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    Paul's Dream Journal

    My girlfriend works at Scholastic, which, as you probably remember from your own childhood, is that company that occasionally comes to your school and gives you the opportunity to buy education-themed books and products, like Einstein trapper keepers and pencils that say "Education kicks @$$!" They also disseminate workbooks which require you to identify what the mouse's favorite food is. These workbooks always depressed my grade point average, because faced with the cunning little rodent staring at me from the page and daring me to identify his favorite food, I would always panic and write "potatoes".

    Apparently in the heady 90's, Scholastic branched out into interactive learning software (or "edutainment"). Their software titles are universally terrible, but they're cheap, and my girlfriend gets a big discount from the Scholastic store. So on every gift-giving occasion I can be sure one of my presents will be an educational, interactive CD-ROM.

    For my birthday this year I got the most useful one yet: a computerized dream journal called "Secret Paths to your Dreams." This program is great because, as it says on the back of the box, "you can recreate and artistically explore your dreams and thoughts like never before. By combining animations, background scenes, sound, music, and more, you'll see your dreams in incredible new ways. Dare to dream!"

    I was excited because I sometimes have pretty crazy dreams and I've often wanted to be able to effectively communicate them with other people, preferably in a computer venue. And as you know, my previous attempts have been pretty feeble. So I put in the CD-ROM and dived right in.

    When I first loaded up the program (after the first 10 times I tried to load it and it crashed to my desktop) I was greeted by half a dozen adolescent girls in nighties, all lounging in a field. Already the software was living up to its potential. This was like half of my dreams!

    The one with glasses is the one I want to be.

    But as soon as I started trying to journal my most recent dream, I came upon a problem. As the back of the box says, you can "design with 50 animated brushes and stamps [and] 25 beautiful backgrounds". The fact is, 50 is not a lot of different kinds of icons to represent all of sleeping experience. Especially when you consider that about 25 of those stamps are various kinds of oozing muds and the other 25 are non-mud-related items.

    But nevertheless, I managed to chronicle my dream. And here it is:

    Paul's Dream

    The dream took place on a snowy prison planet. One of the inmates, a grizzled but noble con patterned loosely on Jean Valjean, was helping some other cons move to a different house. He was helping them by packing their luggage into their car.


    [There is no snowy background, so I used this misty beach, which is at least pale, and put in some snowflakes. And the closest thing to a grizzled but noble con patterned loosely on Jean Valjean is this guy in a cowboy hat.]

    But while carrying the heavy luggage to the car, the con has a life-threatening hernia and falls to the snow.

    The feet mean he fell

    [Here is the con lying on his back. There's no luggage icon, so I used a patch of oozing mud.]

    The con's lover appears, and frantically tries to get medical attention from an apathetic crowd. But her pleas are tragically fraught with fatal misunderstanding, because the con's name is "Blow Job". The crowd variously thinks she is coming on to them or just deranged. "Blow Job!" she cries. "Please help Blow Job!" But her words are greeted with stony silence.

    Stony Silence

    Blow Job expires, alone and mourned only by his frantic lover. The irony and tragedy of the situation is here represented by various clouds and oozing muds:

    Irony mudsonified


    As you can see, "Secret Paths to your Dreams" is some very powerful software, marred only by a lack of a lot of different icons. Unexpectedly, the online mod community hasn't been very active in improving this title. I found zero user-created add-on brushes, which means I'll have to try to limit my further dreaming to various beach-, school-, weather-, and mud-related scenes. But what my dreams lose in diversity they will gain in edutainment. And that'll kick @$$!



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