Episode 488: Mixtape #15 (Sailing an Ocean of Violets in Bloom)!

Episode 488 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).

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.


Episode 488 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 #369: There’s Always Vanilla

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The Curator of Schlock #369 by Jeff Shuster

There’s Always Vanilla

No, there isn’t.

I had to bring Edwige, my kangaroo companion, to the vet. She was foaming at the mouth and acting all out of sorts. The vet asked me if she had eaten into anything strange. I told her I was feeding Edwige smarties, beef jerky, and a bit of Red Ripple to wash it all down. She threatened to call the authorities and I warned her that a small town in Saskatchewan is depending on me for survival. She gave me a diet plan for Edwige and warned me against feeding Edwige beef jerky and alcohol. I guess that means Smarties are still okay.

This week’s Arrow Home Video release is 1971’s There’s Always Vanilla from director George Romero. That’s right. This is the Night of the Living Dead guy. Anyway, he didn’t just make horror movies and There’s Always Vanilla is a little slice-of-life movie.

It’s not good.

Romero himself thought the finished movie was a disaster. I don’t like to rag on Romero. The dude directed Creepshow. Full stop.

There’s Always Vanilla is a movie about the wayward youth of the baby boomer generation. The movie begins with crowds commenting on a bizarre sculpture of a giant machine with wheels and widgets. The machine doesn’t actually do anything. Some onlookers think it’s fantastic and a great commentary on the modern world. Other onlookers think it’s a travesty and a sad commentary on the modern world.

The machine is a creation of a Vietnam vet named Chris Bradley (Raymond Laine), a directionless youth  who smokes pot and pontificates on the absurdity of life. He goes to go-go bars, tries to get his dad laid at a go-go bar, smokes more pot, and crashes at the apartment of a woman named Sam who may or may not be the mother of his child. Also, Chris’s dad can still “cut the mustard.” I don’t know what that means.

Oh, and there’s a young model named Lynn (Judith Streiner) that stars in beer commercials and gets ogled by sleazy producers. She bumps into Chris at a train station and love is in the air. Chris tells Lynn that her butt is too big for TV and before you know it, the two of them are sleeping together. Lynn takes the relationship very seriously, but Chris takes nothing seriously. She wants him to go to college or get a job or something. This might have something to do with the fact that she’s pregnant.

Chris tells Lynn that he probably has a kid with some other woman. This causes Lynn to seek a back alley abortion with a seedy doctor, but she gets scared and can’t go through with the procedure. She moves out of her apartment and disappears on Chris. He visits with his dad and gets some fatherly advice. He tells him about all the ice cream flavors that are seemingly available at a Howard Johnson’s, but when all is said and done, there’s always vanilla. Huh?

Excuse me. I need to watch something that has zombies ripping the entrails out of a screaming biker gang member.


Photo by Leslie Salas.

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

Comics Are Trying to Break Your Heart #138: A Chainsaw Heart

Comics Are Trying to Break Your Heart #138 by Drew Barth

A Chainsaw Heart

It’s been a while since I last talked about manga, so let’s change that. In the early days of this blog/article/scream into the void I talked about Shonen Jump’s digital reader app and all of the content available there. It was around this time that I first spotted a series in its first couple chapters that seemed like it could be interesting: Tatsuki Fujimoto’s Chainsaw Man. But, after reading those first couple chapters, I failed to keep up. This wasn’t any kind of mark against the manga’s quality, I was just busy with a new job. As the series ended back in January, I was able to catch back up.

Chainsaw Man is one of the most shonen series I’ve read since browsing through the first volume of Naruto in middle school. It’s the story of Denji, a sixteen year old, and his pet devil dog, Pochita. Denji needs to earn money to pay off his dead dad’s debt to the yakuza and the only way he can get cash quick is by killing the devils that have been popping up all over Japan. On a hunt, though, his heart is ripped out by a devil and Poochita jumps in to takes it place—thus creating a human-devil hybrid that has yet to be seen since devils started popping up. The titular Chainsaw Man proceeds to rip and tear his way through every devil put in front of him in the most bloody and violent way possible.

