The Brunching Shuttlecocks Ratings

Super Balls
Good deal! These suckers do exactly what they're expected to do: bounce really really high. They also inevitably get stuck in the rain gutter, but that's okay because they're only a damn quarter. Plus they come in all sorts of cheery colors and they have that magic-marker kind of smell that probably kills off brain cells like ants under a lawnmower. A

Boston Baked Beans
Candy named after beans; it's kind of an uncomfortable aesthetic conflict, make even more unnerving by the fact that every handful of these candy-coated peanuts is a voyage of texture discovery. Will they be crunchy? Chewy? Squishy? It all depends on how long they've been languishing in their little transparent prison. C+

Big-Ass Gumballs
These often come one flavor to the vending chamber, a flavor that stays the same through the decades, but which gets a new adjective every few years. (1971: Rockin' Raspberry. 1993: Rad Raspberry.) These go through three distinct phases as you chew them. First, there's the initial burst of flavor and sugar, providing incentive to your brain and quick energy to your jaw muscles. Secondly, there's the point when you realize that there's really only so much artificial fruit flavor you want seeping down your throat at one go. Thirdly, the point becomes moot as the gum abruptly stops giving off flavorants and acquires the texture of a kneaded eraser. Typically the entire cycle takes about ninety seconds. C-

Imitation Tamagotchi
Of course, you don't run into a machine full of imitation Tamagotchi. No, the little placard on the front features the dopey thing prominently, but they're packed about one to a machine, and you have to wade through several dollars' worth of plastic insects and plastic lockets to get to it. The funny thing about these sorts of machines is that they always seem to be firmly behind the times by about a year in what they consider to be the "hip thing for kids." The Tamas didn't make it in until the market was flooded for digital pets, before that it was troll dolls after that little fad-echo had thankfully faded, and I remember vending machines with mini-Rubik's Cubes long after Cube champions couldn't even get on "That's Incredible." D-

Sour Candy
Sour is in these days, apparently as a sort of indicator of preteen machismo, which is pretty funny considering how rarely "badass" and "strawberry flavor" appear in the same sentence. The placard typically portrays a cartoon candy consumer in some variety of sour-induced implosion, with puckered lips, steam coming out of the ears, a mushroom cloud emerging from an exposed braincase, and so forth. This would all be very impressive except for the fact that the candy in question is about on the level of SweetTarts in terms of physical challenge. C

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