TIME society

See Jack-o’-Lanterns That Look Like Celebrities

Gourds gone wild

In honor of National Pumpkin Day, take a look at some artfully carved jack-o’-lanterns on display at Rise of the Jack-o’-Lanterns, a 1/4-mile walking trail filled with over 5,000 hand-carved illuminated Jack-o’-lanterns in La Canada Flintridge, Calif.

TIME society

Inside the Weird World of Sexy Halloween Costumes for Dogs

And you thought sexy human costumes were strange

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Ye olde “hot” dog costume Getty images

The era of a “hot” dog costume consisting of a dachshund wrapped up in a bun is over. Welcome to an age in which people dress up their pets in sexy Halloween costumes.

For Pumpkin, a Labradoodle, his risqué 2013 ensemble came complete with fake human cleavage.

Pumpkin the dog flaunting his sexy Snooki Halloween costume Michelle Husserl

A Snooki costume might seem blasé for a person, but the tightly fitted leopard print top secured Pumpkin the first place prize for “most creative costume” at a local London pub, according to owner Michelle Husserl. “I didn’t think about it being sexy, more funny if anything, but I guess sexy costumes [for dogs] are the way forward!” she says. “He’s used to being dressed up since he was a puppy, but the cleavage he kept clawing at. He was very confused about it.”

According to the National Retail Federation, Americans will spend $350 million on their pets’ Halloween costumes in 2014, which is up from $220 million in 2010. Unfortunately the NRF doesn’t calculate how many of those pet costumes show a little extra leg.

“I don’ think we have any plans to go that specific,” says NRF senior director Kathy Grannis. “I’ll be honest, I had no idea that that existed in this world. I was shocked.”

But, as Grannis notes, there is a person-to-pet consumer trickle-down effect, providing pups with blueberry facials and other human-only luxuries. So, considering the sexy Halloween costume complex has mostly jumped the shark — there are actual sexy shark, crustacean and even whale costumes — maybe it was only a matter of time until dogs got their sexy Halloween costumes, too.

“[Our sexy] pet costumes are just an extension of what the consumer was already doing on social networks, we saw that gap, and we jumped on it,” says Alicia Brockwell of California Costume, the manufacturer of Pumpkin the Labradoodle’s Snooki outfit.

“The costume is actually called ‘The Lady is a Tramp,’ and people really love putting that on a pitbull,” she says. “One thing about the sexy costumes, is that people love putting them on the most rugged, tough dogs.”

Dog Costumes
“Pop Queen” California Costumes

California Costume’s Pup-A-Razzi line has other sexy offerings, including a gold-cone bra called the”Pop Queen” (just think Madonna) and a “Silver Screen Siren” (Marilyn Monroe).

“It’s no secret that sex sells and Hollywood is the capital of plastic surgery so it made sense to include those features where we could,” vice president of marketing and design Christopher Guzman says. “Why not give your pet what he or she has secretly been craving, at least temporarily, fake boobies!”

Costumes that feature fake cleavage come in four different sizes, ranging from extra small to large.

“The hardest part about the breastplate is maintaining the integrity of it when shipping,” Brockewell says. “So we have little tutorials and give product training where if you take a warm hairdryer, it can actually warm it up and get it to the right roundness and buoyancy as needed. Because it is a soft material so it can sit comfortably on the dog.”

Brockwell believes that the company manages to be ridiculous without crossing the line to insulting: “No one looks at it and says ‘oh I can’t believe you’re degrading this dog’s honor!'”

Grannis, of the National Retail Federation, agrees.

“Halloween is a holiday based on discretionary fun,” she says. “If there are a lot of creative people out there who think that Fido and Fluffy would look great as a sexy maid, you know, God bless ‘em for it.”

And they do:

Even Walmart stocks French Maid costumes for dogs.

Garrett Rosso, founder of New York City’s 24-year-old Tompkins Square Halloween Dog Parade, has seen the full evolution of the sexy dog costume. The 1990’s were a simpler time. “It was all about the three M’s: Marilyn, Marlene and Madonna — oh and maybe a Chip ‘n Dale,” he says. In the last decade, however, people have upped their game.

“We had a bull dog dressed up as Katy Perry with boobs and a wig — it was a little startling,” says Rosso, who was a TIME design director before opening dog obedience training facilities. “Last year, I saw a Great Dane as Lady Gaga doing the twerking dance and a whole convention of 50 Shades of Grey.”

Matching owner/pet companion costumes are a big hit. He has seen dressed dogs in thousands of dollars worth of leather clothing, made to match their owner.

“Dogs have kind of become our giant companions, our best friends, our entrée into a healthier lifestyle,” Rosso says. “And I think Halloween is just a day when you can show off your best friend.”

