Saturday, January 31, 2009

The Mad Crapper


Dream dreamt in New Hampshire on the shores of Lake Winnipesaukee by a final, unknown dreamer a few years back. Animation created by Darren Blondin. Interpretation embedded in video. Accompanying book of the day: The Humanure Handbook

Thanks to all the dreamers out there for making this blog a success. If you're in Philly on February 8th, come to the Fun-A-Day show to see this and dozens of other amazing projects in the flesh. And keep sending in your dreams for the new weekly version of 31 DREAMERS!

Friday, January 30, 2009

Trepidatious Trainhopping

We're down to the last two Dreamers on our daily oneirocritical excursion. So many of you have asked if 31 Dreamers will continue and the answer is yes, Beginning in February we switch to a weekly format. We might have to do some sort of Baskin Robbins promotional tie-in to justify the number "31" in the blog's name.

If you haven't checked out some of the other online Fun-A-Day antics, now's your chance. Round two of shout-outs goes to Karen's delectible Pie-A-Day, Timothy's economical Fake Poloroid-A-Day, P.Shaw's visionary Comic-A-Day (pictured here), Emma's toe-tapping 12-Bar-Blues Song-A-Day, Dee's frenetic Self-Portrait-A-Day, and Cait's do-it-yourself Batch of Vegan Muffins-A-Day (with recipes!) Acomplete list of other Fun-A-Day links can be found in the sidebar on the left.

Choosing today's dream has been a challenge (tomorrow's has been picked out for weeks...) So many of you have sent some really fabulous dreams, many of which are on file and may crop up on the new weekly version of this blog. The penultimate of these first 31 Dreamers (really 33 Dreamers, but we'll deal with that later), is fellow Fun-A-Day-ista Molly McIntyre, who dreamt thisin Oakland, California:
My friend Andrea and I were waiting for a train. We were waiting for a really long time. When the train finally came, I didn't have my stuff together. I grabbed my wallet and ran to the train, but the rest of my bags were still on the sidewalk. Andrea was already on the train, and I was holding on to the outside, like in a movie. I yelled, "I can't do it, I need to get my stuff!" and jumped off. Andrea jumped off too. Then we realized that we could get a ride from some people we knew, so it was okay that we didn't get the train.

Then I was sitting on a couch with this boy that I dated for a minute last fall. He was cracking jokes about something. His sister came in and she was beautiful. I thought to myself, "Damn, this guy is pretty weird looking, but his sister's so pretty—I bet we would've had really beautiful children—I should've hung onto him!"
Molly, are you the sort of person that's prepare the night before you embark on a trip? Or do you tend to be a maestrom of frantically teying to pull things together and throw them in bags right before it's time to head out the door? Regardless of how it is when you're awake, you're not ready, or even really willing, to take this train in this dream. You've been planning this trip with your friend for so long, but where is it going to take you? Maybe someplace permanent, some commitment ofr situation that you're not sure you're ready for. And then you have your Slumdog Millionaire moment, only the jerkface brother doesn't let go of your hand because Andrea isn't the jerkface brother—she's your friend and will stick by you no matter what you decide, so instead of letting you go, she goes with you.

Deciding to travel by car instead of by train means that you opt for more flexibility, both in deciding where you're headed and how long it takes you to get there. You visit one possible past-future—a prior abandoned train ride with "this boy." You question your decision to jump off of his train, thinking, "I could've just done this, gone further down the track with him, maybe to the very end." You see his sister and kinda wish he was his own sister (or that his sister were him), maybe finding more comfort and camaraderie in the company of females and wishing that the men in you life could be a little bit more like the women in your life. This boy would have never jumped off that train like Andrea did. He would've said, "What the fuck? Just get on the train!" and probably would've ended up going on without you. 

Honestly Molly, my first thought when I finished reading your dream was, "Why not have children with the sister?" I'm casting all biological assumptions aside here, but anything is possible in dreams anyway . . .
––––– –– ––– –––––
. . . Speaking of anyway, for those of you who might go into withdrawal from not having at least one dream to gape at every 24 hours, there are lots of books to ogle out there. Today I actually took a gander at David Fontana's The Secret Language of Dreams and it's not too bad. But yes, it's no substitute for 31 Dreamers.

Papercuts at the top and bottom of this post by today's dreamer, 
Molly McIntyre. See more art and stop-action moies on her 
wonderful website. Or tell her how awesome she is here.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

The Subconscious Songwriters Union

This dream has a soundtrack. I'm not quite sure what it is, but I'll take suggestions from you if you have any. In the meantime, you can play either one or both of these:



Today we have another California Dreamer, third from the end of our 31 Dreamers lineup is Bronwyn, who writes:
I dreamt last night that a faerie-like girl was singing to me, she was singing the most beautiful song, and playing an unusual and vague instrument with strings that was otherworldly. She wrote a song for me, and I felt like I could take on anything, and I knew that I would never die as long as I was rooted in my will to live.
Sweet dream Bronwyn, and one that doesn't want too much interpretation. Some schools of dream-work take every component of a dream and equate each with a particular meaning. Others state that everything in the dream is an extension of the dreamer (which is true to the extent that the dreamer did make the whole thing up). Fans of 31 Dreamers may have figured out that this blog takes a different approach every day, with a little lean toward the politics of dreams plus a good book thrown in for good measure, for most good books are made up of dreams. 

For this dream Bronwyn, you can probably see your own face in that of the færie girl and hear your own voice in her song. What was that song? Your "Bronwyn Kicks Ass" anthem. If you haven't taken up an instrument and written yourself a song yet, now may be the time. Or at least get in the habit of humming or whistling the theme to Fame wherever you go.

In a similar vein, I'd like to share with you some of Eduardo Galeano's imaginations for a future we might want in the upcoming millenium/century/year/hour. He's got a long list in the final chapter of his book Upside Down: a primer for the looking glass world (with woodcuts borrowed from J.G. Posada). Here are my top 10:
• People shall work for a living instead of living for work. 
• No one shall die of hunger because no one shall die of overeating.
• Cooks shall not believe that lobsters love to be boiled alive.
• Histories shall not believe that countriees love to be invaded.
• In the streets cars shall be run over by dogs.
...and furthermore:
• People shall not be driven by cars,
• Or programmed by computers,
• Or bought by supermarkets,
• Or watched by televisions,
• And no one shall be taken seriously who can't make of fun of themselves.
Okay, dear dreamers, turn off your screens and start dreaming of those songs to make us feel like we can take on anything. We've got our work cut out for us.

