Saturday, September 10, 2011

Bathroom Monologue: In the Mirror at 30

I lean across the sink and take a close look into myself. How did I get this divot on my nose? I’ve never been attractive. Scratch that – as a boy, I was probably attractive to some pedophiles. But few people since would have given me a thumbs-up.

My mind steeps in culture. So when I look into the mirror, I think what other people might think. Elderly folks pining for youth. Women who aren’t old wishing they weren’t old. Men reflecting on athletic teenhoods. My guts tense and I try to tease up regret that I’ve aged.

But I’m a man of parts and evidence. I see things.

This guy’s got more moles than he used to, and maybe even more freckles. Pot marks. He needs a shave. When he squints, he spooks up a murder of crows feet.

His face is fatter. He’s lost sixty pounds in a few years, but it’s fatter than it was a kid. He could regret that. But, so what? He smiles more easily than he did as a teen. I like the way that face spreads with his smiles.

He’s trained that smile on more people this week than he did in many months of his earlier life. He’s made so many more people laugh. He’s been there at crucial moments for people he thinks are better than him. He’s suffered what others insist is too much, and he might just be right in suspecting he complains less than they all do.

I see an affable, durable man that emerged from a bitter boy. There’s shame that I feel no nostalgia. This is another social ritual I fail to share. If only I were more like others – if only I’d been an idyllic boy, or could fool myself into believing I had been, I could despair in lost innocence and spent privilege.

Instead, I’ll drive to the store, buy whatever I want, and cook some dinner. Three things the bitter boy couldn’t do. As I eat, I’ll entertain myself thinking how he’d mock the man who now smiles in the mirror.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Bathroom Monologue: Can't Beat Them

"Two years he’s turned us out of the playoffs. Their training camp looks even sharper this year. You’re going to have to do something more than trade for a draft pick. And I’ve got something to think about. Something to keep in your pocket, in your office safe. Something you should burn before November, whether or not we do it.

"I know a woman at an escort service. She's not from here or their town. I think she’s from Baton Rouge. We met once. She's… frightening in how persuasive she gets.

“We can hire her through an intermediary who will have no direct connections to you or our team.

"Now, if he's too good a few weeks into the season, we call an innocuous disposable cell. She'll single him out at a club. Get him alone. He's already had so many indiscretions that he practically has this coming. He’s had so many that whatever she claims, people will suspect. ESPN will discuss. Blogs will believe. The bruising will be artificial. The photographs convincing. The distractions? Perpetual. Even if her suit folds, he will miss at least one game against us. In all likelihood, he'll miss the season and wind up on a crap team next year, possibly in the other conference.

"It will cost us less than any of our defensive linemen make. Her life will be pulled apart by media and she won't care, because she doesn’t like her life. You wouldn’t agree to this if you did. With this money, she can make another one somewhere she likes better than Baton Rouge. And we hamstring the biggest team in our division.

"It's a thing you can do."

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Seriously Cute Blogger Award? Alright...

Danielle La Paglia has bestowed upon me The Seriously Cute Blogger Award. I guess she’s had a stroke or something. Canny people don’t do things like that. Since I am in the habit of humoring stroke victims, I’m playing along. The game is to discuss five books, television shows and/or books you’ve consumed lately. This compliments my new podcast, Consumed, which is entirely about reading, watching and playing things.

1. Apollo 18
My sweet old mother wanted to do whatever I did for my birthday. I wanted to see a movie? Just name the time. Did she know it was about-- But that was okay. She drove, paid for tickets, even smuggled me in a Butterfinger Crisp. She was so chipper about watching the fake documentary about an eighteenth moon mission and the nightmares found up there. So I got to see the woman who gave me life have the crap scared out of her twice by lunar debris. That was pretty cute of her.

2. The Shrinking Man by Richard Matheson
Just finished it this week. Matheson was a great damned storyteller and no book of his has disappointed me yet. Here he turned the gimmick of a gradually shrinking man into a reflection on what masculinity means, and what can replace it when it's taken away. Manages to walk the line between pulpy adventure stories and John Cheever malaise, without the annoying bits of either. And, uhm. He's little. So he's cute.

3. Coffee Samurai
Saw it with a packed theatre in August and tracked down a DVD to buy as soon as I returned home. It is my favorite anything of the year. A Korean short animated film, Coffee Samurai follows the story of a brave warrior who fell in battle centuries ago. As he died, he wished to be reincarnated with an iron body. Fate smiled on him, and he was reborn today: as a coffee vending machine. A drunken girl wheels it home and takes care of it. They fall in love, when they aren’t being attacked by zebra assassins. In half an hour it manages to go through every possible level of absurdity, including deliberately inserting plot holes into itself. It’s the best thing.

