The Theme Line of Dr Moreau
I DREAMED I was designing an identity system for the mad scientist Dr Moreau, who kept changing his ridiculously long theme line after I’d arranged the type. “No, no, no! I’m not saving life, I’m creating it!”
Red All Over
ALL I REMEMBER from my dream is flushing a red towel down the toilet. It was evidence of some crime. There was a moment of horror, midway through, when it seemed that the towel would get jammed in the pipe, requiring the services of a plumber—whom I would then have to kill, because he knew too much.
My mind and welcome to it
IN MY DREAM I was designing sublime new publishing and social platforms, incandescent with features no one had ever thought of, but everybody wanted.
One of my platforms generated pages that were like a strangely compelling cross between sophisticated magazine layouts and De Stijl paintings. Only, unlike De Stijl, with its kindergarten primary colors, my platform synthesized subtle color patterns that reminded you of sky and water. Anyone – a plumber, a fishmonger – could use the tool to immediately create pages that made love to your eyes. In the hands of a designer, the output was even richer. Nothing on the web had ever touched it.
Then the dream changed, and I was no longer the creator. I was a sap who’d been off sniffing my own armpits while the internet grew up without me. A woman I know was using the platform to create magazines about herself. These weren’t just web magazines, they were paper. And they weren’t just paper. In the middle of one of her magazines was a beautiful carpet sample. The platform had designed the carpet and woven it into the binding of the printed magazine. I marveled at her output and wished I had invented the platform that allowed her to do these things. Not only was I no longer the creator, I seemed to be the last sap on earth to even hear about all these dazzling new platforms.
Then I was wandering down an endless boardwalk, ocean on my right, a parade of dreary seaside apartment buildings on my left. Each building had its own fabulous content magazine. (“Here’s what’s happening at 2171 Oceanfront Walk.”) The magazines appeared on invisible kiosks which revealed themselves as you passed in front of each building. The content, created by landlords and realtors, was so indifferent as to be unreadable. But this did not matter a bit, because the pages so dazzled in their unholy beauty that you could not look away. Every fool in the world had a meaningless publication which nobody read, but which everyone oohed and ahed at as they passed. And I — I had nothing to do with any of it. I was merely a spectator, a chump on a tiresome promenade.
For Tim and Max. You are the future.
My Glamorous Life: The Power Compels You
I DREAMED that my friend Jason Santa Maria took a job at a popular new startup that had exploded onto the world scene seemingly overnight. A fascinating visual interface was largely responsible for the popularity of the company’s new social software product. It was like a Hypercard stack that came toward you. A post full of exciting social significance just for you would appear in a self-contained deck with rounded corners. The next post would pop up on top of the first. The next, on top of that one. And so on. In my dream, people found this back-to-front pop-up effect thrilling for some reason.
Having imagined the interface, I next dreamed that I went to visit the startup. There were so many cubicles, so many shiny people running around, holding morning standups and singing a strange company song, that I could not locate my friend Jason’s desk. Someone grabbed me and told me the founder wanted to see me.
THE FOUNDER was an ordinary looking white guy in his late twenties. I was surprised that he wore beige chinos with a permapress crease. With all the TV and newspaper hubub around his product, I guess I’d expected a more stylish and charismatic presence.
The founder told me he was concerned because his mother, apparently a cofounder or at least an officer of the company, was of the belief that I had contempt for their product and disliked her personally. I assured him that I liked the product. Further, I had never met his mother, never read or heard a word about her, and felt only goodwill toward her, as I bear toward all people in the abstract. I don’t hate people I don’t know.
“It would be cool if you told mom that yourself,” he said. And suddenly two assistants were whisking me off to speak to her directly.
THE AUDITORIUM-SIZED waiting room outside the founder’s mother’s office was filled with at least a thousand people who had come to talk to her before me. They seemed to have been waiting for hours. There was an air of boredom and rapidly thinning patience, mixed with excitement and the kind of carnival atmosphere that surrounds things that blow up suddenly in the press. It felt like the jury selection room for a celebrity murder case. Only much, much bigger.
The two assistants escorted me to the very front of the auditorium, to an empty row of seats abutting the door to the founder’s mother’s private office. “Special treatment,” I thought. I was thrilled to be cutting to the front of the line, apparently as a result of the founder’s directive to his assistants. The front row chairs were reversed, facing back to the rest of the auditorium, so I was put in the somewhat uneasy position of staring out at the mass of people who had been waiting to see the founder’s mother since long before I arrived.
After a while, Ian Jacobs of the W3C was brought to the front of the room and seated near me.
We waited as other people were shown into the founder’s mother’s presence.
AFTER FIVE or six hours of drowsy waiting, I realized that the room was set up to mirror the software’s interface: people from the very back of the auditorium were first in line, and were shown into the founder’s mother’s presence first. Gradually, the hall of applicants emptied from the back to the front. Those of us in the very front of the line were actually the last people of all who would be admitted to the holy presence. It was a smart marketing touch that apparently permeated the company: everything real people did in the building in some way echoed the characteristics of the software interface — from the end of the line coming first, to the way the rounded conference tables echoed the shapes of individual news posts in the software’s back-to-front news deck.
What a smart company, I thought. And what a good joke on me, as I continued to sit there forever, waiting to see someone I’d never met, who held a baseless grudge against me, which it would one day be my task to talk her out of.
EPIC BLOG POST from Blake Watson, a web designer with spinal muscular atrophy type 2, tremendous courage and faith, and an awesome mom:
We Still Have Our Dreams at ihatestairs.org
Sleep never sleeps
Dreamed my parents were getting divorced. I’d be asking my momma why, and she would turn into my wife.
