Heroes Never Rust #95: Superpowers

Heroes Never Rust #95 by Sean Ironman

Terror Inc.: Superpowers

After so many decades of superheroes, new superpowers are difficult to come by. We have our heroes that represent normal human abilities at an extreme: Captain America, Superman, The Flash, etc. We have our heroes mixed with animal motifs: Spider-man, Hawkman, Ant-Man, etc. We have our mystical heroes: Doctor Strange, Daimon Hellstrom, John Constantine, etc. There are thousands of superheroes, each with their own power, many of which are similar. Now, though, it has become difficult to make a hero with unique superpowers. There are a few aspects that go into deciding on a character’s powers. First, powers must be useful in some way, especially in a fight. A superhero having the ability to make a villain sneeze wouldn’t be too helpful. Second, powers must be visually interesting. Comics is a visual medium after all. Even powers like telepathy are shown in a visual manner. Third, and perhaps most importantly, powers have to relate to some aspect of humanity, are a kind of wish fulfillment.. Superman’s powers are a wish fulfillment. The super soldier serum injected into Steve Rogers that makes him Captain America lets people see what humanity is capable of. It’s been a long time since I have seen an interesting new power in a superhero.

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Until I read Terror Inc. by David Lapham and Patrick Zircher.

The main character, Terror, is fifteen-and-a-half centuries old. Originally a member of the Vandals who sacked Rome, Terror was cursed by the Romans. The curse decomposes Terror’s body, but the curse also keeps him alive. He trades his rotting body parts with fresh parts. For example, he can rip his leg off and replace it with someone else’s leg. Or, at one point in the first issue, he rips his head off and replaces it with another’s head so that he can go undercover. He can replace his body with animals as well.

Terror’s superpowers are interesting because they are unique. Even when it comes to darker superheroes, I can’t think of one who acts as a kind of cannibal, consuming body parts to get the job done. Going back to the superpower guidelines listed earlier, Terror’s powers are useful. First, he can’t be killed—unless, of course, he finds a way to rid himself of the curse. And, when he needs to overpower a foe, he can take body parts off a larger, stronger person, or perhaps even a bear or other powerful animal. He can change his body to fit the need for the mission. In a later issue, he’s in the body of a frog. His powers allow for unique storytelling. Some times in superhero comics, the situation the hero finds himself in is similar to the situation of another superhero. How many times has Daredevil or Captain America comics been similar to Batman, and vice versa? But, with Terror, writers can create suicide missions with the suicide. His powers are also visually interesting. Artists are not confined to true anatomy with Terror. Different size arms and legs fit—even animal body parts on a human body part. Readers are easily able to keep track of Terror using his powers. Finally, his powers relate to a basic human need—survival. Terror’s powers are based in immortality. Who hasn’t thought of living forever? Yet, his powers are also his curse—he cannot die and will forever be damned with a body that rots and must be replaced. Terror2

The cost of magic is necessary, which is a reason why I find most fantasy stories lacking. A character who lives forever must have some kind of conflict. Magic cannot just give power—it must take, as well. Superpowers cost heroes something—they do not just grant enormous strength, or the power of flight, or the ability to wall crawl. Spider-man must give up his personal life, must lie to his aunt, must let down those who love Peter Parker because he has superpowers. Superman must live beside human beings without ever truly being a part of them. He is a permanent outsider. Captain America’s powers allowed him to live following the war frozen in ice, but now he must continue on after everyone he knew and loved has died. There must be a downside to superpowers. If not, the character will no longer be relatable. We readers need our heroes down to Earth.

Also, Terror’s powers are grotesque. Some readers may be put off by him severing a limb and fusing it to his own body, but it has an instant emotional reaction. The uniqueness of Terror’s situation is memorable, whether one finds it gross or awesome.

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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 #9: 61 Local

The Global Barfly’s Companion #9 by Kristin Maffei

Bar: 61 Local

Location: 61 Bergen Street, Brooklyn, NY

P1020707Book to Bring: Stop Wanting by Lizzie Harris.

stop wantingIt’s a gutting read, and also her book launch in March 2014 was the first time your humble correspondent every visited the establishment.

