The Global Barfly’s Companion #23: The Treehouse

The Global Barfly’s Companion #23 by Josh Dull

Bar: The Treehouse

Location:  68 E Pine St, Orlando, FL 32801

Treehouse outside

Located near Magnolia Avenue and Pine Street in Downtown Orlando, The Treehouse is one of the city’s better kept secrets. For curb appeal, a single black chalkboard sits outside a narrow, shadowed stairwell only during operating hours. Or if you happen to walk through the right door in The Attic nightclub, you’ll find yourself in the small, AstroTurf carpeted space, lit by the amber glow of lanterns and string light bulbs. Should you enter by the stairwell, vines and overhanging leaves line your way into the enclosure.

Treehouse stairs

The space is warm and inviting, with polished oak tables, chairs, and bar top, a digital fire blazing on one of the two TV screens behind the bar. The entire space is about the size of your living room.

Seating area

Due an increase in popularity and a decrease in demand for craft cocktails, their drink menu has become more limited, however their infusion shots are still very much present, featuring flavors like apple pie and blueberry.

Morning Wood Prep

If you ask nicely, bartender Dan might even make one of the old craft cocktails Treehouse was once known for, such as the “Morning Wood” which begins with the bartender running a torch across a maple plank and capturing the smoke with the mason jar the drink will be served in, giving the cocktail a naturally smoky flavor. A full liquor bar leaves Dan more than capable of making classics such as the Old Fashioned or Cosmopolitan and a wide variety of beers lines the shelf and cooler, including hard to find brews such as Shiner Bock.

Bar top

Overall, the greatest strength in this establishment is its novelty. With its secluded location and distinct woodland aesthetic, the patron feels they’ve found something rare, exclusive, and dare I say it, magical. The arboreal walk up the stairs is a stark shift from the urban environs outside, as is the abrupt change in scenery should one enter from the Attic. Coming to the Treehouse feels familiar, like you’ve come to a friend’s house to watch a game or just relax with a cold brew. It’s an excellent place to begin a night of barhopping in Downtown Orlando, or an interesting stop in the middle of your festivities. Bring your friends here and they will definitely be impressed.

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Joshua DullJosh Dull is a U.S. Air Force veteran and an aspiring fiction author with an emphasis on social issues. He has recently completed his Bachelor’s degree with Honors in the Major from the University of Central Florida. When he isn’t at his computer writing and revising, he enjoys finding new and eclectic venues in the nightlife of whatever city he happens to be in. He currently resides in Orlando, Florida.

The Rogue’s Guide to Shakespeare on Film #16: As You Like It (2006)

Rogues Guide to Shakes on Film

#16. As You Like It (2006)

Some enthusiastic newbies to Shakespeare crave an authentically Shakespearean experience, something satisfyingly old-looking, true to history, and they will primly turn their nose up at productions that have the gall to change the setting of a play.

This is a truly silly position. Oh, there isn’t anything terribly wrong with having a traditional setting for Shakespeare’s plays, as Olivier’s Richard III proves. But there is an obligation for every new production of Shakespeare to actually be new, not just enact the plays like a theatrical jukebox for eternity.

Also, the idea of the purity of a setting is problematic if we consider that the plays, including the history plays, are historically imaginative or else inaccurate (such as the tolling of the clock in Julius Caesar). There is a theatrical approach to Shakespeare called period practice, which strives to painstakingly recreate a theatrical experience that Shakespeare’s own audience would have witnessed. Such shows forgo modern effects, pyrotechnics, staging, and lighting, yet they don’t take this approach all the way and have the female characters portrayed by men. Such productions imagine the bard in heaven blessing them for not using all of the tools of modern theater to entice an audience to buy a ticket for the show.

What is an appropriate historical setting for Macbeth? The eleventh century, based on Shakespeare’s source material, or the early seventeenth century, when the play was written and performed? Or in an alternate universe where the eleventh and seventeenth centuries overlap? Or Ontario, circa the winter of 1967, perhaps?

Getting too excited that a production looks sufficiently dusty is in absurdly wretched taste.

In his essay “The Art of Fiction” (1884), Henry James wrote, “We must grant the artist his subject, his idea, his donee: our criticism is applied only to what he makes of it.”

In the case of a play like As You Like It, the setting isn’t especially all that clear in the first place. A dukedom in France. The forest of Arden. It’s basically another comedy, like A Midsummer Night’s Dream, that is about flight into a pastoral landscape, in this case caused by Frederick claiming his older brother’s title as duke and then exiling his brother. The court’s loyalties are split in two, with the Duke Senior’s entourage following him in the wild.

