Saturday, September 18, 2010

Bathroom Monologue: Monologue for a chipper Ian McKellan sitting on a picnic table

“Every scientist I’ve ever met believed in intelligent design. No decently observant man can deny it. It’s more a feature of the world than natural selection these days. Look around you for examples.

“See how the trees frame this park? How the flowers compliment the pines in color and fullness? The lawn kept an inch and a half high?

“How about my phone? Tiny. Network accessible miles from town. Complexity explicable only by a designer, and a designer who gets up on stage to sell you new things every year.

“Did you catch the Westminster Dog Show last night? All of those dogs, winners and losers, was the result of strenuous breeding for traits their masters wanted.

“From landscaping to calculators to poodles, intelligent design is everywhere. I gather we avoid the term out of modesty – we’re kind of incompetent designers, what with all the extinctions and oil spills. Maybe ‘well-meaning design,’ or, ‘decent-effort design.’ ‘I’m-sure-somebody-wanted-something-out-of-this design.’ Intelligence is in most of this. Misplaced, misused and misunderstood, as it likely is, but it’s affecting things.”

Friday, September 17, 2010

Bathroom Monologue: Shark Café

I'm at the Shark Cafe like every Monday morning. It was a long night, so I'm pounding Double Hammerheads while the yuppies sip Maco and Great White Chocolate. Great White Chocolate? Like that's even shark anymore. They might as well sell candies here - but of course, they do. Gummybears and jellyfish are right next to the dried shark fin. Some days you wonder if shark has gone too populist.

Just when I’m thinking darkly of Shark Café, along rambles a good reason to support them. Wearing only flip-flops, jeans and Mardi Gras beads (in August) comes a man, swinging his arms in the ASL sign for “Shark Cruelty.”

“Shark is murder! Shark is murder!”

A couple of businessmen pick up their laptops and cups and leave for the subway. The others leave the open-air part, heading into the safety of the glassed-in part of the Shark Café. I could never drink in there. Smells like an aquarium.

“Give it a rest,” I call. “Shark’s no worse than Seacow or Whale Oil Refineries.”

Since I’m his only audience the guy stomps up to me. His ponch pokes the velvet rope that denotes where Shark Café’s seating area stops and the public sidewalk begins.

"Do you know how many dolphins die so you can get half-off on that shark?"

"None. Shark Cafe has been free of dolphin labor since the 90's. If you owned a TV you’d know that."

His Mardi Gras beads and gut swing over the velvet rope. He does not take a seat. “I donated my TV to a family of dolphins that were delocated by your supposedly harmless shark farms! Sharks never do that to people. They’re moral creatures.”

“Oh come on. If you’ve ever gone deep sea diving you’ve seen their Human Cafés. They pay out the nose for Upper Middleclass blends.”

"Shark is murder!"

"A morning without shark is murder," I say, and illustrate with a long pull. There's a little whipped fish on my upper lip. I leave it there and beam at the protestor. He takes a swing at me, an openhanded haymaker. I duck and he only catches the top of my head. It feels like a fish has just swum over my scalp.

All the same I back further into the velvet-roped area. He doesn’t pursue – doesn’t want to be mistaken for a customer at a place like this. For the first time I take a good look at him. His dull skin suggests a distinct lack of Omega-3’s and Asian sex – the two key symptoms of shark deficiency.

“When’s the last time you had a cup, buddy?”

“Shark is murder!”

“If I give you five bucks do you promise to spend it here?”

“Shark is murder!”

I roll my eyes, then notice another eye rolling in my cup. A shark eye. Oh, it looks succulent. But it’s full of necessary nutrients. I take the tall cup and leave it on the table closest to the protestor.

“Listen, guy. I’m going to leave this here. No telling what happens to it.”

Before he chant another slogan, I turn and head inside. I’ll order something else – something less intense. I come back out with a Cinnamon Twist Sandshark. The protestor and the Double Hammerhead are gone.

And they say no good is done in the city.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Bathroom Monologue: Riverbrook Station

Riverbrook never had a station before so they had to improvise as it went along. They used confident bidders, domestic steel and concrete to erect a long platform. They screened all their conductors thoroughly, even though the railway provided them. They made the right deals with Amtrak and some stations to the north to assure reliable service.

And then on opening day a little boy leaned over the platform to watch the train come. His mother was preoccupied with The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. The boy did not pull back soon enough – which is to say, he didn’t pulled back at all. It was a miracle he wasn’t killed. He was thrown thirty yards and was distinctly unaware of any miracles when he landed in poison sumac.

It was a horrible thing for Riverbrook. They apologized, made settlements and cleaned. They mourned, even though the boy was alive and from out of town.

Riverbrook put down bumpy yellow plastic to guide people away from the edge of the platform thereafter.

Plenty of people came to take the next train. They had lives. They rushed aboard, and teenage vacationer fell in the gap between the platform and the door. It took half an hour to get her leg free.

They wrote along the yellow bumpy plastic for people to “MIND THE GAP.” The station manager announced the same for the PA before every train.

Apparently this one girl from Florida missed the message and didn’t hear him. She was busy on her cell. She explained such as the station crew pried her knee from the gap.

So for the next day the station manager wandered the platform, explaining that some people had troubles boarding and to be very careful. Elderly patrons appreciated the attention, but some of the younger ones thought he was crazy and disregarded the message. One of them was threatening to sue twenty minutes later when he fell in all the way to the waist.

So the station manager and every free person on staff wandered the platform afterwards, making certain every single person had a thorough lecture on how to board a train. No one was allowed to board before they had all been lectured. It held up the rail schedule terribly. It also took so long that people who had been lectured grew impatient, missed some crucial step in the instructions, and three people stumbled into the gap that afternoon.

