Archive for » February, 2011 «

Saturday, February 26th, 2011 | Author: Casey Criswell

In particular, this cup of coffee. It was pretty good.

We all float down here Georgie…

This week’s photoblog is very tunnel centric. What can I say, I like em.

“I’m on the road to nowhere…”

These boots and I are old friends. I found them today after 2.5 years. We’ve been through hikes, Girl Scout Camps, night hikes, and more together.

Remember when there were so many people out walking, these were automatic?

More tunnels…

I haven’t had a diet soda since Tuesday 2/22.

Total Miles Walked – 78.6
Total Weight Lost – 18 lbs.
Outlook On Life – Freaking Stoked.

Thursday, February 24th, 2011 | Author: Casey Criswell

Since my days as a professional wrestling fan I’ve enjoyed Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. His heel turn was pretty funny and he had the presence to back up the schtick. It was a good fit. Then some years later, as he started to outgrow his time in the WWE, he hosted Saturday Night Live for the first time. I tuned in, pretty excited. (The Mrs. And I were pretty big fans at the time.) I was also a little nervous; sure the guy was a natural at commanding stadiums full of thousands of people, but could he handle working the stage in front of the studio audience in on SNL? Turns out, my worries were unfounded. He fit in like a (the People’s) champ, had great timing and was pretty damn hilarious. From there, once “The Rock” announced he was going Hollywood and slowly turning back into Dwayne Johnson, I was all for it. The dude proved himself as far as I was concerned and let’s face it. He’s got “action star” written all over him. He’s big, he’s cut and he already knows how to make fights look good!

For awhile, my expectations were met as Dwayne Johnson (re)made a name for himself. He had some missteps here and there such as “Doom”. There was that side trip that he made into family entertainment that many slammed him for though I’d be lying if I said my daughter and I didn’t enjoy him in any of those flicks! These days, Dwayne’s been getting back to the grittier tough guy roles, the newest of which, “Faster”, looked to have a little bit of everything. There were fast cars, hot babes, some good ole’ violence and some ass kicking. (No People’s Elbow or Rock Bottom’s though.) “Faster” promised some grainy filters to give the movie that hip grindhouse flair all the kids are into these days and put some veterans in with the leading man like Billy Bob Thorton and Carla Gugino and called it an action movie. The promise is high for this one and for the most part it delivers, but there are some pretty big stumbling blocks along the way.

The story behind “Driver” is a pretty basic revenge tale. There are no spoilers here; they tell you that in the trailers. Ten years ago Driver (The character’s name) and his brother assisted in a bank heist. Eventually things turned sour and the rest of the gang turned greedy on Driver and his brother. Wanting the entirety of the money, they executed the brother and shot Driver point blank in the back of the head. What they didn’t foresee was the bullet actually rattling around the outside of Driver’s skull and exiting through his cheek, leaving him alive. As the only living member of the heist in custody, Driver serves a ten year prison stint where he’s had nothing but time to fume and plan out his attacks upon his release. If it sounds familiar, that means you’ve seen Quentin Tarrantino’s “Kill Bill” or any number of revenge flicks. There’s nothing new in the plot to make “Faster” stand out which makes the film ride on the shoulders of Dwayne Johnson, Billy Bob Thorton and Ms. Gugino.

If it were just up to these three folks, “Faster” would be in great hands. Johnson is his big manly self as you’d expect. He handles the burning menace look well and as we all know, his fight skills are superb. He handles a revolver with ease and we can buy into his seething anger pretty well. Billy Bob handles the strung out cop well, despite the fact that it’s a fairly cliché role. It shows an actor’s range if he can play a role that we’ve seen a hundred times over and the performance isn’t dull and lifeless. As for Gugino, she plays a tough cop hell bent on justice and it works for her. She’s stern and strictly business with a touch of caring deep inside. The problems arise when you dig into the secondary cast of “Killer” played by Oliver Jackson-Cohen and “Lily” played by Maggie Grace.

To be fair, the fault doesn’t fall fully on the actors. They were given roles that were essentially unneeded for the entire movie. We’re shown their antics from beginning to end. They’re rich, they’re violent and like guns and Killer has some kind of pseudo Tao view on life. Lily, she gets off on his murderous ways a bit until we sit through their wedding. Once the vows are done, she’s no longer okay with him being a killer.

