Pensive Prowler #25: The Algorithm That Ate the Dick Pic

Pensive Prowler #25 by Dmetri Kakmi

The Algorithm That Ate the Dick Pic

It all started with a dick pic. This one to be precise.

The Big Penis Book

It’s the cover for Taschen’s The Big Penis Book. I posted it in response to a friend’s Facebook post—from here on referred to as Facepalm Booklet.

The friend wanted to know which book I’d put in his ideal library and, feeling rather wicked, I posted the pic that brought about my demise. Within seconds—20 to be precise— a message popped up, telling me I’ve been excommunicated for 30 days for contravening ‘community standards’.

I was shocked. Outraged. I objected. But my objections fell on deaf auto responses.

It appears the ‘community’ of more than 100 million people who use Facepalm Booklet daily were outraged by my untoward behavior. Because, you see, they have incredibly high ‘standards’ in their dealings with their ‘friends’. They neither see, nor hear, nor speak evil. And I most certainly don’t meet the benchmark.

The sheer hypocrisy bugs me. It’s acceptable to post misogynist, racist, homophobic, bigoted bilge. It’s okay for people to attack each other in the most vile, personal terms. But it’s not okay to post pictures of nudity, unless it’s art or educational.

This raises the question of who decides what constitutes these abstract and highly contestable nouns and adjectives? And why is the elevation of mind and soul placed above carnality? Which mental at Facepalm Booklet’s Mentlo Park headquarters decides? (Don’t get me started on the name of the street, Hacker Way.)

I’d argue the Taschen cover is art. Possibly even highly instructional. In the right hands.

Certainly, Hindus see it my way. Sex, for them, is a gateway to spiritual elevation. That’s why their temples are plastered with vivid orgiastic scenes of contorted bodies doing it every which way but loose. I bet they’re very loose after they’ve tried all the positions in the Kama Sutra.

Bizarrely, female nipples are not allowed on Facepalm Booklet. Male nipples are. This, of course, means that the people who make the rules haven’t sexualized the latter in the manner of the former. Which in turn implies the rules are made largely by men. A male nipple is of no sexual interest to a heterosexual man. But it is for a heterosexual woman, as it is for a homosexual man.

There are countries in which the sight of a woman’s ankle or the back of her neck is a daring come-on. Men in certain religious communities in North America are driven wild by a woman’s elbow. The revelation of a single strand of female hair can enflame a man’s passions in countries where the burka is obligatory for a woman. Does Facepalm Booklet censor these body parts as well?

What rails is this. The picture I posted does not contain nudity. It’s an image of a tumescent male member, tilting wildly to the left, encumbered by straining white briefs. You don’t see anything. It’s left to the imagination. Though I must say the special 3D cover will poke out your eye, if you dare to put on the glasses that come with it.

Far as I know, no one complained about the picture I posted because no one saw it. An algorithm, that invisible, electronic nemesis of our online prowling, tracked it down, deleted the dick pic that wasn’t a dick pic, and hoisted me out with a slap on the wrist. That’s the same algorithm that happily mines our data for marketing purposes—happy to sell you crap you don’t need, but don’t get too big for the cheap boots we sold you via Masorini.con.

In retaliation, I got rid of the Faceslap Booklet and the Messenger apps from my phone and iPad, and logged out on the desktop. No social media for a month. Great. I can work without distractions. And instead of checking my feed, I can read, watch a movie, go for a walk…

As Friar Lawrence says in Romeo and Juliet, ‘Hence from Facebook you are banished. Be patient for the world is broad and wide.’

In the first week I was doing quite well, actually, with only the very slightest withdrawal symptoms. Until the emails started to arrive.

Now that I’ve been kicked out, Faceslap Booklet is keen to draw me in again. It keeps asking if I’ve seen so and so’s comments on so and so’s post. Hey, look, so and so has posted on a group you follow. You’re tagged in such and such post. We care about you and your memories.

Sure, you do. You care about the marketing potential I represent, more like.

I’ve not received these notices before. They started coming when I turned my back on the great weevil.

My attitude is: who cares, bitch? You banned me for nothing. You made it so I can see but not reply. You pushed me to the outer limits, rendered me invisible, like a ghost, able to observe but not take part. And now you want me to come see the fun everyone is having at the party to which I am not invited? Hell, no. Sounds like you need me more than I need you. I ain’t no Romeo who thinks to be banished from Facebook is to be banished from the world.

Now excuse me, I’m going to play with my Taschen 3D cover.

