Buzzed Books #29: And Sometimes I Wonder About You


, , , ,

Buzzed Books #29 by John King

Walter Mosley’s And Sometimes I Wonder About You

I am primarily a reader of literary fiction. It is where the joys and the fun of reading tend to be for me. Like many literary readers, I have a deep, complicated affection for hard-boiled detective fiction, à la Dashiel Hammett and Raymond Chandler. The blunt brutality, bold psychology, and flourishes of purple style are compressed into a lovely textual cocktail by the form of the mystery, the plot that is itself a chase after a question mark. Characterization is both impressionistic and elusive—precisely as elusive as the mystery, usually.

One of the hallmarks of contemporary detective fiction is the shortness of chapters, which makes the form even more compressed. This would seem to deepen the challenge of the genre even more than classic hard-boiled detective fiction—or highlight the genre author’s flaws.

If the plot is not elusive enough, then the reader—this reader, anyway—feels cheated, inhabiting an imaginative world that is too neat, more lazy than minimalist. That is how I felt reading Carl Hiassen’s Skin Tight, a novel in which the characterization from start to finish seemed, well, skin deep. With such short chapters, the world doesn’t cohere into much more than a farce mocking the human condition, and being a literary reader, I would rather go with true masters at that: Beckett, Ionesco, Kafka, Gogol, or (today) John Henry Fleming, Alyssa Nutting, and Gary Shteyngart—writers who are not above the characters and humanities and realities they mock.

I don’t want my detective fiction to be a guilty pleasure of glib storytelling. I could watch reality television if I had such an appetite.

In more conscientious hands, contemporary detective fiction works like narrative poetry: emotions and thoughts are conveyed evocatively, with the aim to make each unit quickly digestible while still retaining the surprise of reading. This is something I learned with Terry Cronin’s Skinvestigator series, featuring a dermatologist (skin, again) who consults for the Miami police.

Skinvestigator Part 1: Tramp Stamp

Cronin’s chapters do hasten by, but are so much more vivid, believable, and memorable than Hiassen’s.

More recently, I have read the last three “Easy Rawlins” novels of Walter Mosley. These stories are neo-noir, lively throwbacks to Hammett and Chandler, as told from the point of view from Easy Rawlins, an African-American P.I. in Los Angeles. His exploits stretch over thirteen novels. Devil in a Blue Dress (1990) is set in 1948, during the actual era of original hard-boiled detective fiction itself. The series has expanded to thirteen books, most recently Rose Gold (2014) set in 1967, which I had the pleasure of discussing with the author back on episode 136 of the podcast).

The “Easy Rawlins” novels I’ve read are companionable, addictive stories. Mosley uses the different time periods to reflect on the existential plight of his detective, and in those I’ve read the imaginative world features a populace of recurring characters and several enigmatic plots that spin and spin, eventually intersecting one another. These characters have such long histories, yet Mosley can keep those histories as context without losing momentum. And Rawlins is a philosopher and is capable of great internal monologues as he recounts each story.

And Sometimes I Wonder About You

Mosley also writes contemporary detective fiction. And Sometimes I Worry About You is the fifth Leonid McGill novel. Being so fond of Easy Rawlins, I was thrilled to find that I liked this McGill novel just as much as Easy, despite how very different these characters are.

In the hands of Mosley, the compressed form of these short chapters sparkle—with up to three “case” plots, not to mention the tangled conflicts with his family and his lovers. It is sort of like reading a great sonnet sequence.

In his first case, Leonid finds himself representing a femme fatale who stole a mobster’s engagement ring, and she is a seductress whose lust Leonid cannot entirely resist. In his second case, he is trying to extricate his son from his undercover work for an underworld boss who uses children as his work force. In his third case, he represents a stripper whose boyfriend was killed over her accidental possession of a wealthy family’s secret heirloom.

Besides his family—his unfaithful and severely depressed wife, his long absent and infuriating father, and his wayward, loving children—Leonid also has a memorable cast of friends and associates that make this New York City seem believable, and meaningfully complex.