The conscious mind deals with what is in front of you, the unconscious processes what has yet to be behind you.
Only in dreams
I dreamed about you again last night.
I guess it will pass.
I dreamed that my friend R__ turned into a giant, invisible duck.
His only hope lay with a mystical lady doctor.
While she worked on a magical cure, he stayed hidden in a small safe house. A matched group of wooden advertising collectibles from the 1930s—curly-haired girls and kittens with bows in their fur—decorated the front parlor. The figurines had once been bright red, but the red had faded to pink over the decades, and the paint was peeling.
The giant, invisible duck waited and waited for the mystical lady doctor to effect a cure.
One day, the invisible duck left the safe house and found himself waddling toward a grand part of town that seemed oddly familiar.
His mind was going, becoming a duck-brain.
As he waddled, he thought, I put my foot here, I put my foot there, I put my foot here, I put my foot there.
Meanwhile, not far from where the duck found himself heading, the mystical lady doctor was inside one of R___’s beautiful houses, exploring the place with the pleased attitude of a potential inheritor.
Her male assistant was with her. He wore Operating Room scrubs and an expression of gravest concern.
“What are we doing here?” said the assistant. “We shouldn’t be here, this is R__’s house. We should be back in the lab, working on that cure.”
“Oh, there is no cure,” said the mystical lady doctor. “He’s going to stay a duck. Eventually he’ll become visible, and he’ll forget that he was a man.”
“What? How long have you known this?”
“I’ve always known it,” said the doctor, examining the china.
“Then why are we taking his money? Why are we leading him on?”
“We’re not leading him on,” she said. “We’re giving him hope.”
And she began quietly counting the spoons.
A few blocks away, the throng of pedestrians had come to a standstill, awed by the rich neighborhood’s architecture. Here tall apartment buildings rose nearly to the sun. They were made of red brick and the giant Roman arches at their bases were carefully matched, creating the effect of a planned environment.
A standing crowd was bad news for a giant, invisible duck, so R__ left the mobbed crossroads and waddled down a small side street that soon became a garden path. There was something familiar about the path, something he ought to remember, but his man-mind was fading. I put my foot here, I put my foot there, I put my foot here, I put my foot there.
Suddenly, around the corner of a large, beautiful house, two human beings appeared and bumped into him.
Everyone, including the duck, screamed in terror and surprise.
The duck recovered first.
“Doctor,” he said, “it’s me, R__. What are you doing here?”
“Oh, you gave me such a start! It’s dangerous for you to be out of the safe house. Come back with me.”
“But, where are we? What are you doing here?”
“Nowhere, nothing, come.”
The duck looked at the assistant, whose face was a mask of poorly concealed guilt. And suddenly he knew where he was.
“This is his house,” the duck said. “My house,” he corrected himself. “This is my house.”
“Your house? Of course it’s your house. We were watering the plants and checking your mail,” the doctor said, recovering. “We’ve been paying your bills, so when you resume your human life, you won’t have angry creditors at the door.” And she smiled with brilliant kindness.
Her words made the duck feel warm and safe, but then he looked again at the assistant, and suddenly he knew everything.
“You’ve been lying to me,” the duck said. “You’re not even trying to help me. You want my property! I won’t stand for this.”
But it came out quack, quack, quack.
Housing Works launch
We call ourselves web designers, but sometimes we are more than that. Sometimes we get to participate, in however small a way, in something much larger and more important than ourselves.
Started in 1990 by four members of ACT UP, Housing Works helps people who are homeless and have HIV or AIDS. Housing Works not only saves lives, it restores dignity, purpose, and hope to those whom society has cast aside. Happy Cog is honored and humbled to have worked with this amazing organization and to announce the relaunch of the Housing Works website, redesigned by Happy Cog.
Our thanks to Housing Works’s Christopher Sealey and his team—we bow endlessly in your direction, sir. And my thanks and commendation to the amazing people at Happy Cog who did the work:
- Robert Jolly: Client Relations
- Dave DeRuchie: Project Manager
- Liz Danzico: Information Architect
- Elizabeth Hare: Information Architect
- Dan Mall: Art Director/Designer
- Heather Shaw: Designer
- Jason Santa Maria: Designer
- Brian Warren: Front-end Developer
- Mark Huot: Back-end Developer
[tags]Housing Works, AIDS, HIV, homeless, homelessness, advocacy, hope, happycog, work[/tags]
A Town Called Gale
I’m still having medical problems, and at 4:00 AM I awoke in pain.
The nightmare that woke me concerned a town called Gale, Kansas.
It was a town for young murderesses and their parents.
If your child had killed another child, your family would be relocated to Gale, to start a new life under an assumed name.
There were no Holiday Inns in Gale. Tourism was not merely discouraged, it was disallowed. A visitor stopping at the town’s filling station would be subtly encouraged to drive on.
Of course, nobody from the outside world knew the secret of Gale. Nobody knew but the parents and children who lived there.
I remember thinking “murderess” was unnecessarily sex-specific and overly harsh. Maybe it was an accident. Maybe your kid hadn’t meant to push that other kid. Maybe she’d meant to push but not to kill. Maybe she had no idea what kill even meant.
Hopefully you had more than one kid. That way nobody would be sure which was the murderer.
The parents of the town accepted each other and each other’s families because everyone shared the same tragedy. But there was never trust.
The town had a library, but no newspaper collection. Internet use was monitored to prevent the curious from learning specifics about each other’s crimes.
As they grew up, the children were encouraged to date each other, to marry, to stay in the town.
Why Gale? Gustav, I imagine.
Why Kansas? Something to do with Dorothy, I suspect.
[tags]gale, kansas, dorothy, murder, murderer, dreams, parenting, families, wizard of oz[/tags]