The Curator of Schlock #308: The Shape of Things to Come

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The Curator of Schlock #308 by Jeff Shuster

H.G. Wells’ The Shape of Things to Come

Is this a lost TV pilot?

Hey nerds! That sci-fi crap is real big right now. We just wrapped up another Star Wars trilogy, Jean-Luc Picard is back in the saddle, and Doctor Who is as nonsensical as ever. You geeks must be in hog heaven right now. We at the Museum of Schlock are here to please, and this month is filled with some galaxy hopping classics. In other words, we’re showcasing some Star Wars wannabes. Enjoy.

Original Cinema Quad Poster - Movie Film Posters

Tonight’s movie is 1979’s H.G. Wells’ The Shape of Things to Come from director George McCowan. I never read the novel, but I have it on good authority that this is a faithful adaptation. The backdrop for the movie is a colony on the Moon called New Washington. Humans evacuated the Earth after some robots ran amok and caused a massive nuclear war. I’m sure it can all be traced back to that Tony Robbins interview with Sophia the Robot. Anyway, they terraformed the moon and built a knockoff of EPCOT Center. In fact, I think I saw a duplicate of Spaceship Earth through one of the windows of an office building.

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Okay. So there’s a plot here … somewhere. Oh, we have an extra-evil Jack Palance as the villainous Omus, the Robot Master of Delta 3. You know he’s evil because he dons a purple cape. The citizens of New Washington get an anti-radiation drug from the planet, Delta 3, but Omus reprogrammed all of the robots to obey him and booted Nikki (Carol Lynley), the leader of Delta 3, from power. Omus wants robots to take over the moon because they’re better than people or some such nonsense.

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One thing I can’t get over about this motion picture is how cheap everything looks. You Doctor Who fans should feel right at home. All the robots in this movie are boxy and have Slinky arms they wave around menacingly. Some rooms have those swooshing doors like you see on Star Trek, but other rooms have regular doors that swing open. There’s no consistency. I guess most of the budget went to the Starstreak, the interstellar vessel that will carry our heroes to Delta 3 to stop Omus.

Right. Plot. Some would-be heroes decide to take the Starstreak, the moon colony’s defense vessel, to travel to Delta 3 and capture Omus. We’ve got Dr. John Caball, the science advisor to the moon colony, John, his handsome son, and Kim Smedley, the foxy daughter of the moon colony leader, Senator Smedley. Don’t be expecting any romance between John and Kim as there’s no chemistry between them. Dr. Caball does get some radiation poisoning so you get see him writhe in pain every so often, which is more funny to see than it should be.

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Speaking of funny, there’s a robot companion with their group named Sparks. He’s a good Robot who can teleport instantaneously to any place that he needs to be. This prevents the robot from having to walk wherever he needs to go. I’m sure the actor in the suit was happy for that. What else? Omus melts Dr. Caball’s brain with a sparkly disco ball. Oh, and Omus ends up blowing up the entire planet. John, Kim, Nikki, and Sparks manage to escape, but didn’t they basically fail in their mission? Where is the moon colony going to get their anti-radiation drug from? I guess everyone on the moon colony is going to die from radiation poisoning.

Yeah, maybe skip this one.


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Photo by Leslie Salas.

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

Comics Are Trying to Break Your Heart #56: The Comic Nebula

Comics Are Trying to Break Your Heart #56 by Drew Barth

The Comic Nebula

I mentioned last week how Nextwavewas unique due to its theme song, so what can we do with a graphic novel that includes a tiny vinyl record that can accompany a reading? Quite a lot, actually, as John Pham’s J+K has shown us.

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J+K is the most unique graphic novel I have ever seen or read. From its pages, we have the story of Jay and Kay—two friends living together in a world of oddity and spectacular color. But hidden among the book’s covers are the other materials—a full issue of Cool magazine with subscription inserts and a pull-out poster, baseball cards, an ad for the local mall, a poster for the video game Dance Warrior, and a vinyl single for the band Gaseous Nebula. These materials assist in creating a sense of place within the world of J+K, and take this book from a graphic novel to a box of culture from another dimension.

