Dreams About Dreams

I’m running behind (mostly due to sleep-in) so just a quickie today: I’m going to talk about dreams a little more.

I don’t know how common dreams about dreams are, but every now and again I have a dream in which I wake up and write the dream down.

In real life, of course, I love recording my dreams. Whenever I’m sorting through old files, I repost anything interesting to my Tumblr before deleting them. Last week I discovered this gem:

Really cool dream about female ninja sent to assassinate everyone at hotel. Starts in a room with husband and wife – kill wife before husband wakes up. Then both husband and wife, then a room with heaps of people. Big, fat, American turns out to be robot.

(I have no idea how the last sentence relates to the rest of the dream, but I thought it was worth sharing.)

It can get a bit confusing when I’ve been awake (real awake) for a few minutes and want to read over the notes I made, only to discover that the note-taking was a part of the dream itself.

Last night I dreamt that I was at a dinner party with three celebrities, made a faux pas, and then woke up (within the dream) and wrote down the details to blog about later.

Have you ever tried to write inside a dream? It messes with your head. If you have any kind of control over what you dream, here’s a challenge for you: next time you’re asleep, try to dream about writing something down and then reading it back more than once.

The dream quickly turned into a confusing mess of me trying to read over my notes to see which celebrities were there, to the point that even though it was crystal clear within the actual dream, I now can’t remember who I was subconsciously hob-nobbing with.

What’s the point of celebrity cameos in your dreams if you can’t name-drop them later?

Fortunately, before it got too frustrating, my dream then turned into an amusing half-hour animated sitcom about taking over the world. Much more fun.

I’ll end today’s post with a picture: Shortly after writing yesterday’s post on Going Digital, Sarah Jane and I moved our bookcases from our bedroom into our office. Before I put my books back on the shelf, I want to sort them in some way. Until then…

I don’t know why it’s turned sideways, but this is the entirety of my book-collection, currently taking over my spare bed. Also the big robot puppet from my kid’s show Help!

I tell you, going digital grows more and more tempting every day…

Going Digital

When I was a kid, I was a non-stop reader. As a young child, it was Enid Blyton – Mum had almost every book that Enid Blyton ever wrote (upwards of 800 books) and I’m sure that I’ve read all of them multiple times.

My other favourites were the Jennings books – not Paul Jennings, Australian children’s author (though I did get into him at a later date) but Anthony Buckeridge’s series about a boy’s boarding school, in which the impulsive main character’s surname was Jennings. (they’re still hilarious, ten years after I first read them and 60+ years since they were first written.)

As I grew older, I got heavily into Agatha Christie and a romance author called Mary Burchell (again, through my mother’s collections.) It was rare for me to exist without a book in my hands – I remember reading in class, in school assemblies, during plays…

One time my family were driving to Canberra (or somewhere equally fascinating) and I was sitting in the back seat reading. My Dad, unaware that I was preoccupied, was describing everything we passed. He’d been talking for at least half an hour before he realised that I hadn’t listened to a word he’d said, and I remember him getting mad at me for living in the world of fiction (and a book that I’d read a dozen times, at that) instead of learning about the real world.

The line between reality and fiction has always been a bit vague to me. I think that’s why I enjoy writing so much.

My reading choices have always been determined by author rather than by individual book – the most important thing for me is finding an writer whose “voice” that I like. Authors I discovered outside of my Mum’s collections include Ben Elton, Terry Pratchett (though it took me about 3 or 4 dips into the world of Discworld before I really started enjoying it) and the works of Dave Gorman and Danny Wallace.

Nowadays, however, I don’t read much. The last author I discovered was Lisa Lutz, author of the Spellman books, and that was in late 2010, almost two years ago. I rarely get that urge to read, and for the last few months my bag has contained the latest Dave Gorman book (in which he travels the world playing various board and computer games against strangers) – it’s a perfectly serviceable piece of writing, I’ve just never felt inspired to pull it out and get past the second chapter.

Part of the reason for my declining interest in the written word is simply the expense and inconvenience of finding new books to read. When I find a tale that grips me, I don’t put the book down until I’m done, but that’s been happening less and less and that’s what brings me to the point of my post:

I’m considering going digital.

I publish eBooks for (one of my) livings these days, and so most of my time is spent on writer’s forums, talking about our target audience of Kindle-owners. Constant exposure to this kind of conversation takes its toll, and so I’m considering shelling out the sheckles and picking up an eBook-reader of my very own.

If I could carry every book I want with me, I’m sure I’d be tempted to read more – I’m still only on the third Spellman book, because I never picked up a copy of the fourth. If I had a bookstore in my pocket, I’d be much more likely to grab a copy.