Dmetri with Hat

Dmetri Kakmi (Episode 158) is a writer and editor based in Melbourne, Australia. The memoir Mother Land was shortlisted for the New South Wales Premier’s Literary Awards in Australia; and is published in England and Turkey. His essays and short stories appear in anthologies and journals. You can find out more about him here.


The Rogue’s Guide to Shakespeare on Film #78: O [Othello] (2001)

Rogues Guide to Shakes on Film 2

78. Tim Blake Nelson’s O [Othello] (2001)

This nugget of a film fell between the cracks of the art house crowd and the teenagers who went to see Save the Last Dance, The Princess Diaries, and Final Destination.

2001 O poster 2

Admittedly, the premise didn’t seem promising: set Othello in a prep school with the tragic hero being not a military leader, but instead the best player on the school’s basketball team. Shakespeare’s story, but not language, is used.

2001 O 3

Brad Kaaya’s script, though, more than redeems the premise.

The racial dynamics of Othellocannot seem contemporary if one uses a contemporary setting, as too much of the antiquated Venetian court politics will make the story seem really strained, as was borne out by a 2009 stage production I attended, directed by Peter Sellars and starring John Ortiz as Othello, Jessica Chastain as Desdemona, and Philip Seymore Hoffman as Iago. That production was more interesting than … good.

2001 O 8

Maybe my standards for a teenage version of Othello without the bard’s words are lowered, but O has an organic intensity that works like any strong film. The screenplay creates as much as it adapts, replacing Shakespeare’s beats with equally powerful moments of its own. Those familiar with the play will recognize that half of the dialogue is merely a modernized rewording of Shakespeare’s text. This is Kayaa’s only feature script, but the movie is an extraordinary telling of Othello, daring in its vision, but intelligently true to Shakespeare’s own conception of the tragedy.

Russel Lee Fine’s cinematography and Kate Sanford’s editing make  a strong film visually, which makes the tragic plot come alive rather than plod along.

If I am writing in generalizations, I don’t want to spoil this film for you, sweet reader.

2001 O 6

The acting is top notch. Desi (Desdemona) is played by Julia Stiles, who conveys both a charming innocence and an adult sense of responsibility. The previous year, Stiles was Ophelia opposite—alas and fuck—a hat that was wearing Ethan Hawke, but in O she is opposite Mekhi Phifer as Odin (Othello), and the passion of these two is remarkable.

2001 O 9

Our Iago is Hugo Goulding, son of the basketball coach, played to handsomely devilish by Josh Hartnett. And a West Wing-era Martin Sheen plays Coach Duke Goulding.

In 2000, Tim Blake Nelson portrayed Delmar in O, Brother, Where Are Thou?, the Cohen brothers’ adaptation of the Greek epic The Odyssey. In 2001, he directed this overlooked gem of an adaptation of William Shakespeare. It’s not better than Oliver Parker’s Othello, which should be your go-to for a classic adaptation, but is very, very, very good.


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 #341: The Interplanetary Acoustic Team!

Episode 341 of The Drunken Odyssey, your favorite podcast about creative writing and literature is available on iTunes, or right click here to download.

In this week’s episode, I talk to Brian Turner & Jared Silvia about making a beautiful, experimental poetic album of space ballads and duets.

Interplanetary Acoustic Team

Episode 341 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 #249: Holiday Movie Preview 2018

The Curator of Schlock #249 by Jeff Shuster

Holiday Movie Preview 2018

I’ve got nothing.

I was going to cover 2018’s Skyscraper from director Rawson Marshall Thurber. It stars Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and Neve Campbell. There are evil terrorists trying to burn down the world’s tallest building located in Hong Kong. The Rock’s character has a prosthetic leg and manages to scale the building with it. I mean the movie’s okay, kind of a cross between Die Hard and The Towering Inferno. But I’m not in the mood for rambling on about movies that are just okay. Time for a holiday movie preview. Let’s see if anything interesting is coming out in the next few weeks in the absence of Star Wars.

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald


This is the second in that Harry Potter prequel series that’s being made because millennials can’t let Harry Potter go. I think I saw the first one. I think it featured a baker trying to get a bank loan so he could open up the first Cinnabon. I guess if you liked the first one?


I saw the trailer for this, a movie about widows seeking revenge or becoming gangsters or seeking revenge while becoming gangsters. The script is co-written by Gillian Flynn, author of Gone Girl and Sharp ObjectsGone Girl is still giving me nightmares.

Creed 2

Adonis Creed is back along with Rocky Balboa to face his greatest challenge yet, the son of Ivan Drago. Noooooooooooo! Just seeing Dolf Lundgren reprising his role as one of the greatest villains of 1980’s cinema is enough to goad me into the theater. Okay. This one’s a keeper.