Music (for now) by the Mystical Unionists. Submit your ideas for the song from Bronwyn's dream. The mixtape will appear in a future episode of 31 Dreamers.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The Long Arm of Gravity's Law


What goes up, must come down, right? 

Not necessarily in dreams.

Maybe.

The impossible can happen in our dreams. Readers to this blog have sent in all sorts of impossibilities that they've dreamt up, as far-fetched as brushing one's teeth with a killer whale, to snorting Allen Ginsberg up one's nose, to being a super hero in the form of a frozen novelty dessert. Weird stuff. On the simpler side a dreamer in Paris dreamt that she saw fish flying up into the sky, going off and away, never to be heard from again.

Maybe.

It is possible that things exiting one dream could return in another. It may even be possible that these items could leave the dream of one dreamer and enter the dreams of another. The odds of the happening might be greater than we think since we don't know what other people dream about most of the time. But 31 Dreamers is a place where dreams collide, overlap, run tandem to one another. And fishes flying out of France may just migrate to Montpelier, Vermont, where Trish dreamt this up during her afternoon siesta:
At a large family gathering I’m looking through the house for my childhood chest of drawers. My mother shows me all of her new cheap/modern but ornate furniture. Out the window I see a crowd of people gathering at the bottom of the hill the house is on. Trying to make sense of the scene from a distance, I grab my mom and some family members and we realize that a couple of police cars have crashed into the yard somehow. I burst out crying when I see people dragging an old man out of one of the cars. I assume he is dead. Two LOUD bangs like gunshots ring out and the crowd scatters or hits the ground, covering their heads. I run through the house and into the garage/front yard area to SHOUT over the noise of the party that there are gunshots and everyone should stay inside.

I run into the room where I’m staying to get dressed to go outside and scope the scene. Someone (a female cousin?) comes into the room to chat while I get dressed and distracts me. In my haste I put on an overly glamorous shirt (inappropriate for the situation) and only one very thin sock with the other foot bare inside pointy black snakeskin bootlets. They don't fit comfortably and it is snowy and wet outside.

I run out to the distraught crowd to find them gaily fixing the lawn where the grass got ripped up from the crash. They are gibber-gabbering about neighborly things and seem to be having quality community time together. A lady remarked that they thought someone had been shooting because she "saw a bottle (of alcohol) that was left in the deer hunting platform on her land across the street, but really the noises had happened because it had been RAINING FISH."

I was dumbstruck and began walking about in a daze, until I fell over a berm in my snakeskin boots. Stuck on the other side, I had to trudge through an irrigation ditch between the berm and the road. Sulking, I waded through the cold water trying to get to the highland of the driveway until I saw indeed—it had rained fish! There were huge, long, beautiful fish flopping out of puddles of water too small for them!

With glee I ran to the house urging my kid brothers to take my 5-year-old son down to the road to see/catch a fish. They walked down the hill to where others were catching fish as well. In my haste to find fish-catching gear, I tripped over a rocking chair and smashed a tiny hard-shelled egg under one of the rocking rails of the chair. I stayed in to resentfully clean this up while the boys excitedly tried to catch the fish with bare hands. As I walked downstairs to get a towel, I felt a hand on my shoulder. Looking back, I was horrified to see that the hand stayed on my shoulder as I continued to walk down the stairs. My stepmom stood stationary at the top of the stairs and her arm stretched like taffy down the whole length of the staircase—Ewww! I shooed off her freaky hand/arm and she just laughed. I had to laugh and smile too and I could hear the children splashing and laughing in the distance.

Trish, for a short nap you can really pack it in. Here's what I got:

You are trying to go back to finding what you value. Your mother doesn't share your values and in the face of disaster you take the lead. The reality is that there are bad things happening and people dying all the time while a lot of us just eat cheese and crackers with pinkies akimbo like folks aren't being shot right in our own front yards. For the others in your dream, what happens outside the window might as well be on the other side of the world. For you it doesn't matter where it's happening—it's real and the people that it's happening to are real. You want to respond to these situations, to save the world and get those closest to you to give a shit about something for once, but you also just want to play dress-up and have fun and not worry about this stuff. In the dream the interface of these two desires makes for some uncomfortable attire while your neighbors blab about nothing and patch problems up as if they'd never existed. Meanwhile you're flummoxed to the point of being dizzy, feeling aimless, unsupported and stuck in a rut and looking like a glam-rock has-been to boot. Its a bad place to be.

But Trish—there's hope! The world is full of wonderful and spectacular things! Did you know that it actually can rain fish? Yep. Small fish, frogs, squids and other aquatic creatures sometimes get sucked into the air by tornadoes and gale-force storms. Up they go, and down they come! (Really—read this BBC article about it). But in the midst of this fantasticness you put family first, sending your son to catch fish while you contend with a household where you always feel like your walking on eggshells, unable to fully be yourself. Your stepmom seems to be the law in this place and she mandates you be a certain way from her position above you. Meanwhile your brothers are free to do whatever they want—y'know, guy stuff. You want your son to be independent and do the things that he wants to do, but will he turn out like them in the process?

That's what I got. That and a little pocket-sized book called Pond Life: A Guide to Common Plants and Animals of North American Ponds and Lakes by George K. Reid. Sometimes when things are a little tense there's nothing better than looking at colorful illustrations of plants, insects and fishes and learning fun facts about the way ponds are formed. It can take one's mind off of the trivialities of the human world, diving instead into the real wonders found in nature. Then, when we're done reading, we might look up and see that everything's gonna be alright. I myself read this book on election day. It worked.

"Raining Fish" illustration at the top of this post by Brett Ryder. More photos of this commoner-than-you'd-think phenomenon can be found in Wikipedia's article "Raining Animals."

