Wednesday, December 27, 2017

christmas magic enchanted land

For the first time in a long time, social media was correct in an advertisement it attacked me with. Most of the time, I get ads for subscription boxes and skincare treatments. Both of which I am not interested in, she screams into her computer screen. But this time, I was intrigued. The advertisement was for an event happening near where I live and from the pictures, seemed like the perfect combination of things; Christmas lights, ice skating in Texas, art installations, a maze, shopping, and booze. 

So, I bought tickets to Enchant.

I am finding it difficult to describe the experience. They a parking lot and with the wizardry of industrial design built a temporary miniature city of fake grass, compact gravel, false buildings, and LOTS of lights. This arrangement was striking and felt as if I was stepping into a small Christmas theme park without the rides.

Now, Texas is known for it's Christmas light mazes. For those of you who don't know, that is when you hop into your car and drive to some random location where there is a long stream of giant Christmas light displays. You sit in your car and drive through in a long line of these scaffolded displays, sandwiched between other cars, while you look at these structures in the same way you wait in the drive through at Taco Bell. 

Enchant took this idea and made into something more pedestrian. Literally. Not figuratively which would have the opposite meaning. You were forced to use your legs (gasp) walk through the whole thing (double gasp). Okay, maybe not the whole thing, but it was mean to be an immersive experience. Honestly, it was breathtaking.



The truth is that I was so captured by the artistry of it all that I failed to document the rest of the place with any kind of journalism. There was a whole section of Enchant that looked like a German city with shops -- and eaves -- and windows -- and more. Everything was themed to the point that there were beautiful archways spanning the walkways. 

No picture taken.

There were also a few eating areas and tents erected to eat. This is where I had MANY helpings of probably the most delicious mac and cheese of my life. Which is saying a lot because mac and cheese is one of my guilty pleasures. These eating areas made me feel like I was crashing a wedding reception and everyone was happy I was there. These spaced were filled with this underlining lazy energy of community cheer.

One picture taken.

Then the only picture I got of the ice skating rink, failed to capture the beauty of it -- or the size -- or the bridge that completely went over the thing -- or the beautiful poinsettia garden around it -- or any other detail to display it's impact.

I stood on the bridge for a long time. Sipping on a hot chocolate I procured. Watching the people skate below me. There were many people skating and yet, it didn't feel like those cramped iceskating rinks you find at a enterprising mall. This rink was filled with the same feeling of ease and camaraderie that I experienced when enjoying the mac and cheese. There were complete adult strangers laughing with each and playing games as if they were children again.

I know now and knew then that these moments were something special. It's not necessarily Enchant itself, but the spirit of it. It was the energy and the people. 

I know now and knew then that they probably would do try to do Enchant again, but it wouldn't be the same. People would go. Yet, the magic wouldn't be there. That's what it felt like, it felt like magic. I refuse to say it was enchanting because that would make me a punny asshole. But damn it, I had a good time. 

Also, I really did like the lights.


Monday, December 18, 2017

the devil in the white city

One night (during a particularly long Netflix binge) I decided to watch H.H. Holmes: America's First Serial Killer. This is a documentary about Herman Webster Mudgett who went on a secretive killing spree under his alias, Dr. Henry Howard Holmes. The entire time I watched this documentary, I was riveted. I had never heard of Holmes before. Which was travesty since I was grew in the Chicagoland area and posited myself as an authority on local bizarre histories.

So when I happened onto the book The Devil in the White City, I picked it up right away. And boy am I glad I did!

Photo Courtesy: brockpress.com
The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson is really two narratives happening at the same time. Written in a style that feels authentic for the timeline. At moments his embellishments can feel contrived and stretched. However, much of what he has written was extracted, not just from news reports but from diaries and journals.

One narrative follows the inner workings and details that surrounding the 1893 World's Fair (The White City). The other follows the killings that were happening simultaneously less than five miles away in H.H. Holmes's "Murder Castle".

This book is somewhere in-between nonfiction and great story telling. A weaving of joyous haunting that seems to encapsulate all the "shock and awe"of the time. But, I think that this is both a blessing and a curse. A reader who likes their history "cut and dry" might not like the peppering of fiction. Whereas. the reader that isn't into history might feel a put off by all the insertions and fun-facts. 

For me, this is what made the book. The mashing of characters (Buffalo Bill, Archduke Francis Ferdinand, Thomas Edison and others) and flavors of the past (the Gilded age's steel and steam with a touch of electricity).  I LOVED it! 