With all of these moving parts, one might think that the stories might have to be superficial, but the first-person voice of the novel carries all of these elements almost effortlessly. Mosley makes the whole thing flow and offers such surprises of characterization and such wonderful turns of thought along the way. There are passages like this, for example:

From time to time there’s a Rembrandt on display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, twenty inches wide and maybe two feet high. It’s an oil rendering of a peasant girl who is looking beyond you into a history of pain and loss. She’s beautiful and you could tell that the artist and many others had fooled themselves that they could love her and that that love would be a good thing. But the longer you sit watching those haunted and haunting eyes, the more concepts like love and beauty drain away; all that’s left, if you look at that painting long enough, is the awareness of the hopelessness that eats at the human soul.

Leonid thinks about boxing, violence, family, love, truth, and manages to be both a merciless investigator and a man at the mercy of his own desires and needs. While Leonid can out-strategize all of his foes by his ability to read their characters, his own character is something he cannot quite read. And it is to Mosley’s credit that this lapse is so compelling.


1flipJohn King (Episode, well, all of them) is a podcaster, writer, and ferret wrangler.

The Global Barfly’s Companion: The White Horse Tavern (Newport, RI)

The Global Barfly’s Companion #15 by Nancy Caronia (Photos by Nancy Caronia)

Bar: The White Horse Tavern

Location: 26 Marlborough Street, Newport, RI 401-849-3600


I often refer to Rhode Island as the postage stamp sized state. No matter where you are located, it takes about an hour to get from one side of the state to the other since it’s only 48 miles from North to South and 37 miles from East to West. Even though it’s tiny, Rhode Island has more contradictions than any other place I’ve lived. The last of the original thirteen colonies to enter statehood, it was the first to secede from Great Britain in 1776. Although institutions like Brown University were built on slave profits, Rhode Island was also the first colony to turn away slave traders and make slave importation illegal in 1774. And during the colonial period, there were almost 30 rum distilleries located within the colony. Cotton Mather called Rhode Island “the sewer of New England,” but that may have had as much to do with the religious freedom practiced by its inhabitants, including Roger Williams, a Baptist preacher, who founded Providence in 1636, as to any seeming debauchery through the rum trade.

Newport, located on Aquidneck Island, is rife with Rhode Island’s incongruities. Newport touts some of the oldest religious establishments, including the Quaker meetinghouse, the oldest house of worship in Newport; St. Mary’s, the oldest Catholic Church in Rhode Island (and where John F. Kennedy wed Jacqueline Bouvier); and the Touro Synagogue, the oldest surviving synagogue in North America. It’s also home to “America’s oldest tavern.”


Established in 1673, The White Horse Tavern was more than a watering hole during the colonial and revolutionary periods. It served as a meeting hall, courthouse, inn, and surgery hall. British soldiers, colonists, revolutionaries, and privateers—aka, pirates—all had cause to meet up at the tavern. It was where political and business deals were brokered, where British soldiers and revolutionaries plotted their next military moves, and where everyone came to down a pint.

I’d been to The White Horse Tavern a few times for dinner, but didn’t know much of this history. I grew up in New York City and, as a writer, the only White Horse Tavern that counted was the one in the West Village (see Global Barfly’s Companion #1) where Dylan Thomas supposedly took his last drink. Newport’s Tavern is much older with a more storied history having to do with the founding of the United States.


It has changed in the over three hundred years of its existence. Today, there are no rooms to let, no surgeons performing needed operations, and the dining rooms serve upscale fare to what I found to be mainly business and tourist clientele. But tucked in back of the entrance to the tavern is the bar, a cozy, dark paneled affair where the ghosts of privateers and colonists seem to sit beside you and the locals that come in for a quick pint or a deconstructed artisanal cocktail, or as I found them sitting at the bar, in for the burger and beer Thursday night bar special.


Stephen, a long-time waiter of The White Horse Tavern, greeted me at the entrance and escorted me to a barstool.


He told me any questions I had, Nick could answer them. Stephen was right. The bartender Nick was a walking history book.


When I asked him about Newport’s signature cocktail, the Dark and Stormy, he regaled me with stories of the seventeenth century privateer Thomas Tew, aka the Rhode Island Pirate. What I learned was Newport had 22 of the 30 rum distilleries for which the colony was known and that earned the town its moniker as rum capital of the world. Rum production broke down only after the tax for sugar was increased in 1764 and British soldiers took up residence in Newport during the Revolutionary War. By 1817 only two of the 22 distilleries still operated.


