Chrono Cross | Retrospective Review

My review of the PS1 classic Chrono Cross. Despite the fact that Chrono Trigger is my favorite game of all time, until now I’ve never had the chance to play its sequel. This is retrospective look at one of Square’s last great rpgs on the Playstation, and my thoughts on a game that has divided many fans of CT.

Taylor Swift, Before and After

Taylor Swift’s look has changed SO MUCH over the years.

Although she started out as teenage country singer, she went on to become the world’s best-selling artist (in 2014), the youngest woman on Forbes’ “100 Most Powerful Women” list AND the most popular person on Instagram.

Would a person in her circumstances ever consider cosmetic enhancements?

Sure she would.

Recently, I came across a Salon article revealing that Taylor had a privileged upbringing, and that her family relocated to Nashville when she was still in high school to help her break into country music. Her father even “bought a piece of Big Machine, the label to which Swift signed.”

I don’t think it’s outside the realm of possibility that she might later get a beauty tweak or two, for the sake of advancing her career. Whatever it takes, right?

Here’s a closer look…

Taylor made her official red carpet debut at just 17 years old. Her image is so über-controlled now, it’s refreshing to see her with wild, frizzy hair and subdued makeup.

Then Taylor got really into these spiral curls. Except for the bangs. The bangs always had to be straighter. I know you’re looking at her nose and I am, too. It just can’t be the same one she has today.

I really love this shot of her in 2008. She was so naturally pretty back then! Thank goodness she eased up on that spiral iron, because these softer curls are lovely. I have this theory that we all look our best when we wear our natural hair texture; I’ve always liked Taylor with curls better than straight hair, which she wears most often now. Her skin is gorgeous, and she has a normal person’s nose, which is perfectly fine.

Okay, these curls are perhaps a bit droopy, and the side bang thingie isn’t as good. But Tay still looks pretty fresh. I think her nose is definitely wider here than it is today.

This was probably my favourite Taylor style era. I love the darker blonde hair colour for her, and these wavy, vintagey updos she used to wear. Notice how she always went pretty heavy on her eye makeup. Her eyes were a bit squinty here, but are more wide-open now. Hmm…

She started experimenting more with her look in 2011: turquoise eyeshadow, coral lipstick and a high ponytail, oh my! She reminds me a bit of a pre-surgery Blake Lively here.

Gosh, she’s beautiful. I wish Taylor would wear her hair up and off her face more often! To me, it looks like her nose was whittled down by this time; the effect is more delicate. And her eyelids aren’t so heavy—minor blepharoplasty? She was 23 here.

For a brief moment in 2013, she had straight hair and bangs. I LOVED this hairstyle on her, and do not understand why it was so short-lived. (Surely it’s better than the weird lob we were subjected to for most of 2014 and 2015?) I still think her nose looks more refined than in, say, the 2007 shot. But remember that celebs often have repeat rhinoplasties, so it may not even be her final nose. Ha! Also, it was around this time that speculation arose over a possible boob job, so she could’ve had multiple procedures at once.

Gah, this hairstyle! And, well, the styling in general. Sure, she’s getting more bold and experimental with her choices—but I feel like we’ve lost that natural sweetness from a few years ago, which is a shame. To me, Taylor can come across a bit awkward and gangly in some of her more adventurous red carpet get-ups, like a girl playing dress-up. Also look at her nose. It’s more angular now, for sure.

Finally, Taylor’s global domination is complete! She looks every bit the pop star in this fierce, graphic eyeliner, with perfectly smoothed, shiny side bangs and polished makeup. And yep, her nose is way more sculpted now than back in the day.

Taylor’s hair has now evolved into a chin-length bob with bangs. Her makeup is also a lot more playful!

I think Taylor, like many celebs, has undergone a cosmetic procedure on her nose.

There’s a surgeon who agrees with me. Dr. Anthony Youn told Radar Online: “Taylor Swift’s nose looks much thinner and more refined than it did when she was younger. It looks like she had rhinoplasty, which is the plastic surgery that celebrities have had the most.”

Do you agree?

Is the U.S. a Fascist Society? Fascism is a Political Economic Structure Which Serves Corporate Interests

Most Americans are taught in school that fascism is a ruthless one party dictatorship, the most popular example being Nazi Germany. This is a misconception. Fascism is a political economy, not merely a political system that existed in one moment of history. Fascism, as defined by Black revolutionary and assassinated political prisoner George Jackson, is the complete control of the state by monopoly capital. Fascism is the last stage of capitalism in the heart of the US imperial center where the relationship between the state and corporation becomes indiscernible. A difficult, but necessary, task for the left in this period is to acknowledge that fascism is the system of rule in the United States.