If I had to (and I do for the purposes of writing this blog), I would pick one excerpt from the book that somehow encapsulates it was written. It shows the underlining juxtaposition that Larson was seemingly going for when writing his two narratives. It connects the White City on the edge of Lake Michigan and the ambiance of thematic death.
“Beneath the stars the lake lay dark and sombre," Stead wrote, "but on its shores gleamed and glowed in golden radiance the ivory city, beautiful as a poet's dream, silent as a city of the dead.”  
― Erik Larson, The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair That Changed America
If you liked that quote, then I do believe you'll like the book. 

Monday, December 4, 2017

the red door

I have a lot of fascinations. I wouldn't call them obsessions because I don't think about these things every hour on the hour. There are just some things that hold my attention longer than others. One of these things is pretty much any red door.

I remember being very young, traveling with my parents to Milwaukee. We stopped to pick up some things and as we parked I noticed a brick building across the street with a red door. On that rainy day, that door seemed so vibrant and inviting. Weirdly,  it also had a bit of hauntedness that I couldn't place. At that moment, I thought to myself, "One day I will have a red door and another little girl will see it in the same way". Because well, I've always been precocious.

Photo Courtesy: quicksandala


Since then, I have learned that red doors actually have a lot of history.


  • For the Chinese, a red door is linked to auspicious energy and often used for shrines. Ancient Chinese law stipulated that high ranking government officials had to have a red door. This connected the practice with success and prosperity.
  • The Scottish also connect a red door with success and prosperity, as it is a tradition to paint your door red when your mortgage is paid off.
  • In early American tradition, having a red door meant that you would welcome road weathered travelers into your home. It meant that your home was safe and welcoming. Just as the symbolism was again used to represent safe houses for the underground railroad and refugees.
  • Many traditions believe that a red doors ward off evil spirits.
  • Red is also often used (sometimes in combination with white or gold) for church doors to signify spirituality and the blood of Christ.
  • Traditionally, red is the cheapest paint color to produce. So, it was often a good color to use for a splash of color to an otherwise muted color scheme. This was the reason behind so many red barns.
Anyways, one day...one day...

Monday, November 27, 2017

how to dehydrate celery

Years ago, I bought a dehydrator on a whim. I don't know what compelled me to do this, at the time I was rarely home. In the long run, I schlepped the dehydrator through at least three moves. Then one day, I decided to put it to use. Since then, it has been surprisingly useful.

This Thanksgiving I purchased what can only be described as a radioactive bunch of celery. The thing wouldn't fit in my fridge's crisper. I had to balance it on top of a bunch of stuff and hope that I would use it all for my stuffing.



You may have guessed that I did not use all of this celery. Honestly, I barely made a dent. So, I decided to do some research on how to dehydrate it, as I did need to replace my almost empty bottle of celery flakes.

I learned that the process was fairly simple, beginning with a whole lot of cutting. I started with the celery leaves and then minced them into bits. Then, I cut the stalks into a bunch of more manageable pieces for blanching.



The blanch process is pretty simple. You get a large pot of water, set it to boiling, throw the celery in, turn off the heat and let sit in that water for two minutes. Then, you give them an ice bath. I just ran them under cold water because I am lazy.



After that was done, I cut the stalks and laid all my cuttings on a dehydrator mat. I've seen online that people use their ovens with a baking mats to dehydrate. So, if you don't have a dehydrator that is also an option.

You will notice in the following pictures the way I distributed the celery bits. On the left of each picture is how the celery looked before dehydrating and on the right is how the celery looked after.



This was how much I finally put in my almost empty celery flake container. That might not seem like much, but if I buy celery once a year, I will end up with a perpetually refilled bottle.


Quick Instructions:
Step 1: Mince celery leaves and cut stalks in half. 
Step 2: Bring a pot of water to boil and add celery stalks. Turn off heat and let sit for three minutes. 
Step 3: Cool boiled celery stalks in ice bath until cold. 
Step 4: Dice celery stalks. 
Step 5: Add to dehydrator trays with mats and cook for around six hours according to your dehydrator instructions. (Note: If you use your oven it should be around 150 degrees for dehydration. Set your oven to the lowest setting and if it needs to be cooler leave the oven door ajar for the same cook time.) 
Step 6: Move celery bits around as needed within that 6 hours. 
Step 7: Let cool and put in container.

Friday, November 10, 2017

garbage

I come from a long line of dumpster divers. I know that my grandmother did it and I was there for the many times that my mother did it. I have clear memories of my mother driving along and slamming on her breaks because someone had left a bunch of furniture on the curb. 

