Monday, September 27, 2010

Puerility and corporate authorship; or, Being a real boy

Oh boy. (So to speak.) Fall semester is in full swing, and and I'm having to put Gertrude Stein and Susy Clemens on hold for a while in order to move some other writing projects to the head of the queue. It's busy, busy, busy, and I would grouse about it, but the truth is it's my favorite way to be.

Anyway, that's why I've been meaning, but failing, for weeks to post on Jerome Christensen's wonderful talk at the English Institute, "Pinocchio Logic, Pixar Theory, and the Assertion of 'Cultural' Authorship." I thought it was amazing, but I also had a huge beef with it, which of course means blogging, since I distinctly don't have time to write up some kind of formal response.

Corporate authorship

At this late date I can't summarize the whole talk, which included some really brilliant readings, but I'll try to represent it as best I can.

Christensen wanted to know what it would mean, exactly, to construe a corporation's "culture" serve as its conscience.

Juridically, guilt depends on mens rea, or a guilty mind, for which corporations lack the subjective capacity. It can break the law, but a corporation itself can't know right from wrong, and the difference matters legally. An undesirable consequence of this distinction is that corporations escape accountability for their actions.

On the other hand, in the recent Citizens United decision, the court ruled that corporations do have the right to protected speech, where speech is construed as indistinguishable from money, since speech need not originate in a physical body, even for you or for I. A key example in the Citizens United decision is that of the Frank Capra film Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, which the opinion construes as an instance of corporate authorship on the part of Columbia Pictures--over and against, Christensen pointed out, the auteur theory suggested by what is technically the film's full title, Frank Capra's Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. Indeed, the decision conspicuously omits any mention of Capra or his negotiated billing. The film, the court opined, was an example of protected free speech on the part of Columbia Pictures; the ability to make money is reinterpreted as the ability to speak politically and construed as a right that all corporations hold.

The idea of corporate film authorship, something Christensen has written on before, thus underwrites the Citizens United decision. (One wonders whether the same principle is really extensible to corporations that don't make films but rather, say, chocolate pudding, since corporate pudding authorship seems less analogous to speech, or to corporate-funded political ad campaigns. But I digress.)

Christensen then turned to two corporations and their corporate-authored, animated allegories of animation itself, Disney's Pinocchio and Pixar's Toy Story trilogy. It's important to this story that both Disney and Pixar have distinctive corporate cultures, and that when Pixar was acquired by Disney, a clause in the contract stipulated that Pixar's "culture" -- quotation marks in the original -- remain intact.

Despite charges by Winfried Fluck, Jack Zipes, and others, Disney's corporate culture reveals itself as entirely contemptuous of mass production, Christensen argues. Pinocchio is never represented as a commodity in the film; not only does Geppetto never sell Pinocchio, the idea of selling Pinocchio is pointedly raised precisely as a repugnant notion to be rejected. Geppetto is never really a toy-seller but an animator, a bringer-to-life; likewise, Pinocchio is always a boy manqué, who will always need to have a cricket substitute for his conscience but who is deserving of animation nonetheless.

To Pixar, however, a toy is not a near-child longing for subjectivity (or a conscience); it's always a toy. It therefore never wants to be a child; it is manufactured to be played with by a child, and therefore that is what it wants. Mass production is the condition of their existence, as we see when the toys in the films confront identical copies of themselves who both are and are not them.

The Roberts court, like the Blue Fairy, rescues an artificial person, the corporation, that has proven constitutively incapable of maintaining a conscience. But a corporate culture can substitute for subjectivity, serving as the source of a conscience that need never be internalized. Pixar doesn't maintain any fantasies of becoming a real boy, but it preserves in its place the Pixar "culture," which will do just as well. As Christensen put it, "If it makes no difference who is speaking, it may as well be a cricket who can tell right from wrong." Under the terms of the Disney-Pixar merger, Pixar preserves its autonomous culture; thus its authorship and speech remain accountable to the Pixar culture. Thus the Citizens United decision, by making corporate authorship into legal precedent, backhandedly confers an external but still functional conscience on corporations, providing, perhaps, the grounds for mens rea and responsibility.

