Wednesday, August 22, 2007

1160 Morning Glory Circle

A documentary about a seemingly placid childhood.

It's reconstructed from old photos and home movie footage.

It seems like nothing happened. But there are sinister overtones.

In fact, absolutely nothing happened.

It's like that line in the movie Happiness where the pretentious writer says 'Oh if only I'd been raped as a child.'

The lack of trauma has itself become a source of trauma. (We're circularly trapped in trauma--it's our only way of framing any past experience.)

--E. R. O'Neill

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Glitter and Reknown (aka Her Greatest Role).

A young woman in a small town is graduating high school--and starring in the senior play. She dreams of being an actress--of glitter and reknown.

She writes to her mother--who ran away years earlier. Her mother is now a great stage actress--or so she believes from ther mother's infrequent letters.

The mother arrives for the event in the most Great Actress high style, but there are small clues that it's an act, that she's struggled terribly, and is putting on a show for her daughter's sake.

She rekindles old animosities with her one-time husband and tries to win the love of the children she abandoned.

The actress wins everyone's esteem by performing scenes from her greatest role--Shaw's Pygmalion.

The daughter's play is a success, and the daughter wants to leave the mother to travel.

The mother must confess--but we guessed all along--that she is not a great success, is a third-rate failure. She hurts and alienates her daughter terribly.

Probably the daughter will try to become an actress anyway, despite her mother's failure. The mother has tried to save her daughter much sorrow. But you can't protect people from themselves--or from life--no matter how hard you try.

Finally, though, her daughter may take her off a pedestal and begin to grow up.

The actress leaves town, still playing the role of the grand dame for the public, though her family now knows the truth.

She arrives home to a great mansion filled with servants, hanger's on, and memorabilia of her long career. The whole trip was an act--her greatest role.

Within all the glitter, we can see that she is still terribly terribly lonely.

--E. R. O'Neill
(a rewrite of All I Desire)

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Fuck The iPhone.

A gunphone. It can also take pictures. The seductive feature of this gunphone is that it automatically takes a picture upon firing, and then sends it to all of your contacts. A snuff filmmaker's wet dream.

(Tip of the hat to Peeping Tom.)

Friday, June 8, 2007

Conspiracy.

A DEA agent goes undercover in a prison to find out how the gangs are able to run drugs.

It turns out drugs are only a small part of the operation. The main thing is guns.

But it's government itself that's arming prison gangs --to build an army to enforce martial law.

In the end a prison riot becomes the excuse to begin the project.

--E. R. O'Neill

(It's not my theory: some Branch Davidians believe David Koresh founds out the government's secret plot to impose martial law and had to be killed by the DEA.)

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Shakespeare: The Musical

(Alternate Titles: "Shakespeare in Manhattan" or "The Place Beneath.")

Shakespeare re-appears on earth to mortals--at the Harvard Yacht Club, drinking a cosmopolitan and smoking a Winston Ultra Light, with Saint Dymphna, who in this incarnation is a black woman who runs a nightclub on the upper west side.

Shakespeare's appearance causes a very minor sensation. He is on Page Six and everything.

Ultimately, of course, he is hired to write the book and lyrics for a new Broadway musical: "Three Iz Da Funk"--an all-black hip-hop adaptation of the TV show Three's Company.

A savage once-major critic eagerly looks forward to the opening. He has a long-standing grudge against the producer, and no one pays attention to his reviews anymore: he fell from grace when he wrote a savage pan of a children's Easter pageant. His wife divorced him, and he went from a prestigious paper to a crappy one.

So our critic friend is looking forward to writing a searing pan of something everyone agrees is bad--to set everyone on their ear laughing and jeering at the new show to put him back on his perch.

Shakespeare turns out to be a hack. He dumps in all his usual tricks: women dressing as men, people feigning madness, soliloquies--old stuff nobody does anymore. It's awful--even more awful than the original premise, or the original show (if possible).

The show gets worse and worse. The director's a pretentious British windbag, which doesn't help. And the black cast includes actors who should get better material and are fairly sick and bitter about the gig from the get-go.

Gossip gets out to the critic, who's fairly salivating. He'll get his old job back. His reviews will be quoted on posters. Maybe his ex-wife will patch things up. Maybe he'll even get an easy job--like reviewing movies.

But Shakespeare proves acutely psychologically insightful and helps all the actors in the show (and the woman who washes up the theater, too). Everywhere he goes, he dispenses marvelous insight to people and changes their lives. He's beloved.

