Saturday, January 15, 2011
Friday, January 14, 2011
Click the button the left to hear today's monologue. Alternatively you can click this text to download the MP3.
I worked at a traveling circus. They weren’t famous for clowns, so I had to try very hard. Fire spitting. Juggling unicycles. I could empty a six shooter into a spinning wheel with a woman tied to it, and I only ever nicked her once, and that was the night after she broke up with me. Some nights I even helped the ringmaster with his lion. I don’t want to credit my outlook to some big cat, but sticking my head in its mouth a couple hundred times definitely loosened me up.
The top act was this family of acrobats. A daddy, and a mommy, and their beautiful little boy, all flying along the ceiling of our tent. They’d somersault along the high wires, swing from trapezes by their feet, tossing their son from peril to peril. He’d come within inches of death, and end up waving and laughing to the audience. They used no net, and he couldn’t be bothered. Mommy and Daddy had him, even if they had him fifty feet up.
The circus had trouble around the major metropolitans. New York, Chicago and Star City were cesspools of corruption. Local fire chief wanted a bribe, and the mayor, and random members of the zoning board, and some union, and the biggest mob, and two-bit wannabe mobs. If you saw our net revenue, you’d wonder why we even bothered with the big towns, but if you don’t hit the bigs, the littles don’t hear about you, and you can’t run the risk of half-empty stands when you’re performing in the middle of nowhere.
That Friday, somebody didn’t get his bribe. Our bearded lady suspected it was this goateed punk who the ringmaster had physically tossed out of his trailer. He had no gang, wouldn’t even give a name. I spotted someone like him around the back of the tent that afternoon, but I couldn’t say if it was him. You may stereotype clowns, but to me, all normal people look alike.
The cannon went off. The lion was healthy. We thought everything was hunky-dory, until our flying family took to the heights. They did these loops. Mommy with her feet on the rail, swinging seven hundred and twenty degrees, hands clasped to her boy, who swung along with her. Two links in a dazzling genetic chain. Daddy sailed in from the other side of the tent, preparing to catch his boy by the ankles.
Afterward, everyone said they saw the ropes snapping. I think people like retroactive foresight. It validates their current horror and hopes of actually being observant next time. But I didn’t hear anyone shriek until all three of them came tumbling down.
I was not fifteen feet from where they hit. Daddy had caught his boy in his arms and tucked a little. He landed on his spine. His limbs jiggled and all his bones seemed to turn to jelly. It still took our strongman to pry the boy from his arms. The kid was in shock, only alive because Mommy and Daddy had had him.
Mommy’s handle skittered over to my feet. I could see where the ropes had been sawed.
Never heard what happened to the boy. He left in a cavalcade of doctors and police, and I didn’t go on with the circus from there. I stayed in town, looking for anyone related to punks who might visit ringmasters. But I’ve got this problem, like I said – you all look alike to me. The fire chief, the mayor, the big bad mob boss and some goateed punk. All that protection money and no protection. Even the caped crusaders in this town hadn’t stopped bullets and dumped criminals in the same jail as cops.
Now I don’t disagree with a little murder and mayhem. If I’d found the guy? I’d have wrung his neck. Killed three suspects that weekend alone, including one whom I dragged to the zoo, and when he didn’t render the confession I wanted, I stuck his head in the mouth of a lion.
You kill that guy, not families. You don’t drop children from their mother’s hands and out of the sky. What is society good for if it’s not going to stop that?
Why, it’s for getting all the guilty people together so you don’t have to aim carefully.
The media already loved me. A clown killed three mobsters in a weekend. Wow, you can’t top that act. Every mug was scared of me, thinking I’m the John Wayne Gacy of organized crime. This make-up might as well be war paint. With that sort of branding? I used it. They all knew me, were all running from me. That was my in. That’s where I got all my goons, people hoping I wouldn’t kill them if they did as I said. And that was just fine, because if enough people follow the clown, then he says who dies, and he can let little flying families keep playing without a net.
I set a mountain of dirty money on fire. I made their corner dealers fight each other to the death for the privilege of paying me seventy-five percent. And if the D.A. tried to get in my way? Well he didn’t look very different to me.