61 local nightWhy Writers Love It: This Boerum Hill public house has it all: affordable craft beers, coffee, plenty of seating, wifi, and even an upstairs event space where they host readings and meet-ups.

BeersTheir communal seating is ideal for writing groups and you’re almost guaranteed a spot if you’re on your own.

61 Local interiorThe super-friendly staff has no problem letting you sit with your computer plugged into their outlets for hours. They open at 7 AM on weekdays if you’re searching for a pre-work spot to grab a pastry and some coffee and get some work done. If you’re looking for some delicious grub to keep your brain moving, 61 Local lives up to its name and serves local delicacies from such nearby spots as Brooklyn Brine, Hot Bread Kitchen, and the Bronx Baking Co.

MustachePlus, the mirror in the bathroom has a mustache cut out of it so you can pretend you are Edgar Allen Poe while you wash your hands.

61 Local Kristin Mustache Caveat Emptor: If you’re going for just a beer, bring cash. There’s a $20 credit card minimum.

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Kristin Maffei

Kristin Maffei is a poet and copywriter living in New York City. Her work has been featured in Works & Days, Mount Hope Journal, and Underwater New York. For more information, visit www.kristinmaffei.com.

Shakespearing #34.1: ’Tis Pity She’s a Whore

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Shakespearing #34.1 by David Foley

’Tis Pity She’s a Whore

 Note: Another interlude as the Shakespearing project heads into the final stretch…

When I went to see Red Bull Theater’s production of ’Tis Pity She’s a Whore, I’d just begun my Pericles posting, and therefore had the issues of academicism and problematic old plays in my head. I was also quite tired (theater may be the only art form we consistently go to when we’re exhausted). And both of those circumstances may have had something to do with my cranky response. As we left the theater I said to my friend, “I imagine that’s a really hard play to do, but it’s gotta be impossible if you don’t have some idea about it.”

Now, a couple of weeks later and having just read the play for the first time, I’m feeling more sympathetic. As Marion Lomax suggests in her introduction to the Oxford World’s Classics edition, it’s hard to get the balance right on this one. Like some of Shakespeare’s plays, it offers no comfortable readings, only warring uncomfortable ones. The incestuous love affair between siblings Giovanni and Annabella is both a form of nihilistic madness and the only convincing expression of love and mutuality in the play. The representatives of the church serve as both voices of the moral universe and guarantors of sin. And though most everybody in the play gets some version of the “wonderful justice!” that they acclaim when Hippolita (adulterous would-be murderess and wronged woman) is poisoned, justice is disconcertingly relative when every avenger is also a villain.

I read the play in an online version published by the University of Adelaide, which includes entertainingly waspish notes from an unidentified 19th century editor. The editor takes issue both with the play and with his previous editors: “This tragedy was selected for publication by Mr. Dodsley. The choice was not very judicious, for, though the language of it is eminently beautiful, the plot is repulsive.” And later, in a note on one of Annabella’s lines: “The insulting and profligate language of this wretched woman…is perfectly loathsome and detestable.”

What to do with a play like this? Red Bull took the not uncommon approach of what you might call grab-bag relatability, a moment-to-moment attempt to make the play accessible to a modern audience. The costumes were the po-mo hodgepodge that’s the go-to design choice for a production like this. The actor in the comic role was given free range and a curly blond wig, and the sex-and-violence quotient was upped. (An eye-gouging, offstage in the original, happened in full view, and there was an awkwardly staged nude scene, though, to be fair, a quick internet search indicates that a nude scene is almost required for contemporary productions of the play.) That this worked up to a certain point was attested to, the night I saw it, by the enthusiastic response of a group of students house right.

But relatability has its limits, and the production most obviously ran into them in the character of Giovanni. You can’t play Giovanni as Romeo. At best, he’s a sexed-up Hamlet, his intellectual rebellion soldered to his desire, a Lucifer of love. I don’t know if there’s a way to make him relatable to an audience for whom sin has no metaphysical or intellectual weight.

This presents a conundrum for companies like Red Bull. Their admirable project is to keep Jacobean theater alive on the New York stage, but such projects are always going to be dogged by questions about why and how you revive plays that no longer translate readily to a modern audience. It’s hard for such a project not to slip into academicism.

