Thursday, November 6, 2014

Tempest.

The affair and the storm both begin in the same way. The winds change, and a subtle shift occurs in the participants. For some, their desire is to hide, to seek shelter in some protected harbor, and hope that things blow over quickly. They retreat to the edges, where the depth is the shallowest, in the hopes they will not be drawn into the tempest. On the other hand, there are those individuals who relish in the power of the storm. They sense the change of energy and steer directly towards it. The very air around them is electrified, and they in turn draw energy from that. Eventually, the two bodies in place are going to be faced with a collision. Some attempt to maneuver to and fro in an attempt to break free, but the more experienced party knows that when such a course is set, the only thing to do is accept fate and brace for an impact. More often than a collision occurring are the near misses, to use the phrase in both senses of two ships passing in the night. The mere nature of the moment, when the danger and consequences are at their highest peak allows for an unadulterated adrenaline rush throughout the body, magnifying the senses and allowing one to feel, if only for a brief moment, completely, unabashedly alive.
If fate has determined that a collision will occur between the two, that is all that can be said of the matter. It will simply happen one way or another. It might be calm one moment, and then the next, both parties are thrown together where the inevitable crash occurs. It is as if the paths were set in stone to play out a drama as old as civilization. The two begin moving slowly towards each other, cautiously, eager to avoid making a mistake, until they realize too late they are too close. As they move to each other, friction begins to build, everything heats up until one spark shatters the status quo, and in that brief instant, all barriers are shattered.
The only thing left to see after that point is whether a clear sky or an utter disaster will be found when the clouds finally part. Only one thing is certain: Those who venture into the storm never return the same. 

Monday, September 8, 2014

Why Women Must Be Wary, Lest they Tempt Men.

Sitting down to write this week, my thought are turned to a good friend of mine who was cat-called and then assaulted by someone in the heart of downtown Pittsburgh. What was she wearing that provoked such a display?

If you can actually ask that question, and be completely serious about questioning her wardrobes' involvement in the incident, please send me your name, telephone number, address and and a photograph, and I will personally save you the effort and forward this information to the police. If you can fail to see what is wrong with the above situation, you are, in fact, part of the problem.

I am aware that as a white, heterosexual male, I am at the height of privilege. I am rarely followed by police, and can walk down the streets of Pittsburgh, and indeed most cities, free of harassment. My paychecks are higher than women and those of various ethnic descents for exactly the same jobs, and when I am out and about, I can loiter about to my heart's content without suspicion or making someone nervous.

I know this is due to my privilege, and that is why I talk about it. No one should be set on a higher pedestal than anyone else. That is why the best thing someone in my position can do is to become an ally. It is only when those with the advantages realize that those situations are in place around them will changes actually be made to level the playing field.

To that end, I admit I am not sure if it has become more prevalent throughout the city, or if in fact I am merely more attuned to it, but I think that the systematic repression of females has come back with harder force. In between the "harsh" punishment being faced by a few football players for beating the women they are with, and watching and hearing about the comments that are being directed towards women on a daily basis for only walking down the street, I am ashamed of my fellow man. This is not what men do.

Much of this seems to be rooted in the idea of the "Real" Man, the uber-masculine figure that centers on the idea of respect and saving face. Aside from the obvious comments to be made about such clowns compensating for a natural lack of manhood, let's take a moment to discuss the history that led up to it being "acceptable" and "commonplace" for cat-calling and similar actions to take place.

Men have always been combative, and the contemporary urban aspect of calling out to women has its roots in early Victorian society. In that time, a woman was considered a man's property (born as property of her father and brothers, and then after, belonging to her husband.) If a man were to make such comments that are made now in that time period, it would have been completely acceptable for the woman's father, brother, or husband to call him out and kill him in a duel.

Advancing this argument further, the idea of a woman (or indeed any person) being property went out completely in the 1860's.  I am not necessarily suggesting that men should be maimed for catcalling, but the mental image that the idea invokes is fairly pleasing.

My suggestion is that men in contemporary society should instead evoke an even earlier time period, that of the caveman. In that way, the woman was the nurturing role, while the man was the hunter. Now, these gender roles are antiquated, except in one aspect.

As a physically stronger body, it was considered the man's job TO PROTECT. I am not saying to dress in a costume and become a caped crusader, but when you see something occurring on the street, step up. Let the offending party know that isn't acceptable behavior. It is only by others stepping up and standing with those already struggling will any change take place.

One final closing thought: Many of these men who commit these offenses say that they love women. To this I reply: When you love something, you nurture, cherish, and protect it. You know no love.


Saturday, August 16, 2014

Using the Tools at Hand

Social Media should be a tool, not an addiction. I am fairly sure that my fears of it switching from the first to the second are mostly unfounded. I want to do business in the 21st century, and as such, technology and social media lead the way. As I type this (blog) I have other windows open on Facebook and Twitter. I am looking at cameras specifically so that I can handle Instagram and Vine more successfully. Why do I do this? Because I value the work that I am proud of, and want other people to come see it. It has come down to 26 years of learning how not to do it, but in the end, I just might have it. The best way to promote your work? Do work you are proud of.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Rough Day.

Today was a rough day. Ferguson is still torn apart by strife, and the protests are spreading to New York. Considering the homicide rate that is rising in Pittsburgh, I am genuinely afraid that might be the case for Pittsburgh soon. Only time will tell.

Of course this pales in comparison, but I'm still in a little bit of a funk about the death of Robin Williams. With my writing and performance, I don't think that any one performer has influenced me as much.