This violence is a mask. Fujimoto has crafted a shonen manga where the blood leaking from every page greases the gears of working class oppression. After becoming the Chainsaw Man, Denji is brought in to work for a governmental agency, the Public Safety Division, that hunts devils. For three meals a day and a place to sleep, he’ll jump into any suicidal situation as long as his boss, Makima, tells him to do so. When we’re not being treated to fights, we’re given the stories of what Denji and the other members of Public Safety deal with—insecurity of money and life, the ways in which their jobs grind them down into devil fodder, how many of them simply don’t have a future. But they have to accept it. For many of them, there is no other life outside of Public Safety except for homelessness and destitution. It is a job that leads them all along until they can’t go back to normal life.

What starts out as a particularly violent series about a kid trying to kill devils becomes a critique on the conditions of the working class in Japan. Fujimoto knows shonen well enough that he can draw in a reader with his splash pages of blood, but keeps them coming back for the ways in which his characters become more and more relatable as we see what their jobs do to them. We want to see a hero here win, not because we want to see a devil defeated, but because maybe this one will let them get what they want out of life.

Get excited. Get chained.


Drew Barth at Miami Book Fair in 2019.

Drew Barth (Episode 331 & 485) is a writer residing in Winter Park, FL. He received his MFA from the University of Central Florida. Right now, he’s worrying about his cat.

Episode 487: Todd James Pierce!

Episode 487 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).

In this week’s show, I talk to Disney historian Todd James Pierce about how Covid-19 and the home streaming of entertainment might affect the future of visual storytelling, plus we discuss his current historical work on Disney Legend John Hench.

TEXTS DISCUSSED

Ward Kimball

Three Years in Wonderland

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 Todd’s site and podcast, The Disney History Institute.


Episode 487 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 #368: The Red Queen Kills Seven Times

The Curator of Schlock #368 by Jeff Shuster

The Red Queen Kills Seven Times

Because eight times would be gauche. 

I made it through the Canadian border. I had to tie Edwige, my kangaroo companion, up in a potato sack so as to avoid the peeping eyes of the authorities. Edwige was none too pleased, but I bought her a box of Smarties so we’re good. Now, which way to Saskatchewan?

This week’s Arrow home video release is 1972’s The Red Queen Kills Seven Times from director Emilio Miraglia. This was included in Arrow’s Killer Dames collection along with The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave. The movie begins with two little girls, Kitty and Evelyn, getting into a fight after Evelyn steals Kitty’s doll. The two little girls are sisters and there is a family curse that states every one hundred years, one sister will kill the other. Then the dead sister will return from the grave and kill her murderer. Plus, the dead sister will kill six others just for fun.

Fast forward fifteen or so years and Kitty is now an adult played by the lovely Barbara Bouchet. No sign of Evelyn because she’s left for a life in America. We are then introduced to the Red Queen, a mysterious woman wearing a red cloak that stalks her victims with a knife. Incidentally, this is the same woman mentioned in the family curse, the dead sister that murders seven people. She stalks Evelyn’s and Kitty’s grandfather, causing him to die of sheer fright. The Red Queen then laughs maniacally and that freaks me out a bit. I don’t like that too much.

Now, you may find it strange that the Red Queen has surfaced once again since the criteria for the curse requires that one sister would have killed the other, but Kitty is alive and well and Evelyn has started a new life in America. Well, it turns out that isn’t exactly true. Seems that Evelyn was tormenting Kitty for like the one thousandth time and Kitty snapped. Kitty bashed her sister’s head into a stone column before tossing the body into a pond. Then she and two other conspirators, her older sister Franziska (Marina Malfatti) and Franziska’s husband, Herbert (Nino Korda), hid the body.

