Saturday, November 7, 2009

Bathroom Monologue: The Dubba

One thing I’m introducing into the English language is “the dubba.” We see it all the time, especially on clever television, but have yet to assign it a word. I’m naming it for an imaginary friend I used to have who broke into such monologues until I couldn’t stand him anymore and stopped believing in him. The dubba is a rhetorical mechanism made of two parts.

The first part of the dubba is a monologue, typically underlined by some degree of emotion. It may be coldly disapproving, openly threatening, or even jubilant. It usually responds to a situation in the plot or an argument someone has set forth, most typically shredding a pretense. This only works in artistic mediums where the other character isn’t a conscious person who would never put up with this crap. It is incredibly entertaining to many people, such as myself, as we’d really enjoy it if it worked in real life.

For instance: “"Hey. If any of you are looking for any last-minute gift ideas for me, I have one. I'd like Frank Shirley, my boss, right here tonight. I want him brought from his happy holiday slumber over there on Melody Lane with all the other rich people and I want him brought right here, with a big ribbon on his head, and I want to look him straight in the eye and I want to tell him what a cheap, lying, no-good, rotten, fore-fleshing, low-life, snake-licking, dirt-eating, inbred, overstuffed, ignorant, blood-sucking, dog-kissing, brainless, dickless, hopeless, heartless, fat-ass, bug-eyed, stiff-legged, spotty-lipped, worm-headed sack of monkey shit he is.”

The second part of the dubba is a pithy non sequitur. Upon destroying someone’s argument against abortion or insulting his employer at length, the speaker of the dubba then compliments the target’s hat or tells her to have a nice day. This mechanism is amusing, particularly in dramatic exchanges, as it allows a degree of release for the audience, letting them know that the telling-off is over and they can applaud.

For instance: “Hallelujah. Holy shit. Where's the Tylenol?"

The dubba cannot be a mere monologue. Yes, the above monologue from National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation is hilarious, but it’s funnier that it tailspins and Chevy Chase is suddenly not asking to destroy his boss, but would like a mildly comforting drug instead.

The second part of the dubba is just as important, dismissing the original topic, and often dismissing the other party. Being so short, the non sequitur breaks from the monologue to establish that this issue is closed. Normally the speaker of the dubba will exit right after it. The movie continues but this particular issue in it is pretty much over.

Dubbas can be found throughout television, in shows like Columbo where the detective will talk for very long about one thing, convince himself the killer is innocent, then say, “One more thing,” changing the topic radically and implying he’s caught them with this other bit of evidence. Here the thing that is “over” is any shred of the killer getting away with murder. Dubbas are a hallmark of Aaron Sorkin’s writing and appear in his films like American President and throughout his TV shows like the West Wing, including a presidential dubba in the pilot episode. Sorkin is a pathological monologuer, and the dubba is unavoidable to those of us who find monologues appearing in all our stories. They allow a break of laughter, a shift of mood, and even a sweeping close to a charged scene. They remove some of the sting from the monologue that can often make the fiction seem more righteous than its characters, something that most of us would like to avoid. If language had natural selection, the dubba would be a new species of monologue that evolved a pincer with which to cut its own umbilical chord. That’s why we can’t stop writing them. They’ve out-evolved our writing habits, and that means they may soon devour us.

Now please give me the Tylenol.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Bathroom Monologue: In Defense of Snake Oil Salesmen

Listen to the audio version of "In Defense of Snake Oil Salesmen" or download the MP3 here.

I don’t know what everyone has against me. I am a snake oil salesman. If your snake gets dry, you oil it. My product has an obvious use, as a dry snake gets rashes, a snake with rashes gets irritable, and irritable snakes bite.

Look at any happy pet python. They glisten. And what do you think is glistening? Whale sperm? Marmalade? No! It’s snake oil. You apply the proper amount, the python gets a healthy sheen and doesn’t strangle you to death while you’re asleep.

So you see, my product has an obvious use. I charge reasonable prices. What? You say that’s overpriced? The bigotry against snake oil salesmen is atrocious in this country. Look here. I import my wares all the way from Ireland. Naturally it’s more expensive than the next man’s brand because of shipping and handling costs. This is quality stuff, for Ireland is home to the world’s healthiest serpents. Now you’re thinking Ireland doesn’t have any serpents at all on account of St. Patrick, but that’s untrue. Ireland has plenty of snakes. You simply never hear them because they’re so well oiled they don’t make any noise or trouble. It’s the world’s healthiest snake ecosystem, and I am selling you its lubricant at pennies over the wholesale cost. You can’t deny me that much profit, can you? I have many mouths to feed, and scales to grease.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

"Rorschark Attack" in Best of the Web contest

This week I was notified by Casey Quinn of the Short Story Library that their e-zine has nominated my story, "Rorschark Attack," to Dzanc Books’ Best of the Web contest. If it places, it will be published in their Best of the Web anthology for 2009. Short Story Library had only three submissions available to them out of the hundreds of pieces they've published this year. I'm honored to have my bit of absurdism chosen.

If you haven't read "Rorschark Attack," it's about a shark that everyone sees as anything but a shark. You can still see it on their site here:

Bathroom Monologue: Bathtub Monologue

If you can’t say it briefly, it’s probably stupid. Like, novels are a waste of time. Nothing should be longer than a short story. Fucking War and Peace? I never finished that shit. Paradise Lost? Fucking Dante’s Inferno? That’s boring, pretentious shit. Nobody needs that. Just get to the point and finish. Even most short stories are too long. That’s why I don’t read them. They’re always wasting your time, you know? Everything is, really. Like movies. Like, it’s great that they’re taking a two-week reading thing and crunching it into one movie, but ninety minutes? Or like, two hours? No movie needs to be that long. Can’t you tell Gone with the Wind in, like, sixty minutes? If you just made King Kong the fight scene against the t-rexes, that’d be badass. But, like, Milk? Or Lord of the Rings? Couldn’t Lord of the Rings be shorter? Three fucking movies? It feels like, if you can’t shorten that way down, to where it takes about as long to watch as it does to look at the movie posters, you’re really lazy. It should be like TV, but shorter. Like Youtube, but like, even shorter, because a lot of those videos go way too long. I blame books. Fucking Paradise Lost. Pretentious fiction shit. Scientists don’t take that long to make their point. Got to be like Darwin, you know? Just the data. In and out. Like, four pages at most.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Bathroom Monologue: Simply Lost

Bradley rested his forehead on his palms in that way that set his fingertips along his hairline. It was oddly comforting and he needed odd comforts right now.

He was going to miss the end of Lost. The whole final season. Those bastards stretched the show out so badly that he didn’t even know when they’d air the new episodes. Could he write the network and ask to see them early? Or at least have one of their two hundred stars drop by and tell him how it all ended? It was a stupid show. He was pretty sure at this point they were just pulling ancient smog gods and nuclear bomb-induced time travel out of their asses, but he couldn’t know for sure unless he saw it. That first season had been so smart. So calculated. At least part of it had to have some grand design. At the very least Kate was going to have to pick a man instead of bopping between Sawyer and Jack like a hormonal ping-pong ball. And he wanted to know who she'd pick, dammit.

He sighed. You never knew what would come to mind in situations like these.

“So two months?” he asked, looking up at the doctor from between his fingers. “There’s nothing we can do?”

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Bathroom Monologue: Dear Pet Owners Weekly

Dear Pet Owners Weekly;

I do not own a cat or a dog, but can’t help feeling the debate between their owners is disruptive and ultimately useless. Anyone not enamored with these pets can see that dogs are morons and that cats would eat you in a second if they were big enough. This may seem like a bias given my choice of pets, but I've never met an ill-tempered bulldozer. When you really think about it, they are the optimum companions.

Consider maintenance. You have to feed a dog every single day. Sometimes more than once a day. Meanwhile you only have to feed the bulldozer when you want to ride it.

Also, have you ever tried to clean a dog with a hose? They hate it. They're so annoying, constantly running away, and if you get them wet they flail and spatter your clothes. But if you pay this affection to a bulldozer it will just sit there, even if you spray it between the tires. Try spraying a cat down there. I dare you. It'll convert you to bulldozers immediately.

Some say the bulldozer lacks compassion. There is nothing like a heavily panting dog or purring kitten. I dare these people to compare the purr of any kitten to the purr of a bulldozer’s engine. You can compare them, on the decibel level.

One time my family had a dog, Julie. There was this neighbor who threw a party for her terrier and invited all the other dogs over, which admittedly was pretty stupid. My sister and mother took Julie anyway. During the festivities, a pit bull got out of control and mauled Julie. She was very badly hurt and the hospital bills were outrageous. Thankfully she recovered.

I was thinking about that recently. I've taken my bulldozer to a lot of parties. Even human-centric parties. It has never lost a fight.

The only downside to the bulldozer is that when it dies you can't flush it down the toilet. In that sense I guess the crane is the best possible pet, because it can dig its own grave. But up until that tearful day, the bulldozer is pretty clearly the most loyal and reliable pet on the market.


Monday, November 2, 2009

On "Trade Secrets Revealed" and Clickable Comments

Today Michael Solender is featuring On "Trade Secrets Revealed," a piece of my non-fiction on his site, Not From Here, Are You?. It's a reflection on a writing workshop I took at Bennington College during my Sophmore and Junior years. Aspiring writer/student meets successful writer/teacher, Fantasy nerd meets class of people who hate Fantasy - it's a classic love story. You can read On "Trade Secrets Revealed" here.

Also, after many e-mail requests, I've added clickable response tabs to the bottom of every post here on The Bathroom Monologues. Apparently people really like the option to tell me that Hate/Were Indifferent Towards/Liked what I wrote without typing those words. Well, your time has come! Detailed comments, whether it's to tell me what line made you laugh or specific criticism of the piece, are still most welcome.

Bathroom Monologue: 52 Times

As soon as the show let out Carl and Brad made for the nearest bar. It was an odd little joint, not so much in its shape or the generic pop music on the stereo, as that to get to their table Carl and Brad passed two men in pink tuxedos and a tall woman in a chain mail bikini.

“They were plants,” Carl said as they sat at the first empty table.

“I could believe that if he only picked one or two of their cards,” said Brad, looking for a waitress. One smiled at him from another table and stuck up two fingers signaling that she’d be there in a moment. “Even three. But the magician called fifty-two people up on stage from all around the building. Fifty-two people picked cards. They took the whole deck! If they were marked, he wouldn’t even have been able to tell who picked what marked card. And when he went around handing everybody their cards back, we saw that he got all of them right. We saw that there was one of every card.”

Carl shook his head. “One of most, maybe. Sometimes he was out of earshot and we could only really see the ones he gave to people near us.”

“So maybe two people had the Jack of Spades. It was still their card.”

“Unless they were plants pretending whatever cards he gave them were right.”

“Fifty-two plants in an audience of what? Two hundred?”

“Magicians use plants all the time.”

Brad smacked the table. “Not that many! He planted a quarter of his audience? How could he afford that?”

“So the place wasn’t close to full. Next time it’ll be fuller. It’s a publicity stunt.”

“But if the guy is broke from having nobody come to his shows, how’d he afford fifty-two actors?”

“Maybe they were all magicians.”

The waitress came over with two menus.

“What can I get for you guys?”

“Pilsner,” said Carl.

Brad asked, “Have you got Cherry Coke?”

The waitress pushed her pen into her pad. “We can mix some cherry extract into Pepsi for you.”

“How about you mix a lemon into some water for me?”

She left with a confused expression. Brad immediately turned on Carl again.

“So fifty-two magicians spent the night watching his act just so they could help a competitor?”

“They could be friends. Or there could be a union.”

“So everybody from Hogwarts clears out to help this one guy?’

“Firstly, Hogwarts isn’t real. Secondly, maybe. But nobody can guess the real fifty-two cards of fifty-two strangers. Do you even know what a permutation is?”

“No. Is that the mutation that makes you such a killjoy at magic shows?”

“Fifty-two times fifty-one times fifty times forty-nine and so-on down to one.” Carl ticked off the numbers on his placemat. “Multiply them all together and you the number of possible orders the cards could have been drawn. That’s not even a trillion. I don’t know how to say what magnitude that is.”

“And he shuffled them really well. He let two of the card-pickers shuffle them before they all went back to their seats. You’re crazy if you think he memorized the order.”

“Which is why I think the pickers were plants.”

“The shufflers weren’t plants.”

“They could have been!”

“No they couldn’t! Nor could he have bribed a quarter of his audience without anyone blowing his cover. His act will be in the papers tomorrow. Some of those people got interviewed. Somebody would slip.”

Carl put his hands out. “Unless they were all professionals.”

“Excuse me,” said a girl from behind Carl. They recognized her from the show. She’d picked one of the cards, and in fact held it in her hand right now. “It just seemed like you could use this more than me.”

She laid the card next to Carl’s hand. It was the ten of hearts. Then she patted his shoulder and followed her giant boyfriend to another table.

“What the Hell does that mean?” Carl asked, but she was gone, and Brad got up for the bathroom.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Bathroom Monologue: Ghosts are Jerks

"Why do ghosts never just explain themselves to people? Why are they always cryptic, and often straight-up jerks to the living? My answer is simple: they're like Seniors.

“Why doesn’t a class of high school Seniors recognize that Freshmen are awkward and cut them slack? Why not sympathize with this group when you used to be one of them? Why not hang out with them and treat them as equals? They’re only a couple years younger, and honestly neither group has a better idea of how the real world works. The Seniors only hold a little more experience in this one.

“But they don’t behave decently. They don’t because it was hard on them when they were Freshmen, because it’s their turn to be jerks now, and frankly, because being a Senior takes a lot of time and energy, leaving them much less likely to empathize with their inferiors.

“You are a ghost’s Freshman. They already took Bio and Home Economics and don’t feel like putting up with that crap again. That you’re so lost only comforts them, because at least they aren’t in your position anymore. You’re lucky ghosts only take it so far, because while getting stuffed in a locker in bad, a coffin is a whole other thing.”
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