Friday, December 23, 2016

the mandela effect and andrew w.k.

The first time I experienced “false memories” or “the Mandela effect” was in regards to hotdogs. I was walking through the grocery store and found myself stunned. There was a huge display in the cooler for Oscar Mayer hot dogs and yet I could distinctly recall the brand being spelled Oscar Meyer. This ruined my day and prompted a call to my mother who also remembers the brand spelling as Oscar Meyer. I chalked this up to bad spelling skills and pushed the event into the back of my mind.


Source Courtesy: buzzfeed.com

The next encounter with this phenomenon was when I was watching some sort of documentary and they were talking about when they found the body of the Lindbergh baby in 1932. I was confused. I recalled the disappearance of the Lindbergh baby being one of the great mysteries in history. A lot like the disappearance of Amelia Earhart or...you know...Atlantis. I recall the case being unsolved, but again I decided my intelligence was the issue.

Recently, I stumbled onto this quirk again in regards to the Berenstain Bears. Yes, I said Berenstain. This has caught so many people off guard. Like me, they remember the Berenstein Bears. I found myself learning about the Mandela Effect and finding more things that have changed my whole perspective.

Here is a somewhat stolen list that I have usurped from mandelaeffect.com. These are all examples of where I have a false memories.

Berenstain Bears or Berenstein Bears - (As stated above.)
Color Chartreuse – Many people recall chartreuse as a pink or reddish color. It’s actually yellow-green.
Curious George – Tail or no tail? (He’s never had a tail.)
Lindbergh baby – Never found? In this timestream, the 20-month old baby was found 12 May 1932.
Nelson Mandela’s death in prison  – Long before his actual death (in this timestream) on 5 December 2013.
Tiananmen Square – Memories of a young man being run over by a tank. (Might be Mandela Effect issue or simple media manipulation.)
Sinbad – Did he ever play a genie in a major movie? Was it Shazaam? Did he ever play a genie, full stop?

Here is one of my own, This false memory involves Andrew W.K. I swear on all that is holy that I have heard every one of his songs in the early nineties. 

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

my road to nerdfighteria

Greetings and salutations reader!

My road to Nerdfighteria did not start with the “typical” evening at home crying over The Fault in our Stars. No, I'm too much of a mule for that. I managed to stubbornly ignore the book and by association Nerdfighteria for a VERY long time

I want to take this moment to thank Nerdfighteria for not giving up on me. You’ve been a real mensch! I trust you and depend on you for so much. You are my virtual porch. You are the place where I can bring my sub-par green bean casserole and play corn hole with my totally awesome soon-to-be friends.

Yay!!

Now, my story begins in my hometown Chicago. I was at my bestfriend’s (Brian’s) new place, next to his equally new baby; Greyson. I had flown in the night before and was exhausted from catching limited hours of rest on Brian’s “fancy” mid-century couch.

“Watch Greyson for a minute,” Brian had said to me, “I’ll put something on for you so you don’t get bored.”

I didn’t reply. I remember him fumbling around with his gadgetry. At the time, I had no idea what he was up to. I only had just awoken and I was still questioning the cruelty of the sun. Brian clicked something, handed me a remote, and left the room calling over his shoulder, “Don’t worry. You’ll like it.” 

He had put on CrashCourse Astronomy.

I must confess remembering three things about this experience. 
Number 1: I was vaguely aware that Brian had made this selection in the interest of his son. True, Greyson was a newborn. That would not hinder Brian from starting his spawn's education early.
Number 2: My sleep addled brain was not ready for science and thereby I was pretty angry at CrashCourse.

Number 3: I could not (for the life of me) figure out how to use Brian’s Roku remote and was considering the aftermath (and subsequent loss of a ten year friendship) from destroying his television.
I need to point out that I’m not usually this hostile. Unfortunately, lack of sleep, lack of food and repeating myself tend bring out my darkside. Plus, my other half Andy was at home and I was already suffering from withdrawals.

Through a series of miscommunications, Andy and I had both scheduled hangout sessions with our friends. I obviously had flown to see Brian and Kass had flown into town to see Andy. So while I had the pleasure of sleeping on Brian’s couch, she had the pleasure of sleeping on mine. Which in hindsight wasn't the best of bargains. Our couch was (and still is) a ripped up vomit green number from the 70’s.

My time in Chicago continued with relatively mundane events. I ate food, played board games, slipped on some ice, and eventually flew back to Dallas. This is when I first met Kass. 

She was (and still is) a kind hearted person and my first Nerdfighter friend. Although, I did not know that at the time. We bonded over many things; vellux blankets, video games, food, nail polish colors...but mainly we bonded over books. 

Ah, precious books. We talked about Goodreads, YouTube book reviews and the appropriate (or not appropriate) decision to dog ear book pages. There was mention of John Green.

At this juncture in my life there was only one John Green. The John Green that I am referring to was (and still is) someone that can be best described as the redneck employed at Andy's work. Everyday Andy had been coming home to regale me tales of this John Green. He was lazy, racist, and generally a no-good guy. So when Kass informed me her favorite author was John Green, I was less than impressed.

My lack of enthusiasm did not stop me from supporting her interest. When she told me that she was trying to find a copy of Looking for Alaska, we drove across town to the Half Priced Books flagship store. The store was (and still is) 55,000 square feet of literary glory. Anyone looking for...Looking for Alaska would find it there.

I remember standing in line as she clutched her precious treasure. I said something like, “Looking for Alaska huh? You know, when I was a kid I used to tell my mother that I would run away to Alaska and never come back.”

“Do you even know what the book is about?” she had asked.

I didn’t know of course. I was fairly confident it had something to do with Alaska. Though, I wisely kept that notion to myself.

You may believe that this is when I decided to read a book by John Green. Nope. Instead, I erased the chain of seemingly disconnected moments from my immediate memory and moved on.

I can’t remember how I came across CrashCourse again. If I had to posit a guess; I’d say it was during one of my Youtube surfing binges. You know the kind. Those endless streams of electronic consciousness and point-clicks.

My first thoughts on Crash Course Literature (the Crash Course I had stumbled upon) was as follows..
Impression 1: I too would like a sticker that reads, “This machine kills fascists.”
Impression 2: What color is that nerd man’s shirt? Is it peach? Coral? Red? Orange? Why do I have difficulty seeing shades of yellow!?

Impression 3: Wait. Did he just say that? Is he that guy-author-dude that Kass likes? Is he (dun dun dun dun) the other John Green? I should probably read his books
This description makes it seem like I have the attention span of a wayward fish but this is how coincidence led me to Googling John Green. I became an Alice in my own Nerdfighter Wonderland. I'm curiouser-and-curiouser about my story (and other Nerdfighter stories) and where our paths will lead.

