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Archive for the ‘Dreams’ Category

*comes in and looks at empty blog.  Winces realizing the last time I posted.  Waves a little bit awkwardly and taps on the microphone a few times*

Testing, one two three.  Check check.

Hello out there in the great interwebs.  It’s been quite a time.  Though I’ve been busy as a beaver pack in a log cabin museum, I have neglected this forum.  I figured I’d toss a post up on just what I’ve been doing.  Particularly, the obsession I’ve been working on for the last 14 months.

Precious Metal Clay.

Imagine a soft clay, somewhere between terra cotta and sculpey.  Easily to make impressions, a bit difficult and messy to sculpt, but quite workable and enjoyable.   Then imagine you put the clay piece in a kiln, cooked it at upwards of 1500 degrees, and what was left behind was not fired ceramics, but fired bronze, copper, and fine silver.

Don’t imagine, that’s exactly what I’ve been bloody doing.

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When I say I work in clay, but my pieces are .999 fine silver, I mean exactly that. A Japanese corporation was trying to reclaim silver particles from old x-rays.  What they developed was expensive, unique, and just a bit odd.   So they marketed it for crazy artists.   For my geeky friends who actually read the Charlaine Harris books, that is the exact same back-story as the creation of True Blood, except with artists instead of vampires.

This stuff is a miracle.  It contains little particles of metal in an ‘organic binder’ which is a fancy way of saying non-toxic clay.   The clay holds the particles in place while the fire of the kiln burns away the clay, fuses the particles, and leaves you with a solid piece of jewelry or statuary. It’s a bit of modern alchemy in my book, and as long as you fire right, what’s left behind is 90 % as strong as if you had melted the bronze and poured it directly into a cast.  With out having to have the facilities to deal with molten metal.

That’s part of the attraction of course.  I live in the French Quarter in New Orleans, where space is a premium and I have a very nice, but very small, apartment, just a touch more than a studio with a full kitchen and bath.  Just enough room for a little jewelry kiln, and a material that I can work with my fingers like a kid and silly putty.

Of course, I’m still learning.  I’ve had many failures, and many pieces that broke in the fire or after.  Pieces I thought that were successful but broke with wear, or in shipping.  That’s part of the process with any skill, and since even the broken pieces are metal, all the clay binder removed in the fires, I just save it all as scrap for other projects later on.  While I work on my skills of blacksmithing, soldering, and braising.

 Every commission I take forces me to learn more.  Every new project I come up with has new challenges.  I started making simple stamped necklaces like this.

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And now have a small army of costumed minions.

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I get to indulge my spiritual side with totems and amulets.

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Or my geeky side with Kodama and Eyes of Agamatto.

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My only limits are my imagination, the skill of my fingers, and having the money for my clay packs.

Questions?

