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, April 30, 2013

National Poetry Month comes to an end

I hope you've enjoyed reading some of my favorite poems this month. Hopefully I've exposed you to some new writers during this process. I know I discovered a couple poets this month that I was previously unaware of.

How does one end National Poetry Month with a grand finale, considering all the written beauty we've absorbed this month? How can I top that? Well, I wondered the same thing myself. Here's what I came up with:

What's more beautiful and moving than the words of a poem washing over a page and filling your mind with emotion? When those flowing, emotional words are set to music the emotion can sometimes swell to flood stage. With that in mind I present to you, in no particular order, three of what I consider the most poetic songs ever written.

Chris Rea's "The Road to Hell"
 
 
Nick Cave's "Where the Wild Roses Grow"
 
 
 ...and (best for last)... 
Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah"
 
 
 

Monday, April 29, 2013

National Poetry Month #29

First, on an unrelated note, happy birthday to my loving wife, Heather. She is a super mother and wife who sacrifices daily for her family. I just want to let everyone know how much I appreciate what she does for this family. She's very sweet, and she would never approve of the poems I'm going to feature today.

This morning I was introduced, through my Grammar Geeks group on LinkedIn, to the wickedly funny poetry of a British man named Harry Graham. I've never heard of this guy before today, but I love his mischievous sense of humor. It reminds me of Edward Gorey's Gashlycrumb Tinies. Proceed with caution in reading the following short poems by Harry Graham.

UNCLEJOE
An angel bore dear Uncle Joe
To rest beyond the stars.
I miss him, oh! I miss him so,--
He had such good cigars.

AUNT ELIZA
In the drinking-well
(Which the plumber built her)
Aunt Eliza fell, --
We must buy a filter.

TRAGEDY
That morning, when my wife eloped
With James, our chauffer, how I moped!
What tragedies in life there are!
I'm dashed if I can start the car.

ACCIDENT
"There's been an accident!" they said,
"Your servant's cut in half; he's dead."
"Indeed!" said Mr. Jones , "and please
Give me the half that's got my keys."

COMPENSATION
Weep not for little Leonie,
 Abducted by a French Marquis!
Though loss of honour was a wrench,
Just think how it's improved her French.

TENDER HEARTEDNESS
Billy, in one of his nice new sashes,
Fell in the fire and was burnt to ashes;
Now, although the room grows chilly,
I haven't the heart to poke poor Billy.

THE STERN PARENT
Father heard his children scream,
So he threw them in the stream,
Saying, as he drowned the third,
"Children should be seen, not heard!"

CALCULATING CLARA
O'er the rugged mountain's brow
Clara threw the twins she nursed,
And remarked, "I wonder now
Which will reach the bottom first?"



 
 

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Delta Machine hits a raw nerve

I've been listening to Depeche Mode's newest album this evening. I was curious what kind of feedback this thing is getting because it's a distinctly new sort of sound for the trio, so I dug in to some online reviews. Man, the critics can be so harsh sometimes. It seems from my reading that most reviewers are panning this disc pretty well across the board. A few good reviews are to be found, but for the most part they're writing that Delta Machine is the band's worst album in their 33-year, 13-album career.

Without even having heard every one of the band's albums, I'd have to disagree.

Let me preface this, in the interest of full disclosure, by stating up front that Violator is one of my all-time favorite albums, and it's the one that I hold all newer ('90s and later) Depeche Mode albums up against for scrutiny. I haven't liked a whole lot of their offerings since then. The immediate followup, Songs of Faith and Devotion was pretty solid, but they kind of lost me with Ultra. In my opinion, the opening track, "Barrel of a Gun," was hard to beat on that record. After that, I just kinda lost interest, preferring the back catalog to any new offerings. Between the compilation Catching Up..., Some Great Reward, Violator and Songs of Faith..., I was pretty happy with my collection and had no need to update it.

When I heard about this newest effort, I had to check it out. The iTunes previews interested me, so I went ahead and sprung for the two-disc special edition. I am not disappointed... for the most part. It doesn't have the overall danceability of Violator, but it somehow feels musically more relevant to today than I thought it would. It's raw, unfiltered and subtly visceral, with an electronic and synth edge I was not expecting.

I've read reviews that say this album has no ties to DM's back catalog, but I disagree. I'm not that familiar with their very early stuff, but I can clearly hear echoes of that early comp Catching Up with Depeche Mode in this album--not in every track, mind you, and not even as the sole influence on the tracks which do exhibit that sound. But it's there nonetheless; you'll really hear it in "Broken" and "Soft Touch/Raw Nerve."

The thing that immediately appealed to me about this record is that it has an overall simplicity to it that is purely electronic and grungy. Like a wine with notes of oak or cherry, I am getting a taste of Trent Reznor's most recent efforts, an aroma of Daft Punk's Tron: Legacy soundtrack, and a hint of the sonic soundscapes of Atticus Ross. Many of the tracks early in the record have a very minimalist electronic approach that really appeals to me--a stark contrast to what we've heard from the band up to now. This is especially apparent in the two opening tracks, "Welcome to My World" and "Angel."

Standouts are the danceable "Soothe My Soul" and the introspective "Slow," which reminds me of Violator's "Clean."

Overall, I think Delta Machine is a solid album from a band that is back on the cutting edge where they should be. Sure, there are a few duds on the disc, and the whole album is admittedly not for everyone, but it worked for me.


National Poetry Month #28

My man Poe deserves one more look. I can't help myself. I really think reading this guy helped shape who I am today. Through Poe I got my first taste a lot of dark ideas that would become the foundation of what entertains me even today. That gothic sense of dread and longing, themes of man facing his mortality, shades of the supernatural... It truly is a wonder that it took me more than 30 years to really appreciate Lovecraft, considering the huge influence Poe was on his works.

