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Fierce Anticipation: The 1st Annual 3rd Weekend of October Extra-long Edition


A blogumn by Ryan Dixon

(Surgeon General’s Warning: May Cause Hemorrhoids if Read on the Toilet)


Haunted Houses

Halloween is here and that means it’s time to make the pilgrimage to haunted houses. Here are the three must-visit haunted destinations in Southern California:

Spooky House Haunted Theme Park (Chatsworth, CA): Looks can be deceiving. Despite the fact that it’s stuck in an old strip-mall in Chatsworth, this two-attraction complex offers more scares per dollar than any other haunted park in So Cal.

Halloween Horror Nights (Universal Studios): Even with a host of complex rebates that make the bailout plan look like a first grade math problem, H.H.N. remains one of the most expensive haunted destinations, but it does offer the best production value, even though the amount of time waiting in line is often far more frightening than the attractions.

Shipwreck at the Queen Mary (Long Beach, CA): There’s nothing scarier than a haunted ocean liner, unless of course you find yourself walking up Long Beach’s post-apocalyptic Anaheim St. at night and confront a group of East Side Longos asking for trick-or-treat candy by putting a glock to your head.

Since moving to Los Angeles my knowledge of other haunted destinations across the Heartland has diminished, but the rest of you have the great opportunity to explore one of the over 500 Hell Houses currently populating our nation. Instead of the usual black light encased rooms featuring the paranormal pantheon of ghouls, ghosts and guys who volunteer only to cop a multitude of free feels from unsuspecting nubile girls, Hell House’s provide Middle America with a litany of “Terrors from the Coasts” meant to scare the Jesus into you. Gay wedding chapels, suicide rave rooms and aborted fetus monsters make up just a small dose of the proselytizing set-pieces you will encounter. With games like “Pin the Sin on Jesus” and the chance to save your own soul by joining a prayer group, the average admission price of $20 is a heavenly bargain.

KINDA WANNA READ (To My Nonexistent Kids)

History Maker Bios
Good news parents. The next time your child says, “Mommy, tell me a story about Richard Nixon” you’ll be able to satiate his or her bedtime demands with Barnes & Noble’s new, non-partisan line of History Maker Bios for kids. While the majority of the subjects (Lincoln, Washington, Roosevelt, et al.) are mostly dull, stately affairs, the series proves to be an unexpected delight by detailing the various dirty deeds of our more shady national characters with an almost haiku-like simplicity. For example, has there ever been a more clearly wrought explanation of Watergate than what Madeline Donaldson provides in her book about Nixon:

“Nixon saw the 1972 presidential campaign as a battle against the Democrats. He viewed them as his enemies. He was determined to win big… he ordered his staff to find ways to make the Democratic challengers look bad. Most of these efforts were illegal. For example, he set up secret groups to punish anyone who gave Republican campaign information to the press. At the same time, some of Nixon’s advisers arranged for burglars to steal secret information from the Democratic campaign office. Nixon secretly taped talks he had with is own staff. He trusted almost no one. For Nixon, all that mattered was winning. He easily won a second term as president in 1972.”

And, despite the millions of words already written about our late President Macbeth, I can’t think of six better sentences that summarize the Hurricane Katrina that raged inside his soul than these:

“Richard Nixon was not an easy person to know. He didn’t trust people. He saw almost everything as a battle. And he believed that only the tough survived to win and succeed. The public can read Nixon’s private papers and tapes. They show a man who had a hard time just being himself-if he even knew who that was.”

Not to be outdone, Stephanie Sammartino McPherson turns the saga of Bill Clinton, his pet “Willard” and Monica into parable that could easily fit within the pages of The Berenstain Bears:

“But Bill’s troubles were not over. The lawyer, a man named Kenneth Starr, began to look into Bill’s personal life. He called Bill to explain his relationship with a young woman who had worked at the White House. Her name was Monica Lewinsky. Starr believed that Bill may have had a personal relationship with Monica. And Bill was not supposed to have personal relationships with people who worked for him.”

Finally, for those parents tired of being thrust awake in the middle of the night by a screaming infant, the Gerald Ford bio is guaranteed to put your baby to sleep faster than a bottle of Ambien.

In Bookstores Now


America Alone: The End of the World as We Know It by Mark Steyn

If William Kristol and Ben Brantley got drunk on eggnog at this year’s NY Times holiday party, hooked up and then had a baby who happened to be their same age, it would be Mark Steyn.

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Steyn is a music theater critic-cum-conservative columnist who is often held up as a sort of Gore Vidal of the Right. (For my money Steyn is more like a warm Shasta to Vidal’s cool Coca-Cola.) In fact, Bill O’Reilly BFF Dennis Miller* called Steyn’s polemic America Alone: The End of the World as We Know It, “The best book I’ve read in the last decade.”  And while the book, which is celebrating the 2nd anniversary of being published this week, has been both hugely successful and controversial, it is Steyn’s onanistic reliquary of a website that I find troubling. Since his online book store doesn’t differentiate his political writing from theatre books like Broadway Babies Say Goodnight or The Story of Miss Saigon, I can’t help but wonder how many unsuspecting, showtune-loving, Boca-dwelling Jewish grandmothers purchased America Alone thinking it was an oral history of Chita Rivera’s post-West Side Story career only to open the pages and find an angry screed against the rise of Islam in the West? Well, then again, considering the book’s content, perhaps those bubbehs actually enjoyed it even more despite the fact that it lacked any references to The Rink.

In Bookstores Now


*Note to Mr. Miller: Please, please, please just take the next exit off the road to Damascus. We much prefer you as a funny Saul rather than a preachy Paul.