The Most Ridiculous Halloween Costumes on the Net for 2012

Step right up! Step right up! Come one, come all! Prepare yourselves for something you have never before seen! You will be shocked and amazed! Feast your eyes… on this year’s craziest, strangest, and most ridiculous Halloween costumes!

Yes, it’s time once again to marvel at just what lengths people will go to leave a lasting impression for one night a year. There were certainly no shortage of bizarre, surprising, and mind-boggling costumes to choose from. I find it so amusing what people come up with to wear to that Halloween party… but if they are so determined to make fools of themselves, who am I to deny them the opportunity? Let’s get started!

The “I am not putting any effort into my costume” Award

This guy clearly is more interested in the party’s refreshments than its fundamental purpose. The sad part is, I’m willing to bet most people laughed at his so-called “costume” and told him it was really clever. I’m sorry, but if Halloween costumes were some kind of test, this guy would flunk.

The “Seriously over-the-top” Award

I’m not sure what, exactly, this is supposed to be, but whatever it is, it took a LOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOONNNNGGGGG time to make. Just look at that detail! How did she do that with her hair? Or is that even her hair? I’m not sure. Anyway, this is definitely the most elaborate costume I have ever seen. And I bet by the time the night is out it will be falling apart due to sweat and bumping into things.

The “Obscure reference for the win!” Award

This woman chose to dress up for Halloween as Elizabeth, one of the main characters of the upcoming video game Bioshock: Infinite. I bet most people will be all like, “So, are you, like, some Victorian lady, or something?” And she’ll end up having to explain her costume dozens of times until she’s sick of it.

But at least I’ll know what this costume is.

And I’m not sure what that says about me.

The “I can’t believe they actually did that!” Award

How do you express your love and devotion as a new parent to your baby for his or her first Halloween? Apparently, by making it look like your bundle of joy is being brutally murdered by an alien parasite. The look in that baby’s eyes says it all: “I have to trust these people to care and provide for me for the next 18 years?”

The “I call animal abuse!” Award

WHY? Whywhywhywhywhywhy? Why do pet owners insist on dressing their pets up on Halloween? Animals don’t understand our customs and traditions, they’re just animals! This one is especially bad because it’s a Cthulhu mask on a cat! The poor cat’s probably freaking out that it can’t see! It’s thinking, “What is this thing on my head? Why can’t I take it off!”

The “Huh?” Award

And now, the Most Ridiculous Costume on the Net for 2012:

But… Wait a… Who said… Why’d they… This is… I’m not… Huh?

I’m not sure if the kid asked to be a suicide bomber for Halloween, or if he just has some really strange, politically incorrect parents. Either way, this is 25 kinds of messed up. Not much else I can say about that.

While I hope we’ve all had fun looking at these silly Halloween costumes, I must take a moment to express my sympathies and condolences with the victims of Hurricane Sandy who are still coming to grips with the damage and loss. Our thoughts and prayers are with you all.

A Community without Plastic Bags: The impact of San Luis Obispo County’s bag ban

 

The perennial question shoppers are always asked, “Paper or plastic?”, has disappeared from San Luis Obispo County, California. On October 1, an ordinance adopted by the San Luis Obispo County Integrated Waste Management Authority banned the use of plastic grocery bags in large stores.

You can read the ordinance here.

The law does not apply to most small businesses, but it has made shopping at grocery stores and other large retailers a bit more of a hassle – if you don’t bring your own reusable bag, you either have to buy a cloth one there (usually for a few dollars), or pay 10 cents for the right to use a paper bag.

The law’s supporters say it’s all worth it. Because plastic is made from petroleum, does not biodegrade, and can injure or kill wildlife, a growing number of communities across the United States, even whole states, have decided to ban them directly (as here in San Luis Obispo County) or to tax them in order to encourage shoppers to find alternatives. It is estimated that up to a trillion disposable plastic grocery bags are used worldwide, including 380 billion in the United States alone. Only about 5% of these bags are recycled – the rest winds up in landfills or as litter.