Giving your child whiplash is not as important as snatching up that credenza. Never you mind that we also had so Macgyver such things into our 1983 Ford Escort Hatchback. Luckily, my mom always made sure we had rope and duct tape in the trunk for such occasions. Side note: We also always had a box of trash bags and a blanket for 'picnics'. I'm not entirely convinced my mother wasn't one step away from murder.

The first item I remember seeing fit to drag back to my lair was a television. I was maybe thirteen and thrilled at the idea of being 'cool enough' to have my own television. My mom warned me it might be faulty, but based on the scrape of paper that had been taped to it that informed me it works, I felt I knew more.

As it turns out that television lasted another thirteen years and I ended up 'handing it down' to my parents when I moved away. 

In my current apartment, I have many items that I've dragged out of the trash. Two different shelving units. A complete fireplace set. A corner stand for our shoes. Random articles of clothing. BOTH of our dog crates. The list goes on. 

Is this gross? Maybe. Do I care? No. I don't really have shame.

Today, I scored a jackpot. I found two pairs of shoes that fit me perfectly AND a bunch of upholstery fabric samples. 



Yes, the gold shoes are a little beat up, but they are also AMAZING. 



Here I am sorting the fabric and then the resulting pile. A whole bin!




The crazy thing is that the fabric is not crappy fabric either. Most of the samples still have the original textile tags on them. This one is from third avenue in New York City.



You may understand what I would do with the shoes. Wear them of course. That's easy. What can I do with all that fabric? 

What I plan to do is make a patchwork slip cover for my couch. The rest of the fabric will go to various projects that require added fabric. I am so pumped about this!

Thursday, November 2, 2017

it is birthday time

No, not my birthday. Andy's birthday. I decided this year to make something custom for him. For a while, I couldn't think of what custom thing that was gonna be. Then at the last minute, I came up with something fun.

First, I drew a picture of an octopus. You may remember from a previous post that Andy became vegetarian because of an octopus commercial. This octopus symbolism has become representative of so much. He even plans to get a commemorative octopus tattoo.

But, I digress. Let's get back to the creative process.


I took the hand drawn image, scanned it, made it into illustrator paths and colored it. I thought about printing it on all sorts of things and chose the Zippo lighter as my canvas. Because Andy likes Zippo lighters and they have a lifetime guarantee. I love lifetimes guarantees.

Here is the finished product that Zippo sent me, after I went through their online custom lighter rigmarole.

It turned out amazing and Andy loved it!

Thursday, October 26, 2017

black and white photo nomination

On the Facebook, I got the black and white photo nomination that has been circulating the interwebs. I am very pleased with the results so I thought I would share.

The original posted stated:
7 day photo challenge. Take and post one black and white photo for 7 days. No people and no captions.
This challenge is about your inner world as much as it is about your outer world.
Nominated others in each post.
Here are the photos I came up with:








Monday, October 16, 2017

1984

Recently, the book 1984 has come up in my social media and random conversations. Although this book is a classic; I have never read it until now.

The thing is, I do not like dystopian stories. I've read a number of dystopian books and I've hated them all. For some reason, the characters always feel empty. Which could be a literary tool to make the world seem vacuous but it just come across like lazy writing to me. Then, there are always things that seem so implausible and thereby wrenches me out of the book to ask; why? Finally, the endings of the plot don't give me any sense of resolution. Before you think it, I know that this is often the point.

Sadly, all of this was true for me when reading 1984.



Is that a harsh assessment of this book? Probably.

However, if you take the "love story" between Winston and Julia you will find they are two people simply desperate for sex. What kind of character motivation is that? It could be argued that this is because of the controlled environment sending them to their more primal inclinations.

Pfft. I don't by it.

I think Orwell was trying to make social commentary and forgot about the human element of humanity. In the story, Big Brother states that sexuality, for the most part, is immoral and what Winston and Julia were doing was criminal. My question is, "Why would Big Brother want to reprogram Winston to choose between believing in love or being an immoral sex deviant?"  Confusion.

Cue doublespeak.

Doublespeak was what all the twists and turns of the plot and character arcs truly were. It was purposeful at times and at other times seemingly unintentional. Honestly, the whole book is a weaving of what I consider doublewrite, which is a sort of an Orwellian fever dream. 

Here, the author's ideas conflict and equate to the never ending toilet bowl of human desperation. Mix that downward spiral with the idea of a totalitarian shadow government and the book becomes a reference point for conspiracy theorists, political analysts, hippies and more. It is why so many are comparing the book to the Trump Era. The current thinkers of the world are trying to ask us, "Will we become like Winston or are we already like him?"

However, everyone should stop making these abstract comparisons. This seems to create a bubble of fear mongering and social panic. Instead, try to look at the really firm undeniable comparisons such as the Trump administration's connection to "alternative facts". I am not sure if Kellyanne Conway is aware that term was coined by Orwell in book...but I won't get into that.