And who doesn’t love a best friend who knows how to show some leg? All four of them.

Read next: 2014 Could Be the Year of the ‘Sexy Lobster’ Halloween Costume

TIME society

10 Terrible Excuses People Actually Used to Skip Work

Don't we all wish we could say "woke up in a good mood and didn't want to ruin it"?

A new national survey by CareerBuilder.com and Harris Poll reveals the most suspicious excuses for blowing off work. They are:

  1. Employee just put a casserole in the oven.
  2. Employee’s plastic surgery for enhancement purposes needed some “tweaking” to get it just right.
  3. Employee was sitting in the bathroom and her feet and legs fell asleep. When she stood, up she fell and broke her ankle.
  4. Employee had been at the casino all weekend and still had money left to play with on Monday morning.
  5. Employee woke up in a good mood and didn’t want to ruin it.
  6. Employee had a “lucky night” and didn’t know where he was.
  7. Employee got stuck in the blood pressure machine at the grocery store and couldn’t get out.
  8. Employee had a gall stone they wanted to heal holistically.
  9. Employee caught their uniform on fire by putting it in the microwave to dry.
  10. Employee accidentally got on a plane.

The poll, conducted online between ­­Aug. 11 to Sept. 5, 2014, surveyed 3,103 workers and 2,203 hiring managers and human resource professionals.

TIME society

This Map Shows What Your City’s Talents Are

Michael Hitoshi—Getty Images

Do you fall into your city's stereotype, or are you a standout?

On Tuesday, LinkedIn published a series of maps that break down which cities are specially skilled in certain areas, based on the skills and locations listed on user profiles.

New York City is filled with finance professionals, for example, while Miami residents are experts in travel; San Francisco is packed with computer whizzes, while Houstonians love oil and gas. Many cities, according to LinkedIn, do in fact fit their stereotypes: others include Nashville and music, or Los Angeles and entertainment.

What’s also interesting is a look at some the cities’ other top skills. Cheyenne, Wyo., for example, is the nation’s least populous state, yet has a significant number of people skilled in emergency response services; Mobile, Ala., is particularly known for worker safety; and residents of Portland, Maine love arts and crafts.

LinkedIn also analyzed Western European cities, yielding a somewhat surprising result that the majority of European cities’ top skills are in the computer fields.

Check out the U.S. and Western Europe maps below:

 

TIME viral

This Pumpkin Spice Rap Video Confirms That We All Need to Just Cool It With the PSL Jokes

"Pumpkin spice, pumpkin spice / Whatchu know about that latte life?"

Look, we get it. For whatever reason, it’s fun to mock the seasonal beverage/cultural craze known as the pumpkin spice latte.

So now that there’s a rap video dedicated to the beverage — which you can watch above — it’s time for everybody to just cool it. Girls love to wear sweaters and drink pumpkin spice lattes. Okay. Whatever. We’ve heard it a million times.

Man, as great as autumn is, now I’m kind of excited for winter, when the PSL jokes will finally slow down. But then, before we know it, Starbucks’ “chestnut praline” latte will be the new thing and everyone will start making raps about that. Time really is a flat circle. A flat, green, mermaid-filled circle.

TIME society

These Are the Hottest College Professors in America

You should probably wear something nicer than pajamas to these classes

RateMyProfessors.com, a website where college students rank faculty — and mostly bash the professors who give them bad grades — has released its 2013-14 list of the hottest college professors. “A professor who receives a chili pepper is considered ‘hot,'” according to the site’s methodology page for the lists. “Chili peppers are awarded based on the sum of positive and negative (hot or not) ratings.”

Here is the ranking:

  1. David Daniel: Psychology, James Madison University
  2. Paul Evans: Biology, Brigham Young University
  3. Ruth Dellinger: Mathematics, Florida State College at Jacksonville
  4. Thomas Beard: Economics, Auburn University
  5. Barbara Kalvelage: Biology, University of Southern Indiana
  6. Daniel Norton: Communication, Seattle Central College
  7. Corey Manchester: Mathematics & Statistics, San Diego State University
  8. Adrienne Alaie: Biology, Hunter College
  9. Marsha Lindsay: Humanities, Lone Star College
  10. Dana Cantu: English, South Texas College

If your school didn’t make this list, maybe it’s one of the site’s 2013-2014 “highest-rated universities” which is based on a school’s “Professor Average rating as well as its Overall School Rating which is an average of its campus ratings” (and schools that have at least 30 rated professors and 30 campus ratings):

