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Politics, culture, and American life — from the family perspective.

Books-a-Million Displays Books with Pornographic Covers in Plain View of Children



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What’s more fun that taking the kids for a leisurely day at the bookstore?

That’s what I was thinking when I went to Books-a-Million in Spring Hill, Tennessee — a great store, and I’m not just saying that because they’ve helped me hold nice book signing events (for this, this, and this). We arrived in the wonderful brick-and-mortar store, ready for a day of walking down aisles and finding new reads. However, I came across something pretty shocking.

Someone had pulled a prank.

There, right next to the nice Civil War section (this is Tennessee, after all) is apparently a “sexuality” section, showing various sexual positions in plain view.  And when I showing, I mean showing.

One book promised to make this the most erotic year of your life with 365 sexual positions — one of which was shown in plain, naked view on its cover. Another was about the art of erotic massage, and had a naked woman’s torso with a man’s hand — barely — covering her.  (And no, I’m not being a prude. I’ve blocked out the image of the book shelf above, but here are two of the images in case you are wondering what kids walk by in Books-a-Million stores all across the nation: here and here.)

Read what Books-a-Million told me, and what you can do here.

Politics and The Avengers: If Iron Man Is Libertarian, What’s The Hulk?



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Rebecca Cusey finds the modern-day political counterparts of Avengers characters in this fun little post to take you into the weekend. (Captain America’s political counterpart? Sean Hannity!) If you’re one of the only people in America who haven’t seen the movie yet, The French Movie Club — comprising my husband and two older kids — gave that movie a definite thumbs-up!

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Review: The Dictator Bravely Offends One and All



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Rebecca Cusey has the scoop on the new movie by the famous Borat star, Sacha Baron Cohen:

You can say this for Sacha Baron Cohen: he’s never been a coward. His fearlessness in his latest work, The Dictator (opening Wednesday, May 16), is by far its greatest strength. He raises issues no one else touches and proclaims a passionate love song to democracy that would make George W. Bush proud.

She continues:

In a world in which regular reports come of attempted terrorism on American soil and actual terrorism overseas by radical elements of the Islamic faith, Hollywood tiptoes around Muslims in general and Muslim villains in particular.

Sacha Baron Cohen doesn’t give a fig if you — or the entire Middle East — are offended, just as he had no problem with selling the nation of Kazakhstan down the river.

Except he’d say it in much more colorful language.

As Aladeen, he continually “goes there,” offering to throw a newborn baby girl into a trash can because girls are worthless, comparing educated women to trained animals, ordering assassinations for questioning him.

Sound good? Well, be warned. He “goes there” in other ways too — including full male frontal nudity — which might make you think twice before making this a Mother’s Day outing. Read the entire review here.

The New Time Cover That Is Not an Onion Spoof



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It will be in your mailbox soon. The brand new Time magazine, featuring a cover story on mothering and breast feeding . . . just in time for Mother’s Day. What could more heart-warming and down-home?

Well, take a look. A boy who looks like a first-grader latched onto his mom’s breast right there, big as all outdoors, looking straight at you, the reader. He’s enjoying his after-school snack: milk and cookies, sans the cookies.

The really sad news is that we will never be able to look forward to the goofiest, most disturbing magazine cover ever. This is as bad as it will ever get.

This poor boy may be diggin’ life now, but will soon be forever teased as the “Got Milk?” boy that Time magazine and his indulgent mom made infamous.

Hail to the Chiefs



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Bristol Palin speaks out about gay marriage and questions Malia and Sasha’s role in the president’s “evolution.”

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Meet the Ten-Year-Old Girl Who Can Dead Lift 215 Pounds



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Video here.

Where the Wild Things Are and a Longing for Home



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The author at the Please Touch Museum in Philadelphia.

Almost everyone has read Where the Wild Things Are. By now, its images are a part of our collective consciences — icons of childhood — and its plot is easy to recite. Mischievous Max talks back to his mother (who calls him “wild thing”) by yelling, “I’ll eat you up!” He’s promptly sent to bed without dinner. In his room, he wears a wolf costume and imagines he’s king of the jungle. His room metamorphoses from a bedroom to a forest and into an ocean. On it, he braves dragons to reach the island of the wild things. After his adventure, of course, he returns home to find a dinner sitting on his bedside table — a sign of his mother’s love.