It turns out "Shakespeare" is just a washed-up actor nobody remembers named Ted Fearfield. (The ancient stagehands remember, but they never bother to mention it.) He once ran in Titus Andronicus on Broadway for all of three performances. Other than that, he had minor parts and was quickly forgotten. The Titus wasn't that bad, but he screwed a major critic's wife--you can guess whose--and that single savage review ended the show and his career. The critic left his wife, and she's who knows where.

As if by magic, the show starts going well. There's positive buzz everywhere. People are talking about awards, movie adaptations, transfer to Vegas.

The major critic keeps being on the verge of remembering the has-been actor. He has to meet a tight-ass at the restaurant Andronico's. That reminds him of something.... Someone tries to think of Shakespeare's bloodiest play. They list all of them (except Titus): he can't quite recall the title. (Only a waiter remembers.) It's only when his dinner arrives and it's a big plate of ham that he remembers shouts "Ted Fearfield."

The critic runs to the library to get the review, a photo, an old program, proving "Shakespeare" is really Ted Fearfield. The resemblance is dim. No one can match up the picture with the actor.

But a rumor starts. There's gossip in the gossip pages (again). But people stand up for the "Shakespeare": the show's cast, its director, even just random people on the street.

The critic finally confronts the actor, tries to get him to confess, or to trap him. But the actor cannot be stopped. Who is "Ted Fearfield" anyway? Can anyone even find his birth certificate? It was just a stage name. He realized one day there was nothing to prove he ever existed, and he realized that was his great opportunity in life--to start fresh, to make every day of living magical, the way it is in great drama, to create a whole new life, the way playwrights do. Or the way actors do every night when that curtain goes up and they're whomever they imagine themselves to be, whomever they can convince the audience they are, because the audience wants to believe in magic.

'Shakespeare,' with his infallible psychological insight, makes the critic realize what a sham his life has been and how his whole life should have been centered around his former wife. He accepts the truth of the actor's insight, decides to give up on panning the show.

All's almost resolved when the police show up. "Shakespeare" owes $8,612 dollars in parking tickets dating back thirty years--not including interest. His fingerprints are on the paperwork to prove he's just a guy who drove a cab for a dozen years many years ago.

That night in jail "Shakespeare" works his magic on the guards, the other prisoners. Everyone loves him--even his public defender lawyer.

It's opening night. The crowds are tremendous, the cast tearful. It's a real "the-show-must-go-on" moment. But the critic isn't there: his seat's empty.

He knocks on his ex-wife's door. He begs, pleads, to be taken back. She takes him back without a fuss. She would have done so at any time, she says. All he had to do was ask. "The quality of mercy is not strained. It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven upon the place beneath."

The next morning is to be "Shakespeare's" first court appearance. It's a zoo--straight out of Meet John Doe. The actors are their, clutching their great reviews and still carrying champagne glasses. TV camera crews interview the partisans: he's a great old guy, who cares if he's a fraud; what's a fake anyway, aren't we all fakes; I'll pay his parking tickets; they should hang him; etc. The usual media circus of craziness.

But when the police come to his cell take "Shakespeare" for his first court appearance, he's gone. Vanished.

The critic and his wife grab a cab to city hall to get remarried. The cabbie looks awfully familiar. Is it? It isn't. Or is it?

--E. R. O'Neill

P.S. I literally dreamt this one last night.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

After School Special: "If Freud Were Right."

Mrs. Janewski visits Little Billie's desk in the fourth row.

Gee, Billy, what's wrong? You seem a little..out of sorts.

I don't know. I feel tense and sad.

That's not good. Are you eliminating effectively?

Eliminating?

Yes. Your BM's. Your bowel movements--how are they?

Well, it's funny you mention. I haven't been able to have one for a while. I love my turds so much--I don't want to let them go.

You know Billie, that's pretty common. It's called being anal compulsive. Sometimes there are good things. Like the way you keep your tidy. Or the way you're so good at saving money.

I saved enough to get a new bike last week!

Yes, that's great. But it's important to know when to let go.

Like that song about 'The Gambler'?

Ha. Yes, like that song about the gambler.


Later. The bathroom. Billie's looking down into the bowl, a tear in his eye. His teacher forces open the stall door.

Mrs. Janewski! What are you doing here? I was just--

It's okay Billie. I know. You were just...trying to say goodbye.

