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Author Topic: EP322: Chicken Noodle Gravity  (Read 4092 times)
eytanz
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« on: December 09, 2011, 12:40:10 PM »

EP322: Chicken Noodle Gravity

By J. Daniel Sawyer

Read by Paul Haring

An Escape Pod original!

---

I hate to start out this way, but before we get to the reason I’m standing on this stool with a fez on my head, in the middle of the night, in front of a double-cal-king bed in a furniture store—which, yes, Officer, I swear I’ll confess I broke into illegally—before we get to any of that, there’s something I have to tell you. I know it’s awful, evil, and just plain wrong, but there’s no way around it, and you won’t understand anything else unless I say this right up front, so here goes:

Stephen was stoned.

And when I say “stoned” I mean he’d eaten enough brownies and smoked enough pot to put the economies of five or six minor countries into a severe, long-term deficit crisis.

It was okay. It helped him cope with the chemo. Mellowed him out. We didn’t have to fight over who got to hold the remote. He was better in bed too—not as neurotic.

Didn’t complain about my mustache when I kissed him. Suits me right for shacking up with a clean freak.

The weed was my revenge—well, the fact that the weed made it possible for him to eat. We had to grow our own—only way we could afford it, though I swear we probably spent as much on the electricity as we would have on the bud. Not a great climate for it, not in the winter.

So, the revenge part—that would be his appetite. When he smoked, it came back. It was the only time it came back. And there were only two things he could handle:

Brownies.

And chicken noodle soup. The really rancid stuff that came in a red and white can.


Listen to this week’s Escape Pod!
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raetsel
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« Reply #1 on: December 10, 2011, 04:39:39 AM »

Such a bitter-sweet touching story. It had a lot of resonances for me and listening to it driving home I felt a lump in my throat a couple of times and thought I might have to pull over.

The central relationship of this story is so tender and well observed. The point about both of them wanting to stay together as long as possible but Bill also feeling guilty and selfish for doing it felt like such a natural human reaction. The pathos of this central dilemma was juxtaposed against the quirky ultra-condensed soup device that kept it from becoming maudlin and I wanted to know how it was going to end though I was fearful that I would be in floods of tears if it went the "wrong" way. The ending itself was just right for me too, giving us hope.

Of course we ALL know that if we carried on past the point where the story finishes then Steve would pop out of the can, still stoned and then would go off with Bill to get cured  and they would live happily ever after. WE ALL KNOW THAT IS WHAT HAPPENED AND THERE IS NO NEED TO CONSIDER ANY ALTERNATIVE. OK?  Wink
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epilonious
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« Reply #2 on: December 10, 2011, 09:55:36 AM »

Of course we ALL know that if we carried on past the point where the story finishes then Steve would pop out of the can, still stoned and then would go off with Bill to get cured  and they would live happily ever after. WE ALL KNOW THAT IS WHAT HAPPENED AND THERE IS NO NEED TO CONSIDER ANY ALTERNATIVE. OK?  Wink

...and after that, the police officer becomes one of their best friends and they all use the quantum singularity to fight crime and play pranks on the more sketchy "occupy" protesters...

I loved this story.  The whole time listening to it, I kept thinking "It's like sci-fi pop art!  It's like taking Andy Warhol's soup can painting and then reworking it so it's the primary energy source for the star drive".  Meanwhile, Paul's brilliance as a writer shows through in how he describes both the fixture of our culinary psyche (the soup) and mixes it with the pathos of a long term illness:  Campbells Chicken Noodle soup is associated heavily with that "blah" feeling.  So much so that we rarely ever eat it when we are healthy, but when we're sick it's the blessed mana from heaven powerful enough to stay in our beleaguered stomachs.
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« Reply #3 on: December 11, 2011, 03:56:11 PM »

Meanwhile, Paul's brilliance as a writer shows through in how he describes...

Heh - Paul (Haring) was the reader.  J. Daniel Sawyer wrote the story.

