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.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Tee shirt design suggestions

The Book of Mormon Broadway musical's Facebook page recently asked fans to design a show-related tee shirt they'd like to see. Here are the two ideas I sent them. I have a third idea but it involves a cartoon frog, which I'm not sure I can draw competently. Perhaps I'll give it a try this weekend.



Thursday, March 29, 2012

"The River" finally makes waves

I watched the season finale of ABC's The River tonight, titled "Row, Row, Row Your Boat." After having almost lost interest in the series by about halfway through this first season, I'm kind of glad now that I forced myself to nurse it along. That finale was more like the show I'd expected to see that what had been coming to my DVR every week on...whatever day it aired.

The River was conceived by Oren Peli (Paranormal Activity films) and Michael R. Perry (writer for Eerie Indiana, American Gothic, The Practice, Law & Order: SVU, House, among others) and executive produced by Steven Spielberg. It aired as a mid-season replacement with an initial run of eight episodes in the first season.

The premise of the show is that a well-known American nature show host, Dr. Emmet Cole (played by Bruce Greenwood), has gone missing while on an expedition on the Amazon River. After six months the search is called off, but his family decides to continue the search when a transponder signal from Cole is picked up on radar. They gather the remainder of the television crew and set out to document their journey to find Dr. Cole.

The group eventually finds Cole's disabled boat, The Magus, and begins combing through the video footage Cole and his crew left behind. That's when they realize that Dr. Cole's decades-old catchphrase which he always concluded each program with, "There's magic out there," was meant literally. They see footage of Cole apparently holding flames in his hands, treading on water, and taking part in magical rituals with primitive tribes in the jungles of the Amazon.
Their trek soon takes them to a fork in the river, and they must begin following Cole's trail up an uncharted offshoot of the Amazon...An uncharted offshoot that begins displaying some magical properties of its own. In fact, the further up the river they go, the weirder things get. They encounter a new supernatural threat in each episode--some genuinely creepy, some only vaguely so.

The season began with a powerful double episode. The creep factor was quite high, as was expected from Paranormal Activity-type camerawork coupled with an endorsement from Spielberg in a show airing on the network that brought us Lost. But my biggest complaint after that initial airing was that the momentum and adrenaline rush got lost in the week-long gap between episodes.

The other complaint I had was that it seemed to be trying to too hard to pick up the mantle laid down when Lost went off the air: "Let's be weird and crazy and only give viewers a piece of the puzzle, then make it so each new answer creates three more questions. Just like Lost!"

In all, The River might end up being a better viewing experience on DVD. Perhaps that cross-episode suspense will maintain itself more effectively if you have the ability to watch the whole thing marathon style. Being only eight 44-minute episodes, once the first season DVD collection hits store shelves in late May you can easily digest the entire season in one day if the urge strikes you. If you do, let me know how that works out for you.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

This Film Is Not Yet Rated

I watched this documentary the other night on Netflix. It was quite entertaining, informative and thought provoking. In it the filmmaker, Kirby Dick, interviews many directors and writers whose films have, right or wrong, earned the infamous X or NC-17 rating from the MPAA, which means very limited distribution and no advertising budget. That usually translates into a box office turd. (Apologies for placing the word "turd" next to the adjacent graphic. Twice.)

The film explores the apparent inconsistency of the ratings process and brings light to the conclusion that many ratings seem to be based on what is best for the studios rather than the consumer, as the MPAA would have you believe. Part and parcel of that argument is the fact that indendent films are more likely to earn a more restrictive rating than major studio films, regardless of comparable content. Many examples are provided of identical scenes identified as root causes of specific ratings, yet the ratings are different.

Mr. Dick also digs into the clandestine nature of the ratings board itself as well as the ratings appeal board. The identities of these people have been shrouded in secrecy since the MPAA's inception in 1968. The current head of the MPAA's Classification and Rating Administration, Joan Graves, is the only member known to the public. That is, until Kirby Dick hires a private investigator to reveal all their identities. :)

Needless to say, the MPAA gave this film itself an NC-17 rating. Mr. Dick chose to forgo the rating entirely and give the MPAA the big kiss-off. That's why you've never heard of it. It's definitely worth a look if you are a cinephile like me.

Four of five stars

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Star Trekking into reality

Fans of the Star Trek franchise will no doubt tell you if you chide them for being lost in a fantasy world, that their fantasy world is becoming startlingly close to reality in some aspects. No, we're no closer to alien contact or anywhere near light speed travel, let alone beyond light speed. But many of the electronic devices imagined by Gene Roddenberry and the show's creative teams have seemingly begun sprouting up in the last decade or so.

For instance, we can begin with speech recognition programs for computers. Speech-to-type translators have been around for years. Now we're moving toward speech-interfaced personal assistants like the as yet imperfect SIRI from Apple on the iPhone 4S. It's not quite there yet, but we're making large strides. Shouldn't be too long before a major breakthrough.

