Episode 543: Q&A Time!

Episode 543 of The Drunken Odyssey, your favorite podcast about creative writing and literature, is available on Apple podcastsstitcher, spotify, or click here to stream (right click to download, if that’s your thing).

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This week, my colleagues Christopher Odom, Bethany Duvall, Jared Silvia, and I sling writing advice from Full Sail University’s Fifth Annual Creative Writing Conference.

NOTES

Scribophile, the online writing group for serious writers


TDO listeners can get 20% of a premium subscription to Scribophile. After using the above link to register for a basic account, go here while still logged in to upgrade the account with the discount.

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Episode 543 of The Drunken Odyssey, your favorite podcast about creative writing and literature, is available on Apple podcastsstitcher, spotify, or click here to stream (right click to download, if that’s your thing).

Episode 542: Azar Nafisi!

Episode 542 of The Drunken Odyssey, your favorite podcast about creative writing and literature, is available on Apple podcastsstitcher, spotify, or click here to stream (right click to download, if that’s your thing).

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This week, I talk with memoirist and literary scholar Azar Nafisi about authoritarianism in Iran and America, and the role literature plays in freedom.

TEXTS DISCUSSED

NOTES

Scribophile, the online writing group for serious writers


TDO listeners can get 20% of a premium subscription to Scribophile. After using the above link to register for a basic account, go here while still logged in to upgrade the account with the discount.

Read about massive recent protests in Iran.

This episode is released in association with Miami Book Fair.


Check out Episode 535, when Rachael Tillman and I discussed Reading Lolita in Tehran.

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Episode 542 of The Drunken Odyssey, your favorite podcast about creative writing and literature, is available on Apple podcastsstitcher, spotify, or click here to stream (right click to download, if that’s your thing).

The Curator of Schlock #397: Eight Legged Freaks

The Curator of Schlock #397 by Jeff Shuster

Eight Legged Freaks

Giant spider movie. 

“You want the pills, I need the dough,” the drug-pusher-disguised-as-a-pizza-delivery-guy said. I saw the name Gary engraved on his jacket. 

“Okay, Gary. Just give me a few minutes,” I said, trying to stall for time until the crazed vigilante ninja, The Revenging Manta, came to my aid. 

“My name’s not Gary,” the drug pusher said, setting the pizza box full of fentanyl on the shoe counter. “Goose Lord and his guys beat the pizza guy senseless for his tip money. I was there. Took his jacket as a souvenir. Great disguise, huh.” — To be continued.

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Tonight’s movie is 2002’s Eight Legged Freaks from director Ellory Elkayem. To think, this movie came out the same year as Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man. The two movies are a lot alike as they both feature spiders.

Other than that, the two movies are totally different. Actually I am not sure why I brought that up.

The movie begins with a truck transporting chemicals. The driver swerves to avoid hitting a rabbit. One of the cans of toxic chemicals falls into the nearby river. Great. Thumper got saved, but now the town of Prosperity, Arizona is doomed!

Next, we get a scene with the town spider collector, Joshua Taft (Tom Noonan), showing off some exotic spiders he got from Brazil to young science nerd, Mike Parker. Joshua has been feeding them crickets he found by the toxic river. This has mutated the spiders. After Mike leaves, Joshua and his pet parrot are attacked by the mutated spiders and devoured. You know, if the pet parrot is fair game in a monster movie, all bets are off.

We get introduced to other characters. Mike’s mother is Samantha Parker (Kari Wuhrer),  the town sheriff. Mike’s sister is Ashley Parker played by a young Scarlet Johnson. David Arquette plays Chris McCormick whose father owned the town’s abandoned mine. He’s at odds with the town mayor, Wade (Leon Rippy), who wants everyone in town to sell their property to the corporation that produced the toxic chemicals. You also get the town conspiracy nut, Harlan Griffiths (Doug E. Doug), a goofy deputy named Pete (Rick Overton), and Chris’s chain-smoking Aunt Gladys (Eileen Reilly). And there are a bunch more goofy townsfolk where those came from.

What’s the plot of the movie? Giant spiders attack an unsuspecting populace. If you’re a fan of cats and dogs, I’m sorry. There’s a scene where deputy Pete’s cat has a tussle with a spider inside the walls of his house and you can see imprints of the cat through the plaster. What else? You get to see some ostriches dragged through the ground. Oh, and we get to see Scarlet Johansson tase a guy in the groin causing him to pee his pants.