All of this was going on in the world, but my focus today was on something much closer to home. I finally broke. My father made a comment in passing about how he felt like he wasn't wanted. That did it. When he asked me why I was so upset, I explained to him that if he felt so unwanted, then I wasted the past two years of my life. To some extent, I still feel that way. To take care of my family, I've put my career on hold, I have more sleepless nights than most 26-year-olds that I know, and to be completely candid when someone asked me how old I was the past week, I completely blanked. Somehow I've aged 5 years in 2 year span. The thing is, if it means keeping my father around, I don't actually have a problem with it. The only problem that I had is that if he feels like that he isn't wanted, then I have failed. I don't want to fail. Simply put, I can't allow myself to fail right now.

One thing I did manage to get done among the chaos was to knit another hat. That makes 15 this month. The reason I keep knitting is that I know exactly where they are going. Specifically, some of the hats are going to the Oncology ward to help keep patients warm, while the majority will go towards the homeless this winter. This also helps explain why I am knitting cold weather gear when it is 80 degrees out.

A long time ago, I promised myself that I would change the world by the time I was 30. Changing the entire world is going to take some time, but I figure I can at least start where I am. I want to be the change I seek.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Thrift Shop Find

While perusing the thrift shop earlier, I happened upon a great find: what would turn out to be a full file box of National Geographic magazines.


They were sitting on a shelf, just waiting for the right buyer, so I called over the manager, and asked how much she would take for the lot. $15 bought approximately 50 issues (I haven't actually counted yet) of National Geographic, as well as the entire stock of Archaeology, American Archaeology, and Bon Appetit magazines they had in stock. Considering how I plow through periodicals in addition to my other materials, I think this should keep me from being bored for a while. I'm eagerly waiting to get a chance to go through and see what maps may also be found in there. Sometimes when you don't have the time or fiances to go on an adventure, you need to get your fix elsewhere. This find will certainly help me bide my time.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Digital Paper Activism or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Click Like.

As I sit down to write I have two thoughts on my mind. The first of these is simple, and the other more complex. Yet both are connected, specifically in the fact that they both deal with an online presence. I maintain this site mostly to help me further with my career. It serves as a place where I can promote my work and my interests, while still hopefully saying something interesting. To that end, my first thought is that I need to blog more, something I am trying to change as we speak.

My second thought is a bit more complex, and deals with the ALS Foundation's Ice Bucket Challenge. For those of you who might not have heard of this, it is an online challenge where you dump a bucket of ice water over your head, all the while videoing it and posting it online. This has gone completely viral, and it is for a good cause.

That being said, I find myself wondering what good that online presence actually does. It is great that awareness is being raised, but that awareness doesn't translate into more money into the charity's coffers, or to actually accomplishing any of the group's stated goals. This digital activism has a time and a place, but I can't help feel it comes as a detriment to actual boots on the ground. The easy thing to do is to push a button. The problem then becomes the people who believe that pushing that button will change anything with out any further action. The videos are the first step. It's time to move forward to the work at hand. (If you feel like helping out the ALS Foundation, their website is here: http://www.alsa.org/fight-als/.)

Monday, August 11, 2014

"What shadows we are, and what shadows we pursue."

Another day, another tragedy. Today marks the death of arguably one of the greats of physical comedy, Robin Williams. I personally believe that he ranks up in the upper echelons of skill alongside Harold Lloyd, Charlie Chaplin, and Buster Keaton. His mad-cap style influenced an entire generation of comedians and writers. So even as his life has faded away, his mark will remain. In the end isn't that all anyone can really ask for? Good night, Mr. Williams.

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.

Location:
21st Street, Pittsburgh, PA

Historical Markers: Vandergrift


Text: 

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.

Location:
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.

League Post: Shelf Identity


Having made the decision to travel the dark corners of the Internet, Pop Culture, and General Geekery in a loose knit group (As it is dangerous to go alone...) I have joined the League of Extraordinary Bloggers as their Mad Scientist du Jour. 

This week's assignment was to blog about what is on your shelves, and what it says about you. Frequent readers of the blog (all three of you) know what is going on in my life, so let's just say a lot of what is below the shelves is rather messy. However, due to the magic of careful cropping, here are two of the shelves in the Man Cave. 


First up is the top shelf of the book shelves, of which there are three, all filled with books and scripts. This particular shelf has scripts, a few reference books on theatre, and some additional volumes on prop making. Above it is one of the larger LEGO sets that I own, the Pirate ship from Return of the King (The Lord of the Rings trilogy.) I also have a small collection of Eastern Buddhas and other deities. Finally, my small but hopefully growing collection of Minions. For some reason, I am very attached to the Minions from the Despicable Me movies, and consider them the high points of a pair of excellent films. I am actively looking to build a small army of them, but have only been able to obtain these few Minions so far.


On the next wall, we have my (very) small replica prop collection up on display. In the back is a copy of one of the Sankara Stones from Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, which is still one of my favorite films to watch. In front of it is a stack of S.H.I.E.L.D. ID's created for the entire team of Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Within the display case is a small LEGO diorama of a chef and butcher in his shop. I constructed this to feature the minifigure of the chef, which I was able to get signed by food celebrity Alton Brown. The extendable fork up on the case matches one that he used repeatedly on his television show Good Eats. Directly in front of that is a copy of the Dagger from Clue, and obviously there is Rex from Toy Story. Rex is wearing my production lanyard from when I worked on Magnus Rex, which was the working title used on the film The Dark Knight Rises. 

