The Quick 10: Goosebumps and Fear Street

We're going a little more contemporary with today's children's books Q10, partly because I had a lot of requests for it, and partly because I adored R.L. Stine, especially the Fear Street series. I recently discovered a treasure trove of my old books at my parents' house, but there was nary a Stine book among them. I wonder what I did with those... until I find them, these facts will have to tide me (and you) over.

1. There were 62 of the original Goosebumps books (there were several spin-offs) from 1992 to 1997. The first one was called Welcome to Dead House.
2. I've mentioned this on the Q10 before, but it's too interesting to pass up - the man who has spent the past 20-25 years scaring the daylights out of kids (in good fun, of course) was also the creator and head writer of Eureeka's Castle, a children's show on Nickelodeon featuring lovable puppets.
3. I think these stories were pretty harmless - a fun scare for kids who liked to spook themselves a little bit. But obviously some adults disagreed with me - the Goosebumps books were some of the most challenged books of 1990-1999. In fact, at #15 on the Top 100 Most Frequently Challenged Books list, the Goosebumps was challenged more than Madonna's Sex (#18) and The Anarchist Cookbook (#59).

4. You just never know where inspiration for a story will strike. Stine was out walking his dog when suddenly a book title popped into his head: Say Cheese and Die. He had no plot in mind, but instantly knew it would have to involve an evil camera of some sort. It became the fourth book in the series and was eventually adapted for the Goosebumps T.V. show on Fox Kids. A young Ryan Gosling played the main character, Greg.

5. According to Mr. Stine, Goosebumps is actually more popular in Europe than it is in the United States. In Italy, the series is called Piccoli Brevedi, which means "little shivers."

6. Stine was originally signed to a contract to do just six Goosebumps books - no one expected them to be such a hit. Even though he was a big fan of the horror genre, Stine had never tried writing horror until these books - he had been writing kids' humor and joke books under the name "Jovial Bob Stine."

7. With 250 million Goosebumps books sold and 80 million Fear Streets sold, Stine clearly doesn't lack fans. Not among those legions of "˜Bumpers? His son, Matt. "He has never read one of my books," Stine said once in an interview. "He does it just to make me crazy." However, Matt does have a cameo on the cover of a Fear Street book called Perfect Date. Matt also inspired a character in Eureeka's Castle. Stine's son was rather clumsy as a child but didn't let on that he was hurt or embarrassed when he had accidents - "I meant to do that," was a constant refrain in the Stine household. So R.L. worked him in to the character of Batly, a bat who was not so great at flying but shared Matt's "I meant to do that" mantra whenever his flights ended in disaster.
8. As is common with children's series writers, Stine turned to ghostwriters when kids demanded his books faster than he could write them. He used several ghostwriters, but the one I find most intriguing is Eric Weiner - I bet some of you _flossers are familiar with the name. He's a travel writer and longtime NPR collaborator. But R.L. is no slouch in the writing department - he has said it takes him about 10 days to churn out a Goosebumps book.

9. Stine wrote the movie novelizations for Spaceballs, Big Top Pee-Wee and Ghostbusters II: Storybook.

10. Stine says he has never in his entire life suffered from writer's block, which kind of makes me hate him.

So - favorite Goosebumps or Fear Street book? My favorite was the Fear Street Cheerleaders series. I'm not sure if I should admit that or not, but there you go.

10 Sweet Facts About Candy Canes

The sweet and striped shepherd’s hooks can be found just about everywhere during the holiday season. It's time you learned a thing or two (or 10) about them.


While the origins of the candy cane are a bit murky, legend has it that they first appeared in hooked form around 1670. Candy sticks themselves were pretty common, but they really took shape when the choirmaster at the Cologne Cathedral in Germany got the bright idea of twisting them to look like shepherd’s hooks. He then handed them out to kids during church services to keep them quiet.


It’s no surprise, then, that it was a German immigrant who introduced the custom to America. The first reference we can find to the tradition stateside is 1847, when August Imgard of Wooster, Ohio, decked his home out with the sugary fare.


Candy canes without the red don’t seem nearly as cheery, do they? But that’s how they were once made: all white. We’re not really sure who or exactly when the scarlet stripe was added, but we do know that images on cards before the 1900s show snow white canes.


Most candy canes are around five inches long, containing only about 50 calories and no fat or cholesterol.


The world’s largest candy cane was built by Geneva, Illinois chef Alain Roby in 2012.  It was 51 feet long, required about 900 pounds of sugar, and was eventually smashed up with a hammer so people could take home a piece.


Fifty-four percent of kids suck on candy canes, compared to the 24 percent who just go right for the big crunch. As you may have been able to guess, of those surveyed, boys were nearly twice as likely to be crunchers.


According to the National Confectioners Association, about 1.2 billion candy canes are made annually, and 90 percent of those are sold between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Which honestly begs the question: Who’s buying the 10 percent in the off season?


