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What if the rings around Saturn were made not of rocks and asteroids as one might expect, but instead, of 8x10 glossy head shots of that chick from the Black Eyed Peas?


Crazy thought, I know, but stick with me for a minute. What if we got word back from the Hubble telescope or whatever that this was really, truly and actually the case? That would cause a lot of trouble. We’d have to forget everything we know about reality and the universe and start over again from a much weirder place. I’ll bet the astronomer who finds that out just turns off the telescope and says, Forget it. No way am I telling anyone about this. This will fuck things up.


But I’m not thinking about astronomy, I’m thinking about dreams. Not dreams in the “it’s-my-dream-to-become-a-podiatrist” kind of way (it is, but for all the wrong reasons), but rather dreams as in those rather extreme film reels that shoot through our brains every night. Especially on nights when you’ve had too much coffee, or are wearing nicotine patch to quit smoking, but are smoking anyway. And then you end up dreaming that the rings around Saturn are made of publicity photos of Fergie.


Jung popularized the idea that there is a collective unconscious populated with archetypes; race-memory concepts and ideas that have an independent existence. A kind of notional DNA for the human psyche. When we dream, we tap into this metasphere of ideas. That seems right to me, I can get with that. But I’m moderately freaked out when I wake up and realize that the American pop culture superconsciousness has somehow invaded the private unconsciousness of my dreams.


Know what I mean? It seems wrong in some way, or at least impolite. For example, why was Liev Schreiber eating cereal in my head the other night? As an actor, I like Schreiber a lot, and he seems like a nice, thoughtful fellow in interviews. But these are my dreams, dammit, and more to the point, that was my cereal. I also didn’t appreciate it when he morphed into werewolf clergyman and started chewing on my arm, but I suppose I can’t really blame Mr. Schreiber personally for that. I mean, I wrote his publicist a letter, but I really don’t expect any kind of apology.


I’m guessing that people have been dreaming about their contemporary cultural celebrities for a long time, even before our current era of media saturation. For instance, my Mom dreams about Clark Gable a lot, and has been since she was 16. I never ask about the details, because frankly, I don’t want to know. Probably the ancient Norsemen dreamt about Odin and Freya. And it’s likely my cats dream about Bast, or maybe Garfield. But somehow dreaming about old movie stars and dead gods seems more, well, dignified, I suppose. Garfield, less so.


It’s the randomness of these dream cameos that has me worried. I don’t think about Liev Schreiber too often, and I don’t even like the Black Eyed Peas. The idea that any half-assed media personality might pop into an otherwise pleasant dream makes me nervous. Recent guests include Rosie Perez, The X-Men (all of them), and a delightful underwater visit with Anderson Cooper in a wetsuit.


Nothing to panic about, but it’s only a matter of time before things get ugly. It’s no secret that there are a lot of very irresponsible things happening in the world of pop-culture entertainment right now — Mariah Carey’s comeback and the career output of Bret Easton Ellis, to name just two.


These are dangerous memes to just have floating around in the psychic atmosphere. What we ought to have is some sort of psychological inoculation shot to ward off these bugs, to keep them from invading and infecting our delicate subconscious systems. Otherwise, I’m going to have to stop sleeping entirely, and last time I did that I started killing hobos with croquet mallets. (Just kidding, District Attorney Hamilton! I still don’t know anything about that!)


The point I’m trying to make is that, for the love of Odin, do not drink coffee and smoke cigarettes when you’re already wearing a nicotine patch. You’ll wind up dreaming some real Salvador Dali shit, then waking up and free-associating to a plainly dangerous degree. It goes without saying that you do not want that chick from the Black Eyed Peas living in your head, uninvited, orbiting Saturn or otherwise. That way madness lies. Consider this a public service in the name of consumer advocacy journalism.

Glenn McDonald writes about popular culture from his home in lovely Chapel Hill, NC. His humor essays have been described as "grammatically consistent" and "remarkably frequent". He is editor of the Wait, Wait...Don't Tell Me daily news quiz at NPR.org, and a film critic at the Raleigh News & Observer. He lives virtually at www.glenn-mcdonald.com.


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