You Are What You Love

AdaptationIn my usual way of obsessing about things, I’ve been on a Charlie Kaufman jag. I just want to say a couple of quick things about Adaptation. It is a fun film, but I tend to think not great. But we’ll see.

Duality of the Artistic Personality

There seems to be some belief that Kaufman created the twin brother Donald Kaufman character so that he could express his concern about Hollywood at the same time he was lampooning it. This may come from a statement by Kaufman himself. As I always say, few people understand a piece of art as little as its author.

The characters are the two sides of the artistic personality. On the one side, you want to use your creativity to create something new and wonderful and meaningful. On the other, you want to use it to create cool genre crap. In other words, we all want to be Graham Greene.

In Adaptation, Kaufman uses these two sides of his personality to create two halves of a film: the first is artistic and insightful; the second is cool genre crap. And no one gets to blame him for slumming, because he didn’t do it; it was Donald—who, incidentally, he gave screenwriting credit to.

Not What Loves You

I thought this was just too wonderful:

Charlie: There was this time in high school. I was watching you out the library window. You were talking to Sarah Marsh.

Donald: Oh, God. I was so in love with her.

Charlie: I know. And you were flirting with her. And she was being really sweet to you.

Donald: I remember that.

Charlie: Then, when you walked away, she started making fun of you with Kim Canetti. And it was like they were laughing at me. You didn’t know at all? You seemed so happy.

Donald: I knew. I heard them.

Charlie: Well, how come you were so happy?

Donald: I loved Sarah, Charles. It was mine, that love. I owned it. Even Sarah didn’t have the right to take it away. I can love whoever I want.

Charlie: But she thought you were pathetic.

Donald: That was her business, not mine. You are what you love, not what loves you. That’s what I decided a long time ago.

Unfortunately: only in art!

There Can Be But One!

Robert ClaryI wasn’t surprised to hear that Richard Dawson had died.

I have been surprised up until now that he had managed to live longer than almost everyone else in the cast of Hogan’s Heroes.

To quote a bad movie, “There can be only one!” And that one is Robert Clary.

At 5’1″, Clary shows that it really is best to be short. And French. And look absolutely fabulous in a beret.

Love Conquers Poses

All the Best Cowboys Have Chinese EyesI used to have a friend—a smart and funny guy. He is kind of an archetype to me, however. Because of his emotional unavailability, people really wanted to be around him. It was often commented that wherever he was around, you could tell he was calculated whether he might be having a better time somewhere else.

We often had arguments about art. He hated anything that had the faintest whiff of sentimentality. During one conversation he told me that he hated Pete Townshend’s third solo album, All the Best Cowboys Have Chinese Eyes. It took me years to figure out what he didn’t like. It was songs like this:

And The Sea Refused No River.

The truth is that over the years, I’ve become very much like my friend. I think it is all about fear—the fear that people might see into your soul and know what you do: you’re a wreck. Over time, it becomes easier to live with yourself as you are, because you just don’t have the energy to hide. But as an artist, the temptation to hide yourself in clever craft and intellectual flourishes is strong.

This is why All the Best Cowboys Have Chinese Eyes is so important. It reminds me that I not only can be utterly naked but that in order to do great work, I must be. Of course, that doesn’t mean I am able even to succeed with the first part of this equation.

Love conquers poses
Love smashes stances
Love crushes angels into black

I’d like to believe that.

Conservative Foolishness on Electric Cars

electric carLiberals can be silly; I’ve written about this recently. But conservatives are really the kings of talking out their asses. I’ve been amazed by the recent attacks on funding for solar panels (Solyndra) and electric cars. The argument seems to be that the government should only invest in sure things—like it is a very conservative venture capitalist. A big argument on Fox News has been that electric cars are not ready for prime time, so the government shouldn’t be investing in them. These kinds of arguments show a shocking ignorance of how the government has traditionally invested in science and technology.

Media Matters has an excellent article about this newest line of conservative talking asses. The arguments being used to attack electric cars are the same as the arguments that were used 15 years ago against hybrid cars:

The Prius is now the world’s third best-selling car line, but before it became a clear success story, it was the target of attacks from conservative media similar to those now being leveled against electric vehicles.

Many of the recent attacks on electric cars are coming from the same people who criticized the Prius.

I’ve thought about this a lot. In fact, it seems I am forever writing about conservative amnesia: they seem to be totally unaware of the opinions they held 20 years earlier. When reminded of past conservative opinions, it is always the same: yeah, those conservatives were wrong but this time—This time!—the liberals have gone too far and the conservatives are right. Sure, it was wrong to stop African Americans from voting before, but these new voter ID laws really need to be done! Sure, it was wrong to oppose the Clean Air Act before, but this global warming stuff in nonsense! Sure, it was wrong not to give the elderly health insurance before, but, oh, wait…

As Corey Robin argues, ’twas ever so. Conservatives always think that things are just perfect the way they are, and fight against any improvement. I know that liberals have loads of blind spots in their view of the world. I know that, as a radical, I do. What distinguishes liberal minded people from conservatives is that the liberals don’t know what their blind spots are; they at least are trying to make the world more perfect as far as they can see. It must be strange to be a conservative, knowing that not only will history prove you wrong, but you yourself may look back and wonder, “Why was I so foolish?”