On the surface, this dangerous lover setup is passable. It’s nothing new mind you, but it’s a workable concept. The first problem lies in the character of Lily. There’s really no purpose for her to be in this movie other than to be a small bit of anxiety for Killer. While Maggie Grace is a pretty girl for sure, there is no point in the character! Pushing through to the end of the movie, she never comes to any kind of culmination except for someone for Killer to come home too. That brings us to problem number 2. Oliver Jackson-Cohen is not an intimidating man. Not even slightly. He’s milk toast. It’s clear that they were hoping for a British Man of Mystery thing here but it never comes across. We see two key scenes where Killer and Driver face off and in the first, Killer is a stone face man shooting a gun; a pale comparison to Dwayne Johnson’s seething anger behind the trigger. When the meet again, he’s a puddle of spitting ire yelling about being respected; it’s hard to expect Driver to respect this guy when we can’t respect him ourselves.

Is “Faster” a fun action throwback? Yes, it really is. There are some great scenes and Dwayne Johnson is a natural fit in the lead role. Billy Bob Thorton does a fine job with his junkie justice and Carla Gugino makes a good straight woman for him. If you can work past the faltering scenes involving the assassin that really could have been cut from the movie entirely, you’ll enjoy yourself quite a bit.

My one conundrum here? For a movie called “Faster”, I really hoped for a hell of a lot more crazy car chases than the one scene I got.

Tuesday, February 22nd, 2011 | Author: Casey Criswell

When it comes to talking about movies with my friends and acquaintances on the internet, I have a recurring problem. I tend to let them sway my movie choices a bit too much! There was a time when I thrived on forging new ground, the whole ‘We Watch Crap So You Don’t Have To’ bit. Digging in and watching movies to make my own opinion and perhaps using that experience to inform others. Over time, it just became easier to listen to my friends. Many times, I’d make my way back to a movie I skipped and 99% of the time, they were right. The movie was crap. Every great once in awhile, I’ll find a movie that everybody swore off that I happen to find to be an amazing bit of genre film! Such is the case with Stephen King’s “Dreamcatcher”.

Oh yes, I went there.

With some time to kill and no clear agenda on my plate I found myself digging through Netflix Instant Watch as I’m often wont to do. I happened across the entry for “Dreamcatcher” and it nagged at me. I’d always wondered what the plot was since I had never read the original story. Just knowing that something in that movie drove thousands to hate it and trash it on the internet gnawed at the back of my mind. Plus, I’ve always been a King fan and I felt bad for not having read it. I was a strong movie watcher. I’ve survived hours of trash that made other’s eyes cross pain just from reading the plot synopsis! Sure I could handle a little Stephen King joint! Besides, the cast looked strong; Thomas Jane? He’s a cool dude; I like his flicks a lot. Jason Lee? Hilarious generally, it would be nice to see a little change of pace for him! Timothy Olyphant? He’s been pretty great since “Deadwood”. I didn’t really know that Damian Lewis guy but that didn’t phase me much. I mean, the movie has Morgan Freeman in it. Morgan Freeman is the shit. The decision made, I hit play and settled back expecting to the worst; it was a mere twenty minutes before I found myself on the edge of my seat and enjoying one hell of a fun sci-fi/horror B-Movie!

My reasons for enjoying “Dreamcatcher” will be polarizing for some. Many people tend to scoff at the reasoning of “sometimes I like to just shut my brain off and watch a dumb movie”. But you know what? Screw those people. It’s really not their place to tell me how I should or should not enjoy my movies. With “Dreamcatcher”, there is a heavy element of dumb movie business going on, mostly in the form of cheesiness. The monsters are bad CGI, sure. Morgan Freeman’s performance is over the top and fairly cliché. That’s all okay. All of these elements are delivered poorly for a purpose; to recapture the spirit of the old sci-fi monster movies of yore! In this case, it really is a movie where you can shut your brain off and just enjoy a movie. There’s no deep thinking or over analyzing needed!

