Saturday, August 21, 2010

Bathroom Art Challenge

A couple months ago I shared the description of a painting. I asked if this description could be a story in itself. I also asked people to draw up what they imagined, using any visual medium they pleased. Crayons, inks, computer software, posed photography - anything. Most people were intimidated. I can sympathize; I'm terrible at drawing. But three people were bold enough to give it a shot. Here is their work. If you like it, please leave a comment and check out their sites.

Artist: Sam Roman
Title: Kiss
Home: Facebook

Artist: Tony Noland
Title: From Land to Landless
Link: Landless

Artist: Red
Title: What happens when you can't render water

Friday, August 20, 2010

Bathroom Monologue: Kill Mommy

An audio version of this story is available. Click on the triangle on the left to begin listening, or click on this text to download the MP3.

Five minutes into the first quarter, Bob heard something behind him. He looked behind the sofa and saw his son trudging towards the stairs. He wore his cowboy hat and cap gun belt.

“What did Mom say about wearing that stuff inside, Junior?”

The boy didn’t look at him. He said, in a pathetic John Wayne impression, “I’ve come to kill Mom.”

“Well she’s not upstairs. She’s out picking up dinner. Take that off and come watch the game.”

Junior did not take off his gear, but he did come sit on the sofa. He ate a Frito and glared at the Dallas defense. He stroked his plastic gun in the holster.

After a few disappointing downs, Bob examined the boy.

“You know that thing doesn’t shoot real bullets. This plan's not liable to work out for you.”

“I couldn’t find a real one, and this is loud. Loud noises give old people heart attack sometimes.”

“She’ll love to hear that.”

Dallas fumbled for the first, but likely not last time today.

“Why are you going to kill her?”

Junior talked at the screen, like the play-by-play analysts already knew and commiserated on this.

“She told Linda Waldemaar that I like her.”

“Sharing feelings.” Bob ate a Frito. “Vile.”

“Now everyone at school knows. They made fun of me. I’ll be unpopular forever.”

“That is how it rolls. A girl found out I liked her in the second grade and no one has liked me since. I only got your mother through elaborate negotiation and bear traps.”

“When she comes home, I’m going to kill her. Then I’ll probably kill myself.”

“Well the cap gun is half-assing it. You’re getting big. You can wield a bludgeon.”

“What’s that?”

“Do you still have that baseball bat we got for your birthday? That’s one.”

Junior wandered out through the patio. He returned with no cowboy hat, the bat in both hands. He held it up for approval.

“Yeah,” assured his father. “That’s a strong bat. Louisville wood. Your mother picked it out.”

Junior grimaced. He slid his hands down to the grip and wound up, perhaps imagining his mother’s face being pitched down the plate at sixty miles an hour. It looked like he bunted.

“I’m going to use it to kill her.”

“It’ll hurt. But on second thought,” Bob deliberated, looking to the fire place, “what about those pokers? They’re metal, swing easier, and pointed at the end. You could really hurt someone with that.”

Junior looked at the rack of fireplace tools. When he didn't take one, Bob got up, selected the cast iron poker and tossed it to him. Junior barely caught it.

“Go on outside and whack a couple trees. Get the feel for it.”

Junior exited via the patio again. Bob sipped his beer as the Dallas defense continued to give up first down after first down.

At the twenty yard line, he heard a clang and a yelp from outside. He stuck his head out the glass door and saw Junior standing by a tree, clutching his fingers. The poker lay in the grass.

“That’s no good,” Bob chastised. “How can you kill a full grown woman if you can barely assault an overgrown plant? Imagine your mother lying there on the dirt, blood oozing from her cheek, the job unfinished. How disappointed she’d be in you.”

Junior pouted furiously down at the poker.

“Why did she have to tell Linda Waldeamaar?”

Bob collected the poker. He brushed the dirt off and asked, “Is this the Linda you’ve been pining over all year?”

“Sort of.”

“You keep writing her notes and not sending them? You go down to her bus stop but never say hi? Keep sitting behind her in class?”

“Sort of.”

“Junior, do you know what a stalker is?”


“Well Linda's got the internet and she does. She and Mrs. Waldemaar started thinking you were one, and your mother talked to Mrs. Waldemaar to keep them from doing anything drastic. Linda probably found out that way, when her own mother tattled.”

Junior kept pouting at the ground where the poker had been. He reached to his holster, cap gun still hanging there in full loyalty.