4. 127 Hours
Getting your arm smashed under a boulder is cute, right? Listen, the award didn’t specify that my things had to be cute, but I’m making the effort here. The point is: nobody told me 127 Hours was this good. James Franco delivers a deep one-man show of a film trapped in canyon with no one to help him, desperately devising ways to pry his arm from beneath a rock, and just as many ways to stay sane. Danny Boyle (28 Days Later, Slumdog Millionaire) does not mess around as a director. It takes some great acting, lighting and cinematography to make the one set not get dull after an hour. True stories usually wind up weak films because the artists have only so much leeway with reality, but everything about that poor man’s experience is re-crafted into a sharp portrait of grit.

5. Blockade Billy by Stephen King
For much of his career, King was dogged by the unfair assertion that he only wrote Horror. In the latter stage of his career he's dogged by the equally unfair assertion that he only writes needlessly long tomes. So here's a 100-page novella about baseball. As a non-baseball fan, what struck me the hardest was the narrator’s use of jargon and colloquialism. He’s not just colorful. The world of baseball reads like a vibrant Fantasy world, all brought out almost effortlessly, little exposition needed to set up anything, so much with its own terminology and so much accentuated merely through enthusiasm rather than backstory. For non-baseball fans, this might be a better primer on how to write Fantasy than any of King’s actually Fantasy. And I adored Dark Tower.

So that's my five. I stand behind them all. Now for the three recipients...

1. Helen Howell. Often feels like my own personal Twitter grandma. I don't think she's even close to that old; she just has that adorable warmth about her.
2. Sonia Lal. Another Twitter-buddy, one so young she didn't know John Carpenter's The Thing! Young'uns are cute. Plus I admire her pursuit of the classics. Most recently dug into Herbert's Dune.
3. Cathy Webster, the Bride of #fridayflash. I figure she'll go nuts with this one.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Writing For Millions

Everybody wants to be a writer and they should. Go to any bookstore and read the names. Stephanie Meyer. J.K. Rowling. The Da Vinci Code Guy. I never hear about these people collecting garbage or working at Wal-Mart. Writing must be all they have to do, which means they have to get paid a lot. Now look at the whole bookstore. That’s a lot of writers, all getting paid millions of dollars. And it’s so easy to write!

I read a book by Mark Twain once and it sounded like how people talk. Imagine how easy it was for him to just write what he’d say. You could talk into a tape recorder for a while and then pay someone else to type it out for you with the millions of dollars all writers get paid.

But if you are old fashioned and want to write by hand, that’s fine. All you have to do is sit and type. You don’t even have to type that much. Ernest Hemingway once said that if you write a page a day then you have a 365-page novel at the end of the year. I’ve never checked his math but assume he’s right because he’s famous. So if you write about a page, you’re pretty much done for the day. Thanks to Spell Check you don’t even have to edit anymore.

Also, I never heard of Hemingway doing anything but writing and getting drunk. Again: writing is a sweet job since you don’t have to do anything else in your whole life.

I don’t really know how publishing works, but you get paid in a lot of ways. There’s the advance before you even write it, then they pay you when you give them the book, and royalties when they start selling it. Since you get millions every time, that’s three million for one book. You get even more millions after they make a movie out of it. A lot of movies are based on books, so I assume all books become movies that pay you extra and you don’t even have to pay taxes on that.

It’s not all fun, though. Eventually your hand cramps up from signing so many autographs and people who are scared of crowds might get nervous from being stopped and fondled on the street by their flocks of teen fans. I’m sure it gets annoying eventually. It’s probably why Hemingway drank. I don’t know because I’ve never read his books. But what I’m saying is that if you’re not ready to be rich and really popular, writing might seem overwhelming. Fortunately book tours and interviews are totally optional since they pay you the same no matter what.

I’d tell you more but this is almost a full page. So in conclusion, I want to write because it’s easy and pays a lot.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Bathroom Monologue: Time Machines

The universe is a time machine. It's set to "ON."

The human mind is a time machine. It's constantly lagging toward the present.

Light is a time machine. It makes the most of it.

A black hole is a time machine. We're uncertain of its settings.

Time is not a time machine. It lacks ambition.

Machines are not time machines. However, all geese are birds.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Bathroom Monologue: The Infinite Jest


Let me see.