On one side, this a very fun story, but it is also a sad story.  It had nice balance.  I also appreciated that the men being gay was not the point of the story, just an attribute of the characters.
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InfiniteMonkey
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« Reply #4 on: December 11, 2011, 07:08:36 PM »

I want to thank Muir for her challenge. I never would have thought to put these elements together, and would never have thought to enjoy just such a mash-up. None (well, almost none) of the elements of our characters' lives are close to my own.

But I really liked it all the same. The author did a great balancing act, after navigating some very dark waters, getting back to the light opening. Actual science details be damned.

 
Of course we ALL know that if we carried on past the point where the story finishes then Steve would pop out of the can, still stoned and then would go off with Bill to get cured  and they would live happily ever after. WE ALL KNOW THAT IS WHAT HAPPENED AND THERE IS NO NEED TO CONSIDER ANY ALTERNATIVE. OK?  Wink

Amen.
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Sir Postsalot
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« Reply #5 on: December 12, 2011, 12:15:59 PM »

A very good story overall.  The characters really seemed like real people, and I felt for them.  I really wanted everything to turn out okay.  The comedy of the ultra-condensed soup was a good counterpoint to the sadness, well done.

I didn't see the ending as a happy one though.  (raetsel, you'll want to skip over this post).  Maybe I missed something but how was he supposed to breathe in there?  He'd estimated that it should only be a couple days, so assuming that he understands black holes well enough to actually say that (which I'm pretty sure he doesn't) he'd still have plenty of time to suffocate.  And wouldn't the compression of forcing his body into a tin can pretty well finish him off, label notwithstanding?

So... I liked the story in general, but the ending just didn't make the slightest sense to me.
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« Reply #6 on: December 12, 2011, 01:10:12 PM »

I deleted the story half way though, I applaud escape pod giving us warnings so we can chose  whether to listen or not but I felt this should be more of a strong R for more than language sexual innuendo; it ruined  the story for me.
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ElectricPaladin
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« Reply #7 on: December 12, 2011, 02:35:11 PM »

We have a saying in my family: death is stronger than life, but love is stronger than death. To me, this story epitomized that principle perfectly. I also love that the story was about a gay romance, but without awkward commentary in any direction. There were no excuses or after-school special lessons. This story was just about love overcoming death.

I could address the scientific inconsistencies with arguments of my own, but I really don't want to bother. Even with scientific flaws, this was a beautiful tale that I was happy to listen to.
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Spindaddy
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« Reply #8 on: December 12, 2011, 08:49:53 PM »

On one side, this a very fun story, but it is also a sad story.  It had nice balance.  I also appreciated that the men being gay was not the point of the story, just an attribute of the characters.
I also love that the story was about a gay romance, but without awkward commentary in any direction. There were no excuses or after-school special lessons. This story was just about love overcoming death.

Both of the above is what really made this story shine for me. I hate when there is a story about a gay couple and it's crammed down your throat along with all sorts of nonsense that drown out the actual storyline. This was a great story and I applaud the author for writing it in such a sense that it was just something as a matter of course and nothing something forbidden or wrong. It just was.

With all that being said, this story also had a place in my heart because my kid LOVES campbell chicken noodle soup and will ask for it all the time.
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Kaa
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« Reply #9 on: December 13, 2011, 12:25:43 AM »

What they all said, up there <gestures upward>, especially ElectricPaladin.
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Devoted135
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« Reply #10 on: December 14, 2011, 10:20:17 AM »

Oh man, I don't think I'll be able to look at a can of chicken noodle soup the same way again. :-P This was such a poignant story about love and death and making sure to appreciate all of the small moments. I'm not really sold on the "physics" as described, and I could definitely have done without that one scene, but overall it was a great listen.
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InfiniteMonkey
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« Reply #11 on: December 14, 2011, 11:58:56 AM »

I'm not really sold on the "physics" as described,

See, I was able to completely forgive the totally bogus physics (yes, there are black holes, yes, they do "slow" time, but other than that....) because the author did a good job of keeping my interest, and using elements I wouldn't have thought of putting together.

I could definitely have done without that one scene,

That scene would be???
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Devoted135
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« Reply #12 on: December 14, 2011, 12:28:13 PM »

I'm not really sold on the "physics" as described,

See, I was able to completely forgive the totally bogus physics (yes, there are black holes, yes, they do "slow" time, but other than that....) because the author did a good job of keeping my interest, and using elements I wouldn't have thought of putting together.

