Heroes Never Rust #104: A Final Note

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Heroes Never Rust #104 by Sean Ironman

A Final Note

With Marvel 1985 issue six, no reader will be surprised when Toby returns to the real world with the Marvel heroes, and the villains are soon defeated. Does anyone ever expect the heroes to lose in these stories? But just because the inevitable good-triumphing-over-evil occurs, the story does offer interesting developments.

In an effort to stop the villains, Toby’s father is gunned down by Red Skull. There’s a dark comedic vein running through the scene of Toby’s father confronting the villains, and Red Skull calmly taking out his pistol and killing the father. The story doesn’t end there. Nor does it end with the villains defeated, the heroes returning to their world, or even with Toby’s father’s funeral.

The comic ends years later, when Toby is an adult. He’s on his laptop writing a comic called 1985, and in the final two pages, his father wakes up in the Marvel Universe under the care of Jane Foster, a nurse and a love interest for Thor. Earlier in the comic series, his father said that he had a crush on Jane Foster, so years later, Toby gives his father his wish—his father asks Jane out on a date and she says yes. Marvel 1985 ends with his father looking out at the New York City of the Marvel Universe in anticipation for the possibilities.

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This brings up an interesting aspect of superhero stories, and fiction as a whole—the idea of wish fulfillment. Why write fiction? Why write superhero stories? The superhero genre isn’t well respected. Even now, much of the respect it has earned is only because of the hundred of millions superhero films bring in at the box office. While comics have gained more respect in recent years, mainly by people who resist calling comics comics and instead refer to them as graphic or sequential narrative or other terms showing their embarrassment over comics, the superhero genre is still thought of in a similar way as fantasy YA novels are thought of in the literary community.

Superhero stories, though, serve an important function for the literary community. Due to many factors, like the rise of creative nonfiction and the focus on a global community, so much of writing is about our world. Even in fiction, our reality plays an important role. Stories must be real. Stories must show the world as it is, people as they are. Stories seem to be gritty and characters gray. But superhero stories offer a break from all that. Instead of showing the world as it is, readers (and writers) get to use their imagination and look at a different world.

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But, this isn’t escapism.

I don’t like that word, escapism. Whenever I hear someone say they like a certain book or a certain film or a certain genre because it offers them an escape, I just feel bad for that person, that he or she lives such an awful existence or views the world in such an awful way that they must shut down for a couple of hours and escape. Superhero stories are not escapism. They can comment on what it means to be human just as much as any literary story. Does each superhero story do that? Of course not, but neither does every literary short story. Does Superman really save the day? Does Spider-man? Batman? etc. No, they don’t. Superman fights a man or a robot or a monster with his fists and he puts off evil temporarily. But, that’s not where the story is at.

Superman’s story is with Lois Lane, Perry White, the Kents. It’s the people and the effect Superman has on them as people. If literary means a focus on craft and that the story comments on what it means to be human, then superhero stories are literary. A story doesn’t have to comment on how the world is for the reader to learn about the world. You can learn about our world, not just by studying what it is, but by studying what it is not.

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With all the technological advancements and heroics in a superhero comic, the world is not better off. The Marvel Universe still has the same problems as our world. There is still greed and selfishness. There is still violence. Kids still go to bed hungry. Sexism still exists. Racism does too. Superheroes are just window dressing on the same world. Even with the help of superheroes, them saving our lives, the human beings are still the same human beings as we are. The presence of a superhero doesn’t change what it means to be human. It just allows a different view of our world.

Many of us complain about mass shootings (rightly so). Many of us complain about space travel no longer being a priority. Many of us want something in place to stop the government from doing whatever the government wants to do. Yet, even in a world of superheroes, there are still mass shootings, people aren’t traveling freely to other planets, and government officials are still corrupt. A superpowered savior will not save us from being us. I think that makes a greater comment on humanity than many realist short stories and novels. We may wish for something magical to save us, some kind of easy solution to our problems, but superhero stories show us that that will never happen. We are who we are. Nothing will stop us from the faults of Man. Only we can do that.

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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.