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Providence...POSSESSED! Part 3: Puppy Uprising

What Cheer, 31 Dreamers?  We round out our trilogy of spirited dreams from Rhode Island's "Beehive of Industry" with a final tale of possession—this time not by sorcery or soap opera stars, but by none other than a cute raggedy puppy. Hee is Gillian's dream:
I dreamt that I found this really cute raggedy puppy on my roof. I let him in and he jumped into my arms. My cat was freaked out and ran under the bed. I started walking the streets asking if he belonged to anyone, and then I realized that he had a tag with his address on it and it was very far away. I brought him to the address on his tag (drove with him on my lap, curled into a ball) and the man who answered the door said that he was not their dog, that he had never seen the dog before. I kept showing him the tag but he was dead set against taking the dog inside. I held the puppy up and said, "I guess we're stuck with each other."
What could this possibly MEAN?

Good question. Before attempting an answer, we need to make a little point about people's feelings for dogs:

During the Vietnam War the populace of the United States was divided even-Steven as to whether or not its military (i.e. teenage boys, fresh out of high school) should be in southeast Asia killing and being killed based on the ideologies that nations thrust unto their people. College campuses were hotbeds of this schism, as all students were exempt from the draft and some felt exempt from the politics behind it as well. Others felt that it was their responsibility to stop the war, no matter what. On one particular campus whose scales were tipped more toward an angle of apathy, some activists circulated a letterhead with a press release stating that they'd be holding a demonstration where they would be napalming a dog in protest of the war. People were outraged—not because thousands of human families were being burned alive by napalm that their tax dollars were paying for, but because a dog—one dog—would be so cruelly murdered in their own city. Huge crowds showed up to protest the protest. People brought their own dogs, and nine veterinary ambulances were on site to respond to any potential of an animal being hurt. No "activists" or napalm were anywhere to be seen, but a flyer, printed on the same letterhead as the earlier press release, was circulated to the crowd, congratulating everyone for making the event the largest anti-war protest the city had ever seen. "You saved the life of a dog. Now, how about saving the lives of tens of thousands of people in Vietnam."

People get so attached to dogs, don't they Gillian? Yet in your dream no one wants anything to do with the cute raggedy puppy. This puppy is an abandoned idea, rain-soaked and neglected like a stray sock on your roof. He could be an old idea, but relatively speaking an idea that has tremendous potential for growth if cared for properly. But who will care for this cute raggedy puppy of an idea? You kind of like this idea but (as your cat would explain) you can't really take it on as your own. You need to find the right place for this idea and so you take temporary responsibility. But no one else will pick up the slack, not even (especially not) the originators of this cute raggedy puppet of an idea. So you resign yourself, feeling "stuck" with the follow-through, but also seeing the beauty and vulnerability in this little inkling that could grow into something wonderful. But getting to that point will likely be a pain in the ass.

Gillian, you strike me as a person who's willing to ask for help but independent enough to take whatever comes your way and swallow it whole. Do you really want to swallow this cute raggedy puppy? If you truly must adopt him—whatever he is—you might want to look for a co-parent, a collaborator to share the duties of whatever it is you're jumping into. Remember also: the puppy has possessed you, but you also possess the puppy. You are "stuck with each other." What does it mean? You're the dreamer of the dream, so you probably know best. If you care to share it with rest of the class, drop a note in the comment box for 31 Dreamers.
––––– –– ––– –––––
Our book of the day is The Dispossessed by Ursula K. LeGuin. Read this book, dear Providence. Dispossess yourselves. And get some rest.

Cute raggedy puppy photos from Sharon's Puppy Uprising website. Sharon has appeared previously on 31 Dreamers as Choco Taco: Super Hero.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Providence...POSSESSED! Part 2: You'll Bee Back

Our second exciting episode from the haunted city in The Biggest-Little-State-In-The-Union comes from Yvette, who dreamt:
I was in an open marketplace, kind of nondescript, but it looked like a marketplace from a movie about New York City. It was a bright, stark day and there was good fall sunlight throughout the open area. I was looking for these 2 Chilean women my sister had told me about. They could make you feel every "spirit" or other kind of subtle presence that follows you. I was standing with my back to this crowd of people in the market, and unknowingly stood between the women.

First, I felt like one of the women had touched my back, and I turned around to look at her but she wasn't looking at me—she didn't even seem to notice me. I turned around, and felt scratching on my back, first lightly then progressively stronger. The sensations increased, my body was jerking then repeatedly kicked in the air. I was screaming for help, and terrified. There was this electrical buzzing throughout my entire upper back, punctuated by a sensation of being kicked into the air by an invisible foot that hit me between my scapulae.

I woke because my boyfriend heard me grunting and it frightened him. There was a buzzing in my upper back . . .

Yvette, you may want to give your fellow Rhode Islander Jo Dery a call. She kicked ass in yesterday's dream and might be able to dispossess you of that haunted hornet's nest between your shoulder blades.

The physical effects experienced between your dreaming and wakeful states smack of polysensory hypnagogic experiences. There are long lists of interesting explanations for why these occur, both from the standpoint of Western clinical medicine and throughout international folklore. Since I am neither a doctor of neurology nor of witchery, I'll leave these hyperlinks open for you to navigate through the myriad of theories that they present. Reactions to this phenomena, known by so many gnarly names around the world, seems largely subject to cultural conditioning, which brings us back to the paraphrasal of Clive Barker's advice from yesterday's post: we can perceive alternate realities as being in conflict with the realities with which we are accustomed, or we can see all of these realities as a haunting and mysterious soup that may be worth exploring and tasting.

Shall we get out our sampling spoons?

You are passing through a place in your life where there are as many choices as there are stalls at an open-air bazaar, yet you have put almost all of the options behind you and are now at a point where you have chosen a specific goal. You have the support of your family (at least your sister—she can represent, right?) and your friends have your back, but what lies beyond this goal is something of a mystery. The knowledge that you seek can not be found in the trinkets and chachkas of daily diversions (the exception being this blog), but through serious mentorship that requires a great deal of trust on your part—not just in your teachers, but in yourself. You grow to feel the impact of your path's history and it's wisdom, first just a touch, then more penetrating, and eventually overwhelming you with your own fear. Is the fear in your dream a fear of not being ready to inherit this history? A fear that you have the will but not the wisdom? Or is your fear of (pardon the cliché) fear itself?

