I’m a terrible blogger.

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But things have been pretty hectic lately. Since the last I blogged, I had my boyfriend’s birthday, my grandpa died, there was Christmas, my son has been sick, then there was my grandpa’s memorial service, and I started back in at school again…all around a singularly unforgiving work schedule. (Heeeey, ‘Manda! You are on Christmas break…can you come in early and stay late in every shift and come in on all of your days off? Kthxbai!”

I know. Excuses, excuses. So…I’m gonna give you some awesome pictures!

11 things I have learned in 2011

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1:  There is value in cutting people out of your life. I know that sounds harsh, but we all have one or two people in our lives that really just seem to live to bring us down. Some people are just too immature, two-faced or…or downright disruptive to be a part of it.

2: Motherhood is an isolating thing. Technically, I started to learn this in 2010, but last year, Dominic was still tiny and easily toted. This year, as a 1 year old, he is into absolutely everything, so dragging him out inevitably means chasing him around. Basically, it comes down to whether or not your friends have kids themselves…and mine do not. Thankfully, I have made one “mommy” friend (along with her husband). Otherwise, I’d probably have a concussion from head-desking.

3: Staying organized is nearly impossible. I started the Fall semester with a perfect organization system…but about 3 weeks in, it was in shambles. I’ll, of course, make another attempt at it for the Spring semester.

4: I will never be able to grasp the things that society finds attractive. People actually DO think the “duckface” is hot. I still have no idea why they think that, but apparently, they do. Also, has anyone seen Uggs? ’nuff said.

5: You can absolutely not count on the general populous for common sense. I run into this at work constantly. Examples:

“Hi, I’d like a twelve pack of tacos…I want 8 crunchy tacos and 3 soft tacos.”

“Ma’am, that adds up to 11.”

“I’d like a chicken chalupa supreme, a carmel apple em-pan-dah, and…do you have onion rings?” Of course we don’t have onion rings. Its Taco Bell!

My personal favorite (this was in my General Psychology class and was asked in total seriousness:

“What is common sense? I mean…I don’t understand what you mean by common sense.”

6: Trolls will troll. And people will absolutely overreact to it. Recently, on the PostSecret iPhone app (the best app EVER!), imbeciles could not resist posting pictures of their genitals, of admittedly disturbing porn (Lets just say that I now consider “Two Girls, One Cup” to be tame), and other generally stupid stuff.

My philosophy? Scroll past it and don’t feed the trolls. Trolls LOVE attention. Its like crack to them. So, ignore them, they will get bored, and that’ll be that.

The general philosophy of the PS community? Post 500,000,000+ “secrets” about how “Ontario” and “New Jersey” (the locations from which the craziness were posted) are sick, evil, ruining post secret, etc. Remember what I said about trolls and attention-crack? They just posted more and more and more, and now the app has been taken down. I can only hope that Frank (the founder of PostSecret, an ongoing community art project filled with people’s secrets) will be able to fix it in such a way that it’ll be live again soon. Clicky the link. Don’t worry: none of the crazy stuff gets posted on the blog…people actually MAIL in postcards.

7: Too much of a good thing is too much. Loved Farmville. FREAKING LOVED IT. Until they started doing like 9 billion things at once and you could only keep up if you played all. day. long. Which I can’t/won’t. So…yeah. Dosvedanya, Farmville.

8:  Do svidaniya means “Good-bye” or “Until we meet again” in Russian. Its my new favorite word. My old one was mariposita, which is “little butterfly” in Spanish.

9: Facebook is the fastest news source ever.  I am pretty clicky on CNN. I really do follow the news, I swear. But I get most of the “big” stuff from Facebook before anywhere else. Before the President announced that the SEALs kicked bin Laden’s ass, I saw posts urging me to turn on the news. After that d-bag cop sprayed down peaceful protesters with pepper spray, I saw it first via posted memes. When my aunt died, I heard about it on Facebook before any of my immediate family had been notified. Its crazy.

10: I can be reduced to tears by a movie. Did you see the part in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows pt 2 where Snape was sobbing over Lily Potter’s dead body? If Alan Rickman doesn’t win an Academy Award for that performance, the Oscars are freakin’ rigged!

11: You learn more about who you are and who you want to be every year.

 

Movie review: Across the Universe

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Writing to Evaluate essay for Composition 1:

 

Pools of Sorrow, Waves of Joy

     A film about the United States during the Vietnam War era, as a concept, seems overdone. A Vietnam-era story set to Beatles music is even more so. After all, what self-respecting ‘60s-inspired movie doesn’t have an adorable teenage cheerleader daydreaming to the tune of “I Want to Hold Your Hand” over the clichéd quarterback? The Beatles and their music helped define the decade, from the Suburban innocence of “Love Me Do” to the crazed, angry whimsy of “Helter Skelter.” But Across the Universe shows that you can, in fact, reinvent the wheel.

