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Thursday, August 08th, 2013 | Author: Casey Criswell

Back in February, I built a new pc solely for the purpose of returning to the world of PC gaming. Since then I’ve fallen in love with Steam and the multitude of games and bargains contained with in! Some of my biggest enjoyment comes from the plethora of retro style platformers that exist out there as they all feel nostalgic and I find that oddly enough…in my old age, Im actually way better at them than I was a kid! Who’d a thunk? These days, video games have become my vice since I quit smoking and emotional eating, so I go through quite a few games. My nightly ‘unwind’ is to play, which all in all is quite a bit healthier than my old habits! Going along with the games, I’ve gotten in with a great community on Steam and I’ve been having a blast posting random game recommendations on there, so I figured I’d start talking games here in an effort to breathe some life into Cinema Fromage.

If you’re on Steam and want to play some time, be sure to add me! Cinema Fromage on Steam


I’m a little thick sometimes. When I first bought SHoDN during the summer sale, I played it about three times and I didn’t get it. There wasn’t a lot of explanation to the game and with the over stimulation that the summer sale brings, I didn’t have the attention span to sit down and give it a chance. I wound up shutting the game down, vaguely wondering if I wasted $3 and proceeded to waste my time in other things.

Cut to three weeks later, I see people talking about SHoDN on the forums a lot and I figure I paid $3 for it; I might as well give it a shot. The first time through, I thought the keyboard controls were a little cumbersome but I was starting to understand the game concept; score points, extend your time, get us far down the tower as you can. Seemed solid, it was starting to sink its claws in.

Later that morning, I was messaged by someone on my friends list, urging me to submit my scores so they had somebody to compete against on the leader boards. I hadn’t even realized there were leaderboards, so I played through again and submitted. That’s when the claws sunk in even deeper; competing against your friend’s high scores is super addictive. I figured I was in there, so I started clicking around in the menus and that’s when I discovered that there’s controller support in SHoDN! Around this time, a game I thought I might have wasted my money on turned into a full on addiction.

SHoDN is dead simple in concept, but with challenging maps and tight controls it turns into a great little time attack platformer. It’s difficult in all the right ways and its design of getting ever farther down the tower, combined with trying to outscore your friends list makes it a game you’ll return to. It’s simple nature makes it a perfect fit for those times when you want 10 minutes of distraction instead of 3 hours of character development, but there’s a strong chance it’s going to suck you into that dreaded, “just one more try” state of mind.

I’ve yet to try the new DLC that was added this week, but it’s officially on the wish list!

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Monday, August 05th, 2013 | Author: Casey Criswell

With the Quakecon sale kicking off on Friday, I was a bit surprised to see that there was a Quake 4! Sure, I got away from PC gaming for awhile and it had been a REALLY long time since I was heavy into Doom and Quake, but I felt a little funny that I didn’t know this existed! With a cheap price I figured it was a must play for nostalgia’s sake at the very least. I didn’t expect a whole lot out of it, which is good because it turns it’s okay. Not great, but okay.

I run a couple of movie podcasts, so I watch a lot of flicks. The state of the modern shooter in comparison to classic style shooters compares pretty well to the world of movies. Most of the time, you like to watch a movie that’s well put together, highly polished, engaging and engrossing. This translates to your modern shooters in the game world. Games such as Bioshock Infinite or even Deadspace are a different beast than the shooters we all cut our teeth on. They’re deep, they have branching stories, they’re well put together. It’s a production…an experience.

Jumping back to your movie world. you have another class of movie which boils down to your dumb action or horror movies, stuff put out by the likes of Syfy Channel or Asylum. These movies are cheesy with no depth whatsoever. They’re there simply to treat you to explosions and special effects, nothing more than the spectacle. Quake 4 fits in perfectly with this type of movie; there’ s no depth to it whatsoever, it’s there simply for you to run around and shoot aliens. And that’s it.

Much like watching the movies though, sometimes we simply don’t feel like wrapping our head around something deep. We want to munch popcorn and watch stuff explode. Video games are the same way, and Quake 4 is a pretty perfect fit for those moods. It’s a solid through back to the good old days where you’re only concern was checkpoints and finding your way to the rail gun. The story is a nice aside but really doesn’t do anything to suck you into the game. You’re sticking around for the fun of shooting Stroggs and seeing what the weapons do.

There’s some sections in Quake 4 that are annoying. The vehicle sections are slow and clunky which makes them frustrating when you’re trying to dodge. Some of them feel like you’re on a rail shooter without a whole lot to shoot at. The game is way too long for what you’re there for too.