I haven’t done the research of cost vs battery-life vs book-price etc, mainly because I can’t actually afford to buy one at the moment, but once I do I’m sure I’ll be grabbing a Kobo/Kindle/Google book-reader/whichever I determine is the best for me.

I have two issues with going digital:

  1. As anyone who has seen my DVD collection will know, I like owning stuff. You can lend it, you can browse your collection, they just look good on the shelves. My DVDs mostly fill this niche for me, so in terms of books it’s not a huge worry, but I think it warrants mentioning.
  2. Bruce Willis considers suing Apple for ownership of his iTunes collection. (although the story is completely unsourced, the issues it brings up are interesting)

Now, this may be resolved when I do a google search for my preferred eReader and discover that hey, I can own my collection after all, but I want to have a general discussion about the concept anyway and it’s my blog so fuck you.

I like my DVD collection because after giving the money to JB Hi-Fi (or my DVD-purchasing store of choice) then I can walk out of the store with the DVD and its mine to do what I like with. Technically there are limitations, but they’re yet to come into my house and take the DVDs away from me for format-shifting.

If Amazon goes bankrupt, or Apple loses all their money in a series of bad decisions, and my entire collection of books/songs/movies is stored on the cloud…what happens? The main appeal of the cloud is that I don’t have storage space for everything that I want to own.

To readers of the future, I may sound like a crazy man keeping his money under the mattress because he doesn’t want the gubermint to take it (or the banks to lose it) but here and now, it’s a valid concern.

Shamus Young, one of my favourite bloggers (blogs! That’s what I read instead of books these days…) refuses to buy anything that requires online activation, because he wants to play favourite games in twenty years time, when the servers that activate them have inevitably collapsed. He’s still playing games from the late 80s that he enjoyed, which would be impossible with many of today’s games.

I’m seriously considering giving up on CDs and using iTunes to buy all my music from now on. (especially since I got iTunes Match and an AppleTV.) CD cases are nasty and take up too much space.

Books aren’t nasty, but I miss reading, and being able to carry every book I own with me would be a nice way of getting back into it.

I buy a lot of DVDs  – partially because I want to work in that industry and like supporting it, and largely because I like having a physical library to reference. If I’m writing, I like being able to pull down season 1 of Just Shoot Me and put it on in the background, without having to wait half an hour for download time or to find a torrent that works.

When I got my AppleTV, a friend said that it wouldn’t be long before I started making the move to getting all my TV and movie needs through iTunes. I laughed at the time, but since then I’ve noticed that my second-favourite TV show, Breaking Bad, is available as-it-comes-out through an iTunes season pass. Thus far I’ve managed to avoid all spoilers, but it would be so easy to get the season pass and be kept completely up-to-date on the show as it’s released…

It’s a slippery slope.

(my favourite thing about iTunes Match, incidentally, is that it reads your physical CDs and adds them to the cloud for you, instead of trying to make me buy all my movies twice. If AppleTV did that for DVDs, I would pay serious cash for the service. Part of the appeal of the cloud is being able to watch stuff on my iPhone/iPad/Macbook, without having to download and convert each individual movie/show I want to watch)

Comments are open if you have opinions on all this jazz – I know my sister reads my blog, and I’m curious to hear what her thoughts on the world of Kindle are. The pro’s of staying physical include the knowledge that you own something, and that you can’t just be locked out of your entire library. Cons include the amount of space they take up and the risk of losing or breaking them. (I have several movies that I’ve bought three or more times.)

Fortunately I’m broke at the moment, so I can’t go out and make any immediate purchases anyway, but it’s interesting to think about.

Physical vs electronic? Am I foolishly resisting the trends (like those people who refuse to get a smartphone or Facebook) or am I being smart and waiting for the laws to settle before putting thousands of my currently non-existent dollars into a platform that could go under at any moment?

(and if you are here from the future, how crazy does this post read?)

Assorted thoughts about sleep

When I was little, I used to hate sleep. It was such a waste of precious time, and I hated the fact that if we didn’t have to spend eight-plus hours laying down with our eyes closed each night, we’d be able to get so much more done!

In grade 11 (the second-final year of high school in Australia) I tried very hard in all my subjects (something that stopped as soon as grade 12 came long) and as a result got very little sleep. Since then, I’ve had a much stronger appreciation for no longer being awake – when I’m tired, it’s rare for me to choose anything over sleep. Absence makes the heart grow sleepier and all that.

Another new-found joy: naps. I truly love to nap.

I actually see this as a good thing – if we’re going to spend a third of our lives sleeping, I’d rather enjoy it, and since I embraced sleep and started doing more of it, I’ve been much more productive during my waking hours.

