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An Awesome Book
January 4, 2009 8:29 AM   Subscribe

An Awesome Book : About the power of dreams. Ostensibly "for children."

Please pardon the horizontal scrolling.
posted by grapefruitmoon (63 comments total) 34 users marked this as a favorite

 
Horizontal scrolling works great for these kinds of things. Nice post.
posted by odinsdream at 8:44 AM on January 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


Bonzai's not gonna like this post.
posted by WolfDaddy at 8:46 AM on January 4, 2009


I dream of owning matching silverware too.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 8:59 AM on January 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


yay!
posted by anotherpanacea at 9:05 AM on January 4, 2009


You know who else had big dreams?
posted by empath at 9:20 AM on January 4, 2009 [6 favorites]


At story's end, the link to dallasclayton.com leads to a generic GoDaddy page, but Google cache still shows the former site.

Here's a video of Dallas Clayton pitching "An Awesome Book": "It's better than any book that's ever existed."

And here's a link to a page of his poems, including "Resolutions: Part I":

-Attend hypnotism school
-Learn to hypnotize people
-Hypnotize teacher into giving me back the money I paid to learn to hypnotize
-Use hypnotism to trick people into thinking they are factory workers
-Buy factory (extra money left over from saving on hypnotism school + bad economy)
-Think of something to make
-Make it (Pick something easy)
-Use hypnotized factory workers to help with assembly, shipping, heavy lifting, etc.
-Chill

Lastly, here's his blog (last entry June 7, 2008): More Popular Than You.
posted by terranova at 9:21 AM on January 4, 2009 [2 favorites]


Candy cane machine

I'd really like to see a children's book that had the (franky, pretty tired) "dream big" part as chapter one and then chapters 2-10 about how to make your dream a reality. Talk to people, learn the skills you need, gain power, amass resources, do experiments, etc, etc.

If you take the time to actually look around and learn, you'll find that there is really not much of a shortage of dreams and ideas. What's lacking is willpower and gumption to get them accomplished. That's because of stupid messages in hundreds of children's books, movies and TV shows that "dreams come true". No, they don't. Dreams are made true.
posted by DU at 9:27 AM on January 4, 2009 [16 favorites]


DU: I guess you didn't grow up on the Great Brain books, like many of us did.

The "hero" is a capitalistic kid who will do anything to make money, even cheating his friends. There is very little redemption too, as I recall. He sometimes shows shame but mostly he gets richer while his friends get poorer.
posted by vacapinta at 9:36 AM on January 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


Actually I just woke up from a dream where I was a wizard protecting a world famous scientist who cured AIDS (and who happened to be a girl I went to high school with) and her fiance from demonic ninjas. And I'm 25. So I think my dreams are doing okay, as far as actual "electrical impulses in your brain while you're sleeping combined with rapid eye movement" go.
posted by Caduceus at 9:45 AM on January 4, 2009


No, I read the Great Brain. And it's a great example of "dream big" vs "do something with your ideas". J.D. has big dreams like any kid, but hasn't the foggiest how to implement them, let alone the willpower to follow through. Tom, on the other hand, applies brain sweat and (sometimes) elbow grease to actually do it. (He often swindles someone into doing the hard work, but not always.)

Granted, he cheats his friends without much shame. But he also does good, such as saving those kids from the cave. But that's neither here nor there. I didn't see anything in this book about dreaming only stuff that's good for people either. Dreaming, accomplishing and ethics are all orthogonal concepts.
posted by DU at 9:46 AM on January 4, 2009


My dream is to write a book that's whimsically condescending to people who would rather have furniture than a rocket powered unicorn!

To be fair, I didn't dream of being able to sit down in my own house, per se, but now that I think about it, I am far more passionate about that prospect than I am about finding a potentially explodable massive-food-bill-requiring cloven-footed beast in my care. But then again, I've always been scared by horses, and what is a unicorn but a horse with an extra tool for stabbing?
posted by Kiablokirk at 9:52 AM on January 4, 2009 [5 favorites]


Thank you, grapefruitmoon.
posted by regicide is good for you at 9:54 AM on January 4, 2009


This is inspiring. I particularily like his blog. You could argue he might be the start of a movement which is pretty much self-help, but more honest and more abstract. Maybe the right mix for generation-y?

