Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Frugal poets guide to dreams as inspiration

“Was it only by dreaming or writing that I could find out what I thought?” ~ Joan Didion

“Somewhere over the rainbow, skies are blue, and the dreams that you dare to dream really can come true.” ~ “Yip” Harburg, lyricist for the film “The Wizard of Oz”

Frugal poets have both an unconventional bent and creativity to release untapped or under-appreciated sources of wealth – out of necessity! Frugal poets who are resourceful adopt the philosophy “The best things in life are free.” But free is no good unless you use it. That includes tapping into our dream life.

Our greatest resource and most valuable commodity (if you can call it a commodity?) is our own life. Two-thirds of our life is spent awake. Yet, what about the other third of our life, when we’re asleep, when we enter that timeless realm of symbols and scenarios we call our dreams? Our sleeping and dreaming hours makes up a huge part of our life, a part we shouldn’t dismiss and a part that many of us totally under-utilize. Dreams are free – and can be fabulous. Are we using them to their fullest potential?

Each one of us dreams every night. When someone says, “I don’t dream,” what they really mean, according to dream experts, is “I don’t remember my dreams.” As it is during our waking hours, we get more out of life when we “pay attention.” Can’t we give a little more attention to our dreams? A poet or any person with a frugal poet’s heart, no matter their talents, pays closer attention to the details and nuances of life. A true poet has a keen sense of observation.

Why should we pay attention to only two-thirds of our life and pay not as much to the other third, when we are asleep and dreaming? Ah, we may say, but it’s only a dream! Only? Dreams are not to be dismissed as a series of frivolous visuals. A true poet never looks at a grand oak or a red-winged blackbird and says, “That’s ‘only’ a tree,” or “That’s ‘only’ a bird.” Each tree and bird carries deep its own layered significance and inspiration. So why should we look on what we dreamt just before we wake in the morning to say, “It’s ‘only’ a dream.”

Robert Moss, proponent of “active dreaming” and author of The Three ‘Only’ Things: Tapping the Power of Dreams, Coincidence and Imagination, argues quite convincingly against the notions of what many might say is “only a dream,” “only a coincidence,” and “only one’s imagination.” According to Moss, and to paraphrase Mark Twain, we observe coincidental connections around us because of the fact that “life rhymes.”

By far, not every dream is a prophetic dream or a “big” dream that may carry long-lasting significance. Yet every single dream we have is loaded with personal meaning that only we can interpret and use more fully. By digging more deeply into our dreams, we can better understand -- if not simply enjoy -- that part of ourselves that acts out these nightly dramas.

Not to mention that dreams hold a lengthy history of inspiring poems, songs, plays and other creative and inventive works. Our dreams can release a wealth of creative material if we so desire. Some have called our dream state “a secret laboratory” or “a creative studio.” If you truly use your dream world as a creative studio, you can’t beat the rent!

Beatles’ singer/songwriter Paul McCartney first imagined the tune of “Yesterday” through a dream. When he awoke, he ran to his bedside piano and pieced together the melody. As well, Beatle John Lennon said, “The best songs are the ones that come to you in the middle of the night, and you have to get up and write them down, so you can go back to sleep.”

In the twilight space between waking and dreaming, Mary Wollenstonecraft Shelley imagined the character “Frankenstein.” The chemist Kekule’ dreamt of a snake biting its own tail, which helped him identify the theoretical structure of the benzene ring and basis of organic chemistry.

Elias Howe experimented with the idea of a sewing machine, but couldn’t figure out how the mechanical needle would hold the cloth together. He had a dream in which a group of men were holding spears, but the spears had holes near the tip. This was exactly the type of needle that allowed thread to effectively sew cloth on Howe’s invention, the first sewing machine.

Horror writer Stephen King’s novels “Misery” and “It” found basis in his dreams. In an interview, King said, “I’ve always used dreams the way you’d use mirrors to look at something you couldn't see head-on, the way that you use a mirror to look at your hair in the back. To me that’s what dreams are supposed to do.” 

William Blake, Carl Sandburg, Emily Dickinson, Mary Oliver, Walt Whitman, Margaret Atwood, Gary Snyder, Nikki Giovanni, Dorothy Parker and nearly every other poet you can think of past and present have turned to their dreams as fuel for poems.

The following is a lighthearted poem by the late Polish poet and Nobel Prize winner Wislawa Szymborska. It isn’t focused on one dream, but playfully includes some of the classic dream symbols and images:

 In Praise of Dreams

In my dreams
I paint like Vermeer van Delft.

I speak fluent Greek
and not just with the living.

I drive a car
that does what I want it to.

I am gifted
and write mighty epics.

I hear voices
as clearly as any venerable saint.

My brilliance as a pianist
would stun you.

