Saturday, April 26, 2008

Bathroom Monologue: Whatever Works

"The human gets tired when he works? Why? That makes no sense. Why would his evolution let that happen? Being tired is not fun, and certainly a poor reward for labor. He needs to do more labor to out-compete his competition. And mental fatigue is dangerous when you are working. To get weaker and more wandery of mind as you do physical tasks goes against practicality. You should get stronger the more you do something, like us! You should get more perceptive. That would be an incentive for productivity. What does the human do when he works and works and works? ...He sleeps? But it’s such a waste of time. Kills a third of a day. We sleep when we don’t work enough, and we find work in order to avoid it. Why would sleep be an effective incentive? He… dreams? What’s a ‘dream?’"

Friday, April 25, 2008

Bathroom Monologue: 'Till Armageddon do you Part

The Golden Emperor and the Jade Empress weren't the first human beings to be elevated to godly status after death, but a thousand years later they would be the most famous. This was because they were the best at projecting images. Each only had one rival: the other. No one but the Jade Empress would contradict the Golden Emperor. No one would remain seated when the Jade Empress entered a room, save the Golden Emperor. Their feisty marriage was one of the quirks that turned them from mortal people to immortal legends.

Their empire stretching from sea-to-sea helped a little.

They tapped into the knowledge of the time; theirs was the first culture to discover pollination in plants. Theirs was a culture that exploded the importance of male and female elements of nature and society. The Golden Emperor and Jade Empress quickly came to embody the two halves of nature: the father and the mother. Even the materials of their namesakes symbolized the two great aspects of life. Gold represented the sun, the source of life energy. Jade represented flora, in the grass and trees of the country that fed the livestock, which in turn fed all humanity. One gave life unto the other, and the other grew life unto the former.

They were infallible. They never lost face to anyone else in a debate, or fencing practice. There was no record of dissidence within the capital. The few insurrections in the country went down as villainous, but this was because insurrections were vilified. Dissidents were dissuaded or assassinated. Keeping their reputations spotless in the time and historical record was hard work – not for the two rulers, but for their gaggles of supporters.

Jangs, a court retainer so portly one poet referred to him as “The Sphere,” was in charge of the Golden Emperor’s reputation. He was followed everywhere by highly trained ninja who could strangle a disobedient warlord without even becoming visible. They were, by and large, Jangs’ political leverage. They were necessary leverage, for Jangs’ work wasn’t all strong-arming rogue philosophers and flower arrangement. Often he was dispatched to the wilderness to retrieve an imperial stamp, or to keep three hundred barbaric nutcases from turning a narrow pass in the mountains into a bloody embarrassment to the throne. The Golden Emperor’s immortal reputation is testament to how good Jangs was. All of his deeds went unsung, but those who knew him know he worked very hard – especially against the plots of the Jade Empress. She was a conniving, vindictive wife, and worse, she had better staff.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Bathroom Monologue: Have you ever been so tired that you...?

-Dropped your keys in the toilet, reached down to get then, then midway decided to close the lid instead to keep them safe?
-Opened the medicine cabinet, and seconds later looked inside for your reflection?
-Drove five miles with your left blinker on?
-Drove ten miles with your left blinker on?
-Argued with the police officer that your left blinker was not on?
-Daydreamed about napping?
-Put the ice cream in the cupboard and the crackers in the freezer, and when you sensed something was amiss you switched the boxes of baking soda?
-Were prepared to retire and give up all your worldly possessions to lead a life of sitting in this wonderful recliner?
-Stared at a tree out the window, trying to mentally chart how it could have grown such that its limbs looked exactly like that, rather than go through the effort of finding the remote for the TV?
-Remained in bed hoping to fall back asleep despite you bladder threatening to burst like a water balloon in the grip of an ADD-addled preschooler?
-Smelled dinner burning, and elected to give the taste of char a chance?
-Took an unbiased view of sex and concluded the pursuit was needlessly complicated, degrading, expensive, and otherwise not worth the pleasure of the squirt?
-Actually sat through the nightly news?

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Bathroom Monologues: The Product of Three Trips to the Bathroom

One of many clichés in need of obliteration is that of the sheep. The sheep is the person who follows something without question, which is rather unkind to shepherds, whose jobs can be a lot harder than this analogy gives them credit. Politicians are rarely fired when a couple of their voters stray away from the ideology and are mauled by mountain lions.

While people are unlikely to stray away from an idea and into the path of wild animals, they do assume many things as part of the herd-mentality of society. All human culture is made up of individuals following patterns that they perceive others are following, sometimes adding variations that may seem radical up close, but are miniscule in the grand scheme. The man who refuses to do anything that everyone else does will have to babble in nonsense, as words no longer mean what we tell him they do. He’ll die of the first harsh ailment that strikes him. Modern medicine and the scientific method are, after all, well-dressed sheep mentality.

