Saturday, August 11, 2012

Bathroom Monologue: "Mech Fighting" Added to Olympics


In what was either a legitimation of Rock-Em Sock-Em Robots or a robust embrace of the late Richard Matheson, this week the Olympic Committee announced that in addition to Sevens Rugby and Golf, “Mech Fighting” will be added to the 2016 Olympic Games in Brazil.

Grappling between human-piloted titanic machines has been popular for so long as they’ve been built, and truly before that, for as long as people could draw them into cartoons. With international standardized rules requiring all models feature butts they can be knocked onto, medical tests proving it was less hazardous to the health than Judo, and the overwhelming number of appeals from fans, the Olympic committee simply couldn’t keep it out, especially not if they wanted to keep Equestrian.

Still, Mech Fighting has its detractors. Some claim it will be too easy a competition to medal in, given how expensive a proper mechanized unit can be. Only a select few first-world nations can afford to build “medal gear.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Bathroom Monologue: Bones at the Door


There was a squirrel skeleton the morning before it really started. Mandy’s parents were simply in too much of a rush to get to work, and to get to Starbucks on the way to work, and to check their voicemail, and even to eat dinner watching the TV when she tried to tell them that night. They didn’t care about Harold Schmidt bullying her or that every bone from a squirrel’s skeleton had been on the sidewalk in front of their house.

They only cared the next morning, Tuesday, when Mom almost stepped on a cat’s ribcage. This was in front of the stairs leading from their porch. They called the police, but she didn’t care since she still had to go to school. Harold Schmidt gave her three Indian burns at recess.

On Wednesday, it was a dog’s ribcage and some of its spine. It was on their Welcome mat. Mandy almost dumped it into the bushes to save Mom the anxiety, but Mom had been curt with her about lunch money. She paid.

The police were useless, accusing Dad of kidnapping local animals. He couldn’t even watch football without wincing, not that they listened to her. No adult or child listened to Mandy’s theory about what to do on Thursday.

She drank as much water as she could before bed on Wednesday night, and so woke up in the middle of the night to pee. She called this trick ‘The Child’s Alarm Clock,’ and after she rang the toilet, she crept downstairs to check the porch. She saw no animal remains under the moonlight, which meant she was on time. She stole a steak from their freezer, one of the gristly ones Dad always bought just because there was a coupon, and tossed it on their Welcome mat. She locked the door before returning upstairs to bed.

There were no bones on Thursday morning, though the Welcome mat was slightly damp in the shape of a defrosting steak. Her parents guessed the police had caught the psycho animal mutilator. Mandy guessed she would have to spend her lunch money on feeding something else. That day Harold Schmidt pretended to trip during Gym and threw her into a wall. It left an ugly eggplant bruise on her shoulder.

Thursday night, she left a little roast chicken from the Supermart on the Welcome mat. She clipped out Harold Schmidt’s photo from the previous year’s Year Book and tucked it under a wing for safe keeping.

On Friday morning, it left her the bones from a pinky finger. She tossed them in the bushes, then thought better, and hid them under her mattress. She had to sit through an obnoxious assembly on the hard Gym floor, not far from where she’d hit the wall. She rubbed her bruise and smiled through the lectures on not talking to strangers and grief counseling.

It took weekends off. Dad discovered the pork chop she’d left on the Welcome mat and she got a spanking. She almost put his picture in Monday morning’s meal, but that seemed too vindictive. Also, they might check the next time she left food out, if they figured out this pattern. Mandy was stuck not feeding the Bone-Leaver.

That was a bad idea. A human boy’s right arm and hand appeared on their porch Monday morning, arranged as though it was reaching for the door. It was missing its pinky finger. Dad was arrested. The police questioned Mandy for two hours. She told the truth and they let her go.

Mom took them to a motel, afraid the house was unsafe. Mandy hated it there, because it smelled like chlorine and the family one door down was clearly in the middle of a break-up. Mom got drunk and spent half the night rambling about divorce lawyers.

The next morning Mandy woke first, to find Harold Schmidt’s ribcage lying on the floor inside their door. She tossed it in a dumpster to spare Mom’s feelings.

