Pensive Prowler #16: Would That Which We Call an Arse by any Other Name Smell as Sweet?

Pensive Prowler #16 by Dmetri Kakmi

Would That Which We Call an Arse by any Other Name Smell as Sweet?


“Are you writing about the whole butt or are you writing just about the hole?”

—Rochelle Siemienowicz


It need hardly be said that male buttocks have been around since antiquity. We need only look to ancient Greece and Rome to know that.

Narcissus 2

With the decline of paganism and the rise of the monotheistic religions, the arse sunk into a hole from which it intermittently came up for air over the centuries. Thanks, in part, to 1970s crusaders who flung their underpants out the window, the arse revealed itself with a vengeance.

Until the triple tidal waves of advertising, fashion, and pornography swamped the world, humanity believed that a man was nothing but a vehicle for the penis, that wounded bear closed in its sartorial cave, waiting to leap out and avenge itself on the world. With the arrival of the twenty-first century, however, we can expect to see the hitherto neglected male arse rise to iconic status. Look around; it’s everywhere. It can’t be avoided. Even if we wanted to, we could not avert our eyes from its hypnotic globules. The male rump has gone from being the body part that dare not unveil itself, to the body part that refuses to stop quivering in the sunlight.

For a man to drop his pants and expose his rear end is at once an offence, an affront, a condemnation, a humiliation, and an invitation. It is an incendiary act that makes the soul bristle.

The no underwear policy of today’s urban sex hunter makes quick and easy sex the number one priority. No underwear means, we’re ready anytime, anywhere. Yet even today for a man to expose his buttocks isneed I say it?a gesture capable of melting the social, religious, and political butt plug that stops the forbidden claret from breathing freely. And breathe it must, for it is only then that its pure musk can seep out.

An exposed masculine rump is a signal to the world that not only can a man be slutty, but that the secret aroma emanating from his chasm is worth bottling. Yes, it is time for fashion designers to bottle the fragrance. Eau De Butt Hole, Parfum De Derriere are just some of the epithets for the bottled essences.

Research in the field of aromatics has revealed that men of Mediterranean descent emit a rectal aroma for which there is no substitute. Should Armani wish to reproduce that unique effervescence, they would be wise to mix frankincense and myrrh with trickles of sweat gathered from the hairs of a Greek shepherd’s arse. A dab of pure truffle oil from Italy will complete the alchemy.

Far from being that singular entity known as ‘the penetrator’, a man now invites the pleasures of the gaze and of penetration in all their subtleties and variations. The smell he emits at the crucial moment is a bonus and a gift that cannot be equalled by poppers or luxury perfumes.

I like the English or Australian ‘arse’ better than the American ‘ass’. The former is dirtier, sleazier, up to no good. It needs a good spanking to bring it into line. The latter is clean and polished to a high sheen, ready for polite society. It belongs in Broadway or a Hollywood film. Not a brothel or a rough night on the town.

Whether it is filling out a bathing costume or a tight business-suit, the arse announces something few have dared admit until now: a man’s power resides not in the penis but in the feline planes of his bum. It is from here that the ointment of his lust calls out to the startled world.

The urban bicycle courier in his armour of sleek body-hugging shorts and fitted jersey is Emperor Gluteus Maximus. Raising his rump high in the air as he navigates the treacheries of footpath and traffic, he is hesitant yet full of bravado. Trumpeting itself from behind is a narcissistic coyness that can stop a heart. The soaking wet patch of the fabric at the juncture of the split is the inner eye weeping as it laments its imprisonment, while managing to give the admiring world a sly wink. It knows it will soon be free as a bordello.

I like buttocks pale and full as the moon. They are the pectorals of rear-end watchers. A sun-tanned backside is a sullied object, overexposed and too sure of itself.  A hussy. Its every movement transmits a repulsive arrogance. Furthermore, its smell is artificial, cloying. Compare that to a man who is browned all over, except around his soon-to-be-uncovered derriere, and you have a prize. He is at once delicate, virginal, shy and breathtakingly whorish. He delights in flourishing his glutes; raising them up high like a pale flag, and exposing that delicate tissue that lies waiting for whatever torments you care to lavish on it. And when you bring the prized vintage closer to the nose, it is the sporting field you smell, with a hint of barnyard and sea brine.


