Friday, October 31, 2014




Did You Know ... that Prospect Hill Cemetery fought the extension of North Capitol Street through their land from 1886 to 1895, during which time the city of Washington, D.C., desecrated the cemetery?

October 31 is not only Halloween. It is Reformation Day -- that day on which Martin Luther set in motion the Protestant Reformation, sealed the doom of the temporal and spiritual power of the Roman Catholic Church, ensured that the nascent Renaissance would never be suppressed.

Here's now it happened:

1514, Albert Hohenzollern becomes Archbishop of Magdeburg. At the age of twenty-three. More gold in the Pope's coffers: he also buys the bishopric of Halberstadt.

1517, Mainz. The biggest ecclesiastical principality in Germany awaits the appointment of a new bishop. If he wins the appointment, Albert will get his hands on a third of the whole German territory.

He makes his offer: 14,000 ducats for the archbishopric, plus 10,000 for the papal dispensation that allows him to hold all these offices.

The deal is negotiated via the Fugger bank of Augsburg, which anticipates the sum required. Once the operation is concluded, Albert owes the Fuggers 30,000 ducats.

The bankers decree the mode of payment. Albert must promote the sale of indulgences for Pope Leo X in his territory. The faithful will make a contribution to the construction of St. Peter's Basilica and will receive a certificte in exchange: the Pope absolves them of their sins.

Only half of the takings will go to the Roman builders. Albert will use the rest to pay the Fuggers.

The task is given to Johann Tetzel, the most expert preacher around.

Tetzel travels the villages for the whole of the summer of 1517. He stops on the orders with Thuringia, which belongs to Frederick the Wise, Duke of Saxony. He can't set foot there.

Frederick is collecting indulgences himself, through the sale of relics. He doesn't tolerate competitors on his territories. But Tetzel is a clever bastard: he knows that Frederick's subjects will happily travel a few miles beyond the border. A ticket to paradise is worth the trip.

The coming and going of souls in search of reassurance infuriates a young Augustinian friar, a doctor at Wittenberg University. He can't bear the obscene market that Tetzel has set in motion, with the Pope's coat of arms and the papal bull in full view.

31 October 1517, the friar nails ninety-five theses against the traffic in indulgences, written in his own hand, to the northern door of Wittenberg church.

His name is Martin Luther. With that gesture the Reformation begins.

Kill, kill, kill...

He awakes...


Did You Know ... after the city of Washington, D.C., closed Holmead's Burying Ground in 1874, the stench from decomposing bodies prevented disinterments, and so many coffins were left exposed and graves left open that local children started playing with leg and arm bones and placing skulls on poles?
Today is Samhain.

The door is open. Seek.

* * * * * *

Samhain (pronounced SAH-win), or Halloween if you prefer, is a festival marking the end of the harvest season and the beginning of the "darker half" of the year -- that period when days are shorter rather than longer. It began at dusk on October 31, and ended at dusk on November 1.

Many people in Europe, particularly Gaelic and Celtic areas, believed that the barrier separating this world from the spiritual world was thin and easily pierced on Samhain. This allowed people to communicated with higher powers, to seek guidance regarding important issues or to communicate with the deceased. But with the barrier low, evil spirits might also cross over and do harm to people.

Bonfires were lit on Smahain to remind people that the sun still held sway, and would return. These bonfires were also thought to scare off evil spirits. Often, special things were burned in the bonfire, such as salt or the wood of the oak or ash tree. These items were held to be sacred, and the smoke of their burning helped keep evil at bay.

Feasting was common on Samhain. Most people had spent the spring and summer practically starving. But Samhain marked the end of crop harvest and the beginning of slaughter. Eating the first fruits of the harvest marked a time of great plenty for the common man. It was not uncommon for items to be baked or cooked on the Samhain bonfire, such as toffee or parkin (an oatmeal cake made with molasses). Mumming (performing short plays in the street) and guising (donning a small disguise and going door to door to ask for treats) was a common folk tradition associated with the festive nature of Samhain.
The phaser used in Star Trek: The Motion Picture (TMP) and Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan (WOK) is pretty much the same.

The pistol phaser from the TV series was updated by prop master Richard M. "Dick" Rubin for Star Trek: The Motion Picture. His design was patented by Paramount Pictures. (Rubin was also the propman for the Outer Limits, which aired from 1963 to 1965.)

It's really really hard to find a photo of the phaser used in TMP, but I have found a copy of the patent application and a superb replica.

The TMP and WOK phaser had the same basic design: A rounded, flattened obloid on which the backward-raked grip was set toward the bottom-front. A groove in the front of the body (which wrapped around the front and the slightly the sides) had an acrylic "crystal" set into it, which functioned as the phaser's "emitter". The groove extended around the sides and the back. About halfway back, a groove ran up the left side, across the top, and down the right side -- as if this forward section was the power pack, and could be removed to make a "jewel phaser" (as in The Original Series).