Oddly I just woke up from a dream where I turned down a supermodel who wanted to date me because she had glasses. I regret that decision...
posted by niccolo at 9:59 AM on January 4, 2009


Wait a minute -- are candy canes made from shredded rocket-unicorns? It really looks like that's how candy canes are made, and I'm not buying any more unless they say "UNICORN SAFE" on the package.
posted by moonmilk at 10:07 AM on January 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


Waitaminute...

what is a unicorn but a horse with an extra tool for stabbing?

This implies horses already have a standard tool for stabbing, and I can't quite figure out what that might be.

Or I just don't want to.
posted by regicide is good for you at 10:12 AM on January 4, 2009


I'd really like to see a children's book that had the (franky, pretty tired) "dream big" part as chapter one and then chapters 2-10 about how to make your dream a reality. Talk to people, learn the skills you need, gain power, amass resources, do experiments, etc, etc.

Well that sounds like lots of fun.
posted by delmoi at 10:13 AM on January 4, 2009


THEY SEE ME DREAMIN'
THEY HATIN'
posted by edheil at 10:14 AM on January 4, 2009 [2 favorites]


I was bit by a horse the other day. I'm very much glad it wasn't capable of stabbing me instead.
posted by Caduceus at 10:23 AM on January 4, 2009


DU is so right. Like you have to train kids to have unrealistic expectations. We're born with unrealistic expectations (dreams), and cherish them all our lives. From another perspective: Only a little over a century ago, cars and cellphones (scorned by the Awesome Book) would have seemed as whimsical and unlikely as the purple unicorns, or any of the other awesomely unimaginative examples of "dreams" this book has laboriously assembled and poorly illustrated. What kind of ignorant fool wouldn't dream of self-propelled chariots, or tiny wireless boxes cheap enough to be owned by poor people that allow you to talk to someone on the other side of the world: these are truly magical, dreamlike devices. I hope kids have enough sense to vomit this purple unicorn stuff out.
posted by Faze at 10:27 AM on January 4, 2009


Nthing DU. The implication is that you are unique and special because you dream about rocket powered unicorns while your neighbor dreams only of money, cars, and cell phones. Good, creative, spiritual people dream of musical baboons and cars that run on jellybeans. Non-creative, greedy people dream only of money, cell phones, and cars that run on regular gas.

Truthfully, everyone--even the horrible people who drive regular, non-jellybean cars--once sat around having interesting thoughts and peculiar dreams, and maybe still do. Hardly any of them ever did anything about it. Many adults still have this outlook: they think their office mate with the dead soul was wishing for this all along, that when he was a boy, he wished for a tiny room with stale coffee, bad lighting, and spreadsheets. He doesn't understand your inner beauty, and wouldn't understand the value of pondering animals with wings.

It's not what you sit around wishing for that makes you special. It's what you do.
posted by The Loch Ness Monster at 10:35 AM on January 4, 2009 [8 favorites]


Will be purchasing, "for child".

No, actually, for child.
posted by Artw at 10:39 AM on January 4, 2009


What I liked about this book was that the illustrations are so appealing that the author, contrary to his intention, has made dreaming of things like igloos, covered wagons, and breakfast sandwhiches seem really worthwhile. I want some of those breakfast sandwhiches.
posted by mai at 10:43 AM on January 4, 2009


As much as I hate to agree with Faze, this is nailed: Like you have to train kids to have unrealistic expectations.

This is double nailed: It's not what you sit around wishing for that makes you special. It's what you do.
posted by DU at 10:52 AM on January 4, 2009


That was lovely. I could spend a long time there. In fact, I think I have spent time in some of those scenes.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 10:53 AM on January 4, 2009


Well that sounds like lots of fun.

