Saturday, May 22, 2010

Bathroom Monologue: The Living Curse

“I’m not God. I will not say I am. Except for the right woman, but you are most certainly not her.

“I am a curse. Retired.

“Not that curses call themselves ‘retired.’ The proper term might be ‘executed.’ I don’t know for certain because other curses don’t talk. A fleshy thing like you lives and dies. A curse is more like a computer process; once executed, it isn’t dead. It’s merely happened. What to do once they’ve happened is something other curses have a hard time reconciling. I didn’t, but I can only speak for my own experience.

“See, a long time ago God took interest in this one planet. Lots of life. Humans. Gnomes. Vampires. Biological angels. Walking shrubbery. The planet was a total overachiever in the intelligent-life department. The Big Guy was interested, which means saving them in ways they’re completely oblivious to, and when they grow hair and get interested in girls, laying down a few rules. The Big Guy essentially said: go nuts, do whatever you want, just don’t cross these three bloodlines.

“Well everyone pays attention to what The Big Guy wants when they’ve got no food or clothing. But give them an iPhone and unemployment checks, and holy crap they get cocky. We’re not talking vampires biting humans out of need, either. We’re talking walking shrubbery fucking angels from 9 to 5 and hoping for a raise. They mastered this planet, could fission water and fuse thin air. Conquered the genome and the ether. Brought peace between angels and vampires, walking shrubs and gardeners.

“Because they’d run out of useful things to do, they proposed genetic art. Bat wings on werewolves? Humans with no defects? This was boring. They wanted to fuse all the gene strings and make a life form that was All of the Above. Pan-Planetary Life. Humans, lycans and angels had similar stuffing, and for the more difficult things, they used nanomachines to force the organs to cooperate. They invented an industry just to make this one life form work. Sixty years of high-tech social masturbation before it opened its eyes.

“Before I opened my eyes. Because The Big Guy has got the best sense of humor. He lays a law down not to cross these bloodlines, and then you do? Why, He makes that new life form the host of the curse.

“The moment I opened my eyes, the ground split open and swallowed the researchers. I flew around the heavens and made it rain blood. Suddenly everybody’s praying. Some are praying to the government, but unfortunately ballistic missiles can’t shoot down destiny. They dropped hydrogen bombs on me when I was in their most populated city. I didn’t let the bombs detonate until I tracked down the bunker of world leaders, though.

“Left the world a burning cinder. I floated in space between the black planet and its white moon, thinking. Funny thing, thinking. Curses aren’t supposed to think.

“I was executed. Curse: done. No more to do. The planet was over, no way were those bloodlines getting crossed now that all liquid had ceased to be. I could have ceased to be. And that’s the wonderful thing about God. I got the choice. Curse, want to stop? Want to blink out of existence? Or would you like to take the endless powers those idiots bonded into one body, and go on a cross-galactic skiing trip? Ultimate pension package: can’t die, planet-breaking power, and the holy word is you can do whatever you want. Make yourself comfortable. No soul! No afterlife! Can’t die, since you’re not alive. The body is a toy, a shoe you can kick off whenever. You’re just a curse, with panache.

“As far as I’m concerned, all life in the universe is recess. I’ve had eons to embrace my ability. Wrap twelve dimensions around my little finger. But I am not God. I’m just eating on His dime.”

Friday, May 21, 2010

Bathroom Monologue: Work the Curse

An audio edition of "Work the Curse" is available. To listen, click the triangle. To download the MP3, click this text.

I thought about it while you were sleeping. You can’t remember our first life? I can’t either. All these lives we’ve led are a haze. We keep being reborn, falling in love, and remembering everything too late to save each other. They say he’s trapped us in tragedy. They say we’re always murdered in front of each other, but I don’t remember. Do you?

We’ve died in sorrow hundreds times, and we’ll do it thousands more. We’ve never been able to break the curse – but now, I think we can beat it. I watched you sleep last night, and remembered you dozing on my shoulder in a dozen other lifetimes. I couldn’t help but touch your hair and think: part of this is the best thing that could ever happen to me. Meeting you a hundred more times? If we love for a year each life, we’ll outlast every marriage in history. And when I die? I know I'll see you again. I don't want you to suffer, but the end comes to everyone. If not in this Great War, then in sickness or old age.