The plot is relatively transparent, but in an obvious, purposeful way. The first third of the film introduces us to Jude, Lucy, Maxwell, and, briefly, Prudence. All characters are, of course, named from Beatles songs. Jude, from the dingy cobbled streets of Liverpool, comes to America to find the father he never knew, and meets Max, a dissatisfied Princeton student plotting to rebel against his straight-laced parents and partying to “With a Little Help From My Friends.” A side-story shows us Prudence, our adorable teenage cheerleader wistfully and longingly singing “I Want to Hold Your Hand” from the bleachers, though it slowly becomes apparent she’s singing to a fellow cheerleader. Heading home for Thanksgiving, Max brings along Jude, where he meets his friend’s beautiful sister, Lucy, a high school student pining for her military boyfriend. Given the transparency mentioned earlier, it’s easy to guess Lucy’s love does not manage to return.

After a brief argument with Max’s family, our dynamic duo travel to New York. They move into an apartment owned by a sultry singer named Sadie, who instantly brings Janis Joplin to mind and later her Hendrix-clone guitarist, JoJo. Prudence eventually joins them, as does Lucy, now jaded from the death of her boyfriend.

Around this point, the film starts its decent into trippiness. Max is required to report to a drafting center, where grotesque, dancing toy-soldier military men inspect him, and the drafted trudge through a miniaturized jungle, at once kicking through the fog of war and buckling under the weight of the Statue of Liberty. The imagery conjures fear for the men and it’s easy to imagine the weight of that fear literally crushing them.

Once back with his friends, they attend a peace rally, which gives Lucy and Max hope that the war will be over soon and slowly sucks Lucy in with the grandeur of revolution and propaganda-style speech (“Our voice is our weapon, and united we will win!”). Afterwards, Sadie takes them to a party hosted by a hippie author, Dr. Robert. Dr. Robert is a very thinly-veiled reference to Timothy Leary, and sprouts nonsense (“I Am the Walrus”) while his audience drinks LSD-spiked pink punch. Our group winds up on a psychedelic bus (“Magical Mystery Tour,” anyone?) and Dr. Robert’s drug-addled preaching leads to the insanity of Mr. Kite’s carnival, which is almost nauseatingly colorful and motion-rich.

The final third of the film is melancholy and really brings home the dissatisfaction of the age. Lucy and Jude fight over how sucked into “the cause” she’s become, while he has no cause at all, JoJo and Sadie fight over Sadie’s fame overshadowing her band’s, and Max is surrounded by bloodshed and violence. Paco, the speaker at the peace rally, quickly turns from the inspired face of the hippy revolution to an easy-to-hate, bomb-building extremist.

The acting in Across the Universe is inspired. T.V. Carpio, who plays Prudence, is a master of the exquisite longing that her character personifies. Evan Rachel Wood (Lucy) flawlessly transitions from sock-hopping school girl to frenzied revolutionary, and Joe Anderson (Max) maintains such a wide-eyed innocence, even surrounded by death and destruction, that it’s heart-wrenching, while Jude’s Jim Sturgess maintains a haunted, jaded and stoic exterior. The best acting, though, is the briefest and the genius is likely not in the intended way. Bono plays dear Dr Robert, his nonsense topped with a white cowboy hat and a barely passable American accent. The ludicrousness and humor adds to the falseness of the character.

The imagery is powerful. The streets of Jude’s hometown, Liverpool, are dingy and dirty. Soot seems to coat every brick on every wall, and its easy to feel Jude’s desire to be free of such a place. Several musical sequences are two things at once, in a clever duality. The “Strawberry Fields Forever” sequence shows Jude’s angered, frenzied painting juxtaposed over Max on the battlefield. Strawberry-bombs fall heavily onto a jungle landscape and land alternately in a fiery explosion and a dramatic splash of bright, blood-red paint that makes you almost as queasy as the blood of Max’s fallen comrades.

Music is, of course, the main focus. The musical numbers are presented in such  a way that one doesn’t need to be a Beatles fan to appreciate the inclusion, or even to really be able to recognize them as Beatles songs. Most of the soundtrack fits in seamlessly with the plot and the ones that don’t merely add to the fantasy and freedom of the time. That being said, having a running knowledge of the Beatles does help move the subtle references along. Only one of the characters’ namesake songs were actually featured in the film (“Hey, Jude”), though “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” did play through the credits. Knowing that Max was named through “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer” makes a scene with him beating a fan with a shiny hammer amusing, and knowing the song “Sexy Sadie” lends an obviousness to her character in more ways than the Joplin imitation. Some songs were only referenced (“She Came in Through the Bathroom Window”) and some were understated, such as JoJo strumming (not singing) the tune of “A Day in the Life” while news of Martin Luther King’s death played on the news (“A Day in the Life” begins “I saw the news today, oh boy”). Fans may even feel that some other songs would have fit in well, but are absent, such as “The Long and Winding Road” towards the end of the film or “Help!” in several places.

Despite the transparency and predictability of the movie, it was beautifully done. Across the Universe captured the essence of the late 60s, in all its civil unrest, useless violence and stolen innocence.

Michelle Duggar and misogyny

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Michelle Duggar is expecting her 20th child. Congratz to the Duggars, who are obviously happy about the news.

The internet is in an uproar. 20 kids! They should be forcefully sterilized! How dare they! Peppered in with the righteous indignation that someone would choose to have a large family are frequent clown car and hoarders jokes.

