Dictators: What Do They Have in Common? Well, Let Me Tell You…

By Persephone

We’ve been hearing an awful lot about dictators in the news lately.  First, we learned quite a bit about Syrian President Bashar al-Assad–mostly in response to the horrific chemical attack a few weeks ago that killed over 80 people.  Assad took over as President when his father died in 2000, and a civil war broke out in Syria in 2011.  Mass murder (nearly half a million people have died) and arrests have been the result, and homeless refugees have fled their native Syria in terror.  Assad is a real asshole, and he possesses significant control over his government.

This week, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of Turkey held a seriously whack election.  He asked his people to vote to expand his powers as their leader, diminishing any checks and balances in their government.  You’d think this one would be a no-brainer, right?  Yet, Erdoğan believed the whole vote would be a slam dunk, and he squashed all opposition and cheated his way through the election to ensure that.  Unfortunately, he succeeded, although by a very slim margin.  His powers are now stronger than ever, and he is set to rule Turkey for a very long term.

So…what exactly is a dictator?  Well, if you type the name into google, you’ll receive the following definition: “a ruler with total power over a country, typically one who has obtained power by force.”

Lately, though, I’ve contemplated less on what a dictator is and more on how a dictatorship starts.  Their initial platforms probably don’t involve threats to commit genocide or to take away all individual rights.  Even Hitler started off with some subtlety to his political career.  However, these guys all started off with one very unique trait in common.  They were all very strongly opinionated in their political views.

Think about it.  On the conservative side of the political spectrum, you get the guys on the extreme right that turned totalitarian whackjob.  This list includes Benito Mussolini of Italy, Saddam Hussein, Muammar Gaddafi of Libya, Omar al-Bashir of Sudan, Vladimir Putin of Russia, and of course Adolf Hitler.  These are the guys who started off on a platform of traditional values and limiting government’s role for social programs.

To be fair, though, there have been a number of left-wing dictators.  I say this as a bleeding-heart liberal myself.  Remember that Communism is considered to be a liberal construct, as it’s meant at its core to give everyone the same rights, salaries, and responsibilities as everybody else.  Communism was meant to promote the ultimate equality.  This sounds like an interesting idea, but there’s a reason why government shouldn’t have complete control over everything, including the economy.  The result of these forays include famously dangerous dictators such as Fidel Castro of Cuba, Vladimir Lenin of Russia, Joseph Stalin of Russia, Mao Zedong of China, and Kim Jong-un of North Korea.

For both sides, there’s quite the list of murderous bastards.  Whether they’re extremely conservative or extremely liberal to start with, these dictators simply turned into something this world doesn’t need.  Bastards with power.

This might only be my general musing over this topic, but I do hope you take away one thought from all this.

No moderate has ever turned into a dictator.  I’m just sayin’.


Pictures from telegraph.com and biography.com

Fox News: I’d Tell You to Stop Hiring Creepy Guys, But Then Who’d You Have Left?


By Persephone

Fox News, a network that only seems to hire an array of size two blondes and creepy old guys, turns out to have another confirmed pervert on its payroll.  Cue a shocked gasp here.

That’s right!  Bill O’Reilly, everyone’s favorite bigot and Trump-praising kiss ass, has a history.  The New York Times reported this weekend that $13 million dollars have been paid in settlements over the years towards five women claiming sexual harassment from O’Reilly.  If you’re surprised by this news, you’re definitely a conservative.

Fox News already suffered a great deal of bad press last year when its former chairman Roger Ailes was hit with allegations of sexual assault.  Now this.  I’d feel sorry for them if they hadn’t been covering up for O’Reilly, just like they did with Ailes.  They really don’t seem to care about their employees unless they’re in possession of a penis.  Weird employment criteria there.

It’s hard not to dwell on the justice inherent here.  For years, O’Reilly proclaimed Barack Obama was a menace to American society (despite the lack of evidence), yet he’s been bending over backwards in the last few months to convince his audience that President Cheeto wasn’t a complete fuck-up.  He mocks black women’s hair (a Senator, no less) even as he taunts immigrants.  He’s a racist, a misogynist, a homophobe, and just a shitty person.  Now, because of his actions (not just his words), his advertisers are pulling their labels from his show.  Fifteen advertisers, at last count.

It couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy.

Photo from gawker.com

The Greatest Person I’ve Ever Known

By Persephone

Today is the anniversary of my father’s death.  He died ten years ago…today.  As crazy as my life has been the lately, what with the constant working, the studying, my nieces and nephews, the volunteering, Trump–I’m just going to stop the list there.  It goes on for a bit, and my binge-reading every tiny bit of news when I should be doing homework isn’t really helping the craziness of it all.  This world has gotten weird.

It hit me hard tonight just what today means.  It’s so easy to get swept up into always being busy.  There’s something enticing about avoiding those quiet moments naturally prevalent with free time.  I guess it’s not surprising I avoid being alone so much.  Such avoidance helps me forget about who I’ve lost.  Well, maybe not forget about him, but at least not dwell on his memory.  In many ways, that’s a shame.  My Dad was a fantastic person.

He was also an amazing father.  Seven kids.  That’s how many kids he had, and education was so important to him that we all have Bachelor’s degrees.  There’s even a few grad degrees thrown in there for some variety.  He had his oddly strict moments.  You could tell he was terrified that we’d start dating, so most of us postponed doing so until the latter years of high school or even until college.  He also never stopped working.  When he’d come home, my mother always had a list, and he just kept moving to complete it.  He renovated rooms, kept the yard and garden immaculate, went on long walks daily (we children had a standing invitation to join him), did laundry, washed dishes, and simply kept the house functioning.  Every day was better when he was in it.

Not only was my father a worker bee, but he was smart.  He worked for the Environmental Protection Agency as a soil scientist for a good twenty years.  Botany was his true passion.  I grew up in Oklahoma, and he taught me the names of every freaking flower, tree, and shrub found in the whole bloody state.  I could probably still identify most of them to this day, and I moved out of the south in 2006.  He loved this planet, and he struggled to clean up whatever humans had done to it.  Trying his hand at inventing, he figured out ways to transport equipment into hard-to-reach areas with minimal damage to the environment.  He did this even after his diagnosis of stage 4 colon cancer.

I’m not sure if this article is a tribute to my father, although I’ll keep it a short one if it is.  I think it’s more that I miss him.  While I’m glad to have moved out of Oklahoma, by doing so I moved away from everyone else who knew my Dad.  My friends and neighbors now only know of my father by what I’ve told them.  They probably think that I simply remember him that way because he was my father.  Humans tend to remember the dead much more fondly than they deserve.  However, anyone in Oklahoma who knew my father could tell you that he was the exception to that rule.  He really was an incredible man: loving, giving, patient with everyone except assholes (which is why he struggled working for the federal government on occasion), and dependable to a fault.  The world doesn’t make many people like him.

I wish so much that he wasn’t gone.

Alexei Navalny: A Man I’d Never Heard of Before Yesterday, But I’m Already Praying Putin Doesn’t Kill Him


By Persephone

So, we’ve been seeing a lot of Russia on the news lately.  It’s funny how an American administration that constantly lies about meetings with Russian operatives makes the public all the more fascinated with this topic.  At this point, we’ve all heard about Russian President Vladimir Putin.  Ruthless, smart, hardworking, and unbelievably cruel, Putin has been in charge of Russia for a solid 17 years.  Russia actually does have term limits for their presidents, but Putin works his way around this.  He switches with his publicly buffoonish running mate Dmitry Medvedev periodically as president then prime minister.  The titles don’t really matter in this instance.  We all know that Putin’s the real one in charge.  He’s going to hold onto power with all he’s got, too, as he likes to be in charge, and he loves the money.

For, Vladimir’s personal wealth is estimated to be the greatest in the world.  This is in spite of Russia’s recent economic troubles and Putin’s own lack of career differentiation.  He’s only ever worked as a government official, and Russian presidents get paid a measly $100,000 annually.  Clearly, something is not adding up here.

There’d probably be a lot more investigation into Putin’s finances by Russian officials if he hadn’t immediately dismantled the free press upon his rise to power.  Anyone who opposed him tended to disappear, die, or be discredited in some way.  This includes activists, other politicians, judges, and pretty much anyone else Putin found to be a threat.  His tactics have proven quite useful to himself.  Putin now enjoys an approval rating in the 80%-range.