And it presents a mystery. Why do Shakespeare’s plays still translate? I think of Stephen Greenblatt who writes that “works of art…contain directly or by implication much of [their] situation within themselves, and it is this sustained absorption that enables many literary works to survive the collapse of the conditions that led to their production.” I’ve always liked that, but now I wonder if it’s true. It’s not because Shakespeare pulls so much of the Elizabethan “situation” into his plays that we still revere him. It’s because he gets to something at the heart of the Elizabethan situation that still resonates today.

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Charlotte Rampling and Oliver Tobias in a 1971 film adaptation.

Ford’s world is alien to us, and not just because of what our 19th century editor calls the “detestable set of characters [he has] sharked up for the exercise of his fine talents.” It’s alien because it’s hard to find modern equivalents for the passions driving these people. They are rooted in a world—in a situation—we no longer comprehend.

It’s not, however, unplayably alien. That was my surprise on reading the play—what a brisk, involving play it actually is (and, to be fair, easier to follow sitting well-rested on a sofa than frazzled and dragging in a theater). Tamburlaine, too, is alien to us. The things that thrilled his Elizabethan audience now appall us. The recent gorgeous TFANA production didn’t make him relatable. It created a world in which we could imagine him, a world that refracted our vision so that we began to see our own world through new eyes.

So maybe what ’Tis Pity She’s a Whore needs is not an idea, but a world, a world in which the play can happen. That’s a tall order, and I’m not sure how you would go about creating that world. But it might give shape to the project of reviving such plays: not to make them relatable but to dazzle us with new seeing.

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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 154: Caitlin Doyle!

Episode 154 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 interview the poet Cailtin Doyle,

Caitlin Doyle

plus Jeremy Da Cruz writes about reading James Joyce’s “Eveline” on Amtrak.

Jeremy Da Cruz

TEXTS DISCUSSED

Dubliners

NOTES

In Orlando, check out Wordier Than Thou, the open mic night that is roving across Florida. On Wednesday, May 27, it’s at Stardust Coffee and Video.

Wordier Than Thou

On June 14, come celebrate The Drunken Odyssey’s 3rd birthday on a monorail line pub crawl.

Polynesian monorail

A teacher in South Windsor, Connecticut was forced to resign after allowing his class to listen to Allen Ginsburg’s “Please Master.”

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Episode 154 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 #89: Supergirl

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The Curator of Schlock #89 by Jeff Shuster

Supergirl

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The Internet can’t seem to shut up about that trailer for that new Supergirl TV show. I don’t know. As someone who stuck it out through ten seasons of Smallville only to see Clark Kent put the suit on in the last ten minutes of the final episode, I’m a bit miffed that Supergirl gets her suit in the first trailer. Heck, the Supergirl on Smallville got her suit before Clark! I kept thinking the show was going to end with Clark working the back 40 like Pa Kent would have wanted. Supergirl 6 Anyway, we’re here to review 1984’s Supergirl from director Jeannot Schwarc, and it’s a bizarre little movie. I’ll have to break this down so I can keep my sanity while writing this review. The opening credits are cool. They have that whole zooming toward the camera thing that the original Superman had–only these credits have a more physical presence like they were made out of solid aluminum. I wonder if they’re packed away around someone’s basement somewhere waiting to be sold on Ebay. Supergirl3 Helen Slater stars as Supergirl, and if there’s one thing the makers this movie got right, it was that casting choice. It’s not just that she’s really good looking, it’s that she’s really good looking. She’s got some acting chops, too, in that she’s playing Kara Zor-El from Argo City who comes to earth as Supergirl while assuming the identity of Linda Lee, so she’s really playing three parts if you think about it. Oddly enough, I think she has a better disguise that Clark Kent. She’s a brunette when she’s posing as Linda Lee. Clark Kent should have considered going blond instead wearing those specs. That would have been a much better disguise. Faye DUNAWAY Faye Dunaway stars as Selena, some devil-worshipping enchantress who wants to rule the world. Oddly enough, she’s more likeable here as a power hungry despot than she was as Joan Crawford. She hangs out in an abandoned amusement park with her Satanist friends waiting for her big break. Faye DUNAWAY She gets it when a magic ball called the Omegahedron falls from the sky into a bucket of cheese. This obviously makes her extra magical, so she sets about making love potions to seduce a local gardener while summoning invisible demons to attack Supergirl. Supergirl 7 Magic can hurt Supergirl as well as Superman. I learned that on Smallville. There was this whole season where Lana Lang was possessed by the spirit of her dead witch ancestor. I seem to recall Jane Seymore guest starring on that season. I think she was a witch too. It’s all a blur to me now.  I’ll be honest with you, I just watched Smallville to see the young Lex Luthor get roughed up by some freak or alien each week. An episode couldn’t go by without Lex getting knocked into a table or shot or thrown out a window. No wonder he turned evil.

