Saturday, July 31, 2010

Bathroom Monologue: Telepaths Don’t Exist

“He's erased himself. All these years of tampering with our minds, possessing our bodies and turning us against each other – all of it nothing compared to this. Everyone in the world has forgotten who he is. He thinks this is a vacation. Now he can tinker with minds and no one will notice, first because telepathy is hard to detect, and second because they don't know he's out there. His powers are fiction to them, which makes the world his empire. But there's something he didn't count on. Everyone forgetting him also means that if we can find him, nobody will remember what we do to him.”

Friday, July 30, 2010

Bathroom Monologue: Spill Into Oil

It was like an expressionist painting rolling into the shore. Rusty and black blotches roiling in yellowed water. He couldn’t just sit in his car and watch it. He had to leap out and race across the beach, to stand where powder white sand was stained all those new spill colors.

People honked at him for leaving his car in traffic. It didn’t matter that things were so backed up nobody was moving anywhere – he was somebody to be mad at.

He was somebody who stripped off his shirt, revealing pale flab to the afternoon commuters. He kicked his shoes into the stained surf. When he pulled free from his pants, somebody turned a phone camera on him, betting this would get some hits on Youtube.

He held his arms out like he was Jesus about to be crucified on the Gulf of Mexico. Thinning hair fluttered in a reeking breeze. He sauntered into the inky water, letting it color him. It felt like thin plastic, wrapping him in intimate wetness.

People exited their cars to get a better look. Murmurs circled, asking if this was a protest.

He went knee deep. A new wave splashed oil dots across his belly. It obscured the moles and surgical scars. The smell was overpowering. He felt lightheaded and grateful for the fumes.

Another grotesque wave rolled in. He fell forward into it, faceplanting into the ruined tide. Another wave rolled over where he’d been. He didn’t surface.

Three more waves and somebody stepped onto the beach. Ten more waves and somebody dialed the cops. A thousand more waves and the cops showed, flashing red lights glinting off rainbow oil slicks. They never found the man who subsumed into his living oil painting. All that washed ashore were dead fish, mouths still open, as though caught in a gasp of relief.

John is out of town this week. Any comments, retweets or Facebook posts for the story would be appreciated. Please leave a link to your blog so he can read your material once he gets back. Happy summer, and be careful swimming!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Bathroom Monologue: Making Over Math

"Ask yourselves: what problem have you solved, ever, that was worth solving, where you knew all of the given information in advance?" -Dan Meyer's TED Talk, "Math class needs a makeover"
Denise watched the gum and milk roll down her black rubber conveyor belt. They were only two items, but the customer let them ride down to her. She picked them up, scanned them, then offered the gum back to the customer. He opened it and stuck a piece in his mouth.

She said, “That’s a dollar for the gum and three-thirty for the milk.”


“Seven dollars is your total.”

He pulled out a ten. “Can I get change?”

“Oh, we have a cash discount. Now it’s only eight dollars.”

He smiled and blew a proud bubble. She gave him his change. When he left, she pocketed the difference.

The next person came along, a mother with a screaming kid and a cart full of cleaning supplies, cookware and out middle-aged nightmares. She rang this one up honest, because she didn’t have the heart to rip off a mom who had to live with those decibels of crying.

But the next lady in line had Haggen Das and instant cappuccino. She wore narrow two-inch heels and a vermillion pantsuit that reeked of perfume Denise couldn’t afford.

“Three-eighty-three for the ice cream, eleven even for the cappuccino. That’s thirty-one dollars.”

The lady debited it, and didn’t even ask why the teller had her sign two different receipts. She left both behind.

Denise saw her manager coming towards her, trying to wipe his hands on his khakis when he thought nobody was looking.

“Denise, you haven’t been overcharging people have you?” he asked as he came down her aisle. “We got a couple of complaints, but the customers aren’t sure. You know they toss receipts.”

“It’s probably nothing,” she demurred. She popped her register open. “But I have copies of all my receipts. The information’s all here if you want to check.”

“No, I’ll trust you. If the information’s all there, it’s not worth it.”

Denise scrunched up her nose and nodded. “Yeah.”

(This was inspired by Dan Meyer’s TED talk. You can view that 11-minute lecture here. Despite my making fun of it, I think Meyer has a fine point. It’s well worth watching.)

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Bathroom Monologue: The Box is Boss

“What if I tell you? If I tell you who our employer is, exactly who he is, will you promise never to ask me about him again? No more questions. No more cockamamie theories. I’ll tell you and then you can never ask anything about Yab again.”


“He’s not the president. He’s no one in the government, ours or theirs. And, he’s not God. He’s not a man – not a whole man. He might have been a whole man at one time, but isn’t now and has never been during our lifetimes.

“He is a box. It’s about two feet by two feet, chromium steel. Inside is a brain and part of a skull, kept in some unique preservatives. There are wires leading to certain neural pathways that absolutely refuse to die. What the box does for three quarters of the year is anybody’s guess. But every Spring, it thinks very hard and sends us messages by telegraph. Every Spring that this agency has been around for, the box has been right. It nails the correct agents and sends them to the right hotspots every time. Nobody gives it an updated roster – how would you? But the box knows.”


“Now you promised not to ask anymore. I know you’ll go right back to theorizing on how the boss is actually someone at Interpol or the Pentagon. Even if you could find the box, dig it up and crack it open, you wouldn’t believe it. You’ll sooner believe J. Edgar Hoover is still alive and running the show. I don’t care. The box doesn’t care, and I’ve long since stopped caring about the box. It works without questioning. I look forward to that without.”

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Monday, July 26, 2010

Bathroom Monologue: The Moon Landing Was Fake

The truth was only voiced once, on a local radio station in Montana. The next day G-men showed up and seized all tapes of the broadcast. But the host and staff remember the tale.

The guest had worked on the Apollo missions. He said they’d tried in earnest to land up there, and Apollo 11 had almost done it. Then, out of a clear void opened a wormhole, spitting the craft into a faraway planet. It wasn’t grey or airless, waterless or hopeless; it was actually lush with life.

Because the American people wouldn’t have understood what a wormhole was, and would have gone mad from footage of the intelligent and quite friendly extraterrestrial locals, Armstrong and Aldrin had to find the only desolate-looking spot on the otherwise verdant world. They had to re-shoot four times because jovial natives kept wandering in front of the camera to greet humans in peace and explain the meaning of life.

All these years since, NASA has had to maintain the lie that we landed on the moon. In actuality astronauts have been popping into space to hit the wormhole paradise every time. There are many things we could learn from our cosmic neighbors, but the government doesn’t feel it could live down the shame of exposing the fake moon landing.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Bathroom Monologue: Stones Get Things Done

I’m not saying glaciers didn’t do work. I’m just saying they didn’t do all of it. During the so-called “ice age” a lot of hard-working mountains were moving, and to more than just Muhammad. You think continents drift on their own? We’re talking tectonic plates, and that means serious bribery. You think an overgrown ice cube is going to pay those landmasses off? No. It was earth doing all the work. Soil going soft or brittle enough to break up easily, rocks getting aligned and pushing, and a heck of a lot of members of the Crust Layer Union. Back before we had reasonable golems, it was a wild planet where you walked uphill to school, then the electromagnetic poles flipped and you had to walk uphill back home. If it was snowing when you did it? That sucked, but that was icing on the difficulty cake. Stones, baby. They get things done.
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