Real boys will be real boys

Now here's where I wanted to hear more from Christensen: What about gender--specifically, gendered childhood? At the risk of being The Feminist (look, someone has to be The Feminist), I posed this question after the talk and was very disappointed not to receive much of an answer. Here's why it matters: American corporate culture is famously masculinist, as is Pixar's oeuvre. If Pinocchio and Toy Story can be read as allegories of corporate culture, and I'm persuaded that they can, then their constructions of boyhood have implications for how we construe corporate authorship, hence corporate liability. In fact, it's worth noting that Toy Story's plot comes almost wholesale from a really terrible 1986 made-for-TV muppet production called The Christmas Toy (yeah, you read that date right, so don't judge; I was FIVE). The Christmas Toy is less a missing link between the Disney masterpiece and the Pixar masterpiece than an inconvenient cousin, and not only because live-action muppets are an odd form to triangulate with animated puppets (Pinocchio) and hyper-round animated dolls (Toy Story). It's inconvenient because it contains -- wait for it -- girls.

In The Christmas Toy, the loved child is not a boy (Andy) but a girl (Jamie). More importantly, the central conflict between the old favorite toy and the new, flashy superhero toy is not a battle of competing masculinities but an allegory of the glass ceiling: instead of comically super-butch Buzz Lightyear, The Christmas Toy's threatening but ultimately lovable interloper is a classic 1980s castrating bitch, the metal-be-boobed Meteora ("queen of the asteroids"). (Oh, the eighties!)

It could be argued that the dynamics brought into play by Buzz Lightyear's gently mocked hypermasculinity are as complicated as those engendered by Meteora's masculine performance. Pushed far enough, gender always reveals itself as drag. But Pixar's version has consequences for corporate authorship because it not only embraces the existential quandary of mass production (for the toys, that is) but also reimagines toy consciousness as an allegory of rightly performed masculinity--the masculinity of good workers (toys) and of good managers (real boys). In Pixar's toy universe, you can have old-fashioned masculinity (the cowboy--as Christensen pointed out, at one point Woody's skill at being played with is remarked upon: "Are you classically trained?") and a futuristic masculinity (the space invader); there are good boys (Andy, who takes care of his toys) and bad boys (Sid, who likes to blow them up). Nearly as unacceptable as being owned by the bad boy is the possibility of being owned by a girl, which Christensen did not mention because there is, of course, no possible analogue in the corporate history of Pixar. The result of being owned by a girl would be a situation antithetical to the playful aims of any self-respecting toy: boring, unimaginative girl play, most likely someplace pink. The girl is benign, but out of bounds.As Christensen remarked, success in Toy Story doesn't lie in achieving subjectivity but in getting oneself managed by a good, rather than a bad, boy (or, say, getting acquired by the right parent company, which will let you keep your "culture"). That's why gender is so crucial in this understanding of corporate authorship and its consequences. With Pixar, there's no longing to be a "real boy," but there's an insistence on maintaining a corporate culture in which boyhood--and emphatically not girlhood--is the name of the game. And boyhood--the kind of playing that boys are imagined to do, the kind of creativity and propensity for technical production that boys are supposed to have--is central to the way the corporate author is imagined.

But it's not just Pixar but Pinocchio that's instructive here, since Pinocchio supplies the metaphor that makes Pixar's culture into a potential source of conscience. Perhaps we're comfortable with a boy whose conscience is a cricket. Perhaps that's cute, perhaps that's even the condition of puerile creativity. Perhaps boyish ruthlessness is what lets Pixar be as technically skillful and imaginative as it is. But how would we feel if girlhood were the model for corporate authorship? Could we countenance a girl with a cricket for a conscience?*

Christensen proposes a legal model that he represents as ungendered. I'm persuaded that he is right to see corporations, now granted protected free "speech," as substitutes for real boys. He is wrong to suppose that "boy" means the same thing as "person" or "subject." The insight that Christensen makes and then misses is that corporations are precisely "boys' clubs." As of the year of our Flying Spaghetti Monster 2009, three percent of Fortune 500 companies were headed by women (source). The model of personhood that Christensen extrapolates from the court's decision is in fact a model of boyhood. It depends entirely on a specific, historical construction of boyhood that underwrites what we see as possible and permissible in corporations, especially insofar as they are understood as "creative," and therefore capable of authorship in the narrower sense. And it is this narrower creative corporate authorship that, as Christensen shows, enables the broader understanding of corporate speech on which Citizens United relies. Since this model of boyhood is specifically one of ruthless creative play and total amorality (his conscience is a bug), can we expect corporate culture to serve any differently from the ultimately ineffectual Jiminy Cricket?

