Dr. Tundra Perfects the Whatsit Upgrade

flower close up

This is an extreme close up of a flower, so no outraged emails, please. Photo by Ryan Woolies.

Whatsit 2.0 had been so popular that Dr. Tundra did not waste any time getting started on 3.0. It would be ready by the next quarter.

And then there was the new Danglybit PX he was working on. If he could capture the men’s market and the women’s market at the same time, his practice would grow ten-fold. No, a hundred times!

And the best part was that there was little actual surgery. Most of the enhancements were based on a combination of chemistry and “gentle” electrical stimulation. Yes, they were painful, but quite a bit cheaper than standard surgical interventions.

Did Dr. Tundra wonder why so many people wanted to alter their genitalia?

Not at all; he had re-grown his foreskin during medical school, just to see if he could. And besides, people should be allowed to do whatever they wanted, right? As long as it didn’t hurt anyone else.

Though, the extension he’d done on Mr. Johnson, using the old Danglybit 4.0 program was a bit on the radical side. Still, it was up to Mr. and Mrs. Johnson how they used the added dimensions.

Inspired by: Globe & Mail Story: Designer Vaginas [actual headline] | More Naughty-looking Closeups of Flowers [like the one at the top of this post]. Alltop thinks flowers are purdy. Originally published in 2005. Crazy. Also, happy birthday Georgia O’Keefe.

René Magritte: Merchant Banker Masters His Mental Powers at Walton-on-the-Naze

image of Rene Magritte's Son of Man

While an art historian will tell you this 1964 painting is called “The Son of Man”, and is meant to be a meditation on what is hidden in the visible world, they are of course, hiding the dreadful truth.

Since the early days of the 20th century, Britain’s merchant bankers have controlled the world economy through their prodigious mental powers. A favourite training ground for this activity was the Essex seaside resort of Walton-on-the-Naze, mostly because of the heavy absurdium deposits in the region, but also because of the lovely beach and nice weather.

Absurdium, as all psionic adepts know, greatly enhances even the most latent mental powers, and so, The Ancient Order of Merchant Bankers would send all their most promising members to enhance and train their abilities. They could only graduate when they could perform the “apple in the eye” trick, pictured here. While this may seem like a simple bit of levitation, you will note that the banker’s left arm is now bent backwards at the elbow.

Not pictured: the beach filled with non-banker holidaymakers bursting into flames, though Magritte does allude to this horror by filling the sunny sky with dark, human-smudge clouds.

Naturally, the Ancient Order no longer uses this ritual, and since discovering the derivative and credit-default swaps, it appears as though its members’ prodigious mental powers have largely disappeared.

Alltop loves the derivative! Originally published December 2010.

Byron’s Epic Swims: Leaving England

Lord Byron, about to do something spectacularThough most famous for his poetry, war heroics, and womanizing, Lord Byron’s greatest achievements all took place in the water.

He was born with a deformity in his right foot, or as it was so sensitively known in the 18th and 19th centuries, a “club foot”. This physical imperfection caused Bryon at least as much psychological pain as it did physical pain, and though he limped, it was often not noticeable to casual observers. Still, he was aware of this limitation, and he overcompensated wildly, throwing himself into violent exercise, trying to play cricket (surely something one does only because of a serious psychological problem), and by swimming.

In the water, his malformed foot became an asset, as it worked much like a flipper. In the water, Lord Byron found that he was at least as god-like as he was while composing romantic poetry, or shocking the British public with his wanton pursuit of married women and other (male) poets. After all, it was this scandalous lifestyle that forced Byron to abandon the UK.

Lord Bryon's first epic swim

In his first epic swim, Byron did the breast-stroke down the Thames River, the back-stroke along the coastline to Dover, and then he did a truly breathtaking sprint of butterfly across the English channel. From there he swam up the coast to the low countries (stopping in the evenings to woo eligible young French, Belgian and Dutch poetry aficionados.) At the mouth of the Rhine, Byron took a hard right turn and did front crawl, until he arrived at Strasbourg. (As far as historians have been able to recreate, this is the single longest swim he did in one go.) He spent a few days recovering in Strasbourg, and then made a series of short frenetic dog-paddles against a strong current, passing Basel, and then making another hard right up the River Aare, as far as Lake Neuchatel in Switzerland. He had heard that his personal physician, John William Polidori was holidaying on Lake Geneva (aka Lake Leman), so he took a short carriage-ride overland. It was there he met Percy Bysshe Shelley, Mary Godwin (who would later marry Shelley), and Claire Claremont.

When he wasn’t buggering Percy Bysshe senseless, and seducing the other guests at the Villa (he has some measure of success, except with Mary), Byron kept in shape by swimming the length of the lake. (It was also here that the Shelleys, Byron, and the others helped Mary begin writing Frankenstein, and Polidori was inspired to write Vampyre, arguably the first young adult vampire film. Byron was apparently the model for the seductive, super-powerful vampire.)

So Byron rested and recovered, which was a good thing, because soon he would start one of his most ambitious swims ever, through the Alps, from Switzerland to Venice.

Alltop prefers the wading pool. Originally published May, 2012.

The Ruins — a new flash fiction at the Caesura Letters

Cottage ruins, County Kerry, Ireland

I have a new flash fiction up this week at the Caesura Letters called The Ruins. It’s a different kind of piece — a meditation on the nature of Stoicism (though to be fair, it has a dash of existentialism in it.)

If you haven’t already checked out the Caesura Letters, you really should. It’s “a magazine for critical thinkers, mindful contemplatives, and life-long learners.” And it’s rich with philosophy. I’m grateful to the editor and founder, James Shelley, for including fiction in the mix now too. The digital subscription is only $4.99 a month — an insanely good deal.

Photo by Keith Ewing via Flickr