Not sacrificing to the Bone-Leaver was clearly unacceptable. She snuck cash from Mom’s purse to buy assorted meats, planning to feed it something different every school night. Sometimes she added a picture – of Patricia Thompkins after she mocked Mandy for “smelling homeless,” of the district attorney who said they’d hold Dad for months if they had to, you know, just the dispensable people. She kept getting pinky fingers, which made no sense to her. She kept them under her mattress, saving up, wondering if she could bribe a Tooth Fairy into taking care of this for her.

The family one door down never moved out. Every night that Mandy went to leave the Bone-Leaver its offering, she heard them screaming, and once heard some bodypart crack against the exterior wall of their room. She knew the sound of wall-based injuries.

Another night, she learned they had a son. He was two years younger than herself, and sitting on the railing of the motel, eyes clearly searching for anything other than the room that housed his shrieking parents. He saw her leave the lamb chops. She let him see it. There was no way around it.

Giving away meat was an expensive hobby, even if it kept Mom sane and all her own bones intact. She got the idea the next night, when she was about to go out and saw the boy on the railing again, just waiting there for something to see. He looked so hollow. She gave him nothing to see. When his father finally yanked him inside, she crept out and left all her assorted finger bones on the mat in front of their door. She kept the hotdogs in her room, just in case.

It left nothing for her the next day. She ate the hotdogs with black pepper and no buns. They were favorite meat, anyway. She had the best sleep of her life – not that night, but two nights later. That was the night the apartment one door over was quiet.

The next morning, as Mom tugged her to the car for school, she saw that boy sitting on the railing. He waved to her as she drove off, and kind of smiled in a thankful/empty way. She waved back and tried to remember if there were any photos of herself out there.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Bathroom Monologue: Glass Slipper Fetish


All throughout the kingdom the prince traveled with his exotic glass slipper. This belonged, he explained at every door, to a maiden of unparalleled beauty who had danced with him at the last fortnight’s ball. He wished to wed her immediately. And every girl was eager to try on the slipper, for who’d turn down that kind of money gig? But it was rumored odd, for no one remembered the prince dancing that night. And further, the slipper was of such an awkward shape, demanding a perilous heel over a peculiar set of toes. Surely only one woman’s foot could ever had fit into it. None of the applicants needed to know she’d never existed, and that he’d only had it fashioned to enable his foot fetish. It didn’t feel too dishonest, though, since he’d damn sure marry the arch of his dreams, if he could only find her.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

August Writing Goals and Updates


It’s been a brutally busy summer. With my syndrome, no travel is easy, and I’ve had to hit the road three times already, and there are two more big pushes before my birthday. As I type this, I find my left hand is shaking a little too much to seem polite. From the 15th to the 22nd I’ll be hosting a college reunion, and from the 29th to September 4th I’ll be at ChiCon.

That gave me from August 5th-14th and 23-28th as pure work time. Barring syndrome flare or emergency, I’ve already got a schedule in mind. The current work-in-progress, The Last House in the Sky, is at ~63,000 words.

The current 5-14th stretch has given me a leisurely nine days to get over 70,000, in which I’ve aspired to write the build-up to the climactic sequence of chapters. I expect to hit it by Friday, and perhaps worm a little further. I wouldn’t dare spoil what’s building, but it’s the biggest thing this fictional world has seen for at least two hundred years. Also, there are robots and dinosaurs.

The 23-28th stretch gives me six days to write either the entire climactic stretch, or the first half of it, leading to the convalescence of surviving characters and the stuff I’ve been daydreaming about writing for months. If I hit the full 90,000 then, that’d be great. Rough drafts can close loose. I only ask, though, to get over 75,000, and maybe up to 80,000, with a more realistic expectation of writing through certain storyline events. The chapters will definitely be more important that the word count by then, just as they were in my early-July push.

On September 4th I’ll be in the clear from all unusual obligations. It looks like the promised time, and it’s even my birthday. It’d be nice to have only ten thousand words to knock off before closing the rough draft on the manuscript, but anything below 15,000 can be done in a couple weeks.

