Friday, June 11, 2010

Bathroom Monologue: A Consumer Savage, OR, Taking a Swing at Arthur C. Clarke

Little Tommy yanked on his father’s sleeve in the direction of the boutique. It was so full of color and vibrating gadgets. Peacock feather wands in fanned displays, golden rods and splinters of dragon’s nails. There was a green wand shaped like a glowstick that lit up whenever Tommy looked at it. He didn’t know the shop owner was making it do that; he thought it was destiny.

“But I want a wand! Everybody has one!”

“No.” His father pulled the sleeve free. “You’re going to learn magic the right way.”

“It already does water and fire mancies. I bet it even raises dead animals. We'll save money on pets.” He stamped his sneakered feet. The heels blinked red, an overpriced feature in his father’s opinion. “You’ve got an iPad! What’s the big deal?”

His father turned his long, slender nose down on Little Tommy. He leaned down until the tip of his nose poked the boy's forehead.

“Thomas. Can you tell me the difference between a magic wand and an iPad?”

Little Tommy deliberated. He’d been furious with greed, but now had a dangerous question. If he answered this right, it might earn him a wand like the ones the McGillicuddy twins had.

“Is it the app store?”

His father shook that long nose in disappointment.

“That’s why you can’t have one. Youtube’s made you go stupid.” He seized Little Tommy’s wrist and pulled him from the boutique. "Any sufficiently whored out magic is indistinguishable from technology. Until you can tell them apart, you don’t get either. I’m not raising a consumer savage.”


  1. So much to like here... from the iPad line to the App store re fence. Great social commentary. You know we're in the future when TV is seemingly an old medium and the pop yells at his kid for watching YouTube. Solid stuff, John...

  2. "we'll save on pets" - great line. As was "He didn’t know the shop owner was making it do that; he thought it was destiny"

    This demonstrates the uncanny ability to be intimate father-son one to one personal scale and yet also say so much about society at large. Great achievement in so few words.

    marc nash

  3. Poor Tommy - I'm sure when he's older and wiser he'll appreciate his father's life lessons, but for now... *sulk*

  4. I wouldn't be caught handing an expensive gadget such as an iPad over to an indignant child either. Perhaps one of those twist-off glow sticks? We always used gnarled twigs.

  5. I agree with Bukowski, great social commentary. My favourite part was the "dangerous question". I remember those as a kid. You were sure they were worth so much, but you hardly ever got them right.

  6. Oh my. Daddy, let the boy have a wand. Savage consumer. You're a bad man Wiswell. XD

  7. I enjoyed this, lots of little lines that really stood out... but then that's par on course for your writing, I've come to find! :-)

  8. Marc/Sulci, the destiny one is my favorite line. So glad you liked it. Glad you, David and Anthony liked the social element as well as the personal. I tried to bind them tightly this time.

    Mazz, yup. Decisive sulk time.

    Kil, I was also a big twig boy. For years wooden swords were my prize possessions. Also loved glowsticks.

    AM, you flatter me. Thanks for the kind words.

    Carrie, yes, I guess it is in my character to be mean to children...

  9. Of course it was destiny! :)

    But there's something to be said about learning magic the right way.

    I have seen children walking, running, and blinkering with colorful lights on their heels. Hmmm.

  10. No wand for me, Little Tommy. I can't tell the difference between sufficiently whored out magic and the App Store, either! Me like both. Me want both. But that's the internal consumer savage that I fight constantly. Good on Dad for trying to teach. John, you have a wonderful way of setting forth ideas via dialogue that comes across as story, but is also much more. ~ Olivia

  11. This is really great stuff, John. Nice satire on the times we live in. "Consumer Savage" is the best term I've heard all day, and such a great title.

    Well done, sir, well done.

  12. Marvelous. I use the term "automagic" for things that happen without my knowing or understanding the technology behind them.

  13. Marisa, I don't think those heel lights are magic. But I'm not sure. I have trouble telling the difference sometimes, too.

    Mr. Solender, truncating words. App store, mancy store. It was bound to hit wizardy eventually.

    Olivia, me secretly want both, too.

    Gracie, thank you! It took me a while to come up with the title, but once it came to me I'd have nothing else. I'm glad somebody got a kick out of it.

    Tony, you're part of the problem! It's people like you who keep kids like Tommy from getting their wands. How do you sleep at night?