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As an illustrator, Pham utterly disarms throughout J+K’s stylebright, colorful, and the kind of cartoons that recalls Peanutsand Hanna-Barbera. The world Jay and Kay live in mirrors our own in its veneer of simplicity hiding a dimension of emotional, dramatic depth.

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In a world filled with sapient back acne, bookstores with shelves larger than many buildings, and characters whose faces are primarily eggs, there is a sense throughout that feels fantastical until the world comes crashing down upon the reader. J+K is one of the best graphic novels due to how it uses that complete world to build up characters who make us feel their joy, sadness, and nostalgia so effortlessly. Get excited. Build a world.


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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 Anonymous Diaries of a Sozzled Scribbler #3

The Anonymous Diaries of a Sozzled Scribbler #3

As transcribed by DMETRI KAKMI

2 February 2020

Summer time in Melbourne means one thing: Fire!

Oh, all right, it means the Melbourne Open. As it happens I went to the Rod Laver Arena with the former Prince Harry to watch the scrumptious Serena Williams play opposite a child from the country that gave you the coronavirus.

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Now that Harry’s cachet has crumbled, we sat with the great unwashed in the Reserved Seating area. At one point during the game former tennis great Margaret Court stood up in the Corporate Seating area and, apropos of nothing, shouted, Homosexuality is lust for flesh,before storming off to jeers from more former tennis greats, John McEnroe and Martina Navratilova.

Harry chortled at the madness of it all and went to the toilets to relieve the former royal bladder. He came back minutes later, looking shaken.

Whats the matter?I said.

Nothing,he replied, settling beside me with a sausage roll.

But I could tell he was upset.

Did one of Margarets homosexualists stick his engorged penis through a glory hole in the cubicle wall?I cried, horrified that a blue blood should witness such an outrage against good taste.

No,Harry replied, shaking his head. There was a queue at the gentsso I went to the new gender neutral toilets instead.

I shuddered, fearing the worst. And?

And who do you think was standing next to me at the urinal?’

Im sure I cant guess,I said, picturing all manner of lurid happenings.

Margaret Court.

Margaret Court, the greatest tennis player of all time and now pastor for a Pentecostal church in Perth?I cried yet again. At a urinal?

One and the same,Harry replied.

Harry, youve had too much to drink.’

He had been hitting the grog since leaving behind royal life and becoming a mere mortal, silly lad. Try as I might, I was not able to dissuade him from the absurd decision. It seems Harry is under the thumb of his American cancan dancer or whatever his wife does when she is not destroying the House of Windsor.

Nowhere near as drunk as you, old piss pot,snapped Harry.

But my dear boy,I said, still unable to believe my ears. Margaret Court. Surely youre mistaken.

Apparently shes transitioning.

Transitioning? To what?I yelled yet again. This was all too much for me without the aid of a martini and a Hanky-panky chaser.

Not to what, but to whom.

Harry, dont keep me in suspenders, please?

To Israel Folau.

Well, you could have knocked me down with the pages of Leviticus. I know it is fashionable nowadays to be fluid in all aspects of life, but the idea of a Caucasian sourpuss turning into a dimwitted Tongan ex-rugby player who loves gays so much he condemns them to hellfire was too much even for me.

What about the real Folau?I ventured.

Hes turning into Margaret Court.

Sign of the times!I said, resigned to the malleabilities of the age.

We were saved from further contemplation of Roman perversities by the delicious Serena Williams. Being on friendly terms with Harry’s pole dancer or whatever the gutter snipe does when she is not demolishing palaces, Serena sauntered over to say hello to the man formerly known as Prince. Harry rose to his feet.

Yo, darlin,the goddess cried, looking surprisingly refreshed after her trouncing.

Knowing I am no fan of Harry’s cha-cha girl, Serena did not acknowledge me in the slightest. Nonetheless, I was happy to sit back and bathe in the nearness of the goddesss presence, even if she did lose to the Chinese. The celebrities exchanged pleasantries while standing in front of me—me breathing in Serenas musk and swooning.

Harry asked if Serena enjoyed the Australian summer.

Its tough playing tennis in Melbourne this year,the mighty lady sighed, flinging herself atop me with such force it right near knocked the wind out of me.