The movie culminates in the town barricading itself in a shopping mall against an army of disgusting giant spiders. The effects are done with computers. CGI from twenty years ago doesn’t hold up well, but I give the animators points for having these giant spiders move like actual spiders. 

Eight Legged Freaks is streaming for free on Tubi. Check it out!

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Photo by Leslie Salas

Jeff Shuster (episode 47episode 102episode 124episode 131episode 284episode 441episode 442episode 443, episode 444episode 450, episode 477episode 491episode 492, episode 493episode 495, and episode 496) is an MFA graduate from the University of Central Florida.

Comics Are Trying to Break Your Heart #192: Undisputed Classics

Comics Are Trying to Break Your Heart #192 by Drew Barth

Undisputed Classics

Comics as a medium is old. The stories we tell about those older comics could likely fill up more pages than exist in comics. And even more pages could be filled by the comics that never existed but were talked about by masters of the medium in their idle chats with friends and publishers. But the world doesn’t revolve around comics, only the money they make for the people who barely touch them.

Diving into that aspect of comics is the classic graphic novel by Dylan Horrocks, Hicksville.

Hicksville feels like a high-water mark not only due to its usage of the medium, but also how Horrocks weaves a story. Starting with Leonard Batts attempting, and getting lost in route, to reach the titular Hicksville—the hometown of Dick Burger, the most famous comic creator living. But Hicksville isn’t apt to open itself up to Batts and his questions about Burger’s origins. What we do get is hints from friends, like fellow cartoonist Sam Zabel or former partner Grace Pekapeka, about something Durger had done in the past that has caused the town to shun his name. And in a town obsessed with comics, his crime was particularly heinous.

But the thing that makes Hicksville stand out is how it uses comics to tell its story. First serialized in Horrocks’ Pickle (made even more meta by Sam Zabel telling his portion of the story in his own issues of Pickle throughout), the story blends aspects of comics history with the fictional world Horrocks creates. There’s an odd sense of unreality as Hicksville the town feels like the kind of place that could exist—a small, closely-knit town off the coast of New Zealand—but is just unreal enough to fit in a comic world. From the difficulty of Leonard Batts attempting to find the town in the first place, it almost feels like it doesn’t exist at all. And yet, through the pages, issues of Pickle, and the integration of the story of The Captain, Hōne Heke, and Alfred at the most meta-narrative moments, and we have a world unfolding before us that tells a history of the comics world that could have existed.

More than anything, Hicksville is an examination of what could have existed. From the success of Dick Burger to the Hicksville lighthouse housing hundreds of volumes of comics that were only dreamed about by their original creators, it’s about this power of potential that comics hold. Even as the land is ever shifting and changing, the potential for something more still exists regardless of who happens to be holding the most power. Comic creators want to create, even if they’re stuck in the moral rut that can come with comics. And yet we keep wanting to make something with this medium that will resonate throughout history. 

Get excited. Get more. 

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Drew Barth at Miami Book Fair in 2019.

Drew Barth (Episode 331, 485, & 510) resides in Winter Park, FL. He received his MFA from the University of Central Florida.

Episode 541: Marie Myung-Ok Lee!

Episode 541 of The Drunken Odyssey, your favorite podcast about creative writing and literature, is available on Apple podcastsstitcher, spotify, or click here to stream (right click to download, if that’s your thing).

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This week, Samantha Nickerson speaks with novelist Marie Myung-Ok Lee about the musicality of novel-writing, and discovering the shape a novel requires despite one’s intentions.

TEXTS DISCUSSED


NOTES

Scribophile, the online writing group for serious writers

TDO listeners can get 20% of a premium subscription to Scribophile. After using the above link to register for a basic account, go here while still logged in to upgrade the account with the discount.

Check out Building Stepford Wives, a fun online resource that dives into this classic work by Ira Levin.

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Episode 541 of The Drunken Odyssey, your favorite podcast about creative writing and literature, is available on Apple podcastsstitcher, spotify, or click here to stream (right click to download, if that’s your thing).

The Curator of Schlock #396: Moonfall

The Curator of Schlock #396 by Jeff Shuster

Moonfall

This movie is a disaster. I mean this is a disaster movie. 

I was waiting at a bowling alley after dark. I was disguised as the owner, waiting for a fentanyl delivery. I heard a knock at the back and opened it to see a pizza delivery man holding a large box. 

“One extra large with fennel sausage,” he said, smirking as he opened up the box to reveal bags of colorful pill. I was told that pushers make the pills look like candy, easier to get the attention of children. — To be continued.

