Fiscal Cliffdiving…for kids!

This is a great explanation for what’s going on with the US economy. I’ll happily reblog this post on my blog. I recommend this to everyone.

The Idiot Economist

How to Explain the ‘Fiscal Cliff’ and Its Consequences to a Small Child

  • Let’s say that you are a third grader in Ms. Merka’s class.
  • In order to get everyone to do their homework assignments on time, Ms. Merka hands out candy as a reward.

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Feminist Films Before the 1960s

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We often assume that feminism didn’t really take off until the 1960s and before that time, women basically were portrayed as happy housewives, submissive damsels in distress, innocent ingenues or evil women who led their men astray. These are the basic images of women in old movies that tend to come to our mind as well as the notion that gender roles were observed without question before the 1960s. However, these notions are dead wrong since feminism has always been apparent throughout history and there have been people who’ve questioned the notion of gender roles for centuries. Old Hollywood is no exception for many old movies have a great treasure trove of strong female characters as well as featured movies which challenged notions of gender roles and relationships between men and women. Here’s a short list of what I considered to be old movies that even a feminist would approve of:

1. Gone with the Wind

You wouldn’t think I’d put this movie on here since fans tend to watch it for the romance between Scarlett O’Hara and Rhett Butler while critics and detractors would cite the historical inaccuracy, negative racial stereotypes, lack of good male characters, complain that it’s four hours long, or dismiss it as a mere chick flick. Some may not think that Gone with the Wind isn’t a feminist movie since it won a bunch of Oscars, holds the distinction of highest grossing movie of all time, was made in the 1930s, and is regarded as one of the greatest films of all time. Surely a movie with these distinctions and flaws can’t be feminist. Well, that’s where you’re wrong since I would very much regard this movie as a highly feminist film as well as a one of the most ground breaking movies for women. For one, this is a film about the experiences of women in the South during the American Civil War and the early years of Reconstruction and how such events affected their lives. It depicts women playing a role in history at a time when professional historians seldom wrote about women or before the concept of women’s studies even existed. Not only that, but it also shows how the American Civil War was also a woman’s war as much as a man’s whether it be on the home front or on the front lines. And this is back in 1939. Second, it features a strong and well developed female protagonist in Scarlett O’Hara who isn’t entirely a saint but certainly no damsel in distress. Not to mention, she eventually challenges the conventional notions of how a women should act at the time and does morally dubious things, isn’t universally liked, is very much a realistic character for her time, and is actually a strong female character feminists would approve of (even a lot of today’s action girls don’t amount to her rich characterization). I mean despite that she’s selfish, amoral, immature, materialistic, she’s very intelligent and later emerges as a strong and driven young woman ever determined to do what she can to avoid starvation or being a burden to others. Of course, this movie was based on the book by Margaret Mitchell, yet nevertheless, Gone with the Wind is a great feminist film which shows that a movie which features women’s experiences as well as a strong female protagonist with moral ambiguities could break records at the box office, win 8 Academy Awards, and be well regarded as one of the greatest films of all time. Of course, it’s not 100% relevant, but it’s still a timeless classic that holds up in so many ways. If there is a feminist film before 1960 which deserves a spot on this list, then Gone with the Wind is the gold standard.

2. Peyton Place

I place this film on this list since it portrays almost every character as three-dimensional entities who don’t necessarily come off as entirely unsympathetic (with the exception of Lucas Cross but I’ll get to him later). Yet, whatever their flaws, viewers are encouraged not to judge these people no matter but only to understand them as people. It’s also noteworthy to point out of how certain female characters don’t seem to conform to your 1950s standards. For instance, Allison Mackenzie puts her deceased father on a pedestal, mostly finds herself on the receiving end of her mother’s insecurities, and has a lifelong aspiration to be a writer. Her mother Constance (played by Lana Turner) is has managed to succeed both as a mother and businesswoman but can’t really leave her secret past behind which proves detrimental in her relationships with her daughter and new boyfriend Michael Rossi, the new high school principal. Allison’s best friend, Selena Cross is seen as a good girl whose stepfather Lucas makes her life at home the closest thing to hell on earth. Her motivation in the film is to achieve financial independence so she and her brother could escape from their godforsaken home. She’s an interesting case since she’s still seen as a sympathetic character despite having an abortion and later committing murder. Of course, Lucas raped her so who could blame her for killing him but she barely gets off (since the doctor almost didn’t testify). Then we have Betty Anderson who likes dress in sexy clothes, drink alcohol, behave in scandalous ways, and is much more forthcoming about her sexuality but still genuinely loves her boyfriend and does make peace with his father. Peyton Place is also a relevant film which condemns sexual abuse for how should be depicted as well as make Selena’s abortion and murder seem justified. The film always shows Lucas’ conduct to Selena as unwanted and never holds her responsible for Lucas’ actions.

3. I Was a Male War Bride

I put this film on the list since it’s one that specifically addresses sexism with a very interesting twist. Still, unlike most of the movies I have on this list, this one features a male protagonist played by Cary Grant. However, I included this movie on here because it addresses how sexism can negatively affect men. Set in Europe right after World War II, this movie is about a French officer who marries an American servicewoman and decides to spend his married life in the States. However, what him and Ann Sheridan have to go through is a bureaucratic nightmare through the War Brides Act, which is seen clearly as sexist US government policy. To the US only the men took foreign spouses and the military and red tape stacked against American servicewomen marrying men from another country. Of course, being an American servicewoman, it’s Ann Sheridan who’s being discriminated against on account of her sex. However, it’s Cary Grant who has to suffer for it firsthand since he has to endlessly explain that he’s married to an American soldier and entitled to shelter and transportation in a system that doesn’t recognize his gender as compatible with his situation. For one, Grant has to pass as a war bride in order to go back to the United States with his wife since all the spousal regulations seem to be for brides. Of course, he puts through a lot of shit and humiliation being a “war bride” such as having to fill out a form reserved for women, spending most of a night looking for a place to sleep, and having to board a boat in drag. On a further note, this is loosely based on a true story so there probably were a few “war brides” who just happened to be dudes. And they probably had to go through similar shit. Of course, while there may be plenty of movies that address men defying traditional gender roles, I Was a Male War Bride is one of few films that promotes the issue of feminism to a male audience.