Take this work, for example:

SPIRITS OF THE DEAD
by Edgar Allan Poe

Thy soul shall find itself alone
'Mid dark thoughts of the grey tomb-stone;
Not one, of all the crowd, to pry
Into thine hour of secrecy.

Be silent in that solitude,
Which is not loneliness — for then
The spirits of the dead, who stood
In life before thee, are again
In death around thee, and their will
Shall overshadow thee; be still.

The night, though clear, shall frown,
And the stars shall not look down
From their high thrones in the Heaven
With light like hope to mortals given,
But their red orbs, without beam,
To thy weariness shall seem
As a burning and a fever
Which would cling to thee for ever.

Now are thoughts thou shalt not banish,
Now are visions ne'er to vanish;
From thy spirit shall they pass
No more, like dew-drop from the grass.

The breeze, the breath of God, is still,
And the mist upon the hill
Shadowy, shadowy, yet unbroken,
Is a symbol and a token.
How it hangs upon the trees,
A mystery of mysteries!

Saturday, April 27, 2013

National Poetry Month #27

Here we are on day 27 of National Poetry Month, and I think it's high time we revisit the first poet I ever really considered myself a fan of: Poe. This one, along with "The Raven," was a favorite of mine right out of the gate, even reading it as a junior high kid. I remember being probably 13 or so and reading this one into a tape recorder so I could listen to it again and again. Seems kind of narcissistic in retrospect...

A DREAM WITHIN A DREAM
by Edgar Allan Poe

Take this kiss upon the brow!
And, in parting from you now,
This much let me avow-
You are not wrong, who deem
That my days have been a dream within a dream;
Yet if hope has flown away
In a night, or in a day,
In a vision, or in none,
Is it therefore the less gone?
All that we see or seem
Is but a dream within a dream.

I stand amid the roar
Of a surf-tormented shore,
And I hold within my hand
Grains of the golden sand-
How few! yet how they creep
Through my fingers to the deep,
While I weep- while I weep!
O God! can I not grasp
Them with a tighter clasp?
O God! can I not save
One from the pitiless wave?
Is all that we see or seem
But a dream within a dream?

Friday, April 26, 2013

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National Poetry Month #26

Today a fantastic item came through on my Facebook news feed from I Fucking Love Science. It's part poem, part riddle; part religion, part science. I thought it was pretty sweet, so I will share it with you:

He is everywhere, in the heavens and the earth.
He makes the stars shine, yet He cannot be seen.
He is noble, abundant, and fills the universe.
He can lift you into the sky and bring you gently back down.
He can take many forms.
He can help heal; He can help kill.
He can help create, and He can help destroy.

Praise be unto He,
Helium.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

National Poetry Month #25

Once again I venture back into that fascinating world of H.P. Lovecraft and feature one of his best (and longest) poetic pieces, "Fungi from Yuggoth." This piece is presented in 36 parts. Here is my favorite of the bunch:

XX. Night-Gaunts

Out of what crypt they crawl, I cannot tell,
But every night I see the rubbery things,
Black, horned, and slender, with membraneous wings,
And tails that bear the bifid barb of hell.
They come in legions on the north wind’s swell,
With obscene clutch that titillates and stings,
Snatching me off on monstrous voyagings
To grey worlds hidden deep in nightmare’s well.

Over the jagged peaks of Thok they sweep,
Heedless of all the cries I try to make,
And down the nether pits to that foul lake
Where the puffed shoggoths splash in doubtful sleep.
But oh! If only they would make some sound,
Or wear a face where faces should be found!


 

Coaster compendium detail #1


Going back to those descriptions I promised you a while back, I'd like to talk about the roller coasters I've got under my belt--or that have had me under their belt as it were. It's all adding up to this summer, when I plan on adding a few more to the list on my quest for 100 coasters. This is exciting.

To begin with, it's fortunate that the first coaster I ever remember riding happens to be the first one alphabetically as well.

The American Eagle is located at Six Flags Great America in Gurnee, Illinois. It's a racing coaster by Intamin, running two trains--a red and a blue--simultaneously, though most of the times I've been to the park there seems to be only one side open. I've ridden this coaster countless times. It was the first serious coaster I ever rode--probably at about age 6 or 7--and I remember my first time on that initial drop like it was yesterday. To this day it's still a great initial climb and drop. As a matter of fact it's still a solid overall coaster. That huge helix is unlike any other I've experienced. I've also ridden this coaster backwards, as they sometimes run it with the cars reversed toward the end of the year or for Fright Fest.

When American Eagle was built in 1981, it set world records for:
  • Fastest roller coaster (66 mph)
  • Largest drop on a roller coaster (147 ft)
  • Tallest wooden roller coaster (127 ft)
It still holds world records for:
  • Fastest wooden racing roller coaster (66 mph)
  • Longest wooden racing coaster (4,650 ft)
  • Tallest wooden racing coaster (127 ft)
  • Largest drop on a wooden racing coaster (147 ft)
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

American Thunder is a GCI wooden coaster at Six Flags St. Louis that opened in 2008 as Evel Knievel. It maintained its motorcycle daredevil theme throughout the rebranding that took place three years later. For the past five years, this has traditionally been the first coaster we hit once we first come in to the park. It may only go 48 mph and be a mere 82 ft in height, but it has got some really fantastic banked curves and hills, and a lot of them, too--checking in at a respectable length of 2,713 ft. On top of all that, it's not only incredibly smooth, but the first time I rode it I reported to my wife that the seats were soft & comfy like an easy chair. American Thunder never set any records, but it still endures as a really fun and thrilling ride, and a great starting point for the little guys just starting out on their coaster adventures.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Avatar Airbender is a rocking back-and-forth sort of coaster that spins as it goes. It was built by Intamin at the Mall of America in 2008. I thought it was OK, but Ash really got a kick out of it. I found it to be a gimmicky but not nearly as exciting version of Vertical Velocity and that style of coaster. It doesn't go nearly as fast as those other ones, it's only 70 ft tall at each spike, and it has cars that spin, perhaps just to make older people ill? Not sure. Anyway, I was left a little flat by this one, and I kind of feel like I'm cheating even calling it a roller coaster. It fits my chosen definition though, so it's on the list.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

National Poetry Month #24

For this 24th day of National Poetry Month, I will dig into my past and pull out another original piece. I don't know if anyone remembers this news story from 2002, about the dude that ran a crematorium in Noble, Georgia. Ray Brent Marsh had stashed away literally hundreds of bodies over all the 16 acres of crematorium-owned land. He hadn't actually cremated anyone in years & had been giving families concrete dust instead of the ashes of their loved ones.

