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Ray Carney's Mailbag -- This section of the site contains letters written to Prof. Carney by students and artists, announcements of news, events, and screenings, and miscellaneous observations about life and art by Ray Carney. Letters and notices submitted by readers are in black. Prof. Carney's responses, observations, and recommendations are in blue. Note that Prof. Carney receives many more letters and announcements than he can possibly include on the site. The material on these pages has been selected as being that which will be the most interesting, inspiring, useful, or informative to site readers. Click on the first page (via the links at the top or bottom of the page) to read an explanation of this material, why it is being posted, and how this relatively small selection was made from among the tens of thousands of messages Prof. Carney has received.

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A note from Ray Carney: The film buzz this week centered around the appointment of a new director of the film program at New York's Museum of Modern Art, America's largest and most important film exhibition and preservation venue. The fear -- not spoken publicly but much whispered in university classrooms and the windowless editing suites of film archives across America -- is that the appointment of Rajendra Roy represents one more step downward away from a commitment to film as art, and toward a view of film as a cultural studies artifact. Mr. Roy has, in his past work as head of the Hamptons Film Festival, not displayed a special devotion to artistic expression. He has not made a name for himself in terms of daring, artistic programming. As a film programmer, he has, in fact, become better known for flair, flash, and fashionableness than for the intellectual and spiritual depth of his work and ideas. And, equally bad, Mr. Roy has become better known for his Political Correctness (his fashionable promotion of the work of all of the "right" groups) than for his questioning of the unfortunate effects of such ideological check-lists on arts programming. As the penultimate paragraph in the press release below reveals, he does not even have a degree in film. The sum total of his academic accomplishment was graduating with a political science degree from UC San Diego.

For many serious lovers of film, MoMA has been one of the last, best hopes that the tide of entertainment, edu-tainment, and Political Correctness sweeping across America could be contained, one of the last, best hopes that a view of film as art could be nurtured and sustained in the intellectual dark ages we are currently living in. When MoMA heads down the same downward path as many other mainstream institutions -- if that is in fact what is happening -- there is much fear and trembling, much concern among serious scholars and lovers of film.

Of course, in terms of what Mr. Roy will actually do at MoMA, only time will tell. It is too early to say. Will it become a bastion of gay, minority, and other forms of Politically Correct programming? Will it become a cinematic fashion slave in other ways, like most other American arts institutions and grant agencies (look at what the MacArthur, Rockefeller, and Ford Foundations fund each year)? Will it defend the importance of art against the multitudinous cultural forces arrayed against it? Will it understand that art is different than sociology and that arts programming is not--and must not become--a form of affirmative action for the socially and politically underprivileged? Will the museum fight to uphold the highest artistic standards against the encroachments of popular culture? (Not that it has always done this in the past. Look at MoMA's promotion of the work of Hitchcock as a demonstration that there were major problems at the Museum of Modern Art long before the multiculturalists and ideological critics came on the scene.)

In short, until Mr. Roy puts his personal stamp on the Department of Film, the jury is out. The next few years will be the test. Watch and see if any of his staff resign or are dismissed. (Several are extremely talented and it was surprising to them and others that the curatorship position was filled from outside rather than promoting one of them into it.) Watch the end of next year's programming schedule. (This year's and the early part of next year's films and special events have already been locked in place so they don't count.) I will be watching with you. And I am willing to give MoMA the benefit of the doubt for the time being. I wish Mr. Roy and the museum and its entire film staff great, courageous, future artistic triumphs. Artistic triumphs. -- R.C.

Hype alert--The text of the MoMA press release follows. Take all of the following superlatives with a shaker of salt. They were written by the people who hired Mr. Roy:


New York, May 3, 2007- Glenn Lowry, Director of The Museum of Modern Art, announced today the appointment of Rajendra Roy as the Celeste Bartos Chief Curator of the Department of Film, effective July 2007. Mr. Roy, currently the Artistic Director of The Hamptons International Film Festival, succeeds Mary Lea Bandy, who retired from the Museum in 2006.  

     Mr. Lowry said, "Rajendra Roy brings to the Museum a breadth of experience that encompasses museum work as well as programming and management for important film festivals.  His broad involvement in the film community will be invaluable to the development of the Film Department's programs, including acquisitions, exhibitions, research, and preservation."

    "The prospect of working with the expert staff at MoMA is the professional opportunity of a lifetime," said Mr. Roy. "Based on the historical foundation of the Museum's unparalleled film collection and archive, integrated with an active engagement with the spectrum of contemporary cinematic practice, I look forward to ensuring that the Department of Film continues to be a vital educational resource and source of inspiration for filmmakers, artists, and audiences worldwide."