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

This animated spectacle showcases different Spider-Men and Spider-Women from various alternate Earths. There’s even an anthropomorphic pig called Spider-Ham. We’re on board with the Spider-Ham so count us in for this one.

Mortal Engines

Looks like this one takes place in a post-apocalyptic setting where the city of London is affixed atop a gigantic tank and roams around the countryside destroying smaller, weaker cities. I guess Hugo Weaving plays the evil Mayor of London who wants to destroy all of the other weaker cities on wheels. There’s a young heroine and a young hero. Stuff blows up. Looks interesting. They’re billing this as a Peter Jackson movie, but he isn’t directing. Strange.

Mary Poppins Returns

I wanna see it! We’ve got Emily Blunt playing Mary Poppins for this long-awaited sequel. They even managed to get Dick Van Dyke to come back. I didn’t even know he was still alive. Of course, I didn’t realize Peter Cushing was alive until I saw Rogue One. When are we getting another Frankenstein picture, guys?


Remember that he doesn’t talk to fish. Aquaman talks to the water. This latest DC super hero extravaganza features Jason Momoa as the titular Aquaman, protector of the oceans and of sea life…I think. I’m not all that familiar with Aquaman. This is a bad time to be a DC fan. I just want a decent Superman movie. Why is this so hard? I don’t want to see Batman and Superman trying to kill each other. They’re supposed to be super friends!

So there you have it. Creed 2and Mary Poppins Returns seem to be the clear winners. And that ain’t bad. Have a Happy Thanksgiving! I’ll be back on Black Friday with the usual cannibalism flick.

Jeffrey Shuster 3Jeffrey Shuster (episode 47episode 102episode 124episode 131, and episode 284) is an MFA graduate from the University of Central Florida.

Buzzed Books #79: Spy Seal: The Corten-Steel Phoenix

Buzzed Books #79 by Drew Barth

Rich Tommaso’s Spy Seal: The Corten-Steel Phoenix (Collects Issues 1-4)

Let’s talk about adventure comics. While DC Comics published their own, titled Adventure Comics in kind with Action and Detective, the realm of adventure comics as a genre is uniquely European. Hugo Pratt’s Corto Maltese, the various works of Jacques Tardi, and Hergé’s Tintin all typified what is considered a European adventure comic. From the high panel count, focus on onomatopoeia, and quick bursts of action that would fall back to let the rest of the story progress, these kinds of adventure comics became their own genre. And this is the pedigree that Rich Tommaso pulls from with Spy Seal. While the comparisons to Tintin are apt, Tommaso finds a niche in his unique blending of European adventure comic styles and American comic book action.

Spy Seal

Spy Seal is exactly what the title implies: a spy who is also a seal. Although this is not completely unique in the anthropomorphized world that Tommaso has created with various birds, rabbits, and Gila monsters roaming on two legs, it does help the audience in honing in on our main character even in the largest of crowd shots. We find our titular Spy Seal, Malcolm, unknowingly dropped into assassinations, intrigue, and art heists by the third page. From there, it’s constant movement around the world to confront the mystery of the Corten-Steel Phoenix. However, this is only a part of a larger mystery, a mystery that we’re not privy to just yet. But this serialization of mystery is something that adventure comics thrive on—while a portion of this case has been solved, there’s a few dozen more questions to be answered much later.

Tommaso is able to create a sense of legitimate dread and intrigue in a world exploding with colors and animals. Much like Tintin, he’s crafted a story and world that is very much appropriate for any age audience while maintaining a maturity in how the story is being told. Between chapters, we as an audience are left to infer what happened to get us from where we were previously to where we are now. This method of compressed storytelling on Tommaso’s part allows us to see what moments in Malcolm’s story are most relevant. We don’t need a training montage or an hours long train ride when we could have the mystery and intrigue immediately. The immediacy in Tommaso’s art brings us along for a ride from moment to moment, scene to scene, panel to panel. Malcolm is swept away in his story, and we’re swept away with him.

Adventure comics today occupy this weird little space in comics due to its classic past, and Spy Seal looks to disrupt that space gloriously. It isn’t completely beholden to European adventure comic traditions, nor is it imitating American comic bombast. Tommaso is one of the most interesting artists creating comic art right now because of how he blends what he’s learned about comics into distilled wonder. Spy Seal is adventure comics following an old path with new boots and you want to see what lies at the end.