Yvette, my guess is that any anxiety that you might have is not great enough to make you grunt and twitch and jerk like a gremlin in the sunshine. At the risk of coming off as a new-agey dipshit (or did I already blow my cool on that one with this dream-blog thingy?) I'm going to play a wild card and say that you are affected by a lot of excess energy in your daily life. I'm not talking about big power plants or wind farms, I'm talking about life energy: prana, qi, mojo, The Force, whatever you want to call it. I'm gonna out myself here and say, "Yeah, I've felt it too," and so have millions of others, or else that list on Wikipedia wouldn't cover 29 different world cultures spanning thousands of years.

Which brings us back to that autoethnographical question: Do we fear it and try to overthrow it? Or observe it and swim in its sensations?

One thing you can try is to create an intentional buzz in your back while you're awake. You can do this by practiving a yoga prāņāyāma called bhramarī (sometimes spelled bhamari or bramari). According to B.K.S. Iyengar, "Bhamarī means a large black bee." It is also the name of the Hindu goddess of black bees (pictured at the top of this post). In practicing Bhramarī one inhales deeply and then hums like a bee on the exhale. The effect is a vibrating of the chest and back, the position of which can be adjusted by altering the tone of the buzz. The lower the pitch, the lower in your body the vibration. Raise the pitch to move the vibration up the torso. You can also place one hand on your sternum and the other on your back while practicing Bramarī to feel the exact point of vibration. In Iyengar's book Light On Yoga he writes, "The humming sound in Bhamarī Prāņāyāma is helpful in cases of insomnia." Neat, huh?

Outing myself again here: the instances I most frequently feel a buzzing in my own back—sometimes (if I'm lucky) accompanied by a jerking sensation that sends me flying about a foot into the air—is when I'm receiving acupuncture. The state that one is often in during an acupuncture treatment is somewhere between sleep and wakefulness, a.k.a. hypnagogia, the same phenomenon linked to possession by hags, devils, ghosts, witches and neurologists in some 29 different cultures. Why is this considered a curse in these contexts but a force for healing in another? I cannot provide you with the answer here, only a question. But if you discover any hints en route to your goal, do clue us in at 31 Dreamers.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Providence...POSSESSED! Part 1: The Oaten Exorcist

As promised in an earlier post, we will be putting a dent in our backlog of dreams pouring in from Providence, Rhode Island, most of which (witch?) concern being possessed by demons, spirits, puppy dogs, and characters from soap operas. Possession is no light matter for a dreamworker to be meddling with, so I've sought some professional advice: The Sandman comics written by Neil Gaiman. The most solid trade secret I've found comes not from Gaiman, but in Clive Barker's introduction to one of the volumes, where Barker explains that there are "two kinds of fantastic fiction." In one kind, an existing reality is invaded by another reality and must be "exorcised" to maintain the established order. In the second kind, Barker explains, "the whole world is haunted and mysterious . . . a series of relative realities." These are good things to think about when one lays one's head down to sleep, perchance to dream. Will our dreams be struggles to maintain what we perceive to be our reality? Our can we simply roll with it and let reality shift as our dreamworlds see fit?

Today's dream comes from someone who I think does a good job at balancing these two perspectives. I'll use her whole name here because she makes beautiful comics, silkscreen prints and animated movies (all of which I'm shamelessly plugging by scattering around this post) and any reader of this blog would be smart to seek out her stuff. Please welcome the dream of Jo Dery:
I dreamed that I performed an exorcism on an unknown figure, lying in a hospital bed. I had to stand over the figure with a bowl of oatmeal, with raisins in it, and to chant continuously. I had my eyes closed. There came a moment when I felt the exorcism had worked, and so I opened my eyes. In front of me, next to the bed, stood a man who looked like "Sonny" from General Hospital in the mid 90's, or "Richard" from LOST. When I saw him I turned to him and began to yell: "Get out! Get out!" I walked toward him, out of the room and down hallway after hallway. It now felt like we were in a school, like a middle school. By the end of the dream, I had chased him out.

Jo, demonic possession by fictional TV personae is one of the most difficult exorcisms to perform. You did remarkably well and could perhaps give some tips to Lauri regarding the undercurrent of yesterday's dream. And maybe you can help me stop the Gilligan's Island theme from playing on a continuous loop in my brain. But seriously . . .

You perform this exorcism on an unknown figure and that figure is (drum roll please) you, Jo, but in a past state where you were not as strong or as healthy as you are now.
You have been eating your oatmeal every morning, nourishing yourself with its warm comforts and the self-love that it embodies. Now you channel this power to chase out the bogey men in your brain once and for all. The hospital/school that you're in is also an extension of you. You've managed to pull this Sonny/Richard man out of your body, but he not out of you completely—he is still in your life. And so you chase him out, down and out one corridor, and then another and another, further and further away from the prone, vulnerable version of you still lying back in that hospital bed. Something about this task feels like the petty bullshit you had to put up with when you were 13. Aren't we a little old to be dealing with things like that? Anyway, congrats on chasing him out. Maybe you've already accomplished this in your awake life and this dream is a celebration of that feat. If not, go get yourself a piping hot bowl of oatmeal and maybe give Sonny/Richard the option of which orifice he'd like to eat it with. Maybe.

Stay tuned for tomorrow's exciting episode of Providence...POSSESSED! on 31 Dreamers.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

When The Cat Flips The Bird


It's here, finally: a dream from "Middle America" . . . sort of. Chicago might not be the cornfield you were hoping for. But Lauri, our dreamer from the City of Big Shoulders, has sent in not one but four dreams. It's been a tough choice between surrealist banana dramas, overpriced bagel nightmares, and an all too realistic dream about coming home to find that people have broken in, helped themselves to the facilities, and are barely reprimanded when confronted by the cops. Sounds pretty much like my six-month stint in the Windy City. "My kind of town" my ass.

Here's Lauri's star-studded winner of a dream:
Madonna's fluffy, "$1 million" cat was stalking me throughout a home right next to a chicken stand in western Pennsylvania. It was a chicken stand that actually existed, and there used to be a happy, smiling little chick on the sign, kind of waving his hand/wing as if to say, "Come on in and grab you some chicken." The cat was scratchy-bitey. 

There was also a reference made to Jessica Simpson's "revived career."