     Mr. Roy will lead a staff of 20 in MoMA's Department of Film. The Museum's diverse film exhibitions encompass approximately 700 titles per year and span the history of the art of the moving image beginning with the late nineteenth century. Dynamic presentations include a wide range of international films such as annual presentations of cinema from Germany, Brazil, and Canada, as well as the acclaimed New Directors/New Films, a popular festival that showcases emerging filmmakers. The kaleidoscopic programming encompasses all genres and forms of cinema, from classic and repertory to experimental and contemporary.

     Mr. Roy has worked with The Hamptons International Film Festival, since 2002: as Director of Programming from 2002 to 2006, and as Artistic Director since 2006. His responsibilities have included developing, curating, and managing the festival program, and presenting film talent at the festival and in public programs throughout the year.   The festival features the Golden Starfish Award competition, as well as programs devoted to World Cinema, Studio Spotlights, and shorts. Mr. Roy initiated the "Rising Stars" program, the first festival showcase to feature emerging actors in public panels and workshops. He also cultivated a wide range of relationships with institutions, distributors, studios, export unions, and international festivals. He will stay on with the Hamptons festival as an unpaid artistic advisor through the 2007 season.

     As the only American member of the international competition selection committee for the Berlin International Film Festival, Mr. Roy recommended films for consideration, and moderated post-screening discussions and festival panels. He served as a juror for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for the Student Academy Awards from 2003 to 2007. He has participated widely on juries for international and domestic film festivals, and has lectured at conferences and universities.  

    From 1995 to 2002, Mr. Roy worked at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in a variety of positions in the Film and Media Arts Program. As Program Associate, he collaborated on the launch of the first film program at the Guggenheim museums in New York in 1998, and in Bilbao in 2000. As Program Manager from 2000 to 2002, he worked in collaboration with curators John Hanhardt and Maria-Christina Villasenor to coordinate film, video, and new media exhibitions in New York, Bilbao, and Berlin. Exhibitions included Nam June Paik and the Worlds of Film and Video (2000); Between Shadows and Light: Italian Cinematography (2001); and Drama Queens: Women Behind the Camera (2001). He also oversaw acquisitions and commissions of new work and developed global partnerships with cultural institutions and festivals.

       Mr. Roy held a number of positions, beginning in 1994, with the MIX festival: The New York Lesbian and Gay Experimental Film/Video Festival, one of the largest experimental film and video festivals in the world. As Executive Director from 1996 to 2000, he spearheaded programming and management, grant-writing, and corporate development. His stewardship of the festival resulted in the doubling of attendance figures, the development of corporate sponsorships, and the launch of the National Collegiate Touring Program.

      Mr. Roy graduated from the University of California, San Diego, with a bachelor's degree in political science and French literature. He studied art history and French literature at the Sorbonne Nouvelle, Paris.

      The Department of Film, established in 1935 as the Film Library, holds one of the world's most important international film collections, now totaling over 22,000 titles. Among the Department's permanent holdings are the original negatives of the Biograph and Edison companies, as well as the D.W. Griffith, Douglas Fairbanks, David O. Selznick, Andy Warhol, and Joseph Cornell collections. In addition, it contains significant  collections of film stills, scripts, posters, and other study materials, all of which are made available through its Film Study Center and exhibition programs, and which are stored in the Celeste Bartos Film Preservation Center, a state-of-the-art facility that opened in June 1996 in Hamlin, Pennsylvania.

A note from Ray Carney: This just in from Mike Akel, writer-director of the mockumentary Chalk:

1)  Alamo Drafthouse shows in Austin are selling out! -- So get your tickets ASAP.  Click here for the link.

2)  TEACHER DISCOUNTS for educators that show their ID at the door or order on line with the "Student Discount".  Tell your teacher peeps.

3)  MORGAN SPURLOCK will be on "Conan O'brien" promoting CHALK (Monday, May 7th --11:30pm CST.) --Tune in.

4) The "REVISED" CHALK WEBSITE IS UP...still tweaking a bit. --Please sign up on our mailing list by going to the site here.



