Episode 554: Chrissy Kolaya!

Episode 554 of The Drunken Odyssey, your favorite podcast about creative writing and literature is available on iTunes, or right click here to download.

On this week’s program, I talk to the poet and novelist Chrissy Kolaya about the creative process, psychology, and the multitudinous tensions of being an American.

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.


If you are an amazon customer, one way to support this show is to begin shopping with this affiliate link, so that the podcast is granted a small commission on anything you purchase at no additional cost to yourself.

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Episode 554 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 #399: The Warriors

The Curator of Schlock #399 by Jeff Shuster

The Warriors

Skip the director’s cut. 

There I was, stuck in a bowling alley in the dead of night next to a decapitated fentanyl dealer. Actually, the guy wasn’t decapitated. His head had exploded after the Revenging Manta, a ninja vigilante from the downtown Orlando area, threw a bowling ball directly at his cranium. I was picking bits of brain and skull out of my hair as the Revenging Manta gathered up the collection of multicolored pills and shoved them into a pink Hello Kitty bag. — To be continued.

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This week’s movie is 1979’s The Warriors from director Walter Hill. How have I not covered this movie on this blog? Maybe in all these years of pontificating about cinema I’ve not felt worthy enough to review this. I will do my best.

The movie starts out with Deno’s Wonder Wheel lit up against the night sky as moody electronic music from composer Barry De Vorzon plays in the background. We’re soon introduced to the Warriors, the resident gang of Coney Island, NY. They’ve been called to a meeting of all the gangs in New York City. And I mean all of the gangs of New York City: The Boppers, the Saracens, the Hi-Hats, the Moonrunners, the Panzers, the Jones Streets Boys, the Electric Eliminators, and the Van Cortlandt Rangers to name a few.

Nine delegates from a hundred gangs meet at a park in the Bronx where a man named Cyrus (Roger Hill), head of the Gramercy Riffs, ignites the crowd with promises of conquest. If all the gangs can keep up a truce and work together then no one in New York City could stop them. Not the police. Not the crime syndicates. He asks the crowd, “Can you dig it?” The crowd roars in triumph. Cyrus is a supervillain and like many supervillains, you in the audience are secretly admiring him. And just when Cyrus is on top of the world, a punk named Luther (David Patrick Kelly) shoots him dead.

Right after Cyrus falls to the ground, the lights in the park blaze on and dozens of cops storm the scene. Cleon (Dorsey Wright), the Warlord of the Warriors, goes to check on Cyrus. While he and the Gramercy Riffs examine his corpse, Luther points the finger at Cleon stating he’s the guy that shot Cyrus. He and the other Rogues attack Cleon and it’s not long before the Gramercy Riffs join in, beating him to death.

With their Warlord nowhere in sight, the rest of the Warriors escape the park and hide in a cemetery. Swan (Michael Beck) is the War Chief of the gang, the second in command that has to get them home to Coney Island. Joining him are seven other gang members like the hothead Ajax (James Remar) and graffiti artist Rembrandt (Marcelino Sánchez). The Gramercy Riffs want the Warriors alive if possible, wasted if necessary. They’ve put out a call to action to all the gangs between the Bronx and Coney Island to take care of The Warriors. 

What follows is a struggle for survival as the Warriors escape the cops and well as the likes of the Turnbull Acs, the Punks, and the Baseball Furies. It’s a trial by fire and not all of the Warriors will survive the journey home. To say more would spoil this movie. The Warriors is a brilliant film, showing us the perspective of guys Paul Kersey would shoot without giving it a second thought. Never boring and well worth repeated viewing, you can catch The Warriors streaming on Paramount+. 

Photo by Leslie Salas.

Jeff Shuster (episode 47episode 102episode 124episode 131episode 284episode 441episode 442episode 443, episode 444episode 450, episode 477episode 491episode 492, episode 493episode 495episode 496episode 545episode 546episode 547episode 548, and episode 549) is an MFA graduate from the University of Central Florida.

Comics Are Trying to Break Your Heart #201: What’s In the Lemonade?

Comics Are Trying to Break Your Heart #201 by Drew Barth

What’s In the Lemonade?

