Saturday, November 21, 2009

Bathroom Monologue: Natural Man

“A question is only a question for so long as it remains unanswered to the satisfaction of the thinker. Then it becomes a beginner, or often, the first line of an annoying lecture. This is the nature of man, for whenever he figures something out to his satisfaction he will assume it is universally correct and go about annoying, berating and eventually killing his fellow man to illustrate his correctness. The nature of man can only be subverted by one power: the nature of woman. This can subvert with amazing efficiency, draining bank accounts and taking up unreasonable amounts of spare time. You will not kill anybody over your certainties tonight if she expects you home by 3:00. The nature of woman has kept the nature of man on its leash, and that is why homosexuality scares so many people.”

Friday, November 20, 2009

Bathroom Monologue: “If it didn’t happen, it can’t happen.” –Some dude on Lost, on time travel

Listen to the audio version of "If it didn't happen, it can't happen," or download the MP3 here.

They knew how to alter the flow of energy and even speed particles faster than light. A mass inside the tube would travel so quickly that it would appear outside before it even reached the tube’s end. The math guys went nuts over it. Soon the president declared we’d have a man in the past in the next ten years.

But nobody showed up in the past, as far as the people of the present could tell. A monkey was sent back but never found. Figuring a monkey appearing somewhere wouldn’t make enough historical impact that they’d know about it today, the association sent a lone man back next. Then they waited ten minutes and checked the history books and Google, but there was no trace of a time traveling man.

He sure wasn’t here – the science guys checked for his particles, and not one bit of his matter existed in our time anymore. Hopefully it existed in the past, though the math guys kept their eyes on the future in case our brave time-traveler popped in there. Until that indeterminate future came, they prepared their apologies to his wife and figured out who else they could blame. And until that time, they had theories on when and where their chrononaut was.

The first theory was that he’d simply traveled too far back in time and been eaten by a pterodactyl. The math guys questioned this given that their battery power was, theoretically, barely capable of propelling a mass a few hours. A weekend at the best (and most Heisenbergian).

The second theory pointed out that the earth wasn’t the center of the universe. Very angry scientists pointed out that they knew that, and remained very angry until a high school SciFi nerd continued explaining that as the earth was moving around the sun, if someone were to travel to the same spot twelve hours ago, he would find himself floating in the middle of space, not in Florida.

Telescopes were alerted to look for the floating frozen remains of the brave chrononaut. Observatories did more business for a couple weeks. No remains were spied.

A third theory soon emerged and hung over the heads of celebrities hoping to purchase time travel vacations. This one was called “The H.G. Wells Principle.” This one was also posed by a guy far too young to be anything but annoying to tenured professors. He posited that for the present to exist at all, the past could not be disturbed from how it transpired. Obviously the world that created the time machine could not exist if you went back and killed all of the math guys’ parents or prevented pivotal events like a World War I. But not only couldn’t you prevent Archduke Ferdinand from being shot - you couldn’t prevent the wheels on his car from turning. It wasn’t just that you couldn’t do something that prevented you from going back there – it was that you couldn’t change anything about it because it had already happened exactly that way. If it didn’t happen, then it couldn’t happen, which meant a time traveler couldn’t bend a blade of grass or disturb a particle of dirt. He couldn’t dispel the air around his body when he materialized, nor breathe it in, nor fall to the ground and disturb dirt particles as he suffocated. His body could not exist in past space. On the Wells Principle you couldn’t alter the past, and by being in the past at all you would alter it in some infinitesimal way – which meant if you traveled to the past, you’d have to cease to be.

A large sum of money has been offered to anyone who can mathematically disprove the third theory. Much of that money comes from the chrononaut’s wife.

Pai Guan visits Stories That Lift

"Pai Guan Saw Little" is up at Stories That Lift today. The tale is an updated version of one of the older Bathroom Monologues, following a blind boy who wants to travel the world. You can read it here.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Bathroom Monologue: The Trolley Fallacy

There’s a popular philosophical dilemma about trolleys. It’s popular, and not only amongst trolley drivers, who get so little publicity to them that I assume they’re thrilled for the attention. My apologies to those trolley matrons, but the dilemma is actually bunk.

It begins on trolley tracks. You’re standing there, waiting for the trolley. It comes screaming down the tracks. The people on board are waving frantically and hopping off. The driver is fighting with the controls, but the thing is sparking and he clearly can’t regain control.

A ways down the tracks are two construction workers. They have jackhammers and noise-blocking earmuffs on. They are at work and don’t see the trolley. There is no way you can get to warn them before the trolley runs them off. At this speed, it’s certain they’ll be killed or paralyzed.

You’re on the platform. The only other person around is a vastly obese man. If you push him onto the tracks, the trolley will slow and stop before it hits the two men. If you do that, though, he’s almost certain to be killed or paralyzed.

This is the dilemma. Do you shove him onto the tracks, murdering one man to save two? Or do you stand still and let the two men die without directly killing someone yourself? Is the direct murder of one man worse than allowing two to die in eyeshot? Is inactivity worse than activity here?

But the dilemma is bunk, at least one it comes to me. You see: I’m obese.

I can jump on the tracks, killing or crippling myself, and sparing three lives all at once. In a rare twist of fate, being fat actually lends me ethical weight. I’m unsurprised that philosophers have ignored my rotund brethren in this fallacy of a dilemma. The overweight are so often pushed… aside.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Bathroom Monologue: One Day in Chatham, Kent

They reappeared one day on the street outside No. 2 Ordnance Terrace in Chatham, Kent. They reappeared at just the right moment that the six-year-old Charlie Dickens was playing with a doll by the road.

Jules stepped out from the time machine and grinned.

“Hey there, Charlie.” He waved, and when the boy shied back, he waved again. “Don’t worry. I’m a big fan of yours. You could say I’ve got some great expectations for you.”

They boy said little, watching him. He didn’t seem to mind.

“Is that your home?” he asked, pointing to No. 2.

“Yes, sir.”

“So austere. That sure is a bleak house.”

“Jules, come on!” his partner called from the time machine. “You’re wasting time.”

“Who’s that?” asked the boy.

“Him?” Jules grinned. “Oh, you could call him our mutual friend.”

“Jules, seriously! We are not wasting time fuel so you can drop puns.”

Jules straightened and looked at the once and future literary magnate. “Alright, Charlie. You play nice now. Maybe I’ll come back some December and we’ll sing a Christmas carol.”

“Jules, get the fuck back in the time machine!”

Jules climbed back in laughing to himself. His partner pulled a lever and the carriage disappeared - like David Copperfield.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Bathroom Monologue: Knock on Wood

Knocking on wood is nice, but the savvy individual knocks more than once. One tap ought to provide a certain unit of luck, often demarcated by the politically incorrect term “rabbit’s toe.” But you need an entire rabbit’s foot of luck to get anything done. Normal people knock twice to assure the pine that they have knocked and not merely bumped into it with their hand, yet this equates only two rabbit’s toes – not a full foot by lupine standards. Savvy individuals will knock three or four times, since no one really knows how many toes the little fuzzy bastards have. One civilization developed a machine to knock wood for them, assuming perpetual luck units would be gathered. Unfortunately this is a lot like thinking your car is exercising for you, and the wood-knocking devices wound up the lucky ones. All life on the planet went extinct, and now the battery-powered tappers dominate the planet. One would have expected them to die out when the batteries ran dry, but somehow they’re all still going.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Islamic Gorgon

She fussed with the shawl, but one or two snakes poked out regardless of what she did. They got so uncomfortable under there.

“But it’s better than the alternative,” she told the little dryad boy sitting next to her. “I’m not a very religious woman, but the head covering attracted me. Far fewer cases of petrifaction this way.”

“Oh,” said the little dryad boy. “But aren’t they mean to girls?”