4. Mildred Pierce

Of course, I had to include this Oscar-winning film since it’s one of early movies that centers around a successful self-made woman and single mother who despite her hard work and efforts to please her daughter, still gets no respect. It’s a very bleak look at what women can expect if they live and work alone in a man’s world, beset by men who want to exploit them, sexually or otherwise. She starts as an ordinary housewife driven to working as a waitress after her unemployed husband takes off and later starts her own restaurant and chain. Mildred Pierce is a woman is both a victim of circumstance as well as herself as well as a strong female protagonist with real flaws and assets. She is a hard worker with good business sense as well as a devoted mother. Of course, being a devoted mother to Veda is her biggest flaw, not due to bad parenting (she ain’t perfect), but how Veda is just one of the most ungrateful brats in movie history. Still, though she may be a woman in a man’s world, she’s still someone we sympathize with and want to succeed since she kind of reminds women of themselves in many ways. Not only that, but as a businesswoman, she becomes a victim to the same mistakes as any man would. Of course, Mildred met her downfall, but at least she made it to the top despite great odds.

5. A Letter to Three Wives

This is perhaps one of the most relevant films for women since it pertains to an issue that all women face, which is the struggle for perfection. Yet, it also tells women that they don’t have to be superwomen in order to be loved and appreciated by the men in their lives. All three women protagonists are each imperfect in their own way and have very imperfect lives and marriages. All three somehow feel inadequate when compared to their “friend” Addie Ross who their husbands see as a goddess and is probably the closest thing to a superwoman in her time, though she really is a complete bitch. Not to mention, all three think that the the strain on their marriages is their fault. And adding insult to injury, she sends them a letter telling these three women that she ran off with one of their husbands. It’s also interesting to note these women lead very different lives from one another, struggle with very different issues, and are portrayed in non-stereotypical fashion. You got Jeanne Crain who left the farm to serve her country only to come back having a difficult time adjusting to her husband’s world which is so different than the one she left behind. She sees herself as hick who wears cheap mail order clothes worrying that she wouldn’t be able to impress her upper class husband’s friends with her man being completely blind to what she’s dealing with. Ann Sothern is a working mother and breadwinner whose schoolteacher husband (Kirk Douglas) isn’t much thrilled with. It’s not just that she’s earning more money than he is but that she’s earning a living writing for a radio soap opera and how her job interferes with their lives. However, Kirk Douglas knows full well and accepts his situation since Sothern is just as smart as he is and that her status as a breadwinner allows him to have the career he wants without having to worry about the bills. Yet, Sothern doesn’t seem to know what Douglas wants from her. Then we have Linda Darnell who’s from the wrong side of the tracks and sees herself as a gold digger who married her boss just to escape her working class light. But Darnell and Paul Douglas’ marriage gives the two of them exactly what they need. Yet, she wonders whether she’d miss her husband if he was gone. Of course, the ending is rather ambiguous but  we can be sure that at least Sothern and Darnell have husbands who surely care for them despite their own flaws and that whether Crain’s husband left her or not, she’s willing to survive without him and at least has friends.

6. Adam’s Rib

Of course, this is another comedy which is said to feature a battle of the sexes between Katherine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy. Yet, unlike most movies that feature a battle of the sexes, this one doesn’t insult the intelligence and rationality of either party. And in some respects Hepburn and Tracy both make valid points about sexism and treatment of those in the criminal justice system, particularly when a crime of passion is involved. Of course, Hepburn is the feminist who thinks men and women are equal, notes the double standard that exists for women and men regarding adultery, and humiliates Tracy in court in order to prove that he’s not immune to sexism as any man. Of course, Hepburn may have her sympathies with Judy Holliday who’s accused of shooting her asshole husband after catching him having an affair, but she knows it since she’s also a woman and sees why her client would snap. Furthermore, she’s very aware on how women were treated by society at the time and strives to make sure her client gets as fair a treatment as any man would in her place. On the other hand, though Hepburn is right to acknowledge sexism, this doesn’t mean that Tracy is completely in the wrong. Rather, though Tracy may have his own biases, he’s certainly no male chauvinist pig nor does he have anything against women, but quite the contrary. Actually, he’s a more progressive man for his time who’s perfectly fine with his wife’s force and ambition. He’s just not happy about her using the case for her own selfish purposes. To him, Judy Holliday’s gender and situation are practically irrelevant is as far as his job as a prosecutor goes. In Tracy’s eyes, Judy Holliday is guilty of attempted murder and showed disregard for the law as there should never be an excuse for such behavior regardless of gender. If Judy Holliday had been a man, it would be very clear that Tracy would’ve judged her no differently. Unfortunately for Tracy, though he may be on the side of the law and have no special affection for Holliday’s husband, he’s nevertheless working in his interests. And we’re very much instructed to sympathize with Judy Holliday since her husband is a man with no redeemable qualities and should never have custody of the kids.

