Catching the late-running bus.


Catching the late-running bus.
Sandra Bullock and Keanu Reeves in Speed (1994)

Speed (1994): Where Did the Time Go?

WE'D BEEN WATCHING the John Wick movies so I had the idea: why not Speed? I'd never seen Speed, but not from any desire to miss it; it seemed fine, in principle. I knew about it, like everyone: bomb on bus, detonates if the bus slows down, Keanu Reeves, Sandra Bullock.

I didn't realize it was from all the way back in 1994. In my mind, Speed came out sometime a little before The Matrix, and The Matrix was basically like in 2005, and 2005 was the day before yesterday. Keanu Reeves was and is a leading man, still in his prime.

But no, obviously, that's not how it was. The bus in the preview image on Amazon looked ancient, like the Rosa Parks bus. There are fully adult people in this world who weren't even born when Speed came out. The oldest of them are exactly as old as Keanu Reeves was when he was making Speed.

The bus

We were watching the movie and it got to the part where the bus was speeding down the empty freeway with a police escort, shadowed by news helicopters, and the natural question, trying to make the timeframes align, was whether this was before or after O.J. Simpson's Bronco chase. The answer, when I looked it up, astonished me: Speed opened on June 10, 1994, and the Bronco chase was on June 17, 1994. One week apart.

I missed the Bronco chase when it happened, too. I was at the ballgame with my friend Steve that night. Ben McDonald went the distance to beat the Twins, and Leo Gomez homered, doubled, and drove in two runs. Leo Gomez always seemed to have a good night when we were at the ballpark.

Ben McDonald could throw that speed ball by you, make you feel like a fool. Photo: Mickey Pfleger/Sports Illustrated via Getty Images.

I remember the Bronco chase as something confusing going on in the background on the radio while we tried to catch up with the Rockets–Knicks game in the NBA Finals. It was nighttime on the highway in Baltimore but broad summer-evening daylight in L.A.

Speed happened so long ago that cell phones were still unusual. O.J. was on a cell phone in the back of the Bronco, but Dennis Hopper had to call Keanu Reeves on a payphone to tell him about the bomb on the bus. To make calls while he was on the bus, Keanu had to take someone else's cell phone. We all lived like that back then, but the phonelessness registers as an academic fact about history, not a subjective experience. The connected mind can't relate to having not been connected.

Carlos Carrasco, Beth Grant, Hawthorne James, and Natsuko Ohama in Speed (1994)

I had thought Speed would dovetail nicely with the John Wick stuff, but watching it stressed the eleven-year-old out. Apparently Keanu Reeves engaging in endless hand-to-hand combat, punctuated by the red mist of blowing people's brains out at close range, is less harrowing than Keanu Reeves trying to calm a bunch of terrified people on a bus, or, before that in the movie, on a lurching elevator. I can see why the child felt that way; the John Wick movies are heavily stylized, and even though Speed is absurd, it was staged to look relatively real. I appreciated the gag in John Wick where even as he's fighting off heavily armed villains outnumbering him a dozen to one, stopping bullets with his suit lining, bouncing back from getting hit by a car, and suchlike, the movies keep meticulous, literal count of his ammo, so he constantly has to reload or chuck away an emptied weapon.

The last time Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock rode Public Transit

The eleven-year-old absolutely did not buy the big bus jump in Speed, though. No way was a municipal bus going to clear a 50-foot gap in a not-yet-completed highway ramp. He was also rightly furious at the Sandra Bullock character's terrible judgment in general, and especially the setup to the last sequence. Obviously no one is taking our notes on Speed (1994) 29 years after the fact, but I feel like the filmmakers had a duty to choose between one kind of dumb or another. It was dumb storytelling, logistically, to make it so that Sandra Bullock, having just [SPOILER ALERT] escaped from the bus before it exploded, rides along in an ambulance with Keanu Reeves to see the cops try to ambush the villain at the ransom drop, rather than going absolutely anywhere else in Los Angeles instead. But on top of that it was a whole other kind of dumb to have her character choose to wander out of that ambulance and directly into harm's way. Either the circumstances can be implausibly stupid or the character can act implausibly stupid. Doing both is too much!

Dennis Hopper on Speed

The other thing that made Speed excessively stressful, I think, was Dennis Hopper. It should make no sense to say that an actor playing the part of a psychopathic bomber, whose bombing schemes are deliberately sadistic and capricious, played it too intensely. But Hopper was still dialed into his comeback role of Frank Booth in Blue Velvet, and Frank Booth is too harsh and upsetting to be the villain in a normal thriller. There's a difference between a guy who gloats about hurting people because the script calls for a guy to gloat about hurting people, and a guy who seems genuinely happy and energized by hurting people. You don't go to the bus-goes-fast move to see that latter guy.

I almost wanted to show the kid Blue Velvet to say, look, this is what he was doing, but absolutely not, not for at least eight years, probably never. You can't watch Blue Velvet as a father-son film-educational experience. The kid going to have to go see it on his own at a rep house when he's 18, as God intended, if any rep houses still exist.

We did watch the David Lynch Dune, though.


New York City, July 31, 2023

★★★★ The sky was a tiny bit less piercingly blue and the air was a tiny fraction warmer. The humidity was still low, though, and the atmosphere entirely comfortable. A brilliant white collection of cloud shreds drifted over the midday zenith and vanished as they went, before they'd traveled two outstretched handspans' worth of sky. The trees swayed gently, with a soft but definite rustling. A full work session outside left a light, easily cleaned touch of sweat on the palm rest of the laptop. The later clouds held themselves together, till the late afternoon sun found itself occasionally blocked or attenuated.


Indignity Morning Podcast No. 119: A new generation of right-wing politicians.

Tom Scocca • Aug 1, 2023

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WE PRESENT INSTRUCTIONS for the assembly of select sandwiches from "Dame Curtsey's" Book of Recipes, by Ellye Howell Glover, Author of “Dame Curtsey’s” Book of Novel Entertainments, etc. Published in 1909, this book is in the Public Domain and available at for the delectation of all.

Ham and Veal Sandwiches
CHOP fine one cupful each of cold ham and cold veal. Add four drops of tabasco sauce, one teaspoonful of mustard, two teaspoonfuls of vinegar, two teaspoonfuls of grated horseradish, and two tablespoonfuls of mayonnaise. Spread between buttered folds of white bread.

Boiled Tongue Sandwiches
PLACE tongue in cold water and let come slowly to a boil, skim, and simmer for an hour; then take out the tongue, remove the skin, and let it stew gently in a sauce made of one can of tomatoes, one onion, and pepper to taste. When very tender take from the fire and let it remain in the liquor until cold, then slice thin and put between slices of well buttered white bread.

If you decide to prepare and attempt to enjoy a sandwich inspired by this offering, kindly send a picture to us at


19 FOLKTALES collects a series of timeless tales of canny animals, foolish people, monsters, magic, ambition, adventure, glory, failure, inexorable death, and ripe fruits and vegetables. Written by Tom Scocca and richly illustrated by Jim Cooke, these fables stand at the crossroads of wisdom and absurdity.

HMM WEEKLY MINI-ZINE, Subject: GAME SHOW, Joe MacLeod’s account of his Total Experience of a Journey Into Television, expanded from the original published account found here at Hmm Daily. The special MINI ZINE features other viewpoints related to an appearance on, at, and inside the teevee game show Who Wants to Be A Millionaire. Your $20 plus shipping and tax helps fund The Brick House collective, a Publishing Concern featuring a globally diverse set of publishers doing their own thing, with interesting items and publications available for purchase at SHOPULA.

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