At the back of the main body was a raised translucent white dome inset into the phaser. This was the dilithium crystal cell, and was also made of acrylic.

The trigger in the grip was cut out of the grip itself, and protruded slightly. The bottom of the grip was black. Where the web of the hand met the grip, a slight indentation existed.

The forward "power pack" section of the TMP phaser contained the control panel. On the left were four colored panels (front to back: dark green, red, yellow, blue) with two tiny white lights into the lower corners. In the center top of the panel were two rectangular, copper strips side by side. Below them was a glossy black square rimmed in white. On the right side of the panel, at the top, were two more colored panels with tiny white lights (yellow top, light green bottom). Toward the back was a rectangular silver panel, only slightly longer than the black panel it was next to, with tiny white lights in the upper right and lower left corners.

The TMP phaser was painted a very specific color: Krylon Stone Gray #1306. This is the phaser to the right in the picture below.

In the prototype, the lights on the left-hand side of the panel were lit and blinked on and off. Astonishingly, this phaser cost a hefty $4,000 each to manufacture. To save money, the lighting was eliminated. This meant that the phaser got smaller by one-third! This was the production model used for the film (15 of them were made).

Here is a somewhat inaccurate replica of the WOK phaser.

Initially, prop master Joe Longo designed a new phaser (and communicator), bu Paramount executives rejected them in favor of a slightly modified phaser from TMP.

The WOK phaser replaced the cut-out trigger with a push-button one. Ribbing around the groove on the sides and rear of the phaser body were sanded off. Another change, barely noticeable, is that a metallic reflective rainbow graphic now ran along the sides of the phaser in the groove.

The color was chagned to Plastikote light metallic blue #1348, and the color of the bottom of the grip changed to match the body.

Aside from the color change, the biggest alteration on this phaser is the control panel. All the colored panels are gone. They are replaced by copper-colored panels instead. The arrangement of the buttons on the panel remains the same. Each small button now features a little double-stripe of white along the bottom -- as if it were a sliding toggle. The four panels on the left side of the phaser now feature a single light at the inner top of the panel. They were designed to light up, and this was accepted.

Here's the WOK phaser being used by the doomed Capt. Terrell.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Did You Know ... that although Presbyterian Burying Ground in Georgetown in Washington, D.C., closed in 1909 and was turned into a playground, more than 2,000 corpses remained -- and bones and caskets continued to rise out of the ground and be unearthed as late as 2012?
Blaze forth.


Sunset at the Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge in Colorado.

The Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge is a 16,000-acre national wildlife refuge located adjacent to Commerce City, Colorado, in the United States. It is approximately 8 miles northeast of downtown Denver. The facility is on the grounds of the former Rocky Mountain Arsenal, a United States Army chemical weapons manufacturing facility. The site was designated a national wildlife refuge in 1992 by Congress, and underwent a costly environmental cleanup in order to remove pollutants. The refuge is managed by the Fish and Wildlife Service.
Lomonosov Moscow State University is a university in Moscow, Russia. Founded in 1755, it is named in honor of its founder, Mikhail Lomonosov.

It is one of the "Seven Sisters" (as they are called in the West, and as "Stalin's Skyscraper's" in Russia), seven massive skyscrapers built on what was then the outskirts of Moscow in between 1948 and 1955. Today, it is about halfway between the center of Moscow and its outskirts.

The building was designed by Lev Vladimirovich Rudnev in a style that combined Russky Modern (a local interpretation of Art Nouveau) and Russian Baroque. The building and its campus are on a hill about 250 feet above the level of the Moscow River. The tower has 36 stories, and is 787 feet high. The 187-foot spire is topped by a red star surrounded by ears of wheat. This metal structure weighs 12 tons, and is 30 feet across. It contains a small room and a viewing platform.

The main tower is flanked by two 18-story wings. A series of setbacks drop the height to just eight stories in the wings. The three wings are each topped by a clock, a barometer, and a thermometer, and were the world's largest when completed. Numerous statues does the walls, cornice line, and courtyards outside the building.

Construction began in 1949 and ended in 1953.

Moscow State University contains 5,000 rooms. The main structure features a 1,500-seat auditorium, 19 large conference rooms, 140 classrooms, 6,000 dormitory rooms, scientific laboratories, a student center, concert hall, theater, two museums, library, gymnasium, swimming pool, police station, post office, laundry, hair salon, several cafeterias, a bank, and a number of retail shops. Housed within the structure are the university administration and four of the main faculties (Mechanics and Mathematics, Geology, Geography, and Fine and Performing Arts). Other faculties are located in the Old Building (near the Kremlin), and newer structures nearby.