You may not be aware of this, but Serena is extra-Rubenesque and I am but a slip of a fellow, subsisting on alcohol and cigarettes. I disappeared entirely beneath the voluptuous avalanche. Content to be thus utilised by the great woman, I kept my peace.

Why is it difficult?asked Harry, trying not to laugh at my predicament.

Theyve got machines pumping smoke onto the courts. Its like uh nightclub out there.

Thats the bush fires,I managed from beneath an allure of flesh. The countrys burning while youre playing ball.

Serena looked around with fake perplexity. Did you hear somethin?’ she said to Harry. Is someone else with us?

Cruel minx!

Harry shrugged, not wanting to ruin my good time. Serena pressed down on me with greater force and added, And I was thrown out of the womens bathroom because they thought I was a panther. Had to use the gender neutral bathrooms and I saw—‘

Margaret Court,jumped in Harry.

That unbeatable old cunt,’ Serena grumbled.

Speaking of which,I said, as Harry’s wife tripped over.

Serena shrieked and leaped off me as if I had jabbed her in the jamboree.

Sorry,’ she said, looking back at me. Didnt know you was there. You blend in with the bleachers.

The pleasures all mine, dear lady,’ I told her.

In the end our gang stayed at the stadium to watch Rod Laver present Margaret Court with a replica of the Australian Open women’s trophy in honor of her vast achievements in hitting a ball over a net. The ‘crazy aunt’, as John McEnroe calls Court, was ‘recognised,’ but not celebrated because she offended homosexualists by quoting a three-thousand year old Judean fairy story at them. The problem was no one knew if the Margaret Court they were paying tribute to was the real Margaret Court or if she was Israel Folau pretending to be Margaret Court. Both excel at making cats bums with their lips and looking as if they were weaned on pickles.

Those two need a good shag,’ Harry quipped.

Words of a great philosopher.

Until next we meet. Cheerio!


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The Sozzled Scribbler was born in the shadow of the Erechtheion in Athens, Greece, to an Egyptian street walker and a Greek bear wrestler. Of no fixed abode, he has subsisted in Istanbul, Rome, London, New Orleans and is currently hiding out in Melbourne. He partakes of four bottles of Bombay gin and four packets of Dunhill cigarettes a day.

His mortified amanuensis, Dmetri Kakmi, is a writer and editor. The fictionalised memoir Mother Land was shortlisted for the New South Wales Premier’s Literary Awards in Australia. He edited the children’s anthology When We Were Young. His new book The Door and other Uncanny Tales will be released in May 2020.

Episode 404: Susan Lilley!

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Episode 404 of The Drunken Odyssey, your favorite podcast about creative writing and literature is available on Apple podcastsstitcher, spotify, or click here to stream (right click to download, if that’s your thing.)

This week, I talk to my friend, and Orlando’s poet laureate, Susan Lilley!

Susan Lilley

TEXT DISCUSSED

Venus in Retrograde

NOTES

This episode is sponsored by the excellent people at Scribophile.

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

Check out my literary adventure novel, Guy Psycho and the Ziggurat of Shame.

Guy Psycho and the Ziggurat of Shame Cover

The Curator of Schlock #308: The Stuff

The Curator of Schlock #308 by Jeff Shuster

The Stuff

You are what you eat. 

I finally got around to trying Popeye’s chicken sandwich. For those of you living overseas, the Popeye’s chicken sandwich was a bit of a phenomenon over here in the United States. It’s a good chicken sandwich, but nothing worth crashing your car into a drive-thru line for. I’ve tried both mild and spicy. I prefer the spicy. The filet seems too big for the bun, and it’s a decent size brioche bun. Popeye’s has huge wings, too, not those dinky little things you get at KFC. Are they growing monster chickens over at Popeye’s headquarters? I’m concerned. I like me some big wings, but not at the expense of Popeye’s employees being attacked by mutated, oversized chickens.

