Halloween Sodas!

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Holy cats! This one took a while to shoot, edit and re-edit. When you are so amateur to video reviews and Final Cut software you have to watch hours of YouTube tutorials from an eleven-year-old, it’s going to take a while for anything of substance. If you are not easily offended, you should definitely give this one a watch.

Probably what I love most about the Halloween season is the hunt. I love exploring all the shops come August and see what new additions there are to the market and no item better represents the macabre creativity like soft drinks. Hear me out.

Sure the name brands change their cans to include silly monsters but nothing beats the private little companies and their novelty Halloween beverages. There are no giant analyst meetings with board members judging if “Frankenstein Cola” will ruin people from their brand forever or stocks at risk before the end of a fiscal year. No, just fun people concocting strange brews to bottle and label with spiders and witches. I love it so very much and when you find them, it’s a race to social media to spread the spooky fun. What a weird little world I chose to live in.

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This year, World Market is the keeper of the faith with five new flavors over the previous years to include Lemon Drop Dead and Blood Orange from Jones Soda Company. We have Dr. Jekyll Pepper Elixir, Flying Cauldron Butter Beer, Salem Sister’s Green Apple, Cheshire’s Vanishing Cream Soda, and last but not least, Ghoulish Grape (It’s Fang-tastic!). All have their own little spooky magic and I taste them all for you with some help from beyond.

Come watch me summon the new Halloween Sodas that are exclusively at World Market from now until Halloween.

Dollar General Halloween Finds!

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This past week I have been on the hunt for the latest Halloween items that seem to be crawling their way out of the back storage rooms of particular retailers. Usually by mid-September we are in full swing, but there are a few stragglers. LOOKING AT YOU, TARGET! But other stores always seem to be right on time like a trusty Seiko. Dollar General has their shit together every year and 2017, it is hitting all the feels.

I went there last night to get floss and absolutely left without it because I was drawn into the Halloween aisle like the ‘Falcon to a non-moon. There were so many little odd trinkets for a buck, I just couldn’t leave there without getting a few to make a stupid video. And brother, this one is a doozy. It did come out a little grainy because of the spooky mood-lighting that didn’t quite translate but you will get the point.

I cover a few neat little items that are Dollar General exclusive and even play a little dress-up. I am in late thirties and yes, playing dress-up this time of the year is acceptable. Please watch and “oooh and aaah” at the cheap treats that will most likely disappear forever in my bottom desk drawer.

Shortly after I filmed this I went to remove the witch paint and had a little scare because as hard as I scrubbed, it wouldn’t come off. Like, not even turning the wash cloth a tad greenish. Nothing! I had to use a little more elbow grease than anticipated and I can tell you that today, I feel like I had a pretty nice peel. Smooth as a baby’s butt!

IMG_0135Eventually it came off, for the most part. I still have a slight green hue but all-in-all, I am back to normal.

Hope you enjoyed the Dollar Store Halloween Finds for 2017! Up next is Big Lots! I kind of broke the bank there which you will see this week.

Do something spooky tonight!

Spooky* Sweet Heat Starburst and Skittles

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I have bantered around whether or not to include the new Sweet Heat additions to the Starburst and Skittles family for about a week now and judging by the apparent lack of Earth-shattering releases like the past few years (i.e. Frute Brute, Ecto Cooler, black bun-ed Whoppers…) I figured, what the Hell? After all, I did find them under the Halloween banner for a new release in Wallgreens. That should at least qualify it for something?

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I heard about these from the annual Chicago Candy Faire this past year because I always make sure to keep my finger on the pulse of new items coming around because when original Bonkers make their return, I will repent because I know the rapture is near. Until then, all bets are off to include pants.

Wrigley Inc. debuted the new flavors of Skittles and Starbursts to include the addition of “heat” or spicy to compliment the sweetness. It is a bold move because it’s tough to imagine a 10-year old eating something that is confusing to the palate especially when he or she is raised on a steady diet of mac&cheese and chicken fingers. They are definitely targeting an older market which I kinda like in a candy company.

A little inside baseball, these were not supposed to be released until December of this year. In my mind I would like to think these are an attempt to nudge their way into the Halloween season although there are specific Halloween versions out of both candies. It’s a strange flavor which I think belongs in the world of strange and unusual and that is what Halloween does the best. Right, Winona?

So how do they taste? Well, let’s see starting with Starburst, the obvious winner of the two and don’t you dare disagree!