Moscow State University is an iconic building in Russia, as well-known there as the Empire State Building is in the United States. It was the tallest building in the world outside of New York City when finished, and the seventh-tallest building in the world. It was not surpassed in height by a non-North American building until the KLI 63 Building in Seoul, Korea, was completed in 1985. It remained the tallest building in Europe until 1988 when the 63-story Messeturm tower was completed in Frankfurt, Germany, and it remained the tallest building in Russia until the 57-story Triumph-Palace was finished in 2003.

Two museums exist in the structure, the Museum of Earth Sciences and the Museum of Agronomy.

A statue of a male and female student (by Vera Muchina) adorn the main entrance, and a statue of Mikhail V. Lomonosov (by Nikolai Tomski) stands in the main courtyard.

A shot of an interior courtyard in one of the wings.

A shot of one of the large lecture halls.

A shot of one of the corridors, all of which are lined with marble.

Moscow State University's main entrance faces northeast.

A shot of one of the gymnasiums in the structure.

The Star Trek: The Original Series phaser rifle.

It was never actually named in the series, and was seen only in the episode "Where No Man Has Gone Before".

This is one of the few props for the original series made by a contractor. It was designed and manufactured by Reuben Klamer, who had invented the board game "The Game of Life" for Milton Bradley. Gene Roddenberry saw a prop gun Klamer designed for The Man from U.N.C.L.E., and contacted Klamer. Klamer made several designs (it's not clear how many), before Roddenberry signed off on the final version.

Klamer had only two weeks to both design and manufacture the prop. Working around the clock, Klamer and three assistants constructed the rilfe out of wood and painted it metallic blue/green. The prop also featured a hand-tooled aluminum barrel with dish end, spring-loaded trigger, sliding switch (left of the central top module) to adjust the setting, three plastic non-functional domed indicator lights (right of the central top module), inset plastic panels (yellow, orange, and red on both sides of the butt), and a top-mounted telescoping antenna (which looked more like a sight). The three "power packs" consisted of ribbed copper tubing in acrylic cylinders. The ends of the cylinders were painted either yellow, orange, or red (matching the three force settings). These could actually be taken off the weapon, and moved around. The rilfe came with a black, padded shoulder stock that could be rotated to function as a stock or a hand. The prop was 34 inches long, 14 inches high, and 4.5 inches wide.

For the phaser rifle's beam, the laser cannon animation from the original pilot, "The Cage", was reused.

The Watts race riots occurred in August 1965. As the riots came close to the Desilu studios where Star Trek was being filmed, producer Herbert F. Solow suggested to Gene Roddenberry that they brandish the phaser rifle to bluff the rioters and keep them at bay. Its use was not needed; the riots did not hit the studio.

Although Gene Roddenberry was initially enthusiastic about the phaser rilfe, his ardor quickly cooled. The phaser rifle had been used in some publicity photos of William Shatner by that time. That was the end of it, though: Roddenberry decided against using gun-like weapons on the series (he also banned the depiction of smoking), and the phaser rifle was returned to Klamer.

A replica of the phaser rifle was manufactured at some point in the 1980s by Paramount, and this replica was used in various exhibits, displays, and promotional tours. There may have been more than one replica made; one ended up in the possession of Sally Kellerman herself.

Klamer sold the original phaser rifle, along with his preliminary designs, blueprints for the final version, and receipts for payment, in April 2013. Estimated to sell for $50,000 to $70,000, it sold for a whopping $231,000 -- the most expensive Star Trek hand-held prop ever sold at auction to date.

The Star Trek: The Original Series type 1 phaser.

It was named as the "type 1 phaser" in the first season episode, "The Devil in the Dark".

The name "phaser" came from Gene Roddenberry. Two days into filming the pilot, "The Cage", Roddenberry realized that fans would not believe that a laser could do all the things the show wanted it to do. Roddenberry had learned of "phasing" energy to higher wavelengths (a concept only recently discovered in the early 1960s), and so came up with the name "phaser".

The prop was designed by Matt Jefferies and John Jefferies with input from Gene Roddenberry. John Jeffries drew five different designs, none of which Roddenberry liked. Elements of all five were combined to come up with a phaser Roddenberry approved of. The final design was inspired by a television remote control recently offered for sale by Magnavox!!

Construction occurred in the Desilu prop shop, although it is unclear if Matt Jefferies personally built it or merely supervised its construction. Initially, the phaser was colored black and white. Roddenberry did not like how these looked on film, and asked propmaster Wah Chang to repaint them dark grey and add some details.

