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.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Shark Island returns...Kind of

I just discovered a true gem on Apple Music.

Back in 1989 I acquired a cassette copy of what will always be one of my favorite soundtrack albums, that of the soundtrack for Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure. Through it I was introduced to several new bands, the first of which was, of course, Big Pig, with their opening track "I Can't Break Away," which led me in turn to buy their album, Bonk, which subsequently stunned and impressed me with such great, heavily percussive, alternative(? I'm not sure there's a genre to describe Big Pig) tunes as "Big Hotel," "Hungry Town," "Devil's Song" and so many more.

That, in turn, led me to re-purchase that particular album on CD when the tape wore out. I also bought the followup CD years later. Not as good, but still managed a few good tracks. Great band. Sorry to know that they are not only defunct, but I can't really find anything substantial any one of them has gone on to do in the music industry.

But this entry is not about Big Pig.

This soundtrack also introduced me to Extreme. "Play with Me" was a blisteringly fast, melodic rock song that really blew me away. Their debut and sophomore albums were amazing and among my favorites of the era, and unlike Big Pig, they quickly found relative commercial success, but lost me along with that. Don't even get me started on Gary Cherone in Van Halen.

This post isn't about them either.

Tora Tora and Nelson both made solid appearances on the soundtrack as well (though the latter appeared as "Power Tool" due to a contract arrangement prior to their debut album release), as did a couple other even lesser-knowns. But it ain't about them either.

This is about Shark Island, one of the most underrated melodic hard rock bands of the late '80s. This group, along with Babylon A.D., has one of those non-success stories that kind of sickens me, because they were really good yet practically ignored, and I place the blame squarely on their labels. Both bands had incredible debut albums boasting a solid selection of songs with no filler, but suffered horribly from a lack of promotion and airplay.

Law of the Order was Shark Island's major label debut album, releasing the same year as the Bill & Ted soundtrack, as did Extreme's eponymous debut, and Tora Tora's Sneak Attack. It was a fantastic set of music, start to finish. Great riffs & catchy melodies abound, and Richard Black's vocals were spot-on throughout. This album should have been a huge success. It's a crying shame that Epic just let such genius material sit and rot.

FFWD>> to 2007, and I'm still listening to the album with some regularity. In August that year Shark Island released a new album. They'd apparently gotten most of the original band together to bring to fruition a bunch of old material and demos they'd had sitting around in the vault. This was exciting news. Unfortunately, the prospect was far more exciting than the final project.

Gathering of the Faithful is a great album title, and it makes a fan of the band think, "Wow, this is an album dedicated to me, one of the faithful who recognized the genius of the first album and waited faithfully for 18 years for an amazing followup. I'm finally gonna get my reward." Sadly, what you get when you play the album, no matter whether you're a fan or not, is a bunch of castoff material that shouldn't have made it to an actual album release. There's a reason they didn't record this stuff 15 years earlier. It kind of sucks. And, insult to injury, the production value sucks too. The band sounds like they haven't played together for almost two decades. Major disappointment.

Today I discovered on Apple Music that there's other Shark Island material out there as well. In 2004 an independent French label had the good sense to re-release Law of the Order in 2-disc format, adding a disc of live material recorded at the Whisky A Go Go in July 1989, five months after the release of Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure, when these guys were raring for takeoff after having slogged along and slowly built up a pretty decent following after 10 years on the L.A. rock scene.

Shark Island: Alive at the Whiskey - July 14, 1989 Bastille Day on iTunes

That disc is now available online. Though you'll shell out $60 or more for a secondhand mint-condition LP, you can now own a digital copy through iTunes for a mere 8 bucks. It's worth every penny. Even though most of the tracks are just live versions of the same material on Law of the Order, they are done with such energy and passion that each selection is given new life. If you happen to be a fan of this band looking for additional listening, I would recommend the live versions of the stuff you already know on Alive at the Whiskey long before I'd recommend the sloppy-seconds original material you'll find on Gathering of the Faithful.

There is kind of a heartbreaking moment buried in the glee I was feeling in enjoying this fantastic resurrected material. As the band finishes the final notes of "Get Some Strange" and they soak in the applause and cheers, singer Richard Black slips out of the rock star persona for a second and you get the sense that he suddenly truly noticed the crowd reaction and the fact that he was on this great stage with his band, getting major exposure on a really successful film soundtrack, and things were beginning to finally happen, that all their work was finally paying off. He shouts to the crowd, "Unbelievable!" Followed up with, seemingly more to himself, "My dreams have come true."

