20 August, 2008

A Nightmare

I had one of the most vivid and powerful dreams of my life last night. And once again, fear was the prevailing emotion. A number of days back, I read on the ePlaya forum about people who had dreams of Burning Man during the anticipatory few weeks before the event - dreams, and nightmares. And I think I may have had one, even though I haven't yet been to the playa. I've at least convinced myself that that's what it was, anyway.

It all started (the dream, I mean) with an angry letter. Apparently, I had coded something for my brother, and he wrote me an uncharacteristically mean letter insulting my computer programming skills (naturally, he just didn't understand the brilliance of my methods). Anyway, I was really hurt and pissed off at this, so I wrote a letter back saying even meaner things. I have no idea why any of this happened in my dream, but it did. Oh, and in the dream, it was also the day before leaving for Burning Man, so I was concerned at what effect this turn of events would have on the trip.

Anyway, the house was completely empty, so I left the letter lying around somewhere out in the open. Next important scene: I'm outside, and it's dark. I saw two shapes near the house, thinking that it might be my brother and a friend. Not wanting to confront him at this point, I hid away and moved in the opposite direction. Keeping my eye on the two figures, I realized that, by the size of the shapes, it seemed to be an adult and a child. They moved around the house and toward a jungle gym type structure (apparently the house was next to (or in) a park or something...), and, having spotted me, hid within the structure like as if it would provide some kind of protection. I could hear the two figures talking, moreso the adult than the child, and I got the impression that they were homeless bums just scavenging for food.

But then things took a frightening turn. Their talk changed, and they mentioned something about owning the land, and being mad at these people that took it from them. And they said it in an ominous way, like they do in horror movies, that makes you believe what they're saying is true. Also, they said they were some kind of wolfman/werewolf type creature. Sure enough, at this point, the wolves came out of nowhere and started chasing me around. They were wolves, and not wolf-people, but they weren't ordinary wolves - they were vicious and bloodthirsty wolves. I had to wrestle one a little bit before scampering up onto the roof and sneaking back into the house.

At this point, even the house itself started getting weird. It was still devoid of people. I checked the basement, and to my surprise, found two cats and a dog, none of which I recognized. They pretty much ignored me - the dog was busy eating from a bowl, and the cats kinda just sat and stared at me. I peeked in the garage, and saw just one car - a very unusual looking one that I didn't recognize. Naturally, I started wondering just whose house this was, after all...

So I checked the master bedroom, and though it was empty, I thought I heard the shower running in the master bathroom. Scared enough at this point to call out "mommy?", I opened the door to find the bathroom empty. But now it was raining outside - hard. It was pouring buckets. It was partly frightening, and partly soothing.

I started going back and forth through the house, looking for some explanation for everything that was going on, and some of the rooms started doing a neat trick - the master bedroom especially. As I walked through, the walls would all become full length curtains - ceiling to floor - and the running water, presumably from the torrential downpour, made it a breathtaking, and humbling, spectacle all around me. It was quite frightening, but also beautiful, as I even grabbed my camera to try and take a few pictures, but the effect was transient and didn't last long enough for me to "document" it.

It occurs to me that this room effect is not unlike, in principle, an effect I've seen in the Silent Hill games, usually with certain rooms towards the end of a game, where the room would intensify in some creepy way as you walked through it, possibly to harm you, but more likely just to really freak you out - and it did the job well.

At some point, the environment changed, and suddenly I was in the guest room of the house, along with the rest of my family, though it was furnished like it was back when my brother used the room. We were watching television, and some news type guy was interviewing a criminal, asking him stupid questions, and for some reason I went on a tirade about this news guy. I don't remember the exact content of the tirade, but it had something to do with him trying to live vicariously through criminals by reporting on them, or not understanding the true criminal life, or something along those lines I think. I then qualified my rant by exclaiming that I was in a bad mood, though I'm not sure if it was because of the letter from earlier, or the rest of the frightening experiences I recently had. I stormed out of the room, but as soon as I was alone again, that fear that I had felt only moments before returned to me, and I was like a baby again, crying for his mommy.

Coming to the end of the dream (and still within the dream), I suddenly remembered the thing I had read (in waking life) about Burning Man dreams (and nightmares), and I connected the sheer excitement and vibrancy (and pure wackiness) of the scenes I had witnessed (the intensifying rooms especially) to the experience of Burning Man itself. A kind of emotional precognition or something. Unfortunately, even though I'm pretty sure I recognized the experience as a dream while I was still within the dream, it didn't become lucid. And that's the last I can remember of it. (Maybe the realization forced me to wake up).

