Saturday, November 24, 2007

Bathroom Monologues: "What are you up to, John?" -Generic Friend

"Some pretentious asshole said, “The man that cannot visualize a horse galloping on a tomato is an idiot.” So now I'm listing the ways it could happen. I'm up to six. I don't know why I'm taking this so personally, but I'll show him I'm not an idiot."

Bathroom Monologue: “The man that cannot visualize a horse galloping on a tomato is an idiot.” -Andre Breton

-A horse shot with a shrink ray, such that it fits on the surface of the tomato; an optional gravitational field generator may replace the seeds, so that the horse can circle the entire tomato.
-A tomato is shot with a growth ray, until you could build a pasture on it, and horses are left to gallop at will.
-For a single step in the gallop, a horse's hoof lands on (and probably crushes) a tomato, thus technically galloping upon it.
-A floating, indestructible tomato levitates and moves at an incredible speed in a chasm as a horse jumps into it. The tomato levitates to every spot where the horse's hooves go down, moving near the speed of light such that it provides nearly simultaneous support to all the limbs at rest, and provides momentary stable points for the legs to propel the horse forward, thus preventing it from falling into the chasm, and allowing it to cross said-chasm.
-A horse gallops across a country that happens to be named "Tomato."
-A horse gallops across a massive painting of a tomato, laid flat on the ground.
-A flea, named "A. Horse," scrambles across a tomato.

Bathroom Monologue: Another moment with Consumer, the Dragon

"These days I serve mostly as a bank. There's no trust safer to leave your gold with than a dragon of my size and reputation. If the reputation doesn't scare them off, I'll eat them. It's a very simple policy. I like the work because mortals have a tendency to die, at which point I default on the contract and keep whatever they left. I got a whole hollow mountain of treasure out of this deal. Only have one customer right now, Ninx Anghell, who never seems to care about picking up her stuff. It's all in the dropping-off for her. She's one of perpetual thieves, you know. Like a compulsive shopper without the credit card. Ambitious as Hell, too. I'm using a golden roof for a pillow right now that I have no idea how she managed to steal. The charge to open her account was simple: seven old television sets. Of course we don't get any reception here, but I've got a way of futzing with vacuum tubes. I can tune into Limbo on most of them. How I love watch those unbaptised babies float."

Bathroom Monologue: Doubt in the Right Direction

I worry too much. One of the things I worry about is that I'm too post-modern. According to some critics, it's the only real literary field today. True, I am writing after Homer, Milton, Shelly, Steinbeck and Welty. But four out of those five authors were writing after Homer, too. Is it that all of us non-Homers are derivative, and I'm just more honest to have the king of my fictional country bear his name? Or am I, as I worry, ridiculously untalented and lack all creativity except the most fundamental level, the one that keeps me from sitting next to a pond and eating flies for the rest of my life? I doubt myself, because doubting is what a writer does. All good writers doubt themselves (except Homer, who we doubt existed), and most successful post-modern writers seem to bank on doubting others. This generation is very good at doubting, and naming names. It's bad enough that we have that intellectual grandmother and emotional widow Virginia Woolf hovering over our shoulders, telling us that there are no original plots, while her back-up singers of masturbatory critics sing about how it's "all been said before." I get it, I'm not the first person to see a hurricane or to appreciate Bach and Jimmy Eat World (okay, maybe the first to appreciate Jimmy Eat World), but I did experience a hurricane for the first time only recently, and there are people newer to living than me around here, so that means there is a healthy group of people who haven't experienced and appreciated various things yet (and by the popularity of sex in this culture, plenty more are coming). So I guess I worry about doubting because while all good writers doubt themselves, a lot of people who doubt themselves ought to, and worse, if I should escape doubt, I ought to worry if I'm no good and just annoying. I'd hate to wind up as another Woolf back-up singer.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Bathroom Monologue: Trolls Like

