Saturday, April 19, 2008

Epic blockbuster dream of the summer

I woke up this morning after having a remarkably Michael Bay sort of dream -- there was something about huge alien spaceships crawling out of the water and abducting people and performing experiments on them, but the experiments were more social than physical. For example, I think in one of them, the aliens (who I never saw, it was all robots) gave abductees whatever addictive substance they wanted. People would go aboard and get offered beers or heroin.

The weirdest part was that the whole thing seemed like it was shot like a summer action movie. There were wide establishing shots, and images from the sky of the space ships causing huge tsunamis in the cities where they came ashore. I'm pretty sure there was a closeup shot of Will Smith standing on a golf course saying, "Oh, shit" at one point.

The other day, I was talking with a close friend of mine about how intolerable long, drawn-out dream stories are. I remember hearing Greg Behrednt talking about it (this was back when he was a comedian, before he took a job as daytime company on television for housewives and shut-ins). He said there are two kinds of stories you probably want to think long and hard before telling: the dog/pet story ("Unless part of the story is that your dog started speaking Spanish, you might not want to tell that story") and the dream story. His point was good -- that dreams are amazing, they can be spectacular or horrifying, and they can leave you reeling.

"Here's the thing about dreams, though -- they didn't really happen," Behrednt said, pointing out that this is another kind of story you generally don't want to hear from other people, so you should avoid telling them yourself.

I think he was right, but I think it's more applicable to that kind of dream storytelling that involves a lot of time and explication. I mean, dreams (at least mine, anyway) rarely make sense in a narrative format... it's not as if your subconscious pays much attention to story arcs or the value of sensible conclusions.

But I think you can get away with a very abbreviated version of the dream story without making whoever's listening start plotting an escape route. Basically, you say something like, "I had this really weird dream about oranges last night," or, "I had this crazy nightmare about monsters breaking in and stealing all my coffee last night." If you leave it at that, nobody's going to feel too awkward and the ones who are actually interested might indicate the fact that they're willing to hear more by asking questions like, "Really? What kind of monsters?"

I broke that rule in this post, but at least I kept it to two paragraphs. So don't whine.