Lauri, this dream runs thick with some pejorative female imagery. It's nothing compared to the orgy of rampant sexism that pervades the Interweb, but it is possible that maybe—maybe—some images from the American media could have seeped into your dream here. Shocking, I know—is nothing sacred? Aren't dreams supposed to be communiqués from another realm more akin to mystique and magic than crass commercialism? Having tabloid gossip about Jessica Simpson in one's dreams is like having a neon Pepsi billboard orbiting the earth and a Nike Swoosh etched into the surface of the moon (which would be a Newport Cigarette logo for our compañeras in the Southern Hemisphere). But I digress.

The Madonnas and the Jessica Simpsons of the world serve as icons of a specific feminine ideal attainable by relatively few women. The highest standards of feminine glamor and beauty seem to be defined by the Marilyn Monroesque qualities of: 1. Blond hair, 2. Large breasts, 3. Hips to match, 4. Skimpy clothing, and 5. Accessorized facial features such as long lashes, luscious lips, and/or a distinguishing "beauty mark" that one hopes isn't cancerous. That these standards exclude the 98% of the world's women whose ancestry cannot be traced to Northern Europe is a statistic that would have made a smug Adolph Hitler say, "I told you so." That the remaining 2% of qualifying Arayan female stock must then conform to certain ranges of measurements and characteristics not within the natural register of most human bodies sets many up for feelings of inadequacy and resulting struggle. The socialization of some women into this scheme has fostered a stereotype of the competitive (or "catty") female persona and yes, she appears in this dream not as the Blonde Madonna, but as Madonna's precious cat.

That this catty cat is terroizing you Lauri, even in the supposed sanctity of one's dream-home, shows there these concepts are capable of hunting and haunting a person no matter what. And what sanctity is there with a greasy fricken chicken joint stinking up the house from next door? And the chicken—the "chick," the "bird," the flesh emblem of this meat market of femininity, cloyingly gesturing to the men in their pickup trucks: "Come-n-grab-it boys!" Finger-lickin good, right?

Maybe this stuff isn't actually an issue for you Lauri, but some inkling of it is swimming around in your brain as it is in mine (and anyone reading this via the internet, a medium that nets $3 billion a year worth of porn sales in the U.S. alone). What's to be done? I personally take cues from the first celebrity I ever had a crush on. No, it wasn't a member of The Brady Bunch, it was Laurie Anderson. She was one of the few weird music-makers to pop up on TV when I was a kid and she rocked some awesome androgyny that my budding 10-year-old brain found perplexingly cool. Years later I'd find a copy of Roselee Goldberg's massive retrospective on Anderson (for 50¢!) and when I read about her early art projects where she exhibited photos of every man who harassed her on the street I knew why I'd been drawn to this person: her dreams would somehow mix with mine and now I nudge them up against yours Lauri. 

I think you Lauri(e)s have some things to discuss. Maybe find an old record of hers (and get yourself some Yoko Ono and June Tyson while you're at it). Hopefully their tuneful tones will chase away the busty blonde denizens that lurk in the recesses of your mind. And should you make music and art and action in some badass fashion, send it along to 31 Dreamers.
Pictured on this post, top to bottom: Madonna, $1 Million Cat, Katie Price/André (a.k.a. "Jordan"), Jessica Simpson, Judy Jetson, Foghorn Leghorn, Avril Lavigne, and a video of Laurie Anderson as an antidote.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Брокколи

I owe the 31 Dreamers an apology. Yesterday's entry was totally unhealthy and perhaps a little heavy-handed when it comes to advocating certain ways of eating. So, taking inspiration from sensible dietary politic of The Omnivore's Dilemma as well as the new leaf  recently turned over by Cookie Monster, we bring you a much more healthful Dream of the Day. But first, Cookie Monster: 
Now, the dream,  described as, "one of those morning ones when you keep waking up and then falling back to sleep," dreamt by Jules in Arcata, California:
In the dream I am at a grocery store in Russia, trying to buy a bunch of broccoli. The cashier at the checkout counter—a young, good-looking guy with dark hair and eyes—is speaking to me in Russian. In reality, I don't really know what Russian sounds like, but in the dream I can hear all these beautiful shhh and zhhh sort of sounds somersaulting over each other when he talks. However, I have no idea what he's saying, and I think, this guy does not speak English. I wonder if he knows that I am an American and that I don't speak Russian, and consider asking him if he speaks English, but decide just to roll with it. I slide my card through the machine, glancing at the broccoli that awaits.

Wow Jules, your dream has me blushing. Do you not find this interaction as seductive as I do? The glistening green broccoli, that handsome cashier and his sexy Russian consonants—and let's not forget the way that you slid your card through his machine. Maybe I'm reading too much into this but hey, that's my job. And this is more of a romance dream than a sex fantasy, beginning with you walking right up to a total stranger with some flowers. Yeah I know, the bouquet is in the form of broccoli and you don't exactly give it to the guy, but you let him know that they're there (flowers, broccoli, whatever). And you're there too, Jules, about to go back to wherever you're staying, to prepare this mouthwateringly delectable brassicas, light some candles, and dine. And maybe he can imagine (in sexy Russian of course) an empty chair at that table whose seat is moulded to perfectly contain his young, good-looking derrière.

But seriously Jules.

This cashier is somebody you'd like to know better (and not necessarily in a romantic kinda way) but there are things standing in your way. In the dream there's the obvious language barrier, and also the physical/social barrier of the checkout counter—Mr. Dark-Hair-and-Eyes is on one side doing his job-job, you're on the other buying your produce. The most substantial interaction that you share comes from the swiping of a plastic card and the pushing of plastic buttons. It's not just him that you feel estranged from, but the whole damn way of doing things—almost like you're a stranger in a strange land, speaking a different language and possessing a differing set of customs altogether. Does this cashier understand you? He might in time Jules. You just have to keep going back.

23 Dreamers down, 8 more to go. Stay tuned.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Costco Cookies & Melamine Milk

Let's break from the news of the Dream World for a moment to look at some headlines in the Awake World.

Two men were sentenced to death by the Chinese government today for producing milk containing melamine, a chemical used in making plastics and fire retarders. The milk was fed to young children, resulting in at least six fatalities with some 300,000 more children becoming ill form the tainted milk. The condemned men, Zhang Yujun and Geng Jinping, are alleged to have added the melamine to the formula milk to make it appear to have a higher protein content. Another collaborator, Zhang Yanzhang, was also given a sentence of life in prison for her participation in the process, and three others have been handed jail sentences of 5 to 15 years with more awaiting trial.

