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.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Photography: It's freaking old

A simple click on today's Google Doodle instantly revealed to me a wealth of knowledge regarding one of the great classical composers, Gioachino Rossini. Of course we all know Rossini from his operatic compositions The Barber of Seville and William Tell, or perhaps from the Great Kat's sensible and low-key speed metal masterpiece Rossini's Rape (NSFW).

But the one thing that stood out for me in the Wikipedia entry on Rossini was the photographs. There are three photos of Rossini in his later years on that page. This is a guy who was born in the 18th Century. That's more than 200 years ago. This is a guy who met and talked with Beethoven as a contemporary. And his photos look amazingly clear for having been taken in what would be considered photography's infancy.

Now, when I think "old photos," my mind turns toward the Old West photos of Billy the Kid or John Wesley Hardin, who once shot a man for snoring too loud. ;) Who hasn't wanted to recreate one of these at the little costume and souvenir photograph shop at Six Flags? They're an ingrained part of historic American culture, but these iconic images came about 10, even 20 years after the photos of Rossini and they are far less detailed.
Think about this: had Beethoven lived another 10 or 15 years, we may have actual daguerrotype images of him in a museum somewhere today. That is one old technology. This goes decades back beyond Eastman-Kodak's first amateur photography cameras of the 1890s-1900s.

So, though I must give props to Rossini, as it is the 220th anniversary of his birth, I must also take this Rare Disease Awareness Day to not only make others aware of Friedreich's Ataxia and its horrible effects on those poor children who have been diagnosed but to give a big shout out to Louis Daguerre, who kickstarted this wonderful medium which has fully matured from people sitting perfectly still for hours in their Sunday best to expose the plate and developers spending untold time perfecting dangerous chemical processes, to sexting, SOPA and the ubiquity of the camera phone which led to the creation of anthropologically and culturally valuable websites like

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Taking a bite out of Apple?

I just read a very interesting article here. In a nutshell, there's this Chinese tech company called Proview that created a product in 2000 called the IPAD (Internet Personal Access Device). The IPAD was sold throughout Asia.

In 2009 Apple wanted that name for a product it had in development (and wanted to sell throughout Asia as well as the rest of the world), so Apple created a special purpose company called IP Application Development Ltd. to contact Proview and negotiate the possible sale of the IPAD name, based solely on the fact that it was an acronym for their company's name. Proview had no idea that IP Application Development was even remotely affiliated with Apple.

The sale went through, but once Proview realized they had been duped by one of the leading technology manufacturers in the world (worth more than $460 billion), they were not happy. A Proview spokesman said, "While some technology companies create special purpose vehicles in order to obtain trademarks, in this case the sole function of Apple's special purpose vehicle was intentional misrepresentation, and an effort to fraudulently induce Proview Taiwan into a sale of the IPAD trademarks."

Essentially, these guys thought they were selling to the Washington University Public Health Forum but they were really selling to the Walt Disney Company for way less than Disney would have paid had they known that's who the buyer was. D'oh!

If Proview wins their fraud lawsuit the iPad trademarks in the EU, Mexico and throughout Asia would revert back to Proview. I love Apple and its products, and I typically loathe Chinese products and their shoddy workmanship, but I gotta root for the little guy on this one. Shame on Apple for being so devious and underhanded.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Iron Swedish Chef

God, how I'd love to see this happen. With the renewed energy around the Muppets franchise lately, perhaps it will...

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

iTunes Ping goes haywire?

I noticed a couple weeks ago that my profile page on iTunes Ping says I have not written any reviews. However, if you scroll through my history you can see my reviews. Confusing. It was difficult enough to find them as is; now it's downright frustrating.

Since I previously called attention to my iTunes reviews in another post, I figured I'd might as well go ahead and just copy my reviews to this blog, backdated to their original posting date and thus making them much easier to find.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Three TV shows I'm glad I found

I don't really watch a whole lot of scripted, dramatic TV these days. Most of my tastes run toward more reality-based shows such as Whale Wars, American Pickers, Survivor, etc., though I do enjoy Doctor Who and a handful of other programs as well.

