Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Historical Markers: State Violence Incites Rioting


On July 20th, 1877, striking railroad workers in Pittsburgh successfully stopped trains from leaving the freight yard in the Strip District. The sheriff was called upon to clear the tracks by railroad officials, anxious to regain control of their lines. Already, many local police and militia had joined the crowd of friends and neighbors in support of the strike. Knowing that local militiamen would not use force against their own community, the sheriff requested assistance from the Philadelphia militia. 

Philadelphia's troops had just returned home from service in the Reconstruction South. Tired, hungry and missing their families, these men were sent to Pittsburgh to defend the interests of businessmen who were losing money for every hour their trains stood idle. As the crowd showered the troops with insults and stones, the Philadelphia militia opened fire. The massacre ignited a full-scale riot, which left dozens dead and countless wounded. 

The Great Strike of 1877 is thought to mark the first use of federal troops to defend a corporation's "right to run a profitable business." These action have since set a precedent for state violence against labor movements and legislation that favors the rights of corporations over the safety and well being of working families.

21st Street, Pittsburgh, PA

Historical Markers: Vandergrift


Hailed by historian Ida
Tarbell as America's "most
important industrial 
town" with homes owned
by the workers. Founded
1895 by Geo. G. McMurtry,
president, Apollo Iron &
Steel Co. Named for Capt.
Jacob J. Vandergrift and 
designed by the firm of
Frederick Law Olmsted.

Vandergrift, PA.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

A Ghost Story...

...of a different sort. I really don't keep the fact that I have had a myriad of jobs a secret. My predominate work now is with a tour company here in Pittsburgh, where I guide my guests throughout the city and visit various paranormal hot spots, finally finishing up in the cemetery of the Trinity Cathedral, which goes all the way back to 1795 (technically even further, since it was a Native burial mound prior to that.) In the cemetery, we finish up the evening with an abbreviated haunting investigation.

I could tell before the day even began that tonight was going to be different. Due to various factors out of my control, the tour was scheduled to begin an hour later than normal, so that instead of finishing at 11 p.m., it would instead be midnight. Tonight was also a full moon.

I saw the beginnings of my group were plenty early, and was surprised to find not one, but two separate paranormal investigation groups represented. Each one focused on differing methods, the first group more scientific with plenty of gear, and the second more intuitive, with someone who was an em-path, or sensitive (someone who can sense spirits more easily.)

The tour ran fairly normally, with the group laughing at the jokes, learning some of Pittsburgh's history, and hearing the ghost stories. The only thing I had to keep a watch on was the Sensitive, who I could regularly see tearing up, cringing like she was in pain. I quietly approached her about it, and she said that it was perfectly normal for her, that it only mean "they were paying attention tonight."

Finally, the night finished at the cemetery. After breaking out the dowsing rods for the group, the first paranormal team swung into action, deploying an impressive array of electronic gear. Most of these devices (cameras, voice recorders, even spirit boxes) I had seen before, but tonight was my first time seeing a MEL-meter. This is a device that creates a small electromagnetic field, and then sounds an alarm if that field is interrupted. The device also measures sharp swings in temperature (on a balmy July night, this was not a problem)

The devices were deployed, that one particular meter close to the cemetery fence. As soon as we opened up for contacting any residual beings with the dowsing rods, the MEL-meter began to go off. There was no one near it within a space of 15 feet, well beyond the range of the device. Simultaneously, all of the dowsing rods on the group began to swing in the direction the meter was, and another member of the group said that he "thought he might have captured some orbs" on camera.  After all that, I made sure that no one temporal or otherwise, followed me home.

The most poignant moment for me had come much earlier on in the tour. I quietly approached one of the guests, as he wasn't looking too well, and needed to sit down when I stopped for a story. He explained to me that he had cancer, and that he was feeling pretty weak. I then told him "I understand completely, my father just finished up a round of chemo. If you don't mind me asking, what type do you have?"

He responded "Liver with mets." This meant it was Stage 4, the same as my father. He continued: "I just had six months of chemo, and it didn't do anything for me. I got an appointment for a scan, and then he'll see what I can do. I might be seeing you all again next year on the other side, haunting you guys."