This guy was a real grade-A lowlife weirdo piece of shit nutjob. Apparently there's an independent movie from 2011 based on this story, called Sahkanaga. I haven't seen it, but I'm going to check Netflix tonight. Anyway, I wrote this poem about the tragedy when it was originally in the news 13 years ago.















MARSH LAND
by Shane McGraw


Ashes you promised,
Concrete you gave.
Furnaces dormant,
Wanting the flames of freedom.
Flesh and bones
Dumped,
Humiliated, forgotten.
Delivered from their dignity.
"You can't walk for the bodies"
The dead do not rest in Noble
At Tri-State they remain--
Defiled,
Dishonored, disrespected.
Sixteen acres of hell.
Over it all you stood,
You walked and you laughed--
Ray Brent, the Angel of Undeath,
Master of a new Georgian Holocaust.

 


Tuesday, April 23, 2013

National Poetry Month #23

The dogs had their day(s) a couple days ago, so in the interest of equal time I will present one of my favorite cat poems. Here's one I really like, from Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats (a really great book, by the way, for anyone who loves cats or poetry, or both):

THE RUM TUM TUGGER
by T.S. Eliot

The Rum Tum Tugger is a Curious Cat:
If you offer him pheasant he would rather have grouse.
If you put him in a house he would much prefer a flat,
If you put him in a flat then he'd rather have a house.
If you set him on a mouse then he only wants a rat,
If you set him on a rat then he'd rather chase a mouse.
Yes the Rum Tum Tugger is a Curious Cat--
And there isn't any call for me to shout it:
For he will do
As he do do
And there's no doing anything about it!

The Rum Tum Tugger is a terrible bore:
When you let him in, then he wants to be out;
He's always on the wrong side of every door,
And as soon as he's at home, then he'd like to get about.
He likes to lie in the bureau drawer,
But he makes such a fuss if he can't get out.

Yes the Rum Tum Tugger is a Curious Cat--
And there isn't any use for you to doubt it:
For he will do
As he do do
And there's no doing anything about it!

The Rum Tum Tugger is a curious beast:
His disobliging ways are a matter of habit.
If you offer him fish then he always wants a feast;
When there isn't any fish then he won't eat rabbit.
If you offer him cream then he sniffs and sneers,
For he only likes what he finds for himself;

So you'll catch him in it right up to the ears,
If you put it away on the larder shelf.
The Rum Tum Tugger is artful and knowing,
The Rum Tum Tugger doesn't care for a cuddle;
But he'll leap on your lap in the middle of your sewing,
For there's nothing he enjoys like a horrible muddle.
Yes the Rum Tum Tugger is a Curious Cat--
And there isn't any need for me to spout it:
For he will do
As he do do
And there's no doing anything about it!

Monday, April 22, 2013

National Poetry Month #22

ME via INSTAGRAM: Downtown Peoria is due for record flooding by Tuesday.
The Peoria, Illinois riverfront is one day away from seeing a record flood crest of around 30 feet tomorrow. It is drawing a lot of gawkers down to the water's edge. I hope dearly that everyone behaves responsibly and remembers to keep themselves and their children a safe distance away from the flood waters.

With that thought in mind. I present a quirky, thought-provoking, sad yet serene poem by a true American master.


HOW THE WATERS CLOSED ABOVE HIM
by Emily Dickinson

How the Waters closed above Him
We shall never know -
How He stretched His Anguish to us
That - is covered too -

Spreads the Pond Her Base of Lilies
Bold above the Boy
Whose unclaimed Hat and Jacket
Sum the History -

Sunday, April 21, 2013

National Poetry Month #21

The other day I featured a poem about a dog which, though humorous, was honestly a bit depressing. Here's something about man's best friend with more of a feel-good, lazy summer day vibe.

SUNNING
by James S. Tippett

Old Dog lay in the summer sun
Much too lazy to rise and run.
He flapped an ear
At a buzzing fly.
He winked a half open
Sleepy eye.
He scratched himself
On an itching spot,
As he dozed on the porch
Where the sun was hot.
He whimpered a bit
From force of habit
While he lazily dreamed
Of chasing a rabbit.
But Old Dog happily lay in the sun
Much too lazy to rise and run.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

National Poetry Month #20

Today is 4/20, or kind of a national marijuana appreciation day within the ganja subculture--like they needed a specific day for it. Isn't every day 4/20 for the marijuana subculture?

But I'm sure there are still plenty of potheads out there. In your honor, today I present a short collection of even shorter poems--the kind that your average teenage-to-early-20s boy might think was kinda awesome when he wrote them under the influence of the devil's weed some 15 to 20 years ago.

Have a happy day, you stoners. Enjoy your youth, but do it responsibly. Those of you over the age of 30--grow up already. Those of you with children--shame on you. You're responsible for more lives than just your own. Act like it. Well, maybe except for today. Have fun today, but then join the real world tomorrow, will ya?

Club ded
Naked bodies floating
Inward poolside,
outward leaving.

-----------------------

The first words
he ever heard,
while digging around
his anus with a spoon,
were
Please, mama
Please, mama
Please don't let me burn.

