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What’s Scarier?


There are no wrong answers to our Halloween quiz


By Tobin Hack



Do we even need Halloween this year? There’s certainly no dearth of things to be afraid of these days, what with the election creeping neigh, sickly coral reefs kicking the bucket, home foreclosures rates rising as quickly as the Dow plummets, and BPA studies telling us we may have poisoned the next generation with toxin-leeching baby bottles. We could probably skip the junk-tastic holiday altogether and feel quite tremulous enough, thanks. But since Halloween’s here whether we need it or not—though we might, if we reach complete financial meltdown by 4pm Eastern—it seemed like a fun experiment to see how various Halloween-related terrors stack up against their environmental counterparts, horror-wise. By “fun,” of course, we mean “morbidly depressing.” Enjoy.

WHAT’S SCARIER...

Sarah Palin or Global Warming?

This is a tough one, since they have so much in common. Both communicate in ways that can often seem vague, mysterious, offensive, alarming, and even harmful to society. Both are alternately hot and cold, and make you think of Alaska. Both have big hair—if we can, for a moment, compare Palin’s signature up-do to an out-of-season cloud or hurricane. Both use unfair vantage points to hit defenseless, unsuspecting targets: Just as Palin shoots wolves from planes, Global Warming slams the poorest and most vulnerable among us with floods and famine. Also, both keep an eye on Russia.

Yet there are differences. Palin shops at Saks and other high end department stores, for example, while Global Warming is perfectly happy to just put on whatever’s lying around. Also, Global Warming recently starred in an Al Gore film, while Palin is more likely to wind up in a Michael Moore film.

The winner? Palin—by the simple logic that Sarah Palin (in office) would almost certainly result in more global warming, while global warming will not, so far as we know, result in more Sarah Palin.

High fructose corn syrup in candy, or razor blades in Halloween candy?

Pesticides and high fructose corn syrup win this scare-off, hands down. A razor blade is something you will definitely notice in your food. Pesticides and high fructose corn syrup, on the other hand, are stealth masters—the Jedi Knights of food-like foodstuffs—and they’re killing us sweetly. They sneak up on you when you least expect it. They hide out in processed food items that pose as healthy, such as vitamin-enriched fruit juices and whole-grain snack crackers. Next thing you know: BAM—Obesity, diabetes, heart disease, you name it.

Vampire movies from the '80s, or “vampire power”?

Let’s take the George Hamilton vehicle that was Love at First Bite, to illustrate the former. The movie’s final lines:

Cindy (played by Susan Saint James, having just decided to let her vampire lover turn her into a vampire): “Oh, this isn't so hard. I think I'm going to love immortality.”

Count Dracula: “There is one small disadvantage. We can only live by night.”

Cindy: “Oh, that's all right with me. I mean, I could never really get my shit together till 7:00, anyway.”

So, pretty scary that someone actually put those lines to paper. But wait, vampire power is scary too! Vampire power (or phantom power) is when an appliance you’ve plugged in draws energy from the socket or surge protector, even when the device isn’t turned on or in use. All appliances do this. Yes, even yours. That means if you leave your cell phone charger plugged into the wall when you leave for work in the morning, it’s going to suck the blood from our free economy (and your wallet) all day long. It’s estimated that consumers and businesses lose anywhere between 1 and 3.5 billion dollars per year to vampire power. And here’s another scary stat for you: 40 percent of microwaves use more power in standby mode than they do actually cooking food.

Still, George Hamilton wins this round. Scary as vampire power is, you can put a stop to it,  by plugging your appliances into an energy-saving power strip like Smart Strip, and flipping the kill switch whenever possible. Hamilton, however, lives on. Forever. No matter how many Smart Strips you buy, and no matter how many hours you spend shuffling around on all fours trying to re-route thirty-seven power cords to them.

Naked Cowboy in Times Square, or the thousands of lame costumes-in-a-bag that are going to stumble in and out of fratastic Halloween parties nationwide tonight?

This is another tough one. On the one hand, the Naked Cowboy plays an acoustic guitar and gets around mainly in his skivvies. Very green, very environmentally not-frightening. On the other hand, his strange power over naive tourists is a terrifying thing to behold, and cops will literally direct traffic around him at rush hour.

But costumes-in-a-bag are pretty scary, too. They create tons of plastic and synthetic waste (can you can think of a way to re-use a beer-drenched Little Red Riding Hood getup, or a Sarah Palin mask?), and cause innocent drunk people to inhale PVC fumes for hours straight. There’s nothing redeeming about them, actually, unless you really enjoy looking like Cinderella with loose morals and smelling like a new carpet.

So Naked Cowboy takes the gold, for pretty much the same reason that George Hamilton did. You can make the choice to walk past the trashy costume store this year, and finally use your brain to come up with a better outfit (click here if you need inspiration). But once you’ve seen the Naked Cowboy, you will never, ever be able to erase the image of his eerily faux-tanned, tangerine skin from your mind. 

Friday the 13th of any year, or November 4th 2008?

First, the obvious: Friday the 13th happens once, twice, or three times  a year, while November 4th 2008 will happen only once (time travel notwithstanding). So, quantity-wise, Friday the 13th is technically scarier. Also, Friday the 13th (of August 1926, to be exact) produced Fidel Castro, who is scary to lots of Americans. And everyone knows that Friday the 13th is up there with Christmas and Valentines’ Day as one of the leading causes of horrifyingly bad movies in America.

Then again, the Dutch Centre for Insurance Statistics says that people get into fewer car accidents on Friday the 13th, presumably because they’re feeling karma-sensitive. Whereas we forecast a rise in car accidents on November 4th of this year, caused by excitable Democrats who will be either blindly elated, or on their way to Canada, like so many bats out of hell.