Saturday, May 31, 2008

Bathroom Monologue: Inspired by Diarrhea, the Bathroom Internal Monologue

Alright, clearing my mind. Nothing will be in here, not even a pumpkin. The grey pillars pull back to reveal empty space. Pure white, nothing at -- a pumpkin?!! Oh crap, there's a giant pumpkin in the middle of my zen!

It's okay. I'll just clear my mind again, summon the void and -- the damn pumpkin's back. What would Jung say? Clearly this symbol wants to emerge. What does it represent?

It's grinning at me. Or is it grinning with me? Do the three teeth in its mouth symbolize anything? They're square -- wait, it's not a pumpkin. It's a jack o'lantern that I've been calling by the wrong name. Does that disconnect indicate something? It's a smiling jack o'lantern that I'm calling by the wrong word. A word that represents an undamaged, untampered-with plant, rather than something that has been turned into art.

It's also a fucking jack o'lantern.

Maybe my subconscious is commenting on my obsession with accurate language? Is my subconscious telling me to lighten up? But subconscious, I have a website where I log all the stuff I improvised on the toilet! How could I possibly need to lighten up? Explain yourself, imaginary pumpkin!

Friday, May 30, 2008

Bathroom Monologue: Ogre-Brained, Or, “And chances are that your kids are not getting enough art —in or out of school.” –Americans for the Arts ad

They didn’t know where the ogre came from. Some of the village children said they saw him walk out of a forest from east of the hills, but when the adults went to look, there was no forest to see. What they did see was a fifteen-foote ogre with shale for skin and shite for brains. He could only remember one word at a time, and for the first few weeks all he said was, “Moose.” The village people had no idea why. They had practical ideas, though. Since he was such a docile monster, they put a harness on him, dangled a turnip in front of his face from a fishing line, directed him through the fields. After dozens of man-hours of labor he captured his turnip and one of the village children replaced it with a drawing a moose. It tripled his productivity. He really wanted that drawing. The drawing saved him from being classified as livestock, for one day while chasing it and dragging the plough he changed his favorite word changed from “Moose” to “Paper.”

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Bathroom Monologue: Bathroom Monologues Brought to you by: Cherry Coca Cola, Dell & John’s Insecurities

TV commercials, radio commercials, commercials before movies, posters on walls, billboards on highways, logos on t-shirts, telemarketing, junk mail, spam e-mail, pop-up ads on the net, catchy slogans entering common speech, advertising kept getting more invasive until Lowe's Home Improvement paid to have a 36 square foot advertisement on at least one wall in every new house. Stuck to each billboard-wall was a 25% off coupon for one can of paint, with which you could cover up to eyesore.

Sadly, it worked. Lowe's Company Inc. stock (LOW) went up 11% the first quarter alone.

Microsoft and Sony started broadcasting subliminal advertisements at low brain frequencies to influence the dreams of tomorrow’s gamers. Medical technology companies paid surgeons to place a small radioactive tattoo on the major organs of their patients, so that they’d be reminded what brand of device had saved them during every x-ray for the rest of their lives.

Things got so bad that Budweiser, used to throwing their logo onto loud, confusing, violent events, sponsored the apocalypse. It was blasphemous and cloyingly advertised. But the worst thing (aside from the planetary genocide) is that people went out and bought Budweiser, in bulk, hoping to appease the ad execs in the sky and save themselves from the catastrophe, or at least get into Heaven. Boy, were they red-faced when it turned out the afterlife wasn’t determined by how much you drank, but how much you recycled.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Bathroom Monologue: Braino'd

Anyone who types for a worthwhile amount of time recognizes the typo and the braino. The introduction of the keyboard made dumb errors more possible, but I’m certain that Shakespeare scribbled a spelling error now and then (given how vowels traveled and disappeared in written English back then, they properly had “yee olde” courtesy not to point it out and just assimilated them as alternate spellings).

Today, a typo is "tp" instead of "to." A braino is "too" instead of "to." You know the difference between these words. You know when to use them. Sometimes your brain fumbles, just like your fingers do. There's no reason to be embarrassed about it. Sometimes I've braino'd entire sentences out of existence, giving me the paragraph-sized embarrassment you get out of writing “too” instead of “two.”

I spell these things “typo’d” and “braino’d” with apostrophes instead of traditional pluralization as a tribute to the nature of the typo and braino. Like the little toe and being unable to sneeze and urinate at the same time, these are the human experience’s ways of telling us to stay humble.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Bathroom Monologue: Cancer is the One Shaped Like a Crab

“Ralph and I liked to play an awful joke on people. You see we’ve got neuromuscular syndromes the doctors haven’t even named yet. His will probably be Ralph Syndrome, if his doctor doesn’t steal it and name it for himself. But these syndromes cause us excruciating pain, wreck our immune systems, and if we don’t take our pills, we shake like fish out of water. It’s a fight just to appear normal, and since you can’t point out your neuromuscular system on a skeleton, everyone thinks we’re making it up. Instead, we say we’ve got cancer. Cancer is horrible, so horrible that it’s got an amazing social debit account. You can blame anything on it. One time Ralph was spazzing in the bus depot and I accidentally said he had cancer. My tongue slipped. The thing is, everybody turned helpful. Cancer doesn’t do that to somebody, but the mere word gave everyone sympathy – the sympathy they probably should have had for him anyway. Then things got away from us. We mentioned dying of cancer at this one restaurant, then noticed free desserts coming our way. Free rounds at bars, too. One time a guy drove Ralph and me all the way home, from out of state, thinking I had kidney cancer. I don’t know if all people with cancer get this treatment (maybe they get it by claiming they have neuromuscular disorders), but I hope so. I know I always buy rounds for anyone coming out of the hospital, so long as they aren’t coming off a liver transplant. This one’s on me, too.”

Monday, May 26, 2008

Bathroom Monologue: War and Peace and Comics

Allow me to explain the problem with comic books. It is not the costumes, superpowers or unrealistic body types. Achilles is pretty much naked for two-thirds of The Iliad, then puts on some heavenly jammies his mother got him. Franz Kafka’s Metamorphosis features a man who turns into a giant bug for no explained reason (which makes Spider-Man plagiarism of great 20th century lit). What is wrong lies in the writers.

“Writers,” you may note, is the plural of, "writer."

Imagine if Leo Tolstoy wrote the first hundred pages of War and Peace, then turned it over to Fyodor Dostoyevsky for fifty pages. After a falling out around page 42 of his contract, Dostoyevsky is replaced by Aleksandhr Solzhenitsyn, who manages a stable run for a record-setting 150 pages. Each writer is a total literary genius with his (or her) own vision for literature and for War and Peace. None of them has any more authority over the other outside of the ability to write an angry letter that the newest chapter ruined Helene's character or made too much of Pierre's nihilism.

And all of this is edited by Joe Quesada, a self-professed die hard fan of Tolstoy’s early work on the book, but a man who recognizes that War and Peace needs “to be modernized” and “become more topical.” His editing means that he shepherds the entire writing process. He is governed mostly by sales, such that if chapters aren’t selling well he can pressure the current author to add more cliffhangers, sex and fight scenes. These genius writers have all the freedom that the editor feels like giving them. Quesada controls everything without ever writing any of it, and he can shift in new writers, such that Solzhenitsyn's chapters are followed up with a four-chapter story arc from Anton Chekhov, and then Aleksandr Pushkin, and then Dean Koontz.

And then we hit the Annual. At the end of the first year of War and Peace we get a bonus-sized Annual issue, not linked to the previous page, but its own story by its own writer, in some way related to Napolean's campaign. And because the regular author is behind schedule and busy, the Annual is written by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. But Marquez didn't read anything after Tolstoy quit the book (he prefers independent comics), so his story is set back on page 90, even though it will be printed somewhere on page 320. He seeds plot threads that no one else even thought of, though Quesada will order Chekhov to reference them from now on. Now perhaps American secret agents are dispersed throughout the war trying to sabotage Russia's efforts, and God actually makes a cameo to rebut one of Pierre's diatribes. After all, Marquez was told to experiment and have fun with the Annual issue of this masterpiece.

Another Annual featuring another all-star writer will appear every year until War and Peace is done (Boris Pasternak for Annual #2, Marcel Proust for Annual #3, and a tentative contract with Gertrude Stein to fill in some of the later annuals).

If Quesada turns this novel around so that it sells well, it will not end where Tolstoy intended. It could go on for decades, and there could be spin-offs. You see, War and Peace is doing so well that other ongoing novels, such as War and More War, War and Peace: Xtreme, and Bolkonsky Vs. Predator, will begin over the next year. They will have strong creative direction at first (Ayn Rand is very devoted to Xtreme), but will get similar creative shifts shortly thereafter. And as these expansive novels continue, some chapters will randomly crossover with the events of the original War and Peace, though you won’t really be able to understand what either set of characters is doing in these interactions unless you’re reading both novels simultaneously. Some stories flow like: War and Peace chapter 99, War and Peace: Xtreme chapter 11, War and More War chapter 13, and then conclude in War and Peace chapter 100. If you go straight from 99 to 100, you'll spoil the story for yourself.

By Koontz's stint on War and Peace the cast has entirely changed, since certain writers wanted certain characters. Every writer wants his (or her) own leeway and wants to tell self-contained stories, with most everything wrapping up every twenty pages, and with the cast rotating to suit their tastes, so that nothing lasts for too long. It seems Woody Allen wanted to write about Lise, and so he used retroactive continuity ("retcon") to bring her back to life when it turns out a pregnant body double actually died in labor, and she was secretly spirited away via U-Boat. Kutuzov actually repelled Napolean at Borodino in a strange Ground Hog's Day-like scenario (this chapter came with variant covers). A funny Chinese philosopher is introduced, turns out to be a shapeshifter, and assumes Andrei's role after his death so that no one is the wiser. By the time Leo Tolstoy is rehired in a grand publicity stunt to write War and Peace: Epilogues, the epic end to the series, he doesn't even recognize his masterpiece.

Of course, it's the costumes that ruin Superman.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Not many math jokes out there, OR, While Writing on the Chalkboard Monologue

2 and 2 were tired of making four. They’d read some George Orwell, and he expanded their horizons. They could make five. They could make ten with the right press agent. And with Calculas, they could equal letters. 2 + 2 could equal A. They could equal A(B). Or C((A)B). They could even equal A^2, which felt almost naughty. One night they got drunk and equaled F((U)C+K). They were almost fired from Algebra for that.
Counter est. March 2, 2008