A note from Ray Carney: I wrote Ross Lipman, director of preservation and conservation at UCLA, thanking him for the information he sent about the Faces screenings (see the preceding page of the Mailbag) and, though I hadn't mentioned them, he wrote me a brief note thanking me for posting the video clips from the first version of Shadows that are on Mailbag page 60 (accessible via the blue menus at the top and bottom of this page):

Hi Ray - good to hear from you.  And btw, very glad to see those clips on your site! all best,


I thought my reply to him might be of some interest to visitors to the site:

Ross, re: your second sentence: I have wanted to post them for a good while, and to do more than that of course.... namely, show the film to the world! But Gena's lawyers have cost me tens of thousands of dollars already. And posting the clips of course just invites more trouble. If the big bad wolf Al Ruban finds out, he will be sure to bring the lawyers down on me one more time to force me to remove them from the site. In fact, I'd say that event is only a matter of time. So that's another ten thousand dollars out of my pocket (these lawyers cost a thousand dollars an hour just to advise me on how to respond or what my rights are). But I couldn't resist sharing something from the film with others, even if it costs me in the end. Ruban is (as I'm sure you know by now simply by interacting with him) implacable and merciless. A true gangster. So I can look for no mercy from that quarter. May he live a long and full life.


A note from Ray Carney: I was telling noted American independent filmmaker, Rob Nilsson, about some of the stupidity that I see in American academic film programs. His response is worth quoting. Rob is the creator of some of the most important independent films of the past thirty years, including the monumental Nine at Night series of films, and is one of the most brilliant observers of and commentators on the insanities of the contemporary American arts scene. (I have inserted ellipses in the following to protect the guilty and omit a few references to particular persons and events. I have also changed the order of a few sentences to make the presentation more clear.) --R.C.


.... Want a good laugh? Or a cry? I recently had an interesting out-of-mind experience. A senior so-called "film expert" who has worked extensively in Hollywood on studio films and who was invited to an important university event at which most of the faculty were present implied that a way to help students was maybe to allow them to use "product placement" in their student films. His exact phrase was that "to accept a free lens from Panavision was no different from putting a Chevrolet in a scene." Now that's what would really make things better, isn't it? Even more spookily, this was proposed in the course of a more general argument in which he implied that ALL filmmakers (i.e. even art filmmakers and indie filmmakers) were whores, salesmen, hucksters. The distinguished university visitor sarcastically noted that "even Lars von what's-his-name"  (I had to chime in with "Trier" to help him out) "depends on funding from the government." He was arguing that nobody REALLY spends his own money or really operates outside the commercial system of buying and selling -- and if they say they do and are, they are lying. That was his point, but I drew a different moral from his comments. The one I took was that if you're a whore, you have to convince yourself that everyone else is one also. He simply could not imagine that anyone did anything for other than monetary reasons. Or that anyone would actually not care about money. Or that there could be a mode of filmmaking that was not about buying and selling. What stupid fucks these Hollywood types are. How can they rule the world and still be such assholes? Well, I guess I know the answer to that: That's WHY they rule the world. (This studio hack is far from being alone in his views. Click here to read similar statements by other Hollywood insiders about Hollywood being the center of the cinematic universe.) And, more troubling from my academic perspective, is that that's the kind of person a university invites to visit its film program and lecture the faculty on how to run things better. Yes, that's what academic film education has come to in this year of our lord 2007. You're never too young to learn how to sell your soul, and why not teach it in college?.....


Rob Nilsson responded:

And it just gets more stupid by the day.  What a sad world for youth.  They're bombarded with pop culture and told it's as good as any.  They're given a race/class/gender template to see the world through, and so are unusually ignorant of what really goes on in the world and what really motivates people.  A culture infected with a crude media driven politics has no visionary artists, only copy boys and girls spreading the current shibboleths.  Does anyone wonder why the only thing we do efficiently is kill?  We're the chosen people and we've chosen ignorance and death.

.... Hollywood and New York have infected the entire world with art languages which are completely arcane and irrelevant to the human longings.  I suppose the rough beast has truly come around, and is way past puberty.  Would that its Gordian stupidities were susceptible to a bold blade....

Well, we need to keep swinging our swords.  We might get lucky. Keep on inventing the faith, Ray.


A note from Ray Carney: I couldn't agree more with Rob Nilsson's points. My own grad. students  -- and faculty members in my own department -- attempt to cut the films they see to fit them into politically correct "race-class-gender-ideology" categories. Or criticize them for not fitting into such clichéd, formulaic modes of presentation. They don't realize that all real art eludes these prefabricated forms of thinking and feeling. The same students and teachers also prefer the programmatic cleverness of Hollywood moviemaking (e.g. the work of Hitchcock or the Coen brothers) to undergoing a genuine journey of exploration and discovery in a non-programmatic film (e.g. the work of Robert Kramer, John Cassavetes, or Mark Rappaport).