Boys--male children--have been constructed as creatures that are morally culpable for very few things. Nor are they legally liable for much. Boys will be boys.

What, then, is the real upshot of puerile corporate authorship?

The obvious point of comparison is Lyra in Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy. Her daemon, Pantalaimon, is an externalized manifestation of her soul. Note (1) Pantalaimon is explicitly male, part of Pullman's complicated and generally misguided attempt to rectify C.S. Lewis's objectionable gender politics; and (2) the film, in which Pantalaimon was of course animated, was a flop.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

I was amused by this ad:

You, too, can make math and science seem almost as awesome as the arts. We need more math and science teachers! But not more art teachers. That would be absurd.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Holloway 9/30: Harryette Mullen

This is very exciting, people.
The Holloway Series in Poetry

Thursday, September 30 at 6:30 in 315 Wheeler, the Maude Fife Room

HARRYETTE MULLEN'S poetry books include Recyclopedia, winner of a PEN Beyond Margins Award in 2007, and Sleeping with the Dictionary, which received the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, the National Book Critics Circle award, and was a National Book Award finalist in 2002. She currently lives in Los Angeles where she teaches American poetry, African American literature, and creative writing at UCLA.

She is the 2010 Holloway/Mix Blood Poet. Before her reading, she will give a talk at 4PM in 300 Wheeler. The title of that talk is “The Civil War: Masters vs. Slaves” (The Battle at Brice's Crossroads and the Massacre at Fort Pillow).

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Confession: I am tempted to use every single day.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Over the line

I need to return to that Berssenbrugge/Regretsy thing for a moment, because while there's a real element of embarrassment in Nest, there's also something inappropriate about the Regretsy comparison. Nest is over the line, but not in a flarfy way. Regretsy, on the other hand, is over the line in a flarfy way.

In fact, flarf is the Regretsy of poetry. (I expect this to become the canonical definition of flarf eventually.)

Yeah, you know this is going to come down to puerility sooner or later.

Friday, September 17, 2010

In a recent review, David A. Bell compares Mark C. Taylor to Thomas Friedman -- it's cold, but apt. Taylor isn't a public intellectual so much as a public anti-intellectual, an outlier who can't possibly represent higher ed in general but whose voice is disproportionately amplified by the mainstream media. In fact, it may be Taylor's own tunnel vision that's the most powerful argument against (a segment of) the academic system that he decries, for the problems he rails against, when they are real problems at all, only exist in his highly idiosyncratic situation. As Bell puts it:
He dismisses—in a few sentences—the idea that [tenure] might protect academic freedom, noting that he has never personally seen it under threat, and that in forty years of teaching he has never met a professor “who was more willing to express his or her views after tenure than before.”

On the second of these points, I can only conclude that Taylor and I know a very different set of academics. As to the first of them, well, Taylor’s personal experience came at Williams College and Columbia University. Perhaps he should think for a moment of what it might be like to teach at a large public university in a state where Tea Party members increasingly dominate the legislature, denouncing “radical professors” and calling for the further slashing of university budgets. Would he feel entirely free, at such an institution, to start a research project on, say, homoeroticism in American poetry? The evolution of dinosaurs? The history of racial discrimination in American evangelical churches? Corruption in the state senate? Lifetime tenure, for all its problems, still provides a very real safeguard for the advancement of unpopular ideas.

It's like Tina Fey told us: if you can't see outside it, then being in a bubble causes you to become a little bit dumb. Historiann has recently written about the failure of the national "conversation" on higher ed to meaningfully acknowledge state universities; Dean Dad similarly points out that such polemics never even consider the single most powerful component of public education: community colleges. The discussions of higher ed that are being privileged in the mainstream press totally ignore the vast majority of higher ed, at no risk to the people making their pronouncements but to the great detriment of most of higher ed and the students and public it serves. Mark C. Taylor, his book contract, and his repeat invitations to the New York Times are exhibit A.
Here's a nice video about the new Twain autobiography, featuring the editors at the Bancroft:

Higher ed has a PR problem. I recently griped on Twitter that when the name of a university is trending, you know it's for one of two reasons: sports or a shooting.