-----------------------

THE VERGE OF SLEEP
35:09 forgot why I am writing--
Dead people
63 of them are not the murdered
And the rest of them be serviced out for bed
with my hand of steel.
Shit.
The Lincoln-bug shyness and filth--
The longest I try...
Think I fall asleep soon


-----------------------


Darkness permeates the cell
The criminal finds his hell
The innocent cry as well


-----------------------


Flip fuckin' flop.


Friday, April 19, 2013

National Poetry Month #19

Short on time today. No big intro, just that I like this poem (obviously)...


ELEGY FOR JOG
by John Ciardi

Stiff-dog death, all froth on a bloody chin,
sniffs at the curb. Skinny-man death, his master,
opens the traffic's hedge to let him in.
Jog was his name, silliness his disaster.
He wasn't satisfied to scare the truck:
he had to bite the tire. Fools have no luck.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

National Poetry Day #18

Wow! This very cool sonnet just arrived to me via @qikipedia on Twitter. I was only slightly impressed until I researched it a bit and found out it was written in 1936. The poet couldn't simply hit the ol' Internet Anagram Generator and piece together lines from what it spewed back to him. He had to very deliberately and methodically figure this out and make the result not only make sense, but freaking RHYME too! Incredible! I love it!

Believe it or not, each line is an anagram of the title.


WASHINGTON CROSSING THE DELAWARE
by David Shulman

A hard, howling, tossing water scene.
Strong tide was washing hero clean.
"How cold!" Weather stings as in anger.
O Silent night shows war ace danger!


The cold waters swashing on in rage.
Redcoats warn slow his hint engage.
When star general's action wish'd "Go!"
He saw his ragged continentals row.


Ah, he stands – sailor crew went going.
And so this general watches rowing.
He hastens – winter again grows cold.
A wet crew gain Hessian stronghold.


George can't lose war with's hands in;
He's astern – so go alight, crew, and win!

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

National Poetry Month #17

A Martian astronomer, eh? Yesterday's post segues perfectly (Prefectly?) into today's. For though it's technically National Poetry Month, there's nobody saying we don't welcome the enthusiasm of folks from other countries... worlds... or even solar systems.

Prostetnic Vogon Jeltz has quite a way with words.


Why, the Vogons from Douglas Adams' comic sci-fi masterpiece The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy are great lovers of poetry (though the Guide indicates that their poetry is actually artistically the third worst in the universe).

Here's a wonderful example:

Oh freddled gruntbuggly, 
Thy micturations are to me, 
As plurdled gabbleblotchits, 
On a lurgid bee, 
That mordiously hath bitled out, 
Its earted jurtles, 
Into a rancid festering confectious inner-sphincter. [drowned out by moaning and screaming] 
Now the jurpling slayjid agrocrustles, 
Are slurping hagrilly up the axlegrurts, 
And living glupules frart and slipulate, 
Like jowling meated liverslime.
Groop, I implore thee, my foonting turlingdromes, 
And hooptiously drangle me, 
With crinkly bindlewurdles, 
Or else I shall rend thee in the gobberwarts with my blurglecruncheon, 
See if I don't.

Oh, Netflix, what will you do next?

I love that Netflix is getting into original programming now. The Kevin Spacey political drama House of Cards is apparently doing well with both the public and critics. I dig Spacey, so I watched the first couple of episodes. It was neat but not really my thing. Glad it's doing well, though. It's successes like this which will continue to pave the way for other original projects like the new season of Arrested Development that is slated to release exclusively on Netflix on Memorial Day 2013.

It's also opened the door for programming that would never see the light of day on regular cable TV. The original werewolf horror program Hemlock Grove, which sees release in just a few days, is going to make all the adult content on BBC America, AMC and FX look like Romper Room outtakes.



Here's the extremely NSFW Red Band trailer, which warns in advance that the trailer itself contains "mild fornication, fellatio, heavy cocaine use, lesbian necrophilia and violent hemorrhaging." ...Not sure what makes lesbian necrophilia worth pointing out specifically. Is it really any more deplorable than straight necrophilia?


Now that you've seen that, how about a closer look at that werewolf transformation. Note that the mythos of this show has already set itself apart from every other werewolf picture I've seen in that the beast really is quite literally within. Take a look at the show's logo. It gives a further clue as to what sets this show apart from other werewolf lore. Here's that transformation scene:


Yep. It started with his eyeballs being poked out by the new ones developing behind them. Then his wolf teeth pushed all the human ones out. That canine hair didn't grow out of his existing follicles. The hairy body ripped through the human flesh. Ew. Seriously.

As I was watching I asked myself, Really? How does this town explain all the bloody, fleshy, gooey human remains puddles scattered throughout the forest every full moon? Then the clip answered me. Ew. Again. Hey, transforming into a beautiful and deadly wolf makes a guy hungry.

I am not sure I am going to watch this show. I'll probably check out the first episode, but I'm in no rush to do so. I'm curious about the effects more than anything. And to find out how they work with those new twists to the old mythology. Oh, and to find out why the guy's friends aren't fearing for their lives as they witness that transformation.

Netflix deserves kudos anyway for striking out in this new direction. Scoring Spacey for their initial outing into original programming was a major plus for them. Grabbing the Arrested Development helm and running with that is probably a great move too. What's the angle on this one? Appeasing the Twilight crowd and the traditional horror fans all in one? Killer special effects? Pushing the envelope of taste further than even American Horror Story?

Time will tell if Hemlock Grove proves to be a success or a stumbling block. Either way, Netflix has taken the gloves off and is not messing around. It's poised to become a powerhouse in narrative visual media distribution (and creation).

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

National Poetry Month #16

Honestly, after yesterday what more can be said?