Don't know what a Nerdfighter is? I suggest Google. It worked for me.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

romanticizing lord byron

Lord Byron was the original Don Juan. Coincidentally, he also wrote a satirical poem about Don Juan. I suspect that it was because he felt a kinship with the Don Juan character and wanted to, "set the record straight" for all "sexually charged men". 

Byron was well known for his bi-sexual scandals, romps with lovers, and an incestuous affair with his half-sister. Oh, and I hear he was a bit of a poet (she says dryly).

Left: Portrait of Lord Byron in Albanian Dress by Thomas Phillips
Right: Portrait of Lord Byron by Théodore Géricault
My discovery of Lord Byron came about because of my interest in gothic or "penny dreadful" tales. In a single youth-filled summer I read, Vampyre by John William Polidori, Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, Carmilla by Joseph Thomas Sheridan Le Fanu, and Dracula by Bram Stoker.

My copy of Vampyre came from a local thrift store. Inside the book was a folded printout of nformation akin to the following:
In June of 1816, an eclectic group gathered at the summer residence of famed poet Lord Byron in Lake Geneva, Switzerland. The group consisted of Byron’s mistress Jane Clairmont, her step-sister Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin, and the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley. They joined Byron and John Polidori, a doctor, who were already present, for a nice summer holiday. The weather was uncharacteristically bad, however, and, unable to enjoy outdoors activities, the group began reading German ghost stories. A crowd with such literary minds could not be constrained to simply read such stories, and a challenge was raised amongst the group to write their own supernatural tales. Clairmont and Shelley didn’t finish anything; Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin, eventually to become Mary Shelley, wrote Frankenstein. Lord Byron wrote a fragment known as Augustus Darvell. John Polidori produced the nightmarish short story The Vampyre. - skullsinthestars
It made me curious who this Lord Byron was. He was indirectly responsible for two pieces of literature that left an impression on me. Also, it could be argued that without the book Vampyre, nethier Carmilla or Dracula would have been written.

After some research, I found that he was gloriously eccentric, club-footed, damaged human being. His words bespoke romance, but the man behind it was madness. 

He drank his wine from a human skull. He swam the Turkish Hellspont -- a four mile stretch of water now called the Dardanelles. His father went by the name "Mad Jack" and Byron liked to tell people his father died by slitting his own throat. He had a coffin in his dining room. He used his ancestor's bones as flower pots and his daughter was the first computer programmer, Ada Lovelace. 

In a letter, a friend wrote about time he spent with Byron;
Lord Byron gets up at two. I get up, quite contrary to my usual custom … at 12. After breakfast we sit talking till six. From six to eight we gallop through the pine forest which divide Ravenna from the sea; we then come home and dine, and sit up gossiping till six in the morning. I don’t suppose this will kill me in a week or fortnight, but I shall not try it longer. Lord B.’s establishment consists, besides servants, of ten horses, eight enormous dogs, three monkeys, five cats, an eagle, a crow, and a falcon; and all these, except the horses, walk about the house, which every now and then resounds with their unarbitrated quarrels, as if they were the masters of it… . [P.S.] I find that my enumeration of the animals in this Circean Palace was defective … . I have just met on the grand staircase five peacocks, two guinea hens, and an Egyptian crane. I wonder who all these animals were before they were changed into these shapes. - Wikipedia
Which leads to my ALL TIME FAVORITE FACT ABOUT ANY HISTORICAL FIGURE...EVER...

While studying at Cambridge, Lord Byron learned that he could not have his dog Smut (yes, that was his dog's name) stay in his dorm. Infuriated with the Cambridge rule on canines, he acquired a bear and proceeded to walk it around campus. There was no rule against bears! He even tried to get the bear enrolled as a student.

That. Is. Priceless. 

I am not saying that I romanticize the poet. I just think he was a troubled soul who was fascinatingly flawed.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

ariel's north dakota pipeline


The North Dakota Pipeline activists must shut down one of their camps by December 5th. For some, it will be a last stand.

I put this video together mixing creative commons clips, videos of the pipeline protesters, and Ariel Pink's Haunter Graffiti's Revolution's a Lie. I wanted it to portray the helplessness those that are fighting the pipeline must be feeling.

If you want to support the movement Check out: nodaplsolidarity.org/

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

something about canada

There are many people, who are talking about moving to Canada. I subtly share links like this one for Cape Breton, Canada (link cleverly named cbiftrumpwins.com). I also try to explain that it is not as simple as jumping in a car and crossing borders. There are visas and nationalism to consider. Also, one should be prepared for the issue of taxation. Until a person renounces American citizenship, they are still legally responsible for U.S. taxes. As Benjamin Franklin once wrote, "...nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes."

Loonies aside (a loonie is a Canadian dollar), if I decided to move to Canada I would choose Hans Island.

Photo Courtesy: Wikipedia
This barren hunk of rock is less than a square foot mile and is nestled halfway between Canada and Greenland. It is uninhabited and otherwise uninteresting...except for one thing. The Canadian and Danish governments have been fighting over this arctic paradise for around eighty years..

In 1933, the island was deemed Danish territory by the not-so-Permanent Court of International Justice of the League of Nations. This League of Nations disbanded and was later replaced by the United Nations. The issue of who legally had claim to Hans Island fell in the...in-between (pun, intended).

Apparently, hostilities were revived in 1984 when Denmark's Minister of Greenland Affairs planted a flag on the island. To further the slight, a bottle of brandy and a note that read, "Welcome to the Danish Island" was left behind. This started what is known as, "the whiskey wars".

Arbitrarily, the Canadian military visits the island to change the Danish flag to their own. They leave a bottle of whiskey and a note that reads, "Welcome to Canada". Eventually, the Danish return to replace these with their own flag, booze and message. 

A Danish website called freehansisland.com reviews the affects of this war. A few of my favorites are;
  • No humans have lived on Hans Island since Canada first occupied it.
  • The landscape of Hans Island has been barren, to say the least, since Canada first occupied it.
  • The Danish navy has suffered no casualties in the struggle for Hans Island. Canadian losses are unknown, but are at least equal, possibly higher.
  • Despite claiming ownership, Canada provides no medical or social services to any of the inhabitants of Hans Island.
My final thoughts are wrapped up in this comic from my half-assed google search. Enjoy!

Photo Courtesy: satwcomic.com/epic-battle

Sunday, November 20, 2016

punk 57

Do you ever read a book and somewhere along the way things go terribly wrong? For me, that is what happened with the book Punk 57 by Penelope Douglas.