Five Things I Learned From Supergirl

  1. Always hold your swinging, Satanic cocktail parties in an abandoned funhouse.
  2. When Supergirl is on the job, no IHOPs get destroyed.
  3. Denizens of the Phantom Zone sustain themselves on squirts of green slime.
  4. They used to serve onion rings at Popeye’s.
  5. Jimmy Olsen is not a substitute for Superman!

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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 #94: Endings

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Heroes Never Rust #94 by Sean Ironman

Watchmen: Endings

Endings are difficult. Do you leave the story open-ended? Do you lead into another story? Do you connect the story back to the beginning? Do you have an epilogue? There are a lot of questions and no answers. Ambiguous endings work from time to time, but so do endings that give a definite end to the characters. There is no one right way to tell a story, and there is no one right way to end a story. Watchmen’s final issue opens with six splash pages showing the destruction that Ozymandias has caused in New York city. There is a bit of a scuffle back at Ozymandias’ secret base as Silk Spectre and Doctor Manhattan get in on the fight. But, for the most part, the superheroics of typical superhero comics are not found here. Watchmen’s ending works well because the last third of the issue deals with Ozymandias potentially being right.

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The problem with many endings is that they become too simple. This is especially true with superhero stories, which usually end with the hero and the villain punching each other until the villain either dies or gives up. The writer tries to wrap up the story, so the story gets stripped down. But, Watchmen goes in the opposite direction—it gets more complicated in the final chapter. There’s a light scuffle in the first half, but then news stories come in on Ozymandias’ many TVs. People are scared that there is an alien presence threatening Earth. The United States and Russia begin to talk about peace. What’s the point of countries waging war only to be destroyed by aliens? Russia and the United States come together, and nuclear Armageddon is averted. Ozymandias’ plan worked. Instead of going with the easier ending of Doctor Manhattan coming in and crushing Ozymandias and the world finding out about Ozymandias’ actions, the comic pushes into unknown territory. Was Ozymandias right? Are the heroes still heroes for lying to the world? And who does watch the watchmen? It seems that in many superhero stories, if not many action/adventure stories, once the climax occurs, the story simplifies. Watchmen succeeds because the final issue furthers the themes and leaves the reader with something to think about.

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There seems to be a lot of focus on happy or sad endings. But, to me, a good ending is neither. To me, the ending is the lost shot at making your story memorable. Some readers might prefer a happy ending, and other readers might prefer a sad one, but if the ending is complex and leaves the reader not knowing how he or she feels, then the story will be one the reader needs to think about. If the ending is totally satisfying, then the reader just continues on with his or her life. In Watchmen, Rorschach is killed, Doctor Manhattan leaves Earth, Ozymandias continues on, and Night Owl and Silk Spectre are in a relationship and talk about continuing adventuring. There are a lot of questions and what ifs to play with the ending, allowing readers to continue the story in their own heads. The final sequence involves Rorschach’s journal, which he mailed before confronting Ozymandias, possibly being chosen by the young newspaper intern, Seymour, for some filler. The beauty of this sequence is that Moore and Gibbons do not show Seymour picking up the journal, nevertheless publishing it. The journal is in a pile of papers—it stands out because we as readers recognize it, but Seymour’s hand is just shown hovering about the pile. It leaves the reader questioning whether the journal will be published or not. And, if it is published, will anyone believe it? If it is published, will Night Owl and Silk Spectre tell the truth, or will they lie to protect the world Ozymandias has created? There’s a world after the story we as readers are given. There is a world before the story, and after the story.