    1. University of Wisconsin – Madison
      Madison, WI
    2. Washington University in St. Louis
      St. Louis, MO
    3. University of Georgia
      Athens, GA
    4. James Madison University
      Harrisonburg, VA
    5. Vanderbilt University
      Nashville, TN
    6. Texas A&M University at College Station
      College Station, TX
    7. University of Texas
      Austin, TX
    8. Texas Christian University
      Fort Worth, TX
    9. Brigham Young University
      Provo, UT
    10. Auburn University
      Auburn, AL
    11. Pennsylvania State University
      University Park, PA
    12. University of Michigan
      Ann Arbor, MI
    13. Cornell University
      Ithaca, NY
    14. Emory University
      Atlanta, GA
    15. University of California Santa Barbara
      Santa Barbara, CA
    16. University of Southern California
      Los Angeles, CA
    17. St. Olaf College
      Northfield, MN
    18. University of Dayton
      Dayton, OH
    19. Michigan State University
      East Lansing, MI
    20. Gustavus Adolphus College
      St. Peter, MN
    21. St. John’s University – College of St. Benedict
      Collegeville, MN
    22. North Carolina State University
      Raleigh, NC
    23. Mississippi State University
      Starkville, MS
    24. University of Miami
      Coral Gables, FL
    25. University of Alabama
      Tuscaloosa, AL

Read next: These Are the Safest Colleges for Having Sex

TIME society

These Priests Are Really, Really Good at Tap Dancing

Video of their dance-off is going viral

Tap-dancing priests Father David Rider, 29, of Hyde Park, N.Y., and Father John Gibson, 28, of Milwaukee, stole the show at a fundraiser for The Pontifical North American College, a seminary in Rome near the Vatican. The clip was shot by Joan Lewis, Rome Bureau Chief of Alabama-based Eternal Word Television Network.

And while the dance-off happened in April, it’s no surprise the video is going viral the same week that Sister Cristina Scuccia, the nun who won Italy’s The Voice, released a music video for her rendition of “Like a Virgin.”

WATCH: Nun Stuns The Voice of Italy Judges with Amazing Alicia Keys Cover

WATCH: Nun Who Won Italy’s The Voice Performs ‘Like a Virgin’ in New Music Video

TIME society

These Are the Safest Colleges for Having Sex

According to a new sexual report card by condom brand Trojan

Condom brand Trojan and researcher Bert Sperling, who is known for charting the best places to live in the U.S., have released what they call a “Sexual Health Report Card,” a ranking of universities based on factors like “condom availability, student health center hours of operation and the usability and quality of their sexual health website,” according to a statement.

Here are the top 10:

  1. Oregon State University
  2. The University of Texas at Austin
  3. University of Maryland-College Park
  4. University of Arizona
  5. Stanford University
  6. University of Michigan
  7. Brown University
  8. Columbia University in the City of New York
  9. Syracuse University
  10. University of Wisconsin

Student health centers were also graded on factors like services for victims of sexual assault, whether contraceptive availability and HIV/STI testing were free or at a cost and whether they permitted drop-ins or required students to make appointments.

The full list of schools is on Bert Sperling’s website.

(h/t Huffington Post)

TIME feminism

Annie Lennox: ‘Twerking Is Not Feminism’

2013 MTV Video Music Awards - Show
Robin Thicke and Miley Cyrus perform during the 2013 MTV Video Music Awards Kevin Mazur—2013 Kevin Mazur

The artist explained why she doesn't subscribe to Beyoncé's brand of feminism

After making headlines for asserting that Beyoncé represents feminism “light” last month, singer Annie Lennox expanded on that during an interview with NPR published Tuesday to promote her new album Nostalgia.

“Listen,” Lennox told Steve Inskeep, “Twerking is not feminism. Thats what I’m referring to. It’s not, it’s not liberating, it’s not empowering. It’s a sexual thing that you’re doing on a stage; it doesn’t empower you. That’s my feeling about it.”

Lennox clarified that her comment about “feminist light” figures weren’t directed specifically towards Beyoncé, but rather all sexualized female performers.

“The reason why I’ve commented is because I think that this overt sexuality thrust, literally, at particular audiences, when very often performers have a very, very young audience, like seven years [old], I find it disturbing and I think its exploitative, and it’s troubling,” she said. “I’m coming from a perspective of a woman that’s had children.”