Even feeling sick today and electing it as my weekly day off, I’m terribly excited. The productivity I’ve experienced, day-for-day and week-for-week, has been unlike anything else I’ve written in my life. It’s only now, with two thirds of the draft behind me and all the travel issues, that I’m starting to flag. This novel is also a little lighter story than the previous work-in-progress, The House That Nobody Built, funnier, more open with its heart. To compare to film, The House That Nobody Built was Kurosawa, where The Last House in the Sky is Miyazaki. Not that I ape either director in my prose, but that’s been the feeling of the two rides.

I’ve never been this productive in prose in my life. About time, I tell myself.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Bathroom Monologue: Hero Out of Context


It was the morning after the government imprisoned the second slew of reporters. It was not much in the news, for obvious reasons.

That morning he sold his minority share in the food stand to the chicken vendors, and mailed all of his earnings to the bank and his uncle. This paid off his debts. He also mailed an apology to his cousin, not for selling his minority share, but for miscellaneous grievances that had not received due attention. He thanked his cousin for all his tolerance in their youth, and for a lighter he’d given him for his twelfth birthday, which he still owned despite quitting smoking.

After returning from the postal office, he spent an hour at coffee with his wife, and another hour at another coffee with his mistress. With each he talked about their hobbies and what they might do for careers if the government became more violent, or if riots began. Neither believed riots were possible. He argued very little, and left each with a letter that he felt was not safe with the postal system.

This took him to lunch. He spent what was in his pockets on oil rather than food, and sat in the most popular food court until every table was full. He gave up his own table to a young couple, asking if they had cameras in their phones. When they said yes, he walked three paces from the table and doused himself in the oil. He screamed to God and a camera crew of passersby as to his reasons, then ignited himself with a nickel-plated lighter.

Riots began the next day.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Every Sport is Derived From Tennis


The following geneology will reveal how all sports derive from Tennis. It's commonly known in the sciences that all sports are either descended from Tennis or Ping Pong. Which of these is the prime mover of sports is a futile debate, as Ping Pong is a cuter version of Tennis, while Tennis is clearly Ping Pong while standing on the table*. For the sake of this exercise, we will assume Tennis is the prime mover, because no one calls it “Ground Ping Pong,” but many refer to Ping Pong as “Table Tennis.”


Tennis is people separated by a net, whacking a ball at each other’s sides with a racket.
-Pairs Tennis is Tennis with more people; all other multi-person variants will be excluded
-Ping Pong is Tennis where you do not stand on the court*
-Badminton is slower, wispier Tennis
-Racquetball is Tennis where both players face the same direction
-Volleyball is Tennis with no rackets
-Pole-vault is Tennis where the goal is to get over the net
-Golf is Tennis with no opposition whatsoever and several clubs to defend yourself
-Fetch is one-way Tennis where the dog is your teammate
  • Skeet-shooting is Fetch where the gun is your teammate
    • -Bowling is Skeet-shooting with many targets and no ambition
                 
      -Chess is bowling where the pins are skilled and fight back
        • Checkers is Chess with no ambition again
  • Baseball is one-way Tennis where the court is square and there too many people for so little to be happening
    • -Cricket is more Baseball
-Football Europa/Soccer is Tennis without the net in the way, mostly with feet
  • Football Americana is Soccer, mostly with hands
  • Rugby is meaner-spirited Soccer
  • Basketball is Soccer with an annoyingly placed goal, mostly with hands
  • Field Hockey is Soccer, mostly with sticks
    • Polo is Field Hockey that needlessly confuses horses
    • Water Polo is Field Hockey in water
      • Ice Hockey is Field Hockey, on ice
        • Ice Soccer, sadly, does not exist
  • Track is Soccer without anyone else in the way and no ball
    • Nascar is Track in a car
    • Equestrian is Track on a horse
    • Swimming is Track in water
      • Diving is Swimming without the follow-through
      • Synchronized Swimming is Swimming where the goal is to not beat or lose to your opponent.
      • Rowing is Swimming in a boat
        • Yachting is Rowing if you’re rich
        • Whitewater is Rowing in a boat when you can’t find a reasonable river
-Boxing is Tennis with no ball or subtlety
  • Judo is Boxing with no manners
    • Wrestling is Judo that starts on the floor
  • Fencing is Boxing with swords
  • Sumo is Boxing with no punching
  • MMA is Boxing where you just hit them everywhere
Please let us know if you think we missed a sport. We hope to provide a holistic genealogy.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

John at Otakon 2012

Welcome to Otakon 2012, an Asian culture convention that greeted 32,000 attendees this year.