You might be asking yourself, "Why did you you read a book by Penelope Douglas? You hated the last book you read by her? You even wrote a review stating the reasons.

The answer is simple, I have this (soon to be altered) habit of NOT paying attention to the author name when I pick up a book.

I did not see the similarities between this Punk 57 and Corrupt until much later. Both stories have a bunch of high schoolers acting petty and living very adult lives. Though in Punk 57, it did not bother me within the context of the story.

This plot revolves around Misha and Ryen, two penpals taat have sent letters for years because of a gender specific name mixup. After these years of connection Misha's letters stop sending Ryen into a private tailspin. She doesn't know that Misha is going through a tailspin of his own .This is where the story begins to fail for me.

Misha decides to enroll in Ryen's school as Mason Laurent. With the magics of money he falsifies his documents. Near the end of the story, you find out his justifications for this. But they seem rushed, confused, and implausible. It would have made more sense if Misha was forced in someway to finish high school. Or maybe even have a mystery where he had to hide his identity to find answers. Or perhaps it could have been that Misha had a breakdown, was struggling with mental illness or drug addiction and returned to school as part of his treatment. Or anything else to have his presence actually viable.

Ryen is not a loveable character. That is needed in the story. She has to be written that way, so that the reader hopes that Misha can get through to her. The reader is meant to be frustrated with her and demand (like Misha does) that she be the person underneath it all. They have this in their shared character flaws. Misha is misguided and angry. His actions are propelled by his fears. This is what truly connected them.

I would complain about this story not actually being about young people. Though I cannot judge, as I lived a very free life as a teenager. I also could complain about Misha and Ryen wanting to keep their relationship anonymous. But, again I have my own long term anonymous relationships. I could complain about the gratuitous sex. Then again, it made a weird kind of sense to me. People that are angry and confused often act on their more animalistic drives. My complaint is that A LOT of the book felt like an afterthought -- the "punk" side story, the ending, some of the character choices...which are all important parts of the book. 

The sad part? I would have loved the book if it were executed better.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

the day after

It is no secret that I am not a Trump supporter. As can be seen by my July post, Trump is a goon. I have tried to write something many times about my feelings on the results. Instead, I will share something that one of my bestfriends wrote. (Thanks Brian).
Hey rational America. Things are looking fairly grim for the next four years. People that have an image of a United States that is in economic peril, social anarchy, and under bombardment from outsiders have elected a charlatan. Someone that rallied them together in a furor by feeding into their fears. 
Now we're here in this situation. That has left you feeling the same dread that they felt, albeit with a different source. You're now worried that the country is heading in the wrong direction like they did. You can't believe that someone that doesn't share your values and paradigm is making decisions for you. It's nerve-wracking to be sure. 
Know that many millions share your same outlook. That we'll take steps backwards but that we can go forward again in the future. You'll need to fight for that though. You'll need to be less complacent with the media's presentation to you. You'll need to see the other side's perspective despite how it may seem skewed to you. You'll need to organize. You will need to make the change.
This comes from a person who has always had opposing political views from me. We have spent years engaging in political discourse and this has been the first time we have agreed. 

I wonder how our futures will continue to unfold.

Friday, October 28, 2016

yoginis and punks

Two things happened the other day that made me think critically of my wardrobe and of yoga. The first, was hearing a man complain about woman wearing yoga pants. The second, was stumbling on the Hard Times article, Aging Punk Loses Battle With Comfortable Clothes. This piece of intense journalism, showcases what it is like to have a particular sense of style and be drawn in by the evils of practicality.

The truth is, I am a post punk girl who wears yoga pants.

There seems to be controversy around woman wearing yoga pants in public. Honestly, I think the controversy comes in when a woman's body is showcased in a way that "overly stimulates" others or "visually offends" the sensitive sensibilities of the masses. There are many of us that wear yoga pants that are ignored. Mainly, because it appears we are wearing "work pants" or "leggings". Of course, there are always going to be a group of nay-sayers. I don't really care, so this is sort of a non sequitur.

The comfort of yoga pants got me thinking about my relationship with yoga. I've been doing yoga for a long time. My grandmother practiced under a Guruji  I was thereby shown a very basic practice by my mother. By the age of eight, my movements and thought process had grown by watching Lilias, Yoga and You on Public Broadcasting.


Much later (in my early twenties) I was in Los Angeles and witnessed the rebirth of, "Pilates". Seeing this was surreal to me. During high school, people would look at me as if I had grown another head when I mentioned yoga. But, all over Los Angeles woman were buying these strange rubber mats and yes, yoga pants.

Today, yoga (and the pants) are everywhere. I find it strangely suffocating. There is an obsession tied with the practice and a limited knowledge of yogic history. I mean, what would Tirumalai Krishnamacharya say about the practices of today? 

Without Krishnamacharya, a large proportion of western yoga practice wouldn't exist. The yoga that we understand today, is usually a version (or offshoot) of Krishnamacharya's Hatha yoga -- which he managed to snatch from obscurity and popularize.

This doesn't devalue yoga. I think what it does is show the tenuous flight of our human whims. The Vedic traditions hold for thousands of years culminating in a man born in 1888 who would indirectly be responsible for my favorite form of leg covering.

The wrap up? I'll listen to post punk while doing sun salutations, for the same reason I go out in public in yoga pants...I'm fucking punk.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

varying degrees of rejection and control

When I was in grade school, we had a yearly writing competition. I wrote a few stories, but twice my stories were rejected because the school felt that "my parents had told me what to write". 

Another time, I made a digital poster for Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers long before the movie came out. This too was for a competition. If I won, my work would be used for promotions of the movie. I spent a week compiling around seventy high resolution royalty free images in a collage. These images created a seamless representation of an eerie middle earth mountain pass. My entry was later rejected because I was told, "If i was using stock images I needed to alter the image in some way". I actually had to send them proof that it was a collage and by that time it was too late.

I have had images of myself rejected on websites for, "not being an image of me". I once had a manager tell me that they weren't going to hire me because I was, "too professional" during the interview. I had an art teacher accuse me of tracing artwork when I had drawn the artwork freehand. And this list continues.

Of course, I have had the usual rejections. Rejections of friendship, Rejections of affection. Rejections of love. However, my previous examples of rejection taught me something. 

Rejection (in most cases) has nothing to do with what a person has done wrong, it has to do with what an outside person perceives and prefers.

This knowledge isn't particularly helpful when you are struggling with that unrequited love situation or when you are left behind in some way. Let's face it. Life can really hurt. At the same time, we can remind ourselves that not everything is in our control. We can understand the truth of rejection and use it as a tool to be persistent in our dreams. Conversely, this way of thinking can allow us to let go of what is unhealthy for us. 