I can't tell, but this sounds sarcastic. I've guess you've never spent time with a kid in a workshop. Giving them access to the means to make their dreams come true IS a lot of fun. It's also very disillusioning, but in the good way of making clear what is and isn't possible and/or easy.
posted by DU at 10:55 AM on January 4, 2009


Is this thread performance art?

I'm pretty sure I just read a goofy, rhyming book about how it's grand to revel in the senseless and silly, and how the world is too practical and rigid, and how being random and surreal and whimsical is good work, then I come in here and there are a couple of you actually decrying that approach to life as impractical and altogether too dreamy. HARUMPH!

I can almost hear the grunting and turning of newspaper pages from you old codgers. Grow down!!
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 11:17 AM on January 4, 2009 [8 favorites]


It has nothing to do with practicality. I'm just saying

- Sitting around thinking about the senseless and silly: meh.
- Sharing, reveling in, writing about the senseless and silly: yay.
- Acting on senseless and silly ideas: most excellent.
posted by The Loch Ness Monster at 12:17 PM on January 4, 2009 [2 favorites]


We don't dream of re-gu-lar clothes and chairs and cellphones, oh no. We dream of magical happy flying clothes and chairs and cellphones that sing and dance in the air, and land on the shelves of our department stores to rest for a while and then get bought at happy magical prices.

You know who dream about re-gu-lar clothes and chairs and cellphones the mostest? The kids who make them! Oh boy, let me conjure up some clockwork penguin space brigades for you to show what you're missing for being such a workaholic! If only you had dreams like ours, you too could live in a dream economy.

(lifts the newspaper back up)
posted by Anything at 12:21 PM on January 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


Will be purchasing, "for child".

They'd rather have a cellphone though.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 12:24 PM on January 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


I can't tell, but this sounds sarcastic. I've guess you've never spent time with a kid in a workshop.

Well, first of all I did find the illustrations and dream ideas in the book pretty uninspired and banal. They're "imaginative" only in the sense of randomly associating things that aren't ordinarily related to each other. But there was nothing insightful, or even particularly intresting about those associations.

But there are two problems with your comment DU. One, you're blurring two definitions of dream: Aspirations and hallucinations. Working hard during the day isn't going to make the dreams you have while asleep any more interesting. The point of the book is that you should keep imagining fantastic things (while I admit the examples he comes up with are not very imaginative at all). Imagination itself can be entertaining and worthwhile even if the process does not result in the creation of anything tangible.

Now obviously if you have an aspirational dream, to be a Doctor, for example, the best thing to do is work towards that goal. But imagination itself does not require any actual work.

The other problem is that, you know, you should let kids enjoy life a little. There will be plenty of time for their lives to suck later on.
posted by delmoi at 12:49 PM on January 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


I don't recommend using the little track ball on the mighty mouse to scroll horizontal...the dream gets wavy.

nice illo's though. I bet the artist was delighted to hear "hey I've got this children's book deal for you...no really, there's a paycheck behind it" Most artists get "I've writing this children's book and with your art we're going to make millions..."
posted by Hands of Manos at 12:57 PM on January 4, 2009


DU, I think you've got a great point in your comment ("Dreams are made true"), but I think this kind of criticism is apt only insofar as it's saying the message of the book is incomplete. Saying it's incorrect strikes me as wrong.

Because I'm pretty sure the problem of losing sight of dreams is in fact a significant one. People often do trade in dream-worthy paths that would make them shine brighter, they trade for safer or surer or more practical or more socially approved choices. This is a constant and not unreasonable pull: who *doesn't* want to be safe, feel certain, have their needs on the lower half of Maslow's hierarchy met, and enjoy basic social approval and integration?

We all want those things. If you're lucky, there's no tension between them and living the life that's meaningful to you, and some people are blessed this way. But there's no shortage of cases where tension is there, and for many people I think it does take some real work -- real practice in knowing yourself and dreaming dreams and seeing where and how they resonate within and *remembering* them -- to keep meaningful choices and paths from being marginalized. If you can't do that, all your execution skills will go into matching silverware, company TPS reports, and your 401k. All perfectly fine things, frankly... unless you trade something that meant more to you for them. That's the meaning of the Faustian bargain and we're negotiating our very own every day.

