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December 24, 2003

Open thread 14
Posted by Teresa at 02:37 PM *

Swift away the old year passes.

Comments on Open thread 14:
#1 ::: Kris Hasson-Jones ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2003, 02:42 PM:

May good come to all.

#2 ::: catie murphy ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2003, 02:55 PM:

Oh, good, I was hoping for an open thread, because I'd really like to know how people on this comment list read fiction.

Last week, a friend said something about the radio drama in her head while she was reading. My husband said, "You only get a radio drama?" and she said, "Oh, no, I get pictures, too."

Now, he's said this before, but I always thought he was exaggerating, so it sort of threw me, and I said, "You really see *pictures* while you're reading?" And they both insisted that yes, they did. Rather like being the camera in a movie.

I don't *get* pictures in my head when I'm reading. If I think back on a scene, I can see it play out, but it doesn't play out in my head while I'm reading it.

So now I'm asking everybody: do *you* see pictures when you read?

Merry Christmas to all!


#3 ::: Paul ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2003, 03:03 PM:

Just a word of thanks to our hosts for keeping me so marvelously entertained and informed this year. Merry Christmas (or any equivalent celebration) to all and to all a good night!

#4 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2003, 03:11 PM:

Catie --

Oh yes. Ones that tend to have a life of their own quite beyond the words, so that the imagery will often enough stay with me in a way that becomes an independent memory, as though of a thing witnessed and not a thing described.

Minas Tirith is like that, and the Vale of Tumladen, and the pig-herds of Hel, and there are no words to say how surprised I was when I met Raederle of An's very image in a computer centre.

#5 ::: Janet Miles ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2003, 03:19 PM:

do *you* see pictures when you read?

Not as a rule; sometimes if I specifically try to visualize something I'll get a picture, but that takes a lot of effort. On the other hand, when I see someone else's picture I may feel that the picture is "right" or "wrong".

As a side note, I don't always dream in pictures, either -- about once a week, I'll dream in text. I only find this worrisome on the occasions when I realize I've been dreaming in HTML markup.

#6 ::: David Elworthy ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2003, 03:24 PM:

Yes, I usually do get pictures, to the extent that I often become completely unaware of the physical text. On the occasions when I don't find myself reading in this way, reading often becomes a rather dull and mundane experience which I don't enjoy much. I think this is also why I find it hard to get much from reading textbooks and other non-fiction, though that has got easier in the last 10-15 years, and I can find a middle-ground where I get some content from the text while still being aware of it.

I believe the technical term for this is immersive reading, and it seems to be influenced by both the psychological characteristics of the reader, and also by factors such as typography. The person at Microsoft who originated their Reader software with its anti-aliased font rendering wrote a good article on the subject (which I'm now not able to find, unfortunately).

#7 ::: Simon ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2003, 03:30 PM:

I sometimes get images in my head when I'm reading fiction. What I do not get is a movie. I've read fiction by authors who are seeing a movie, as opposed to images, in their heads when they're writing, and I can tell. Wilful manipulation of camera angles (i.e. what the author tells the reader about the physical environment) is the most obvious manifestation.

#8 ::: Jo Walton ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2003, 04:02 PM:

That's what I was going to say, visual imagery yes, but nothing at all like a movie. Also smell, taste, texture -- I almost gagged on some cassia wine Inspector Wexford was drinking this morning.

I'm really stretching to find an analogy. It isn't like anything. It's like being there only more so. It's reading; wider than the world.

#9 ::: Karen Junker ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2003, 04:46 PM:

If a writer can put me in the movie, even for a moment,I'm blissed out.

Sometimes, as with Vance or Hand or Kushner, I cherish every single word and not only appreciate the movie but have an internal dialectic going with the author. When I've finished reading, it stays with me, not only the pacing, but the texture, the use of a single word (vermillion or russet say something much different from red), or how the plot was devised. The work continues to reveal itself and its author.

#10 ::: Adam Lipkin ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2003, 05:34 PM:

Swift the way the old year passes.
The map is over, creased and traced
with lines of travel and cascades
of mazing paths and unseen destinations.
But here, ah, cartography provides
a trackless time to live inside again.
Swift the way the new year comes
to rescue, to continue, the compass
to explore our way across each other's lives.

Did that on the train home. Just wanted to get that out of the way (please, don't be too hard on it/me...).

Anyway; do *you* see pictures when you read? I would guess that most people do, to some extent. I don't always (nor try always). If I think about it I will, but if I'm not trying, I won't necessarily. Depends on the story. Sometimes it also depends on whether I like what I'm reading; if I'm not that into it, picturing it can help get me to keep going (like right now, with Dune). Still images of places usually come to me more easily than video of actions or people.

Also, as Paul said above, many thanks to the hosts for hosting this place, and to everyone here. I'm glad I found it and was allowed to join the fun.

Best to everyone for the holy days of their choice.

#11 ::: Berni ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2003, 05:41 PM:

Re reading, yes I see pictures when I read.

When I dream, it's often a musical. My dreams often feature song and dance numbers.

#12 ::: Adina ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2003, 06:12 PM:

No, I don't see pictures when I read, but I often dream books. I'm reading a book, and then I'm in it and everything's happening the same way, and I know what's going to happen and sometimes I can prevent the bad things.

#13 ::: Jello ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2003, 06:22 PM:

I see the narrative as moving pictures in my head. This is good, and some times bad.

While reading American Gods by Neil Gaiman I picture Shadow from the Photo of Neil (good).

I recently re-read "The Shining" and several times had to stop and banish Olive Oyl from my head (bad).

#14 ::: sennoma ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2003, 06:55 PM:

Swift away the old year passes,
one for lefties to remember.
Cheer up now, and raise your glasses:
we'll get our own back come November.

#15 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2003, 07:42 PM:

One theory of reading is that each reader has a scenario running in their brain which is of resolution, color, and scope varying from person to person; more auditory for some; more smell-taste oriented for others; more tactile or kinesthetic for others, and so forth.

As you read, you determine what update of the scenario is necessary, or which of several alternative futures you've predicted. Or what previously visualized detail is wrong and must be retroactively edited.

Synaesthetic people have crossed, mixed, or transposed sensory channels.

When I dream, I do sometimes have elaborate choreography and music; sometimes credits roll. Sometimes I have simultaneous viewpoints from my character and also seeing my character among others.

Sometimes I have alternative senses to the merely human. Or alternative topologies of space-time.

Several of my published short stories and poems were dreams written down immediately upon awakening.

I used to type my dreams on stacks of IBM punchcards (were talking mid-1960s). I mailed some printout to a psychologist studying dreams. He denied that such dreams were possible, as they had story structure and rhyming poems within. Okay, that's another thing that differentiated writers from everyone else.

Many people get "pictures in their heads" from listening to music.

What complicates the picture when editors or authors read books is that they have human response, PLUS a writer's deconstruction -- how did he achieve THAT effect? Hmmm, must remeber that trick for interconnecting 3 POVs. This reads like a bastard child of Nabokov and Sue Grafton. Or whatever.

I cannot explain in English what goes on in my mind when I read Physics, Chemistry, Astronomy, Computer Science, or Math texts. Equations have a supremely aesthetic effect. Some people CAN imagine in more than three dimensions. When younger, I could easily "see" 4-space. Alicia Boole Stott, niece of George Boole, was educated to be able to visualize 4-D and 5-D at least, with special colored toy blocks. Mimsey were the borogoves, eh?

I've just added some sentences quoted from Olaf Stapledon in my "cosmic future" web page, mixed in with the latest geology and astronomy about the FAR future. Start at
then click on "timeline"
then click on "Cosmic Future."

#16 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2003, 08:05 PM:

I get images. Sometimes still photos or drawings or paintings, sometimes movies, sometimes comic-book page layouts. There92s a short sequence in Zelazny92s Lord of Light that reads like a page out of Watchmen.

Occasionally I92ll get annoyed when an author fails to give me enough data to build an accurate scene in my head, so I fill in the blanks out of memory, and then some later bit of description contradicts what I92d filled in.

#17 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2003, 09:15 PM:

Someone on another thread [probably Return of the King] mentioned a film of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. All I know (this may be a little stale) is on my page about the decade 2000-2010, namely:

2005 The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe [USA]
Adapted: from the C. S. Lewis novels;
Production Company: Waldern Media;
Distributor: Walt Disney Pictures;
Executive Producers: Andrew Adamson, Perry Moore, Philip Steuer;
Producer: Grant Major;
Director: Andrew Adamson;
Screenplay: Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely, Ann Peacock;
Production Design: Roger Ford;
Special Effects: Richard Taylor, Weta Workshops [New Zealand];

I don't even know who's starring. many other films through 2009 or so are listed at the 276 kilobytes of:

I'm particularly looking forward to:

2004 Constantine
2004 Cube Zero
2004 Fantastic Four
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban [12 June 2004 release]
2004 Hellboy
2004 I, Robot
2004 John Doe
2004 Lemony Snicket: A Series of Unfortunate Events
2004 Level Seven
2004 Light and the Sufferer
2004 The Phantom of the Opera
2004 The Polar Express
2004 Red Dwarf: The Movie
2004 Shrek II
2004 A Sound of Thunder
2004 Spider-Man II
2004 Starship Troopers II: Hero of the Federation
2004 Ultraviolet
2004 Van Helsing
2004 The Village
2004 Watchful Eyes
2004 The Winning Season
2004 World of Tomorrow
2004 The X-Files 2

And then in 2005, but we'll save that for later...

#18 ::: sennoma ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2003, 09:45 PM:

I get pictures, too. They are moving pictures, but they're not exactly movies -- the perspective is different, and hard to describe. It's a bit like being able to watch all the rushes simultaneously, superimposed into the view from one best-possible vantage point. Like Graydon's, my imagery stays with me and feels much the same as something I actually saw in meatspace -- viz, my fiction memories are just like real-world memories.

#19 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2003, 10:49 PM:

I see the scenery as I read. or as I write, I find I can look around in my mind and see what the characters are seeing.

Sometimes I dream about being where I'm writing about.

The only time that was really bad was I was writing a bar fight, and had to really figure it out in my mind because that's not my ordinary experience. My relatively new (now long-deceased) kitty chose to leap upon my chest, in my bed, in the middle of the night, in the midst of a very graphic dream of the bar fight happening. I felt i was being attacked and just as I released him (cats in spaaaaaaace, fortunately he was just a kitten, when he was older he'd have dislocated my arm) I was like, "Oh, Dammit, the door is mostly closed." He was okay, he just kept out of my way for about a week.....

#20 ::: Robert L ::: (view all by) ::: December 25, 2003, 12:06 AM:

I would have to say I often, though not always, have pictures in my mind that derive from whhat i'm reading. It really depends on the sort of material. But more often than not.

#21 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: December 25, 2003, 12:12 AM:

Absolutely pictures. Certainly talking pictures, with distinguishable accents. Generally not much background noise.

Sometimes the pictures are static, but most of the time, if there are described actions, the pictures will move -- more proscenium-arch than movie camera, though.