This social context is why I appreciated reading this book. I feel like it is a story that needs to be read at least once. Not because you like the story, but because it gives you something to live in this world. Maybe that was Orwell's intention.

I imagine him on death's door writing furiously on that Scottish farm all those years ago. Riddled with tuberculous trying desperately to stay alert and send a message to the future. Then I think to myself wouldn't Don't let it come to this been a much shorter version of the book? Yes, but certainly not as memorable.

If you want to know more about the story itself (which I haven't included at all in this book review) may I suggest this video which gives us a touch of humor to take the sting out of 1984.




Friday, October 6, 2017

what is nenouwasa?

I have been trying to figure out what Nenouwasa is. For some reason images from Nenouwasa keep coming up in different media feeds without links. Much to my frustration.

Like the googling sleuth I am, I used a reverse image search and finally found what I was looking for. This led only to more confusion. The website states that, "Nenouwasa is based on the principle of planting the roots in people's hearts". What does that even mean? Granted, I think the poetry of the thought is a lovely sentiment but I want cold hard facts.

Since then, I have learned that Nenouwasa does installations that integrate plants. I am still not sure if this is the work of one brilliant mastermind or a collective of creatives.

Photo Courtesy: nenouwasa.com/
Photo Courtesy: nenouwasa.com/
Photo Courtesy: nenouwasa.com/
Photo Courtesy: nenouwasa.com/
The installations don't even look real to me. They look like a mixture of new age art, photoshop, and perhaps something found in one of the Final Fantasy video games. And I am completely captivated by it and a bit offended that this work isn't found everywhere. I'd like to see it in peoples front lawns, in parks, and even at those small grass patches you find outside of gas stations. 

So, if you are considering any landscaping or design ideas. I highly suggest Nenouwasa!

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

a civil war haiku

This poem was written by my Aunt. This is the same woman that sent my mother poetry books for me, giving me my love poetry and many other things like; needlepoint, shameless swearing, and provocative conversation.

She writes on her page at civilwarhaiku.com:
There is a wooded hill near my house. Sometimes, standing there, I imagine this quiet vista come alive with Civil War ghosts. Looking down the hill, I seem to see the smoke, hear the roar, and smell the fetid odor of men taking each other apart. To cope with this haunting vision, I wrote this haiku ode. I offer it to honor their struggle.
A Civil War Haiku
By: Melissa M. Whelan
Only a horse died
Before the white flag fluttered
Over Fort Sumter

Eighteen sixty-one
April came in stormy then
Four-thirty, the twelfth

Pre-dawn it shattered
The uneasy peace they knew
When long darkness came

The blue and the gray
Made a hundred shades of red
The colors of war

There is no hatred
Deeper than between brothers
So close the distance

Wicked is the edge
That divides the human heart
From that which it loves

Loud days upon them
When war whispers turned to howls
And all were made deaf

War is failure’s price
When words cannot sway the will
Currency of blood

Enfilade sweeps far
Merciless arcs through the line
Cleaving open souls

A nation born free
Yet to embrace enslavement
Had to be reborn

Vessels can be weak
Their ship was unseaworthy
They were seamen still

Defeat’s patina
Of melancholic brooding
Is theirs to cherish

Valor on both sides
Is honored in human hearts
That grasp the horror

Though rebellion shown
Courage worthy of respect
Their deaths not in vain

Defeat assured us
Of a strong United States
Safe from division

Boys’ hands hold aloft
The fragile rag ennobled
Death will make them men

The flag was sodden
Wet with blood and morning dew
Cloth so creased with pain

Only yesterday
It whipped the air unaware
Of its frailty

When the stripes and bars
And stars and colors flying
Unfurl no more

Bullets and disease
Twin conspirators of death
War’s dark handmaidens

Dry and hard as bone
Hardtack, spit-wet to choke down
Their staple of life

A sizzle in fat
“Worm-castles” when vermin-filled
Such is nourishment

Shoeless, cold, in rags
These no gallant uniforms
Not so handsome now

No jaunty marches
But leaden boredom and dread
And hungry half-sleep

Hear the roar, the roar
Rebel yell, Yankee cannon
The death of silence

Battlefield names
Once towns innocent of blood
Tinged now with horror

Fredericksburg’s ghosts moan
Cry out across the freeways
Faint amid new noise

They can still be heard
The decibels of anguish
Humming in the din

Tattered, shattered air
Shrapnel whipping through bowed trees
A bruised sky, wounded