Of course, I should also mention a few other members of the League, and these include:











Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Thrift Shop Finds for June

Often when we seek something in particular, it is nowhere to be found. On occasion though, we find something else instead. Today's Goodwill finds are an excellent example:


Aside from a common theme of "travel" these objects take me back to a very particular part of my childhood. I remember very clearly watching "Raiders of the Lost Ark" at the age of 7, and that started a very vivid obsession with history and archaeology (even though I still have the occasional difficulty spelling that word.) This also started my fascination with Lucasfilm, a fact that was cemented when my father took me to see the Star Wars re-release in theaters. (Side note: 7 Year Old + Nazis getting their Faces Melted = Traumatic Nightmares for about 6 Months.) 

The planes? Not too much special about them, except for the fact my best friend from high school is in the Air Force, working on planes of the same model that is featured above (The Hercules.) Both planes are high quality metal miniatures, and came together in a grab bag for 99 cents.

Finally, there is a National Geographic with three of the insert maps that used to be featured. That obsession with history that was born when I was young was nurtured by my great-aunt, who insisted there should always be copies of National Geographic and Smithsonian magazines around for me to read and re-read. The issues with the maps were always my favorite, and I would spend hours looking at them, planning and plotting wild adventures. 

In the end, I did not find what I was looking for, but I did find something much more valuable instead.




Monday, May 26, 2014

Preparing to Sail the 7 Seas


The musical A Pirate's Tale is slowly preparing for its premiere, and (at least for me) one of the most important parts of that is making the properties that all of the pirates need. First, on a ship there are many things, and since the show takes place in 1740, all most nothing can be considered contemporary. The second challenge is that there are 14 pirates in the show. Historically, pirates would often carry ALL of their weapons and valuables at the same time, so as to have everything close at hand. For the weapons, that might include the usual cutlass, or perhaps a small-sword. Then things start to become more serious and might regularly include a dagger, or at least a knife, and a variety of pistols. This is due to the fact that at the time, pistols fired one shot, and then had to be reloaded. Pistols also commonly mis-fired, and in the heat of battle became useless. The point to the preceding paragraph is that outfitting a crew of pirates, whether in real life, or in a show is usually an expensive proposition. That is where these two pistols came into play:


As you can tell, they do not look particularly realistic or impressive, and are in fact the least expensive pistols that I could source, having come from the Dollar Tree store. The first issue was to take the guns apart completely, and then fix the triggers and hammers into place. Once that was done, the pistols were reassembled and primed. The next step was to actually paint the pieces, and the fist part of this was to completely paint the guns silver. The grip plates were painted with a very light brown to resemble a hardwood color. Once the initial color fields were laid in, I was able to use gold leaf and dry brushing to bring out the details on the barrel and frame, resulting in this:


These could serve as props, but in order to add that final dose of realism, age needed to be added to the guns, in this case through liberal application of a black wash over the guns to both distress it, and to bring out details. The pieces were then given a coat of gloss sealer in order to protect their paint finishes over the course of the show. And the final product, ready for the stage:


A Larger Find of Smaller Treasures


Yesterday's purchase was a greater than usual lot of exactly 100 toys from kid's meals, spanning a time period from about 1980 to 2000. This has proven to be a slight challenge to actually catalog all of these toys, as they span so many varied licensed properties. Some of the pieces that have come out golden with a quick run through the collection include a set of four toys from McDonald's in 1988, those being an experimental group of Garfield vehicles. They were only released in two select markets (Erie, PA and Charleston, SC) and apparently flopped. The chance to pick up an in package set of four was a treat. That being said, there is still much cataloging to do.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Something Furry This Way Comes.

Yesterday's thrift shop find was a little bit of a surprise:


That is a Mint in Bag TY Ronald McDonald the Bear toy. Strangely enough, this is the second time I have picked up "Number 6" of a series in as many days.

A Pirate's Life for Me...

While going through a trunk that was mysteriously buried about 10 feet down in the backyard, under a suspicious pile of bones, I found this pistol. It appears to be of English make, from about 1730. It was also found with a map that leads to somewhere near what is now Point State Park, but may in fact be tied to some of the early incursions to the area by the British during the construction of Fort Duquesne by the French. 


Just kidding. In reality this is a former squirt gun now turned into a prop for a musical I am working on called A Pirate's Tale which will take place on the Gateway Clipper Fleet. For me, this is a combination of two firsts: my first show involving Pirates, and the first time I have done a show on a boat. 

One of the tasks is to come up with a variety of armaments for a cast of 14 pirates. To that end, I have also learned that pirates carried a lot of weapons with them. As a result, the director, the fight choreographer and myself came up with the solution of cheating with some of the weaponry,  which has resulted in my task to transform inexpensive toys to presentable props. Right now, this pistol is my favorite. I am also very glad that this piece gets featured nicely during the show. That being said, one pistol down, many more to go.




Thursday, May 22, 2014

Yesterday's Toys

Yesterday's trip to Goodwill resulted in something slightly different. I enjoy toys, there are a certain few that I collect, but for the most part I do some work as a toy broker, investing and selling in the collectors' market. This is where the trip to Goodwill came up with today:


Three Happy Meal toys, two of them Star Wars bobble-heads from 2011, all of them for a grand total of 75 Cents. The real star of this assortment is this gem:


An in package Color Changing Invisible Woman from 1996. The current value on this comes in at about $8.50, but the price may potentially rise as there is another Fantastic Four movie currently filming, with a sequel already announced. All of these went right into the chest for sale and trade.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Geeking Out at Goodwill

I often check out thrift and second hand shops. There are many times I need a specific tool, or something extremely esoteric for a job, and these are often the best places to find exactly what I need. Sometimes, however, I get lucky and find a few things that I want.

