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, January 27, 2014

WTF, Manowar?

I am a lifelong fan of Manowar through good times and bad, but even I am not sure what to think of the newest release coming out next month.

First off, they've rerecorded a classic--nay, the definitive--Manowar album, Kings of Metal, giving it the same treatment as Battle Hymns. I gotta say, even though Joey DeMaio previously has gone on record as saying the band would never stoop to rerecording and rereleasing old music, that Battle Hymns reboot is a killer record. I loved the original much better than many of the early releases, but since BH MMXI released, I hardly listen to the original release at all anymore.

I understand the desire to rerecord the debut album, or any of the first five albums, for that matter; the production value on those albums was definitely lacking. Hearing the old songs performed live really brings that realization home. The band is in its best incarnation ever right now with Eric, Joey, Karl and Donnie. They blow the shit out of all previous lineups, so it only makes sense to utilize their masterful playing and studio production values to breathe new life into solid but sonically dated material.
Kings of Metal, however, is not one of the releases that particularly begs to be revamped. In my opinion, it is the first of the releases with more kickass overall production values. Later on the sound quality and oomph on the records went into even higher gear with Warriors of the World. The way I see it (or, more accurately, the way I hear it) is that there have been four eras of evolution to Manowar's sound:

1. Battle Hymns, Into Glory Ride, Hail to England
2. Sign of the Hammer, Fighting the World
3. Kings of Metal, The Triumph of Steel, Louder Than Hell
4. Warriors of the World, Gods of War, Battle Hymns MMXI, Lord of Steel

Anything in category 1 is overdue for a freshening up. One down, two to go. Category 2 could benefit from a little dusting off. Anything in category 3 or 4 is fine as-is. With the exception of Louder Than Hell, which--if you're a regular reader--you might know is one of my least favorite Manowar releases.

So that's reason one that I'm not sure how to face the release of Kings of Metal MMXIV: it doesn't really need to be rerecorded. There's a reason Kings of Metal endures as the band's best selling album to date--it's sheer perfection already! "If it ain't broke, don't fix it."

The second reason is, well, take a look at the cover, compared with the original:


















Anything missing from the revamped cover on the right? That's right. Where the FUCK is the U.S. flag??? These guys are from New York City, for Chrissakes! Have they become so deeply involved in their overseas exploits that they've forgotten their roots completely? Joey DeMaio doesn't do anything without thinking it through very methodically. You know he and Ken Kelly communicated very specifically about which countries to represent on the new cover. This was a deliberate decision with some sort of very concise motivation behind it. Is it political in nature? What's going on? Why, before embarking on their longest U.S. tour leg in decades, would Manowar give the USA short shrift on the cover of the album they are promoting, especially when the U.S. flag held such a place of high esteem on the original cover? If Warriors of the World ever gets a rerelease, whose flag will our mighty warrior be holding aloft? Where is the interviewer who is gonna corner Joey and ask him head-on about this?

I just don't know how to take this cover. I think it legitimately warrants an explanation from the band, just because they took an iconic album cover that represented victory through adversity and American patriotism and, upon rerelease, completely removed that element, replacing it with symbols of other nations of the world. And truly that's the ONLY thing that changed about the cover artwork. The rest is identical. It doesn't have to be addressed with the hostile attitude I've given here. Just a simple question: "Joey, what was the thought process behind the cover choice for the new album? What inspired you to make the changes you did, and is there any significance behind the absence of the U.S. flag?" Simple.

I just gotta know. Of course I'll buy the album even not knowing the answer because Manowar is in my blood. But I might hate myself a little for it. Despite the buyer's remorse, I just have to own those damn bonus tracks. To have instrumental (read KARAOKE) tracks of "Blood of the Kings," "Hail and Kill," "Heart of Steel," Kingdom Come," "Kings of Metal" and "Wheels of Fire" is going to be amazing. I'll be taking those to the karaoke bar I work at and trying them on for size. I need no lyric sheets of course. I need only the roar of the Black Wind and an open mic.

Damn you, Manowar. I can't hate you even when you piss me off.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Dirty Peanutz has an official home!

OK, folks--if you've enjoyed my plying my twisted humor on these classic Peanuts strips, go on over to check out my new Dirty Peanutz page on Blogger. I'll be posting a new Peanutz strip there every day! If you've been following along, you'll see familiar strips for a while (with a surprise bonus strip coming up soon) and then after those have all been posted I'm moving on to ALL NEW MATERIAL!

Subscribe now to make sure you get your daily fix of beloved children's characters engaged in the most tasteless endeavors you can imagine. I will no longer be posting these creations on this page; to see more you'll have to visit me at peanuttier.blogspot.com.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

I must be stopped... Or must I?