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 #70: Henry VI Parts 1 & 2 (2016)


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Rogues Guide to Shakes on Film

70: Dominic Cooke’s Henry VI Parts 1 & 2 (2016)

I am an outright Shakespeare junkie, dear readers. This you should know by now. Yet the prospect of outright speed-balling multiple Shakespeare plays in one sitting seems daunting, even to me. I am aware of festivals that mount all of The War of the Roses plays in a single day.

Fuck that.

Season 2 of The Hollow Crown lets you over-indulge these plays if you like, or watch them over several nights.

Henry VI Part 1.10

Season 1 of The Hollow Crown (already discussed on this blog) was a bit of a wash. The two parts of Henry IV worked well, with Simon Russell Beale as a tragic Falstaff, Tom Hiddleston as a greasy Prince Hal, and Jeremy Irons as an irascible Henry IV.

Alas and fuck, though, Richard II was mincingly excruciating, and Henry V (bereft of Beale) drags. Maybe the transformation of Prince Hal into King Henry is especially difficult to imagine with the same cast, after two whole installments of Henry IV; the context of the whole makes Henry V seem less noble and meaningful in terms of story arc. Of course, Kenneth Branagh’s film of Henry V makes any other historically accurate film of that play look pallid.

Great Performances: The Hollow Crown - Henry IV Part One

Season 2 of The Hollow Crown turns out to be much stronger, despite having fewer stars in the cast, or perhaps because of that.

Henry VI Part 1.1

The second season begins with Henry VI, Part 1, in which we can see the political nightmare arising out of the scene and collection of temperaments. Henry VI is a very young king who, like Richard II, imagines that the divine right of kings and the culture of nobility would on the whole make the kingdom governable—and unlike Richard II, Henry isn’t abusing the nobility or acting so cruelly that his subjects must rebel. Unfortunately for Henry, he has not seen Richard II firsthand, and is not imaginative enough to know how fragile a thing peace is, especially when others will use him and his noble assumptions as a tool.

The film of Henry VI, Part 1 shouldn’t work, really, for the sake of how complicated its scope is.

Henry VI Part 1.14

France is being re-claimed by the Dauphin after Henry V’s death, aided by Joan of Arc. Henry VI is something of a lofty man-child (as I’ve mentioned) still guided by his uncle Humphrey as the Lord Protector of England.

Henry VI Part 1.4

Richard Plantagenet, whose family has long been stripped of title, learns about the fate of Richard II and that the natural succession of the kings of England would have led him to the throne if Henry IV had not usurped Richard.

Henry VI Part 1.2

Plantagenet convenes some nobles to see who might claim loyalty to him if he made a claim to the throne. This macho act is done by plucking either red or white roses. The nobles sort of break even.

Henry VI makes peace between Humphrey and Winchester, the head of the Church of England, then responds positively to Plantagenet’s request to be granted his family’s title once again. Having settled matters of court, the king then plans to wage war against France.

During that war, the Duke of Somerset is reluctant to assist with some of the fighting so that some of his adversaries in the English court might be killed off. When Somerset does fight, he manages to find Margaret, a French noblewoman whom he finds attractive. He plans to advance her as a matrimonial solution to the French war and then use her as a sexual partner and influence on the king. Margaret is keen, as well, to exert her will over the court.

Henry VI Part 1.5

This is part soap opera, part tragedy. While the sets are consistent with season 1 of The Hollow Crown, season 2 is a vast improvement. Zac Nicholson’s cinematography and Gareth C. Scales’s editing make this plot seem far less convoluted than it is.

Henry VI Part 1.7

Tom Sturridge manages to be a hopelessly foppish Henry VI. His cheekbones are noble, but he looks too stoned, too mellow, to be long for this world in this court.

Henry VI Part 1.6

Ben Miles is a coarse, brutal Somerset. The choice to have him eating while Joan of Arc is burned at the stake is a dark touch.

Hugh Bonneville is a noble Humphrey, someone who insists on living with honor even as he sees the court destroying both him and his country.

Sally Hawkins, who you may remember as the lead in The Shape of Water, plays Eleanor, Humphrey’s wife, who ends up in Margaret’s crosshairs.

Henry VI Part 1.3

In terms of cruelty, the stories of Henry VI Parts 1 and about half of Part 2 approach Titus Andronicus. Part 2 of The Hollow Crown—Henry VI Parts 2 and 3—will match that horror-show.