Are you a “sheep” for not questioning why 2 + 2 will always equal 4? Are you a “sheep” for thinking that there are seven days in a week? No. True, the week is an arbitrary invention of humans, but all ignoring the existence of Monday will get you is fired.

The sheep label developed in part to avoid having to deal with individuals. Everyone comes to his or her conclusions based on experiences, reasons and intuitions, and even their seemingly most arbitrary decisions can have quite complex origins. However, dealing with everyone who comes to one view as a general crowd avoids the responsibility of dealing with individuals. You don’t have to actually know anything but a few statistics about the person, don’t have to form any kind of relationship or truly care beyond a blind anger directed at strangers - a group, a mass, a glob of people who, you can convince yourself, don't even think. They're barely even people. If dehumanization is possible, this seems like one of the places from which it springs.

Sheephood has little to do with not thinking for yourself and almost everything to do with not coming to the conclusions the speaker desires. If you were smarter, you see, you wouldn’t follow whoever you’re following (even if you’re following your own conscience), and instead would follow the speaker. One political pundit calls the millions of people who hold the opposing view “sheep.” Those who hold her views aren’t sheep. They’re bright chaps. They thought for themselves, even if their thoughts sound spuriously similar to the way the pundit put them. Such smart, unsheeply people, who will never realize they are being sheered because, of course, they aren’t sheep. They are independent, freethinking human beings who are proudly superior to those sheep over there.

(I don’t mean to become such a shepherd-pundit, but I must point out that thinking there are only two sides to anything is highly sheepish)

The loss of the sheep cliché, as a word and as a concept, would be scary for those who rely on it. They couldn’t dismiss blocks of people anymore. It’s very comforting to homogenize those who disagree with you, especially as it allows you to disregard them. It seems almost essential when running things like social sciences or federal politics, at which points you couldn’t possibly have deep personal interactions with all your subjects, least of all with the ones you dislike. But that’s a flaw in their systems, not a virtue.

Every leader follows myriads of other people. Every great original thinker is barely different from his peers, as bold and brave as that slim distance may be. Everyone in society is a sheep, but we’re also other forms of mammals that you might find more interesting. How human beings are like the pachyderm, for instance, I find downright charming.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Bathroom Monologue: Entertainmentalists

They believe earth is a sitcom. The situation for comedy? A planet with life on it. A quick survey of the solar system shows this to be a novel concept. But the lack of other planets with life shows the unpopularity of the sitcom, or so says Margo Quentin of the Entertainmentalist party.

“If we were a good show, more similar planets would be created. Rip-offs, knock-offs, spin-offs, you know. Being alone in the cosmos proves we’re a dull show.”

Entertainmentalists suggest that what we’ve done is boring the audience. What have we done? A lot of famine, and a lot of war. Not much of it is very funny. Perhaps the time Maine declared on Canada is chuckle-worthy in hindsight, but human history is mainly bleak, and so, the Entertainmentalists argue, we don’t have many viewers.

“We’ve got to break out of our rut,” says Ms. Quentin. “We need to be funny in order to pick up the ratings. We need our sense of humor. Consider every empty planet to be a Nielson home that’s watching something else, or worse, has the TV set off. You being so serious about everything is essentially keeping the universe from watching.”

(All "Perspectives" are dedicated to Tim Meadows.)

Monday, April 21, 2008

Bathroom Monologue: Bright Boy

“The boy brought a cheat sheet to an eye exam. Printed it on the inside of his eyelids. An’ he still failed. He figured he’d get bored of looking at A D X R V D the rest of his blinking life, so he had a nekkid girl printed on there to them. Come the eye exam, he got all... distracted. And failed. Became a narcoleptic shortly thereafter, I hear.”

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Bathroom Monologue: Intentionally Mishearing Queen's "Princes of the Universe"

I am a portal,
I have within me lots of things,
Yeah! Yeah!
I have no rival,
no man can steal my key code,
I’ll take you to the future of you all!

Bathroom Monologue: Serenity Now

War brought about world peace in the end. It was unexpected, to say the least, but it was true. The peace was total. No one cried. No one went hungry. No one suffered the ideology of another. There were no issues of tolerance. There were no clarion calls of war; indeed, there was no noise at all, or at least no ears to hear the noise. It was not the world peace that the people who deemed themselves "the world" wanted, but they got it. Violence begat perfect non-violence when it finally emptied the planet.
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