Episode 524: Yeoh Jo-Ann!

Episode 524 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 Yeoh Jo-Ann, the spring 2022 resident of the Kerouac Project of Orlando, about her novel, Impractical Uses of Cake, proper otter behavior, the role of agency in happiness, cat envy, teaching Shakespeare to teenagers, and the small ways teachers entertain themselves every day.

Yeoh Jo-Ann

Yeoh Jo-Ann reads from a work-in-progress at The Kerouac Project of Orlando.

TEXT DISCUSSED

NOTES

ScribophileTDO 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.

Watch Yeoh Jo-Ann’s reading at the end of her Kerouac Project residency.


Episode 524 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 #382: Dark Crimes

The Curator of Schlock #382 by Jeff Shuster

Dark Crimes

Jim Carrey tries the darkly dramatic. 

A punk with a mohawk sat perched upon the concrete head of Charles Bronson in the ransacked building that was once the Museum of Schlock. I gave him a hard stare, but he paid me no mind, sticking two fingers in his mouth and whistling. About a dozen hooligans came forth, pipes and baseball bats in their hands. Some of them were wearing the 70s sports jackets I had on display for the movie Nightmare City. I paid six figures for those props! — To be continued.


This week’s movie is 2018’s Dark Crimes from director Alexandros Avranas. It currently holds a critics score of zero percent, but what do critics know? I can make my own decisions about which movies I watch. Looks like the audience rating twenty-nine percent. What does the herd know? The Wikipedia plot synopsis consists of four sentences, making me think that no one out there cares enough to write a detailed synopsis of this movie. And I am, of course, a professional.

Dark Crimes has a running time of 92 minutes which is good. I remember reading Screenwriting: The Foundations of Screenwriting by Syd Field many years ago. In it, Syd Field commented on the difference between American movie length versus European movie length. American movies tended to run at about two hours back in the 1970s while the European movies of that era run an hour and a half. I’ve heard it said that the average attention span of a human being is an hour and a half, so perhaps the European filmmakers were right.

I also remember an Ebert & Roeper episode where Richard Roeper bemoaned the length of modern movies. Roger Ebert stated that no good movie is too long and no bad movie is too short. At the time I was on Roeper’s side because I hated how Hollywood kept pushing movies well past the two hour mark. I groan at the prospect of watching the latest Batman movie because it’s nearly three hours long. Whither, editing?

Still, Roger Ebert had a point. At 92 minutes, Dark Crimes is still one of the worst movies I’ve ever seen!

Jim Carrey plays a Polish police inspector named Tadek. We first see him brushing dead hairs out of his scruffy beard before joining his family for some breakfast. He has bacon and eggs as his wife and daughter stare at him dispassionately. We learn that Tadek was benched for a desk job after some disastrous case. Anyway, a friend in the department gives him a new case to work on, the strangulation of a businessman that was left unsolved.

His investigations lead him to suspect a writer named Kozlov (Marton Csokas), a pretentious creep that makes wild proclamations to an eager press about there being no such thing as truth. Kozlov likes to write about grotesque, underground S&M clubs where the patrons get to indulge their abusive side. Tadek gets drawn into this sick world and before the movie is over, he’ll have lost everything, agape in despair, just as Jim Carrey should be.

There’s even a scene where Tadek finds the corpse of his dead mother with a twisted expression on her face. She died alone in her apartment after Tadek promised her she wouldn’t die alone.

Good times!

Skip it! Skip it! Skip it!


Photo by Leslie Salas.

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

Comics Are Trying to Break Your Heart #175

Comics Are Trying to Break Your Heart #175 by Drew Barth

Criminal Compendium

I just finished up moving which means I just finished hauling my comic collection to a new house. This also means that some of the books that have been on my shelf for a good few years are being looked at for the first time since the last time I moved. One such book, The Mammoth Book of Best Crime Comics edited by Paul Gravett, is likely the oldest as it came about around the time I first started buying comics. As a compilation, though, it’s one of the most interesting books on my shelf.