I whipped up a few more crazy Peanuts strips. Hope you like them. Click on a strip if anything in the right margin is obscuring it, and it will open in a new screen.

PEANUTZ 7








PEANUTZ 8








PEANUTZ 9









PEANUTZ 10


Crazy Peanuts strips

I recently discovered a great online archive of Peanuts comic strips. Now I'm a huge fan of Peanuts strips and have been all my life. However, while browsing the archive it struck me that sometimes it's funnier if you make up your own captions instead. So here are a few examples I came up with.

PEANUTZ 1

PEANUTZ 2

PEANUTZ 3

PEANUTZ 4

PEANUTZ 5

PEANUTZ 6

Hmmm... A new hobby in the works? It sure is fun! Stay tuned.



Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Never forget.

I was at home in Monmouth, Illinois, illegally downloading unfathomably low bit-rate music over a dial-up connection via Audiogalaxy, because Napster had recently been shut down. I was tying up our only phone line, and I didn't even have the TV on.

My wife was at work as a phlebotomist at a hospital in the next town, 20 miles away. Her whole lab department had been watching and listening to coverage of the aftermath of the first plane strike since it began. Once the second plane struck my wife started trying to call me. The phone was busy, of course, so she couldn't reach me. Bear in mind, cell phones were not as ubiquitous then as they are now. She and I didn't have our first mobile phones until at least the following year.

It had to have been around 8:15 a.m. CDT that my neighbor from across the street, Kelly, came knocking on the door. She said my wife had called her and asked her to come over to tell me to get off the phone line and call her immediately. Kelly asked if I was watching the TV and I said no. She briefly told me there had been a terrorist attack and two passenger planes had been purposefully crashed into the World Trade Center.

I had no idea what was about to transpire and that it would become one of those “I remember exactly where I was when that happened” moments.

I called my wife and she was very upset because her mother, at that time not yet retired from the USAF, was working on base in southern Illinois. Nobody knew what could be an upcoming potential target. I tried to reassure her that her mother was most likely very safe, that it looked like they were targeting civilians to make the greatest impact, and that her mother worked in a vault on base anyway.

After the phone call, I stayed off the line. I sat down and glued myself to CNN coverage of the goings-on. It wasn't but a few minutes before another hijacked plane struck the Pentagon. “Oh my God,” I thought, “How many are there??” and, “They are targeting military sites too.” And then I heard about the other hijacked plane, Flight 93, that passengers were able to get calls out from. All flights over the U.S. were soon grounded.

At around 9:00 am the South Tower of the World Trade Center fell, and the world and I watched in stunned, saddened silence. It was surreal, and it was the first time I ever recall being brought to tears by television news coverage. The impact of all those deaths we couldn't prevent was something that shook me to the core.

Not ten minutes later, the civilian heroes of flight 93 sacrificed their lives to prevent another tactical terrorist attack with their own plane. Rather than striking the White House or Pentagon, that plane was crashed in a field in rural Pennsylvania, killing everyone on board and no one not on board. Who knows how many lives were saved by the heroic actions of those passengers…

Some 20 minutes later the North Tower collapsed. The reality and gravity of the situation once again proved too much and I broke down in tears for the innocent lives lost. I couldn't believe what I was seeing.

Before the collapse, I remember seeing live coverage of people leaping from the upper floors of the towers, opting for that death over the agony of burning alive. I remember the post-collapse images of ash, blood and soot-caked civilians and emergency personnel trying to do what they could to survive and help others survive. The airwaves were overrun with replays of the towers collapsing every time a new tape came in with a new angle. People scrambled for their lives like Tokyoites fleeing from a gargantuan, destructive fire-lizard as the clouds of ash and debris overtook them. I remember the helplessness and impotence the whole nation felt as we watched those events on live television. I remember newscasters losing it and getting emotional on the air. It was heart wrenching.

We watched as those building remains burned and smoldered all through the day and into the evening. We watched as bodies were pulled out from that rubble. Mostly bodies. Very few survivors. It was a day of sickening unity across the nation.

It was one true day of infamy and sorrow, the first one of its kind my generation had seen. This was our Pearl Harbor. This was our JFK assassination. This was our Jonestown. And we will never forget.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Movie review - Elysium

MILD SPOILER ALERT

Went to see the new science fiction action thriller Elysium this afternoon, and I really liked it, even more than Pacific Rim. Best sci-fi pic I've seen in a long time. Elysium was directed by Neill Blomkamp, who made a name for himself in the industry with his independent debut feature film, District 9, which was both a critical and box office success.

