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.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

"The Last Test" proves worthy of its name

SPOILERS!!! SPOILERS!!! SPOILERS!!! (Not that there's much to spoil in this story)

Written in 1928, "The Last Test" is a revision by HPL of a story originally written by Adolphe de Castro, and it is a slog. I really had a hell of a time getting through this story. It brought my literary quest to a screeching halt for several weeks. Eventually I had to resort to using the audio Cliffs Notes of the Lovecraft library as my friends at the H.P. Lovecraft Literary Podcast came to my rescue. Chad and Chris got me through by summarizing the section I was stuck on (in the usual entertaining fashion), and then I was able to pick up from that point and continue reading through to the end.

Even so, I found this story quite boring and generally stupid. Even Lovecraft himself called it "the story that ruined my winter," and a "beastly mess." It revolves around mostly three people--our hero, James Dalton, his spurned love interest, Georgina Clarendon, and her brother, Dr. Alfred Clarendon. It takes place over a span of many years, first setting up that the characters knew one another in New York when they were all young, then picking up much later when they have all moved and made lives for themselves in San Francisco.

Dalton and Georgina, whom he happens to still harbor a love for long after her now-deceased father disapproved of him as her suitor back in New York, run into one another in Frisco quite by accident. By this time, her brother Alfred is the staff doctor at San Quentin Penitentiary and a respected expert regarding a fatal black fever that has taken hold of the region. Similarly successful in his own field, Dalton is governor of California. Georgina helps her brother with his research.

Old feelings spring up between the old lovers, and when Dalton asks Alfred (whom he secretly refers to belittlingly as "Little Alf") for his blessing to marry Georgina, he's once again cockblocked, this time by the latest Clarendon patriarch.

Meanwhile, the fever plague has taken hold of San Quentin and the public fears it will jump the walls and spread among the populace. And here's where I'm going to skip a bunch of shit that doesn't matter...

Eventually it becomes clear that Clarendon has been actually infecting people with this fever plague in order to try to find a cure. In the end, he injects himself as a "last test," but he ends up dying too. And the two lovers marry and live happily ever after.

If you're thinking of reading this horrible story, think again. It's the literary equivalent of music torture at Guantanamo Bay. It's achingly dull, predictable, corny and emotionless. Thank goodness I can finally check it off my list. Whew. Maybe I can renew my pursuit of the goal before me now that I've faced what felt like the LAST TEST to my resolve. "Haa! I kill me!"

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

New header image is up

Hey, gang! I updated that header this morning by incorporating the souvenir log flume photo from this last Six Flags trip. As I mentioned the other day, it's the first souvenir photo from Six Flags that I've actually ever purchased. Now, instead of me and some stranger's kid, it's me along with the wife and two young'uns. Thing is, the laptop is missing from the shot now. That was my favorite part of the previous graphic. Perhaps I'll photoshop one in later. It would make more sense, I think.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

2013 Six Flags visit #2

The hand stamper guy was being a bit judgmental Saturday.
We just got back home tonight around dinner time after spending two days in Eureka, Missouri visiting with family and having a blast at our favorite place on earth, Six Flags St. Louis. My wife's sister-in-law gave birth to her second daughter just four weeks ago and we had yet to meet her, so we went to see the new niece and get in some baby time. Since they live only ten minutes from Six Flags, we deemed it a waste to travel all that way and not take the opportunity to use our season passes. As such, we made sure to use them both Saturday and Sunday.

We had a handful of milestones on this Six Flags visit:
  1. My daughter, Calliope (age 8), rode her fourth wooden coaster ever, and the first ever at that particular park--American Thunder (formerly Evel Knievel)... TWICE. She's starting to come around. My goal is to get her on Screaming Eagle before the season comes to an end. She's chickened out on the platform twice now. It's hard to get her on the old Philly Toboggan coasters. She's not a fan of vintage rides.
  2. The whole family rode something together, which we haven't done in probably five years. We rode the log flume twice in a row on Saturday afternoon. I miss riding stuff with my wife. She usually holds all our shit while two or three of us do the riding. Oh, and that brings up the next milestone:
  3. We purchased our first Six Flags souvenir photo ever--just for you readers! We posed on the log flume drop specifically with the purpose of upgrading the graphic in my blog banner. Look for that to happen very soon.
  4. Ash and I rode the Boss in the front seat for the first time ever. I have ridden this coaster at least a dozen times since its construction, but never in the first seat. Man, that's the way to ride it, let me tell you.
  5. Ash and I also rode Mr. Freeze Reverse Blast in the front- er, back... Crap, it's confusing with a backward-facing coaster. We were the last to leave the tunnel (facing backward) and the first ones back in (facing forward), for the first time. That was pretty cool.
  6. We've been to this park so many times that now we have to make our own entertainment while we're there to mix things up a bit. We began telling employees on Saturday to "Have a Six Farts day!" to see how many "You too"s we could get in response. That was puerile but fun. Sunday we changed it up to "Have a Six Frogs day!" It's a bit less off-color but still quite successfully chuckle-inducing.
  7. We also began nosing people (mostly Six Flags employees) like Joe on the TruTV hidden-camera program Impractical Jokers. Ash is quite good at it, as it turns out.
Thanks for reading! Keep an eye out for my updated header graphic soon.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Mother's Day at Kickapoo Creek Winery

