Blog Flume

I am a multimedia designer and aspiring writer from Central Illinois who dreams of bigger things. You are entering the hub of my online world. Welcome. Make yourself at home, read some stuff, click a few things, maybe check out my online portfolio. And of course, if you enjoy your stay, please subscribe.

*NOTE* This blog occasionally contains coarse language. Please use discretion when viewing.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

A very somber and beautiful album

Neil Diamond - Dreams
Four of five stars

Neil Diamond's music has always been one of my guilty pleasures. I don't own a huge catalog of his albums but prior to this release I did have two volumes of greatest hits on CD and vinyl. Neil Diamond is one of the great singer-songwriters we have left in the 21st Century, a true legend in his own time.

Dreams is a special compilation of some of the greatest songs of the rock era, hand-chosen by Neil Diamond as the music that's personally touched him, recorded in a very honest and stripped-down fashion. Dreams is a great disc, especially if you happen to be in a reflective mood. However, if you feel like tapping your toes to "Brother Love's Traveling Salvation Show," this ain't your record.

Highlights for me are "Alone Again (Naturally)," originally recorded by Gilbert O'Sullivan, "Randy Newman's "Feels Like Home," the Everly Brothers' "Let It Be Me," and "Don't Forget Me," originally by Nilsson.

Friday, November 26, 2010

A long walk

The kids & I took Daisy for a long walk last night. After about 15 minutes the conversation with my five-year-old daughter turned philosophical: "Dad, why are there people? How'd they get here?"
I took a deep breath and said, "There are a lot of ideas about that, but nobody here now was around then, to know for sure. Basically there are two main ideas: either God created people in one day, or people became what they are today by very slowly changing over millions of years from apes to apelike people to caveman-type people and eventually to us."
My eight-year-old son interrupted: "The first one is right. God created everybody. At least all Americans, but not people from other countries." D'oh! It was then I saw this was going to be a longer conversation than I'd originally anticipated. Good thing it was a LONG walk.
"Okay, why would you say that? Why didn't he create people from other countries?"
"Because they don't believe in God."
"Ash, if you believe God created people, then you have to believe that he created ALL people, not just the ones who believe in him. Whether THEY believe or not is immaterial."
Ash says, "I guess, but some people don't believe in our God. They believe in other stuff."
I agreed and reminded him of the poster at school that shows at least a dozen different versions of the Golden Rule from faiths around the world.
Calliope, quiet most of this time, chimed back in: "Dad, how many gods ARE there?"
"Well, most people will tell you there is only one. The problem is agreeing on WHICH one. Lots of faiths claim to worship what they call the true God, but as it turns out, they are not all the same God and each faith denies the existence of the other 'true' gods."
That's when Ash steered the conversation naturally toward the Greek pantheon. That was more solid ground for me. And soon the conversation was over. Whew. I should have just answered Calliope's original question with a simple "42" and quickly changed the subject to cartoons or something.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

I welcome another writing opportunity

A couple of years ago I wrote a few reviews on iTunes then promptly forgot about them. Lately, with the launch of Ping, I started thinking about those reviews again. I reread them the other day and really liked the content. That's when I decided to add another branch to my regular writing. If you're interested in what I'm listening to or what my musical opinions are, please check me out on iTunes. Just go to iTunes Ping and search people for me. More reviews to come.

Who's the new guy?

Savatage - Edge of Thorns
Two of five stars

Savatage minus the vocal style of Jon Oliva has always been a disappointment to me. Edge of Thorns begins that trend and as such it holds a special place in my own private hell. That having been said, I’ll admit the disc is not without its high points. The title track is a solid tune and Stevens does a mighty fine job fitting in with the band’s signature progressive, melodic style.

 The next two or three tracks leave a lot more to be desired. Here is where the presence of a new vocalist brings to mind the difference between Sabbath with Ozzy and Sabbath with Tony Martin. In other words, you’re listening to a decent band, but it no longer resembles the band you’ve come to love.

The instrumental tracks give a little glimpse of hope, the penultimate three tracks deliver the goods, and the final song, “Sleep,” is a very good acoustic ballad that is not at all reminiscent of Savatage. Remember those high points I mentioned? In the end I can’t help but think of how much higher those highs would be if Oliva were at the helm instead. This is not Savatage.

A defining change of direction

Savatage - Gutter Ballet
Five of five stars

This album is a conundrum for me. Being an early Savatage purist, I find Gutter Ballet is at once a complete change of direction into a decidedly more progressive (and in my opinion, overly melodramatic) sound, yet still one of my favorites in the band’s 25-year catalog.

Savatage’s first five albums, minus the more pop-driven Fight for the Rock, to me define that classic Savatage sound that the band has almost completely abandoned in the 21st century. This album is the first stepping stone on the way down that path.

I remember purchasing Gutter Ballet on cassette in 1989, popping it into my Walkman (R.I.P.) and walking around my local shopping mall with the familiar sound of Savatage echoing in my head as the opening track, “Of Rage and War,” played. Sounded like a solid, classic Savatage tune, not too far at all removed from 1987’s Hall of the Mountain King.

It was the title track that woke me up to the fact that this band had matured immensely. So dynamic, so powerful and melodic; heavy on the piano. Too bad it would eventually morph into the melodramatic and self-important monstrosity known as Trans-Siberian Orchestra. As it stands on this album, though, the virgin outing of this new sound is incredible and highly recommended. For TSO fans and Savatage fans alike.

New banner is up!

I finally decided to throw together a header yesterday. I knocked this out after I finished another Photoshop job for a friend during the kids' gymnastics classes. Probably not done yet. I think it needs some more layering effects, but not sure what yet. Let's call it a work in progress.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

More on Netflix + a film review

It's been a few weeks now since Netflix rolled out disc-free access on PS3 and I gotta say--I'm loving it. I prefer to browse now on my console rather than on the PC. Browsing for movies and managing my queue has never been easier.

I thought I was going to like it from day one, but it's way more than that. The best feature? If I had to pick a favorite it would be the new release function. I just added Disney's Alice in Wonderland to my instant queue today. The kids have been wanting to watch that one again, but I'm not going to be purchasing it because I wasn't too fond of it.

Anyway, I just had to offer a follow-up to my original post so you could see the impression I am left with a few weeks after the conversion. Still in love with Netflix. So in love that I'm adding to my queue faster than I can watch. 

Last week on instant view I checked out Call of Cthulhu, a 2006 short film (45 minutes) produced as though it were a '20s era silent film. This was easily the best Cthulhu mythos film I've ever seen. The silent film style perfectly meshed with Lovecraft's vision of creeping horror. I think the key is that the effects were not over-the-top and since there was no spoken dialogue, the mind of the viewer can fill in the gaps better than any movie could. It's the perfect synthesis of film and reading. What an original concept.

Okay, that's it for this week. Thanks for reading. If you have Netflix and are a Lovecraft fan, do yourself a favor and check out Call of Cthulhu. Catch you again soon.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Link to my page

As I mentioned before, I have become a writer for I've totally flaked on this site because of everything else going on. I wanted to at least give out a link to my page, which will be updated weekly at least. My goal is two to three articles per week, but as it's all going to have to be on one topic, that might be a lofty number to keep up while maintaining originality.

If you're interested in checking it out, you can find my Examiner page at Wish me luck!