As You Like It 1

Kenneth Branagh set his film in late 19th century Japan, in an unnamed treaty port, thus making the presence of Englishmen, well, plausible. Treaty ports were places where the countries that signed such treaties enjoyed extraterritoriality, meaning they were not subject to the laws of that land. Traders brought families and followers with them and created “mini-empires,” according to a caption at the start of the film. This choice of setting allows for a more believable sense of the drama, that jealousy in families could lead to tragic trajectories.

You know the difference between comedy and tragedy, in Shakespearean terms? Comedies end in marriage, tragedies end in a pile of corpses. Hamlet could be a comedy until he ups and stabs Polonius. And the comedies could turn more dark, if a confrontation were to turn fatal, like it did with poor Mercutio in Romeo and Juliet.

A caption in Branagh’s film tells us that the traders and their entourages in Japan “tried to embrace this extraordinary culture, its beauties and its dangers.” Now I can’t help but wonder at the colonialist privilege entailed in this setting, which Branagh tries his best to alleviate by representing very few Japanese people, and by lavishing cinematography upon impressive examples of Japanese architecture, costumes, and painting. Yet traders are not necessarily interchangeable with colonial powers, and unlike colonialists, these traders do try embrace Japanese culture, in a mixture of East and West that looks rather opulent and Romantic, yet not altogether fake, either. Branagh isn’t vouching for the political worldview of his characters, just as Francis Ford Coppola was not serving as an apologist for the mafia, I suppose. The politics of this film, the degree of cultural appropriation involved, remain an open question for me.

Patrick Doyle’s arrangement for the song “Under the Greenwood Tree” includes a koto, which sounds awfully strange, or strangely awful, plucked with the melody.

There is something fascinating about Branagh’s casting, though: Branagh does not star in this film, apart from a clever cameo at the film’s close.

There is something else fascinating about his casting: it’s not his pathological pandering-to-Hollywood approach.

As You Like It, Molina and Kline

Oh, Alfred Molina plays the clown Touchstone, and Kevin Kline plays the gloomy Jaques (the original Eeyore). But Kevin Kline has training in Shakespeare, and proved himself in a film of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and Alfred Molina acquits himself deliciously as a fool, adding a dash of zaniness like Michael Keaton in Much Ado About Nothing. And despite being known as a Hollywood actor, Alfred Molina is, I’ll be damned, actually British.

As You Like It Brian Blessed

Most of the cast is British. Brian Blessed plays the two brothers, both the gentle soul and the angry usurper.

'As You Like It', front: Romola Garai, Brian Blessed, Bryce

Romula Garai, Brian Blessed, and Bryce Dallas Howard.

Bryce Dallas Howard, not terribly famous, sounds reliably British as the play’s main character Rosaline, despite Howard being American. Romula Garai is by turns touching and delightful as Rosaline’s cousin. And Richard Briars brings compelling dignity and nobility to the role of Adam, an old servant who is in search of a world in which loyalty and kindness are rewarded.

As the jumbled nature of the previous two paragraphs reveals, the cast of this film coheres and makes my binary dissection of their performances by country of origin (as is easy in other Branagh films) difficult. These actors are all in the same movie. Branagh has stopped slapping unprepared actors into the bard’s work. And he likely took a more careful hand as a director of his actors by not acting in the film himself. Perhaps someone spoke with him after Love’s Labour’s Lost. Perhaps he had trouble getting funding after that. Perhaps Shakespeare’s ghost visited him in a dream and asked him, “What the fuck?”

As You Like it Klein

As You Like It is a tremendous film, actually, moving and sad and a romp, with actors delivering the music of Shakespeare’s language so naturally, and acting so well together, that it does what great art does: it wakes us up. It makes us more alive. It fills us up with the intelligble world.

_______

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John King (Episode, well, all of them) holds a PhD in English from Purdue University, and an MFA from New York University. He has reviewed performances for Shakespeare Bulletin.

Episode 191: Erin Belieu!

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Episode 191 of The Drunken Odyssey, your favorite podcast about creative writing, literature, and drinking, is available on iTunes, or right click here to download.

In this week’s episode, I interview poet Erin Belieu,

Erin Belieu

plus I share the Miami Book Fair International reading she participated in with Carl Phillips, Rowan Ricardo Phillips, and Kevin Young.

TEXTS DISCUSSED

Slant SixReconnaissance Carl PhillipsHeaven PoemsBook of Hours

NOTES

  • Check out my first interview with Erin Belieu back on episode 44, when we talked about VIDA and the count.
  • On Superbowl Sunday, February 7, 7 P.M., The Drunken Odyssey will be Super Balling at Writer’s Atelier. More info is here.