Anyway, it was one of those dreams where the emotions felt (anger, confusion, excitement, but especially fear) are so vivid - much moreso than the emotions I experience in everyday life - that it's really an amazing experience, even when it is scary.

19 August, 2008

Sandwich Perfection

It's not often that I get the chance/take the opportunity to make myself a sandwich, but when I do, for some reason, it tastes so damn perfect. Maybe it's because I can make the sandwich my way - I believe I've remarked before that the sandwiches I usually have aren't quite my style - too much, too "hard", or too focused on the meat part in a lot of cases, otherwise it might be due to the choice of cheese or mustard. Or maybe it's some kind of internal physiological reward for exerting effort for my food (although that can't be the only reason, as effort does not automatically equate to taste).

Then again, part of it may be related to the fact that when I make a sandwich, it tends to fall into that magical size region where it's not quite enough to fill me up. Now, for some people, that would be a negative thing. If it doesn't fill you up, it's not enough, right? Not necessarily. Being stuffed out of your mind can be fun every once in awhile, but in general, I'd rather be a little hungry after a meal than over-full. Maybe I'm unique like that, but there's something about that feeling of being able to eat a little more, without being outright hungry, and without actually acting on that feeling, that appeals to me. Maybe it's because I'm not a huge fan of food and eating in the first place, and by leaving the table before I get full, I can avoid that ugly feeling of being stuffed and hating food, and instead have a more respectful and caring attitude toward food for a change.

So here's my magic formula for making a perfect sandwich. We'll use the five-point star model, since a perfect sandwich is made up of five key ingredients. Anything less would be insufficient, and anything more would seriously risk overcomplicating the sandwich and thus reducing its overall appeal.

1) The Bread - You can't go wrong with plain white bread. No need to get fancy. I almost always prefer the bread toasted, though. The crispness just puts the finished product over the top, and gives it a more interesting texture than soft bread - though there may be some exceptions.

2) The Meat - There are two important factors to the meat. First is the kind of meat. Your tastes will obviously vary, but for me, there's really nothing better than turkey, as long as we're talking about sandwiches. And it's gotta be sliced - the thinner the better. A little seasoning can be good, be it smoked or mesquite or whatever, just as long as it isn't overpowered. The second factor is concentration. You want to have a lot of meat, since it forms the bulk of the sandwich, but you want to be careful about overloading, which detracts from the rest of the ingredients. It's something you can only learn through practice.

3) The Cheese - Any good sandwich has to have some cheese. Personally, I'm a fan of cheddar, but I can go for some other options, like Colby, Pepper Jack, or even American, if it's the only option available. Again, your tastes will vary. As much as I am a fan of melted cheese, when it comes to this specific breed of sandwich, the cheese does a better job unmelted. It's less messy, and it avoids turning the sandwich into a "hot sandwich" which is just a whole different story.

4) The Spread - In the sandwich world, mustard and mayonnaise seem to be the most popular options. And while I can stand certain mustards in certain moods, mayonnaise is the classic choice, and the best option for crafting the perfect sandwich.

5) The Topping - I call it a topping not because it necessarily goes on top of the sandwich, but because it is the ingredient which tops off the sandwich, elevating it above the level of common sandwiches and allowing, if chosen appropriately, the sandwich to approach perfection. In my scheme, The Topping must always be something juicy. That's just the way it is. Tomatoes are the standard option - and a good choice - but for lack of availability, I've had the chance to try a couple alternatives. Relish is also good - the regular green stuff (as opposed to the mustardy yellow kind). It might sound kind of wierd to put relish on a sandwich, depending on your background and sensibilities, but it's really not all that different from using pickles, if you think about it. Another option is to use pepperoncini, which gives the sandwich a nice kick. I have to admit I've become more and more fond of pepperoncini over the years. But whatever topping you choose to use, you'll just know when it's right. And if you don't know, then it's not right.

Happy sandwich making!