There are three easily accessible dramas on TV that I am so very glad I discovered. One is no longer airing, one is currently casting for its second season, and the other is into its second full season now.

I went on a long break from watching network TV dramas several years ago. When my wife and I got married, I think aside from a couple of Star Trek series that were playing weekly at that time, ER was the only network drama I was into. Until a coworker at Target with whom I really connected was telling me one night about Lost.

He insisted that he had the same feelings about network programming as I. He did not watch much TV at all, but this particular program was unlike anything he'd ever seen. It was very mysterious. It had an enormous, possibly unprecedentedly so, cast of main characters and was very character driven. It was refreshingly mind-bending.

So on his recommendation I illegally downloaded episode one. Bear in mind, this was before Hulu. It was also before ABC had a library of episodes actually available to watch for free as a streaming feed.

I downloaded it, watched it, and kept it thinking my wife might want to check it out too. I downloaded another couple of episodes and watched them as well. At this point I was hooked, and I had no choice but to share this incredible find with Heather too. I wrangled her into a chair and we watched those episodes at the computer desk. Then I deleted them from my computer and downloaded the rest of that season and the next. One by one, we watched and then deleted them.

Season three found us watching on TV like everyone else. John at Target was right. Lost quickly became my favorite TV show. Each week I was glued to the set, eager to find out the next twist. I began listening to the official Lost podcast each week too, hosted by the show's head writers, Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse. Lindelof co-created the show with executive producer J.J. Abrams.

Essentially, the show is about a bunch of people who get stranded on a mysterious island after their plane crashes there. They have not only the natural elements on the island to contend with as they try desperately to survive, but also the unnatural (or perhaps supernatural is a better word) elements. They soon find out they're not alone on the island, nor was their crash landing an accident in the purest sense of the word. Though strangers, they are all there for a very specific reason.

The storytelling is done in a very unorthodox manner, flashing from present day to the past, giving subtle clues along the way that help piece together the back story and make connections between the characters that they themselves don't even know exist. In later seasons the flashbacks become flash forwards to what happens after they've escaped the island. During its run we also see flashes into alternate timelines and other things that will just make your head spin with all the possibilities they unleash.

For six seasons, I loved damn near every episode. Man, that show was a trip. I can't tell you how many engrossing conversations that program was responsible for initiating. I miss it sometimes. If you have never watched Lost, do yourself a favor and immediately find somewhere to rent it on DVD. It's also available streaming on Netflix. If you don't find it the most engaging TV you've ever experienced, I'll eat my socks.

Moving forward in time now to 2011, a new horror anthology series debuted on FX network in October. Created by Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk (yes, the same guys who created Glee -- but don't forget, they also came up with Nip/Tuck), American Horror Story once again broke the mold of the television drama.

The pilot episode pushed the censorship limits of cable TV with egregious amounts of violence, sex, cursing and nudity. It was honestly a little hard to watch. I had been expecting something a bit more classy, with more substance rather than irreverence simply for the sake of irreverence. In subsequent episodes the show proved that though it was definitely deserving of its TV-MA rating, the storytelling was solid and the creep factor quite effective.

The story centers on a family of three, including a teen daughter, who move from Boston to L.A. to start over after the wife delivers a stillborn baby and the husband is caught having an affair with one of his students. The viewer knows right away there is something very unsettling about the house: its owners always seem to end up dead. Violently dead.

The first season contains 12 episodes. Like Lost, this one jumps around a little bit to give you glimpses into the back story of either the main characters or the house. I don't want to give too much away, but let me just tell you that the women cast in the show are fantastic. Connie Britton, Taissa Farmiga and Jessica Lange (who won a Golden Globe and a SAG award for her work on the show) give simply stellar performances every week. If you can stomach the opener, track this one down and give the whole series a shot. It rules.

Oh, and American Horror Story should also win an award for creepiest goddamn opening credits sequence ever. It's crappin' scary.