Litlando-Poster

Get tickets for Litlando here.


 

Episode 191 of The Drunken Odyssey, your favorite podcast about creative writing, literature, and drinking, is available on iTunes, or right click here to download.

Dispatches from the Funkstown Clarion Herald Tribune Mirror: International Version #2

Dispatches from the Funkstown Clarion Herald Tribune Mirror

International Version #2 by Simon Bluespire

My distant cousin Clement Hooker, once a townsperson of Funkstown, Maryland, is currently stationed in a secret location in Finland doing genetic experiments. Once a proud portion of the fourth estate, The Funkstown Mirror has merged with several other newspapers during the last hundred thirteen years, and insists on the old-fashioned process of publishing the news on paper, which leaves Clement without any reliable access to it in a timely fashion. But he has used bitcoins to have it digitized in Odessa, where it is then translated into Ukraine, emailed to a foreign exchange student fluent in Esperanto, who then translates in into Morse Code that is then turned into sick beats in discos in Donghae, South Korea, where an obese deejay who suffers from motion sickness translates it back into English. Before he prints out the results on a dot matrix printer, Clem sends them to me, and I hereby share the results with you…

Dispatches from the Funkstown Clarion 2

New Dark Horse GOP Candidate Emerges for New Hampshire Primary

Jabba for Prez

The Funkstown Clarion Herald Tribune Mirror is proud to present this exclusive interview.

FCHTM: How did you learn about this race?

JH: We get The Funkstown Clarion Herald Tribune Mirror on Tattoine.

FCHTM: How?

JH: It’s too complicated to discuss here.

FCHTM: What made you want to run?

JH: I just didn’t feel like any of the other candidates could serve as the symbolic representation for conservative values the way that I could.

FCHTM: Your campaign seems derivative of another high-profile candidate.

JH: Is that a question?

FCHTM: Why does your campaign seem derivative of another high-profile candidate?

JH: Because I actually make it look good.

FCHTM: Your opponent’s, I mean, your slogan claims that you will restore America to the greatness of a former time. Which time specifically do you mean?

JH: The era of Richard Nixon, of course. He had class.

FCHTM: You’re an alien not only to this country, but also to this planet. Aren’t you ineligible to actually take office, if elected?

JH: I will be elected. Then, my first act as president will be to propose a constitutional amendment—

FCHTM: But how can you take the oath if—

JH: And for my second act as president, my enemies will publicly be made to understand a new definition of pain and suffering.

FCHTM: Will you be seeking the endorsement of Sarah Palin?

JH: Certainly not.

FCHTM: Weren’t you strangled to death a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away?

JH: That rumor simply isn’t true. I freely admit, that slave woman did stun me with how well she yanked that chain, but when you’ve engaged in rough trade for as long as I have, it’s going to take a lot more than that to put me down.

FCHTM: Is this sudden campaign a hoax of some kind?

JH: Ha, ha, ha, ha.

FCHTM: Is that a yes or a no?

JH:

FCHTM: I’m sorry, what did you say?

21st Century Brontë #8: Notes on Aesthetic Afterlives

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21st Century Brontë #8 by Brontë Bettencourt

Notes on Aesthetic Afterlives

It has been a couple weeks since we lost Alan Rickman. My Facebook feed was a steady stream of pictures consisting of flowers being left outside of Professor Snape’s classroom in Hogwarts castle, silhouettes of wizards pointing their wands skyward. His stoic visage coupled with quotes from the books incited emoticon tears from my peers.

Rickman Snape tribute

I found the posts to be annoying after a while. I don’t mean to be a grouch.

What does it mean to live on in one’s work? Clearly we aren’t imagining horcruxes here.

Do you think about how your work may endure? It’s possible that schools that may add your work to their canon. Biographies might be penned about your psychological state and the influence it might’ve had on your work. Or maybe your work will be used to dissect the zeitgeist of your time: Brontë Bettencourt: A Study of Vampire Demons, Equestrian Magicks, and Millennial Debt.

The celebrity I still miss, although it’s been well over a year, is Robin Williams. I grew up on Aladdin: King of Thieves and Flubber, and loved him in Jumanji when I finally saw it in college. His voice was unmistakable, cracking spontaneous jokes, somehow familial with its warmth.

King of Thieves

It felt unreal on that day to learn not only of his passing, but how it happened—so different from any of his characters I could have imagined.

On a grimmer note, it might not matter one way or another once we pass on. Your consciousness may very well cease to exist, your art only affecting you in the now.