In the end though, things blow up pretty well and it play smoothly while showing it’s age. It’s worth $5 and a Sunday afternoon.

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Thursday, June 13th, 2013 | Author: Casey Criswell

This week, my health coach was out and had to miss our last group meeting for this session. In her stead, I was told I’d be running the group in her absence! (Note that I wasn’t asked!) Everybody expected me to talk about running, but I went a different direction and decided to spend today’s meeting sharing the various sites and apps that I’ve used along my journey! So, I figured I’d go ahead and share that list here for you all as well!

Enjoy!

Learn to Run:
Couch to 5K – http://www.coolrunning.com/engine/2/2_3/181.shtml
Zombies Run 5k Training – https://www.zombiesrungame.com/
Hal Higdon Training Plans – http://www.halhigdon.com/training/
GPS Tracking:
Run Keeper – http://www.runkeeper.com
Endomondo – http://www.endomondo.com
Nike+ – http://www.nikeplus.com
Strava – http://www.strava.com/
Exercise Tracking:
Fitocracy – http://www.fitocracy.com
JeFit – http://www.jefit.com/
Google Docs – http://docs.google.com
Exercise Training:
EXRX.net – http://exrx.net/
Livestrong.com – http://www.livestrong.com
Starting Strength Wiki – http://startingstrength.wikia.com/wiki/FAQ:The_Lifts
Brain Over Brawn – http://brainoverbrawn.com/ (body weight exercises)
Stumptuous – http://www.stumptuous.com/workout-6 (Female Centric fitness blog, good dumbbell program)
Entertainment:
Spotify – http://www.spotify.com
Pandora – http://www.pandora.com
Audible – http://www.audible.com
Jog.fm – http://www.jog.fm
Calorie and Weight Tracking:
My Fitness Pal – http://www.myfitnesspal.com
Physics Diet – http://www.physicsdiet.com
Sparkpeople – http://www.sparkpeople.com/
The Daily Plate – http://www.livestrong.com/thedailyplate/
Recipes and Food Info:
Nutritionix – http://www.nutritionix.com/
Sparkpeople – http://www.sparkpeople.com/

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Tuesday, September 25th, 2012 | Author: Casey Criswell

I first discovered Band of Horses with their 2007 album Cease to Begin. That was an album that sounded experimental, filled with haunting harmonies and a solid country/folk/rock sound. It hooked me pretty quickly as it made great back ground music for writing and those late nights when lying awake, unable to sleep. Over the past five years or so, my tendencies towards music have started to drift away from a lot of hard rock and punk and I began to be drawn to a lot of folk and alt-country. Still not ready to declare myself a fan of straight up country, (note: still not ready for that!) but Band of Horses fit in quite well with the new niche of music I was starting to enjoy quite a bit.

Despite enjoying Cease to Begin, I was still not a ‘die hard’ fan of Band of Horses. I’d throw them on from time to time, but they were never a band I would seek out to listen to repeatedly, as I do with some of my favorite bands such as The Old 97′s. In fact, I probably only listened to the band’s next album Infinite Arms two or three times at most. Digging through Spotify for new running tunes, I stumbled across their new release and added it to the play list and set out with open mind. In the end, I found myself enjoying the music, yet still seeing it as good background music by the time I was done.

Mirage Rock is a solid album but aside form the first single “Knock Knock” and two or three others late in the lineup, is packed full of slow melodies and ballads. These songs are still great; the harmonies are outstanding and contain the bands customary haunting sound. For me, I tend to enjoy the up beat alt-country sound that comes with the latter half of the album as the band’s rock roots come to the forefront and show us just how hard they’re able to rock. This isn’t to say I don’t like the slower paced songs mind you; I just happen to enjoy the southern rock sound that the band’s capable of more so and there’s just not as much of that.

Upon repeated listening, Mirage Rock is beginning to grow on me much like Cease to Begin did back in the day, which is a good, good thing. The final verdict? Definitely worth a listen.

You can check out the video for the first single “Knock, Knock” here!

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Sunday, September 23rd, 2012 | Author: Casey Criswell

There was a time in my life as I went through college and spent many long summer hours hanging out smoking cigarettes and playing hackey sack that Ben Folds Five were my constant companions. My friends like the band well enough, but I felt I really connected with Ben. His songs circled around thoughts that I too shared from time to time such as “Song for the Dumped” or “Jackson Cannery”. This connection lasted for many years, after a couple of live shows and all of the albums. Then the band faded away and Ben went solo and it just wasn’t the same for me.