The privatization of the public sector, de-unionization of the entire labor force, and violent austerity are the seeds of domestically grown fascism in the economic realm. Such fascist activity has brought about the rapid decline of political and economic conditions for the working class and the rapid accumulation of wealth and profit for the ruling class. Workers are doing more and more on the job for less and less pay. The jobless are either searching desperately for work or not searching at all. Shelters are overflowing and turning the homeless away. The US has 25 percent of the world’s prisoners despite only possessing 5 percent of the world’s population. Mass joblessness, poverty, imprisonment, and homelessness are material forces that breed fear and competition amongst the working class.

The paradox of fascism lies in its ability to sustain and grow in the midst of deteriorating conditions for the majority of the population. The racist foundation of this country is useful in this regard. The white working class steadfastly defends its privileges obtained from white imperial pillage of Black and indigenous people both here and abroad. The white ruling class maintains unity with the white working class because, although exploitation has heightened for everyone, Black and indigenous people (including undocumented immigrants) remain economically and socially oppressed to a much harsher degree than Whites. To ensure racism does not precipitate a radical struggle between white supremacy and Black freedom, the US ruling class has molded and trained a Black political class. This class of neo-colonial elites, with Barack Obama leading the way, works in the interests of fascism by protecting the rule of the white ruling class while teaching the entire Black community that Black faces in high imperial places is not only desired, but also worthy of staunch defense.

Furthermore, fascism relies on a racist enforcement arm to control the political direction of the oppressed. The expanded surveillance and military state that currently spies, detains, and wiretaps the 99 percent remains more dangerous and repressive for the Black community. The vast majority of wiretaps, police and vigilante murders, and stop-and-frisks happen to Black and brown people. So instead of joining forces with the Black community to build a powerful movement, exploited white Americans can still rely on the state to enforce racism on its behalf.

The US corporate media and education system provide the ideological chains of fascism. In this period, both systems serve as mouthpieces for US imperial ambitions, values, and behaviors. Fascism is normalized in the American mind through the inculcation of racism, individualism, and a depoliticized and inaccurate conception of history and politics. The US education system conditions the oppressed and oppressors into their positions in society. Black and indigenous youth attend factory schools that emphasize obedience to authority, which instills a dehumanized and subservient disposition for a future in low-wage work or prison. From K-12, Black working class youth are taught to “pledge allegiance” to the flag of genocide and colonialism in over-crowded, police-occupied, and privatized schools. White youth “pledge allegiance” in better-funded schools more capable of conditioning them into positions of power. However, all youth are taught a mythological version of US history that applauds white supremacy, colonialism, and capitalist development as “freedom” and “democracy.”

The corporate media, despite being far more monopolized than the US school system, provides a more diverse means of education. Corporations like CNN and the New York Times habitually lie about the facts of political events to protect the white ruling class and its institutions from accountability. Corporate hip-hop, music, and television entertainment compliment corporate news syndicates by doping the mind full of mindless garbage. It matters little if the media of choice is watching “Scandal”, listening to Nicki Minaj on the radio, or reading the Washington Post. The boardrooms of five corporations are manufacturing consent to the US fascist system. Malcolm X succinctly summarized the function of the corporate media when he said “if you are not careful, the newspapers will have you hating the the people who are being oppressed, and loving the people who are doing the oppressing.”

Friday, April 4th was the 46th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr’s assassination. Although King never claimed that the US was a fascist society, he certainly was struggling with the fundamental structure of US society by the end of his life. In “Where do We Go from Here” (1967) for instance, King stated that

“ . . . more and more, we’ve got to begin to ask questions about the whole society . . .and you see, my friends, when you deal with this you begin to ask the question, ‘Who owns the oil?’ You begin to ask the question, ‘Who owns the iron ore?’ You begin to ask the question, ‘Why is it that people have to pay water bills in a world that’s two-thirds water?’”

Unsurprisingly, King’s opposition to racism, capitalism, and war placed a target on his life. The US government was found guilty of using its intelligence agencies to murder King in 1999. The murder of King was part and parcel of the US government’s crackdown on the radical left, which is now imbedded in the legal framework of this country since the institution of the “War on Terror.” King’s legacy should inspire us to dig deep into the roots of the type of society we live in and the type of society we want to live in. George Jackson’s conclusion that the US indeed is a fascist society receives little attention from the US left. Further, this article could not possibly analyze in the detail deserved every element of the US ruling order. However, there is ample evidence that we should no longer be asking the question of whether fascism exists in this country, but rather, where do we go from here.

Ukrainian neo-Nazis flock to the Hong Kong protest movement

Ukrainian fascists who previously fought in a US-backed neo-Nazi militia joined the anti-China protests in Hong Kong, sharing their tactics and showing off their tattoos.

Neo-Nazis from Ukraine have flown to Hong Kong to participate in the anti-Chinese insurgency, which has been widely praised by Western corporate media and portrayed as a peaceful pro-democracy movement.