When I was very, very young -- say, four or five -- it used to distress me when I encountered a description of something that was so far outside my experience that I just couldn't GET a picture, even though the description was detailed. I remember it especially in the Laura Ingalls Wilder books, because Laura was brilliant at describing things, but some of the late-nineteenth-century artifacts were so foreign to a five-year-old a hundred years later that I had no mental image, and formed a distorted one. I can also remember encountering things in the physical world and getting a click of recognition from one of her descriptions, and having those sections of the book go much more smoothly when I re-read them.

I rarely get taste or smell from books, but when I do, it's next to impossible to keep me out of the kitchen trying to duplicate it. I think the first literary cooking effort I made was a try at lembas-wafers, when I was ten, in which I discovered the difficulties of trying to grind almonds to flour in a food processor. Nut butter, anyone?

The most successful effort was a meat pie inspired by the ones sold by Raf in "Five Hundred Years After." Didn't have any venison, but the steak version quelled my cravings.

I know I can't be the only person to do this, or "Lobscouse and Spotted Dog" wouldn't exist.

#22 ::: Greg ::: (view all by) ::: December 25, 2003, 01:17 AM:

I've never added my voice to any thread here but I have greatly enjoyed reading them over the past year.

When reading fiction, I see the story. In large part it depends upon the style of writing, which for me is hard to categorize as I read fiction and am not a student of it. Gabriel Garcia Marquez - amazing images. Nabokov, Babel and Bulgakov the same. Others, not so much. The best was the Faculty of Useless Knowledge by Yuri Dombrovsky. There were passages where one character was dreaming about a crab. Not only could I picture the dreams while awake, I wound up having the same dreams each night when reading that book, which was an absolutely ecstatic experience.

(I feel that in present company I should proofread this post, but I tend to only rearrange commas, not correctness)

A wonderful holiday and new year to all.

#23 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: December 25, 2003, 02:54 AM:

Hail the new, ye lads and lasses! (all right, so I'm not in an original mood....)

May all here find and share joy in the new year.

I almost never get clear visual images from books -- only occasionally. I often hear the voices of the characters, though. And I don't dream in text, though I do sometimes dream serious analysis of the dream that just finished. Sometimes these analyses even make sense. And people I know show up -- TNH was in a recent one, telling me I already had a website and she was upset that I hadn't been using it (the address being, or maybe .net). The "in Logres" part was clearly from cataloguing some Charles Williams books to ABE, but I have no idea where Locrian came from (and research so far hasn't helped...).

#24 ::: Anne Murphy ::: (view all by) ::: December 25, 2003, 08:08 AM:

Swift away the old year passes
May the New Year come with peace

May the child be educated,
May the anger be abated
And the righteous vindicated -
Let the wars and troubles cease

On we turn to greet tomorrow
Though it bring both joy and sorrow
We'll try not to trouble borrow
Knowing life is just a lease

Swift away the old year passes
May the New Year come in peace


#25 ::: Anne Murphy ::: (view all by) ::: December 25, 2003, 08:09 AM:

re: reading, yes, I see pictures. this leads to complications when someone asks me if I've seen a movie that was based on the book. checking for pictures in my head is not a dependable determination.

#26 ::: Janice in GA ::: (view all by) ::: December 25, 2003, 09:03 AM:

I frequently read in bed, and frequently fall asleep as I read. What's interesting to me is how often I continue the story (in my own words) as I fall asleep. I'm not dreaming in pictures, I'm dreaming that I'm reading.

#27 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: December 25, 2003, 09:13 AM:

I'm with Janice--I rarely see pictures, but I can tell when someone else's images are "wrong"--and they usually are. I have never seen a hobbit that looked right, though I've had the privilege of hearing a representation of a hobbit that did. I heard someone imitate someone else who claimed to be channelling Middle Earth. I'm not sure what channelling Middle Earth means, but it was the high clear voice that Treebeard heard.

And I second all the voices that thank Teresa for having created this forum and those who post here.

#28 ::: Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: December 25, 2003, 09:48 AM:

I definitely dream in color pictures, most appealingly the landscapes with weather -- I'm a lifelong landscape junkie -- and there's enough sound for some conversations. (Reading Gwyneth Jones' BOLD AS LOVE plus watching TV news gave me nightmares, one with Bush and the other with Michael Jackson -- argh!).

I also visualize books, though I think I did it more as a kid. For me, Boromir was big, tall, with bristling dark hair and beard, and the guy in the film looked utterly wrong. And I still say the mind makes better special effects than even the best movie-makers can manage yet, though they're getting closer.

Best wishes for the new year to all. And special thanks to Teresa!

#29 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: December 25, 2003, 10:12 AM:

My mileage varies. Sometimes I get clear images, other times it's just stock footage. Still others, I realize after a while that I have no mental image of a character or an idea of how their voice sounds. (This is one reason a movie can disappoint me -- they can't avoid having these things, and they may grate on me. Bambi sounded wrong.)

In dreams, things are usually pretty clear. There was a long time when I really really needed them to be clear. At those times, like as not, my dreams would be lacking in tactile dimension, and things might as well be represented by squares of propped-up cardboard labelled "Tree" or "Friend" or whatever.

#30 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: December 25, 2003, 10:42 AM:

"And I second all the voices that thank Teresa for having created this forum and those who post here."

Teresa's secret revealed. Yes, and it was a job creating the lot of you, too.

#31 ::: Alan Bostick ::: (view all by) ::: December 25, 2003, 10:55 AM:

Watch out, or I'm gonna start quoting Milton.

#32 ::: Alan Bostick ::: (view all by) ::: December 25, 2003, 10:57 AM:

"Bttr t rgn n Hll thn srv n Hvn 96 Hy! Wht hppnd t m vwls??"

#33 ::: bryan ::: (view all by) ::: December 25, 2003, 10:59 AM:

Is there even a market for fantasy short fiction anymore?

#34 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: December 25, 2003, 12:02 PM:

I regard the lot of you as standing proof that solipsism is nonsense. I could never have invented you, and I stand in awe of whomever did.

Thank you for being here. It's a great pleasure. I'll say again what I've said before: the best thing about Making Light is its readers.

#35 ::: Keith ::: (view all by) ::: December 25, 2003, 01:45 PM:

When I read (and when I write) it's like a full blown movie in my head. Sometimes, after I'm done reading ans laying in bed dreaming of stories, I go so far as to cast the book with actors and even a director and envision scenes done in the director's style. I so desperately want to "see" Leonora Carrington's The Hearing Trumpet as directed by Jean-Paul Jenet (sp? Director of Amilie and City of Lost Children). I think it would be beautiful.

#36 ::: bryan ::: (view all by) ::: December 25, 2003, 02:01 PM:

'I regard the lot of you as standing proof that solipsism is nonsense. I could never have invented you, and I stand in awe of whomever did.'

Wow, this thread has brought me to the conclusion that I am actually the only one who actually exists, and the rest of you are all just figments of my mind.

#37 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: December 25, 2003, 02:08 PM:

Bryan, it's an appealingly streamlined theory at the start, but the self-knowledge thing gets increasingly complicated as you go along.

Meanwhile, are there any cooks here who can confirm or rebut the proposition that the way to cook a standing rib roast is to stand it on its bone-ends in a roasting pan and stick it in a hot oven till it's done? I was sure my good old 1940s cookbook would cover the question, but that's the sum total of its views on the subject. It seems too simple.

#38 ::: Paula Kate Marmor ::: (view all by) ::: December 25, 2003, 02:25 PM:

Well, I am no cook, but I was just reading MFK Fisher for pleasure last week, and I read that chapter. Wipe roast with damp cloth or cut lemon, rub with salt/pepper/oil/herbs to taste. Put roast on rack. Method 1: Put roast in 300 degree oven until it's done (roughly 20 minutes per pound). Method 2: Put roast in 500 degree oven for 25 minutes to sear the outside, reduce to 300 degrees till done.

I always see movies when I read, with very specific directionality (what does he mean, left is north? rats, now I need to reorient).

#39 ::: Debra Doyle ::: (view all by) ::: December 25, 2003, 02:34 PM:

If you've gotten the roast tied into a circle, like a crown roast, then roast it with the bone ends sticking up. Wrap tinfoil around the bone ends so that they don't burn.

If you've just got a strip of ribroast, then put it on a rack in the pan with the rib side down and the fatty side up, so that the fat drips down.

see,1977,FOOD_9936_20872,00.html for more details.

(The quickest way I know to find recipes for things these days is to type either the name of the recipe or several of the main ingredients thereof into Google.)

#40 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: December 25, 2003, 02:39 PM:

Right, then. It really is that simple. And if it's in MFK Fisher, I have a copy not five feet from where I'm sitting, and can brush up. Thanks! I'll report on the results when they result.

#41 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: December 25, 2003, 02:51 PM:

That seems a reasonable means of cooking one to me.

Roasting is usually pretty simple, and one of the ways to do a fowl is to stand it up and cook until done (with any number of variations on what one might tuck into the cavity while cooking, a la "beer can barbeque").

Terry K.

(enjoying a rainy Christmas morning, after a crappy week, and then a [not so crappy] earthquake)

#42 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: December 25, 2003, 03:30 PM:

Terry -- We heard about that one. Lots of rolling, yes?

I've also heard about the trick where you give the fowl a pelvic with one of those extra-tall cans of beer, then sit it upright in a closed barbecue. They now sell little racks to hold the chicken upright so there's no chance that it'll fall over and spill the beer.

I already own a non-beer-powered chicken rack -- two of them, actually, of slightly different design -- that hold the chicken upright for faster, juicier cooking. They work. The chicken as it's roasting does look a little gruesome -- less like a yummy lump of food, more like a headless and possibly vengeful apparition -- butI have yet to notice any difference in the results, aside from the "faster and juicier" part.

#43 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: December 25, 2003, 04:15 PM:

Marci and I cooked a turkey in a Weber barbecue through a recipie from _Sunset_ magazine a couple of times while we were living in cohousing. It came out beautifully -- looked like the pic on the cover of _Sunset!_ and tasted wonderful as well. And it was done significantly faster than the ones cooking in a conventional oven. YMMV. Sometimes recipies are just Right.

#44 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: December 25, 2003, 04:25 PM:

My preferred chicken tactic was to cheat wildly, and wrap the whole thing in bread dough. Heavy, whole wheat dough works best. (I can't eat bread anymore. It's been awhile since I cooked chicken, though I'm not sure these are necessarily connected events.)

Wrapping in bread has the advantage of making it more or less impossible to dry the thing out (so if the guests are an hour late, the guests are an hour late; nothing goes wrong with the chicken part of dinner), and the ancillary advantage of working with however much chicken, whole or parts, one wants to use. It does take an extra half hour or so to cook, and the breadcrust tends to get seriously crispy unless you've got a very tall oven.

Trapping flavouring in there with the chicken is a secondary advantage; bay and bacon, or lemon and tarragon, have worked well for me.

Pheasant are really too small to stuff, but apple-mushroom stuffing, strips of good bacon laid over the bird and being baked in bread worked pretty well the time I tried it, about five Christmasses ago.