I would also add as a postscript to my commentary on the alleged "distinguished visitor" who tried to argue that all film was part of the system of commerce and merchandising that he looked directly at me when he said most  of the remarks I quote or summarize and seemed to direct his comments at me personally. Based on other facts which I am not free to reveal the source of, I have concluded that he had read my "Why Film Production Should be Replaced by Majors in Auto Mechanics" piece and was, in effect, replying to it with his comments. (Click here to read the piece and the associated pages on the site.) I guess I should be flattered that he cared enough to read and respond to my piece. Why am I not delighted? -- R.C.

A note from Ray Carney: While I am quoting Rob Nilsson, I owe it to my readers to mention that the San Francisco Film Festival has recently conducted a series of events featuring his work. The great Graham Leggat, formerly with Lincoln Center, one of the best film curators in the world, programmed the events. Congratulations to Rob, and thanks to Graham! I include the catalog description below.-- R.C.

San Francisco International Film Festival 20 April - 04 May 2006


"Film should be a search, an investigation of things you find fascinating and pertinent," says Rob Nilsson, filmmaker, writer and saint of Direct Action filmmaking. "But I don't see it in most of American cinema. It's either about genres, or it's about stars, or it's about goofy little stories that are meant to entertain. . . . I can't entertain anybody. I can hardly entertain myself. All I can do is follow my passions." For 30-odd years Nilsson has been doing just that. Beginning with Cannes Camera d'Or winner Northern Lights (1979), continuing with Sundance Grand Prize winner Heat and Sunlight (1988) and running through the epic 9@Night series, which will conclude later this year with Go Together and Used, this fiercely independent Bay Area iconoclast has created a rough-hewn body of work that stands alone in American cinema. At this intimate screening and discussion, Nilsson will show excerpts from four digital works-in-progress: the hypnotic Presque Isle, shot in the Wisconsin Northwoods; Frank Dead Souls, a Direct Action piece made in South Africa; and the two above-mentioned 9@Night entries, shot largely in the Tenderloin with nonprofessional actors. While presenting the footage, Nilsson will introduce members of the Tenderloin Group workshop, discuss his unconventional methods and practices and tell war stories from the street. Come see why actor Peter Coyote has said, "If there were any justice in the world, John Cassevetes would still be alive and recognizing Rob Nilsson as his long-lost heir." Note: Excerpts from the 9@Night series can be seen on the SFIFF outdoor screen in Justin Herman Plaza May 1-3. -- Graham Leggat

A note from Ray Carney: I print the following exchange between Aaron Katz, the writer-director of Dance Party and Quiet City, and me as a continuation of the on-going conversation in the Mailbag pages of the site about the state of the art of recent American independent film. Anyone interested in reading the earlier installments of the discussion should begin at the top of Mailbag page 67 (accessible via the blue page number menus at the top and bottom of each Mailbag page) and continue reading up to this point. The exchange between Katz and me extends over a period of months and covers both of his films: Dance Party in the first series of letters and Quiet City in the next series of letters. -- R.C.

Aaron Katz's email to Ray Carney:

Hey Ray.  Just wanted to make sure that you had received Dance Party in the mail.



Subject: Dance Party

Yes, I received it, Aaron. I viewed it too. I am giving a lot of thought to it, particularly the ending, which seems a bit tacked on or unearned to me. It's a strong and interesting film, and I appreciate the courage of creating such an unappealing main character, but there are blanks too, where things about the central character and the girl and their interactions aren't explored or are left out that I wish you had gone into..... So I'm a bit undecided, as I say. Have you seen Kiss of Death by Mike Leigh, by the way? It might interest you. 


Aaron Katz's email to Ray Carney:

I have not seen Kiss of Death.  I feel certain that it would interest me.The end of my film is unearned and Ithink that's a good thing. It is unearned by the characters in the same way that a lot of things that people do in life are unearned.  She kisses him not because it's a good idea, but because it feels good.  I do not think that the end implies impending happiness for the characters, rather I feel that it is just one moment where they connect.  As for the blanks...  My intention is not to show Who These People Are, but to show a few things that they did on a couple days.  My intention is to explore how they interact in those days.  My intention is to explore what they say as well as what don't say.  I agree that there are blank spaces.  I think there are blanks spaces in life.  There's a lot of important things that you don't find out when you first get to know someone.  In any case, I don't want to talk you into anything here.  Those are just my own thoughts on Dance Party.  And one more thought: Wait a few days and try watching it again. If you would be interested I also have a brand new film called Quiet City that I could send you. Lastly, have you seen, and I suspect you have, Killer of Sheep and The Whole Shootin' Match?  I recently fell in love with these two films. I think they have a lot to do with each other.  My love for each was increased by the other.