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 301: Loose Lips, February 2018!

Episode 301 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 share a recording of Loose Lips, the monthly current events literary thing hosted by the inestimable Tod Caviness,

Loose Lips Tod Kat Parker

Patrick Scott Barnes and Tod Caviness by Katherine J. Parker.

Teege Braune,

Loose Lips 2 by Patrick Scott Barnes

Teege Braune by Patrick Scott Barnes.

Michael Cuglietta,

Loose Lips 3 by Patrick Scott Barnes

Michael Cuglietta by Patrick Scott Barnes.

Leigh Fields,

Loose Lips 4 by Patrick Scott Barnes

Leigh Fields by Patrick Scott Barnes.

Dianne Turgeon Richardson,

Loose Lips 5 by Patrick Scott Barnes

Dianne Turgeon Richardson by Patrick Scott Barnes.

and moi,

Loose Lips 6 by Patrick Scott Barnes

Moi by Patrick Scott Barnes.

Loose Lips Lil Indies

L’il Indies by Katherine J. Parker.


Subscribe to TDO’s youtube channel.

Episode 301 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 #215: The Last Witch Hunter


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The Curator of Schlock #215 by Jeff Shuster

The Last Witch Hunter

Time to even the playing field.

We’re down two-for-two when it comes to witches with our last two movies. It’s time we started fighting back.

And who better to do this than the Yul Brynner of our day, Vin Diesel? Maybe you’ve heard of him. He’s just the star of XXX, The Fast and the Furious, and The Chronicles of Riddick. Will lightning strike again? Let’s find out as I cover 2015’s The Last Witch Hunter from director Breck Eisner.


The movie begins in medieval times with a bunch of knights hunting for some evil entity called the Witch Queen. Apparently, she wants to spread a deadly plague across Europe because she hates what men are doing to the world with their stone castles and what not.

And let me tell you, this witch is a hag.

Hunter3 (1)

And she’s got a coven of witches and/or goblins working for her.

They make short work of these knights with their evil magic. She makes locusts erupt out of one poor sap. But one knight perseveres: Kaulder (Vin Diesel). He drives a fiery iron sword through her heart, but not before she curses him with immortality.

Hunter2 (1)

Ummmmm. That doesn’t sound like much of a curse to me.

I guess his wife and daughter were killed and he wanted to join them in the afterlife. Alas, he now has to wander the Earth forever.

Fast forward to modern time and it seems that a truce has been struck with witches. They can practice magic as long as they don’t use it against humans. Witches are apparently not human. Who knew? An organization called The Order of the Axe and Cross operates out of the Vatican ,in case any witch hunting is needed. And guess who is the top witch hunter? That’s right. It’s Kaulder. The Church provides priests with the title of Dolans. They serve as assistants to Kaulder…or are they supervisors…or partners?


I can’t keep any of this straight! Was this based on one of those graphic novels I’ve never heard of because comic book stores scare the living daylights out of me? Seriously, it’s like swimming in a sea of arrested development. Just say no. So the 36th Dolan is played by Michael Caine who soon retires. If you ever wanted to see a movie starring Vin Diesel and Michael Caine, this is the movie for you. A young Dolan played by Elijah Wood replaces him. If you ever wanted to see a movie starring Vin Diesel and Elijah Wood, this is the movie for you.


The Last Witch Hunter is definitely a movie, is my thesis, I guess.

Michael Caine’s character gets cursed by witchcraft and if Kaulder doesn’t get to the bottom of this, Michael Caine, the 36th Dolan, will die. Kaulder and the 37th Dolan, Elijah Wood, find a witch practicing illegal magic, turn him in to some kind of witch council that concludes this witch was working alone. Not satisfied, Kaulder teams up with a witch named Chloe (Rose Leslie), a double cross is revealed, and a defeated enemy blah, blah, blah.

This imaginative world has too many rules I have to learn, and I have a headache.

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.