7. All About Eve

Of course, this film may have it’s flaws but it’s an essential feminist film nonetheless because it shows the sexual bias and the entertainment industry and how such makes women become rivals instead of friends. Of course, it says that a woman isn’t complete without her man, but so did many Hollywood films at the time. Still, Margo Channing is an aging actress who plays roles of younger women and is insecure about growing older and settling down with her boyfriend Bill Sampson. She sees newcomer Eve Harrington as a threat to her career and goes through a diva meltdown which is dismissed as an overreaction until Eve tries to seduce Bill. However, the reality is that though aging, Margo is a highly talented actress at the height of her career as well as a star with legendary status who’s probably in a more secure position than many of her peers. Not to mention, she’s still very pretty and is dating a man who’s eight years younger than her who loves and respects her for who she is. However, Margo’s flaw is that she views her career as the most important thing in her life and knows all too well that her line of work where aging can be career killer. Yet, though Eve Harrington is a genuine threat, it’s age that triumphs over youth in this one and in some ways is a better female role model because of it. Margo may be a bitch but sometimes her whining can be seen as perfectly justified. Even though Margo learns to accept getting older, settles down with Bill, and decides not to play younger women, she loses nothing letting Eve play Cora and become a star. Sure Eve Harrington may be young, pretty, and talented, but she’s a sociopath who will do whatever it takes to get whatever she wants. And she manages to fool almost everyone in the cast except Birdie and Addison. Margo is a woman of integrity with supportive and sincere friends and has some genuine humanity in her. Eve is just a cold and manipulative bitch willing to use people as tools and cares only for herself. And since Margo’s willing to accept the direction of her career and start having a life outside of the theater, she survives Eve Harrington as well as many of the young actresses who come after her. Eve submits to critic Addison DeWitt, selling her soul to all her fans and the media since she has nothing but her career.

8. The Barefoot Contessa

This is more of a cautionary tale pertaining to the objectification of women and the price they pay for it. The film unfolds as a fairy tale turned tragedy as we see Ava Gardner as a person like Humphrey Bogart does, but is viewed by the rest of the male cast as an object to be exploited for their benefit without any account for her whether it be by looks, talent, status, or what not. In some way, this is what objectification really is and Ava Gardner ultimately suffers for it. Ava Gardner is a woman who is smart as she is beautiful whose main motivation is to enjoy the challenge and escape that a Hollywood career might offer a woman who will nevertheless value the simpler things in life. However, she’s also a woman who’s known to have sex with multiple men (known as her “cousins”) and has a mind of her own. And in every fairy tale there has to be a Prince Charming as in the Count Favrini or so Gardner assumes he is. Yet, once she marries him, you realize he’s just willing to use her as much as most of the other male characters. But in this case, it’s because she’s a glamorous celebrity whose marriage to her will work in his plans to bring his family to a memorable end. And it doesn’t end well for Gardner.

9. Roman Holiday

Of course, this is a romantic comedy, but it’s one that encourages women to do what’s best for themselves for a change. Of course, the man who’s stifling Audrey Hepburn’s life in the beginning isn’t a romantic interest but her dad who’s a king, which makes her a princess. And as a princess, she has royal duties which consists of going on diplomatic trips as well as having her schedule filled with PR activities all day long. Soon all the stress catches up with Hepburn that she takes off in the middle of the night and spends the next day doing whatever she wants such as living a day without her crushing responsibilities. And she does this only to the benefit of herself. Of course, Hepburn eventually has to return to her life as a princess but she does as a more assertive young woman who’s willing to accommodate her own needs alongside her duties and more able to think for herself.

10. Now, Voyager

Kind of has a similar message to Roman Holiday yet, Charlotte Vale’s path to empowerment and learning to think for herself doesn’t completely solve her problems. However, the domineering force in her life is her emotionally abusive mother who tried to control her all her life and lets her know that she is unwanted and unloved. Not to mention, Mrs. Vale doesn’t want her daughter to have much of a life either and does all the decision making for her. That is until Charlotte suffers a nervous breakdown and is confined to a sanitarium and later emerges out of her shell, goes on a cruise where she meet the unhappily married Jerry, and falls in love with him. Though adulterous, their relationship would have a positive impact on both their lives. When she returns, she confronts her mother and finds that she’s no longer scared of living for herself. After her mother dies, Charlotte returns to the sanitarium where she becomes a surrogate mother to Jerry’s daughter Tina. Also, unlike many women in old movies, Charlotte is perfectly all right to live without a man, doesn’t need to settle down for just anyone, and is willing to be happy with what she has, which is a lot but still.

11. Giant

Of course, this doesn’t start out as a feminist film since it begins with Rock Hudson and Elizabeth Taylor’s whirlwind courtship and marriage. However, once they start their married life in Texas, Taylor starts turning Hudson’s world upside down. For one, she treats the  Mexican workers on Reata as human beings, doesn’t see anything unfeminine with discussing politics, and has no qualms about defying tradition. Still, I think what makes this movie as a feminist film is how it depicts femininity. This is expressed through Elizabeth Taylor  in relation to Mercedes McCambridge. Taylor is perfectly comfortable with being a woman and isn’t ashamed of her femininity. Yet, she’s still a strong woman who isn’t afraid to do what she thinks is right or speak her mind whenever she feels like it. She may be a woman but she’s also her own person and refuses to conform to her gender’s expectations. In the end, her life with Hudson helps change him into a better man though it takes a long time. On the other hand, McCambridge sees her femininity as something to be ashamed of and denies it in order to be one of the boys in order to feel dominant. She’s a misogynist and hates Taylor with an instant passion. She is butch and violent and thinks that only these two traits can be a show of strength. Of course, her harshness and violent demeanor are what causes her downfall after falling off Taylor’s horse that she treated so badly. In some ways, these two women show the difference between being a strong female character and being a female character just acting macho.

12. The Three Faces of Eve

This is a film that depicts a woman with multiple personalities superbly played by Joanne Woodward (best known for her marriage to Paul Newman) who received an Oscar for her performance that year. Of course, the afflicted woman is a quiet, mousy, and unassuming housewife named Eve White who suffers from headaches and occasional blackouts, from which emerges the wild party girl Eve Black. However, though Eve had this problem since childhood, this mental illness persists as a way for her to act out in an unhappy marriage with a man who doesn’t understand her condition nor cares to. In many respects, he’s an abusive jerk who later dumps her and later abandons their daughter. And Eve begins to recover as a third personality of the stable Jane emerges who gathers strength once Eve starts living as a single woman. In some ways, Eve’s personality disorder fed off of her unhappiness in a life she was reluctant to leave. Yet, when she does, Jane becomes stronger since she’s the most healthy personality as two Eves decline and starts leading a new life better than the one she left. May not be a feminist film, but it works out like one as far as I’m concerned.

