Saturday, February 9, 2013

Bathroom Monologue: Thief Stranded in Virginia

“Yes, this is about a credit card you’ve flagged as stolen because of purchases out of state. When your company moved to flag my card, did anyone look at the expenses and purchases, or was it a computer? I ask because if you would be so kind as to look right now, you’ll find about two weeks ago, when I was still buying dinner and subway cards in New Jersey, I also bought a train ticket to Virginia. Virginia being where all the ‘flagged’ purchases happened: dinners, hotel and a rental car. Yes, so was it a computer, or did a person think I’d been robbed by a tourist? Because whichever it is, I’d like you to explain it to this nice police officer who’s held me in custody for the last day for stealing my own credit card in order to go to my family reunion.”

Friday, February 8, 2013

Bathroom Monologue: Riverbrook Station, Redux

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 pull 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.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Bathroom Monologue: Edgiest Hero

No scarred personality. He’ll be fighting for truth and justice simply because it’s the right thing to do. It’ll be about civic responsibility at titanic scales. I’m thinking we bring him from the Midwest, the Heartland, and give him a lot of that boyscout virtue we’re afraid NRA-types are losing. Guns will be both useless against him and deplored by him.

In fact, he’ll deplore all violence. When he has to hit you, you’ll go through a wall, and he’ll be somber, even saddened that he’s had to strike. He thinks you should have been better, and he’s an example of your failure to be better.

That’s the thing: rather than being broken, his presence will show how everyone else is broken. The corruption of businessmen, the cynicism of reporters, the implicit cruelty of military – he’ll force you to change. He’s the one who doesn’t change just because the world’s hard.

We’ll run counter to the leather aesthetic. He loves capes, and spandex, and underwear on the outside of his pants. A brightly colored costume, a garish logo, something that looks gaudy in daylight. If professional wrestlers actually fought crime. Put him in a line-up of body armor and black trench coats, and he’ll be the one everyone remembers. He’ll be different from every other hero.

He’ll be super, man.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Consumed #16: Borderlands 2, Tig Notaro, Homestuck & More

Consumed #16 is live and up for free download this week, sporting our flashy new theme song by The Clark Powell Lounge Band.

This podcast is a crunchy sandwich of content, with a loaf of Borderlands 2 and Homestuck, discussing absurdist SciFi comedy and why even the juvenile still entertains. But the meat in the center are weirder topics, like the exquisite violence of Mark of the Ninja, and Tig Notaro's brave and staggering stand-up comedy about her battle with cancer.

It also includes at least sixty seconds of book talk as I try to explain Tom Holt's Blonde Bombshell.

You can download Consumed Episode # 16 right here.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Bathroom Monologue: Jared Diamond in the Rough

The primitive societies, such as bands and tribes, are in states of constant war because they have no official governments to establish peace. As societies grow, more organized classes emerge, such as religious leaders, who incite sacrifices and holy wars, and political leaders, who incite raids and proper armies. Eventually such lower societies connect into proper nations, after they have warred enough with each other that they’d rather all war together against somebody else’s nation, or several other nations, on behalf of whatever is available.

A society is really only proper once it develops sea and air travel, and can thus fight primarily one-sided wars against lesser societies, until they are subjugated to the point of noble objectification and abuse. Then, you see, then society flourishes, and you get intellectual endeavors like “world wars,” or “world wide webs,” on which whole new societies develop and war by taking each other’s sites down. They invent realms in which to war.

That’s the real difference between primitive societies and developed ones: the primitives are always at only one war. A developed society can lose many wars, all at the same time.

Monday, February 4, 2013

#NaNoReMo Update #1

So February has started and we all had our first weekend reading our classics. There's still time to hop on if you have a classic you've been putting off too long.

My pick last year was Jane Austen's Pride & Prejudice, which didn't go as well as I'd hoped. This year it's Middlemarch by Mary Anne Evans (as "George Eliot"). It was was originally a serial, a novel in eight released Books. I finished Book One this weekend and am a healthy way into Book Two, wherein we're still meeting the cast. It's so enormous that I'm keeping a list to keep them straight. Recent health problems have demanded I spend more time than usual sitting still, which has afforded me extra time to attack my classic.

