“What, you think I want you to be at peace? I want you to mourn. I want you to rake your skin, and thrash on the floor, and weep that I’m dead! Why in the hell would I want you to be okay with me dying? ‘Oh, his suffering is over.’ Bullshit. That’s my concern! You? I want you to miss me. I want you to selfishly desire that my chemo went on for eternity so I could still be around. I want you to want more me. Tons more me. You’re feeling closure? Then your ass is getting haunted.”
Saturday, January 28, 2012
Friday, January 27, 2012
To hear his parable, click here.
There’s one last lesson that every priest from my school must learn. We teach it through a parable because parables have been better to us than life.
Imagine: it’s the cusp of winter, when the grass can’t help but stiffen, and rivers don’t freeze enough. The priest knows not to test the ice and preaches thus, but not everyone goes to his services. A poor mother and son slide to the center of the river, trying to catch one more autumn trout. They fall in with their trout.
Now our priest happens along. He knows to lose his robes. He knows how to tie a rope between a tree and his waist. He knows how to swim. He knows what he’s supposed to do, and with a great deal of sputtering, he drags the mother and son to shore.
But it’s the cusp of winter. The boy is paler than the river. The priest knows how to check for fever and hypothermia. He knows how to first dry himself, then strip and cover them. He knows how to build a fire whose heat will assist here and attract attention from on far. The priest knows all this because he was a very good student. He’s read very many parables.
He doesn’t have to be learned, however, to know the mother’s gone blind. He knows how to stall her as he tries to keep her son breathing. When she asks him to pray for her boy rather than her own sight, he is burdened with knowing that the gods don’t work that way. Like all priests, he knows to pray anyway.
And she calls for her boy. She calls, and calls, and her voice is plainly getting weaker. Soon she sounds not ten feet away from her boy, but ten worlds away.
The priest looks up the road. No one is coming; no one has seen the smoke soon enough. Now the mother looks at him with useless eyes and a purposeful face. Now she calls to him, asking. Is he alright? Is he alright? Is he alright? Every time softer, farther toward the veil.
Put yourself in his moment, as this naked servant of the gods looking into a blind plea on the cusp of winter. You’ve learned the medicines, and the physics, and the scriptures, and very plainly the boy is dead and his mother is following. This is why every priest I teach must learn how to lie.
Thursday, January 26, 2012
It’s got infinite-inch rims so perfect that if you calculate their metrics, pi comes out an even number. The black chrome exterior has a polish so fine it reflects even the lightless void, and makes distant stars weep little novas at the beauty of what they no longer are. Your spaceship may get light years to the gallon, but this puppy is the only ride in creation that gets gallons to the mile – it makes fuel from action. You bet your ass the windows are tinted, because inside is nothing. No atoms, no axes, not even time itself. Only one person can drive it. It’s been in the garage for eons, but you know whenever the plot necessitates He give it a spin, the Ex Machina will deliver.
Wednesday, January 25, 2012
One of the best things an artist can do is make me eat my prejudices. This doesn’t mean writing tolerance-propaganda; art designed to coerce usually puts me on guard and actually turns me against the thesis. Rather, I adore things of a type I usually dislike that are done so well that I am forced to concede. By rendering me a happy hypocrite, my whole stand softens.
I’ve never liked poetry. For the two halves of my life it’s either looked gimmicky or simply like poorly paragraphed prose. I lack the ability to scan, which deadens some of the effect, and even in Shakespeare’s sonnets I never saw much enviable application of language. Intellectually, striving for rhythm only gets in the way of clear description and establishing atmosphere. It forces patterns where my storytelling instincts never needed them. Where there were great storytellers, like Homer and Dante, I was mostly putting up with secondhand meters to get to the meaty stories – and most poetry was not trying to deliver a Homeric narrative. So much of what I consumed was vague and interpretable, hiding in the safety of audience projection. As Christopher Miller used to tell my classes, “Poetry is the only art form that muddies its waters for the illusion of depth.”
Reading Alexander Pope was an acrid pleasure. He used sonnets to turn phrases like wild. He made points far more concisely than any prose about his work did. And even if I couldn’t read the iambic pentameter like I was supposed to, a definite voice rose from the lines. Once I reached his Essay On Man, in which this crippled genius used beautiful language to tell the rest of the world to suck it up, I was entirely won over. His stiltedness was elegant, at once erudite and plain, quotable and reasonable. No Homeric narrative, total indulgence, and total quality. Stanza by stanza, he made me grateful to have my nose rubbed in the things I disliked.
