to host a Jersey Shore party.
She hasn't worn a costume in nine years but is dressing up as Snooki this Halloween.
Elizabeth Wilson, a 31-year-old attorney who lives in Corsicana, Texas, outside Dallas, is a self-described "J. Crew, Marc Jacobs, Burberry girl." But she's looking forward to donning a little dress and big hoop earrings for a night. "It's just an escape," she says.
Reality show characters have long been costume fodder for fans. Last year, mother of eight Kate Gosselin inspired a spate of unauthorized spiky wigs, while reality show star and rapper Flavor Flav spawned a rash of unofficial rapper kits.
With Jersey Shore, MTV decided to do its own line as a way to eke out more revenue from the thriving franchise. And no wonder. As Halloween becomes an increasingly big holiday, the adult costume market has exploded. It is projected to reach almost $1 billion this season, surpassing expectations for the children's market of $800 million, according to the National Retail Federation.
In an effort to make the Jersey Shore costumes as realistic as possible, Viacom Inc. executives scrutinized the length of Nicole "Snooki" Polizzi's skirt—very short—and the height of her poof wig—very high—to ensure the utmost accuracy. The Snooki costume includes a metallic leopard-print dress that is barely longer than a shirt.
"When you look at what Snooki wears on the show, sometimes there are some wardrobe malfunctions because of how short she likes her dresses," says Sherice Torres, senior vice president for MTV Networks Global Home Entertainment and Adult Brand Licensing. "We needed the costume to be representative."
Jersey Shore, which initially drew criticism for what some called its disparaging depiction of Italian Americans, nevertheless became a hit, drawing 4.8 million viewers for its first season finale in January. The big numbers throughout the season, as well as the show's tenor, made licensing worthwhile, Ms. Torres said.
MTV teamed up with Rubie's Costume Co., based in Richmond Hill, N.Y. and decided to make costumes for three of the show's eight cast members: Ms. Polizzi, Michael "The Situation" Sorrentino and Mr. DelVecchio.
They each had "standout characteristics," Ms. Torres said.
Indeed, for the muscular male characters, Rubie's had a leg up: It holds a worldwide patent for vacuum-formed muscle chests. The company generally uses the muscles for its Superman and Batman costumes. For Mr. Sorrentino, the costume features flesh-colored foam abs with a shirt on top so wearers can imitate Mr. Sorrentino's trademark abdominal flash.
Rubie's biggest challenge was copying Mr. DelVecchio's combed-up hair, which he himself spends as long as 25 minutes styling. Originally, MTV asked for a molded hairpiece so that it would perfectly hold its shape.
But the prototype "looked too much like a cartoon character," Ms. Torres said. Four or five iterations later, including different combinations of hairspray and lacquer, Rubie's achieved the proper stand-up aesthetic.
The cast members didn't have direct approval on the costume designs, Ms. Torres said, but they receive an undisclosed cut of anything that uses their likeness.
For the record, Snooki herself has said she plans to dress up as her favorite food: a pickle.
Not everybody is a fan of the Jersey Shore phenomenon.
Scott Morris, president of Morris Costumes, one of the nation's largest distributors of Halloween costumes, said the Jersey Shore costumes he had in stock are sold out.
But Mr. Morris, the 51-year-old son of a circus ringmaster who considers himself something of a costume connoisseur, said he wasn't impressed with Jersey Shore getup, the characters, or reality television in general.
"You ask yourself, 'Why is any of that stuff popular?'" he said.
So, who are you wearing for Halloween this year?
By Olivia Barker, USA TODAY
Costume retailers have a situation on their hands this Halloween. Yep, Mike "The Situation" Sorrentino, the Jersey Shore star with the 16-pack, has fist-pumped his way to the front of the celebrity costume pack, along with his castmates Nicole "Snooki" Polizzi and Paul "DJ Pauly D" DelVecchio.
Also topping the lists of got-to-have-'em getups are a gaggle of Lady Gagas, from the blue monokini-ed Gaga of the Poker Face video to the Old Glory bikini-ed Gaga of Telephone. The Jersey Shore housemates and the platinum pop star are the most coveted costumes among 18- to 24-year-olds, according to a recent poll by Brand Keys, a research consultancy firm.
Feeling mischievous but a little more modest? BuyCostumes is selling a "Golden Betty" kit that's a homage to everyone's favorite octogenarian, Betty White, complete with Barbara Bush wig and pearls and a set of fake saggy breasts.
There are the season's folk heroes. Fans of Steven Slater — the ex-JetBlue flight attendant with the memorable quitting method — can pick from multiple outfits, including one with a fake, Oktoberfest-style beer stein (in some cases, they'll need to supply their own Band-Aid).
Bad boys, and girls, sell well
And then there are the anti-heroes, from Tiger Woods— a manufacturer has churned out a visor capped by a fake golf club, dubbed "Cheetah Woods" — to, yet again, Lindsay Lohan, this time done up in prison garb à la Martha Stewart a few years back.
Still, expect most parties and parades to be dominated by those accidental heroes from Jersey Shore. The response to molded muscle shirts and brown pouf wigs has been "phenomenal," says Todd Kenig, chairman of the Ricky's NYC chain, which also sells costumes online. (Helping the sales situation: Sorrentino's turn on this season's Dancing With the Stars.) "No one takes them seriously, so it's a very funny costume to wear." No one, including themselves: Last month, DelVecchio bought his own spiky-haired likeness from an iParty store in Lincoln, R.I., his home state, and posted a YouTube video of himself, in his costume — his choice for an outfit for Oct. 31.
Goo-goo for Gaga
If the Jersey Shore stars have their stock looks, there are as many Gaga costumes for sale as there are, well, Gaga costumes for show (on red carpets, in videos, at award shows). "It's probably infinite what you can do," says Steven Silverstein, CEO of Spirit Halloween stores, which is selling four full costumes and three wigs. The top tresses? Gaga's Poker Face bow-bedecked 'do.
"You'll see 30 to 50 Gagas" Halloween night, predicts Kenig. (Another, less flamboyant pop star who's popping up? Justin Bieber, in the form of last year's Bruno wig, which is backordered at Ricky's.) One Gaga look that revelers will have to be more creative about: her infamous meat dress from the MTV Video Music Awards. Kenig tried to have a steak-silkscreened costume made up but couldn't get it done in time. "I guarantee there will be somebody who went to the pet store and bought the little dog chew toys with the fake meat on them" and pinned them all over their body. BuyCostumes already had a an oversized T-bone steak outfit in their inventory, so they're pushing it as half of a couple's Gaga costume: He's the meat and she's the lady in red lace. According to customer feedback, "people are excited about it," says Dan Haight, COO of parent company BuySeasons. "It's a lot better than wearing steak on your head."
Other of-the-moment pop cultural offerings on the site: a sock monkey that honors one of the stars of the Kia Sorento spot, and an "Insurance Enthusiast" costume that celebrates Flo, the eager Progressive insurance ad lady.