Finally, we come to AMC's breakout hit, The Walking Dead. I know, the zombie thing is getting kind of played out these days. It's gone mainstream and seems to have lost its bite so to speak. This show is a result of that mainstream acceptance of the zombie, but as a zombie enthusiast from before they jumped the undead shark, trust me when I tell you that in this case it's led to a good thing.

It's based on a comic book which, as I understand, is quite successful in its own right. As a former comic reader, though I haven't purchased one since about 2003, I respect the aesthetic of the comic book as an art form and a graphic storytelling medium. I love the idea of basing a television show off of a comic, especially a title published by Image Comics. And, dammit, despite the zombie mania that seems to be sweeping across mainstream America, I like the idea of a TV show that takes place in a sort of post-apocalyptic zombie wasteland.

Apparently a lot of others dig it too. I talk about the series with coworkers. My older sister and her husband watch The Walking Dead too. So do my parents, who are in their 60s for crying out loud, and I've never known them to voluntarily consume any media dealing with zombies. Even vampires are a stretch for them, though we did all see Blade when it originally ran in theaters and they seemed to dig it.

The Walking Dead doesn't have a whole lot of originality in the background story. Seriously, it's your typical zombie apocalypse back story. It's the characters and their interactions that make the series what it is. The light gore and bloody effects are pretty impressive too.

The first season is out on DVD and the second is currently airing Monday nights on AMC. Do yourself a favor and check it out.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Not sure how I feel about Google's cloud music service

I've had Google Music for a few weeks now, and if I've learned anything it's that it's nice to have a lot of your personal music collection at your fingertips without having to go through that laborious effort of toting about and switching CDs; but at the same time, it's complete drudgery going through the process of uploading all your stuff to the Google Music server.

I don't know about anyone else, but my upload speed is evidently appallingly slow. It's like being on freaking dialup. I currently have nearly 100 albums uploaded to my cloud and it took probably a week to do that. It's absolutely torturous.

If you can put up with the upload speed, or perhaps you have a faster connection than I, the service itself is very nice. It's free to upload 25,000 songs, free to access them as much as you wish (they are yours, after all), and you can do so form anywhere you can get online. Essentially, your music collection travels with you wherever you go, as long as you can access an Internet connection.

The organization of the albums is nice, as well as the ability to make playlists and edit track or album information. You also get the ability to download your music to another device (up to twice only). You get a few sorting options - by track, artist, album, or genre. All in all, for a free servcice, it's hard to complain about. But I will, in the interest of playing the Devil's advocate.

My biggest beef with this service is that the only way to access it is through a web browser. I'm guessing smart phones can access it, but I still live in dumb phone land so I wouldn't know for sure. What would really be nice, as I've said before about free streaming music service Spotify, is if I could access it from a home video game console. My PS3 is hooked up to my home entertainment system and stereo receiver, so it would be cool if I could pump this music library through that system by accessing it on the PS3, like a streaming media server. That would even be worth paying a premium for. I can always route my laptop sound output through the receiver, but that's kind of ghetto to me.

Another complaint I have is that you cannot edit the information about multiple tracks at once. You can edit album information, that's true, but there's no way to, say, select multiple albums and edit the artist information for all of them. Similarly, you do not have the ability from the main sorting screen to do anything with an album other than play it. If you want to add an album to a playlist, you can't do it from that screen; you must first click the album so that you are taken to that specific album's information. Only from there can you add the album to a playlist or edit its ID3 tags. It just seems like they could stand to eliminate a few mouse clicks here or there.

I also wish it would integrate with Facebook or Google+ like Spotify is. It could definitely be more of a social experience, and I'm very surprised that Google hasn't taken this route with it. By adding music and posting your listening preferences, you would be promoting tracks for purchase in the Android store.

I can tell you one other thing about Google Music. Since I signed up I have barely listened to Spotify at all. Then again, I've spent a lot of time editing inaccurate track information too. Sometimes it's right going in but ends up incorrect once it's there.