Feminists are sprouting hateful nonsense like that girl in The Exorcist was sprouting split-pea soup. How dare Mrs Duggar be nothing more than an over-glorified baby-machine?

Environmentalists, of course, have their panties in a twist. How could a family be okay with bringing 20 kids into an overpopulated world that’s filled with starvation and famine?

Every news channel has some sort of medical expert weighing in on whether its responsible to have a 20th pregnancy, based not only on Mrs. Duggar’s age, but also the complications she had with her last child, Josie, that almost killed both of them.

To all of these people, I say:  Stuff it.

Love it or hate it, we live in a pro-choice nation. Why would someone have the choice to have birth control and abortion (concepts I personally support) but not have the choice to have children (which I also support)? How ridiculous. Their religious beliefs keep them from birth control. The United States was founded on the concept of freedom of religion. They love each and every one of their kids, who are by all accounts happy and healthy. They are not living off of the government, and it would not be anyone’s damn business if they were. Their children may not have brand new Air Jordans at every corner, but they have what they need.

My personal distaste for feminism aside, I would like to remind our split-pea spewing friends that the feminist movement is based, more than anything, on choice. Michelle Duggar could have chosen to be an astrophysicist. I suspect that would not have made her happy. However, having children obviously does, or she probably wouldn’t be pregnant with her 20th child. I think its lovely that she has chosen a life that suits her and brings her happiness and fulfillment. And you should too.

Yes, 20 children is a lot. And while the whole “overpopulation” thing is sketchy to me, no one can deny that those Duggar kids are huge charity-driven people. They’re raised in such a way that they find joy in helping other people in times of need. I would think that the good these 20 kids will do in the future for their fellow man far outweighs whatever impact having 20 extra people on the planet would cause.

Josie Duggar was born extremely premature. But she’s healthy now. So is Michelle. Statistics show that women Mrs. Duggar’s age are more likely to have developmentally challenged children. Health concerns about the lady are real, even if people are just gossiping about them. 20 kids is  a lot for one body to take, that’s for sure. I’ve only got one child, and I feel like I may never be, physically, the way I was before I was pregnant. Chemically, I have changed. I’m sure she goes through that. But guess what? None of these things concern me. I suspect that even if, heaven forbid, this new baby has problems, the entire Duggar family will love him or her unconditionally and without reservation or regret. They just seem like that kind of family. Also, I kind of resent the implication people are making that a handicapped child is less deserving of life and love than a “normal” healthy child. Previous pregnancy complications do not necessarily lead to future complications, and her health concerns are between her and her doctor.

I simply find it revolting how much hate is directed at a woman for choosing to have children.

Legacy of Lies: Joe Paterno

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“We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.”

–Elie Wiesel

Maybe Joe Paterno did actively cover up child sexual abuse. Maybe he didn’t.

He did, by his own admission, know about it. He knew a little boy was being raped by a coworker. They say he went to the school, and it was the school that neglected their responsibilities. And certainly, if Mr. Paterno went to them and they did nothing, then they did neglect it. They would be just as responsible. But even if he did report it to his school’s chain-of-command, he was still neglectful. Hearing what he did, he should have called the police immediately. He should have exhausted every avenue to make sure that child was protected from his coworker, as well as protecting other potential victims.

It is our duty as adults to protect the children in our lives. If they can’t look to authority figures for help, what kind of life are we teaching them?

One of the most vile parts of this is the outrage “fans” are showing about this. They were rioting! Joe Paterno is “The Face of Penn State,” a “sacrificial lamb,” and a “hero to thousands.” This is sickening. He failed to protect a boy from being molested. HE is not a victim. I don’t care how gifted he is at coaching sports. I don’t care how likable he is. He’s pathetic, sick, and a derelict.

Its a poor reflection on America, I think, that the collective “we” excuse bad behavior if the person is likable. Instead of calling for justice for a poor little boy, crowds are rioting on behalf of someone who basically stepped aside and allowed his life to be a nightmare. Its okay that Paterno didn’t protect the kid, because everyone loves Joe, right?

Its twisted. I am glad Paterno is no longer in a position of authority. I hope that he goes to jail, frankly, along with the officials of Penn State that did nothing and, of course, the child molester himself.

Most of all, I hope that little boy gets the help and the justice he deserves and lives a happy, healthy life in the future.

Oh, The Horror # 3

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“Movie” — The Absent

Summary: Small child kills his loser parents. Then, years later, his twin brother (who is a teacher) seduces a student. After that, people start dying. A lot.

My take: If I could rate it zero stars, I would. I was not scary at all. Unless you count the attempt at a plot. The “twist” has been done hundreds of times (I’ve only seen it done WELL once, in Fight Club). The acting is ridiculous. The story line is…somehow hard to follow, but not in a clever, cerebral way. Its in a way where nothing actually makes sense. I’ve seen 8 year olds come up with better stories.

Seriously, don’t watch this. I’m not even sure how it was rated “horror.” I can see that it was an attempt at a slasher flick, but other than that…I’m dumbfounded.

