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New York’s History – Park Avenue

Located mainly in Manhattan, and a short stretch in The Bronx, Park Avenue is a 140 foot wide boulevard previously known as Fourth Street. The section between Bowery and 14th Street still maintains this name, after the area between 17th and 32nd Streets was changed to Park Avenue South on May 5, 1959. The boulevard, Park Avenue, also shares its name with the park located in the area.

The street was formed in the 1850s, when there was a landscaped mall built over a railroad cut that ran through Murray Hill on Fourth Avenue. The area beginning at the first of the malls (34th Street) was renamed Park Avenue. When the Grand Central Depot was opened in the 1870s, the railroad tracks between 56th and 93rd streets were sunk out of sight. This led to the extension of Park Avenue to north of Grand Central in 1888. In 1923, after Henry Mandel (a developer) lobbied for the expansion of Park Avenue to his property, the boulevard was once again extended to 32nd Street.

In 1936 the elevated Park Avenue Viaduct was built around Grand Central Station to allow automobile traffic to pass unimpeded, with a section of Murray Hill Tunnel reopened to traffic in October 1937. Since 1945, as a tribute to fallen soldiers, Christmas Trees have been erected in the street’s median during the festive season. The median has plants in it all year round, which are maintained by The Fund for Park Avenue, a private organisation supported by the residents. Begonia dominates the flora, as these plants are both beautiful and resilient.

During the 1920s, construction began on the apartment buildings from Grand Central Terminal to 96th Street, and these are now some of the most expensive in the world. They cost several thousand dollars per square foot, and have been home to Vera Wang, John D. Rockefeller and other well-known millionaires. On March 12, 2014 two apartment buildings along the boulevard were destroyed in a gas explosion, killing eight people, and injuring many others.

In addition to having famous people live on the street, Park Avenue has been featured in many films. These include: Men in Black, where Will Smith pursues a criminal along its length, and the climax of Avengers in 2012. To demonstrate the large gap between the extraordinarily wealthy section of Park Avenue and its poorer section, a PBS documentary entitled Park Avenue: Money, Power and The American Dream has been made.

Greek Mythology – The Zodiacs and their Meanings

Libra (September 24 – October 23)

The name Libra, means ‘the weighing scales,’ and this constellation is the only one not represented by an animal or human. These scales are the symbol of Dike, the Greek goddess of justice, and the balance she represents. The goddess resides in Virgo, located beside Libra, for which she is holding the balancing scales. The Ancient Greeks considered justice, balance and equality to be the moral cornerstones of an ideal way of life.

When the sun passes through the constellation of Libra, night and day are considered equal. The stars that form the constellation’s golden scales lie between Virgo and Scorpio, halfway around the band of the Greek zodiac. The four bright stars in the constellation form a quadrangle, with the Alpha and Beta Librae representing the scale’s balance beam, and Gamma and Sigma Librae the weighing pans. Libra is also home to the oldest star in the Universe, HD 140283 or Methuselah.

Those born under the Libra star sign desire balance in all aspects of their lives, and are extremely good problem solvers. They are social butterflies and make ideal friends, partners and family members because of their ability to see things in a balanced way. A Libran’s happiness is centred around harmonious relationships, and many of them appear to have a special aura of peace that attracts others.

Virgo (August 24 – September 23)

Virgo is the second largest constellation in the sky, and its name means ‘virgin’ in Latin. The constellation is depicted with angel-like wings, and marked by Spics, a bright star. There are several Greek myths that attempt to explain the origin of Virgo, including the story of the goddess, Dike.

Dike was the daughter of Zeus and the titaness, Themis. She was born during The Golden Age of mankind, marked by peace and prosperity, a lack of ageing in humans and ongoing spring. During this time, Zeus awarded Dike the position of maintaining justice. When he overthrew his father, to become king of the gods, mankind’s Silver Age began. Zeus created the four seasons, prosperity declined, and humans began to neglect their worship. Dike gave a speech, warning the entire race about the dangers of their lack of honour and predicting that things were going to get worse. After this she fled to the mountains and turned her back on mankind.

The world then entered the Bronze and Iron Ages and, with them, the beginning of wars. To escape the anger and aggression that was now a part of humanity, Dike flew to the heavens and continues to watch over the humans and their unjust actions from there. 

People born under the Virgo star sign are analytical, kind, hardworking and practical. They may have a tendency to worry and dislike being the centre of attention. Virgos are also known for their good memories and reasoning ability, as well as their faithfulness and persuasive manner. They usually enjoy Art, Maths and Science and may even possess great intelligence themselves.

Dark Fantasy – A Great Writing Genre

Many writers agree that genres in general are hard to describe, but dark fantasy may be one of the most difficult. It is sometimes incorrectly classified as horror, because of the terrifying scenes that may be included. Likewise, the supernatural elements can lead to a fantasy classification. One of the most concise definitions of dark fantasy is: a story with paranormal concepts that deals with the darker human emotions, and actions, as well as psychological stresses.