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Tonight’s movie is 2022’s Moonfall from director Roland Emmerich. According to Webster’s dictionary, the definition of schlock is “of low quality or value.” With a budget of around 140 million, Moonfall can’t be schlock, right? I mean the movie features the moon leaving and entering the Earth’s orbit because it’s not really a moon, but a “megastructure.” Inside this megastructure is a dwarf star that gives the moon power and all those craters on the outside are kind of like the thin candy shell hiding the chocolatey Dyson sphere within.


The movie begins with astronauts Brian Harper (Patrick Wilson) and Jocinda Fowler (Halle Barry) up in space repairing a satellite when they get attacked by a bunch of nano robots. Another astronaut gets killed and Harper gets the blame even though he managed to save Jocinda by landing a severely damaged space shuttle to Earth.

Ten years go by.

NASA has fired him because he keeps claiming he was attacked by an alien force. Brian’s wife and son have left him. And he can’t pay the rent.


We’re then introduced to Dr. K.C. Houseman (John Bradley), a man obsessed with the moon and discovers it moving away from the Earth’s orbit. He tries to convince Brian with his research, but after getting rebuffed, K.C. posts his findings on the Internet. Meanwhile, back at NASA, the bigwigs finally learn that the moon is leaving Earth’s orbit. NASA sends a crew of astronauts to investigate, but the swarm of nano-robots makes quick work of NASA’s finest.

Panic ensues.

The head of NASA throws in the towel. He turns complete control of the agency over to Jocinda.

Naturally, she recruits Brian and K.C. The tides are shifting and sea water is submerging all the coastal cities. We need the moon back! They get an old space shuttle out of a museum and the three of them launch into space with it. On the way to the moon, they have a tussle with the nano-robot cloud, but smashing their smartphones makes the cloud go away. It seems the cloud only attacks people if there’s electronics present.


They do a deep dive into a crater in the moon, narrowly escaping the nano-robot cloud. It’s here that Brian talks to a computer hologram of his son and learns that our ancestors come from outer space.

I lost some brain cells watching this movie. 

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Photo by Leslie Salas.

Jeff Shuster (episode 47episode 102episode 124episode 131episode 284episode 441episode 442episode 443, episode 444episode 450, episode 477episode 491episode 492, episode 493episode 495, and episode 496) is an MFA graduate from the University of Central Florida.

Comics Are Trying to Break Your Heart #191: Dogged Legends

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Comics Are Trying to Break Your Heart #191 by Drew Barth

Dogged Legends

Cú Chulainn is one of the most well-known Irish hero myths with his image making many appearances throughout the country as a symbol of Irish independence and solidarity. And while he has appeared in various comics in the past, both from Marvel and 2000AD, the eight year labor of love from Paul J. Bolger, Barry Devlin, and Dee Cunniffee is the closest to capturing the spirit of the original myths with their tome, Hound.

Hound is another retelling of the myth of Cú Chulainn, but this one weaves more of the mythology of Morrigan into the story as well. From a young age, Sétana was influenced by Morrigan, so much so that the violent tendencies that would make him one of the fiercest warriors in Owen Maha started to appear early. She would infect his mind with violent and terrifying images, so much so that he would lash out at other children. But it was this violence that earned him the name Cú Chulainn, as his killing of the guard dog of Culann would lead to his training to be a warrior. But while the original myths show Morrigan as the bearer of and witness to the prophecy of Cú Chulainn’s death, Hound paints her instead as a grand architect of his downfall—orchestrating his breaking of the taboos that would ultimately lead to his death tied to a standing stone.

Hound is a case of mythology in comics that feels mythic on its own. Beginning its original production in 2014, Bolger, Devlin, and Cunniffe have brought into this world a tome that fits the expansive nature of Cú Chulainn’s mythology. But what’s most striking here are the visuals themselves. Told in a stark black and white, we can appreciate the fine detail and flowing movement on every page—even more so when red is added for emphasis. And that red feels like an explosion on every page. While it isn’t utilized often, it draws the eye straight to where the action is happening, or where Morrigan is manipulating someone, and acts as a fulcrum point on the page for those heavier pages. Red here allows for a balance between the violence and those quiet moments where Cú Chulainn is jut allowed to sit and be a person before the fighting starts again.

Hound feels like it’s told an entire myth cycle in just under five hundred pages, but also feels like it’s just beginning to scratch the surface of one of the most important myths in Ireland and one of the most significant hero myths globally. As a retelling, Hound opens itself up to a broad audience hungry for mythological tales, with some of the best pen-and-ink pages in the medium. 