While looking through a selection of grab bags, I had the good chance to find a very large Disney assortment. The only thing I didn't like was the price at $22. However, I was lucky enough to notice that the tag was marked for an additional 50% off. With this new information, I didn't hesitate, and picked it right up. 

Once I had it home and started checking it out, I realized what a deal I truly had. Here is just the highlights of the bag: 

As you can see, I especially lucked out in terms of Minions. There are three of the hard to find McDonald's toys of the Minions, as well as a very large plush of Tim. There was also a wide selection of vinyl Disney figures in the 3-4" range, and another good selection of un-opened kid's meal toys. Those will go right into the trunk for sale and trade. In the corner is a large Rex from Toy Story, and just to the left you can see this guy:

That is a Little People version of Buzz Lightyear, something I had never seen before. I might have to keep an eye out for more of these guys in the future. 

In addition to my haul, the bag also contained plush figures from the Disney store, including Perry the Platypus ($10 value), Rapunzel ($20 value) and Nemo ($20 value.) These were in my hands briefly before being relinquished to my girlfriend's Disney plush collection.

All in all, about $110 worth of toys and figures for $11. 


Friday, February 28, 2014

In the Field

Like I said yesterday, I was out in the field today, specifically learning how to install drapery at a hotel in West Virginia.


Tomorrow promises to be another long day. 

As I sat on that fountain, taking a moment to relax, I realized how much the process of "making" is like meditation to me. It lets me focus what might otherwise be a wandering mind. I would type more, but I am utterly exhausted. Tomorrow is a new day.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Prepping for the Coming Season...and the rest of the week.

With the temperature hoving somewhere are below freezing, I wanted to hole up in the house for the day, and essentially hibernate. The problem with hibernating is that you miss out on doing all of the domestic chores that are needed.

My mother is handling my father's illness very well, almost too so. One of the things that I wanted to do was to make things on her as easily as possible. By spending a few hours in the kitchen, I managed to cook up meals for the next three days since I need to be out of town to do a few jobs. To be specific the meals included: Two pounds of mashed potatoes (the good kind with butter and cream), two Cottage pies, two beef and spinach pasties (one of my go-to's) and about four pounds of beefy macaroni and cheese. These can be paired with a wide variety of vegetables (canned, frozen, and fresh) to make complete meals. I would be much more comfortable with doing the jobs out of the town knowing that my mother is free to keep a closer eye on my father.

More planting was done, an entire flat was planted with onions, peppers, and sunflowers, and another two containers were prepped for chives and dill. The seeds in the first flat are beginning to sprout, and the herbs and zuchinni (one of my favorites) are showing promise already.

Oh, and I did laundry, some home repair, and knitted another hat.

So...today I kicked the household's ass, and took names. It doesn't happen often. but damn, winning feels good.

'Nuff said. (at this point, I would walk away from an explosion while putting on my sunglasses...but I don't have the special effects budget for that.)

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

(Somewhat) Productive Day

As the title says, today was somewhat productive. Aside from some personal issues that I do not wish to discuss publicly, today was mostly about re-centering and trying to find a balance point. Today's projects included two hats, as well as some additional progress on my powder horn. I also started a series of up cycled buttons, the images all sourced from vintage textbooks.


Monday, February 24, 2014

Thoughts on a Crisis in Faith

When one thinks of a "crisis of faith" one has a tendency to think of the divine. My problem is unfortunately much more profane than that. As I sat and watched my father fade out again, I was struck by how poor my father's medical care was (and is) and how it is affecting my faith.
Once again, not in God. I still need some omnipotent target for my anger.
The faith I am slowly losing is my faith in man. For many years, I have lived with the philosophy of Moliere, "for the love of humanity." But watching my father be so ill, and watching the tragedy of errors at the hospital has made me wonder if humanity in fact deserves that love.
Man is a great and terrible creature, able to inflict harm or do good with a single thought, word, or gesture. As of late, I wonder if the better nature of man is going to win, and for once in my life, I am not so sure that it will.
I am growing tired of being constantly disappointed in my fellow man. To expect the best of each person, only to have my (what is unfortunately an) illusion shattered each time. And while this is going on, one profound quote echoes through my mind over and over again: "What is this quintessence of dust? Man delights not me.

Ps: Projects accomplished today include two hats, one infant and one adult.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Traveling

Today I received something very nice: the opportunity to travel for a job. Once I was out of college, that was one of my favorite things to do. Unfortunately due to the familial situation, I haven't had much opportunity to do that as of late, but a fast job let me leave town for just a brief moment. Sometimes leaving a situation allows you to get perspective. The job gave me a chance to recharge both myself and my wallet.

Both of these factors came in handy for the rest of my day, since it mostly consisted of shopping, especially grocery shopping.When I was younger, I used to hate having to go, but now as I have aged, I now fully understand a lot of the factors that go into a successful shopping trip.

I think the first of these factors are organization, and keeping to your budget. This second one is especially important to me at them moment. As for organization, I had three different ads, all marked with the items and quantities I needed, in addition to a notebook with the list, and finally an envelope full of coupons. I felt fairly well organized.

What did that organization get? About $60 off of the grocery tab for today. Oh, and in keeping my promise to make something every day, I finished up another infant hat. That and the scarf I am working on both use what I refer to as the "dregs" of the yarn, that last bit left which is too short for a project. When combined together though, it serves two purposes, 1) saving money and 2) creating a one of a kind piece.

Well, I am exhausted, and now I have reached the destination for the night. Good night John-boy.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Productivity/ Obsession.

I am starting to get the feeling that I am obsessing about productivity. The very fact I think this is the case means that most likely that IS the case. In short, it's an obsessive version of Descarte's theory: I think I am obsessing, therefore I am.

