Friday, May 23, 2008

Piss stories

The elegant old cylindrical public urinals in Grenoble, molded out of reinforced concrete, have always reminded me of upended sarcophagi from an ancient Roman burial ground. They're fit for a dead emperor to pee in. In fact, Grenoble is full of all kinds of decorated concrete constructions dating from the second half of the 19th century. This is largely due to a pair of related facts, one historical and the other geological.

The inventor of artificial cement, Louis Vicat, was a native of Grenoble. With his son Joseph, he founded a cement company that is still in full swing today. Visitors who arrive in Grenoble by the northern highway (passing along the valley of the Isère, between the Chartreuse and Vercors mountain ranges) drive beneath an archaic system of Vicat conveyor buckets that descend minerals constantly from mines in the nearby mountains. Geologically, the Chartreuse range is one of the rare regions with sources of the precious mineral required for the manufacture of rapidly-setting concrete, which is essential for the creation of molded objects.

Talking about urinals, two young Belgian guys invented recently a mobile video game, named PlaceToPee, for outdoor festivities where people are downing large quantities of beer.

As you can see, their main logo is inspired by the celebrated statue of the Manneken Pis in Brussels. When the device is in operation, the open booth receives a pair of contestants with full bladders and good aim, and each contestant stands in front of his personal urinal.

Above the urinal, a video screen displays the graphic elements of a typical contest such as a downhill skiing race.

Inside the urinal, elegantly described as interactive, several sensor pads, distributed on the outer edges of the bowl, react instantly to the impact of a strong jet of urine, and this input is processed by a computer in such a way as to impinge upon the video contest between the two players.

To avoid being accused of sexism, the inventors offer cardboard funnels to female contestants, enabling them theoretically to focus their fire. I'm convinced that a smart girl with dexterity could win comfortably by concealing a powerful plastic water pistol in her cardboard funnel. She would really take the piss out of male onlookers, who wouldn't be able to witness her stealthy manipulations and certainly wouldn't dare to search her for cheating equipment. As they say in the classics, with a hint of inverted syllables, if the lady could get her act together, that would be a truly cunning stunt.

For me, the very idea of pissing onto electronic sensors brings to mind one of the most memorable funny lines in modern French cinema. The actress Marie Laforet was evoking sarcastically the death by electrocution of her former husband, who happened to piss onto a high-voltage cable. During our entire relationship, that was the only time his prick ever produced fireworks."

1 comment:

  1. Reminds me of that line about a suicide in "Up the Junction" by Nell Dunn:

    "...stood in a pot of piss and plugged himself into the electric light."