The bottom half of the bread gets sogged; it's not really suitable as finger food, though as gravy thickner for later it has uses. The top half of the bread can be broken off and served as one extracts the fowl from its piping hot clutches.

#45 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: December 25, 2003, 04:38 PM:


I'm the lesser chef in the family, but I have gotten good results from barbcuing Duck with an inserted Orange Soda can, Turkey with an oversized beercan [I think Fosters], and Chicken with Coca-Cola.

Okay, conventional Turkey in the oven now, awaiting guests to arrive. One has a Ph.D. in Physical Chemistry, one in Quantum Mechanics. They both read Science Fiction, and I'm eager to compare notes on LOTR-ROTK and Neal Stephenson's massive "Quicksilver" which I just read on a ski trip.

#46 ::: Jordin Kare ::: (view all by) ::: December 25, 2003, 04:56 PM:

Joining the reading/dreaming thread a bit late, since we've been on the road...
I don't see pictures when I read, and only rarely hear sounds/voices; I couldn't describe most characters' physical appearance after reading a book (other than the occasional extreme ones, like Miles Vorkosigan being short). Of course, I don't tend to remember real people's appearance, either, and I'm incapable of giving descriptions even of people I know very well and can easily recognize. Some kind of mental gap, no doubt.

I frequently dream complete stories/sections of novels, and shift between "reading" and participating in the story. What's moderately frightening is that I've started making puns in my dreams. Original ones, not replays of ones I'd thought of or heard while awake. This may be the beginning of the end...

#47 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: December 25, 2003, 05:52 PM:

I forget which thread it was, where people were suggesting Science Fiction/Fantasy on Mathematical themes. Here are a few more:

Inverted World, by Christopher Priest [1974]

Thomas Gray, Philosopher Cat, by Philip J. Davis [1988]

The Giza Death Star Deployed, by Joseph Farrell [2003]

The Omega Selection, by Al E. Gateson [2003]

PsiChosis: Book Two, by Timothy Paul Roesch

#48 ::: Robert L ::: (view all by) ::: December 25, 2003, 07:23 PM:

I regard the lot of you as standing proof that solipsism is nonsense. I could never have invented you, and I stand in awe of whomever did.

I'm gonna pretend you didn't write "whomever" there...'cause if you did, I'd have to chastise you severely.

#49 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: December 25, 2003, 11:28 PM:

OMG, Teresa, I'm hungry again and I can't possibly be.... we ate lunch at 2 p.m.-ish at Jim's parents, then sat and visited with their relatives (mostly Marlon's, Jim's mom's husband, not the step-father, they haven't been married that long). And ate his sisters fabuluous pumpkin/chocolate cheesecake. THEN we went to mayhem at my mom's, with the three under-five great nephews (yes, I have great nephews, I'm 11 years younger than my brother and he and his wife had Amanada and Daniel relatively early... Amanda is mom of the kids).

I have a feeling I'm not going to want to eat tomorrow, either, though we're going to have a lunch for the few, the proud, the there, for the pre-press employee, much beloved, who is leaving us for the wilds of New York City, along with another of our pre-press gals.

#50 ::: catie murphy ::: (view all by) ::: December 26, 2003, 12:23 AM:

Too late to be of any real use, but it really is that simple, yep. We put salt or garlic (or garlic salt) on the fatty end and stab it (the fatty end) a couple times with a fork halfway through the roasting time in order to make sure some of those yummy juices slide down the sides, but it's awfully easy. My husband, who just did his first standing rib roast today, didn't quite believe it either. :)

#51 ::: Zack Weinberg ::: (view all by) ::: December 26, 2003, 12:32 AM:

I'm with Jordin - no images, no sound. Not while reading. Having read a scene I can stop, go back, and imagine up what it must look or sound like, but I have to stop to do that, and even then it doesn't come out in full-motion video.

I can't describe what does go on in my head as I read. I can only say that there doesn't seem to be anything in between the writing and the knowledge thereof. Whatever that means. There's some evidence that the brain runs simulations of things you read about, using some of the same neurons that would be used to do whatever it was (this evidence is, natch, much more solid when talking about simple physical actions than higher mathematics). But this doesn't say anything about how that corresponds to experience (the infamous "qualia problem", which the people doing the simulation studies are declining even to touch). My experience of the world is the usual full-motion video, so I don't know what's going on.

#52 ::: Leah Miller ::: (view all by) ::: December 26, 2003, 01:51 AM:

When I was a kid I loved grape juice, and my favorite was cran-grape. I read a lot of books which mentioned wine, and I always imagined it as grape juice. If a wine were especially high quality, I would imagine cran-grape. Then I had real wine and was terribly disappointed.

The thing is, If I'm really enjoying a book and they mention wine, the grape juice taste and craving come back.

Sometimes I experience books as rapidly cascading chains of ideas, alternate endings of the stories, images not in the book but related in my mind, stories with similar themes, stories that negate truths in the books, songs, philosophy. That's when I usually have to put the book down and take a little walk.

(I'm very grateful that other people read in dreams and that they dream third person narratives. Everyone was always convinced I was making things up.)

#53 ::: Yonmei ::: (view all by) ::: December 26, 2003, 04:35 AM:

Catie, I get pictures, sound, touch, taste, smell when I read. But I don't get all of them all of the time - I've listed them in very roughly the order I do get them.

A friend asked me once "When you remember a book, what do you remember - the words on the page or the pictures you got when you read it?" I thought about it (it had never occurred to me to think about it at all before) and I get both. I think back to Bilbo jumping to his feet (and how do I know he stood up? I don't - but I've always seen that old hobbit on his feet when he says) "Very well, very well, Master Elrond! Say no more! It is plain enough what you are pointing at. Bilbo the silly hobbit started this affair, and Bilbo had better finish it, or himself. ..... It is a frightful nuisance. When ought I to start?"

When I think back to that scene I see Bilbo on his feet, quite plainly and patently ready to go, old and frail and indomitable. (And now, and ever since the FotR film came out, he wears Ian Holm's face and has Holm's voice.) But if I want to, I can also see the white page and the black letters on it, though not quite well enough to be able to read them with my mind's eye. (Some lines from the book I have by heart, and these seem to be stored in yet a third area of my memory.) This is definitely three different areas - because it's not like I'm switching between views. I can see/see/remember all three at once, but I am not perceiving all three with the same part of my mind - there is no overlay.

Leah, I'm a lifelong vegetarian - and the few times I've accidentally eaten meat, I haven't enjoyed it in the slightest. When I read, though, I enjoy eating a meat pie or a thick bloody cut off a joint of roast beef as much as my character does - and yeah... I think I'm turning it into TVP or washed gluten in my head. Magic.

#54 ::: Bruce Arthurs ::: (view all by) ::: December 26, 2003, 07:49 AM:

Our chunk of prime rib yesterday came out, if I may say so, perfect; pink enough for Hilde's and my tastes, done enough for the others at dinner. Started with a hot (550) oven, put the roast in, turned down to 350, and roasted 20 minutes per pound.

In fact, except for a slightly undercooked gravy, everything at dinner clicked yesterday. The Yorshire was browned on the outside, without the usual scorching on the edges. The carrots were slow-cooked in their own juice, and delicious. The hand-mashed potatoes were smooth and flavorful. And everything got to the table still hot.

And the desserts... well, the citrus cake looked so good I got out the digital camera and took a picture.

It was a good day for cooking.

#55 ::: Kate Nepveu ::: (view all by) ::: December 26, 2003, 09:46 AM:

I don't see pictures when I read. I usually will have very vague impressions of appearances, based on book descriptions, but I have to stop and call them up--it's not the first thing that comes to mind when I think of a character, say. But I'm not seeing just the words on the page, either, when I read, but I'm sorry, I can't really explain that.

I often dream in first-person present and wake not knowing who the viewpoint character was.

For cooking, one of our most useful gadgets is the probe thermometer with a long wire attached to an alarm, that you can set to beep at a certain temperature. (I'm very bad at estimating when things are done, and it's my understanding that "minutes per pound" is a fairly loose approximation of done-ness.)

#56 ::: Lois Fundis ::: (view all by) ::: December 26, 2003, 11:02 AM:

Teresa and Patrick: apropos of nothing else in this thread, I just wanted to show you the photo on this page.

As for the reading part: I do visualize things and people, and sometimes have an idea of sounds. If pressed I could probably come up with smells, tastes, or feels. My mom and I, because we often read the same books, used to play the casting game -- who do you see as this character? (we do this a lot on the Bujold list too.) Apparently she read things that way, too. So that got to be a habit.

Which leads back to the LotR movies. I've always cast Sam in my brain as Ringo Starr. (Don't ask why, but I think maybe Kip W. glommed onto it.) In fact the other Fab Three could be the other hobbits but I've never entirely settled on which was which.

#57 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: December 26, 2003, 11:43 AM:

Well, John Lennon has already Gone West, so I'd vote for him as Frodo on that basis alone.

(So has George Harrison, now, but I still vote for John.)

#58 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: December 26, 2003, 02:01 PM:

What would you do if I went to Mount Doom,
Would you stand up and walk out on me...?

#59 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: December 26, 2003, 02:09 PM:

Lois, I don't know if you're aware of it, but in 1968 the Beatles really did take a brief stab at securing the rights to make a Lord of the Rings movie. The idea was spearheaded by John, who wanted to play Gollum. Paul would have been Frodo; George, Gandalf; and, indeed, Ringo would have played Sam. Thankfully, the whole terrible idea foundered almost immediately.

I mean, I'm a great Beatles fan, and one of their charms was always their fearlessness, their blithe conviction that they could do anything. But.

#60 ::: Tina Black ::: (view all by) ::: December 26, 2003, 02:35 PM:

Yes, I see not only pictures when I read, but pictures that have color and motion.

I think that theory says that this phenomenon kicks in when one is reading at 900 words per minute or over.

This readily explains why text books do not yield pictures.

Someone mentioned the pigherds of Hel? Oh yes, the old woman with a brown wrinkly complexion sitting on a log and smoking a pipe -- but how many years ago did I read that? Over 10? Over 20? Never mind. I still see it.


#61 ::: Lois Fundis ::: (view all by) ::: December 26, 2003, 04:15 PM:

Patrick: thanks. If I ever heard about the Beatles attempt to do LotR, I'd completely forgotten about it. Interesting idea, though, John as Gollum.

#62 ::: Mitch Wagner ::: (view all by) ::: December 26, 2003, 05:34 PM:

TNH: Interesting coincidence: A few days ago I was reminded about your "Evil Overlord Generates a Plot." I re-read it, to my enjoyment.

Today, Julie came into my office and showed me this book, which she bought for both of us a little while ago. I haven't examined it closely yet: it's a pretty old book (1928), in good condition, with tissue-thin pages and tiny type -- in other words, wash hands before reading.

#63 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: December 26, 2003, 06:32 PM:

Speaking of math-related fictions, what about Thurber's "The Wonderful Zero?"

What? Oh. Never mind.

#64 ::: catie murphy ::: (view all by) ::: December 26, 2003, 09:34 PM:

Tina: I read very quickly, but don't have the visualization aspect kick in. My friend Emily, who was one of the people who started this discussion with me, reads very slowly indeed, but she /does/ get images.

