Saturday, June 12, 2010

Bathroom Monologue: "How are you feeling?" -A well-meaning friend

"How am I feeling? I feel like going to bed until Sunday. At the crack of noon on the holy day I'll order a pizza. Delivery. I'll bribe the deliveryman to come into my house, upstairs, and to set the pizza on my mattress. No matter how heavy a tip he demands, I'll give it to him so long as he leaves the box open, so that I can roll over and gnaw at the pie at will. He'll depart, I'll eat what I assume is one and a half slices before falling asleep - hopefully not face down in cheese, but I make no promises. I'll sleep through Monday, and if Monday is dumb enough to poke through my light-blocking blinds, I will grab it about the throat and throttle it. I'll leave its remains in the pizza box and go back to bed. I will sleep so long and so thoroughly that princes will show up wondering if they're supposed to help wake me. Any who intrude will receive Monday-like throttling. I will only leave the bed once it is so soiled that I can't stand the smell - at which point I'll roll onto the floor and use the carpet as a blanket."

Friday, June 11, 2010

Bathroom Monologue: A Consumer Savage, OR, Taking a Swing at Arthur C. Clarke

Little Tommy yanked on his father’s sleeve in the direction of the boutique. It was so full of color and vibrating gadgets. Peacock feather wands in fanned displays, golden rods and splinters of dragon’s nails. There was a green wand shaped like a glowstick that lit up whenever Tommy looked at it. He didn’t know the shop owner was making it do that; he thought it was destiny.

“But I want a wand! Everybody has one!”

“No.” His father pulled the sleeve free. “You’re going to learn magic the right way.”

“It already does water and fire mancies. I bet it even raises dead animals. We'll save money on pets.” He stamped his sneakered feet. The heels blinked red, an overpriced feature in his father’s opinion. “You’ve got an iPad! What’s the big deal?”

His father turned his long, slender nose down on Little Tommy. He leaned down until the tip of his nose poked the boy's forehead.

“Thomas. Can you tell me the difference between a magic wand and an iPad?”

Little Tommy deliberated. He’d been furious with greed, but now had a dangerous question. If he answered this right, it might earn him a wand like the ones the McGillicuddy twins had.

“Is it the app store?”

His father shook that long nose in disappointment.

“That’s why you can’t have one. Youtube’s made you go stupid.” He seized Little Tommy’s wrist and pulled him from the boutique. "Any sufficiently whored out magic is indistinguishable from technology. Until you can tell them apart, you don’t get either. I’m not raising a consumer savage.”

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Bathroom Monologue: Can the description of a painting be a story?

This goes out to everybody. The painting described below is not real. I imagined it. But I invite anyone who reads this to create what they see in the description. It can be a watercolor or oil painting. A sketch in charcoal, ink or pencil. You can draw stick figures in crayon. It can be a render, 3D image or ironic machinima screenshot. You can get your friends to pose for a reenactment photo. You can do whatever you like, omit any detail that gets in your way, so long as you send me a copy. E-mail it to With your permission, I’ll post your work. You can opt for me to not publish it or to be published anonymously if you please. Otherwise I'll give your name, whatever you title your piece, and a link to your blog, art account, or whatever charity you’d like to endorse. If you know a friend who draws or does anything in the visual arts, please share this with them. Submissions deadline is August 1st.

We're where the river meets the docks. The brick harbor takes up the right half of the painting, while a steamship disembarks on the left. It’s just departed, only three feet away.

There are a few men visible on the edge of the boat. All are wearing olive trench coats with brass buttons. All but one are holding rifles. They hold them idly, clearly not shooting anything right now. They're headed off to war.

One man is unarmed. He is at the very edge, hands clasping the railing. He's leaning as far over the side as he can, pelvis pressed to the rail. He's leaning overboard to kiss someone. All the armed soldiers aboard are staring at him in amusement or disbelief.

