Monday, June 23, 2008

Strange World

"There may, in fact, be no such thing as coincidence." --Kyle MacLachlan as Agent Dale Cooper (Twin Peaks)

This morning was the first of two consecutive days off from work. I'd requested these two particular days off so that I could go to New York to attend a special screening of the film Ryu Ga Gotoku (Like A Dragon), a film by Japanese director Takashi Miike. I'd seen the film before once on DVD but always feel it's a great opportunity to be able to see a Miike film on the big screen with an audience. Once, in a fifteen-viewer screening of Ichi The Killer, I counted at least five walkouts... so as a fan it's always interesting to me how an audience reacts to Miike's work.

But many things can happen just before a trip that can sometimes make the trip more tricky than others. The bus I usually travel from Boston to New York on -- usually a bus from the Fung-Wah company, an inexpensive travel option -- typically departs Boston at 6:30am. I usually try for this one, as it gives me the maximum amount of time in the city after the four-hour-or-so trip, which means I have to be out my door by 5:30am in order to plan on subway and walking time from my house to the bus station on the other side of Boston. Also, I rarely enjoy going on these trips by myself. It's far more fun sharing the big city moments with a friend. I've gone with college pals and roommates on many occasions and unfortunately on this particular occasion (this morning) nobody could join me. Also, lastly, there are the issues of weather and money. Hitting the Big Apple can be a pricey time when done correctly, and since I rarely step onto a subway, heat and humidity (and this morning's forecast of thunderstorms across the New York area) can be a large factor in my walkabout enjoyment of Manhattan Isle. This is all to say, there are many things that can happen that might make me, at the last possible moment, decide not to make the trip after all. Many rather mundane things. Today, though, a new one cropped up...

Having woken up a wee bit late at 5:20am, I saw I had a few moments before my fail-safe must-leave time for that first morning bus. So I layed my head back down for another quick couple of zzzz's before getting out of bed. And when I fell under, back to sleep, I had this strange dream... This dream that I'll do my best to relay to you now.

Firstly, time in the dream was abstract, as it often can be in dreams. I don't remember how it started, but the dream representation of myself -- I call it this because it felt both like me and unlike me -- was on a bus. I recall the sense that I was heading either to or from a large city. There were others on the bus, and my seat was on the right hand side, about eight or ten rows back on the side opposite the driver. Nobody sat next to me. I can't remember if I had the aisle seat or the one by the window, but either way I could see outside just fine. All seemed normal.

Then, at some point, I noticed that the bus was surrounded by darkness. The inside of the bus was visible, not lighted by interior bulbs or anything... just visible. But there was pitch black darkness outside, as if surrounded by a midnight fog inside which distance and proximity were unintelligible. And just as suddenly, I was alone. There were no other passengers. And no driver. But the bus and I were moving. There was no engine noise and no sound of the road passing beneath us.. just silent motion. I wasn't afraid. There was no fear. Only interest. As if my dream-self had noticed all this and thought "how weird this is." I had a sense of concern, certainly, but it was a calm concern.

After a moment of not knowing what was going on, I saw something out in the dark approaching the window of the bus, but not in the normal way. Normally in a moving vehicle you'd be approaching something head-on and would see it coming from the front window toward you. But this thing, this
whatever, this shape, approaching through the darkness, was coming at me, at the side window, as if I and the bus were moving sideways toward it. It became more visible as it got closer (or as the bus and I got closer to it), as if coming into focus like a newly taken Polaroid.

What was approaching us was a depot of some sort. The bus and I got closer to it, sideways mind you, and I could see that there were people there a few rows deep looking as if they were waiting to board once the bus and I arrived. We (the bus and I) got closer and closer and eventually I got a good look at them. There were at least 30 people there, three rows deep and maybe more. They were all standing there, immobile, like statues. They were gray; their faces and skin and clothes were all the same shade of gray, and their hands were clasped at their waists. They were dressed in some sort of uniform I didn't quite recognize - -vaguely military. And they were at a level of height that was higher than I was, meaning I was looking up at them as the bus and I finally slowed to a stop... right before them, underneath them.

A brief moment passed, three seconds or so it felt like. I looked at them all. They remained still. Lifeless. Immobile. Grey. In the dark. Outside the bus. I got closer to the window... and without warning... the people I was looking at... all opened their eyes at once... and stared straight at me... into me.

And then I woke up.

Now, I'd hasten to call this some sort of nightmare. I didn't wake with a start. There were no cold sweats, nor hot sweats. No shriek of alarm. I simply opened my eyes, still comfy on my pillow. As the real world came into focus, I looked again at my clock. Roughly ten minutes had passed since I last looked at the clock at 5:20am. I was surprised at this, my grogginess and the level of detail made me feel as if it had been hours. But I saw that I was running late for my trip to New York and so I got up, showered, brushed my teeth, get dressed and took a look in the mirror before heading out for the train to the bus station. And, just as strangely, as I looked in the mirror, my eyes looking back at me, I suddenly decided not to go on the trip.

"Ugghh, this isn't going to be as much fun as I'd need it to be," I thought to myself, mentally remembering all the walking, the racing around, the money, the heat, the probable rainstorms forecast for the day. Thinking that I might as well hold off on a New York trip until better circumstances, I quickly undressed, lied back down in bed in front of my fan and fell back to sleep until close to 1:30pm that afternoon. I woke up rested, got out of bed, put the tea kettle on the boil and tuned in to my usual WBZ-AM Newsradio daily wake-up routine. And then I heard about this...