What The Mammoth Book of Best Crime Comics is is right in the title: a massive, nearly five hundred page tome of crime comics from 1930s King Feature strips to 40s and 50s pre-code stories to a fold-out comic included in a single from Alan Moore’s band, The Sinister Ducks, in 1983. It runs the gambit of secret agent stories, tales of counterfeiters being brought to justice, and murders gone terribly wrong. But we find a comfort in these noir tales of stark black ink on newsprint that almost always end with someone being betrayed or caught by the law. Crime comics, for the most part, are some of the earliest stories in the medium to really gain attention next to their more gruesome horror counterparts. And yet, in a collection this comprehensive, it feels like there’s something missing.

Where’s Batman? The Question? Some of the original pulps from The Shadow or The Phantom? We do, luckily, have Will Eisner’s Spirit and Dashiell Hammett and Alex Raymond’s Secret Agent X-9, but that’s about all we would normally recognize. Compilations like this do help to showcase some underappreciated stories, namely a story from the 40s by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby, but it does point to a larger issue in comics study. I can look on my book shelf and see compilations of short stories, poetry, and essays, but outside of Best Crime Comics, I don’t really have any comprehensive comic compilations. And, as so many creators have some of their best work in superhero comics garroted by IP piano wire, how often can we see a more complete look at the best in the medium outside of the occasional character compilation? Long-running arcs and character-focused stories are more popular in comics currently, but these shorter stories are where comics initially gained their popularity. When are we going to see them again in these compiled formats for a broader audience to see the best of the medium without crate digging?

Having series like The Mammoth Book of Best Crime Comics, or the now defunct Best American Comics, gives the medium a chance to really showcase what it can be. Nothing helps to get someone into comics more than just a couple really good short stories. But, as things are now, I can’t see a way for that to happen outside of buying a few dozen digital issues and picking out the best from those to give to someone. To really shine, though, comics needs a good way to shows its best to a new audience.

Get excited. Get compiled.


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. Right now, he’s worrying about his cat.

Episode 523: Aaron Angello!

Episode 523 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 Aaron Angello about his new book, The Fact of Memory: 114 Ruminations and Fabrications, the creative benefits of daily ritual, writing (cough) early in the morning, David Lynch, the mysteries of the word and, and ditching academic rules for the Muses.

Aaron Angello by Michael Mason Studios

TEXT DISCUSSED

Shakespeare’s Sonnet 29

When, in disgrace with fortune and men’s eyes,
I all alone beweep my outcast state,
And trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries,
And look upon myself and curse my fate,
Wishing me like to one more rich in hope,
Featured like him, like him with friends possessed,
Desiring this man’s art and that man’s scope,
With what I most enjoy contented least;
Yet in these thoughts myself almost despising,
Haply I think on thee, and then my state,
(Like to the lark at break of day arising
From sullen earth) sings hymns at heaven’s gate;
       For thy sweet love remembered such wealth brings
       That then I scorn to change my state with kings.


NOTES

ScribophileTDO 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 the new album by Greg Proops, In the City.


Episode 523 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 #381: The Driver

The Curator of Schlock #381 by Jeff Shuster

The Driver

Not to be confused with Drive

I had come home or so I thought. I was prepared to get my life back to normal after my misadventures across North America, ready to resume my role as curator of The Museum of Schlock, but everything had changed.

The interior of The Museum of Schlock had been ransacked! Graffiti speckled the walls, the displays were in tatters, and the head of the Charles Bronson statue had been decapitated. Atop that concrete head sat a man on his makeshift throne: mohawk, torn jeans, spiked collar. He glared at me like I was trespassing, like this was his property. — To be continued.


This week’s movie is 1978’s The Driver from director Walter Hill. If any of you have seen 2011’s Drive from director Nicolas Winding Refn, The Driver will seem familiar. Both feature a getaway driver who’s the best of the best at ferrying criminals from the hot pursuit of the police. But I don’t remember disliking the cast of characters in Drive as much of the ones in The Driver. Ryan O’Neal plays The Driver and admits in his taciturn way that nobody likes him.

All of the criminals in this movie are unpleasant and the cops aren’t much better. Bruce Darn plays The Detective that’s obsessed with catching The Driver. The movie opens with The Driver stealing a random car from a parking garage for a heist at a casino. Two robbers get into the car, but are late, allowing several bystanders to witness the getaway. What proceeds next is a tense chase scene on the mean streets of 1970s Los Angeles. There are about a dozen police cars hunting for The Driver like sharks in open water, but he manages to hide and outrun them.