Takes the skull

Alas, poor Yorick! I knew him, Horatio:
a fellow of infinite jest...


Lower jaw rattles

Hey Hammy, why did the chicken cross the road?


Not now. I'm soliloquizing.


Sorry, Hammy. You know me.
Infinite jest. If I didn't jest now,
it'd be like the play was poorly written or something.


There’s no way I’m iambing about being borne
on your back a thousand times now.

Drops the skull, enters next melodrama

Hey Horatio. Knock-knock?



Sunday, September 4, 2011

My Big R.A.Q.: The Rarely Asked Questions of 2011

Thanks to everyone who contributed to this year's Rarely Asked Questions. Hopefully I'm in a cake-coma right now, but rest assured when I regain consciousness I'll be very grateful to you all. Cheers!

Harry Sanderford asked: Why is it, "The Bathroom Monologues"?
We’re starting seminally here. Back in college I was assigned so much reading and non-fiction composition assignments that I feared I’d lose my creative drive. Almost any time I was at my desk I was either working or decompressing with a videogame. I decided that any time I got up to use the bathroom, I’d improvise a story on anything other than what I’d been working on at the desk. These were usually first person monologues on vital topics like what happens to an anthill if the queen gets cancer but won’t relinquish power. Sometimes I thought I was really funny and typed them up for friends. Sometimes my friends said they were actually funny. I started saving them to a Word file, and a friend gave me a subsection on his site to post them. Later when I created my own blog, it felt natural to maintain them.

Alan W. Davidson asked: Do you think that Gilligan and Mary Ann ever 'hooked up' while trapped together on that island?
Not with the human chastity belt that is The Skipper walking the earth. But if he should one day fall, then Gilligan’s latent libido might rise to prey upon all untouched women.

Helen Howell asked: Why was Tinkerbell so infatuated with Peter Pan? ^_^
Because he always kept dog treats in his pocket. It’s a trick most of us use.

Tony Noland asked: Why do so many people think "Seinfeld" was a funny show?
As someone who does find Seinfeld funny, I think it’s about investment in the characters. The core cast of four are play simple roles with absurd depth beneath. If one seems watchable, you latch on and sink into their sundry absurdities. Entire episodes go by without you laughing, but it was funny as hell. Somewhere inside your head, you’re pleased – but it might not get to the surface. The more you watch, the more your mental snowball consumes until decades after its cancellation you can still quote your favorite lines. But if you can’t latch on and get rolling, the show is a baffling phenomenon. The best current example is The Office and its resultant pseudo-reality knockoffs. Why anyone would like them is utterly beyond most of the people who don’t watch them.

Garner Davis asked: If you had to choose between a) flashing a crowd of complete strangers ... at an elementary school, or b) watching the entire "Jersey Shore" TV series back to back in one marathon session, which would you pick?
I’m a multitasker. I can, for instance, let my sister watch Jersey Shore on the television while I play a mindless videogame on the PC, or fold my laundry, or construct a sixteen action figure wrestling tournament. And those are the sorts of things I would do while I marathoned this show rather than go to jail for the rest of my natural life. Plus this way I don’t have to go to an elementary school. Children are more annoying than clubbers.

Ross “Chaz” Rostopher asked: Why do humans like things that make our tongue hurt, such as chilis, wasabi, cilantro and curry? (This was a post-sushi question.)
With the rise of vegetarianism and veganism, the plant kingdom has increasingly seen human beings as violent bigots. Citizens such as wasabi and chili peppers are the highly ethical suicide bombers of the plant kingdom, and are doing in their power to bring down the horrible hedonistic human hegemony before all is lost.

Karen Schindler asked: What, to your knowledge, is something astonishing you can do with your body that few others in your current social circle can?
I can pick my nose with my tongue.

Mr. FAR asked: How do you get by without a dayjob, you lucky so&so? :-)
See: answer to Karen Schindler’s question.

Mary from GigglesandGuns asked: Is it true if you malted milk balls while drinking beer you won't get drunk?
From experience, I only know that if you eat malted milk balls before drinking beer you won’t get drunk because the damned things are so addictive you won’t have room left. God, I hope somebody got me candy for my birthday.

Cassie Nichols asked: What three authors (living or dead) would you most like to spend the day with? What would you spend the day doing? Would you take any of them to a carnival?
Jonathan Swift, Alexander Pope and Homer. They are all dead and would leave me alone to write. In the event they came back from the dead for the visit, they would be highly lyrical and interesting to talk to, plus I’d solve the mystery of who Homer was. In the event they came back as flesh-eating undead, I would take them to a carnival so that they might eat somebody else.