Buzzed Books #30: Chain Link Fence

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Buzzed Books #30 by Amy Watkins

Patti White’s Chain Link Fence

Chain Link Fence

Some reviewers have called Patti White’s Chain Link Fence (Anhinga Press, 2013) a “post-apocalyptic” book, and it does have that sort of imagery. Most of the short, numbered poems include disjointed lists of objects either broken or hauntingly out of context: “a washtub, Pick-up / Sticks, four stones in a cardboard box.” There’s falling ash and peeling skin and wild dogs–very apocalyptic stuff–yet I kept thinking less of The Road and more of impoverished places and people I’ve known in the rural South.

The poems follow Lucy, a person of indeterminate age, as she wanders a ruined landscape in a sort of dream state. In poem 9 there is a hint of some cataclysm in the “abandoned military vehicles” Lucy sees outside the window, but the poem goes on: “The / kitchen rings around her too…. This is is not an earthquake…but / perhaps a precursor to something that shatters / inside her…” In poem 35, “Lucy walks in the scent of her dreams,” and in poem 47 “jasmine and roses bloom in her head.” Is the apocalypse she experiences the result of nuclear disaster or drugs and mental illness? Does it matter?

For two years in college I worked as a transcriptionist in a forensic psychologist’s office in Polk County, Florida, typing reports on competency to stand trial and sanity at the time of the offense. As I read Chain Link Fence, I found myself thinking of those litanies of abuse, addiction, petty crime, and mental illness. I remembered the glassy-eyed men and women I used to see on the drive home through Davenport–the birthplace of crank, the drug of choice of miserable self-destructive rednecks before some horrible genius invented crystal meth. I could easily imagine their longing for “anything delicious or sweet, / some piece of life left precious and unbroken.”

The poems are brief, which is a wise choice, I think. Long poems in this vein might feel heavy-handed. Instead the short pieces build on each other in an almost cinematic, fragmentary narrative. Although the book has welcome moments of lightness, I’m reluctant to call any of the poems hopeful; Lucy and the other characters are not getting out of the apocalypse alive.

Pair with: a chipped glass of moonshine–not the trendy stuff they sell in Total Wine that tastes like a McDonald’s apple pie soaked in lighter fluid, but the kind that comes in a washed out mayonnaise jar, pressed upon you by a person whose very benevolence is terrifying.

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Amy Watkins

Amy Watkins grew up in the Central Florida scrub, surrounded by armadillos and palmetto brush and a big, loud, oddly religious family, a situation that’s produced generations of Southern writers. She married her high school sweetheart, had a baby girl and earned her MFA in poetry from Spalding University. Her chapbook, Milk & Water, was published in 2014 by Yellow Flag Press.

Episode 163: David Z. Morris!

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Episode 163 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 journalist David Z. Morris,

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Photo by Angel He.

plus Shin Yu Pai writes about how Jhumpa Lahiri’s The Namesake changed her life.

Photo by Kelly O.

Photo by Kelly O.

BOOKS DISCUSSED

The NamesakeNOTES

Rest in Peace, E.L. Doctorow.

Check out David Z. Morris’s site, here. Check out his Art Basel essay here. Check out his Iowa City music essay, “Only What is Dead Can Live Forever,” here.

Check out Shin Yu Pai’s poetry and other work here.

On Tuesday, August 11, at 7:00 P.M. at The Gallery at Avalon Island, Jared Silvia, Stephanie Rizzo, Teege Braune, Genevieve Anna Tyrell, and I will read original fan fiction for that month’s installment of J. Bradley’s prose reading series, There Will be Words.


Episode 163 of The Drunken Odyssey, your favorite podcast about creative writing and literature is available on iTunes, or right click here to download.

The Curator of Schlock #97: The Octagon

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The Curator of Schlock #97 by Jeff Shuster

The Octagon

No more square dances in ninja movies! EVER.

If you read my last blog, I promised you a Sho Kosugi movie this week. That movie would have been Revenge of the Ninja since revenge movies are always welcome here at the Museum of Schlock. Unfortunately, my brand new Blu-ray special edition Revenge of the Ninja has gone missing. I found myself screaming, “You stay alive, no matter what occurs! I will find you. No matter how long it takes, no matter how far, I will find you!”

So I’ve had to scramble and find an appropriate substitute. The Octagon is on Netflix. It has ninjas.