16 August, 2008

Alternate Universe (or Sliding)

In an alternate universe, I am a successful (rather than starving) musician. I'm the lead guitarist/co-songwriter of an awesome rock group. I live in a spacious loft apartment built into a warehouse, where the band also practices. We enjoy modest success playing mostly local joints, with occasional small-scale touring, and a strong internet fanbase for our recordings. In addition to playing music, I supplement my income by photographing nude models for various magazines, websites, and other media. I have a shy, long-haired girlfriend who is still in school, and whom I first met somewhat awkwardly as the volunteer nude model for one of her art classes. She's quiet, mature, and reserved, but has little trouble opening up to me. We care about each other quite a bit, and my commitment to her is obvious, even above all the crazed groupies I playfully fend off and the nude models who inspire my aesthetic vision. My girlfriend has expressed an interest in singing (what a beautiful voice she has), and while we're working on a musical collaboration, I'm helping to boost her confidence so that she can get up on stage and sing in front of an audience. All in all, life is pretty damn good. Oh, and did I mention that I have an adorable little sister who likes to hang out at my apartment? She absolutely hates wearing clothes - even I'll wear them for the sake of style - but it hardly matters, because nobody in this world is particularly bothered by nudity - "no" is simply another "thing" to wear. The sun shines brightly and warmly on this world. :-)

09 August, 2008

Clothes (or Static Electricity)

Unsurprisingly, the less I wear clothes, the more of a burden it is to put them on. Though some clothes are worse than others - expectedly, the looser clothing is far more comfortable. However, there's some kind of strange natural law which dictates that the nicer the clothes look on you, the more uncomfortable they will be to wear. There are exceptions, but they are few.

Example: I have a pair of shorts that fits me nicely, with a lot of room inside, and they're very comfortable. But I don't really like how they look - the "shorts" look doesn't really appeal to me (the "short shorts" look on girls is a /completely/ different matter, though). On the other hand, I have those tight jeans with the holes in them, and I think they look great on me, but they're a lot less comfortable, what with there being less "breathing room" and all.

After wearing those white collared/buttoned shirts for a while, and switching back to t-shirts, I noticed that I actually liked the semi-formality that the white shirts radiate. My original plan with those shirts was to wear less of them more often. Since they're all pretty much identical, I could wear the same one on consecutive days and nobody would notice - my justification being that if I only wore them one hour out of the day, and not for any activities particularly dirty or sweaty, then they would last more days without needing a wash.

This is all fine and good, but I found out the shirts weren't as covenient as I originally thought. There's still the option of wearing the shirt unbuttoned - in a semi-half-dressed-sort-of-manner - but in those sneaky situations, where you might need to get dressed in a flash, and wearing an unbuttoned shirt isn't good enough, it's actually harder to throw that type of shirt on than a simple t-shirt, where there's no fumbling around with a bunch of stubborn buttons.

And the most important problem of them all, is the matter of static electricity. I came to the conclusion that those shirts are not particularly good at keeping away a static charge. I've always hated static electricity, and with my hair as long as it is, it becomes immensely annoying for me to wear static-y clothes. It drives me crazy. Luckily, I recently made a discovery relating to this problem.

I decided to buy a sarong, mostly for Burning Man, but also because it seems like it could be a nice, easy, convenient wrap-up type of garment for casual situations. I mean, it's basically like wrapping a towel around your waist, except it's a thinner material and it's not meant for absorbing water. But it's like the concept of a towel, but designed as a piece of clothing, rather than a drying tool.

Well, I got the sarong and tried it on, and it instantly became a sheet of electricity. No way I could wear something that static-y. But out of this failure came a great discovery. I looked at the tag to see what type of fabric the sarong is made out of, and it's 100% polyester. I did a search online, and found out that not only is polyester a particularly static-prone fabric, but the combination of dry skin and polyester is deadly (not literally). Which perfectly explains my experience with the sarong.

With this new information, I looked in my closet, and discovered that the white buttoned shirts I have are cotton/polyester hybrids with a large percentage of polyester. Furthermore, some of the t-shirts that I've had the most static problems with in the past turned out to have higher polyester percentages, as well. The rest of the shirts being mostly or entirely cotton, which is neutral on the scale of static-susceptibility.

So from now on, I'm gonna make a point to avoid polyester in my wardrobe, whenever possible. It's annoying, but I think it's great, because static-y clothing has always bugged me, and now, for once in my life, I actually have a tool - in the form of knowledge - that can help me on my way. By the way, that Static Guard anti-static spray stuff doesn't work.