EARTH
by John Hall Wheelock

"A planet doesn't simply explode of itself," said drily
The Martian astronomer, gazing off into the air--
"That they were able to do it is proof that highly
Intelligent beings must have been living there."

Monday, April 15, 2013

Godless morality

In the immediate aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombing earlier today, a coworker struck up a conversation with another coworker right next to my desk.

“All this reminds me of a man I heard speak recently. He brought up a very good point. In the last 20 or 30 years, since these mass shootings and all this garbage has escalated, what is the main thing that has changed in society?”

I knew where this was going, so I tried to steer it another way by chiming in. “A lot of things have changed in the last few decades.”

“Like what?” I was challenged.

“Technology has come leaps and bounds. Communication is almost instantaneous, and it’s worldwide. Civil rights and tolerance of others’ lifestyles are expanding…”

Not what she was fishing for. “The lack of morals and values,” she explained. “This country has suffered a serious decline in the presence of morals and values. And it’s because we’ve taken God out of everything. God is out of government. God is out of our schools. God is not number one in everyone’s lives. Only God and the church can bring those morals and values back to our kids. We have to educate them and guide them or we are in real trouble as a country and a world.”

Coworker number two nodded in agreement and voiced her approval, “I agree with you 100%. It’s a sad state we are in.”

...I had to say it: “Well, I disagree.”

Coworker number two, who knows me a bit better than number one, said, “I know you do." And I could tell she didn't really want to hear more.

But I continued. ”There is no way to pin the decline of civilization down to any one cause. Too much has changed. There’s no control to compare against. Even if you could, there is no one magical cure-all that is going to fix it. And religion isn’t a necessary prerequisite for morality.”

That shut the conversation completely down. That was probably a good thing. I am getting tired of hiding who I am simply because I have an unpopular opinion. If people want to engage in theological discussion, they need to be prepared to actually have a discussion rather than a one-sided kowtowing session.

I was always told that three discussions do not belong in the workplace: religion, politics and sex. Our own HR videos state as much. But if the door is opened (and it is opened a LOT in this place) I’m prepared to go through it and into the realm of discussion.

I’m tired of hearing that the only way to learn morals is through Christianity. The qualities of empathy, altruism, love, honesty, respect, charity, compassion and kindness do not derive solely from the teachings of any one book, no matter how popular that book might be. They are ingrained in the human psyche, obviously in some humans more so than others. Deep down on a primal social level we realize that these qualities create predictable rules for behavior that are necessary to make society function.

Granted, putting those rules in writing and giving them a voice is one way to emphasize them, but they are already there for most people. Some people simply have no moral compass, or it is broken. Those are the ones doing the shooting, whether in the name of atheism, Satan, Jodie Foster or God (though I’ll bet dollars to donuts that God is the one on the top of the “blame” list).

How you come upon your sense of morality, it matters not. As long as you use it to make the world a better place, who cares? I do not currently get my social cues from a nonexistent, magical man in the sky, but he did have a hand in educating me about morality from an early age. Well, at least his book did.

Of course, during that education they left out most of the horrible bits about fathers stoning their own sons and such, focusing only on the positive lessons. I guess that book, if read from the wrong perspective, could cause a reader to come away with a… less-than-tolerant… and “holier than thou” position, which could actually be counterproductive to the betterment of society.

National Poetry Month #15

Wow! Can National Poetry Month really be halfway over already? I can hardly believe it. I don't envy myself the tough choices that are in the next two weeks ahead of me. This evening I dug out an old poetry paperback I used to love reading, called Reflections on a Gift of Watermelon Pickle and Other Modern Verses. It was compiled by Stephen Dunning, Edward Lueders and Hugh Smith and originally published in 1966, though my 15th printing was done in 1974 and distributed by Scholastic.

Here's one of my favorite pieces from that book.













  
DUST
by Sydney King Russell

Agatha Morley
All her life
Grumbled at dust
Like a good wife.

Dust on a table,
Dust on a chair,
Dust on a mantel
She couldn't bear.

She forgave faults
In man and child
But a dusty shelf
Would set her wild.

She bore with sin
Without protest,
But dust thoughts preyed
Upon her rest.

Agatha Morley
Is sleeping sound
Six feet under
The mouldy ground.

Six feet under
The earth she lies
With dust at her feet
And dust in her eyes.

Where did I go wrong with Zero Dark Thirty?

Did anyone else out there not enjoy the movie Zero Dark Thirty? I rented it this weekend, and I couldn't even finish it. I was so bored an hour in when, despite reviews promising a "gripping," "tense, thrilling" story; a "masterful account" of "history's greatest manhunt for the world's most dangerous man," all I had seen was a couple of folks waterboarding a brown guy and asking a bunch of questions over and over, that I had to shut it down and call it an hour of time I would never reclaim.

Someone tell me I'm dead wrong, please, and convince me to give it a second chance because all the reviews and online conversation I can find regarding this movie consider it one of the year's greatest films.

I saw Argo and loved it--I was on the edge of my seat throughout most of it... I saw Life of Pi and it truly inspired and resonated with me--I ruminated over it for at least an hour afterward... I saw Django Unchained and it blew my freaking mind... I thought director Kathryn Bigelow's other critically acclaimed, six-time Oscar-winning film The Hurt Locker was an incredible piece of filmmaking...

What did I miss in the first hour of Zero Dark Thirty that should have made me want to keep watching and find out what makes it so great? Did I just not give it enough of my time?

Please help. Thanks.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

National Poetry Month #14

The "Unicorn" post got me thinking more about my record collection, which in turn focused my attention on the selection of hilarious Smothers Brothers LPs in my library. Logically, then, I must present another Shel Silverstein poem, and you'll see why. Dick Smothers gave a little tune to this one and recorded an extremely abbreviated version of it for the It Must Have Been Something I Said! record in 1964.