Like Zack and Jordin, if I think back on a scene, I can see it play out, but as Zack said, there doesn't seem to be anything in between the writing and the knowledge thereof, which makes perfect sense to me, Zack. :) And like Kate, I can stop and call images up, but it doesn't happen automatically.

Janet: I also can tell when somebody's image is wrong, even if I don't necessarily have a specific image in my mind. That's one of the really beautiful things about the Canadian Anne of Green Gables tv-film they made. It all looks so very *right*.

David: thank you for giving me a name for this phenomena! It's kept my family in discussions for the last week solid and it's useful to have something to call it. :)

Graydon: mmm, bread-wrapped chicken sounds lovely. I think I'll have to get the chef in the house to try that soon!

#65 ::: Chad Orzel ::: (view all by) ::: December 26, 2003, 09:53 PM:

On Roasting:
Well, I am no cook, but I was just reading MFK Fisher for pleasure last week, and I read that chapter. Wipe roast with damp cloth or cut lemon, rub with salt/pepper/oil/herbs to taste. Put roast on rack. Method 1: Put roast in 300 degree oven until it's done (roughly 20 minutes per pound). Method 2: Put roast in 500 degree oven for 25 minutes to sear the outside, reduce to 300 degrees till done.

Method 3: put roast in 200 degree oven until it reaches the desired doneness (use one of the nifty probe thermometers Kate mentioned), take it out and let it stand for a bit, then throw it in a 500 degree oven for ~15 minutes to get a nice crust on the outside.

OK, I haven't tried this, but it's the method suggested by Alton "Good Eats" Brown, and while his suggestions are often weirdly fussy (the actual show calls for doing the roasting inside a terra-cotta planter...), I don't think we've gone wrong by copying one of his recipes.

#66 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: December 26, 2003, 10:25 PM:

I mean, I'm a great Beatles fan, and one of their charms was always their fearlessness, their blithe conviction that they could do anything. But.

"But when WE do it, it will work!"

#67 ::: Robert L ::: (view all by) ::: December 27, 2003, 10:54 AM:

A Beatles version of LotR probably would have been even worse than Magical Mystery Tour. (though it is a shame we never got to see John writhe over "the Pwecious"...). Still, like MMT, it probably would've had some good songs, though of course none as good as Leonard Nimoy's "Ballad of Bilbo Baggins."

#68 ::: Mary Kay ::: (view all by) ::: December 27, 2003, 11:46 AM:

I almost never get images when I read. If the text is very vividly image oriented I might get a few static shots. I will often form images of what people look like (vague images) which have nothing to do with how they are described in the text, and everything to do with my prejudices, quirks, and foibles. As a child I always pictured God as a youngish, tall, dark man with a mop of curly black hair. I have no idea where that image came from and you cannot imagine how deeply shocked I was to see a portrayal of God as an old pasty faced fellow with long white hair and beard.

I hear words and voices when I read. The people can be deeply real to me (I have fallen in love with fictional characters) without me having any really clear idea of how they look. But I know how they sound. The first time I *heard* a commercial for the Lord of the Rings movies was the first time I realized that I was going to hear the characters' voices and THEY MIGHT BE WRONG. I very nearly decided not to go at that point. In the end it turned out ok, though Frodo was wrong wrong wrong.

To change the subject entirely. It's very odd to see your husband confess to a whole bevy of Teresa's readers a new fault he has not yet shared with his wife.


#69 ::: Alan Bostick ::: (view all by) ::: December 27, 2003, 01:02 PM:

Mary Kay: As a child I always pictured God as a youngish, tall, dark man with a mop of curly black hair. I have no idea where that image came from....

What other answer is possible than, "Why, from your dreams, of course"?

#70 ::: Chad Orzel ::: (view all by) ::: December 27, 2003, 01:39 PM:

As a child I always pictured God as a youngish, tall, dark man with a mop of curly black hair.

That's not God, that's just Dream of the Endless...

#71 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: December 27, 2003, 05:49 PM:

Report: The roast was gorgeous. Thank you.

#72 ::: Mary Kay ::: (view all by) ::: December 27, 2003, 08:20 PM:

Alan: I am constantly amazed by your dream reports in your blog. I almost never remember what I dream and when I do, it tends to be pretty mundane.

Chad: Sorry, not getting the reference.


#73 ::: Chad Orzel ::: (view all by) ::: December 27, 2003, 08:34 PM:

Chad: Sorry, not getting the reference.

Gaiman's Sandman. Morpheus, the King of Dreams is one of the Endless, a family of eternal anthropomorphic personifications (his siblings are Death, Desire, Despair, Delerium, Destruction, and Destiny). He's depicted as a tall man dressed in black, with unruly black hair and black eyes.

#74 ::: mr tek ::: (view all by) ::: December 27, 2003, 09:51 PM:

Sorry, I never got around to posting on the mathmatical based fiction.

James P. Hoagan.

Everything he did in the 70's and 80's was based on then current quantum theory. Ramifications on quarks and smaller elements vibrating in multiple dimentions, Propulsion by projecting black holes and "falling" into them, but since they where projected a fixed distace, never reaching them.

Various possable transmision routes for information through time.

Also most of his stories included AI, either in near future being developed, or far future, being a fact of life.

All with an understanding of current physics and math well beyound my undergrad physics major taught me, but very accessable. Reasonable character driven stories.

Reading. If I am really involved in the story, I stop being aware of the printed page, and truly "see" it and sense it. If I am too tired, I fall back into seeing the page and the words, and my dyslexia Kicks in making continuing VERY difficult. It usually takes me about 2-3 pages to shift from seeing the words printed to actually seeing the action unfolding.

(books that are so sparse in their discriptions that this is hard to do of course are less exciting to me, though I vitually have never stopped reading ANYTHING, except for _The Two Towers_ . It took me three trys over a couple opf years tro wade my way the marshes. Like a stinebeck, to monotinious.

(sorry, I am handicapped at work w/o spell checker. Sorry to look illiterate here.)

BTW, same with movies. I do not COMPLEATLY lose all awareness of what is around me, but I have been surprised by many letter box movies where I find at a break, or when I get up for a moment, I "discover" it is letterbox, haveing been compleatly unaware of the lines at the top and bottom, or even the TV for that matter.

Jim R

#75 ::: Erik V. Olson ::: (view all by) ::: December 27, 2003, 10:04 PM:

As a child I always pictured God as a youngish, tall, dark man with a mop of curly black hair.

Guy Wicker is God? Wow, does that explain the Big Bang.

#76 ::: Bruce Arthurs ::: (view all by) ::: December 27, 2003, 11:16 PM:

re: "It's Different When Your Friends Do It"


That would make a delightful little children's book for the Christmas season.

#77 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: December 27, 2003, 11:20 PM:

Mary Kay: "I almost never remember what I dream and when I do, it tends to be pretty mundane."

This still amazes me, but seems pretty common in America.

There are other cultures where it is the norm to remember your dreams, the Senoi, of course, being the extreme case.

I have asked about 100 people in the USA "what did you dream last night?"

The 2 most common answers: (1) I don't remember;
(2) I don't dream.

You are in the first category. The second is flat out impossible.

I do find that artists, including writers, seem to remember their dreams more often than others. Ditto actors and psychologists. The very majors whose departments threw the best parties in Grad School.

For those who make a living from what Freud called the "primary" mental processes (note that logic is merely secondary in his analysis), dreams can be paid more attention, and thus you reward the parts of your brain associated with remembering dreams.

If you want to experience this, here's the apprach (as confirmed in recent decades by those who experience Lucid Dreaming):

(1) Keep a pad and pen by your bedside, and immediately on awaking in the middle of the night or in the morning, write down as much as you can.

(2) Emphasis on "immediately." If you stop to pee, take a pill, put slipper on, or anything else, the dreams evaporate.

(3) Alternatively, as in (1) but with a casette recorder.

(4) Do this every night. After a while, this becomes habitual.

(5) More important, as you are rewarding yourself for this behavior, you get better at it. You'll remeber more and more of the last dream, over time.

(6) After weeks or months, you'll be remembering enough of the last dream to write several pages, or dictate 10 minutes or so.

(7) Then you'll start remeber the dream befoire the last (penultimate), then the one before that "antepenultimate."

(8) Eventually (it took me 3 months) you'll have some recall of every dream that night.

(9) You'll become aware of patterns, interconnections, dare I say hotlinks between dreams...

Of course, this may sound to you like utter insanity. Anyone else back me up on this, from personal experience?

Borges writes that if you hear God talk in a dream, or read something in a book in a dream, remember it: it is VERY important to you.

I got the Gaiman reference. He's a great guy to talk to, although I only see him at Worldcons. Few people can do any professional work in even one of the dozen or so genres he's mastered.

James Hogan really loves science and math, true. He became the #1 salesman of scientific computers at DEC by going to labs, never opening his attache case of manuals and brochures and price sheets, but saying" "Exactly what kind of research do you do?" and then LISTENING with real fascination. They knew he was sincere. Eventually, DEC made him head of Sales Training at DEC, but nobody could do that as well as he.

I added 78 square feet of shelving yesterday to the shed into which my 11-room home overflows its boxes of documents. Can't wait for that paperless office...

I told the guy at the discount furniture component place "Felice Navidad." he corrected me:

Felice Neuvo Anno!

#78 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2003, 01:32 AM:

I've certainly found that I can remember many of my dreams, and that writing down at least a key image immediately makes that much easier -- this can be as little as three words. Half an hour later, when I'm sitting at the computer, I can expand those three words, usually to between half a page and a page. I can often manage to remember three dreams in a night. Then there are long periods where I don't remember any. I can still remember a dream I had when I was under 6 years old, though.

As to God talking to me in dreams, hasn't happened. But I've been initiated into being a god in more than one dream (the first initiation dream I had, I refused to join the cult; the second, I didn't ... other initiation dreams have followed). One of the odder bits in recent years involved a roadside vendor of liquid air (not frozen, just liquefied) in many different colors.

#79 ::: Jean Lansford ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2003, 02:43 AM:

I see most books I read, and I have to see and hear a scene before I can write it. My favorite authors are the ones who don't break that spell by calling attention to their prose.

The first book I can recall that I didn't lose myself in was The Virginian. I believe I was eight. The second was LotR.

#80 ::: Robert L ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2003, 03:51 AM:

I have followed the process Jonathan outlines before, and it really works. After not very long, I found it so overwhelming, writing pages an pages of details every morning, that Imore or less made a decision to taper off on it. Dreams are still there whenever I want them, though.
If you read about the side effects in the package that accompanies Percocet, one of the ones they mention is "vivid dreams." I found this to be so--the dream world, I feel in my heart, is a real place, just...somewhere else.

#81 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2003, 08:24 AM:

When I finally got to see Magical Mystery Tour, it was -- of course -- a disappointment. But the second time I saw it, I liked it.

Greatest band ever. Still, my favorite song in MMT is "Death Cab For Cutie," by the Bonzos. And not just for the strip-tease.