The Absent on IMDB

Oh, The Horror #2

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This time: The Last Exorcism

Summary: A con artist preacher takes a film crew along with him to film a documentary about how exorcisms are scams that prey on the poor and weak-minded. Of course, this exorcism is far from text-book.

My take: I’d give it a good four stars, though the ending was pretty lackluster. The plot, though, was relatively well done, with funny parts mixed in (a sermon about banana bread? Can I get an amen?) and pretty good graphics. While I didn’t find this “scary” per se, I did find it disturbing. The movie was in “found footage” format, which has been seriously overdone (and nothing recent can come close to how well Cloverfield did it) but I can’t find myself too irritated by it. The clever, misleading writing more than makes up for it. There are several times that you find yourself jumping to the same conclusions as the preacher and the film crew, only to find yourself suckered. The girl, played by Ashley Bell, was very talented.

Modern movies are generally so ridiculously predictable, its refreshing that this movie wasn’t.

So, to wrap it up, The Last Exorcism was disturbing, but not scary. The plot was great, but the ending was weird. All in all, I would recommend it–Especially if you curl up with some peppermint hot chocolate like I did.

The Last Exorcism on IMDB

Apparently, they are making a sequel, but no word yet on the premise.

Oh, The Horror #1

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I decided to go on a horror movie spree between now and Halloween. We have Netflix, so I’m mostly just randomly picking from there, saving the better ones for later.These movies can all  be watched there.

First up: 5ive Girls

Summary: 5 juvenile delinquents are sent to a Catholic school that has been closed for decades, run by a seriously bitchy dominatrix blond and a creeper priest.

My take: Three stars at best. And I mean at very best. It started out pretty well, with some innocent, sweet girl getting slaughtered by a demon, but after that, its strictly downhill. The whole “These girls have magical powers” part was pretty unneccesary, as was the haunting by the dead girl, because she was just wandering around, not really warning anyone or trying to get back into the land of the living. Just being creepy and pointless.The movie had, of course, random teen nudity and predictable overly sexual behavior towards the creepy priest and each other. There was also strip searching.

It had a weak plot that could have been better and poor acting (the best was the blind girl).

5ive Girls on IMDB

The Boy Who Changed the World

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Informative Essay Project

 

The Boy Who Changed the World

     In 1997, a book was published that would change the world. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone began a series that has seeped into nearly every aspect of modern society. The series would go on to change a generation’s views on reading, creativity, movies, and charity.

As a book series, Harry Potter has changed the face of reading in America. All seven of the original Harry Potter series were on the best-seller list. The final book, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, sold a record-shattering 11 million copies in the first 24 hours. A study by publishing mogul Scholastic finds that, despite a previously recorded drop in childhood reading at age 8, over 60% of 9-11 year olds report reading the series, and a majority reported interest in rereading the saga of The Boy Who Lived. More interestingly, 63% of boys and 44% of girls surveyed report reading the books in order to feel “in” with their friends. The series has become so pervasive of childhood, that reading is now the cool thing to do.  Even better, 76% of parents report that their child’s grades have improved as a result of reading the Harry Potter series.

Perhaps as a result of reading, there has been a surge in creativity surrounding the books. Writing and reading fan fiction is a popular hobby amongst Potter fans. One site, fanfiction.net, has over half a million individual stories based on the Harry Potter universe. There is a thriving, online fan fiction community, with roles (such as a “beta,” someone who proofreads the stories before publication), jargon (such as EWE—Epilogue, What Epilogue?—or WIKTT—When I Kissed the Teacher, a collection of romance-based challenges involving Professor Snape) and feedback in the form of reviews. A fan-written series about James Potter (Harry’s oldest son, not his father) is being published. While not considered “canon,” the series has been approved by JK Rowling, with the stipulation that they be respectful and appropriate for children. Cosplay and fashion has been impacted as well. Harry Potter fans have been known for “dressing up” as their favorite character for midnight release parties for both the books and the movies. Stepping into a bookstore during the release of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows would have had your vision bombarded with Hogwarts house colors, Death Eater masks and the occasional pink-haired girl. Candy from the series, such as Bertie Botts Every Flavor Beans and Chocolate frogs, are available in stores, and Potter-related clothing and merchandise are widely available in mainstream stores such as Hot Topic and online retailers such as The Noble Collection. There are even several popular Potter-inspired bands, such as Harry and the Potters and the Whomping Willows, and small puppet mini-stage shows called Potter Puppet Pals.

The face of movies has easily changed with the Harry Potter series. The eight movies were always on the cutting edge of special effects and CGI. The series is known for flying broomsticks, jets of light from a wizard’s wand, and magical creatures, like Aragog (a giant spider) and Fluffy (a three-headed dog). It has also had a significant impact on the economy and the movie theater industry. The eighth and final movie alone brought in over $1.3 million worldwide, and is the third top grossing movie of all time. All of the movies are well within the top 50; Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, the least grossing film at $796, 700, ranks at number 33.

