I am finally 1 week + back from my travels & am able to write a blog post; there were "intervening things" that sucked up some of my time in the interim.
The place where I usually go in Japan was strangely normal, except in places along the sidewalk, where it was crystal clear where the earth moved - and it moved enough to upend the sidewalk for several inches. But the buildings were completely intact. Score one for Japanese civil engineering.
Now it's close to Halloween. I've not been scared, truly scared, in a movie in decades. I don't expect to be. My nephew in law, about 25, explained to me that he didn't watch violent movies because he found them disturbing. Me, I find real, pointless violence disturbing. And I'm not that much interested in pretend horror. But this says something about Americans - and evidently a good slice of American culture:
The challenge is not size or money. Universal spends millions to stage and market its Halloween Horror Nights, which this year include eight haunted houses and multiple “scare zone” street parties on 25 nights. No, the scarce resource is ideas: coming up with new ways to entertain a “been-there, screamed-at-that” customer base raised on torture movies like “Saw” and bloody video games.“These people are paying to get the bejesus scared out of them, and every year it gets harder,” said Patrick Braillard, a show director for the park. “We look at each other and say, ‘What’s left to do?’ ”It’s no small worry. This movie-centered theme park, owned by Comcast’s NBC Universal, would not provide Halloween-related financial details, but the revenue appears to be considerable. Entry to Horror Nights starts at $42 (although discounts are available), and analysts estimate that as many as 500,000 a year have attended. Add in sales of beer, food and merchandise, and substantial profits are at stake.Desperate to increase their off-season business, theme parks started circling Oct. 31 on their calendars in the late 1990s, led by Universal on the East Coast and Knott’s Berry Farm in California. It was a smart call: America’s obsession with Halloween as a cultural event was just starting to spike, and even in a stagnant economy, the growth shows few signs of slowing. The National Retail Federation estimates that total Halloween spending in the United States this year will total $6.8 billion, up from $3.3 billion in 2005.Along the way, theme parks have played a major role in globalizing the holiday. Universal Studios Singapore is holding its first Horror Nights this year, for instance, while Disney now mounts Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween events at its parks in Paris, Hong Kong and Tokyo, as well as the United States.
By the way, it would seem to me that the scariest thing should be the most ordinary: it would seem that putting ordinary people - confederates of the show - mixed in with the paying customers - who either get violently ill, go crazy, etc. and then engage in staged violent acts against each other pretending their part of the crowd- now that might be really scary.
But it says something, I guess, that these extravaganzas don't go there. Probably people just want escape. Maybe their own world is scary enough for real. Maybe their own death is scary enough. I don't know. I'll almost certainly be engaged in practice that night.