Saturday, August 10, 2013

Bathroom Monologue: And now, The News

If everyone believes it, it's the truth.

If enough people believe, it's history.

If too many people believe it, it's a lie.

If the minority believes it, it's a myth.

If nobody believes it... well, there's no such thing.

Friday, August 9, 2013

BM: Was Lincoln's Depression the Fuel for Greatness?

Joshua Shenk wrote a book called Lincoln's Melancholy: How Depression Challenged a President and Fueled His Greatness. I read an article by him about it, not the book itself, but the title spurred something in me. The following is what it spurred.

The gnome was puzzled as soon as he departed the esophagus. His fellow gnomes were shoveling what looked like solid sadness into great ovens that burned around the president's stomach.

A slightly taller than average gnome approached him with a clipboard.

"You one of the new men?"

"Sir, yes, sir." The new gnome straightened his posture. "Reporting for duty in service of my country, sir."

"Good, good," said the superior gnome. "Fetch a shovel and get to burning that depression."

"Sir, is it constitutional to damage the emotions of the commander in chief, sir?"

The superior gnome frowned over his clipboard.

"That's why we're here, private."

"Sir, I read that depression was the cause of his greatness, sir."

"No, no. The fuel." The superior gnome came closer. "It's the fuel of his greatness. And what do you do with fuel?"

The new gnome kept his eyes forward.

"Sir, store it in something safe, sir?"

"You're a cute one. What do you do with gasoline? Burn it. What do you do with coal? Burn it."

"Sir, so what you're saying is..."

"What I'm saying is that if we want this president to get anything done we've got to find all his depression and set it on fire. Now come on. He's got to emancipate the slaves and win the biggest war this country's ever seen! It's going to take a lot of depression."

"And cause it, I'd assume.” And then he remembered to add, “Sir!"

The superior gnome pointed to the nearest oven, which billowed with a smoky melancholy.

"That is not our problem! Now fetch a shovel or start cleaning the stoves. The grease that builds up in there is figuratively and literally bad for morale."

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Bathroom Monologue: A Narrative in Skin

Hers is a narrative in skin. There are castles at her ankles, drawbridges moored to the dimples on the inner junction to feet. The castle is burning, flames swaying mid-shin, and they sway whenever she jogs, cascading inked smoke to offend the clouds at her knees.

It's where tattoos of smoke ebb into tattoos of clouds that the narrative lives. Here, in the ridges and contours of inked air, the outlines of weeping and howling human faces emerge. There are no tricks; they do not murmur or tear at their hair when she does a little dance. They are remarkably still faces, frozen in mourning, caught in the cloud banks, no matter what she does. All their moist eyes peer up upon her thighs, to portraits of catastrophes that brought down the castle below. Their memories have been wrought across her midriff in sequential art that sags and wrinkles with time, and yet never loses its poignancy. Perhaps that's because she shows so few people the memories. Not all body art is public, after all.

All that is public is her face – colorless, you might call it, undrawn, never wearing make-up. All that is public are all the times she casts her eyes down upon the artifice climbing up her legs. Her expressions are a more living art. How do they look to you?

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Bathroom Monologue: At Our Best

He set aside his entire evening. He spent half a month's salary on bribes to get them a table at the city's most exclusive restaurant. He bought her the best chocolates. He found her favorite wine, in its best year.

Nervous, he showered three times and used that cologne he couldn't stand, but that she said reminded her of the ocean. She loved the ocean. So he made sure that their table overlooked it.

He had his best suit dry-cleaned and held off wearing it for a month, saving it just for that night. He wore the tie she'd gotten him last year. He got a dozen black roses, and put them in a bouquet with a dozen white ones. In the very center, he placed a single, brilliant red rose. That bouquet sat on the middle of their table for two hours as he waited for her. She never came. At the stroke of ten, he looked out at the night city skyline. His jaw fell as he realized. He'd forgotten to invite her.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Bathroom Monologue: You shouldn't watch those kinds of movies.

You shouldn't watch those kinds of movies. They promote violence. 87% of viewers were found more likely to commit a misdemeanor. 35% were found to have committed a felony within ten days of watching one. 11% of viewers disappear. Someone somewhere high up puts you on a list.