"Well..." I said after processing exactly what I had said for a moment "I hope to see you next year...but I expect that it will be right about where you are right now, walking on the tour. You are doing absolutely great for what has been going on. Keep fighting, okay?"

To that he smiled and said: "I have a little girl. I'm not giving up yet."

So to that end, I have this: a ghost story I don't want to see happen. Good luck, my new friend. Keep fighting.

Friday, June 20, 2014

The Marvel-Tarantino Connection: Connecting the Universes.

Once upon a 2 a.m. dreary, as I ponder weak and weary, over many a quaint and curious collection of pop culture lore...

As of late, I have been thinking very much about the nature of how interconnected things are in disparate films, like the fact that E.T. and Star Wars exist in the same universe, and how that applies to the creation of a complete storytelling galaxy.

To be fair, there are two major masters of this, one being Marvel, and the other being Quentin Tarantino. Marvel's contribution is, of course, the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which references characters and events in:

  1. Iron Man (2008)
  2. The Incredible Hulk (2008)
  3. Iron Man 2 (2010)
  4. Thor (2011)
  5. Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)
  6. Marvel's The Avengers (2012)
  7. Iron Man 3 (2013)
  8. Thor: The Dark World (2013)
  9. Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)
As well as the upcoming films:
  1. Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)
  2. Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)
  3. Ant-Man (2015)
  4. Captain America 3 (2016)
Not to mention the Marvel One-Shots:
  1. The Consultant (Referencing Tony Stark, Abomination, and the Incredible Hulk, as well as the Avengers Initiative, 2011)
  2. A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Thor's Hammer (Refers to...Thor... That transition could have been better, 2011)
  3. Item 47 (Which deals with the fallout in from the Battle of New York in The Avengers, 2012) 
  4. Agent Carter (Captain America and the founding of S.H.I.E.L.D., 2013)
  5. All Hail the King (Justin Hammer from Iron Man 2 as well as the Mandarin from Iron Man 3, 2014)
And, of course, the television series, both present:
  1. Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
And upcoming:
  1. Agent Carter
  2. Daredevil
  3. Luke Cage
  4. Jessica Jones
  5. Iron Fist
  6. The Defenders
Bear in mind, these are just the projects that have been completed or announced within a period of eight years, from 2008 to 2016. Cohesively, these form a universe that has a complete origin story, as well as thousands of years of history. 

Quentin Tarantino's filmography connections are much more simple by comparison, but still very well executed.

For example:
  1. Vincent Vega (Pulp Fiction) and Vic Vega (Mr. Blonde, Reservoir Dogs) are brothers.
  2. Mr. White (Reservoir Dogs) talks about his former partner, Alabama, who appears in True Romance.
  3. Mia Wallace (Pulp Fiction) talks about a show pilot which bears an uncanny resemblance to the plot of Kill Bill.
  4. Lee Donowitz (True Romance) is the son of Donnie Donowitz (Inglorious Basterds.)
  5. Red Apple cigarettes (a fictitious brand) appear throughout Tarantino's work.
Therefore, it is fairly easy to see that both the works of Quentin Tarantino form one universe, fairly well defined, and the Marvel Cinematic Universe is an entirely deeper level of origin myth. That being said, I believe the two universes are connected, and here is my proof:

This is the tombstone shown for Nick Fury in Captain America: The Winter Soldier. The epitaph read: "The Path of the Righteous Man..." Ezekiel 25:17. This is conclusive proof that the Bible in both the Pulp Fiction and Marvel Universes is the same, as Ezekiel 25:17 in our world reads:

"I will carry out great vengeance on them and punish them in my wrath. Then they will know I am the LORD, when I take vengeance upon them."

This is differentiated from the Marvel/ Tarantino Bible, as in that text, Ezekiel 25:17 reads:

"The path of the righteous man is beset on all sides by the inequities of the selfish and the tyranny of evil men. Blessed is he who, in the name of charity and good will through the valley of darkness, for he is truly his brother's keeper and the finder of lost children. And I will strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger those who attempt to poison and destroy my brothers. And you will know my name is the Lord when I lay my vengeance upon thee."