Yes. I'm going to miss this little guy so much. He took so long to make!

Yes, that's why I brought all your friends along. Come in everybody!

All Billie's friends fill the tiny stall.

Hey Jake. Hey Todd. Hey Sara. Hey Kimberly.

Everybody, I'd like us all to look at Billie's B.M. Isn't it terrific.

Wow. Cool. Great. It's nice and tight.

Billie beams with pride.

Now we all have to help Billie do something very difficult.

What's that Mrs. J.?

Billie has to say goodbye to his B.M.

Goodbye forever?

Sort of. Billie's B.M. has to sleep with the fishes and fertilize fields and pastures. But he can have another one tomorrow--if he works real hard.

Goodbye, little turd. I'll miss you.

Everyone joins in.

Is it time, Billy?

I think it's finally time, Mrs. J.

Each lends a hand to pull the handle and flush. We see the turd wisked cleanly away. Montage of happy fish and waving seaweed. Billy beams.

Thanks Mrs. J. I feel much better now.

That's good.

And I'm going to start right away saving for a nice big turd for tomorrow!

Smells like you're halfway there.

That's enough, Todd McCarthy. How many times have I told you?

But Billy smells like an old ham sandwich!

Enough! Now apologize.

Sorry Mrs. J. Sorry Billy.

Okay, everyone, back to class. Who wants graham crackers?

Me! Me! Oh me!


Next week on "If Freud Were Right": Why Sara's Angry She Doesn't Have a Penis.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

learn.google.com

Google is all about information--finding it, organizing it, distributing.

Google is part of a worldwide shift that's been taking place for thirty or so years: transfering information is adding up to a lot more than just numbers and files.

Information is becoming networked knoweldge management. It stretches from the way numbers and letters, visual and auditory information are digitized and stored on computers to the way this information is distributed over networks, browsed and shaped for our eyes and ears, understood by users, created and organized collectively, flagged and tagged for usefulness.

By doing everything from making the internet searchable to helping people retouch and organize photos to combining maps with sattellite photos to publishing blogs (like this one) to spearheading an operation to scan public domain books and make them widely available, Google is arguably on the forefront of networked knowledge management today.

Google's focus on managing information opens the way for them to achieve the kind of project piloted by MIT and now being developed by Harvard: open source education.

Right now colleges and universities pay millions to companies like WebCT and Blackboard for prioprietary services that allow teachers to managing and organize their courses. The software is fairly simple--threaded discussion, writing and posting elementary web pages, allowing students to collaborate.

These companies offer nothing so special or so elegant.

And the class sites are doubly proprietary: the whole things are firewalled. It's like having a university surrounded by an electrified fence topped by razor wire. The border between expert knowledge and the public at large is rigidly guarded. (They might as well have barking dogs.)

Google could do it better--and expand the reach of knowledge world-wide in the process.

Google needs to bundle its relevant tools, as well as building others.

They could all live together under a learn.google.com url.

Accredited colleges and universities could use some of the services for free--depending on issues like enrollment, if they're public or private, etc.--esp. on the condition that some of the teaching materials were available to all users.

Yes, it's nice that MIT and Stanford and Berkeley have some course materials and podcasts online.

And yes there are open source software projects like Moodle and the like--but how many people use them? How robust are they? Right now they're all competing for a market largely given over to for-profit companies who could, let's admit it, do a better job.

Who has more computing power?

Who's more on the forefront of making the distribution of information into the actual management of knowledge--from your photos to your calendar to collaborating on documents to mapping the planet?

Who should get behind open source education on the internet?

Google.

--E. R. O'Neill

Monday, May 21, 2007

Inside the Adult Actors' Studio

Just like Inside the Actors' Studio--but with adult (i.e., porn) stars.

(Sample dialogue: "And then you made a little movie called Anal Gang Bang 6." Audience: oohs and ahs, smattering of applause.)

Instead of James Lipton metaphorically crawling up the star's ass, the host would literally go up the star's ass--with latex gloves and lube.

--E. R. O'Neill

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Needle in the Hay.

A short autobiography after the fashion of Nicholson Baker's "U & I" and Frederick Exley's "A Fan's Notes."

My life so far as lived in the shadow of, with the gift of Elliott Smith and his work.

Elliott as excuse for, trigger of retrospection, introspection.

A stranger as constant echo and friend of/in the imagination.