“I probably shouldn’t kill her for that.”

“Use your better judgment. But before she gets home, how about you put this poker and that gun away, and go call Linda? If she already thinks you’re a weirdo then you’re free to say whatever you want. Tell her how you feel. Can’t take more guts than killing your mother.”

Junior took the poker and waddled off on his duties. Bob took another beer and resumed his life in front of the television. Dallas took the ball eighty-three yards and kicked a field goal.

Junior grabbed the cordless and started up the stairs, for the privacy of his room. He paused on the third step.



“I’m sorry nobody likes you.”

Bob frowned at the screen. This kickoff was important.

“I get by.”

The audio version of this monologue was made possible by two fine guys. Max Cantor created the audio player and provided the bandwidth. Andreas Sundgren helped get me a new microphone so I can start recording again. I'd like to thank both of them.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Bathroom Monologue: The Fate of Arthur

When Le Fay saw Arthur stir, she grabbed his magic scabbard and fled from the tents. One nurse pursued her, but the other two remained with the wounded king. Without their help, he was sure to--

Ahem. Arthur summoned Gawain. He clasped his hand firmly and said, "You are the last loyal man in my house. If this wound takes my life, let me slip into tranquil lake. One day, in England's greatest hour of need--"

Ahem. So Gawain made Le Fay give him back his scabbard. Arthur hugged her and they took a carriage ride over to Guinevere’s, where they picked her and Lancelot up. The five of them went down to the country, far away from battle, and found a really nice farm with rolling hills and lush fields. Arthur ran out of the carriage and frolicked with all the other legendary heroes. Merlin was there, and Achilles, and Dido, all having ice cream. That’s where he is now, I swear. Now stop crying.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Bathroom Monologue: Sky Reader Meets Skeptic

Her advert claimed she’d read your future in the sky. Not mere astrology, but the specific stars above your head tonight. One skeptic called her bluff. One part fate and one part mockery, they met on Friday the 13th. One part her embarrassment and one part his, it was overcast. They tried again one Monday. It rained. He joked this meant he'd die; she was serious that she didn't know. She tracked down his work place and loitered until he got out that night. 'Fine,' he said, telling her to get the scam over with. But she pointed up. Clouds had rolled in thick and tall since sundown. The sky reader worried of gods gone blind; the skeptic shrugged off barometric pressure. She wanted to pursue. He wanted to make his meeting in Seattle. She didn’t hear from him again for a week. Then she got the paper. Sitting under a full moon and clear sky, she read about his flight passing through an electrical storm.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Inception's Secret

There has been considerable debate over Inception. Was Mal real? How many dreams were going on? How come I dream about Mom struggling to open peanut jars instead of skiing down sniper-infested mountains? I have a theory that can answer these questions and more.

At the outset Cobb is within Saito’s dream, which is secretly within another architect’s dream. If you follow Cobb carefully through this dream mansion you’ll notice something about the glass doors on the upper floor.

The molding is intricate and familiar. Upon review, it is almost identical to the Legendary Pictures logo. Legendary Pictures is a film company established in 2005.

We follow Cobb out this window and through the next two levels of dreams until Saito hires him to “incept” Robert Fischer. Fischer also seems familiar. At first I couldn’t place him– I don’t know many pretty boys who inherited billion-dollar companies. It only hit midway, when a bag is thrown over his head and chemicals dumped onto his face.

The head-bag is highly reminiscent of The Scarecrow in Batman Begins. The chemicals are a clue; Scarecrow used gases to induce mental states in his victims.

You’ll say these are coincidences. So a door in a dream looks like a symbol. So Fischer really reminds me of a supervillain. But before you close this article, ask yourself: have you really looked at Cobb?

That jawline. That face, desperately squinting to appear young and old at the same time. Haven’t you seen all his mannerisms somewhere before?

You have. According to its profits, you and everyone else on earth has seen Titanic, which features one “Jack Dawson.” The resemblance is uncanny, and becomes frightening if you watch Titanic all the way to the end and realize Dawson isn’t real.

This will seem insane to some, but I believe Cobb and Dawson are the same person. Further, I believe Fischer and Scarecrow are the same person, and that nearly everyone else in Inception is some kind of pretender. The reason you don’t understand Inception is not that it was all Mal’s dream, or five dreams within dreams, or psychic backwash from limbo. It is actually more bizarre than any existing explanation: some plotted concoction, complete with mass human conspiracy, dynamic lighting and artificial orchestra, the whole thing either given too little external construction such that elements fail to make sense, or given so much thought that we can’t grasp it. You might call it “a movie.”