Through murderous paths
And biting pointed acres
Courage propelled them

On and on they came
It is sad to kill such men
Brutal tasks of war

So many limbs fell
Some with leaves and some without
Mingled on the ground

Mangled on the ground
July’s high beauty besmirched
With bird song and sobs

Sherman hated war
“It is all Hell, boys” he said
Man-made Hell on Earth

“Make it bad enough
To make it over sooner”
An orgy of death

Bodies know the rage
Of disease which is war too
Fever took his son

To anguish Sherman
So hated and beloved
In his pained madness

What Lee said was true
“We shall grow too fond of it”
The glory of war

The best it brings out
“Good that it be terrible”
Hate’s lustful passion

In the wilderness
The madness and the horror
Where is glory then?

It lies in knowing
There are things worth fighting for
Worthy of valor

Two days at Shiloh
Earthly days to rival Hell
Amid peach blossoms

Bereft of mercy
Lay carpets of the dying
‘Til tears turned to rain

Shenandoah screamed
From Sheridan’s ruthless torch
Embers drenched in blood

“Dead on the field”
Such words to echo in air
Heart-breaking Autumn

The bloodiest day
Antietam’s harvest of souls
And shamed victory

Cold Harbor, cold heart
Chilled by time’s swift, blunt slaughter
Breath-taking carnage

Guns with no bullets
Caused Chamberlain’s fearful cry
For the bayonet

Faced the wicked slope
Of hot, roaring raging air
And go in to it

To be in Hell then
Could be no worse than that day
On Little Round Top

Oh, doomed Sultana
Victory could not save you
From water and flame

And proud arrogance
So the waves took you under
To perish unsung

Six – hundred thousand
Did close their eyes forever
The future not theirs

Not to see the start
Of a new United States
Without slavery

And without these men
Who slept in their early graves
So much treasure gone

They killed each other
With ecstasies of hatred
Tornadoes of rage

After the battles
They would have to meet again
Now as countrymen

And look past raw wounds
Past anger, shame and fury
This took valor too

Through their pain and death
They erased geography
And made us one land

Now to make foemen
Be as brothers once again
Tragedy must bind

Chastened by fire
A nation made more sacred
By its suffering

Our national wound
Young bones moulder in old graves
We still bear the scars

Pioneer nation
Our infant experiment
Freedom’s light on Earth

Our America
Withstood her great upheaval
From her knees she rose

A solemn purchase
The price was blood and sorrow
To weld a nation

And make it unite
Through common pain and healing
Unbowed, free and one

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Frenemies (Part 2): Good Friends vs. Frenemies

In my previous post, Friends (Part 1): Good Friends vs. Frenemies I talked about what makes a good friend. A lot of those traits, I try to apply to myself so that I don't accidentally become someone else's frenemy. However, there is a lot more involved in how a frenemy actively sabotages the friendship.

Traits of Frenemies

1.) They trigger your intuition
Frenemies will make you feel as if something is wrong or that they are talking behind your back. It will always seem like they are trying to use you or that they have ulterior motives. Be careful however not to let your own fears or paranoia make you believe your totally awesome friend is a frenemy. They don't deserve that!
2.) They don't know why their "old friends" or "everyone" says they are mean.
They probably won't have any perspective about themselves and might say things like, "I'm not mean, I just speak my mind" or "I'm not sure why people thing I'm a jerk". This means they don't take ownership of their own faults. There is a difference between being an asshole while owning up to that fact and being an asshole while pretending it's just them "keeping it real".
3.) They exhibit narcissistic behavior
A frenemy displaying this trait will be dismissive of your thoughts and interests by either pretending that those ideas were there own or "old news". The relationship will be about them; when they want to hang out, where they want to go, who they want to go with, etc. And most likely will manage to make every conversation about themselves.
 4.) They are accusatory when you put your loved ones or yourself first
This trait compliments the about narcissistic behavior. They will expect to drop everything for them with unrealistic vision. An example of this would be if you were at your Grandmother's hospital because she was about to die and your friend was sending you many angry texts because you couldn't come over to help her dye her hair. A frenemy will believe their hair crisis is more important than your dying Grandma.
5.) They do not listen
Most frenemies select what they want to hear. Sometimes they even hear nothing until it relates to them. This selective hearing is often used by a frenemy to validate their hurtful behaviors and can be used to gaslight you into false guilt.
6.) They are not there
Frenemies are simply are too busy for you or not interested in being around you. This is habitual and usually for reasons that are hurtful. They will pass up being there because they have a hangnail. When a friend cancels on something important or can't be there remember that there is a difference between real reasons and fake excuses.
7.) They don't accept you
A frenemy simply won't like you or will want to change you. This tends to be a progressive passive aggressive trait. Over time all the things you do or say will slowly be rejected by them. They might even go as far as trying to control or change you so that they CAN like you. 
8.) They do not forgive
A frenemy will see any little slight against them as the real damage to the friendship. These "slights" will often be reviewed and restated for years. Sometimes they might even create falsehoods that are unforgivable. Often what they can't forgive you for is so mundane compared to the things you've repeatedly forgave them for that the imbalance can be absolutely soul crushing. Remember that there there are two winners in a healthy friendship because friends thrive off each other. 
9.) They can act on their own paranoia.
They might ask you if you are still friends or accuse you of not being a good friend. A frenemy can even believe falsehoods about you to match whatever idea they have of you within their minds. They'll be passive aggressive or fluctuate rapidly between acceptance and anger towards you depending on their mood.
Of course there are other behaviors of frenemies and often a person doesn't have all these traits. However, if you cringe at reading this thinking about a particular person than it might be time to address that elephant in the room. A good friend will take intervention to heart. A bad friend will start casting blame or reject you for bringing up these feelings. 