The boldest colors on comic covers are appealing. Such designs are in comics’ DNA from the very beginning—competing publishers trying to get kids’ attention with the most appealing covers. But there’s something to be said about the kind of cover, almost a hundred years removed from those first competing newsstand comics, that can still catch our attention so completely with its sudden pop-art brightness. It’s a comic like Pink Lemonade by Nick Cagnetti and François Vigneault that stands out like a bird of paradise with its pink psychedelia cover and even more engrossing interior.

Pink Lemonade is about our titular hero and their race against the evil forces of the universe. Maybe. Or it could be about a woman with a strange motorcycle and a scar on her forehead that doesn’t seem to remember exactly who they are or what they’ve done. But she knows she’s Pink Lemonade now after a girl named Pam gave it to her. And it’s Pam’s mom that brings Pink Lemonade back to their home where they watch the OJ-Bot cartoons that inspire her to be a hero. Or maybe she’s always been a hero in some capacity, but the cartoons unlocked something dormant within her? Either way, she’s able to use her motorcycle for good to crash a movie set and save kid’s wayward balloon, but not before ending up in jail for said disruption.

Pink Lemonade on her own, though, is an oddity. There’s something happening with her just below the surface, but we don’t know what just yet. We see these dreams of hers and the Kirby-esque space adventures her and her bike take, but we don’t know if they’re even real or some kind of hallucination. But with her odd bike and lack of memories in a world that seems like it’s taking a liking to a different kind of hero, Pink Lemonade feels similar to Grant Morrison’s Seaguy series from over a decade ago. And, from that series, we can see this kind of internal strangeness happening within our titular character. There’s those space adventures mentioned earlier, but then something else—this hooded figure that haunts just beyond her ability to interact with it. Similar to the background threat of Mickey Eye throughout Seaguy, this hooded figure is haunting the pages of Pink Lemonade in a way we’re not quite able to pin down from just the first issue.

Pink Lemonade, however, is still a spot of neon psychedelic joy from its cover onward. Cagnetti and Vigneault are the kinds of creators that are able to craft a similar world to our own while imbuing it with a simultaneous whimsy and menace to keep us interested in where the story will go. It’s one of those things that so few first issues do well, but it’s the kind of thing that feels almost effortless in these first pages. 

Get excited. Get lemons. 

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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.

Video: Kerouac House Farewell Reading: Jennifer Worley

Jennifer Worley is a professor of English at City College of San Francisco and President of the faculty union, AFT 2121. Her film Sex on Wheels documents the history of San Francisco’s sex industry and sex worker activism and has played at film festivals and universities worldwide. She is the author of Neon Girls: A Stripper’s Education in Protest and Power, published by Harper Perennial in 2020.

Episode 553: Robert Pinsky!

Episode 553 of The Drunken Odyssey, your favorite podcast about creative writing and literature is available on iTunes, or right click here to download.

On this week’s program, I talk to Robert Pinsky about his playful, exquisite, earthy, reverence memoir about his relationship to Long Branch and the rest of New Jersey too.

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.


If you are an amazon customer, one way to support this show is to begin shopping with this affiliate link, so that the podcast is granted a small commission on anything you purchase at no additional cost to yourself.

_______

Episode 553 of The Drunken Odyssey, your favorite podcast about creative writing and literature is available on iTunes, or right click here to download.

Comics Are Trying to Break Your Heart #200: The Story of a Story of a Story

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Comics Are Trying to Break Your Heart #200 by Drew Barth

The Story of a Story of a Story

Oh, hey, two hundred of these articles. Neat-o.

Anyway, let’s talk about King Arthur. Or a couple versions of King Arthur. There’s a few when you think about it enough. Where did his sword come from? The Lady in the Lake? The Sword in the Stone? Somewhere else? Why not all of the above? That’s the thing about stories and how they’re told—sometimes details can get a little weird depending on who’s doing the telling and why the story is even being told. And this idea of where stories are coming from, how they can impact the world, and the pitfalls in following them to the letter is the main line that runs through Kieron Gillen, Dan Mora, Tamra Bonvillain, and Ed Dukeshire’s Once & Future.

More than anything, Once & Future is a story about stories. More specifically, it’s the old stories that make up our popular consciousness in culture. Things like King Arthur and Excalibur, Beowulf, Robin Hood, King Lear, and anything else that has some kind of power over how we interact with the world. And all of these stories exist in some way just to the left of our own reality in an Otherworld. Sometimes this world bleeds into ours either through knowing that these stories are real or by being dragged into them. And when this breach happens, Bridgette McGuire would have been the one to clean up the mess. But she’s currently in a home and her grandson, Duncan, is large enough to swing a sword around with her guiding him through the oddities of the Otherworld.