The Dark and Stormy was also a medicinal elixir since its combination of rum and ginger beer helped with both seasickness and scurvy. Nick’s modern day version of the Dark and Stormy was made with Thomas Tew’s single barreled rum, ginger beer, and a dash of Giffard’s Vanille de Madagascar liqueur. It went down smooth. Thomas Tew rum has been made since 2006 by one of two distillers in Rhode Island today: Newport Distilling Company, the makers of Newport Storm, a beer known throughout New England. The other distiller, Sons of Liberty Spirits was founded in 2001 and focuses on whisky and vodka.

Nick kept up a steady banter as he mixed drinks and took food orders for the customers that filled in the tables and barstools around us. Whether mixing a deconstructed martini or pulling a pint of Newport Storm, he was gracious and made me feel like I never wanted to leave. All of the customers seemed happy to be there.

For our second drink, Nick whipped up a gin, St. Germain, and Lillet cocktail after we ordered a dozen oysters. If there are only two distilleries in Rhode Island today, there are a plethora of oyster farms throughout the state. Before I moved to Rhode Island, I’d had oysters once in my life. Now that I’ve lived here six years, I eat them almost every week, and have learned to shuck them myself. Still, it’s always nice to be served a freshly shucked dozen of local oysters on a bed of ice with a little lemon wedge on the side.


In the summertime, you can also sit outside on the small patio and look up at the stars, but for me, the bar is the place to hang out, make new friends, and listen to Nick give a history lesson. Nick told me he’s there from Thursday through Sunday evenings. I look forward to a return visit where I’ll find out more stories about Newport’s colonial days.


Nancy Caronia

Nancy Caronia is a Pushcart Prize nominated author whose work has appeared in numerous literary journals, including most recently The Missing Slate, Animal Literary Magazine, and Lowestoft Chronicle. She is the co-editor of Personal Effects: Essays on Memoir, Culture, and Teaching in the Work of Louise DeSalvo (Fordham University Press 2015).

The Global Barfly’s Companion #15: Half-Step


, ,

The Global Barfly’s Companion #15 by Scott Gilman

Bar: Half-Step

Location: 75 1/2 Rainey St Austin, TX 78701


What to make of Rainey Street, just barely north of the river and walking steps west of I-35, tucked away in its own corner in downtown Austin? The transformation of a sleepy block with small, wooden, occasionally dilapidated houses into a nightlife destination point continues.

Initially a counter to the craziness, mayhem, and sleaze of Dirty Sixth, filled with prowling undergraduates, the bars of Rainey Street offer a mellower, more tranquil environment, in either cute houses or expansive patios, to actually interact with friends while having choice cocktails or quality beer. At least it used to. Now two large condominium buildings shadow the south end of Rainey Street, and the foot traffic makes it almost impossible to drive along Rainey Street itself. One of the first times I went there, a few years ago, I paid $5 to park in someone’s back yard. That house is now a bar, and the spot two blocks away I found to park for free is now metered. Rainey Street has fully morphed into a cool, new option into its own scene.

To each their own, of course, but that scene has kept me away from Rainey Street on weekend nights, though it’s noticeably less crowded during summer (when the city gets a reprieve from all those undergraduates). Most of the bars now are carbon copies of each other, save the interior design oddity of Container Bar. Banger’s offers a solid beer selection along with the best sausages in town, Craft Pride, at the end of Rainey, serves nothing but Texas beer and also is known for its incredible selection. But for cocktails the gem of the street is Half-Step, which rates as one of the finest cocktail bars in Austin.


Its reputation is well-earned. The design inside is intimate and charming, though I was struck at the lack of seats at the bar itself; just a few small stools across from the bar make up the only seating options where the bar is.


There are two other rooms: one with dark wooden tables and chairs, and a few booths, both for larger groups and parties of two.


There is another room in the back with no seating. Outside are areas to sit both on the patio and at ground level, along the side of the building (where this is also a ping-pong table) and facing Rainey. There is a second bar outside, one with a different cocktail menu than the one inside where I was getting my drinks. I’ll have to go back and try some of those; the cocktails are so good you want to try them all. I started with a Gentleman’s Buck, with bourbon, OJ, lemon juice and a few other ingredients.