  14. Delightful spin on Clarke's phrase. I still kind of want an iPad, though. And maybe a magic wand.

  15. As far as I'm concerned, it's all magic to me. I still can't figure out how that little man talking to me got into my cell phone. My definite favorite: "we'll save on pets."

    Small tweak suggestion, although I know you're referring to dad's nose, at first I wasn't clear on what the 'it' was in "it nearly poked him," 'him' being the child.

  16. I bet it even raises dead animals. We'll save money on pets.”

    That line was fantastic, I could just see little Tommy arguing that point with his father. It made for a true laugh out loud moment.

  17. You had me giggling. This was a great piece of work. I loved it!

  18. As always, a ton of great lines, but my favorite was the youtube crack. Loved it. Great story!

  19. I really like this. This is a perfect execution of Clarke's three laws, and only proves that his laws hold true. I really think the blurring of modern technology and magic (or advanced technology as it may be) to be quite surreal. A short piece with a great impact.

  20. A magic way of expressing my constant conversations with my children.It's hard being counter cultural. Loved it!

  21. I remember those trainers with lights in the sole!! Great flash, really good read.

  22. It's like learning to multiply before you use a calulator... :) Gotta do it right.

  23. So many great one-liners here!
    The wand.. must learn how to use it :)

  24. I love the line about saving on pets. The dad was kinda harsh, poor kid. This story makes me want to take my iPad to the Universal Studio's Harry Potter theme park. Consumer savage I must be... Nicely written!

  25. I too, loved "we'll save on pets". Only a kid truly wanting something comes up with such an upside!

    As always, too much fun stopping by... now, am I 101?

    my capcha was 'givering' I liked it here.

  26. Very cute and entertaining piece. Had me giggling throughout!

  27. At the beginning that reminded of the sort of stuff I read as kid, then of course got wrenched (happily) into our own modern age.

    Surely though if there's not an app for actually raising dead pets there'll be one that can instruct you how to do it like a pro - like the cocktail guide ones!

  28. I loved a lot of lines in this story, John. It was a great social commentary of overindulged children of today.

    "I bet it even raises dead animals. We'll save money on pets." That one slayed me. Nothing like the rationalizations of a kid.

    "Any sufficiently whored out magic is indistinguishable from technology..." That was brilliant.

  29. Brilliant. I really liked this.

  30. Valerie, thanks. The play on Clarke's third rule was the genesis of the story. You can still have your iPad - the wizardad has one.

    Kim, can't blame you on the conflation. On Breaking Bad recently the two chemists discussed how it was all still magic to them; one of the best exchanges of the season. Your tweak suggestion is dead on and I've followed it. Thank you!

    Walt, 2mara, Eric - glad I got you to laugh. That's my target.

    Elijah, this isn't a refutation of Clarke. I tried to tuck the themes of all three 'laws' in here. Glad you caught them all and saw them as reflection rather than refutation.

    Virginia, I'm really glad I don't have these conversations often. I feel bad for parents.

  31. Icy, I think those shoes are actually making a comeback.

    Laura, you know it. Times tables before multiplication buttons.

    Michelle, are you taking courses?

    GP, of course the wizardad is harsh. His creator is an ogre who hates children.

    Peggy, you're eternally around 25 to me. Always happy to have you stop by.

    PJ, thanks for visiting! I'll try to keep you giggling, though next Friday's story is more of a deadpan. Luckily Monday's is a laugh heaven - literally.

    Mr. Wee Adventure, the beginning was kind of an accidental composition. I had to fill in the scene, and then it popped out. I'm glad that resonated.

    Alan, that last is the genesis of the story. Took me a little while to phrase it. So glad you liked it.

    Jason, thank you!

  32. Like how you used one of the most important quotes of last century as inspiration here.

    Couldn't help thinking of Mr. Ollivander's shop. Do you think they let students bring iPads to Hogwarts these days? Mr Weasley would cream over one of those. Ewww, not nice imagery.

  33. Yeah, I never got those dangerous questions right either.

    The atmosphere in this story is so modern, so contemporary; yet they speak of magic as though it were as common as YouTube. Interesting world.

  34. Like Donald, I never got those difficult questions right as a child either. I'd love either a wand or an iPad - go on, ask me a question! ;)

  35. Haha! You gave me a good laugh here John!

    Love the idea of knowing the difference between magic and technology. Such a contemporary take on magic. Very inventive! :)

  36. You always do wonderful social commentary through humor. This is another great example. Nice work, John.


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