Upon the first chapters, I feared this would be another Austen adventure. The scenes are primarily domestic or at someone else's house, and the dialogue is overwhelmingly gossip about someone's life or direction. Early chapters especially have the clash of men and women as prospects for each other, though there are always sparks of more going on. Further, Evans was every bit the whit that Austen was, with cutting lines and turn-arounds in conversation, though many more applied to the wry and detached narrator. I struggle to pick a favorite line or passage, but this is the most recent nest of thoughts to tickle my brain:

 "Our passions do not live apart in locked chambers, 
but, dressed in their small wardrobe of notions,
bring their provisions to a common table and mess together,
feeding out of the common store according to their appetite."

It's perhaps double the cast of Pride & Prejudice, but tenfold the content of personality, including women who are interested not just in marriage, but education, politics, religion, literature, foreign language and a deal more. A few characters are driven into romance, and to my eye, at least as keenly as Austen, but only a minority are defined by it. There is also at least one made a fool by the preoccupation, which lends necessary variety to the execution. The best effect is that I'm actually rooting for a few of these people to find happy endings, though that's dangerous in a satire.

It's also splendid to read a little reference-comedy about John Milton. It felt like someone was letting a little air of class into my room.

The most striking element thus far is the range of themes Evans/Eliot tackles. Scenes and chapters seem to almost deliberately disagree in their approaches, or someone’s opinions will fly against the narrator. Dorothea is introduced to us with almost too much “telling,” about her life, opinions, looks and behaviors, heaped upon in narration and then dialogue. A Book later, an artist deems her too complex to capture in art. It’s partially my bias to seeing the novel as an artform, but this artist is condemning the ability of the arts to capture life, which the narrator seems to think he/she is doing constantly.

How is everyone else doing with their books?

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Liebster Award, Take Two (Thanks Katherine!)

You can tell the Liebster Award has made its circuit of our community as it's come back to me. I first handed it out on December 23rd after Mark Beyer bestowed it upon me. Katherine Hajer was kind enough to give me a second dipping.

Now I've already handed it out and given the random facts, but Katherine has given me eleven new questions to field. I had a lot of fun with these, and I hope you will too.
  1. Chocolate or vanilla?
    Chocolate to excess. At any given time at least ten pounds of me is chocolate, even if I haven’t eaten it recently. It owns real estate on my ass.

  2. Tea or coffee?
    Tea, especially black tea or raspberry tea with raw honey. It’s become a key instrument in freeing me for soda. I’ve never liked coffee.

  3. What colour is Thursday (and why)?
    Caucasian. G.K. Chesterton didn’t write much fiction about people of color.

  4. What's the first thing you remember?
    The Big Bang. It’s a false memory, but you can’t pre-date it.

  5. If a stranger were to open your fridge door and look in right now, what would be the first thing they noticed?
    Me shrieking in terror at an intruder. Then the bat swinging down.

  6. What made you decide to start writing a blog? 
    I was already writing Bathroom Monologues for years beforehand. An agent recommended every author have a blog, and I figured, I wasn’t really doing anything else with all these bits of prose. What was their purpose if not to share them?

  7. If your home got featured in a house & home sort of magazine, how would you describe your decorating style?

  8. What was the last book you read that you recommended to other people, and why?
    I’ve tweeted about Tom Holt’s Blonde Bombshell multiple times, posted a review to Goodreads and on Facebook. Before I’d even finished it, I bought it for someone’s birthday present. If it actually got remaindered, I’ll be depressed. It is madcap absurd, about a bomb destined to blow up earth that gets a conscience and a libido, a genius tech engineer who’s paranoid unicorns are following her, and all because we’re the scum of the universe who had the audacity to invent the addictive nuisance of music. Every page is sharply written. You can read my full review of it here.

  9. What's your idea of the perfect Sunday?
    Wake up early but rested, probably around 8:30, when not much is going on and there’s ample light. It’s one of my rare off days from exercise and physical therapy, and the one day per week I get to eat red meat. Tacos and pasta simmer while I exercise a bit, and read some incredible author. If football doesn’t come on soon, then curling had better. One or two friends stop by, but not for too long, because I’m usually a cognitive hermit. Either from then or from my relations on the internet, brave new things are discovered, like GIFs of rampaging Godzilla toys, some obscure Japanese wrestling match, or an author that someone threatens my life if I don’t try. I do try it and my whole week will be better for reading them. And all the while, I accidentally write an incredible amount without having noticed I was working.

  10. Socks or barefoot?
  11. What's next?
    The perfect Sunday.

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