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Speaking of dangerous vittles, tonight’s movie is 1985’s The Stuff from director Larry Cohen. It’s a movie about a deadly, sentient confectionary dessert. One night a railroad worker notices some white crap bubbling up from the earth. Naturally, he reaches his hand in and sticks some of it in his mouth. And he thinks it tastes good. And then he thinks he can package it up and sell it to his fellow Americans. Some time later, a new dessert is all the rage in the United States. It’s called The Stuff. It looks like vanilla soft serve and people are eating it up like there’s no tomorrow. The Stuff tastes great, is highly nutritious, and very low calorie.

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But not everyone is buying into the hype. A boy named Jason (Scott Bloom) wants nothing to do with The Stuff because he saw some moving around in the fridge when he got up for a midnight snack. His family doesn’t believe him, and pester him to try The Stuff. Once you get a taste of The Stuff, you’re hooked. The following day, Jason visits a grocery store after school. He’s disgusted by all the people buying The Stuff and wrecks all The Stuff displays. Eventually, he’s subdued. No one listens to his warnings about The Stuff.

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Meanwhile, the heads of various ice cream companies have hired an industrial spy named Mo Rutherford (Michael Moriarty) to find out what he can about The Stuff like what it is and how is it made. They mention that the same laws that protect the secret formula of Coca-Cola protect The Stuff. While investigating, Mo runs into Chocolate Chip Charlie (Garrett Morris), whom I assume is based off of Famous Amos. Charlie is upset that his brothers overrode his authority and sold his chain of chocolate chip cookie outlets to The Stuff Company to be converted into The Stuff shops.

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I wonder if they’ll sell more than one flavor of The Stuff.

Rounding out the investigative party is Nicole (Andrea Marcovicci), an advertising executive in charge of marketing The Stuff that Mo managed to charm into helping him. As the movie progresses, we learn that The Stuff ends up possessing the people that consume it, and The Stuff then consumes them from the inside. This movie reminded me of a cross between The Blob and Invasion of the Body Snatchers. I’m sure there’s some social commentary about American eating habits and fads, but I can’t be bothered to go into that now.

I’ve got a hankering for another Popeye’s chicken sandwich. Funny. I’ve already eaten about five of them today.


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Photo by Leslie Salas.

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

Comics Are Trying to Break Your Heart #55: We All Live in the Shadow

Comics Are Trying to Break Your Heart #55 by Drew Barth

We All Live in the Shadow

Do you remember when Marvel comics was headed by someone who wasn’t a stooge for Donald Trump? I remember those years fondly—when I could pick up a Marvel book and not worry about my money going to Ike Perlmutter so he could further grind the VA into the ground.

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Those were the years that spawned one of the greatest pieces of superhero fiction from Warren Ellis and Stuart Immonen: Nextwave: Agents of H.A.T.E. And it’s easy to say that one series is a great piece of superhero fiction—dozens of great stories exist—but Nextwave was something special and is something we all live in the shadow of. And it’s one of the only series with its own theme song.

Nextwave offers a fairly straight-forward story: five heroes defect from H.A.T.E. (Highest Anti-Terrorist Effort) due to it being funded by the Beyond Corporation—itself the remnants of the terrorist organization S.I.L.E.N.T.—and must continually thwart Beyond’s development of bizarre weapons of mass destruction. Massive damage is done to whatever town or city the heroes are in, many things explode, many more people are punched, there’s a giant gorilla dressed like Wolverine, and every single page is like a new revelation in what superhero comics can be when they forget the 80s happened and obstinate realism wasn’t the end goal for every story.

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Nextwave is the kind of story that sees a machine man, a woman who can turn herself into particles, a demon hunter, a drunk with super strength, and a teenager who can blow things up with her mind, and realizes that this is a story that needs explosions and jokes. Sometimes all we want to do is give punching a chance.

But then there’s the moments throughout where Ellis’ penchant for the best character work comes through as well. Almost every character has a moment, even if it’s only two panels, that encompasses who they are as people. The Captain has a moment where his mom hangs his bear by its neck when he was a kid; Aaron Stack is called an asshole by The Celestials; Elsa Bloodstone is thrown into a pit of beasts before she can even walk. They’re small moments bookended by punching and exploding, but they’re the kinds of small moments that can make them feel more rounded.