That's an idle complaint, I know. And there's a certain extent to which you can't really expect the general public to give a crap about research. I mean, I don't give a crap about a significant percentage of the research that's out there. (CERN did trend, briefly, however!) Still, universities are run like corporations now, and they have PR people. Shouldn't they get on this? Don't we want to be known for something other than sports and violence? What ever happened to ye olde teaching, research, and service?

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Today: Holloway Poetry Series - Matthew Zapruder

Come one, come all:

The Fall 2010 Holloway Series in Poetry
Sponsored by the UC Berkeley English Department


Thursday, September 16 at 6:30 PM

315 Wheeler Hall, the Maude Fife Room
Readings are free and open to the public

Matthew Zapruder is the author of three collections of poetry: American Linden, The Pajamaist, and Come On All You Ghosts (Copper Canyon, Fall 2010), as well as co-translator from Romanian, along with historian Radu
Ioanid, of Secret Weapon: Selected Late Poems of Eugen Jebeleanu. He has received a William Carlos Williams Award, a May Sarton Award from the Academy of American Arts and Sciences, and a Lannan Literary Fellowship. He is an editor for Wave Books and a member of the permanent faculty in the low residency MFA program at UC Riverside-Palm Desert. He lives in San Francisco.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Teaching with digital media: a small point

Julia has just reminded me of a fact. Well, two facts. One is that I often make plugs for things like Twitter and blogs in teaching. But lest I seem like one of those utopian Technology Will Solve Everything techno-hippies, I want to trot out the other fact, too:

If you teach with digital media, you are signing up to be tech support.

You might not want to hear it, but there it is. With college first-years who may have just received their first laptop, you might even have to do a little handholding with ye olde Microsoft Word, or explain to someone how to rename files. (Oh dear.)

But it's even more the case if you use course software, Google docs, Twitter, or any other program that the students haven't used before. (Especially if your course software has a clumsy interface *ahem* *cough* not talking about UCB of course.) If you're reading this blog, you probably don't think it's possible to be confused about how to sign up for a Twitter account. But if you're not in the habit of signing up for accounts, it can indeed be confusing.*

I actually don't think this is a bad thing--or at least, it's not a good reason not to teach with digital media. It's important for students to develop facility with computers and the web, and they have to pick it up somewhere. For me, teaching first-years has been a crash course in the falsity of the idea of the "digital native." But instead of panicking, we can do what we do -- that is, teach. My meager knowledge gets me pretty far. The classic XKCD flowchart describes pretty well what I usually do, and as it points out, if I'm stumped, there's always Google.

So while it's a little unnerving to find oneself playing tech support (and if you've required your students to do something online, you do have to do it at least a little), it's also pretty manageable as long as you set boundaries.

And in a pinch, there's always, you know, real tech support.

It's a little frightening how many people will look on you as some kind of tech guru simply because you have the IT support person's email address on a Post-It on your desk. But there it is, like the tech support you'll undoubtedly be giving.

*I won't lie; configuring my first Wordpress blog led to tears.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Tension, anxiety, fear

I may see more of this than most--I work in modernism and science studies after all. But it seems to me that literary critics talk an awful lot about "tensions" in lit and culture, social "anxieties," and historical "fears."

It would be too glib to just call this projection on the part of a famously neurotic lot. But I'd like to think more on why it is that tensions, anxieties, and fears play such a large part in contemporary literary criticism.

(And is it just me or was "excess" all the rage in the 90s?)

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

PSA: Tuesday workshop on UC's 2012 admission policy

From an email I received today:

Workshop for Student Analysis of 2012 Admission Policy
247 Cesar Chavez (MSD Student Lounge)
6:30 PM, Tuesday September 14

In February 2009, the Regents approved major changes to freshman undergraduate admissions policies that could have far-reaching consequences for the composition of the UC system's student body for decades to come. Although the stated goal of these policies was to improve admissions of underrepresented minorities, these changes were made without significant consultation of affected communities and without solid data supporting the effectiveness of the changes (of the three simulation studies conducted by UC, 2 predicted massive DECREASES in underrepresented minority enrollment, while the 3rd predicted 'race-neutral effects.)

