Saturday, October 16, 2010

Bathroom Monologue: From Early 2010

I close the windows and shut down the computer. It’s turned to night outside while I’ve been in here. With the monitor off, it’s dark. I fumble my way to the bathroom, finding the knob and shutting the door on a shitty ten minutes.

“In the last ten minutes,” I tell myself, “I have learned that the friend who survived brain surgery wound up with severe complications and may die. My grandmother definitely has cancer, is dangerously underweight, and her options are two different kinds of life-threatening procedures that probably won’t work. While she’s in the hospital, my mother is babysitting my senile grandfather in a house with no power and caught in a rainstorm. He gets violent sometimes. My blog’s gotten no comments today and I just got three rejection e-mails, from the three biggest contests and magazines I ever thought I had a real shot at. Those last things shouldn’t bother me so much right now. I’m kind of petty.”

“It has been a shitty ten minutes. The kind of ten minutes that makes me wish I’d gone the whole vacation offline. The kind that makes me wish I didn’t know how to read. These ten minutes will follow me around for days. There will be more tens of minutes; I’m in one now. I need to think of new tens. Better tens. Holding the doors open for grateful people, making friends laugh until they fall over, and earlier this year when I made my first big fiction sale. The ten minutes when I learned that she survived the surgery in the first place. The ten when Mom got the call that she didn’t have cancer. A million minutes harboring disasters dodged or simple positives, the latter being why I live.”

Friday, October 15, 2010

Bathroom Monologue: Possible Origins for Him. 7.

There is an audio edition of this monologue. To listen either click the triangle on the left to begin streaming it or click this text to download the MP3.

When I first heard there was a masked vigilante in town I was overjoyed. No more stringing along this rinky-dink corrupt and uninspired P.D. And when I heard he was going by “The Bat Man?” Fell down and wept on a fresh kill. Thank God, somebody campy as shit. A foil I could sink my teeth into.

He was after me within a week. Not me specifically – he thought I was four different criminals. I’m a professional and modus operendi isn’t that hard to fake at this level. Slew a newlywed couple near the harbor, like this particular serial killer was doing that summer. Even posed them on a cot, tastefully. Then I waited in the attic, with my gun and a view through the air vent.

He came in the window, floor length black cape draping behind him, and I drooped. His mask had devil horns, and he didn’t talk! No cavalier monologue, no procedural chatter. He was silent and grim and didn’t even smile as he stepped around my work. Why was his mouth the only exposed part of him if he wasn’t going to smile? The hero is bright, witty, handsome – he’s supposed to be good incarnate. This was an affront to all those Green Lanterns and Wonder Women. What worthwhile chase was I going to get out of this guy?

I almost shot him. Not only because he was trying to bring me to justice. Not only because he was dumb enough to wear body armor everywhere except his face. No, no, no. Because there are some things that are so wrong you can’t correct them straightforward. You’ve got to shake them. Agitate them. If his neck breaks while you’re trying to slap sense into him, at least you tried.

Had to do it myself. If the hero was going to be in black, I was going to be in Technicolor. If he was going to have a spooky bat on his chest, I’d wear a flower on my lapel. If he was going to glower, I’d wear the biggest smile he’d ever seen. I’d show him what he was doing wrong, become the light and laughter of this city while thinning its numbers.

A couple of wild cards at the scene of a crime, a couple of judges asphyxiated with laughing gas – I may have played it too strong. He was on me in three days. I let him chase me, my brooding foil, and made a discovery on the ledge of a building. He was very good at hand-to-hand – had his hand on my neck, my feet over a sheer drop. I had a gun to his chin and he wouldn’t let me go. The big, scary hero didn’t like killing! That’s the extent to which he wouldn’t steal the villain’s act.

That’s hypocrisy. Either he goes White Knight, or he joins my side. Doesn’t matter how many sidekicks I have to beat with a crowbar. He will either kill me and take my place, or he will get on his side of the line.

The Possible Origins for Him Archive.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Bathroom Monologue: They Shook Hands

They sat at the childrens table, bright yellow plastic, insultingly fake yet functional enough to eat tuna sandwiches upon. William had grape juice with his, while Annette had Mango Burst. This lunch was about proving things: that the electric can opener removed the need for wrist strength, and that the two of them could navigate to the top shelves of the refrigerator without an adult.

Annette proposed: “I clean the rooms and you do the laundry?”

They shook hands.

William proposed: "I do the paperwork and you answer the phone?"

They shook hands.

Annette proposed: "I do the cooking and you do the dishes?"

William filibustered: "I hate dishes."

Annette countered: "I hate that you burn everything."

"Hmm,” William deliberated. “So do I. Fine. Deal."

They shook hands.

Annette queried the floor: “Can you mow the lawn?”

William declared for the record: “Probably in a year if I get that growth spurt Mom was always promising. We can pay somebody to do it until then, though.”

Annette finished her orange juice and rubbed her sleeve over her lips. “Is that everything?”

“Yeah, I think we can get rid of them.”

Annette rose. As was his duty now, William gathered their dishes.

Annette proposed: “You get rid of Mom and I do Dad?”