Trolls may be extremely dumb, but they do like some things. They like marshmallows, usually to squish between their toes. They like Dwarfs, who are their creators; no matter how lost a Dwarf is, he or she will always have something menial for his or her Troll to do. Trolls love menial things. The only complicated thing Trolls seem to enjoy is tormenting Gnomes. We can't really say why, but Trolls can always be relied upon to nip Gnome Homes and wear them as hats, or pester Gnomish doctors on their way to a needy patient, or abduct the tallest Gnome available and use it in an impromptu game of tabletop football (with lots of unnecessary field goal attempts). Some chalk it up to an ancient grievance, but this is generally ruled out because Trolls can barely keep track of the time of day, let alone grasp a sense of history. Some chalk it up to the deep similarity between Dwarfs and Gnomes, and apply Freudian analysis to the origin of hostilities. They say Trolls are taking out their frustrations with their creators on other wee folk. While most Trolls are too simple to grasp psychoanalysis, one particularly bright Troll, when asked about this theory, said Freud seemed, "quite Gnomish."

Bathroom Monologue: Born Lucky

So you've got these two guys, and they're the luckiest in the world. They've been banned from every casino, not that either of them cares, because by now they're already millionaires. They don't know what causes this luck. Maybe the angel of fortune smiles on them, maybe they live at the end of the probability curve - they don't know and they don't care. And they've never met until one day in the park, when they shake hands and sit down to a casual game of backgammon. They love games, as you would too, if you won that often. To start off the game each rolls a die, with the higher number getting to start. Except they both roll six. And then six again. They tie at five the third time. Then six again. Then three. Then four. Then five. At first they laugh about it, but soon they're angry. How's the other guy doing this? And by the end of the first hour they want to win the opening roll more than they want to play backgammon. By the third hour, I doubt either of them really cares if they get to play backgammon at all. Their wives (far too beautiful for anyone to understand how the lucky bastards snagged them) can't drag them away from the park until 10:00 AM the next morning, and they meet that night to continue their furious streak of ties. And the next night. Then five nights a week. Then weekends, too. And they just can't out-roll the other guy. This gives them all the time in the world to chat. They never leave the backgammon set, so the conversations rarely get interrupted. They talk about everything in their lives until they run out. Then they talk about their families. Then the city. Then soon, the world. When it comes to long conversations about the world, nothing fills nine hours like problems. They discuss every horrible thing they've ever read about. They theorize how everything got that way, and how to fix it. Over the hours together, they show each other how they've been naive and insulated. They're not particularly bright, but they've got more time to talk than bright people. So they wind up with a most elaborate plan for international investment, philanthropy like no other - which will take a lot of money, and even more luck. The plan, and only the plan, gets them to leave the backgammon board. They pack up their things, put on their lucky shoes, and head to Washington, each with a die in his pocket. I'm crossing my fingers for them.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Bathroom Monologue: Fun With Typos

"We shot him out of a canon. That's right. We stuffed him into Chaucer, Shakespeare, Bacon, Milton and Longfellow, ignited the Alexander Pope, and blasted him back to mediocre literature."

Bathroom Monologue: "i cannot find a good first person summary of life for a woman mobster in her 40's" -Jennifer Reed

"I smoke a lot of cigarettes. Don't care if I get throat cancer. I haven't slept with my husband in twelve years. I say I look better in pinstripes than him. I have a large collection of bowler hats, all from men I've off'd for running when they owed me. Oh my God, my hips are spreading."

Bathroom Monologue: John's old Chem teacher tragically asks him to cover his class for a minute

"Yes, uh, Maxwell Planck discovered the, uhm... atom. As well as quantum theory, and the astro-zombie. Really, just a horrible story. They devoured his family right in front of him when he was five. Maybe three. He survived in the wild eating mushrooms and recycled text books. Later the astro-zombies returned to the stars, around the time that he found advanced wave mechanics on the back of an old matchbook, hence revolutionizing the world paradigm of science, insofar as we approach the, uh, theories of relativity, bodies in motion, and I think he helped thwart the Nazis, actually, with the awesome force of Planck's Constant... and I'm sure Mr. Kochanov can take it from there."