WatchmenEnding

Watchmen’s ending is not truly ambiguous, however. Readers can play what if, but what occurs at the end is clear. Ambiguous endings can fail because events can be taken multiple ways or the story’s ending is unclear. With Watchmen, there are possibilities, but the ending that occurs is very clear. Questions are left for the reader to consider—questions about Ozymandias’ plan, about what Night Owl and Silk Spectre will do now, about whether the newspaper employees will publish Rorschach’s journal, and if so, will the world take it seriously. Any answers to these questions are valid. One reader may walk away knowing that Rorschach’s journal is published, that Ozymandias’ plan ultimately failed. Another reader, like me, believes the journal will change nothing, published or not. But both readers are correct. There’s nothing to really read between the lines—the writer isn’t trying to hide the true ending from the reader. Lives continue on, situations may change, but there s clarity in the ending. It seems to me that the most difficult aspect of writing an ending is to be clear, yet leave certain story elements still up in the air. Will the character’s actions produce lasting change?

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Photo by John King

Photo by John King

Sean Ironman (Episode 102) earned 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 #8: Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto

The Global Barfly’s Companion #8 by John King

Bar: Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto (and Tiki Terrace)

Location: The Polynesian Village Resort at Walt Disney World

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Walt Disney World can be an absolute phantasmagoria of whimsy and adventure, but it can also be a great vomitus of humid immolation claustrophobically mashed by psychotic tantrums and impaling selfie-sticks and rogue baby strollers pushed by texting zombies whose neurons have been zapped by unending days of sublime, infinitesimal stimuli and infinite queues and unconscionable price gouging on all of the necessities of life, should one have come to the parks unprepared.

Experienced Disneyphiles, such as myself, know how to escape these harsh realities. Avoid spring breaks and summers. Use sunscreen. Drink lots of liquids, like booze.

Brand new amongst the drinking establishments in Walt Disney World is Trader Sam’s, a bona fide tiki bar located on the harbor-end of the Polynesian Resort’s Great Ceremonial House. I brought my brother along, to serve as my drinking proxy (Doctor’s orders).

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We arrived around 4:30 on a Wednesday afternoon. The entrance to Trader Sam’s is a nondescript door with a little sign along a stretch of wall covered in volcanic rock.

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Inside the door, a cheery greeter informed us that the wait would be about half-an-hour.

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One hesitates to imagine what the delay will be like on a weekend night. We availed ourselves of the fast food location, Captain Cook’s. Despite my reservations about eating at a place named after someone who may have been cannibalized, the aloha pork sandwiches were actually tasty, and took just enough time to eat for us to be allowed admission inside Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto.

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I thought that we would be presented with a table or bar space when admitted into the dark, cool interior, but instead we were encouraged to join another party. The room is relatively snug, and dark enough, but with so many themed accessories, that the eye feels a bit disoriented at first.

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There is a long table made out of a surfboard. There were a few smaller tables, a few lounge chairs, and a not particularly long bar.

James and I loitered by the server’s station and ordered a mai tai, or what in this place is called a hippopotomai-tai. When the drink arrived in a googly-eyed tiki mug, my brother took a long drag and said, “They didn’t skimp on the rum.”

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After a second sip, he said, “This is the second-best mai tai I’ve ever had.” High praise indeed.

I myself stole a sip, and found the elixir tart and deep, a jolt to the nervous system that I imagine becomes wonderful halfway down the glass.

A few minutes later, five people left the low chairs behind us, and we swooped in to rest ourselves and watch the room and let my brother finish his rum-fueled libation.

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From this vantage point, Trader Sam’s is wonderful camp. The room looks like a wing of the hut structure seen in The Tiki Room in Adventureland, and there are even two bamboo windows with views of simulated outdoors scenes, of a volcanic island and moving clouds and undulating water.

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Intermittently, atmospheric disturbances affect the lighting, and interrupt the exotica and surf rock music playing on the loudspeakers. Above and behind the bar are the multifold details one expects of a Disney production, including an octopus’s tentacle curving out of a porthole window, and gripping a raft-beam.

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While the space is small, the insistence on populating it sparsely is important, since the details and the fun of the place are allowed to breathe.

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From time to time, the cast members working at Trader Sam’s yowl with verbal outbursts meant to enforce the levity and the theme, and mostly I didn’t know what all that noise was about. Maybe on future trips I will find that more welcome.