But now they’re back. Ben Folds Five is back and I’m pretty damn happy about it.

Digging into “The Sound of the Life of the Mind” is a tentative experience at first. For a fan such as myself, you want to be overjoyed that one of your favorite bands are back yet, you want to be cautious in case that those fond memories look better through your rose colored glasses of nostalgia. Then after “Erase Me” is over you realize it’s a bit different for the band, but the talent’s still there and you warm up to the return and the excitement begins to build. Over the next few songs, this feeling of familiarity begins to grow and your toes start to tap and you begin to find yourself lost in the melodies and harmonies and you almost feel at home! And then, it happens: track 6, “Draw a Crowd” starts to hit your ear buds and the moment is complete. Ben Folds Five has returned and looking back over those previous five tracks, you realize they were back all along and all is well.

“The Sound of the Life of the Mind” is a solid return for the band though it takes a bit of time to realize it. From the middle of the disk on, you realize you’re in familiar territory and everything feels as comfortable as it once did. The album has a definite tone to it, one that starts out hopeful and grows into something that sounds near motivating right around the time that “Do It Anyways” hits. Then, the album turns a corner and the tone becomes a bit wistful and ends on a melancholic note that has a hint of sadness that leaves you feeling like you just took an emotional trip with the band, which is good. Because that’s exactly how it felt listening to Ben Folds Five back in the day.

While I’ve only given the disk one listen, I can say for sure that I’ll be back for several more.

In the meantime, be sure to check out the awesome trailer for the first single “Do It Anyway”! It’s got a great cast. Be sure to stay to the very end for nostalgia’s sake as well!

Friday, August 17th, 2012 | Author: Casey Criswell

I love hard science fiction when i can vaguely understand it. I am nowhere near smart enough to understand astrophysics and the like, but I’m smart enough to keep and intuit some ideas. The idea of the cosmos fascinates me as well. Not knowing what is out there, (come on there has to be SOMETHING!) the limits of our technology throwing us further and further into the depths…good far out there hard science fiction is truly amongst my favorite genres to read. Especially when they connect it to our own human timeline, regardless of how far-future and tenuous that line happens to be! With that in mind, the first book Stephen Baxter’s “Xeelee” saga was pretty damn fascinating.

The idea of alien life always entertaining me, especially when that life is REALLY alien. For example, “Blindsight” by Peter Watts plays with the idea that alien life forms may take aspects that are completely new to us. The spectrum of light that the creatures see, their physical make up, the way they think; something completely off the beaten path from any theory that our own alien biologists could ever conceive. I’ve always been a firm believe that any alien life form we do encounter; it’s not going to be anything like life as we know it. So seeing some crazy ideas come to life in a novel is good fun for me. Baxter plays with these concepts quite well in “Raft”, though his creatures are still tangentially related to our earth bound life forms. He has flying trees! Yes, it’s spectacular that they fly! They’re still wood though. He has crazy space whales! They’re still pretty much like our whales when you get down to the nitty-gritty of the creatures makeup. They’re out there enough that they fit well into my ideas of fascinating life forms.

To branch off from that train of thought, one of my reading quirks is that seldom ever read a series of books in succession. Sure, I love the stories but if I read all the books in a series back to back, I start to feel bogged down and become a bit bored. It’s something I’ve always done and sometimes it might be a full year before I circle back to the second book. To wrap this back to the above alien life thought, Baxter stays in fairly familiar territory as far as life forms go throughout “Raft”. At the very end however, he changes things up a great way! It’s great enough that it leaves me thing, “I may have to go ahead and read book 2 just to see what this is all about!” For me, that’s a pretty strong sign. The best part is, the alien stuff? It’s not even the biggest concepts at play in “Raft”. Baxter has created a universe so far flung from our own that at times it’s hard to wrap your head around. The forces of gravity at play are magnitudes stronger than our own. Couple this with the fact that our characters live in a nebula and things get even weirder! His concepts seem fairly smart as well, to one such as myself that is again…not any kind of physicist.

