Saturday, November 24, 2012

Dream On

Last night I dreamed I was at my college. It didn't look like my college, but I knew anyway. My instincts for this sort of thing are spot-on, especially if you ignore the small detail that I was hallucinating. I was back at college and I wanted out.

"I FINISHED already!" I wailed (probably in real life too). "I don't WANT to take another class. I don't WANNAAAAAAAAAA..."

But the dream marched relentlessly onward, because dreams are like that, or at least mine are. I had to go to class, and when it turned out to be the wrong class, I had to try and drop the class, fill out a battery of forms, plead my case before a variety of deans, fill out another glut of forms, then realize I had neglected to go to my next class.

I awoke in a grim mood. I had had it with dreams.

I understand some people have interesting, even exciting dreams. Swashbuckling pirate escapades, jungle adventures involving the word "Ungawa," and the like are nothing out of the ordinary for certain individuals. Whereas my personal dreams are boring. No, not boring - "boring" is too mild a word. They are the stuff of a lethal, static, terminal dullness that would plunge a lesser soul from REM straight into a coma.

This doesn't really have to do with bureaucracy, as featured in my recent college dream. That's a different animal entirely. I am willing to accept that I can't escape bureaucracy, even in my dreams. After all, I lived in France, where the local bureaucracy emits a force field so powerful it can ensnare the dead. In one famed case, a Mr. Jean-Philippe de Wanker of Toulouse received a flu shot and was summarily sentenced to pay the government upwards of your mortgage in monthly flu-shot taxes, Band-Aid taxes, that-little-alcohol-swab-they-clean-your-arm-off-with-before-the-shot taxes, ow taxes, and taxes for each individual air molecule breathed during the procedure. He was required to remit these fees every single month until the year A.D. 28,536 despite the fact that Mr. de Wanker actually died in 1997. As the French government put it, "Ce n'est pas an excuse. En plus, nous ne sommes pas currently in our offices to state that ce n'est pas an excuse."

Ha ha, of course this is funny humor. I am only kidding: the French would never clean your arm off before a shot! But the point is bureaucracy exists in all our daily lives, dreams* included, so we had better darn well learn to put up with it. But here's the thing: I want at least a few fun dreams once in a while. The boredom has got to be tempered. To use more poetic terminology: you can't eat Cream of Wheat all the time. I demand a few M&Ms stuck in with it.

Here's my theory: we don't remember all the dreams we dream, because some happen during our light sleep and others during deep sleep. So presumably, our M&M dreams (this is the scientific term) get lost in our deep sleep, and we remember nothing. That's why I hereby proclaim I am favor of designing, engineering, and selling via SkyMall a personalized DREAM-SHUFFLING PLAYLIST MECHANISM. That's right. You'd be able to customize it to your own tastes, assuming you have some! Then, once you activate the shuffling mechanism, you'll be able to shuffle all your dreams around, iPod-style, between your lighter and deeper sleep periods -- the result being that occasionally, M&M dreams will come to the fore.

But what, exactly, is an M&M dream, you ask? Well, I am here to tell you. If we are to believe science - which we should because it is hosted by Bill Nye, and sometimes even Alan Alda, such as in those videos they showed in my psychology class - M&M dreams fall into the following categories:

- Dreams that actually revolve around M&Ms, obviously.
- Dreams that revolve around your most intensely, hotly desired sexual fantasies, and that possibly also involve M&Ms. At least we would not rule it out.
- Dreams where you get to run around inside Dylan's Candy Bar at night and they also sell things like personal space shuttles and elephants.
- Dreams where you get to be in your favorite movie, unless of course your favorite movie is something from the Lifetime channel, in which case, you actually do not deserve to have good dreams.
- Dreams where you get a fantastically inspired story idea, wake from it, frantically write it down, and then realize in the morning that what you've written amounts to "Florna floob hoo ha then they drive a car fwoo fwoo goobleknob Des Moines ha ha ha glurb Mavis glurb glurb sea turtle pilaf." I actually do have some experience with this one.
- Dreams that involve beloved deceased family members, unless of course you do not have beloved deceased family members, in which case dreams that involve horrible detested deceased family members such as your racist sexist arsonist lecherous pervert serial trout-molester Uncle Bob, at whom you get to fling cat-box deposits. Because if dreams are not heartwarming, they should at least be therapeutic.
- Dreams that revolve around M&Ms in colors that don't even exist.