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There are four flavors which are “Fiery Watermelon”, “Flamin’ Orange”, “Strawberry Mango” and “Pipin’ Pinapple”. My many years of eating ridiculously hot food and two broken noses, I must say, telling these flavors apart beyond the obvious flavor notes like “this is definitely watermelon and not strawberry” is kinda lost on me. I will tell you that there is a definite tingle near the end of the taste test proving the “heat” is actually there. Looking on the package I was curious to see what the element was in the ingredients which is responsible for this faint buzz you get. All I could really see and assume was an uptick in the amount of citric acid. If we ever figure out time travel we can proudly inform the Colonials that in the future we eat acid. That should scare ’em.

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The Skittles were a little less pronounced with the flavors and heat. These had five new flavors: “Lemon Spark, “Fiery Watermelon”, Sizzlin’ Stawberry”and “Flamin’ Orange”. Again, nothing too nuts about these other than the feeling you wished you didn’t eat a handful of Skittles without washing the table pepper from your hands. The same normal tropical fruit taste with a little “ting” in the back of the throat.

All-in-all, not a bad little macabre treat to the mix. I will definitely be adding these to my 2017 Halloween additions this year because as of the first week of September, it’s looking a little lackluster. I am still waiting the big over-dominating item that will hit but not getting hopes high. That’s okay, tough, because this year’s Halloween Hell Show is shaping up to be pretty epic. The first week is always a bit wonky especially with apocalyptic storms and work emergencies, but believe it or not, I anticipated a lot of these contingencies. “Not the first rodeo”, said the clown.

Given a scale of 1-10 I would say a 5 on taste and an unintentional 7 on the Halloween fun. If you see them, give them a try and if you think I am underselling the heat, let me know! I am curious and so is my doctor.

Stay tuned tonight for this year’s first Halloween video review! It will scare your pants off.

 

Monsters of Japan!

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If you follow me anywhere on social media you’re probably aware of my recent trip to Tokyo, Japan. It was part business and part adventure but everywhere I go, in the back of my head, I look for some tie-in to the Halloween Hell Show. I had a list of mandatory places I had to visit thanks to some travel sites and google searches like “weird Tokyo”. Brother, it did not fail. As beautiful and wonderful as Japan is, it does not disappoint in the world of strange. In my case, that is close to godliness.

My goal for this trip was to keep everything 100% Japanese. By that I mean, no English-speaking or Western themed anything. If you are to embrace the culture you should not find yourself waiting inline at McDonald’s, no matter how strange the fries look. This was the first time, really, I would be traveling to a foreign country without a combat load and a rifle so I wanted to experience the people, the way of life and how Japan truly is so I can become a richer, more well-rounded human being.

So in my quest to become more well-rounded I learned of a giant Godzilla head on the top of a building and I needed to find it. Godzilla is as cultural to Japan as guns and apple pie is to the U.S. so when you’re there, pay your respects to the big lizard!

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In order to go anywhere affordably in the Tokyo area you have to travel by train. Looking at this map, you can see it takes some getting used to just to get from one district to the next. And the crowd of people! Oh the congestion of the locals! Image the end of a Cubs game and trying to leave Wrigley Field. That is pretty much what it is like in the train stations only everyone is moving with a purpose and 90% are looking down at their phones. It’s pretty amazing how it all works out so well.

This Godzilla Head was in the Shinjuku which was on the opposite side of the perimeter of where I was staying. I got the appropriate ticket which was about 460 Yen and flowed with the masses down to the tracks. The tickets go in a terminal and are quickly spit out the other side which will unlock the small door barrier. There are hundreds of people moving fast behind you and on occasion I accidentally tried to go to the wrong rail line which was met with a red light and a loud buzz. It’s pretty embarrassing because you can hear the sounds of coconuts knocking together which are heads of people as the quickly moving line comes to a dramatic halt.  I learned a little bit of Japanese and “Sumimasen” was used the most frequently which means “excuse me”. Oh lord, did I say that often.

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When you get of the train you are dumped somewhere in the city and you will have no orientation to where you are at or which way to go. I have found that hitting a coffee shop for free wifi is a must because you can map out your destination. I used my iWatch because though it is not connected to the net, it will still track your movement and map so you can guide to the destination. Just don’t get too concerned trying to understand names of streets as you walk to the destination. Just turn where the watch says turn and put your faith in its accuracy. Also, it helps to have a friend google stuff for you and send pictures of your objective. I still have a military way of thinking and doing certain things and “eyes in the sky” is always a lifesaver.

So, when you arrive at the destination you think that is it? Oh, my friends, you are not. The city of Tokyo and surrounding districts are so packed they have to build upward. Where ever you think it should be by western logic, you should remove that from your hard drive. The looks of this Godzilla Head was massive and it was on a skyscraper so how could I not be seeing it? Patience and persistence rule the day when it comes to touring around Japan. It’s there but you just have to let it happen and soon you will find what you are looking for.