If only he had know how badly his record company was going to fuck him over. Such a waste.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

A Coaster Compendium - UPDATE

My list now consists of 69 coasters! 
Added two from Six Flags Great America--one is new, and the other is an old one I had completely forgotten about ever having ridden. Also, I finally got to ride Justice League 3D at Six Flags St. Louis a few times.
First there's Goliath, the most badass wooden coaster ever. Rode that one at the beginning of this season. Twice. Had to wait a very long time but that coaster was the only real reason I was there. It broke down three times the first time I was in line, but come hell or high water I was riding it. 
SO worth the wait. It's really sort of a hybrid if you ask me. There is obviously some very slick steel track embedded in that wooden framework because it rides like BUTTER. Smoothest coaster I've ever ridden, steel or wood, hands down.
Speaking of "hands down," one particular feature of this coaster is that there is no kind of handhold whatsoever. There's a lap restrain and a shin restraint to keep you in. No shoulder harness, and no bar on the back of the seat in front of you. If you're one one those "hold on tight til it's over" people, you're gonna have real trouble figuring out what to do with those hands. I'd suggest put 'em up.
Goliath is the fastest wooden coaster in the world, at a blistering but completely smooth 72 mph. Additionally it set records for the tallest drop and steepest drop on a wooden coaster--180 feet beginning at an incline of 85 degrees.
And second is the no-longer-there Tidal Wave, which consisted of a lead up track and a single, enormous loop. For my age when I rode it, that thing was pretty amazing. Kinda wish it was still around, but I guess it just lost its impact when looping coasters became so commonplace. Only thing is, that damn loop was tall. I'm sure it was taller than any other loop I've been on since.
Finally, there's Justice League Battle for Metropolis 4D at Six Flags St. Louis, which replaced the Scooby Doo Ghostblasters laser target shooting boat ride.
Eventually my patience was rewarded and we have ridden this one four or fives times so far this season. It's an indoor target shooting game that incorporates 3D effects, lasers, fog, a six axis rotating coaster car on a linear track, and complex animatronics for a really immersive experience.
Here's a few pics, including my personal high score after three rides on it. I scored in the top 10% of all scores registered thus far, the ride informed me at the end!

  • American Eagle (Six Flags Great America) [details]
  • American Thunder / Evel Knievel (Six Flags St. Louis) [details]
  • Avatar Airbender (Mall of America) [details]
  • Batman: The Ride (Six Flags St. Louis)
  • Batman: The Ride (Six Flags Over Georgia)
  • Batman: The Ride (Six Flags Great America)
  • Bizarro / Medusa (Six Flags Great Adventure)
  • Blackbeard's Lost Treasure Train (Six Flags Great Adventure)
  • Blue Streak (Cedar Point)
  • Boomerang / Flashback (Six Flags St. Louis) [details]
  • The Boss (Six Flags St. Louis)
  • Cedar Creek Mine Train (Cedar Point)
  • Corkscrew (Cedar Point)
  • Dahlonega Mine Train (Six Flags Over Georgia)
  • Dark Knight Coaster (Six Flags Great Adventure)
  • Dark Knight Coaster (Six Flags Great America)
  • Demon (Six Flags Great America)
  • Disaster Transport (Cedar Point)
  • El Toro (Six Flags Great Adventure)
  • Fairly OddParents Fairly OddCoaster (Mall of America)
  • Gemini (Cedar Point)
  • Georgia Cyclone (Six Flags Over Georgia)
  • Georgia Scorcher (Six Flags Over Georgia)
  • Goliath (Six Flags Great America) **NEW**
  • Great American Scream Machine (Six Flags Over Georgia)
  • Green Lantern (Six Flags Great Adventure)
  • Iron Dragon (Cedar Point)
  • Iron Wolf (Six Flags Great America)
  • Justice League Battle for Metropolis 4D (Six Flags St. Louis) **NEW**
  • Kingda Ka (Six Flags Great Adventure)
  • Little Dipper (Six Flags Great America)
  • Magnum XL-200 (Cedar Point)
  • Mantis (Cedar Point)
  • Maverick (Cedar Point)
  • Mean Streak (Cedar Point)
  • Millenium Force (Cedar Point)
  • Mind Bender (Six Flags Over Georgia)
  • Mr. Freeze (Six Flags St. Louis)
  • Mr. Freeze Reverse Blast (Six Flags St. Louis)
  • Ninja (Six Flags St. Louis)
  • Ninja (Six Flags Over Georgia)
  • Nitro (Six Flags Great Adventure)
  • Opa! (Mt. Olympus Indoor Theme Park)
  • Pandemonium / Tony Hawk's Big Spin (Six Flags St. Louis)
  • Pepsi Orange Streak (Mall of America)
  • Ragin' Cajun (Six Flags Great America)
  • Raging Bull (Six Flags Great America)
  • Raptor (Cedar Point)
  • River King Mine Train (Six Flags St. Louis)
  • Rolling Thunder (Six Flags Great Adventure)
  • Rolling Thunder [bobsled ride] (Six Flags Great America)
  • Runaway Mine Train (Six Flags Great Adventure)
  • Screamin' Eagle (Six Flags St. Louis)
  • Shockwave (Six Flags Great America)
  • Skull Mountain (Six Flags Great Adventure)
  • Space Mountain (Walt Disney World)
  • Spongebob Squarepants Rock Bottom Plunge (Mall of America)
  • Superman: Ultimate Flight (Six Flags Over Georgia)
  • Superman: Ultimate Flight (Six Flags Great America)
  • Tidal Wave (Six Flags Great America) **NEW** I'd forgotten about this one!
  • Top Thrill Dragster (Cedar Point)
  • Tornado (Adventureland)
  • Twister (Six Flags Great Adventure)
  • V2: Vertical Velocity (Six Flags Great America)
  • Viper (Six Flags Great America)
  • Whizzer (Six Flags Great America)
  • Wicked Twister (Cedar Point)
  • Wile E. Coyote Canyon Blaster (Six Flags Over Georgia)
  • X-Flight (Six Flags Great America)