13. Pinky

I know this one is the least known movies on the list about a black girl who can pass for white but don’t ask why she’s played by white girl Jeanne Crain. Then again, the Jeanne Crain portrayal makes sense. Anyway, she comes home from nursing school with a white boyfriend who she’s all set to marry and start a new life with him in Colorado. However, her grandmother isn’t too happy and asks her to take care of former boss Ethel Barrymore who’s on her deathbed. Crain reluctantly abides but thinks Barrymore is an unpleasant old woman to work for. Yet, when she dies, Crain finds out that this woman left everything to her in order that her estate would serve as a black clinic and nursing school (this is in the South during segregation). And when Barrymore’s will becomes contested by family members, she decides to fight and wins. May seem like a career vs. man story but is far more complex since the issue of race in involved. For Crain, marriage not only means being with the man of her dreams yet this would mean she’d have to live as a white woman for the rest of her life. Yet, she chooses to risk her relationship so she can fulfill the old lady’s wishes and help her community as well as brave the rampant climate of racism. It may not be the easiest choice to make but it was one that would make Crain a much happier woman because of it. And in a time when women were being encouraged to be happy homemakers, this movie is a breath of fresh air.

Halloween Costume Tips for Children

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For those who remember my last post for inappropriate Halloween costumes, I was mainly setting certain standards that applied to a more general audience, particularly of the teen and adult variety (especially those in college). However, when it comes to Halloween costumes, not all standards are created equal especially if they pertain for children under the age of 14. For this I have a special set of rules to make sure your child can dress in a safe and appropriate costume and you don’t have to be accused of bad parenting. Of course, I don’t have any kids but I understand that the FCC standards of decency are much different for children’s programming as well as am the oldest of 23 grandchildren so those kind of count. Also, it’s not difficult to figure out and I’m just writing this post for laughs and using it to post bad costume pictures like the one of kids dressed from The Jersey Shore.

1. Make sure the costume idea is age appropriate- Okay, if you don’t want to be seen as a bad parent, you need to pay attention to this. Of course, there are certain costumes that shouldn’t be worn by anyone but sometimes there are certain costume ideas which are perfectly all right for adults but absolutely not suitable for children. Sexy costumes are a perfect example but there are age inappropriate examples for both boys and girls like these:

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2. Make sure the costume is obtained from G or PG rated material- Or from any source in which you’ll let your kid watch. Of course, many superhero movies are PG-13 and so are the later Harry Potter films but these are perfectly fine. And I wouldn’t object from any parent dressing their kid as a hobbit if they’re Lord of the Rings fans. You can dress your kid as a stormtrooper for all I care. But, please don’t have your kid be dressed from a source material that’s rated R and strictly for adults like Hannibal Lecter. I mean children aren’t going to know who he is but parents probably will and they might get freaked out. See here:

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3. Don’t be gross or gory- Of course, on adult costumes grossness and goriness are perfectly all right since Halloween is supposed to be scary and most violence and gross out comedies are catered to adults anyway. For kids, not so much since there are plenty of debates about how much violence in the media influences children’s likeliness to commit violence themselves. As for grossness, you don’t want other parents to be disgusted by your kid’s costume. Of course, this one takes the cake:

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4. Make sure the costume sets a decent example- By this, I mean make sure it’s appropriate enough not for people to get offended by it or accuse you of bad parenting. Of course, if your son wants to dress up as his favorite character from My Little Pony, that is fine. If your son wants to dress up in a girly costume, that’s fine as well. Also, if your girl wants to dress in boyish costume, it’s all right, too. After all, this is Halloween where cross dressing is common among people who wouldn’t do so otherwise. Also, cross dressing is perfectly G rated. However, I wouldn’t advise any parent to have them wear costumes of political figures, controversial celebrities, reality TV stars, convicts, or any TV character known for doing very bad things (like Dexter or anyone from The Wire). Just don’t let your kid wear anything disturbing.

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5. Make sure the costume is appropriate enough to wear in school- Of course, if your kid goes to a public elementary school, there’s a good chance that he or she will wear it in school on the last Friday in October. Make sure your kid’s costume fits into the guidelines of his or her school such as not having sharp edges as well as leave the weapons at home (I mean high schools don’t even have plastic knives in the cafeteria). Still, I wouldn’t recommend your kid wearing this for the same reason (and that it’s offensive):

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6. Make sure the costume doesn’t have anything to do with drugs or alcohol- This is a biggie since such content might be perfectly all right for an adult to wear, it’s unsuitable for children, especially if they’re elementary school age. Any child going as Walter White, Jesse Pinkman, Don Draper, or anyone else in a costume depicting drugs or alcohol will certainly not be allowed to wear it for school. As for the alcohol and cigarettes, use the idea with your spouse, not your kid. Also, I wonder what this parent was smoking when he or she thought this was a good costume idea for a baby:

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7. It’s all right to be scary but not too scary- It’s all right if your kid wants to go as something scary for Halloween. After all, Halloween is a holiday associated with ghosts, witches, ghouls, and monsters. However, there are some scary kid costumes that are very disturbing for adults and would certainly give little children nightmares, especially if they’re from horror movies aimed at teens and adults. Tim Burton film inspired costumes also fall into this camp. Such an example here:

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There are some costumes that are unintentionally scary such as this Pinocchio costume. Avoid this one like the plague:

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8. Make sure the costume passes political correctness- Of course, with adult costumes it’s okay to allow a little political incorectness now and then, just as long as it’s not outright offensive. For kids, you have to be a little more careful since while some costumes might be okay on and adult, they may not be for kids, especially if it insults someone who might give them candy. For instance, this Blind Ref costume might be a funny idea for adults and teenagers but for kids, this might end up insulting blind people. Thus, political correctness must be emphasized:

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9. Don’t make your kid wear a costume that would embarrass them- Listen, you might want your kids to dress in a costume you might think is funny but if your kid carries the kind of expression akin to Ralphie in pink bunny pajamas, you might want to take a pass. Not to mention, there are some costume ideas that are just too cruel to instill on your kids. The boy who’s wearing a toilet costume is certainly going to get teased or beat up at school shown here:

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10. Naughty is fine, sexy is not- Of course, the terms “naughty” and “sexy” almost mean the same thing when it comes to Halloween costumes for adults. However, you don’t want your daughter to dress in a sexy costume but that in kids costume “naughty” doesn’t necessarily carry the same connotations. For instance, take this Naughty Leopard costume for toddlers:

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While it may say “Naughty Leopard” on the label, look closely ans see that it’s just a normal little girl’s costume that carries no sexual connotations whatsoever. This is fine. However, if a girl’s costume seems to resemble something off Toddlers & Tiaras or anything resembling child prostitutes, then it’s not okay. See here:

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11. Make sure the costume is something your kid can go trick or treating in- A child’s costume needs to be practical such as allowing them to see and move around. Also, you want to emphasize safety in the equation such as having your kid’s costume not be something they could injure themselves or other kids. This baby Minecraft costume isn’t a real practical one to wear since it doesn’t have anything to see through. But it’s okay since it’s a baby costume. If this was worn by an older kid, it would’ve been worse:

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12. If it’s inappropriate for adults, then it’s inappropriate for kids- Last but not least, I’d like to note that if a costume idea is deemed inappropriate and offensive to adult audiences, then it will certainly be the case if a kid wore it. And I don’t think it could be any more emphasized than with me posting a baby pimp costume:

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Of course, I might have missed a few criteria here and there but if you want to see which costumes your kids shouldn’t be wearing I have a few links at your disposal:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/10/15/the-most-inappropriate-kids-halloween-costumes-photos_n_1967382.html

http://www.babble.com/home/25-totally-inappropriate-halloween-costumes-for-kids/

http://www.parentsociety.com/news-2/inappropriate-kids-halloween-costumes/

Thoughts of the US Government Shutdown

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I don’t always talk about politics but I think this government shutdown is just ridiculous and isn’t doing anyone any favors. National parks, museums, and historic sites are closed, certain social programs and policies are inactive, and thousands of government workers are furloughed until further notice. Meanwhile, Congress is stuck in the Capitol basically doing who knows what while the rest of the nation is struggling and the debt limit is ebbing ever closer to the ceiling. People are pointing fingers at the party they don’t like just to have a scapegoat, angry protestors are arriving in Washington in droves, and rants are popping up on every social media outlet while the media outlets are basically creating sensationalism as usual.

Of course, both parties are at fault since Washington D. C. is a city where no government official is completely innocent regardless of party affiliation and amount of dirty laundry. However, as the liberal I am, I have to reserve special ire on the Congressional Republicans who I can’t occupy any ounce of sympathy for. Of course, there’s no doubt they were the ones who hold most of the responsibility for putting us in this debacle in the first place over a piece of legislation they don’t like and tried almost every trick in the book to get rid of. Call it Obamacare or he Affordable Care Act but it’s a piece of legislation that’s here to stay, which most Americans like. It’s not perfect and doesn’t solve everything wrong with the healthcare system but at least it’s better than the healthcare system we had before the ACA became law (and I don’t want our country to go back to it). Still, what disgusts me that these Republican Congressmen despise this legislation so much that they’re willing to do the unthinkable and don’t seem to harbor any shame in doing so nor care who gets hurt. All they seem to care about themselves and their party’s bottom line and would risk undermining the national quality of life to make sure the government run by their party platform which must be retained at the utmost ideological purity even if such notions like protecting life and free market economics vastly contradict each other. If they don’t get their way, they usually whine and scream like a two-year-old, blame the Democrats, and go on nasty tirades on Fox News, since it’s the only news network that ever agrees with them 100% of the time. I’m sick of how they justify trying to get their own way by making life a complete hell for millions of Americans, especially those who can hardly afford to make ends meet. I’m disgusted how many of them call themselves Christian yet selfishly reject legislation that promotes Christian values using buzzwords like, “big government,” “government takeover,” “Socialism,” “amnesty,” “soft on terror,” and other terms. I have seen my youngest cousins act with much more respect, dignity, and maturity than this selfish, spoiled, bullying, and tantrum prone bunch of middle aged brats. What makes me more outraged is that how perfectly sane and sensible people can take them seriously or even vote for them.

Look, most Americans may not be 100% content with Obamacare or other government policies but none wouldn’t dare wish for a government shutdown regardless of political beliefs. No matter how much Americans complain about their government, there at least some government programs that we like, benefit from, and/or rely upon. There are even self-identified conservative Republicans who’d spat almost any anti-government tirade you could think of, but will go out of his or her way to justify why certain government programs and functions should remain for those very reasons. I know a lot of people like this personally and that Congressional Republicans are also guilty of such when they discuss a policy such as national defense spending, which conservatives will always advocate increasing regardless of whether it complies with their concept of limited government or not. Putting more money in national defense doesn’t reduce the size of the government, especially when it pertains to financing certain projects like wars. Rather such action expands government size as well as adds to the debt and burdens taxpayers in decades to come. Yet, you will never hear a Republican say this. Most of the time conservative Republicans will will inflict their beliefs on limited government is when it pertains to legislation they hate like environmental protection regardless how much money it may save in the long run. As with environmental protection, a conservative Republican will oppose any such legislation citing that such laws don’t benefit the economy and take away jobs from hard working Americans. They would call environmentalists tree-hugging hippies, say that global warming isn’t real (it is, it’s caused by human activity, and it’s serious), and view their causes as trivial and selfish. However, a lot of environmental legislation has not only helped improve our nation’s quality of life but also saved taxpayers a tremendous amount of money in the long term which would’ve been spent on treating pollution related illnesses, cleaning up environmental disaster areas, and other things. Furthermore, it has helped businesses, created new jobs, and drive up technological innovation. Yet both scenarios very much illustrate that regardless of party affiliation and ideology, we all have our own ideas about government and most of us wouldn’t want our lawmakers to get rid of certain aspects about it that we either like, benefit from, or depend upon. And that even those who believe in smaller and more limited government will make certain reservations for such government policy.