#82 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2003, 11:41 AM:

I have narcolepsy. Vivid dreams come with the territory, and not all of them are pleasant. This is why I always travel with a teddy bear. When you wake up out of a technicolor sensurround dolby stereo nightmare, you are at most seven years old. The bear is important.

I also have very elaborate good dreams. Some have complex plots -- real plots, I mean, not just long sequential tangles of dream-logic. Some are so funny that I laugh hard enough to wake myself up. But my favorites are the ones where I'm painting pictures. I can remember those in detail. Some of the images from them have gotten recycled into Tor covers.

#83 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2003, 09:11 PM:

The link on Las Vegas is fascinating -- especially since the last time I heard about labor in Las Vegas was ~20 years ago, when the American Chemical Society convention moved there from San Francisco a short time before opening due to a threatened hotel strike. I wonder how well those methods could be transferred to other cities and how much they depend on the city's high service density and continued rapid expansion.

#84 ::: Mary Kay ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2003, 10:18 PM:

JVS: Yeah, I went to lots of drama school parties when I was a grad student too. They usually started around midnight. Like parties at cons before we all got so old.

I've heard of the recall tricks you mention and I don't know if they'd work for me. It took years to convince me I dreamed regularly because I remember them so seldom. I sleep like the dead -- I have slept through earthquakes and laugh at alarm clocks -- and those of us who sleep really heavily always have trouble remembering dreams. I'm seldom conscious of memories at all even when I first open my eyes. I've tried. When I do remember dreams they're very vivid as a rule. I can still remember a nightmare I had at 6 years old. It's probably all complicated by my weird brain chemistry too. I know that when we experiment with meds it definitely affects my sleep and what dreams I remember. Usually they get even more mundane.

Chad: Thanks for the explanation. One of these days I'm going to *have* to read more Gaiman. I've only read one of his books for complicated reasons having to do with my own prejudices and quirks rather than anything else. Though I still think American Gods didn't deserve all those awards.


#85 ::: Mary Kay ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2003, 10:33 PM:

Oh my goodness. That Hiroshige print is amazing. And, somehow, looks like the cover for a fantasy novel I want to read.


#86 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2003, 11:05 PM:

Regarding that AFA poll: Someone has come forward and confessed to using a script to stuff the ballot on the pro-gay side. If I weren't such a lazy bum I'd give a link. Last I checked the vote totals, "in favor of gay marriage" had a comfortable lead, even without ballot-stuffing.

#87 ::: Mr TEK ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2003, 02:06 AM:

I took the AFA poll, though I suspect I am going to be very sorry. They e-mailed me today, results are something like 32,000 for, 20,000 against, and 8,000 for civil unions.

But now I worry that I gave my e-mail to one of the worst wako right wing fringe groups out there and will get deluged with the hate mail they generate.

Oh well.

Jim Roker

#88 ::: Robert L ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2003, 04:46 AM:

Mary Kay: If you really want to remember your dreams but have trouble getting started in the process Jonathan described, start with the smallest possible thing: a word, an image, the vague impression of a subject or a feeling (was it a good dream or a bad one, even if you can't remember it?). Like a rolling snowball, your memories will grow...

But my favorites are the ones where I'm painting pictures. I can remember those in detail. Some of the images from them have gotten recycled into Tor covers.

Any examples to whow? I just hope Conan and the You-Know_What wasn't one of them...

#89 ::: Bruce A ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2003, 09:04 AM:

David Goldfarb:

One link acknowledging and discussing the ballot-stuffing in the AFA poll is here, including a description and screenshots of the scripting program used to submit votes. (link via Riba-Rambles)

It's nice that the poll intended as propaganda was blown out of the water. However, in a poll taken around December 20 by The New York Times and CBS News (presumably using much more representative sampling than the AFA ;-) , opposition to gay marriage actually increased relative to a poll taken on the subject in July (61% opposed, vs. 55% previously). Even more disturbing was the 49% of the population which thought homosexual relations should be illegal, up from 39%, and opposed by 41% who thought that they should be legal. Not marriage, but simple relations. (Presumably sexual, and behind closed doors.)

I hope this is a simple backlash to the recent wave of prominent gay media exposure, which is likely to yo-yo to a more stable (and, with luck, relaxed) position in the near future. (Say, after November, until which time I see -- wearing my Tiresias hat -- scads of very vocal, very shrill negative opinions being aired in all media. :-(

(Disclaimer: for those who don't know me, I am straight. But my kids have self-professed fairy godparents, among my other interests in this issue.)

#90 ::: Alison Scott ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2003, 12:37 PM:

Cassandra hovers overhead, exhorting you to enjoy your Rib Roast while you're still allowed to eat it.

Fans of forthcoming movies and the Flatiron Building should quickly go and look at the trailer for Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow.

I find myself completely immersed in both books and dreams, with colour and noise and narrative tension, and have the same odd blinky feeling when either is interrupted. I would remember most of the dreams if I tried, but they can be rather disturbing. Not all are, though; the other night I was definitely travelling by train with my family on a train with a picture window in the front (like the window on the top of the new double decker buses), through a safari park, with a variety of likely animals on both sides running alongside and slightly faster than the express train. There were moose.

Teresa didn't have to create all of us. She used a clever computer program that generates random commenters and specifies the ways in which they interact. With a flick of a switch, she can then create comment threads with more participants than were at Hastings or Agincourt (and certainly more giant elephants than were at Hastings or Agincourt, which nobody ever seems to mention).

#91 ::: Dan Layman-Kennedy ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2003, 12:53 PM:

Disclaimer: for those who don't know me, I am straight...

But if you keep wearing that Tiresias hat, no one will believe you.

#92 ::: LNHammer ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2003, 02:08 PM:

Following up on a comment in a previous open thread, it turns out the Arthur Rackham illustrated Alice's Adventures in Wonderland is in print. It also turns out that the ink decorations are almost as fun as the color plates.


#93 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2003, 03:45 PM:

From the preface to KANDELMAN'S KRIM by J. L. Synge:

"Every book is a protest against the loneliness that wraps itself around each of us. Through this channel, pipe, duct or capillary something gushes, rushes, flows or oozes; it matters little what that thing is, provided it moves from one of us to another; on the whole, not very much moves. For the experience of an individual, even one who leads a life called uneventful, is, when properly examined, infinitely richer than what he can read in a lifetime. Descriptions of sensations are without meaning to those who have not experienced like sensations in their own persons, and all books can do for us is to heighten what is already latent or potential in us. ... In spite of all that critics may say, there is no such thing as a good book or a bad book, absolutely, for it is not a question of one mind, one skill, one art. The receiver is as essential as the transmitter, and we should never speak of a good transmitter, absolutely, but only a good transmitter-receiver combination. What is sent out and not taken in is an absolute loss."

Interesting to think about -- not quite sure I agree, but very thought-provoking to me.

#94 ::: Lenora Rose ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2003, 03:45 PM:

I get a bit of everything when I'm reading - still pictures of scenery, very short video clips if a movement is particularly well described, music if I'm not already listening to something, the pitch, rhythm and volume of dialogue (though I cannot manage to correctly imagine really deep or really high voices right). And occasionally, vivid memory associations of the place where I last sat and read the book, or the music I was playing last time, if I'm rereading.

And yet, when I'm looking for a particular quote, I can usually recall not only the approximate location but the correct area of the page. And usually half-quote the really good turns of phrase.

As for dreams, I often forget them on waking if I wake to an alarm or to music (especially music - an attempt to recall the dream often results in replaying the song instead). I often remember the last one when I wake naturally. And I deliberately replay it several times immediately, which isn't the same as writing it down, but saves me digging out a pen.

I've never been able to make a dream work as it stands as a story - but some do make for good scenes, or creepy images.

Apparantly, up here, the latest poll says that civic unions are the favoured choice here for the gay marriage issue. I suppose that makes sense - the Winnipeg mentality in politics seems to always result in a compromise that actually pi**es off the fewest but makes nobody really happy.

#96 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2003, 08:11 PM:

Interesting idea, roasting a chicken with a beer can inside. I just hope you remember to open the can first. (using an unopened can of beer would be literally a Recipe For Disaster)

Speaking of dreams, I once dreamed that I woke up.
To be precise, I dreamed I jumped off a diving board, (dreamed that I) woke up while in free fall, and felt the splash of hitting the water after (not really) waking up.

Also, I once dreamed that I pinched myself to Make Sure I Wasn't Dreaming All This, and did not actually wake up. So pinching yourself is not a reliable way of making sure you're not dreaming.

Also, I once woke up to a clock radio gradually, with the result that I was not sure whether a certain song really existed or whether I dreamed it. The song was "Walk like an Egyptian" by the Bangles, which I later found out really does exist, but if I had never found that out, I would be in the unenviable position of thinking I am the author of a song when I am not.

#97 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2003, 10:39 PM:

Robert L: You will burn in 'L' for making me remember that disgusting piece of video.....

Jonathan Von Post: I have to agree. (I'm a writer) I have very vivid dreams. Last night I dreamed someone left me a rabbit and her baby bunny. We were living in a medieval style beam and plaster house, too, the rabbits were hidden behind a big beam. But if I can write about it when i finally wake up in the morning it's much more coherent. But then I can remember it if it's vivid enough.

#98 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2003, 03:22 PM:

Thank you for corroborating my dream-recall methodology, Tom Whitmore, Mary Kay, Alison Scott, Lenora Rose, and Paula Helm Murray.

There are, of course, side effects.

For example, vivid dreamers often have vivid nightmares. My wife shares that with me, and so, no surprise, our son does, too.

Dreams can also be terribly mundane. "To Do" lists from the day before sometimes spill over into dreams. So I've had boringly detaild dreams about cutting-and-pasting text in documents, about tax filings, and (last night) explaining to an attorney what the bases were for an appeal on his actual case, and why he should file a motion to consolidate two appeals for briefing and hearing.

I've also, in dreams, solved mathematical problems that I'd been working on the prior waking hours. Once I woke up and immediately wrote down a Matrix Exponential that I needed. Once I woke up with a tricky multiple integral solved.

I've tried, and failed, to complete writing a story about the techno-conspiracy or maybe aliens who are stealing a fraction of most humans' dreams to do big distributed computations for the Powers that Be, or maybe interstellar clients. But Silverberg did a similar thing far better in "Majipoor."

Another effect happens when you dream while a radio or TV is on, and you incorporate some of the dialogue or locations into a dream. I recently spoke with a PhD in Physics, formerly at Fermilab, now doing Quantum Computing at JPL, who dreamt (while feverish with the flu, and with a radio on) that a conservative republican african-american had been nominated to the Supreme Court. When he awoke, he told someone what a completely absurd dream he's had, and the relative informed him that it was real.

I had a very vivid dream of Jimi Hendrix choking fatally on vomit from drug overdose one night, which I remareked about after awakening, and found that it had happened in fact that very night. More likely a radio than synvhronicity or telepathy. Hendrix DID have strong apparently psychic powers, via music. I was at several of his concerts, and saw him do something weirdly feedbacky to his guitar and have 10,000 people simulatensouly stand up, then do something different and have all them sit down.