Drew Barth

Drew Barth (Episode 331) is a writer residing in Winter Park, FL. He received his MFA from the University of Central Florida. Right now, he’s worrying about his cat.

The Rogue’s Guide to Shakespeare on Film #77: King Lear (2018)


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Rogues Guide to Shakes on Film

77. Richard Eyre’s King Lear (2018)

I basically hate Macbeth, and I like Lear even fucking less than that, sweet reader, but when the BBC released a film of the elderly tragedy starring Anthony Hopkins and Emma Thompson, my hand was obviously forced into watching it.

King Lear poster

As I’ve said before, in Lear “There’s a lot of crying. …. A lot of screaming. Not a small amount of whining.” It’s a miserable marathon of operatic super-excess of hysterical emotion. Productions must approach this Olympiad of Blubbering with some wariness.

Hopkins does not blubber.

But more than that, Eyre’s film feels very much like a well-executed film. This is the best film of Lear, and is amongst the very best Shakespeare films of all time. The shots are well-planned, with significant depth of field and a layering of scenes so that the viewer leans into the storytelling, and forgets that the speeches might be deemed set pieces. The story moves so well that the running time, just under two hours, doesn’t feel rushed at all.

King Lear Hopkins

Hopkins understands that being still can sometimes convey anger and heartbreak more profoundly than raising one’s voice. (One is reminded of his brilliant turn as Titus Andronicus.) The result is that the emotions modulate on a comprehensible scale, and the story carries the momentum. One does not feel abandoned onto a wasteland with these characters.

Eyre chose a modern setting, and the wasteland is actually a train stop in England, with Lear, mad, pushing a shopping cart around as another homeless person.

King Lear Homeless

Emma Thompson is an astounding Goneril. In her middle age, she can be commanding, her voice and body able to assume such mightiness, and her hint of vulnerability with Hopkins makes the performance quite memorable.

King Lear Thompson

Emily Watson as Regan is a wonderful foil for both Hopkins and Thompson.

King Lear Blunt

Florence Pugh, as Cordelia, is a bit stoic, which is a great relief for this particular viewer, sweet readers.

King Lear Pugh

Veteran character actor Jim Broadbent is a scene stealer in this film as Gloucester, and he and Andrew Scott as Edgar manage to make their tragic subplot of a ruined family reunited more than tolerable, which is say quite a lot.

King Lear Broadbent

John Macmillan as the scheming bastard Edmund proves a delightful villain a la Richard III.

Richard Eyre directed the Henry IV parts of The Hollow Crown, which was the best part of season one, and his King Lear is superior to that. It’s a solid fucking movie. Anthony Hopkins. Emma Thompson. Superior cinematography. I am trying to avoid spoilers about how perfectly Eyre adapted the text. Just watch the movie. So says this rogue!


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 340: LaTanya McQueen!

Episode 340 of The Drunken Odyssey, your favorite podcast about creative writing and literature is available on iTunes, or right click here to download.

In this week’s episode, I talk to creative nonfiction writer LaTanya McQueen about how our stories sometimes choose us, how to write a really good footnote, and how to try to talk about history and race in America.

LaTanya McQueen


And it Begins Like This

Episode 340 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 #248: Peppermint

The Curator of Schlock #248 by Jeff Shuster


Jennifer Garner as Mrs. Vigilante.

This must be the year of the vigilante film. We had the Death Wish remake with Bruce Willis, which was pretty good. We have that Death Kiss movie coming out starring a “Robert Bronzi,” but we all know someone out there in tinsel town used black magic to bring Charles Bronson back from the dead. And back in September, we had Jennifer Garner of Alias fame getting in on the action. The name of the movie is Peppermint from director Pierre Morel.


What’s the plot? Uhhhhhhh. It’s been a couple of months, but we’ll see what I can recall . Jennifer Garner plays Riley North, devoted wife  to her husband, Chris (Jeff Hephner) and mother to their ten-year-old daughter, Carly (Cailey Fleming). Riley gets into trouble with the a Girl Scout-like group because she sells cookies at grocery stores the other mothers have staked out for their daughters. In retaliation, the mothers refuse to let their daughters go to Carly’s birthday party. Loooooooser! Riley, Chris, and Carly decide to go to a local fair instead. Carly gets a peppermint ice cream cone that looks very yummy, but she doesn’t get to enjoy it for long as members from a drug cartel gun down Riley, Chris, and Carly.