Local Woman Killed In NYC Fung Wah Bus Crash

New York (WBZ) ― A local woman was killed and four others were injured in an accident involving a Boston-bound Fung Wah bus and a dump truck in New York City Monday morning. Fung Wah is well known in the Boston area for its low fare Boston to New York routes. The dump truck, from CPQ Freight in East Rutherford, N.J., apparently lost control after crossing the Manhattan Bridge. The truck crashed into a delivery van, a fire hydrant and a light pole before slamming into the Fung Wah bus. The bus in turn crashed into the United Commercial Bank building in Chinatown, striking and killing a 57-year-old woman who was getting ready to board the bus. The driver of the dump truck and two people inside the Fung Wah bus were taken to Beekman Hospital in stable condition. A fourth person was pulled from the scene and is listed in stable condition at Beekman Hospital. Investigators are trying to figure out how the dump truck lost control. There are reports the driver told police his brakes failed.

Now, I'm not saying anything here. I'm not suggesting I'm a psychic. I'm not saying I'm lucky to be alive, since the bus I would've been on wouldn't have been anywhere near the accident scene for at least another two hours. In fact, I'm not really sure what I'm saying.

I just can't shake the fact that I had... this dream... in which time and detail were at odds with one another... in which I was on a bus... heading toward a major city... alone... moving sideways, as if being pushed... to a spot in which several people were waiting... who were motionless and grey, as if they were dead... and opened their eyes, seemingly to wake me up as if giving me some sort of warning... I don't know...

It's a strange world we live in, folks.

Please say a prayer tonight for the family of the woman who passed away in this morning's accident. Thank you.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

"We All Need Another Heeeeeero!"

It's no secret that as far as the cinema goes, superheroes are the new hotness. When once we had buddy cops (1980's), troubled inner city teens (1990's) or man-child savants (the Bush administration) we now have a shiny, new, superpowered, big-screen extravaganza on our silver screens for every month of the summer plus a few leftovers into the fall. Now, I'm not complaining, but these titanic stories of heroes and villains are starting to get... I don't know... a little bit "samey." Though Iron Man and The Incredible Hulk got a lot of mileage out of their stars and their fellow actors, they still managed to wrap up their climaxes in pretty much the same way: a full-CGI or primarily-full-CGI special effects slugfest where said heroes and villains are tossed about over and over until someone either dies or gets a TKO. Granted, such superfights are the essence of the comic book world they are derived from. But we can do better, cant we?

Perhaps the key is in the characters. Maybe the first step to creating an original superhero storyline is in creating an original supercharacter. Will Smith's upcoming Hancock looks to be a step in the right direction even if it does seem to be a tougher, edgier take on the 80's television classic The Greatest American Hero.

Recently, my good friend Tim Hulsizer and I were talking about a comic experiment he's working on -- he's creating a legion of humorous superheroes and villains for a series of illustrations. The sight gags will come from the ridiculousness of the names and outfits with details about origins and powers to possibly to follow at a later time. I jumped on board with a few suggestions, seen below.

Feel free to have a look, offer up some of your own, and -- if you happen to be a producer looking for movie material -- everything here is already copywritten 2008 by Tim and/or myself, all rights reserved. (But feel free to make us an offer. Our people are standing by.)

Assault and The Battery (a tag team)
General Warington

The Eye-Scream Man


The Dahli Slamma

Pac-Mangler (
in conjunction with Namco/Midway)

Republicon (or Robopublican)
R.E.O. Bleedwagon

Boulder Holder


Orange Krushh

Trouser Pilot


The Frequent Frier (
a pyromaniac)
The Marlboro Manster

Cream and Sugar (
two pixie-like little girls)


Heart Breaker (played by Scarlett Johannson)


Brain Tomber

Tunnel Bunny

The Handicapturer (
uses a wheelchair but actually has three times the limbs that we do)
The Gaffer and The Gripper (
primary weapons: gloves and tape)

Mason Dixon: The Northern Southerner

Chef Boyardoom

Fudge Packer (
he's like Magneto, but can control sweets)
Scotch Guardian

Son Of Samurai

Alien McBeal

Predatori Spelling

Our apologies if you found any of the above offensive.
But then again, some were sort of supposed to be.

Theatrical Reviews:
The Friends Of Eddie Coyle (1973) ***1/2
Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull ***
The Incredible Hulk **1/2

DVD/Home Video
Chungking Express (Hong Kong) ****
Scars Of The Sun (Japan) ***1/2
Bitter Films: Volume One ***1/2
Mad Detective (HK) ***1/2
9 Souls (Japan) ***1/2
Hamlet (2002) ***1/2
Blast Of Silence: Criterion Collection (1961) ***
Space Ghost Coast To Coast: 1988 Episodes ***
Sukiyaki Western Django (Japan) ***
Ambition Without Honor (Japan) ***
Days Of Being Wild (HK) ***
The Long Good Friday (1979) ***
Everything Will Be Okay ***
Flash Point (Hong Kong) ***
Bullet Ballet (Japan) ***
Runaway Train (1985) ***
Hysterical (1983) ***
Dead Run (Japan) ***
24: Season Six ***
The Lookout ***
Suture ***
Ryu Ga Gokuto aka: Like A Dragon (Japan) **1/2
The Third Yakuza (Japan) **1/2
Waru (Japan) **1/2
Blood From The Mummy's Tomb (UK) **

Jurassic Park ***
Spider-Man ***
Spider-Man 3 **1/2
Fanatastic Four **