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Zombies Invade Lawrenceville for Annual Fest

on Tue, 10/15/2013 - 09:48

There’s nothing like a Zombie Fest to unite a community. It didn’t matter one’s age or social background, whether they were a diehard zombie fan decked out in elaborately-applied makeup or a novice simply on hand to soak in the atmosphere, Arsenal Park in Lawrenceville was filled with the “Walking Dead” on Saturday, October 12, 2013. Surprisingly, the vast majority were not your basic, run-of-the-mill zombies but every form of zombie imaginable. There were pirate zombies and military zombies, princess zombies and hillbilly zombies, doctor zombies and lawyer zombies, Goth zombies and Shriner zombies... about the only thing missing was a clown zombie—until a ten-year-old boy arrived with his parents, dressed as a clown zombie.

The gathering was part of the annual World Zombie Day, an international day of zombie celebration orchestrated by area resident Mark Menold. Menold is the host of the Pittsburgh-based horror show It's Alive that airs on WBGN, and back in 2006 he came up with the idea of holding a Zombie Walk at the Monroeville Mall—the setting for George Romero’s 1978 classic Dawn of the Dead—in order to establish the world’s record for largest collection of zombie fans. Since then, Zombie Fest has been held every subsequent year, eventually moving from the Mall in Monroeville to Market Square in Pittsburgh, then to the West End Village and now to Lawrenceville.

George Romero's Zombie Comic Book

on Tue, 10/08/2013 - 09:52

Long before the AMC drama The Walking Dead became the most watched show in the history of cable television, it was a successful comic book series created by Robert Kirkman. Kirkman, meanwhile, credits the films of former Pittsburgher George Romero as the major influence for The Walking Dead. “Day of the Dead really is the closest thing to what I wanted,” he told FearNet in December 2011. “It is a zombie movie that starts very late in the progression, and shows how people have been dealing with this for a very long time, and just kind of advances the story of the zombie apocalypse quite a bit. So I would have to say The Walking Dead itself comes from that desire to see how someone lives long term, and where they go and how they continue to survive. I think Day of the Dead really is the movie that kind of started that.”

While Robert Kirkman thus took the basic elements of George Romero’s films to create a comic book that was then developed into a television show, Romero appears ready to reciprocate by transforming his zombie film narratives into a comic book series. The resulting Empire of the Dead is not a mere adaptation of earlier works, however, but a brand new, original story written by Romero himself. “I reached out to George through a mutual friend to see if he’d be interested in writing for Marvel,” Marvel Editor-in-Chief Axel Alonso explained to Comic Book Resources. “He mulled it over and found that he was. For decades, George has used the zombie apocalypse—and mankind’s new place in the food chain—to comment on human nature and modern civilization. Each time he has something new to say, and Empire definitely has something new to say.”

Schell Games a Winner at Serious Play Conference

on Tue, 09/03/2013 - 09:53

2013 has been a banner year for Schell Games. First Heidi McDonald, a game developer for the South Side company, was the recipient of the Rising Star Award, presented by Women in Games at the Game Developers Conference in March. Then in June, Schell Games founder Jesse Schell received the first ever Game Changer Award at the Games for Change Festival in New York City in recognition of his continuing work in promoting the educational value of video games. Two of the games developed by Schell and his colleagues have now been honored as well, scoring a pair of awards at the Serious Play Conference in Redmond, Washington, during late August.

Play Forward: Elm City Stories was the big winner, taking home the Gold Medal in the Medical/Healthcare category. The iPad app—a joint effort between Schell Games and Yale University’s School of Medicine—is designed to assist ethnic minority teens learn how to take the necessary precautions to prevent exposure to the HIV virus. Researchers at Yale’s Play2Prevent Initiative initially conducted a series of interviews with teenagers in New Haven, Connecticut—often referred to as Elm City—in order to better understand the common factors and behaviors that affect HIV risk. Using that data, Schell Games was able to build a virtual reality where players make decisions regarding unprotected sex, drugs and alcohol abuse and then witness how those choices later influence their lives.

Crossword Puzzles for Charity

on Tue, 08/20/2013 - 13:51

The history of the crossword puzzle is indeed curious. Arthur Wynn, a journalist from England, is credited with being the inventor of the popular brain teaser when he published the first “word-cross” in the New York World on December 21, 1913. By 1917, other newspapers were publishing their own versions, including the Boston Globe. Not everyone, however, was happy about the growing craze. “This is not a game at all, and it hardly can be called a sport,” the New York Times lamented in 1924. “Solvers get nothing out of it except a primitive form of mental exercise, and success or failure in any given attempt is equally irrelevant to mental development.”

One hundred years after that first crossword puzzle was published by Arthur Wynn, this “primitive form of exercise” is still going strong, and one could argue even more popular than ever. In fact, the New York Times itself has transformed its version into a national pastime. Pittsburgh resident Rachel Colangelo, meanwhile, has found a way for crossword puzzles to be used to raise money for charity with the annual Pittsburgh Crossword Puzzle Tournament. “I decided to plan a tournament because it had never been done before,” she explained to the Pittsburgh Tribune Review. “My father attends a tournament every year in February in New York City. I was able to attend with him and got to see how everything comes together.”

LaunchPGH Connects Local Entrepreneurs

on Tue, 08/13/2013 - 09:46

The Pittsburgh-based startup and entrepreneur communities have experienced a good year in 2013 in regards to both growth and reputation. In February, for instance, the National Venture Capital Association ranked the Steel City as the thirteenth best locale for tech startups in the country. Then the Pittsburgh Technology Center—along with a collection of additional local sponsors—hosted a Pittsburgh Innovation Party in Austin, Texas, in early March as part of that city’s annual South by Southwest Festival. The startup accelerator program AlphaLab, meanwhile, not only celebrated its tenth anniversary in 2013 but expanded its Pittsburgh efforts with the creation of a robotics incubator designed exclusively for that ever growing field.

To even further assist the increasing number of local entrepreneurs within the area, the city of Pittsburgh announced in early August the creation of a new website entitled LaunchPGH, a project of the Urban Redevelopment Authority and PowerUp Pittsburgh. “One of our goals when we formed PowerUp Pittsburgh was to create a more robust entrepreneur environment in Pittsburgh, and this website helps us reach that goal,” Mayor Luke Ravenstahl said in a press release. “ provides helpful information for businesses of all sizes—whether you’re a first-time entrepreneur in Pittsburgh, a local venture capitalist or investor, or looking for job opportunities with a new startup, this site will point you in the right direction.”