I was six when my own mortality hit me. I had just finished making a fort out of a foldable beach chair and worn blanket when it suddenly occurred that one day, I wouldn’t be here anymore. The TV faded to a low murmur and the living room clock felt much more ominous with its ticking hand. I’m not sure what triggered those thoughts, but since then I’ve been contentious of my time and what it’s spent on.

I think what bothered me about all the Facebook posts, was seeing Alan Rickman’s life be boiled down to a figure who didn’t actually exist, like taking a fully fleshed out character and flattening them into one dimension. Considering all the recollections from various cast and crew members, he was nothing like the bitter, stoic individual clad in billowing black fabric.

Harry Potter Half Blood Prince

For me, the difference between the losses of these actors rested in personal connection. In the books, Professor Snape had a goatee, but more importantly, I had source material that reminded me that the movies were an interpretation. Alan Rickman was separate from the character on the big screen. I might’ve been too young to differentiate Robin Williams from his roles, and even as I learned the difference, he always played the endearing character with an ability to make me laugh.

Yet the way that these actors passed away are polarized from the way I’ve come to know them. Alan Rickman was surrounded by friends and family, with a grim forewarning, but a warning nonetheless, of his mortality.

Robin Williams, for all the years of making others laugh, was overcome by his own inner darkness. The spark that prevails in all of his roles is all the more moving with knowledge of that hovering darkness.

I became aware of death at six, and I’d like to believe that with success, I will be read pleasurably by others. Maybe I take comfort in knowing that my craft may endure time much better than I can. I’d like to believe in a god and an afterlife. But the feeling of potential nothingness has haunted me for years. I can say with some certainty that my work will endure, evidence that I was here. On this spinning, suspended rock revolving around a gaseous, fiery ball in a cluster of stars within our expanding universe, my voice mattered.

And to the author of Brontë Bettencourt: A Study of Vampire Demons, Equestrian Magicks, and Millennial Debt, please don’t inflict too much psychoanalysis on my characters.

_______

21st Cen Bronté

Brontë Bettencourt (Episode 34) graduated from the University of Central Florida with a Bachelors in English Creative Writing. When she’s not writing or working, she is a full time Dungeon Master and Youtube connoisseur.

 

McMillan’s Codex #24: Dishonored

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McMillan’s Codex 24 By C.T. McMillan

Dishonored

Dishonored

If you watch enough entertainment, you realize all stories are the same. Godfather is Game of Thrones; Conan is Django Unchained; and Goodfellas is Scarface. It gets to a point you can predict how a story will turn out without seeing it. Blake Snyder, the avatar of banality, took the predictability of narrative and broke it down to a science of the safe and boring. What differentiates stories is how they are executed. The Revenant is about typical survival, but it was shot artistically and it had spiritual themes. Inglorious Basterds is about revenge while paying homage to classic WWII movies. The same case could be made for most video games, like Dishonored.

Dishonored 1

You play as Corvo, the personal bodyguard of the Empress of Dunwall and the possible father of her daughter Emily. After the Empress is murdered, you are blamed for her death and put in prison, while a tyrannical regime takes over. Before long you are freed by a mounting resistance movement and embark on a quest for revenge. After effectively assassinating members of the new government, the resistance attempts to kill you for fear you will interfere with their plans and takes Emily for themselves.

While the story fits the bill for many revenge narratives, the game uses it as a jumping off point for some great gameplay. Dishonored is from Bethesda and player choice is an important element in all their work, most notably their role-playing. This time, in addition to having your choices affect the story, how you play affects the world.

Taking note from Dungeons and Dragons, there are two states of gameplay: low chaos and high chaos determined by what you do in each mission. This includes how many guards and other persons you kill, how you approach side objectives, and how you deal with the main target. There are always two ways to dispatch a member of the regime: easy and passive. They die like any other enemy so a good bolt, bullet, or knife in the head will do the job just fine. However, there are always opportunities to get rid of them in a way that will keep your body count low or nonexistent depending on how you play. These methods are more difficult, but they help maintain a low chaos rating.

Dishonored 2

How you proceed through missions is up to the player with each level and tool designed for versatility. If you want to be a ghost and not kill anyone, there are passages, windows, perches you can use to traverse Dunwall like a proper assassin. If you want to go loud and nasty, you have a small arsenal worth of lethal equipment. You possess supernatural powers like teleportation to assist you in either method. There are also various traps spread throughout levels that can be hacked to turn against guards. Exploiting your abilities is a part of the fun as you mix and match powers with your equipment to achieve objectives or just have fun. I think I had the most enjoyment playing Dishonored thanks to its freedom and the available abilities.