And I saw Ali Akhbar Khan play a concert, purely instrumental, that had an American audience weeping without knowing why. I followed him and his entourage afterwards. Turns out that, just before the concert, he'd heard that war had broken out in his native Bangladesh. I'm still puzzled by how music can convey emotion to those who don't even know the musical genre...

I played violin up into High School orchestras, then took a year of intense Classical Guitar from a student of a student of Segovia. Years of non-practice have actually eliminated my ability to read music. But, in dreams, I can play and compose brilliantly. But I can't write down the music when I awaken!

Happy New Year!

#99 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2003, 04:01 PM:

I can't really follow the dream methodology. When I wake up, I have to walk across the room and turn off my alarm clock (the only way the alarm clock actually gets me UP is to put it across the room) and take my morning meds. Even if I had a notebook right there, I suspect that isn't immediate enough.

Those dreams I do remember are interesting for one fact: the nightmares (and there are many) are much, much more interesting than the pleasant dreams (I can't remember the last one of those I had).

Usually I dream that I've committed some terrible crime, and that I'm being hunted down for it. Sometimes it's just the classic old being-torn-to-shreds-by-a-supernatural-creature thing. When I was a child, I used to dream that my oldest brother was in league with a powerful vampire, and that they were planning to kill us all (they usually succeeded).

I remember that when I was six, I had a recurring dream about being on a farm, and hiding in a woodpile while everyone else on the farm was killed by werewolves. (Now, I'd never actually visited a farm, and the only woodpiles I'd seen definitely could not be hidden in; on the other hand, they were cheesy-looking Wolfman kinda werewolves.) Eventually I was discovered by (I swear!) a mommy werewolf and her six-year-old kid werewolf. Having successfully argued jurisdiction with mom, the kid werewolf ripped out my throat. Then he wanted to kill some more people, but mom had had enough whining at that point, so she whacked him over the hairy ear and led him away howling.

Dreamed that one several times. I swear I'm not making this up.

#100 ::: Lenny Bailes ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2003, 05:16 PM:

Several nights ago, I dreamed that two sentient colonies of bacteria were advancing toward one another, carrying huge placards to identify their tribes. As my mind embraced and discarded various equations and aphorisms, the leaders of the colonies planted their placards next to one another to announce intent to reach a cooperative agreement about living in a shared eco-space rather than destroying one another. Just before I woke up, the minds's eye camera panned in on the two placards carried by the bacterial squad-leaders: one of a pointed-eared, blue-cowled face and the other, a red-caped blue-haired figure with an "S" on its chest.

As I tried to remember the sub-cellular aphorisms my mind was trying to blesh to each colony, my neighbor's cat stepped over the copy of Frank Miller's "The Dark Knight Strikes Again" lying on the floor next to me and started kneeding my chest.

#101 ::: nerdycellist ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2003, 06:10 PM:

Several years ago, before I was aware of "fanfic", I had the most coherent dream that was a ST:TNG - Indiana Jones crossover.

It was well plotted, had witty dialogue, a great "original" score by John Williams, and reached its climax as Indy and I leapt from our box seats at the opera while I killed Hitler with a phaser disguised as a stuffed penguin.

I woke up with a nice, warm enveloping feeling of well-being, which I attributed to either being in such close proximity to Indiana Jones (and to a lesser extent, Jean-Luc Picard), or having caused the demise of Hitler.

You can imagine how disappointed I was when I realized it had all been a dream.

And to wander back on topic, I do not keep a dream journal, as plenty of my dreams are vivid, and several of them of the variety that I would not wish someone to accidentally come across and read, nor do I care to re-read them (blushing to the ears). It seems kind of dishonest to censor your own dream journal.

#102 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2003, 06:24 PM:

Those erotic dreams that I have recorded have gotten stuck on my computer with password protection, and I'm afraid I don't remember the password (I don't record them often enough for the word to stay in my memory).

#103 ::: catie murphy ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2003, 08:47 PM:

Entirely off-topic, but a subject near and dear to our hostess' heart: Bay Area vanity press breaks hearts. Not that that's their article title, but it's certainly what's happened.

#104 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2003, 11:05 PM:

Um.... Creative Arts was not a vanity press in the standard sense of the word. Reading the article indicates they had some serious local publishing chops. They were known and respected, from the outside, as a good alternative publisher. A lot of their books sold good numbers, and they were distributed through Bookpeople.

It's a real cautionary tale for those working in alternative publishing; but many mainstream publishers could have the same thing happen to them (_not_ the copublishing part, which probably was not the major part of their line!) -- not being able to keep the ball rolling any more and folding.

In the SF/Fantasy field, Derleth co-published several books in his time at Arkham House, and the authors who have talked about this (David H. Keller, for one) all agreed that he behaved honorably.

And Creative Arts resulted in some damn good books being available; the author-screwing seems to have been a late development (not sure on this as there's not enough info in the story for me to be sure). The confused copyrights relate to contracts the authors chose to sign; if all had continued to go well with CA, this would probably not have been a problem. But remember how many mainstream publishers put all sorts of rights into contracts that wouldn't benefit the authors? Remember how J. K. Rowling's agent sold "all rights" to various characters to a big conglomerate (and the ensuing lawsuits and all)?

I'm glad you linked the story, but I think you're being a little glib, catie. It's a real cautionary tale, but not the one you make it out to be.

#105 ::: PiscusFiche ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2003, 11:28 PM:

do *you* see pictures when you read?

I get pictures, sound, and taste, but not totally consistently when it comes to the later two. VERY OCCASIONALLY I will get physical sensations approximating what characters are going through. I couldn't walk for two hours one day after reading The Little Mermaid, original Hans Christian Andersen. It felt absolutely just like having knives slice into my bones. I ached and there was spasms of pain. (I was about ten, I think, when this occured. It was very vivid. It COULD have been a pinched nerve, as I do read in very odd contorted ways, but I also am a bit of a hypochondriac.)

I also know that sometimes my mental images just happen without regard for actual description. For instance, the Voyage of the Dawn Treader sails West and not East for me, which it patently does not in the books. In my head, Narnia is South in VDT, but North in the Horse and His Boy, and North in all the books. The Shire is North in the Return of the King, but South in the Hobbit and Fellowship. (At least that is the way my internal maps are oriented. It doesn't matter that I KNOW the maps and the directions. I accept this because I have very vivid and often spacially confusing dreams which nevertheless make perfect sense to me, so I'm pretty used to dealing with lands which magically change shape when I'm not looking.)

As for dreams, I dream about five or six times a night, reliably, although sometimes I have to make executive decisions about where one dream stops and another begins, and other times I just let them all run together like treacle. I think some of my most frustrating dreams are the ones where I walk into the most amazing bookstores, look at books which don't exist, and for which I know THE WHOLE PLOT, and I wake up with only untidy remnants of those plots clinging to my memory. (I've run into this series five or six times now, and I KNOW I've never read it. I can pick up any book and tell you within a few pages if I've read it before. I can disseminate Agatha Christie mysteries years after reading them. I'm pretty certain these books haven't been written, and they aren't even shadows of my stories that I'm working. So it's very very frustrating. Almost as frustrating as the time I spoke exclusively French in a dream, and the only thing I could remember asking afterwards was, "Where is the bathroom?" or something similar. I do not speak French, except in grocery stores in Canada. And yes, I've digressed.)

BTW, I also dream in colour and without my glasses. I have also pinched myself in dreams and told myself that it was a dream. It doesn't work.

#106 ::: Alan Bostick ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2003, 01:20 AM:

Interesting recent reading sensory experience: While rereading The Fellowship of the Ring, the chapter about Frodo's recovery and feasting at Rivendell, I found myself imagining 96 hearing with my mind's ear 96 an arrangement of Bilbo's song of Earendil as performed by early Fairport Convention, sung by Sandy Denny. (It was actually a resetting of the verse to "A Sailor's Life".)

In Richard Linklater's film Waking Life one character tells the protagonist that one of the tests of dreaming is whether or not light switches work. If you're wondering if you're dreaming, toggle a light switch a couple of times and see what happens. Digital clocks won't resolve to a coherent time either, says this character. My own dream experience says that blocks of text generally don't make sense in dreams; but I've never actually used it as a test. I did look for a clock once, while dreaming, but couldn't find one; but I decided in the absence of a test that I was very likely dreaming.

Does it occur to anyone else that the question "Do you dream in color?" is only meaningful to someone who has experience of black-and-white photography and cinematography?

#107 ::: LNHammer ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2003, 11:28 AM:

I've heard about text and clocks not resolving in dreams, but it's not true for me. Not that clocks appear very often—but text is common. Sometimes, it's even the narration of the dream I'm reading.


#108 ::: PiscusFiche ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2003, 12:15 PM:

I forgot to mention that while I worked in a movie theatre, many of my co-workers and I experienced the oddity of having scrolling credits splashed onto our subconcious. Or obvious soundtracks.

#109 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2003, 12:17 PM:

The experience of knowing THAT you know something is not necessarily connected to the experience of actually knowing it. Those who've read Connie Willis' Passage know that deja vu has a specific location in the brain (I'm betting she didn't make that up).

I conjecture that many of these dream experiences have similar origins. The experience of "speaking French" in a dream need not be in any way connected to actually speaking French.

OTOH, I know someone with an enormous talent for languages, who claimed that when he was younger he had a set of serial dreams in which everyone spoke an unfamiliar language. He dreamed these dreams enough times, and vividly enough, that he was actually able to learn it and carry on conversations in it. He could still speak it when awake, too. It's possible that he was pulling my leg, but knowing the person in question I doubt it very much.

#110 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2003, 12:34 PM:

Is it actually possible to dream that you are reading? If the part of the brain that dreams is not the same as the part of the brain that reads, it might not be.

#111 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2003, 12:58 PM:

I think it's possible to dream that you're reading. I'm less sure that it's possible to actually read in a dream. OTOH, what would that mean?

AFAIK, you can dream that you're having any experience the brain is capable of perceiving. No one has ever pointed out an exception to me.

#112 ::: PiscusFiche ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2003, 01:01 PM:

Xopher: That's certainly one explanation for some of my stranger experiences. (Regarding the French--my brain is probably storing French I've heard or read while living in Canada. I know a lot of French words, but I can't parse them lingually very well yet. Thus it doesn't meant that the French conversations actually made sense. :))

I had some deja vu last night, about reading Dune to my boyfriend, and where we were sitting and the position of the book, and the whole scene. I decided I might think it was familiar because I grew up listening to my parents read Dune to each other, and I think that was one of those "I'm going to do that when I grow up" dreams that you forget about later.

#113 ::: PiscusFiche ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2003, 01:03 PM:

mean, not meant.

*writhes in embarrassment*

#114 ::: Dave Kuzminski ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2004, 12:49 PM:

Just a note to remind everyone that the annual Readers Poll is now open for nominations and votes. To do either, visit the P&E site nearest you and click on the links that will take you to the polling location (one link takes you to the rules and another on the rules page takes you to the poll). OR you can go directly to and make your selections known. Good luck, everyone.