Control of ourselves might be possible. But, control of anything else is illusory.

Friday, October 7, 2016

5 strategies for creativity

1.)  Expose yourself to creativity. That means reading, watching, tasting, experiencing. Go to art shows. Pick up magazines. Listen to radio shows. Immerse yourself. 
2.)  Write it down. Every stupid and fantastic idea you have, write it down. Keep it somewhere that you can go back to. There is a poet named Janet Frame who would say, "I've been looking through the goose bath..." That was her, literally shuffling through a basin that was once used for her pet geese. It was filled with her discarded poems. Sometimes a person goes back and sees new relevance. 
3.)  Allow for mistakes. Nothing is perfect carbon copies of any other thing. It is imperfection that makes something important. Creation is not the time for criticism, it is the time to make mistakes and enjoy them. It is the time to be the Jackson Pollock of one's canvas. 
4.)  Don't be afraid. Fear only holds us back. Sure, it's great for avoiding lions in the Serengeti...not so much for like strumming out a tune. Those chords aren't going to bite you. You have to play them to find your song. 
5.)  Schedule play time. I think a part of creativity is allowing oneself to be silly. To explore. To be an over-sized child. In the business of life, a person should really allow themselves the freedom to cultivate that joyful spirit of creativity.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

budai???

Someone asked me, "Why is Buddha fat?" I thought about this question a lot more existentially than I needed to.

Does Buddha exist? Does God exist? Why do we make God to fit our image? Why do we create spiritual icons? Why is Jesus often portrayed as a bearded white guy when he was not? Where do the lines of history, theology, esotericism, and mysticism cross?

Even without my mind wandering, the answer to the question is nuanced.

I suppose a person must begin by talking about the historical Buddha, Siddhartha Gautama. A man who begun his life as a prince, married his cousin, had children, and on his 29th birthday left the confines of his palace to first witness; sickness, old age, and suffering. This led him to the yogic tradition. Where he became a wandering monk, denounced worldly goods, and practiced self mortification. It is said that during this time that Buddha (Siddhartha Gautama) ate only one grain of rice and drank only one cup of water a day.

You can imagine what that does to a man's figure.

This ultimately brought him to the epiphany of the Middle Way (or practicing moderation in extremes) and Enlightenment under the Bodhi tree.

Much like the spread of Christianity, Buddhism has separated into various traditions across many countries. There are now so many representations of Buddha that is hard to keep up. One portrayal however, is seen frequently. This "Buddha" is a smiling (or laughing) bald headed man seated with a large round belly often wearing beads or carrying a bag. This "Buddha" is called the Budai.

I have had a hard time really pinpointing the exact history of Budai. In some instances, Budai is said to be representation of the Maitreya Buddha (a Buddha that will come in the future and teach us Buddha stuff). Other times, Budai is attributed to a variety of monks in history that had a more rotund figure often carrying a bag. In Japan, he is known as Hotei (布袋) one of the Seven Lucky Gods or the God of Contentment and Happiness. The Chinese often use small Budai figurines in Feng Shui for good luck, abundance, happiness, success, and good health. It is said that if you place a Budai in any bagua area, you can benefit.

Is this a long answer to a simple question? Yes.

Was Buddha fat? No, At least not according to history. Though, Budai might have been.

What I can say is the following...Budai is adorable and not matter the context I always am happy to see them.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

texas mums and my prom (throwback thursday)

When I first moved to Texas there were many things that baffled me about the local culture. One of those things was the tradition of the Texas mum.

What is this you might ask? Well, I'll tell you. It is an oversized boutonniere-esque monstrosity that young teenage girls affix to their dresses for homecoming. They appear to be something that is between a floral wreath and an equestrian ribbon. Also, there may be a hubcap involved, I am not completely sure.

Photo Courtesy: WeHeartIt
I find the practice completely bewildering. It could be said that perhaps my northern sensibilities get in the way of understanding this tradition. Though, I doubt that. In the entirety of my school career (this includes both junior high and high school), I went to a total of two school dances. My first dance, was literally my first school dance in junior high. I left early. My second dance was prom.

Ah prom, the highlight of a young person's social calendar. Where the popular girls obsess over dates and gown options. And the weirdos? They rebel and resist the prom. Or so Hollywood movies teach us.

I wasn't planning on going to prom for the singular reason that I was broke. To be clear, by the time I was a senior in high school I was basically providing for myself. As in, my parents were more broke than I. 

Now, everyone knows that prom is expensive. There is the dress, the shoes, the hair, the makeup, the transportation, the possible after party, etc. How did I end up going to prom then?

Three days before the event my best friend informed me that I was going. She purchased me a ticket and told me that I would pay her back. My first problem then became a lack of a date, I considered going stag but I decided against it for practical reasons. I really didn't want to have to call a cab to get to prom.

I had my friend survey the boys for those who remained dateless. From that list, I selected my date, walked up to the poor fellow (Sorry Keith), and informed him that he was going to prom with me.

After school, I went straight to the local thrift store and snatched a twelve dollar bridesmaid's dress that was from the eighties. There was a lot of pink satin, lace and bows. When I got home I altered the dress (removing 50% of the design), found some old white shoes, borrowed my mother's antique jewelry, destroyed one of the silk plants on top of my parent's television (so I could put flowers in my hair) and called it a day.

Sorry kids. No mums for me. 

The one and only picture that I have from my prom.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

the national anthem and how things change

If you haven't heard, NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick sat in protest during the National Anthem. He said he would not honor a song nor "show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color." After a discussion with those affiliated with the military, Kaepernick has chosen to genuflect; as to not disrespect fallen warriors. 

Since then, there has been much debate and polarization towards the subject and I have been thinking a lot about the issue. Let's break it down in parts.

Part 1: The history of the National Anthem

The national anthem itself comes from a poem called, "The Defense of Fort McHenry". The poet, Francis Scott Key, was inspired by the American flag after a marine battle against the British he witnessed in 1812.

Here is a stanza from the poem,which was not included in the anthem itself. But, ironically did have mention of slavery.
And where is that band who so vauntingly swore
That the havock of war and the battle's confusion
A home and a country should leave us no more?
Their blood has wash'd out their foul foot-steps' pollution,
No refuge could save the hireling and slave,
From the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave;
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave
O'er the land of the free, and the home of the brave.
It wasn't until 1931 (more than one hundred years later) that "The Star-Spangled Banner" became America's National Anthem. The Star-Spangled Banner was brought to congress six times by John Charles Linthicum. He spent ten years spearheading an,"one man mission" to have the song recognized as the national anthem. It wasn't until a petition was signed by veterans and woman came to perform the song in front of Congress that the bill was finally passed. Interestingly, another song "Hail, Columbia" that was the more popular national anthem. The song was created for George Washington's inauguration and is much more appropriate for including all races in American nationalistic fervor.