It seems that Chris had flirted with the idea of ripping off the drug cartel with a friend, but canceled last minute. That wasn’t enough for Diego Garcia (Juan Pablo Raba), a powerful drug lord who will kill you and yours if you even think about stealing from him. He’s a terrifying character, making offerings to Santa Muerte at his drug compound. Riley survives her wounds, manages to identify the shooters, but it all for naught as the judge is on the Garcia’s payroll. Garcia even has police on his payroll. And then Garcia sends his dirtbag lawyer with sacks of cash over to Riley’s house to bribe her. She refuses the money and testifies, but the judge throws out her testimony, declares her insane, and commits her to a mental institution.

Riley escapes and gets out the country, learning how to be a street fighter over in Europe before she heads back to the states five years later. She must have become an expert on guns and explosives because her first stop is that judge’s house. I think she tortures some information out of him about Garcia’s operation, then leaves a bomb under his chair which goes off after she leaves, leveling the house on top of the corrupt judge. And so it goes.


The police and FBI try to track down Riley North as she declares open war on Diego Garcia, killing his henchmen and his lieutenants in spectacular bloodbaths. She becomes a folk hero, the regular folk, especially the homeless, declaring her an avenging angel. Corrupt police are exposed. Diego Garcia is brought down. You can think of this movie as a modern day The Legend of Billy Jean…with a much higher body count.

Jeffrey Shuster 1

Photo by Leslie Salas

Jeffrey Shuster (episode 47episode 102episode 124episode 131, and episode 284) is an MFA graduate from the University of Central Florida.

Buzzed Books #78: Edgardo Franzosini’s The Animal Gazer

Buzzed Books #78 by Drew Barth

Edgardo Franzosini’s The Animal Gazer

Consider the elephant. Consider what you know about its form and presence, for that is the first thing the reader is asked to do in Edgardo Franzosini’s The Animal Gazer. We are given a picture of a sculpture by Rembrandt Bugatti, famed sculptor and brother of the known automaker. But what we’re being asked to consider here isn’t just the elephant itself. We may be familiar with Bugatti’s some 300 animal statues, but how familiar are we with the man who created them and ended his life at 31? It’s a question that Franzosini grapples with throughout the novel, and one that is rather difficult to answer. While The Animal Gazer is inspired by Bugatti’s life, we can only know so much from outside Bugatti’s thoughts. An internal examination of Bugatti is how Franzosini occupies the story. There are historical facts, but there are hidden truths among them that shape Bugatti.

The Animal Gazer.jpg

For Bugatti, the precision of his sculptures was not his chief intent. Less anatomy and precision, more of the movement and mood of the animal. And this is something that Franzosini looks to replicate in his prose. This is historical fiction in snapshot. It is a novel that looks to capture the mood and the moment, not painstaking historical accuracy. As a result of this, we as readers are given an impressionistic tour through Bugatti’s later life that is genuinely beautiful. We breathe in the air at Antwerp Zoo in Belgium and feel the crispness of the mornings at the Jardin de Plantes in Paris for these were where Bugatti lived his life. His passion is Franzosini’s passion as the author brings us the animals that would inspire Bugatti’s works.

There’s an intricacy running through the novel in how Franzosini chose which moments of Bugatti’s life to highlight. The novel takes some liberties , as it must, with how events are portrayed or how Bugatti was thinking at the time. From his stay in Belgium to the executions of the animals at the Antwerp Zoo to his final days in Paris, Franzosini is able to create an arc of Bugatti’s life. He isn’t trying to theorize about his suicide or romanticize the moment. He only presents the suicide as a conclusion to the story.

And that’s what makes the story worth it by the end. Like the sculptures, this life story is a nebulous thing with half-remembrances and quarter-truths about large events and perfect snapshots of one salt shaker at a restaurant. Franzosini gives us this story how a friend would tell it: in pieces and filled with ideas about what may have been going through Bugatti’s head. And that’s perfect. We’re given a wonderful journey through what could be his eyes during small moments in his life. A journey through the zoo, antelopes in his studio, reminiscence of time spent with his brother, they all build into what we need to know about Rembrandt Bugatti.

Drew Barth

Drew Barth (Episode 331) is a writer residing in Winter Park, FL. He received his MFA from the University of Central Florida. Right now, he’s worrying about his cat.

Episode 339: Kimberly Lojewski!



Episode 339 of The Drunken Odyssey, your favorite podcast about creative writing and literature is available on iTunes, or right click here to download.

In this week’s episode, I talk to fiction writer Kimberly Lojewski!

Kimberly Lojewski Author photo




Check out my interviews with Tony Hoagland back on episode 40 and 132.

Episode 339 of The Drunken Odyssey, your favorite podcast about creative writing and literature is available on iTunes, or right click here to download.