I call this feeling “selfenfreude.” If schadenfreude is the joy at someone else’s failure, selfenfreude is the joy at my own. There’s a pinch in my diaphragm as I recognize I ought to resist, and summon dogmas to swat down what I’m feeling. Every other organ is hums with amusement. I’m uncertain exactly how to activate selfenfreude, but it encourages humility and correcting my errors. I’m trying to keep it around.
Alexander Pope, Langston Hughes and Samuel Coleridge’s poetry did it to me. F.E.A.R. was that first-person-shooter that made me think (and jump in my seat, tearing a surgical stitch). As someone who cannot stand musicals, it’s a particular pleasure that my favorite Futurama is “The Devil’s Hands Are Idle Playthings.” In all these cases my defenses were already down; these weren’t like arguments where I could dig in my heels. I’ve enjoyed your poem, your game, your increasingly ludicrous opera. You’ve convinced me, not through your demonstration, but by getting me to demonstrate it for you. You made me eat my own prejudices.
It’s difficult evidence to refute, and it’s why I keep going back to niches I’ve disliked. Whether it’s time travel fiction or vegan lasagna, if I can find something that works on me it, it enters the remix of possibilities. So what if I hated Pride & Prejudice? It’s a small fee to pay in order to discover new territory of feeling.
Tuesday, January 24, 2012
Patter. Patter, patter. Spatter.
He opens the door and darts inside before much rain gets inside, then closes the door as quietly as he can. He doesn’t want to wake her.
Squilp. Squilp. Squilp. Groan.
He takes off his shoes and hangs them to dry.
Shiver. Pad. Pad. Pad. Pad. Preek.
Oh, the darned stairs. How many times has he put off fixing those?
Preek. Preeeeeeeeek. Preeeek.
He waves a fist to threaten the steps.
Prek. Prek. Prek. Preeeeeeeek.
On the verge of swearing, he notices a light. The door’s ajar, and a lamp’s on in his room.
Preeeek. Creep, creep, creep.
He pauses in the doorway. He smiles.
She’d fallen asleep waiting. There’s a Danielle Steel open across her chest.
Pad. Pad, pad pad. Click.
Out goes the light as he slides under the covers next to her.
“Good night, Maya.”
And so he joins her snoring.
Monday, January 23, 2012
A new Consumed has appeared, but it’s not what you expected.
Consumed: Spoiled #1 is an in-depth conversation about David Fincher’s The Game. Unlike normal Consumed Podcasts, there is only one topic and we spoil the heck out of it. In this case the movie is 15 years old and hinges on so many twists that it can only really be appreciated when speaking without holding back.
My favorite Fincher flick, The Game stars Michael Douglas as a tycoon who is targeted by CRS, an all-consuming corporation that manipulates his business, television, home, family and personal life until even his sanity is fleeting. Allegedly it’s a game, but he can’t get it to stop. It all leads to what is quite possibly my favorite twist ending of all time.
You can hear Spoiled #1 by clicking here.
Let us know if you enjoy it. All feedback is welcome.
Sunday, January 22, 2012
See, the motion of his arm there is registered by everything. The X-Box 360 Kinect, which plays videogames, but is also his DVD player, but is also an internet streaming device, turns on at the same time as his Samsung television, which is also an internet streaming device. They both switch on at the same time.
There’s no audio on this, so you can’t tell, but he’s trying voice command here. The Kinect and the TV are both voice-commanded, though, so it switches… there. To a channel with nothing on it. His vacuum is also voice-commanded. You’ll see it coming into frame from the left in a minute.
Here he is trying to manually shut off the X-Box.
Here’s the disc tray opening and hitting him in the eye. And there! See, there’s the vacuum chugging into frame.
There’s him stepping onto the robot vacuum.
And there’s him falling into the TV. And through the TV. Did not know those shattered like that.
And there’s the vacuum cleaner trying to clean his blood off the carpet. Now I know it looks gross the first time, but eventually, everyone in this office finds it hilarious. You just have to see it enough times.