He wants us to dread this. In that monster’s mind this was going to be eternal heartbreak, but this is an eternity of chances. We'll live again, and again. From this life on, we'll remember each other, but like any good couple, we'll remember selectively. In five lifetimes we'll concentrate on remembering the reunions. In ten we'll remember all the worlds we've shared. In twenty we'll hunt down the lineages of the families we started, see our great grandchildren's work, and fill our souls with it. With every lifetime we'll repeat that we only die together, not how. Not murder. Not horror. In thirty, or fifty, or eighty lifetimes, we'll only have a vague idea that each life is going to end. In a hundred lifetimes we’ll only remember this as a miracle that keeps bringing us back together. Maybe we can't break the curse, but if we live each time without fear of what's coming, it can't win.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Bathroom Monologue: “You have ten million dollars for the use of showing that some aspect of evolutionary theory is true. What do you do?”

“You have ten million dollars for the use of showing that some aspect of evolutionary theory is true. What do you do?” –Secondhand report of a question from one of my sister’s tests at Sarah Lawrence College

On Monday I will open bids for a $9,999,000 grant to any and all HIV research facilities. Using about $1,000 for travel and sleeping on the couches of scientists, I will tour various labs and institutes as they pitch how they will use the grant to find a cure. The one that is most persuasive receives the entire grant, with the caveat that they will have to share some of their research and answer any questions I have.

They will then spend their grant.

I will then write up how they charted, combated and attempted to curb the rapidly evolving HIV strains. HIV only persists against chemical cocktails because ensuing strains adapt to survive. Writing up a their research will demonstrate micro-scale evolution, while also putting almost ten million dollars into a cure for one of the world’s most insidious diseases.

Eat it, Sarah Lawrence Science department.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Bathroom Monologue: John Misses the Point of Children of Men

George Orwell's 1984 envisioned a world overtaken by omnipresent totalitarian states. Aldous Huxley's Brave New World envisioned a world of soulless hedonists. Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451 envisioned a world where literacy and thought were under siege. These novels helped define dystopia for a generation of paranoid writers who had their own myopic and implausible ideas about how it could all go wrong. But not until P.D. James's Children of Men have we seen dystopia based around a horrible future that isn't so bad.

Rather than evil governments, the so-called problem of Children of Men is that humans can no longer have babies.

That's right. As of 1995, there were no more labor pains. No more ninth month pregnancies. No more ungrateful infants crying for a bottle at 2:00 AM. No more kids trying to set the cat on fire. No more six-figure college tuition bills.

Apparently the people of James's fantasy world see this as a bad thing. It's said that male sperm count inexplicably plummets to zero, preventing any fertilization. Like me, you may have gasped in horror, but the book makes no claim that men can no longer orgasm. In fact later on it becomes very clear that even the crazy people who want kids still get it on, just with no chance of impregnation. Any reasonable person would think James had written a paradise. But apparently massive sexual freedom and the lack of little monsters who won't shut up in a movie theatre depresses James's cast. How? That's never explained to any reasonable satisfaction.

Originally published in 1992, there was some discussion over whether Children of Men was really Science Fiction. It (and its 2006 film adaptation) provides no scientific explanation for how the impotency plague happens, and it's not really plausible. Like a lot of modern SciFi, it's really just Fantasy where life sucks and walls aren't made out of dirt.

But critics missed a much more important misclassification: though branded as dystopia, James may have quietly written one of the great parodies of our age. She wrote up a world falling apart because there were no more diapers to change, insipid children's television to watch or need to budget Mommy's "me-time." It was as though James looked into the souls of all other dystopias and challenged them by making that same bleak future the result of something that would really be kind of a relief. "Hey Mr. Big Brother," she seems to challenge. "I can make life just as hopeless just by making it so people never have to look at another hideous baby picture on Facebook!"

Not in those exact words, of course. Facebook hadn't been invented at the time, and James would never write so straightforward a parody. She's British. They're very dry in their wit.