Each play style has a clear difficulty curve that will increase or decrease. Low chaos will encourage guards to stay alert, but high chaos will make them more aggressive, employing all manner of offensive measures. Chaos rate also determines the severity of the in-game plague, a rat-borne sickness. The more people you kill, the more visible the plague becomes as swarms of rats and infected citizens fill the streets. The way characters react to you will change where people see you as a hero or vilify you for being a mass murderer.

The art style is the most interesting aspect of Dishonored. Like XCOM, its aesthetic is characterized by deformity, but in the context of an old Popeye cartoon. Guards and thugs are ape-like with barreled chests, large arms, and heavy brows, while the aristocracy is thin, tall, and narrow with regal features. The only character that looks like a normal human is Corvo. The rest of the game is arguably steam-punk with a lot of modern touches. While many of the buildings and the general architecture is Victorian inspired, the vehicles, technology, and authority-based elements like guard posts and weapons are angular, ridged and metal, usually colored in light gunmetal black. Cars operate on train rails and the Tallboy enemies walk around on robotic stilts as they shoot you with arrows. The way things move is mechanical and jerky as gears crank and scrape with the sound of metal on metal while running on whale oil for fuel. The clothing is reminiscent of late 18th century Britain with a lot of coats decorated in gold stitching with breeches and tall leather boots. Everyone looks like a pirate, but it works well with the overall aesthetic.

Dishonored 3

These days, originality is hard to come by. With the mass influx of reboots, remakes, and sequels, one must take what they can get. The story of Dishonored nothing new, but how it uses the revenge story as a means to build upon good gameplay makes it worthy of consideration. If you do not mind not being surprised by twists and turns you have seen in every story ever, you will have a great time getting revenge in the streets of Dunwall.

________

CT McMillan 1

C.T. McMillan (Episode 169) is a film critic and devout gamer.  He has a Bachelors for Creative Writing in Entertainment from Full Sail University.

Buzzed Books #36: When You Cross That Line

Buzzed Books #36 by Chris Blanchard

When You Cross That Line

Sam Slaughter’s chapbook, When You Cross That Line, was published as an award for the reading series There Will Be Words based here in Orlando. At a mere 41 pages, this little chapbook can fit right in your back pocket. The cover is minimal, just the title and author name over a white background. Something about the simplicity and size instantly stirred my curiosity. This unassuming book was carefully planned and executed, its formatting tight, and overall appearance highly professional. What’s inside doesn’t disappoint, either. There are five stories within, all based off Florida Man, a parody twitter account highlighting crazy news accounts of people committing various crimes in Florida.

When You Cross That Line

Most of the stories were subtly surprising. The best example, She’ll Never Hurt Me Again, takes an interesting approach to the classic post-relationship heartbreak story by showing two beefy redneck brothers coping with a relationship that recently turned sour. Seeing two rough n’ tough Southern bad-asses so distraught over a heartbreak serves a refreshing reminder that even the tough guys are liable to get their hearts crushed into dust. Based on the context of the story, we assume these two brothers are drinking to forget, to run from their emotions (that’s the point, right?), but towards the end, the subversion of our expectations comes from the realization that instead of grieving, the brothers are taking action. They aren’t drinking to run, they’re drinking to face the truth, and the task they need to perform: she’s gone, and this tattoo’s gotta go.

Another great example is When You Cross That Line, the story for which the chapbook is named. This story does a great job subverting the traditional role of the main character. The antagonist wins, getting away with holding the main character at gun point, and forcing our hero to take illegally obtained ‘gators in broad daylight before fleeing the scene in a puff of engine exhaust. The whole time, you’re expecting some type of action from the main character, or even a positive resolution to this royally awkward situation, but when the story ends without either, the reader is left with one shocked question: “Did he just get away with that?” These types of tiny tweaks to expectations are present throughout all five stories, adding just enough uncertainty to make them compelling.

Additionally, each story starts off with a high-concept sentence that let’s you know enough to jump right into the action, but not enough to guess what’ll happen. A good example is Neighborhood Watch: “The landlord was ten minutes late, and my girlfriend and I sat on the hood of my car, waiting.” This sentence establishes character and through minimalist diction, creates a false sense of comfortable simplicity. This comfort is soon shot to hell, as the couple, expecting a casual meeting with a prospective landlord, are greeted instead by a senile neighbor, threatening them in his wrinkly birthday suit. Another example, from A Solider Fights for Freedom: “Paul ate lunch at Applebee’s everyday since his wife died five months earlier.” This type of high-concept sentence is worthy of a Disney logline. It perfectly sums up the main character, showing his routine-oriented mindset, only to have the old-timer turn around and beat up a douchebag spouting obscene comments about women at the drop of hat. Sam Slaughter understands how to layer each sentence, utilizing preconceived connotations only to undermine them through zany characters and crazy situations.

