Saturday, September 4, 2010

R.A.Q. 2010 Edition

There are many FAQs across the internet. But what about Rarely Asked Questions? Who is going to answer them? I am.

Michelle Ann-Flemming asked: "Who would win in a fight: Batman or Monkey?"
---If the Americans were writing, Batman. If the Chinese were writing, Monkey. If, as I currently suspect, a consortium of India and Brazil usurps the world economy from underneath both of us, they’ll be lucky to show up on the undercard, let alone have a headlining fight.

Erin Cole asked: "We the people or politicians?"
---Politicians. I've been a person my whole life and would enjoy the change.

Anthony Venutolo asked: "What's more important: Divine Providence or Manifest Destiny?"
---Destiny always manifests, but when the divine provides, the author of that manifest shows up. That’s when I get out the good silverware.

Linda Wastilla asked: "I am very curious -- do you really write in your bathroom? and if so, where exactly?"
---I compose most of what you read on this site in the bathroom. These answers I’m writing at my computer because otherwise I couldn’t read what you’re saying. If you want I’ll go sit in the bathtub now, imagine a question from you and answer that instead. I’m serious. It’s my birthday. I have the time and who’s going to stop me?

Anonymous asked: "If you were in charge of an alien economy that had no knowledge of, understanding of, or expectations for Earth, what would the price be for a one pound block of Vermont cheddar?"
---If we have no knowledge, understanding or interactions with earth, then Vermont cheddar must not be on the galactic market. Therefore I assume you're asking how much the cheddar would be on earth, outside my jurisdiction. A good pound of sharp cheddar should run you twelve earth dollars.

Cassie Nichols asked: "Of the stories and worlds you've written about, is there one in particular you'd like to visit? Is there one where you'd like to live?"
---Old Teioh. The subject of at least two stories so far (arguably more – I’ll leave it up to readers to do the arguing, if they’re ever of such a desire), it’s my favorite setting. It’s empty of people, can provide food, shelter, sun and peace. I’d only be nervous that, if I showed up there, someone else was writing the story and intended it to reject me in some horrible way. But then, you said the worlds I’ve written about, so I’m saying I get to write my stay there. In that case, really, any place is equally as good as the next since I’ll edit the heck out of it until it’s air conditioned and has good barbecue.

Cassie Nichols also asked: “Who would win in a fight, Vineguard or Lo?”
---Ninx won’t let Vineguard kill anyone, and Lo is restrained by the Cacoas Bonds, and neither of them is terribly accurate at throwing pies. Also, no one knows what we’re talking about.

Rachel Welton asked: “Would you like to write one of your Norse Pantheon stories for publication in a pagan magazine?”
---I haven’t written many stories about or emerging from the Norse Pantheon. Usually it’s just Odin hanging out with his inter-faith poker group. But sure, the P.P.G. is pagan-friendly. Have one in mind?

Cathy Oliffe asked: “What’s your love life like?”
---I have had a very pleasant off-and-on relationship with an imaginary girl since eighth grade. She's leggy (odd, since I'm not a leg man), a splendid cook and has a knack for getting through my BS without even trying. I’ve tried to convince her she’s too good for me, but she doesn’t listen.

Cathy Oliffe also asked: “why is there a little handicapped symbol beside the word verification box on everyone's blog comment page?”
---Because the internet is handicap accessible. Don’t be insensitive.

Deanna Schrayer asked: "What is the color of barnacles?"
---Most barnacles I've ever seen were white with black on the interior. Those, my nautical friends said were quite nutritious if you were starving. But they can also come in mossy green, black or yellow varieties.

Danielle La Paglia asked: "Wonder Woman or Cat Woman?"

---Whoever's free, honestly.

Marisa Birns asked: "Do you make fun of us behind our backs?"
---No. I've never been behind your back.

Ian in Japan asked: “Which of these questions took the longest to answer?”
---Rachel Welton’s, because I had to go through my archives looking for stories about Norse deities. It will take substantially longer if I write a story about Odin, Raven and the rest of the poker group vacationing in Iceland.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Bathroom Monologue: Man is the Master of His Own Home

“Man is the master of his own home,” Douglas told himself. He didn’t know where he’d heard it first, but it comforted him hearing it now. Lord knew he needed to feel comfortable.

He undid his fly. It was the only kind of rebellion he could think of, and he buttoned it back up shortly thereafter. He paced around the living room carpet like a panther. He paced in socks, then remembered how Cheryl hated bare feet on the carpet, took them off. He scrunched his toes into the fabric and grinned like a big cat who knew his prey was somewhere.

