Saturday, August 7, 2010

Bathroom Monologue: Ranting Moon Hermit

“I should have seen it coming. You thought you were the center of the universe from birth. Humans said their hometown was at the middle of the planet. The sky was fixed over it your ground, or revolving around it. You had no evidence for it, but you were you and that’s all you needed. Evidence wound up saying you whirled around the sun and damned if it didn’t take an age for you to cave into it. But then? Why your sun was at the middle of the cosmos. You had God for a while and the first thing you did was put words in His mouth saying you were the owner of all the land, sea and other creations. He made everything, but you were His image, and His favorite, and His best. Eventually you cave into the evidence that you aren’t unique, that you’re one of a trillion results of the same evolutionary process, and that you evolved on a planet that wasn’t at the center of anything, and you still act like the whole universe is yours. Now you pretend that you invented meaning and right and wrong! That even if it isn’t about anything, it’s all about you. Yesterday you polluted your skies to yellow, and tomorrow you’ll strew trash all over Mars. This is why I’ve avoided you, and I’m not alone. What god, ghost or extraterrestrial wants to hear about “human rights?” You’re a fucking diva species. I’ve dealt with them before and won’t have them on my moon again.”

Friday, August 6, 2010

Bathroom Monologue: Finding Buddha in the Road, OR, “If you find Buddha in the road….” –Chinese Proverb

My teacher always said, “You’re not supposed to have teachers. The truth is already in you.”

But I kept visiting him, so he wound up saying other things. On that day, the thing that came to mind was, “If you find Buddha in the road, help dig him out.”

It came to mind because I saw a rotund man in an orange robe flailing his arms. He was buried up to his navel in gravel. I took him by the hands and jerked with all my might, but he would not budge. I thought him too hefty to pull free, but he explained.

“A nasty old philosopher stuck me in here. Said the only way out was the way that could not be known.”

“I didn’t think you were the sort to get into fights,” I said. “Or call people nasty.”

He folded his hands together. “Do not believe in anything simply because you have heard it. Do not believe in anything simply because it is spoken and rumored by many. Do not believe in anything simply because it is found written in your religious books.”

“Oh, I don’t!” This was the first impression I wanted to make. “I mean, I think you are what you are, not what I think you are.”

“Then you think I am what I think I am. I am still bound within what you think of me.”

“But I only think you are what you think you are.”

“Do you think you know what I think I am?”

“No. That can’t be known.”

“Then why do you think I am whatever I think I am?”

“You shouldn’t be bound by other people’s conceptions. It’s your internal existence.”

I don’t think the Buddhism I’d picked up from a master who wanted me out of his house impressed this man very much. He started playing with rocks.

“What if I think I am whatever a third person thinks I am? If I then invest my identity in another, am I any longer what you think I am?”

“I swear, I don’t think I know who you are. You’re just the Buddha.”

“Now I believe you don’t know who I am, regardless of what you think. My name’s Qi Wei, not Buddha.” He scratched next to his eye, perhaps idle motion, perhaps drawing attention to his distinctly Asian features. “You know, he was Indian.”

It makes you feel very guilty, when you want to punch a man who is buried to his navel in gravel. I curled a fist, then released it and turned to walk away. Qi Wei let me get five paces before imparting something.

“But if I am the Buddha internally, and not Qi Wei as I espouse externally, then I am what you admire without you thinking it, and you would have met Buddha in the road and done nothing more than walk away. Can you live with that?”

“You said you weren’t him!”

“I also said not to believe in anything simply because you have heard it.” He picked a stone out of his belly button. “I’ve said that one more than once, over the years.”

A year later I read some Chinese philosopher commanding that if you found Buddha in the road, “kill him.” He must have met this guy, too.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Vote for A Necessary Getaway

While I've been away on vacation one of my stories was entered into a contest. A Necessary Getaway is about the secret origin of Santa Claus. Public voting for the contest is now open, so if you liked the story or would just like to support my writing, please pop over to The Other Side of Deanna and cast a vote.

Bathroom Monologue: What would you do if you could time travel?

John roamed around Super-Victorian London for a couple of hours, running on pure enthusiasm. Their force fields held back the putrid atmosphere and pumped refined oxygen into the streets.

But enthusiasm and raw oxygen can only keep a man high for so long. After the couple of hours his feet swelled up and his syndrome had him shaking. A visit to hospital was no good; language had so mutated that he couldn’t communicate, and as best he understood the nurses were unimpressed with his lack of an ID chip. Either that or they refused to service anyone who didn’t wear retro-Renaissance gear.

So he returned to the street with his faded Inu Yasha t-shirt and sat on the corner. He didn’t beg; it seemed these Super-Victorians pumped nutrients into their oxygen currents and he was left with a perpetually mildly sated belly. Less than a day with time travel, and John was doing what he would have done had he stayed in his present: sitting and thinking about weird things that would make no sense to anyone around him.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Bathroom Monologue: Feudal Zombies

Zombies have actually existed for centuries, they just weren’t famous because they were quelled so quickly. For instance, there were many cases of zombieism back in the European Feudal Era. The populace would freak out, but some knight would ride by in a few days and cleared out the pesky things. A knight, in chainmail or plate armor, is perfectly zombie-proofed. There’s nothing to bite on him. At worst the zombies would overwhelm him by numbers and knock him to the ground, but even then you had a dozen zombies milling around a tin with no can opener. So the knight would catch his wind in a few hours, and when it was opportune, skewer them in the head with his lance. The worst zombie-related losses in that age were some mediocre horses and the occasional man to heatstroke from waiting in a helmet too long. Even today it’s highly advisable, in case of a zombie epidemic, to contact your nearest Society of Creative Anachronism branch for help or job openings.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Bathroom Monologue: Hold Down the Fort, or, The Guardian’s David Mitchell hates the expression “Hold down the fort”

Recently David Mitchell of The Guardian asked foreigners to stop using the phrase “hold down the fort.” He did so at the behest of the Queen. Mitchell and the Queen don’t see the meaning in the phrase; “hold the fort” would mean keeping our location safe, but what was up with “hold down the fort?”