You can listen to the whole interview below:

TIME Culture

‘Death of Klinghoffer': Private Grief Turned Into Public Entertainment

Protestors hold signs outside the Metropolitan Opera at Lincoln Center on opening night of the opera, "The Death of Klinghoffer" on October 20, 2014 in New York City. The opera has been accused of anti-Semitism and, at its opening tonight, demonstrators, including former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, protested its inclusion in this year's schedule at the Metropolitan Opera.
Protestors hold signs outside the Metropolitan Opera at Lincoln Center on opening night of the opera, "The Death of Klinghoffer" on October 20, 2014 in New York City. The opera has been accused of anti-Semitism and demonstrators protested its inclusion in this year's schedule at the Metropolitan Opera. Bryan Thomas—Getty Images

Walter Russell Mead is a professor of foreign policy and humanities at Bard College.

The opera is a morally questionable production.

When they told me last spring that the Met was going to present a controversial, anti-Semitic opera, my first response was to wonder why the Met would be launching a new Ring production so soon after the Giant Popsicle Sticks fiasco of the last one. After all, anti-Semitism is to Wagner, a great composer and deeply flawed human being, what ham is to a ham sandwich. When I found out that the opera in question was John Adam’s “Death of Klinghoffer”, I was a little non-plussed. I’ve listened to Klinghoffer on CD, but had never seen it performed and, politics aside, I thought it was a snoozer. If I’m going to watch evil, Jewish-looking untermenschen scheme against the glory of the gods, at least let me listen to music like the Ride of the Valkyries and Siegfried’s Idyll while the composer inflicts his political idiocy on an unoffending audience.

However, as readers of this site know, I am not of the boycotting persuasion, and when the Monday night opera series I had selected for other reasons included Klinghoffer’s Met premiere, I had no hesitation about going to see for myself. Having seen Merchant of Venice, both Parsifal and the Ring cycle, not to mention having read Mein Kampf, the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, and a tasteful compilation of editorials from Henry Ford’s newspaper, it seemed a little late in the day to start drawing lines in the sand.

Not everybody in New York shared my opinion; protestors blocked the street in front of Lincoln Center and we had to pass through police lines and barricades to get to the show. The lines at the entrance stretched far out into the plaza as the ushers conducted unusually thorough searches of bags at the door. With protestors shouting “Shame! Shame!” and speakers addressing the crowd in heavily miked voices, it was easily the most dramatic moment I’ve ever seen at a New York arts venue.

The excitement continued inside; some of the people opposed to the performance had tickets, and dozens stood to boo or cry out slogans like “Klinghoffer’s murderers will never be forgiven!” at various points during the performance. For history of opera aficionados, it was like a revival of the nineteenth century drama in European opera houses as rival factions of fans cheered or booed politically or musically controversial works.

For those who haven’t followed the latest tempest in the opera world, “The Death of Klinghoffer” is a 1991 opera with music by John Adams and a libretto by Alice Goodman. It is based, loosely, on the 1985 hijacking of the Achille Lauro, a cruise ship, by a group of Palestinian terrorists. During the hijacking the Palestinians murdered Leon Klinghoffer, a wheelchair bound, 69 year old Jewish American passenger on the ship. A number of Jewish groups have voiced strong objections to the opera over the years on the grounds that it misrepresents the events on the ship and offers undue sympathy to the terrorists. Among those objecting to the opera are Leon Klinghoffer’s daughters Lisa and Ilsa; they issued a statement that the Met placed in the program saying, among other things, that the opera “rationalizes, romanticizes and legitimizes the terrorist murder of our father. Our family was not consulted by the composer and librettist and had no role in the development of the opera.”

From my perspective, I am less than fully persuaded by their first charge; the opera may portray the murderers in a more sympathetic light than many might prefer, but is neither an endorsement of nor an apology for the murder. Terrorists, however reprehensible their actions, are human beings, and it is not beyond the province of art to seek to examine and understand, so far as is possible, their motives.

The real problem, and it is a serious one, involves the decision by John Adams and Alice Goodman to use a family’s tragedy for their art without the permission of the family’s members. Leon Klinghoffer was not a public figure; nothing gave Adams and Goodman a moral right to profit from his death or to use it for political or artistic purposes of their own without the permission of his loved ones. The opera not only shows the death of Lisa’s and Ilsa’s father, putting words in his mouth, it presents a fictionalized portrait of their mother’s shock and reaction on hearing the news.

No family not already in public life deserves to have their most intimate and painful moments taken over and made into a public spectacle against their will. You couldn’t take liberties with Mickey and Minnie Mouse without having Disney lawyers come at you with cease and desist orders; Leon Klinghoffer’s family deserves more consideration than a fictional rodent and without in any way seeking to curtail free speech, one can regret the decision of two famous and well established artists to turn someone else’s private grief into a public entertainment.