Behold! Acres of B.O.
The convention has been an annual retreat for me for years. In many ways it’s my TED Talks, even though I go to film and show screenings rather than lectures. I don’t have the knowledge to curate viewing myself, but in a weekend I’m exposed to more new plots and characterizations than I’d find in a year’s subscription to HBO or Asimov’s. That’s not a slight against our American media, but recognition that it is American media. Otakon prominently features Japanese, Chinese, Indian and Korean film and fiction.

We have cross-cultural similarities, but they produce different thoughts and norms, which broaden an imagination largely trained by just one media culture. Even the mundane tropes of their TV shows cast different light on what we could do in our stories but never think about. No U.S. police procedural or cyperpunk was like Ghost in the Shell; no Romantic Comedy I’ve ever seen stacks up to Delhi Belly; and the only filmmaker I can compare Let the Bullets Fly to is Quentin Tarantino. I sit through some of the most juvenile programs, simply studying how they handle things we never think about. I sketched out the first original novel I ever wrote sitting in the back row during a High School Comedy marathon.
Totoro reminds John to stop being pretentious.
There are many reasons to go to something like this. The Voice Actors After Dark panel, where I heard a vampiric butler read Go The F*ck To Sleep, was one. The Anime Music Video Contest, in which fans create music videos of spliced popular music and clips from shows, routinely beats the hell out of what I see on MTV and validates it as an artform. I’ve got no desire to see Final Destination 5, but the fake trailer one fan made from its audio and clips from the anime Another is something I’d pay to watch, if only it were real. And then there’s cosplay.

I’ve never been into costuming. I enjoy that other people enjoy it, and have a profound appreciation for the fandom. As an author, I’d love to create characters that audiences would spend months patterning costumes after. Yet at the show I ran into a new breed of cosplayer, which almost inspired in me a desire to dress up. It’s not merely satisfactory to create a good likeness of your favorite character. These characters created the likenesses of their favorite characters from specific moments in their favorite stories.

For instance, anyone can fashion a purple vest and giant foam sword. But what about recreating the time Final Fantasy hero Cloud Strife dressed in drag to sneak into a brothel?
If only I were capable of photographing
myself high-fiving someone.

Full Metal Alchemist has enduring popularity in fandom, but it takes real tenacity to pretend you’re dead for two hours to recreate the saddest moment in the series.

Spoilers!
Yes. Yes, this is humanity tapping its full potential. My inspiration took me far enough to follow someone dressed as The Laughing Man for half a city block, until he was next to a payphone. If you know why, then you belong here.


Probably the only J.D. Salinger quote
that will ever appear on this site.
I didn’t bother too many people for photographs, especially as I only recognized a tenth or less of the characters. My favorite moments didn’t seem appropriate to photograph; people in intricate costumes at rest, hugging or chatting with friends they hadn’t seen in months or years. Once it leaves the individual experience, a lot of Speculative Fiction in any medium exists as an excuse to bond. Half the reason I photographed this group was just because they looked so happy to see each other.

For people with so many weapons, they were so cheery.
The other half was they looked like the bitchin’est version of the British Red Coats ever. Otaku and assorted anime fans get crapped on for liking such weird Japanese stuff. Why can’t they enjoy normal American things? You know, like...

It's Mysterio's hand gesture that gets me.
To be fair, both the anime-lovers and comics-lovers tend to get short shrift in our society. I endorse both the above-photographed groups, though, especially after they wore and carried all that stuff through a 100-degree city. Don’t bother asking why they’d want to go through such exertion - not the same week as the Olympics, my friend.

Fandom can get unnerving at such conventions. Craigslist fills up with roleplaying sex requests, and apparently in the Dealers’ Room one company set up a stripper pole for Panty & Stocking cosplayers. That grown women would do that for hours is entertaining to some segment. But for me, this is entertainment:

A stripper pole with a Gone Fishin’ sign. That’s all I can ask from any sales booth.
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