A Guinea Pig Special: Jeff Bridges’s Sleeping Tapes

coverLast Friday night I was a little under the weather. I had a very bad cold and I couldn’t sleep because I couldn’t breathe out of my nose. It was all kinds of awful.

So despite my best attempts at sleep, I was up until about 2:45 in the morning. I knew I wouldn’t be able to cover the bags I was certainly developing under my eyes with makeup the next morning. I prayed and bargained that, if I was made well within the next fifteen minutes, there was absolutely no way I would take the ability to breathe through my nose for granted ever again. (Even as I write this, I savor every breath of fresh air.)

It was around this point that I decided to try listening to Jeff Bridges’s sleep tapes. He’s currently hosting them on Squarespace, at a website aptly titled “Dreaming with Jeff,” which has the CD available for download: pay as you like, all proceeds to No Kid Hungry. It also allows you to stream the entire thing.  I was sick and sleep-deprived. I figured, why not? He’s knowledgeable about relaxation. He must be, it’s the Dude we’re talking about!  So I listened to the sleep tapes. And, for the fun of it, I turned on my phone’s recorder to record my reactions to the tapes.sleeping

What follows are my real-time, (mostly) unedited reactions to the tracks, one by one.

As usual, I’m not sorry.


  • Alright, off to a good start. Very new-age.
  • Wait, what? He’s laughing. Why is he laughing?
  • Jeff Bridges is talking to me. How am I supposed to sleep if the great Jeff Bridges is addressing me?
  • “Everything implies everything else.” That is deeeep.
  • “I hope [the sleep tapes] inspire you to do some cool sleepin’.” Me too, Jeff. Me too.

Sleep Dream Wake Up:

  • Ok, what’s happening now? Murmuring I think?
  • Oh what–what the–what is going on?
  • “You need to sleep so you can dream.” I KNOW. I KNOW.
  • Is this a fever dream?
  • Okay. Okay. Maybe this is getting . . . NO, NOPE, NOW THERE’S LAVA SOMEHOW???
  • Jeff Bridges is in my room and he’s probably going to kill me. I’m going to be Freddy Kruegered by the Dude.

Chimes for Dreams:

  • Oh, thank God. Calm. No more guttural noises or creepy chants.
  • This is nice, actually. I can get behind this. Can I sleep? Am I finally sleeping?
  • Am I . . .
  • No. No, I just sneezed and now I’m up and everything hurts.
  • My whole body hurts. Why. What did I do to deserve this.


  • He’s talking again. But it’s sweet. It’s the sweet, sweet voice of Jeff Bridges.
  • Oh, I’m in Egypt. I’m on the Nile. I’m on the Nile and I’m humming. No wait, Jeff Bridges is the one humming and we’re on the Nile.*
  • It’s not creepy after about ten seconds.
  • Wait. Are we at a playground now? Did you record this at a playground? Those are child noises. I can’t sleep to the sound of children yelling.

*I listened to this track again in the morning. It had nothing to do with the Nile. I don’t know why I said any of that.

Good Morning, Sweetheart:

  • Am I Jeff’s sweetheart now?  Yes, of course I’ll hum with–oh. Oh, it’s your wife, you weren’t talking to me.
  • I feel like I’m intruding on a private moment.
  • Jeff is talking about me. I’m the one trying to sleep.
  • Jeff’s wife is humming now.

See You at the Dreaming Tree:

  • Oh, it’s the kids again. I can’t believe you recorded playing children. Why. Babies are shrill.
  • I want to sleep I just want to sleep oh God why can’t I breathe?
  • “There’s a ghost in there, come see it.”  How about NO.
  • Jeff is playing with random school children now. I too am a children.
  • “I’ll see you in my dreams” strikes me as a creepy thing to say to a child.
  • I want to fly around the dream tree too.
  • What’s happening. Church bells? Kids are gone? The Ghost of Christmas Future is approaching. I’m scared. I don’t want to die. I can change. I won’t forget the lessons that the spirits have taught me and I will keep Christmas in my heart.

A Glass of Water:

  • Yes, I’m comfy. Thanks for caring, Jeff, old bean.
  • Thanks, I’d love some water. You’re my main man.
  • Oh, he’s gonna tell me a story now, isn’t he the greatest?

The Raven:

  • This is actually terrifying yet hypnotic. I read Poe’s poem earlier today; this is pretty trippy.
  • There was no plot in this bedtime story.

The Hen:

  • This entire track was just me laughing to myself.


  • “When I die . . .” No, Jeff, you can never die. You’re a national treasure.
  • Don’t spread your ashes in Ikea, Jeff.

