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drs are boring May 29, 2008

Posted by Jennifer in : books , add a comment

Last week I dreamt that I willfully swallowed a few pills that would kill me within a few hours. After the suicidal act, I had several final meetings with friends and family. Through it all, I was full of regret over my obviously poor decision. The idea of pumping my stomach occurred to me, but this was a rational thought, and in my dream state, it only flitted in and out, unable to take form.  The emotions in dreams are more pure and intense than in waking life, because human rationality, mostly absent in dreams, tempers both joy and sadness. I woke up and at first I was very happy to be alive. But I also felt guilty and depressed the rest of the day.

To cure myself, I visualized my dream, refused the pills and went running instead. This is a technique that my former therapist taught me in New York. It’s also in lines with Rodger Kamenetz’s book, The History of Last Night’s Dream, which is an ambitious and literal analysis of dreams. Kamenetz, who also wrote the Jew and the Lotus, often uses the Old Testament as a source. In the chapter, "Jacob the Hero of the Revelation Dream", Kamenetz writes about how Jacob’s initial response to going up a ladder to god and heaven is appropriate awe, but then turns into analysis of how he can use the dream to improve his waking life: "Jacob turns a brilliant promise (to be protected by god) into a mere bargain."

I worry that the many biblical quotations limits the audience of Kamenetz’s book, and I wish there were more dramatic examples from the lives of others, especially women and children.  But the book did affect me in that my inkling about dreams has now turned into a conviction. Dreams may be related to life, but I prefer to think of them as an opportunity for a second life. Last night I dreamnt about a man sliding through the most dangerous streets of Philadelphia on a board, his face toward the concrete.  I don’t care why I dreamt it, I want to tap into the  pure fear and sensual pleasure in it.   Sure, it would be great if my dreams could reveal to me the secret of happiness, but maybe for that to happen, I need to focus on dreaming happy dreams.

 Dreams are a tricky subject, very similar to drugs in that the experience of having them tends to be interesting only to you, your mother and your lover. This week, I was reminded of the two risky "dr’s" when I went to a "story slam" which totally packed a fancy Philly Old City bar at 8:30 on a Tuesday night. Despite my lack of a seat, I was thrilled. In spite of the limitless joys of facebook, Wii and reality TV, we want to go out! Summer is here!

 Although the overall quality of the participants was pretty high, several of the contestants wrapped their stories around drugs. I felt like I could be talking to any dude in the world about how fucked up he got the night before. I mean, what do people want after stories like that? An Advil and some congratulations on still being alive?

Drug and alchohol experiences and dreams are difficult topics because they resist a beginning-middle-end. Instead they are "experience" stories in which you go into a bubble, have a great time, and leave the bubble, essentially unchanged unless you actually did something dramatic due to the dream or the drug: It’s the drugs are boring paradox. 

The concept of dreams being boring was best expressed to me in the Built to spill album, Almost Perfect. Unfortunately, the transcription of the lyric will not do justice to the line, so I suggest you buy the album.

Another thing you should do if you live in New York is attend the Whitney Biennial by the end of the week. (Closes on June 2) I loved a piece on blind people touching elephants. It reminded me of day-long photo shoots with my friend Gabi in the abandoned Brooklyn pool where the video was shot. It also reminded me of being 19, when I was mostly driven by the pursuit for new sensations. Sensuality now has to share space with ambition: A tough pill to swallow, but not worth dying over.  

ChessFest 2008 May 18, 2008

Posted by Jennifer in : chess , add a comment

I had a great time in Tucson last week, where Jean Hoffman and I put on ChessFest 2008, a celebration of chess that included a human chess game, a blitz tournament and a blindfold exhibition. The photo gallery below shows off some of the highlights. For more information on ChessFest 2008, check out 9queens.org and my longer story on uschess.org, which includes details on my human chess game against Kevin Zhang.