Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Write-By-Numbers: "Year of the Cock"

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In 1998, I wrote an idea for a short story in my notebook that reads as follows:

"Boy is born with his penis where his nose should be and his nose where his penis should be."

Under that: "Both function normally."

I'm not sure, but at the time I wrote that, I was likely in the kind of mental state where you shouldn't operate a motor vehicle, threshing machinery, or a pen. Nevertheless, I kept mentally revisiting the idea every year or so, particularly out of boredom when in waiting rooms and there were no good magazines, or on trains or buses, during office conferences or compulsory religious ceremonies. I wondered if there was any way possible -- any fucking way possible -- on earth or any other planet that I could make a decent, readable, literary story out of such a worthless, waste-of-ink, batshit idea. And if so, would some quirky literary magazine buy it and give me two free sample copies of their magazine for my trouble?

It seemed like a noble goal, and then, very quickly, not at all.

Even after 2005 -- the release year of "Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo," featuring a lady born with a cock just below her nose, which led me, in another one of those pesky mental states again, to research whether I had a case that would hold up in front of a judge -- I'd still think about it when I had a free minute. I tried to make the Penis/Nose, Nose/Penis idea into a story that someone would admire and think was bizarre but somehow also realistic and emotionally heartbreaking.

I never wrote a word of it, but I wanted it to work -- for years I did. It was like an unsolved Rubik's Cube you leave on your desk and twist a few times every so often, until one day months later when you say, "Fuck it," and just rearrange the stickers.

Which leads me to this: If you want the Penis/Nose, Nose/Penis idea, it's yours. I'm giving it to you. If I haven't figured out how to use it in 10 years, I shouldn't ever.
Maybe you can do better.

I'll even give you all the pieces I've figured out so far. It's like Write-By-Numbers!

1. Boy is born with a penis where his nose should be and his nose where his penis should be. Both function normally. Got it?

2. Now that you've got the idea, it needs a title. You could go with something blunt, like "Year of the Cock." Or maybe highbrow's more your style -- in which case, thanks for stopping by.

3. The doctor who delivers him (I picture him wearing a white coat and a mirror around his forehead) tells his parents that he can't attempt a reversal operation because it would be "too tricky." The best he can do is attempt to "move his balls a bit higher. " They say, "Forget it," and take him home.

4. They end up naming him Richie. I know, I know -- but resist the temptation! It's a subtle joke.

5. His parents try to make him unashamed of who he is, because they're generally nice people who've been saddled with this problem, but after a disastrous first day at school they make Richie wear turtlenecks stretched up to the eyes.

6. Somewhere in there, mention how Richie can't enjoy the taste of food because his nostrils point toward his own anus. Also, mention how emotionally crippling this would be. This is around the point where I typically start to have trouble.

7. Richie spends most of his teen years desperately trying to avoid anything even remotely stimulating in the erotic dep't. For reasons which should be obvious. He therefore decides he'll work in (a) the meatpacking industry; (b) rock quarrying; or (c) dentistry.

8. He's got a best friend named Kenny Marrero who is somehow more emotionally mature than everyone else, and able to accept Richie's deformity more than most people. Or more accurately, he's revolted less than others. Maybe this is because Kenny Marrero's parents divorced last year, when Kenny Marrero's dad's gambling addiction finally caught up with the family finances and Kenny Marrero and his mom had to move out of their home and into an apartment right above a Chinese food restaurant, where Kenny Marrero has become friendly with the chefs and gets food from them all the time because his mother has become too clinically depressed to do any meal-making herself, having been horribly unlucky in romance her whole life including now. Come to think of it, maybe we should lose the whole Dickfaced Boy angle and make the story about Kenny Marrero instead.

9. Stuff happens in the middle of the story. It should be satirical about society's prudishness toward male genitalia, yet a warm-hearted fable about accepting outsiders, and a tale of a boy's budding sexuality mixed with stark overtones of repression, and should be funny enough to make people choke on their spit a little and very dramatic. As for what this stuff is that happens, I don't know. Also, it should be exciting.

10. It ends with Richie's funeral. There's pretty much no better way to end a story. You get all the characters in one room again, and all the ones who didn't like him get to regret all the times they called him Richie the Dickfaced Boy. I'm not sure how he died -- he either was tragically (a) squashed by a cow carcass in the meatpacking plant, (b) crushed by stone in a suspicious rock-quarrying mishap, or (c) shot by a crazed dental patient because the guy glimpsed Richie's facewanker stirring under the surgical mask during a routine cleaning. His girlfriend is there -- I forgot to mention her before, but she's important -- and all his friends and family. Here's the kicker: It's an open casket, and he's not wearing his turtleneck. Defiant to the last! Write an award-winning speech for this. And the priest, who had at some point earlier in the story told Richie that his deformity must have been a mark of the devil, recants and says to the assembled crowd, "Even though Richie's nose and penis were put on backward, his heart was always in the right place."