The Sea:

  • This is nice.
  • “The sea is under the sky.” Correct. It is indeed under the sky.
  • “The door is red. I will be in the blue chair.” I’m waiting for Jeff to come to my sea cottage.
  • I just sneezed so bad, the Dude must be displeased with me.
  • Sniffle sniffle.

Temescal Canyon:

  • I’m finally staring at the pictures on the website. The scarab is staring into my soul. I am afraid.
  • I’m in the woods, walking with Jeff. I’m actually visualizing this, it’s working. I CAN SMELL THE WOODS DESPITE MY LACK OF NOSE.
  • It’s all so real.
  • Another hiker? No, Jeff, don’t wave to him. Ugh. I don’t care if his name is Neil.
  • There’s a puppy? Can we keep him?
  • Wait. Why is there an office chair in the middle of the woods? Don’t go check it out. It’s obviously a trap.
  • You kept the chair and lost the dog.
  • What a fever dream, best time ever. I want to pretend everything you want.
  • I am sitting in an office chair by a stream. Bless you.
  • Wait there’s a copter? Why is there a helicopter in the woods, is that the president?
  • Thanks, Obama.
  • What if this is “Deliverance”?
  • Jeff, I can’t hang-glide, I’m not physically fit enough. Please.
  • I’m not going to wave to Neil if you made me get on a hang-glider.

Feeling Good:

  • I’m so exhausted, that was quite a hike.
  • I feel so beautiful but also so ugly.
  • Jeff Bridges likes my haircut and thinks I’m intelligent. I matter to many people. I am accepted.
  • I have what hands? Strong hands? What?
  • I can carve a wood table yeah that’s right
  • I am a positive addition to the world.
  • Damn right I smell nice.
  • I order well at restaurants.
  • Obviously everyone wants to hear me sing happy birthday, I have golden pipes
  • I feel oddly tingly and happy. Jeff Bridges may not know me but he’s helping me love myself and for that I love Jeff Bridges.

Seeing with My Eyes Closed:

  • I’m on an emotional high. I’m also exhausted.
  • ——
  • I was almost ASLEEP UGH
  • Are we witnessing a close encounter?
  • Jeff is a philosopher of the highest caliber.
  • What is happening, Jeff? Is this flatland? I swear to God.


I actually fell asleep at this point.


So I suppose these sleeping tapes actually work. I did indeed dream excellent dreams, and although I awoke the next day with a sore throat and a stuffy nose, I nevertheless felt rested. Thanks, Jeff Bridges. Thanks.

Mistletoe, Holly, and Holiday Reads: Childhood Nostalgia Edition

Book Lovers' ChristmasIt’s the most wonderful time of the year again! Decorative lights illuminate the glowing shop windows, the air is sharp and cold, and there is so much peppermint in your food and holiday beverages that you might as well inject it intravenously. Houses start to smell like pine trees (or potato pancakes), people singing on street corners becomes pleasant instead of unsettling, and small children come to your house and beg for candy. I mean presents.

In all seriousness, this is one of my favorite times of the year, and along with raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens, my favorite thing about this season is that beloved books from childhood once again make their way off the shelf and into my arms. To read, of course. Not to cuddle. (Well . . . I mean, sometimes it’s nice to cuddle . . . never mind.)

I’ve compiled my list of some favorites, and by that I mean I had Donny do some shopping at the bookstore for me and I picked the ones I liked best. Thanks Donny, I’ll reimburse you later. (He’s not getting reimbursed.)

 1. The Tailor of Gloucester (Beatrix Potter)

tailor mouseThe author of “Peter Rabbit” never disappoints. An elderly tailor is commissioned to finish a waistcoat for a man of great importance, and it has to be ready by Christmas, which is the next day. The tailor sends his faithful cat, Simpkin, to go buy the twist of cherry-colored silk needed for the trimming, as well as some dinner. While Simpkin the cat goes off into the streets of Gloucester to buy the twist, the Tailor finds some mice under a tea cup that the cat had captured earlier, as cats do, and he releases them. When Simpkin returns and finds his mice have escaped with help from the Tailor, he hides the twist. For revenge. (Speaking from experience, this is pretty realistic. My cat hides my stuff all the time when she’s miffed.)

I won’t tell you the rest. (Spoilers!) But it’s a charming story that has entertained me for years, and the fact that it’s written for children shouldn’t stop you from enjoying this beautifully told and illustrated story. What are the holidays for, if not nostalgia?