For Mother's Day I took the family to fancy brunch at the local winery. Just wanted to share this because it's another example of photo manipulation to create memories that didn't really happen. Rather than hand my phone to a stranger and trust him to take a decent photo, Heather and I traded off and here's the result of the merge:

This was a bit of a tough one, because merging the layers caused quite a bad fisheye distortion that I had to go back and correct. Now that I take another look, it sure did make me seem taller than I actually am... Nevertheless, I think we ended up with a fine fabricated memory to look back on with joy. Don't we all look nice? :)

Happy Mother's Day.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Laundry list classics

My Grammar Geeks group on LinkedIn has lately been busy contributing to a discussion called "Laundry list classics." The idea is to imagine what the first draft of a famous story might have been like were it penned on the back of a laundry or shopping list, cocktail napkin or something equally mundane. Some folks have posted alternate versions of famous first lines from classic novels, while others have composed sonnets or limericks. No matter the format, one could easily imagine the work scrawled haphazardly across a dry cleaning receipt or junk mail envelope.

I know that National Poetry Month is over, but I couldn't resist once this discussion started picking up steam. I've submitted three of my own limericks so far, and here they are:

I travelled one day on a whim
To shadowy Innsmouth so grim.
The fish-frogs came out
And chased me about--
I think I'll go back for a swim.

A young Kansan named Dorothy Gale
To Oz in a cyclone did sail.
On the road, she eased down
To old Emerald Town
And melted a witch with a pail.

On a night when I mourned my Lenore
With a sorrow like never before,
In swooped a black bird
That spoke only one word;
My wits shall return nevermore.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Time to learn some new words

If reading Lovecraft isn't enough of a vocabulary builder-upper for you, check this thing out! The title alone is enough to make you feel like an elite member of the bohemian intelligentsia. Here's how I found it:

I'm currently reading through the story "The Last Test," and--as is bound to happen now and then during a Lovecraft reading session--I came upon a word I did not recognize. My Nook informed me that there was no definition for this particular word, so I went online and tried again: "Testudinous..." Google thought I'd made a typo and suggested instead "testudineous," which means "tortoise-like" or "resembling a tortoise shell."

I reversed Google's unwanted correction and searched again. Very few hits. Hm. I moved on to the trusty ol' Ngram viewer (oh how I love that thing!) and searched for it there. Got a few hits, so on a whim I pulled open one of the earliest mentions. It was a reference book entry:

TESTUDINOUS, adj. [L. testudineus, from testudo, a tortoise.]
Resembling the shell of a tortoise.

Again, hm. The Latin spelling is a homophone for the suggested spelling Google gave me. Looks like we have two legitimate alternate spellings of a word, neither of which anyone uses anymore. I Ngram'ed them against one another and found that the -eous spelling was slightly more frequently used in print than Lovecraft's version, reaching an undisputed peak of usage in the early 1890s.


So, satisfied with the definition and its bearing on the story (the ascetic doctor's unique and quirky assistant, Surama, "indulged in many a deep, testudinous chuckle," or deep, slow-paced and deliberate chuckles), I turned back to this reference book I found through the Ngram viewer. Wow. What a title! Here's the title page, direct from the scan of the original 1832 printing:

The best news is that you can read the whole thing through Google Books by following this link. I guarantee you'll find some intriguing words in this book. It's easy to get hooked once you start digging. I swear to you, Lovecraft must have had access to a copy of this book because just about every page yields something I know I've read in his many stories.
I'm happy I found this valuable compendium of lexicographical knowledge. Have a look yourself. Expanding your vocabulary is a great way to learn more about the world around you and about yourself. It also allows you to more accurately express yourself. If that's not enough of a bonus, building your vocabulary can only have positive effects on your professional life. Ever heard of anyone getting canned because they have stellar communication skills?
If you think this book is surely antiquated and no longer relevant since it was published in the 19th Century, then I have news for you. It's been reprinted several times over the last 180 years. The 2010 paperback version, at 238 pages, is currently available on Amazon for the low, low price of $19.99! What are you waiting for? Grab some new words today!