Saturday, September 25, 2010

Two Publications, One Proposal

I have three announcements for you today. Two are published stories that you can read right now, and the third is to do something together.

Story the First: Many of you have already seen the Best of #Fridayflash Volume 1 anthology. It took Jon Strother a long time to put it together, so perhaps it's fitting it took me a long time to plug it. It happens to feature my favorite fake news story, "No Militaries in the Gay." This one follows the decree by U.S. law that war is no longer allowed wherever there are gay people, so as to avoid exposing soldiers to uncomfortable environments.

Story the Second: "To Each His Own Triceratops" was accepted into the Dog Days of Summer Anthology from NOT. The collection requested short-shorts about Summer, so I gave them one about that summer the dinosaurs came back. I'm sure you remember that one. Traffic was terrible. This e-chapbook is free to view.

And that Proposal? Earlier this year I experimented with comics. I can't draw very well - it's a combination of a lack of natural talent and a nerve imbalance that makes it excruciatingly painful to use a brush, pencil, etc. for any significant period of time. I'd write the comic scripts and Max Cantor drew them. I'd like to start this up again, but without a routine artist. Instead, anybody who'd like to try their hand is welcome. Leave a Comment on this post, hit me up on Facebook, or e-mail bathroom DOT monologues AT gmail DOT com. I have a few scripts ready, ranging from a single panel about selling ice to Eskimos to seven panels about paranormal law enforcement. I'm hoping we can have some fun with this experiment.

And thanks to everyone for stopping by.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Bathroom Monologue: Highlights of Another Life



First steps.

Running (So healthy!).

Sleeping on his own.

Sleeping outside.

First lesson (Stop standing up like a person).

First fight.

First victory (Good boy!).

Fifth victory (You got so big!).

First loss.

First surgery.

Sixth victory (He's not the same).

Fifth loss.

First failed euthanasia.

Escape (Why go after him?).

Join wolves for first time.

Kill alpha male (Rur?).

First deer hunt.

Fifth deer hunt.

First human hunt (What's that outside?).

See girl naked for first time (Ahhhh!).

Figure out pants.

Interrupt child bloodsport for first time (Ahhhh!).

Evade police.

Find parents.

Have long talk.

First cannibalism (Just take your father!).

Get caught.

States witness deal (This will exonerate you for...).

First time on TV.

First book deal (Please don't eat your ghostwriter).

Fifth cannibalism.

Career slump.

First failed run for public office.

Learn English language.

Read unauthorized biography.

Tenth cannibalism.

Escape to Europe (This is ridiculous!).

Become sex symbol.

Join wolves for second time.

Don't kill alpha male.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Bathroom Monologue: Overweight smoker, 93, outlives third doctor

Franz K. Thurber is 93, not an uncommon age for this era in science, but certainly uncommon for a man with his diet. Since 1924 Mr. Thurber has had a steady intake of bacon, ham, raw eggs, potato bread and butter, with beef every Sunday, only breaking for war rationing. The biggest change to his diet was the addition of three beers a day after he turned 17.

Born at a low birth weight, little Franz concerned his mother, who hired a wet nurse to force-feed him. "To bring me up to stock," as Mr. Thurber now quotes her, adoringly. "Soon as I could eat grub, she was heaping things on my plate, and I never disappointed."

According to county medical records, Mr. Thurber hasn't weighed less than 260 pounds since the Great Depression. Today, tipping the scales at 281 pounds, Mr. Thurber espouses the same beliefs that have been driving his doctors batty since the 1950's. "I seen the time when eggs was good for ya, and bad, and good again. Bread went from a staple to a no-no. I still don't know what the **** a calorie is."

What's puzzled M.D.'s most about Mr. Thurber's case is that despite his weight and high cholesterol, he is in perfect health. "Heck, I ain't even had a cold since Eisenhower was in office," Mr. Thurber jokes. He's maintained such great shape despite poor diet and little exercise (he boasts that he only does ten sit-ups a week, and only to prove to his beer gut that he can).

"This ain't the life for everyone," Thurber states sagely in his recliner, "but I just saw my third doctor drop dead. They mean well, saved me from polio, but everyone's body is their own. Mine doesn't work the same as yours. You gotta know the ins and outs of the body you got. I know mine. If'n I went all no-carbs and vegan, I'd probably be lying next to those docs in a week."

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Bathroom Monologue: All Chemistry

Old piping. Illegal paint. Scrap metal. Get whatever lead you can onto this boat by Friday.

On Friday it will ship down south to a man in a country. The man doesn't so much care how harmful lead can be, only that it's a very useful material. He will not pay us directly.

However on Saturday morning, this man will sign the wrong form. Several truck loads of medical supplies will go to displacement camps along the border. The nuns and doctors will appreciate it greatly.

This man will not "catch" his mistake until Monday morning. By then, the medical supplies will be so dispersed as to be irretrievable. Also by then we will have won the heart of another certain man, this one in the cartels.

By Monday at noon, if this other certain man's heart is won, more cargo will begin shipping north again. Mainly foodstuffs.