Kitty is a fashion photographer having an affair with a married man named Martin (Ugo Pagliai). Martin’s wife is locked away in a mental institution. She refuses to grant him a divorce and threatens to murder him. She also claims to have a friend named Evelyn that she converses with on a regular basis. When the Red Queen murders one of Martin’s associates in a park, witnesses describe a woman that looks exactly like Evelyn, but Kitty denies that resemblance as she’s starting to unravel from the stress of it all.

One thing I always find interesting about Giallo movies is how they hint at the preternatural and the paranormal, but these things are only an accent on the story. For instance, is there a family curse? Maybe. Is that curse in effect in this story? Maybe yes or maybe no. Maybe the curse is being used to deflect from what’s really going on. Regardless, it’s creepy as all get out. I’d like to commend Arrow on some great restorations of these four Giallo classics. They were well worth my time.


Photo by Leslie Salas

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

Comics Are Trying to Break Your Heart #137: A Question of Authority

Comics Are Trying to Break Your Heart #137 by Drew Barth

A Question of Authority

Once again, we return. One of the interesting things about superhero comics is how cyclical they can be, given enough time. Almost every creator will have some chance to go back to a series or a character they had worked with before to create something new or to continue a story thought long dead. Seeing the transformation of a creator’s skill between their first and second runs. Or their first and dozenth. In this case, Grant Morrison returns as the writer of a Superman story with Mikel Janín, Jordie Bellaire, and Steve Wands in Superman and The Authority.

In this iteration of Superman, he has been doing the hero thing since the 60s and is one of the only members of the Justice League still alive and operating. The promise of a better world has long since left him behind, but he tries to do what he can as his powers begin to wane in his later years. But with the barriers of the Phantom Zone also diminishing, he needs to build up a team that take over for him once he’s no longer able to save the world. This is where Manchester Black comes in. Former enemy turned into tentative ally, the pair push back the first incursion of Phantom Zone AIs that breach the Fortress of Solitude. From here, The Authority as it is known in this universe, is created.

This isn’t the first time Morrison has worked with a Superman who had been impaired in some way. Their and Frank Quitely’s All-Star Superman had Clark dying of excess sun exposure that both granted him new powers and weakened him incrementally. In their run on Action Comics during the New52 years ago, we were met with a younger Superman who had not fully come into his powers just yet. And with Superman and the Authority, Morrison is treading familiar ground. This is what makes Morrison’s takes on the character so interesting. Power-wise, Superman isn’t up to his typical god-status, but his humanity is still intact no matter what. The powers were never what made a character like Superman resonate over the decades: it’s that spark of goodness and humanity in him that we all can see in ourselves. To see Morrison’s take, this time backed up by the likes of Janín, Bellaire, and Wands, only reinforces their continual idea of Superman being this idealized figure that can epitomize the best of humanity.

This is another beginning for Superman and it’s one that feels interesting for a writer like Morrison. We’re not met with the pure psychedelic weird that we’re used to from their stories—what we’re given instead is a precise focus on what they want this story to be. What it will unfold into is still a mystery as this is only the first issue. However, with Morrison, Janín, Bellaire, and Wands working together, I don’t know how it could be anything besides…super?

Get excited. Get authoritative.


Drew Barth at Miami Book Fair in 2019.

Drew Barth (Episode 331 & 485) 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 Perfect Life #23: On Fartgasms

The Perfect Life #23 by Dr. Perfect

 

Dear Dr. Perfect,

Are fart orgasms real? My granddaughter insists they area, and she keeps sending me TikTok links that I am too afraid to open? Am I missing out?

Nervously yours,

A grandmother who loves but doesn’t understand her granddaughter

————–

Dear kindly grandmother,

Remain guarded against unsolicited TikTok links from your granddaughter. I get Instagram messages all the time from anonymous weirdos, heralding some video that I “just have to see.” Like most messages, I ignore them, even from buxom, scantily clad women, asking if I “want to have some fun.” It’s depressing to think they’re fake accounts, so I just assume I’m naturally desirable and ignore them at my peril.