All cocktails are $11, except for the Bartender’s Choice (which I’ll get to) for $12. It’s served in a Tom Collins glass with a rectangular bar of ice. Custom-shaped ice is one of the hallmarks of the place, and I admit to perceiving it as a gimmick until I saw how perfectly my bar of ice cooled and lasted throughout my entire drink. I saw the making of a mint julep (which I personally drink only one day a year, the first Saturday in May) which had perfectly sized crushed ice, packed in and overflowing a silver julep mug. The sprig of mint and powdered sugar on top tempted me, but that’s too much liquid candy if you ask me. I decided for my next round to have a Bartender’s Choice, where you just tell the bartender the spirit of your choice and any other likes or dislikes, and off he goes.

I wound up with a drink called The Last Word, which my bartender, who moved to Austin three years ago from Seattle, tells me is now the most popular cocktail in the world. It’s made with gin, Chartreuse, I think perhaps something lemony and has a dark cherry in the bottom of the glass. It was a lime-ish shade of green and was amazing. I moved around a bit, sitting both inside and out, and listened to the excellent music: several songs by the band Antibalas, an afro-beat band out of Brooklyn, a reggae sounding version of Dave Brubeck’s “Take Five” and The Meters’ “Cissy Strut.”


My reigning champ for cocktails in Austin has been Drink.Well up in the North Loop, and I still think with their food service, smaller space, seats at the bar (important if you’re out solo) and location away from Rainey Street it deserves top billing. But the drinks are just as good if not better at Half-Step; the attention, detail and care given to each cocktail (from the ice to the glass to the mixtures) are top-notch. There is an elegance and professionalism to the drinks at Half-Step that may stretch beyond the tastes of the masses in the neighborhood, but that doesn’t take away from what is an excellent spot for fine mixology in a homey and warm environment. Just prepare to return to a culture shock once you walk out the door.


Scott Gilman

Scott Gilman lives in Austin, Texas and enjoys exercise, reading, writing, eating and drinking. He is working on his first novel and a short story and essay collection. More of his writing can be found here.

Episode 160: Ciara Shuttleworth!

Episode 160 of The Drunken Odyssey, your favorite podcast about creative writing and literature is available on iTunes, or right click here to download.

In this week’s episode, I talk to the poet Ciara Shuttleworth,

Photo by Drew Perlmutter.

Photo by Drew Perlmutter.

plus Don Royster writes about how Isaac Asimov helped him to appreciate Shakespeare.

Don Royster


Camus NotebooksThe Great Shark HuntAsimovs Guide to ShakespeareNOTES

To read about Ciara’s post-residency road-tripping with Flat Jack, here is part 1 and part 2.

To read Thomas Jefferson’s original draft of The Declaration of Independence, go here.



The Curator of Schlock #95: American Ninja 2


The Curator of Schlock #95 by Jeff Shuster

American Ninja 2: The Confrontation

I take it the first American Ninja movie didn’t have a confrontation. 


Happy 4th of July to my legion of readers! We here at The Museum of Schlock love the red, white, and blue as much as Paul Kersey’s Wildey Magnum so we’re whipping up something special for this Independence Day: American Ninja 2: The Confrontation! Yeah! Why am I starting with American 2: The Confrontation instead of American Ninja 1? Because it’s the only one that’s on Netflix. American Ninja was available in a DVD three pack that included Revenge of the Ninja, but I’ve already committed to getting Revenge of the Ninja on Blu-Ray, so I had to skip the three pack. These are the hard decisions your Curator of Schlock has to make.

Anyway, why should it matter if I start American Ninja 2: The Confrontation? After all, this looks like something akin to a James Bond movie if James Bond was an American Ninja. American Ninja 2: The Confrontation starts out with a bunch U.S. Marines stationed in the Caribbean being beaten up by some Kiwis before being kidnapped by ninjas.