Thanks for the thoughtful response. Dialogue and conversation are always good.

Love (and show to my students all the time) Killer of Sheep. Know Charles Burnett and love his other work too, particularly Sleep with Anger, which I also show. My syllabi pages on the site  (accessible through the top menu on this page) have lots of titles I show in courses. But haven't heard of Shootin' Match. Know nothing about it. Fill me in.


Aaron Katz's email to Ray Carney:

I sent Quiet City yesterday.  Keep an eye out for it on Monday or Tuesday. I had never heard of the Whole Shootin' Match until recently when it played at SXSW.  It was made in 1979 by this guy Eagle Pennell.  Seemingly no one has heard of it or seen it.  Like I said, I certainly hadn't.  It's about a few working class Texans trying to make ends meet and make their relationships work.  It has a very strange feel about it.  The kind of feel where it's hard to even tell at first if the performances are good or not because people speak and act in such a particular way.  Anyway, I loved it.


A postscript, from Ray Carney, written a month or two later: A short time after Aaron Katz wrote me, I got an opportunity to view Eagle Pennell's The Whole Shootin' Match. Click here to read my response to it.


Subject: the beauty of the skyline and the clouds

Aaron, forgive the delay. I've been heaped with work. I finally worked my way to your film (Quiet City) last night (Saturday), and wanted to tell you how much I liked it. It's a real step beyond Dance Party, where as I mentioned to you I felt you didn't shoulder the full burden of letting me get to know the characters in detail or get to follow their interactions at length. Quiet City goes much further in that direction. Bravo.

I'd love to include it in my "under the radar" festival with your permission. It might help the movie by throwing some good publicity and smart viewers in your direction....

Both films show what a good eye you have and, even more interestingly, what a great love of loose, playful (and wacky) interactions. The "Adam/foyer/cole slaw" scene is a comic set piece. The annoying art gallery conversations are marvelous.  The talk between Jamie and the artist in bed is touching. It's all so charming and lovable. Thank you.

I hope you keep moving in the same direction you are heading between these two films: Namely, going into more depth and detail about the minute-by-minute interactions of your characters. If I have any reservations about your work, even in Quiet City (but more in the film before it), it is that it stays too much in the world of "romance." By "romance" I don't mean just being a "love story," though that is true too, I mean the old dictionary sense of the word: a work that is anchored not in reality but in fantasy, imagination, dreaming, and wishing. Your work is "romantic" in both senses of the word, and it is both its charm and (forgive me!) its limitation. I want to see the parts of the world and the moments in human relationships when the balloon of "romance" gets punctured and falls to earth. I want to see the messy, sloppy, unromantic parts of life. I want to see the misunderstandings, arguments, and hurts that even people in love (and certainly people not in love) inflict on each other and themselves. Your work is set just a few steps outside of that territory. Your characters (lovers and would-be lovers) float just above the ground, up in the air of romantic fantasy and dreams, a few inches above the mud and thorns and sweat of life. I'd love to see what you do with a non-love-story or with an unromantic love story. (I guess you could reply that Dance Party was that, but I'd reply as I did back then, that you skip over too many parts of your characters' lives and interactions with each other to say you have given me the real unromantic realities in detail.)

In any case, keep going! It matters! And you have real talent and insight into life. That's what it's all about. Best wishes,


Aaron Katz's email to Ray Carney:

Subject: Re: the beauty of the skyline and the clouds

Hey Ray.  It's Aaron Katz here.  I've been meaning these past two weeks to write a verbose response to you, but I've been at a series of festivals and I've never had enough time to write you a real email regarding Quiet City.  I of course would be excited to be part of your under the radar festival.  I'm keeping an eye out for an email....  Thank you for giving the film a chance to be seen by some smart viewers.  I am self-releasing theatrically and appreciate the exposure. Regarding your thoughts about romance: I think that you are right.  In considering what I make next I had already been thinking similar thoughts.  In some ways I have little control over what things end up being about because the way I write involves trying as much as possible to give over to impulse rather than intellect.  That said, I have the strong feeling that the next thing I write will be about a family relationship like maybe a brother and sister.  I don't know what it will be about.  I think something more might "happen" in it, but that remains to be seen.  I have an aversion to anything that even verges on a higher stakes situation.  We'll see.