They shook hands.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The Top Ten Essential Zombie Movies

I saw a Top Ten Essential Movies list recently on a website far more popular than mine that will remain anonymous because their was asinine. What a weird idea for a list – we believe there are more than ten zombie movies that are essential, but we won’t tell you all of them, just these. But, good news: it inspired my own list of the Top Ten Essential Zombie Movies. Enjoy.

#1) The Night of the Living Dead. Made in 1968, it started the zombie craze. It did not invent zombies; they lurked in lore for centuries beforehand. It was not the first to employ all the tropes; even the vampires in Vincent Price’s Last Man on Earth (1964) were essentially zombies. But George Romero’s indy movie was the first essential one, exploding the zombie concept in popular consciousness. They were farm hands, house wives, businessmen, and even your brother. They were slow, nearly brainless, moved in groups, worked in day and night, and were out to eat us. They were the recent dead and, as revealed in a twist near the end, their condition might spread through bites. They overran our society and infiltrated public places, bringing Horror to Washington D.C and your porch. At first an individual, then a tense group, then two tense cooperating groups struggled to survive the onslaught, trapped in a place and then attempting escape. It is nearly every zombie movie ever made, done in ninety-six minutes.

Not #2) Return of the Living Dead. It added that zombies ate brains, directly responding to Night’s essence. It wasn’t essential for anything more than a running joke.

Not #3 & Not #4) 28 Days Later and the Dawn of the Dead remake (2004) allowing zombies to run also did not change their essence. They responded to the essence, making the threat more imminent. All the essence of 28 Days Later is already in Night of the Living Dead; it innovates from there to be its own movie about the genre creature. Both of these are great zombie movies, quite suitable to a Ten Best list, but not suited to an Essential. These are the kinds of movies you see after the essentials and go, “Damn, things get better.”

It’s not #5, it’s actually #2) The next essential zombie to emerge was also a George Romero joint. His 1978 Dawn of the Dead took the zombie essence and added heavy social consciousness. Zombie + Satire. Night of the Living Dead had some cultural awareness, but it had nothing on Dawn. Dawn of the Dead waded into a mall, wielding montages of consumerism, and in the end arguing that the living were more brutal than the undead. When in Robert Kirkman’s superb comic, The Walking Dead, one character proclaims humans to be the monsters, he’s regurgitating Dawn’s essence. Romero firmly wedged himself into that kind of commentary, which pervaded all of his later zombie movies. He never added to the essence again.

Not #6) Robert Kirkman’s The Walking Dead. It’s Not #6 because it’s both not essential and not a movie. I had to give it a shout out after the previous paragraph. It’s great, though, and the teasers for the AMC TV show look cracking. I have this space to waste because, really, there hasn’t been another essential zombie movie since Dawn of the Dead in 1978. Unless you count…

Not #7) Lucio Fulci’s Zombi 2 was the unofficial sequel to Dawn of the Dead. It was “unofficial” in a “How is this legal?” way. The European director ripped off Romero’s zombies and fed them to another continent of audiences in resplendent color and gore. It is beloved by Horror aficionados. It is also not essential because gore zombie cinema wasn’t new, gore in European cinema wasn’t new, and much to my chagrin, the Shark Vs. Zombie fight did not start a trend. It was a loving sequel to a movie, paying homage and extending elements that already existed. So again there hasn’t been another essential zombie movie since Dawn of the Dead in 1978. Unless you count…

It’s not #8, it’s actually #3) Shaun of the Dead. So Night of the Living Dead gave us nearly everything, and Dawn of the Dead gave us gore and the director’s opinions. But you know there’s something missing from that tally of the zombie essence: humor. That Shark Vs. Zombie fight from Zombi 2 is hilarious. The Return of the Dead movies also desperately tried to parody the zombie. But for a generation there was humor in the zombie zeitgeist that wasn’t reflected in film, that strain of humor that cooks up “zombie plans” and jokes about how easy it would be to outrun these things. They’re undead, they want to eat us, but at any moment you can snicker at how much less threatening these guys are than a wolfman. Shaun of the Dead crystallized that feeling. The semi-nerdy, semi-slacker backwash generation cast reflects the feeling of the modern zombie-loving audience. Zombies are mindless, but the survivors are morons – and morons you’d like to befriend. They have in-jokes, lead the zombies on distracting chases, and even when one of them gets infected, he’s chained up in a shack to be kept around for game night. It’s still easy to take zombies seriously, but there’s a ridiculous dimension to them as well. With these finally embedded in film you get hilarious things like Zombieland and Tokyo Zombie. Oh, what the Hell.