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The Octagon might be the worst movie I’ve ever had to review for this blog. I really didn’t go into this expecting the movie to be this bad. So let’s get the particulars out the way. The Octagon was released back in 1980 and has a cult status, most likely for being one of the first English language action films to feature ninjas. It stars Chuck Norris and Lee Van Cleef. I like Lee Van Cleef. He was in such classic westerns as For a Few Dollars More and Day of Anger. He even starred in the Master Ninja movies which were featured on Mystery Science Theater 3000. As for Chuck Norris…audible sigh…

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I know that Chuck Norris is an expert martial artist. I know that he studied martial arts under Bruce Lee. He did not, however, study acting under Bruce Lee, or anyone else to prepare for his role of retired karate champion Scott James in The Octagon. This becomes painfully obvious each time Norris pauses mid-sentence. He does. This. Again. And. Again. And. Again.

He can’t remember his lines.

But, O Curator of Schlock, don’t most of the movies you review feature bad acting?

No, they do not! Lucio Fulci’s Zombie featured a member of the Royal Shakespeare Company in the lead role. Nothing will sink a movie faster than bad acting. That and a bad script. Schlock is supposed to be beautiful, people.

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I often point out when I lose the plot in the movies I review, but I think I lost the plot in The Octagon within the first ten minutes. I think the movie begins with Norris taking a ballet dancer home after a date, someone turns the lights in house off, she and her whole family get killed as Norris fumbles around in the dark. A disembodied voice says “Ninja” and I can’t figure out if this is Norris’s own thought or if he shares a psychic link with his brother who also happens to be an evil ninja. They’re estranged, mainly due to the fact that Norris beat his brother in some kind of obstacle course when they were kids and their father told him to disown him or something.

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I guess his evil ninja brother grows up to run a ninja training camp. They’re a bunch of random mercenaries who show up to join the ninja clan. They’ve even got an Irish guy who gets in a tizzy when he finds out they don’t serve potatoes at the camp. Norris tries to investigate the mysterious ninja clan, but keeps running into people who are confused as to what he’s talking about. “Ninja? Is that some kind of new Japanese stereo?” And then Norris shows up at a square dance class. I don’t know why.

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I’m sorry. Am I a testy today? I’m sure it has nothing to do with the fact that I just saw Terminator Genisys. Yeah, Skynet was going to use Ipads to destroy the world. I think they took someone’s Terminator fan fiction and turned it into a major motion picture. Until next week, folks.

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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.

Heroes Never Rust #103: 1985, & Doing Something New

Heroes Never Rust #103 by Sean Ironman

1985: Doing Something New

There have been a lot of comic books made in the last hundred years. Millions of stories, with a large chunk of them revolving around superheroes. Most of these stories range from terrible to merely adequate. I love superheroes, but even I can’t defend each one. I don’t know if it’s the schedule of having to turn out a complete superhero tale each month (written, penciled, inked, colored, lettered, and edited), or if it’s just the nature of storytelling, but most superhero tales do nothing new. Sure, they plug in a different character into the protagonist spot, another in the villain spot, another in the best friend role, and so on. These stories can still be entertaining in the way that when you’re done you’re not upset you wasted fifteen minutes of your life on the comic, but rarely are they memorable. But, how does a writer bring something new to a genre that’s had millions of stories already told?

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In the fifth issue of 1985, Toby finds himself in the Marvel Universe. From the portal between dimensions, he lands on a street corner, still on the run from the Trapster, who is dispatched pretty quickly by a sedan as he chases Toby across the street. Toby heads to Avengers Mansion, where Jarvis, the butler (an actual butler in the comics, not software), hands Toby a pin and unconvinced Toby is being truthful, Jarvis tells him to get the Fantastic Four. At the Baxter Building, Toby is made to fill out a form full-bureaucracy style beside a few others who also have an emergency that requires the help of the Fantastic Four. The superhero team will help on a first-come first-serve basis. In need of help, Toby heads to the Daily Bugle to get Peter Parker’s help, which seems to work. Toby’s adventures in the Marvel Universe are fun and interesting, even though he doesn’t run into any superheroes until the end of his journey. The issue works because it’s rare that we get a look at the ground level of the Marvel Universe.

1985Spiderman

I think that’s the key to doing something new—point-of-view. Style and structure can do a lot in a story, but to really deliver something new, I think the key lies with point of view. The superheroes remain the superheroes we know and love. They are reinvented. But, by getting a look at them from a different angle, in this case Toby’s, we can experience them in a new way. Perhaps this is why superhero films can’t seem to go even three films without losing steam (How many great superhero trilogies are there? I can’t think of any.) Ultimately, the superhero’s story, if they are to stay a superhero, can only be repeated so many times. Only so many times can new villains and supporting characters reinvigorate a series. But, a new point of view could create a whole new story. How interesting would it be to see a Superman film that is told from the point of view of a priest, someone who believes Man has been made in the image of God, that Man is God’s chosen creature? How would that affect the priest’s faith? Superman would stay Superman, but we as the audience would see a new side of the character.

