lollies

SORDID CONFESSIONS

CANDY CORN WHY HAST THOU FORSAKEN ME

I lived in the US until I was seven, and Halloween was an occasion we celebrated with gusto. My mum once came second in a neighbourhood pumpkin carving contest (by using a pair of Minnie Mouse ears) and one year we turned our garage into a haunted house. We spent months thinking about our costumes and decorations, and I trick-or-treated with the best of them.

Trick-or-treating quickly makes you an expert on sweets, and candy corn was the good s--t. Little lumps of orange and yellow goodness, doled out into our treat buckets by the handful. I wasn’t interested in your Minties or lollypops; they took too long to get through. Candy corn is small, soft, easy to chew, and basically made for kids who want to eat their own bodyweight in Halloween-themed sweets in the shortest possible amount of time. It was my absolute favourite. Accept no substitutes.

We moved to Australia just after my seventh birthday, and that’s when my love affair with Halloween ended. Twenty years ago supermarkets did not stock special Halloween lollies and decorations, nobody went trick-or-treating (I tried one year and I got nothing but fruit, old Easter eggs, and a lot of telling off), and none of my new friends had even heard of candy corn.

Fourteen years would pass before I had the chance to taste it again, and in that time I told countless people what a tragedy it was that candy corn wasn’t available in Australia. I told them it was my favourite sweet of all time, the best thing I’d ever tasted, and made sure they knew they’d never eaten “proper” candy.

And then, at the age of 21, I was in the US again for Halloween. Finally. I bought myself an enormous bag of candy corn, a huge, enough-to-feed-the-whole-neighbourhood bag of the stuff. I didn’t even make it home—I opened it up in the front seat of my car, put a little piece into my mouth and started chewing. I was just so happy I could hardly stand it.

And then I realised it was awful.

Not just a little bit awful, but really awful. Like chewing on dried plaster or old Play-doh. I tried another piece to be sure, because maybe I’d just gotten a bad bit. But no, they were all identically horrible. It didn’t even have a flavour—it was just a solid mass of high-fructose corn syrup and wax died vaguely autumnal colours. Like eating a candle, but less delicious. I felt like my entire childhood was a lie.

Now that American candy is more readily available in Australia, people who knew me growing up will quite often buy me some candy corn. They remember me banging on about it, and so they see some and they think of me. It’s so nice and so thoughtful that I’ve been too embarrassed to admit that the thing I raved about for so long is actually completely vile. I’ve been pretending to still love candy corn for years. But now is the time to admit it, to come clean. Candy corn is disgusting.

JOSIE STEELE, MELBOURNE

Candy corn: similar in appearance to small rotten pointy teeth but even less delicious. ("Syphilitic malformations of the permanent teeth", from  A clinical memoir on certain diseases of the eye and ear, consequent on inherited syphilis : with an appended chapter of commentaries on the transmission of syphilis from parent to offspring, and its more remote consequences  by Jonathan Hutchinson.  [Plate facing page 205].  Published by John Churchill, London, 1863. Wellcome Library, image no. L0021139).


Candy corn: similar in appearance to small rotten pointy teeth but even less delicious. ("Syphilitic malformations of the permanent teeth", from A clinical memoir on certain diseases of the eye and ear, consequent on inherited syphilis : with an appended chapter of commentaries on the transmission of syphilis from parent to offspring, and its more remote consequences by Jonathan Hutchinson. [Plate facing page 205]. Published by John Churchill, London, 1863. Wellcome Library, image no. L0021139).

REPROACH

THE SILVER SCREAM

In his runaway bestseller The Republic, noted brainiac Plato posits that the bulk of humanity are like prisoners, chained in a cave, taking for reality the shadows projected upon the wall in front of them. Plato suggests that the sober and preferably bearded philosopher will stage a break-out and turn towards the light, ultimately emerging into the world beyond the cave. In this way the philosopher will attain true knowledge, and as a bonus will probably feel a sight better for an infusion of Vitamin D.

Philosophy and film studies lecturers enjoy pointing out the parallels between Plato’s allegory and the cinema. It’s the same basic set-up: darkened room, projected images, reconstructed reality. But there are two key differences. First, in a cinema, the audience is generally present of its own volition and aware of the fundamental unreality of the images being projected. Second, Plato’s cave, despite depicting an abject humanity unable to recognise the fraudulence of its perceptions, is nevertheless refreshingly free of idiots with smartphones checking Facebook or pointing to the wall projections and loudly asking their cave-mates  “Is that shadow puppet the murderer? Oh, isn’t that the short one from The Big Bang Theory?”

For as long as there have been cinemas, there have been annoying cinema-goers. When the Lumières premiered their riveting short Workers Leaving the Lumière Factory in Lyon —incidentally, how did they get such privileged access? They must have known somebody who worked there—one can imagine the rudeness of the unschooled audience. Doubtless some people continued to read their massive multi-volume Victorian novels throughout the duration of the film, unconcerned that the fluttering of pages would distract attention from the screen. Others would have shifted constantly in their seats, eating toffees noisily and asking their companions who on earth those mysterious people on the screen were, in worker’s clothes and leaving the Lumière factory in Lyon.

Thus it has continued throughout cinema’s long and occasionally glorious history. The whisperers, the nudgers, the pashers, the lolly-unwrapperers, the pontificators, the popcorn-chuckers, the drink-slurpers, the seat-kickers—all routine banes, all deserving of a focused and efficient boxing around the private parts.

Recently, the massed ranks of people who behave like especially self-involved three-year-olds in public have welcomed a new breed: the phone-fiddler. This person—if personhood is to be granted in this case, which is a debate for another time—cannot manage to go five minutes, let alone ninety minutes or more, without checking their phones for texts, social media updates, or merely having that warm rectangle of light nestled in their hand, smiling at them like a mother, lover, and benevolent dictator rolled into one. Never mind the people who take actual phone calls during a film. (And I do mean never mind: they’re being rounded up and processed into high-protein chicken feed as we speak).

Now, I’m not some modern-day Ned Ludd, on a misguided crusade against mobile phones. Some of my best friends are mobile phones! But to my mind, if you enter a cinema—or any other theatre—you are making a compact with the proprietors, with the general public, and, damn it, with Art, to sit down, shut up, and pay attention. By all means, check the weather during the previews, text your mum during the ads, play another round of 2048 when the screen pops up futilely requesting that you turn your bloody phone off. Once the lights dim and the film starts, however, you need to put that thing in your pocket before someone puts it elsewhere. In the bin, perhaps, or your urethra.

‘But Tim,’ I hear you saying, because you just can’t let somebody finish speaking before you butt in with your own two cents, can you? ‘But Tim, I’m the product of an obsessively multi-tasking society, whose individual and collective attention span has withered to the length of… Oh look! A shiny thing!’ Sorry, bub. No dice. If you truly are incapable of single-tasking, perhaps the cinema isn’t the place for you. Might I suggest staying at home and opening a browser tab or fifty? But if you’re willing to put your phone away for a couple of hours, we’d love to have you down at the local movie house. Just to show we’re not completely inhuman, we’ll even let you bring in some noisy food—but have it eaten by the end of the previews, or its curtains for you.

TIM STERNE, MELBOURNE

As phones were much larger in days of yore, removing them from orifices in which they had been lodged was a decidedly painful affair. Etching, c1910, Wellcome Library no. 39455i.

As phones were much larger in days of yore, removing them from orifices in which they had been lodged was a decidedly painful affair. Etching, c1910, Wellcome Library no. 39455i.