Get excited. Get hounded.

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Drew Barth at Miami Book Fair in 2019.

Drew Barth (Episode 331, 485, & 510) resides in Winter Park, FL. He received his MFA from the University of Central Florida.

The Perfect Life #48: Zooming Towards a Breakdown

The Perfect Life #48 by Dr. Perfect

Dear Dr. Perfect,

I don’t know how much longer I can remain employable due to the existential terrors of work meetings. 

There I am in a zoom meeting, not doing the work that is stressing me out, me stressing out about waiting to stress out about the stress I will experience once I can focus on the stressors of the work I am paid to do, and we are informed that this meeting won’t last longer than two hours, and then there’s an outline of the topics, including an introduction, but before we get to the introduction, there’s an introduction to the introduction, and the speaker then lets us know that this meeting will relieve us about the concerns we might have about “maximizing our utilization of updated modalities for exploring new technologies in determining the most creative outcomes for production,” and despite having a PhD in this field with 30 years of experience, I have no fucking idea what any of this amorphous discourse is about, and I don’t want to live in this world anymore, and then people in the chat get excited about this meeting.

How can I survive?

Desperately,

Someone who’s had enough 

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Dear Desperately Seeking Something,

I’m not entirely sure what it is that you do, but it seems important. You are having meetings, after all. Zoom meetings. 

Slow down, take a deep breath, and have yourself a nice night tub. That would be a warm bubble bath accompanied by dimmed lights, flickering candles, and Eddie Money playing on your transistor radio.

You could even throw a good book into the mix. Vanquish all thoughts of work meetings and let your mind drift to happier times upon your childhood sled, Rosebud

The last time I got so stressed out that I could scream was during the annual National American Advice Columnist Program (NAACP) convention. I had reserved a booth and everything, only to be told at the last moment that they couldn’t accommodate both me and my twenty interns. 

These columns don’t publish themselves. There’re overhead costs to consider, syndicates to deal with, pencils to sharpen, letters to proof, and bottles of Dom Pérignon to fetch. 

I can’t do this without them, which is exactly what I told those jerks at the convention. But the problem extended beyond accommodations. One of my interns just happened to be an escaped convict living under a new identity. Something about him being the Long Island Strangler, when I just knew his hard work was too good to be true. He was an excellent copy editor, whose assumed name, “Bob Newhart,” didn’t ring any alarm bells. How was I supposed to know?

The reasons for the insurmountable pressure gnawing your insides out are obvious. Meetings suck. Some dope asks another one about some report or the status on some nuclear reactor, and before you know it, the spotlight is on you. 

Panic thrusts you into survival mode, where all synapses fire at once, leading to the inevitable agreement with whatever is said on the call. But before you know it, you’ve agreed to write a twenty-page report on your specialized field as an addendum to the company’s quarterly report. Cautiously navigate the waters before diving in. 

The fraudster complex is common in any profession. Naturally, I don’t possess this trait, but I understand its peril. Picture everyone on the call in their underwear. Though, in light of recent stories about one seasoned CNN pundit masturbating during a Zoom call, maybe not. Instead, picture them wearing funny hats.

That turns you on, too?

The meetings have diminished any chances of contacting intelligent life beyond our galaxy. Dan Aykroyd was right, they’ve been listening to our Zoom calls for years now. Those space snobs want nothing to do with us. Can we blame them? 

At most, we get a few low-flying UFOs or UAPs captured on grainy black and white video from an Air Force fighter jet.

Ho-hum. Stop the press.

Meanwhile, Pentagon officials stand there with their dicks in the wind, and… well, let’s talk about something else. They’ve already got a file on me. 

You need to decompress. I suggest a weeklong vacation, hiking the Appalachian Trail. I did it twice, and I felt better about myself afterward. Out there, it’s just you and nature. You don’t know real stress until you’ve run six miles, fleeing a mountain lion after taunting her cubs. That adventure made my soul feel so clean someone-who’s-had-enough!

My harrowing ordeal was nothing that a night tub couldn’t cure. Tchaikovsky played on repeat that evening, I assure you. It’s time we got back to real meetings and drop the Zoom nonsense. I want to see the person, take in their scent, and feel their presence from within. That’s not creepy, it’s human

Until then we can only dream, while resisting the urge to punch our computer monitors. Hang in there, and I’ll see you on the Appalachian Trail. Well, I’ll be here basking in my opulent villa, but be sure to send pics!