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One of Marvel Comics’ greatest series, and one that I can’t help but feel that Marvel 1985 was meant to be a new version of, was Marvels. In Marvels, the reader followed Phil Sheldon, an everyman character and photographer for the Daily Bugle. Readers saw the birth of the Marvel Universe through different eyes. And it was great. Readers got a new understanding of the comics, from the impact that Captain America had on the United States to why the X-men were hated for their mutant powers and the Fantastic Four were loved for their superpowers.

Marvel has done a few more comics like this in recent years, such as the Civil War tie-in Frontline. I really hope we get these types of comics as film someday. Not yet, it’s too soon, but in ten years, I think they would be wonderful. How many times can we see the same story over and over again? I’m not saying I dislike superhero comics, or I’m unhappy with what’s being published today. But, if a genre is going to thrive, it needs to evolve and offer readers new experiences. Point of view is a great way to do that. Some of the best Batman stories from the last twenty years have been found in Gotham Central, a comic about the police force in Gotham City. One of the best Superman stories is It’s a Bird, from the point of view of the writer of Superman comics. A great, and somewhat forgotten, Spider-man storyline (“The Kid Who Collects Spider-Man”) is about a child with leukemia whose dying wish is to meet Spider-man. The whole issue is Spider-man and the kid hanging out in the kid’s bedroom talking. And it was incredible because readers saw Spider-man in a different way. So, if you’re thinking of tackling a superhero tale, or any genre work that’s been done to death, try thinking of a different character as your narrator. You’ll get the best of both worlds—a story that has what readers love and something new.

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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 #17: Aku Aku

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The Global Barfly’s Companion #17 by John King

BarAku Aku

Location: 431 E Central Boulevard, Orlando, FL 32801

Aku Aku

While Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto may be a boozy, whimsical pocket of tropical goodness in the theme park meccas twenty or so miles west of Orlando, the city beautiful’s best tiki bar is Aku Aku.

Located off Lake Eola and Thornton Parks, Aku Aku is far enough from the epicenter of mob alcoholism downtown to foster a sense of calm, letting those who are serious about their drinking to focus on the task at hand.

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Once again, I brought my brother with me as my drinking proxy (doctor’s orders).

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Now the term “tiki bar” is often a misnomer, especially in Florida where a thatched roof, Jimmy Buffet music, and Coronas seem all the requirements needed for the term. A true tiki bar is devoted to the touristy sense of the exotic that Hawaii held in the American imagination in the 1950s and early 1960s. Aku Aku is a true tiki bar that will make tikiphiles dreamy.

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This modestly sized establishment is lined with dark bamboo, and features abundance of oversized Hawaiian images, not the least of which is a giant version of the drink menu.

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An Easter Island idol looms dourly at the door. (Aku Aku was the name of the archeologist Thor Heyerdal’s startling book about the history and culture of Easter Island, first published in 1958.) There are hula girl lamps and sculptures. There are glowingly ethereal puffer fish lanterns. And the cool darkness and the retro music of the place seem to banish the crush of downtown from one’s senses.

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Behind the bar is a matrix of asymmetric shelves covered with sculpted mugs, outré tchotchkes, and bizarre artifacts such as Robert Mitchum’s calypso album. Also among the shelves is over 70 different rums.

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According to our bartender, Eric Soloman, their most popular rum is the Tiger Fucker, but they were out of vodka, which my brother wouldn’t have allowed to pass his lips anyway. James started with a mai tai (a recipe based on Trader Vic’s), and found it “Sweet and cool, from palate to gullet.” It was less minty than the Hippopota-mai-tai at Trader Sam’s, but equal in caliber.

Next my brother tried the signature drink, the Aku Aku, which was even better than the mai tai. When I tried a sip, the sensation was gently sweet, like falling onto a giant, satin pillow. I get the feeling one could sip those through an afternoon or evening without the sugar getting too weird in one’s system.