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I rounded the corner of a shop and holy shit in all it’s glory, the famous nuclear fed Kaiju of the East was peering down below with its monstrous claws grasping the side of the building. Gozilla!

I have to be honest, I was a little stunned even though I had seen pictures. This was definitely my kind of thing because ridiculous structures and pop culture make life that much more tolerable. And it wasn’t enough that you could get a real feel for what Godzilla would look like peering down at you but you could actually go up to the Toho Hotel and sit in the Godzilla lounge and drink Saki while ogling at the monster! This is what dreams are made of, right here!

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I made my way up the elevator guided by signs that had the head of the beast with arrows directing which way to turn. When I arrived at the 16th floor I was in total euphoric bliss. Beyond the hotel lobby was a beautiful lounge with the gigantic scaly back of Godzilla right outside on a patio deck.

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In order to go outside where the statue was you needed to either be staying at the hotel or a paying lounge guest. In my best Japanese, I asked to be seated at the bar. Yeah, it was only 11am but what the Hell, I am a lost American who just likes his monsters. I cozy-ed up to the bar and tried to hide my nerdgasms as I ordered a beer. I couldn’t help but sit and stare at one of my favorite movie monsters that was, in my mind, in the flesh. It was real and it was to scale. The bartender seemed a little annoyed as he delivered my Tiger beer and removed the hot towel and chopsticks but I told myself he probably deals with this at least nine times a day.

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It was made even more awkward that the World War II movie, Patton, was playing on the bar TV. I tried to hide my snickers because my perception in life is very much like The Truman Show.

I looked around and there was no Americans or European tourists, to my surprise. I thought this would be more of a tourist destination than it was but I soon reminded myself who I am and not all people traveling abroad make special trips to such sights. Sad, I know.

I finished my beverage, got up and bowed to the bartender with a gracious “arigatōgozaimashita” which is the most polite way of saying thank you. It seems every time I made this gesture it would be reciprocated tenfold. He saw my gaze outside and led me to the glass door and with a smile, he made the motion that I was allowed to go on the deck to see the Godzilla up close and personal! What pal!

Here is a little video so you can see for yourself!

A little known and strange fact about me; I get really weird when I stand next to huge structures. Yeah I can look down from Half Dome mountain and I have jumped out of planes many many times but stand me up next to a fifty story structure and it’s like putting tape on a cat’s back. I can’t explain it but I have always been this way. So, this is sixteen floors up and the hotel is another forty floors above that. This is the perfect situation for me to reenact the scene in Small Wonders  when V.I.C.K.I. smokes a joint. (Hey Sommerjam, if you start the Podcast “You’re Weird” back up, I would be a perfect guest”)

It’s a cool salute to an iconic creature that is as Japanese as the Samurai. As you can see there are plaques for the different eras of Godzilla and even some of the famous baddies like Mothra. Every few minutes there would be the famous roar but not at an Earth shattering volume. This is a hotel, mind you. I found out later there is a Godzilla suite which is a huge room full of movie history and Kaiju themes. If you have the 100,000 Yen it would probably cost, go for it! To me, this little destination trip made an already amazing trip perfect!

When I got my full Godzilla fix, it was about time for lunch. Knowing my Halloween Hell Show could use some more Japanese flair I decided to seek out another monster theme. Off to Shibuya in search of the Kawaii Monster Cafe!

This one isn’t as Halloween unless you take it as possibly sinister in nature. By that I mean, something cute can oftentimes border creepy. This, in my mind, was creepy and also, impossible to locate! Again!

Back on the train, Shibuya was the next stop below Shinjuku and again, you end up in the middle of a vast metropolis with thousands of hurried people moving like a school of fish. I navigated my way to the address and again, passed it a dozen times because when you have a five themed room bar/restaurant with animatronics and pumping techno music, you don’t expect it to be on the fourth floor sandwiched between a beauty salon and a Gap.

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The coolest thing I noticed about Tokyo is it is very much like an open platform game. You can wander all over the map and always find something amazing in the oddest places. The main streets were packed with speed-walking people moving in all directions but you can take a right turn down an alley and it is like you just entered another universe. Almost no one is around but there are cool little shops and restaurants lining the narrow road. It’s very foreign based on the three rule of business mindset “location location location”  but in Japan, if you want it, you know where to find it. I guess? Anyway, it is always a welcome break from the people-highway on the main streets. And you need that break when trying to find anything!