All in all, I suppose it's worth taking a look at if you're interested.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

R.I.P. Whitney Houston

The image to the left was used in the interior sleeve of Whitney Houston's eponymous 1985 debut album. When I was 11 to 12 years old I can't tell you how many times I stared at this photo while wearing out my "Whitney Houston" cassette tape listening to it over and over. I had such a crush on this beautiful young black woman with the gorgeous and powerful voice.

As more of her saturated the MTV charts over the following years, I maintained my secret crush on Ms. Houston, up until her marriage with that guy that used to be one of the kids in New Edition. When news got out that he was acting like a dick I said to myself, "What in the world is goddess-like Whitney Houston doing with a loser like that?"

Once the '90s progressed further and Bobby and Whitney both became tabloid fodder, she really began losing her sexual mystique. I started seeing her as just another trashy, drug-addled loser. "Crack is wack," she once said to Diane Sawyer in a TV interview, but somehow I didn't believe that she'd stayed away from it despite her protestations. The woman I'd once admired was completely fried. It was then that I did my own sort of mourning for Whitney.

Yesterday's news of Whitney's death is really not that surprising considering her past. It's still a shame though. She was incredibly talented and a legend in her own time. Whitney will be missed.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Like you didn't see this coming...

Well, the minute I started blogging about heavy metal music, any reader who truly knows me would have expected me to lead off with a post about my favorite metal band of all time, Manowar. Gamma Ray was probably a bit of a curve ball for those folks. I didn't want to be too predictable, but I can't wait any longer to give Manowar their due.

Manowar was formed in 1980 in Auburn, New York, by former members of the bands the Dictators, the Rods, and Shakin' Street, along with newcomer vocalist Eric Adams. After recording a demo tape in 1981 a new drummer was recruited, making the new roster Adams, bassist Joey DeMaio, guitarist Ross "The Boss" Friedman, and drummer Donnie Hamzik.

Their debut album, Battle Hymns, was released in 1982 on Liberty Records. Their followup, Into Glory Ride, came out in 1983, as they left their label to sign a contract with Music For Nations (in their own blood, no less) with yet another new drummer, Scott Columbus. This album marked the beginning of the band's penchant for medieval battle and Norse pantheon themes. 1984 brought their album Hail to England, and Sign of the Hammer arrived only ten months later.

1987 saw Manowar's first major label release, Fighting the World, on Atlantic Records. It was through this album that I was first exposed to my new favorite band. In 1988 the band released their best-selling album worldwide, Kings of Metal. During their subsequent tour they parted ways with Columbus and Ross the Boss, recruiting new drummer, "Rhino," and new guitarist David Shankle.

In 1992 Manowar released their seventh album, The Triumph of Steel, and the heads of myself and my friends were fit to fully explode. Rhino and Shankle were welcome replacements, as this album (the first one any of us had purchased on CD) sounded so much more brutal than any of its predecessors. It did have a bit of a downfall though. The first track on the disc was a 28-minute long epic about the Iliad called "Achilles, Agony and Ecstasy in Eight Parts." Jeez, I think in the 20 years I've owned that disc I've only listened to the entirety of that track no more than three times. Snoozefest, that one. Sorry, guys.

After a long tour Rhino departed the band to make way for the return of the mighty Scott Columbus, and Shankle left the band as well, leaving a space for new guitarist (and my favorite one of the bunch) Karl Logan. 1996 would see the release of one of my least favorite Manowar albums, Louder Than Hell. Over the next several years touring would take most of the band's time. Two double live albums were released in the interim between 1996 and 2002's return to the studio to produce one of their best efforts, Warriors of the World.

Warriors is a damn fine piece of metal. The first time I gave it a spin I told myself, "This is the record that they should have done after Kings of Metal!"

In 2003, Joey DeMaio created his own label, Magic Circle Music, which is now the band's permanent home. DeMaio also went hog wild with Manowar live DVD releases in the post-2000s, with a few EPs scattered here and there as well. Their next full-length studio album, Gods of War, was released in 2007.