Eric is quite the mixologist. The bar was piled with oranges and pineapples that would later be juiced, and Eric proudly told us that Aku Aku makes its own simple syrup and grenadine. Such attention to fresh detail is a delight, and is discernible in the drinks themselves.

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Like most tiki bars, there was a whiff of heady sweetness in the very air. While Louis Armstrong sang, “Ma Vie En Rose,” Eric helped my brother sample some sipping rums, and even concocted something with pineapple, rum, and peanut butter powder—a drink that as yet has no name, but was miraculously delicious, according to my brother.

Aku Aku is the sister bar to the wonderful Stardust Lounge, which resides at the bottom of the stairs just a few feet from Aku Aku’s entrance. This is a deep inside joke. The Stardust Casino has a Polynesian restaurant and tiki bar from 1960 to 1980, and it was called Aku Aku. Todd Ulmer, the owner of both bars, knows how to create an immersive theme that imagines so much more than a place to yammer while watching sports while imbibing predictable drinks.

But Stardust Lounge will have to wait another day.

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

Shakespearing #39: Two Noble Kinsmen

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Shakespearing #39 by David Foley

The Two Noble Kinsmen

39 The Two Noble Kinsmen

“There’s many a man alive that hath outliv’d/The love o’ th’ people.” This is Palamon in The Two Noble Kinsmen, congratulating himself that his impending execution will spare him this and “prevent/The loathsome misery of age.” It’s a line Shakespeare supposedly wrote.

One of the stories you can tell yourself while reading this last play is a story of youth and age. John Fletcher was in his mid-thirties when he collaborated with Shakespeare, an age when Shakespeare was writing Henry V, As You Like It, and Hamlet, among others. Fletcher’s scenes in Two Noble Kinsmen are light, charming, sunny. Shakespeare’s are scored with images of death, old age, decay. He opens the play with a strange and startling scene. Three queens appear in Athens, seemingly out of nowhere (in the Chaucerian source they accost Theseus on his way home from conquest), to lament their husbands, killed in war at Thebes and left to rot in the field by King Creon, who will not let them “take th’ offense/Of mortal loathsomeness from the blest eye/Of holy Phoebus, but infects the winds/With stench of our dead lords.” One of them begs Hippolyta to tell Theseus what she would do “if he i’ th’ blood-siz’d field lay swoll’n/Showing the sun his teeth, grinning at the moon.”

This world of cost and woe becomes knowing and sophisticated when Fletcher takes over. We take a couple of steps away from the story and feel ourselves breathe easier. (You can guiltily start to prefer Fletcher’s scenes.) Perhaps this is most obvious in the treatment of the Jailer’s Daughter, whose lust for Palamon is refreshingly straightforward (“I would fain enjoy him”) but lacks the lived reality of desire that Shakespeare gives his love-struck women. The account of her madness—flowers, water, snatches of old songs—seems deliberately intended to echo Ophelia, but does so with the prettiness of a pre-Raphaelite painting.

The charm of this works best in the friendship of Arcite and Palamon, the kinsmen of the title. In the funniest scene, the cousins, about to duel to the death for the love of Emilia, solicitously help each other into their armor.

Arcite: Do I pinch you?

Palamon: No.

Arcite: Is it not too heavy?

Palamon: I have worn a lighter,/

But I shall make it serve.

The image of same-sex affection running through the play makes we wonder again, as I did in my Twelfth Night posting, what signals were being sent and received in Shakespeare’s theater. There’s the bachelor Pirithous’s love for Theseus. “How his longing/Follows his friend,” says Emilia, before telling about her own love for her late childhood friend Flavina, a love, Hippolyta suggests, that means she “shall never…/Love any that’s call’d man.” Pirithous has a few suggestive lines. In a play full of bawdy puns, he gives the Morris dancers “something/To paint your pole withal,” and says of Palamon, “O heaven, what more than man is this!” And his praise of a young knight’s beauty is suspiciously lyric. And, of course, there are the cousins, who, Arcite declares, “are one another’s wife.” This is not to give a queer reading of the play, but to wonder whether an element of the Blackfriars crowd was being played to. Fletcher’s parting words in the Epilogue are playfully ambiguous: “He that has/Lov’d a handsome wench then, show his face—/’Tis strange if none be here.”

It’s left to Shakespeare, though, to recall us to the cost of desire. After Arcite’s death grants Emilia to Palamon, he says: “O cousin,/That we should things desire which do cost us/The loss of our desire!”