On the other hand, organizations like the Save the Plastic Bag Coalition argue that such bans do not help the environment the way they are intended, claiming plastic bags use less greenhouse gas emissions than paper bags, and that paper bags release toxins from their inks when they biodegrade.  Other critics claim that poor shoppers are burdened by such bans. And one study conducted by the National Center for Policy Analysis found that in communities that have such bans, customers may forego local stores and take their business to places where plastic bags are legal.

So, what do the locals, who have actually been directly affected by the ban, think? I decided to find out:

Most stores now have signs in the parking lot or on the front door reminding customers to bring reusable bags for their shopping. Some stores offered free reusable bags immediately before the ban, in order to help make the transition easier for customers.

For more information, you can visit PlasticBagLaws.org to learn about current legislation regarding plastic bag use, Ban the Bag! for information on how you can support such bans, and the Save the Plastic Bag Coalition for information on how to oppose them.

On Elections and Religion

An Editorial

Don’t worry Cat Flaggers, I have a bigger blog post I’m working on… but this little short editorial is just something I feel I need to say.

Recently, someone I know (who shall remain anonymous) told me that he wouldn’t vote for Mitt Romney because of the candidate’s religion. As most of you probably know, Mitt Romney is a Mormon, and there are people who are worried about handing the White House to somebody of that faith. Author Craig Foster said “The Mormon question remains… There is no question there has been a lot of soul-searching and hand-wringing among Christians… Few know what the Mormons really are or what they claim to be.”

To everybody who is worried about Mitt Romney’s Mormonism or who won’t vote for the candidate because of his faith, I have a message.

GROW UP AND KNOCK IT OFF!

Do we really have to go through this every time we have a strong presidential candidate who doesn’t belong to an elect set of apparently “approved” Protestant churches? It’s freakin’ unconstitutional.

No, really – our nation’s constitution explicitly says “no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.” Yet we act like our leaders are held to some kind of religious test. When John F. Kennedy ran for president in 1960, he had to face critics who suggested he would be a puppet of the pope, because he was Catholic, you see. Richard Nixon considered himself a Quaker, but he was often criticized for being a “false Quaker” because he swore, drank, and escalated the Vietnam War (Quakers are supposed to be pacifists).

Current president Barack Obama faced the “religion test” twice. Not only was he pressured to abandon his church of 20 years because of its controversial pastor, but he also had to deal with critics who accused him of being a secret Muslim, which this video does a good job of demonstrating as being utter nonsense, but even if President Obama were Muslim, what would it matter?

I paid attention in U.S. Government class. The duties of our nation’s president include signing bills into law or vetoing them, appointing top government officials, military leaders, and judges subject to an “OK” from the Senate, setting America’s foreign policy, commanding our nation’s troops, writing proclamations and executive orders, responding to emergencies, giving speeches and hosting traditional, holiday-themed White House events. Last time I checked, none of those jobs require the person doing them to belong to any particular religious faith.

To further prove my point, here is a list of all of the presidents who have been Episcopalian:

George Washington, James Madison, James Monroe, William Henry Harrison, John Tyler, Zachary Taylor, Franklin Pierce, Chester A. Arthur, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Gerald Ford, George H.W. Bush.

Of course, which presidents were great, which ones were mediocre, and which ones were terrible is entirely a matter of personal opinion, but I think most of us would agree that this list contains a spectrum of presidential quality. There is no correlation between which church our president goes to and how good he or she is at his or her job.

In fact, for all of the people who freak out at the thought of a president that isn’t a Christian, we’ve already had one. Thomas Jefferson was a “Deist”, someone who rejects religion but accepts the existence of some kind of “Supreme Being” or creator. He respected Jesus as a great philosopher, but rejected the idea that he was in any way divine.

Abraham Lincoln, the man we all celebrate as one of the greatest presidents of all, was so secretive about his religious beliefs that nobody is entirely sure what his faith was.

So, when I vote this year, there will be a whole lot on my mind. I will be thinking about the economy, the unemployment rate, the national debt, our foreign policy, and social issues. But the religions of the two candidates will not even enter my brain. That is a matter between them and their God.

Columbus Day: The Craziest Holiday of the Year.

It’s raining here in my hometown today, and since I’m off of work I’m taking advantage of the excuse to just sit around and sip hot cocoa. It’s a nice way to relax right before Columbus Day.