This is the chorus from "Hail, Columbia".
Firm, united let us be,
Rallying round our liberty,
As a band of brothers joined,
Peace and safety we shall find.
Part 2: The history of nationalist etiquette

There are no specific laws regarding the national anthem for civilians. However, there are very specific requirements in regards to The Flag Code and the national anthem.
A civilian is expected to stand and face the flag (if there is one) and place their right hand over their hearts. Military personal and veterans should stand and salute. 
There are other mentions in the flag code that would cause most of this country to serve jail time (if it was at all prosecutable).
  • The flag should not be used as "wearing apparel, bedding, or drapery", or for covering a speaker's desk, draping a platform, or for any decoration in general
  • The flag should never be used for any advertising purpose. It should not be embroidered, printed, or otherwise impressed on such articles as cushions, handkerchiefs, napkins, boxes, or anything intended to be discarded after temporary use. Advertising signs should not be attached to the staff or halyard.
  • Ordinarily it should be displayed only between sunrise and sunset, although the Flag Code permits night time display "when a patriotic effect is desired" and the flag is illuminated. Similarly, the flag should be displayed only when the weather is fair, except when an all-weather flag is displayed.
We have this idea that tradition and etiquette is completely unmovable. Yet, it is us that decides what suits (or doesn't suit) our needs. Even out practice of saluting has changed over the years. If we were still staunchly connected to tradition we would use the Bellamy Salute.

Children Performing the Bellamy Salute                Image Courtesy: Mental Floss
The Bellamy salute was known as the flag salute until Italian fascists and Nazis began using similar salutes. In 1942, Congress amended the flag code replacing it with the aforementioned right hand over the heart.

Part 2: The history of protesting

Any action of peaceful protest in this country is an American utilizing their undeniable rights. 

Protesting is a way for the marginalized to gain power and our forefathers wanted it this way. Because they too were marginalized.

I cannot help making a comparison to Rosa Parks and her choice to make a stand (or a sit as it is more appropriate). She represented a sentiment. Her act was one of many. She and others like her, gave voice to those who couldn't. They brought about change. This can be seen in the actions of protesters around the world such as, the Chinese in Tiananmen Square or even Gandhi's salt march protesting British rule.

I mean, would America be the same without the Boston Tea Party? That action and many others like it were a way of us separating from British rule.

Part 3: Final thoughts

The issue seems to be that people are offended by a man who would disrespect our national anthem. A national anthem with racist roots. A national anthem that was not the popular choice. That this man could deign so low as to step outside of our ever changing rules of nationalist etiquette. That he would use his rights to give a voice to the popular sentiment of his peers.

I have heard people say that because Kaepernick is in the NFL, that he should be held to a higher standard. He doing just that; creating a higher standard. He his giving a voice to those who don't have one. Or as the great Martin Luther King once said, "There comes a time when silence is betrayal."

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

oracle cards

In 2013, I wrote about relearning tarot or at least updating my skills. Ever since I improved my skills, I find that I avoid doing readings on myself. I often find information (in the cards) that I wish I had not known.

Ignorance is bliss.

So for myself, I have oracle cards. Decks that are more like a friend giving you some good advice. I use them to give myself pep talks, to inspire myself, and to gain perspective. All of which is more about work from within than anything else.

For my birthday, I purchased a new oracle set called Messages From Your Animal Spirit Guides Oracle Cards by Steven D. Farmer. 

Back when I had an iPhone, I had the app version of these cards. I used the app for daily meditations. It was very disappointing when I found out my Galaxy Note did not have this available in their store. So, imagine my elation when I saw them in the IRL store!

The physical object is so much better. All 44 cards are thick, textured, and beautiful. The animals in most cases are ones that I do not usually see in totem sets. I really liked this and I almost wish there was a second version.

My only complaint is that texture, that feels so great in the hands, makes the cards hard to spread. They have a tendency to clump together. I use the spread and select by "vibes" method for all my decks. 

On a whim (and for this post) I decided that I would select a card to represent the internet as a whole. I was amused by the result.




Monday, August 22, 2016

amino acids and vegetarianism

Since I've become a vegetarian, I try to myself about it. As much as possible, at least, especially in real life. Unfortunately, there are times when I have to shyly admit, "No, sorry. I'm sure your BBQ ribs are excellent, but I don't eat meat."

On the rare occasion, I receive flack for my choice. Recently it came attached with a message informing me that, "Vegetarians cannot receive all the needed amino acids."

Although I appreciate my friend being concerned for my health; I also wanted to debunk that myth.
There are 22 amino acids, some of them required or considered essential amino acids. In regards to the essential amino acids; there are arguably nine essential vitamins. Here’s a link to those nine essential vitamins found in vegetarian diets.


In addition to those nine, there are six other amino acids that are considered conditionally essential in the human diet, meaning their synthesis can be limited under special conditions.

These six are arginine, cysteine, glycine, glutamine, proline, and tyrosine.

Here is a list of vegetarian foods high on those six amino acids.

Arginine - Pumpkin seeds, soybeans, peanuts, spirulina, chickpeas, lentils
Cysteine - Sunflower seeds, oat bran, soybeans chickpeas, couscous
Glycine - Spinach, kale, cauliflower, cabbage, pumpkin, banana, kiwi fruit, cucumber
Glutamine - Raw parsley, raw spinach, raw cabbage
Proline - Asparagus, avocados, bamboo shoots, beans, broccoli rabe, brown rice bran, cabbage, chives, legumes, nuts, seaweed, seeds, soy, spinach, watercress
Tyrosine - Raw oats, peanuts, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, adzuki beans,  lentils, split peas

Then, there are five amino acids that are dispensable in humans, meaning they can be synthesized in the body. These five are alanine, aspartic acid, asparagine, glutamic acid and serine.

Here is a list of vegetarian foods high on those five amino acids.

Alanine - Avocado, beans,  bran, brown rice, corn, legumes, mushrooms(white, raw), nuts, seeds, watercress, whole grains and sea vegetable like spirulina and laver
Aspartic acid - Avocado, asparagus,  sugar beets, oat flakes, sprouting seeds
Asparagine - Asparagus, potatoes, legumes, nuts, seeds, soy, whole grains
Glutamic Acid Beans, lentils, leafy greens vegetable
Serine - Almonds, asparagus, chickpea, cow pea, flax-seed, lentils, sesame seed, walnut and soy beans.