NOT a biography of Elliott Smith. A biography of me, but with a soundtrack.

Friday, May 11, 2007

The Sequel.

A sequel to The Truman Show.

Truman has 'escaped' from the dome that housed the television show that secretly broadcast his every move.

Since then, The Truman Show morphed to show Truman's troubles adapting to the real world of contemporary Los Angeles--simply called The Truman Show: The Sequel.

No longer a cause celebre, his relationship to his long-time secret crush, an activist dedicated to rescuing him, has foundered. Truman tried to help her with other causes--saving baby seals, blowing up SUV dealerships--but everything went rather pathetically (and comically) wrong.

Now The Sequel, as it came to be called, has been canceled.

Truman must find a job and survive in contemporary Los Angeles.

Everywhere he goes, he meets actors and technicians thrown out of work by the cancellation of the massive enterprise that was documenting his life. Before, everyone loved him. Now, everyone hates him in advance of anything he says or does.

This is the not-so-pretty life that does not take place in a small town, but everyone still knows your name.

Truman can't do anything requiring real knowledge, since it turns out that most of the science and other knowledge taught to him inside the dome was jerry-rigged and made-up just to keep him inside. The actual knowledge of the world as it is puzzles and terrifies him. ("We did what to the native Americans?")

Truman tries an acting career, since it's something that he knows, but he's no good at it. He can't act when he knows he's acting. (He's a true naif.)

What ever will become of Truman Burbank?

That is the question for which life does not prepare us.

--Edward R. O'Neill

Monday, May 7, 2007

The Dreamers

A genius dropout who works in a 24-hour market develops insomnia because of his schedule.

He just can't sleep.

Random strangers seem oddly interested in helping him sleep.

The fitful bits of sleep he gets resound with strange dreams.

He pieces together the pieces and realizes the truth.

A secret agency has invaded our dreams.

When we fall asleep, our brain's power to dream is being used as a distributed supercomputer. A single brain's power outstrips that of the fastest supercomputer, so this agency is using all our brains together.

Seemingly innocuous TV shows and advertisements program us with the information we need to process while we sleep.

Electrical circuits in everyday appliances--like cell phones--monitor our dreams and upload the results to the secret intelligence agency.

Our clerk hero has to find out who's behind it, what it's for, and, if need be, to smash the whole operation.

--E. R. O'Neill

Monday, April 23, 2007

The Prophecy.

An update on Capra--in the Meet John Doe vein.

A fake-out beginning. We start with the lives of assorted losers and sad-sacks. They suddenly turn their lives around at the end of the first act, and they end up on an infomercial for a new self-help movement bordering on religion.

It's run by a fellow nicknamed 'The Teacher' who espouses a philosophy centered on what he calls 'The Prophecy.'

There's some sense to it: a bit of existentialism, a bit of Dale Carnegie, a bit of NeuroLinguistic Programming. Nothing new. But there's also much in it that's specious, if not absurd.

He disclaims mystic powers yet performs things people take to be miracles--they're almost more like magic tricks.

A tenacious female reporter (whom we've met early on) takes him on. She's hell-bent on exposing him as a charlatan. She's sure there's something bad about him, though she doesn't know why.

Midway through, the Teacher's team digs up dirt on her that throws suspicion on her motives. She loses her job.

Eventually, an underling of The Teacher exposes him as a kind of mild pervert. People are grossed out, and he loses his following.

Also, he's juggled the books of his organization and actually gets sent to prison on a short sentence. He's sent to a rather bad prison, too--not the typical white collar country club type, to prove the local D.A. is 'tough on crime'--he's running for mayor soon--and because everyone feels embarrassed they ever trusted this guy.

The reporter gets her job back, plus a promotion. She's receives an award for her reporting career, although it's given by exactly the weasels responsible for firing her and who failed to speak up for her.

All's unwound. The story's run its course: just another 'exciting new phenomenon' that's really more of the same ol' same ol'. This guy isn't Christ or Mohammed or Mary Baker Eddy, just another snake oil salesman, a con man of a not very elaborate sort.

Except that then, strangely, one of his 'prophecies' comes astoundingly true.

The reporter and others run back to the Teacher. What does he think of this astonishing fulfillment. But it's too late. The Teacher has been killed in a prison riot.

Was he something important? We'll never know. Everyone wants to forget. It's all reduced to a footnote--an old bargain bin paperback sold for a quarter.