2. Nicholas St. North and the Battle of the Nightmare King (William Joyce)

nicholas st northThis is the first book in the Guardians of Childhood series, written by William Joyce, who’s also the man behind a few of your favorite animated movies. This series inspired the Dreamworks film Rise of the Guardians, although the movie differs from the book in several ways.

In this first book, Nicholas St. North, a young rogue with a heavy Russian accent and two very kick-ass swords, is called upon to defend a secret and magical colony of children from the Nightmare King. That’s not a detailed summary, I know, but this is a great book and I want you all to go out and read it. Your kids will love it. Don’t have kids? Pretend you do when you buy the book, then read it at home in your favorite armchair with some milk and cookies. Because you’re an adult and it’s Christmas, dammit.

3. The Latke Who Couldn’t Stop Screaming (Lemony Snicket)

snicket latkeI’ll read anything written by Lemony Snicket, and this book is the best Christmas-Hanukkah mashup story ever written. The story begins with the birth of a latke (“a word which here means, ‘potato pancake’”). This latke, who comes into the world screaming, jumps out of the frying pan and runs from the house, encountering Christmas decorations along the way who simply don’t understand the significance of the latke or Hanukkah. Understandably, the poor misunderstood potato pancake screams in frustration after each encounter, until finally he is taken in by a Jewish family who reheat him:

It is very frustrating not to be understood in this world. If you say one thing, and keep being told that you mean something else, it can make you want to scream. But somewhere in the world there is a place for all of us, whether you are an electric form of decoration, a peppermint scented sweet, a source of timber, or a potato pancake. On a cold, snowy night, everyone and everything should be welcome somewhere. And the Latke was welcome into a home full of people who understood what a latke is and how it fits into its particular holiday.

And then they ate it.

4. Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins (Eric Kimmel)

hanukkah goblinsI’m not Jewish, but this book was read to me throughout my childhood, and it’s one of my favorites. Hershel, a popular figure from Jewish folklore, stumbles upon a town whose people haven’t lighted their menorahs on the first night of Hanukkah. When he inquires as to why, the town tells him that goblins who haunt the synagogue prevent them from doing so. They break their dreidels and terrorize the people. So Hershel, a trickster, decides to outwit the goblins and break their curse. Through a series of fantastical encounters that I will not spoil, including a rather scary encounter with the Goblin King, Hershel is able to break the power of the goblins on the town. (There’s also some great art in this book.)

5. A Christmas Carol (Charles Dickens)

christmas presentOf course, how can I make a list about holiday children’s stories and not talk about my all-time favorite, A Christmas Carol? Written because Dickens was short on cash and needed some (quick), A Christmas Carol tells the story of a miserly old man who no longer recognizes the joys of Christmas and only values, well, money. The irony. He’s then visited by the ghost of his dead business partner, Jacob Marley, who is chained and forced to wander the earth because he put profit over people or something. In a last-ditch effort to save Scrooge’s soul, three spirits appear to him over the course of three nights. The story both thrills and chills its readers, and has stood the test of time for a very good reason, but it’s often abridged or shortened for kids because of the complexity. If you have kids, please don’t do that to them! They’re smarter than you think, and will cherish this book for years.


Donny tells me that I’ve run out of time. Donny is a Grinch. What are your favorite books to read this time of year?

Don’t miss WHYY’s interview with Vikram Paralkar!

Recently Vikram Paralkar, author of The Afflictions, visited The Pulse to chat with Peter Crimmins about the inspirations behind his strange and haunting fictional encyclopedia of medicine:

Vikram ParalkarIn his day job as an oncologist, Paralkar, the scientist, realizes that disease does not make ethical sense, nor theological, nor moral sense.

“It’s intrinsic to people that we find a moral purpose to things,” said Paralkar. “Especially with cancer, people ask – why did this happen to me? The answer is because cells divide and sometimes they make mistakes. That answer is immensely unsatisfying. It’s just the way we are programmed, we try to find reasons and patterns.”


Head over to WHYY public radio and give it a listen!



The Best (and Worst) Broadway Musicals Based on Literature

A Gentleman's Guide to Love and MurderI’ve been a musical theater nerd since I was a wee babbie.  In fact, I used to dream of performing on Broadway someday (ha), and even though I haven’t made it to the Great White Way, I still sing songs from musicals every chance I get. I have never been ashamed of this. I am a ham.

But one of my favorite things, as somebody who adores musical theater and also has a passionate love of books, is getting to see those two things come together into one big Song-and-Dance-and-Story fest. When the characters from my favorite novels come tap-dancing out under the stage lights, I am filled with effervescent joy. (That’s right, I said effervescent. Probably sounded just as creepy out loud as it did in my head, didn’t it?)