All of the above images are the property of their related studios and filmmakers - if you believe they are from films.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Bathroom Monologue: Dialogue that sprang after hearing that Leo Tolstoy wished people only to write for posterity, never for their own times

The next guy in line was another overweight middle-aged man. Gloria checked her watch; only twenty minutes left until she could abandon this table and get drunk with the somebodies of this writer’s fair.

"I've got a crack of a deal for you," said the man, setting down a briefcase. He pulled out three reams of paper. Gloria tensed – another white guy with the next Fantasy epic, the seventh this morning.

She tried to sound professional when she asked, "What's the pitch?"

"Your company has printed more copies of Leo Tolstoy's books than any in history. The e-book releases have been brilliant."

At least he aimed higher than being the next Stephanie Meyer. That won him points.

"So you think you write like Tolstoy?"

"I wouldn't tell you if I did.” He patted his stack of papers. “You, and everybody in this building, is never to know what I write."

"Come again?"

"See, we must write for the future and only publish once we're dead. You must believe this because you've profited so much off of Tolstoy’s reprints. I embrace your ideology. For just $100,000 a year, I will hide all of my fiction. I won't even show it to my roommate. Upon my death, it'll be turned over to your publishing house. You'll have every word of it and can plan whatever release schedule you want, secure in the knowledge that no word of it was tainted with desire for fame in my own lifetime."

She leaned to the side. The next three people in line were teen girls dressed in black, who almost certainly thought they were the next Stephanie Meyer. Fine. Mr. Tolstoy had won himself an interview.

"Only one hundred thousand, you say?"

"Per year.” He smiled conciliatorily. “I eat a lot of fastfood, so it won't be that many years."

"So where did you get this idea?"

"For $250,000, I'll die tragically. Look at what posthumous buzz did for Sylvia Plath. It still works, too: The Dark Knight rode Heath Ledger’s corpse. You can paint me as severely tortured or cursed to live in a broken world. Whatever your house digs out of my manuscripts and thinks will sell."

Gloria tried to restrain her smile from leaving the polite zone. "It's against our policy to have writers kill themselves."

"Not a suicide!” he slapped his thigh like she was his best buddy. “I'm just saying I'll go places. Baltimore. Baghdad. Spraypaint in Singapore. If you've got a publicist I could even get into legal troubles, to set up a backstory. A couple of international incidents in China and I bet you'll recoup all your fees on me from the biopic."

"You think big."

"I've got to. I'm planning to write the great novels of the next generation, and they're not even here yet."

"And what do you predict is coming?"

"I can't tell you.” He smoothed out the top sheet on his ouvre. “The only way you'll know is by outliving me and reading my books. Or, watching the news. But if you play it right, I’ll be the news by then."

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Bathroom Monologue: A Biography Inaction

Only a couple of them could say they'd heard of Gerard Blune before his family came to close the estate. Black cars streamed away from dusky doors, and a non-entity of a neighbor was done. For his life on Cairo Lane, Mr. Blune was only one more ugly car driving by at 5:30 and a reliable spring of peanut butter cups on Halloween. The rest of his life there was to be defined in the months after it ended.

The first snow fell a week later. Nobody shoveled the sidewalk and most were disgruntled to find the massive drifts plows had left completely burying their walkways. Previously neighbors assumed that the town shoveled it all out.

When the Route C school bus broke down, the PTA was disgruntled to learn that their yard had no mechanic on payroll. Apparently there wasn't any mechanic in the district licensed to service for that class of vehicle. Previously a G.H. Blune had done maintenance for free, maintaining his license at his own expense. One bus driver claimed the Samaritan had worked big vehicle maintenance during The War.

At the school play, one voice was missing in the typical chorus of laughter. People felt it where they didn't recognize it.

When ice took out the power in December, the neighbors waited for it to return. It was a bitter cold night before they realized no one called the outage in.

Opening night of the biggest movie of the year, one voice was missing form the typical chorus of gasps. More people felt that.

Spring came and the new man in that house didn't mow as often, nor as evenly. The lawn had once looked as manicured as a football field at kickoff. Neighbors on either side of the house picked up their lawn care in Blune fashion. They spited him so much that they almost made the mistake of not introducing themselves.
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