While I enjoyed the hell out of “Raft”, I ultimately gave this one a 4 out of 5, and the reasons lie mostly in the characters and the small political sub-plot that runs the length of the book. While the characters are not bad by any means, most of our side characters outside of Rees are fairly one dimensional. We do get to connect to Rees and root for him throughout, the majority of the other characters feel like set pieces. While that does sound a bit harsh, I just didn’t connect to them much. The political sub-plot felt a bit forced as well, with three locations and three factions all spatting with each other. While I realize the need for this particular thread, it just didn’t come across to well for me. In the width of this fantastic book, it was these political moments that felt sluggish and the only moments that made me wish they’d hurry up and get it over with.

So in the end? I still REALLY LOVE SCIENCE FICTION! I’m also REALLY GLAD I READ THIS BOOK! I am really stoked to move on read more of Baxter’s “Xeelee” sequence and I have quite a bit of hope for the rest of the series. Taking a peak at the other books, things sound pretty sweet indeed.

EDIT: Aww, damn! Further research shows that “Raft” is a stand alone novel! Boo!

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Tuesday, August 14th, 2012 | Author: Casey Criswell

This week, I’m sitting in on the Damaged Viewing Podcast with Louis Fowler!

This time around, Louis and I dove into a bit of early 90′s nostalgia with “Pet Sematary Two”, and it was fun. Sleepy fun, as Louis states, but fun all the same!

“It’s been what? Twenty-five or thirty episodes since we’ve had our good friend Casey Criswell on? Well, to quote a very popular commercial for Picante sause, that’s too long. So, for this episode of DAMAGED Viewing, Louis weclomes back the host of the Dad and his Weird Friends Podcast for a sleepy discussion of the oft-forgotten, mostly-ignored Stephen King sequel PET SEMATARY TWO, starring Edward Furlong, a zombie dog and the requisite chubby kid. And you can’t forget Clancy Brown, having more fun that anyone else. ”

Hop on over to Podomatic and give it a listen!

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Tuesday, August 14th, 2012 | Author: Casey Criswell

One of my favorite past times…well, beyond reading…is to make lists. I love making lists! This little hobby works well with my reading as it allows me to have my little ‘trophy’ after completing a book. Sure, I don’t *need* a trophy for completing a book, but in the days of my paperback addiction, this trophy was a new title added to the book shelf. Since I’ve put those ways behind me and sold my soul to the Kindle gods, I don’t have that little mental satisfaction. Until I stated keeping track of how many books I read in a year is. Now, I see the number go up and I get a brief sensation of smug satisfaction…then it’s on to the next book.

Less dusting, less clutter, more books. I think it’s a win-win over all.

I’ve been trucking along fairly slowly for 2012; I set a goal of knocking out 50 books this year, but I’m a bit behind schedule. It’s okay though. It’s not a contest and there’s no real prize and I still get to read a crap load of good books. Still; behind where I thought I’d be. Winter is coming though, as that Martin guy says, so I know the reading will increase greatly when I’m inside more often. Normally, I keep track of my books read on Goodreads profile, but I figured since I opened this here blog up, I’ll start here as well. (Note: Feel free to add me on Goodreads if you haven’t!)

So, here we are at book #22 for 2012; Laird Barron’s “The Croning”! I stumbled across Barron on one of my forums reading up about the ‘cosmic horror’ genre. You see, I’m woefully under read on the Lovecraft mythos. I’ve read quite a bit and enjoyed it; I’ve not ventured out into the worlds of other authors that dip their toes into Lovecraft’s world however. Barron came highly recommended in the world of cosmic horror but until recently, he was mostly a short story writer. I started off my introduction to Barron’s world with “Occultation and other Stories” and I was hooked pretty quickly. Seeing as “The Croning” was Barron’s first full length novel and receiving quite a bit of praise from other fans of his short stories, I was pretty eager to get to this one. By the end, I was quite happy that I skipped it to the top of the to-read pile!

As with many cosmic horror stories, “The Croning” is a slow burn. It’s not horror that is going to jump out and slap you in the face with your own severed arm; it’s horror that’s going to seep into your joins and give you chills, make you run from the dark living room when you turn off the lights for the night. The novel is not fast paced by any means and you will be hit with a deluge of detail from the get go. Barron spends quite a bit of time setting up atmosphere and character development throughout much of the book. We get to know Don Miller in exquisite detail by the end of this novel, but it all pays off eventually. While this makes for a fantastic story in the end, it can definitely be a bit of a hurdle to get started. You trudge along wondering where the weird stuff comes in and you start to wonder if you’ve made a mistake. Luckily Barron sprinkles in minor touches throughout that make you sit back and wonder, “What the hell?” and then forces you to keep reading to see if he’s going to reveal the impetus behind that moment.