The first type I phaser was a pistol-like device of blue-gray with a black grip. An adjustment dial existed on the left side near the front, and another toward the top at the rear. The rear also featured radiator cooling fins, and a small metal button on the left side for releasing the power pack. The power pack fitted into the top of the phaser pistol grip, and was colored black. It had a screen on top that initially was supposed to provide cooling. A white ribbed dial and a meter of clear, curved plastic to its left were just behind the screen. The power back sat in a cut-out on the pistol, with slight flaring below it.

The original sound of phaser fire was a sped-up version of the "hovering sound" of the Martian fighting machine heard in the 1953 film War of the Worlds. The sound of feedback from an electric guitar and from a harp were blended into the hover to create the phaser sound.

Gene Roddenberry disliked the design of the type I phaser pistol because it looked too much like a gun. Roddenberry, who believed firmly that people in the future would have "moved beyond conflict" wanted the phase redesigned.

A complete redesign was not possible. So Matt Jeffries merely took the power pack off the pistol and used the power pack alone as the "jewel phaser". (This term is used by fans, not in the series.)

Slight modifications of the "jewel phaser" were made. What appeared to be a cooling screen was really a pop-up sight, with a translucent curved screen attached to it that had aiming marks on it. The anonymous flush button behind the screen, visible in the pistol version, was now the firing pin.

A small clear plastic nodule was added to the front, as the point where "the phaser comes out".

As Roddenberry's involvement with Star Trek: The Original Series declined over the series' run, the show returned to the use of the phaser pistol. Thus, Roddenberry's wish that the "jewel phaser" be used exclusively was never really honored.

Shot of a good replica of the "jewel phaser".

Witch's familiar.


Did You Know ... the graves at Graceland Cemetery in Washington, D.C., were so close together that the walls between them would burst -- washing the corpse, effluvia, disease, and fouled water into the adjacent grave?
They tried to make Mommy go to detox, and she said no, no, no...

Chief Mountain in Montana, near Glacier National Park.

The Blackfoot name for the mountain is Nínaiistáko ("Great Chief"). It's not clear who the first white person to see the mountain was, but it appeared on British maps as early as 1795. Meriwether Lewis was probably the first white person to get close to it, as all other early descriptions are from quite a distance.

Chief Mountain was formed by the Lewis Overthrust. As the Plate of Juan de Fuca and the Pacific Plate pushed westward against the North American Plate, a gigantic wedge of rock cracked free from the surface of the North American Plate and pushed eastward. As the tension eased, the wedge slipped back into position. But stress worsened again, and the wedge pushed east again. This created the characteristic "waves" of ridges and valleys that form the Rocky Mountain Front in Montana.

Each eastward push of the wedge scraped up incredibly ancient Proterozoic rock, pushing the Cretaceous rock to the bottom and leaving Precambrian rock in the middle. The Proterozoic rock is incredibly hard. As the surrounding, softer rock weathered away, the Proterozoic rock protected that soft rock beneath it.

This has left behind the distinctive Chief Mountain -- which rises 1,500 feet above the surface of the Great Plains. The mountain is notoriously difficult to climb, due to the highly weathered rock face that makes placement of pitons nearly impossible.

Native Americans often climbed Chief Mountain with bison caracasses, and burned them atop the mountain. Chief Mountain was known to tribes as far east as Ohio, and west to the Pacific Coast. It was widely considered to be a sacred place, and to this day thousands of Native Americans travel there each year to burn sweetgrass, place prayer flags, and perform other ceremonies.

In 1992, a large section of the north face came down in a huge landslide. The "hole" it left is visible directly beneath the horizontal snow line.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Did You Know ... that ethnologist James Mooney, who wrote about Cherokee myths and the Ghost Dance, is buried at Mount Olivet Cemetery in Washington, D.C.?
No turning back...

I love the show Wild Things with Dominic Monaghan. He's such a fucking hunk!!! And unlike other wildlife shows, he's not terribly showy. He likes to stick to the animals, and talks a lot about the culture he's in.

I also like how he's going a little grey in the beard, and doesn't give a shit.

Cobra Gold is the largest military exercise held in Asia or the Pacific. It is a joint exercise of the United States and Thailand, and began in 1982. Both countries invite other nations to observe the exercise, which lasts two weeks and ends with a live-fire invasion of a beach. Several observer nations usually include Cambodia, China, Laos, Myanmar, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Russia, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Timor-Leste, and Vietnam.

In 2000, the U.S. and Thailand allowed Singapore to participate in the exercise. Other participants added since include Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, and South Korea.

This is an image of the live-fire beach portion. It's stunning.

You'd never see that in a movie!
I wish I felt that way.

Such a perfect face. Big, soft, dark eyes.  That dusky skin color.  The horizontal brows.  The upturned nose.  The slightly full mouth.  The good jaw line.  Brunette.