Cassie Nichols also asked: Would you create a unique language in your books if you knew that 20 years from now hundreds of your fans would greet you in that language at conventions? Be married in ceremonies where they only spoke that language?
I couldn’t even retain French. I don’t know how I’m supposed to invent this new language. But I guess I’d at least begin going down that road just to see what I wrote that apparently affected that many readers so deeply. It wasn’t the language; it damn sure wasn’t the language that got everyone into Star Trek to the point where they conjugated Klingon. So I’d at least like to observe me crafting work that stuck so hard to people.

And Cassie Nichols also asked: How many blows with a pillow *does* it take to slay a moose?
One. It is to the back of the head of the troll slumbering in yonder forest, rousing her from her slumber and wakening her hunger. You will likely also perish this day, but so will that moose. It is a recourse only viable when justice is due.

Tim Van Sant asked: WTF?

Danielle la Paglia asked: What book would you like to live in? Who would you be? Why?
The Norton Critical Shakespeare is very large. If I had to hollow out a book and live in it, I believe this might offer the most spacious living environment.

Danielle la Paglia also asked: What movie would you like to live in? Who would you be? Why?
I would like to live in my favorite movie. I would be myself, living with that cast of people, because it is my favorite movie. Feel free to guess what my favorite movie is. Unfortunately, “What’s your favorite movie?” is a Frequently Asked Question.

And Danielle la Paglia also asked: Who, what, when, where, why is Bruno Mars?
I had to Google to find out: he’s just some guy, you know? But before that, my imagined definition for Bruno Mars was a high-school mystery show starring a 6’6” middle-aged muscle head who had been held back so many times that he actually travelled back to the 1960s.

Jen Brubacher asked: What is the most mysterious number?
Negative zero. The only witnesses that claim to have seen it are unreliable. What is it hiding?

Mari Juniper asked: What does your bathroom look like? (interpret the question as you wish)
Dark. I should turn the lights on in there.

Mari Juniper asked: Since my verification word is "unitypen" I ask you: if there was a pen that could unite the whole world, what would it look like? How would it work? What about its effects?
You’re asking about the Ballpoint Black Hole Pen. Remove the cap and put the tip to paper to open a super-giant black hole. Almost instantaneously the entire world will be condensed to less than a single micrometer of super-dense united mater. We’ll never have been closer to each other.

Mari Juniper asked: Do I get to think of other Qs and post them later?
You were allowed to up until Saturday. Now you have to save them up for next year.

Chuck Allen asked: What's one question were you hoping no one would ask? And what's the answer?
I was hoping no one would ask me to explain the true Tao. The answer would be a punch in the eye.

Chuck Allen also asked: What's one book/movie that is so good you wish you had written it?
There are actually a lot of these. Several of the Lupin the 3rd television episodes and feature films evoke that so strongly in me that I’ve invented a few fictional characters as outlets for my inferiority. The last book I read that had such an effect was G.K. Chesterton’s The Man Who Was Thursday, which is such an effective satire and condemnation of satire that I quaked with envy. He wrote that a hundred years ago.

Liminal Fiction asked: As you edit your novel, how often (approximately) do you decide to completely rewrite a paragraph or page or chapter vs. touching up existing work? At what stage(s) during the editing process do you like to ask a reader to read for you and provide feedback?
Several years ago I began honing my senses for reflexive editing. Anything I judge as addressable in a few minutes, I do on the spot. Everything else? The rough draft of my current novel is replete with bolded sentences, bullet points and notes IN ALL CAPITAL LETTERS. They serve as flags for me to come back and address a problem later. That sort of tool lets me continue with a story’s momentum even when I know what I’ve just done is broken. The best example is my first chapter: I wrote six drafts in one day before I realized I was wasting my time. I set up a final temporary first chapter, then continued to the second. Months later, I had finished the whole novel and read over the first chapter. With my handy retrospect, it took an hour to bang out exactly what it needed to be. I’ve given that kind of utter rewrite treatment to three chapters out of forty. For paragraphs? I couldn’t even count them. More need re-ordering or cutting a few details rather than utter rewriting. It was actually a stronger draft than I anticipated as I wrote it. That doesn’t mean there are hundreds of things in need of work, but a writer doesn’t need to make a perfect thing, only to make a broken thing and fix it.
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