Since March 2019, Hong Kong has been the site of often-violent protests and riots that have run the city’s economy into the ground. The US government has funded many of the groups leading the pro-Western and anti-Beijing movement, and opposition leaders have coordinated closely with conservative political figures in Washington like Marco Rubio and Steve Bannon, lobbying for sanctions and other punitive measures against China.

Numerous delegations of far-right groups from across the world have traveled to Hong Kong to join the violent insurgency against Beijing, in which secessionists have attacked police with bows and arrows, shot gasoline bombs out of catapults, and burned numerous people alive.

With their flamboyant waving of US and British colonial flags and tendency to belt out the American national anthem on megaphones, anti-China separatists in Hong Kong have made themselves a magnet for the US far-right. Staff of the website InfoWars, right-wing social media personality Paul Joseph Watson, and the ultra-conservative group Patriot Prayer are among those who have made pilgrimages to the protests.

The latest collection of extreme-right activists to reinforce the ranks of the Hong Kong separatists are from Ukraine. They call themselves Gonor and have tattoos on their upper torsos with undeniable symbols of white supremacy and neo-Nazism.

These extremists previously fought in a notoriously brutal neo-Nazi militia called the Azov Battalion, in Ukraine’s war against pro-Russian militants.

The Azov Battalion is an explicitly fascist paramilitary group that organizes around neo-Nazi ideology. After a Western-backed 2014 coup against Ukraine’s democratically elected government, Azov was incorporated into the Ukrainian national guard. It has received support from the US government, which has armed and advised the neo-Nazis in their fight against Moscow.

Azov has also helped train American white supremacists, who have plotted terrorist attacks back at home in the United States.

While Western governments and corporate media outlets portray China as an authoritarian regime that treats Hong Kong like a colony, these violent Ukrainian fascists took advantage of the region’s autonomy to gain entry through its borders. It is unlikely they would have been admitted to mainland China, or to the Western European countries that routinely refuse visas to political extremists.

The presence of Ukrainian regime-change activists in the Hong Kong protests is further evidence of the alliances that anti-Chinese activists in Hong Kong are building with other right-wing, US-backed movements around the world, sharing tactics to weaken and destabilize countries targeted by NATO.

Ukrainian fascists join Hong Kong insurgency

On December 1, the far-right activist Serhii Filimonov posted photos on Facebook showing himself and three Ukrainian friends upon their arrival in Hong Kong. The images were accompanied by the anti-Beijing’s unofficial slogan: “Fight for Freedom. Stand with Hong Kong!!”

Stand With Hong Kong is also the name of a Western-backed organization that has been lobbying the governments of the US, Britain, Germany, Canada, and Australia to impose sanctions and take punitive action against China.

In a video they posted on social media, the Ukrainian white supremacists revealed that they had obtained a press pass, misleadingly portraying themselves as journalists.

Joining Filimonov on the trip to Hong Kong was a notorious extreme-right Ukrainian activist who goes by the name Maliar. Maliar is popular on Instagram, under the name xgadzillax, where he has more than 23,000 followers. (Maliar has a distinctive scar on the left side of the neck, which makes him easy to recognize in photos.)

Besides the swastikas inked into his skull, Maliar had the Nazi symbols tattooed on his right leg, next to an algiz rune, another common white supremacist emblem.

Several photos show that at least two of the Ukrainian fascists in Hong Kong have tattoos reading “Victory or Valhalla,” the title of a compilation of writings by the notorious American white supremacist David Lane, whose neo-fascist terrorist group The Order murdered a liberal Jewish radio host and planned more assassinations of left-wing Jews.

Lane, who was convicted to 190 years in a US prison for numerous crimes, created the most famous white supremacist slogan, known as the 14 Words — which inspired the name of another Ukrainian neo-Nazi group called C14.

Filimonov, who also has a large following on Instagram, where he uses the name Sunperuna, published a photo showing the phrase “Victory or Valahalla” emblazoned on his chest.

The book “Victory or Valhalla” is dedicated to “Aryankind.” In its pages, its author says he is committed to preventing the “imminent extinction facing the White Race” and the “Judeo-American/Judeo-Christian murder of the White race.” The screed is replete with homages to Nazis, and the back cover shows a photo of Lane’s body in his coffin, wrapped in a Confederate flag.

These Ukrainian fascists were such fans of the book that they permanently tattooed its title on their bodies.

Maliar, the other member of Gonor who joined the Hong Kong protests, has “Victory or Valhalla” inscribed conspicuously on his neck.

Journalist Morgan Artyukhina identified another member of the far-right Ukrainian contingent in Hong Kong as Serhii Sternenko. Artyukhina noted that Sternenko is a former leader of the Ukrainian fascist group Right Sector, which burned down a trade union building in Odessa during the 2014 coup, killing 42 people.