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Overheard assholes: "41"

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"I'm 41 frickin' years old—don't tell me what to do!"

— mother, to her daughter, around 9,
after the kid tried helping her mom
use the Redbox DVD rental kiosk at Shaw's,
which the mom found very complicated

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Timeline of Tomorrow: Predictions for the next hundred or so years

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The start of a new year is a great time to gaze back at the year gone by and reevaluate it. It's also a good time to look forward, to imagine the challenges you might face in the near future.

Luckily, we already know what's in your near future:

Fall 2008: Scientists develop a new type of android, called a "replicant," which will do your bidding. You like this a lot at first. You like that your replicant is polite and a good cook and punctual. But for some reason, it freaks you out. Mostly because some guy decided to give replicants human faces. Faces on robots are a bad idea, because you start to feel sorry for them when you ask them to scrub the tile grout with a toothbrush while you entertain other real human beings with lemonade and finger sandwiches. Anyway, probably because of the faces, you decide to try giving your replicant an upgrade with human emotions. You'll realize that this is a really, really, extremely bad idea, because, as it turns out, while it's nice to make replicants feel happy, its less nice when they feel rage and megalomania and resentment at their human masters. Which they will. In fact, the whole replicant experiment in latter 2008 will just prove that you and everyone else have learned fuck-all from the nuclear armageddon waged against the "terminator"-model cyborgs in 1997 that destroyed pretty much everything, and which we've only now just recovered from. Ah, the '90s. Remember the '90s?

Next year: In a tangentially related development, the human race, including you, suddenly becomes infertile. Take one late-'90s nuclear war mentioned above, add your sensitive human testicles. You do the math.

2013: Several years later, after World War III and famine and devastation, America has become a vast wasteland sparsely populated by scruffy-looking people like yourself, overcome by anarchy and lousy costume design and overlong melodrama. Then a mysterious postal carrier rides through on a horse, delivering mail. He gives you a bundle of envelopes that you spend weeks lingering over, tears filling your eyes. They're mostly bills and coupon Val-Paks, but still — you feel something you haven't felt in years: hope.

2015: Having gotten back on its feet thanks to regular mail delivery, America decides to abolish all lawyers. Also, the Cubs win the World Series against the Florida Gators. You buy your adopted, sterile kids a hoverboard and, yes, finally, you get a flying car — a simple hover-conversion from your old car costs you $49,999.95.

2019: Hmf. Remember those replicants? They're still around, pestering you with existential questions when they should be doing the vacuuming and servicing your hovercar. So you ship them off to a labor colony on another planet. Several of them revolt, sneak back to Earth, and start killing people. A lot of people. You're OK, though.

2022: And yet, despite all those people dead, and despite humanity's impending extinction because nobody can make babies anymore, the world still, somehow, becomes an overpopulated urban hell. Also, neckerchiefs are the newest fashion craze, which you adopt. More to the point, there are so many people that we can't feed everyone — so instead, we turn everyone into feed. Thousands of people every month are packed into warehouses, gutted, deboned, processed, dehydrated, and individually wrapped as green wafer-like foodstuffs that you eat because it's cheap and plentiful. You think the taste is similar to Chicken in a Biskit.

2035: Not long after that, someone gets the bright fucking idea to try the whole sentient robot thing again. And you buy one. This time, though, they don't have people-like faces — which helps you keep these robots at a good emotional distance, enough so you can program them to do all your housework and butlering and so on without feeling too guilty. Everything's cool. Then you figure that these new breed of robots are, like, too emotionally distant. Plus, you begin to crave emotional closeness because you can't have any children. So you get the bright fucking idea to upgrade them with emotions. Yes, again. But this time, you give them three rules to follow that will keep them from going crazy and trying to enslave humanity. Long story short, about an hour and a half later, the robots go crazy and try to enslave humanity.

2063: You manage to hang in there, though. You're lucky enough to be watching your viewscreen as humanity makes first contact with an actual, honest to God alien race — the Vulcans. Turns out, they're peaceful, really smart, they smell good, vegetarian, and are interested in helping the human race explore the galaxy, and have cool technology like transporters and replicators — things that make commerce and labor meaningless, and life utter bliss. These are your golden years.

2098: They're so golden, in fact, that you get a special life-extension procedure at the local clinic, just in time to witness humanity's war with the latest model of servant robot that has gone crazy. These robots don't really have faces or emotions — just metal shielding and claws. Just when you were looking forward to retiring on some distant intergalactic paradise, a robotic tentacle snatches you out of your dusky brown Barcalounger and gives you a cozy home inside a fluid-filled pod, where your bioelectricity is extracted and used to power the infernal robot army. It's pretty hellish, so they plug your brain into their computer-generated dream world to keep you from beating your grey, gnarled little fists against the inside of the pod all day. The dream world is pretty nice. In that dream world, it's 1999. The Terminator War never happened and you're a young man again. You have a nice office job. Your favorite movie is "Planet of the Apes."
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