The last two are within the dispensable group and considered the most non-essential. These two are cystine and hydroxyproline.

Here is a list of vegetarian foods high on those two amino acids.

Cystine - Cottonseed, sesame seeds, soy, lentils 
Hydroxyproline - Peanuts, legumes, and beans

This is all 22 amino acids.

Even though I eat a well balanced diet I still augment my diet with extra amino acid sources. I use my trusty old Bragg's Amino Acids on everything (just in case). Because the product includes 16 of those delicious amino acids.

Image Courtesy: foodschmooze.org

Honestly, it is sad that the urban myth of the "complete protein" still exists. The idea that vegetarians can't get all there aminos keeps many people from becoming vegetarian. 

I believe there are a few reasons that people like to think that the vegetarian diet is lacking.

1.) Most vegetarians do not actually eat well balanced diets, as they do not understand certain dietary changes are needed. Such as, eating seaweeds for certain amino boosts.

2.) There are a lot of nutritionists schlepping off unscientific information as cause for an animal protein diet. Such as citing that carnitine is an amino acid that cannot be found in a vegetarian diet. Which is a misdirection. Carnitine is synthesized in the body from the amino acid lysine and methionine. Both available in a vegetarian diet.

This article actually cites how this  "incomplete protein" myth got started in 1971 by a well meaning socialogist trying to end world hunger and then perpetuated.by other misinformation.


3.) People often mistake mineral deficiencies or other outlining genetic health problems for vegetarian health issues. For instance I have had a copper deficiency my whole life. This is regardless if I eat meat or not. Copper is needed to create iron. Therefor, if I do not eat foods high in copper; I often can have anemic tendencies because my iron lowers. Making me appear like a “sickly vegetarian”. I supplement this by eating shiitakes, which I crave constantly.

4.) It is simply much easier and accessible to eat meat,

5.) And for the last reason. There a lot of people that just don't like vegetables. They see it as a food their parents forced down their throat at dinner. Which is a shame, because it is truly delicious!

Friday, August 12, 2016

foodie snobs

When I was a eighteen, I bullied my way into being an assistant chef/baker at a Chicago Italian Bistro. At the time, I had no idea how ridiculous I must have appeared. Walking into an interview and sharing the news that I had no formal education in the industry. Luckily, I was hired for three reasons.
  1. I lived a block away
  2. I was willing to work all kinds of crazy hours at mediocre pay
  3. I told that old Italian woman who was the chef that if she didn't hire me I would come everyday and ask her to show me how to cook regardless.
Now, I already knew how to cook. What I didn't know is how to use industrial mixers or wield a nine inch Wüsthof. My Italian mentor took me under her wing and I went from being a cook to a "foodie" in a very short time.

What I found out quickly is that people can be "foodie snobs". Foodies tend to look at a Chef's resume or a food critic review. They focus on how ingredients are quantified. Is this unusual? Is this cut right? How fresh is it? Obviously, there is nothing wrong with this. But, I felt it left out all the, "little guys". What about all those moments in life where you ate a food, and it was an experience? 

My first interaction with this kind of feeling was partaking in the ritual of the Maxwell Street Polish. 

At three in the morning, my friends brought me to Maxwell and Halsted in a rather undesirable part of Chicago. The buildings hovered over a dirty street and vagrants hovered nearby hawking such wares as socks and porn. A yellow sign glowed over a small stand where a few people huddled in the cold. My friend ordered me something which arrived wrapped tightly in sticky wax paper. With a grape soda in one hand and a hot polish sausage in the other; I ate quietly. I marveled at the bubble of safety I felt and at my sudden love of sport peppers.

I think this is where my love of street food began. 

What does this have to do with "foodie snobs"? Two words; Michelin Star.

How a tire manufacture became the go-to name in cuisine; I will never understand. What I do know is that in 1926, Michelin started awarding stars for fine dining. And now, it is what Chef's and food aficionados look at for the pinnacle of food success.

Recently, a Singapore man Chan Hon Meng received a Michelin Star for his signature dish. It costs 1.50 and has been served out of his stall for the last 35 years. Proof that good food can be found anywhere. Thanks Michelin!

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

so fremdscham

I get embarrassed on behalf of others easily. When it comes to myself, I lack shame. But outside of me, it's embarrassment city.

The German people have a word for this, Fremdscham or Fremdschämen. This is when shame is felt for actions done by someone else or it is the experience of vicarious embarrassment. So I thought I would make a list of things that give me this uncomfortable feeling.
  • Selfie taking in public
  • When someone says something ignorant or stupid
  • Watching "The Office"
  • Miley Cyrus
  • Seeing someone hurt themselves
  • Most on-screen kissing
  • Overly drunk people
  • Bad mimes and comedians
  • Mispronunciations of wine names
  • Heavy makeup
  • Racism
  • Awkward plugs in media (to sell stuff -- not the practice of sticking large objects in gauged ears) 
  • Rob Riggle
  • Witnessing an argument between strangers
  • Adolescences trying to be cool but instead being loud-obnoxious-hooligans
Does anyone else experience this?

Saturday, July 30, 2016

trump is a goon

I have a very vivid memory of being a young person and having my first exposure to the spectacle that is Trump. 

Note: When I am using the term spectacle, I am loosely referring to the premise behind the 1967 work of Guy Debord. In his book titled, The Society of the Spectacle, he reviews all the ways humans fall victim to mass media and the "image" which seems to define Trump's popularity. This is not to say that I buy into all of Debord's propaganda. I just think it is a useful base to refer to.

I remember, in the mid eighties, Trump being a joke. Literally, a joke. People made fun of his hair. They made fun of his tchotchke-liberace facade. We laughed when he lost money and his wives. And yet the man hasn't changed. It seems to me it is the public that has changed.

What troubles me is how people cannot see how awful he is. He is a liar, a bigot, and all around terrible person. I could spend months collecting every abhorrent thing he has said and done. However, I am trying to keep this focused on what people aren't talking about. Because, I think if people knew more about him and his past, they'd cringe.

The truth is, he has connections to some very bad people. This is well documented. 

He respects these people and chooses to make dirty deals with them. I mean, one of his role models (and very close friends) was a man by the name of Roy Cohn. Who was a notoriously sleazy mob lawyer (consigliere) that had his hands in a lot of shady places. But, I will get back to that in a moment. First, let's look at Trump's relationship to the mob.

Trump and the Mob

Recently, Politico had an excellent story on the history of Trump and the mob. David Cay Johnston, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist reviews Trump's beginning just out of college in 1968. The piece touches on Trump's aforementioned relationship with Roy Cohn as it does many other business dealings in Trump's "early days".