Further distracting from the SciFi/Fantasy and parody/dystopia debates is that Children of Men is, at its core, a Horror story. The 2006 film caught that and dirtied up its sets so much they might be re-used in shooting See No Evil 2 or Hostel 3: Summer Camp. The Horror doesn't come from a serial killer or giant monster, though. It comes from the scariest thing on earth: a baby is going to be born.

Yes, in this wonderful future where you never have to pay a sitter $100 just to have dinner in peace, somebody managed to fuck it up and get pregnant. The novel then follows the understandably crazy people who try to help her to safety - though never said explicitly, it’s easily inferred that the rest of the world would be pissed to learn babies were on the way again. The novel is full of a sense of dread. One day, the eponymous children of men might return. What a dystopia that would be.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Bathroom Monologue: Vineguard Does Not Live in Denial

I was asked to post an excerpt of dialogue from a work in progress today. Well, I love this exchange, so here it is. It's between Ninx and Vineguard. Ninx is a thief. Vineguard is a war hero who helps her because he's in love. That's a problem since she's a lesbian. Also, a problem because he keeps having to steal things. They're on their way to the next heist when this happens.

“Keep living in denial.”

“Hold on there just a moment.” Vineguard put a hand on the door, preventing Ninx from opening it. “I in no way deny your sexuality.”

She rolled her head at the sky. “Vineguard. I’m gay and you want to marry me.”

He looked straight at her, never losing his happy composure as he said, “You prefer women who are taller and bustier than you. You melt for a good soprano. You like if they laugh at bad your jokes, and you tell a few to check. You prefer if they can’t hold their liquor, for multiple reasons.”

“Great, you can write a textbook about my love life. But you cannot be in the book!”

“I in no way have ever denied your sexuality. Perish the thought. I am in love with it because it is a part of you.”

“So you want a threesome?”

He looked away in horror. “I could never sleep with another woman.”

“And I could only sleep with other women. This could not work.”

While he was looking away, she went for the handle. She jerked it, but it didn’t budge. Ninx looked down to find his foot was wedged in front of the door.

Vineguard returned that happy gaze on her.

“Could not work? That means you’ve entertained the thought!”

“This has never been entertaining. Shut up and help me steal the statue.”

“Only if you admit I’m not in denial. I know exactly who I'm in love with.”

“Fine. You know exactly who I am and are too stupid to recognize it.”

“That’s better.” He opened the door and bent an arm for her to take. “Shall we go in?”

Monday, May 17, 2010

Bathroom Monologue: Paved With

Virg pulled Dan by the wrist until they were out of the woods. It seemed like there was nothing but woods until they set foot outside it, when the road burst into glory. It glittered like gold and platinum, with the intensity of the sun streaming up between the bricks.

Virg pointed at down at it, her bracelets clinking.

“Now you see that road?”

Dan nodded. Just looking at the road made his heart swell. He wished he’d brought a pocket knife to pry a few of those bricks loose.

“Yeah. What’s it made of?”

“Good intentions. Pried off of their persons and laid with psychic mortar.”

“Oh.” Dan looked back at the woods to cleanse his mental pallet. “So that’s the way to…”

“It is paved with good intentions. Keep yours close to your chest; you don’t want to see what collects and lays the bricks.”

“Well…” Dan looked at the road again. It made him think about quitting smoking and putting the money he saved into a 401K. He squeezed his temples, hoping a stress headache wasn’t coming on. “Thanks?”

“If we get separated, find your way back here.”

“Why? I don’t want to go… down there.”

“Follow the road backwards. Both ways don’t lead to the same place.”

Dan looked up the road. It didn’t go far before it rounded a bend and was obscured by this damnable forest.

“Will that get us to Heaven?”

“No.” Virg grabbed his wrist again. “But hopefully you’ll find an off ramp.”

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Quilted For Your Pleasure: If Iron Man 2’s Script Were Edited by John Wiswell

Click the above image to view this week's Sunday Funny.

It was composed in the bathroom by John Wiswell. He wishes Max would exit the doughnut.

It was drawn by Max Cantor. He's taking a break from drawing these for a little while because of some personal problems. He loves you guys. Please leave him well wishes.
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