There are some basic elements at play that make this an enjoyable flick. First; the camaraderie of our main cast. Jane, Lee, Olyphant and Lewis all play well off of each other drawing us in to their ‘old buddy’ air of comfort. As a viewer, it’s easy to relate to. We’ve all got friends like that. We all wish we could run off for a week with the guys so to speak. Then they spice things up a bit with some mystery. Their somber toasts to Duddits, leaving us wondering what happened to the boy. Flashbacks give us a taste; he was a challenged boy they adopted into their fold to take care of and to protect. So we know they are caring people, good people despite some basic character faults. Then they change things up even more by introducing Tom Sizemore and Morgan Freeman into the mix. “Dreamcatcher” takes on a sense of excitement as the idea of a government cover up sinks in. All of it takes we the viewers on a nice little jaunt that slowly ramps up the tension until all of a sudden we’re in a full out action packed monster movie that’s pretty damn fun!

Now, I’m not a blind movie watcher. “Dreamcatcher” has some faults. There are plot holes of course; I can’t say that they ever did tell us why our group of friends fell out of touch with Duddits. In fact most scenes involving Duddits, played well by Donnie Whalberg to my surprise, are glossed over and given little weight. There are some questionable performances here too. Tom Sizemore is a bit of a waste. His character is a bit far out of his comfort zone making it feel forced and unneeded. None of these problems take from the enjoyable bit of character development that opened the movie nor do they spoil the excitement that comes once the government lunacy cranks up. The movie still manages to be engrossing and entertaining for its full 136 minute runtime, right up until the ending.

Now for the ending. From what I’ve been told via twitter, the ending of “Dreamcatcher” is where much of the hate arises. Written as a standalone novel by Stephen King in 2001, I’m told that the ending in the big screen rendition has been changed from the original written version, some would say drastically. There is a different take on the true nature of Duddits with a slightly different outcome. As a person who’s never read the book, (NOTE: I’m going to correct that soon, I promise) these changes have no effect on me whatsoever. The ending that I was given in the movie seemed perfectly fine. Though predictable, the finale was a nice bit of monster movie homage. The twist wasn’t shocking but still made the ending feel effective since we were able to connect on an emotional level with everyone involved. Might my opinion change once I read the literary ending? Sure, it’s possible. I’d like to think that I’ll be able to view it as a nice conclusion in addition to the movie’s version.

Your agreement on this “Dreamcatcher” write up will lean heavily on whether or not you’ve read the novel I think. I myself enjoyed the movie as is, immensely! Had I read the novel first, I may have soured some on the changes to the ending. I was pretty honked off over the changes in the end of “The Mist” after all. I’m also a firm believer that books can’t always be translated faithfully to the big screen. On its own, “Dreamcatcher” is a great throw back to the 50’s where the monsters were big and rubbery and the government was its own oppressive beast! With the movie now being available on Netflix Instant Watch, there’s no reason not to watch it!

With all my praise, I have one fair sized complaint; I don’t understand where the dreamcatcher motif comes in! I saw Duddits making the charm and talking how each section represented each member of the group. With the title of the movie and all, you’d think the connection would be a little more significant! Is it something I’ve missed from the novel? We’ll have to find out! In the meantime, feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below!

Goooo Duddits!

Monday, February 21st, 2011 | Author: Casey Criswell

A little elbow grease, I think I can turn this into a book cover

It was a lovely sunset that night, fun to play with

Pretty, per That Ghoul Ava

Sometimes uphill can be a little overwhelming…

Someday, I will invent something that lives under this bridge.

Pokeymanz, I haz em!

Total Miles Covered: 59.3
Total Lbs Lost: 14

Thursday, February 17th, 2011 | Author: Casey Criswell

The following is a repost from Bloody Good Horror. Seeing as I’ve be co-hosting over there since the beginning, I want to brag!

Over the past few weeks, you may have heard us begging for your votes for a little award show on our behalf. It’s looking like 2011 is the year of the Bloody Good Horror Podcast because we’re here to beg for your votes once again!

This year, we here at Bloody Good Horror are honored to be nominated for our first Rondo Hatton Award for Best Horror Audio!

Head over to the official ballot for the 9th Annual Rondo Hatton Classic Horror Awards where you will find the full list of nominees, the voting rules and more!

Category: Other Musings  | Comments off
Wednesday, February 16th, 2011 | Author: Casey Criswell

Well then. You’re cruising along, doing the best you can. You’re excercising, you’re eating right, you’ve cleaned up your act. Then one morning you wake up and you’re almost 40! The horror of it all! Right?