On Wednesday morning, if cargo is flowing properly, our friends in the most northerly depot will nestle a special crate in with the foodstuffs. The cartel doesn't even know this crate exists, nor does our man in the government. We will keep it that way.

The crate will arrive here that Thursday. For every pound of lead you give me, you can have a pound of what is in that crate. And like that, we'll turn lead into gold.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Bathroom Monologue: Green Witch, CT

In the latest exaggeration of their anti-Paganism, today Salem dumped Greenwich, Connecticut into the ocean. It turns out the landmass, which was home to over 62,000 Americans, does not float.

"That means it wasn't a witch," says a Salem representative. "But it's not our fault. They put a homonym right in the name."

A few hundred people survived the dousing, but Salem residents beat them with sticks to keep them in the water until they drowned. "We could not risk the buoyant witches casting hexes on us once they got ashore. People who float serve the devil."

Anyone who was out of town for the weekend is warned to stay clear both of Connecticut and the boroughs surrounding Hell, Michigan. The Salem representatives would not say what their plans were for it, "but I'd go to New Haven instead if I were you."

Monday, September 20, 2010

Illiterary Analysis of Don Quixote

[This is a slightly touched up version of my review of Don Quixote for Goodreads. I'm posting it because I've never written another like it and, frankly, I think it's funny. Allow me to save you the time of reading a 1000-page classic with one blog post - or guilt you into reading a 1000-page classic, which is just as good.]

Day 1: Here goes nothing. Here come 1,000 pages of translated text.

The opening was insufferably cheeky and the origins of Quixote are slower to unravel than a heroic anime. Still, I see promise here, and the reputation earns it a couple hundred pages before I pass a strong judgment.

Day 2: Couldn't help but notice the dope wearing ill-fitting armor, his sidekick riding an ass, and the party attacking wind mills all occurred within the first two chapters. Those are also all the famous parts of the novel. I wonder how many people in human history made it to page 50.

Day 3: Passing through chapter three, Quixote is really growing on me despite Cervantes's narrative. Cervantes comes across as very bitter and far less clever than he thinks he is in the frequent literary and cultural criticisms, making Quixote's naive and insane positivity downright refreshing. I'll be interested to see if Cervantes does anything with this, but he's got me sympathizing with, and heck, downright rooting for the irresponsible, senile knight.

Day 6: I'm told Cervantes took up the hyper-critical narrator to make a second point - beyond satirizing chivalry and parodying chivalric literature, he wants me to sympathize with Quixote. That is a deep and admirable goal, though I'm too thick-headed to have realized it on my own. It would have been particularly hard to realize recently since the caustic narrative has been dormant for fifty pages – not that I’m complaining.

Though it's at least part because of my modern bias, the bigoted references to Africans and Islam are bothering me.

The feelings of anime are stronger. Many of the chapters are completely unrelated to the plot and feel like filler episodes, the main chapters are highly episodic, most everything centers around an interesting titular character, and the cast is even growing in little spurts and contained revelations the way they do in Japanese TV. If it wasn't for Cervantes's sense of humor being so similar to (if more polite than) Geoffrey Chaucer's, and the stuffiness of the writing, I'd sooner put this one the anime DVD shelf than the classic book shelf.

Day 7: Climbed through all of "The Impertinent Curiosity" today, a three-chapter digression that told another "novel" all on its own. Perhaps it's in part due to the translation, but this is insufferably overwritten, with so much needless language and euphemism that I couldn't tell if Cervantes intended homosexual innuendo in the first chapter, and from then on, had no idea when characters were supposed to have actual erotic or romantic attraction to anyone. Despite that, the three-chapter section is a great argument against picking apart the things you love ('lest you aren't able to put them back together).

Day 11: I'm deep into Book 2. The dialogue is sharper (though still very dated), a lot of the cleverness is executed more subtly, and Sancho (that's the sidekick) and Quixote seem to actually expand as characters. No, they don't grow or change, but dimensions are finally coming out of them. A nice development some 600 pages in. Quixote is finally exiting that insufferable phase of senility where everything he does is stupid and the characters or narrator stand around to remind us how stupid it is. He's actually getting things right now and then, suggesting he must be more complex than the fool Cervantes's narrator often drew him to be. He recognizes good poetry (even though the narrator disagrees with his judgment), is able to discuss philosophy with sound judgment, and actually stands up to defend a case of real but forbidden love, rather than, say, a delusion of two cucumbers that he thinks are lovers. This makes him much more interpretable and interesting, just as the stories in the picaresque are becoming more interesting, as deception is used for more amiable ends than selfishness, pride or greed. Deception is quickly replacing mistakes as the main theme. The cast loves taking advantage of the Don.

Oh, and the introduction to Book 2 is interesting as it stands as a 400-year-old example of metafiction, with the characters discussing the real-life forged "sequel" to the original book and Cervantes's true work. It also stands out as a 400-year-old example of metafiction being insufferably cheeky. How much the old ones predicted.