Before we left the Polynesian, we went outside the Great Ceremonial House to take in Trader Sam’s Tiki Terrace, which featured a lot more tables under umbrellas to protect one from the sun, which burned about a hundred yards overhead.

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There is a long wall of volcanic rock perpetually overrun with water. A man was breaking down his music set-up for the ukulele.

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His departure disappointed my brother more than I could have anticipated.

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The bar and food menu are the same outside and in. I asked a waiter about the Nautilus drink, served in a ceramic mug in the shape of Captain Nemo’s submarine, but we were told that “the fleet is currently out to sea.”

Sigh.

This outdoors location has almost no theming for a tiki bar, which seems odd for its sharing a name with Trader Sam’s, but seems like a relaxed spot when we were there, and might be a lovely waiting room for the interior of Trader Sam’s, if the afternoon or evening is not too sweltering.

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Trader Sam’s offers thirteen cocktails, a sipping rum shot sampler, three different nonalcoholic concoctions, and a selection of Hawaiian beers and wines. Eight different appetizers are available on the menu. While the prices aren’t cheap, they don’t seem extravagant if compared to other tiki bars. My brother’s mai tai cost about fifteen dollars with the glass, or around eleven if we didn’t want to take the mug home.

But how could I not take that psychotic mug home?

Trader Sams MugLike many Disney experiences, Trader Sam’s promises to have impediments to appreciating its wonders, but if you time your visit just right, and plan to enjoy the terrace before the grog grotto, then this tiki bar should be delightful, and is an absolute must-stop for tikiphile completists.

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

Shakespearing #34: Pericles

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Shakespearing #34 by David Foley

Pericles

34 Pericles lighter

Last week I mentioned a tug-of-war I’d felt in college between the Shakespeare-as-literature and the Shakespeare-as-drama camps, but now I wonder if I just don’t get academics in general. In his introduction to the Pelican edition of Pericles, Stephen Orgel of Stanford calls the play “a masterpiece—which is to say that by the standards of the Renaissance stage, it was very good theater.” At the same time, he says, Pericles “excites whatever interest it does today only because Shakespeare’s name is attached to it.” And even as I try to get my head around an understanding of “masterpiece” as “very good for its time” (or even of Pericles as “very good”), it occurs to me that if anything is keeping Pericles alive today it’s not Shakespeare’s name but Shakespeare.

Orgel makes his claims while wrestling with the authorship question. The second half of Pericles is understood these days to have been written by Shakespeare and the first by someone named George Wilkins. In making his case for Pericles as a whole masterpiece, Orgel cites the play’s choral figure, John Gower, as its “most striking element.” But Gower changes in both form and intent halfway through the play. The change is pronounced enough to make you feel that Shakespeare has seized the reins of the play from Wilkins with a certain irritable impatience.

Gower, a contemporary of Chaucer, wrote the narrative poem on which the play is based, and in the first half of the play, he narrates the story in a fusty tetrameter sprinkled with archaisms (“iwis,” “speken”). This is the kind of slightly academic conceit that can seem, to the amateur playwright, like a good idea, but in Wilkins’ hands it adds to the static, novelistic development of the early scenes. Shakespeare’s Gower moves; he sweeps the audience along with him, urging them to “think [Pericles’] pilot thought” as he “[thwarts] the wayward seas.”

Perhaps because the division of labor is so marked in Pericles, it’s easier here to see the difference not just between Shakespeare and his co-author but between a dramatist and someone just writing a play. The difference you feel when Shakespeare takes over is a sense of being lifted up into a livable world, a world of motion, of lives both animated and animating. You feel it in the reply of the villainous Dionyza when Leonine, charged with murdering Marina, objects that “she is a goodly creature”: “The fitter then the gods should have her.” You feel it in the intractable reality of the Bawd, who, like the Nurse, can’t leave a room when she’s dismissed. You feel it in Marina who, like many of Shakespeare’s women, anneals deep feeling to sharp intellect, whether she’s arguing with Leonides for her life or with Lysimachus and Boult for her chastity. “Do anything but this thou doest,” she tells the panderer Boult. “Empty/Old receptacles, or common shores of filth,” and you understand that the key to Shakespeare’s drama is the mind and heart in fierce motion.