Most dark fantasies include elements of horror, but can be differentiated because the primary desire of the novel is not to scare the reader. Dark fantasy books also include one or more of the following elements: magic, gods, demons, paranormal beings and parallel worlds. The dark side of human nature, including our psychology, and the weird, sublime and uncanny are all frequently featured in these novels as well.

Popular Examples of Dark Fantasy Novels

  1. A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin

Written as a series of several books, the storyline of A Game of Thrones has key psychological horror factors within it. These include: child sacrifice for the sake of winning a war, hunting humans as sport and flaying enemies for pleasure. The supernatural also features regularly, including an army of the undead, the birth of a demonic shadow that commits murder, dragons, dire wolves and heroes that can be resurrected.

  1. American Gods by Neil Gaiman

This series demonstrates what happens when gods live among men. The characters include outcast deities who have been stripped of the majority of their powers, due to their irreverent habits. The storyline features violence and other dark elements, as well as the gods’ battle against technology. The lives of the gods consists of blood, violence, lust and supernatural phenomena which attracts humans, as much as it repels them. 

  1. The Dark Tower by Stephen King

Merging a magical, parallel world with ours, Stephen King creates a protagonist that is the ultimate fighter of evil. The last of the gunslingers, Roland, suffers through unbearable horrors while tracking his enemy. Love is lost, friendships begin and end, and unexpected characters become heroes in the series, as Roland continues relentlessly towards the end of his quest, The Dark Tower.

  1. Night Watch by Sergei Lukyanenko

The ultimate merger of humanity with the paranormal, Night Watch is a story that focuses on the supernatural beings that live among us. These include vampires, magicians, shape-shifters and healers, that make the choice between good and evil when they become of age. When a woman is discovered who can shift the balance between the two, it may be the start of the predicted catastrophic war between Light and Dark.

Classic American Private Investigators – Detectives from the Hardboiled Sub-Genre

The hardboiled sub-genre emerged during the Golden Age of detective fiction, the 1920s. Authors such as Raymond Chandler, James M. Cain and Dashiell Hammett can be called its founding fathers, as they were almost exclusively responsible for the increase in the sub-genre’s popularity. The private investigators in these stories, were normally highly intuitive and not afraid to use a little physical persuasion to get answers.

Unlike other detective stories they are professional, not amateur, investigators and use their street smarts to solve cases because of a lack of clues. One of the most admirable characteristics of the hardboiled detective is his high levels of honour, although many of them become bitter as a result of what they deem to be a dishonourable society. Even though not outwardly acknowledged, this detective is a hero in his own right, showing neither fear not hesitation whenever solving a case. Most hardboiled private investigators are loners and remain adamantly single, and/or work on their own.

Philip Marlowe – created by Raymond Chandler

After being fired from the D.A.’s office for insubordination, also known as talking back, Philip Marlowe becomes a private investigator. His size and stature, 6’1” and 190 lbs, are normally enough to intimidate the criminals that he interrogates, without the need for using his fists. He also has an amazing ability to use liquor to loosen the tongues of those he questions. There are very few answers that Marlowe does not receive.

His size allows him to drink heavily without many adverse effects and his preferred alcoholic beverages are whiskey or brandy. Marlowe also consumes large quantities of coffee. This Camel smoking, tough P.I. is quietly very intellectual, only playing himself in chess due to the lack of worthy competition. As a natural risk taker, Marlowe is not afraid of physical harm and has been known to attain injury on the job. 

Sam Spade – created by Dashiell Hammett

A tough-guy detective with a sharp tongue, Sam Spade is as straightforward and cynical as they come. Not a very trusting person, Spade remains single and solves most of his cases by himself.

C.W. Sughrue – created by James Crumley

One of the most hardened detectives of the hardboiled sub-genre, C.W. Sughrue relies heavily on violence to get answers. The character has deep emotional scarring from his time spent serving in Vietnam, which makes him fatalistic and impulsive. Even though he normally works alone, Sughrue has solved a few cases with the help of Milo Milodragovich. Sughrue’s personal life reflects his impulsive personality and he enjoys sincere, rapid sex, uses mind altering drugs and consumes large quantities of alcohol.

 

Dante Alighieri – The Italian Poet

Durante degli Alighieri, better known as Dante, was an Italian who revolutionised poetry during the Late Middle Ages. He was born in Florence, in approximately 1265. At the age of 12, Dante was promised in marriage to Gemma di Manetto Donati, and the proposal was sealed in a ceremony. Even though he fulfilled his promise and married Gemma, Dante never mentioned his wife in any of his poems. At the age of nine, he met and fell in love with Beatrice Portnari (Bice), who featured frequently in his sonnets.