Sometimes it's difficult amongst the daily grind to remember the things that set you on fire with hope or wonder or joy or even bittersweet emotion, and people do forget sometimes and find themselves with a sleeping or dead soul. And "where there is no vision, the people perish." So, yeah, remembering to cultivate the ability to dream isn't chopped liver. And you can always give a reader of your choice a copy of something by David Allen or Steven Covey or something for his next birthday after they get this book if you're worried about this message being incomplete.
posted by weston at 1:03 PM on January 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


The artwork was reminiscent of some Architecture in Helsinki artwork, made by Will Sweeney, but Sweeney's work has sharper lines.

I like stories where all elements are real and life-like. That way, I don't have to make the connections from stories to real life. Because how many talking bears live in my neighborhood? What was the last time I rode a magic school bus? Impractical stories about fantastical settings, pfft! Or should I focus on unrealistic dreams? My home life is rather tragic, so when will I get carried away to school of magic? Even if I don't personally have the chance to defeat He Who Shall Not Be Named, couldn't I just get some magical abilities? Or get to hang out with a whomping tree?
posted by filthy light thief at 1:19 PM on January 4, 2009


What does it mean to dream big? To tie together whatever weird things you can think of?

I'm as in favor of jet-propelled whimsy as anyone on this planet, but the most awesome dreams are not those that just take two random things and combine them (unless I miss my guess, the system used to devise the things in the book). Tolkien didn't dream in this shallow manner, and his dreams were so amazing that New Line Cinema has constructed derricks there, trying to extract the money that lies in pockets under the soil, deep in the ancient cash reserves beneath Middle Earth. (Left there by the dying of the ancient lucresaurus native to those lands. This is why dragons, their descendants, love gold so much.)

Anyway, I thought that while the book had some nice bits, it wasn't as nice as the author seems to think it is (see title). People dream of the things they want and need to dream of, and we should think ill of people because of that. Whimsy is a most excellent thing, but not when it gets pushy.
posted by JHarris at 1:19 PM on January 4, 2009 [2 favorites]


>OOPS SHOULDN'T
posted by JHarris at 1:21 PM on January 4, 2009


The children must be molded, shaped and taught

That life's a looming battle to be faced and fought

If they must go on outings

These outings ought to be

Fraught with purpose, yes and practicality!
posted by Potomac Avenue at 1:28 PM on January 4, 2009


They've got to learn the honest truth.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 1:32 PM on January 4, 2009


"Jane and Michael follow Mary Poppins on her day off, to Heaven, and they meet the boy Jesus, who is still slightly scared of Mary Poppins because she was ones his nanny, and the Holy Ghost, who complains that he has not been able to get his sheet properly white since Mary Poppins left, and God the Father, who says, 'There's no making her do anything. Not her. She's Mary Poppins.'

'But you're God,' said Jane. 'You created everybody and everything. They have to do what you say.'

'Not her, said God the Father once again, and he scratched his golden beard flecked with white. 'I didn't create her. She's Mary Poppins.' "

-Neil Gaiman, "The Trouble with Susan"

Sorry to be off-topic, but that quote is all I can ever think of whenever anyone mentions Mary Poppins.

That and this. They reinforce each other in my mind.
posted by Caduceus at 2:05 PM on January 4, 2009 [2 favorites]


...this kind of criticism is apt only insofar as it's saying the message of the book is incomplete.

Which is why it was Chapter 1 of my 10 chapter hypothetical book.
posted by DU at 2:14 PM on January 4, 2009


Did anyone else think at first that the unicorns were being fed into the candy cane machine?
posted by jbickers at 2:16 PM on January 4, 2009


That is exactly what I thought, jbickers.
posted by sperose at 3:11 PM on January 4, 2009


It's not what you sit around wishing for that makes you special. It's what you do.