Bathroom Monologue: Yeah, I hate Warcraft cities

North of Angstopia and Mom'sbasementland, west of Pork Haven and the Mallow Marshes, just on the border of the great city-state of Thatsmellia, lies the home of magicians specializing in weather control: Brokenwind. Do not confuse the wizards of Brokenwind with Meteorologists; they neither summon meteors nor predict the weather. It's a bitter, stormy town, constantly a-brew with loud thunder. Its streets cannot be traveled, due to the constant gusts and gales that send every loose cloth a-flutter. The potent ingredients necessary for such dark wizardry have stained the buildings a permanent, decayed brown. You can always tell if you near this unhappy hole in civilization, because of the sulfuric smell.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Bathroom Monologue: Lucky Stripes

There are five universes, for the five times God hit His lighter while trying to ignite a cigarette. The first four universes are sparks; we are the fourth and final failed try on the lighter. The fifth and successfully smoked universe is very nice, but real estate prices are unreasonable. The further you go back on the lit universes, the less God is paying attention. The Golden Rule here in the fourth universe is, "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." Very nice. In the fifth and successfully smoked universe, there isn't even a golden rule - everyone just gets it. In the third attempt at the lighter, we see the Golden Rule is, "Stop doing that!” With the second universe's being, "Leave me alone, I'm writing," and first's being, "It'll never heal if you don't stop picking." Philosophers hypothesize that there may be a 0th universe from the hypothetical thought God experienced when He first reached for His lighter. There the Golden Rule is, "Why did I marry Her in the first place?"

Actually more of a While I Was Making Tuna Monologue

It is with heavy heart and deep embarrassment that I confess a few typos, errors and outright lesions in logic from my late autobiography. As no biographers have caught these mistakes yet, I figured I should own up and point them out.

-I never installed a lawnmower-style ripcord in my liver. I wrote that thinking I was going to get one the following year, but instead the surgeon sort of ran away with one of my kidneys. I’m sure you’ve all heard about what happened afterwards anyway. Thanks Oprah.

-The infamous three shadowy figures who often played strip poker in my basement during that well-storied Summer of 2011 can now be revealed: Jerry Falwell, Umberto Eco and Hugo Chavez. For those who are still curious, Chavez was the one nicknamed “Curls.”

-To settle the controversy, it is my sixth, not my fifth novel, which is a palindrome. I thought the heroine’s name (Aningo Delafante) would clue you in.

-In 2023, I did not create my own freakish Frankenstein-like creature from the remains of various actresses who I thought gave me looks from the movie screen, nor was it in 2023 that this creature (Marilyn McHayek) and I conquered Bolivia using only a dull shovel and a pack of expired Marlboro cigarettes. That was 2024.

-I did indeed collapse from an overdose in 2026, in the lobby of my fortress in Bolivia. However, this was not from an overdose of prescription medication or illegal drugs. I was attempting to watch every remake of King Kong, leading up to that night’s premiere of Merriam C. Cooper’s clone’s remake of his original’s original classic. I collapsed during the In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida montage opening of Michael Moore’s documentary-style remake.

-During the famine in the 30’s, I did indeed eat some poisonous mushrooms and did again collapse, in the smoldering remains of what the invading Chinese had left of my Bolivian fortress. It is also completely true that I was nursed back to health by Red Cross officials, despite what I had done to their board of directors. However, I did not get in contact with God as previously claimed. It was actually Charles Darwin, playing a magnificent practical joke that I did not get until a stroke shut off my three cyborg hearts some years later.

-The Epilogue was way off. Way off. In particular the description of Hell was wildly inaccurate. There are far more people there than I was counting on. Also, way more people are laughing, but only in that “I’m at a Wes Anderson premiere and it hurts my brain to watch, but Wes is sitting next to me” sort of way. And, not to spoil anything, the whole “absence of God” will completely blow your mind, sort of an eerie “I’m at a Wes Anderson movie and I actually feel like laughing” vibe, except replace “Wes Anderson” with “God” and “laughing” with “turning into Mr. Magoo, just before his best friend decides to behead him.” Needless to say, you’ve all got a lot to look forward to.