In 2011, drummer Scott Columbus passed away at age 54. No official cause of death was announced, though rumor told of his battles with poor health throughout his on-again, off-again career with Manowar. Upon his passing, veteran drummer Donnie Hamzik returned to the band. This actually gives them the strongest lineup in the history of the band, in my opinion: DeMaio, Adams, Hamzik and Logan. KILLER. They re-recorded their debut album in its entirety, dubbing this release Battle Hymns MMXI, and finally came back to the U.S. for a very protracted tour schedule.

That tour was the second time I saw Manowar perform live, and it reaffirmed my faith that no band puts on a better live show. Period.

Manowar has been collaborating with famous German sci-fi/fantasy author Wolfgang Hohlbein over the past few years on their next outing, The Asgard Saga, which is scheduled for release this year. According to plan, it should coincide with related releases in literary, visual art and film formats as well. Not sure how that's going to work out, frankly. I'm just hoping for another great album.

So here's a taste of a song from Manowar's most recent EP. It's supposed to be a teaser for the upcoming album. The song is called "Thunder in the Sky," and it's on regular iPod rotation for me. Here's a live version:

...And my list of full-length Manowar releases, in order of favorite to least favorite:

1. Battle Hymns MMXI
2. Warriors of the World
3. Kings of Metal
4. Hail to England
5. Fighting the World
6. Gods of War
7. The Triumph of Steel
8. Sign of the Hammer
9. Battle Hymns
10. Louder Than Hell
11. Into Glory Ride

Friday, February 3, 2012

A quick Photoshop project

One afternoon I was asked out of the blue by one of my company's senior managers to whip up a graphic showing a five-point delivery system related to our estate planning services division. He wanted it for a PowerPoint presentation, I guess.

Wasting no time, I went right to work, thinking to myself, "What gives an impression of stability and reliability better than Greek and Roman architecture? It's been standing for centuries, plus they were a very educated people. I should base this design somehow on the Parthenon."

Following that inspiration I whipped this up for him in under an hour using Photoshop CS4. Mission accomplished.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

A 20+ year obsession comes of age

OK, so since I've designated this page as media-themed and that can mean just about anything really, I'm going to start additionally using it as a way to spotlight a musical obsession I've had for nearly 25 years: METAL.

And I'm not talking about that cookie cutter new metal that we get in abundance in the USA. I enjoy listening to that stuff once in a while--even Nickelback takes a few turns on my iPod rotation now and then. What I'm talking about is the stuff that doesn't get much or any airplay on so-called "hard rock and metal" radio stations in this country, at least nowhere I'm aware of. There's a whole world of heavy music out there that the average American hard rock fan has never been exposed to. Many of the bands in these subgenres have very successful careers throughout the world but are relatively unheard of in North America.

I'm going to keep this blog going as before, but when I am at a loss for a "normal" post, I'll toss in a link to a YouTube video, official band site, album review or something else within the realm of legality that features a heavy music act that I think deserves some attention.

Kicking it off with some Gamma Ray. The band was founded by Kai Hansen, the original lead singer of German metal band Helloween. During Hansen's time at the helm, Helloween was a very decent thrash band. They only released a couple of EPs and a full-length album before his departure from the band and their new direction which originated the sound that came to be known as power metal.

Hansen went on to form Gamma Ray in 1988. Their debut album, Heading for Tomorrow, was released two years later on Noise Records. If featured Hansen on lead guitar and Ralf Scheepers on vocals. Scheepers would provide vocals for two additional outings before Hansen took over beginning on the 1995 release, Land of the Free. From that point on, Hansen would do double duty as lead guitarist and vocalist. He's also been the main songwriter during the band's career.

Scheepers went on to found another successful power metal band, Primal Fear, after being turned down as Rob Halford's replacement in Judas Priest.

To date, Gamma Ray has released 10 studio albums, three live discs and three EPs. They have become one of Germany's most successful metal acts ever. And deservedly so.

Here's Gamma Ray doing a live version of one of the catchiest tunes from their debut album, "Heaven Can Wait":