I never read my kids the book until we went to the old Please Touch Museum in Philadelphia, which had a nice exhibit of several of his works. The Where the Wild Things Are play area had Max’s bed, a red boat, a jungle made of vines, and “wild rumpus” sound effects. This allowed my kids to act out his books before they read them.

When I finally bought the book and snuggled down to read it to them, however, it made them sad. It always made me sad too. Upon the death of Maurice Sendak, many people have reignited some of the discussion around the famed author’s most famous book and the different emotions it seemed to evoke. The Washington Post obituary provides a clue why the Brooklyn-born Jew might have produced books “darker” than other kids’ stories:

“The Holocaust has run like a river of blood through all my books,” Mr. Sendak once said, explaining that as the child of Jewish immigrants from Poland, the Nazi death camps were never far from his mind.

Yesterday, a southern pastor’s wife, Jill Joiner, reflects on this popular work, with an interesting take:

Many adults and children have expressed sadness after reading this book, perhaps because it is so true to the human experience. People are inclined to chase autonomy, power, and self-reliance only to find themselves lonely and stuck on self-created islands. For me, it created a different sort of emotion, more along the line of an unfulfilled longing.

At the conclusion of the story — the simple image of the loving dinner sitting on the bedside table, evidence of a gracious and loving parent — is not enough. It is an incomplete picture of reconciliation, without the complete abandoning love of the Father lifting his clothes, running to embrace the Prodigal Son. As the stubborn, autonomy-loving fool that I am — I need the story to end differently. I need more than the reminder of love and forgiveness — I want to be with my love.

Read it all here.

Though many words have been spilled about his books — evaluating them, analyzing them, and critiquing them — we know his legacy will live on as we continue to debate why that dinner on the bedside table is such a punch in the gut, every time.

Did you like Where the Wild Things Are as a kid and did your feelings change as you got older?

R.I.P. Maurice Sendak Dies at 83



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Details here.

Family-Friendly Orlando is America’s ‘Smuttiest’ City?



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Miami Herald:

Orlando, the home of Mickey Mouse and all those Disney family values, has been named the smuttiest city in the United States.

Men’s Health magazine added up the number of adult DVDs purchased, rented, or streamed; the number of adult entertainment stores; the rate of porn searches (Google Insights); and the percentage of Cinemax-subscribing households

And Orlando came out on top. Las Vegas is No. 2.

Is Avengers Good for the Whole Family?



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Here’s the scoop if you are thinking of taking the kids to the movies this weekend!

What’s Better than Being a Palin?



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Bristol reflects on being “the daughter of Todd and Sarah Palin” and being a single mother here.

The Power of Music



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This should be an encouragement to all of you musicians out there. (Kleenex warning!)

How to Create a Prodigal 101



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Keep Laughing, Keep Listening, Keep Loving



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Marcia Morrissey, wife of Hot Air’s Ed Morrissey, recently got some bad news from the doctor. She is blind, and she began to notice that her hearing is going away:

The other night I heard Ed saying something from the other room, but couldn’t tell what it was. I asked for probably the thousandth time over the past few weeks, “What did you say?”

He said, “I coughed.”

I answered, “What are you scoffing about?”

He replied in a louder voice, “I just coughed!”

That is the way communication has been around here for the past three weeks. It has been, well, let’s just say interesting. We have decided to keep laughing.

Read her blog post here, and pray for her if you’re the type who prays.

‘Best Exotic Marigold Hotel’ Is Dreary and Depressing



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Rebecca Cusey writes:

Most of my life, I’ve looked forward to growing old. It seems like it could be a kick, what with wearing clothes that shock the neighbors, developing unreasonable and unyielding demands, and devising new ways to irritate and embarrass my children.

A good time, all around.

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, a film opening today, changed all that.

Elizabeth Santorum Will Occasionally Write for Hot Air



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Read her first blog post here.

What Do Shaquille O’Neal and Kathryn Lopez Have in Common?