As always, Best Wishes,

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Bathroom Monologue: We're All Carpetbaggers

There’s no creator god like Zecht. Some creator gods are omnipotent and benevolent; most at least care about humanity. Zecht is nothing like the popular modern skyfather. He had snakes for hair, he exhaled storms, and treated rape like a greeting. Old spirits and gods had to trick him into making things. One of my favorites is when Delilah supposedly got him so drunk that he pissed the seas into existence. The ancient explanation for mountains was that once he realized he’d been tricked into inventing land, he kicked the last of the material – our mountains are Zecht’s rumpled carpet.

Bathroom Monologue: Wee People's Armageddon

The gnomes had gone into hiding, nearly made extinct by callous humans two hundred years ago. They had been eaten, trampled, and lost their homes to unexpecting developers who poured their cement wherever they pleased. Environmentalist humans devoted their lives to atoning for the sins of their forefathers, living off the land, using only products that were gnome-safe. They lived around the mountains and forests where the gnomes resided, preventing anyone from coming in and spoiling these gnome-happy lands. Yet the gnomes developed weapons of mass destruction to annihilate the humans anyway, and not for revenge on the developers, not out of grief for the thousands who had been eaten when they got stuck in bags of gummy bears, but because, "those damn, smelly hippies won't leave us alone."

Bathroom Monologue: Mission Statement

I apologize. Sincerely. I never meant it to come to this. I never meant to offend you. I never meant us to meet, and once we did, every time I hurt you, it was without forethought. I apologize for this crippling syndrome I’ve been in for the last thirteen years. I apologize for reading so much, and trying to understand people so much of the time. I apologize for that time a sociopath tried to kill me in ninth grade; I apologize further that he did not succeed; and I apologize most of all for the wide-reaching indignation I began to feel that day, that I have felt ever since. I apologize for being an overactive child; if only I had tried to be more complacent and simple, I would be duller and less offensive to you now. If only things had been different, then they might be different now.

But your breasts are still just bags of meat hanging off of a calcium xylophone. And that’s funny.

Bathroom Monologue: Science: The next final frontier

I don’t find either science or religion to be entirely bad. The scientific method was a very good idea. So was “Thou shalt not murder.” Churches organizing food drives for the poor is a good thing. The Polio vaccine is another. Sometimes religion and science get along: for good with Christian relief workers carrying inoculations, and for evil with Crusaders carrying tempered steel blades. And generally, you can divvy the mysteries of life into the categories of “How” and “Why,” so that each is its own pie. Science is one flavor, and spirituality is another. You can eat from whatever slice you like. Most intelligent people don’t even have trouble mixing the contents of their plates. But when I hear Richard Dawkins not just overstepping his boundaries but claiming manifest destiny over the other half of the intellectual globe, I go into fits of ranting against the very things I love. They’re generally like this:

You see back in the Dark Ages, a select few told the masses what to believe, and how everything was. They decided what was right behind closed doors, coming to conclusions from procedures the masses were never allowed to understand. That was religion then. That’s science now.

There were a lot of ways science attained dominance. One was to become inseparable from war, by inventing nerve gas, armor-piercing bullets and nuclear weapons. If a country wanted to kill effectively, they needed science.

Another step was to become inseparable from disease, treating it, even if the doctor was on too tight a schedule to properly explain the procedure or drug. That was also a foothold to get science into economics, to produce seven pills needed every day instead of a one-shot cure for cancer. Not that it was just medicine. Science produced technologies that have raped the environment for very high dividends.

But the biggest step in science’s dominance was to become unintelligible.