“My living room,” he told himself. “Nobody else’s.”

Nobody else’s as of Tuesday when he and Cheryl signed the papers. She got the Manhattan place and he got this. A two-bedroom with goldenrod carpets he’d never wanted and echoes of her criticisms.

“Incapable of spontaneity!” he repeated and undid his fly again. He did it back up before anyone might see him through the window. He tugged on his jeans. They sunk half an inch, then snagged on several years of fast food.

“Surprising you with Arby’s that one time was spontaneous.”

He strolled to her faux-Persian drapes. No one was outside. No one would be up here for weeks, barring the occasional caretaker. This was a summer community.

Douglas remained at the window, watching nobody go by. No caretaker. No ex-wives with hideous red dyejobs. When he released the drapes, his hand wandered back to his crotch.

“Incapable,” he snarled. He undid his fly, moved to re-do it, and stripped off his damned pants before civility could succeed. Let a caretaker see it.


He threw the legs of his jeans around his neck like a scarf. He stormed into the kitchen that way, grabbing the phone book and opening the refrigerator door.

“Is it spontaneous to order take-out while looking in your own pantry?” he asked the lettuce. He dialed. As it rang he wandered over to the biggest carpet – the one Cheryl would likely send for in a week, when she realized it wasn’t explicitly in the papers. He sat on it, boxers and toes defiling her awful taste. He wondered if the delivery guy would take a photo of him posed like this so he could send it to his ex.

“No. I thought about it in advance – not spontaneous. I’ll have to come up with something else before he gets here.”

A vaguely Asian voice on the line asked, “Excuse me?”

“Oh, hi. What kind of food do you folks sell?”

“Only Thai, buddy.”

“Oh, that’s great. I hate Thai food. What’s expensive?”

That was spontaneous! And his joint account with Cheryl wasn’t closed yet. As the order-taker listed dishes, he flipped the pages over to Interior Decorators. He circled a number and farted into the carpet.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Bathroom Monologue: Liner Notes for "Non-Starter"

This album is the greatest project of my entire career. In twenty-two years I’d never harmonized so many tracks and themes. It was supposed to come out in 2002, but I got a little carried away researching in India and Pakistan. I wound up composing more material for this than any other project in my life. The big stumbling point was figuring out which track should open the album. The first one I wrote is more middle-material, and there are eleven tracks that really could start the thing off. Finally this summer I decided – screw it, the album will have no beginning. The songs are so intertwined that the only justice is giving no way to start it. That may be too existential for some listeners, but I think a 31-track album that you can’t begin listening to is just what the industry needs. Fuck Hollywood and it’s anti-endings; this is the anti-beginning. Hit play and enjoy it anywhere – the car, subway, airport, club or church. I guarantee it’ll be the same unexperience everywhere.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Bathroom Monologue: What You Want

"They're ugly,” I smirk as our car passes the girls. “They're all lesbians."

My aunt gawks at me in her flannel. I’ve never teased her about this subject before.

"Hey. There are beautiful lesbians."

"Ah, they're all hags."

If she wasn’t a pacifist, she would have slugged me.

"Sorry," I said without a trace of sorrow. "But you know what they say: you don't want what you can't have."

"God, and you’re in college. It's 'you want what you can't have.'"

"Why would you want what you can't have? That'd be moronic. You want what you can have. That way you get it and you're happy."

She turned us off the campus road, towards where there are clean restaurants and other places you’d visit with an aunt. "Not being able to have it is what makes it attractive."

"So if I go jogging for an hour,” I say, pointing to the side of the road, “I'll only want a bottle of water if I can't have one? It's a dollar at the college store. I’ve got a dollar."

“But the things you really want are what you can’t have.”

“I’m going to college. This is, what? Thirty thousand a year? If there was something else I really wanted, I could probably swing the loans.”

“You’ll get it when you’re older.”

“And when I do? I’ll have wanted it.”

An hour later, I paid for lunch. Eleven years later I finished paying off my loans. In retrospect, I probably shouldn’t have mouthed off to my only rich relative like that.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Seven Somethings, Thanks Anthony

Anthony Venutolo recently handed me this little award.

The rules of the game are to provide seven outrageous facts about yourself. Six are to be lies and one is to be true, or alternatively six are true and one is a lie. I leave it up to you, constant readers, to guess whether most of these are truth or fiction, and guess which is the one that's not like the others. Is only one true, or false?