I've always loved this album. It has some of my favorite Smothers tracks on it, including "Hiawatha" and "Crabs Walk Sideways," both of which I still find myself humming on occasion, decades after my last listen. Looking back, though, knowing what I know now, I envision a completely different interpretation of the following poem than Silverstein intended. I'm sure Lovecraft was never on his mind when he penned:

THE SLITHERY DEE
by Shel Silverstein

The Slithery Dee
He lives in the sea
He saw all the others
But he didn’t see me.


The Slithery Dee
He came out of the sea
He chased all the others
But he didn’t chase me.


The Slithery Dee
I hid in a tree
He caught all the others
But he couldn’t catch me.


The Slithery Dee
He went back to the sea
He ate all the others
But he didn’t eat me.


The Slithery Dee
Oh where can he be?
He ate all the others
But he’ll never eat … S-L-U-U-U-R-P!


Saturday, April 13, 2013

National Poetry Month #13

Happy National Poetry Month (and National Scrabble Day as well)! Today I bring you a fun little piece from a true American wordsmith.

TO AN INSECT
by Oliver Wendell Holmes

I love to hear thine earnest voice,
      Wherever thou art hid,
Thou testy little dogmatist,
      Thou pretty Katydid!
Thou mindest me of gentlefolks,--
      Old gentlefolks are they,--
Thou say'st an undisputed thing
      In such a solemn way.

Thou art a female, Katydid!
      I know it by the trill
That quivers through thy piercing notes,
      So petulant and shrill;
I think there is a knot of you
      Beneath the hollow tree,--
A
knot of spinster Katydids,--
      Do Katydids drink tea?


Oh, tell me where did Katy live,
      And what did Katy do?
And was she very fair and young,
      And yet so wicked, too?
Did Katy love a naughty man,
      Or kiss more cheeks than one?
I warrant Katy did no more
      Than many a Kate has done.


Dear me! I'll tell you all about
      My fuss with little Jane,
And Ann, with whom I used to walk
      So often down the lane,
And all that tore their locks of black,
      Or wet their eyes of blue,--
Pray tell me, sweetest Katydid,
      What did poor Katy do?


Ah no! the living oak shall crash,
      That stood for ages still,
The
rock shall rend its mossy base
      And thunder down the hill,
Before the little Katydid
      Shall add one word, to tell
The mystic story of the maid
      Whose name she knows so well.


Peace to the ever-murmuring race!
      And when the latest one
Shall fold in death her feeble wings
      Beneath the autumn sun,
Then
shall she raise her fainting voice,
      And lift her drooping lid,
And then the child of future years
      Shall hear what Katy did.


Friday, April 12, 2013

National Poetry Month #12

Here's one of my favorites from the legendary Lizard King himself.

THE MOVIE
by Jim Morrison

The movie will begin in five moments
The mindless voice announced
All those unseated will await the next show.
We filed slowly, languidly into the hall
The auditorium was vast and silent
As we seated and were darkened, the voice continued.
The program for this evening is not new
You've seen this entertainment through and through
You've seen your birth your life and death
you might recall all of the rest
Did you have a good world when you died?
Enough to base a movie on?

I'm getting out of here Where are you going? To the other side of morning Please don't chase the clouds, pagodas
Her cunt gripped him like a warm, friendly hand.

It's alright, all your friends are here When can I meet them? After you've eaten I'm not hungry Uh, we meant beaten

Silver stream, silvery scream
Oooooh, impossible concentration.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Today is a perfect storm of celebrations

Not only is today the 11th day of National Poetry Month, I just found out it's also National 8-Track Day! How do these two celebrations perfectly intertwine with one another? In the memory of my favorite 8-track as a child, combined with the swath of stormy weather plaguing the Midwest over the last day or two.

When I was a kid, I absolutely loved the Irish Rovers' album The Unicorn. I still do, actually... Not the 8-track so much, but I do have it stashed in a box somewhere still because of its sentimental value; never mind that I have copies on vinyl and CD as well. It endures to this day as one of my all-time favorite feel-good albums.

The title track from that album was the only chart hit for the group here in the U.S. (possibly abroad too, though I can't corroborate that). It was penned by the famous comedic poet, Mr. Shel Silverstein. Bear with me, I'm going to tie the perfect storm up in a nice little bow now.

If you are unfamiliar with the lyrics, they happen to be the story of the unicorn's extinction. See, they missed out on Noah's ark ride because they were too busy playing in the rain. Aaaand there's our tie in. It's been raining quite a lot lately, and we have flood warnings and all out here by the Illinois River. Bam!

Anyway, to honor both National Poetry Month and National 8-Track Day, I present to you the lyrics of that classic Irish Rovers tune, "The Unicorn."

THE UNICORN
by Shel Silverstein

A long time ago, when the earth was green
There was more kinds of animals than you've ever seen,

They'd run around free while the earth was bein' born,
And the loveliest of all was the unicorn.

 
There were green alligators and long-neck geese.
Some humpty-back camels and some chimpanzees.
Some catsandratsandelephants, but sure as you're born
The loveliest of all was the unicorn.


Now God seen some sinnin', and it gave him pain.
He said, "Stand back, I'm goin' to make it rain."
He said, "Hey Brother Noah, I'll tell ya what ta do.
Build me a floatin' zoo."


"And take some of them green alligators and long-neck geese,
Some humpty-back camels and some chimpanzees.
Some catsandratsandelephants, but sure as you're born
Don't you forget my unicorn."


Now Noah was there, he answered the call
And finished up making the ark just as the rain started to fall.

He marched in the animals two by two,
And he called out as they went through,


"Hey Lord, I got your green alligators and long-neck geese,
Some humpty-back camels and some chimpanzees.
Some catsandratsandelephants -- but Lord, I'm so forlorn
I just don't see no unicorn."


Ol' Noah looked out through the drivin' rain
Them unicorns were hidin', playin' silly games.
They were kickin' and splashin' as the rain was pourin'.
Oh them silly unicorns.