Of course, you might think that the Republicans’ support of increased defense spending but opposition to environmental legislation sort of discredits the GOP as a champion of smaller government. Indeed it does, but in their positions on both these issues make sense if you also note that the Republican Party also champions big business, corporations, and unrestrained free market economy. A higher defense budget benefits defense contractors like Haliburton, Blackwater, KBR, and Lockheed Martin as well as other companies like Boeing. To have a defense contract is to be on the government’s payroll manufacturing whatever the military needs, especially at a time of war. On the other hand, companies like Exxon Mobil, Chevron, and Shell absolutely hate any policy relating to environmental protection because they not only want to be at the top of their competition and earn a profit but also avoid any responsibility for environmental damage they might have caused (note how a Big Oil company acts after causing an oil spill or how any polluting company in any other environmental disaster). No carbon based energy industry wants to compete with a green energy upstart and certainly prefers not to adapt. As with environmental disasters, a big polluting energy company would go out of its way to avoid responsibility for the damage it caused to the affected wildlife or local community.

Still, despite that the United States is a democratically elected government in which citizens elect their leaders to represent their interests, this doesn’t mean that everyone is going to have his or her own way 100% of the time. We must remember that elections and legislative decisions are decided by majority vote. And though the Republicans still maintained a majority in the House of Representatives, Democrats still control the Senate and the presidency so they’re certainly not going to have their way all the time in Washington. Not to mention, Obama won reelection in 2012 so if it has any idea of what the country thinks of him or his policies, then it probably means Congressional Republicans should stop being the sore loser crybabies they are and start cooperating with the Democrats as well as maybe go along with a compromise or two. They may also want to pay attention to public opinion in their own district and doing what’s best for the country, instead of their own party, special interests, or themselves. Sure Democrats may have the same problems as their conservative counterparts but at least they don’t act like bullying crybabies on TV, have put up with considerable crap from their opposition as well as their own party ranks for years, don’t have their own version of Fox News, don’t respond harshly to criticism or demean disadvantaged and minority populations, and aren’t always obsessed with ideological purity. Furthermore, the Democratic Party has a platform that works for 21st century America and appeals to a large and diverse population. Thus, Republicans might want to understand that while throwing a tantrum will give you attention, it will never give you respect, especially from people like me who are absolutely fed up with your shenanigans you put the American people through. If you don’t start losing gracefully and acting like mature adults, then expect to create more enemies, lose more elections, and eventually have your party be driven into extinction. For though us Democrats may be your rivals, you Republicans are your own worst enemy. And if you’re willing to risk a government shutdown over a piece of legislation you don’t like, then there’s obviously something wrong with you.

Underrated, Overlooked, Forgotten, and Ignored Historical Heroes who Need More Love

Some historical heroes get all the glory and praise even though they didn’t really deserve it. Others perform great deeds but are barely recognized for them for some reason whether it be by race, gender, job, or just that they don’t really fit into the historical narrative. Others are famous for one reason or another but aren’t really fully recognized for their work because they may share some unlikable quality the status quo doesn’t like or their accomplishments just get lost in the historic record. In some ways, history doesn’t do much justice to them either. Here are some of the great historical heroes who need more love. (I’m not including Tesla because he’s on too many lists already.)

1. Frank J. Wilson

His Feats: He was the IRS agent who nailed Al Capone, used the serial numbers on ransom notes to help solve kidnapping and murder of the Lindbergh baby (well, he nailed Bruno Hauptmann), and eventually became head of the Secret Service where he successfully resisted attempts of an FBI takeover orchestrated by J. Edgar Hoover, nearly eliminated the production and distribution of counterfeit money through a nationwide education program, and initiated practices in presidential security which have since become standard procedure, all before retiring in 1947. It’s been said that Al Capone had a plot to kill him which he later cancelled and came to regret.

Why He’s Ignored: Wilson couldn’t bask in the glory of his accomplishments since secrecy was part of his job. Even during his three year investigation of Al Capone, he didn’t even tell his wife about his work if that gives you any idea. So naturally the credit went to Elliot Ness instead.

2. Mary Seacole

Her Feats: She’s best known as a nurse in the Crimean War who used her own resources to set up her own hospital to treat the wounded even though she ended up bankrupt afterwards and her popular made it possible for much of the British public to support her. Known as “Mother Seacole.” Her autobiography was one of the first written by a black woman in Britain as well as successfully combated racial prejudice.

Why She’s Ignored: Well, she’s not actually ignored in Britain and her home country Jamaica, most people in the world have barely heard of her. Also, she was black (though her father was Scottish), not conventionally educated (mostly learned to be a nurse from her mother), and her presence in the Crimean War doesn’t fit well with the Florence Nightingale. Also, Nightingale criticized her for keeping a “bad house” in the Crimea and was responsible for “much drunkenness and improper conduct.” Whether Nightingale was either telling the truth or acting out of jealousy is unclear. Not to mention, there’s some debate over whether Seacole’s achievements were exaggerated for political reasons, especially in recent years. Of course, she’s no Florence Nightingale but even that shouldn’t dismiss her from the history books or even as a pioneer in nursing since she did have an amazing story as well as helped make nursing a more respectable profession . Still, since she was quite popular with the soldiers who were willing to raise money for her, she was certainly no fraud.