All in all, this chapbook kicked ass, and solidifies the fact that There Will Be Words is something to pay attention to. Sam Slaughter’s When You Cross That Line is poignant in its brevity, and obviously well thought out. Writing compelling short-form fiction is tough in and of itself, so when you find a writer that manages to juggle good storytelling with strict word-count limitations and obscure formatting, you know you’re onto something good. If you’re looking for well-balanced prose, go for Sam Slaughter.

If you’re looking to get your hands on some illegally obtained ‘gators, stop by any 7-11 in Central Florida. Tell ‘em Chris sent ya.

_______

Chris BlanchardChris Blanchard grew up in rural Colorado, where the dramatic landscape inspires many of the set pieces in his work. His short stories and screenplays are heavily influenced by Kurt Vonnegut, the Cohen brothers, Stephen King, and GZA The Genius. Currently cooped in Central Florida, his free time is dedicated to reading books, honing his craft, and pretending to be a viking.

On Top of It #15: Freelance Growing Pains

On Top of It #15 by Lisa Martens

Freelance Growing Pains

I now have two jobs, neither of which really have to do with creative writing—I do customer support for a dating site, and manage reservations for a belly dancing school. I’ve seen lots of dick pics and shimmies.

While in grad school, I attempted freelance writing work to support myself. It worked about as well as milking a turnip with a magnet. Here is what I learned about trying to charge for writing:

Even if you have a Masters, people expect you to work for free.

No one expects you to work in a fast food restaurant for free. No one expects someone to cut their lawn for “experience.” They may pay shit, but they know they have to pay something. Not so with writing. I was offered “exposure” and “the potential for future work.” Yay?

Fight for your writing. Ask for some money upfront, and, if the work is long or time-consuming, hand over most of it and withhold some until you get your final payment. Let clients go if they’re not willing to pay you. Those aren’t clients. They’re moochers.

Will you lose opportunities? They may want you to think that, but think about how much sludge and content is on the Internet. You creating someone’s content for free is not going to be your golden ticket. Working for free is an opportunity for them, not you. Also, every person I let go for not paying me eventually came back offering money.

There’s a lot of money in ghostwriting Literotica.

If you don’t mind slapping another name on your work, you can make a pretty penny. I tried; I really tried. But when the proposal was to write a series about a woman sitting on faces in public, I couldn’t help but laugh. I couldn’t write about that and take it seriously. The story would be laden with farts.

If you can suck it up, or even enjoy it, then do it.

Make templates for SEO-style corporate blog posts.

When creating shitty listicles and blog posts for corporations, it helps to have a template that you just drop buzz words and random facts from the Internet into. It saves you time and gives a kind of uniformity to your content. It’s not good or innovative writing, but if you think about it, how often do you read “24 Child Stars Who Are Ugly Now” and expect an innovative style?

Don’t spend too much time on it.

Do not spend two hours on a 300-word blog post. Do not overthink. Do not put five hours of work into something you’re getting $10 to do. Always do the math and make sure you’re making at least minimum wage. If you’re not, then you either have to charge more, or make better use of your time.

Minimum wage is the ruler I used to use. If you’re making less than that, what the hell is the point of what you’re doing? Go apply to Starbucks.

Niches are nice.

When working freelance, a lot of work is one and done. This means you have to be strategic in your portfolio and build up your own niche. No one is going to promote you or offer you more money. You have to show that you deserve more money. So instead of applying for every low-paying gig under the sun, start with your niche and search for work related to it. You can build a name for yourself as the SEO monster, the Amazon indie literotica mogul, or the celebrity list-creator. But not all of the above.

Give up and get a remote full time job.

This is what I did. My job lets me work anywhere where there’s Internet access, which was the main reason why I wanted to do freelance. I set my own hours now and work from a number of coffee houses, buses and trains. For me, the whole appeal of freelance was not having to go somewhere at a set time, and have more free time to pursue my writing and other hobbies (belly dancing).

Has anyone here done freelance work? What have you learned and how has it gone?