If you want to read this particular article in it's full glory here is the link:

For those of us that want a Cliff Notes version here's a list of Trump's 5 Most Damning Details brought to you by the Wrap.
1. Trump reportedly used “mobbed-up” concrete
Trump allegedly bought “ostensibly overpriced” concrete from a company controlled by mafia leaders Anthony “Fat Tony” Salerno and Paul Castellano,” according to Politico.
The concrete used to build Trump Tower was allegedly made from materials that Trump purchased for inflated prices from “Fat Tony” and Castellano, in exchange for union cooperation. 
2. After 27 years covering Trump, Johnston is convinced he has mob ties
“I’ve encountered multiple threads linking Trump to organized crime,” Johnston wrote. “Some of Trump’s unsavory connections have been followed by investigators and substantiated in court; some haven’t. And some of those links have continued until recent years, though when confronted with evidence of such associations, Trump has often claimed a faulty memory.”
3. Trump allegedly had links to Gambino Family associate John Cody
A friend of Cody supposedly purchased three Trump Tower apartments using a Trump-assisted $3 million mortgage without filling out a loan application or showing financials. Cody, who controlled the flow of concrete trucks during the building’s construction, reportedly stayed at the apartments and even invested $500,000. Eventually, Cody was convicted of racketeering, imprisoned and lost control of the union. 
4. Trump reportedly underpaid non-union workers
According to the report, in 1979 Trump hired a demolition contractor to take down a department store to make way for Trump Tower. For the job, he reportedly hired as many as 200 non-union laborers, mostly illegal Polish immigrants paid $4 to $6 per hour with no benefits. They reportedly worked long days, wore improper gear and slept on the construction site. 
5. Johnston thinks Trump is the shadiest candidate ever
“No other candidate for the White House this year has anything close to Trump’s record of repeated social and business dealings with mobsters, swindlers and other crooks,” he writes. “Professor Douglas Brinkley, a presidential historian, said the closest historical example would be President Warren G. Harding and Teapot Dome, a bribery and bid-rigging scandal for which the interior secretary went to prison. But even that has a key difference: Harding’s associates were corrupt but otherwise legitimate businessmen, not mobsters and drug dealers.”
Trump and Wayne Barrett

This is NOT the first time Trump has been connected to dirty dealings by a well respected reporter. 

In the Politico story by Johnston the name Wayne Barrett appeared. This is because Barrett is known as the,"go-to Trump authority".

Barrett, wrote a book in 1991 called, Trump: The Greatest Show on Earth: The Deals, and the Downfall that was republished in 2016 as Trump: The Greatest Show on Earth: The Deals, the Downfall, the Reinvention.

This book has one of the most detailed versions of Trump's beginnings. It covers every step Trump makes in New York, his interaction with Roy Cohn and other miscreants, his divorces, his dirty dealings, his failures, and his MANY brushes with the law.

In a recent interview with Democracy Now, Barrett expresses how he feels about Trump.
He’s really not qualified to run the Trump Organization. He’s not fit to run the Trump Organization. So he’s certainly not fit to run America,” Barrett said. "I think he represents not just a danger to America, but because we are such an influence in the world, it’s really a shocking threat to the world
To understand how much information is included in this book (and somehow left out in mainstream media) I will share with you an excerpt taken from the book's forward.
Trump Tower itself is a monument to the mob. Sweetheart deals with a mob Teamsters local that delivered the concrete, and mob contractors that supplied and built the tallest reinforced concrete job in the country, were choices Donald made, provoking the interest of federal prosecutors at the time. Now, as he lays claim to the White House, he is announcing an even larger concrete project, a thousand-mile wall to protect us from drug and trafficking cartels. 
The Trump Tower apartments, and some of the offices above the atrium, had long been magnets for criminals. A half dozen felons, including the head of the Gambino-tied concrete-drivers union, owned part or all of over two dozen units in the tower in its first decade. Trump’s cluelessness on foreign policy, apparent even in his opening speech, extended to the tower’s apartment and office occupants—a disturbing collection of international rogues. 
Baby Doc Duvalier bought a $2.5 million apartment there before the tower opened and before the president-for-life was driven from power in Haiti. Chuck Blazer, the 450-pound, now-convicted, wheeler-dealer at the center of the vast FIFA soccer scandal, wallowed between two different tower apartments and a tower office where his branch of the soccer federation was headquartered. Another FIFA potentate, Brazilian Jose Maria Marin, who was once caught on videotape pocketing a gold medal that was supposed to be presented to a member of a championship team, is under house arrest on racketeering charges in his $3.5 million Trump Tower apartment. 
Bayrock, a developer that joined Trump in New York and Fort Lauderdale projects, was headquartered at the Tower and one of its partners, Tamir Sapir, a Russian billionaire who Trump called “a great friend,” had a $5 million apartment there. Sapir’s top aide pled guilty to participating in a 13-year racketeering conspiracy with the Gambino crime family, with some of those years overlapping with his involvement in running Sapir’s construction operations. Felix Sater, who owned a 50 percent “executive membership” in the Bayrock entities set up for the Trump projects, pled guilty in a $40 million mob stock swindle and cooperated with federal prosecutors. Sater, the son of a Russian mobster, appeared in photos with Trump and was identified as a senior adviser on a Trump Organization card. Sater also did prison time for plunging the stem of a wine glass into a commodity broker’s face. 
While Candidate Trump contends that Saudi Arabia was behind the 9/11 attacks, a top Saudi government minister at the time of the attack, Prince Mutaib bin Abdulaziz, owns a full floor in the tower. In fact, although Trump would soon argue that “we should stop supporting the Saudi dictatorship,” as well as stop buying their oil, he said in his announcement, “I love the Saudis; many are in this building.” 
Two other Trump Towers, one in Istanbul and one in Philadelphia, involved convicted cocaine traffickers, but not as residents. Trump’s initial partner in the twin towers in Istanbul—one residential and one office/commercial building—was Engin Yesil, who was sentenced to six years in prison for trafficking 20 years earlier. He later said that he assigned his earnings on the Trump project to Dogan Holdings, a giant Turkish developer that was fined $2.5 billion by the Turkish government for dodging corporate taxes for years. The Dogan firm was alarmed when Candidate Trump made his strongest anti-Muslim statements a few months after his announcement and threatened publicly to separate Trump from the project. 
The Philadelphia tower was never built after Trump’s local partner Raoul Goldberg disappeared and the development firm went bankrupt. Sentenced to 46 months in prison in 2000 on cocaine charges, Goldberg was on probation when he brought the deal to Trump in 2005. Under a licensing and management contract with Goldberg’s firm, Trump was so involved he did the video pitch for it, and his company got the permits and cut the spa and restaurant deals, with daughter Ivanka and son Donald Jr. working on the ground.
If you would like to read more of this forward here is a link: 

Trump and Russia

I find it very disheartening that Trump has the memory of a tsetse fly. Either he needs to be checked for brain damage (because of the memory loss) or he is a manipulative person who says whatever he thinks will get what he wants. I'm going to go with the latter.