07 August, 2008

Forming A Party

So, in regards to Burning Man, I feel like an inexperienced newbie traveling out into the harsh wilderness of the endgame desert, nearly alone. I'm prepared to take things as they come, and just do my best in such an unfamiliar situation - and I'm confident that I can at least survive, if not have a good time doing it. But I can't help thinking how much better I'd feel if I could take a few dedicated henchmen with me. For example, it would be nice to have a medic henchman, who knows a lot about taking care of people and treating potential injuries and dealing with health concerns and whatnot. And it'd be nice to have a chef henchman, to take care of all the food concerns. Having a warrior henchman would be nice, to help set up camp and give us a little extra muscle in times of weakness and confusion and potential victimization. Alternatively, it would be nice to have an engineer henchman, who knows a lot about tools, can handle the car's needs, and likes to work out creative plans for overcoming problems that may crop up. And having a camping henchman or two would go a long way in boosting the overall experience of the team. I guess this is all really wishful thinking, because life usually doesn't do a good job of providing you with just what you need. But in the absence of those henchman, I feel like I'm going out there with limited knowledge, and banking on not getting into any unplanned contingencies.

Radical self-reliance. That's the name of the game.

04 August, 2008

Lifeforce (or Space Vampires)

I just watched a movie called Lifeforce (1985) that I ordered recently. It's an action/sci-fi/horror kind of mix that can, really, best be described as Space Vampires. It's a fantastically outrageous film. I got tuned in (turned on?) to it because I heard that the head space vampiress spends the whole film completely naked. On the one hand, I think that claim is highly exaggerated, as she doesn't spend the /whole/ film naked, and there are large sections of the film where she doesn't show up at all, BUT, it is true that she does spend a considerable amount of time naked, and there are also some nice (and tasteful) sexy scenes.

The story starts out in space, as the crew of an apparently British space shuttle approach Halley's Comet and find a really large dormant spaceship riding its tail. Investigating, they find large, decayed batlike creatures, and three capsules with perfectly preserved (and naked) human specimens - two male, and one female. Taking them aboard, disaster naturally ensues, although you don't find out just what happens until much later in the film.

In the meantime, the shuttle is guided back to Earth without communication, and the only thing surviving on the ship is the three "alien" specimens. It doesn't take them long to wake up, break out, and start wreaking havoc. Turns out they're some kind of vampire race, and they feed on the lifeforce of the people they run into. Their victims become zombie-like creatures who then must also feed on other people's lifeforces or else dry up and become dust. London is quickly turned into a pretty standard zombie apocalypse town - even down to the quarantine and the threat of nuclear "cleansing".

In the meantime, a group of characters - some scientists and military-types - are working round the clock to figure out just what's going on and how to stop it. The captain of the space shuttle that originally found the space vampires eventually turns up when the escape pod reaches Earth, and his insight goes a long way toward fighting back against the vampires and their likely attempt to drain the lifeforce of the entire planet. The space captain is played by a familiar actor who I quickly remembered as the unforgettable abductee Duane Barry in a couple early episodes of The X-Files. And while we're talking about familiar actors, the head doctor at the asylum ("Isn't that an asylum of some sort?" "Yes - for the criminally insane.") was none other than Patrick Stewart, who I guess is well known to Star Trek fans, though I remember him as Professor X.

The above-mentioned space captain has a mental link to the head vampiress, which helps him track her down, and there's a really fascinating plot point that explains the vampiress' form as having been chosen out of the subconcious mind of the captain when he first boarded the alien ship - to represent his idea of perfect beauty, and thus explaining the otherworldly desire she holds over him and the trouble he has trying to resist and fight her. What would you do if the potential destructor of the planet showed up in the form of your perfect dream mate - not just on a physical level, but also on a spiritual and deeper level? Would you be able to resist? Furthermore, the vampiress hints that the space captain may have some ancient connection to the vampire race (in his blood perhaps?), but the details are left unstated. It is suggested, however, that these space vampires had been to Earth before, and were responsible for the original legend of vampires.

There's a lot of fascinating stuff going on here, and they manage to make a crazy idea like space vampires sound almost plausible. The effects are pretty nice, some of them downright creepy. The movie itself is just so epic, ranging from sci-fi space drama to zombie survival horror to a mystery-style vampire hunt... If this film is anything, it's ambitious. But it doesn't take itself too seriously, which is why I think it works.