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Undergraduate degrees from a Catholic college. Shaquille O’Neal writes in today’s USA Today:

On Saturday, I will be receiving an education doctorate degree from Barry University, a small Catholic school in Miami Shores. The degree isn’t honorary. I worked for it, and I’m as proud of this as anything I have accomplished in my life. While I did this for two people — my mother and myself — it certainly would be nice if it could have a broader impact.

Too many young kids — particularly black kids — are still dropping out of school way too early. This country will never compete globally when nearly one in four kids fails to complete high school on time.

For you parents out there: Don’t just encourage your children to complete high school, which should be a basic step toward a much bigger education. I was fortunate to have a mother who understood the value of education, even as she saw me join the NBA and have a successful basketball career. My mom knew that education not only would help me down the road, it also would make me a better person.

It’s understandable when young athletes lured by the big money of the NBA decide to pass up college. But that makes no sense for the thousands and thousands of young athletes who will never make it to the pros. And even those lucky few need to understand that a career in athletics is fleeting — education isn’t.

The rest here.

A New Obesity Documentary Reveals Nothing New



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On May 14, HBO will debut a new documentary called Weight of the Nation, which was produced in cooperation with the Centers for Disease Control. While I haven’t yet seen it, it’s clear from the trailer that HBO produced this documentary to deliver the same message we’ve all heard before: We’re all too fat, and we’re going to die huge, miserable, unemployed, and in pain.

HBO, bring back those lighthearted favorites about casual sex and mass murder, please!

The trailer is jam-packed with the type of fear-based hyperbole commonly used by the food nannies. Statements such as “obesity is the biggest threat to the health, welfare, and future of this country,” and “it’s not only health; it’s about the survival and well-being of the United States as a nation” abound. Expect a super-sized helping of doomsday claims such as “the weight of the nation is out of control,” and warnings that unless we get this “epidemic” under control “we’re going to have an abundance of chronic disease.” In case you’re running to the fridge and missed the point, the trailer ends with a woman sternly declaring that “obesity will crush the United States into oblivion.”

Goodness, it’s starting to sound like a Michael Bay action movie!

Another pre-debut giveaway is an article in today’s Huffington Post penned by the documentary’s executive producer, John Hoffman, who is also vice president of HBO Documentary Films. Hoffman starts off sounding reasonable, saying he “used to think that overweight people simply needed to eat less and move more,” but starts to go off the rails when he says he came to “understand that we have less control over our waistlines than we think. In fact, many of the choices we make are influenced by forces we have not fully understood until now.”

Ah, yes, “influenced by forces.”

What forces? The Force? That one? The one that Luke Skywalker channeled to defeat the evil Darth Vader? The one Yoda taught us all about in the second (and best) movie in the Star Wars trilogy? Is Hoffman talking about that Force?

No. He’s talking about another force — a darker, more evil force. He’s referring to the force of the food industry that makes you do things you don’t want to do, such as eat delicious food, drink sugary beverages, and sometimes even consume booze.

But Hoffman really starts to veer away from reality a paragraph or two later, when in a creepy and with a Matrix-level of paranoia, he writes: “Big decisions that have been made in this country by industry, agriculture and government are having an oversized impact on the little decisions and actions we take in our daily lives. They are dictating what we eat when we’re hungry and how long we sit at our desks, in our cars, or on our couches.”

Um, okay, Mr. Hoffman. What else is your friend Harvey telling you about those unseen forces controlling your life? 

Finally, Hoffman’s medication must kick in, and he gets to the so-called facts. He writes that more than two-thirds of adults age 20 and over in America are overweight or obese, and nearly one-third of children and adolescents are overweight or obese. Of course, he doesn’t mention that the CDC’s own numbers on obesity have shown that the rates of obesity have leveled off. In other words, calm down. It seems the nation has stabilized and obesity may even be on a downward trajectory.

But Hoffman goes on to repeat the old canard that obesity-related health-care costs nearly $150 billion annually and that the obese costs an average of $1,400 more a year to care for. Yeah, that’s a popular lie, but the truth is, food nannies and activists have trouble squaring their mantra that those who suffer from obesity will die because of their unhealthy lifestyle, while simultaneously screeching on about their high health-care bills. The truth is obvious: You don’t cost a dime when you’re dead.