Those whom the Teacher helped are bereft.

They gather together. By now, more prophecies have come true. There are no more bees. Several major species of fish have suddenly, unaccountably died off. Not a single bird still graces the earth.

One of the followers' children spots is found playing with a bird. The followers gather round in wonder. The bird flies away. An ominous sound grows all around: like the buzzing if thousands of insects.

One follower cries. Another laughs. Some hold each other. They wait.

Cut to black.

--Edward R. O'Neill

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Bookshelf Hijinks.

A book titled "I'm With Stupid." Bold, red letters. An arrow on the spine pointing left.

Pick your target.

Mine?

Tim LaHaye, naturally.

So "I'm With Stupid" would be written by Jim LaHays.

But one could pick any writer.

"I'm With Stupid" by Gorman Mailers.

Etc.

Peeking Over The Shoulders Of Giants.

Collection of essays about famous essays.

Revisiting, updating and correcting essays by famous writers.

How are the subjects faring? How have the places changed? Did the writer(s) misrepresent in egregious ways? Do organizations and people operate more self-consciously after being documented? Change for the better? Worse?

Examples:

I would take the same cruise, or visit the same fair as David Foster Wallace in "A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again."

I would visit that traffic bureau from Didion's "The White Album."

Check out E.B. White's farm (documented so lovingly in "One Man's Meat.")

Etc.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Cathy: The Movie.

A live-action version of Everyone's Favorite Everywoman, Cat-Lover, Failed Dieter, Shopaholic.

Cathy is played by different actresses (even actors) in different scenes.

Indie directors shoot different parts: Todd Haynes, Wes Anderson, etc.

Interviews express various viewpoints on Cathy and Her Significance from humorists, stars, cartoonists, intellectuals, etc. R. Crumb weighs in. So does Kevin Smith. Ethan Hawke offers fake deep insights and asks for more make-up between takes. Since Susan Sontag is dead, Margaret Cho appears as both herself and Sontag.

It's part fiction film, part documentary, part avante-garde fake-out. The viewer should never know if the whole thing is serious art, parodic entertainment, documentary, mockumentary, what--something for everyone.

It's Zelig Meets Storytelling meets Intolerance.

--E. R. O'Neill

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Political Theater

A theater piece.

It's composed of dialogue already in the public domain:
  • Tony Snow press conferences;
  • Congressional testimony and debate;
  • Supreme Court oral arguments on detention and torture;
  • transcripts of hearings of Guantanamo prisoners.
The idea is: theater is premised on a gap between what people say and what they really think or mean. The complexity comes (around Beckett and Pinter) when the latter is no longer transparently available to the audience.

Politics, too, is structured by this gap. Now our politics is entirely political theater. So the gap between what's being said and its impact must be staged, acted out, in kind.

The text is made freely available for anyone to stage any way they like. The suggestion is: profits go to help stopping the war.

--E. R. O'Neill

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Haircuts.

Autobiography.

Me. Chris Stamm.

The stages of life as framed and articulated by my haircuts throughout the years.

What did they mean? Were they successful? What haircut made me happiest?

20th Century American History, As Witnessed By Andy Rooney.

Montage of Rooney monologues.

The life of a nation as told by a grump.

Soundtrack by Philip Glass wannabe, natch.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

What If Indeed

A novel after the style of Dostoevsky--all about the main character's angst.

The twist is: he's actually a character in a video game, and a minor one at that.

Within the shallow world of the video game, what if everyone were in fact teeming with existential depth?

--E. R. O'Neill

(with thanks to Andrew and Scott)

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Teen Love Story.

Helena is the high school junior who knows all the angles.

Heading into the summer before senior year, she realizes her junior boyfriend John, perhaps the cutest boy ever to attend the high school, is losing interest in her, she plans her revenge.

She breaks up with him in the nicest most 'mature' way. He's so impressed, even a little guilty-feeling.

Helena's father is a criminal attorney. She finds one of his pro bono clients--a tough teenage streetwalker named Agnes. Helena arranges probation in return for watching over Agnes.

Thus begins the Pygmalian makover to end all makeovers.

The slutty, potty-mouthed, drug-addled little girl is transformed into the image of purity, virtue and style.

When Agnes transfers to Helena and John's expensive high school in the fall as a freshman (complete with doctored transcript), everyone thinks she's from a convent school!