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David Foley

David Foley is a playwright and fiction writer living in Brooklyn. His plays include Cressida Among the GreeksParadiseNance O’NeilThe Murders at ArgosA Hole in the Fence, and Sad Hotel, among others. His novel The Traveler’s Companion is available on Amazon. He teaches at New York University.

Episode 162: Charles Blackstone!

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Episode 162 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 novelist Charles Blackstone,

Photo by  by Erika Dufour.

Photo by by Erika Dufour.

plus Don Campell about how finding a copy of John Krakauer’s Into the Wild on the Appalachian Trail changed his life.

Don Campbell author photo-2

TEXTS DISCUSSED

Vintage Attraction

The Week You Weren’t Here

Into the WildNOTES

On Tuesday, August 11, at 7:00 P.M. at The Gallery at Avalon Island, Jared Silvia, Stephanie Rizzo, Teege Braune, Genevieve Anna Tyrell, and I will read original fan fiction for that month’s installment of J. Bradley’s prose reading series, There Will be Words.

The Curator of Schlock #96: Enter the Ninja

The Curator of Schlock #96 by Jeff Shuster

Enter the Ninja

(featuring an extra evil Christopher George)

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Not if, but when I realize my dreams of becoming a super villain, I want rest assure any of you potential henchmen out there that I will treat you fairly, and by fairly I mean not kill you whenever it’s convenient. I don’t understand why some super villains kill off their own henchmen. If the hero is holding your number 2 guy hostage, don’t shoot him just to show how ruthless you are. It’s bad for the morale of the other henchmen in your organization.

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1982’s Enter the Ninja from director Menahem Golan…yeah, the same Golan of Golan & Globus (should be a David Mamet play) directed this film. The scuttlebutt is that Menahem Golan wanted to direct Death Wish 2, but Charles Bronson refused to star in it unless Michael Winner was at the helm. So Menahem Golan got Enter the Ninja as a consolation prize.

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Enter the Ninja delivers what just may be the greatest opening credit sequence ever. We get to see a ninja donned in black against a black backdrop showing off all of his ninja moves like prepping a poison dart or twirling sihs around. Then the movie starts and we see another ninja dressed in white start attacking all of these red ninjas and black ninjas, slicing them up with his ninja sword. The white ninja dives off a waterfall and fights another ninja underwater before making his way to some kind of dojo and lopping this old guy’s head off with his ninja sword.

Woah! It feels like they put the last ten minutes of the movie at the beginning, but we learn it was just some elaborate training exercise. The old man comes into the dojo holding a prosthetic head. What? This doesn’t make any sense! I saw his head get chopped off, but I suppose this may be that ninja magic I’m always hearing about. Then the ninja takes off his hood and it’s revealed that the ninja is none other than Franco Nero! That’s almost as good as getting Charles Bronson to be the ninja. Nero has a better mustache! 

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Anyway, Franco Nero is playing a guy named Cole who leaves Japan to visit an old war buddy named Frank (Alex Courtney) who now resides in Manila. Frank and his wife Mary-Ann (Susan George) run a coconut plantation. Apparently, there’s this guy with a French accent (or is it German) and a hook for a hand that’s making trouble for their hired hands. Cole uses his ninja moves on the guy, even managing rip the hook clean off which is kind of gross since all he’s left with is a bloody stump. 

It turns out that the creep with a hook for a hand is working for Charles Venarius (Christopher George), a powerful CEO who wants that coconut plantation for the ocean of oil that lies beneath it. He hires a bunch of local goons who prove useless before sending his second-in-command to Japan to hire a ninja to take care of Cole. That ninja is played by none other than Sho Kosugi.

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Who’s Sho Kosugi? I’m not sure, but he stars in the next two ninja movies I’ll be reviewing this month. Who is Susan George? She starred in Straw Dogs with Dustin Hoffman. What is Straw Dogs? It was a Sam Peckinpah’s first attempt at a romantic comedy.

Five Things I Learned from Enter the Ninja

  1. Don’t get between Franco Nero and his lemonade. 
  2. Don’t pick a fistfight with the guy who has a hook for a hand. He may use it in your sweet spot. 
  3. White suits should make a comeback. They’re so dapper. If you tell a ninja that you just want to talk and he keeps killing all of your bodyguards, guess what? He doesn’t want to talk. 
  4. Dying with honor for a ninja means getting his head cut off. 
  5. t’s amazing what kind of gems you can find on Netflix. In addition to Enter the Ninja, they also have Ghoulies III: Ghoulies Go To College.