_______

Lisa Martens

Lisa Martens (Episode 22) currently lives in Harlem. In her past 10 years in New York, she has lived in a garage on Long Island, a living room in Hell’s Kitchen, the architecture building of CCNY, and on the couch of a startup. She grew up in New York, Costa Rica and Texas, and she’s still not sure which of these is home. She completed her MFA in Creative Writing from CCNY. Her thesis, What Grows in Heavy Rain, is available on Amazon. Check out her website here. Follow her on Instagram here.

The Global Barfly’s Companion #22: The Spotted Cat Music Club

The Global Barfly’s Companion #22 by Todd Gray

Bar: The Spotted Cat Music Club

Location: 623 Frenchmen St, New Orleans, LA 70116

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I had made up my mind to take my girlfriend to see the Washboard Chaz Blues Trio playing at the Spotted Cat. Walking away from Canal down Decatur towards Esplanade Avenue was once like crossing the River Styx to sojourn to the authentic side of New Orleans—Crescent City’s seedy, but soulful underworld. Four or five years ago making this trek, I wouldn’t have pivoted past senior citizens and Midwestern tourists. Frenchman Street, my destination, was still a secret, if not a badly kept one, reserved for locals and those in the know. But as is bound to happen, mouths blabber and Frenchmen Street with its bars and music and night-time, open-air art market has become another go-to for sightseers. Granted the scene hasn’t been commercialized the same as Bourbon, sanitized like the Quarter, and those out-of-towners that venture towards Frenchmen are a little braver for it (senior citizens & Midwestern tourists not excluded).

Under the awnings of the low-squat buildings that line Decatur, leaned against the brick and mortar, sat three young scalawags that greeted my girlfriend and me. Because my girlfriend had pinned a dollar bill to her chest they exclaimed—first the one, then the other, before the last shouted it too—“Happy Birthday! Do you want some acid?” Their appearance was disheveled, their facial expressions both askew and beatific, and they squinted at the night. “Happy birthday!” they shouted again like the words were the answer to a question. I’m mixing metaphors now, but I was reminded of the Mad Hatter’s tea party from Alice in Wonderland. They high-fived us. My girlfriend became concerned she had acid on her hand. Am I tripping? she asked.

At Esplanade more young people milled about in the median that separated the avenue’s traffic. They had a pitbull in tow and a cat on a leash. The feline was perched atop one young man’s shoulder. Some were shirtless, maybe several. Instead of Wonderland it was Neverland, because these boys—despite their age, they were just boys—they were dirty and ragged and stoned. “Happy birthday!” they said. A muscular boy wanted to party with us, wanted us to stay, and I told him we were going to Frenchmen Street and he could party with us there.

White lights strung above the Frenchmen Art Market shone in the empty lot beside the free-standing, two-story, cracker-box shaped club that was the Spotted Cat. Along with the aroma of beer, blue notes drifted out the open door and onto the street. A middle-aged man clad in a red, Wisconsin Badgers hoodie brazenly lit a bowl beside the thick plate glass window that looked inside at a crowd that threatened to swamp Washboard Chaz on a stage tucked away in the club’s left-most corner. No cover said a sign, only a one drink minimum per set. Above that, the club’s sign was a board painted black with cartoon letters in yellow and red: The Spotted Cat.

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Inside the Spotted Cat, the club’s narrowness squeezes you into the mass of bodies that congregate here. Hanging on the wall to your right are paintings of musicians with guitars, Robert Johnson would-bes, done in the brightest part of the color spectrum: yellows, reds, purples.

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To your immediate left, the stage is flush against the plate glass window overlooking the street. Moving further back you align yourself with the bar that occupies the left-side of the club. Like any good bar, a long horizontal mirror reflects the movements of both the bartenders and their patrons. A plethora of liquor bottles wait readied at the mirror’s base. Sitting at the bar you can see behind you into a small conclave, a little nook with an ATM, where more people stand and a few—moved by music—dance.

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Positioned in the back, I get into a conversation with a man with a playing card in his hat band: the six of hearts. Watching Washboard Chaz play, he’s waiting patiently with a guitar case safely stowed behind him.

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I ask him if he’s going on later and he says he’s hoping to play with his friend who’s in Washboard Chaz’s band. After that he plans to go out on the street to play some more. I ask him if there’s any significance to the playing card. He smiles, removes his hat, and takes the playing card from the band. He says he found the card on the ground in Portland just before leaving. He had since seen a tarot reader about his find and she had told him, “Six of hearts, six of cups, five fell down, one stood up, and that was you. You came to New Orleans.” I wasn’t sure what this meant, but the story brought him happiness, meant his good fortune, and I was happy for him. I got the bartender’s attention to order another drink.