I fly the way we ought to,
i.e. on my own.

Falling from the roof,
I tumble gently to the grass.

I’ve got no problem
breathing under water.

I can’t complain:
I’ve been able to locate Atlantis.

It’s gratifying that I can always
wake up before dying.

As soon as war breaks out,
I roll over on my other side.

I’m a child of my age,
but I don’t have to be.

A few years ago,
I saw two suns.

And the night before last a penguin,
clear as day.


Friday, April 25, 2014

Is There a Real Joe Brandt?

Is There a Real Joe Brandt? Dreamer of Mega-Earthquake in California

Supposedly, in 1937, when he was 17 years old and sustained injuries from hitting his head from a fall from his horse, Joe Brandt had a series of prophetic dreams about “the big one,” a mega-earthquake to hit California some time in the future.

You can read the complete text of and/or watch a cinematic half-hour YouTube based on Joe Brandt’s diary entries on these dreams. There is also a six-minute animated dramatization of his dream presented in Spanish (Espanol).

One of the key questions this story has raised for me is – who is Joe Brandt?  Was he a real person?  If so, do any of his stats line up with the story relayed back in 1965 to author Jessica Madigan (Mei Ling), who originally published Joe’s account in 1969?

Through some not-so-extravagant research, I found a Joseph Wendell Brandt (November 19, 1919-July 5, 1995) whose last known residence was Fresno, California. His mother's name was Alice. Joseph would have been 17 years old most of the year 1937 until his birthday in November, when he would turn 18. He lived to age 75.  This information was found on ancientfaces.com and familysearch.org.

As well, Joseph W. Brandt served in the army during World War II, enlisting at age 24 in June 1944.

Joseph Brandt’s wife, Fran, who Jessica Madigan said was her closest friend, died in what might be March 1967. Outside of what Madigan said herself, it is hard to pin down anything on Fran Brandt. Also, with Fran’s death so many years prior to modern electronic technology, information is spartan.

Who for that matter was Jessica Madigan, who sometimes published under the pseudonym Mei Ling? I couldn’t find much about her personally, other than her series of small press, homespun, self-published books published between 1963-1992 on the topics of world prophecy, dreams, past lives, reincarnation and other new age issues.  She supposedly was a follower of Edgar Cayce.

Some speculate that Madigan may have fabricated Brandt’s story. However, pinning her motive on needed income during her husband’s illness doesn’t hold much water.  None of her self-published, humble-looking books were blockbusters by any stretch of the imagination. Having been in the small press business myself along with my husband, I know that most of such publication efforts are more significant as labors of love than as any venue of profit. Madigan’s first publication of Joe’s story in a Christian newsletter called “Living Water” back in 1969 could also hardly be a cash cow.

Let me suggest four different takes, one of which might be the truth about Joe Brandt’s earthquake dream story:
1.)  Everything Madigan published was a verbatim transcription from Joe Brandt’s dream diaries of 1937.
2.) Not many 17-year-olds with a mere three years of high school under their belts are as articulate, clear or as visual a writer as Brandt. Nevertheless, students his age in 1937 were likely better-trained writers, more knowledgeable about the world around them, and with greater vocabularies than many young people today.  Perhaps Madigan, as a professional writer, might have edited Brandt’s work enough to make it more cognizant to the reader.
3.) Perhaps Brandt’s written account was a little crude and sketchy. Madigan may have enhanced the writing with a lot of what-ifs that might be common among earthquakes. What did the air smell like? Did the birds and other animals disappear? What expressions did the people have when the earthquake took place? What did they do and say? Perhaps she took wider liberties in making the piece as compelling  and hard-hitting as it is by adding  a sizable number of fictive and dramatic details.
4.)  Or Madigan completely fabricated the entire piece.  

However, in regard to point number four, I find it hard to trace any kind of motive for Madigan to totally fabricate such an account, or for a honorably discharged World War II veteran and semi-skilled worker such as Brandt to allow someone to create an entirely fictitious story about him.

I don’t know if Brandt’s original handwritten diary pages still exist or if they ever existed. It would be interesting to see photographs of the original manuscript. I haven’t the faintest idea of where to even look to find them. I can’t imagine they are in any public archive.

But my search, as far as answering my original question about the authenticity of a real person who fits the description of the Joe Brandt who dreamt of an upcoming California megaquake, has me sufficiently satisfied. I believe totally that Joseph W. Brandt, who was born 1919 and died 1995 in Fresno, California, is that person.

I am a Christian and believe God can lead us in various, and sometimes unconventional, ways.  I will continue to pray for guidance, evidence and confirmation while seeking what’s true from false. ##

Postscripts: In the dream text, in which the action takes place primarily on Hollywood Boulevard in Los Angeles, a section reads, "Those crazy kids. Why are they dressed like that? Maybe it is some big Halloween doings, but it don't seem like Halloween. More like early spring."