Makes you angry, doesn't it?  That a group chemical and food manufacturers would come up with a scheme to falsely beef up infant formula to satisfy government nutrition guidelines. What makes me angry is that the same government that created these guidelines is the same government that ran Sanlu Group, the company that produced the milk. They are also the same government that put the Sanlu employees on trial and they are same government that will pull the trigger when it is time for Zhang Yujun and Geng Jiping to die.

Here in the West, we are often quick to criticize China. In this respect the media has had a year of field-days with China's inept handling of the Sichuan earthquake last May, government repression of protests against the country's continued occupation of Tibet leading up to the Summer Olympics, and then there was hubbub around Chinese-made lead-tainted toys just before the holiday shopping season. Now this thing with the milk and we in the West shake our heads. 

But the West is certainly no stranger to messing with milk. There are of course the recent problems with rBGH, Monsanto's genetically engineered hormone that's been banned in Europe but is fed to dairy cows (and, by extension, to people) in the United States. Back in the 1970s there was an uproar against the multinational food giant Nestlé for marketing infant formula to women in developing nations, purporting it to be superior to a mother's own breast milk. The switch to Nestlé's formula resulted in a spike in infant mortality rates all over Africa. A consumer boycott ensued but did little to hold the corporation accountable and three decades later it's still in effect. Nestlé also had its own recent melamine milk scandal in China, which is reported to have sickened over 90,000 people. You can read a Chinese news story about that here.

I'll get to our dream in a sec. I just want to know: what will killing Zhang Yujun and Geng Jinping do to rectify the situation? How does killing two men teach China, and the rest us, that killing is wrong? And who will hold the Chinese government—and all the world's governments and the corporations that share their status—accountable for the actions that have killed far more than six infants and poisoned not thousands, but millions of people?

All of this could have been avoided if we humans admitted that we were mammals and actually breast fed our kids like we're supposed to. But enough about milk—let's clear our pallets with some cookies! This dream comes from Paolo in Philadelphia:
I was wandering through a vast warehouse, the size of a Costco, but of a more pallid gray color, and dimmer. Each aisle rack was several stories high, and each shelf was filled with boxes and clear plastic bins of vegan cookies. There were chocolate cookies, hazelnut cookies, vanilla cookies, sugar cookies, big cookies with designated icing packs, frosting kits, add-ons of every sugary candy imaginable, all labeled with their ingredients next to the price. As I struggled to comprehend the sheer volume of cookies, I picked out individual bulk bin cookies and put them in my hand-held shopping basket (red). On the ends of the aisles were pre-made, unrefrigerated vegan pizzas, in pizza display boxes (white cardboard with cellophane cut outs to show texture), and 22oz bottles of dark beer. Various other shoppers came in (most seemed to have some fraternity or sorority affiliation via hoodies, caps, etc) and picked out cookies, pizza, and beer. I checked out, and as I walked out of the store I woke up. I jumped out of bed (for real) and immediately ate 2 cookies. It was good.
Paolo, do you have a utopian dietary vision for society? If you do, then your dream would seem to situate you in a post-utopian future where you have worked hard to fulfill your desires and yet they have been co-opted by consumer culture. Now everyone wants eggless macaroons and dairyless pizza enough to warrant big box stores that carry nothing but the stuff. The ingredient list has changed, but the culture of consuming it (frat boys and beer) is still the same. You seem to be cool with that—less work for you in fighting the vegan revolution, right? I could be wrong. Anyway, when you finally woke up and ate those cookies, I cheered for you. I even went and ate a cookie myself. Was it vegan? You bet! ¡Viva la revolución!
––––– –– ––– –––––

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Ren Faire Nightmare

We're finally getting around to one of those castle dreams that have been so en vogue these days. Don't forget that you can see what people tend to dream about most often in the "browse dreams by subject" section in the sidebar on the left. This dream puts bathrooms neck-and-neck with mothers, who have been tailgating houses for a while now. But I predict that possession (you know. by witches, ghosts, demons, etc)  is about to be all the rage.

Dream blog #21 brings us Sarah from Alabama, who writes:
We are at the opening of a new Barnes and Noble-type bookstore, in Alabama I think. It is faux castle style. There are lavish food spreads—cured fish, herbed butter balls whose melted moat we sop up with fluffy bread. There is velour on the walls and fur lining the bookshelves. We walk down a very long hall where there are many doors. It was all obviously expensive to make but also the drywall is barely masked. We go into a room. There is a fireplace and many levels of shelves. The books are big and elaborate but also gimmicky and fake, like Pirates of the Caribbean pop-up guides and big other kinds of guides with fake leather spines. We go back into the main room and I see a small man sitting in a cut-away space high in the wall. He is smoking a pipe and surveying the scene. His front is flickeringly lit, which I note must be the light of his faux fireplace. I go to the bathroom, which is incidentally divided from the food by only a partition and when I come out three women in "castle period" dress follow me to tell me a "prophecy." I edge away from them thinking it a sham and at this point wake up.

What is this world coming to Sarah? You can't just go to an old-fashioned neighborhood bookstore anymore. Everywhere you look it's big towering chain outfits the size of palaces that net people in with fancy food and slick decor. When folks go shopping nowadays, nothing less than Disney World will do. And just like The Magic Kingdom, if one takes a peek behind the scenes, one can see the peeling plaster, the shoddy workmanship, the sweatshop child labor, and the empty ideology whose fetid odor is only perceptible to a sharp and inquiring mind. That's where you come in, Sarah. You're open, but skeptical. In your dream you eat the food and marvel at the decor, but see it for the fluff that it is. They've given you so many choices: books to read, shelves to peruse, doors to open, but it's more amusing than tempting because you know that it's all just substanceless cardboard. 