Lost Chords and Serenades Divine #6: John Maus: Screen Memories


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Lost Chords and Serenades Divine #6 by Stephen McClurg

John Maus: Screen Memories (2017)

The less music is a language sui generis to them, the more does it become established as such a receptacle. The autonomy of music is replaced by a mere socio-psychological function. Music today is largely a social cement. […]

Individuals of the rhythmically obedient type are mainly found among the youth—the so-called radio generation. They are most susceptible to a process of masochistic adjustment to authoritarian collectivism. The type is not restricted to any one political attitude. The adjustment to anthropophagous collectivism is found as often among left-wing political groups as among right-wing groups. Indeed, both overlap: repression and crowd mindedness overtake the followers of both trends. The psychologies tend to meet despite the surface distinctions in political attitudes.

      —Theodor W. Adorno, “On Popular Music”

It’s rare that I find new music on the radio, and I haven’t seen MTV on purpose this century, though when I grew up these were still the places that allowed one to hear new music. I used to look through my local library’s music section, but then I moved and my current library has no music. I look through local record stores when I get a chance, hear about music through word-of-mouth, or dig digitally the way I used to comb through dusty boxes. This is how I came across John Maus’s Screen Memories, which I listened to because I liked the cover art, especially that staticky old TV.

John Maus Screen Memories

I had never heard of John Maus, and when I found out he has a political philosophy doctorate, I was intrigued: that doesn’t seem like the norm for rock and pop musicians. He also built all the synths used on this record. This record and subsequent tours will also debut his backing band. Previously, he had presented his music karaoke-style. His live persona is part Ian Curtis (Joy Division) and part Casey and His Brother (Tim and Eric).

Driving bass anchors most of the songs that are textured with synths and drum programming. “Driving” is a simplistic way to describe the bass tracks, but on one level, the bass is the leading instrument on this record. The bass is often accenting an upbeat, and the chord changes aren’t always where one expects. The way textures and vocal melodies weave in and out of songs and the timing of when phrases begin and end is dynamic, but these are musical qualities that don’t call attention to themselves. On the one hand, he’s not amazing anyone with chops in the stereotypical way progressive rock musicians are talked about. On the other hand, if one digs into the songs, one would notice how solidly, and interestingly, they’re built in a musical sense. There are layers and textures and phrases (the horizontal plane of melodies), but they are built upon each other in what sounds like formal ways (the vertical plane of harmony). In other words, there’s a musical crafting to the songs that extends beyond something like “let’s jam” or “punch in a tabla here and see what happens.” For example, you can dance to these songs, but at least one (“Teenage Witch”) is mostly in 10/4. There are extra measures in other songs that alter rhythmic expectations.

The lyrics on Screen Memories are almost haiku, rather than narratives. “The Combine,” the lead track, shows Maus crafting a distinctive pop song out of two sentences (“I see the combine coming. / It’s going to dust us all to nothing.”). Considering the repetition in pop songs, it’s surprising he makes that tradition even more concise, yet it still feels whole. The Residents constructed something similar on their Commercial Album of sixty second songs. The theory behind the record was that most pop songs were about three minutes long, but the chorus and verse repeated about three times, so the project was an attempt at making concise, though narrative, pop songs by cutting those repetitions. Maus simultaneously maintains traditional repetition and enigma without falling back on noise.

This track gets better every time I hear it. I recently saw the video and it’s interesting to use farm imagery in what has been called “electropop retrofuturism,” a Janus-faced vision, a kind of technology of the past representing a technological future that doesn’t exist. The farm imagery inverses Sun Ra’s imagery of spaceways and rockets. But in a digital society with various types of synthesizing processes at our fingertips, the combine is an interesting and effective image, regardless. A combine gets its name from the combining of actions that actually separates physical ears from stalks, or grains from grasses. The combine, like the computer, has altered labor forces. In the video, we see chaff and dust whirl, which matches up visually with the frequent pixelated images, even that static on the cover image from the television age. The combine could be the computer, the internet, the “matrix,” or whatever dystopic vision, including nuclear holocaust, one would want to feed back into the machine of the lyrics. The dust is the chaff, the ones and zeroes, the pixels, ashes, all that information. And like the antithesis of a combine that separates, the lyrics tell us “all” will come “to nothing.”

Hobbes wrote in Leviathan that, “knowledge itself is power.” It would make sense then that controlling information, mediating it (and our memories), is also a form of power. Maus uses the form of pop music, which itself is tied to commerce, capitalism, and power. The church, also historically a sign of power, is represented here through choral elements and a organ/synth-horn combination fanfare that within this context sounds nothing short of apocalyptic.

