Monday I started to get my shit together, though. I
looked up some sciatica information online and found that they recommend activity rather than rest to recover faster.
I started doing exercises and walking around a bit. I found my new ATM card and put the money in the bank. On Tuesday I went
Benfante Appliance Service
(1286 Mount Hope Ave.)
and got a new dryer belt — $20 seems awfully steep to me, but whatever — and got it installed myself that
night. I started walking longer distances and managed to make it to
(1677 Mount Hope Ave.)
and back on Wednesday night (a whopping 3/10
mile for those keeping track.)
So anyway, let me start into another hugely long essay instead of blogging like an old man and his back problems.
I was thinking about art projects, artists, consensus, collaborations, the "creators" in the world à la
and how that all relates to
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.
I've been talking with a friend of mine for years about this kind of thing (well, except for the movies) and I said I was going to try and tie it all together in this week's essay.
See, she and I have been trying to figure out how to make collaborative art projects work. She's had more experience leading them and I've seen some that succeed and some that fail. Every project — no matter how "collaborative" it may seem — starts as the vision of one person. That vision develops over time and at some point they are ready to try and bring it to fruition. Each person has their own idea of how that
vision will manifest, but it's the originator of the idea who can look at the facets of the project and determine which need to be completed a specific way and which are comparitively unimportant or irrelevant.
OK, so let me start by saying that I listened to the commentary track on the DVD for
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
so I am therefore a defacto expert on the intentions of both the writer
and the director and co-writer
That's how damn important I am, so you better listen.
The central plot revolves around
character Joel electing to have the memory of his ex-girlfriend (Clementine, played by
"erased," partially retaliating for her having his memory erased. As the procedure is done, his mind is working its way backward through his memories of her, and he gets back to the things that he loved about her and about the relationship. He tries in vain to hold onto those memories as they are viscerally removed from his mind. It's a story of love and what it really is, and that concept is very effectively conveyed through this unique
When Kaufman wrote the script, he had certain things in mind as to which aspects of the story were important and which were not. Gondry spent the time to understand what those things were and embraced them himself. Through Gondry's good direction (both in the filmmaking context and in the the more general context of leading a group of people to a common goal) he managed to maintain Kaufman's ideas and create a visual
experience that successfully conveyed them. But consider how a different director might have approached the film: they might have spent a considerable amount of time trying to explain exactly how the memory-erasing machine actually works; or they might have turned it into more of a horror-like nightmare where Joel's memories are erased in a more traumatic manner.
In either case, the film would not be the same as the version presented — and it would likely be something inferior, especially if Kaufman's motives were not understood. My point is that to make the film as good as it is, it was very important to follow the vision — the central idea — that Kaufman had laid out.
So back to collaborative projects in general ...
The originator of the idea should be ready to execute the project. That is, they should understand what their project is to the point that they can make decisions about whether a particular facet of it has some specific and important way it needs to be accomplished or whether that facet is relatively unimportant and can be handled any number of ways. In cases where something is important, the originator needs to convey that it
is critical to succeeding in conveying the original idea.
Contributors seem to come in two basic flavors, and both are valued for their creativity.
The "ideal" collaborator respects the originator as the ultimate authority — they accept that the originator may have seemingly arbitrary requirements but tries their best to fulfill those wishes as accurately as they can. They are there to facilitate the realization of the idea of the originator, and are able to put their own egos and ideas aside (for the moment) to complete the project at hand.
There are also a lot of not-so-good collaborators who bring their own ideas along and try to usurp the project from the hands of the originator. It's not so much that they're sinister and greedy in their mindset — more like clueless. They feel that a collaborative project is one where everyone contributes their own ideas and those ideas — any ideas — are just as good than those of the originator. They simply
don't comprehend that there are some facets to the project that are critical to complete in a certain way to ensure that the ideas of the originator are actually conveyed and/or accomplished.
When I mentioned
I meant to sound really smart even though I have read, like, only one book in the last five years ... er ... I mean, I meant that this kind of thing is very similar to the discussion portrayed in
There are people who are in love with the concept of consensus — that the ideas that everyone agrees upon are superior to all else, and then there are those in love with the concept that the ideas from one individual shine above the least-common-denominator of consensus of the masses.
See, there is merit in each: when a collaborative project comes along, the solid and important ideas of the originator are better than those of the masses (at least as far as the goals of the project are concerned) yet for the aspects that are unimportant to the originator, consensus is a perfectly valid way to come up with the best solution. In those unimportant cases, the idea of an individual collaborator might even be best and might
even improve the quality of the overall project.
is an okay movie — it documents the writers'
high-school experience in the nether regions of the country ... a place called
It's popular for its
Beavis and Butt-Head
level of quotability. It's popular for those people who still take joy in picking on the weird kid. But face it: it's really just a pale imitation of
except without the sympathy.
The filmmakers not only don't care about any of the characters, they actually invite ridicule. But isn't that innovative filmmaking? Isn't it a reflection of our current society and the state of America — where those who disagree are ridiculed as being unpatriotic?
No, and the reason is that
(the short film that is the basis for
had a sympathetic eye and is superior for it. In it, Seth — the prototype for Napoleon — is an underdog hero who never gets a break. In
they throw in an homage to
and as cool as that is, it was simply inserted for the amusement of the filmmakers because they felt their own characters were too boring — ergo no sympathy.
What the hell does this have to do with consensus and artists? It's consensus thinking flipped upside-down: join the crowd — agree with the consensus that this is a great film — or be cast aside. If you remember anything from high school, it's that when it comes to standing up for the weird kid or joining the crowd and picking on him, you better choose the latter lest ye be picked on yerself.
The trouble with that thinking is that the weird kid is the one with ideas ... they're the ones who become the
of the world, or if they're beat down, they become the
It is these people who have real ideas ... they are the ones who make the world a different and better place.
The point is to celebrate everyone's contribution, not to tolerate their differences. If they are a creator or an originator, then celebrate that. If they are a collaborator, then celebrate that. And don't forget that those roles switch in-and-out all the time: today's collaborator is tomorrow's originator, and vice versa.