3. Helen Keller

Her Feats: Overcame her blindness and deafness after a bout with illness as a toddler as well as graduate from Radcliffe College. Later she became a writer, lecturer, and lifelong activist for the disabled, disadvantaged, women, and ethnic minorities as well as sent money to the NAACP and helped co-found the American Civil Liberties Union.

Why She’s Ignored: Helen Keller isn’t really ignored as a historical figure per se, but almost everything about her and the reason why she’s such an influential figure often is. Of course, this is because to talk about her adult life and how she achieved fame is to acknowledge Keller’s radical politics, namely the fact she had been a Socialist since she was in college. Her radical political views stemmed from her realization of how social conditions had an impact on how likely a person was going to end up disabled. Not only that, but she also knew full well that she was able to receive the guidance she got from Anne Sullivan was because of her privileged background. Her Socialist politics and activities were very well known at the time and she made no secret about them either. If you don’t believe it, here’s a quote of hers from 1911, “The few own the many because they possess the means of livelihood of all … The country is governed for the richest, for the corporations, the bankers, the land speculators, and for the exploiters of labor. The majority of mankind are working people. So long as their fair demands—the ownership and control of their livelihoods—are set at naught, we can have neither men’s rights nor women’s rights. The majority of mankind is ground down by industrial oppression in order that the small remnant may live in ease.” Of course, you’ll never hear that from Helen Keller in elementary school. Of course, many conservative parents wouldn’t really want their children to glorify a Socialist, would they? Still, you don’t make it to the TIME 100 of the 20th Century just by overcoming being blind and deaf.

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4. Clara Barton

Her Feats: Well, she was a teacher who started New Jersey’s first public school, a patent clerk (first female to work in the US government), army nurse, humanitarian, political activist, and founder of the American Red Cross as well as ran the Office of Missing Soldiers.

Why She’s Ignored: Well, she’s not really much ignored when it comes to moments of her life such as the Civil War and founding of the American Red Cross. Of course, most people know her for being a Civil War nurse but she wasn’t just that. For one, she started out as a teacher for a dozen years in schools in Canada in West Georgia and was rather successful. She even started a free school in New Jersey which she ended up quitting after being past over for a promotion. After that she worked at the U.S. Patent Office as a clerk, which made her the first woman to hold a job in the US government. After the war, she ran an office to find missing Civil War soldiers whose fate were unknown other than they didn’t come back. Before the Civil War, searching for dead soldiers wasn’t done before even though we take the concept for granted today. The Clara Barton National Historic Site is one of the first national historic sites dedicated to the accomplishments of a woman. However, in American history class, she’s only a footnote.

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5. Helen Hunt Jackson

Her Feats: She was one of the early Native American rights activists who wrote A Century of Dishonor chronicling the mistreatment of Indians that was legally sanctioned by state and federal policy and a novel Ramona. Both books remain in print to this day as she also attracted considerable attention to her cause.

Why She’s Ignored: Well, for one, she was living at a time when Native American rights was a fairly controversial issue (like gun control in some states), especially since the US government’s higher priority was taking land from the Indians and placing them on reservations. Speaking of the US government, she wasn’t well liked by them, the settlers, or the military officers she documented as being corrupt as well as encroaching and stealing Indian lands. Doesn’t fit in the Western movies does it?

6. Dr. Charles R. Drew

His Feats: He was a physician, surgeon, and medical researcher best known for developing techniques for blood storage and applied his expert knowledge in developing large-scale blood banks early in WWII, allowing medics to save thousands of lives of Allied Forces. Also, bears distinction as the first black surgeon selected to serve as ab examiner on he American Board of Surgery.

Why He’s Ignored: Unfortunately the racial politics at the time cost Drew his job after he protested the racial segregation in the donation of blood over it lacking scientific foundation. Also, he was black and most black doctors and scientists weren’t going to be the ones winning the Nobel Prizes in Medicine or be talked about in a school history or science class. I mean most of history was written by white men, right? Then there’s the fact that he’s responsible for saving thousands of lives back in WWII which many white veterans might not even want to admit, especially if they’re from the South. Not to mention, his work in blood storage continues to save people’s lives to this day but not many would want to hear that it was a black man who made that possible.

7. Percy Julian

His Feats: He was a research chemist who pioneered in the chemical synthesis of medicinal drugs from plants. He was first to synthesize the natural product of physostigmine and a pioneer in the large-scale industrial chemical synthesis of human hormones, steroids, progesterone, and testosterone from plant sterols such as stigmasterol and sitosterol. His work would lay the foundation for the steroid drug industry’s cortisone, other cortisteroids, and birth control pills. Later, he started his own company for synthesized steroid intermediates of the Mexican wild yam, greatly reducing the cost of these products to large multinational pharmaceutical companies, helping significantly expand the use of several important drugs. Received more than 130 chemical patents and was the first African American to hold a doctorate in chemistry as well as inducted into the National Academy of Sciences and second African American scientist inducted from any field.

Why He’s Ignored: Still, though Julian’s scientific contributions radically changed the world, perhaps the only recognition he gets nowadays is his own Nova episode called Forgotten Genius. Still, most people outside the black scientific community don’t really know who this guy is. His race has a lot to do with this since any white scientist with a similar list of accomplishments would’ve certainly become a household name. There are other factors in his life that play a role as well. For one, unlike his much more famous counterparts, Julian didn’t spend most of his career at a college but in a corporation (mostly because he couldn’t get an academic position after a scandal got him fired from Howard University. Not to mention, he didn’t have a good chance getting hired anywhere else mostly because he was black and this was pre-Civil Rights Era). Still, working in a corporation isn’t going to help a scientist’s chances receiving a Nobel Prize which Percy Julian certainly didn’t receive (but definitely deserved). Nevertheless, for a man like him to make the kind of contributions he did despite tremendous odds makes him a very significant figure indeed.

