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Halloween, for kids, isn't much fun any more. Safety advocates advise against masks, long skirts and even brooms. Even candy is on the way out. Last weekend, at the Buffalo Zoo's Howloween, kids went trick-or-treating at designated stations. In most cases, instead of chocolate, they got plastic bandages, cheap plastic tic-tac-toe games, etc. It's hard to blame the zoo. If these kids get fat, it could be sued. But where were the zoo animals? You'd think there would have been a few nocturnal beasts up to keep the kids company, but apparently not. People pressed their noses against the windows of the elephant house, watching the elephants inside eating dinner. One mom burst out in frustration: "What time do these animals go to bed?"

Homegrown horrors

This Halloween, let's all take note: Home-carved pumpkins with crooked grins are spookier than their plastic peers. Cornstalks and homemade scarecrows evoke Wes Craven movies better than high-tech gadgets. The same goes for costumes. What's with all these store-bought duds? Where are the hoboes? Where are the sheeted ghosts? There might be hope. A few years ago, on Halloween at St. Ann's School on Buffalo's East Side, one tyke's parents dressed him in a trenchcoat and gave him a bottle in a paper bag to hold. Simple, but effective! And last weekend's party at the zoo turned up one kid dressed as a spaceman with a colander on his head. See? Creativity isn't tough. The days are getting shorter. The moon is getting fuller. Let's not go gentle into that good night.
Into the unknown

This election day makes Buzz uneasy. Will life continue as we know it? Will our government system remain staunch? In other words, can we be assured this won't be the last year we get to use those big ol' voting machines with the levers and the curtains? Buzz has been reading about the new electronic voting machines with touch screens, and we don't like them. There's no drama in touching a screen. You can't be like the Tonawanda voter a few years ago who slammed the lever when she was through and barked: "So there!" You never know, electronic machines might even tell us "Thank you for voting" and "Have a nice day." Whose idea were these machines, anyway? And why didn't we get to vote on them?

Chicago, Chicago... singing our praises! The Chicago Sun-Times recently ran a story about the wonders of Buffalo. It praised our Theater District: "Outside of Manhattan, Buffalo possesses one of the largest concentration of performing art centers in the nation." It said we had a symphony and an opera company (that's good news!) and lauded the risotto at Il Fiorentino on Hertel Avenue. What, no mention of Wegmans? Tourism officials should be more on the ball.

The buzz

Out, alas, in time for Halloween: "The Idiot's Guide to Wicca Craft" and "The Idiot's Guide to Spells and Spellcraft." Great, now we have to worry about idiots not only sending us nasty letters and cutting us off in traffic but putting hexes on us, too. ... Even more frightening: "The Pocket Idiot's Guide to Being a New Dad." ... Scariest place to be every Halloween: the Center for Inquiry in Amherst. This year, the humanists and free-thinkers invite: "Watch with Bated Breath as Joe Nickell Attempts to Contact Harry Houdini Beyond the Grave!" And: "Thrill to the Gripping Magic of DJ Grothe!" It's free! Gotta be there! The party starts at 6 p.m. at 1310 Sweet Home Road, in the spooky, sleepy town of Amherst.


"Weird. Weird, for Halloween. But useful, I guess."

-- Buzz's niece Rosie, 8, after being handed a Band-Aid at a trick-or-treating station at the Buffalo Zoo's Howloween


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