Perhaps the most interesting impact the series is the emphasis on charity and activism. JK Rowling released three supplement books for charity. The initial two, Quidditch Through the Ages and Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, were released for the charity Comic Relief. The most recent, Tales of Beedle the Bard, was released to the public for the Children’s High Level Group, which has since been re-named Lumos after a common light spell in the series. She had also auctioned a hand-written copy for nearly $4 million, the proceeds of which went to the same charity. It’s not just Ms. Rowling that focuses on charity. She has inspired her readers to become activists themselves. One such organization is the Harry Potter Alliance, which describes themselves as a “Dumbledore’s Army for our world.” They are widely known for their work concerning both Haiti and Darfur. They have recently started “The Deathly Hallows Campaign.” They have identified several of the world’s main problems (labeling them “Horcruxes” after the shards of Lord Voldemort’s soul Harry and his compatriots sought out and destroyed during the final book) and are working towards eliminating them. The issues, or horcruxes, are bullying, world hunger, depression, the media’s perception of beauty, global warming, child slavery and illiteracy. There are seven “horcruxes” and several have fitting, Potter-inspired names. The depression issue is dubbed the “Dementor Horcrux” after the creatures introduced in the third book; Dementors are beings that feed on the happiness of people.  Thus far, the Deathly Hallows Campaign has made a significant impact in raising awareness on these issues, as well as playing an active role in ending them.

JK Rowling’s work has played a vital role in the modern world and has become pervasive in nearly every aspect of pop culture and society. The books and movies have all been released (though Ms. Rowling has recently announced an upcoming project that will bring Harry Potter both to the internet and to future generations—Pottermore) but the impact of its message has carried will continue to be felt for generations to come. Harry Potter, bespectacled boy wizard, has become more than just The Boy Who Lived. He’s become The Boy Who Changed the World.

The Konami Code

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In  case you didn’t know, the Konami Code is one of the most widely used cheat codes in the history of video games. It was originally used in Konami-brand games on the Nintendo. It’s very wide-spread, and has also been called the Contra Code.  Sites like Facebook and Marvel.com have used the code for random entertainment (because there is nothing as entertaining as a Deadpool Squirrel). It’s also in the awesome song “Geek and Gamer Girls” by Team Unicorn.

I mentioned it at work today, and literally no one there knew what I was talking about. I really started to feel like I was the geekiest person on Earth, but THANKFULLY,  it’s just work. Nearly everyone I know outside of work knows what it is. Hallelujah.

>.<

As soon as Dominic can understand a Nintendo controller, he’s learning the Konami code. He’s not gonna be the cause of some poor, random geek facedesking.

The Creepiness of Childhood

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Last night, in a discussion started by the fact I refuse to cut my son’s hair, my sister and I were discussing Johnny Appleseed. I know, it was a good jump, but entertaining. Anyway, Fallon decided that Johnny Appleseed must have been a scruffy-looking hobo, while I said that he couldn’t have been. My reasoning is that he was supposedly a respected member of society, and therefore had to be more of an ascetic than a hobo. Fallon went on to say that hobos could be respected. She used Santa as an example, because he only really works one day a year.

Now, ignoring the fact that Santa allegedly has a home, I would say that he is far more pedophile/child stalker than scary hobo. Think about it…He’s a stranger that encourages your small children to sit on his lap, knows when they’re sleeping or awake, and tries to buy their affection with stockings filled with candy and brightly wrapped presents filled with shiny new toys. Not to mention the fact that he breaks into your house once a year.

What is it about our society that constantly teaches children to be terrified of strangers, yet sets them on the lap of a department store Santa or Easter Bunny for the sake of holiday spirit and photo opportunities? I’m not gonna lie, I take Dom to see Santa and the Easter Bunny…even if the Easter Bunny in Rockford is possibly the creepiest I’ve ever seen. It seems harmless enough, and in any case, I’m right there, staring Santa down. Nothing’s going to happen. But does the practice hurt the whole stranger danger mentality? Is teaching children to be fearful of people you don’t know causing the breakdown of social groups, not to mention causing irreparable pyschological damage? Considering that 7 our of 10 child molesters are people that the child knows and trusts, is there even a point, or does allowing your child to be outgoing and friendly to strangers basically set them up to be kidnapped? Maybe its just me, but this is all very complicated. On the one hand, teaching your child to live in fear and to distrust everyone seems like a bad idea. On the other hand, talking to strangers who may or may not be sexual deviants, drug addicts or otherwise crazy seems like a bad idea, too.

Regardless, I have come to the conclusion that there are two perfect jobs for pedophiles, and that these people should be watched at all costs. The first is, of course, a department store Santa. An endless barrage of children perched on your lap seems to be a pretty ideal way for a pedo to spend the day. The second is ice cream truck drivers. Is this just me? You spend all your time trying to teach your children not to talk to strangers, approach strangers in cars (because they never are really just looking for their puppy or nicely offering to give you candy), taking sweets from said strangers, or (throwing out strangers entirely) run into the damn street. But the second you hear them coming down the street, playing their child-attracting tune from their brightly colored rape vans, all of these things go out the window. What the hell?

I’ve decided that childhood, once you think about it when you’re an adult, is creepy.

Also, this is a whole lot of looking-way-too-into-things and has nothing to do with Johnny Appleseed or cutting Dominic’s adorable little curls. Which I won’t do.