Oh, what’s that? Columbus Day was on Monday? Oh, I beg to differ!

You will notice that your calendar had a special little note on it: “Columbus Day (observed)”. That “(observed)” is there for a reason. Americans may celebrate Columbus Day on the second Monday of October, but the actual day Christopher Columbus made his first landing in the New World was October 12, 1492.

Just ask the people of Latin America and Spain, who also celebrate the holiday. Except most Latin American countries call it Dia de la Raza (literally “Day of the Race”), a holiday for celebrating their mixed Spanish, indigenous, and African cultural heritage that was made possible by Columbus’s famous voyage. Traditionally, they celebrate the date with parties and bullfighting. Many Americans with Hispanic roots will also hold Dia de la Raza celebrations.

Spain, meanwhile, has designated October 12 as its national holiday, as part of a political compromise in the 1980s. Previously, Spain had such a turbulent history that any number of holidays had been used as the “National Day”, depending on what regime was in charge. The date of Columbus’s landing was seen as a politically-neutral compromise day, helped along by the fact that it also falls on the celebration of “Our Lady of the Pillar”, a ten-day traditional Catholic festival in Spain in honor of the introduction of Christianity to the country.

But we Americans just have to be different from everybody else, don’t we? The reason for our unusual treatment of the holiday is because of the Uniform Monday Holiday Act. This law, signed in 1968, says that certain holidays throughout the year are not set at a fixed date, but instead at a particular Monday in a particular month. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day is celebrated in the third Monday in January instead of Dr. King’s actual birthday of January 15, for instance; and Memorial Day used to be May 30 but now is the last Monday in May.

They forgot my birthday again. Let me guess, on Monday they’ll remember and get me a card.

The reason is that putting these holidays on Mondays gives workers a three-day weekend. The logic was that the move would be better for the economy: more vacations, fewer inefficient midweek shutdowns. Interestingly, this means that America celebrates Columbus Day at the same time our Canadian neighbors are celebrating their annual Thanksgiving. (Apart from the fact that both are harvest festivals that occur in the fall, Canada’s Thanksgiving has no relation to our own.)

But if you think that’s complicated, I’m just getting started.

Technically, the federal government can only designate holidays for its own employees and for Washington, D.C. The states are kind of expected to go along with the federal holiday system, but there is nothing requiring them to do so. And sometimes, they don’t.

While most states celebrate Columbus Day, three do not: Hawaii, Alaska, and South Dakota. In Hawaii, that kind of makes sense, because they are a bunch of Polynesian islands in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, not a part of the American continent. Instead, they make up for it by celebrating several holidays that are unique to Hawaii and celebrate that state’s history. In Alaska, they don’t celebrate it because it lies so close to Alaska Day (October 18), the anniversary of the annexation of Alaska by the United States. (Likewise, Nevada does celebrate Columbus Day but doesn’t offer it as a day off of work because it lies far too close to Nevada Day, a four-day festival at the end of October.)

South Dakota, however, refuses to honor Columbus Day for ideological reasons. Instead, they celebrate “Native American Day” on the third Monday in October.

It turns out there is an entire movement to erase Columbus Day from our nation’s calendars, and along with it our tradition of mythologizing Christopher Columbus as a hero.

Why? Well, apart from the fact that Christopher Columbus was kind of a big, fat jerk who did some awful stuff in his life, he also is a symbol in the minds of many Native Americans – and a growing number of other Americans – of the horrors that befell the indigenous people in the New World in the centuries that followed. This argument goes that celebrations of Columbus’s life and legacy and those of other explorers and pioneers who settled the Americas essentially forgives them of the acts of genocide they committed against the people they encountered, or asserts that those actions were somehow “okay”.

As activist Ward Churchill put it:

“More often, the sentiments expressed by the participants are, quite frankly, that the fate of Native America embodied in Columbus and the Columbian legacy is a matter to be openly and enthusiastically applauded as an unrivaled “boon to all mankind”. Undeniably, the situation of American Indians will not — in fact cannot — change for the better so long as such attitudes are deemed socially acceptable by the mainstream populace. Hence, such celebrations as Columbus Day must be stopped.”

