19 September 2011

Dan Brown's chemistry class

I am in a chemistry class in high school or college. (I think it's high school.) It's pretty small, with just two rows of five or six desks (well, those chair-desk things). The teacher looks to be about twenty-five years old, and somewhat resembles a guy I dated in college, K. Partway through the class I realise that the teacher has introduced himself as "Dan Brown." A hot little blonde girl has been fawning all over him the whole class. At the end of class, the teacher is sitting in a pupil desk in the middle of the front row. I stand and face him. "Are you 'Dan Brown'?" I ask. "The Dan Brown? The DaVinci Code Dan Brown?" He affirms that he is. "I just have to tell you something," I say. "Of course, if I were smart, I would wait until the end of the term to tell you this, because I'm probably gonna fail chemistry now. But in my wildest dreams I never thought I would have the chance to say this to Dan Brown to his face, so I just have to tell you this. Now, I see that you're just, really, a kid. I must be older than you are." He shrugs/nods in agreement. "So, your being so young forgives a multitude of sins. But nevertheless, I still must tell you: Angels and Demons is the most shit book I ever read." A couple of guys in desks over to my right applaud. "And I can tell you why, or we can just leave it at that." Brown gets up and starts making a strange design on the blackboard with two cans of some kind of "blackboard spray paint," one red and one blue. While he is thus occupied, I start to list the reasons why Angels and Demons is a shit book. "For instance," I say, "if you refer to CERN, it is not necessary to refer to it as 'CERN (a particle accelerator in Switzerland).' If someone doesn't know what it is, he can look it up. But when you mention it as 'CERN (a particle accelerator in Switzerland),' it makes it sound like we the readers are stupid, like you're above us. It's condescending." I could have gone on to mention a few more ways in which Dan Brown's writing sucks, but he had finished his blackboard design. It had the outline in red of a large isosceles triangle or rectangle open on the bottom /\ or |‾| in the middle. Around this figure in both red and blue were weird rune- or hieroglyph-looking symbols. "What do you guys think of this for therapy?" Brown asked. "I think, I hope it erases," I replied. Someone from the class stepped up and erased one of the characters as a test; it erased. (He used a small cloth, rather than a normal blackboard eraser.) Then Brown proceeded to erase the entire board. Now even the last few stragglers had left the class. I left, walked down the hallway, and stopped at the threshold of the exit doors to search through my backpack for my sunglasses. I couldn't find any. I remembered my Ray-Bans were in their case in my dresser at home. I wasn't sure where my blue granny glasses were; I hoped I hadn't lost them. In any case, it seemed I would have to walk home shadeless on this bright sunny day. Suddenly it occurred to me that my mother loves Dan Brown and I should have asked him to autograph a book for her before I told him how much he sucks. I wondered if maybe I still could. I imagined holding a copy of The DaVinci Code out to him at the next class and saying in a voice that conveyed


Everything I said to "Dan Brown" in the dream accurately reflects my true waking views about his "writing."

Since quitting work at the end of June, I have been working on writing a novel/novella. For the last few weeks I also have been reading Moby Dick. I never have read it before, and the more of it I read, the more my admiration for it grows. At least every few pages some great insight or brilliant expression strikes me enough to read out loud to D (who read the book years ago). My favourites so far are the likening of of Ahab's pacing steps across the deck to Ahab's thoughts' pacing steps across his forehead, and Fleece the cook's observation that "All angel is nothing more than the shark well-governed." More than once as I've been reading I've stopped and thought, "My book will never be anything like as good as this." But whenever I have that thought, the thought that immediately follows is always the consolation, "But my book will never be anything like as shitty as Angels and Demons either, so there's that."

It seems clear that in this dream, someone is being "schooled." I am a pupil in the class, but I am older than the teacher, and I have no respect for his work. I think this dream is an attempt to bolster my confidence for my writing project. I feel inferior to established authors, so I am in a student role in the class. A bestselling author is in the teacher position. But even though he is very successful commercially, he still is a crappy writer. Realising that I am at least as good as many of the major players in this field gives me the confidence to reverse the roles, and school the teacher. As to why the dream is set in a chemistry class in particular, that can only be attributed to my having listened to Armed Forces approximately two hundred times (seriously) in the last two months.