Hate speech and bullying

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If you are not familiar with the “It Gets Better” project, here is a link to it.

The project invites celebrities and people of all walks of life to post videos of their personal stories, and how being a LGBT youth (in all its hardship and hatred) is not how it will wind up when you grow up. This is, mostly, in response to the rise of teen suicide based on bullying and social pressure.

This is one video that was posted to the site.

This boy, Jamey, was 14 years old. He was a huge Lady GaGa fan, and was horrendously bullied at his school for being bisexual.  This video was posted on May 4th.

On September 19th, unable to face the bullying anymore, Jamey killed himself.

Lady GaGa (Lord knows, I’m not her biggest fan, but at this point, I have lots of respect for her) is now rallying to make bullying a hate crime. A real, honest-to-goodness crime. She’s meeting with the president to address this.

Some people want to say that being bullied is a normal part of growing up, and it teaches us to be strong. In my opinion, this is just another case of blaming the victim. They say that the bullied kids should learn to fight back, and somehow violence IS the answer. They say that by bringing attention to the growing trend of teen suicide in response to bullying, that it will somehow glorify suicide itself, and that trying to fight the hatred is somehow more responsible than the hatred itself. Some say that these bullies are “just kids” who don’t know any better. Well, Jamey’s school held a memorial service for him. And those same kids who bullied him decided, surrounded by grieving people, to call attention to themselves by saying that the boy is better off dead. They understood what they were doing.

Bullying should not be a normal, accepted part of growing up. HATE should not be a normal, accepted part of growing up. This should be a crime.

The thing is that the blame does not rest entirely on the bullies. It rests on our entire culture. Teachers, other students, other people who should have stopped it failed to do so. The bullies’ parents failed to teach their kids tolerance, and how to accept other people for who they are.

Bullying is categorically wrong. Its a form of systematic terrorism and emotional torture (if not physical torture, as well). It shapes the way that children grow up, and very rarely in any kind of positive way.

Hate is categorically wrong. It is a human emotion based on fear and ignorance.

It is NOT okay for CHILDREN to be belittled, beaten and hated so much that they take their own lives. CHILDREN should not even think that is an option for them, let alone the best and only option.

Our country needs to pass Jamey’s Law. Our schools need to step in and prevent bullying and offer emotional support to those who are social outcasts. Parents need to teach their children that it is WRONG to hate, that it is WRONG to pick on people for being different, and that it is equally WRONG to stand on the sidelines and allow these things to happen.  (Because of indifference, one dies before one actually dies. – Elie Wiesel)

Do not teach hate. Do not teach that being different is being wrong. Love. Love that our differences can help us grow individually and as a community, a country, a world. Love that people have the courage to be themselves, despite overwhelming negativity and backlash.

And love yourself, because after you accomplish that, it really does get better.

Way More Fun In Neon!

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Assignment: Descriptive essay using a photo, ad, or screencap. We were supposed to describe the photo, and also demonstrate what the photographer MEANT to say, DID NOT mean to say, and how the photo reflects on our society. Blah blah blah.

What I used:

Way More Fun In Neon

     It’s a scene you can imagine being played out in millions of American households each day. Framed by colorful finger paintings and Crayola crayons, a mother and her child face one another, spending quality time together. The genuineness of their smiles manages to light up the photo and a viewer can’t help but be struck by the child’s obvious innocence.

The first thing you may notice is the way the light dances off of the little boy’s flaxen curls in a contrast to his mother’s straight, mousey brown hair. They contrast in other ways, as well, with her plain white blouse almost reflecting attention back to the shades of blue her son is wearing. You can sense the obvious difference, the drab professionalism of the mature mother against the bright, almost shining, playful innocence of childhood, but you can also sense their unity. They clearly radiate their affection for each other.

Almost as an afterthought, you may notice that the little boy’s tiny toenails are painted with a vivid, neon pink polish. You may not have even noticed until after reading the caption, written by the mother, Jenna: “Lucky for me, I ended up with a boy whose favorite color is pink. Toenail painting is way more fun in neon.” In fact, on the table in front of the pair, almost snuggled in next to the crayons, is the bottle of nail polish. When you notice Jenna’s hands are holding his small feet delicately to allow the sticky polish to dry, you can almost feel the sharp scent of wet nail polish tickle your nose.

This image is part of an advertisement by clothing retailer J. Crew. There are two items on this page that the company is trying to sell the viewer. One is, of course, the bottle of brightly colored pink nail enamel, marked with the brand “essie.” The other item is a gray-and-white striped pullover sweater that, ironically, is not part of the image. It actually feels very out of place in its muted tones, next to so much vibrant color and energy.

What J. Crew really seems to be selling here is the happiness, energy and innocence that this family has. By showing us a snapshot into their lively Saturday afternoon, we want to embrace that innocence and to imitate it. It makes us want that little pink bottle that we barely noticed. After all, it’s way more fun in neon, and why would we not want to capture that for ourselves?