But it isn’t always rainbows and lollipops. Sometimes these adaptations are terrible. Sometimes, the things Broadway does to great novels are absolutely horrendous. Straight-up nightmare fuel. Or at least bad enough to make me want to distance myself from everything connected to them.

So here’s my top three best and worst of literary Broadway:

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Thnks fr th Bk Mmrs

Now that I’ve exposed myself as pop-punk-loving trash with that post title (this season I’m thankful for Fall Out Boy), I want to talk to you about one of the best things in the world: Thanksgiving. Why is it great? No, not because we get to stuff our faces with delicious turkey, or croissants. It’s because it’s the one day of the year when Americans stop complaining about all that crap we don’t have (like that report I needed on my desk two weeks ago, Donny) and appreciate with a full (ha) heart all the stuff we do have, like the love and support of our families, our jobs, our friends, and of course, our books.

The staff of Lanternfish came together recently to share the books that we’re thankful for. (Except for Donny. Donny doesn’t read. Donny isn’t real. Shh, nobody tell him.)


ieOkay, books I’m thankful for this year…the first one is a no-brainer. It’s gotta be something by Gabriel García Márquez, the granddaddy of magical realism (may he rest in peace, and may his hair turn into a river of copper that grows and grows for all time). I think I’m going to go with The Incredible and Sad Tale of Innocent Eréndira and Her Soulless Grandmother. It was the first thing I read by Márquez, in a Spanish class when I was fifteen, and it became my gateway drug: an introduction not just to magical realism but also to how much power fiction has to throw you into the perspective of someone very different from you — maybe someone who’s powerless and voiceless and forgotten by the world, except in this book, where she gets to speak.

My second choice is Robert Hilburn’s biography of Johnny Cash, one of my favorite things that I read this year. It’s a long read, maybe a little too long, but worth it, because you get to watch a passionate and complicated life unfold in such detail that in the end you feel like you’ve actually experienced life in someone else’s shoes. The story is told fairly, respectfully, but unflinchingly. I learned a ton about the music industry in the 20th century, about the tensions between living life and making art, and about the soul of an extraordinary man.


collinsFirst, Lord of the Rings! This book is deeply linked with my childhood. My father bought a leatherbound edition when I was born and started reading it to me (I kid you not) the day I came home from the hospital. So many of my early memories center around this story. Like that time when my dad told me if I ate enough mushrooms I would turn into a hobbit. That didn’t end well. I’m not sure if I was more upset because I was sick, or because I didn’t actually turn into a hobbit. I’d be a very different person without this book in my life.

My second choice is Carrying the Fire: An Astronaut’s Journeys, by Michael Collins. I got curious about this book after I watched a documentary about the Apollo program. I was charmed by Collins’s humility and dry humor in his interviews. The book recounts Collins’s experience as the third member of the Apollo XI mission — the guy who didn’t get to walk on the moon. The way that Collins tells his story is humble and humanizing, a breath of fresh air. The book reminded me of how small and insignificant I am in the scope of the universe, but in a way that was inspiring and empowering too.


WrinkleInTimeA Wrinkle in Time will hold a special place in my heart forever. It was one of the first books my dad ever read to me, and arguably is responsible for me falling in love with books in general. The incredible characters of Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Who, Mrs. Which, and Aunt Beast are still vivid in my imagination. I can still relate to Meg Murray, that young girl struggling to fit in, and I can still feel in awe of her baby brother Charles Wallace, a genius at the age of 6. I loved everything about this book and the special meaning it has for me and my father (who pulled a Jim Dale and voiced every single character in the most theatrical way possible).

The Scarlet Pimpernel, on the other hand, has special familial connections with my mother.  She’s the one who introduced me to the heroic, mysterious hero who saved aristocrats from the guillotine in revolutionary France. My favorite thing about this book, besides it being the first real superhero story (beat it, Batman) that starred a charming and genuinely good man, was that this story focused mostly on his wife, Marguerite. She is such an incredible character, balancing her past and her future, trying to save her brother with the talents and opportunities she’s given, and is ultimately the one responsible for saving her husband. Baroness Orczy won me over with this story, and the fact that I associate it with my mom is just another reason why I’m forever grateful it exists.


lesmizLes Miserables is one of the books that sparked my interest in studying literature and pursuing a publishing career. I first “read” the book after my grandmother gave me a copy around the time I was in middle school. I fell in love with the story, but at such a young age I wasn’t able to fully grasp its literary qualities. It wasn’t until I re-read the book in high school that I was able to connect more dots, pick out symbolism, and see the transformation of characters from start to end.