There were green alligators and long-neck geese,
Some humpty-back camels and some chimpanzees.
Noah cried, "Close the door 'cause the rain is pourin'--
And we just can't wait for no unicorns."


The ark started movin', and it drifted with the tide,
And the unicorns looked up from the rock and they cried.
And the water come up and sort of floated them away--
That's why you've never seen a unicorn to this very day.


You'll see green alligators and long-neck geese.
Some humpty-back camels and some chimpanzees.
Some catsandratsandelephants, but sure as you're born

You're never gonna see no unicorn

Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes...

After years of ignoring my MySpace page, I have finally deleted my account. Before doing so, I was sure to download all my blog entries from there. I am currently in the process of transferring those to this blog. They date back to 2007, and there is some very interesting stuff in them. I read through several today as I converted them to this page.

You might also have noticed some rebranding going on. Say farewell to the old McGraw Media Matters (M3) blog. I have noticed that a lot of the stuff I've been posting and basically all of the old MySpace stuff is highly personal, introspective or speculative. Seems like this blog was beginning to shift into more than I had originally bargained for, so I thought it best to simply rebrand it as sort of a catch-all blog instead of a narrowly targeted one. Here you can really get to know me now, more than just professionally.

I hope you enjoy the changes. I am excited to roll out this new image and continue in the new direction. Thanks as always for your readership. Now do me a solid and subscribe please?

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

National Poetry Month #10 - A special treat




















Here's something different for you on this tenth day of National Poetry Month--an original piece. Come on in. The congregation is dying to welcome you to the...

HOUSE OF GOD
by Shane McGraw

Frozen, flockless sanctuary--
Desolate, foreboding;
Thick with a stifling suffocation,
Echoes of ageless choirs
Suspended in time.
Once joyous, once fervent and hopeful
Now the same, but somehow different;
Electric, menacing
Shadows loom,
Creeping darkness
Newly consecrates the chamber.
Malignant mass
Sinister sacrament
Corrupt communion,
Body and blood of the slaughtered lamb.
Unhallowed altar,
"In Remembrance of Me..."
Gothic walls of cold stone
Exhibit the bloody stained glass
Tableaux of death and resurrection.
Above it all,
Christ hangs pallid and impotent.
Nightmare shadows dance
On tortured features;
Once revered, now feared--
Little comfort.
In the pews,
Wholly unholy
Ghostly parishioners bear witness
To silent terror
In the house of God.



Tuesday, April 9, 2013

National Poetry Month #9

Here's a bit of a long one. That's what she said.








 
















KUBLA KHAN
by Samuel Taylor Coleridge
In Xanadu did Kubla Khan 

A stately pleasure-dome decree: 

Where Alph, the sacred river, ran 

Through caverns measureless to man 

Down to a sunless sea.

So twice five miles of fertile ground 

With walls and towers were girdled round: 

And here were gardens bright with sinuous rills, 

Where blossomed many an incense-bearing tree; 

And here were forests ancient as the hills,

Enfolding sunny spots of greenery. 

But oh! that deep romantic chasm which slanted 
Down the green hill athwart a cedarn cover! 
A savage place! as holy and enchanted 
As e'er beneath a waning moon was haunted

By woman wailing for her demon-lover! 
And from this chasm, with ceaseless turmoil seething,

As if this earth in fast thick pants were breathing, 

A mighty fountain momently was forced: 

Amid whose swift half-intermitted burst

Huge fragments vaulted like rebounding hail, 

Or chaffy grain beneath the thresher's flail: 

And 'mid these dancing rocks at once and ever 

It flung up momently the sacred river. 

Five miles meandering with a mazy motion

Through wood and dale the sacred river ran, 

Then reached the caverns measureless to man, 

And sank in tumult to a lifeless ocean: 

And 'mid this tumult Kubla heard from far 

Ancestral voices prophesying war!

The shadow of the dome of pleasure 

Floated midway on the waves; 

Where was heard the mingled measure 

From the fountain and the caves. 
It was a miracle of rare device,

A sunny pleasure-dome with caves of ice! 

A damsel with a dulcimer 

In a vision once I saw: 

It was an Abyssinian maid, 

And on her dulcimer she played,

Singing of Mount Abora. 

Could I revive within me 

Her symphony and song, 

To such a deep delight 'twould win me, 
That with music loud and long, 
 I would build that dome in air,  
That sunny dome! those caves of ice!  
And all who heard should see them there,  
And all should cry, Beware! Beware!  
His flashing eyes, his floating hair! 

Weave a circle round him thrice, 
And close your eyes with holy dread,  
For he on honey-dew hath fed,  
And drunk the milk of Paradise. 

Photoshop to the rescue!

Tonight I tackled a tricky project for my friends at the Peoria Ballet. Their performances of Snow White start in just over one week, and they are scrambling to put together the program for the show. Part of that program is a photograph of the featured level 4 dancers. However, when the photographer came to take the picture, one dancer was missing. There is no time for a retake, because the program must get to the printer on time. There's no option other than to digitally manipulate the image using a photo taken for the Nutcracker performances in December 2012.

I do stuff like this all the time, mostly for fun or personal reasons--but this case was particularly challenging because of all the things going on in the Nutcracker photo. That's some troublesome masking. Also, bear in mind I am using Adobe Creative Suite 3 on a five-year-old MacBook. This stuff became a lot easier with CS5 than it was back in the Stone Age of CS3.

It took a few hours as well as a few days' worth of patience, but I am proud of what I ended up with. See below. (Note: I am not the photographer of these images)

The original photo for the Snow White program, missing one dancer
 
The source photo containing the missing dancer (front row, first one in from right), from five months ago

The final version of the Snow White picture, now ready for program inclusion.