Well, to tell the truth it really wasn’t that bad. In fact, it’s been pretty spiffy. The Mrs. and the Young-one woke up me up this morning with breakfast in bed. I got some new tools that will help my writing considerably, and tonight the Young-One is cooking me sloppy joes for dinner. Happy Birthday indeed!

The well wishes have been down right staggering over at my Facebook page and all I can say to that is; you folks are pretty awesome! Thanks to all of you for the birthday wishes!

In the meantime, thanks to my mom and the Mrs. I now have a shiny new laptop/netbook for my writing pleasure. (And really, it is a pleasure!) I’ve spent the better part of today getting things setup just right and breaking in the beast and I can call it a success. It’s an HP Mini 210 and I love it! The battery life is insane! 8 hours? Oh hell yes!

In getting the new laptop ready, I decided it was time to get the writing folder cleaned up and I was a bit shocked at what I found! In total, I found that I have 13 writing projects in the works! These stories are in various stages of completion, some lined up for editing and others still in early gestation, but that’s a lot on my plate!

Just for shits and or giggles, I figured I’d share the list so you can see what’s in store for the year. Keep in mind, these notes are exactly that; notes! So they’re rough! See something that you think would be cool to read? Make sure to comment and let me know! Enough interest may get one project bumped up over another!

1. The Granny Story: Currently started as “Dead Before Dark”. Playing on Granny’s old superstitions that if you took flowers from a cemetery, there would be tears before dark. i.e. someone you knew would be dead before dark. The idea starts with a teenage (13-14? Older) boy at a funeral with his Grandmother where she utters the legend in with distaste at the relatives picking apart the funeral arrangements. To spite his grandmother, the boy takes a flower just so he could say ‘see, nothing happened’ and as a result, many around him start to die as Death starts to make it’s way to him.

2. Bloodhound: Well under way already. 30+ pages. Needs to be finished up so that it can enter the editing phase. Expecting a good 60-70 pages on this. Im aiming for a ‘mutant’ noir feel here as it’s kind of a crime boiler type feel with a guy with mutant powers.

3. Dinner With Denton: Ongoing. First Novel. Not your daddy’s cannibal story. More like…Rachel Ray’s cannibal story.

4. Love Song at Ground Zero: In editing phase. Down to rewriting the ending/last paragraph. Changing the scope to go with my original idea instead of compromising and taking the easy/predictable way out!

5. King of Squalor: Submitted to Waiting for response

6. Incident at Crater Lake: around 12k words. In line for heavy editing. Already slated for “Mondo Sasquatch”

7. Mother of Two: rejected a few times, latest by Pill Hill Press. They thought there was a decent story in there, but it needed a heavy edit. I agree. In line for editing then shopping around again.

8. Jackboots for Jesus: Expansion. Story was published in “The Jack”, a college lit mag in 2008. Want to possibly expand the story, down on the list of importance.

9. Good Bye Jim: Story of the ‘fill in reaper’. Currently at 3400 words, unfinished. Needs finished, edited, submitted.

10. Dirty Work: Monster hunter team up. Good old boys who work as a unit. Look messy and sloppy from the outside, work as an effective machine as a whole. Good old fashioned ass kicking. Once draft is at 20k words, never finished. May need to revisit. Got overwhelmed and shoved aside. There is a 2nd short story version in the works, only at about 3k words that would be once separate adventure for the team. Perhaps more of an origin story. Still unfinished. Short version may wind up in “Dark II” as that’s what I started it for.

11. Dead of Night: Crap title, more a place holder. Young Adult series, two boys who are deep into comic books, once full of chaos one strict and by the rules. Based around an old comic called ‘Dead of Night’ ala Scary Tales and the old EC comics. They face off against a character that comes to life from the pages of the comic. Was originally thinking of this as a wrapper for a small say…3 story anthology but I’m having second thoughts. I’m starting to lean towards a series of Young Adult adventure stories where the two kids I have written already hunt monsters and mysteries that they come across starting with this creepy comic shop that appeared out of nowhere. Currently 3k words written.

12. A Fine Line: Another short that has been published at the “Sonar 4 Ezine” which is now defunct. It was an early story, it’s problematic at best. Started a rewrite, didn’t get too far. Has a nice accidental villain flare that would fit in with Des’s super hero anthology idea.