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For those of you who missed yesterday’s post, I’m starting a new novel.  Anyone who wants to read a rough first chapter should definitely check out the post.  It involves a federal organization that delivers and protects dreams, like the post office only much, much more fun.  With that on my mind, I thought I’d do a quick but appropriate post on one of my favorite little dream related creatures.
Now most cultures have a variety of creatures that cause nighttime distress, manipulate or deliver bad dreams, or just like to snack on sleeping people.  We discussed one of those not too long ago, the alp of German folklore.  (Hmm, wonder why I’m mentioning him again.  Really, go read yesterday’s post for a giggle.)   However, there are only a handful of standard creatures that help alleviate bad dreams.  Most traditional remedies involve chasing off or killing the creature causing your problems, or getting a friendly healer or shaman to prepare you an amulet for protection and good dreams.   The dreamcatcher concept is common in more than just the Native American cultures.
Surely though, if there are beasties and ghoulies that bring nightmares, there must be something out there that does the opposite?  Most supernatural critters exist in some form of whacky ecosystem, with predators and prey, checks and balances.  Well my favorite has always been the baku, both for it’s effectiveness and it’s outright ferocious adorableness.
The baku started as a Chinese beastie, but for reasons we’ll see has become almost wholly associated with Japan over the centuries.  There are some reports of them keeping pestilence and general evil at bay, but their most consistent trait is the ability to eat nightmares and even sometimes good dreams.   It gobbles them up whole cloth, plucking them from the sleeper’s mind and going about on their way.
And that’s it.   No other special abilities.  No shapeshifting, wish granting, or even the ability to speak.  It’s just a beastie that slurps down your subconcious neurosis.  However it has been a mainstay of Japanese culture for hundreds of years, and Chinese even longer.  Like many Asian beasts, it is described as ‘chimerical’ by folklorists of the west.  Mostly because every beast in those cultures is, or more importantly their descriptions are always hodgepodge.  Even when describing their dragons, most oriental cultures try to liken the features to the nearest regular animal they know.  So a dragon has the head of a camel, the scales of a fish, the talons of an eagle.  Ect.   It isn’t really a chimera like we think, those are just handy descriptions.
The baku is described as having the trunk of an elephant, the paws of a tiger, an ox tail and often small horns or tusks.  It’s a small little guy though.  Maybe half the height of a man, and that elephant trunk is more than adept at rooting out your nasty dreams for it’s breakfast.
Which brings us to the odd/interesting moment.  For the last thirty years, thanks to some innovative anime, the baku has become directly associated with the tapir.  To the point that the tapir is often called baku, and baku is often called tapir.  The guys with their wee trunks and snuffling behavior have hit a huge popularity level now that they have been linked to the mythology.
And I want to stress, before the story changes, that this is a brand new phenomena.  Tapir were just not linked to baku originally.  Not till later, when tapir where named mo and mahk in China because of the beasts resemblance to the myth.   For gods sake, one of the anime that helped make this happen was the magna based off Pokemon. The drowsy, a tapir like mud-dwelling critter, is also a dream-eater.  This wasn’t the first link between tapir and the more traditional, more ferocious, tiger-pawed baku, but it is one of the most prevalent. (Yes, I know these sad facts, I also know the turtles in Mario Bros. were based on kappa, and that’s where King Koopa comes from.  Mythology is Everywhere!)
So, much like the changes in the tengu, we are going to see a major paradigm shift in both popularity, and origin stories of the baku in the next fifty to a hundred years.  Which may only fascinate me, but it fascinates me wholly.  Yes yes, I know I’m crazy, but hey it’s my bizarre perspective that is supposed to make these blogs fun.  I give it five years before a tapir logo ends up on some kind of sleep aid drug.   Since the buggers are Not suited to being raised as pets, even by those wealthy enough to afford some eccentric help with their bad night’s sleep.

Writing Prompts
Baku rental agency.  The things look like vacuum cleaners already, might as well have door-to-door salesmen.
Dream plagues. What happens if a certain bad dream spreads from more than one mind?  Is a single baku enough for a village?
Chimerical practice.  Try and describe a regular animal in chimerical terms.  For instance the elephant, with a nose like a snake and huge floppy ears like a great dog.  It can be real fun to see how confusion quickly sets in when you rely on poor analogy.

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Shifty Mind

Okay, I understand that most people find posts about dreams deadly dull.  However… I haven’t used this blog in over six months and I had a lovely dream so I figure I might as well write it up.  If you like dreams, or want to see how my shifty mind works, read on.  If not, believe me, I get it.

And of course, I’m going to weave the dream into a story, and it was more disjointed in the dream, with pieces I’ve forgotten upon waking as well.  But hey, everyone is capable of the sin of editing.

This took place between ten a.m. when I went to use the bog, and twelve thirty when my alarm went off.

So it began on an island, not an island in water, but in reality.  A floating, drifting, complicated place.  The old king, and probably my father, was on trial with all the mishmash of peoples debating if he should keep the throne.  And I do mean a mishmash.  Trolls and monsters, clanking constructs and beings without form.  I was sitting between two ambassadors, neither of which were even close to human, both of which smelled, and I was so very bored.

So, to much uproar, I left mid trial and slipped off to the real world for a bit of recreation.

I ended up in a place that had parts from my time in Savannah, and parts from New Orleans where I am now.  I was working for a group of completely worthless, white trash, irritating con artists.  I was their tarot reader and they put up with me because I made more money than all of them put together with far less work.  I’m not sure why I put up with them other than it was convenient.  One day I’m walking down the street, and see a couple walking their puppies, cute if ugly little dogs somewhere between a pug and a bull-dog that wriggled like jelly as I petted them.  As I’m petting them, the mother clonks me on the head, and the family takes off, the parents shifting into dogs as they ran.