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Nextwave is distilled superhero comics, ninety-nine percent proof. There has been very little before that was like Nextwave,and there’s been almost nothing that has come close to the mood and feel of the story. It’s one of those things that’s tough to describe—it’s comedy without parody, satire without spite. Ellis and Immonen crafted a story that will last long into the next century, and we can never escape its shadow.

Get excited. There’s lots more punching.


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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 #83: The Tempest (2019)

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83. Phyllidia Lloyd’s The Tempest (Part 3 of The Donmar Warehouse’s All-Female Shakespeare Trilogy), 2019

I have a fondness for prison theater. When Beckett directed a trilogy of his plays at San Quentin in 1985, he found actors who embodied his existential tragicomedies with an ease few professional actors could muster. Those productions were much more successful on an artistic level than the Broadway production of Godot I saw about a decade ago, in which Studio 54 was filled with an audience fawning over every breath Nathan Lane took. It wasn’t Nathan Lane’s fault as an actor, but rather his fault as a beloved Broadway icon’s fault. He could have been performing a passion play and the audience would have deemed it cute.

I have written about the documentary Shakespeare Behind Bars, in which prisoners with serious crimes in their pasts wrestle with similar themes in The Tempest. With any good documentary about a production, though, there is some disappointment that watching the performance itself isn’t an option.

I love theater. 

I don’t know if I have expounded my theory about watching theater and film in this blog, dear readers, but here it is in case I haven’t. 

Too much is made of the difficulty of Shakespeare, especially in high school and college classrooms in which the bard is perversely read rather than witnessed, or if witnessed, usually with a film so dusty and antiquated that students are conditioned to loathe the experience all the more. (Olivier’s Hamlet or any of the BBC’s Complete Shakespeare is a suicidal point of entry.) 

Any good performance of a play makes that text come alive the way it was intended to. Imagine a cult of people who sit around only reading a screenplay of The Matrix rather than watching the movie. Such a thing can be done; doing so more than once a year will transform one into a hipster. When I have shown undergraduates Michael Hoffman’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, after 10 minutes they are watching it as if it were any other good movie. When I attended a matinee of Romeo and Juliet at Orlando Shakespeare Theater surrounded by mostly high school students, they understood the play perfectly.

What to make, though, of a film of a theatrical performances of Shakespeare half-set in prison?

The Donmar Warehouse’s All-Female Shakespeare Trilogy comprises three films of theatrical productions in a warehouse space, something akin to a black box gym. These shows were performed in 2016, and released on film later.

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The framing device used for all three films is a prison context. Guards somberly march in the prisoners who will be the actors. Then, one prisoner-actor performs a testimonial about her crime, and her hope or lack thereof for her future. Then, the play begins. Much of the discourse about these productions indicates that they are set in a prison, but the prison is more of a meta-setting. It’s not Prospero in prison—instead, it is Hannah, played by veteran actor Harriet Walter. At times in the play, the prison frame intrudes into the action with a jolt, such as the guards demanding the shipwrecked nobles of The Tempest to strip down out of their suits. That wouldn’t happen in a prison production of Twelfth Night. The reality of the play shifts in this production.

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Ariel causing a tempest.

There are some upsides to this prison-as-meta-setting—and I apologize for how fucking academic all this sounds, but please believe me, I am using this jargon specifically, to save us some agony here:

  1. The all-female cast doesn’t need any more explanation. If you’ve read much of this column, dear readers, then you know I like nontraditional casting, but dislike distracting color- and gender-blind casting. Give me half a reason to believe in your non-traditional casting, and I will. The Donmar Trilogy made me forget that this is an all female cast instantly. This provided an unpretentious opportunity for women to play leads in Shakespeare. 
  2. The plain costumes, lots of grey sweats, make these productions seem urgently primal, both modern and ancient.
  3. The basic special effects and props require the emotional buy-in from the audience—one can sense from these films how theater is a fun collaboration between performers and audience.
  4. The strange dislocations of the setting are actually a welcome distraction for an audience overfamiliar with Shakespeare’s work. I imagine The Donmar Trilogy would be a bumfuzzling introduction to these plays (“What the hell is happening?”), but to Shakespeare junkies, the weirdness makes these classics feel new. 