I confirm that fart orgasms or fart-gasms are a real and natural occurrence. You can trust your granddaughter on that. They’re just one of life’s little comedic joys, reducing our most intimate moments to a Farrelly brothers’ film. During the act of love, flatulence can occur upon reaching an orgasm. This happens when our body’s muscles are relaxed and therefore more susceptible to such outright embarrassment.

There are also flatulencies so gratifying in their release, they can cause unexpected orgasms on their own accord. This causes the subject to lift their head back in euphoric ecstasy, with their eyes rolled and mouth agape, blissfully unaware of what has transpired.

The experience, I’m told, is akin to a sexual orgasm due to the intense, sudden release of gas combined with endorphins to produce a moment of undiluted bliss. Unfortunately, anyone else within range of this phenomenon as it happens is most likely to be repelled and potentially traumatized.

Most high school sex ed classes gloss right over this and leave generations of pimple-faced, pubescent noobs in the dark. And as we know, most sinister things happen in the dark, including fart-gasms. Sex is funny. I get a kick out of all the moaning and slobbering and the eventual look of disappointment when she says, “you’re done already?”

Shakespeare applied his own steamy pen to sex comedies under the guise of “romance” in plays like “Much Ado About Nothing” and “Love’s Labour’s Lost.” In my opinion, nothing quite matches the hilarity of two dimwitted teenagers offing themselves in “Romeo and Juliet,” but for some reason, it’s classified as a tragedy.

If you wish to learn more, read my book, “Dr. Perfect onSex: From the Art of Seduction to the Shame of Regret,” out now from Simon & Schuster. I believe fart orgasms are covered in Chapter Five.

If your granddaughter continues to harass you, you’ll need to take her aside and tell her that you’ve learned all there is to know about sex from your vast collection of erotic fiction paperbacks. This will make her curious. She might pick one up and start reading, only to have her wild expectations about sex remain unfulfilled.

That’s all I really expect from my readers.


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 486: Jan Elizabeth Watson!

Episode 486 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).

In this week’s show, I talk to the novelist Jan Elizabeth Watson about a great many things.

TEXTS DISCUSSED

NOTES

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.


Episode 486 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 #367: The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave

The Curator of Schlock #367 by Jeff Shuster

The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave

That sounds ominous. 

I’m on the road again. I should be hitting that Canadian border any day now. I’ve been trying to get an I-Spy game going with Edwige, but she isn’t too responsive. I guess that’s on account of her being a kangaroo and all. She’s learned how to buckle her seatbelt though. That’s impressive. I don’t suppose one could charge people to watch a kangaroo buckle her seatbelt. I guess that’s not the most exciting animal trick out there.

This week’s Arrow Home Video release is 1971’s The Evelyn Came Out of the Grave from director Emilio Miraglia. This was included in their Killer Dames box set along with The Red Queen Kills Seven Times, a masterpiece I will be covering next week. This movie is a prime example of what I love and find confounding about the Giallo genre. Let’s tear into it.

The movie centers on a Lord Alan Cunningham (Anthony Steffen), a sophisticated English gentleman with a dark secret. The movie begins with him trying to escape a mental institution because he had a breakdown after his wife, Evelyn, died. Next, we see him on a date with a gorgeous prostitute. He takes her back to one of his family’s abandoned manor houses, the kind reeking with dust and cobwebs. He takes her to a clean and furnished bachelor pad within. You might think we’d be getting a passionate love scene, but Lord Alan puts on a black monk’s robe, whips the prostitute, straps her down, threatens her with a branding iron, and then stabs her to death.