I could definitely have done without that one scene,

That scene would be???


That would be the masturbation scene. But I generally dislike sex scenes (especially in audio, for some reason), so it's not like this story was an outlier in that regard.
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slag
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« Reply #13 on: December 14, 2011, 07:36:24 PM »

"That would be the masturbation scene. But I generally dislike sex scenes (especially in audio, for some reason), so it's not like this story was an outlier in that regard."

- I can do without sex scenes too, but this one struck a chord with me. 
It reminded me of a night when my cousins and I had moved my uncle, who was in his last days with us due to his cancer, to a bedroom in his house.  When we brought him home from the hospital, he wanted a bed to be set up in his den so he could easily visit with the groups of people who wanted to come and see him or to say their final goodbyes.  Having suffered a stroke, he couldn't get in or out of bed without help, so we took turns bringing him bedpans, changing his sheets, helping him to eat, and the like. Basically staying up with him during the nights caring for him. So one night he asked if we would move him to a bedroom, where he could spend one night alone with his wife. With all the things we were helping to do for him at the time, I never really gave much thought to THAT.
But privacy is privacy, whatever it may consist of. And is still one of those human needs too.
I guess that's why I really didn't mind the scene that much.
To me it showed a very human thing, actually a wonderfully human thing. The things we do in private, and the things we do in private when we think it may be the last time we get to do them. I think about my uncle and about how weak he was in those last days, and about how Steve in the story was kind of in the same boat.  I think about how they just wanted to share something with the people they loved, and how the people they loved wanted to share something with them too. Something just for the two of them.
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Talia
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« Reply #14 on: December 15, 2011, 12:08:40 AM »

"That would be the masturbation scene. But I generally dislike sex scenes (especially in audio, for some reason), so it's not like this story was an outlier in that regard."

- I can do without sex scenes too, but this one struck a chord with me. 
It reminded me of a night when my cousins and I had moved my uncle, who was in his last days with us due to his cancer, to a bedroom in his house.  When we brought him home from the hospital, he wanted a bed to be set up in his den so he could easily visit with the groups of people who wanted to come and see him or to say their final goodbyes.  Having suffered a stroke, he couldn't get in or out of bed without help, so we took turns bringing him bedpans, changing his sheets, helping him to eat, and the like. Basically staying up with him during the nights caring for him. So one night he asked if we would move him to a bedroom, where he could spend one night alone with his wife. With all the things we were helping to do for him at the time, I never really gave much thought to THAT.
But privacy is privacy, whatever it may consist of. And is still one of those human needs too.
I guess that's why I really didn't mind the scene that much.
To me it showed a very human thing, actually a wonderfully human thing. The things we do in private, and the things we do in private when we think it may be the last time we get to do them. I think about my uncle and about how weak he was in those last days, and about how Steve in the story was kind of in the same boat.  I think about how they just wanted to share something with the people they loved, and how the people they loved wanted to share something with them too. Something just for the two of them.


A moving anecdote. Thank you for sharing.
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ElectricPaladin
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« Reply #15 on: December 15, 2011, 01:27:08 AM »

"That would be the masturbation scene. But I generally dislike sex scenes (especially in audio, for some reason), so it's not like this story was an outlier in that regard."

- I can do without sex scenes too, but this one struck a chord with me. 
It reminded me of a night when my cousins and I had moved my uncle, who was in his last days with us due to his cancer, to a bedroom in his house.  When we brought him home from the hospital, he wanted a bed to be set up in his den so he could easily visit with the groups of people who wanted to come and see him or to say their final goodbyes.  Having suffered a stroke, he couldn't get in or out of bed without help, so we took turns bringing him bedpans, changing his sheets, helping him to eat, and the like. Basically staying up with him during the nights caring for him. So one night he asked if we would move him to a bedroom, where he could spend one night alone with his wife. With all the things we were helping to do for him at the time, I never really gave much thought to THAT.
But privacy is privacy, whatever it may consist of. And is still one of those human needs too.
I guess that's why I really didn't mind the scene that much.
To me it showed a very human thing, actually a wonderfully human thing. The things we do in private, and the things we do in private when we think it may be the last time we get to do them. I think about my uncle and about how weak he was in those last days, and about how Steve in the story was kind of in the same boat.  I think about how they just wanted to share something with the people they loved, and how the people they loved wanted to share something with them too. Something just for the two of them.