Well, that opening paragraph is a tautological nightmare. The point is, I am slowly coming to the conclusion that I have shot right past the balance point between relaxation and work. Work is good, but having it on your plate 24 hours a day, loosing sleep over if you are working enough can't be good for you.

Additional random thought: Through empirical observation, I have noticed that a majority of the population no longer works with their hands in...well, any capacity. I have come to this conclusion based on the number of people who have come up to me and asked me what I am working on when I have anything that I am tinkering with in my hands. It is actually rather sad to think about, as how many skills will die out when there is no one left to practice them? Side note: I completed two hats today.


After spending the whole day at the hospital, I went to do a quick job promoting an upcoming film Kids for Cash. It looks rather promising, but considering the premiere is tomorrow, I doubt I will catch it.

In the end, I feel today was productive without being blatantly so. I was there for my family, which is one of the most important things I can do right now, I made some money (which will go a long way towards covering groceries this week), and I still was able to make something (or strictly speaking, two somethings, but why nitpick?) All in all? A decently productive day.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

I Get By...

...With a little help from my friends. Yesterday was, well, cathartic, among other things. Am I still angry? Hell yeah I am. Am I dealing with it. The answer is also yes. Thank you all who reached out to me, a lot of your wisdom and perspective was greatly appreciated.

Today was focusing more on planning to deal with the financial issues. I am now doing my best to bring in the groceries for the house and take over meal planning. This received a boost today at the grocery store when a lot of the canned goods are on sale, and more importantly, a lot "no salt" vegetables were among them. Menu planning for my family is an, well, we'll call it "interesting" puzzle in the interests of being polite. Balancing food allergies, the various medical conditions in the family (hence why no salt is important,) the actual food preferences withing the group (my mother hates peas, and my girlfriend hates seafood. I consider them both horribly mistaken.) and food costs can be practically a full time job in itself. Fortunately, I am slowly getting better as I go, and have now discover the extensive use of weekly ads.

On a more manly subject, I have started work on a new powder horn for myself. For those people who have no idea what that is, it is literally a horn (in this case, from a cow) that has been adapted into a container to hold black powder. This device is a mainstay of hunters and re-enactors both. The thing in particular that I discovered today was that with so many microscopic layers, horn is not so much "worked" as a material, but "coerced" into shape. But, I did cut myself on the project, so I now know it is worth pursuing (I know, it is a strange metric, but I don't consider myself having worked hard on a project unless I have accidentally made myself bleed.)

And as usual, I have another hat done, this one should be great for the oncology ward. Tomorrow is the start of a long few days though, and I have miles to go before I sleep.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Cards on the Table.


When someone has mixed results to tell you, they often start with prefacing it by saying: "Do you want the good news or the bad news first?" The truth is, there really usually isn't good news, but they are trying to skirt around what the bad news actually is.

To that end, today's accomplishments included a really good spaghetti sauce, as well as what is above, an asparagus and ham pastie. I finished up by knitting another infant hat, using up the rest of a ball of light blue wool blend yarn.

I guess this is the point where the bad news comes in.

Since my father's diagnosis, everyone has been asking me how I have been feeling. Now, to be fair, in regards to sharing such details, I can easily quote Boondock Saints: "Real men hide their feelings. Why? BECAUSE IT'S NONE OF YOUR FUCKING BUSINESS" (capitalization theirs) I am a very private person, so I am extremely careful to let each person see exactly what I want them to see.

But that is past. Time to put the cards on the table. I am going to let everyone know exactly how I am feeling. The truth is, I am angry. Not a little bit, but a long simmering rage that threatens to boil over at any second. The kind where I feel warm and tingly all over, and know that is not due to good feelings, but due to my blood pressure raging, and my jaw hurting from clenching my teeth. The kind of rage that I keep contained, because releasing it will only cause more problems. The kind of rage that scares me.

I am raging at the care my father has received at the hands of the hospital (negligible at best, criminal at worst.) I literally cannot see my father's doctors without engaging in violent fantasies in my head. I want these incompetent fucks to receive some measure of ill will. They had a YEAR of hospitalizations to find out what was causing my father's pain. There were tests that were done that had suspicious results on them, and were brushed off. My father has STAGE 4 cancer, and after being treated by a carousel of physicians, one of them noticed something was wrong. Hopefully it isn't too late.

These people (I refuse to call them doctors) are a menace, and the only thing the hospital does is to serve as a conduit for making money.

For the past year, I have been having panic attacks. I've done pretty good at hiding them, but I know they are there. And I am angry about that. Very specifically, I am angry at myself. I should be better than this, stronger than this. It turns out I am not. Sometimes I  wonder if the anger is the only thing giving me energy, keeping me from just wanting to crawl into a ball under the covers.

I am angry at circumstances I have no control over. Due to things I cannot control, my family has shot from the upper middle class to the poverty level in about two months. TWO FUCKING MONTHS. That was for emphasis. In the land of opportunity, everyone should be experiencing upward mobility. I guess this just isn't the case

I am angry at God for this, just in case he is there. I don't really feel a need to explain this one, so I'll just let it sit here.

I am angry because I feel like a whole generation of us were lied to. We were taught each one of us was special, that we all had our own unique talents. We were taught that we had to study hard, go to college, and that hard work would be rewarded. I look around me everyday and see members of my generation toiling under the same delusions, and I am filled with rage. I then get angry at myself for blaming other people for my own problems.

At the end of the day, I am angry at myself for even letting this out. So the offer is up. When there is a problem, you do what must be done. I know I need to keep my head down, keep pushing and hopefully we are going to come out of this all right. I'm operating on Wiley Coyote logic right now. If I stop moving, I will fall.

