Dreams and the Origin of Artistic Inspiration

Dream Image

There are thousands of websites and self-help books dedicated to helping artists (and wanna-be artists) find the inspiration required to become the next great writer, painter, musician …

The Ancient Greeks believed that goddesses (called muses) were the inspiration for most art and went as far as to offer supplication in return for being in their favour. In a recent Ted talk, Elizabeth Gilbert, the author of the best-selling travel memoir Eat, Pray, Love, reintroduced this idea when she suggested that some kind of force outside of the the artist is at least partially responsible for the act of creation. As an example, according to Gilbert, Tom Waits was driving on a freeway when a great melody came into his head. He was unable to write it down but was afraid to loose it so he appealed to the muses: “Excuse me. Can you not see I’m driving? Do I look like I can write down a song right now? If you really want to exist, come back at a more opportune moment …  otherwise go bother somebody else today. Go bother Leonard Cohen.” According to Gilbert, at this moment Waits entered into a new relationship with his creativity that was “peculiar, wondrous, bizarre collaboration and conversation between Tom and the strange external genius that was not Tom.” (source)

For those of us who don’t necessarily believe

in fairies, muses or an external divinity, a more practical alternative to mystical intervention is that our subconscious minds have the potential to act on our conscious desires and motivations. The New York Times article Who’s Minding the Mind highlights numerous studies that show that “once covertly activated, an unconscious goal persists with the same determination that is evident in our conscious pursuits.” (source)

There are many examples of artists who say that complete or nearly complete masterpieces came to them while they were asleep, including:

  • Samuel Taylor Coleridge claims that Kubla Khan came to him in its entirety in an opium induced dream. According to the writer’s own account, when he woke up he began fervently composing line after line of poetry until he was interrupted by a visitor. After returning to the work he struggled to complete the rest of the poem because he could not remember the rest of the lines. Critics on the whole say that Kubla Khan is unlike most of Coleridge’s other work. (source)
  • According to his own account, Robert Louis Stevenson’s inspiration for Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde came to him in a dream: “For two days I went about racking my brains for a plot of any sort; and on the second night I dreamed the scene at the window, and a scene afterward split in two, in which Hyde, pursued for some crime, took the powder and underwent the change in the presence of his pursuers.” (source)
  • The melody for Yesterday, the most covered Beatles song in their entire catalog, came in its entirety to Paul McCartney in a dream. It came to him so completely that for months he was convinced that he’d plagiarized it and would play it for friends and record executives to try to determine its origins before finally accepting it as his own. (source)
  • In her introduction to the 1931 edition of Frankenstein, Mary Shelley “revealed that she got the story from a dream, in which she saw the hideous phantasm of a man stretched out, and then, on the working of some powerful engine, show signs of life, and stir with a uneasy, half vital motion.” (source)

Image Credit: An Angel in the Deluge by Ici et Ailleurs

Zero Style Engineering by Shinya Kimura

buy cialis

wscriptaccess” value=”always” />

Japanese born Shinya Kimura creates beautiful custom motorcycles. He’s best known for what is referred to as ‘Zero Style’, a concept that can be traced back how to save money on car repairs to the Japaneses aesthetic tradition of wabi sabi:

A Zero-style bike is typically based around a rigid gooseneck, a pre-1984 Harley Davidson engine, springer front end, spoked wheels and often includes parts of the bike remaining in bare metal. The inspiration came from wabi sabi (austere refinement) and the beauty of the raw materials and incorporating the essence of wa (harmony) into his designs. (source)

Something beautiful for your Saturday afternoon.

Imagined Itches: Post Bed Bug Stress Disorder

Bed Bugs

I recently spent six weeks in Mexico in a small village bordered on one edge by the sea and on the other by a large fresh water mangrove estuary. The natural state of things was intensified by the rainy season, this meant a lot of bugs. The beautiful sea shore was a mine field of sand flies while everywhere else was swarming with bat-size mosquitoes. After six weeks, my skin was a mess of red welts and the scabby remains of bites I’d over scratched.

En route to Canada I spent a few days in Puerto Vallarta in a relatively nice, well-sealed air conditioned hotel. On my second morning there, I woke up with about ten red itchy welts along the outside of one of my legs. Irritated, I shared this information on Facebook and my aunt, who has spent a lot of time traveling in North Africa, informed me that it might be bed bugs and that if we had them, we would surely carry them in our clothing and luggage along with us wherever we went. Immediately, I became obsessed – examining sheets, duvet covers, in between mattresses and within the smaller folds of my clothing and suitcase. Apart from being disgusting, one of the most difficult things about bedbugs is that they are nocturnal, very small and good at hiding; so it’s not easy to determine if you have them.