If I were Peter Gelb, I would have declined to put the opera on, but not on political grounds. I would not have wanted to associate myself with what amounts to psychological rape, and I would not have staged it against the wishes of the murdered man’s family. Dehumanizing Leon Klinghoffer, turning him from a human being into a symbol in their political theater, is what the terrorists did on the Achille Lauro; John Adams and Alice Goodman echo this violation by trampling on the family’s privacy and wishes, stripping the Klinghoffers of their rights and dignity and using them as props. There were other ways to write an opera about the tragic conflict between the Palestinian and Jewish national movements.

The New York Times reviewed the same performance I saw, and the Times critic slid by the ethical vacuum at the heart of the work:

Yet, in death, Leon Klinghoffer became a public figure, an innocent but defiant hero, lost to what still seems like a never-ending conflict in the Middle East.

That is a bloodless way to put it and overlooks the reality that Adams and Goodman, by treating the Klinghoffers as public property and disregarding their wishes as so much worthless babbling from untermenschen and little people unworthy of consideration by Serious Artists, have not merely dared; they have transgressed.

As to the musical and dramatic qualities of the work, the verdict is mixed. Whatever his moral blind spots may be, John Adams is one of the most talented American composers of our time, and this opera, while not as musically compelling as “Nixon in China,” contains elements and passages that one cannot but admire. While his minimalist approach to music strikes some as repetitive, Adams’ keen ear for the capabilities of different instruments makes for a rich and varied sound that is capable of great lyrical beauty and dramatic intensity. Adams’ style is a romantic minimalism that builds and swells in glorious profusion and while the opera has its longueurs, at its best the music is powerful and appealing.

Adams’ greatest weakness, and it is a serious one for an opera composer, has to do with his difficulty in writing effective music for singers engaged in ordinary speech. Particularly in the recitatives, and there are a lot of long winded recitatives in this opera, the vocal lines can be much less pleasing and inventive than the orchestral music. Words like boring, cliche and predictable came frequently to mind. The libretto adds to his difficulties; a self conscious and not particularly successful effort to achieve a high poetic tone through allusive language and extended soliloquies often comes across as awkward and long. At its worst, the work features singers interminably droning dull lyrics as the audience waits restlessly for a chorus to break the monotony.

As I struggled to understand why Adams and Goodman chose to steal the Klinghoffers’ story rather than to make up a fictional one, or to find a historical tale that could take on the contemporary issues that engaged them, I found myself thinking of the portrayal of Henry Kissinger in “Nixon in China.” In that opera, also with music by John Adams and a libretto by Alice Goodman, most of the characters are treated with imagination and sympathy—even figures like Richard and Pat Nixon. This helps make that opera one of the most successful contemporary works of art, and adds layers of complexity and depth to the work that, combined with some extraordinary music, might put this opera among the classics.

But when it comes to Kissinger, Adams and Goodman turn him into a clownish villain. In part that may be because they felt that sympathetic portraits of the two Nixons and Henry Kissinger would be too much for a liberal, post-Watergate audience to bear. I’ve always felt that this was an opportunity lost; their criticism of Kissinger would have been more effective and the opera as a whole significantly stronger if they had given him his due. One feels that it was a lack of artistic confidence that led them to take the low road in portraying Dr. K; at some level they didn’t quite believe that the music and libretto could succeed unless they threw in some cheap stunts and tricks.

It’s possible that a similar lack of confidence contributed to the decision to take the low road with the Klinghoffers. It is hard, even for a composer as accomplished and admired as Adams, to get operas into regular production in these times. Opera is expensive, and audiences often fight shy of contemporary works. (At the Met’s Klinghoffer premiere, many patrons didn’t return for the second act; half the seats in the rows immediately in front of me were empty after intermission.) Without the frisson that comes from ‘real’ events and the lure of political controversy, would this opera have had the international success it has enjoyed? Did the composer and librettist feel that they needed to trash the Klinghoffer family’s privacy to get their work the attention they wanted for it—or to make it sharp and powerful in a way that they felt that their imaginations and artistic talents couldn’t achieve without sliming the Klinghoffers?

John Adams is a very good composer. If in the future he places more faith in the power of his art, and rejects unworthy compromises and short cuts, his work would be richer and deeper.

At the end of the Met performance, the boos were silent. Michaela Martens as Marilyn Klinghoffer sang a closing aria that united the audience in admiration of her inspired interpretation of Adams’ haunting music. Those who stayed for the full performance gave her and the cast a standing ovation. I applauded too, and I salute Adams’ talent, but Ilsa and Lisa still didn’t deserve what he did to them—and he didn’t have to do it to create something great.

Walter Russell Mead is a professor of foreign policy and humanities at Bard College and the editor at large at the American Interest. A version of this article originally appeared in the American Interest. The views expressed are solely his own.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

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