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Wah wah wwaahhhhh...

Grrr! Justice League is still under construction, even two trips to into the season. We will be returning to the park for July 4th and I'm very confident the ride will be open by then. Stay tuned...

On a related note, this week I'll be adding Goliath to my list of conquests. Stay tuned for more on that as well...

Thursday, March 19, 2015

More coasters coming!

As Six Flags season approaches yet again, I'm gearing up with some genuine excitement because of two impending additions to my coaster conquest compendium:

Six Flags St. Louis opens, as always, on Good Friday. And, as we have done many times in the past, we will be there to secure our season passes. However, the passes will have to wait, as I want to be on the first official go-round of the new Justice League 4D dark ride once the park has opened for the season.
Justice League Battle for Metropolis 4D is billed as the first ride of its kind in North America. It's a "dark ride," similar to the Scooby Doo Ghostblasters boat ride that previously occupied the same space in the park, save for the boat part; this one rides on rails... I think. Either that, or it maybe doesn't move at all, but rather is a more "virtual" experience.

It's also similar to Scooby Doo in that the ride involves offing baddies and various other targets with laser guns attached to the conveyance. But that is where the similarities end.

Battle for Metropolis boasts the best, most high-tech animatronic characters this side of Disney World. In addition, it somehow incorporates "4D glasses." Not sure how that works exactly, but I can tell you with certainty that those glasses are going to be in the best shape of their lives on opening day. By midsummer you'll be lucky to see anything out of them. Unless maybe they're disposables? I don't know. There's an air of mystery about them as yet.

Oh, and Six Flags says this ride has 600+ shooting targets (!) compared to Scooby Doo's pitiful 115. In addition, we know that the ride incorporates five enormous screens, special effects, custom music and top-notch voice acting. JLBFM was designed by Sally Corp. (of Ghostblasters fame) and Oceaneering provides the motion-controlled ride vehicles.

I'm pretty stoked for this one. If it doesn't ride on rails, I'll still be super-excited to ride it on opening weekend, despite not being able to add it to my coaster tally. I'm confident that we'll be riding this one as a family at least two or three times Easter weekend.

The following month, we are planning a trip to Chicago, where I'll be taking in a Laibach concert. Our plan is, as long as we're there, to hit Six Flags Great America the following day (or two). This has me even more excited than I am for the concert, and I've been a Laibach fan for over 20 years, never having been to a show before, The reason this trip has me prematurely creaming my jeans is, of course, the coaster that was new for 2014 but we didn't go last year to ride it - GOLIATH!

Shattering records as the world's tallest, fastest and steepest wooden coaster, this behemoth is the one I've been waiting all my life to ride:

  • An initial 85-degree, 180-foot drop
  • 72 MPH top speed
  • Two overbanked inversions
  • 180-degree zer-G roll twist
  • Inverted zero-G stall
I'm just floored when a wooden coaster goes upside down. This baby does it several times. I cannot wait to board this sucker. I'm hoping the lines will be OK since it's a year old now.