Now being a child of the 80s, I already know that these ninjas are bad news. It wasn’t just the commies, the drug lords, and the punk gangs that we had to worry about back then, it was also nefarious ninja clans. Unlike the other groups, though, it’s worth noting that not all ninjas are bad guys. Which is good because it takes a ninja to stop a ninja. I’m sorry, but not even Paul Kersey’s Wildey Magnum could take out these guys!


Enter Army Rangers, Joe Armstrong (Michael Dudikoff) and Curtis Jackson (Steve James). Now in addition to being an Army Ranger, Joe Armstrong is also a full-fledged ninja. Curtis Jackson isn’t a ninja, but he’s pretty cut and sports a decent mustache while laying the smackdown on the Kiwi population that resides in the Caribbean that are allied with an evil ninja clan. The local Marines keep making fun of Armstrong and Jackson, calling them bums and what not. Oh, and these Marines dress in board shorts and rash guards in order to better blend in with the local population. 


Armstrong and Jackson get into a dust up with some ninjas on a local island, snapping limbs, but ultimately having to run away because they’re just too many of them. Plus, these ninjas have ninja nets and ninjato swords and throwing stars! I remember those throwing stars from elementary school. Venders weren’t allowed to sell them to kids, but there were always a couple of boys in class who managed to get their hands on one. They always made holes in the pockets their jeans. I think one kid sliced up his thigh, but it was all in good fun.


Anyway, a sergeant chews out Armstrong and Jackson when they get back declaring, “Ninjas, my ass!” Are ninjas working with Kiwis on a Caribbean island, kidnapping US Marines so hard to swallow? What about an international drug lord who kidnapped a professor in order to create an army of super ninjas from Marine DNA just so he can better smuggle heroin into the United States? I’m not joking. That’s the villain’s master plan!


Five Things I Don’t Understand About American Ninja 2: The Confrontation

  1.  If only a ninja can stop a ninja, why can Curtis Jackson crack ninja skull like walnuts?
  2. If ninjas are so formidable, why does one need super ninjas?
  3. Why have your super ninja kill your regular ninjas? That can’t be good for morale. 
  4. Why use an army of super ninjas just to smuggle heroin? Why not kidnap the President instead? That’s what a real super villain would do. 
  5. Shouldn’t an American ninja be decked out in red, white, and blue?


Jeffrey Shuster 3

Jeffrey Shuster (episode 47episode 102episode 124, and episode 131) is an MFA candidate at the University of Central Florida.

Heroes Never Rust #100: Adequacy is Okay


, , ,

Heroes Never Rust #100 by Sean Ironman

1985: Adequacy is Okay

At the end of issue one of Marvel’s 1985, Toby, the protagonist, runs into the Hulk one night in the woods. The second issue picks up from that point, with the Hulk asking Toby if he’s seen the Juggernaut, who is apparently causing trouble. To many people, the Hulk is thought to be the mindless alter ego of Bruce Banner, who is the intelligent scientist. While that is true in the comics, for the most part, there have been times where Banner has been able to control the Hulk and speak normally. The mid-eighties was one of these times. But, because many readers may be put off by a Hulk that speaks intelligently, the Hulk tells Toby, “Please, there’s no need to be afraid. My monstrous id has been completely suppressed by my academic super-ego.” The line has no bearing on the story. It furthers no plot, and it doesn’t even further that scene. It’s only role is as exposition, so the reader is not confused by the Hulk acting differently than the reader may expect. The line is not interesting, but it is inoffensive. The line is  adequate, in that it does what it must, and then the story moves on.


The dialogue reminded me of a moment last week at the New Harmony Writers Workshop in New Harmony, Indiana. My workshop instructor was Stuart Dybek. During a discussion on one writer’s short story, Dybek told an anecdote (he seems to love anecdotes) of his son’s first novel. He recalled one section of prose and said that the section was not good but it got the job done. It was adequate, Dybek said. But, sometimes, adequate is the best we can do.