But for the most part, we dreamers of the universe are not nearly so fortunate. It is as though we have forgotten to pay for our premium upgrade,** and instead we dream about vacuuming our floor, or checking our Facebook messages, or picking our teeth. If we get really lucky, we might even dream about vacuuming our teeth with our Facebook messages. But we never dream about anything good! Or at least - and I think we can all agree that this is the real problem facing us as a species - I never dream about anything good. That's why the federal government, if they are listening, should give me a generous grant to develop that dream-shuffling playlist. So much of waking life would be so much less aggravating for the knowledge that, in the night to come, we would be able to "switch it up" as needed between REM and deep sleep. It would be okay if some of the dreams didn't totally make sense - that's the price you pay for a jumbling mechanism. But at least dreams should have some entertainment value. I would even be willing for there to be infomercial segments between them, but seriously: they should be entertainment. Alan Alda could be the host.

But until the government gets behind me on this, I guess we're going to have to accept our natural, underevolved dream mechanisms as they are. All I can say is, enjoy what you can of your dreams. Also, for God's sake don't have dreams in France. It's not worth the paper-pushing hell that will follow. The government is never in their offices, but they still know every little thing you do.

* Please enjoy this handy footnote to remind you that dreams were our original topic.
** As a result of which we would get the Disney Channel, HBO and Showtime.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Gracias, tout le monde!: A Snarkompendium of Stuff To Be Thankful For

It's Thanksgiving, which means we, as Americans, should all take a moment today to sit back and reflect on those aspects of our lives that enrich us emotionally, mentally, spiritually and physically. I speak, of course, of stuffing and candied yams.

No, only kidding, of course. Candied yams are gross. But here are 25 things I personally am thankful for, and if you don't agree with me on every point, then no offense or anything, but you are obviously a cold unfeeling swinish ingrate. Just saying. But either way, I do urge you to add to the list in the comments, or in your own blog / alternate web space. Let's keep the thankfulness going. Here are my top choices:

- The Amtrak Downeaster, which allows many fine hardworking Americans, as well as puppeteers, to commute between Maine and Boston. The high points are friendly, highly competent personnel and large, comfortable seats (I am talking about on the train, not on the friendly personnel). The low point is a seat-pocket magazine called "Arrive" that tells you things such as what Laura Linney is thinking.

- Paper plate-and-crepe paper jellyfish, obviously. See?

- This New Yorker cover cartoon of Paul Ryan reading "Atlas Shrugged" to Mitt Romney for a bedtime story. This cartoon alone validated the entire 2012 election, as far as I am concerned.

- Marzipan.

- The French pronunciation of "Tupperware," which is quite frankly the most wonderful thing in the world. It is so wonderful I will not even attempt to reproduce it for you here. You have to go find a French person and get him to say it. Now.

- Also "Twitter."

- My college, which was responsible for my going to Paris.

- Not currently being in either college or Paris.

- The unerring human capacity to remember a funny moment from a favorite movie or TV show as far, far funnier than it actually was.

- Carmen Sandiego computer games from the '90s, without which I would know approximately nothing.

- Wal-Mart and Target being open four hours earlier for Black Friday, thus allowing us the precious holiday gift of four extra hours in which to trample our fellow man.

- The great American supermarket, without which I would not have written the great American supermarket musical. Or "supermusical" as I prefer.

- Baby wallabies, wombats, and (ESPECIALLY) kangaroos, as follows:

- And while we are on the topic of kangaroos, this puppet, my bedfellow and sometime costar (see below), who earlier this year survived an assassination attempt at the hands of evil demon sugar-shocked children.

- Non-evil-demon, non-sugar-shocked children - who make up 98% of the kid population, at a conservative estimate - and who make up some of the finest audiences I've ever been lucky enough to perform for, and who push me to keep getting better.

- Thrift stores, which enable me to squander my money on WAY quirkier crap than at your average big-box store.

- Tove Jansson's Moomins, whose sweet-natured, free-wheeling ways make me want to learn Swedish, so I can read these wonders in the original. Or else just relocate to Moominvalley.

- The fact that, contrary to some people's beliefs, the world will not actually be ending on December 21, because, true historical fact: the Mayans were goobers.

- The fact that, in the event the world actually does end on December 21, we will not have to see the upcoming Family Circus movie.

- Gumball machines.

- People who have fun creating, because this ability is impossible to "generate," easy to lose due to overthinking, and darn near impossible to summon back (because this would be due to more overthinking).

- The art of giving people and things names other than their own, including but not limited to Ace Hardware, which I have long called - drawing on my innate abilities as a subtle and gifted humorist - Ass Hardware.

- The following words: bifurcation, gerund, stoat, Zumba.

- Also, while we're on the topic of words, the entire Italian language, without which I would laugh significantly less.

- S'mores Pop-Tarts, which will be my undoing.

- Last, but not least, this Thanksgiving meal, courtesy of the Swedish Chef.