After meeting Beatrice, and falling in love at first sight, Dante was not frequently in her presence until after the age of 18. He would pass her regularly and they would exchange greetings in the street. Despite his love for Beatrice, the pair never became more than casual acquaintances. This unrequited love became the motivation behind his life and poetry. His expression of his feelings was unique and Dante depicted Beatrice as semi-divine in his poems, where she watches over and provides him with spiritual guidance. After her death in 1290, Dante found solace by merging himself into the study of Latin Literature. 

The poet also possessed a great passion for politics, and enrolled in the Apothecaries’ Guild so that he could play an active political role. He expressed his dedication to the Guelphs, by fighting in the Battle of Campaldino on June 11, 1289. Even though his political accomplishments were not noteworthy, Dante held various offices over a period of several years. After the war the Guelph followers divided and Dante became a part of the White Guelphs. He was fined a significant sum after the Black Guelphs rose to power. He was also exiled for a period of two years, which would become permanent if he did not pay the fine. As his assets had been seized, and he refused to admit to his guilt, Dante never returned to Florence. He remained in exile for the remainder of his life and died in Ravenna in 1321, at the age of 56. After his death, Florence regretted the poet’s lifelong exile and made repeated requests for his remains to be shipped back to the place of his birth.

Dante’s greatest work is The Divine Comedy which, despite the name, is an incredibly serious piece. It was written during his exile and describes his journey through Hell, Purgatory and Paradise. The poem became a significant factor in establishing of the Italian language as a literary one, during a period when most recognised work was written in Latin. His aim was to influence readers in Italy, including laymen, the clergy and other poets. By creating a poem of philosophical purpose and epic structure, Dante was successful in proving that Italian could be used to create legendary writing. The poem features many of Dante’s associates, and Beatrice is the ultimate symbol of salvation. Dante’s other famous works include: Convivo (The Banquet) and La Vita Nuova (The New Life) – the story of his love for Beatrice.

The Five Elements – Spirit, Fire, Air, Water & Earth

The Ancient Greeks created a system composed of five elements, four of which are the components of our planet. The fifth, spirit, is also referred to as ether or quintessence, which is at the top of the Greek hierarchy; followed by fire, air, water and earth. The first three elements are considered to be spiritual, while the others are more physical in nature.

Spirit

During the Renaissance, the pentagon was adopted to represent the five elements. An upward pointing pentagon signifies spirit ruling over the other four, while one facing down shows spirit descending into matter. There is no standard symbol to represent the element, even though a circle, eight spoked wheels or spirals are used. Spirit is the bridge between the physical and spiritual worlds, representing the bridge between body and soul.

Golden Dawn Colour: Violet, Orange & White

Fire

Fire is a warm, dry element associated with strength, activity, blood and life-force. It is also used in purification and protection, driving back forces of darkness and consuming impurities. As a masculine element, fire is also the most spiritual of the earthly elements. This is because it lacks a solid physical existence, produces light and has the ability to transform objects.

Planet: Mars,

Magical Tools: Sword, Athame, Dagger or sometimes the Wand.

Zodiac Signs: Aries, Leo & Sagittarius

Golden Dawn Colour: Red

Season: Summer

Time of Day: Noon

Symbol: Triangle

Air

This element is associated with spring during which things are becoming warmer and brighter, and both animals and plants give birth to a new generation. Air is also the intangible, masculine element of intelligence and creativity. It follows fire in the hierarchy, displaying active, moist and warm tendencies.

Planet: Jupiter

Magical Tool: Wand, or sometimes Sword, Dagger or Athame

Zodiac Signs: Gemini, Libra & Aquarius

Golden Dawn Colour: Yellow

Season: Spring

Time of Day: Morning, Sunrise.

Symbol: Triangle with a line going through it.

Water

Water is a natural flowing element that is cold and moist. In direct contrast to the intellectual properties of air, it represents emotions and the unconscious. Water’s physical existence can interact with all five of our human senses. It is also the element of wisdom, representing mainly the wisdom of old age. It shows a time that is past its peak, and moving towards the end of its cycle.

Planets: Moon, Venus

Magical Tool: Cup

Zodiac Signs: Cancer, Scorpio & Pisces

Golden Dawn Colour: Blue

Season: Fall

Time of Day: Sunset

Symbol: Downward Facing Triangle

Earth

This feminine element is cold and dry and represents fertility, stability, materiality and potential. It is also considered a symbol of death and rebirth, as life comes forth from the ground and returns to it. Earth is the opposite of fire and represents the point of transformation, where the old gives way to the new.

Planet: Saturn

Magical Tool: Pentacle

Zodiac Signs: Taurus, Virgo & Capricorn

Golden Dawn Colour: Green

Season: Winter

Time of Day: Midnight

Symbol: Downward facing triangle with a line going through.