Elysium stars Matt Damon, whom I personally think is highly underrated as an actor. I've really enjoyed his performances lately in We Bought a Zoo, Beyond the Candelabra, and this picture. I think he brings an everyman quality to any role he plays. He makes it relatable no matter what the role. Well, maybe not so much Jason Bourne. That one's kind of a stretch to relate to.

His costar and foil in the film is Jodie Foster, whom I conversely consider to be extremely overrated as an actor. I just think she hit her high point way back in The Silence of the Lambs and has never regained that glory despite having a few hits since then. Though I did like her in Contact as well. I've never quite gotten why she gets such attention in Hollywood. I liked her as a child actor, but to me she's just kind of annoying nowadays in most films.

Part Mad Max, part Cyborg, part Holy Bible and part Johnny Mnemonic, Elysium takes place in the mid-22nd century. Earth has been raped and basically destroyed by the human race, so it has been left to the indigent "have-nots," while the richest and most powerful people in the world have pulled together the resources to construct for themselves an enormous, terraformed space station in orbit around the dying planet. This is Elysium.

Damon plays a factory worker named Max who has always dreamed of the day he is able to find a way to take himself and his childhood sweetheart and lifelong love to the beautiful manmade paradise of Elysium, where there is no crime, no poverty, no disease, and anyone who dies does so of old age alone.

Foster is ballsy Secretary of Defense Delacourt who takes no prisoners in stopping illegal immigration of unlicensed earth folks who constantly attempt to infiltrate Elysium security and stow away on the space station to make a better life for themselves.

When our hero is accidentally exposed to a massive dose of radiation in a manufacturing plant accident, he has no choice but to return to his former lucrative life of crime to pull one more, practically suicidal job to earn the money to pay for his ticket to Elysium. This is how he ends up crossing paths with dirty double government agents of Elysium, and his own plans of salvation entangle with Delacourt's deceitful political power play.

Action-packed and exciting, with Max an overtly Christlike figure by the end, I found the movie to be very enjoyable. I like seeing new interpretations of a bleak earth future. It was well crafted and well written, though there were a couple of issues I had that prevent me from calling it flawless. 

The biggest potential distraction from full enjoyment was Jodie Foster's horrendously inconsistent accent. I think it was meant to be French...ish? But it was just hit-and-miss. At times it would wax and wane crazily like the ocean tides of Bespin (if it had any liquid oceans), even during the same scene. Foster's never been known for her versatility with accents, but this was worse than Mike Myers' faux Scotsman, even pre-Shrek. Not that his Shrek characterization was particularly impressive...

All in all, a nicely done film. It's not often that a sci-fi flick comes along that I can enjoy with my wife. I think the last one we both liked and saw in the theater together was The Matrix. The first one. And that was some time ago.

Well done, Neill Blomkamp. I fell asleep during District 9, but this I liked. Hmm. Perhaps I should give District 9 another shot. I'll check Netflix this weekend. Maybe I didn't give it a fair shake. It's pretty difficult to find any negative feedback on that movie, so there must be something to it. Stay tuned on that front...

Friday, July 26, 2013

Pacific Rim not perfect by any means, still worth my nine bucks

I finally went to see Pacific Rim last night, clinging desperately to the stellar filmmaking reputation of Guillermo del Toro and the positive reviews I've seen. Obviously that means I've either avoided or ignored the negative reviews up to this point. My friend and former coworker posted his review (which contains mild spoilers) and I avoided it until after having seen the film myself because he prefaced it with the mention of spoilers.

I think I'll follow the same format here as he did in his review.
Again, be aware:  >>>>>> SPOILERZ AHED <<<<<<<


What I liked:
Not being a huge fan of the whole Godzilla-style monster invasion flick, I didn't come into this movie with an extensive viewing background in the genre and a bunch of preconceived notions about how the ultimate giant-monsters-versus-giant-robots story should go. I'm still not what you'd call a fan--it didn't convert me--but it was reminiscent of some of the anime I used to watch back in high school, and that felt good and nostalgic in a way.

The action can't be faulted, except maybe to say that some of the action-packed close-ups of kaiju (that's the monsters in the movie) and jaegers (what the "robots," or more accurately "mechs" [they're not automatons; they're controlled by pilots inside them] are called in the movie) are just a little too frenetic at times to really pick out exactly what's happening. But if you want to see massive destruction, monsters getting pummeled, and cities being leveled, you'll see it here.

I love the idea of alien monsters emerging from an unexplained and sudden physical and dimensional rift that has opened in the ocean floor. Too often, our would-be alien conquerors announce their visit ahead of time by traveling in huge, easily detectable spaceships. We never look down. Nice twist.