I think there's a vital difference between wishing and dreaming. Dreaming, in a true sense, is preparation for action, the process by which fear and confusion are metabolized in to something more useful. Wishing, in contrast, is action's deferral - often indefinitely.

If we as a people are so often caught up in endless loops of fancy, it's not because we're dreaming. It's because we've forgotten how to dream in any useful or vital way, and how to recognize it when we do it in spite of ourselves.

I agree children need to be taught how to engage in genuine action, but the step before that is visualizing what's to be done - and what can be done. Given the state of the world, and the fact that it's been wrought by such "accomplished" people, people who "do" so much in so little time, I'd say we could stand a little less doing, if it's to the benefit of more real reflection. Acting isn't necessarily active, and dreaming isn't necessarily passive.

"When the soul wishes to experience something she throws an image of the experience out before her and enters into her own image." - Meister Eckhart
posted by regicide is good for you at 3:24 PM on January 4, 2009 [2 favorites]


Seems to me that certain minds are intuitively connecting images, anticipating a narrative, but the "dreams" in the book are isolated from reality and each other: no matter how outlandish, they don't go anywhere. For dreaming big, I like Mark Teague's How I Spent My Summer Vacation; for dreaming and doing, Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney remains a favorite.
posted by woodway at 3:50 PM on January 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


Horses don't have cloven hooves. Nor do unicorns, I believe (though I can't be sure).
posted by Kraftmatic Adjustable Cheese at 4:26 PM on January 4, 2009


Traditionally, unicorns have cloven hooves like a goat. But seeing as they don't actually exist, it's easy to quibble and there are a lot of depictions of them as lacking the cloven hooves.
posted by Caduceus at 4:38 PM on January 4, 2009


A rocket-powered unicorn sounds like a lot of work. Where would it sleep? What would it eat? What would we do with the manure? Would it need vaccinations? Where would we get the rocket fuel? What if the rocket breaks down? Would you need a saddle? Would you need a license from the Department of Rocket-Propelled Animals?

You have a long way to go before I'm convinced your unicorn won't end up bored and alone in its magic toadstool stable under the porch, with just me to take care of it. And if you need to sigh and roll your eyes, young lady, you may do so from your room.

(loudly turns newspaper page)
posted by fantabulous timewaster at 4:39 PM on January 4, 2009 [4 favorites]


I'm happy to see someone is doing Shel Silverstein's thing these days. A world without some voice doing what his used to is a world i'd hate to grow up in.

Last night i had a dream where that girl from Scrubs was little red riding hood, we met at the bookstore where she was promoting this set of videos that were like chocolate somehow (everybody kept saying it). Something in the store happened and an alarm much like a tugboat toot sound went off and we had to leave. Moments later we were in this shooting gallery akin to the ones i used to see at carnivals, but at this one all of the targets were your own image projected on tvs, and you shot those smiling bullets from the cannons in super mario brothers at them... remember those? Anyhow it was a group activity, one of the guys playing was dressed as a cop and everybody else was shooting their own picture first, but the scrubs girl told me it might be better to save myself for the last shot. So i did. The end.

That dream was pretty good. Pretty good because it had just the right amount of real-world references for me... i cannot trace where they came from in the past few days - haven't seen that show, nor thought of chocolate in the past few days - but the whole shooting your own image seems like it might have some tasty analysis point.

Or i need to stop taking benadryl right at bedtime. One or the other. Also: i'm feverish.
posted by phylum sinter at 4:46 PM on January 4, 2009


Does no-one dream for the sake of dreaming any more?

I'd really like to see a children's book that had the (franky, pretty tired) "dream big" part as chapter one and then chapters 2-10 about how to make your dream a reality. Talk to people, learn the skills you need, gain power, amass resources, do experiments, etc, etc.