Here in California, the state offers a compromise position. People, businesses, and school districts are offered a choice between honoring Columbus Day or instead honoring Cesar Chavez Day (March 31), which honors the famous civil rights and labor union leader. This leads to some interesting situations where one school will have the day off but a neighboring school will not.

So, yeah. Who would have guessed that a simple day out of the year could create such a complicated mess?

Information from Wikipedia

 

Looper is not for Wimps!

If you are the kind of person who doesn’t like explicit sexual content in your movies, don’t watch Looper.

If you are the kind of person who is easily repulsed by violence, blood, and gore, don’t watch Looper.

If you are the kind of person who goes to movies to “turn my brain off”, who thinks the Michael Bay Transformers films are “The best films evar!”, Looper is probably not your thing.

If, however, you have a strong stomach and an appetite for brainy, philosophical, hardcore sci-fi, Looper might just be the movie for you.

Looper, a film written and directed by Rian Johnson (Brick, The Brothers Bloom) for Endgame Entertainment, stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt (Inception, The Dark Knight Rises) as a man named Joe who works for a crime syndicate in the year 2042. According to the film’s logic, although time travel doesn’t exist in 2042, it will exist in 2072, and when a future gang wants someone gone they send that someone back in time to be killed in the past. Apparently, the body is more easily disposed of in the past, and even if it is found the police won’t be able to identify the person because he or she doesn’t exist yet, and almost nobody knows about the future invention of time travel, so the case would go unsolved.

Joe is one of these “Loopers” (hence the title) that kills people sent from the future. He and the other Loopers all agree that, to keep the operation secret, in thirty years’ time they will be sent back to the past to be killed by their past selves – this is called “Closing the Loop”, and it marks the end of their career as a Looper. They can then go party and have the best life possible for the next three decades until the agreed-upon day of their death.

But then, when it’s Joe’s turn to close his loop, he looks into the eyes of his future self – portrayed by Bruce Willis – and hesitates for a split-second, which gives future Joe just enough time to knock out past Joe and escape. Now fearing for what he has done, Joe goes on a manhunt for his future self in order to kill him and close the loop, before it’s too late.

Easier said than done.

This turns out to be only the first part of the movie, as soon we learn why future Joe is determined to live, and past Joe must make a choice that could affect the entire future of the planet. No, I am not going to spoil it for you, but let’s just say that this is where the movie’s “braininess” appears – it delves into the many-faceted, convoluted potential consequences of the existence of time travel. This is one of its strongest points, it makes you think. If you are going to watch it, I’m going to recommend watching it in a group, because you will be talking with your friends about this movie and sharing your different takes on it for quite a while.

Another of Looper‘s strengths is the fully-realized and developed world in which it takes place. We don’t see the lazy “the future is just like the present but with a few differences” that some films and TV shows, even great ones, portray. This is a very plausible world – dystopian, to be sure – that projects the consequences of current trends and depicts social, political, and economic changes that are presented very subtly, creating a feeling of depth to the setting. Plus, this movie takes a “show, don’t tell” attitude toward revealing what is going on, putting the onus on the audience to pay attention and make inferences about the meaning of what just happened. It does a little hand-holding, but not much.

But again, and I can’t stress this enough, this movie is real hardcore. It earns its “R” rating and just keeps right on going, stopping just short of “NC-17”-level violence and sex. One sequence pretty early on, used to depict what happens to someone who fails to close their loop, is especially nightmare-inducing. Fortunately, these sequences are brief and don’t distract away from the main plot, but they also come without warning, so sensitive viewers better watch out.

I, generally, don’t like this kind of stuff in my movies; my sensibilities tend to be more “PG-13”. And I did have to turn my head a couple of times. However, I liked the movie overall, because it was engaging, thrilling, deep, philosophical, and generally smart. The sex and violence are not just there to be there, shoehorned in to attract audiences who are into that  sort of thing. One of my biggest complaints about the miniseries The Tudors is that they cram in overt sexuality where it really doesn’t belong. In Looper, however, these scenes and sequences always serve a purpose, either revealing information about the world this takes place in, advancing the plot, or developing characters.

Pictured: character development.

Looper may not be for everyone, but for those who think they want to test their mettle, it is a fantastic ride. A 9 out of 10.