In the spirit of international brotherhood, I would like to explain the origin of this American phrase. I hope it suits newspapermen and royalty alike.

The 1800s were contentious times in the United States. You had the War of 1812, the Mexican-American War, the Civil War, and they even slipped a Spanish-American War right in before the century ended. There were numerous backwoods wars with Native Americans and lumberjacks, unofficial navel battles with France and the Mer-People, and a completely unsung war against sky hooligans.

Sky hooligans didn’t even have the decency to live on land. As such, they didn’t have a country that could be declared war upon like decent people. They stayed in their zeppelins, trolling over the great American frontier with anti-gravity cannons. One shot and whatever was struck floated heavenward. They stole Grover Cleveland’s one true love, our first two great national monuments, and the original biggest lake on the continent. That lake ascended, evaporated and became a monsoon on the far side of the world while we edited textbooks to say that Lake Superior had “always” been the largest body of water around. That was humiliating.

Davy Crockett was an avid anti-hooligan. He’d never encountered a thing he couldn’t grin out of the sky. Even eagles went bald from his grin, but these zeppelins would not pop. He refurbished Fort Ticonderoga as an anti-hooligan base, but they shot it and away it flew, with half of Crockett’s militia and most of the country’s primitive moonshine technology. Crockett was haunted for weeks afterward by the drunken singing of the sky hooligans, and it wasn’t just a mental thing. They actually followed him around the country singing bad bar tunes.

Crockett hatched a new plan when he refurbished Fort Sumter. There was still enough militia and booze to get a fight going, but he reached out for something more. Crockett invited Paul Bunyan, who was running for the Nevada State Senate at the time, uncontested in his race both because myths are very popular and Nevada wasn’t a state yet. Crockett offered him all the flapjacks he could eat in return for his services.

Now if you know anything about Paul Bunyan, you know the giant had an endless appetite. He ate breakfast for three days before going out to work in the morning. The entire militia had to give up their guns and pitch in on cooking his eternal breakfast.

The sky hooligans inevitably showed up and fired on Fort Sumter. To their shock, it wouldn’t leave the ground. At first they thought they were just wasted – but no, under Bunyan’s reality-bending mass, the fort simply would not leave the ground. It struck doubt into the hearts of their scientists.

While they struggled with the American giant, Crockett climbed the nearest structure and lassoed the zeppelin. A squad of privateers (legalese of the period for “licensed pirates”) scurried up the rope and brought the zeppelin down. The sky hooligans were arrested in short order, with a few getting parole in exchange for working with the space program.

Ever since, “hold down the fort” has been a saying in the U.S. I hope this clears up any confusion.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Bathroom Monologue: The God of Amusement

Normally a god patronizes his subject. Dionysus keeps men opening breweries. Ares seeds the world with wars. Cupid flutters around shooting hormonal girls with pink arrows. But the god of muses, usually called “A.,” is a rare sort of slacker god. His muses do all the work for him, sprinkling the world with sitcoms and big budget battle movies. Unlike the skyfathers and earthshakers, A. only gives his subjects suggestions and leaves it to them to get it done. In turn, the muses refuse to write or perform much of their own material, passing the buck on to humans. A. sets the example, and so can’t complain. What he wishes his muses would do is made pretty obvious, though, when you look at trends in teen fashion and the rise of pornography.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Bathroom Monologue: The Empress Could Use New Clothes

Alfred waved Mahmoud in. When his friend entered, Alfred looked around the streets, and sure that no one had seen, closed the door.

“What is this newest amazing invention?” Mahmoud asked sardonically, looking around the apartment. There were drop cloths and electrodes everywhere. On the left wall were a series of shower curtains and aluminum plates. “You’ve been up to something peculiar, I’m sure, but I can’t be away from Adeela long. The new ban talk has stirred up the old bigots.”

“This invention is precisely for the ban! I’ve been thinking about it on the weekends for months. You know I do my best work on the weekends. I want to support the Muslim community, though I myself am a pantheist.”

Unable to figure out all the materials in the apartment, Mahmoud shrugged. “Is your support a shower curtain that can wrap leftovers?”

“No, no.” Alfred waved for Mahmoud to follow. “Let me display it for you.”

The two walked into the vacant center of the apartment until Mahmoud brushed into something. He instinctively pulled back and looked for what he’d struck; it felt like stiff cotton, but there was nothing there. He reached out and fondled the air, following what felt like a sheet of fabric all the way to the floor.

“What is this?”

“It is a full body covering.” Alfred rocked on his heels, the same way he’d shown pride since childhood. “Better than the traditional burqa, it even covers the eyes.”

Mahmoud bunched it up in his hands. It felt like cotton, but difficult to bend. Struggling to bend air was very emasculating.

“Why can’t I see it?”

“That’s because it’s made of invisible material. Hence why the eye covering is not a problem, and why it won’t be a problem for bigoted police. They’ll think she’s not wearing the cover, when actually her skin will be entirely hidden.”

Mahmoud scoffed and dropped the ‘garment.’

“Hidden by something anyone can see through. Who would want this? This protects no modesty.”

“There are other ways to dress that protect modesty. This ensures they can continue to wear the veil without being harassed, and even if they are, it’s bulletproof. I wore it myself for tests yesterday. A woman would not feel so much as a bruise even if she was, say, stoned by an angry crowd.”


“I think it’ll be just as big a hit in Iran as in Belgium. Don’t you?”
Counter est. March 2, 2008