The purpose of this workshop is to introduce the data, policy documents of the 2012 policy to student activists for close analysis. Activism on this issue will not be effective without deeper analysis of how the new policy could affect all underrepresented minorities on campus. Participants will present their findings at a forum a week later on September 21, 2010.

Is criticism a métier?

I've come to think that criticism is defined by the cultivation of a particular kind of self, one that has the right feelings and perceptions as well as the right thoughts and professional training and work-disciplines.

What are the consequences of this understanding of criticism?

Thoughts, others?

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Traveling without poetry

I only have one volume* on me out here, Mei-mei Berssenbrugge's Nest -- ironically, since I'm away from mine.

This is bogus.

*One volume of poetry. Obviously.

(Comments about e-readers in 3, 2, 1...)

Back east

I've always loved the way Californians say "back east" to refer to the east coast, as if it were not only geographically distant but also somehow in the past. As if all Californians held in common a history of having escaped to the Golden State from parts eastward.

Anyway, it really is back east for me; I'm visiting my sister in the Hudson Valley at the moment, a peaceful spot not far from where we were born. I'll be here for a few days and am hoping to get a good amount of work done while I'm here. Naturally, my epic public transit adventure (and the cold I caught on said adventure) have me just disoriented enough that I'm finding myself blogging instead. What's my article about, again?

Back to work, Cecire.

* * *

In the spirit of user-friendliness, Blogger lists some sample tags to prompt people to tag their posts:

I've always thought it would be funny to tag a post "scooters, vacation, fall" for that reason. ("Scooters" seems especially random, and therefore comical, to me.) If I were to put those tags on a post, this would be the post.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

I've been familiar with this book for a long time, but it wasn't until I bought my own copy that I saw the rather unfortunate dust jacket:

Turns out I really don't want to see Gertrude Stein's head sectioned like meat.

Friday, September 3, 2010

This is a little late, but Kathleen Fitzpatrick has a great post up about the demise of Rice University Press and the fallacy of thinking digital = practically free. In particular:
This is perhaps not the moment at which institutions want to hear that they have to make additional investments in something that feels optional, but they really need to hear this:

  • If you expect your faculty to publish, you must provide the means for them to do so.

  • If you expect scholarly publishing to turn a profit, or even break even, you may want to stop holding your breath.

  • If you allow commercial entities to take over scholarly publishing, because they can afford to do so, you must expect their predatory, monopolistic practices to encroach on the access you have to your own faculty’s work, and to diminish the impact that their work can have both inside and outside the academy.

There is no solution to this conundrum except for institutions to recognize that they must become responsible for supporting scholarly communication, and that this support will require treating the technologies and the labor involved in publishing as part of the institution’s infrastructure.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

"WHHHHY?": still cute, now with different video

I feel like my earlier reading of Cee Lo's "Fuck You" is very much backed up by the developmental narrative (from childhood through adolescence to the present) of the new video:

It gets extra cuteness points for the mother slapping the boy when he lip-synchs the "fuck you" refrain, the video's only coy acknowledgment of the incongruity that's runs throughout the song--the childishness on one hand, the adult profanity on the other. The deferral of the bridge-tantrum to near the end of the song gives the lie to the progress narrative suggested by the succession of years and the announcement, via title, that Cee Lo is now a "ladykiller" (a word whose aggression is, in context, infantile).

There's a lot more to say about the new video.

It's chilling to see a small girl alluded to as a "gold-digger," for instance.

The video is also very pointed about the lip-synching, since Cee Lo always sings the lead and various actors mouth it. This also conduces to the gender-bending that Kevin mentions, particularly with the (very funny) trio of female backup vocalists mouthing what are audibly male backup vocals.

No time for a dissection tonight, but I assume the internets will be picking this one up and running with it.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Clarity and work

It occurs to me that discussions of "clarity" usually implicitly hinge on the following assumption:
Difficulty for the writer means ease for the reader; ease for the writer means difficulty for the reader.
This is why accusations that writing is unclear so often devolve into accusations of authorial laziness, and why defenses of dense writing so often hint that the aggrieved readers are lazy. This is why the discussion so easily becomes moralistic. (Work is after all a moral category.)