13. A Fat Man and his Dog: This was published as a serial at The Great and Secret Thing. It’s always been special to me because it sprang from me and my dog and our walks on my first bought of weight lost a good five years ago. I’d like to expand some day making the Fat Man kind of a Tall Tale kind of fantasy story, using this original serialization as a prologue. I don’t have a good grasp if it’s worth it though, I’ve barely ever gotten any feedback on it.

Category: Uncategorized  | One Comment
Sunday, February 13th, 2011 | Author: Casey Criswell

Downsizing in Full Effect

Today, it was nice out. The thermometer read 45 degrees. Conditions don’t get much better than that for taking a walk. So walk I did. 4.2 miles, to Hamilton Square Mall and back. On the bright side, I can see this 4 mile trek will be a breeze this summer thanks to the handy walking paths they installed along 146th street. To bad today they’re still covered with snow and ice!

Without any further rambling, here’s a little ‘photo blog’ of pictures I met along the way.

Mile 1. Long ways to go.

Thought I’m built like motorized vehicle, I think I can still pass

Please oh please tell me the owner’s name is Seymore

So tired of this view on my daily walks.

Bonus Pic!

Was so nice out today, I drug out the grill to make some dinner

Total miles covered this winter: 45.1
Total lbs lost so far: 12

Category: Other Musings  | Tags: , ,  | 3 Comments
Sunday, February 13th, 2011 | Author: Casey Criswell

My library has grown a bit out of hand. Half Price Books, here I come!

Category: Books, Other Musings  | 5 Comments
Saturday, February 12th, 2011 | Author: Casey Criswell

With “Kingdom of Squalor” out the door heading for unseen judgement, I allowed myself a day or two free of writing. There are two distinct stories that need editing (I’m working on it Louis!) but…my brain is currently tired.

As I’m often wont to do, I turned to the opposite end of the spectrum and opted for some reading. This weekend I dove into “Depraved” by Bryan Smith which turns out to be a pretty fun genre pulp read. It moves quick, the plot flies straight and to the point which matches my own writing style, and violent. Gotta love the violence!

One of my favorite things to do when finding new writers is to dig around on the internet about them. Trying to become a bonafied author myself, I figure it’s more research into how they grew their own careers instead of just straight up stalking. Upon digging up Mr. Smith’s blog, I found myself clicking through links to other publishers and eventually landing on Bizarro Central, the home of bizarro fiction on the net. With bizarro, I’m completely uneducated. I’ve known some of the authors that dabble in it and some that embrace it fully such as Jeremy C. Shipp but I’ve never actually read any of it. I find it intriguing though. Something in the primitive part of my brain says “YES MUST WRITE” but I don’t know anything about what makes bizarro ‘bizarro’. So I know where my reading here in the near future is going to lead.

The moral of the story here? On an off day of non-writing, I’ve found myself moving from reading, to research, to investigating a new genre for myself to dabble in!

Can’t beat that for an off day.

Category: Books, Other Musings, Writing  | Comments off
Thursday, February 10th, 2011 | Author: Casey Criswell

As the old natty year of 2010 ticked over to the fresh and shiny year of 2011, I made myself a little mental note. Some call them resolutions, some call them goals. I just made a little check list of crap I’m going to get done this year. I guess you would call those ‘goals’.


The first of those goals has officially begun and by golly, it feels pretty damn good to get that first step over with. Over the past week I’ve been pouring over a 3000 word short story called “Kingdom of Squalor” for a contest. I didn’t find out about the contest until last week but I decided I wanted to go for it. Today, after several rounds of edits and convincing myself that my story is shit; I think I’m ready to send it out the door. That’s a problem of mine; I really can’t convince myself that any of these stories are worth a damn!

As for the goal stuff, my lofty goal was to submit twelve short stories in 2011. Note that I didn’t say sell; just to submit. 12 different stories. A lofty goal? Oh yes. An obtainable goal? Yes, if I get my ass in gear. Is said ass in gear? It’s in something, It’s starting to burn!

So there you have it; “Kingdom of Squalor” makes the first of those 12 stories out the door. We’re going to tick the countdown clock to 11 to make it official. Now if I can get this contest to take the story? Well that’s even better.

Wish me luck!