Thursday, January 13, 2011
"I believe it was Mark Twain who said, 'Never let a building located reasonably close to your house, governmentally provisioned with supplies such as books and pencils, staffed by people whose profession is encouraging you to understand mathematics, science and history, interfere with your education.' Surely running off to smoke a bowl behind the Lady Foot Locker is the course to enlightenment he had in mind. Venture forth, young prodigy."
Wednesday, January 12, 2011
When Jane rubbed the lamp, a genie did pop out, but at a sluggish pace. And it didn't look very happy to see her.
It asked in a moderately terrifying voice, "What are your questions?"
"Questions? Don't you grant wishes? The storybooks say genies grant wishes."
"I'm only in charge of answering questions, not advertising."
"Are you omniscient?"
"As omniscient as anything to date, yes. Even moreso than the internet, but a good deal less kinky."
"Are you sure you don't grant wishes?"
"If I did, I wouldn't live in a lamp."
"Well then... What's the secret of world peace?"
"There isn't one."
"Is there a cure for cancer?"
"Only one so far: death."
"That's not really a cure."
"That's not really a question."
"What good is a genie that only answers questions?"
"It can divine all the truths of the universe. It knows you better than you know yourself. It can, given time, explain away the sad values that might make you seek a genie that granted wishes, and accept the world as it is."
"That's good and all, but I only have one other question."
"And I already know it."
"Yes. You can find one of those other genies in the next lamp over."
Tuesday, January 11, 2011
In the last stall on the left, there was a sign posted above the toilet that too many people disregarded. Consequentially, this stall had the most cadaver removals of any in the theatre. The most common victims are improperly trained children. People thought the sign was offensive or absurd and didn't let it affect their normal "It's not my house" bathroom habits. At first they would feel a little drowsy, then weak. Their hearts would race, and then burst. A janitor came in every hour to drag these people off and donate them to the local medical college. These people didn't realize "PISS ON THE SEAT AND DIE" wasn't a threat, but a description.
Monday, January 10, 2011
Nikola Tesla was one of the great geniuses of the 20th century, even if half of his theoretical inventions were insane. Yes, his work was essential to the development of the radio, radar and robotics, but a moral vegetarian always looks a little crazier than the average man when he tries to build a death ray. Trying and failing to build that, anti-gravity ships and teleportation devices may have jaded him. Regardless, his work in magnetism and electricity was brilliant; he was the father of the wall socket, and by extension cord, the father of the 20th century. That's why, in addition to being shocked, I was so excited to find him alive. When I asked him about his death from heart failure, he scoffed, "Yes, heart failure at 9:41 AM on January 7th, 1943. At 9:42 AM, I performed the first defibrillation in scientific history. In case you were wondering, it worked."
Sunday, January 9, 2011
Bathroom Monologue: Might As Well, OR, “Whatever happened once may not have happened at all” –Milan Kundera, The Unbearable Lightness of Being
This is a tongue twister. To hear John try to perform it either click the triangle on the left to stream audio, or click this text to download the MP3.
Why? You can only speak around your why, for the truth is that whatever happened once tautologically happened once. What has not happened at all may as well not happen. Anything perceived as happening once may happen again (may well have happened innumerable times before you perceived the once). Only that which never happened may well have never happened, but new things emerge all the time. Gadgets, individuals, sayings – things aligned, but things unique. Things that happened. That which has yet never happened might well happen along any minute. Perhaps it will happen five times right in a row, right across the floor. If it doesn’t, then it might as well not. But it may as well. In the vastness of this universe, you cannot demonstrate epistemologically that anything has not happened. Is not happening. Certainly you cannot demonstrate it in the infinite probability bubble universes outside our own, where all probabilities play out. It isn’t just our universe and one where the Third Reich won the war. It’s this one universe, and this universe where I hesitate half a second (for effect), and this universe where I use “that” instead of “this” in one of the places in this sentence, and this universe where I use “that” in another position that is wholly grammatically incorrect. It’s an infinity, and that means everything, and that means whatever happened once has happened every way it ever possibly could somewhere. If it didn’t, then it might as well not have. But if it did, then it might as well have, and that is truth, and truth is meaning, and if you oppose that meaning then you oppose truth, and the opposition of truth is wrong.
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