Yes, it's open to print and electronic, so what are you waiting for? Here's a way for you to start your new year off with some fun.

#115 ::: Mary Kay ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2004, 03:33 PM:

I used to have a dream that I remember well because I always had it just on the edge of waking. I was trying to read a book and the text wouldn't come into focus. But it was all right because I knew what it said anyway. I would wake up with the text running through my head. I used to have this dream a lot when I was living in Ohio, not often since. It was a very peculiar feeling.


#116 ::: Mitch Wagner ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2004, 03:53 PM:

James P. Hogan did a really neat virtual-reality novel wherein he postulated that you could create an immersive virtual reality by tapping into the dream mechanism of the human brain. At first, the researchers attempt to create a detailed rendition of the world, but they fail because it won't stand up to close scrutiny. But then they figure out how to induce the human brain to create its own details -- if you want to include, say, a kitchen chair in your virtual reality, simply send the participant's brain a symbol for "kitchen chair," and let the brain create whatever the user thinks of when the user thinks of a kitchen chair.

The hero and heroine figure out they're trapped in virtual reality when they're sitting in the hero's kitchen discussing the fundamental weirdness of the world they find themselves in -- they examine a knife set and realize that it looks different to each of them -- the hero sees one of the knives has a nick in the handle, because his own kitchen knives at home in the real world have that nick -- but the heroine just sees a generic set of kitchen knives.

It's a very good book, but I can't help wondering what Philip K. Dick would've done with the premise.

Alan Bostick: "Does it occur to anyone else that the question "Do you dream in color?" is only meaningful to someone who has experience of black-and-white photography and cinematography?"

That is very true. Never occurred to me before, either.

I wonder if people really do dream in black-and-white then?

#117 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2004, 04:05 PM:


"We Dream in Black and White?"

It's quite a commonly-held belief that we dream in BLACK and WHITE! It's not true, of course. You can see this by the fact that at least every now-and-then you can remember a dream in which there was some colour.

So why is it believed that we dream in black and white? I know why, and I'll try to explain it, but it's not an easy thing to explain as there are extra concepts required.

The first thing is that YES it's true there are dreams in which there is no colour, but that is not because they're in black and white!

What happens is that in dreaming, the automatic checking systems that go on in the mind are turned off. So, if the queen of England visited and brought a few aliens round for tea you'd probably be working out if you'd got enough cups and whether the biscuits you'd got would be acceptable, rather than thinking that it was a bit odd to be visited by the queen and some aliens.

Also, in dreams, things which aren't relevant are just UNSPECIFIED, and there are no alarm bells to flag up that something is MISSING. So, when you're flying on a magic carpet, you can't necessarily say which shoes you might have been wearing.

But not being able to tell what shoes you had on does not imply you were barefoot. This is what happens with the COLOUR situation. In a dream, where the colour of something is relevant, you see colour, but where the colour is not relevant, there is NO COLOUR INFORMATION. But that doesn't mean it's in black&white.

Black and white is a function of televisions when the colour information is removed, but the same is not true of the mind. Take a look at a few examples, grass for example might not be green in a dream, but it's not grey like in a black and white movie. It's just not relevant what colour it is. Most people's hair colour is not grey in a dream, but just "average coloured". If you saw Zyra in a dream, you'd probably see a vivid hair colour but not necessarily be able to tell what colour it was!

It is this, the fact that "missing" information is not noticed to be missing, that fools the conscious mind on waking up into concluding that therefore by implication the dream must have been in black and white, whereas in fact it was just that colour wasn't important in that particular dream.

Plus, if anyone actually still believes that in dreams there is never any colour because the experts always say "we dream in black and white", just stop believing the experts! You'll soon wake up and find you have dreamt something which had some vivid colour!


see also
Yes, I Also Dream in Black and White

which seems mostly about Penguins (re: nerdycellist's "reached its climax as Indy and I leapt from our box seats at the opera while I killed Hitler with a phaser disguised as a stuffed penguin.")


And, lyrically:

Dream In Black & White
written by Steve Taylor
Copyright a9 1994 Soylent Tunes (ASCAP)

Suburban sun
Is slowly dying
Suburban moon
It never lives
The wife just nods when you get home now
You stay together for the kids

Six o'clock
You watch the headlines
By half past ten
Your eyes are glued
You spent the daylight making deadlines
Tonight the TV is making you

You may watch the world in color
In the corner burning bright
You may watch the world in color
But you dream in black and white

The shadows flicker
Across your face
The image sinks
Inside your brain
With just a few more magic dollars
You could make yourself a name

Sporty cars
Surround your castle
With a roof antenna
Reaching to the sky
A commercial message for the good life
Is just a simulated lie

You may watch the world in color
Your only friend when times are tight
You may watch the world in color
But you dream in black and white

#118 ::: Jordin Kare ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2004, 05:08 PM:

Xopher: I had a recurring dream about being on a farm, and hiding in a woodpile while everyone else on the farm was killed by werewolves. ... Eventually I was discovered by (I swear!) a mommy werewolf and her six-year-old kid werewolf.

That's what happens when you rest your were-y head.

#119 ::: Jordin Kare ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2004, 05:37 PM:

With respect to digital clocks not resolving in dreams: I have many frequently-recurring elements in my dreams. Some are fairly obvious -- when I'm feeling like my life is out of control, my dreams will include sequences where I'm trying to drive a car with faulty brakes and steering, such that I keep just barely avoiding disastrous accidents.

However, one element that I sometimes recognize as evidence that I'm dreaming is that I can't dial a telephone. I'll need to call someone, urgently, and usually via some long calling-card sequence. All the available phones have either rotary dials or weirdly-laid-out touchtone pads with many extra keys and numbers arranged randomly. I'll mis-dial two or three times, and then start concentrating hard on the dial/keypad, and still be unable to dial/press the digits I intend to; at that point the dream breaks up and I wake myself up.

Just for amusement's sake, I'll add that another of my recurring dream sequences is the standard anxiety dream where I'm back in college, at the end of a term, and realize that I've missed most of one or more classes. However, my dream reaction is almost always to remind myself that I've already got my Ph.D., I'm back at MIT (usually working on a second doctorate) for fun, and I was just taking classes out of interest, so it doesn't make any difference whether I pass them -- and then I'm disappointed when I wake up.

#120 ::: Mitch Wagner ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2004, 05:38 PM:

Jonathan - That's great. Thanks for posting.

I think perhaps the mechanism for visualization in dreams is the same as the mechanism for visualizing when we read. We visualize what we need to visualize, and in the amount of detail we need to draw us into the story.

#121 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2004, 08:47 AM:

wrt flying refrigerators (latest Particle as I post) -- maybe the towers have too many graduates of MIT, which has a long tradition of dropping things. (I've seen a jack-o-lantern dropped from the top of the 22-story Green Building, but never been to the annual calibration-by-dropped-piano.) According to legend, the ]student government[, under pressure from the administration, swore to deal vigorously with the perpetrators of the very next such episode, but had to end its hearing on the matter when several successive witnesses swore that they'd seen a refrigerator climb out on a 4th-floor ledge, scream "I can't take it any more!" and hurl itself to the sidewalk below.

#122 ::: Lois Fundis ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2004, 10:13 AM:

Do they get David Letterman in S.A.? He used to have fun dropping things from high places, though lately he seems to have replaced this with the "Will it float?" gag.

#123 ::: PiscusFiche ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2004, 01:19 PM:

Random dream last night: Being cornered by a buffalo on top of the laundry machines in my parent's basement. I was pretty convinced that the buffalo wouldn't be able to make it down the stairs and through the door, but apparently I was wrong.

#124 ::: LNHammer ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2004, 02:12 PM:

Random dream last night: Finding the checkbook of Chip Delaney (so the name on the checks) and then, later, finding Delaney in the trunk of a car borrowed for a roadtrip to New York. He was apparently tinkering with the transmission, but I never got a clear explanation.


#125 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2004, 02:44 PM:

LNHammer : Clearly, Chip Delaney was Deconstructing the transmission. "Hmmm, it look a lot like a Chevy Babel-17, or maybe a Beta-2, but if I follow these Lines of Power, taking into account The Motion of Light in Water, it most resembles a Nova..."

PiscusFiche: did those Laundry Machines take Buffalo nickels?

CHip: Flying Toasters are cute, flying refrigerators give me the chills... But how many Smoots did they fall?

#126 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2004, 09:34 PM:

Dunno how it was spelled on the checks in Larry's dream, but here on Earth-I it's spelled Delany.

#127 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2004, 09:52 PM:

Aren92t we Earth-Prime?

The Earth-1 Delany is the one who wrote Dhalgren and The Mad Man. The Earth-2 Delany is the Golden Age Chip, who wrote Babel-17 and Nova.

This was all before a chunk of red clarionite split him into two authors, one of whom lives in Times Square Red, the other in Times Square Blue.

#128 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2004, 10:05 PM:

To be fair, bringing peace between Earth-1 and Earth-2, Chip Delany is a great-nephew of the Delaney [with an e] sisters, with whom America fell in love when they published their autobiography at ages 101 and 103. The press made a fuss. Oprah made a fuss. Then Emily Mann made a play out of their extraordinary memoirs.

I've been confused ever since.

#129 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2004, 11:37 PM:

Oh come on JVP, you were confused before that!

(Someone had to say it, and I guess I just got here first.... -- add appropriate smileys)

#130 ::: Lois Fundis ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2004, 01:41 AM:

I think it's possible to dream that you're reading. I'm less sure that it's possible to actually read in a dream.

Cue I Can Read With My Eyes Shut, Dr. Seuss.

I've had dreams in which I was reading. When I was in grade school (maybe second grade) I once complained to my mom because she woke me up in the middle of a book -- never did find out how it ended. I've also (and more recently) had deja-vu experiences of reading something in real life that resembled something I'd read in a dream.

One of the weirdest dreams I ever had was about my car. It broke down so I folded it up into a package about the size of a tote-bag and carried it down the hill to the garage!

#131 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2004, 06:42 AM:

To be fair, bringing peace between Earth-1 and Earth-2, Chip Delany is a great-nephew of the Delaney [with an e] sisters, with whom America fell in love when they published their autobiography at ages 101 and 103.

Um, sorry, but on the cover of my copy of the book, they spell their names the same way that Chip does. No extra e.

In re dreams: I used to read alt.dreams for a while and did a lot of thinking about lucid dreams. Since it's quite true that what you think about while waking carries over into your dreaming, it should be no surprise that I had more lucid dreams during that period. I clearly remember having dreams in which I read text; however, if I were to look away from the page and then read it again, nearly always what the text said would have changed.

Not infrequently I'd have dreams about telekinetic powers. (That being one of my top super-power fantasies.) One thing I found interesting was that the telekinesis worked exactly the same way in all of them.

For a while there, the discovery that I had telekinesis was enough to tip me over into a lucid-dreaming state.

The weirdest dream I've had was one not long after Katie and I got together. I was sleeping over at her place, and woke up next to her. Then, a bit later, I woke up next to her again -- I'd only been dreaming the first waking. Then a bit later I woke up next to her again. And then I woke up again; this time I complained to her about the weird dream I'd been having.