Spinning Wheels

So, today I feel like I spun my wheels a little bit, and in keeping with how icy the roads are here, I failed to gain traction. The job scheduled for tomorrow was pushed back, as was the first business meeting for today. No luck there. As for my second meeting, I am fairly sure the gentleman I was meeting was completely off of his meds. I am given to hyperbole upon occasion, but I am fairly sure that was not the case here. I followed along with his mania until he started to talk about his latest project, that of creating medieval weapons for the homeless so that they can rise up against the rich. Wouldn't you know, I suddenly remembered a prior appointment, and high-tailed it out of there. Lesson learned? Screen my meetings much more carefully.

I also managed to get some essential household shopping today, and once again took advantage of coupons and sales. Necessity is slowly making me better at this "saving money thing"

Finally, I managed to knit not one, but two infant hats in light blue and white.given my Facebook feed (and the fact that Valentine's day was this past week) I am trying to keep items like that handy for the inevitable baby showers. When I give hats as a gift, I actually prefer to give them as a set of two or three. That way (as babies are messy) there is always another hat that can keep the child warm as the first hat is being washed. I promise for being a big, tough guy, I do think logically about home-making (on occasion.)

I also received a phone call early in the day which sort of colored my perception of the day. I used to, and still occasionally do work as a teaching artist, and the call was from a former student of mine, letting me know that another student in one of the classes I taught killed himself. It hurts to think that someone so young would decide to do such a thing. I suppose I have been trying to wrap my head around it all day...and I just can't. The idea of throwing away such promise seems like such a waste, and if you know me, you know how much I abhor wasting anything, let alone talent, drive, and a young life. I guess I will close with a sort of public service announcement. If you find yourself reading this in a dark hour, know one thing: I am thinking about you right this moment. And with that thought, know you are not truly alone. Namaste.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Thoughts on Saving Money (and Maybe the World?)

In the process of making, one encounters a problem on occasion, namely that of being short on funds. Many things can be made inexpensively, but the problem with inexpensive is that it often entails some measure of cost. (For example, I found enough yarn at the thrift store to last for...possibly a month...at this rate, and it cost $5.99. This is not a large expense for a month of entertainment, but the point stands that there is still an expense.) As a result, due to the issues that are taking place around here, I have slowly gotten better at using coupons.

I fully admit, I used to be rather shy about looking for sales, and especially using coupons. For the longest time, I considered it a sign of weakness. A very small one to be sure, but still an admission of sorts. I have come around to realize though, that using coupons is actually a rather effective way of stretching funds that would otherwise be very difficult. The fact I have a slight addiction to the TLC series Extreme Couponing may have something to do with my conversion, but you get one admission of something from my subconscious per day, my thoughts on trash tv will come at another time.

Now as for today's work: I picked up a decent load of supplies for the house today at a lower price. Before I set out, I had a coupon for $5 off of a $25 or more purchase. I combined this with a deal that they were running on Coca-Cola for four cases at a cost of $15, and then receiving a coupon for $5 in credit. By purchasing eight, I was able to use that coupon, and get all of the products for $15 total. I then paired that with a case of water (I know the tap water here is "safe" but I live in Western Pennsylvania. We are surrounded by mining companies, and as West Virginia has recently shown, mining companies and safe water don't necessarily mix.) and a pair of Valentine hearts (I've worked with chocolate before, it does not magically go bad the day after Valentine's day) for an additional $8. For nine cases of drinks, and a sizable amount of chocolate, the total bill came to $23.

I also finished a camouflage (that was difficult to spell) hat for my father to wear when he starts chemotherapy. I also will be dropping off a lot of my hats and scarves to the oncology ward when he goes, as I was surprised to learn that many people become very cold constantly during the process due to nerve damage. If I can help stop it, I will. I think this means I might need to double my knitting, since I still want to help the homeless. In further news, I have two meetings tomorrow, so in spite of everything else, progress is still being made.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Late to the Party

I wanted to write this somewhat earlier, but a few things came up that needed dealt with, hence why I am writing this at one'o'clock in the morning, instead of...well, sleeping springs to mind. Talking of the mind, I guess I just have a lot of it on that lately. For some reason, my creativity tends to flow more, and the ideas come more quickly during an extended period of stress. At this moment, my notebooks are filling up more and more quickly, and some of the crazier ones, such as the Andrew Huntley Museum of Contemporary Art (a portable museum in a suitcase) are starting to actually take shape. I suppose these flights of fancy are my mind's way of taking a little time off stress. When the creative process is in full swing, the demands of the body and heart can wait. Like I said earlier, any control that is exerted over the chaos is a lifeline to progress. All one can do is to hold on.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Valentine's Day 2014

I'll be honest, some days writing everything down is a lot more effort than it seems to be worth it. Today was a fairly productive day though, as I completely finished my tool bag that I have been fiddling with, made from an old pair of jeans. I like that material because I try to be as sustainable as possible...and sometimes in times like this, I succeed. My right fingers are bruised because sewing denim is actually quite difficult, especially through six layers.

The biggest success with today though was a scavenger hunt for my girlfriend. Using a full pack of the grade-school valentines, I wrote out clues on each one, leading to the next. (As one is expected with a treasure hunt) and that finally led, after sending her through the house several times, back to the beginning. There she had chocolate and one of her favorite Disney characters waiting for her. Valentine's Day: Accomplished.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Lots of paperwork.