After that morning, apart from the odd set of bites I could trace to time outside, I didn’t seem to get any additional welts and my bed mate remained mostly bite free; in the absence of a bed bug sniffing dog, I’ve decided that we did not have bed bugs; but not before spending hours on Google reading about them and looking at horrible pictures.

The most interesting thing that I read about the pests is the phenomenon of ‘Post Bed Bug Stress Disorder’, which I can very much relate to though I don’t think mine is a serious case:

Many formerly rational people are waking up in the middle of the night inspecting themselves or their children for bed bug bites. They often feel phantom bed bugs crawling on their bodies while lying in bed. Perhaps the most worrisome are those individuals who are sleeping in ounces of DEET, spearmint oil or other less-friendly concoctions in the hope that bed bugs — real or imagined — will be thwarted from biting them …

These people are suffering from what I like to call PBBSD — Post Bed Bug Stress Disorder — an illness characterized

by irritability, sleeplessness, anxiety and bed bug hallucinations. Yes, these people also suffer from the physical effects of bed bug bites, but the bites go away. (source)

In 2008 a former Fox News employee successfully sued the maintenance company at NewsCorp headquarters for post traumatic stress syndrome brought on by a bed bug infestation in the building.

“My client is so acutely injured that she can’t take the subway and she is being seen by a doctor three times a week,” said Mr. Schnurman [the plaintiff’s lawyer], who has handled “hundreds” of bedbug cases, most of which have been settled out of court. “She would literally take off all her clothes at the door and put on house clothes before she would even touch her baby. (source)

Oh, and by the way: bed bug infestations are on the rise.

Night, night!

Image: Whose that jumping on the bed?!? by Sappymoosetree

Charlie Chaplin: Fun Facts

A portrait of Charlie Chaplin

There’s some

fascinating trivia about Charlie Chaplin over on IMDB:

  • He was born four days before Adolf Hitler, in 1889.
  • He had bright blue eyes.
  • His understudy in England was Stan Laurel; they sailed to America together and shared a boarding house when they arrived.
  • In 1925, he was the first actor to appear on the cover of Time magazine.
  • At the height of his popularity, he failed to win a Charlie Chaplin look-a-like contest.
  • His imprints were removed (and subsequently lost) from the Hollywood walk of fame because of his suspected communist views.
  • Although Adolf Hitler despised Chaplin, he was aware of his popularity, and grew the Chaplin moustache to endear himself to the people.
  • He never became a U.S. citizen.
  • He composed about 500 melodies, including Smile.
  • The last film he saw, in 1976, was Rocky.
  • In 1978, his dead body was stolen for over two months. When it was recovered, it was re-buried in a vault encased in cement.

Credit: Portrait photograph

of Charlie Chaplin via Wikimedia.

Eggcorns, Mondegreens and Charactonyms

order viagra online

criptaccess” value=”always” />

I like discovering linguistic terms for things that I thought were too trivial to be given an official name.


An Eggcorn is a special case of a malapropism: a mistaken phrase that retains some of the original meaning. For example, where a malapropism might be the nonsensical, “He is the very pineapple [pinnacle] of politeness“, an eggcorn might be, “Chickens coming home to roast“.

The term derives from a woman who thought acorns were egg corns.


A Mondegreen is a mis-construal of a phrase in a song, poem or lyric. The most famous of these is the Jimi Hendrix line, “Excuse me while I kiss the sky“, which is often misheard as, “Excuse me while I kiss this guy“. However, some argue that this particular example is not really a mishearing, as Jimi may have purposefully sung the line to be interpreted both ways.

The Kiss This Guy database has an excellent collection of mondegreens, including the awesome, “Might as well face it, you’re a d**k with a glove” – Addicted to Love, by Robert Palmer.

The term derives from a misheard line in a poem, that was originally, “And laid him on the green“.

(Thanks to Francesco Cetraro for pointing me to the video above, which has some wonderful mondegreens, including “Steven Seagal”, which is always funny, in any context.)

Charactonyms / Aptronyms

An Aptronym is a person’s name that suits them, such as the American football player Chuck Long. Similarly, a

Charactonym is the name of a fictional character that describes their personality, such as Mr. Bumble from Oliver Twist, or many of the adult character names from Harry Potter.