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8. James Madison

His Feats: Founding father, “Father of the Constitution,” secretary of state, and 4th President of the United States. He was the first president to lead a nation into war (reluctantly after negotiations and embargoes had failed), first president to face enemy gunfire while in office, and the first (and only) president to exercise his authority as Commander in Chief while in battle. He did all this while presiding over a divided cabinet, a factious party, a difficult Congress, and useless generals. In 1814 as the misnamed War of 1812 continued, he and Dolley were forced to flee Washington while British troops burned down the White House and Capitol. Yet, he still signed a peace treaty with Great Britain later that year, which ended the “Second War of Independence” and resulting in the US losing no territory. Madison miraculously brought peace to America (despite near-treasonous actions by New England), and showed that the new nation still had what it took. Outside the War of 1812, created the Second Bank of the United States, a stronger military, a high tariff to protect the new factories opened during the war, and a federally subsidized road and canal system. When he stepped down in 1817, ex-president John Adams wrote to ex-president Thomas Jefferson (Madison’s former mentor, predecessor, and close friend) that Madison had, “acquired more glory, and established more union than all three predecessors…put together.”

Why He’s Ignored: As a founding father, Madison is very well known since he’s the one delegate from the Constitutional Convention who devised much of the system of the US government as we know today. As president though, he’s best known as Dolley Madison’s husband. And though Mrs. Madison might have had plenty of contributions of her own such as stopping Congressmen from killing each other, playing hostess, saving critical memorabilia from the British, and set precedent for the role of First Lady, Mr. Madison is continually placed on the lists of Top 10 US presidents by academics. Also, the War of 1812 isn’t a significant war on the American radar mostly because it lasted less than 3 years, didn’t have Americans fighting each other or abroad, was fought at a time before photos and film documentation, and didn’t result in the loss or gain of any territory. Not to mention, it only comes up when we talk about “The Star Spangled Banner,” Tecumseh, the Battle of New Orleans (fought two weeks after the war had ended due to slow communication), and Dolley Madison’s heroic actions as the White House burned.

9. Elizabeth Kenny

Her Feats: She an unaccredited Australian nurse who devised a controversial new approach for the treatment of polio before Dr. Jonas Salk developed the vaccine which eradicated the virus in most countries. Her findings ran counter to conventional medical wisdom, which demonstrated the need to exercise the muscles affected by polio instead of immobilizing them. Her principles of muscle rehabilitation would become the foundation of physical therapy. Polio survivor and actor Alan Alda basically stated that she was his main reason for being a feminist since his mother used her methods for treating him.

Why She’s Ignored: Her idea of physical therapy to combat polio though successful stirred significant controversy in the medical community, especially in her own country who questioned her results and methodology. Also, she wasn’t formally trained as a nurse (and might have learned her craft from a midwife.) Then there’s the fact she’s a woman whose methods challenged conventional medical wisdom. Not to mention, her treatments weren’t always successful. Even so, they helped improve the quality of life of thousands of people who probably would’ve ended up paralyzed otherwise and her methods nowadays are considered medical gospel.

10. Beulah Henry

Her Feats: Known as “Lady Edison” she had a role in over 100 inventions though she was more of a visionary who relied on model makers and engineers to bring them to life since she lacked the technical knowledge. Of her many inventions lists the vacuum ice freezer, the “protograph” (a primitive photocopier), the inflatable doll, the can opener, hair curlers, the “Latho” (a sponge that held a bar of soap in the center), and an umbrella with a snap-on cloth cover that allowed it to be color coordinated.

Why She’s Ignored: For one, she’s a woman at a time when the most famous inventors were men. Also, she only took 49 patents while many of her male counterparts took way more for things they weren’t totally their own ideas (I’m talking to you Edison).

11. Walter Reuther

His Feats: Labor activist, trade unionist, and helped make the United Auto Workers a force to be reckoned with as well as helped legitimize the presence of unions as a method of leverage for employers and a powerful political force. He successfully led major strikes against Ford and General Motors during the 1930s and 1940s. Founded Americans for Democratic Action in 1947, negotiated a merger that formed the AFL-CIO, marched with Dr. Martin Luther King, and the list goes on.

Why He’s Ignored: Well, to put it this way, politics. Although Reuther’s union activism was responsible for improving the lives of millions of Americans, he’s not a kind of guy Red State school board would want to see in an American History textbook. Also, the fact he was a Socialist in the 1930s and spent a stint in the Soviet Union don’t help his case either along with a 200 page FBI file. Not to mention, how unions continue to decline in power since the 1980s. I mean conservatives don’t like him at all.

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12. Frances Perkins

Her Feats: First US female cabinet member who served as Secretary of Labor under President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. She played an essential role in the New Deal program as well as the second-longest US cabinet member in history. Not only did she help pull the labor movement into the New Deal coalition, she also championed many New Deal aspects like the Civilian Conservation Corps, the Public Works Administration (succeeded by the Federal Works Agency and the labor portion of the National Industrial Recovery Act she also played a role in). She helped established unemployment benefits, elderly pensions, welfare,minimum wage, overtime laws, and defined the standard of the 44 hour workweek. She pushed to reduce workplace accidents and helped craft laws against child labor as well as formed policy dealing with labor unions and alleviating strikes through the US Conciliation Service. The US Labor Department building is named after her in her honor.

Why She’s Ignored: Well, there was a recent scandal involving a mural depicting her in the Maine Labor Department Headquarters, which the governor wanted removed. The claims were that he received complaints from state business officials and an anonymous fax charging it was reminiscent of “communist North Korea where they use these murals to brainwash the masses.” He also ordered that the names of seven conference rooms in the state’s labor department be changed, including one named after Perkins. If that gives you any idea why she’s seen as a token cabinet member in a U.S. History book, then here it is.