Bobs (that’s right; no apostrophe) Candies was the first company to really hang its hat on the sweet, striped hook. Lt. Bob McCormack began making candy canes for his kids in the 1920s, and they were such a hit he decided to start mass-producing them. With the help of his brother-in-law, a Catholic priest named Gregory Harding Keller (and his invention, the Keller Machine), McCormack was eventually able to churn out millions of candy canes a day.


December 26 is National Candy Cane Day. Go figure.


Here’s how they make candy canes at Disneyland—it’s a painstaking (and beautiful) technique.

10 Actors Who Hated Their Own Films

1. Sylvester Stallone, Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot. Sly doesn’t pull any punches when it comes to his film career. Despite co-starring with the delightful Estelle Getty as the titular violence-prone mother, Stallone knows just how bad the film was:

"I made some truly awful movies. Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot was the worst. If you ever want someone to confess to murder, just make him or her sit through that film. They will confess to anything after 15 minutes."

2. Alec Guinness, Star Wars.

By the time he played Obi-Wan Kenobi in 1977’s Star Wars: A New Hope, Guinness had already appeared in cinematic classics like The Bridge on the River Kwai, Great Expectations and Lawrence of Arabia. During production, Guinness is reported to have said the following:

"Apart from the money, I regret having embarked on the film. I like them well enough, but it's not an acting job, the dialogue - which is lamentable - keeps being changed and only slightly improved, and I find myself old and out of touch with the young."

The insane amount of fame he won for the role as the wise old Jedi master took him somewhat by surprise and, ultimately, annoyed him. In his autobiography A Positively Final Appearance: A Journal, Guinness recalls a time he encountered an autograph-seeking fan who boasted to him about having watched Star Wars more than 100 times. In response, Guinness agreed to provide the boy an autograph under the condition that he promise never to watch the film again.

3. Bob Hoskins, Super Mario Brothers. He was in Who Framed Roger Rabbit?. As far as I’m concerned, Bob Hoskins is forgiven for Super Mario Bros. Hoskins, though, doesn’t seem to be able to forgive himself. Last year the Guardian spoke with the veteran actor about his career and he summed up his feelings rather succinctly:

What is the worst job you've done?
Super Mario Brothers.

What has been your biggest disappointment?
Super Mario Brothers.

If you could edit your past, what would you change?
I wouldn't do Super Mario Brothers.

4. George Clooney, Batman & Robin. Sure, Batman & Robin made money. But by every other imaginable measure, the film was a complete failure, and a nightmare to the vast majority of the Caped Crusader’s most fervent fanatics. Star George Clooney recognized what a stinker he helped create and once plainly stated, “I think we might have killed the franchise.”

5. David Cross, Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked. When actors have a movie out, it's customary that they publicize the film by saying nice things about it. Earlier this year David Cross took a different approach. When it came to describing his new film Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked, the veteran comedian — better known for Mr. Show and Arrested Development — went on Conan and called the film a “big commercial for Carnival Cruise Lines” and told people not to go see it.

6. Katherine Heigl, Knocked Up. Judd Apatow’s unplanned pregnancy comedy was a huge hit and helped cement her status as a bankable film actress. After the film’s release, however, Heigl didn’t have all good things to say. In fact, what she specifically said about it was that the film was:

"…A little sexist. It paints the women as shrews, as humorless and uptight, and it paints the men as lovable, goofy, fun-loving guys.”

7. Charlize Theron, Reindeer Games. The 2000 action film Reindeer Games starred Ben Affleck, Gary Sinese and Charlize Theron and was directed by John Frankenheimer. But it all somehow failed to come together. In the end the film lost a lot of money and compiled a wealth of negative reviews – including one from its star actress who simply said, “Reindeer Games was not a good movie.”

8. Mark Wahlberg, The Happening. Mark Wahlberg doesn’t exactly seem like a guy who lives his life afraid of trees. But that is the odd position M. Night Shyamalan’s 2008 film The Happening put him in. Wahlberg, as it turns out, doesn’t look back too fondly on the film. He went on record during a press conference for The Fighter when he described a conversation with a fellow actor:

"We had actually had the luxury of having lunch before to talk about another movie and it was a bad movie that I did. She dodged the bullet. And then I was still able to … I don’t want to tell you what movie … alright “The Happening.” F*** it. It is what it is. F***ing trees, man. The plants. F*** it. You can’t blame me for not wanting to try to play a science teacher. At least I wasn’t playing a cop or a crook."

9. John Cusack, Better Off Dead. John Cusack reportedly hated his cult 80s comedy so much that he walked out of the screening and later told the film’s director Steve Holland that Better Off Dead was "the worst thing I have ever seen" and he would "never trust you as a director again."

10 Christopher Plummer, The Sound of Music. The Sound of Music is considered a classic and has delighted many generations of fans. But the film's own lead actor, Christopher Plummer, didn't always sing its praises. Mr. Von Trapp himself declined to participate in a 2005 film reunion and, according to one acquaintance, has referred to the film as The Sound of Mucus.


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