Once & Future is one of my favorite series this century. It is Gillen going hard on his storytelling meta, Mora and Bonvillain being some of the most dynamic artist and colorist in the industry, and Dukeshire pulling off some brilliant lettering and dialog balloon placement. Creatively, it’s a synthesis of story: what it can do and how it can do it. It dives into the myths and legends of the British Isles and breaks their bones into something resembling their original states while simultaneously providing us with a version malleable enough to shape into something new. And that’s what many of these stories are: adaptations not far from the truth of something. But they’ve been buried under popular interpretations for so long we don’t even know there’s something else to exhume.

Once & Future exists in this unique state of timelessness that makes ripe for exploration for years. It grabs you and makes you want to explore deeper into the legends it explores and see where they lead. It does that rare balancing act of playful and serious—the peril of having to look down multiple monstrous versions of King Arthur while a pensioner sets up claymore mines to trip up Beowulf. It’s absurd and it’s action and it’s story and it’s everything fun in comics. And any series that can include the beheading of a legally distinct Boris Johnson is always going to be a fun time. 

Get excited. Get folkloric. 

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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 552: A Celebration of Salman Rushdie and Miami Book Fair!

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Episode 552 of The Drunken Odyssey, your favorite podcast about creative writing and literature is available on iTunes, or right click here to download.

On this week’s program, I talk to Chelsea Alice about Salman Rushdie’s playful parable from 2020, “The Old Man in the Piazza,” published in The New Yorker, plus I share Salman Rushdie’s 2017 event from Miami Book Fair, in which he reads from his novel, The Golden House.

TEXTS DISCUSSED

A link to “The Old Man in the Piazza” is here.

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.

This episode is released in association with Miami Book Fair.


If you are an amazon customer, one way to support this show is to begin shopping with this affiliate link, so that the podcast is granted a small commission on anything you purchase at no additional cost to yourself.

_______

Episode 552 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 #398: Memory

The Curator of Schlock #398 by Jeff Shuster

Memory

That’s your movie title? You’re not even trying!

Where was I? Oh, I was undercover at a bowling alley, trying to buy some fentanyl from a drug-pusher named Gary. 

“Where’s the money? I don’t have all day.” Gary said as he lifted up a turquoise bowling ball. Suddenly, a look of terror spread across his face. Out of the shadows walked the Revenging Manta, the vigilante ninja of downtown Orlando. 

“You!” Gary screamed before hurling the bowling ball at the masked avenger. The Revenging Manta caught the ball and threw it right back at Gary. The ball struck Gary’s head with tremendous force. His cranium exploded, bloody chunks of flesh flying everywhere. A crimson geyser sprayed from his neck as the headless body stumbled around for a bit. — To be continued.

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This week’s movie is 2022’s Memory from director Martin Campbell. And it stars Liam Neeson as a hardened assassin out for vengeance. In these turbulent times, my cinematic comfort food usually revolves around aging leading men such Gerard Butler, Denzel Washington or Liam Neeson playing a character with a “certain set of skills” that gets pushed too far and unleashes holy hell on the bad guys. He makes them suffer and the audience  enjoys seeing them suffer. Everyone leaves the theater happy.

Or that would be the case if the trailer wasn’t a lie. When watching the trailer for Memory, we’re introduced to Liam Neeson who refers to himself as “the bad man.” He’s an unstoppable assassin, the best of the best. And then he gets an assignment that he will not do. He will not kill a child. And then you, the audience member, thinks, “Well, he may be a merciless assassin, but at least he doesn’t kill children.” Maybe he’s not such a bad guy after all.

We then see him taking out the bad guys, tipping off the cops to what he’s doing. The main detective is played by Guy Pearce. Neeson’s assassin states that he can’t keep doing his job for him, that these traffickers have to pay for what they do to children. We learn that Neeson’s assassin has some memory issues and can’t always remember where he was the night before. Maybe he’s not who he thinks he is. The trailer promises a competent action thriller from the director of the James Bond films Goldeneye and Casino Royale. Okay. I’m sold.