As you can see, in the opening words "The path of the righteous man" only appear withing the Ezekiel passage from the Marvel/ Tarantino Universe, they simply are not anywhere within the scope or context of what is considered the contemporary Bible.

On its own, this is admittedly rather thin evidence for connecting two cinematic universes, but the dialogue concerning Jules' plans at the end of Pulp Fiction also backs up this theory. Specifically, Jules tells Vincent "First, I'm going to deliver this case to Marcellus, then, basically, I'm just going to walk the Earth." He also tells Ringo soon after "I'm trying real hard to be the shepherd" when he upends his own quoting of Ezekiel 25:17. Furthermore, we already know from the beginning of the film that he uses aliases, as he goes by the name of "Pitt" during Brett's interrogation. 

This then leaves us with a trained assassin, who is comfortable both with casual killing as well as a wide variety of spy trade-craft, including the crafting of alias. He also has what he considers a cosmic debt, and intends to become a force for good, as Jules said he planned to be "like Caine in Kung Fu walk from place to place, meet people, have adventures." My theory is that Jules Winnfield left the diner at the end of Pulp Fiction,  and over the course of fourteen years, and losing an eye in the process, transformed himself into the highly unorthodox head of S.H.I.E.L.D., making his first public appearance in Iron Man as Nick Fury.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

How to Raise the Forces of Darkness in 3 Easy Steps

Another recent project that I was finally able to complete and get off my workbench due to a convenient day off.

One ceremonial/ ritual skull, used for raising the forces of darkness and binding them to your will. Caution should be used when working with this, as well as other ritual objects. Side effects may include, but are not limited to phenomenal cosmic power, a growing sense of megalomania, nausea, heartburn, and the occasional bleeding from the nose, ears, and eyes. In some extreme cases, demonic possession or awakening of the Old Gods may occur. If this happens, you are beyond all hope and you should pray for a quick and merciful death immediately. Brought to you by the makers of Dr. Frankenstein's Rejuvenating Elixir and other fine products for the discerning occultist.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Marvel-ous Acquisition.

Today was the benefit for my father, which I think went well. I am not privy to the financial details, but looking over the remaining stocks on both the tables and on the food, I am assuming it was a success. What caught my eye was that one of the vendors there did custom dog tags, so I ran back to the house to pull up some information, and by working on it together, we came up with these:

A set of dog tags for Steve Rogers, better know to most people as Captain America. In particular, the marking were pulled off of the website of the auction house that sold the original screen used prop from Captain America: The First Avenger. Also, it is king of great that you can pull up so much esoteric information on the internet, where a whole community can develop and have a dialogue on the numbers etched on a prop in a film which is seen for about 10 seconds in an 85 minute film. I am extremely pleased with the result, and they are already hanging up on my prop shelf, next to my S.H.I.E.L.D. Id's.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Thrift Shop Finds for June (pt. 2)

While at the thrift shop yesterday (Pittsburgh is kind of blessed with a huge variety of thrift shops) I found another excellent grab bag. This one focused on different medieval and medieval-like...well things. In truth, I bought this bag almost blind. I was pleasantly surprised when I opened up the bag and found this:

A huge range of Papo figures. I remember looking over these figures constantly at various high-end and hobby shops, and debating with myself over and over again about picking some of them up. The other thought I often had was that I was in no way ever  going to do that, as I thought they were much too expensive. My current debate is now actually focusing on what kind of display I want to make for the barded horses.Another interesting piece in the collection is the battering ram, I was fascinated by that for a while. Another nice find in that bag were these figures:

A Cerberus and a Fire-Breathing Dragon. Both of these are definitely going up on display, I just need to figure out where. A few of the other pieces in the bag included these items here:

The cage is a very nicely constructed wooden toy, and actually came off of a wagon that was broken in the bottom of the bag. I am not sure exactly what I am going to do with it, but I imagine it could be used very easily to display something. There are also two LEGO figures there, a DUPLO horse with barding, and a Mutt Williams minifigure from Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Finally, I recognized that final figure as soon as I opened the package, Lando Calrissian in the Palace Guard disguise. I think I actually had that figure when I was younger. All in all? Not bad for a single bag.