And then I really woke up.

#132 ::: Bruce Arthurs ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2004, 07:40 AM:

Usually what I remember of my dreams is solely the fact that I -had- a dream.

But I actually remembered one this morning, just before waking up a while ago:

An underwater room made of stone, partly illuminated by light coming in thru a doorway on one wall. An odd creature, that at first reminds me of a silverfish, swims thru the doorway, its motions like a small whale.

As it gets closer, I see the creature is actually made of assembled bones, like a dinosaur exhibit in a museum. And as it gets closer still, I realize it is made out of -human- bones, rearranged to create something completely different.

I even think I understand what the dream means:

I think it means that I watched PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN yesterday while still recovering from the flu.

- - - - -

This thread also reminds me of one of Ed Cagle's stories:

Ed had been having dreams, of which the only thing he could remember was that in them he had learned the Secrets of the Universe and the Answers To Everything. But he couldn't remember the actual SOTUs and ATEs themselves.

So he put a pad of paper and a pencil next to his bed. And the next time he had one of the SOTU/ATE dreams, he managed to wake up and scrawl a few words onto the pad before dropping back off to sleep.

In the morning, he found he had written the following words on the pad:


#133 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2004, 08:26 AM:

David Goldfarb is right and Jonathan Vos Post is wrong; the Delany sisters, authors of Having Our Say, did in fact apparently spell their name without a second E.

Possibly Jonathan Vos Post confused himself by using the usually-reliable method of typing each spelling variant into Google and seeing which one gets the most hits. "Delany sisters" gets "about 14,700"; "Delaney sisters" gets "about 30,200". As it happens, though, that latter figure appears to be inflated by the presence of a pair of fictional "Delaney sisters," spelled that way, in Star Trek: Voyager. Who knew?

Anyway, even leaving aside the Star Trek reference, it's striking how many reviews and magazine articles refer to the "Delaney sisters," often blithely alternating between correct and incorrect spellings. Clearly this is one of those spelling issues that a significant portion of the population simply can't see.

#134 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2004, 10:10 AM:

JvP: flying refrigerators give me the chills... But how many Smoots did they fall?

Received theology (I drifted around MIT for a long time but was enrolled elsewhere) is that Smoots are a horizontal measure as they must be taken lying down.

#135 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2004, 01:46 PM:


I have the grace to accept when an editor tells me I'm wrong on a matter of copy. All I have left is the warm feeling that a majority of people agree with me. As does Al Gore...


So, there's no sense in computing the volume of the universe in cubic smoots, or using the google calculator to convert furlongs per fortnight into smoots per second?


Thanks for linking to "Why is this number interesting?" I spent about 4 hours last night finding "interesting" things about 32 of the numbers he ["efreiedman"] hadn't found interesting.

I'm assuming that at least one of your readers doesn't know the math joke about such a list. Okay, one is intersting because it is the first nonzero integer, two is interesting because it is the only even prime, three is interesting because it is the first triangular number.... Eventually, you come to a number about which there are no interesting properties. AHA! The first uninteresting number. That's interesting. Keep going this way. You see? "All numbers are interesting."

#136 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2004, 01:49 PM:

Actually, the "majority of people" appear to be interested in Star Trek, not in Chip's great-aunts.

#137 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2004, 02:28 PM:

The majority of people are women, actually. The majority of all people, ever, are dead. I am not a dead woman. But, of course, you're not only right, but deeply right.

Back when I was an official Space Activist, on the Board of OASIS (the local chapter of the National Space Society), I at one point ran for the Board of the National Space Society. At an event I attended, where keynote speaker Huffington (the Congressman then-husband) was a no show, I was deep in discussion about our real space future with a gaggle of other activists.

Suddenly, someone leaned in through a doorway and said "Star Trek's on TV now!" and the whole gaggle ran to the other room to watch. I lost the international election by about 100 votes.

Greg Benford refers to Star Trek as "Science Fiction Lite" and says (I paraphrase) that watching it lets people think that they are somehow participating in the Space Program, but with less effort than, say, writing a letter to a Senator.

As to what many people believe, Arts & Letters daily just posted a hotlink to:

"Aliens Cause Global Warming"
A lecture by Michael Crichton
Caltech Michelin Lecture
January 17, 2003

I can't resist keying in the 6 stupidest questions about Astronomy, from Bob Berman's column in the Jan 2004 "Astronomy" (I leave out his amusing intro and annotations):

Honorable Mention: "If you could see X-rays, what color would they be?"

#5: "During Europe's 1999 solar eclipse, I explained to a group of people the locations of various planets in the sky during totality. One person asked, 'And during the eclipse, where will the Moon be?'"

#4: "A high school senior asked me, her science teacher, 'If the sun is a star, why can't we see it at night?'"

#3: "Another science teacher sent in a photocopy of the original note from a high school student (maybe thinking that unless he supplied proof, we wouldn't believe it). This senior, after looking at a photograph of Earth from space, asked, 'What keeps the blue from falling off?'"

#2: "A man asked, 'If stars are so huge, how did the astronauts steer around them on their way to the Moon?'"

#1: "After hearing a radio announcer warn listeners not to stare at the upcoming solar eclipse, one woman called the station and asked in an exasperated tone, 'If the eclipse is so dangerous, what are they having it?'"

#138 ::: PiscusFiche ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2004, 04:33 PM:

*laughs at the questions*

I am afeared for the American educational system.

#139 ::: adamsj ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2004, 06:12 PM:

Late to the thread, but:

I'm really sorry to hear this about Creative Arts.

They were the first company to reprint John Holmes' The Horn (Thunder's Mouth has it now, last I looked), and published at least one of Al Young's novels, Sitting Pretty, as well as his and Janet Colemans' Mingus/Mingus. I also seem to recall them doing Kerouac's Town, by Barry Gifford. Those are all really good books.

As I recall, they were very helpful when we did the Al Young booksigning, way back in the eighties (damn--I'm old!), quickly shipping a fair number of copies without any previous relationship.

The company my beautiful and talented wife used to work for did a certain amount of what I guess was either co-publishing or subsidized publishing, but they did it in what appeared to me to be an ethical manner. They didn't make marketing promises, but simply agreed to produce the books for a fee. In a few cases, they agreed to put the books out under their own imprint.

It's that marketing thing that gets me.

It's one thing to agree to produce a book for a fee. Binderies do that, don't they? It's another to offer to publish a book, with all the unspoken promises that word entails.

#140 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2004, 10:16 PM:

Hee hee, the biological molecule I am is DNA! Neglected to save it, but something like "Incredibly complex, way too intellectual, nobody understands you."

#141 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2004, 12:30 AM:

That's what happens when you rest your were-y head.

Jordin, you are EVIL. Let's be friends forever.

The Earth-1 Delany is the one who wrote Dhalgren and The Mad Man.

An interesting viewpoint. I've read Dhalgren over and over, and couldn't get through the first third of The Mad Man. It was the piss-drinking. Just couldn't do it (or read about it). Do the later bits have any redeeming value?

The majority of all people, ever, are dead.

I don't think this is true any more. It's that exponential population growth thing. I seem to recall learning somewhere that the number of people alive now exceeds the number who have ever lived and died, since the earliest homo sapiens. I find this fact obscurely terrifying, and would be delighted to be refuted. I must say, though, that it makes sense to me as a believer in reincarnation: too many new souls == frelled world.

Piscus, your fear is justified, but not by those questions. Against stupidity, the Gods themselves contend in vain. And the smartest person can have an attack of the stupids (in fact the very smart IME are MORE prone to such attacks than the moderately smart or average).

I bet most people could work this stuff out if they thought for a little while. Unfortunately most people don't much like to think. And most people also pay no attention to the moon, for example. Otherwise everyone, not just Randolph and I, would have gone "Oh, give me a break" at the scene in Ladyhawke where there's an eclipse of the sun -- the day after a full moon. (To be honest I'm not sure I noticed it at the time myself. Randolph did, though.)

#142 ::: Alan Bostick ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2004, 02:02 AM:

Be comforted, Xopher: the dead outnumber the living by somewhere between 10:1 and 100:1. (Even if one assumes that all humanity sprang from Eve's loins in 4004 BC, that means that some 25 billion people have been born since then, and the dead outnumber the living by 3 or 4 to 1.)

#143 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2004, 05:00 AM:

Actually, the web site I thank Teresa for linking to is called "What's special about this number?"

I worked out interesting things about some more numbers that he (and the many experts he implicitly cites) had neglected. That got my brain working in a strange angle. When I went to bed, around 2 a.m. local time, just as I was starting into dreamland, an unusual mathematical notion drifted by. I insisted to myself that I remember it. When I awoke around 9 a.m., I grabbed some paper and jotted down the crux.

After coffee, and returning a purse to Dr. Geoffrey Landis' SF-author wife Mary Turzillo, I scribbled the page to equations and numbers on both sides, spent an hour with a pocket calculator (the math is subtle but the arithmetic simple), checked against the Online Encyclopedia of Integer Sequences, and found to my surprise that I'd discovered an apparently original (yet elementary) set of integer sequences.

So I wrote a complete mathematics paper for journal submission, which was done within 12 hours of the near-dream. My 14-year-old son (a Heinlein Competent type) found one calculation error and one typo. Dr.George Hockney (MIT, FermiLab, JPL) found some coefficients that didn't add up. I fixed all that. The 10-page paper is ready to mail now. Just selecting the optimal first market to submit. Market is a loose term. They don't pay for such papers. You are supposed to get the perks of academic life as a side-effect.

So a strange combination of Teresa's link, gaps in the list of "interesting numbers", and the arithmetic stuff I did for this blog about the number 2004, somehow led me through semiconsciousness to one of the fastest pieces of professional work I've ever done.

If anyone cares, I may mention this again after I get (presumably) accepted by Sloane's team at what used to be Bell Labs for inclusion in the aforementioned Encyclopedia, and word back from a math journal. Even the title of the paper would spill the beans. And we all know how you need magic beans to climb the beanstalk towards tenure...

I must say, if I read this posting in a math-themed science fiction story, I'd probably say: "hey, THAT's not how mathematical discoveries get made." Truth is stranger than fiction.

Some of the horribly wrong questions about Astronomy have a poetic ring to them, though.
"If the sun is a star, why can't we see it at night?" has 13 monosyllables, but provokes images...

Alan Bostick has apparently earned a degree in Theomathematics since I saw him last, but thanks for going with the flow of my thanatocalculus.

#144 ::: LNHammer ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2004, 10:36 AM:

I've no idea how it was spelled in the dream checkbook. My Delaney was the fart of an incompletely awake brain.


#145 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2004, 04:45 AM:

My biological molecule was water. I wish there had been a "see all possible results" button.

On the King William's College quiz, I got 17, of which I am fairly certain of 11, and would not be surprised to be wrong about 6. In addition I recognized the titles of three of Eliot's Four Quartets but did not know the name of the fourth, so I didn't count that one.

I expect that I could get quite a few more if I allowed myself the use of Google.

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