Hoffman also repeats another outdated factoid that obesity contributes to five of the ten leading causes of death in America. Yet the truth is that there’s a body of research that shows being overweight or even obese isn’t actually the problem; it’s inactivity. In fact, several recent studies have shown that being “fit and fat” is better in terms of mortality rate than being thin and unfit.

Moving on to school lunches, Hoffman says 94 percent of American schools fail to meet federal standards for fat and saturated fat in school lunches. Only 94 percent? That’s too bad. We should be striving for 100 percent non-compliance. Why does Hoffman consider “federal standards” the gold standard? Does he know those standards allow chicken nuggets, french fries, pizza for breakfast, and gray green beans? I hardly think we should be looking to the federal government for guidance on what we serve our kids. How about Hoffman exhibit a little of that free thought for which artists are so famous and consider that government might be the problem, not the solution, to the school-lunch issue.

Hoffman concludes predictably, patronizingly explaining that this is all too hard for we addled parents to figure out. He quotes famed food nanny Kelly Brownell, who calls food marketing (television advertisements) “pernicious and powerful” and declares that:

Marketing foods and drinks that are the worst for us makes it harder for parents and others committed to keeping our families healthy. Yet, when profit margins for these high-calorie, high-sugar, and high-fat products are vastly wider than those of healthier foods, they consume the most advertising space on TV, radio, print or online.

It’s surprising that Hoffman, who works in the television industry, isn’t aware of a handy-dandy button that’s placed on every television. It’s called the off button. I use it all the time to “regulate” my children’s consumption of television (and food commercials).

A bold prediction: We’re not going to see anything new during this documentary. The food nannies have powerful friends in Congress, more than willing partners within federal regulatory agencies and now a whole group of talented movie executives within the entertainment industry. These separate groups have colluded to send a message to Americans: You’re feeble, you’re dumb, and you’re too busy and addled to take care of your own health. More importantly, you simply can’t be trusted to feed your kids nutritious food. As such, you should be encouraged to hand these difficult tasks over to your benevolent government minders who know better. 

I look forward to watching this documentary. I’ll watch it with an open mind . . . and a bag of potato chips and a nice cold soda.

Remembering David Wilkerson, One Year After His Death



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In April, it was one year since a car accident on U.S. 175 in Texas took the life of David Wilkerson, founding pastor of Times Square Church, founder of the addiction-recovery program, Teen Challenge, and author of the bestselling book The Cross and the Switchblade (which chronicled his ministry in New York City among gang members and drug addicts). When he veered his car, also carrying his wife Gwen, into the pathway of a tractor trailer going westbound, many worried that the vibrant multi-national congregation would never be the same.  However, the church is still going strong under the leadership of Carter Conlon.  During Sunday’s sermon, he said Pastor Wilkerson had warned him not to make a shrine at their church when he eventually died, saying it would diminish the work of God that has been done there.

I did, however, want to take a moment to commemorate his life and legacy, one year later, here.

Mamas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to be Bronies



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It seems that there is a subculture of mostly adult men — called bronies — who gather to worship My Little Pony. You know, this:

Who knew this even existed? Anyway, Kurt Schlichter over at Big Hollywood has a hilarious take on all this and concludes that this group should put its fantasy life to better use and pretend to “act like a man,” Don Corleone–style.

One thing Kurt didn’t mention is that the bronies are watching the modern version of My Little Pony, not some campy pop-culture adulation to the original. This new version of My Little Pony airs on the Hub network.

For those that don’t know about Hub, it’s a network for kids that’s a joint venture between the toy company Hasbro and the Discovery Channel. The shows are designed to sell toys. That’s it. Sell. Toys. Now, I have no problem with the capitalist intentions of the Hub network, but I won’t let my five-year-old daughter watch the channel. Enough ads bombard her without having a toy company in charge of the message.

And if the channel isn’t fit for a five-year-old girl, I am lost on the appeal of the show to adult men, especially since the show is a re-boot designed to sell colorful plastic ponies to five-year-old girls.

Hey, I understand fans. But there’s a big difference between, say, dressing as Han Solo at a Star Wars convention and dressing as Jar-Jar Binks. The first is kind of fun; the second is just plain weird.

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