Teenage Witch,” at first, seems out of character for the record, though not for pop music. The speaker says, “Want to start a fire, witch? For that icy titty?” There are no other potentially sexist lines like this on the record that I’ve heard. For me the key is the synth solo that reminded me of Rush. I thought about this as an outsider speaking: what if this song were from the point of view of the id of the kid in Rush’s “Subdivisions”? I hear the Puritanical echoes (and the fantasy imagery that Rush used) that many subcultures create or define for themselves in the track. Even outsiders burn others.

It feels like more of a comment on sexism than simply repeating it, especially when paired with “Touchdown,” which could be commentary on toxic masculinity and the cultural energies of competition and domination. The song and video represent clearly the retrofuturism that he’s been labeled with. “Touchdown” reminds me of the masculinity of ‘80s TV shows. The mood, music, and images reimagine something like the original Tron (1982), or action shows like Airwolf or Knight Rider. Just look at those titles: wolves, knights, gladiators. “Forward drive across the line!”

There are other ‘80s touchstones throughout the recording. “Walls of Silence,” “Sensitive Recollections,” “Decide Decide” sound like songs for disappointing school dances or end credits in John Hughes movies. “Find Out” features lo-fi guitar and bass interplay reminiscent of early Cure (particularly Three Imaginary Boys era), where there is this developing element, Goth rock or whatever, traditional bluesy guitar licks, and punk influences. I hear elements of Devo in “People are Missing,” “Pets,” and “Over Phantom.”

There are textures that will be familiar on Screen Memories. I don’t make any of those connections or suggest any of those influences (and there could be more: there is a baroque undercurrent or something–I’m not sure how to phrase it– to a lot of the record, but also little bits of Wire, Falco, Bauhaus, Tomita, etc.) The music looks forward as much as backward. Screen Memories, like any dystopian or retrofuturist vision, while reconstructing out of the past and envisioning possible futures, is even more about the present moment.

Screen Memories and other recordings by John Maus are available here.

McClurgStephen McClurg (Episode 24) writes and teaches in Birmingham, Alabama. He co-hosts The Outrider Podcast, writes at Eunoia Solstice, and infrequently blogs. He has contributed music as a solo artist and with the group Necronomikids to past episodes of The Drunken Odyssey.

Episode 300: A Craft Discussion of Three Uses of the Knife, with Vanessa Blakeslee!



Episode 300 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 with Vanessa Blakeslee about David Mamet’s Three Uses of the Knife: On the Nature and Purpose of Drama. We manage not to kill one another.

John & Vanessa 3 Uses for the Knife

Photo by Shawn McKee.


Three Uses of the KnifeTrain ShotsJuventud

Episode 300 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 #214: The Love Witch


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The Curator of Schlock #214 by Jeff Shuster

The Love Witch

Be careful what you guzzle.

Looks like the SyFy Channel will be airing a new show about the—wait a minute! When did it become SyFy? I thought it was the Sci-Fi Channel. I guess I didn’t get that memo. But why change the spelling? I’m sure it has something to do with synergy, but I don’t know what synergy means.

Where was I? Oh, yeah.

The SyFy Channel will be airing a called Krypton. It’s a series about Krypton, the planet Superman came from. This show will be a prequel, so with this and Metropolis we now have two Superman prequel TV shows being made. Yay. I wonder if we’ll get to see Superman’s parents fall in love.


Speaking of love, Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone! I’m planning a romantic getaway with my girlfriend, Lizeth. She lives in Nova Scotia in case you were wondering. Lizeth doesn’t have much of an online presence. She’s also never had her picture taken for spiritual reasons, but I assure you, she exists. What? You think I’m lying? You can stop reading this blog right now! And we haven’t even gotten to this week’s movie yet. It’s 2016’s The Love Witch from director Anna Biller. This is a good one.


The Love Witch looks like it could have been made right in the middle of the Swinging 60s. It was shot on 35 millimeter and the director, Anna Biller, and her cinematographer, M. David Mullen, do their best to imitate the shine of classic Technicolor movies. Anna Biller even managed reuse Ennio Morricone’s score from The Fifth Cord, and it actually works here. Typically, I don’t like it when directors use another film score for their own movie, but, I don’t know. It seems to fit this movie like a glove.