One of the purposes of dreams is your subconscious sorting out information that your conscious mind hasn’t had a chance to deal with yet, according to some site I read once. That’s why you’ll dream about whatever’s happening in your life at the moment, and it’s the reason I try not to go to sleep when I’m angry or stressed; I don’t want to spend all night dreaming about whatever it is that’s making me feel that way.

That fact might be true, or (more likely) my brain might just be extremely suggestible, but ever since I heard it my dreams have contained little tidbits of information that I’ve picked up over the previous few days. I learned that New Zealanders emigrate to Australia at a startling rate, and that featured in a dream the next night.

Reddit.com/r/todayilearned is pretty much a dream-generator for me.

About two weeks before we film each episode of We Should Know Better, I dream that it’s show-night, all the guests are there, the audience are filing in…and we’ve forgotten to write the questions. If you’ve ever seen an episode, it may or may not be obvious how much time we spend on the questions, but it ranges from “hours” to “days”. I don’t know why my subconscious insists on routinely freaking me out like that, but it does serve as an incentive to get the questions finished as early as possible.

Last time, I also dreamt that I forgot half of the guests’ names, and that the audience refused to sit where they could see the stage (which was in a giant football field, of course) because it didn’t have sufficient wheelchair access. I think Friday Night Lights is partially to blame for that one.

My brain adores many things, with “story structure” right near the top of the list. All my life, my brain has taken the random collection of images that come to you when you’re sleeping, and turned them into a structured story, with beginning, middle and end. Sometimes it has to fudge it a little, but the beauty of dreams is that you can retroactively add information in. Getting to the end of the dream and need a twist to have been set up from the beginning? Done. Dream-style.

The best description for it that I can think of is “a Peter-specific movie, each and every night.” I’ve written more than a few of them down, and the last TV pilot I filmed actually came directly from one of these well-structured dreams. (though it turned from a sitcom starring me as the sidekick into a drama featuring Laura Jane Turner in the role my brain wrote for me. I’ll forgive her some day.)

Sleep, if you can’t tell, is a delight for me, and even if it wasn’t mandatory, I’d still probably indulge from time to time. Waking up, not so much.

My absolute favourite way to wake up is to someone I love bringing me a cup of tea. My girlfriend is now the one who sleeps in, but when I used to work nights, she’d wake up and want to hang out with me. The deal we struck was that she could wake me up any time after 10, as long as she was holding a cup of tea.

Since I started working from home and getting up at a more reasonable hour, I’ve set four alarms on my phone, for 8:00am, 8:05am, 8:10am and 9:00am. On mornings when I’m springing out of bed at the sound of the first alarm, the rest are superfluous, and mainly serve to remind me to actually start working when it hits 9. On mornings when I desperately need more sleep (ie: Monday mornings), I wake up at 8, turn the next two alarms off, and allow myself an hour of extra sleep.

(the 8:05 and 8:10 are because I’ve been known to wake up, turn the alarm off, and then go straight back to sleep. The threat of two more alarms generally makes me tense enough to avoid drifting off again, though there have been times in my life when I’ve woken up, turned all three alarms off, and then slept through whatever important event I’d set them for. Most recently: the surgery I’d been waiting more than three months for.)

(they took me even though I was three hours late. I was overwhelmingly grateful, and before important appointments I now set even more alarms, and put my phone somewhere that I can’t reach from the bed.)

As of today, I’m setting one more daily alarm – 8:30pm. Before I started living the 9-5 lifestyle, my bed-time would range from midnight to 2am. If I do that while trying to get up early and do a full day’s work, the following morning ends up consisting mainly of me staring into the screen and making endless cups of tea. The 8:30 alarm is to tell me to start wrapping up what I’m doing, and get ready for bed. Not go to bed, but to at least stop staring at screens until the next morning.

We had people around for dinner last night, and afterwards chatted for several hours, and then watched TV for a few hours more. It was a great night, and I still dragged myself out of bed at 9am this morning, but it’s just hit 11:15 and I’m only just now finishing my first-thing-in-the-morning blog post.

I make sure to structure my Mondays so I don’t have to do anything wildly creative. Today, for example, I am going to watch over some speeches, find some snappy stand-alone quotes, and assemble a rough cut of a trailer for a client. I may also do some photoshopping. My brain is too fuzzy to do anything that requires any more skill than that.

Writing? That’s Tuesday work.

What are your unusual sleep-based habits? Do you use alarms, or wake up organically? What are your dreams like? Tell me your weird sleep stories, because I actually find these things interesting.