We also have wireless communicators nowadays. No, the comm badges themselves aren't being mass produced, and of course they had walkie-talkies in 1966. I think the comm badges are closer to modern mobile phones than walkie-talkies. Think about it. No visible antenna; no need to continually press the Tx button to speak; no dialing needed (voice recognition again); they even have LoJack built in (along with GPS, another Star Trek reality, though they would only really work on earth, I guess)... It's not exactly the same, but I'd say the spirit of the communicator badge is represented by the mobile phone. (Oh, now that I think about it, mobile phones would only work on earth too. UNLESS the Enterprise has a built-in cell phone satellite network. Of course that's plausible.)

What else? We have cloaking devices, artificial intelligence, we've done amazing things as far as genetic mapping and cloning... Believe it or not, we've made initial inroads to making transporters a reality, though on a miniature, atomic scale at this point. I also think we're making our first baby steps toward real life replicators in the 3D printing process that's been invented in the last few years. Of course, we're nowhere near the ability to replicate foodstuffs, but as I said---baby steps. The XBOX 360 Kinect is not even close to the experience of the holodeck, but it's a start.

Dr. Beverly Crusher in Next Generation uses a portable touchscreen medical tablet that looks an awful lot like an iPad to me. And what's that other thing that Crusher and all the other officers use in every episode, in every series of the franchise? The tricorder, of course. Earlier this year, Qualcomm and the X Prize Foundation announced a $10M prize to the first person to create a real, working medical tricorder. Why? Because they know it's possible and, like their private space travel X Prize accomplished, they know that the reward will be motivation to make it a reality.

What's next? Warp speed travel? I doubt it. It might not even be possible--Einstein and Hawking seem to agree on that. But if it were possible it only makes sense that, as in the Star Trek mythos, the moment we achieve it is the moment the entire universe will open up to us. It would be like creating fire or the wheel for the first time.

Star Trek is an enduring fantasy to me because we keep seeing science fiction edging closer to science fact. Every step we get closer to the technology of Star Trek brings me closer to the hope that the franchise embodies. That hope is the magic of peace that resonates out from earth's First Contact with an intelligent, enlightened and peaceful alien race. Can you imagine?

In the mythos, once First Contact has been made and we realize that we are not alone in the universe, that realization paves the way for world peace. Suddenly all our squabbles on this hunk of mud floating around on the unfashionable end of this outer spiral arm of the Milky Way galaxy will seem rather petty, don't you think?

Monday, March 26, 2012

New Manowar album preview!

Below is a video of members of "The Circle" - fans and media contacts hand chosen by Manowar - previewing the rough mix of the newest studio track, "El Gringo," from Manowar's upcoming album, which will be released in late June/early July 2012.

Not only am I stoked for the new album; I also saw this as an opportunity to hopefully get involved with this "Circle." For now, count on me to promote Manowar news whenever I receive updates. Later, who knows?

 

Also note that 2012 is the 10th anniversary of one of my favorite Manowar discs, Warriors of the World. It's a big year! Perhaps another U.S. visit will be in the works???

Hail and Kill,
Your brother of steel
official band site:
www.manowar.com

Thursday, March 22, 2012

The doctor is in

I just finished reading Ozzy Osbourne's second book, Trust Me, I'm Dr. Ozzy, and I really enjoyed it. It's quite an easy and frightfully entertaining read. Apparently the Prince of Darkness has an advice column that's printed in the London Sunday Times and Rolling Stone, where he doles out pearls of wisdom concerning substance abuse, family life, relationships, medicine and darn near everything else under the sun. This book is a greatest hits compilation from that column.

Being only 304 pages and composed mainly of letters from readers and Ozzy's oft-times witty and sometimes sincere responses, it does go very quickly. I pretty much got through it in four sittings (unless the bathroom counts, tee hee), which is good for me. I haven't blasted through a book that quickly in ages. It was highly entertaining and hard to put down. Ozzy's a funny guy. It kind of makes me want to read his first book, I Am Ozzy, as well.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Volunteer work for Peoria Academy

OK, here's that video I was telling you about last week. I put this together for the annual school fundraiser auction, and it was played immediately preceding the paddle raise segment. I got a lot of compliments afterward, but that wasn't the best part.

video
This video got folks in the mood to donate, and in a big way. We surpassed our goal with the paddle raise. I won't say exactly how much it raised, but I will say it was a five digit figure that came in a few thousand over the goal and paid for the new HVAC unit we desperately needed at the school. Very impressive outcome to say the least.

I can't wait to undertake a more professional recruiting piece for the school's website. I will start planning that one within a few weeks, and I'll waste no time in posting that one when it's done.

High quality link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OLs7uq40OZQ

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The death throes of print

E-readers are becoming more common lately.
With all the buzz around e-readers like the Nook and Kindle and devices like the iPad with e-reader capabilities, not to mention the proliferation of information available on the Internet, it seems it's only a matter of time before the printed tome sees its last days. I await this day with a feeling of anxiousness and dread.