In university courses, I was taught each word must be perfect, must be chosen carefully. With my own creative writing, I pour over it dozens of times working out not only the characters and scenes, but every description, every line of dialogue, everything. I believe a writer must write good sentences, I do. And I also believe some writers spend too long concentrating on sentences and the story escapes them (one of the reasons I believe literary fiction is not very popular these days). Sometimes, though, I believe, as Dybek said, the best we can do is adequate. How many novels have at least one mistake in them? Or if you don’t want to call it a mistake, one thing that could be better? How many memoirs? Poems? Films? Comics? I’m not speaking about bad sentences, unclear constructions, or the reliance on clichés. I’m merely talking about the descriptions or dialogue or any other sentence that will not go down in history as interesting. These adequate sections do their job and are not so terrible to distract readers. I feel that I should avoid suggesting a writer should strive toward adequacy because I know that if every sentence is merely adequate, the story will suffer. But, perhaps writers should be happy with a story as long as it hits the emotional beats the writer set out for, even if a sentence or two will never be described as great.


Many years ago, I wrote mainly screenplays. I wanted to work in comics and in film. One lesson I was taught about screenwriting was that a good screenplay needed just three excellent scenes. If it had three excellent scenes, the audience would enjoy the movie. The other scenes couldn’t be bad, but they didn’t have to be great. At the time, I found it offensive, like the instructor was trying to say we couldn’t write a film filled with great scenes so to aim lower. But, I am starting to see the truth in that argument. When I think of a great film like Goodfellas, I don’t think of every scene, of every moment. I think of the long shot of Ray Liotta taking Lorraine Bracco through the club. I think of the montage set to “Layla.” I think of individual moments and lines of dialogue. That goes with any film, any novel, any memoir. Moments stick out to me but not the whole narrative.


Adequacy in small areas of a story should not be looked down on. Writer Mark Millar needed to tell the reader that the Hulk can talk, to not be confused. Perhaps he could have thought long and hard and come up with something amazing, but perhaps not. Not all parts to a car are beautiful. Not all parts to a house. There should be amazing moments in a story, as well as wonderful lines of dialogue and interesting descriptions, but don’t lose sight of what you’re trying to do. If the point gets across to the reader for something that doesn’t need a lot of attention, adequacy will do just fine.


Photo by John King

Photo by John King

Sean Ironman (Episode 102earned his MFA at the University of Central Florida. Currently, he teaches creative nonfiction and digital media at the University of Central Arkansas as a visiting professor. His work can be read in The Writer’s ChronicleRedivider, and Breakers: A Comics Anthology, among others.

The Global Barfly’s Companion #14: Independent Bar


, ,

The Global Barfly’s Companion #14 by Brett Pribble

Bar: Independent Bar

Location:  70 N Orange Ave, Orlando, FL 32801


The Independent Bar, more commonly know as I-Bar, is one of the few remaining old school watering holes of downtown culture. Most venues that the less-mainstream-minded locals frequented closed over a decade ago: Kit Kat Club, The Go Lounge, Knock Knock Bar, Harold and Maude’s. The once popular Matador has now reopened in the Mills 50 area, a part of Orlando many longtime bar hoppers have since jilted DT for. When BBQ bar closed last year (rumored to be reopening on Mills as well), some natives saw it as the last straw; nevertheless, The Independent Bar is still running strong after opening in the epicenter of downtown over thirty years ago.

The first time I visited Ibar it was called Barbarella (The owner recently opened a second club in Austin with the same moniker). While the club has undergone several name and design changes over the years, the spirit remains the same. Unlike most bars, there isn’t a “type” of person you can expect to meet there. Dudes dressed as pirates dance right next to frat boys. Ladies in tiaras celebrate their birthdays across from goth girls covered in tattoos. There is no proper dress code. Want to wear a three-piece suit? Have at it. Feel like just tossing on jean shorts and a tank top? Go right ahead.

Front Bar.

Front Bar.

In the front bar, modern chandeliers hang overhead and copper shoes decorate the back walls. Last Friday, a very amicable bartender named Tia made me a mixed drink, which is pretty cheap if you don’t mind well liquor ($4.50 on most nights).

Tia Serving Up Some Vodka.

Tia Serving Up Some Vodka.

From there I entered a long hallway with couches to my right and a dance floor to my left. This is the main room and one of the only places you can dance downtown without having to worry about someone rubbing their crotch on you.


The dance floor is lit up by rotating laser lights and giant flat screen TVs that play the music videos of the songs you’re dancing to (Usually. Sometimes it might be just some random ‘80s science fiction flick or a bunch of spinning rectangles).