Good luck out there in the world of friendsies!

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Friends (Part 1): Good Friends vs. Frenemies

I thought I would share what I've learned about spotting the good friends in your life and weeding out the bad friends. I have had a number of frenemies over the years and I have realized that sometimes they are hard to spot.

Understanding the differences can help you in a number of ways; you can begin to address the problems that are occurring in your relationships, you can mitigate toxic people from your life, and you can start to understand the traits of the people you want to bring into your inner circle.

Traits of Good Friends

1.) They listen
When friends listen, they really listen. That means minimal interruptions, re-framings of what they hear, asking of questions, and other symbols of quiet compassion. 
2.) They are there
The friends you want in your life are present. That means they listen and they want to be there for you. When you ask them for help, they offer it gladly. If physical distance is an element to your relationship, they do little things to remind you that they are there.
3.) They are happy for you
Good friends are genuinely happy for you when your life is good. When you hit a snag,  they cheer you on, They are eager to hear how things turn out and are thrilled when you share your good news.
4.) They accept you
They aren't trying to change you. Good friends like you. They like you at your best and they like you at your worst. 
5.) They push you to accept yourself while encouraging you to improve
This means they do accept you but they also listen to your ambitions. They are your cheerleader and coaches. They are the ones that give healthy perspectives and that feels damn good.
6.) They have your back
This means when you do something stupid they don't shame you. They jump in with you. Yes, they might want to have a conversation with you if you want to go on a murder spree. However, in everything else you have a unquestioning partner ready to bring it.
7.) They practice forgiveness
Everyone makes mistakes and a friend understands this. They will be the person that is eager to forgive you because you are important to them. Just be sure you aren't putting your friendship on line by expecting unreasonable or repeated forgiveness.
8.) They will humble you
Their caring for you will act like a mirror. It will inspire you to want to be better and invest more into the friendship. It will remove ego and make the relationship about the friendship and not the individual.
All of these things are elements of a good friendship and of course there other things to consider like; shared interests, personalities, distance, etc. Soon I'll address what things can be indicators that you actually have a frenemy on your hands.

Edit: Here is the post about frenemies called Frenemies (Part 2): Good Friends vs. Frenemies for your enjoyment.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

that time i was accidentally a skinhead (throwback thursday)

One night, (after watching the movie Tank Girl) I was inspired to cut my hair. At first, I was trying to use scissors to give myself the most bizarre hair do of all time. When that didn't work, I used my father's hair clippers. What I ended up with was this.

Not my best move.

The next day at school, I found out it was crazy hair day and picture day. People were like, "Did you do that on purpose? That is so hardcore!" and because I was advanced in sarcasm I'd say, "Sure, why not".

It was about a year later, in Chicago (when my hair was all one length) that I met my first female skinhead. I didn't know that is what she was. I just liked her style and informed her that I was growing out the same hair she had. She was, less than impressed. She informed me that she was a skinhead and that it was called a chelsea cut.

London Skinhead Girls in the 1980's
Photo Courtesy: cvltnation.com


I must admit that I was both embarrassed and a little grossed out that I was appreciating someone from a group that is connected to so much hate. What I later learned was that was not always the case.

During the 1950s and 1960s the popular culture was mod. We know this style by the numerous characterizations of it in movies. However, there were subcultures to this movement. 

The mods we know of were called peacock mods or smooth mods. This group was known for their wealth, their fashion, and their music. There was another group at the time known as hard mods. They were from the working class and didn't have money to spend. Their fashion was utilitarian as were their haircuts which were shaved close to the head for  practicality at work. By the late 1960s skinhead was the common term for this group. 