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Dr. Perfect has slung advice across the globe for the last two decades due to his dedication to the uplift of the human condition.

Episode 540: Mark Braude!

Episode 540 of The Drunken Odyssey, your favorite podcast about creative writing and literature, is available on Apple podcastsstitcher, spotify, or click here to stream (right click to download, if that’s your thing).

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This week, I talk with historian and biographer Mark Braude about artist, model, and cabaret singer Kiki Man Ray and the art life in Paris in the 1920s.

TEXT DISCUSSED

NOTES

Scribophile, the online writing group for serious writers

TDO listeners can get 20% of a premium subscription to Scribophile. After using the above link to register for a basic account, go here while still logged in to upgrade the account with the discount.

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Episode 540 of The Drunken Odyssey, your favorite podcast about creative writing and literature, is available on Apple podcastsstitcher, spotify, or click here to stream (right click to download, if that’s your thing).

The Curator of Schlock #395: Virtuosity

The Curator of Schlock #395 by Jeff Shuster

Virtuosity

Never mind American Gangster–this is the Denzel Washington versus Russel Crowe movie you’ve been waiting for. 

The Revenging Manta and I had a plan to disrupt a fentanyl delivery at a bowling alley called Tech 13 Lanes in downtown Orlando. I was to pose as the owner of the establishment who my ninja vigilante partner had subdued hours before. All I had to do was hand over a duffle bag filled with cash to some low level goons of the criminal organization known as the Iguana Consortium. I grabbed a slushy while I waited. Tech 13 Lanes were out of cherry. I had to settle for RC Cola flavored. — To be continued.

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This week’s movie is 1995’s Virtuosity from director Brett Leonard.

Original Cinema Quad Poster – Movie Film Posters

The movie stars Denzel Washington and I’m trying to remember the last Denzel Washington movie I covered on this blog. Was it Man On Fire? That was the movie where Denzel cut each and every finger off of a cartel member to get him to talk. After he talked, Denzel attached a bomb to his butt and lit the fuse.

Pure cinema. 

I won’t say Virtuosity hits those heights, but it’s still a fun ride. The movie begins with a former police officer, Parker Barnes (Denzel Washington), hunting for a killer along with his partner, John Donovan (Costas Mandylor). And it becomes very obvious that the two of them are in some kind of virtual reality simulator. At first, I thought this was a Matrix ripoff, but then I realized Virtuosity predates The Matrix by four years. 

The killer they are hunting is named SID 6.7 (Russel Crowe), an amalgamation of hundreds of serial killers, terrorists, and other nogoodniks. The program was created to train police officers by having them hunt down the worst killer imaginable. Barnes tracks SID 6.7 down to a virtual sushi restaurant, but the program is one step ahead. SID takes out Donovan and evades Barnes. When Barnes and Donovan are revived, Donovan is flatlining. SID overrode the safety protocols so if you die in the virtual world, you die in the real world. We also learn that Barnes is prisoner, having been incarcerated after hunting down the terrorist that murdered his family and killing him in cold blood.

Dr. Darryl Lindenmeyer (Stephen Spinella) is the creator of SID and wants to take him to the next level. He meets up with Clyde Reilly, a scientist that makes synthetic androids that look and behave just like the real thing. He shows off an artificial snake that can repair itself when hurt by absorbing glass. Dr. Lindenmeyer has a sexy computer program named Sheila 3.2 and he convinces Reilly to turn her into one of his androids. Reilly is a nerdlinger that thinks he’s going to get lucky, but the jokes on him as Lindenmeyer switched out the Sheila program for the SID program. SID now has a physical body to do much mayhem with in the real world.

With SID on loose murdering people left and right, the justice department pardons Barnes on the condition that he take SID down. He teams up with Dr. Madison Carter (Kelly Lynch), a criminal psychologist. She reveals to Barnes that the terrorist that murdered his family is part SID’s deranged personality. So we have the ultimate serial killer in a body that can repair itself with glass. It’s not like there isn’t glass everywhere! Theoretically, SID should be unstoppable, but it’s a Hollywood blockbuster from the 90s. Badassery will triumph over evil. Don’t you worry.

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Photo by Leslie Salas.

Jeff Shuster (episode 47episode 102episode 124episode 131episode 284episode 441episode 442episode 443, episode 444episode 450, episode 477episode 491episode 492, episode 493episode 495, and episode 496) is an MFA graduate from the University of Central Florida.