Helena maneuvers John into dating Agnes, and they're the biggest couple since--well, since John and Helena herself.

Everyone's impressed with how totally un-jealous Helena is. She gets major points for maturity, even though she's not dating anyone and it's her senior year.

Little do they know that at the senior prom, Helena plans on allowing Agnes's probation officer to come and find her violating her probation--she's planted a joint in Agnes's borrowed designer bag.

But when the probation officer shows up with drug-sniffing dogs, everything changes.

No one seems to care that Agnes was a skanky 'ho' only a year earlier. It's what she's done since that they care about.

No one's ashamed or embarrassed--except Helena herself.

And Helena sees how John is ready to go to jail himself on Agnes's behalf, Helena realizes John actually loves Agnes, loves her in a way Helena and John never loved each other.

So Helena takes the drug rap herself and is toted off to jail on her prom night.

She's even ready to call Daddy to come bail her out, when the whole senior class shows up with the bail money.

All's forgiven and a lot of valuable lessons were learned, plus a lot of skimpy costumes worn and dialogue spoken.

(Yes, it's a remake of Robert Bresson's Les Dames du Bois du Boulogne, which is in turn based on Denis Diderot's Jacques le Fataliste. Sue me.)

--E. R. O'Neill

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Exteriors.

A video installation.

Two screens.

Extended montage of every (real) New York exterior from Friends and Seinfeld on one screen.

My attempt to find these locations on the other screen.

Score by some Philip Glass wannabe, naturally.

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Fame.

A book that aims to answer this simple question: "What does it feel like to be famous?"

Consisting perhaps of interviews with celebrities that address this question.

An oral history.

Thursday, March 1, 2007

New Vodka Flavors.

Enough with the fruits--peach, lemon, whatnot.

On to the florals.

Rose.

Violet.

Jasmine.

--E. R. O'Neill

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Sci Fi Sex Comedy.

A long-dormant sexually-transmitted virus renders sterile men who have had sex with women. Oh they're not impotent. They still want to have sex. But they can't father children.

This makes straight men kind of like playthings--good for fun but not really serious candidates for fatherhood.

The only ones unaffected are virgins and gay men.

Suddenly nerds and gays are terribly attractive to women. Straight men have become bimbo's.

Hilarity ensues.

--E. R. O'Neill

Thursday, February 15, 2007

What the Market Will Bear

In the future memories cannot be created, but they can be bought and sold. A market develops. The people with the happiest memories could become rich.

The catch is: you're left without memories. So the people who are the richest cease to know who they are. Once they were happy. Now they are rich but lack all memories. (It's inverse-Citizen Kane. You're not shut up in your mansion with memories but with zip.)

Eventually, the rich-but-unhappy exchange all their money for the memories of the poor-but-happy. And the poor-but-happy become the rich-but-miserable, while the rich-but-unhappy become poor and happy.

--E. R. O'Neill

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

New Lottery Devised.

A new lottery aims to raise the level of General Happiness by randomly introducing ease and self-fulfillment into the general population.

Citizens are chosen on a random basis.

When chosen, they are given a monthly stipend which generously covers all their living expenses.

Winning allows the winner to pursue their dreams. An elaborate advertising campaign aims to induce the feverish dream of winning into the general populace in order to compensate for the envy that will be generated by the few winners living off the public coffers.

The result tends to be, though, that the winners all become batshit crazy.

Winners may spend long amounts of time in public libraries constructing elaborate theories, camp out at coffeehouses regaling those at neighboring tables with stories and advice, and start businesses for things like canary therapy. They take large amounts of time chatting with the clerks in drive-through toll booths and slowing traffic.

All the pleasures, in other words, of an independent income.

The theory was that this would raise the general level of happiness more than it lowers it.

Eventually, however, scientific testing proves that the envy and annoyance of the losers are significant enough to outweigh the happiness of the winners.

The winners are cut off forthwith and forced back to boring day jobs. Some are actually happier given a constructive purpose, however banal. Others are reduced to the most abject states of alienation.

Further testing is required to determine if the entire effort created more misery or happiness.

Prospects for employment for the social scientists whose job is to determine whether General Happiness goes up or down are, however, very good--although the work is often not very satisfying, which is itself a cause for further study.

--E. R. O'Neill

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Ratings.

In the future, people are convicted on TV.

Cameras secreted about streets, workplaces, even homes, monitor everyone.

It's not done by a special agency: it's entertainment.