Maybe I’m just mesmerized by the star of The Love Witch, Samantha Robinson, and that turquoise eyeliner of hers. She plays a witch named Elaine, moving to a small town in northern California to start a new life after her husband died under mysterious circumstances. All Elaine wants is for a real man to fall madly in love with her. While she doesn’t have much trouble attracting the attention of the men around her, she has the added benefit of witchcraft on her side. She picked up some tips on how to use sex magic from the oily warlock who runs her coven, how to dress in the right way and dance in the right way to provoke a man’s innermost desires.


Elaine also makes love potions to finish the job. The only problem is once the men she attracts take the potion, they turn into blubbering fools who can’t live a second without her. This, in turn, causes Elaine to lose interest in them. Eventually, these men can’t stand the longing they feel for her and die as a result. The movie keeps driving home the point that Elaine is dangerous. In fact, she’s more or less a serial killer, but there’s something about her that make me want to ignore that information. Maybe it’s her turquoise eyeliner. I don’t know. The Love Witch is currently available on Prime Streaming.

Jeffrey Shuster 3

Photo by Leslie Salas.

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

Lost Chords & Serenades Divine #5: Hellraisers

Lost Chords & Serenades Divine #5 by Stephen McClurg

Hellraisers: A Complete Visual History of Metal Mayhem (2017)

Fists are in the air,
banging everywhere!
Thrashing to the sound,
Face melting down!
It’s time to fight
for metal tonight!
Bangers take your stand
and obey…
our metal command!

—Exodus, “Metal Command”

The coffee table books I generally see in stores cover niche interests in illustrated or visual form. They seem indefinitely on sale, yet still too expensive for me. Their subjects alternate between generic–Movies!–and specific–a visual guide to Sherlock Holmes adaptations. I imagine these are often impulse buys, akin to other popular culture books like South Park (or The Dark Knight or Game of Thrones, etc.) and Philosophy, that I imagine are rarely, if ever, picked up after they’ve been bought, except to take to a used bookstore. I’m not sure who reads them, but surely someone is as they’re like an invasive species in the philosophy section, but I’ve never heard anyone talk about them nor have I seen one on a friend’s bookshelf. Those coffee table books on the other hand…

In the past few months, I’ve found two of them that I’ve enjoyed, despite my skepticism. The first is Paperbacks from Hell: The Twisted History of ‘70s and ‘80s Horror Fiction by Grady Hendrix. I rarely get caught up in nostalgia, but this book brought back memories of when horror fiction was everywhere: grocery stores, drug stores, and even small local newsstands, when they existed. These novels and their cover art were my Aurora monster kits, which besides EC horror comics, were the thing that horror heroes like John Carpenter and Stephen King mentioned as dear to them in their childhoods. I never saw anything like those kits, but I was also less than crafty, so even if I found one, I doubt that I could have put it together or painted it to any satisfactory degree. But I loved these books–wonderful, cheap horror paperbacks with sometimes wonderful and sometimes cheap cover art. Hendrix delves into the biographies of a few cover artists (all unknown to me), the history of horror publishing, its fads, and its eventual demise. Hendrix obviously loves his subject matter, but he also knows how silly, and just plain awful, some of it is. But when we really love something, we often tolerate, and sometimes even love, its particular faults.

Axl Rosenberg and Christopher Krovatin strike a similar balance in Hellraisers. They love metal. I mean really, really love metal. That love is on every page and in every detail about the albums, genres, dress codes, and evolution of the music. Like role players arguing about alignment violations or battle axe weights, Rosenberg and Krovatin revel in the minutiae of metal genres: the difference between death metal and black metal vocals, the virtue of various -cores, the heaviness of the umlaut, the riffs, the mascots. While they classify and critique the genre, something that sounds dry and analytic, they do it with self-reflexive humor. They know that it’s trivia, and ultimately trivial, but that’s sometimes what’s fun about being into a thing–arguing about the stuff that passes by “outsiders.”


The authors intend the book to be both a primer for newcomers and a refresher for older listeners. Since I grew up with metal, I may have responded to the humor more than a newcomer will, but if someone takes their conceit seriously, the book is meant to be a course on metal, they will be caught up in no time. The larger chapters are classes on “The Metal Ages,” while there are shorter “Crash Courses” and “Cultural Studies” intermingled into each Metal Age, which is also paired with a playlist to listen to for homework.