But...let's get to the point. Trump has been very supportive of Putin's choices. In an interview with Anderson Cooper Trump said, "I think that I would [at the same time] get along very well with him. He does not like Obama at all. He doesn't respect Obama at all. And I'm sure that Obama doesn't like him very much, But I think that I would probably get along with him very well. And I don't think you'd be having the kind of problems that you're having right now."

Trump does not however mention what horrifying things Putin has been up to. He's jailed opponents, journalists, and activists. He's sold weapons to Al-Assad.(who by the way has connections to ISIL and thereby ISIS). He is pretty much putting Ukraine through hell (with annexation of Crimea, military presence, the cut off of energy through gas supply, etc). 

When Trump was asked about this, he again suddenly suffered from what I am now dubbing, "Trumpnesia".

In a CBS News article Trump is quoted;
"I spoke indirectly and directly with President Putin, who could not have been nicer," This happened during a National Press Club luncheon in May 2014. 
Nearly three years later, Trump changed his tune. 
"I've never met Putin. I don't know who Putin is," Trump said Wednesday during a recent campaign event in Florida.
The question for me is why suddenly change your tune? 

Wondering more about Trump's connections to Russia, I stumbled on an article by reporter Franklin Foer. Though the article at times seems speculative, a lot of the content shows a definitive link between Trump and the Kremlin. Even including a quote from Donald Trump Jr., where he explains where Trump's investments are. “Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets.” Jr. states.

I won't get into the Kremlin's political technique of meddling and counter intelligence. I won't focus on how it benefits the Kremlin and ex-KGB members to undermine US democracy. I won't get into that Donald Trump stands to be either a well funded patsy for outside interests or the totalitarian dictator of a political coup. I will share Foer's outline the many Trump connections to Russia and the Kremlin. Just to allow the public to come up with their own conclusion.
Donald Trump’s interest in Russia dates back to Soviet times. In fact, there’s extraordinary footage of him shaking hands with Mikhail Gorbachev. It comes from 1988, the peak of perestroika and Gorbachev’s efforts to charm the American public. On his legendary trip to Washington and New York, the Soviet in chief left the confines of his limousine and security cordon to glad-hand with the American people. Donald Trump suggested to reporters that the Soviet leader would be making his way to Trump Tower, a crucial station on his journey to capitalism. This was, in fact, a self-aggrandizing fabrication that Trump himself planted in the tabloids, but it was a convincing lie. A year earlier, Trump had traveled to Russia at the invitation of the Soviets. They wanted Trump to develop luxury hotels in Moscow and Leningrad to feed the regime’s new appetite for Western business. “The idea of building two monuments in the U.S.S.R. has captured his imagination,” Newsweek reported.
[...]
It was merely the first instance of Trump carelessly sucking up to Russian power in the hopes of securing business. Those Soviet hotel projects never went anywhere. But over the years, Trump has returned to the idea of building in Russia again and again. Effective real estate developers are genuine seers; they can conjure mental images of glorious structures and vibrant neighborhoods where other mortals see mere blight. Trump had the brashness to imagine developing hotels in Moscow when that was a fatal enterprise. In 1996, a Kalashnikov sprayed the American hotelier Paul Tatum, who had the temerity to complain about the Chechen mafia and the less-than-scrupulous business culture he endured. Yet it wasn’t hard to see the appeal of Russia, to both the bottom line and the ego. An article in the Moscow Times described Trump as the city’s first grand builder since Stalin. Indeed, he later planned a development on the site where Stalin once hoped to construct the Palace of Soviet Congresses.
Five separate times Trump attempted Russian projects, hotels, apartments, and retail on the grandest scale. In one iteration, he promised an ice rink, a “members club,” and a spa, for “the finest residences in Moscow.” Another project he described as “the largest hotel in the world.” His gaudy style appealed to Russian nouveau riche, and he knew it. “The Russian market is attracted to me,” he once boasted. He registered his name as a trademark in Moscow and even licensed it to a liquor company, which sold Trump Super Premium Vodka. Government officials claimed that they wanted to do business with Trump because they also considered him super premium. In the mid-’90s, the general-turned-politician Alexander Lebed told him, “If Trump goes to Moscow, I think America will follow.”
[...] 
Let’s begin at the top. Trump’s campaign manager is a wizened operative named Paul Manafort. It’s true that Manafort is a mercenary by trade. His old Washington consulting firm pioneered the practice of representing the dictators of the world, no matter their grim record. (I profiled his authoritarian ambit earlier this year.) Late in his career, however, Manafort dedicated himself to working on behalf of clients close to the Kremlin. His grand achievement was reviving the doomed career of the anti-charismatic politician Viktor Yanukovych. Manafort’s image-crafting and shrewd strategy culminated in Yanukovych’s election to Ukraine’s presidency in 2010. Thanks to Manafort’s handiwork, Ukraine pulled into Putin’s sphere of influence. Unlike other American consultants who flitted in and out of Kiev, Manafort set up camp there. He became an essential adviser to the president—his tennis partner even.

If Manafort were the only Kremlin connection in the Trump campaign, his presence might signify nothing. But he’s hardly isolated. Many pundits have scoffed at the idea that Trump has a circle of foreign policy advisers given that his initial list of gurus emerged abruptly in March and included names unknown to most experts. Yet the list suggests certain tendencies. One of the supposed Trump whisperers was an investment banker named Carter Page. During a stint in Moscow in the 2000s, he advised the state-controlled natural gas giant, Gazprom and helped it attract Western investors. (In March, Page told Bloomberg that he continues to own shares in the company.) Page has defended Russia with relish. He wrote a column explicitly comparing the Obama administration’s Russia policy to chattel slavery in the American South. His reasoning: “Numerous quotes from the February 2015 National Security Strategy closely parallel an 1850 publication that offered guidance to slaveholders on how to produce the ‘ideal slave.’ ” 
Also on the list of advisers is Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, the former head of the Defense Intelligence Agency. Eighteen months after he departed government, he journeyed to Moscow and sat two chairs away from Putin at the 10th anniversary gala celebratingRussia Today. In Politico, an anonymous Obama official harshly criticized Flynn: “It’s not usually to America’s benefit when our intelligence officers—current or former—seek refuge in Moscow.”

To read more here is the full story: