Saturday, May 15, 2010

Bathroom Monologue: Monologue for Laurence Fishburne cast as a domineering teacher

"If you can't learn in an environment where trained adults are paid to care and help you, where exactly are you going to learn? Is it out on the streets where a dealer will shoot you for being ten dollars short? Is that where you’re going to learn life’s great lessons? Is it going to be on your mom’s couch? You’ve learned all you need, because all you need is her to love and pay for everything you want? Well someday she’s going to die and stop paying for everything. So are you going to learn the ways of the world working at Wal-Mart? Is all you need to learn going to come out of menial labor that everybody loathes doing? Perhaps that’s what you need to learn. Perhaps you need to learn that after twenty years of bagging groceries and stocking shelves, that this was all a mistake. I’d rather you learn it right now, but if you want to go learn from the world, the door’s open. Stop by in twenty years and show me what a genius you’ve become."

Friday, May 14, 2010

Bathroom Monologue: France Bans High Heels

After long deliberations, this evening the French National Assembly voted unanimously to ban the wearing of high-heeled shoes in public. Many women wear high heels in order to improve the appearance of their legs and buttocks, though opponents have complained about their links to arthritis, sprained ankles and back problems. The shoes have long been controversial amongst conservative Christians and politically correct secularists for being detrimental to women.

“This is a blow for the rights of women against male authority,” read the official statement from the National Assembly, which is roughly 85% male. “No longer will women don this shameful footwear just because men make them feel they have to.”

The legislation bans wearing of “the heel” in all public places, including government buildings, restaurants, subways and on the street. There is a substantial fine for violators, while husbands who are caught shoe shopping for their wives may spend up to one year in prison.

Some pundits protest that freedom of dress should be a right in any democratic society. Dr. George Lytton of the Madup Institute told our reporters, “So what if a fashion guru says they have to wear the new Chanel stilettos this season? Ultimately women choose to wear these things. If a man is physically forcing women to wear them, deal with him. Penalizing her and removing her choice is an afront."

“Preposterous,” was the first word out of Assemblyman J. Clouseau’s mouth when asked for comment. “Women only wear them to live up a chauvinistic cultural norm that objectifies them. Any woman who wants to wear such an uncomfortable thing has been culturally conditioned into psychological sickness. We are freeing them from social bondage. Only now are they free to wear what they want.”

Later in his press conference, Clouseau framed the issue as a national concern. “High heels are linked to a multitude of medical problems, which put undue strain on our healthcare system. They are costing the French taxpayers millions of euros every year. It’s becoming a national security issue.”

Some have defended the heel on religious grounds. “God didn’t give me this ass so I could hide it,” says Angie Dunning, an American immigrant to France. She is Roman Catholic. “If this keeps up I’ll move to Germany. They’re way more tolerant there. I met a couple of guys at a hostel who said they would totally help me learn the language.”

Angie is part of a movement to repeal heel-banning legislation. The petitioners claim Parliament is unfairly targeting attractive people and people with good senses of balance. Spokespeople for the National Assembly denied that the legislation was targeted at minorities.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Bathroom Monologue: How much does a shit ton weigh?

We say “I have a shit ton of work.” “I have a shit ton to do tomorrow.” It’s being used as a proper unit, so we’re left to ask just how much the average shit ton weighs. It's tempting to say it weighs a ton. But is it a metric ton? For a metric ton weighs 1,000 kilograms, where a proper ton weighs 2,000. That's a big variance. And what if the ton is moist? Because moisture weighs a solid down, so ton of dry turds would likely have less general volume. Is water weight extra? Or maybe shit tons refer to food consumed - the shit produced after eating a ton of food. In that case the weight of your shit ton would vary wildly based the metabolism of your excreters. Even if they were just retaining water that day. Also, if it's the weight of pre-digested food, are we handling pre-cooked weight or post-cooked weight? Hamburgers sweats off several ounces on the grill. A pre-cooked, pre-digested shit ton could weigh a lot.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Outtake from a Recent Short Story

This is a bit of dialogue from a short story I’ve been working on. The characters babble a lot and some of it simply has to be cut. For instance, this exchange. I love this exchange; it even references an old Bathroom Monologue. But it doesn’t belong in this particular short story. I’m giving it life on the blog. If you like it and would like more, I’ll bring Life and Trudy to the blog more often. I feel like there’s a lot in them. Plus their setting allows so many crazy things to chat about, including this anonymoose.

"A what?"

"An anonymooose." Life sighed, as though embarrassed for anyone else who had ever had to utter that name. "They say it stalks the neighboring forest. There are no photos because it can't be seen. Men hunt it and fire blindly. It can't even be heard, though hunters leaves their hides in the morning to discover hoofprints all around them in the dirt or snow. One sheriff swears he felt it breathing on his shoulder, but when he tried to grab it, the thing thrust him through his windshield. He woke to find it had defecated on his hood."

She pursed one corner of her mouth. "Did an expert looking at these droppings?"

"The Office of Wildlife. But they couldn't determine what the droppings belonged to."

"Because it was anonymoose." She rolled her eyes. "Come on, Life. There must be some things you disbelieve."

"There are. For instance, I disbelieve men would go through that many cold overnights bagging no game just to perpetuate a bad pun."

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Bathroom Monologue: Possible Origins for Him. 3.

There is an audio version of today's monologue. To hear John Wiswell read "Possible Origins for Him. 3." either click this text to download it or click on the triangle to begin streaming audio.

So you want to know who I really am. Everybody does. But I’ll let you in on it, and just you. Ever heard of a guy named "Elvis Presley?"

I know what you're saying. "Not another theory about how the Joker is Elvis!"

Sorry. It's all true. The charisma. The fabulous taste in wardrobe. Before I appointed myself court jester, I was The King.

At first getting crowds to go wild was enough, but eventually a guy tires of shaking his hips. Less of a slap and more of tickle man, I was. Nobody really got me, so I ate. Out of boredom, depression, a cadaver – you know, what you do when you have too much money and not enough friends. I was under the influence – twenty peanut-butter-cheeseburgers a day, not an illegal substance at the time – when a tour manager said I had to turn it around and mentioned this radical weight loss surgery. I figured, what the Hell? I’m barely conscious anyway!

Turns out a heavy guy who loses all that fat is left with a lot of spare tissue, and they tried to trim me up. It also turns out that back-alley plastic surgery in the 1970’s was not the most efficient or sanitary affair. The blood loss destroyed my complexion and my smile was irrevocably altered.

When I saw what the doctors had done to me, well. I ain't nothing but a hound dog.

Throttling my third medical attendee, I realized this was what I’d been missing. Not just making them squeal from the stage, but getting down there and laying on some hands. The transition into a new life wasn’t hard; half my impostors looked more like me than I did, and the screams of my new audience were so much more interesting. Let me tell you, singing Jail House Rock in Arkham Asylum is an experience to die for. Or at least get maimed on an operation table for.

This sort of thing's not that unusual, really. One of the Robins used to be James Dean. Get me a cheeseburger and a crowbar, and I'll tell you which.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Exposure by Community

There is a certain kind of Submissions page that bothers me. It rants about what the zine doesn’t want to see and strikes a deliberate attitude at the writers who want to work with it. It also lacks something: it has no Payment section. It might even claim it’ll pay you in exposure.

It's great to get some readers, but how conceited can an editor be? You’ll reward me with the honor of it being known that I did work for you?

We all wrote for free at some point. Once I actually paid to write; that was college. After graduation I wrote for free to build my confidence and make connections. Even after my prose started selling, I’d write for a friend’s site without charge. I have no problem helping people and causes I like. But there is a business somewhere around here and saying you’ll pay me in exposure is an insult. You’re not exactly McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, and you know, paying sites grant exposure. Being profitable enough to pay your writers is an indicator of having a big audience – the kind a writer would want to be exposed to. If you're going to write for free, there needs to be warmth.

