Trick Or Treat

October 27, 2000

It’s nearly Halloween, which is my favorite holiday of the year. Technically, though, Halloween’s not really a holiday, is it? You don’t get a day off for Halloween, and no kids get let out of school for it. I remember my third grade teacher, on October 30th (which was a Thursday), angrily telling all of us, "There WILL be school tomorrow!" I understand now that she was angry because she wasn’t getting a long weekend.

Lately, though, there’s been an increasingly negative response to Halloween from people who feel it’s anti-Christian. On some web sites nearly 90% of votes state that Halloween should be banned because it’s a Satanic holiday. (The irony of web site voting is that some guy with a lot of time on his hands can cast a lot of votes for even the most insane ideas.) Interestingly, Halloween is actually a Christian invention. It’s a counter-reaction to the old pagan Autumnal harvest celebrations. Scary costumes and cackling pumpkins serve basically the same purpose as gargoyles on cathedrals: they’re meant to scare away evil spirits. (Actually pagan spirits aren’t evil. But more about that later.)

Over time, it was perhaps inevitable that pagans would come to be seen as decent people with a great respect for nature. Wheat stalks, ears of corn, and other harvest symbols were added to Halloween decorations. Maybe this is a way of the old Christian counter-reaction extending a hand to the older pagan tradition and saying, "Hey, we’re sorry about the burnings and torture and general persecution. Whaddya say we ‘harvest’ some candy and bob for apples?"

On another note, the "trick or treaters", the children who dress up and go around the neighborhood collecting candy, are fewer in number every year. This is partly due to widespread fear of razor blades, needles, and even poison being placed in Halloween candy. There are no documented cases of such things turning up, but parents do have reasons for watching out for their children. Some of this fear is simple parental panic, the worst-case-scenarios that parents always imagine when sending their children out into the world. Some of it, though, may simply be the generally spooky ambience that’s imposed on the holiday. Deep down, there’s still fear and mistrust of the pagans and their benevolent traditions, a common reaction to anything that is different. We have seen the evil spirits, and they are us.

Enjoy this week’s offerings.

Ratio of an igloo’s circumference to its diameter: Eskimo Pi

2000 pounds of Chinese soup: Won ton

1 millionth of a mouthwash: 1 microscope

Time between slipping on a peel and smacking the pavement: 1 bananosecond

Weight an evangelist carries with God: 1 billigram

Time it takes to sail 220 yards at 1 nautical mile per hour: Knot-furlong

365.25 days of drinking low-calorie beer because it’s less filling: 1 lite year

16.5 feet in the Twilight Zone: 1 Rod Serling

Half of a large intestine: 1 semicolon

1000 aches: 1 kilohurtz

Basic unit of laryngitis: 1 hoarsepower

Shortest distance between two jokes: A straight line. (think about it for a moment)

453.6 graham crackers: 1 pound cake

1 million microphones: 1 megaphone

1 million bicycles: 2 megacycles

2000 mockingbirds: two kilomockingbirds (work on it….)

10 cards: 1 decacards

1 kilogram of falling figs: 1 Fig Newton

1000 cubic centimeters of wet socks: 1 literhosen

1 millionth of a fish: 1 microfiche

1 trillion pins: 1 terrapin

10 rations: 1 decoration

100 rations: 1 C-ration

2 monograms: 1 diagram

8 nickels: 2 paradigms

3 statute miles of intravenous surgical tubing at Yale University Hospital: 1 I.V. League

A blonde walks into a New York City Bank and asks for the loan officer. She says she is going to Europe on business for 2 weeks and needs to borrow $5,000.

The bank officer says he will need some kind of security for the loan, so the blonde hands over the keys to a brand new Porsche parked out the front of the bank.

With the title and paper work all checked out, the bank agrees to accept the car as security for the loan.

The loan officer drives the new Porsche into the bank’s underground garage and parks it there.

Two week’s later the blonde returns, repays the $5,000 she borrowed, and $15.40 interest that accumulated. The loan officer approaches the blonde and says, "We here at the bank are very happy that this transaction has worked out, but while you were away, I checked you out, and I’m a little puzzled. I found out that you are a multi-millionaire. What puzzles me is why you would bother to borrow $5,000."

The blonde replies, "Where else in New York City can I park my car for two weeks for 15 bucks?"

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