A moving anecdote. Thank you for sharing.

+1. And, additionally, that's what I think the author intended by including that scene.
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Devoted135
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« Reply #16 on: December 15, 2011, 10:51:55 AM »

"That would be the masturbation scene. But I generally dislike sex scenes (especially in audio, for some reason), so it's not like this story was an outlier in that regard."

- I can do without sex scenes too, but this one struck a chord with me. 
It reminded me of a night when my cousins and I had moved my uncle, who was in his last days with us due to his cancer, to a bedroom in his house.  When we brought him home from the hospital, he wanted a bed to be set up in his den so he could easily visit with the groups of people who wanted to come and see him or to say their final goodbyes.  Having suffered a stroke, he couldn't get in or out of bed without help, so we took turns bringing him bedpans, changing his sheets, helping him to eat, and the like. Basically staying up with him during the nights caring for him. So one night he asked if we would move him to a bedroom, where he could spend one night alone with his wife. With all the things we were helping to do for him at the time, I never really gave much thought to THAT.
But privacy is privacy, whatever it may consist of. And is still one of those human needs too.
I guess that's why I really didn't mind the scene that much.
To me it showed a very human thing, actually a wonderfully human thing. The things we do in private, and the things we do in private when we think it may be the last time we get to do them. I think about my uncle and about how weak he was in those last days, and about how Steve in the story was kind of in the same boat.  I think about how they just wanted to share something with the people they loved, and how the people they loved wanted to share something with them too. Something just for the two of them.


Wow, thanks for sharing! Notice I didn't say I thought the scene was unbelievable or even poorly written. Just that I don't prefer to read/hear those types of scenes.
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SF.Fangirl
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« Reply #17 on: December 15, 2011, 11:02:21 AM »

The juxtaposition of the grimness of the terminal illness, hunger and poverty with the absurdity just didn't work for me.  I did really want to like it, but the whole was less than the sum of its parts.  I was moved by the love of the two men and tragedy of the loss of a love; that was very well done.  That realism made the absurdity of the science hard to take.  

Additionally the highly probable unhappy ending would have been easier to ignore if the narrator hadn't made provisions for the cold of space and but gave no thought to the lack of oxygen.  

On a technical note, I don't think starting in media res really worked well.  I didn't get the Fez/Doctor Who joke until I relistened to the opening.  I was relistening because the end of the story didn't have enough repetition of the opening scene for me to get the full picture.  But that led to wonder why the fact that Stephen was stoned which the narrator made such a big deal of to the police officer was important.  I wasn't.  As far as I can tell Stephen being stoned had nothing to do with the situation.

... there’s something I have to tell you. I know it’s awful, evil, and just plain wrong, but there’s no way around it, and you won’t understand anything else unless I say this right up front, so here goes:
 
Stephen was stoned.

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Talia
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« Reply #18 on: December 15, 2011, 11:08:41 AM »

 As far as I can tell Stephen being stoned had nothing to do with the situation.

If he hadn't been stoned he wouldn't have agreed to get into the black hole. At least that's what I got for it.

The absurdity worked for me because I've found a certain amount of absurdity often does accompany life's darkest moments.
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SF.Fangirl
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« Reply #19 on: December 16, 2011, 01:36:55 PM »

 As far as I can tell Stephen being stoned had nothing to do with the situation.

If he hadn't been stoned he wouldn't have agreed to get into the black hole. At least that's what I got for it.

The absurdity worked for me because I've found a certain amount of absurdity often does accompany life's darkest moments.

I didn't think he agreed; he was tricked.  Although being stoned probably made him easier to trick, it wasn't necessary because he was too weak to fight anything off.
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