There are enough witnesses that The Detective puts The Driver in a police lineup that consists of The Driver and no one else. The witnesses are unsure if he was the guy and the one witness that got a good look at him, The Player (Isabelle Adjani), says The Driver was not at the scene of the crime. Frustrated, The Detective loses his cool, goading The Driver into taking a swing at him so The Driver can get two years for assaulting a police officer, but The Driver doesn’t take the bait.

So it turns out The Player was paid off by The Driver to give false testimony. She’s a young and beautiful woman with a French accent who was once a mistress to a rich man before he bailed on her. The Detective harasses her in her apartment, alluding to her past life as a prostitute. The Detective’s obsession with capturing The Driver causes him to set up a sting operation that may be less than legal. He captures a convenience store robber named Glasses (Joseph Walsh) and makes a deal with him. Glasses needs to hire The Driver for a bank robbery and then deliver The Driver to the police.

Things don’t go as smoothly as planned as everyone in this movie is out for themselves, but I won’t spoil the rest of it for you. The Driver is worth a look, but good luck finding a copy. The Twilight Time Blu-ray goes for about $140 on Ebay.

I ain’t that rich.


Photo by Leslie Salas

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

Comics Are Trying to Break Your Heart #174: Reaping Benefits

Comics Are Trying to Break Your Heart #174 by Drew Barth

Reaping Benefits

As anyone who is a fan of the classic The Mummy (1999) film or its subsequent roller coaster can attest, death is only the beginning. Every myth and religion and folklore has something to say about death and the loneliness that can come with it. But it doesn’t always have to be so lonesome. In the first issue of Grim by Stephanie Phillips, Flaviano, Rico Renzi, and Tom Napolitano, we get to see the facet of death being a kind of ending for some and a new beginning for others, whether they want it or not.

Jessica Harrow is a reaper and is one of many. Trusted with ferrying the recently departed to the grand waiting room, she is on a routine reaping for Bryan Andrews’ soul. He experiences, like the reader, what this entails. From the doubt of being dead and the grappling of his own mortality to sailing down a river of punished souls, we get to see the slow process of a new soul being transported and having to wait for whatever comes next for them. But there’s a complication. The multitude of reapers all have a device, an incorporeal scythe, which they use to traverse the river of souls and open their way into the afterlife. Jessica’s scythe, however, was pick-pocketed by Bryan shortly after their arrival. He uses said scythe to escape to the living world to yell at his former girlfriend while Jessica hunts him down but, in the process, can now be seen by the living around her.

What Phillips, Flaviano, Renzi, and Napolitano excel at throughout this first issue, though, is the idea of the reapers. We’ve seen similar aspects in other media, but those have typically been similarly uniformed teams or the odd one out among their contemporaries. But here we have each reaper as individuals—each one with a personality and a style unique to themselves from across time. It helps to reinforce this idea of the afterlife as this grand waiting room with the reapers just being there to do a job. While they don’t clock in and out, they’re basically the office workers of the afterlife. And, in a way, it works to demystify this aspect of death and dying. It’s regular. It’s routine. These reapers can stand out as individuals, but they’re only there to help the process of death run smoothly.

For a first issue, Grim works well in establishing the world and tone it will likely follow throughout the series. As a comic about death, there is that sense of melancholy, but there’s this streak of oddity that comes with the reapers that we’ve seen so far. Having this balance between the idea of death and all of the weight that carries with the gallows humor of those tasked with enforcing it is going to be important, but from what’s been shown here, Phillips, Flaviano, Renzi, and Napolitano can absolutely make it work.

Get excited. Get dead.


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. Right now, he’s worrying about his cat.

The Perfect Life #40: Allergic to Love

The Perfect Life #40 by Dr. Perfect

 Allergic to Love

Hey, doc!

I am a millennial with an avocado allergy. Is natural selection going to use this social defect to end my bloodline?

Literally no asshole will brunch with me, sooooo I’ll probably never get married. It’s not fair.