I've heard that when you leave the movie theatre, you never leave alone. A man nine inches taller than you, wearing a coat a shade of black seen nowhere else on earth, follows you back to your car. He lurks in your shadow for three days. Then you lurk in his for the rest of your days.

Really, you shouldn't watch those movies because they're haunted. I've heard about viewers getting obscene phone calls and being dragged into mirrors and television sets. Dark-haired little girls manifest and maul them.

Viewers keep dozing off and then waking up on the sun, with no stars out to guide them home. I hear they're touching movies, but surely you can find a more terrestrial way to enjoy yourself.

They eat your soul.

They don't eat your soul. They chew until they are bored.

You shouldn't watch those kinds of movies.

Monday, August 5, 2013

True Stories of John: The Devil Interrupts a Horror Movie

College felt like this to me, too.
So on Sunday my mother asked to go see The Conjuring. Apparently both the Catholic Church and CNBC had endorsed the movie, and they're who she listens to for Horror movie picks. I jump at the chance to watch any Horror movie with my mother because she is the only person I've ever seen jump out of a chair in fright (thank you, Wait Until Dark). I chose wisely because, recent viewings of Lawrence of Arabia and Pacific Rim notwithstanding, I had the most amazing cinema experience in years.

The Conjuring is an exoricism movie full of exorcisim movie tropes. Things are moving, the kids are hearing and smelling things, and the family finds a basement they didn't know was there even though it houses their boiler. Sure, whatever, why was it amazing?

So in the middle of one night scene, one of the daughters is woken by an invisible force tugging on her leg. Even though the weather is clear through her windows, I can make out heavy rain in the background. It's odd, eerier than anything the movie is suggesting to the girl as she gradually wakes and realizes this isn't one of her sisters. No one is around, but the presence is still looming over her in the dark. Face contorted in fear, she moves the edge of her mattress and does what only the bravest real kids and all fictional kids do: she looks under her bed.

We get a shot from under the bed, the wall pale against the darkness of the mattress and floor. The girl's head creeps down from above, millimeter by millimeter, and just as we prepare to see her eyes and read her reaction to whatever is under here, the walls of the cinema rumble with thunder and the screen goes blank. The dim lights in the cinema, which we normally tune out, all shut off, and the screen is a natural emptiness, not a projected black. The entire room is cast into darkness, as though the devil had seized our space as well as the girl's, except for one yellow light bulb that flicks on behind us.

The hurtz hum of the speakers has also died, but the sounds of pelting rain continue – from outside the cinema. A thunderstorm had crept up on us during The Conjuring and knocked out the power. I believe I mortified my mother by laughing so hard. It's things like this that make it impossible for me to be a deist. Thanks, exorcism films.

Perhaps the best part was the unease of everyone else in the cinema. They were looking around, murmuring, and for whatever reason I felt the need to editorialize, "It was the weather." Everyone gave off this short, nervous laugh.

After a minute, I ventured into the hallway and got a disgruntled apology from a booth worker who clearly didn't want to have to deal with the generator. And after a few minutes, the house lights returned and the film came back, just seconds away from a cheap jump scare. The movie actually ended very well, having more to do in its exorcism sequence than the traditional "you're tied to a chair, we yell back and forth while things move" routine. I downright admired how the movie juggled so many characters and entities bebopping around its script. But nothing they could have directed would have been as good as a jump scare caused by barometric pressure.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Lit Corner: My Contribution to the Tree of Life/Branching Out Story and a Contest!

This summer Samantha Geary is running a big writing experiment. She's organized and hosted 26 writers to assemble a short story, each composing 150 words, one after another. Each entry is to be inspired both what was written before and by Audiomachine's new album, Tree of Life. Each writer gets a spot in the batting order and a musical track to inspire where their bit of the story goes.

Huh. When I put it that way, it sounds grotesquely commercial. I promise it was a friendly artistic endeavor when I joined. Old college buddy of mine Beverly Fox is also contributing. It's taken on quite a life.

I wrote the second entry. I had to go early because this summer is a brutally busy time for me, and Sam was good enough to let me sneak in. I tried to earn my spot by contributing some unusual plot elements for the next writers to play with. I hope you'll enjoy what I did to the horse. 

My entry was inspired by this lovely song:

Also, every comment you leave on any of the chapters enters you to win a copy of Tree of Life as well as works by several of my co-authors.

You can read the first entry here, and my follow-up right here. Then it gets nutty.
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