In this midst of all this enforced complacency and ignorance by way of the public enters Alexei Navalny.  He’s an activist and a would-be politician.  Over the last ten years, Navalny’s had to face multiple charges for obscure claims of embezzlement.  He’s even been convicted and served significant jail time.  He’s been arrested so many times that it seems as if guys in handcuffs would show up if he sneezed too loudly.  His most recent foray into politics is to run against Putin in 2018.

Just remember the atmosphere of Putin’s Russia where anyone he perceives as a threat is discredited, openly murdered, or secretly taken out of the picture.  I’m not exaggerating about any of this, by the way.  I know it sounds like a bad James Bond film premise, but this shit really is happening right now.  Just imagine how scary it must be to run against Putin in such a country where most of the citizens hate you and love him, even when you see the corruption in your government–when you see just how much the people who work for the government have transformed into Putin’s puppets.

Navalny has seen what his country has become, which is why he is acting upon his convictions.  Yesterday, he posted a documentary that truly demonstrated his current attitude towards the Russian administration.  He posted a 49-minute video about the real wealth of Dmitry Medvedev, Putin’s favorite puppet.  I actually watched it late last night, and I urge anyone interested in this topic to do the same.  Throughout the video, you get the strong sense of Navalny’s dedication to his country.  He mentions several times about tomorrow’s Russia, as he feels it will be a significant improvement over today’s.  He follows the money, and backs all of his claims with documented evidence.  I’ll admit, I was surprised just how methodical they were, following the money, linking it to Medvedev’s Instagram account, and tracking down every elaborate property owned by the current Russian prime minister.  There were a number of them, and Navalny made sure to get drone footage of each one.

Throughout this video, I did get the sense that Navalny knew the risks he was taking by showing his country this.  He knows that he probably just signed his own death warrant.  Such a documentary is a declaration of war in Putin’s world.  Yet, knowing this didn’t stop Navalny.  He posted all this anyway.  He found his people and his country more important than his life.  I find myself quite moved by this man’s actions.  He even found a way to slide in considerable dry humor into the video.  When noting a man-made lake on one of Medvedev’s estates, Navalny claimed that they had yet to establish if there were any ducks in it, for example.  He might be about to lose his life, but Navalny proved himself a fighter.  I really do hope he doesn’t die because of this this, but I’m not particularly hopeful.

In the meantime, we can all take a deep breath that Russian politics are not yet American politics.  There’s enough people in the intelligence communities, judiciary system, the free press, the public, and the legislative branch who are dedicated to investigating Trump that his presidency will prove quite short-lived.  His illegal activities have been too obvious (both those involving Russia and those which haven’t).  It’s up to us to show the world that such a man is unworthy to remain our president.

Photo by The Interpreter

John Hurt: 1940-2017

Image result for john hurt

By Persephone

 “When a wise man gives thee better counsel,
give me mine again.

I would have none but knaves follow it, since a fool gives it.
That sir which serves and seeks for gain,
And follows but for form,
Will pack when it begins to rain
And leave thee in the storm.
But I will tarry; the fool will stay,
And let the wise man fly.
The knave turns fool that runs away;
The fool no knave, perdy.”

–From William Shakespeare’s The Tragedy of King Lear, as spoken by John Hurt in the 1983 production

2017 has already claimed John Hurt and Mary Tyler Moore.  This year already sucks.

Photo by Alfred Dunhill

Carrie Fisher: a Lasting Icon

Image result for carrie fisher

By Persephone

I’m a long-time nerd.  I have made no secret of this.  The original Star Wars trilogy has always been one of my favorite film franchises (I’m not mentioning the prequels here for a reason; I saw them in theaters, and they sort of broke me).  There were two characters that truly made the story come alive for me, and that’s Han Solo and Princess Leia.  Considering some of the sillier premises in the Star Wars films, which include ewoks armed with spears defeating storm troopers, a giant slug-creature with a gold bikini fetish, and a small green creature speaking entirely in Jedi crypticisms, this was quite the feat indeed.  That’s how good Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher were at their jobs.  They made it work anyway.