Cheers,
Forever Alone

—————————-

Dear Forever Alone,

Fear not. You’ll eventually find people who accept you for who you are. I don’t know if any of them are willing to have brunch with you, but have you considered taking out a classified ad? I’m not the biggest avocado fan either. I even consider it among the most overrated fruit next to oranges, though it’s often mistaken for a vegetable. It does, however, make an interesting spread.

Coincidentally, I was watching this documentary on Mexican exports and found their avocado segment quite fascinating. The episode was called “From Guac to Eternity.”

The avocado originated from Mexico and other Central American regions before making it to the trendy brunch diners, where it currently resides. The earliest Northern American settlers didn’t have much use for the pear-like oddity until realizing how well it went with possum loaf, a once popular frontier dish.

From there, it really caught with the introduction of nachos and Tex-Mex restaurants throughout the Southwest of the 1950s. Nowadays, avocados are as American as apple pie or pistachio peanut butter. Its fine paste can even be used to fill cracks in the wall!

Avocado allergies are somewhat common, so you’re not completely alone. There are others languishing in the shadows, equally shunned, without an ounce of purpose in their lives. Seek out those poor souls and enjoy a healthy avocado-free brunch free of judgement or derision. I’d join you, but I also write a column for Avocado Monthly and couldn’t put that lucrative gig in jeopardy.

It’s time to find the food you like, and don’t settle for anything else. Brunch doesn’t have to be all about the avocado, even if its inexplicable absence creates moments of awkward silence. Salsa makes an adequate substitute or perhaps a buttery egg salad bagel. I don’t know what I would add, since I don’t care what I eat while I drink bottomless mimosas.

For a memorable brunch, indulge in some golden omelets, a shot of brandy, and a fine, savory cigar for afterwards. Ignore the appalled looks of patrons as you fill the room with delicious second-hand smoke. It might just be your last brunch among the avocado class, but you’ll leave your mark before joining your brethren in solitary brunches at the kitchen table with your cat too embarrassed to glance in your direction.

Things will get better. Go to a coffee bar, and if you don’t like coffee, pretend. The modicum of acceptance will be more than enough to get your through the night, dreaming of a strange, green fruit you can never embrace.


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 522: Ann Hood!

Episode 522 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 Ann Hood about the challenges of writing nonfiction, the intertwining of feminism and women’s rights and the history of aviation before and after deregulation, the value of non-writing jobs for young writers, and so much more.

TEXT DISCUSSED

NOTES

ScribophileTDO 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 my previous interview with Ann Hood, or my discussion of Ann Hood’s Morningstar with Vanessa Blakeslee.


Episode 522 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 #380: The Man in the Iron Mask

The Curator of Schlock #380 by Jeff Shuster

The Man in the Iron Mask

All for one and none for me, thank you!

My Canadian Odyssey had come to an end. I helped save dozens of rabid marsupials from getting slaughtered and gave a tearful goodbye to Edwige, my kangaroo companion of the last year.

And for all my effort, what do I get? The authorities drove me to the border and told me to get out. They were too cheap to even buy me a plane ticket back to Orlando.

Over the next few months I had many adventures and misadventures hitchhiking across America. I helped solve a murder mystery on the mean streets of Cleveland and was almost abducted by aliens in Reno.

But there’s no time to talk about that. Next week, I should be arriving back in Orlando, back to my home, back to the Museum of Schlock.

This week’s movie is 1998’s The Man in the Iron Mask from director Randall Wallace. This is based on the third of the d’Artagnan Romances by Alexandre Dumas. The actual title is The Vicomte of Bragelonne: Ten Years Later and contains 268 chapters. I planned to read it before this review, but I don’t know French! This is a mess of a movie. Half the dialogue is the all so noble Musketeers saying, “All for one and one for all.” Don’t try playing a drinking game with this one. You’ll be blotto before the credits roll.

The movie begins with Jeremy Irons telling the tale about a mysterious prisoner that was held at the Bastille, a man in an iron mask that was never identified. Jeremy Irons plays Aramas, a former Musketeer turned Jesuit priest. This story takes place many years after the events of The Three Musketeers. Porthos (Gérard Depardieu) is still boozing and wenching. Athos (John Malkovich) is retired and has a son, Raoul (Peter Sarsgaard). And D’Artagnan (Gabriel Byrne) now serves King Louis XIV.