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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.

The Lists #21: Disturbing Books

The Lists #21 by John King

Disturbing Books

Recently a listicle, 10 Books for the Literarily Disturbed, appeared on Feed Your Need to Read. Now I adore most of the books Renata Sweeney placed on that list (Tropic of Cancer is in my sweet spot), but found the adjective disturbing wrong somehow, even when describing Naked Lunch, which I find to be clever and disconcerting, but seldom disturbing–but then again, I used to listen to the industrial music of Throbbing Gristle for fun.

For me, disturbing conjures up existential terror and howling fantods.

So I offer an alternative list.

7. Lá Bas by J.K. Huysmans

La Bas by JK Huysmans

This 1891 novel features a scholar, Durtal, who retreats from the vulgarity of the contemporary world and throws himself into researching the middle ages. He finds himself obsessively researching the life of Gilles de Rais, who fought alongside Joan of Arc, but would later be discovered to be a pedophile who had his victims murdered. Witnessing a black mass (which author J.K Huysmans claims to have actually seen) does little to cheer him up.

While the black mass does not shock me the way it was meant to shock French readers in 1891, the rising madness of scholarship I too easily identify with.

6. Decision Points by George W. Bush

DP

The decider proudly confesses his decision-making. He is serious.

5. American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis

American Psycho

Okay, so it seems obvious to include this book from 1991, but the way Ellis de-contextualizes serial killing and conflates it with the vapidity, greed, and consumerism of the 1980s unsettles me. That, and the book is a page-turner.

In the literary community, most people dismiss the book, as David Foster Wallace did, as too nihilistic and entertaining, but for me, the combination is what makes it great and memorable. It stays with me despite myself. I can claim to be above it or give to American Psycho what is American Psycho‘s. Please don’t ask me about the movie.

4. Touch Me by Suzanne Somers

Touch Me

In all fairness, I have not read this one, but I have a feeling. I dare you to stare at the book cover for thirty continuous seconds.

3. Nausea by Jean-Paul Sartre

Nausea

The philosophy of existentialism sounds rather tidy when Sartre describes it in Existentialism and Human Emotions. We have existence before our lives have essence or meaning (World War II having made religion seem especially untenable). At some point, many people realize the lack of meaning to their existence, and despair, and then, through great struggle, create meaning out of the uncertainties of existence.

Sartre dramatized the problem of this lack of meaning in No Exit, whose plot is easily summed up: Hell is other people. But that diminishes both Hell and other people.

Nausea (1938) is a novel that focuses mostly on the long realization that existence precedes essence. Hell is, viscerally, the world and oneself. While Albert Camus’s The Stranger is a shorter and better existentialist novel, Nausea kinked my brain with its psychological depths. It still does. Also, like Lá Bas, its main character is a historian losing his mind.

2. It by Stephen King

It

Stephen King (who happens to not be a relation) does not get a lot of love here at The Drunken Odyssey. Jaroslav Kalfař and I discussed Stephen King’s On Writing back on Episode 6, and while we enjoyed the book, we admitted that King’s sense of what was exciting seemed predictable, and in doing the homework suggested in On Writing, both Jaroslav and I mocked his questionable movie, Maximum Overdrive. Perhaps that was predictable of us.

Nevertheless, I do remember reading It in high school as a sophomore and getting really freaked by the text. Perhaps the mysterious malevolent presence in It was J. K. Rowling’s inspiration for the boggart, a creature that assumes the appearance of whatever you are most afraid of. Maybe it is Pennywise the Clown, violating his way into this world from another dimension. (This was long before the clowns-are-scary thing was a trope–and is one of the BIG reasons it is a trope.) Maybe it was the fear that what fucks us up as teenagers (say, a sophomore in high school) might secretly live with us for the rest of our lives.

I have been afraid of the pronoun it when used sans referent ever since.

1. The Tinkerbell Hilton Diaries: My Life Tailing Paris Hilton by Tinkerbell Hilton

The Tinkerbell Hilton Diaries

As of the posting of this blog, this heiress’s canine has more books in print than I do. I’ll get you, D. Resin.

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

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