Preston was holding down the bar in the dance room. He’s been working at bars downtown for a long time, and he swapped employers and came here after a once novel establishment was bought and turned into commercial garbage. Being served by Preston (and other the congenial staff) is part of what makes Ibar feel genuine. This is where people who actually live in Orlando have gone to party for decades. It’s not some shitty tourist trap in Downtown Disney or Universal CityWalk.

Preston behind the dance floor bar.

Preston behind the dance floor bar.

Upstairs you’ll find more couches and another bar. Lauren was holding it down on this particular evening, and she entitled her bar Lauren’s Lounge on a marker board next to the drink specials.


Upstairs is a good place to people watch because you can see the entire dance room from there. It’s relaxing to observe patrons swaying to the beat the best they know how. That’s another perk: you don’t need to be a good dancer to feel comfortable dancing in Ibar. The variety of music they play (it’s all over the map) lends itself to just letting loose and not worrying about what you look like.


If you are hyperactive like me, you’ll appreciate that you can travel through the club in a complete circle and never have to retrace your steps. So, if you’re feeling antsy in one room, you can just stagger over to others until you’ve reached your starting point. The downstairs bar provides a nice place to get away from the noise if you want to have a more intimate conversation with someone. It’s also a good place to go if you’re not in the mood to dance with your friends and just want to chill and drink. It’s like a tiny pub inside a club.


Many longtime bar hoppers will tell you that they are too burned out for Ibar, but if it ever closed their mourning of its passing would be monumental. Ibar is an Orlando staple. For this reason, I think everyone should visit it at least once. Downtown Orlando on Friday and Saturday nights can be a real shit show with drunks everywhere and throngs of honking cars, but you’ll eventually make it to the safe haven of the club. During the week it’s much slower, so you can avoid the masses. The upstairs and downstairs rooms are usually closed during the week, but the smaller crowds free up more than enough space for you to get your drink on.


Brett Pribble

Brett Pribble teaches writing courses in Orlando, Florida. He’s afraid of sharks and often isn’t sure whether or not he’s dreaming. He was previously published in Saw Palm, The Molotov Cocktail, and 10,000 Tons of Black Ink.

Shakespearing #37.1: More on The Tempest


 Shakespearing #37.1 by John King

 The Tempest

Miranda_-_The_Tempest WaterHouse

I adore The Tempest.

David Foley was entirely right last week: the drama of this play is peculiarly light and strangely weighted.

The wizard Prospero’s grievances seem unfathomable, and his sense of family, of relationships, is both intense, yet distant, pushed through his mind like a vicious abstraction trying to form itself into something like love.

Nicholas Rowe Tempest 1709

The trap that Prospero sets for the brother and king and the other conspirators who betrayed him feels like a pageant of robots who know their crimes, but are incapable of feeling anything about them, not even a stoic callousness that denies morality or loyalty.

The love story between Miranda and Ferdinand seems passionlessly bland—the meeting of almost unbearable innocents–a retread of a fairy tale or Greek myth (Psyche and Eros) turned on its head.

Miranda and Ferdinands Log

The alcoholic antics of Caliban, Stephano, and Trinculo have a difficult time seeming funny.


Few productions can live up to this illustration.

Only Prospero’s relationship to Ariel, the enslaved sprite, feels emotional throughout the play.

Prospero and Ariel

David said, “the island is a created world, and it’s created through language, and you need to pay attention to that.”

The words are the world of The Tempest.

And it is a world that will return the fantastic to the ordinary, through a deliberate leave-taking of magick and the transcendent. Propsero vows,

[T]his rough magic
I here abjure, and, when I have required
Some heavenly music, which even now I do,
To work mine end upon their senses that
This airy charm is for, I’ll break my staff,
Bury it certain fathoms in the earth,
And deeper than did ever plummet sound
I’ll drown my book.

This is the last play Shakespeare wrote solo, and its farewells fill me with sadness, this sense of the ending that Shakespeare had before the ending. Four to five years before his death in 1616, Shakespeare said goodbye as a thaumaturge.



John King (Episode, well, all of them) is a podcaster, writer, and ferret wrangler.