Despite its innocence, the image is not without controversy. To some, putting nail polish on a boy is simply scandalous…let alone pink nail polish! The photographer surely didn’t intend to spark a massive debate on why our society has such a celebrated image of gender roles, and how staying within those clear lines keeps a child from potentially “turning” homosexual or transgendered. Unfortunately, it did.

However, the fact that this photograph made its way into such a widespread publication certainly shows us that we are at a turning point as a society. Our collective ideology is shifting from clear “girl” items (such as pink nail polish and baby dolls) and clear “boy” items (such as blue baseball caps and Tonka trucks) to a more tolerant and accepting approach to both child-rearing and LGBT lifestyles. Perhaps it also shows a change in our attitude of cause-and-effect in terms of sexuality, in that it is becoming more widely accepted that there is no clearly defined “cause,” and a more liberal, well-rounded approach to raising children will produce more well-rounded, accepting adults. Painting a little boy’s tiny toenails pink is no longer as scandalous as it once would have been, partially because of this shift in our society and partially because the image conveys so much positivity.

Yes, this advertisement did receive a lot of press, both celebrating it and opposing it. But in a way that is a very positive thing. This image, in all its joy and picturesque glory, was brought to the forefront of our minds. J. Crew released an ad that rode like a wave, helping along the slow erosion of the banks of narrow-mindedness.

 

UPDATE: This got a 95%. There were a couple of careless typos and a word that was used incorrectly, but other than that, woot. I corrected this one, so you’re not plagued with my stupidity!

Your Baby Can Talk!

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Well, he can say 8 words, in any case.

A lot of big changes have started with Dominic lately. We’ve been focusing more on identifying objects repeatedly by words, for one, but that one is pretty obvious.

He has been doing swim class for awhile now, but we added a gym class to that (Its a two-in-one thing…a Mommy and Me! Gym and Swim class) last week. I know he loves the pool, and he seemed to really enjoy the gym time last week. Its just one day a week, nothing super taxing.

Also, as I mentioned before, we got those “Your Baby Can Read” DVDs. I don’t expect him to read, of course, but we’re hoping that it helps him pick up a little more concepts, and obviously, a few more words. He seems pretty sucked into it, so I’m hoping there aren’t any weird subliminal messages that come out in some exposé years down the road.

His developmental therapy FINALLY starts on Monday. Yay! They’re starting with Developmental Therapy instead of doing Speech Therapy right off because they’re wanting to work on his focus a lot before they start trying to get him to focus on words. In general, it sounds like a pretty good idea.

And finally, starting this week, he’ll be going to daycare two days a week! We’re hoping more social interaction with kids his own age helps him 1) not be socially awkward like me and 2) get a better idea of what’s up. Like, we noticed that when he plays with his little friend Dru, he seems to have a much better grasp at what’s going on. Or maybe he’s just interested, and that’s the difference, but still, its worth a shot!

25 Things I do NOT want to do before I die.

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I saw this somewhere, thought it would be funny.