King Louis XIV is played by Leonardo DiCaprio and I can’t help, but if memory serves,  this movie was shelved and released right after Titanic became such a sensation. Louis is a bad king. The people of France are starving. His advisors tell him to release the food reserves held for the army, but Louis only allows the spoiled rations to be distributed. Louis also fancies the girlfriend of Athos’s son so he sends him off to the front lines to get blasted by a cannon.

Louis is becoming increasingly paranoid about mumblings about a conspiracy within the Jesuits to dethrone him. He asks Aramas to discover the man leading this conspiracy and execute him. Naturally, Aramas is the man leading the conspiracy to dethrone the king. It would seem that King Louis has an identical twin brother that he’s imprisoned at the Bastille. All Aramas, Porthos, and Athos have to do is switch them.

And wouldn’t you know it, the King’s twin brother, Philippe, is just as nice and thoughtful as can be, the polar opposite of Louis. He’ll make a better king for sure. Too bad, D’Artagnan, is wise to this plan and uncovers the imposter king. Why is D’Artagnan so loyal to the awful King Louis XIV

Because Louis is his son. We have to surmise he had an affair with the Queen behind the previous king’s back. And D’Artagnan doesn’t know about Phillippe is also his son because the Queen kept his existence a secret. Well, first she was told Phillip had been stillborn, but learned of his existence after the former king died.  And I expect the former king had no idea that his sons were really D’Artagnan’s. Have you lost the plot yet? I have. Don’t worry. There is plenty of righteous valor to make you ignore this nonsense. And you get to see Gérard Depardieu run naked into a barn so it’s not a complete waste of time.


Photo by Leslie Salas

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

Comics Are Trying to Break Your Heart #173: Lingering

Comics Are Trying to Break Your Heart #173 by Drew Barth

Lingering

A long while ago, I wrote about the first issue of Friday by Ed Brubaker, Marcos Martín, and Muntsa Vicente. It was one of the best examples of the post-YA genre at the time of publication and another piece of Panel Syndicate’s ever-growing digital publishing wheelhouse. But that was two years ago. Since then, there’s been a few changes. A few more issues have released and the first three have been compiled into a physical collection for your bookshelf. In that time, these few issues have shown that they’re still some of the best comics to come out this decade.

The last time we had seen Friday, we were introduced to Friday Fitzhugh and the town of Kings Hill. Friday was returning to her hometown after a couple months in college for Christmas and was immediately roped into another mystery by her friend, Lancelot Jones. The pair, before Friday left for college, had been inseparable. They had solved mysteries around Kings Hill for years together—many more than should be possible for a town of less than a thousand people—and went back into the same groove upon Friday’s return. But that groove also let Lancelot avoid having any kind of discussion with Friday about what happened between them before she left. Or that the case they are working on is somehow linked to dreams Friday has been having. Or that there are other forces outside of their typical scope looking to ensure they don’t solve this case.

Friday, as it is right now, is easily some of the best illustrative work Martín has put out. And with Vicente on colors, the pages of this story fully envelop the eye. And some of this comes with the idea that nearly every major moment in the story has its own color palette. Much of the story takes place with an interplay between blue and yellow—a contrast that creates a more muted mood as these are primarily utilized in the woods of Kings Hill. But there are interruptions of that palette. A sudden red sky in the middle of the night or a panel of a character with the background a singular color snaps the eye into attention. It is drawn in and enveloped as the yellows and blues blend into reds and purples before this chapter of the story closes. Those specific moments are stitched into a reader’s memory as a result of the colors that become so strongly associated with them.

It’s difficult to overstate just how good of a comic Friday has become since that first issue. It was already some of the best comics of the year when it came out, and this collection of its first three issues only proves that Brubaker, Martín, and Vicente are some of the best creators in the medium. Friday is also the kind of series that you can’t help but want to dive more into, but the wait for each issue has become worth it every single time.

Get excited. Get mysteries.


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. Right now, he’s worrying about his cat.