I can't tell you how much I adore the Great America park north of Chicago. It was always my day-trip vacation destination of choice when I was a youngster, and it continues to be. The only pain in my ass now that I'm the dad is all the damn tolls along the way. That's where St. Louis takes an advantage over Great America. Actually, if you want me to be honest, the ONLY way in which Great America is better than St. Louis is in the number and quality of its rides. St. Louis has Great America beat on all other counts, including food, ticket/season pass price, weather, crowding, and the fact that there are a few rides that I'd miss if I had to only go to Chicago instead.

The Boss, American Thunder, and Screaming Eagle are the unique coasters in St. Louis that I enjoy most. Along with Screaming Eagle, the park's other iconic amusement ride is its giant Ferris Wheel, Colossus. We make a point to ride it every trip. It's a great way to decompress after a long day in the sun and on your feet.

But I digress. Obviously I'm excited to be heading to Six Flags once again. I was beginning to feel like an old fart because I haven't ridden a roller coaster in a couple years, and I literally can't remember the last time I flew from the seat of a playground swing. Thank goodness spring has arrived in Central Illinois. I need to get my ass to the playground with my kids, stat. No getting old for me just yet.

Stay tuned for more after Easter. I can't wait to tell you about the Justice League ride.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

March Madness, Metal-Style

Hey, Manowarriors worldwide! I've got a chance for you to stand up and be counted! Speak out for your true metal heroes and make your voice heard! Loudwire is taking the college sports sensation known in the States as "March Madness" and co-opted it for metalheads everywhere. They've created brackets for fans to vote on and find the best metal mascot ever.

The first match-up is Black Sabbath's occasionally used demon known as "Henry" vs. Manowar's ubiquitous "Manowarrior." Face it, folks, the United States is heavily biased toward Sabbath, so my overseas brothers and sisters of true metal are the only ones who are gonna be able to save our beloved Manowarrior from certain defeat at the hands of a part-time mascot whom he could rip apart with his bare hands in a true brawl.

Help me bring our Manowarrior victory! Hail and Kill! Visit this round 1 voting link and cast your vote today! Voting ends at noon on Monday 23 March GMT. Spread the word and take the metal world by STORM!


Monday, February 23, 2015

A new facet to the same career

I've recently begun crafting business logos as a part of my job. I'm totally down with that. How cool will it be to be able to see a logo I design on a pen, tee shirt or truck door some day?

I've done probably three logo designs in the past seven years, but lately I pumped out two, and the sentiment seems to be that they'll be becoming an ever more common part of my job.

The first I did is for a charitable institution that will be opening its doors in Peoria, Illinois once all the balls roll into place. It is to be rehabilitation center modeled after San Francisco's Delancey Street Foundation. Its board of directors asked me to come up with a logo, and after a few drafts they settled on the idea of emulating the soon-to-be-iconic gabled roof of the building chosen to house this project.

The final logo ended up like so:

A few weeks later, I was approached to create a logo for a lawn service business. With little to no input from the owners I ended up with this:

As it turns out, there was a mis-communication; the company already had a logo, but they liked mine so well they decided to ditch the old one and move forward using the new one.

I had another incident like that last year with a company I thought I was designing a logo for, but instead I was trying to reproduce an existing one, sight-unseen. What I thought was creative input from a manager was instead recollection of what he'd seen on the gas station sign.

Navigating by the creative direction I'd been fed, I came up with what was almost exactly their very logo. However, since I thought I was doing an original creation, I had taken some more aesthetic detours along the way, and I think to this day that I designed one that's way better than what they've been using:

Jackson Express, if you're reading this, you're still always welcome to use mine instead. You know it's snazzier.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

It's a busy life...sure beats the alternative

It seems like forever since I've posted anything here. I'd apologize, but I only have two regular readers, so that would be silly. It's not like there are hundreds or even dozens of people hanging on my words. Suppose I can take however much time I want between posts.

Anyway, so one of the things that's been taking my time is a newsletter I'd love to show off to you. It's quarterly, so I only spend probably a total of five to six weeks a year on this, but I'm always so very pleased with the final product. It's a much more in-depth commitment than the weekly e-newsletter I throw together every weekend and distribute through Constant Contact. This one is actually a print newsletter and I do everything for it but write. Editing, photography (or image hunting; about half of the images are shot by me, while the others are either public domain or CC-sharealike), layout, electronic conversion, etc. are all me.

Please take a look at them here. Heck, if you're agriculture-minded, go ahead and inquire about signing up. It's free.