Publishing isn’t a question of moveable type anymore; it’s a question of how many printed copies a retailer can move. Priests and monks can’t keep the Bible from the masses. The educated opinion of experience is available to anyone who is literate, and there are free nationwide programs to teach people to read from childhood. So how does science keep you ignorant? One method is having your Daniel Dennett’s and Stephen Jay Gould’s write in so much jargon, write so densely that even though you've spoken English all your life, you don’t know what’s being said. They throw charts, equations and references at you, such that even though you paid $26 for this thin paperback, it will sit on your shelf, half-read and every bit as useless as if it were written in ancient Greek and Hebrew. There is so much bad science writing that colleges don't even try to teach scientists proper writing anymore, but rather they get students accustomed to reading it, which in turn gets them to write it. And it's not just murky language and the overuse of needless jargon. Every damn book is full of more uncriticized and unexplained references to other books you haven’t read, seldom properly explaining that material, such that you can never piece together an understanding complexity theory or string theory or why oxygen (a gas at room temperature) and hydrogen (a gas at room temperature) combine to form water (a liquid at room temperature that is the foundation of life on this planet). The books that manage to "dumb it down" tend to get things gapingly wrong, leave out huge pieces of their subject matter, or (the sadly increasing trend) sensationalize things to be in some way wildly offensive, since that's where the money is in non-fiction these days.

It’s in part because scientists don’t understand it all, that no scientist knows “it all” yet; but more than that, it’s because they’re keeping you, me, and the rest of us in the dark, in an artificial dimness of ignorance and poor articulation. That way you won’t be able to protect yourself against the next pill that may ruin your life when it’s supposed to help you sleep. That way you can live quietly as one in the masses in a dark age of enlightenment. You’ll pay a tithe to an insurance company, a tithe to the pharmacy, and if you want plenary indulgence, you have to take out student loans and spend years of your life in the new monasteries at Oxford, MIT or John’s Hopkins, where you’ll be taught that you don’t need the opiate of the people if you can just prescribe opiates. And that’s a weird investment when you consider that this faith has no afterlife -- you’re spending a hefty slice of what time you have alive trying to understand what these megalomaniacs have been coding during their various tenures at such-and-such governmentally-endowed New-Church-of-Screw-the-Dumb-People. I don’t know if it’s revenge for them getting beaten up in Middle School, or if it’s a great aphrodisiac, or if it makes them feel special, but it’s an oppositional force to understanding, and we shouldn’t have to take intelligent people aside and explain to them the pain that ignorance causes. Not today.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Bathroom Monologue: "Do you have any specialties?" -Generic Interviewer

I'm not gay, but I am a white American, so I'm an expert at getting offended on behalf of others. If somebody says a word I don't know and a black guy so much as frowns, I disapprove automatically. If somebody says Israel is responsible for the problems in the Middle East, I demand that anti-Semite resign, regardless of his job. I don't hate originally - I hate those who hate, where appropriate. I hate the KKK, not Mexican coyotes; I think chauvinism is obscene, but feminism is empowering. I know my place. You think "manhole cover" is sexist? I'll start a petition. You think "No Shirt, No Shoes, No Service" is a Jim Crow law? I'll march on Washington with you. Together we will purge this nation of all its unacceptable bigotry. The acceptable bigotry, which seems overwhelmingly aimed at me, can stay so long as it’s not bothering you. As I said, I know my place, and I'm not alone. There are a lot more people like me than you might think. Heck, half of them don't even notice it.

Bathroom Monologue: Everyone Loves Leveling

The best way to understand a hero-class swordsman is to imagine the Black Plague descending a small town. Got it? Now imagine instead of being a disease, that the Plague is a sword. And now, imagine that instead of God's Cruelty, the sword is wielded by a swordsman. That is roughly what a hero-class swordsman is. Oh, oh, and the small town is actually the enemy cavalry.

Bathroom Monologue: All Play and No Work...

We thought we figured out what was wrong with growing up. It was giving up play for work. The dream, it was said, was to make play into work. “Do what you love.” And we did that, but the problem was that when we made play into work, play became work. It was no longer playing. And the joy of play slowly left the play-work, and it became the same as work-work. The things we liked to do stopped being things we liked to think about. A few of us tried desperately to restore the love to our work, to make it play again. We got fired, or agents stopped calling us back, or our lines were discontinued. So we got together, and we worked. Which is to say, we played together. And we had no money, and we got quite hungry, but we had a darn good time.