It’s insane how moving Marina and Pericles’ recognition scene is, given the often clunky path that got us there (and the improbable set-up; it depends on no one actually mentioning Pericles’ name to Marina). It’s as if, in taking over from the clumsier playwright, Shakespeare reconnected with his own powers and at the same time began to imagine, after the bitterness of Coriolanus and Timon, a new dramatic world of clemency and reconciliation. “Did you not name a tempest,/A birth, and death?” Thais asks her rediscovered husband in the final scene. Well, yeah.

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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 153: Leonard Kinsey!

Episode 153 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 interview the iconoclastic Disney author Leonard Kinsey,

Leonard Kinsey

plus Terry Barr writes about leaning not to teach The Catcher in the Rye.

Terry BarrTEXTS DISCUSSED

The Dark Side of DisneyOur Kingdom of DustHabst and the Disney SaboteursIt's kind of a cute storyThe Catcher in the RyeNOTE

The music accompanying Terry Barr’s essay is “Wingspan” by Carlton Melton, from their album “Photos of Photos.”

Photos Of Photos_______

Episode 153 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 #88: Mildred Pierce

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The Curator of Schlock #88 by Jeff Shuster

Mildred Pierce, or All’s Well That Ends Well?

Mildred Pierce

I covered a movie about Joan Crawford last week, so I thought it would fitting to cover a movie actually starring Joan Crawford this week. So I’ll review the one she won Best Actress for, Mildred Pierce. I have to admit, these black and white features from Hollywood’s Golden Age certainly hold up well in the visual department. They do have a timelessness to them that really can’t be matched by modern movies about hobbits, super heroes, vampires, Transformers, or Liam Neeson..

What is Mildred Pierce about? Mildred Pierce is anti-redemption story about a working class mother who wants her daughters to enjoy the finer things in life. Her husband is a working class Joe who resents Mildred for spending money on fancy dresses for their eldest daughter, Veda (Ann Blyth). They have another daughter named Kay who is content enough to play football with the neighborhood boys, mucking it up in the muck. Veda doesn’t like the fancy dress her mother bought for her, saying it’s cheap and smelly.

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Mildred and her husband separate, leaving poor Mildred to go on a job hunt that eventually rewards her with a waitressing position.

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She actually gets rather good at waitressing, earning enough from tips and pie-baking to afford a maid along with ballet lessons for Kay and a singing teacher for Veda. Mildred is afraid of Veda learning that her mother is a waitress, but Veda finds out anyway and chides her mother for disgracing their broken family. I’d also be ashamed if my mother was a waitress…no, hash slinger…no, a…a…a chum scrubber! I wouldn’t care how many fancy dresses or manservants or singing teachers she bought me.

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Remember kids, being part of the upper class is a state of mind. If you berate your parents for their position in life, they might just decide to start their own chain of restaurants named Mildred’s, make bags of money, and buy even fancier houses and fancier dresses and more maids! The reason they call it the high life is because there are no limits. Some would say there’s no satisfaction either, but satisfaction is for people content to be losers.

Eventually, Veda grows tired of being a rich fish in a small pond. She marries Ted Forester, a young gentleman from a wealthy, respected family, but she doesn’t love him.

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They get a divorce, but since Veda is pregnant, she insists on $10,000 or there’s going to be trouble. The joke is on the Foresters since it turns out Veda was lying about being pregnant. Ha! She wants to get away from her mother and her “chickens, pies and kitchens. Everything that smells of grease.” She calls her mother a “common frump.”

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I remember reading a Mary Worth comic strip a few years back. Mary had a friend who decided she needed to get ahead at the company she worked at so she accused the vice-president of sexual harassment, got him fired, and took his position. The accusation was a lie, but she got what she wanted and couldn’t understand why Mary didn’t approve. It sure blew my mind.

5 Things I Learned from Mildred Pierce

  1. Police inspectors won’t play along with your frame job.
  2. Don’t leave your waitressing uniform tucked away in the back of your closet. Your daughter will find it!
  3. Pneumonia kills real fast!
  4. Cash the check before you tell your mother of your little pregnancy scam.
  5. Don’t scorn a woman who is holding a loaded pistol.

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Jeffrey Shuster 4

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

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