Episode 159: Mixtape #4 (Lost in Sinatraland)


Episode 159 of the world’s greatest writing podcast is available on iTunes, or right click here to download.

In this week’s episode, I talk to myself and share some music. Musicality affects my writing a lot. Perhaps I cherish sound since I nearly went deaf as a child. It took awhile for Sinatra to enter my imagination, but since taking up residency there, Frank hasn’t left. So this mixtape is devoted to this man and his music, and a few other people along the way.

Lost in Sinatraland


The Frank Sinatra ReaderGay Talese’s “Frank Sinatra Has a Cold” is also available online here.


Episode 159 of the world’s greatest writing podcast is available on iTunes, or right click here to download.

The Curator of Schlock #94: The Devil’s Rain



The Curator of Schlock #94 by Jeff Shuster

The Devil’s Rain

Shatner versus Satan? My money’s on Shatner!


There are days I really don’t like my job as the Curator of Schlock, days where’s I’d rather just up and quit and raise ferrets for a living. That’s because every so often I run into a movie that’s so bad that I just want smash my DVD player and exsanguinate my plasma TV. You do not promise me a movie that features William Shatner versus an army of Satanists and the devil himself–Ernest Borgnine–and then switch out William Shatner for Tom Skerritt! I’m so angry that I want to type out this review IN ALL CAPS.


It’s 1975’s The Devil’s Rain of course! What? You’ve never heard of it? Robert Fuest of Dr. Phibes fame directed this clunker. He also directed Revenge of the Stepford Wives which will make an appearance on this blog someday.

Anyway, I guess I need to discuss the plot. William Shatner plays this cowboy looking guy…well, it’s not in the old west, it’s in modern times. And the town he lives in was once inhabited by Pilgrims with the buckle hats and everything, which I guess means it really wasn’t out west. Shatner is wearing a cowboy hat at any rate.


Anyway, he drives out to a ghost town to meet up with Ernest Borgnine who is also wearing a cowboy outfit. Borgnine wants some book that Shatner’s family has passed down from generation to generation, one of these forbidden tomes that people keep hanging on to just so some power hungry Satanists can swipe it from them. Shatner declares that his faith can beat Borgnine’s Satanism any day of the week.


Shatner enters a church that’s filled with Satanists all chanting “Satan is good. Satan is my pal.” At least, that’s what I remember them chanting. Shatner starts reciting The Lord’s Prayer, but he falters, pulls out a gun, and shoots one of the Satanists who then oozes yellow slime.


Did I forget to mention that these Satanists have no eyes? Ewwwwwwww! Borgnine is leading the ceremony all decked in a red robe and says Shatner failed or something and now his soul belongs to Satan. Shatner loses his eyes like the rest of them and Borgnine turns into Satan himself with the horns and everything.


So who else is in this movie? Ida Lupino plays Shatner’s mother. I know I should know who she is. I’m sure she starred in something with Ray Milland. Anton LaVey is in this movie as himself, I assume. I guess he was brought on as a Satanic consultant.

I do give props to the way they portray the Satanists in this movie. They’ve got the black robes and the pentagrams and everything. Anyway, Shatner smashes some urn with a bunch of souls in it and the Satanists begin to melt. Yeah, every Satanist in the movie melts and it takes like fifteen minutes for them to completely deteriorate. I think the director thought all would be forgiven if the audience just got the chance to see some Satanists dissolve into slime.This movie doesn’t quite hold up the way The Wizard of Oz does.


Oh, and Tom Skerritt escapes with his beautiful wife who is (obviously) Ernest Borgnine in disguise.


Five Things I Learned from The Devil’s Rain

  1. Death Wish 5 should have featured Satanists as the main bad guys. It could have ended with Paul Kersey falling into hell and shooting The Giggler again.
  2. Tom Skerritt and his mustache are not welcome at The Museum of Schlock.
  3. William Shatner does not make a convincing Pilgrim.
  4. Satanists need to come up with less complicated plans for world domination.
  5. William Shatner is still a hero even when he’s a hollowed-eyed Satanist.


Photo by Leslie Salas

Photo by Leslie Salas

Jeffrey Shuster (episode 47episode 102episode 124, and episode 131) is an MFA candidate at the University of Central Florida.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,504 other followers