Adding to some of this confusion is the fact that our main narrative jumps around quite a bit in the time stream. We go from the 1980′s to current time, back to the mid-50′s and them sometimes back to the 80′s again. Like I said; in hindsight you see why this was done and it makes perfect sense. While reading the first time, it can be a bit confusing. If I had one complaint for “The Croning”, I would say that at times Barron makes the Don Miller of different eras quite similar to each other. This makes the jump in time a bit confusing. Sure, he labels the beginning of each chapter with what time period we’re diving into, but when you’re caught up in the story and blazing through pages at a pretty good clip, this can often get overlooked. Again, this was always solved with back tracking a couple pages so when I say ‘complaint’, what I really mean is ‘minor annoyance’!

The ending of “The Croning” is where our grand payoff is and the payoff is quite splendid. If you have spent the first 2/3′s of the book wondering, “When is this going to get weird?” It definitely gets weird. It gets weird in a really good way as well. Of course, I’m not going to bother to give you any details because that would take the fun out of it. You can trust me though and consider this one definitely worth your time.

If you’d like to learn more about Laird Barron, you can find him over on Livejournal and you can find a list of his books over at Goodreads as well. He doesn’t appear to have an ‘official’ website outside of Livejournal however.

Coming up soon, Carly will be joining me on the Dad and his Weird Friends Book Club to discuss The Croning and from what I’ve seen on Twitter, she’s getting into it as well. Should be a great show! We’ll definitely go much more in depth than I have here, so be sure to watch for that!

Friday, August 10th, 2012 | Author: Casey Criswell

We’re back once again over here at the Weird Friends podcast with a whole new episode! This time around, we go with some fairly light horror fare with Chuck Wendig’s “Double Dead”!

This book was a pleasant surprise for myself. I have a good friend that I’ve traded books back and forth with for years. Said friend, Ak, hit me up awhile back with an article on Chuck Wending stating that he had been hearing quite a bit of buzz on him and the plots of his existing books grabbed me fairly quick! I’ve read a lot of zombie novels here as of late and while I do enjoy them, they tend to get a bit too heavy and in some cases, a bit too repetitive. Wendig’s version of the undead apocalypse was a nice change of pace that moved quick and wasn’t too heavy with ennui, melancholy, and stoic rambling.

Wending has some other books that look really good too, Blackbirds and Mockingbird. Both of these have catapulted up to the top of my to-read pile after reading “Double Dead”, so should be cool!

As always, the Dad and his Weird Friends show can be found on Bloody Good Horror Feed and iTunes! Give us a listen, let us know what you think! Feedback is welcome and encouraged, send your missives to casey@bloodygoodhorror.com!

Finally, come join us in the Dad and his Weird Friends Book Club on Facebook! We like to talk about books and if that’s your thing, we’d love to have you with us. It’s been a bit slow here lately, but that’s because we don’t have you there to help spice things up!

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Wednesday, July 11th, 2012 | Author: Casey Criswell

It was slow there for a bit, but I’m now getting back into the podcasting groove here at Fromage central and you know what? It feels good. My guest this episode, Colleen, the First Lady of Fright, will tell you that I still read slow as all hell, but that’s okay!

If you haven’t been able to tell after these last two episodes, the Criswell household is a well read household. The trick is, Colleen and I’s taste in genre fiction doesn’t always meet up eye to eye. I love me some hard core sci-fi, Coll likes urban fantasy and paranormal romance type stuff. The beauty is that when it comes to horror and zombies especially, we tend to see eye to eye. In addition to this, Colleen and I have been a pair for nearly twenty years now. (I know, right?) She knows me *quite* well. In fact, she knows me better than anybody else out there. So when Coll finishes a book and immediately turns to me and says, “OH MY GOD you gotta read this!!!” I tend to take notice, and it generally pays off in my favor!

Which leads us to Episode 12. Coll was very excited by this book and it was brought to her attention by a simple recommendation on Goodreads. (You can follow Colleen on Goodreads here!) It just goes to show that Goodreads is a handy resource! If you like zombies and good characters, this one’s definitely worth checking out.

As always, feedback on the podcast is always welcome! Shoot me an email at Casey@bloodygoodhorror.com, anytime! We have a discussion groupon Facebook as well, so come join us and geek out on some books!

The Dad and his Weird Friends Book Club can be found on the Bloody Good Horror Podcast Feed or you can download directly, here!

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