Pancake vs. Insomnia
I have had insomnia for so long now, I can scarcely recall the last time that I just climbed into bed (at a decent hour, mind) and slept. This wasn’t so much an issue back when I was a non-parent type person – naps could be had here and there, having a late morning lie-in wasn’t an unreasonable option – but now with napping and sleeping-in being mere relics of my distant past, I just hate not being able to fall asleep when I want to. I have tried so many things to get around the issue of sleeplessness – namely alcohol, exercise, comfy bedding, hot tea and tantrums – but nothing works for me quite as well as trying to watch something that I am really excited about seeing. In fact, I can actually say that the amount of interest that I have in viewing a particular movie or show is directly proportionate to the likelihood of my falling asleep during it. When I finally got my hands on a copy of Anvil! The Story of Anvil (a fantastic documentary film that I really, REALLY wanted to see) I was having vividly detailed anxiety dreams about my graduate school thesis show within the first fifteen minutes of watching it. This unfortunate experience was very frustrating at the time, but it ultimately led me to discover my fool-proof method of combating restlessness – and it is both simple and reliable! If you have trouble falling asleep at night, I highly recommend compiling a list of titles that you are super interested in watching – then find yourself a really uncomfortable, neck-wrenching place on your couch to recline on, press play on your remote and get ready to be sawing logs within minutes!
Here is my list of favorite things to fall asleep to – your own tastes may vary of course, but if you are even a little bit like me, any of these should do the trick:
Unmistaken Child released in 2008 by Oscilloscope, this documentary follows a young monk from Nepal as he searches for a child believed to be the reincarnate of his deceased master. Given little more than a hand-drawn map and the first-name initial of the child’s father, Tenzin Zopa travels on foot to the Tsum Valley for his seemingly impossible quest. Once found, the Unmistaken Child (called such because he or she will show undisputable signs of being the reincarnation of the monk, Geshe Lama Konchog) must successfully perform a series of tests - such as correctly identifying the belongings of the deceased monk as his/her own. Directed by Nati Baratz, this film was shot beautifully with a haunting score that utilizes Tibetan Throat Singing (ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ). The words quiet, contemplative, soothing, compelling and eerie all describe it best. It took me four hours to watch this because I kept falling asleep early and waking up at the end, I had to go back to the beginning repeatedly to watch the whole thing.
La fille sur le ponte (Girl on the Bridge) Directed by Patrice Leconte and released in 1999, this black and white french film tells the story of a young, suicidal woman, Adele (Vanessa Paradis), and an older gentleman, Gabor (Daniel Auteuil), a professional knife thrower (who is also suicidal). Intending to end their lives, the two meet on a bridge and eventually Gabor convinces Adele to become his target and they take their collaborative novelty act on the road. Wildly successful in the international carnival circuit, Adele enjoys her new found change of luck – though she remains plagued by her low self-esteem and a predilection for sex with strangers while Gabor occasionally wounds her with knives. Shot on location in France, Italy, Turkey and Greece, the film contains a glamourous, kicky make-over montage that inspired me to get one of the worst hair-cuts I have ever had in my life. The film is lovely and optimistic – even after repeated viewings, it remains one of my favorite things in the world to watch….and fall asleep to. It is good times.
Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares (UK) created in 2004, this show has a very simple premise. Celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay visits a failing restaurant – at the restrautuer’s request – and has a week’s time to make improvements. There is a US version of this show, also starring Gordon Ramsay, but I personally prefer the UK version. Ramsay is famous for having a bad temper and a foul mouth and nothing provokes his ire quite like poor service, revolting meals, negligible food handling and storage and unfortunate looking restaurant decor. In any given episode you are likely to hear countless F-bombs, but every now and again you will be treated to Ramsay removing his own shirt, barfing off-camera (while on mic) and inventive, expletive-rich name calling. The first time that I watched this, I dreamed that I was still working as a cocktail waitress at the Velvet Dog and one of my customers kept asking for bangers and mash - I was unable to take their order because everytime they said “bangers” I laughed and giggled like a fourth-grade girl (which, incidentally, is EXACTLY how I would respond to a person requesting ”bangers” while awake – because I lack emotional maturity.) Try it, it will influence your dreams!
Man vs. Food Host Adam Richman travels all over the US specifically to dine at various restaurants known for their pig-out appeal, as well as to compete in local eating challenges – which usually involve portion size and/or spiciness. The food challenges tend to be my favorite part of the show (so naturally, I tend to fall asleep before I get to enjoy them) and Mr. Richman is a formidable competitor, though he physically suffers for his efforts. Depending on what he is eating – he may end up in tears, sweating through his clothes or even vomiting! Disgusting and hilarious, this is one of my favorite things in the world to watch – for the last three weeks, I have seen at least one episode a night and have fallen asleep successfully each time – this show is wonderful.
Signers Koffer – Unterwegs mit Roman Signer made in 1995, this documentary about Swiss performance artist Roman Signer is perhaps my favorite thing to watch while combating insomnia. As a general rule, I tend to dislike most perfomance art work, but Signer’s pieces are charming, funny, engaging and very clever. In one of my favorites, Signer marches comically onto a snow and ice covered pond until the ice breaks and he falls through up to his arms – then he has to get himself out but when he can’t – he panics…so simple and so wonderful. His sequences are inventive and completely dreamlike, watching them late at night blurs the lines of conciousness in the most surreal way. That said, my Art Dork Line In The Sand gets drawn here – I can’t recommend that everyone cross it, but I do love it so. My dreams have never been sweeter.