My fourth-grade teacher would often read books aloud to the class, mostly stories by Roald Dahl. The BFG was one story that always stuck with me growing up. As a child, I found the idea of someone or something being able to take away my nightmares a pleasant and welcome one. Dahl was able to transform the giant from a terrifying monster into one of the most lovable characters of my childhood. Who wouldn’t want their own Big Friendly Giant?

8 Pictures that Show How the Publishing Industry Has Changed in 30 Years


In Murder, She Wrote (of beloved 80s memory), New York publishing is quite a glamorous profession. But humble Jessica Fletcher, from a tiny town in Maine, isn’t going to let success change her, gosh darn it! Here’s what happens when she goes to visit her editor in New York City.

1. It’s sad in here. The editor has forgotten about us. And we put on fancy clothes and everything. Nice drapes, though.

1984 awaiting an important man

because editors are too busy and important to remember appointments, obv


2. There goes the editor! OMG quick, catch him! This may be our only chance, he’s got VIP meetings from here to next April!

1984 quick catch the publisher

i’d stop and chat but, you know, private jet waiting


3. The New York editor’s fancy publishing job has bought him a shiny mansion.

1984 piano drinks

bouquet of peach with a ketchupy aftertaste…wait why are you dressed like peter pan again


4. With a butler and everything.

1984 fireplace butler

i knew i should have majored in accounting



30 years later, the industry seems to have fallen on some hard times. Pinky the Penguin REALLY needs that next bestseller. Or else.

1. The office is a bit of a fixer-upper.

2014 penguin se renta

good price we promise


2. The roof leaks and the walls are a little crackly.

2014 drippy ceiling

drip drip drip drip drippity drip


3. But at least we’ve still got heat!

2014 trash can fire

i really think pink is your color


4. And sweet state of the art computer equipment.

2014 penguin office

wait a minute larry i forgot my aol password


Christine Neulieb is Lanternfish Press’s editorial director.

7 Literary Halloween Costumes for You & the Boo

Halloween is here, and like everyone else on the internet, we’re super stoked. Like every year, we’re trying to decide what costumes to don before we venture out into the streets in pursuit of candy. (You’re absolutely never too old to beg for free candy). But even if you aren’t planning on going trick-or-treating, you’re going to want a killer costume. Don’t you want to be the guy that everybody talks about for the rest of the evening with awe? Of course you do. That’s what we’re here for.

So how do you show off your literary prowess while also showing off your costume skills? Leave that to us. (Note: In case you want to get into couple’s costumes with your significant other or bestest friend, each of these includes a “For You & The Boo” section, for some tips on what your costume could be paired with. I chose “boo” because it is both a term of endearment and a thing ghosts say. Get it? It’s festive.) Continue reading

What Not to Read during an Epidemic

Gabriel MaxPortraying illness in literature is a tricky balancing act. On the one hand, it’s easy to treat death and disease as taboo, peppering language with euphemism and metaphor to escape the pesky vulnerable feeling of being mortal. At the other extreme, fascination with the grotesque side of the human body (we’re made of meat, after all) can devolve into lurid sensationalism.

Here are a few books in the history of plague literature that get the balance just right — though if you have a plague phobia, we recommend perhaps not reading them just now.   Continue reading

5 Unusual Literary Diseases

At the end of October, Lanternfish Press will be releasing The Afflictions: a mini-encyclopedia of strange and fantastical diseases. Trust me when I say that these illnesses range from the spine-tingling to the thought-provoking.

In honor of the fast-approaching official release (party on November 5, y’all!), we’ve gathered some of literature’s more unusual diseases. If these were real…I might never go outside again.

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Introducing THE AFFLICTIONS, by Vikram Paralkar

The Afflictions ParalkarWe’re fast gearing up for the official release of this fall’s novella: THE AFFLICTIONS, a fictional encyclopedia of archaic medicine written by a contemporary physician and scientist, Dr. Vikram Paralkar.

If you’re a fan of magical realism in general, or of beautifully written pseudo-reference works like the Book of Imaginary Beings or Invisible Cities, you don’t want to miss this! You can pre-order through Barnes & Noble or our website; the book will be shipped at the end of the month and there will be a launch party on November 5 at the Mütter Muesum of the College of Physicians:

Wednesday, November 5
Mütter Museum
19 South 22nd St
Philadelphia, PA

The event is free and open to the public, but please visit the Facebook event page and let us know if you plan to attend!
Can’t wait to see you there!