Not #9 & not # 10) Zombieland and Tokyo Zombie. They’re not essential, but they’re fun. They’re also America and Japan’s response to England’s Shaun of the Dead. Zombieland is obsessed with rules, while Tokyo Zombie is obsessed with jujitsu (and that knowing how to flip a guy makes you invulnerable to biting-based opponents). They are their own movies, just like 28 Days Later and Zombi 2. You may even like them better than the essentials. That doesn’t put them on some essential list, though. I enjoy the Spanish [REC] more than most of the essential zombie films and you don’t see it on this list. You won’t, either, because I’ve carelessly run out of slots.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Bathroom Monologue: Little White Lies

No, nothing malicious. It was only a little white l--- uh. No. A little non-racial lie. Deceptions entirely devoid of ethnicity or gender. Tiny, minuscule lies with no bias against dwarfism. Tolerant, forward-thinking lies that embrace all people of all creeds. An entirely inoffensive lie with decisive religious neutrality – indeed, a religiously tolerant deception! A lie that cares not for the color of the lips it leaves or earlobes it enters, one that treats men and women equally and without discrimination for how much money they make. A lie, really a fib, that boldly embraces all childhoods and backgrounds, back credit histories and sexual persuasions. It was not the truth, but rest assured, it should have offended no one.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Bathroom Monologue: Castlevania Parody, OR, We Love Shelly

Once upon a time where was a barbarian named Belmont. He really hated vampires, like all barbarians do. Barbarians barely wear clothing, so they're very susceptible to vampire bites. This is the same reason most barbarians hate poison ivy.

Belmont looked at all the things vampires were vulnerable against. Sunlight. Holy water. Teen girls who want to show them how to love.

And he said, “Nah, I'll just use a whip.”

The first enemy he encountered was, sadly, not a vampire. It was Frankenstein's Monster.

Belmont said, "Wait, don't you live in Germany?"

The Monster said, "Eh, I was in the Arctic Circle at the end of the book."

"Then why are you in Romania?"

Frankenstein's Monster responded with a jab to the eye. Then they had a climactic boss battle.

The second monster he encountered was a mummy. Belmont worried he’d travelled too far south from his homeland and wound up in Egypt. While he looked outside to check for pyramids, the mummy sucker punched him in his good eye.

Then they had a climactic boss battle.

Afterwards Belmont iced his black eyes and reflected on the scenery. All the street signs were for Castlevania, not Transylvania. And it was pretty weird that the entire city was consumed in castle architecture. His travel book suggested Transylvania was much more modest.

But before he could reflect upon the sites any further, the screen started rising and he had to keep jumping to safety, even though what was three feet below the screen was totally safe flooring. Neither barbarians nor ten-year-olds playing NES understand game design.

When he got to the top of the tower, he encountered the Grim Reaper.

"Wait," said Belmont. "Aren't you several magnitudes of order more powerful than Dracula? What the fuck, man?

The Grim Reaper shrugged.

"Guy's got to have a hobby."

Then they had a climactic boss battle. Afterwards, Belmont was very sad he didn't get to keep the Reaper's sweet scythe. He guess he understood it, though. The Reaper would need it for every ensuing sequel to this wacky series.

Finally Belmont arrived at Dracula's abode. The lord of the vampires was hiding in one room at the very top of the castle, ironically full of windows.

Belmont almost entered to charge him head-on. Then he realized that would be stupid.

Instead he waited for dawn and kicked in the door. Dracula burned to death in seconds.

"That was easy,” he said. He briefly reflected that cheap tricks like this might curse him to perpetually fight this guy in every game for the next decade. That could get old.

He told himself, "At least I'll get a reprieve when they put me in Smash Brothers."

Somewhere the ghost of Nintendo laughed and gave him the finger.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Bathroom Monologue: Possible Origins For Him. 6.

You can listen to today's story two ways. Click the triangle to the left to begin streaming audio, or click this text to download the MP3. Enjoy!

I was born ugly. Not a cleft pallet or flat nose or some tabloid rack batboy. I gurgled up at my mother and she sobbed. Doctors had to perform so much surgery just to keep me breathing that cosmetics were out of the question. They left my crib in the basement, under a narrow window. I'm told I didn't cry much. I bled instead. They wrapped me in newspapers because the blankets became too unsanitary to wash. I think they were underestimating the washing machine – it was sturdy. I spent a lot of time with it, testing what would break apart or perish tumbling inside. Me, the washer, dryer, and boxes of things they didn't want.

I learned to escape the crib early. They’d forget to feed me some days, and others, a kid gets bored of lying in his own scabs. Scaled down a landslide of National Geographics and Gotham Gazettes. Learned to read from them. Learned where the jugular was from them, too. You never think about how surroundings influence you like that until you realize all those precious papers have gone up in flames with the rest of the house. I’m still a little absentminded like that. I was so afraid to leave home, so afraid everyone else in the world would want me in a basement that I tried not to think about it all. Departure was simple necessity – you can’t stay in town once you’ve locked your parents downstairs and set a fire. I had my little hoodie up the whole ride to the city, to avoid identification, and judgment.

Nobody tells you how hot it is in a city train station. I was used to the cool of underground. There, it was like steam in thin air. My face felt like it was falling apart. I pulled the hoodie down on the escalator and held my breath. A couple glanced at me. An old lady shrieked. I came up to the top and saw this black man playing a guitar. He was jumping around and laughing to solicit change. He saw the couple, and the old lady, and all the people staring at this new act. He looked at me, and his showman smile went away. I know where it went. I caught it between my teeth, and I’ve never let it get away.
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