Bathroom Monologue: Short stories don't synch well to trailers

To those musicians who whore out their music to movie trailers: congratulations. I envy you. If I could somehow sell my novels or short stories to be reprinted in tune to trailers for five crappy movies for $25,000 a pop, you damn well know I would. Yeah, I know the movie will probably suck. But you’re doing us a service. You’re giving us something good to listen to while the trailer inadvertently shows us how bad the upcoming feature that we’ll never pay $10 to see really is. And the best of you have come up with such simple or sweet rhythms that even the underpaid, brainless studio monkeys can sync video to it. I wonder: do you ever go to the movies you sell out to? Do you ever go to the movies with previews containing your music? You damn sure can afford it. It’d be hilarious if you never do.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Bathroom Monologue: No One Listens, Man

The old stories are dear to me because they have been dear to humanity as far back as we can define ourselves as having been human. They come from a seminal age that's scarcely represented in our art or history. These people didn't have movies, television, radio or books. Not even books, those pesky things you go out of your way to avoid reading. Most of these people never even wrote their names. All they had was what they grew and built. All the stories they had were heard somewhere, then told to each other, over and over again. They sang them while they worked. They whispered them to put their children to sleep. They argued over them while they drank. These stories illustrated their values, carried their hopes, and leant comfort across many years that desperately needed it. The stories were the only things from outside their own lives that the people loved enough to remember and hand down. The ones that made it to us should be treated like your grandmother's wedding ring, except not only earning beloved value from two generations of familial charity, but from a thousand, and from a family that reaches around the planet.

Bathroom Monologue: I wish my professor would say…

"I'll tell you, I love Orcs. Freaking stupid, angry, militaristic, cannibalistic sociopaths who roam in packs of hundreds just to get to the refrigerator; to storm the refrigerator, to defeat and humiliate the refrigerator; to plunder and ravish it until it doesn't have the will for the little light to go on, whether the door is open or shut; and then to get bored and go back to watching TV, in their contented packs of hundreds of thousands of millions. When the rest of the civilized world was either mounting pathetic defense efforts in their Deeps or boarding ships to the West when Sauron made his comeback, all the Orcs of the continent needed was a heads-up. Sauron was going to take over the world? Hell no he wasn't, not if there were hundreds of thousands of millions of Orcs running around. Sure, thousands died in the invasion, but in the end, no amount of power One or a Hundred Rings gave to the Dark Lord could overcome sheer, vile numbers. Their army did the military equivalent of sitting on Mordor. Consider your world saved, you know, as soon as the Orcs got bored of sightseeing around the fire mountains and went home."

Bathroom Monologue: Coming This Fall

Mark Twain: The team needs goofy comic relief. This Southern gentleman already likes to travel, and has a great imagination. Just don’t let him near the team’s finances.

Captain America: It’s been sixty years since World War II, and the guy still gets everything done solely through the use of a shield. His genius will be essential to the team. If he refuses, call Michael Jordan.

Jesus Christ: Every team needs a powerhouse. I’ve heard he has a good moral compass, and even if the rest of his superpowers are somehow cancelled out, he can still take out North Korea with a single phone call to Dad.

Godzilla: Now, if Jesus hasn’t paid his cellphone bill that month, we can always fall back on Godzilla. He’s really turned his life around, and has starred in more movies than anyone, except maybe Dracula. And come on. Godzilla can take Dracula. At worst, Dracula would bite Godzilla, and then he’s got to contend with Vampire Godzilla.

Harriet Myers: So women's groups don't complain. Plus, when she ultimately fails to meet expectations, we can replace her with whomever the Hell we want. I’m thinking Simon Bolivar; I heard one time he flipped out, and totally killed everyone. Either that, or he liberated all of Latin America. I don’t know. I didn’t do so well in A.P. African History.
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