Sarah, you don't trust anyone in this establishment, nor do you jive with those who hang about the bookstore/castle's institutional equivalent in your awake life. What that place is and who these assholes are you know better than I. Like this illuminated little man peering down from above—he can watch you if he wants to, maybe gaze into your mind and judge your ideas, even listen to you taking a tinkle in that joke of a restroom. But his power is as ersatz and petty as the cheap Little Golden Books he peddles. Outside of this place his reign is but a figment. Others have bought into his scheme, like the three renny-faire wenches who accost you with their take on reality. And you want so little to do with them Sarah, that you leave the dream world entirely.

Sara, whatever this place is and whomever its denizens of authority and placid conformity may be, I see a couple of paths for you to take. Not via the doorways in your Barnes-and-Disney-Magic-Castle place—you know those all lead to the same end. No, you can either leave this place, or you can eat your butter balls and bear it. Leaving seems like an eventuality for you, so it might be "eat your butter balls, bear it, and then kiss its ass goodbye." But where will you go? The dream you've created makes a strong case for a version of things you don't want, so then what's the version of things you do want? Dreaming that is tough enough, actualizing it is another matter altogether.

Despite their effed-up history and relationship to warfare, castles are pretty cool. When I was a kid I hung out at my neighborhood bookstore. There were lots of 'em back before Amazon and other online outfits usurped people's desire to rummage the dusty shelves of second-hand shops, or to chance a mom'n'pop having a certain title in stock. Anyway, the children's book author David Macaulay was doing a book signing right in that little bookstore in my neighborhood! Macaulay wrote and illustrated all these great books (including one called Castle) that explain the relationship between architecture and civilization, how each shapes the other, and how human beings create the version of things they want. What that too often looks like is, "how human beings with money and power and corporate backing create their version of things they want." But even though we see the phallic remains of some great big military castle, and not the humble ghosts of the homes that stood in its shadow, those homes and the lives they embodied still had a substance and a richness that was far warmer than the cold ramparts of some embattled tower.

Dear Sarah of Alabama, I hereby knight thee. Go forth from thine dream and hence endeavor to erect your own "castle," be it of stone or or paper, of butter balls or of dreams. Make thy realm in thine own architectural image. Then, send the blueprints to 31 Dreamers.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

U2...Can Be President

20 days in with 11 to go on our parade of 31 Dreamers from around the globe. Our Inauguration Day special kicks off with a little sound clip for you play. Just click on this player to begin:
Today's dreamer is Aoife from the tiny town of Cobh in County Cork, Ireland. Aoife's dream goes like this:
I was in a record store with Wes, in Oslo or somewhere like that. It was a bright, northern place. The store was a long rectangular room with a counter and smooth surfaces of stone and wood. It turns out it was the U2 Center of Music and Production. Wes was at one end of the room talking to the guy behind the counter. He was talking really loudly, and in a joking way he started giving a long speech. It was a famous speech that U2 had given at a concert. The speech had complicated formulas at the end that would have been hard to learn by heart.

I was at the other end of the room and noticed that U2's guitarist, The Edge, came in from a door in the wall. He stood near me listening to Wes, who was not aware that he had an audience. Then Wes went off somewhere, and I went into a large white courtyard with The Edge and lots of people. The people were young and in a really good mood. It was like we were on a tour of the facilities. There were big square buildings surrounding the courtyard—modern, white squares. It was sunny and bright.

Suddenly Wes appeared at the top of one of the buildings. Some people pointed and someone shouted out, "Give us the speech!" Wes came out to the edge of the building, like he was on a U2 stage, and gave a repeat of the U2 speech he had given earlier, only this time with his hands outstretched and getting really into it. The crowd cheered and clapped, and The Edge, who was still standing beside me, was smiling.

Suddenly though, three men who looked like bouncers, and were dressed in Scottish kilts, ran towards Wes and grabbed him. They lifted him off the ground and held him horizontally. They brought him to the edge of the building and hung him over, and swung him as if they were going to throw him down into the yard, but then pulled him back. Then they pulled a kilt on over his jeans, and pulled down his jeans, and then put him standing again. Then they gave him tickets and things in bags.

After this, Wes put his hands out and saluted the crowd.

(I really hope that everyone reading this pressed play on the sound clip at the top of this entry. If you didn't, now's a good time to do it.)

For the past three decades U2 have been the world's reigning Irish rock band and they're enjoying extra prominence at the moment in their chumminess with new U.S. president Barack Obama (that's the guy whispering in Bono's ear in the pic at the very top of this post). U2 just played at his inauguration shebang in Washington D.C. (picured here) along with a slew of other musical superstars. In your dream, Aoife, all the components of the inaugural festivities are present. You've got cold weather, big buildings, enthusiastic crowds, tight security, U2 plus a mix of other music, swelling anticipation, and speeches that contain alleged formulas to solve the world's problems—you're either psychic or you're keeping tabs on these proceedings from the other side of the Atlantic. The only thing missing is your president elect—your Obama—and you've cast Wes into that role. Like Obama, Wes is a smart guy with charisma and a sense of humor who suddenly finds himself at the top, giving speeches to crowds of adoring whippersnappers. U2's "The Edge" (with whom you stand throughout your dream) seams to be a sort of David Axelrod figure to Wes's Bono/Obama routine, providing both the guitar riffs and the campaign strategy that are the driving force behind speeches and lyrics alike. It's a brilliant commentary to usher in this new era of a president who has cultivated a status akin to that of a rock star.

Then there are those men in kilts, the mutinous Scottish Secret Service who are going to turn Wes/Bono/Obama into something else. That's what an ascent to fame and power are bound to do. There are things that a person has to give up in the process, bits of one's personality and integrity. So on goes the kilt and off come the jeans. Your president/idol/Wes still professes his loyalty to his people/fans/Aoife and he salutes you. But you saw that struggle—the threat of Wes being dashed to bits in the courtyard below. What sort of deal did he have to make? Will he really be true to his word? Where will those tickets take him and what's in those bags? So many unanswered questions . . .

Aoife, Wes must be quite a guy to serve as the Obama/Bono ("O-Bono?") stunt double of your dreams. Clearly you think the world of him, perhaps so much so that you sometimes find yourself on the fringes of his limelight. You may also perceive him dealing with a lot of pressures that are beyond his control. Many people are sipping from a similar cocktail of excitement and trepidation regarding the new U.S. president. Will he really be the superhero we've made him out to be? Will he be able to fix the messes left to the world by the past 43 regimes? We're told that there's one way to find out: to wait and see. But we can do more than just wait, we can take action ourselves! What that looks like for each American citizen, or for you, Aofie, is not for me to say. But I can point to something that someone else did as a source of potential inspiration. And it involves the band U2.