Yesterday, Carrie Fisher died.  She’d suffered a massive heart attack several days ago, and I’d suspected that she wasn’t going to make it the second the news mentioned she’d needed CPR.  Contrary to popular belief, CPR is used because it increases the chance of survival.  The statistics involved with survival are still pretty slim, even if compressions are conducted straight away.

Despite having only lived for 60 years, Fisher accomplished a substantial list in her lifetime.  In addition to starring as Princess Leia, she acted in numerous other films.  Ironically, my favorite of her movies is a made-for-tv one titled Romancing the Bride.  It’s not that the movie is that good–this is about Fisher’s hilarious take on the monster-mother-of-the-bride.  It’s delicious.  Despite her thespian roots (her mother is Debbie Reynolds), Fisher’s perhaps greatest achievements were quite personal.  For years, she self-medicated until she was finally diagnosed with bipolar disorder.  As a result, she owned her condition and informed people about it.  Fisher turned to writing in a big way, making a significant name for herself through her old diaries and her new takes on her history.  She was funny, insightful, and accepting of her past rather than regretful.  I found that quite refreshing.

I can’t just say she’ll be missed.  She was far too impactful on modern cinema and the way we view celebrities.  Carrie Fisher proved herself a resourceful and resilient individual.  She changed so much during her time here.  Our world will never be the same.

Picture from ew.com

Alexander Dumas: the Legend, the Schmuck-head


By Persephone

What can I say about this man?  The grandson of an African slave from modern-day Haiti, a drug addict, and a man-whore, Alexander Dumas wrote a number of novels, stories, dramas, and non-fiction.  And when I say man-whore, I’m not kidding.  Scholars have confirmed the existence of at least 40 mistresses for this guy.  It’s amazing he got any work done.

On that note, apparently he didn’t do it all by himself.  It turns out Dumas was a bit of a plagiarist, taking credit for work resulting from various collaborations with other writers.  Auguste Maquet, for example, wrote plots and initial ideas for some of Dumas’ more memorable novels.  Have you ever heard of Maquet?  I sure haven’t.  You can thank Dumas for that.

Bottom line: don’t work for Alexander Dumas.  If he can screw you, he will.

As for the drug addiction, Dumas was a firm believer in the social consumption of marijuana and opiates.  His novels reflect this—at least the ones I’ve tried reading do.  Every time I try to start one, it goes all acid-trippy, and I get bored trying to figure out the story.  For one thing, the plots are all over the place.  I really don’t know how The Three Musketeers got so popular…it almost takes a historian to even discover the various plot points, much less decipher their meaning.

Having said all this, I must admit that The Count of Monte Cristo is rather brilliant.  There are only two drug-related scenes throughout, and it’s fairly coherent otherwise.  I’m quite proud of Dumas for this one (although this is one of the projects he worked on with Auguste Maquet, so who knows how much of a contribution Dumas even made).  The Count also so happens to be my mother’s favorite book, which can only mean one thing.

Throughout my entire life, I’ve had to hear rants about Hollywood’s mess-ups of the original storyline.  Whoopee.

One of my Mom’s biggest complaints, and I have to admit that there is some merit to this, involves Edmond Dantes’ “enduring” love of Mercedes.  In every freaking movie, miniseries, and play, he ends up with Mercedes, his former love.  In the book, Dantes actually falls for his ward Haydee at the end.  And you know what?  I adore Haydee.  Mercedes is dramatic, unfaithful, and really slow on the uptake, whereas the young Haydee is smart, blunt, and desperately loyal.  After all the crap that Dantes went through in prison, he needs someone like Haydee.  Yet, she’s always written straight out of the story.

Seriously, filmmakers, could you allow Dantes to get this younger, more interesting love interest?  You’d think someone would have jumped on this romantic twist by now and run with it.  Aw, well…

I fully realize that I went somewhere a bit off topic there, but I didn’t actually want to rant just over The Count of Monte Cristo.  It was good, don’t get me wrong, but I read it a good decade ago.  I didn’t really want to read it again.  Have you seen how long it is?  Since my mother insists that “only the unabridged version will do,” I’d have to reread over a thousand pages.  Not today, thank you.

So, to sum up:

Dumas=lousy guy.

The Count of Monte Cristo=good story in need of a better screenwriter.

Auguste Maquet=…what did he do again?

Picture from breguet.com