Day 15: The apocryphal chapter was tremendous. Don Quixote visiting a holy site, descending into it beyond anyone's line of sight, and falling asleep. Not getting knocked out, not passing unconscious, but Cervantes specifically says he is asleep. Then he returns with a story of rich visions no one could improvise, leaving us to wonder if he is lying, if his delusion deepened in the cave, or if Quixote, who has been developing to show more real intelligence lately, really saw some of this. Cervantes’s narrator is so preoccupied with slamming Quixote that it's easy to dismiss the possibility that Quixote really any of it. The potential for this book, if it were to have him legitimately experience something unbelievable, would be an amazing development. Cervantes is much more likely to take the easy way out, have it be fake, and make this all the thousandth skeptical joke at Quixote's expense.

The prophetic ape was also amusing, but after that the novel has spiraled down into the worst streak of thinly-veiled criticism. Sancho's bitching is insufferable. The meeting with another knight's party was similarly cloying. All the cleverness is gone. At this point in the book, did we really need Sancho to give us yet another monologue on how dumb his master is? This better be a trick setting up some further development of Quixote as semi-reliable or some other twist.

Day 22: I went out of town for a week and decided to leave this at home. I took Haruki Murakami and Mitch Albom books with me instead, to test those authors. Couldn't put up with the awful redundancy and unhumorous comedy during what was supposed to be a vacation. After a week-long breather I find Cervantes's Book 2 is still nearly unbearable. It seems that every new situation is quirky or curious in some way that feels not novel in the least after several hundred pages of other quirky and curious conflicts, and the stories consist mostly of characters talking about how weird or difficult something is.

Making Sancho governor was a neat idea. His court sessions have a nice inverted-Solomon quality about them, though his deliberations are subpar satire for 700+ pages into a classic. The highlight of today's reading was Quixote's letter of advice, for its extremely quotable and thought-provoking lines, such as "Be thou a father to the virtuous, and a stepfather to the wicked." That’s good stuff.

In all the years I've had professors and writers praise this book to me I've never heard them mention any of these anecdotes. I’m left guessing that even they never really finished the book.

Day 24: Rounding the final bend here. Sancho and Quixote are somehow back out on the road together again, running into people who are alternately impressed or cynical towards Quixote's wackiness. They complain about the fake second book again. Quixote defends some woman's honor through zany romanticism again. Was Cervantes paid by the page? The highlight (by far) is Quixote's criticism of various saints, going from bold to absurd. The lowlight is the talking statue that is, shockingly, a fake.

Did Cervantes really go nowhere with this massive tome? I liked the idea of a narrator so cruel that you sympathized with a character who was out of his mind. But it’s still brazenly biased against him. The narrator hasn’t changed his mind, Quixote is still a dope and the stories are still constructed to mock him. I don’t see how the theory of meta-sympathy holds up. Anybody who really turned against the narrator in favor of Quixote would have quit this book long ago since it’s clear he’s never going to get a fair shake.

A book about what a fair shake would be for Quixote would be more interesting. What he believes in isn’t real, so that can’t happen. You can’t perpetuate his fantasies forever because they’re unwieldy. What is justice for this guy?

Day 26: Finally done. Cervantes really bore a grudge against the guy who wrote the fake Quixote sequel, but his last riffs against him (won't spoil them) were by far the funniest. I imagine the last twenty pages are cause for more college essays than the preceeding nine hundred and eighty, but it’s still a copout. It almost feels like Cervantes didn’t mean it to be the final word (figuratively, though obviously it is literally). Quixote's suddenly sane, renounces everything he did and becomes bitter? There's a good reason his company "had no doubt whatever that some new craze had taken possession of him."

I realize it was a custom of crazy older stories to use cheap tricks. Moll Flanders has the conversion on the very last page so Defoe could get away with his antics in the body of the novel. Frankenstein has the “a letter from this guy about a thing he heard” gimmick so you won’t think Shelley is crazy. But that disingenuous distance is more cloying as the end to a 1,000-page book. There is so much space for plot here that builds to no real climax. It is, once again, less like great literature and more like generic anime, in that it had its premise and drew it out for so damned long that it lost any of its savor.

Still, I’m glad I read this, because this makes me the only man alive who has. Prove me wrong.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Bathroom Monologue: He’s got the patience for it

There is an audio edition of today's monologue. To listen either click the triangle to the left to begin streaming, or click this text to download the MP3.

He’s been down here many times. Not this particular hole, but holes this deep, and deeper. His greatest talent is falling.

Birds or bugs circle overhead. His depth perception is shot and he can’t tell. He closes his eyes, not minding.

So his spine won’t let him sit up. So his arms might be broken. So his toes won’t curl on cue. He breathes once every ten seconds and sweats this not at all. He can wait, because his greatest talent is falling, or having fallen. Patience lets him get up when he can.

Did someone throw him in this hole? Then in a week he’ll rise, thirsty as sin. The only urge that gets to him in these times is thirst. He’ll drink his fill from a cool pitcher, waiting in that pusher’s dark living room. He’ll make things even. They’ll fall together. And when he’s ready, he’ll get up.

For now he has fits of shakes. For now it feels like steam is trying to escape through his pores. It might be shock or infection. It will pass. It always does.

If this next time he passes instead of the immobility? Then he’ll have out-waited pain itself. He’ll fall into whatever lies after life, and when he’s ready, he’ll get back up again. He’s got the patience for it.
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