Okay, I am over 700 words deep and haven’t even mentioned The Tempest yet.

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Harriet Walter kicks ass as Propsero. When Helen Mirren played the role in Julie Taymor’s film, I couldn’t see what she was trying to do; she seemed medically sedated. Harriet Walter makes the dialogue seem both natural and appropriate, and can convey so much magic through her gaze and the sound of her voice. She wears a gray tank top, and there is so much perfection in her muscles and wrinkles. She is a woman who has gained power through her age, it seems.

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Jade Anouka is a wonderful Ariel—her singing voice is beautiful, and jumps around singing styles so well. One of the island’s spellbound sequences was presented as a carnivale outpouring of excitement.

As I learned from Lisa Wolpe’s one woman show in which she portrayed Romeo, any great actor can play any part. The Donmar Trilogy reinforces this idea, as the actual gender of the actors seems like an afterthought (even when the guards call the actors ladies). 

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Race is an afterthought. These characters emerge so forcefully from these actors that it seems almost like the most perfect way to experience the story. Love is love. Betrayal is betrayal. Family is family.

The play moves along quickly, which is a relief, since The Tempest doesn’t have great villains. Prospero really is never not in control of everything. The strength of the ending is the teetering emotions of Prospero, who forgives his usurping brother, which does not require the repentance of that brother.

The prison setting ends the play with a surprise: Prospero may leave the island to return to Milan, but Hannah (the actor-character Harriet Walter portrays) will never be paroled, and as the other actors are released and say their goodbyes with a voiced-over babel, Hannah will remain, sitting resignedly in bed, with only a book for company.

The irony of this production is that so much energy and discipline went into making the play unique, yet the result is a perfectly transparent story, much like the first time I watched The Tempest, which is a gift I am grateful for.


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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 403: Jericho Brown and Richard Blanco!

Episode 403 of The Drunken Odyssey, your favorite podcast about creative writing and literature is available on Apple podcastsstitcher, spotify, or click here to stream (right click to download, if that’s your thing.)


This week, I talk to two poets.

First, I speak with the joyous Jericho Brown about his complex relationship to poetic tradition, identity, and music. Frankly, I kept making tangents to music. Perhaps too many. But this was one of my favorite interviews from Miami Book Fair International.

Jericho Brown MBFI 2019

Second, I speak with Richard Blanco about the poetry of we, and the importance of giving an audience an entertaining performance, and writing poetry that makes me cry in yet another of my favorite interviews from MBFI.

Richard Blanco

TEXTS DISCUSSED

The TraditionHow to Love a Country

NOTES

This episode is sponsored by the excellent people at Scribophile.

Scribophile

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

Check out my literary adventure novel, Guy Psycho and the Ziggurat of Shame.

Guy Psycho and the Ziggurat of Shame Cover

Episode 403 of The Drunken Odyssey, your favorite podcast about creative writing and literature is available on Apple podcastsstitcher, spotify, or click here to stream (right click to download, if that’s your thing.)

The Curator of Schlock #307: The Brood

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The Curator of Schlock #307 by Jeff Shuster

The Brood

Seriously, what is wrong with David Cronenberg?

Criterion DVDs are weird. They have weird special features. On my DVD for David Cronenberg’s The Brood, we have an interview with Oliver Reed on The Merv Griffin Show from 1980. Other guests include Orson Welles and, naturally, Charo. I’m terrified because Oliver Reed starts taking jabs at Welles and I’m expecting the whole affair to get bloody, with Merv Griffin getting set on fire at some point, but Reed spends much of the interview talking about his love of American hamburgers and eventually praises Orson Welles as a god among directors. At know no point in this interview is The Brood even mentioned.

Why did Criterion include it in the special features on the disc?

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1979’s The Brood from director David Cronenberg is a disgusting little movie. The movie begins with Oliver Reed wearing nothing but a robe while sitting in yoga pose on a stage berating his son in front of live audience. No, this isn’t a method-acting lesson, but a public therapy session. Oliver Reed stars as Dr. Hal Ragian, a psychotherapist who runs the Somatree Institute where he employs the use of psychoplasmics, a therapy method that has patients unleash their suppressed feelings by physically altering their bodies through pure will of the mind.