Computer algorithms search the video streams for good programming.

Viewers do the same.

When enough people watch a stream, it moves up in the listings and hence draws yet more attention and viewers.

Almost everything entertaining to watch has been criminalized--except execution.

Happily, everyone's remote control has a thumb's up/thumb's down button.

Being watched is tantamount to conviction.

Execution takes some time: not for legal appeals--there are none--but to build up a sufficient audience.

Ratings have never been higher.

The only problem is: the most entertaining people, instead of becoming 'stars,' are all killed.

This has its upsides, too.

--E. R. O'Neill

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Photo Project.

You wish you had photographs to match some of your memories--people and times now irretrievably gone.

So take photographs to replace the missing times.

You are not replacing photographs you once had, photographs now missing.

You are taking virtual snapshots, snapshots you might have taken, had you thought to at the time. (But why didn't you? Doesn't this then falsify their very existence? Isn't the point about those images that they were not recorded?)

This would involve, it seems, hiring actors to play the roles of people now changed or gone.

But what would these unrecorded moments be?
  • You and M. at one of your favorite restaurants?
  • Sitting on L.'s couch watching a movie?
  • Or sitting at L.'s kitchen table having tea and learning about the great love of his life?
(The only thing worse, it seems, than those people who endlessly document their own private existence is those who fail to.)

In theory, any snapshot would do, since most snapshots are interchangeable, except of course for the people in them. Aren't most snapshots of birthdays and social gatherings pretty much identical?

It is not a question of taking 'artistic' pictures, since these kinds of documents are not generally characterized by their artistry, which tends to be accidental at best.

Indeed, many such virtual memories could be out-of-focus, poorly-exposed, etc.--the better to hide the fact that they are false and to make them resemble those documents we actually produce to remember ourselves, touched as they are by accident, chance, contingency.

The truth is: other people's memories would serve just as well as yours. The only thing that makes them your memories is that they are (happen to be?) yours. (Contingency enters in. How did these people come to be your friends? How do certain moments end up being or not being recorded? How were certain acquaintances lost to time, disease, circumstance?)

You could buy old snapshots on ebay. But those tend to be of more remote time periods.

A difficult problem to solve. No virtual memory would be entirely satisfactory. Which is perhaps why none are in the end better.

--E. R. O'Neill

Thursday, February 8, 2007

Unibrowed Men

Companion piece to Les Blank's Gap-Toothed Women.

Self-explanatory.

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

The Onion: The Movie

A movie about all your favorite Onion stories.

Nation's Porn Stars Demand To Be Fucked Harder.

Meth Addicts Demand Government Address Nation's Growing Spider Menace.

The sad, disappointment-filled life of Area Man--Food Court Taco Bell Not as Good, Area Man Reports--and his ever-present, more cheerful companion-in-news, Local Man.

A mockumentary, clearly.

With occasional interrupting commentary but those dumbass man-on-the-street types.

--E. R. O'Neill

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

metapeevishandwhiny.com

A peevish and whiny blog about other blogs.

Complaining about blogs that are nothing but peevish and whiny.

But in a peevish and whiny way--as if the bloggers were sorry they didn't get there first.

Would be a massive project indexing all possible peevish and whiny blogs.

Which is to say: all of them that aren't just selling diet powders.

--E. R. O'Neill

Sunday, February 4, 2007

Literary Journal.

Online literary review of recently published short fiction. Point being that the latest David Foster Wallace story in The New Yorker is the literary equivalent of a leaked Timbaland track. Why wait until the collection is published by Knopf three years from now? Five-star scale with brief capsule reviews. Risk of trivializing "serious fiction." But maybe that's what "serious fiction" needs?

--C.M. Stamm

Saturday, February 3, 2007

Identity Thieves.

A couple enjoys having sex while pretending to be other people.

They do this by stealing the identities of dead people--reading obituaries, getting copies of birth certificates, etc.

But when they steal the name of a criminal who's faked his own death, the police apprehend them.

They can't talk their way out of it, but then the detectives are assassinated, and the couple realize they have been framed--unless the find the actual culprit.

So they assume the identities of the murdered detectives and are off and running.

--E. R. O'Neill

Toasters.

A musical score for toasters.

Parameters focus mainly on the darkness of the slices.

Different types and weights of bread--whole wheat vs. white, bread vs. bagel--would create different sounds.

--E. R. O'Neill