Conductors were ordered to carry everyone onto the train, as passengers clearly couldn’t be trusted with this kind of responsibility. But as Wesley Morgan carried his third passenger on board his back went out and he staggered backwards through the door. You can guess where his left foot went. He was the most pleasant of the gap-victims, though; he was looking forward to suing someone, and possibly retiring early.

The Riverbrook Station saw so many accidents that they were still unsafe by the time particle teleporters were introduced. The station manager happily handed over the keys to a physicist. He babbled warnings about queuing order how a size ten shoe can pass through a three inch space. The physicist shrugged him off and invited his first passenger. That was the first time any teleporter commuter ever lost a foot.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Bathroom Monologue: True Stories of John, 3 – He’ll Be an Engineer

Mom had to take Little John to multiple elementary schools. She had to find the right one, because he was very temperamental around new people. This one Elementary School seemed promising, with its wide open playground and a sweet kindergarten teacher.

The four-year gibbered at her about Smurfs and Godzilla for a few minutes before going to explore the toy section. Sitting beneath a brightly lit window he began to play with plastic blocks. They were like Legos, only much larger.

Mom and the kindergarten teacher talked about his sensitivity to loud noises and issues with other children. Despite being described as clingy, Little John didn't bother them. He kept stacking the blocks, building a narrow triangle until it was nearly as tall as he was.

The teacher admired it and said to Mom, "Maybe he'll be an engineer some day."

Little John admired his work. Then he put up his hands like claws, roared and toppled the block structure.

There was a silence between the adults while Little John looked up at them for approval.

Decades later, watching Lilo and Stitch, he would feel like Disney had plagiarized him somehow.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Bathroom Monologue: Issue With Sunlight

I've been pondering your subjects' issue with sunlight. Being nocturnal makes little sense to me as an answer. The sun is a star. At night there are thousands of stars in the sky, visible only by the light they shone towards earth eons ago. While that is low-intensity starlight, the moon is also only visible because it catches and reflects sunlight. Solar illumination is quite present at night.

There are three ways we can process this.

The first is to observe epidermal tissue of vampires at the cellular level to see if it decomposes any faster under moonlight than in pitch blackness, and from there extrapolate a theory of intensity of radiation and its effects on vampire tissue. This theory will have to explain how vampires exhibit no weakness or sickness on a full moon bright enough to plainly see by.

The second is to postulate a psychosomatic disorder in which your subjects are so afraid of the sun that whatever they consciously associate with it poses a hazard. We then have to assume a psychosis is causing them to combust.

The third is to accept that we are biologists and these are magical monsters.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Bathroom Monologue: Fairy Funny

It’s one of the great jokes in the universe, and the only one played specifically on humans. Live any planetarily hegemonic species, humans think most of the jokes of the universe are directed at them (and aren’t jokes), but it’s only the faeries that really care to prank earth. Just beyond the veil of perception is an infinity of faeries, a great commune that grabs all physical objects and moves them around. The faeries have strict government and policies about the motion of objects, keeping certain bodies at simulated, while others remain in motion unless perturbed, and things float or fall appropriately. It is all a conspiracy of pixies to make it seem to dimwitted sentient life that the bodies of the universe have order. Humans call it gravity, and they put a lot of stock in it. They have so much faith in gravity that they peg it to the hundred thousandths place – but this isn’t actually a testament to the attraction between two masses, only the rigor of winged entities that don’t like talking to humans. Every so often a fairy will tell a human how it all works, and this accounts for about one fifth of the physicists who go insane any given year. The faeries are seldom so malicious, though. They’re doing it to illustrate a point about science – one you can’t understand, because otherwise it wouldn’t be funny.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Bathroom Monologue: A Presidential Offer

There is an audio edition of this monologue. To hear John read it, either click on the triangle to the left to begin the stream, or click this text to download the MP3.

I don't mean to offend when I tell you, but you're going to buy this interview. It's the only one. Millions of people who don't care about your show will tune in to watch it. They will TiVo. It will be all over Youtube, and while that doesn't give you ad dollars, it will be you on all those computer screens sitting across from the former president.

It's the only one. His book will be out in six months. It is 1,600 pages long, overpriced, and says everything he wants to say. Breaking Wall Street. Invading Israel and Palestine. Nuclear power after the California meltdown. The shadow prisons. The oil refinery sabotage. He clears his conscience, justifies everything, and everyone will buy it. They can publish a diet that cures cancer. They can have God write His own rebuttal to string theory. The president's is the book everyone will buy, no matter what he charges, hardcover and Kindle alike. A few will read it to agree with him. Most will read it for the catharsis of hating him. A multi-million-person group will buy it just to try and understand him. He will have his say as he likes it before the entire world, and then he'll go home.

He's not going to do the Today Show or Fox & Friends. Jon Stewart is not going to lure him into a debate on Comedy Central. Every show, site and magazine is going to cover his book for free because it will be the news. Not news - the news. If they don't cover it, people will find another channel that does. You will pay us and become the only source.

So you're going to buy this interview. Six months after his presidency, six months before his book arrives, you will have the only sitdown with the president. And he is the president. Someone else will be called greater or kinder or cuddlier, but it's his face they'll think of when they hear "President."

So you're going to buy this interview. I don't care if it costs more than they pay you - you will find the money. You will agree to the terms and off-limits topics. The president does not care if you find them unfair. You will realize very quickly that you don't care, either. Not when you realize how many people will watch you for the first time in your life.
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