There are lots of people on the brick harbor. Old men and women dressed in dirty shirts and peasant blouses, possibly the parents of these young soldiers who are going off to war. There are a few children, including one boy in a striped shirt carrying a toy gun. We don't look at any of them immediately. We look where they are looking, and they are looking at the woman who is standing on the edge of the harbor, on the balls of her bare feet. She is leaning across the water to kiss our leaning unarmed soldier.

She wears a pale violet dress, pale from being worn and washed so many times. She also wears a violet mod hat, darker than her dress. They probably don’t wash hats. A few strands of black hair are falling out from under the hat, but most is fixed underneath.

One of her hands is on the unarmed soldier's helmet. He's the only one wearing a helmet. In fact, by the way she's fingering its straps, it looks like she's leaned out over the water to put the helmet on this lucky young man. And since they were both leaning out, faces forward, there was nothing else to do but kiss.

The second this ceases to be a painting and becomes life, both of them will fall into the river. That is how far out they lean. From what we see of their faces, they do not seem to think that far ahead. Their eyes are closed.

His hair is brown, where the helmet doesn't cover it.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Bathroom Monologue: Troll Park

"You’ve been looking for work for weeks now, so I’m going to offer this. I don’t normally because people are scared of the work. You’ll have to be around trolls. They’re nowhere as dangerous as society would have you think, though. It’s mostly bigotry and rare bad apples that spoil their image. Trolls aren’t evil. Mostly, they just want food, companionship and moisture. You’ll be providing the last of those items. Down on the other side of town is a defunct water park that some guys are starting back up. The equipment is substandard for human and dwarfish use, but trolls are tougher. Trolls will pay a lot to stay moist; the sunlight dries them out and turns them into statues, but floating in a pool or going down a slide, they’re slick and safe. Slick, safe and quite messy. That’s where you’ll come in. The rides all need janitors to keep spare troll mud from building up too much and clogging the filters and gears. You’ll probably start by reinforcing the water slides for the weight of their new customers, but they’ll need you for a hundred gigs. We’re talking eight-to-fourteen hour days at almost a living wage. Just stay out of the food court so the slower trolls don’t mistake you for goods."

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Bathroom Monologue: “If a man hasn't discovered something that he will die for, he isn't fit to live.” - Martin Luther King Jr.

“Jim, did you hear that?”

“That’s kind of insane.”

“We’ve got to start killing people.”


“We’ll say that we’ve discovered that we will die for killing people.”

“I don’t think that’s Dr. King’s message.”

“His message is that if you haven’t found something you’ll die for then you shouldn’t be alive. There are millions of people who wouldn’t die for anything; they wouldn’t even donate ten bucks to save a starving kid. The government’s going to start killing unmotivated people any day now. When they do, they’ll need us.”

“…People who live to kill.”

“Exactly! We’ll live to kill. It’ll keep us employed and safe from nuts like Dr. King who want to butcher all the slackers.”

“I still don’t think that’s his message.”

“Fine. Be a skeptic. But help me fill out these forms.”

Monday, June 7, 2010

Bathroom Monologue: Remake Story

Catatonia is remake. They can call it a reimagining, but it's the same title, same main characters, and it's still about a child molester who contemplates philosophy in dreams. I think if you keep the philosophical child abuser who walks in other people’s sleep, you’re not re-imagining too hard. It’s a remake.

The original Catatonia was released in 1971. It was kind of grind house, kind of art house. The stuff he makes his victims dream is really graphic and disturbing, but it wasn’t scary. It was like porn, except bad things instead of sexy things. It opens in this one scene about a school bus driving through a graveyard, and all the kids are buried under their seats, then wake up and try to claw their way out of the vinyl before they suffocate. The sleepwalker watches from the driver’s seat, talking about nihilism. Unsettling stuff. When it first came out critics said only a perverted American could make. They implored people to go see better films from Europe.