One of the moves that endeared me to the book is that it opens with a bit of music theory trivia. The interval of a tritone (depending on musical context, a flattened fifth or augmented fourth) is said to have been so disturbing in medieval music that it was outlawed and referred to as “The Devil’s interval” or the diabolus in musica. Of course, this meant that the Romantics, given their appreciation for Milton’s Satan, had to use it and later it became a cornerstone of the blues (it is part of the minor blues scale). This idea works fabulously with the Faustian myth of Robert Johnson, who supposedly sold his soul at the crossroads. The blues and its power, energy, and subversion then became one of the main influences on music in general, and rock-n-roll specifically. Infamously, the tritone is the opening interval of Jimi Hendrix’s “Purple Haze.” Combine that with the occult dabblings of The Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, and the Manson Murders killing off much of the thrall of hippie-dippiness, and you’ve got some of the basic ingredients for the birth of metal.

It’s a great story, but I’ve always wondered how experimental composers and jazz musicians using the interval fit into the story. I guess Anton LaVey, the founder of the Church of Satan, tried to provide one answer. The earliest source of the story I could find is Johann Joseph Fux’s book on counterpoint, Gradas ad Parnassum. Fux cites an old rhyme about intervals that mentions the diabolus in musica, but then says it’s avoided because “it sounds bad” and “is hard to sing.” Even if the story is more fun than the possible truth, at least Rosenberg and Krovatin don’t take themselves too seriously. The book is fun and funny. One of the first things you see in the book is its dedication: “to the Birmingham sheet-metal machine that ripped off two of Tony Iommi’s fingers. Thanks for everything.” Black Sabbath’s sound is often said to have partially developed because of Iommi’s accident. He built his own prosthetics, experimented with string gauges, and eventually detuned his guitar, which is now a standard practice in metal. When considering the metal levels of Led Zep, Robert Plant is described as “a sexually unhinged singer shrieking about hobbits.” One of the sections on glam metal is titled “Your Name In Lights And Your Ass In Tights,” which perfectly captures the era’s focus on parties, ego, and sex.  And while they pay compliments to Pentagram’s singer, they also say “[Bobby] Liebling looks like a giant spider wearing the decomposing corpse of a high school theater kid.” That’s kind of mean, but it’s also really metal.

Some of the fun facts I learned: That Entombed record, Wolverine Blues, that I liked, but couldn’t quite place the sound of, especially since previous albums had been pretty straightforward death metal, was the birth of a sub-genre now called “death-n-roll.” Slayer’s Kerry King, the one who frequently plays with a giant metal porcupine strapped to his arm, was high school valedictorian. Axl Rose’s inspiration for “Welcome to the Jungle” involves a homeless man screaming in the face of a sleeping homeless man, “You know where you are?! You’re in the jungle, baby! Wake up, it’s time to die!” Axl, evidently in need of an alarm clock, was the sleeping homeless man. Overall, it was nice to share some opinions with the authors: a love for Chuck Schuldiner’s music and a disdain for nu-metal (Korn, Limp Bizkit). While my listening had turned toward jazz, noise, and experimental classical music, nu-metal and pop punk killed any taste I would have for rock or metal for about a decade.

I grew up as many of the genres discussed here were developing, and wanting to hear the music again, I started going to local shows several years ago. I was confused when hardcore bands would play technical riffs I associated with thrash coupled with traditional hardcore and then do chugga-chugga breakdowns similar to Sepultura. As silly as it sounds, these were mostly distinct styles when I was growing up. I enjoyed how the authors analyzed the mutations and traced the lineage of riffage from within and without metal, which helped me make sense of current trends. I can’t help thinking that musicians are also influenced by the sheer amount of music that we have access to these days.

While I was initially baffled hearing younger players and newer records, I ultimately think the crossovers are a healthy thing, an evolution of the music. Not that change itself makes something better, but when it also broadens people’s minds and tastes, it probably is. This is music that was created by outsiders for outsiders, but one of the pervasive problems over the course of the music’s history is territorial and idiotically divisive ideology, which in several cases, even turned murderous. One infamous example is the onstage murder of Dimebag Darrell (Abbott) of Damageplan for supposedly breaking up Pantera.

Sections of the book celebrate diversity in metal. Though the origins are in British and North America, the music has spread throughout the world, with a strong presence in Japan and South America and even the Middle East, including Iraq. The documentary Heavy Metal in Baghdad shows devotion to the music even under threats of violence and death. If you think getting a gig is difficult, this may make you feel better. Another section discusses sexuality in metal, from the homophobic to the homoerotic, from LGBTQ to transgender shredders.