They were known to hang out in dance halls and listen to rocksteady, ska, and reggae. In the beginning the group was not racist or political. In fact, they embraced the culture of rude boys out of Jamaica which can be seen by the skinheads musical interest. It wasn't until the 1970s that everything changed and skinheads began politicizing. From there it was a slippery slope into a blending of white only, far-right, and neo-nazi ideals.

In a way, I am both proud and embarrassed by my accidental foray into being a skinhead. I too was like those hard mods; financially broke and following the beat of a different drummer. But I wonder how many people thought I was a racist asshole? I wonder how many people looked at me and thought I was all about white power? 

*To be clear, I am not a skinhead and I hope for a day when no one sees race as a separator or a reason to hate.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

who is mike pence

I don't want this blog to become a place where I focus on politics. Unfortunately, I am somewhat bound by the current political landscape and the radicalization of the United States party system. 

Before the election, I wrote this blog post about Trump and then another blog post about the great economic risk that is the Trump administration. Both do not shed a good light on what Trump and his people mean for America. Interestingly, there has been one outlier that I haven't known much about and that is our vice president Mike Pence. Before doing the research I have known three things about him.
  1. He is a staunchly conservative Christian 
  2. He is anti-gay and pro-life. 
  3. He was the fiscally inept Governor of Indiana. 
Here is a deeper look into what I found about him.

Mike Pence was elected as the governor of Indiana in 2012 after being in the House of Representatives for a number of years. His reign in these political positions had a number of controversies long before Trump announced that Pence would be his running mate for potus.

As a congressmen Pence did not have an exceptional track record. The New York Times reported that during his twelve years in congress none of his proposed bills became law. Washington corespondent Carl Huse said, “His [Pence’s] interest was more in preventing things from happening — spending, taxing, expanding liberal social policy,” That is a statement on the kind of political representative Pence is. He has a track record of only holding strong positions on topics that are important to him, such as religious protections and anti-abortion regulations.

What was incriminating was the nearly $13,000 Pence took from his congressional campaign funds to pay for an assortment of personal expenses. These expenses ranged from paying his mortgage to covering his wife's car prepayment. It cost him an election race, but that did not deter him. Pence invested his money and time in saturating Indiana media with apologies and remorse as a way to "reinvent himself". Obviously, this worked as he became the poster boy for naive remorse and made his way to becoming Governor of the same state that he betrayed.

In 2016 Trump introduced Indiana’s Mike pence with the words, “Governor Pence enacted the largest income tax cut in the state’s history.” Which was a misleading boast for the state's stagnant tax legislation. Which went from the 3.4% (that had been in place since the 1980’s) to a .1% change of 3.3% under Pence. That would mean a whole $85 of yearly savings in tax expenditure for the average Indiana resident. Obviously this cut did not improve the states finances and in some cases affected the economic growth negatively.

His misunderstanding of socioeconmics continued when Pence signed the 2015 the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) of Indiana. Previous to the bill being signed two groups of organizations were publicly against the bill: the majority of Indiana's business sector and the LGBTQ community. The business sector included; Anthem, Cummins, Dow AgroSciences, Eli Lilly and Company, Emmis Communications, IU Health, Roche Diagnostics and Salesforce Marketing. 

Pence furthered controversy around the RFRA during a famous interview with George Stephanopoulos where Pence refused to respond to the same direct question a number of times. In this interview, Stephanopoulos asked Pence on six separate occasions whether the RFRA would allow businesses to discriminate against the LGBTQ community. The question went unanswered which caused an uproar and a slew of Indiana businesses dropping contracts with the state. There was so much pressure on Pence to correct this mistake that he was forced to add a protection for the LGBTQ community in regards to the RFRA. But the damage was done and the state lost millions in business cash flow.

The LGBTQ community was criticized at the time by conservative groups for being alarmists. Unfortunately. Pence had already shown himself to be a supporter of "conversion therapy" which is a Christian backed idea that mental health therapy can cure someone of their sexual preferences. There were plenty of falsehoods being thrown by liberal supporters like, “Pence forced gay children to be treated with electroshock therapy to cure their gay”. This was not factual and fueled the conservative platform of the LGBTQ being misinformed. What Pence did support was government funding for --  and I quote, "[people] seeking to change their sexual behavior" which indirectly included electroshock therapy as an option for any age group.