Which is funny because the 1971 Catatonia was actually a remake of Au-dessous de Votre Lit, a 1960 French film. It opens with kids trying to claw their way out from within the seats of a car before the suffocate while the driver reads from Camus’s The Stranger. It, too, was about a master of dreams fascinated with doing terrible things to kids. Claude and John in Catatonia seem funny once you see Au-dessous de Votre Lit’s child protagonists: Claude and Jean. They dispatch their stalker the same way as in Catatonia, tripping him and impaling him on broken pieces of a crib (though in the French version it’s the crib he’d made for his son, who was stillborn; in the American it’s a random crib). The directors of Catatonia didn’t even acknowledge Au-dessous de Votre Lit.

Before you get angry at America, though, it’s worth noting that Au-dessous de Votre Lit was also a plagiarism. There was no film like it beforehand. However, there was Himmel Nabel, a Swiss novel by Hans Kohler that was widely circulated in the 1910’s largely about two German boys who are haunted in dreams by a foreign soldier their fathers have killed in the Great War. He tortures them for what their fathers are doing. In an unusually surreal scene for Horror lit at the time, they have to dig themselves out of his unmarked grave, which has no tombstone, but instead the military tank that blew him up parked on top of it.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Monologue for a male theologian who is somehow hired to do the commencement speech for an all-girls college

Thank you for inviting me. I’m not sure exactly why you invited me; perhaps “Jens” sounds feminine to American ears.

Uhm. Yes.

Well, I’ve always felt Christianity had more feminism to it than churches let on. I think they were intimidated. I grew up Irish Catholic and there was no stronger force in the world than my mother. My father was a distant second place. The local priest, somewhere in third. Sometimes she would even speak up during services, if she disagreed with the theme. One Sunday she and the priest got into such an argument over whether or not God could make a rock that He Himself could not lift that the services ended before the matter was resolved.

I hope that won’t happen today. It may be why I’m so nervous.

There is a lot of chauvinism in the business. The savior is male. All four gospels are from men, and institutions like the Catholic Church and Russian Orthodox Church are dominated by men. The sexless almighty entity is for some reason called “He.” My mother never liked that. As I said, though, a lot of Christianity doesn’t want to let on that there’s feminism to it.

After the savior, the most important person in that religion’s history is a woman. The Virgin Mary. It’s funny – “virgin” used to mean “mother,” not “chaste.” They called her the Virgin Mary because she was the most famous mom in the world, not because she and Joseph never fooled around. In their time motherhood was revered.

She wasn’t a divine surrogate, either. Imagine explaining to your future husband, should you marry, that you are pregnant with a celestial child. It takes a heck of a woman to sell that. After the birth, Joseph fades out of the picture and Mary remains. She informs Jesus of his divinity; depending on the gospel, he isn’t born knowing. When they’re at a party and he’s afraid to work miracles, it’s Mary who tells God it’s time to be a man and make the wine. Show me any scripture where an apostle tells Christ what to do.

The biggest mistake in Christian history was not having her write part of the Bible. Imagine that story. Imagine the nativity scene from her perspective. And watching the savior grow up? Was God a little angel? How was puberty? She was with him to his death. Literature has no greater loss than not hearing the thoughts of the holy mother who outlived her son.

None of that is to say your only role is to have children. Mary Magdalene convinced Christ to raise her brother, Lazarus. Mother Theresa built houses for the sick. If you believe the story of Joan of Arc, compare her to the Christian founder Paul. God tells Paul to quit being an ass and put his sword away, while he tells Joan to stand up. She fought an entire country. I sometimes wonder why you don’t just take the whole planet over.

I didn’t speak about Mary because she was a mother. It’s because you’re going into the world next week. The world that pays you less than men on average, has far more men in positions of power, and calls the sexless almighty “He.”

You’re well educated. I know because I’m friends with the Dean of Studies, and she’s smarter than I am. You can stand up. You’re ready. You don’t have to take a thing from this world; you can march into it with the confidence of the lady who can talk her husband into accepting immaculate conception and tell a little god what to do. It’s confidence that’s your birthright, which you’ll back up with ability built through effort.

I’m not just saying this because my mother went to this college and is sitting in the third row (hi Mom). I’m saying it because I don’t really know why I’m here, but if I’m going to be, I have things to impart. The most important is this: write and remember what is important in the years ahead, and teach it all to the world. We need the education.
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