I liked that it's a PG-13 I am comfortable taking my 11-year-old to. IMDB's parents guide doesn't do the film justice. It always sounds so much worse when you read it out of context. It mentioned an f-bomb, but I certainly didn't hear it and neither did my companion. Nearly all of the violence in the picture is kaiju/jaeger centered. It's all CG. In those shots you don't even get much of the "Run for your life from Gojira!" panic in the streets as people are crushed under the foot of a marauding monster.

There's a bit of blood now and then when the pilots get tossed around inside the jaegers during combat, and we do see one man get picked up by a kaiju and basically swallowed. And there was a fistfight between two headstrong jaeger pilots where there's a little blood. But for the most part, even the more "gory" violence is really a computer-generated mech ripping a huge, computer-generated hole through a computer-generated monster to a spray of computer-generated fluorescent blue blood analogue. Not the kind of violence I'm worried about my kid seeing. And there's no sex-related material other than an herbalist trying to sell someone something for "male potency." IMDB says he makes a gesture. I imagined him using his forearm to simulate a strong, erect penis. Nope. He simply closes his hands into two fists to demonstrate virility.

What I didn't like:
Some things just didn't make sense to me. Did I interpret the timeline wrong, or did the first kaiju invasion take place in 2013, seven years before the events of the film, which is set in 2020? If that's the case, then how come the little Japanese girl rescued by the jaeger pilot--who appears all of six years old--is obviously in her mid-to-late 20s when the bulk of the story takes place? How does a child age at least 15 years in a span of seven? ...Or did I miss something?

Many--no, make that all--of the characters were straight out of central casting. Some of the smaller roles were blatantly stereotypical, and maybe even racially insensitive. The aforementioned Japanese girl--who as a small child, sounded like she was straight out of one of those anime videos I mentioned before, making those tiny, weird moans and gasps that nobody in real life ever makes as she picked her way through the carnage of a devastated city to face her rescuer--grew up to be not only way too old for her age, but also horribly stereotypical: demure, heavily affected with her fake Japanese accent even though she'd spent the last seven-to-twenty years being raised by a British man, and secretly a ninja.

I kept expecting a close-up of that Russian dude saying to a kaiju in his best fake Dolph Lundgren-Russian accent, "I vill break you." I don't remember their names. They possibly weren't even mentioned. I shall call them Boris and Natasha because that's how stereotypical they were in appearance. Also, all the other nationalities dressed alike but like no other subset of people. It was just weird and made the future look like, "Yes, we all came together as a united world to stop the menace of the kaiju, but there's no way we'll dress like one another or begin to assimilate into one world culture." I half-expected the Chinese to all look like rice farmers in their stereotypical cartoon Chinaman crash-cymbal hats.

I'm going to do my best Seth Myers now: My, how our technology has advanced in a mere seven years. My companion pointed out that necessity is, after all, the mother of invention. But really, Pacific Rim? Really? 50-story, airtight, fully-articulated robots that are controlled via a Vulcan mind-meld of two pilots with the robot's command matrix? Really? We have 3-D holographic computer interfaces all over this world? Not that unbelievable, I guess, but at the same time we have a timer measuring how long since the monsters appeared, and it's a humongous FLIP-NUMBER-CLOCK? Really?? And can some one explain to me how the old, series three or whatever jaegers are ANALOG in nature versus the DIGITAL ones that were knocked out by the EM pulse kaiju? "Analog?" REALLY?

One more big question: If the rift needs to detect kaiju matter in order to open to a traveler, how did the jaeger escape pods make it back through to our world?

And there's one last minor thing that bothered me. Apparently the jaeger design teams took at least one cue from Inspector Gadget. It seems like in order to deploy any special feature on the mech (elbow rocket, plasma cannon, sword), a pilot has to announce it aloud first. The only thing it was missing was the preliminary "Go-go, Gadget," as in "Go-go, Gadget Umbrella!"

I'm starting to talk myself out of having liked this movie as much as I previously thought. Better stop now, because I think I'll have to take my son this weekend to a matinee. I want to enjoy the second screening too, and not be constantly reminded of that nitpicky review I read that purported to be positive but ended up kinda panning the whole affair. Wait, I wrote that review, didn't I? Crap. 

A sequel? I'd be interested in seeing that. I'd rather see At the Mountains of Madness, but if GDT can really nail it with The Strain and Hellboy 3, and if Richard Stanley can truly deliver on his proposed adaptation of The Colour Out of Space, I can settle for Pacific Rim 2. At least, for now...