They chopped you up in butcher's school
Threw you out of the academy of garbage
You'll be a joker all your life
A student at the comedy college
People pleasing people pleasing people like you
You've been around so long but you still don't know what to do

18 September 2011

A funny political email forward

I am eating a green apple. It is the best apple I have ever had. It is so sweet and tart and apple-y, the taste is the platonic ideal of apple flavour. I eat it right down till there's just a tiny bit of the core left around the stem. Now I am in my kitchen [This is interesting-- I don't recall ever having a dream before that takes place in an accurate representation of my current apartment, where I am in my third year of residence.] and X is there. [I'm not one hundred per cent sure this person is X, but that's the feeling I got. X worked in a library that I also worked at in the mid-2000s. She was only ever a passing acquaintance, but based on her personality and mode of dress, she always struck me as someone I would like to be friends with. In the last year or so we have become "facebook friends," and my limited interaction with her on facebook further convinces me that I should invite her over or go visit her.] I tell X how amazing that apple was, that it is the best apple I have ever had in my life. She points out there is another apple from the same batch left; this one is still attached to a little bit of apple tree branch.

We are looking over some groceries on my counter, and X notices some sort of unhealthy, carbohydrate-laden food [I forget exactly what it was]. She says, "D's diabetic. How did he get that?" I tell her, "Well, it's not like he has some chip or something in him that rings an alarm at the supermarket checkout line, 'DIABETIC! DIABETIC!'"

I get an idea from this. "You know those scary emails that old people always forward around, because they've never heard of Snopes? [You know the ones I mean. The ones that purport to be written by Andy Rooney or George Carlin, or that claim Obama is a Muslim and his health care system will murder your grandmother. They always seem to promote a decidedly conservative agenda.] We should start one saying that the Republicans want to put a chip in your hand that would be scanned every time you went shopping and prevent you from buying anything incompatible with any of your medical conditions. The commercial would have like this old lady pleading, 'But I just want to buy a gift for my grandson!'. And they'd say, 'You will need documentation to prove your purchase is a gift. File form 4576 with the US Patent Office.'" [I don't recall exactly what denomination I gave the form in the dream, but it was just some random numbers I made up to sound bureaucratic. In the dream, I searched for something that would give the sound of 'faceless obscure government agency,' but couldn't think of anything good so I just said 'Patent Office.'] While I was describing this imagined commercial to X, the dream 'visual' switched from X and me in my kitchen to a presentation of this commercial. It showed a wholesome old lady looking very scared, and then when I was talking about filing the form, it showed a white sign with black lettering, standing in front the exterior wall of a building by a walkway. The sign had quite a lot of writing on it, in varying type sizes, some of it enclosed in a border.] I found this idea for the prank email/scare commercial overwhelmingly hilarious, and woke up laughing hysterically.


I woke D up with the laughing. I tried to explain to him that it wasn't genuine laughter, it was a dream hysteria. He had no notion of this concept. I said I think it may run in families, as I have seen my mother wake herself up laughing many times.

This dream is interesting for two features. First, it starts with a very strong flavour sensation. Smells and flavours rarely make appearances in dreams. I would venture, with the exception of sex dreams, touch sensations rarely figure into dreams either.

The second interesting point is the hysterical laughing. I reported a hysteria dream from my childhood earlier in this blog. I have a personal theory about dreams where an emotion is the primary "image" of the dream. (For another example of this type of dream, see "Walken rapture.") I believe that in these cases, the dream consists mainly in the emotion (hysteria, euphoria, perhaps fear in some nightmares), and any images or plot that accompany it are after-the-fact confabulations constructed to account for the emotion. I do not believe that the emotional sensation arises as a result of experiencing the dream "plot," but rather that the emotion itself is the primary dream element, and the (sometimes more, sometimes less plausible) plot is created to provide some context for the emotion. (For an especially interesting discussion of confabulation, see this New Scientist article from October 2006 [subscription required for full access].) Are there any psychologists (or psych doctoral candidates) out there researching these "emotion"-type dreams? I would love to hear from you!

A long hiatus

Sorry there has not been a posting for so long! I finally quit my day job (not that I have anything else going on, but at least I'm out from under it's soul-crushing weight). Apparently because of all the upheaval to my established routines, I have not remembered any dreams (at least not with any degree of coherency) for quite some time. However, last night I had a 'hysteria dream' that I remembered quite vividly. I hope this will mark my return to regular posting.