Today was a day of work, yet I feel like not much was accomplished. I guess that is how it goes with paperwork. After keeping my hands full of writing implements all day, I felt like a failure. This feeling is especially strong with some of the forms that were to be filled in. The funny thing is that when I get a tool in my hand, that feeling of failure goes away completely. When I am creating, I am finally the master of...something. Sometimes, when life is spinning at a more and more rapid pace, establishing the smallest amount of control can make all of the difference.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Finishing Up Tasks

Today was a day that focused on completing a few tasks that I had half-started. As a result, I was able to finish both a scarf and hat that I was working on, as well as complete the possibles bag made from an old pair of jeans. Other than that, I was glad to get the first of my crops for this year planted.

Within those containers are the seeds for tomatoes, various herbs, lavender, an extra amount of zucchini (to make up for a pitiful amount last year) and yellow squash (perfect for grilling.) A lot of my work lately focuses on recycling the old to create the new, and this is definitely something I want to keep embracing. Besides being more fiscally responsible, it is also taking a major step in sustainable design. Every thing I do this way is just one more object kept out of a landfill. The snow is still pretty thick here, and the cold can make things difficult, but I am looking forward to some bigger projects as soon as I can get outside.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

...And Today.

Well, I suppose the best part to start would be to say that today...happened. This is hopefully not new information to anyone familiar with the passage of this strange concept called "time." It was both my girlfriend's birthday, and a day that my father had the first of his cancer appointments.
The birthday went alright, although I wish there was more I could have done. Fortunately, I managed to source exactly what she wanted, and I had plenty of wine for tonight. In that case, I definitely had success.
As for my father, I am not sure what to make of it. I want to be around him and make as many memories as possible, but sometimes being around him is difficult. Today started out fine, by by the time he was back in the chair in the afternoon, he needed his oxygen run to him.  I understand that there are up and down days, I just wish that I wasn't constantly saying the wrong thing. The most frustrating part is that it is still "wrong" even when I just agree with whatever he says, personal convictions aside. I just want something to be right for him, and it seems like the more I try, the more I fail to make it right. I have honestly run out of ideas. As for my daily accomplishments, I knitted a little more material onto another hat, started prepping containers to start seeds, and did most of the sewing on a possibles bag. (It's a backwoods term, I know, and the only reason that I didn't finish is because you can only force a needle through six layers of denim for so long before your hand cramps up.) Hopefully tomorrow will be more productive.

Yesterday.

To be honest, not much was accomplished yesterday. I finished up reading the second book of February, Sacred Clowns by Tony Hillerman. I also knitted another hat, this one in white and pink. As for my cooking? That was a complete and utter failure. I am not sure I have ever been so disappointed in a particular dish. I think that is it for February 10th.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Staying in From the Cold

I admit it, compared to yesterday, today was a much more quiet day. With the snow coming down constantly, I made a judgement call to stay in and work in the house. I finished up another hat with my knitting, and I did a little bit of cooking, specifically making the mashed potatoes.
Now to be fair, my potatoes are good. Not exactly healthy, but good. I usually start out by peeling between five to seven pounds of potatoes, adding a heavy pinch of salt and boiling them in about a gallon of water for about twenty minutes, or until they are tender. I then pull it off the burner and drain it. Everything then goes into the extra large bowl on the Kitchenaid mixer. (To be fair, I still sometimes use an antique potato masher, the stand mixer is a fairly recent find for me.) Then, starting the mixer on low (This is more important than you can imagine, I started it on high once and was cleaning mashed potatoes off of the ceiling.) I start by adding some butter. As I was first taught by my parents, it calls for about half of a stick for margarine. As I learned to cook though, I started to follow my grandmother's method, and I now add a solid stick of butter, cut down into pats to make it easier to integrate. This is then followed by a half cup to a cut of half-and-half. (The exact amount depends on the dryness of the potatoes, and really has to be determined by eye. Potatoes are an agricultural object, so standardizing density is impossible.) My first recipe called for the role of the dairy to be played by a similar amount of two percent milk, but I personally prefer the cream, both for taste and texture issues. (In regards to the milk and margarine versus the cream and butter: I said the mashed potatoes were good, I never claimed that you could eat the whole pot by yourself. Like everything else, moderation is key. That being said, with how processed margarine is, I think butter might be healthier.) The mashed potatoes are ready, and have about fifteen servings.
I guess if there are any morals to take away from this, it might be to think critically about the information that is brand new to us. On occasion, we can reach to the past to learn how to do something better. 

Saturday, February 8, 2014

My Feminist Wake Up Call

Today I took a twelve hour gig as a P.A. for a junior cheer leading competition. I'll admit it, I did it for the money. Work is work. But seeing as how I am utterly exhausted at this point, I wanted to set down my thoughts that I had recorded in my notebook earlier today:

It is Four 'o' clock, barely halfway into what has already been a long day. The air reeks of sweat, hairspray, and the rancid stench of spoiled dreams. Not the dreams of the kids doing the cheering, although if I had a knack for predicting the future, it wouldn't be a stretch to see a lot of therapy down the road. I can see two groups already forming here, the future rebels, and those pint-sized mean girls, for whom age is only going to inflate those negative traits even more. It almost makes you wish for a metaphysical pin, to pop that problem before it becomes a real issue. Unfortunately most strangers don't consider that a service when you do that to their kid.
And so I sit here, and watch.
The ones to watch though, are not the small ones. That fetid smell of broken dreams comes from something much older. Watching the mothers, wearing too much perfume and too much make up, flaunting their too much jewelry for their too much friends, while living in a too much house and driving a too much car. Watching them "suggest:" that cheer leading might be fun. Watching them pimp their six-year-old daughter out to writhe on stage in a midriff exposing shirt like some sort of backup dancer for Miley Cyrus, all in some vain attempt to recover the lost beauty of their youth. Watching them try pathetically to regain what they once had and fail. Watching her hand a bottle of water to her daughter, telling her she needs to "watch her figure" as grease from the piece of pizza drips down her double chin. Watching that same daughter slink off to a corner crying, her belly swollen not from fat, but from malnutrition. Watching the girls enjoy the junk food served at the concession stand, and then quickly run to the bathroom, only to return flushed and sweating, with a faint scent of bile, one of the many signs of more eating disorders.
And yet I sit here, and watch.
This is my punishment for participating in such an industry, one that robs the flower of youth of joy, and more importantly, of health.
And so I sit here, and watch.
No punishment is greater than the tortures that the mind creates.Perhaps this is my punishment, to watch the monsters I help create feed on their young. To watch this fresh hell, that some dare call a sport, but is more accurately all of the downsides of an athletic feat combined with all of the scrutiny attended to the Sport Illustrated Swimsuit issue. To watch girls under the age of twelve be drawn into this world of self loathing,  To watch myself helping to perpetuate this on another generation, and to watch the fragile bud of youth be trampled further underfoot, when it should be guarded as something precious.
And yet because of my decisions, I am condemned to sit here and watch.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Caged Tiger.

Today was my mother's birthday, and so I wanted to do my best to do something for her, especially considering all that has happened in the past few months. I started by baking one of her favorite cakes, seen here in the middle:


That is a Jello cake, a white cake infused with cherry Jello and then covered in whipped topping. In terms of culinary history, it is very much a dated desert, most likely from some time in the 1960's, and most likely arising from a cookbook printed by the company. In the photo above, it is flanked by a spice cake with cream cheese frosting, and on the other side a cottage pie. Shortly after this was taken, I made a rookie mistake, and slipped on some non-stick spray on the floor. Let's just say the cottage pie (what was left of it) did not look so good after that. 

All of the cooking today took up most of my time, but I did manage to get this done today as well:

One more hat. This one uses another technique I haven't done in a while. That is creating the pom-pom for the top. It is then stacked on while closing up the top stitch. (You can also see my girlfriend photo bombing the hat.) 

In short, I felt very domestic today. While part of me feels accomplished, I am looking forward to things settling into a routine so that I can truly get into building things again.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Keep on...Keeping on.

Today...was a long day. Very long. Exceedingly long. So long that the minutes seemed like hours, and you don't want to imagine the seconds. Imagine the tedium of reading this introduction all day long. Got it? Good. Anyway, my father is out of the hospital now, which is a good thing. As a family we also spent a lot of time talking to one of the priests while we were waiting for the discharge papers, and at that point something came to light that I wasn't expecting. When the priest asked my father why he is fighting the cancer, he responded with "Them." He isn't fighting the cancer for himself at all, if it were just him, he would be ready to make himself comfortable and surrender. Instead he wants to be around for my family. I can't run away now, even when sometimes all I want to do is run down the street naked and screaming. Something to give myself a little vacation in my head. I can't do that now because he is fighting to be around for us. I need to fight with myself to be around with my family. It fills me with rage that my father is dying, and I am unable to stop it, and that people like my girlfriend's ex, who willingly abandons animals in the cold, survive. Where is the cosmic justice that is always promised?

Anyway, here is today's project:


At this rate, none of the homeless will be lacking hats by next winter. I also finished up reading my first book of the month, Changes by Jim Butcher, part of the Dresden Files. 

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Best Laid Plans...

Be prepared, I will probable be quoting a lot of the Enlightenment period philosophers at this point. The title, of course comes from Robert Burns, the poet Laureate of Scotland, and is completed by the words "o mice and men gang oft aglay" (better understood as "of mice and men often go awry." This fairly accurately describes what happened with today's post.

I originally intended to write a long post about frugality, and the re-use of leftovers in cooking. I even did a very good job on the examples including this:

A four layer dip made from refried beans, cheese, salsa, and leftover Hamburger Helper. Good tasting? Absolutely. Good for you? Well...let's not talk about the sodium in this.

I also made this:

A pastry filled with asparagus and the remains of a spiral cut ham, with a mustard-cheese sauce. As for this one? Good, and good for you.


I was feeling fairly accomplished at this point, until two separate events happened. The first of these was that I received the news that my father has surgery once again tomorrow. He says that I don't need to be there, but I plan on it. There have been so many errors that have taken place that I honestly do not trust the hospital to provide a solid standard of care anymore. If you can't trust the people that you put your life in their hands, where exactly does that leave you?

That would be enough for most people to put them on edge, but that was then followed by another messy phone call. My girlfriend received a message from her ex stating that he no longer wanted the cat that they adopted, and that his plan was to set the cat out in three days. Bear in mind at this point we are due to receive approximately a foot of snow in that same time span. The mere thought of this fills me with rage, and to be honest, makes me wish someone would re-arrange his face with a baseball bat. You do not hurt those weaker than you. It is not done. I wish that I could bring the cat in question to my house, but I have a very affectionate, extremely territorial cat of my own (territorial to the point where her cage before the adoption read "does not play well with others") 

At this point, I am beyond angry to the point of being numb, and am doing my best to channel all of this anger and pain is a positive direction. Will I succeed? I hope so. I recognize the fact I am human, so there is the possibility that all of these feeling will just simmer for a while longer. Only time will tell.

I want to leave you with his thought for tonight, a quote commonly attributed to Edmund Burke: "All that is necessary for evil to succeed is for good men to do nothing." If you see someone abusing someone weaker than you, will you have the courage to stand up to them?