It is interesting to note that the "Hollywood Boulevard Characters" who dress up in costume on Hollywood Blvd and ask people to pose in pictures with them for tips first appeared on Hollywood Boulevard in the early 1990s, starting with Superman, then followed by Elvis Presley and Charlie Chaplin, before slowly blossoming into more than 80 characters in current times. Obviously, this wasn't taking place when Joe Brandt wrote his diary in 1937, nor even when the account was first published in 1969.

Another phrasing from the diary, "Funny glow about them. It is a shine around their heads -- something shining." Could this be from glowing headphones and headsets that first seemed to be marketed around 2012 or just colorful headphones for that matter? A reader of this blog suggested the "funny glow about them" may in fact be the glow on their faces reflecting the light of their cellphones or iPads.

Note that in Brandt's dream, he saw a movie marquee featuring a blonde with one leg draped six-feet long. With a newly revised release date of 2018, the feature film "Blonde," a movie about Marilyn Monroe, based on the Joyce Carol Oates novel, is set to premier in the U.S. The film is being directed by Andrew Dominik and produced by Brad Pitt. Because of the film's production delays, there have been changes in casting, and Jessica Chastain will no longer play the role of Marilyn Monroe. Will the new Marilyn be Margot Robbie?

Was Joe Brandt talking about autonomous cars or self-driving cars in the following passage, about cars that can drive themselves? This technology is just emerging and may become mainstream before too many years in the future. In addition, the "baby, half-size" car he mentions resembles today's Smart car or Fiats. He wrote, "I looked out at the cars. They were honking, but not scared. They just kept moving. They didn't seem to know yet that anything was happening. Then, that white car, that baby half-sized one came sprawling from the inside lane right against the curb."

A little strange something caught my attention in the text. Everyone laughed after an initial small earthquake. "The ground shook, just an instant. People looked at each other, surprised. Then they laughed. I laughed, too. So this was what I had been waiting for. This funny little shake. It meant nothing." Do most people in California laugh at a small earthquake? Maybe they do. Or instead, wouldn't they be a little alarmed? People are surprised and laugh more often when they are expecting one thing and another happens, something not so consequential. Were people expecting a large earthquake? Is this set in a future time when earthquake prediction is more refined and accurate? Is everyone actually on edge and expecting a large earthquake when this first little small one arrives?

2017 updates: Some other points. In the dream Joe said, "I looked up at the clock down by that big theater. It was ten minutes to four. Something big was going to happen. I wondered if I went into a movie (since nobody could see me) if I'd like it. Some cardboard blond was draped over the marquess with her leg six feet long. I started to go in, but it wasn't inside."

In 1937, Joe would have been aware of the Grauman's Chinese Theater, which was famous, built in 1927 and seats around 1,000 people. But "that big theater," (the Dolby Theater?) which he did not mention by name is just down the block from the Chinese Theater. The Dolby Theater was built in 2001 and seats close to 3,500 people. Big.

But when he started to go in, it "wasn't inside." That's because the first entrance on the street leads to to a number of indoor mall shops before opening to the large outdoor area used as the red carpet for the Academy Awards. You would get to the theater only after a walk down through the shopping area and then the outdoor courtyard, since the theater itself is set far back from the street. Conversely, he also could mean that the movie he saw advertised on Hollywood Blvd. was not inside, because he only found himself in front of the shops and/or because the Dolby does not show movies, but only live entertainment.

I couldn't locate a big clock he mentioned anywhere around the Dolby Theater or the Hollywood and Highland area. Might he mean a big electronic billboard that occasionally flashes the time?

A reader informed me about the possible "5 and 10" that Joe Brandt saw on Hollywood Blvd in his dream.

The old 5-and-10-cent store (five-and-dime) previously on Hollywood Blvd. is long gone. It opened in the Kress Building in 1934 and remained until the late 1940s, at which time Frederick's of Hollywood took over, and in 2009 was transformed into an entertainment center. A replica of it was created in Disney World in Florida in a recreation of Hollywood Blvd.

Today, a $5 and $10 store (unrelated to the previous 5 and 10) stands right next to the Chinese Theater on Hollywood Blvd. This $10 store also has a Facebook page. The Hollywood and Highland Center where the store resides wasn't built until 2001. The former Kress 5 and 10 store was located about three blocks away on Hollywood Blvd, some distance from the setting of Joe Brandt's dream.

LA Weekly ran a story that included the new "5 and 10" which calls itself "Everything's $10 Luxury Accessories." However, a street-level sign out in front always advertises everything on sale for $5 for "one-day only" (see bullet point #6)