Neo-Nazis take campus

On December 2, the Ukrainian fascist visitors posted photos of themselves on the campus of Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU), a site of violent protests.

PolyU has been a crucial base of operation for the separatist uprising. A total of 3,989 petrol bombs, 1,339 pieces of explosives, and 601 bottles of corrosive liquid were recovered at the school, as of December 2, according to reports.

Serhii Filimonov (the first on the left in the photo above) has faced legal troubles in the past, appearing in court for allegedly brawling with police.

The photos Filimonov posts on social media make two things abundantly clear: He is a Nazi and wants as many people as possible to see him shirtless while bearing heavy weapons.

Other members of Gonor have published photos on Instagram holding guns.

A video posted on Instagram in 2015 shows Maliar and a friend in a “White Rebel” Confederate flag t-shirt surrounded by guns and tasers.

Gonor’s symbol draws on many of the same far-right ultra-nationalist themes, with three white knives centered on a black flag.

Gonor’s Telegram channel offers members a front row seat to an orgy of violence. It has published dozens of videos of Hong Kong insurgents, heroizing them for shooting arrows and carrying out brutal attacks on state security forces.

Both Filimonov and Maliar previously fought in the US-backed neo-Nazi Azov Battalion. Maliar has posted photos on Instagram showing the two armed and in military uniform, wearing Azov patches.

And Filimonov has published several photos showing him and his friends wearing Azov t-shirts.

Ukrainian regime-changers build networks with Hong Kong secessionists

Despite all of this publicly available evidence demonstrating the open fascism of the Ukrainian hooligans in Hong Kong, the Kiev-based Free Hong Kong Center published a statement on Facebook defending and whitewashing Gonor.

The organization confirmed that the extremists did indeed fight with Azov “during the first period of the war” against pro-Russian separatists, but claimed that they have been unaffiliated since 2015.

The Free Hong Kong Center described the neo-fascists as “activists of the Revolution of Dignity and as well as veterans of the defending war with Russia.” Absurdly, the center declared that they “assured us they are really against nazism and another kind of alt-right ideology.”

“A lot of people were disappointed by the tattoos of these guys,” the Free Hong Kong Center conceded. But they insisted “that all symbols are from Slavic paganism.”

The Free Hong Kong Center is a project of an NGO called the Liberal Democratic League of Ukraine. In addition to building links with anti-Beijing forces in Hong Kong, the project says its mission is to “counter Chinese threats to Ukraine.”

The Liberal Democratic League of Ukraine is a pro-European Union advocacy organization which is a member of the European Liberal Youth and the International Federation of Liberal Youth, both of which are funded by the EU.

The main coordinator of the Free Hong Kong Center is a Ukrainian activist named Arthur Kharytonov, who is also the president of the Liberal Democratic League of Ukraine. Kharytonov was deeply involved in the Euromaidan protests in Ukraine, which led to the 2014 US-backed coup. He then set up the league in 2015.

Kharytonov and his organization have been frequently amplified in US government-funded Ukrainian media outlets such as Hromadske. In these softball interviews with a highly sympathetic press, Kharytonov likens the anti-Russia protests in Ukraine to the anti-China protests in Hong Kong, and calls for closer bonds between them.

Kharytonov and these Western government-backed organizations are part of a growing network of Ukrainian regime-change activists who are organizing with secessionists in Hong Kong, holding and sharing insurgency tactics.

As the US and NATO-led unipolar hegemonic order that has dominated the world since the end of the Cold War begins to crumble, and as a rising China and Russia seek to restore a multipolar global system, Washington and European nations are constructing a latticework of movements to undermine their adversaries on their frontiers.

This global network is marketed as the advance guard of global liberalism, but as events from Ukraine to Hong Kong have revealed, fascism is festering at its base.

Mongol Hordes: World Conquerors

Storm From The East
1. Birth Of An Empire
2. World Conquerors
3. Tartar Crusaders
4. Last Khan Of Khans
This series covers the life and accomplishments of Genghis Khan and examines the art, culture, science, and technology of Mongol civilization. Genghis Khan left not only a highly trained army, but the beginning of an imperial administrative framework, a system of taxation, a communications network—all of which were built upon and expanded by his successors. The series was filmed on location in Mongolia and also features battle re-enactments shot at historical locations throughout Europe and Asia. 4-part series, 50 minutes each.
This program explores the power and influence of the Mongol Empire, under the rule of Khan and his son, Ogodei. More than 1,000 miles from the sea, the Mongol capital of Karakorum was constructed—a kind of Brasilia of the steppes. A communications system and thousands of miles of highways were built to connect Karakorum with the far frontiers of the empire, enabling Khan to consolidate his power. Within a few years, northern China was conquered, the Russian principalities were forced to submit, Poland and Hungary were overrun, and a united European army of knights, templars, Hospitallers, and Teutonic knights was completely devastated.