It isn't at all clear to me (modernist that I am) that it is easy to write dense prose, though. How does it change the discussion about clarity, if we bracket the above premise?

Welcome to fall

This is the first semester in a long time that I'm on fellowship. Not having had it for a long time makes me very much appreciate the luxury of full-time research (in! an! office!).

I'm just the slightest bit sad that I'm not teaching, though; it's the beginning of fall semester, which is pretty much my favorite time of year, and though I live in the right part of town to have the White Noise moment every year, the line of minivans and the rolling Tupperware drawers on the sidewalk don't give me remotely the same feeling of ennui.* I love it when the new students arrive (although I wish they wouldn't be quite so loud at night). I love overhearing them as they wander around campus and marvel at Berkeley, freedom, dorm food, and the mysteries of the registrar's office (of which there are many).

Done right, college is an amazing thing. You can take classes in subjects you didn't even know existed, make friends with people you couldn't have encountered before. It's the intellectual big time, and scary smart people are dropping scary smart books on you and expecting you to have read them by next Thursday.

First-years are a particular delight, because it's all so new to them. Granted, this involves a certain degree of clue-lacking, sometimes a maddening degree. (The library is. Right. There.) But they're also still new enough at this college thing not to feel like they have to fake a cool sophistication, or to be really bad at it if they do feel that way. I'm sorry to be missing my own little slice of this year's first-years--something I'm used to getting in the fall from teaching composition. They're often amazingly creative and delighted to encounter new things.

Maybe I'm nostalgic because, planning this trip east, I've been in touch with several of my own college friends. I still have fond memories of a whole pack of us first-years heading to physics first thing in the morning, through the snow, usually after a perfectly repulsive dorm breakfast. (It was in college that I learned the true value of toast.) Back then I was allowed to take physics! Imagine that. I took math, too, lots of it. I took history. I read Foucault for the first time. It was great.

I think a lot of people my age are a little nostalgic for that period of life, when you're old enough to know something but young enough to be allowed to not know things--when you're, like Queequeg, an undergraduate. I was always the kind of student who was excited to get back to school, and seeing the new students always reminds me of that particular state of openness and possibility.

By calling it nostalgia I'm already putting the memories in scare quotes, of course. There are things I really don't miss about that period of my life, and I sometimes see those things (exaggeratedly, perhaps?) in my own students. Many of the women won't speak up in class, for instance.

I remember when I realized, to my very great surprise, that I always framed objections as questions. It would go something like this:

Me: "I'm not sure I understand your what you're saying, especially as it relates to this thing on page X. I'm probably just being slow. Could you explain it further to me?"

Translation: "The passage on page X says the exact opposite of the account you just gave of it. Did you even do the reading?"

I didn't even realize I was doing this, let alone take it into my head to stop, until my fourth year of college. I could vote before I could undisguisedly argue with a classmate! It was absolutely unconscious, automatic. I had to train myself out of it; it took a few years.

On the whole, I'm glad I'm out of that phase. Still, college was a particularly delicious kind of difficulty. I hope our students find that, too. Autumn is my favorite season, noise and all.

*Don DeLillo, White Noise (1985):
The station wagons arrived at noon, a long shining line that coursed through the west campus. In single file they eased around the orange I-beam sculpture and moved toward the dormitories. The roofs of the station wagons were loaded down with carefully secured suitcases full of light and heavy clothing; with boxes of blankets, boots and shoes, stationery and books, sheets, pillows, quilts; with rolled-up rugs and sleeping bags, with bicycles, skis, rucksacks, English and Western saddles, inflated rafts. As cars slowed to a crawl and stopped, students sprang out and raced to the rear doors to begin removing the objects inside; the stereo sets, radios, personal computers; small refrigerators and table ranges; the cartons of phonograph records and cassettes; the hairdryers and styling irons; the tennis rackets, soccer balls, hockey and lacrosse sticks, bows and arrows; the controlled substances, the birth control pills and devices; the junk food still in shopping bags -- onion-and-garlic chips, nacho thins, peanut creme patties, Waffelos and Kabooms, fruit chews and toffee popcorn; the Dum-Dum pops, the Mystic mints.

I've witnessed this spectacle every September for twenty-one years.