I chased, partly cause I was dizzy from the head wound, partly because I wanted to assure them that I wasn’t a threat.  I just wanted to play.  We raced through town, most of which is a blur now, and they found a hatch in a courtyard (Savannah was filled with open courtyards, New Orleans blocks theirs off)  and go underground.  I chase and now that we are out of the light I let myself shape shift into a large wolf like dog.  The family runs, terrified even more now, and hit a fence that block them in.  The mother, who looked like a bull dog (and there is no subconscious freudian thing their cause even in the dream I was laughing to myself and saying ‘of course she’s a bull dog!), turns and goes to attack me to give the others time to flee. 

Only now we are dogs, and the human misconceptions melt away when body language is so apparent.  We lock eyes, and she realizes I only want to play.  And as soon as she isn’t threatening I shift to a puppy and roll with her little ones and have a very good time.

This is only a third of the way into the dream folks, it gets worse.

I realize her husband is in trouble.  Someone is after him.  I think, though I can’t remember the transition precisely, he gets nabbed by the baddies while I’m romping with the puppies.  I remember chasing, again with the chasing, following them in the rain trying to find out what is going on.  I shift to a pigeon, but the rain is no good on my wings, I end up flopping and hopping along to the house they have taken him too.  I shift to a spider, a big, ugly spider, and crawl along the window making a web along it so I can use the threads to listen into the conversation.  Again, the rain thwarts me.  I fall off the window so hard I shift back to human and have to duck into the bushes to avoid being caught.  I turn into a large fancy rat and try to sneak inside as goons with guns come out the door and look around for the snoop.  One of them catches me, but he likes rats, and decides to keep me as a pet.  He puts me in a cage and enters a train which I realize at once is heading back to the island outside of reality.  He is taking me back home and I am not ready to go.  So I slip free and forget about the poor dogs for a while and sneak back to my apartment.

Where the head of the white trash family is trying to con somebody on the telephone so he doesn’t have to pay his bills.  He is yammering and hawing, making pathetic, whiney excuses.  He blames me for much of his woes, calling me ‘that beetle bastard’ which I still don’t understand, at least not the beetle part.  Between me and various racial slurs he at least convinces the person on the other end of the phone that he is far too annoying and irritating to deal with.   They hang up.

And come to the apartment, a smart, dangerous red-headed lady in a killer business suit.

I sit back and watch as she plays with the white trash cons.  She sells a story, about how she was so troubled over their misfortunes that she is going to, free of charge, introduce them to a special needs program.  If only they can pass some tests.  For which she will provide the equipment.  I spent several wonderful minutes watching her make them hop on one foot, shove long probes from arcane devices up their noses, and chant together the lyrics of kumbaiyah backwards.  Finally, she has the head of the family so dizzy and enthralled, that she has convinced him that he is standing in the most important place on earth, right that instant, and will have ultimate fortune should he never move again.   Ever.

As he stands like a statue, I can’t help but laugh my ass off.  She notices me for the first time and smiles and laughs with me.  I do love watching someone screw with petty thieves.  We go off for a talk and a laugh.  Much of the conversation I’ve forgotten now, but the gist of it was that I would be a stoolie.  Testify against the people I detested anyway and get forgiven a few of my own crimes.  (Don’t ask)  There is some innuendo that she and I will have more time together, better times, and I’m not sure what to make of that.  I needed time to think.  I turn and walk away from the apartment, down a typical French Quarter street, and decide at last to go back to my home on the island, at least to get some device. 

This part I will probably remember forever.

I start to run, and foot steps start to turn to beats of my wings.  In three transitions, three beats of my arms, then wings, I am a hawk.  Rising, jerking myself into the air.  Unlike the stories of werewolves and such where such transformations hurt, I feel every shift of muscle and flesh as pure pleasure.  Like a really good stretch.  I feel my fingers thin and then my long feathers catch the air.  I feel my heart race as I take flight, and start to head from the street towards home

And then my gods damned alarm clock goes off and my heart is still racing and I still feel happy aches everywhere as I’m ripped back to this bloody reality!!!

Fuck, I say.  Bloody fuck.

So.  How have your dreams been lately?

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