Keep in mind that this is our protagonist. I guess we’re expected to excuse this kind of behavior due to Lord Alan’s obsessing over his deceased, red-headed wife. This is why Lord Alan kidnaps red-headed prostitutes. He’s haunted by visions of Evelyn running around in what looks like the garden of Eden with another man. His cousin, George (Enzo Tarascio)  suggests he take out a stripper named Susan (Erika Blanc). Lord Alan does so and brings her back to the torture chamber, but Susan manages to escape. Lord Alan also has to contend with a groundskeeper named Albert (Roberto Maldera) that takes bribes to keep quiet about Lord Alan’s late night activities. Albert also raises foxes. And Lord Alan has an ascot collection, in case you were curious.

That detail made my editor really happy for reasons passing understanding.

Lord Alan’s doctor, Richard Timberlane (Giacomo Rossi Stuart), suggests he get married again to get Evelyn out of his head. While attending a swinging party with George who happens to be wearing a hoop earring on his left ear because why not, Lord Alan meets a beautiful woman named Gladys (Marina Malfatti) that he instantly falls for. Lord Alan takes her to bed, asks her to marry him, and before you know it, they’re happily married. Also, Gladys is a blonde so no more fits of tortuous rage.

Lord Alan’s Aunt Agatha (Joan C. Davies) approves of her nephew’s new bride and has hired a bunch of blonde maids to serve their every need. Aunt Agatha is wheelchair bound, but that doesn’t stop her from getting up and sneaking around. Plus, she’s having a torrid affair with groundskeeper Albert. The two of them die horribly. Lord Alan gets committed  when he sees his beloved Evelyn come out of the grave one night. And the twists keep coming. Expect poisonings, stabbings, and an incident involving sulphuric acid. Good times!


Photo by Leslie Salas.

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

Comics Are Trying to Break Your Heart #136: Pointing Fingers

Comics Are Trying to Break Your Heart #136 by Drew Barth

Pointing Fingers

Do you use finger guns to point things out with a little extra flair or do you point them at one another over Zoom meetings in a bout of cowboy euphoria? Either way, they’re functionally useless—an aesthetic choice more tedious the more frequently we do it. But what if an innocuous point could do something? That’s what Justin Richards, Sabs Cooper, Val Halvorson, Rebecca Nalty, and Taylor Esposito have created with Finger Guns—the kind of series that lets us know exactly what would happen if the world could be changed by pointing a finger gun at someone.

Finger Guns, as a story, is about Sadie and Wes. Each of them have different degrees of difficulty with their home lives—violent and isolated, respectively—and both have the ability to change someone’s emotion simply by pointing a finger gun at them. How did they get these abilities? Don’t worry about it. Look instead at the fact that some high school kids can point their fingers and make someone either calm or enraged at a whim. And while that does seem a volatile mix of chaos, Sadie and Wes don’t use their abilities to wreak any kind of havoc. Sadie uses her ability to calm her frequently enraged father and Wes only experiments on himself or with Sadie so they can see what their finger guns can really do.

At its core, though, Finger Guns is a series about blame: who gives it, who takes it, and the consequences of those choices. The image of the pointed finger throughout the story is no aesthetic coincidence. Sadie and Wes can point their fingers—at other people or themselves—as much as they want to, but they learn throughout the series that pointing doesn’t solve everything. Or, really, anything at all. When Sadie’s father begins to become immune to the finger gun’s calming effect, she begins to point in every which way she can. She blames the people at her school, Wes, and herself. And even when her finger is severed by her father’s rage, she still points her ailing finger gun on herself as though she has nothing to offer the world except misery.

Finger Guns is the kind of series you need to sit with for a moment after finishing the last page. It’s another story from Vault Comics that ends, but keeps itself open for another volume to come out in the future. But as it stands, Richards, Cooper, Halvorson, Nalty, and Esposito have crafted a comic with a straight-forward image tying the whole concept together and have explored it to some of its furthest extremes. And even still, they’ve left it open enough to return and give these characters a kind of closure that just pointing fingers can’t fully give.

Get excited. Get pointing.


Drew Barth at Miami Book Fair in 2019.

Drew Barth (Episode 331 & 485) 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.