Monday, April 8, 2013

National Poetry Month #8

It's not often that this man made much sense, especially in his written verse, and even more especially in his elder years. As he aged, his delusions got even stronger and he became more and more of a weirdo. Presented here for you--a shred of only slightly loony beauty plucked from within an absolute morass of unintelligible, outrageous, satanic new age nonsense.

















AT SEA
by Aleister Crowley

As night hath stars, more rare than ships
In ocean, faint from pole to pole,
So all the wonder of her lips
Hints her innavigable soul.

Such lights she gives as guide my bark;
But I am swallowed in the swell
Of her heart's ocean, sagely dark,
That holds my heaven and holds my hell.

In her I live, a mote minute
Dancing a moment in the sun:
In her I die, a sterile shoot
Of nightshade in oblivion.

In her my elf dissolves, a grain
Of salt cast careless in the sea;
My passion purifies my pain
To peace past personality.

Love of my life, God grant the years
Confirm the chrism - rose to rood!
Anointing loves, asperging tears
In sanctifying solitude!

Man is so infinitely small
In all these stars, determinate.
Maker and moulder of them all,
Man is so infinitely great!

Volbeat and King Diamond present a FREE download of new track













Act now to get a FREE high-quality WAV file of Volbeat's newest single featuring the one and only legendary King Diamond on guest vocals. It's a prereleased track from the upcoming Volbeat album Outlaw Gentlemen and Shady Ladies, and it's called "Room 24."

\m/   HORNS UP!   \m/

Sunday, April 7, 2013

National Poetry Month #7

Warm Summer Sun
by Mark Twain

Warm summer sun,
Shine kindly here,
Warm southern wind,
Blow softly here.
Green sod above,
Lie light, lie light.
Good night, dear heart,
Good night, good night.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

National Poetry Month #6



How fitting that I should post this one at this time of night...

AT MIDNIGHT
by Frank Dempster Sherman

See, yonder, the belfry tower
That gleams in the moon's pale light;
Or is it a ghostly flower
That dreams in the silent night?

I listen and hear the chime
Go quavering o'er the town,
And out of this flower of time
Twelve petals are wafted down.

Friday, April 5, 2013

National Poetry Month #5

Here is a great piece from a poet who hails from my own hometown of Galesburg, Illinois. It's a fascinating train of thought to ruminate upon. I've wondered the same thing myself, never having known that a renowned poet considered it enough of a conundrum so as to write about it...

THE HANGMAN AT HOME
by Carl Sandburg

What does a hangman think about
When he goes home at night from work?
When he sits down with his wife and
Children for a cup of coffee and a
Plate of ham and eggs, do they ask
Him if it was a good day's work
And everything went well or do they
Stay off some topics and kill about
The weather, baseball, politics
And the comic strips in the papers
And the movies? Do they look at his
Hands when he reaches for the coffee
Or the ham and eggs? If the little
Ones say, Daddy, play horse, here's
A rope--does he answer like a joke:
I seen enough rope for today?
Or does his face light up like a
Bonfire of joy and does he say:
It's a good and dandy world we live
In. And if a white face moon looks
In through a window where a baby girl
Sleeps and the moon-gleams mix with
Baby ears and baby hair--the hangman--
How does he act then? It must be easy
For him. Anything is easy for a hangman,
I guess.


Thursday, April 4, 2013

SAS (Short Attention Span) HPL Reviews #10

SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS!!!!

Azathoth
This is sort of a Dream Cycle story, though I don't know if it's officially recognized as such by Lovecraft scholars. It is very short--one of his shortest, in fact. Here's the skinny: A guy lives in a huge fortress with no outward facing windows. The world is dead and gray, and the only things he sees when he looks out his castle window are the courtyard at the center of the fortress, the exterior walls, and (at night) the stars directly above. One night the stars open up to him and send a bridge of astral dust down to carry him away to an unknown paradise of verdant shores populated with beautiful flowers, where he lives in comfort from then on. No stars for this one, just a great big raspberry. Me no likey. For completists only.

The Battle that Ended the Century (written with R.H. Barlow)
There *is* a plot here... of a sort anyway. It's just not that good. This story is nothing more than a joke written by Lovecraft and Barlow, a way to drop names of their contemporaries and have a little fun. It centers around a boxing match on December 31, 2000. The two combatants end up getting quite bloody by the end, with ears and noses flying off throughout the fight, and one guy's fist going clear through the other guy's face. Throughout it all, the authors have overly peppered the dialog with Garbage Pail Kids-like references to their peers and themselves: Howard Philips Lovecraft is referred to as Horse Power Hateart; Frank Belknap Long is parodied as Frank Chimesleep Short... You get the picture. Another great big raspberry for this one. It's not a long story, but it's an interminable read.


The Case of Charles Dexter Ward
More of a novella, CDW comes in at around 51,500 words. Charles Dexter Ward is a young, well-to-do man who has recently escaped impossibly from a mental hospital. His family doctor, Dr. Willett, goes to investigate, digging into Ward's recent past and the goings-on that landed him in the asylum in the first place. Ward had become obsessed with an ancestor of his, Joseph Curwen, an alchemist and necromancer. Ward had resurrected Curwen from his long-dead ashes, much like the blood droplets resurrected Uncle Frank in Hellraiser. Once Curwen was back, he picked right back up on his old evil hijinks, killing his look-alike progeny and taking his place in the world, allowing him to continue his grisly experiments with necromancy. However, his sudden and unexplained lack of knowledge of the modern world gets the Charles Ward impersonator locked in the nut hatch. When Willett realizes who is actually locked up, he pays Curwen a visit, intending to kill him and burn him to dust in order to save the world from the dastardly plans he has been hatching. It's a great story, and the film adaptation isn't too bad either. For me the novella was a bit slow during the flashback parts about Curwen's time.

That was a long one. Gonna hang it up for tonight. Thanks for reading!