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The bartender, he’s busy but still I ask him what’s the drink of this place-what would he recommend for a night like this. Give me a minute he says and disappears for a good while. I think maybe I’ve pushed my own luck, there’s nothing magical in this—the man’s busy. Order a beer, I think. The bartender returns and puts a drink before me.

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He says, “Usually we do a Catnip but you don’t look like a Catnip guy.” My drink is a Dark & Stormy: Mount Gay Rum & Goslings Ginger Beer. Magic it is, my favorite. At the Spotted Cat, they know your soul and parts of New Orleans, given the right night, when among the right company, with the right destination in mind, provides the experience of being a character in a fantastic novel, except you’re an adult, so the journey is even more exhilarating.

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Todd Gray

Todd Gray is a PhD student at the University of Southern Mississippi’s Center for Writers. His stories and essays have appeared or are forthcoming in The Los Angeles Review, Southwestern American Literature, Hawai’i Review, Belt Magazine, and others. Sometimes he posts on twitter @todd_gray.

The Rogue’s Guide to Shakespeare on Film #15: Othello (1995)

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Rogues Guide to Shakes on Film

#15. Othello (1995)

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If we can agree, dear readers, that Olivier’s Richard III (1955) is both perfect and, in its own way, a bit old-fashioned, Oliver Parker’s Othello (1995) manages to treat the tragedy realistically, with some degree of historical accuracy and dramatic poignancy, so that the story seems timeless, which is a feeble word we use to describe work that feels simultaneously old and terribly relevant.

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Let’s begin by talking about the casting of the ever-underrated Laurence Fishburne  as the title character (five years before his first turn as Morpheus in The Matrix). Parker’s Othello is now 21 years old, so it bears observing that this was the first time that a black actor was cast as Othello in a prominent feature film. We were spared the grotesque spectacle of seeing a white actor such as Orson Welles (1952) or Laurence Olivier (1965) in blackface.

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Visually, Fishburne offers a legitimate case for why Desdemona would fall in love with him despite the absolute opprobrium of her father.

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As a Hollywood film actor, he manages the difficulty of the text perfectly, and makes the play the sublime experience it is meant to be.

Othello is a Moor, and since we don’t quite know exactly what a Moorish accent sounds like, Fishburne goes with a somewhat eloquent Caribbean voice, with some Arabic accents added, so that on a linguistic level, his cultural otherness is expressed by his very voice. The court of Venice spoke with believable Italian accents (not to be confused with whatever Paul Sorvino was doing in Romeo + Juliet). The courtiers and soldiers speak with English accents. By having his actors make such precise choices with some logic to them, Oliver Parker’s version of the play has a vocal texture that seems intoxicatingly real, unlike the motley casting in the Shakespeare films Branagh has directed since Henry V.

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And if we are spared Branagh the director, we are treated to Branagh the actor, one of the best actors in the history of cinema, giving perhaps his best performance as the tortured Machiavellian officer Iago. It’s hard not to root for Iago, who takes such pleasure in his evil schemes, in his own thoughtful soliloquies, in his insults. (Othello has Shakespeare’s sharpest insult, by the way: “You are a Senator!”) Branagh gives him the occasional mugging for the camera, as if we are confederates for this virtuoso performance.

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As the plot promises to grow more bloody, Iago, like any great liar, appears to believe in his own lies. Perhaps he does.

For writers, Othello is a remarkable study in the craft of characterization. What makes this play the greatest of Shakespeare’s tragedies–in your rogue’s infallible opinion–is how much we understand and care about all of the characters, including Iago, despite the fact that he will not explain himself for his crimes. This story shows us how frightening it is to define ourselves as others see us, when others overlook us, and how love is, for so many people, the most destructive force in the world.

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Certainly, these themes appear in Macbeth and Richard III, but the naivety and stupidity of many of those characters make me less filled with dread in the watching. The tragedies in those two plays seem too inevitable, people functioning themselves and one another to death. Macbeth in particular I have to be tricked into liking.

Even Desdemona, Job-like in her willingness to suffer, enters into the final night of her life with open eyes. She would rather risk whatever violence he intends than dishonor her love for him. By strangling her, Othello knows on some level he is destroying himself, too.   This is the metaphysics of love–we overlap into another person, and sacrifice part of ourselves to it. Of course this could seem like average codependence, too, if you are cynical.

Oliver Parker’s Othello is a masterpiece. It is fun and heartbreaking. As compelling as a devouring rose.

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John King (Episode, well, all of them) holds a PhD in English from Purdue University, and an MFA from New York University. He has reviewed performances for Shakespeare Bulletin.

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