1. At age nine I turned down the opportunity to co-author a book about dinosaurs with a published author because I was, in my words, “busy working on other projects.”

2. I once took Dante’s Inferno out into the middle of a soccer field during a thunderstorm to see how it would read there.

3. I took a Jane Austen intensive at college because I thought it would be nice to get some of my reading done in the bathtub. Confessing this was probably the first, but far from the last reason that professor hated me.

4. Assigned to recite ten lines of Chaucer and completely unable to cognize Middle English pronunciation, I re-wrote a passage from The Miller’s Tale phonetically and practiced it over fifty times. I wound up doing the entire page, my accent swinging from New Jersey to Latin. I received an ovation.

5. Richard Dawkins’s The Selfish Gene convinced me that there was a God (at least one).

6. I read Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s Notes From the Underground while bedridden and alone on Easter weekend. I was alternately unimpressed and bemused, and have since felt its influence on literature is because too many healthy people read.

7. The last movie I cried at was Rambo: First Blood Part 2.

Any guesses? Leave them in the Comments section.

Any questions? Why not send them to my RAQ?

Now this award is also supposed to be forwarded on. I'll take a cue from Anthony and distribute it to just three twisted folk.

1. T.S. Bazelli springs to mind. She's been charting what constitutes weird fiction in her blog glossary, from Cyberpunk to Dark Fantasy to Urban Fiction. She's just started a Genre serial, so you can get on at the ground floor.

2. G.P. Ching won this award largely because her name is the most fun to say of any in the modern world. G.P. Ching. G.P. Ching. Say it fast enough and it sounds like you turned "Jeep" into a verb. She also won it because she's got a delightful take on the weird, like god parties and meeting your alien soul mate in the produce aisle.

3. Last is one of my favorite recent discoveries in #fridayflash. Rachel Blackbirdsong meditates on the macabre in ways that don't tick me off. That's hard these days.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Bathroom Monologue: The Invincible and The Endless

Who is more frightening: the juggernaut or the endless?

The invincible man you cannot knock down. Throw yourself at him two or three times and he does not budge. Shoot him. Throw acid. Bombs. Surely you find his force intimidating.

But the endless man you can thrash. Strike him in the chin and watch him crumple. Throw him across the room. Hang him and snap his neck: he wriggles, drops, stops, then wriggles again. He is the more frightening sight, for in the invincible man is something you can only lose against. You will resign yourself to it. But against the endless you will hope, in overpowering him time and time again, that some hour he will stay still. The truth? Some hour you will tire and be unable to harm him further, and at that hour he will sit up again. He is so much more fearsome than his betters.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Bathroom Monologue: True Stories of John 1, A Dream

Want to hear John read this story? Click the triangle to stream it, or click this text to download the MP3.

It was the morning of August 20, not that I knew it. I was asleep, sitting in a giant open-air cafeteria. God sat at the first table. Several thousand people with very respectable questions sat at the others, having turned the dining tables into a queue to go ask your query.

I think I sat at a table with a featherless velociraptor and his wife, a bottle of ginger ale. She was in a green wine bottle, but he insisted she was ginger ale. I can’t say for certain that I sat with them because I was invisible and the dream was in third person. I may not even have been in it, and only imagined an invisible me there.

The dinosaur and bottle ducked into a bathroom after a few days. It was several years before the queue moved up and I got to sit at God’s table. He was drinking chicken noodle soup from a tea cup. He looked like a man, though I couldn’t figure out just which man because He sat tilted fifteen degrees to the right. Even turning that way made it no more possible to recognize him. In retrospect, I think it was James Woods.

He was a unique conversationalist, lips moving soundlessly. Instead of a voice, words stream over His head like the news ticker in Time Square. Nerves got me. We spent an eon and a half in small talk, on the weather and Crusades. Something about His smile suggested that He liked hearing Himself talk, and more, liked talking about the wrong thing when He knew I didn’t have the guts to ask my query.

Clouds broke overhead and the cafeteria lightened. I did nothing, said nothing that I noticed saying, but God replied, “Alright, you want the meaning of life explained? I’ll tell you.”

He paused for a moment. I didn’t know what we were waiting for.

In my bedroom, the phone rang. It’s a terribly loud ring and any time it wakes me up I get quite a fright. I shot half upright and looked at it.

No, I decided, that probably wasn’t God. So I closed my eyes and lay back down. It rang three times like it always does before the answering machine picks up. It did, and a disconnect signal blared out of the speaker. I had to pick up the phone to quell it.

I could not get back to sleep after that.
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