And then I watch the actual movie and am sorely disappointed. For starters, Neeson feels more like a supporting character than the lead. I guess that honor goes to Guy Pearce who’s looking a bit beaten down by life if I have to be honest. Maybe they dressed him down for the role of Vincent Serra, head of an investigation into child sex trafficking in El Paso. We see him trying to catch a guy pimping out his own underage daughter, but ends up killing the father in a tussle. Vincent asks the girl to give testimony against the cartels. Otherwise, she’ll be kicked back to Mexico. Her situation makes me depressed.

Then we have Alex Lewis (Liam Neeson), a contract killer in the beginning stages of Alzheimer’s. Alex visits his brother in a senior center and his brother stares at him with vacant eyes, a grim reminder of Alex’s own fate. By the end of the movie, Alex is just a befuddled old man, barely able to string a sentence together as he bleeds from his wounds. This isn’t what I want to see. Where is Neeson kicking ass? A couple months ago I was watching Neeson throw a guy from a moving train into the path of an oncoming moving train. 

It seems this movie is a remake of the Belgian movie, The Alzheimer Case. Apparently, that movie holds an 84% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes while this one remains at 28%. Maybe I should check out the original.

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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 495episode 496, episode 545, episode 546, episode 547, episode 548, and episode 549) is an MFA graduate from the University of Central Florida.

Comics Are Trying to Break Your Heart #199: Two Perspectives Here Before You

Comics Are Trying to Break Your Heart #199 by Drew Barth

Two Perspectives Here Before You

If there’s a medium that can use its visuals to their fullest extent when representing characters, it’s comics. There are only so many ways for film to show a person—but the face doesn’t change much without hours in the makeup chair. Comics, though, revel in that difference. Artists have their styles and techniques that make them immediately recognizable and, when we see those faces they’ve constructed for a story, we feel that immediate familiarity with their work. And a comic like Two Graves by Genevive Valentine, Ming Doyle, Annie Wu, Lee Loughridge, and Aditva Bidikar takes that idea of differing art to its fullest extent.

Two Graves is a comic about death. Mostly. Emilia and a man that could be Death are traveling, but we’re not quite sure where or why. All we know is that they’re moving as they can’t stay in one place for too long. By the end of the first issue, they already have two bodies to their one: one that had been waiting for Death, and another that hadn’t been expecting their night to end so abruptly. Emilia and Death work together, but we’re being kept in the dark, much like they are about one another.

What helps in this division between the two characters, though, is how each character is represented on the page. When we’re looking from Emilia’s perspective, we look through the lens of Annie Wu’s art. For the person who may be Death, Ming Doyle takes over. Because of this, we have a harder split between what we can and can’t see. Both Emilia and Death are being followed in a close first person perspective and, as a result, we only get a portion of each character’s thoughts and feelings as the story progresses. As readers, we know there’s portions of the story locked behind each character’s perspective, but this format allows for something more interesting in how the story is told. We would typically follow a single character or a larger cast with a roving third person narrator that may or may not know all in a typical series. But with this split between the two, we’re more privy to each of their thoughts and secrets—we simultaneously know more and less than each character as a result. We have to participate in the story in a more active way to get the entire picture.

As a first issue, Two Graves does what I love to see—strong characterization, established tone, worldbuilding—but with that added layer of Wu and Doyle tag-teaming on the art to create something more that I haven’t seen in a comic in a long time. It’s a mystery series that doesn’t show any hand too much or too often. We’re guessing intentions just as much as Emilia and Death are to one another. We can’t quite settle into the story as we know we’re missing something else. But that something else is what draws us into the story further and further. 

Get excited. Get going ahead now.

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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 #551: Elliot Ackerman!

Episode 551 of The Drunken Odyssey, your favorite podcast about creative writing and literature is available on iTunes, or right click here to download.

On this week’s program, I talk to the fiction writer and memoirist Elliot Ackerman.

Photo by Huger Foote.

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.

This episode is released in association with Miami Book Fair.


If you are an amazon customer, one way to support this show is to begin shopping with this affiliate link, so that the podcast is granted a small commission on anything you purchase at no additional cost to yourself.

_______

Episode 551 of The Drunken Odyssey, your favorite podcast about creative writing and literature is available on iTunes, or right click here to download.