I'd personally like parents to offer those opportunities, and offer the resources to do so, certainly at the age this book is aimed at.
posted by urbanwhaleshark at 4:58 PM on January 4, 2009


Oh, I liked this post and book. It reminds me of "Rain Makes Applesauce" with the illustrations.
posted by questionsandanchors at 5:00 PM on January 4, 2009


Here's a link to Unicorn lore from Pliny and Isidore. Mandragore provides manuscript images of what unicorns might have looked like.
posted by woodway at 5:05 PM on January 4, 2009


Some more images of unicorns from the British Library Catalogue of Illuminated Manuscripts.
posted by woodway at 5:21 PM on January 4, 2009


Imagination viewed through the lens of realistic actualization is called planning.

The imagination is a muscle which must be exercised in some isolation, and then can be used to strengthen such diverse skills as empathy, good humor and problem solving. Most of us don't frequently trip into a tangent of imaginative riffing, and if we did, we'd have happier days. This is what I think the book is about: imagination for its own sake, not only within any framework. Imagination is fundamentally a form of meditation on our own creative powers. It's in and of itself a tool that enables us to visualize and actualize what we dream. There are no wasted dreams.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 6:03 PM on January 4, 2009 [5 favorites]


This is a nice little post and book. Imagination is one of our greatest gifts. The more interesting is our world. That is one of the really cool things about MeFi, that at its best it has tons of imaginative and creative links which help stimulate our own imagination.
posted by caddis at 6:32 PM on January 4, 2009


mmm breakfast sandwich...
posted by fuzzypantalones at 7:01 PM on January 4, 2009


QUESTIONSANDANCHORS. OH HAI THERE. I make a post and you stop by with that account that I bought for you. *MY* dreams have come true! Rocket powered unicorns, here I come!
posted by grapefruitmoon at 7:27 PM on January 4, 2009


Y'all have opinions that are way more critically developed than mine apparently, but I still think it's a cute story. Thanks, grapefruitmoon.
posted by lunit at 7:44 PM on January 4, 2009


If you take the time to actually look around and learn, you'll find that there is really not much of a shortage of dreams and ideas. What's lacking is willpower and gumption to get them accomplished. That's because of stupid messages in hundreds of children's books, movies and TV shows that "dreams come true". No, they don't. Dreams are made true.

I dunno. If I'd tried to make something out of every single dream I had, I wouldn't have had any time left to dream. Does it matter if dreams aren't realized? My own experience has shown me that it doesn't make any difference. I'm not out to be someone special. I don't mind if I disappear without a trace, like nearly everyone else on the face of the planet.

I had to have the dreams I had as a child in order to become the adult I am today, but if I'd pursued the dreams I had as a child I doubt I'd be as happy as I currently am - most of those dreams were pretty lame, and I prefer the life I have now to the one I imagined for myself then.
posted by Ritchie at 8:10 PM on January 4, 2009


Hooray! That was sweet. I am getting one for my little dreamer.
posted by shothotbot at 9:05 PM on January 4, 2009


great post,and great storybook.

I think it's important to remember that the "just putting two unrelated things together" that seems unimaginative to us adults...that shit is like mind expanding drugs to a developing child brain. Same goes for those really tedious word riddles that make every 2nd grader thing they're the playground's answer to Richard Pryor. What did the beach say to the ocean when the tide came in?

You've got your whole life to be practical, can't the kids have a few years of hats made of bubble-gum before they learn the truth about what the world is going to do to their silly little dreams?
posted by billyfleetwood at 10:22 PM on January 4, 2009


I know I'm going to regret this, but...

*puts on Straight Man hat*

I do not know, billyfleetwood! What did the beach say to the ocean when the tide came in?
posted by Pope Gustafson I at 12:28 AM on January 5, 2009


What did the beach say to the ocean when the tide came in?

Nice to sea you!
posted by grapefruitmoon at 3:26 AM on January 5, 2009


"Hearing about people's dreams is like looking through a stack of photos; if I'm not in them and no one's naked, I'm not interested."
-Dennis Reynolds
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 7:39 AM on January 5, 2009


Oh, I still dream, not in still images but in narratives that could go all kinds of ways. Humor provides an excellent refuge for creative adults, too.
posted by woodway at 9:02 AM on January 5, 2009


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