“Stereotypes are dangerous at your age.”


“It’s okay. Honestly, I’ve had more trouble with monster hunters than fundamentalists. In both cases, though, my stoning beats theirs.”

The boy couldn’t tell because of the shawl, but he thought she winked. Then the train started.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Notice: John Away For Surgery, Donation Drive Begins

Dear Readers,

This will be the only post on my health. I am not going to pester my readers. I will respond to private e-mails when possible, though shortly I will be in the hospital, and I expect to be out of commission for a while following surgery.

On November 20th I am scheduled for necessary surgery to remove my gallbladder due to gallstones. The stones worsened all year, leading to frequent attacks that lasted twelve hours and included excruciating pain in my back, abdomen and spine. Often the attack only “ended” when I passed out. Longtime readers know that I struggle with a neuromuscular syndrome. These gallbladder attacks exacerbate that syndrome, such that I am bedridden for as long as a week after one. You can imagine how agonizing they got when these attacks happened every two days.

While I do not have an exact figure, estimates for the surgery run as high as $10,000. I’m paying with my life savings, but $10,000 is simply out of my means. Today there is a Pledgie donation button in the upper right hand corner of the site. If you want to help, this is how you can do it. Pledgie is a secure service that accepts PayPal and credit cards. The donation goal is set at $5,000, the amount I lack. Any and all donations will help with the surgery. I've worked with the hospital to negotiate a break and have been offered a discount, potentially as high as 25%, but only if I pay in full and within a month of the surgery.

Some will naturally ask why I am uninsured. Remember the neuromuscular syndrome I mentioned? I’ve had it since 1993. This has caused two related problems: I can’t work regularly because of it, and it so gravely affects my health that the only insurance policies available to me are both out of my means and would cover almost nothing I need done. Useful health insurance simply became unattainable. The result has been almost a decade of not being able to see a doctor more than once a year no matter what was wrong. There’s more to that story, but this post is not about sympathy or a history of health problems.

I do not expect my readers to pick up even a tenth of this bill. It’s my bill for my problem. But as I said before: if you want to help, this is how. Feel free to link to this post and/or use the Pledgie button wherever you like.

I will take the button down in a few weeks. It is not a permanent part of this site.

I will respond to any comments or e-mails as soon as I can. Naturally I will be out commission around the time of the surgery.

The Bathroom Monologues will continue. One went up at 9:00 AM this morning. I have queued sixty stories into the system so that even if I’m bedridden for an exorbitant amount of time, something will still go up every day well into January. I’m trying very hard to suppress a joke about dying on the operating table and still posting monologues into the New Year right now.

Thank you for reading.

John Wiswell

EDIT: This post was originally ran in 2009. The year is now 2019, a decade later, and Pledgie has folded as a platform. As a sign of gratitude to its founders, I've included a link to their explanation of what happened here.

Bathroom Monologue: On Lex Luthor

"Joker's gay for Batman? Why? Just because he keeps chasing him? That’s proof of nothing. You want gay? Lex Luthor.

"This guy is only attracted to women related to Superman, be it his reporter girlfriend or the blonde wearing his logo and a skirt. Apparently Lex is smart enough to cure cancer in a weekend, but instead he spends all his life and cash stalking an alien with underwear outside his pants. Maybe that was a turn-on for him.

"Think about when Superman died. He was dead for like a month. A month. Lex stole the alien's DNA, combined it with his own, and made an illegitimate super-baby. Half him, half Supes. Some kind of Anyway, Conner Kent: Wikipedia that crap. Lex filled the hole in his heart with their unnatural love child.

"Through the decades this guy went from a scientist to a millionaire to a billionaire to the President of the United States, pulling his hair out, begging Supes, 'Look down here! Look at me! I have a magic ring that gives me powers like yours, so now we can be together!'

"The Joker is a nutbar in a city of nutbars. Lex Luthor? Now there's your designated hitter. He’s probably had a crush on Kal-El since they were kids in Smallville."
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