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I finally managed to locate the Kawaii Monster Cafe and proceeded up to the entrance where I was greeted by two small Japanese girls in…some kind of space age-Alice In Wonderland-cat motif. You had five themed rooms to choose from ranging from an under the sea bar to an acid trip looking Goldilocks and the Three Little Bears room. In her best english she pointed to each one and I told her which ever one she suggested. So, I was led to a Candy Land Hell. (That’s not the real name but it might as well be)

This room has to be seen to be believed. It was a never-ending spectacle of random shapes and colors. It felt very much like The Twilight Zone: The Movie and I was in the kid’s house who could make any wish come true. At any second, a demon cartoon rabbit might just spring from behind a booth. I was seated behind a young Australian couple who looked like they might have been on their honeymoon. That’s when this weird feeling started sinking in. I am a middle-aged man sitting by himself in a Candy Land themed restaurant with fuzzy monsters and tiny Japanese girls in costumes. This is not a good look for me.

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To visit there you had to order food and a beverage. All of it looked pretty bad or so loaded with sugar I would collapse into a diabetic shock before even reaching the elevator. I opted for the multi-colored noodles and a beer. Oh yeah, ice cream is mandatory. And your choice of blue, green or pink in color.

I sat there trying to take the insanity in but before I could get my mind wrapped around it, a booming noise hit followed by a high-pitch Japanese girl shout something over the speakers. Then the music started…

Behold.

(Sorry for the shakiness. The GoPro skills need some practice)

Yeah, there is a giant space monster that roams around and hugs people. I stared at my beer as to not attract any unwanted attention. I already looked a bit too “Stranger Danger” and I didn’t want to shine it on.

I finished eating and stole some chopsticks to remember my weird lunch at the Kawaii Monster Cafe. Next time I think I will opt for the Under the Sea bar. I made my way out but not before capturing a quick tour of the room for you.

So, that was my Japanese monster afternoon. I have a few other Halloween themed tales from this past trip to Japan including one that I will never forget. That’s a big one so stay tuned to the 2017 Halloween Hell Show because you will not want to miss that one.

Thanks for being here!

 

Kmart Is The Halloween Radio Star

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Growing up as a child of the 80’s and an avid Halloween nut, certain stores were crucial to fulfilling the needs of the season. Most have gone the way of the Dodo bird but a few still are hanging in there. Kmart is one of the elders who is hanging on but in the world of Amazon and other high commodity retail giants, the writing is on the wall. But like a champion of old, it ain’t going down without a fight.

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I was listening to one of The Purple Stuff’s minisodes the other day (this is one of those amazing podcasts that you need to download right now) and they brought up Kmart. The feels you get knowing there is still a chain around where you can purchase your outside Halloween lights for the house you own and 35 years prior was the same place your Mom bought the He-Man mask and smock costume for your fifth Halloween. It makes me a little teary knowing you can still go back. In fact, many friends may have bought their own kids their first Halloween costumes there just to continue the tradition. I bought my dogs spooky sweaters there. Best I can do right now.

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I am one of the few who has a surviving Kmart in the area. Every year around this time I pop in to see what is going on and up until this year it has not been a disappointment. They had aisles of Halloween costumes, decorations and even their candy displays were something to compare and contrast with less seasonally-friendly retail outlets. The best part of everything was the random approach Kmart had to selling Halloween themed products. Sure they had a set area but sprinkled around the store would be random Halloween goodness and it would be in the most odd parts of the store. I will never forget the joy I felt from walking down the crockpot/blender aisle only to find a display for Ghoul-Aid Jammers. The old ladies had to make quick with their steps when I started doing pelvic thrusts and screaming “LET’S DO THE TIME WARP AGAIN!”.

This year, however, the old girl looks a bit slow and worn down. I know it’s still early in the season but it’s not for the lack of Halloween items (although they are slow on the get-go), it just feels like Kmart has lost it’s retail will to live. Maybe it’s the meth-head lady in the parking lot or the fact that you feel like you just beat the boss in a game and the place is starting to collapse with episodic tremors and falling ceiling tiles, but the Kmart of yore is not here today. You have to come to accept these stores we grew up with cannot be here forever. Video killed the radio star and the internet finished off everything else. I envision us Halloween bloggers surfing the WWW for whats knew in 2020. God I hope I am wrong.

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I cruised around the Halloween aisle taking joy that it is still next to the Lawn and Garden department. The fluorescent lighting flickered a bit or at least that’s what my memory recalls. The floors were dull and scuffed and that weird Kmart smell was there but it hung a bit faint. I bought some assorted Brach’s Fall mix because that’s what you are supposed to do this time of the year. The cashier rung me up and asked if I had a Kmart rewards card and I responded, “why?”. She looked on with a bit of annoyance. She didn’t know where I was coming from and I didn’t have the breath to explain. She printed out my six separate receipts, bagged the candy and I left Kmart, perhaps for the final time.

It’s a hell of a thing getting older and what means a whole lot and what does not. This always did. And for that and the little things, I am thankful.

Kmart, you are the Radio Star of Halloween.

Much Love,

Will