Unfortunately, the science is clear that conversion therapy is a pipe dream. Both the American Medical Association and the American Psychological Association, has repeatedly stated that, “the view that homosexuality is a disorder has been rejected by all the major mental health professions”. It is disheartening to think that Pence's misunderstanding of science would lend himself (and government funding) to such a wasteful political move.

This is not the only clash between his good Christian intentions and the understanding of social sciences. Pence put a number of laws into place that would force a large number of the Indiana's Planned Parenthood to close. Dependent on your political views it is debatable whether Planned Parenthood should be allowed to provide services like abortion. However, it is well known that Planned Parenthood provides a number of other services at low cost in places where other health services are not available. More importantly there is proof that mass closings of Planned Parenthood cause a measurable influx of health risks. Pence would soon to see such influxes when there was an immediate HIV breakout of 190 cases within the state that could be directly linked to the loss of the state's Planned Parenthood. 

In this case, there needed to a preventive offset. Meaning, Pence (and his people) should have understood the risks involved with such closings and created a program that encouraged low cost "non-abortion" clinics to provide temporary service support until a more permanent solution could be put in place. That is just simple social risk assessment.

I'm not sure what kind of vice president he will be. His record, although tenured, does not have the kind of activity to show us how he approaches anything outside of his partisan agenda. Because of his personal Christian values, I can strongly predict that he will have a strong anti-LGBTQ and pro-life focus. And although he presents himself as someone that wants fiscal and economic conservation, he doesn't seem to understand how socioeconomics impact the broader margins.

For many, that might not be a point to quibble. But, for me the deeper understanding of socioeconomics is the number two aspect of a good political representative. The number one aspect being ethical behavior, which Pence, a man with a respected law degree, proved himself questionable when he stole $13,000 from his own campaign.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

the city of the dawn

In a previous post about Whittier, Alaska, I mentioned that I have a soft spot for unusual places. One of these places happens to be a lifelong source of fascination to me.

Back in the sixties, 1968 to be exact, a group of 5,000 like minded individuals broke ground on a social experiment that still continues today. With the support of 124 nations, they created a community in Puducherry, India that seems like it might be a cult -- except for one thing that is essential cults everywhere -- they have no leader.

Auroville (also known as The City of the Dawn) was at one time the magical brainchild of the late Sri Aurobindo and his counterpart the late Mirra Alfassa. During Sri Aurobindo's life, he established an ashram that surrounded his practice of integral yoga. Mirra Alfassa (also known as The Mother) took the ashram one step further by buying up land to create a functional city of total acceptance.

As state on their website,  there goal was simple; 
“The purpose of Auroville is to realise human unity – in diversity. Today Auroville is recognised as the first and only internationally endorsed ongoing experiment in human unity and transformation of consciousness, also concerned with - and practically researching into - sustainable living and the future cultural, environmental, social and spiritual needs of mankind.”
Auroville is a bizarre place, with structures that remind me of the city models used in Logan's Run or Star Wars. There at dome houses, curling layouts, and geodesic structures with weird plotting that rejects the usual grid structured city.

Within Auroville, there are citizens from all over the world that come from all walks of life -- regardless, of religion, culture, language, profession, race, or age.

There seems to be mysterious application process to be accepted as a permanent resident in Auroville. This involves many interviews, a two year period where you live and work (for free) in Auroville, other process I'm not entirely sure I understand, then you donate money in exchange for housing (or the ability to sustainably build housing).

Technically, there is no money or government in Auroville. The donation in exchange for something called an Aurocard is supposed to resolve exchanges within the city. However, not many follow this rule and still ask for cash donation exchanges or bartering. And even though there is "no government" there are many councils and groups of people jumbled together to make decisions or for fill tasks. 

The largest blight on the life of Auroville is the crime that bleeds in from outside villages into Auroville. The city has to contend with people from places like Kuilapalayam harassing woman or even attacking. But, lets face it much of India is dangerous and stricken with poverty. Most of the peace obsessed denizens (and visitors) are easy targets for the maligned.


Besides the fact that Auroville seems to be a unique mix of maverick spiritualists and solar powered retreats, they also are trying to do something more. That "more" is valuing acceptance and "progressive harmony". Is it radical? Yes. But, I can respect anything that is based on a creed like this;
  1. Auroville belongs to nobody in particular. Auroville belongs to humanity as a whole. But, to live in Auroville, one must be a willing servitor of the divine consciousness.
  2. Auroville will be the place of an unending education, of constant progress, and a youth that never ages.
  3. Auroville wants to be the bridge between the past and the future. Taking advantage of all discoveries from without and from within, Auroville will boldly spring towards future realisations.
  4. Auroville will be a site of material and spiritual researches for a living embodiment of an actual human unity.