#fridayflash is attractive because it subverts the exposure-based system. Dozens of readers willingly buzz around the hashtag, leaving compliments and feedback, starting conversations and sharing what they like. It’s a community that exposes you out of personal engagement. The “networking” here is reading and working with your peers; you get more attention for spreading goodwill. Communities like this make bitchiness obsolete in the free scene. Social networking can turn Blogspots and Wordpress blogs into viable webzines (heck, those two sites provide templates for most of webzines anyway).

Twitter scenes like this one encourage a community that isn’t tied to a magazine or web brand, but a brand that fluctuates based on what everyone feels like contributing. I write a lot of humor for Fridays; Anthony Venutolo writes in homage for Kerouac and Carver; Barry Northern records audio fables; Carrie Clevenger writes her dark materials; Jeff Posey writes tales of Native Americans. Intrepid writers like Marisa Birns and Tony Noland try to write different genres at least every few weeks, if not weekly. Some people do it for the love or the hope of a little attention; others are sharpening their skills for careers in letters.

I strive for and admire improvement. It’s why I post daily. I can’t catch all my own typos (few writers can), which is why I leave notes about typos in my comments. It’s a public service when somebody (usually @mcantor) catches my flubs before too many others see them. You may have seen my rarer gigantic critiques in Comments, which come when I’ve got the mental energy. If writers are trying to improve then, in addition to the praise that keeps us from hanging ourselves, we need feedback. I try to isolate what was hilarious, or felt awkward, or needed better explanation. If I think it can sell somewhere, I try to notify the author. This, too, is what the community can do for each other.

I’m hardly the only maven for fiction sales. Every couple of weeks somebody shares a new contest or zine opening with me. And if you befriend the community, #fridayflash readers will follow you to wherever your fiction goes. Your weekly entry doesn’t have to be tied to your blog; it can be a guest post elsewhere or a professional sale. I saved the announcement of my first pro-rate sale, “Alligators by Twitter” at Flash Fiction Online, for #fridayflash. The result was wonderful; Twitter users left more compliments than any other FFO story for April and it was retweeted by a dozen kindly souls. Members of the community make exposure for each other. So in a way, it pays in exposure.

For the cynics who think everyone is only out for themselves, I provide the one time this networking actually paid. In November 2009, I was diagnosed with severe gallstones. Surgery was necessary. I’m uninsured because of medical conditions and the procedure cost over ten thousand dollars. After friends urged me into making a PayPal donation account, I put up just one post explaining my circumstance.

Friends promoted for me; I couldn’t, largely out of embarrassment and the inability to sit up. Friends like Jodi MacArthur. Linda Simoni-Wastila. Michael Solender. Laura Eno. They tweeted it, put it on Facebook and added the Pledgie badge to their blogs. They cared. Half the donations I got were from people related in some way to this community.
I even got a personal check from J.M. Strother, the founder of #fridayflash.

#fridayflash is not an island of weekend writers. It is one of the labels under which the community shares work. #fridayflash writers crossover with #amwriting, #weblit, #pennydreadful, #writechat, #scribechat, #writerslife. Regular #fridayflash writers edit and promote magazines like Pow Flash Fiction and Full of Crow. Last week one of G.U.D.’s editors dropped a story into the network. I met Jodi and Michael through Six Sentences; Peggy McFarland through Harbinger*33; Strother at Editors Unleashed. The writing community keeps getting bigger and more useful the more places you click. It's a far cry from a snarky Submissions page.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Godzilla Haiku at... Godzilla Haiku?

This Sunday's funny is a little different. My haiku, "It Feels," has been accepted and published over at Godzilla Haiku. They've spliced it with an image of the big guy.

You can see the entry by clicking here.
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