In 1991 U2's hit single "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" was remixed with commentary from American Top 40 DJ Casey Kasem and released as a new single, sinmply titled "U2" and attributed to the San Francisco-based group Negativland.  At the top of this post is the "A Cappella Mix." Here is the slightly more controversial "Special Edit Radio Mix"...

Negativland was sued by U2's record company who thought that Negativland was trying to cheat U2 fans into thinking they were buying a new U2 single (look at the record cover below—it clearly says "Negativland" at the bottom!) Negativland were also screwed by their own label and Casey Kasem was none too pleased (no Top 40 for Negativland—boo-hoo!) It was U2's The Edge who was Negativland's first ally, publicly recognizing the mash-up as a clever piece of art in its own right. Negativland documented the whole episode in their book Fair Use: The Story Of The Letter U And The Numeral 2 and as a result of these efforts, we are able to listen to the above MP3s on this blog today.

Aoife, I invite you over there in Ireland to stand on this fine day with the American people and with our beloved Negativland: honor and respect the talents and achievements of the Obamas, the Bonos and the Wesses of the world, but be not afeared to strive for your own limelight. Even if you don't get to be president or make the Top 40, be thankful that no one is dangling you off the side of a tall building. Whatever you do, document it somehow and send it on back to 31 Dreamers.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Empty Tents & Barrel Rolls: A 20-Year Dream

The third Monday in January is a day honoring the life and labor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., African-American civil rights leader and proponent of non-violent direct action. The 31 Dreamers have much in common with the late Dr. King in that we are known for kicking things off with the words, "I Have A Dream." Thank you MLK for making this blog (among other things) possible.

A couple weeks back, a dreamer named Megan sent in this dream from her childhood in Michigan:
As a kid I had a recurring nightmare
about this vast, open, desolate field,
horizon to horizon—no hills, no trees,
nothing grew as far as my eyes could see.
There were huge, hulking, rotting windmills
spinning so slowly in the breeze.
There was also a giant white circus tent,
glowing yellowish white.
Inside there was nothing,
just empty space.
I told Megan that dreams from a long time ago are difficult to read and asked that she send a more recent dream. The other day she submitted this one, dreamt in Philadelphia:
I'm in a airplane with my sister and my mom
and a bunch of other people I don't know.
It has seats but no overhead luggage compartments,
So it has a high rounded ceiling.
The plane slowly turns upside down
kind of like an amusement park ride.
Folks are strapped into their seats
but I slip out and am hanging upside down,
holding onto the armrest. I'm not scared.
The plane rights itself. I settle back into my seat.
I'm sitting next to my sister, but she is 9 years old—
the age she was when I moved out (in reality she is 22).
We are both wearing oversized white t-shirts as dresses,
like you would wear to the beach.
I've got a protective arm around her.
Oh yeah . . . my mom is much younger too.
Two dreams from one dreamer, dreamt decades apart. They are very different from each other but also have a lot in common, being from someone who has grown and changed over time. If a person's waking life is one continuous story, interrupted by dreams, then isn't a person's dreaming life one continuous story, interrupted by periods of being awake? Y'all can weigh in on the comments section. I need to talk to our dreamer for a minute.

Megan, your recurring childhood dream didn't present many options on what looks like the flat, Midwestern cornfield without the corn. You were a child, and the apparatuses of the world seemed so huge and mechanical and ponderous in their workings. In the middle of these doldrums sat a beacon of hope—a place to explore where marvelous things would be happening. But when you get there it was empty. Bummer. No circus today. No circus tomorrow. Maybe never any circus ever. But that was long ago. Since then you've learned that if you want a circus to happen, sometimes you just need to make your own. 

As a kid that dream felt like a nightmare because the empty tent presented you with a question: "Well?" And you didn't know the answer. Years later you'd learn that an empty circus tent presents endless opportunities. But no time for that now because you're on a plane, flying high above and away from the bleak horizons of your childhood, moving through life with your fam and that anonymous throng we so often meet in dreams. Everyone's strapped in but you just hang loose (quite literally) when the pilot decides to show off his aerial stuntology. You're cool with that. I sense that everyone else made themselves so snug in their seats because if they went all topsy-turvy without a safety belt, they'd freak the heck out. But not you. You're used to life's upsets and can settle back into a normal routine more easily. 

However, this aeriel spin is a mixed metaphor and there you are looking at your mother and sister of 13 years ago, from a time of transition when you set forth in the world to leave the windmills and circus tents of childhood behind. You and little sis are unified in your youth, wearing the generic attire sported by so many youngsters (newsflash Megan: giant white T's aren't just for beaches anymore!) You're arm around her is you saying, "It's okay. Sometimes life spins you around but if you just relax and take in stride, nothing can set you back. Look at me: I made this far." She's lucky that she has you to look to. Maybe you wish you'd had that when you were 9 or 18 or 22 or whatever your age is now. Moms are no substitute for the wisdom of big sisters.

I'm noticing a couple of subtle threads running throughout your dreams. One is a circular theme: the windmills and airplane spinning, the circus tent being presumably circular, and the cycle of repetition in your recurring nightmare bends time itself into a circle. It gives your whole dreamworld a carnivalesque feel with its pavillions and plane stunts that are "like an amusement park ride." I even imagine that a little carpentry could turn the windmills of yore could ferris wheels. Another theme is the sky as a prominent fixture in these dreams, as an expansive and intimidating backdrop in one, and something that you travel through in the other. 

Our human relationship to the skies has also had a carny sort of spin to it for centuries. I was reading this book called The Invention of Clouds that tells of early ballooneers and parachutists who drew crowds of tens of thousands with their nutty stunts—stuff so death-defying and made only more remarkable in that no one had ever done them before. Even the ground-bound amateur science buffs ran lectures like grandiose sideshows that had people gasping flabbergastedly on the edge of their seats. Can you imagine? A lecture about clouds receiving that sort of reaction from people today? Megan, I think it should. The world is such a vast and wonderful place. And next time you enter into an empty circus tent, you'll know just what to do.