  1. Purposefully eat an insect of any kind. Yes, I know people do it all the time in other countries, but I’m just not down with it. This also extends to cats, monkeys and dogs.
  2. Think “Hey, I bet my hair would look good if I get a perm.” No. No, it does not. I have 2nd and 3rd grade photos to prove it. I was a gap-toothed poodle. Never again.
  3. Ever, ever take one of those weird-in-the-bathroom-taking-a-picture-of-myself-with-the-seriously-unattractive-duck-face-pose. I honestly wonder if those girls think its classy and/or attractive.
  4. Engage in any kind of food eating contest. No one needs to know how many cheeseburgers I can eat in a 30 minute period. Especially not me. I will, however, extensively photograph it if anyone I know wants to do one. From the delicious first bite right up to the vomit-fest after. For posterity. Also, to make fun of you later.
  5. Attempt to get on reality TV in any way. People just don’t need that much information about me. This includes anything relating to Maury or Springer, as well as pretty much anything on TLC. YouTube doesn’t count in this, unless it is super attention-whoring, in which case, slap me.
  6. Get a tattoo while drunk. Love tattoos. Hate impaired decisions connected with permanent results.
  7. Go to any kind of Star Trek or Star Wars convention. Comic book, anime, cosplay and furry conventions are all fine. But no one is getting me in a Princess Leia costume or wearing a red shirt. I know what happens to the dudes in the red shirts, and Princess Leia looks like a retard with her hair like that.
  8. Have a Twitter account. Twitter is the AIDS of the internet.
  9. Type “u” instead of “you,” “r” instead of “are” or otherwise make any kind of shorthand that people have to look up. Yep. I’m so old that I had to Google what “smh” and “hmu” meant.
  10. Stop wanting “more” in my life. I never want to get to a place where I am complacent. There is always more to life…more faith, more research, more learning. More everything.
  11. Attempt to fist fight someone as entertainment. If it’s an emergency situation, I’m sure I’ll be just like a stealthy, lethal ninja. But until then, I’d prefer to make people wonder. Or just outright think that I’d get my ass kicked. No UFC for me.
  12. Raise my child(ren) with the concept of “Is this gender appropriate?” in mind. Dom is getting a baby doll for Christmas. I would let him be a pretty, pretty princess for Halloween. I’m not even close to joking.
  13. Be a crazy cat lady. Firstly, pretty much everyone in the neighborhood hates the crazy cat lady because she’s always yelling at them for riding their bikes on the sidewalk in front of her house, or leaving their Christmas lights on too late (not because it bothers her, but because its running up their electric bill). Secondly, I hate cats. They’re disgusting. Also, even when fresh litter boxes are available in every single room of the house, they will opt to pee on your bed, coat or purse. And your house always smells like stale Meow Mix and cat piss. Mostly cat piss.
  14. Be a bitch to anyone working in a restaurant. I’m pretty much of the philosophy that you should be as nice as humanly possible to the people who are in charge of the food you are about to ingest. Working in the food service industry, I have heard stories. So, if you find yourself in a crabby mood, and snap at the poor McDonald’s cashier or your waitress, totally expect spit, pubic hair, or something more terrible in your food. Seriously. Think about that.
  15. Name a child Nevaeh. It’s not unique. It’s not cute. She’s going to grow up to be a meth head or a stripper. Either way, not the ideal child outcome.
  16. Be “born again.” I mean this in both ways. I’m not interested in going through any kind of ritual where I am “born once more” so that I may start my life over anew. If I think I need a do-over, I should just use the point I realize “Fuck, I messed up” to fix everything. Also included is the whole “born again Christian” thing. Everyone I have ever met that was a born again Christian went right back to being a douchebag. This is not knocking Christians. I’m okay with Christians. This is knocking douchebags who want to hide behind religion to mask their hate, racism and “God will forgive me for doing pretty much anything.” If this God is going to forgive you for molesting children or killing a guy on the street for the contents of his wallet, I would really rather not hang out with Him.
  17. Get sucked into a cult. I’m way too likely to do so. Like, I will watch Sister Wives on TLC, and think “DAMN, I should totally be a polygamist.” I mean mostly “purple kool-aid” cults by this, and not small religious sects or hippie communes. How could you hate a hippie? Besides the smelling bad part.
  18. Go hunting. I’m down for learning to fire a gun. I’m down for learning to do it accurately. I even possess a permit to actually OWN guns. But when it comes down to killing Bambi’s mom, I draw the line. If I were to ever kill an animal, I would obsess over the potential babies it left behind that are now starving to death because I thought it would be fun to kill something at random.
  19. Become one of those people everyone hates because they are constantly shoving their own beliefs down your throat. Like, I have a cousin who is now a “vegan” and she’s constantly telling EVERYONE all about how its the ONLY way to live, with gruesome detail. Also, she and her kids look like they could be extras in the Twilight movies. Pale, thin, sickly and have dark circles under their eyes. Clearly, they are a shining example of why you SHOULDN’T have a damn chicken quesadilla. They are a the picture of health. Or the picture of people who get family services called on them. I always get those two mixed up.
  20. Operate any kind of saw. This one is more practical, as I nearly cut off my hand in the 8th grade with a bandsaw. Also, as a side thought, why DO they have shop class in Jr High? Doesn’t it seem kind of stupid to allow teenagers with short attention spans and raging hormones to be left in charge of spinning blades of terror? By the time I had my accident, the first aid kit was completely depleted from other woodworking injuries. Seriously. I bled through the hallways with the benefit of a couple of paper towels. And I wasn’t the last. The shop teacher, like 3 weeks later, lost the tips of his first 3 fingers on the same machine. Clearly, not a safe class. Funnily enough, I had to actually threaten the nurse to call my mother. They were gonna give me an ace bandage and send me back to class, despite the whole I-haven’t-stopped-bleeding-and-can-see-the-bones-in-my-wrist thing. BUT they sure did call and demand that they go pick up my little brother from school when someone in my class told him, in gruesome detail, how my blood and shards of my bone were scattered around the shop. He fainted. THAT was an emergency. The whole 50-stitches thing, not so much.
  21. Pretend to be someone I’m not just so people will like me. If you don’t like me as me, fuck you. Who cares? This is not high school.
  22. Use a spray tan. I’m so short, and I really don’t want to risk looking like an Oompa Loompa.
  23. Quit something I love. I don’t really have a bunch of bad habits, and obviously, if I loved cocaine or something, this would be excluded, but if I love it, I’m gonna keep doing it. If they tell me tomorrow that vanilla soy chai tea is going to make my left eye pop out of my face and give flies a cozy breeding ground, I’m still probably going to drink my damn tea. I’ll probably wear an eye patch though. Its like a big, pirate-themed band-aid.
  24. Do anything old-people-ish. I will not spend 15 minutes counting out correct change. I will not point out to random strangers that their barefoot child’s feet must be soooo cold (unless they’re like…walking barefoot in the snow, and then all bets are off), or start any converstation with “Back in my day…”
  25. Give up on the things that are important to me. I’m not going to stop annoying people with my camera flash. I’m not going to stop asking too many questions. I’m not going to let my boyfriend marry me wearing overalls (He wants to. I’m serious. Like Old McDonald or something), and I’m sure as hell not going to let people make me feel bad for the decisions that I make for myself or my child(ren).

Ta-da!

That was way harder than it should have been!