I've never actually used an e-reader and I don't read as much as I used to, but I'm one of those people that's going to take forever to convert to electronic books, and maybe I never will. One of the things I love about printed books is the feeling of accomplishment I get when the stack of pages to the left of my current page starts to grow then eventually surpass the size of the stack of pages to the right. I can't see any way possible that a Nook can give me that same feeling.

There's also the storage issue, which can be a pro or a con either way. I love being able to display the books I've read (or plan on reading) in my home, but you can't really do that with e-books. On the flip side, it's a lot easier to relocate a Kindle than box after box of books should I need to move. And packing is a snap.

My local library now loans e-books too. I was looking for what I thought was an audiobook on the shelf and ended up having to ask the librarian about it. She informed me that it was an electronic book for e-readers and I was more or less gobsmacked. She said they work the same way as borrowing a traditional book. You get limited access to it before the next person checks it out. Weird.
The recently opened branch of my local library has sparsely
populated shelves and offers electronic loans.
I simply haven't been sold on the e-reader phenomenon yet, but at this point I can recognize some benefits. The library example makes sense to me. If I had an e-reader, I'd be most likely to start using it here due to the fleeting nature of how quickly the library book enters and exits my life.

Oh, you know what I hate though? When I'm happily reading during my lunch break, and everyone who enters the room interrupts me to ask, "What are you reading?" Would that be even worse when the book has no cover? It would be hella easier to lie, I guess. "Oh, er- I'm reading War and Peace. For the third time." (Actually it's the collected Penthouse forum letters from 1980-2000.)

But what brought this to mind today was this article I saw on the New York Times website about the Encyclopaedia Britannica ending its run of printed volumes after 244 years. I'm also one of those guys (relics, I guess) who places more faith in the written word than the electronic one, though it's hard to argue with the power to instantly update an electronic encyclopedia. I guess if you're paying an online subscription fee of $70 annually to access the Britannica material, that's still reliable information at a reasonable cost for a home with a student. My bias against online information is targeted mainly toward the stuff that's freely available from any number of self-titled "experts."
The 22-volume set of the World Book Encyclopedia from 1976
was my best friend in research throughout childhood.

When I was a kid we had the World Book Encyclopedia in our home (still in print, thank you). It was a series that was probably printed in 1976, and each year we got a Yearbook from the publisher that included updates on many of the older topics and even some new ones. The Yearbook came with a couple pages of lick-and-stick citation references to place on the appropriate pages of the volume set. I used to love combing through the different books and placing those update tabs each year. I remember that the entry for computers had nearly a quarter of the page plastered with those little update stickers. The photo in the original entry featured a laboratory computer about the size of two refrigerators.

Electronic information may be easier and cheaper to create, maintain, update and access, but that doesn't mean I have to accept the change quietly. This electronic age is beginning to sound the death knell for printed media in every form. Some magazines and newspapers have gone to electronic-only versions, including one of my childhood favorites, Cracked magazine (which I'm happy to say has matured along with me to a more adult-themed humor). In addition, the United States Postal Service has felt the sting dealt by the ubiquity of electronic communication, which has led to mail sorting facility and post offfice closings all over the country.

This is a new world, folks. I feel like we're teetering on the edge of somewhere I'm not sure I want to go. Add another 30 years and throw in a worldwide nuclear war... Looks like that book The Postman might be more a prediction of the future than pure science fiction. Haven't read it? Oh, you should. The movie's OK too, but I'd recommend the book over the film any day. Oh, and it's available for the Kindle too, at a fraction of the hardback cost. Sigh.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

More pro bono work to add to the portfolio

I just finished up a pretty cool video project for my children's private school. My wife and I donated our time last week to plan, write, direct, shoot and edit a brief promotional video to be shown at a fundraiser.

More details to come, but they'll have to wait until next Saturday (March 17). I need to make sure that we have the benefit of first viewing at our school fundraiser dinner and auction on the evening of March 16.

I'm happy to have been given the opportunity to help out again, and not only do I help the school with this project - my wife parlayed it into an opportunity to allow me to create and place a free ad for my son's ballet school in the event program as payment!

In addition, this project is also blossoming into another opportunity, to create a more high-profile video of the same ilk for the school's web page. Hooray for me! Things are looking up. :)

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

New graphic for the ol' blog

Today I concocted and installed this new favicon for my blog. In addition I changed the header copy to read "M3 Blog" rather than "McGraw Media Matters." There might be a header graphic and title change in the works as well, but I have not yet decided for sure. "McGraw Media Matters" seems not quite right to me. But I love the M3 thing, so whatever I change it to has to incorporate the alliteration of "M."

Monday, March 5, 2012

Early Adobe Illustrator work

These two animal drawings represent some of the first attempts I did at creating vector graphics in Illustrator CS2, way back in 2008. They were traced in the application from actual photographs. This was also long before I had my pen & tablet for line drawing, which means it was all rather clumsily done with a mouse. Regardless, I still think they look pretty darn nice.