As an old, and sometimes jaded, listener, the best compliment I can give the book is that rather than just sending me back into all those records I used to have, it inspired me to check out music I have ignored, thinking I’d heard it all. I didn’t know I needed Paperbacks from Hell; I didn’t know I needed Meshuggah in my life either.

I also need that Lemmy autobiography.

Stephen McClurg (Episode 24) writes and teaches in Birmingham, Alabama. He co-hosts The Outrider Podcast, writes at Eunoia Solstice, and infrequently blogs. He has contributed music as a solo artist and with the group Necronomikids to past episodes of The Drunken Odyssey.

Episode 299: Laleh Khadivi!


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Episode 299 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 novelist Laleh Khadivi about empathy, anticipating the future, the snarl of time management, challenging oneself as a writer as a form of motivation, the absolute transformation of characters, patriarchal similarities between Middle East and West, the mystical nature of surfing, the fraught possibilities of adolescence, religious fervor, the problematic role of country to identity, and modernity and the immigrant experience.

Laleh Khadivi


A Good CountryThe WalkingThe Age Of Orphans


Check out the second installment of The Drunken Odyssey’s Unauthorized Film Commentary Series:

Subscribe to TDO’s youtube channel.

Be sure to check out the music of David Rego, whose songs “Sapphire Showers” and “The Colony” appear on this episode.

Dave Rego

Dave Rego

Episode 299 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 #213: The Witch


The Curator of Schlock #213 by Jeff Shuster

The Witch: A New England Folktale

Suffer the children!

Looks like there’s a new TV show in the works. It’s called Metropolis. It’s a series about the city of Metropolis from the Superman comics, but will focus on what the city was like before Superman arrived. Ummmmm…We already had that show. It was called Smallville. In fact, a good half of the show took place in Metropolis well before Clark Kent decided to put the suit on. Metropolis seems redundant to me. Why not just give us Smallville Season 11? Every season of that show was brilliant—except for Season 4, the one with the witches. Yeah, it turned out Lana Lang was a descendent of a witch and said witch possessed her and that storyline needs to be forgotten. I don’t care for witches. They’re known to make deals with the devil and place hexes on people. Even Superman is susceptible to magic.

In an effort to educate you, my steadfast readership, on the trouble of witches, February is Witch Month here at The Museum of Schlock. First up is 2015’s The Witch: A New England Folktale from director Robert Eggers.


I’m not a big fan of New England. People from that part of the country speak with these fake accents. “I pahked the cahrrr!” Give me a break. I guarantee they talk normal when in the presence of other New Englanders. It’s all a big joke on the rest of us.

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Speaking of Americans that talk funny, this movie takes place in Puritan New England back in the 1630s. Lots of thees and thous. A farmer named William (Ralph Ineson) doesn’t like the local Puritans of the Commonwealth, claims they aren’t true Christians. I take this to meaning that while these Puritans are quite miserable, they need to be even more miserable. They exile him from the plantation and he goes off to start his own farm with his family. Things don’t go well.

One day, the eldest daughter, Thomasin (Anya Taylor-Joy), is playing peekaboo with her infant brother, Samuel, when she finds he’s disappeared after she uncovers her eyes. Next we see an old crone of a woman scurrying off into the woods, baby in arm. Night falls and we see the crone naked by a roaring fire, smashing something to a bloody pulp. I assume it’s the baby and she covers her naked body in bloody baby chunks. This must be a spell of some kind. She keeps rubbing a long stick. Maybe she plans to make a broom out of it. I don’t know if I should be more horrified by the pulverized baby or the fact that I was forced to gaze upon the bare buttocks of an old witch.


Witches tend to come in two varieties. This I’ve come to know. You have the hideous old crone witches, but you also have young, sexy witches. When the first-born son, Caleb (Harvey Scrimshaw) is in the woods chasing after the family dog, he discovers a quant cottage and out comes a sexy witch with a red hood.

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She bewitches him by kissing him and forcing a rotten apple down his throat. More weirdness happens in the film, but I won’t spoil anything else except to say that if you’re a fan of seeing a goat gore someone by his horns, you’ve hit pay dirt.

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.