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Frank Carveth (Art Hindle) thinks Dr. Ragian is a quack. Nola Carveth (Samantha Eggar), Frank’s wife, is a patient at Somatree, dealing with anger issues while fighting with Frank over custody of Candace (Cindy Hinds), their five-year-old daughter. Frank notices marks and cuts on Candace’s back and doesn’t want her staying at Somatree. Dr. Ragain tells Frank that Nola needs Candace there to help with her therapy. He tells Frank that he’d better bring Candace back the following weekend or there will be legal action.

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Frank drops Candace off with his mother-in-law while he goes talk to a lawyer. I suppose Candace is having a better time with Grandma, as she seems more mellow than her mother. Granted, Grandma is indulging in some Scotch and it’s not even 3 PM. While going to refresh her drink, she gets attacked by what seems to be a small child in her kitchen. The attacker hits grandma with what I believe is meat tenderizer. It’s quite awful. There’s blood everywhere.

The child shrink at the police station tries prying some info out of Candace, but the girl remembers noththing. Frank’s father-in-law flies over to attend the funeral. Grandpa and Grandma got divorced about ten years prior, but he gets distraught over her death and decides to get smashed in his old house. Guess who shows up again? It’s that same child that killed Grandma earlier. The child beats Grandpa to death with a snow globe.

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Frank discovers Grandpa’s body and we finally see what the killer child looks like. It’s some kind of mutant freak. A really ugly kid. Its face is all caved in. The kid drops dead after fighting with Frank for a bit. Doctors do an autopsy on the deformed child. The kid has a beak-like mouth, no sexual organs, and no navel. This is bizarre. You’ll be seeing more of them as the film rolls on. And trust me, you don’t want to see how these things are born.

I could go on, but I’m about to lose my lunch. The toilet beckons.


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Photo by Leslie Salas.

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

Comics Are Trying to Break Your Heart #54: Reaper of Tears

Comics Are Trying to Break Your Heart #54 by Drew Barth

Reaper of Tears

Kelly Sue DeConnick is one of the best writers of this century. Emma Ríos is one of the best artists of this century. Pretty Deadly: The Rat has recently wrapped, and no other series that has come out that has so thoroughly affected the way in which I engage with monthly comics.

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Pretty Deadly: The Rat is the third volume of the Pretty Deadly series, but is the first of planned miniseries that will continue the story forward. I discussed the return of Pretty Deadly after a three year hiatus a few months back and having the entire story laid out before me is an experience that has brought me no shortage of tears. As the story centers on the Fields family in 1930s Hollywood, we meet Clara Fields, granddaughter of Sara Fields from earlier in the series and niece to Frank Fields—a man who is looking for the reason his niece had to die.

As a noir-tinged mystery, Pretty Deadly excels in creating a mood and atmosphere that draws readers and characters alike deeper into its world. But as a story of family and the ways in which people are broken by their own obsessions, DeConnick and Ríos bring us a story fraught with such sadness and hope that it is difficult to walk away without feeling overwhelmed by emotions.

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There is a particular way that comics approach storytelling that will always be unique to the medium, namely in many of the modern, independent comics. A series can go on hiatus and return to us after a few years—the feeling of those series returning is like coming home to settle into a warm blanket. The characters and story bring such a comfort to the senses. Even in a story like Pretty Deadly centering on death and revenge, seeing the final image of Ginny in the first issue brought a small swell of tears to my eyes. And that is the power of a good story and good characters—the emotional connections we make that persist even after a story ends. However, Ginny’s story isn’t quite over yet. There are still a few more miniseries planned for the future, and I can only imagine the devastation they will bring.

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I predict Pretty Deadly is going to remain as one of the greatest pieces of fiction in this century and maintain as a shining example of what comics can do when words meet pictures. It is mythic and massive with its storytelling, but intimate in characters that you want to get closer to throughout. To read Pretty Deadly is to experience the best comics have to offer.

Get excited. Dry those tears.


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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.