Anyway, thank you for your feedback and I look forward to meeting you if I come up for the under the radar screening.  Also, I have a short film that I just finished that you might be interested in.  I'll send it to you sometime soon.



Subject: inner weather


I'm really enjoying this conversation. Thanks!

Love to see your short film.

And so glad to hear about your aversion to "high stakes" situations. I was just showing Rodrigo Garcia's Nine Lives in my indie film class (along with the equally amazing opening scene from hisThings You Can Tell Just By Looking at Her) and telling my students how if "anything happens" in a movie, in the conventional action-centered way, it suddenly becomes so much LESS INTERESTING than if nothing does. Some of them looked at me the way my dog does when I talk to it. Just couldn't figure out what I meant. But (unless I'm totally off-base and misunderstanding you) that's what you are saying too. As Tom Noonan once explained in a master class I brought him up here to teach: "Who needs action? Just walking down the street and seeing an old girlfriend and having to say hello to her is more than enough drama for a whole scene." Eventfulness just simplifies everything and makes life boring. Our lives aren't about actions but feelings. The clouds and rain are inside us.

Keep going. It matters. It really matters. We live in a culture that needs to be reminded, constantly and repeatedly, about the truths of the heart and the reality of the soul. Almost everything in it, and most film study too, denies their existence.


Subject: Alice Munro

Hey Ray-

I just saw "Away from her" the new film based on a Munro story. I rather liked some of the film. The structure really worked in the sense of how her stories do. Jumping all over the place in time. The "flashback" scenes, however were a bit cheesy, but didn't take me out of the film. I just came from my grandma's 100th birthday party where I spent most of the weekend in an old age home just as the film does. It's funny I have been really unsympathetic towards my parents for the last few years. Somehow my weekend with grandma and seeing this film really opened up a whole new sensitivity to aging. I realized how their issues are very different from mine and that I have become a bit bone headed to some degree thinking that I have to run away form my family like the character in The Sacrifice. I'm re-reading "Love and Zen" for the 5th or 6th time. It is like the bible for me. She always bring me back to the center of things. She never lets me off the hook. Just like you never did. Thank god. I also saw "Killer of Sheep" for the first time in years. I was hoping the print would be better, but what are you gonna do... Stan is the man. What a wonderfully sensitive soul. Spent time at the MET last week and really got into the Van Dycks. I did my usual Rembrandt and Hals thing and then got into Van Dyck. Spent the whole day in three rooms. So much energy in those paintings. Still haven't been able to have "spiritual conversations" with them, but I'm sure I'm getting there. Stopped by my old Zendo in NYC too for a Saturday sit. I'm so glad places like that exist. When I walked in a Sangha member said "The prodigal son has returned" which made me feel good. I really miss that place when I'm in Philly. The Zen master gave his Dharma talk about a new book called "Sit down and shut up". I'm going to try and pick it up. I randomly also saw Bill Viola give a talk at the Reuben museum in NYC. I really like his work. Seems like a nice guy too. I was too shy to talk with him though. There's an exhibit about the Dalai Lama there at the moment. Hope all is well. Love the mailbag. I check it out everyday.

Best wishes,


RC replies:

Wonderful to hear from you, Lucas! Bravo. Keep breaking down the artificial walls between the arts. Let Munro jump out of the book and into your life. Take a wrecking ball to the Met and let some light in--and more importantly let the paintings walk out into the world. Van Dyck and Hals and Rembrandt are done a disservice by being locked up and segregated from the movies, from the novels, from our lives. It's too easy to put the saints in the church and to think the devil is elsewhere. It's too tempting to put other people in hell. To play the blame game. Why this is hell, nor am I out of it. And the same goes for heaven. There is no other world.

Even more important to understand: There is no one else but us. Everything, everyone, everywhere IS US!!!! The Japanese Edition of <em>Cassavetes on Cassavetes</em>There is no one else. Even our deluded, backward, cautious, fearful parents ARE US!!! What else are we? We're the same people with the same fears, problems, and blindnesses they are. There's no one else. It's all me, me, and me as far as the eye can see. We're them. They're us. Who else could there be? That's the lesson of art. Why else would all of those artists and all of those characters be able to tell us about ourselves? Yes, it's true. Painful, but true. Thinking there's a difference between us, thinking they are someone else, not understanding that everyone has the same fears, doubts, limitations (though they may act on them differently and do better and worse things in response to them) is the fallacy of the world. People who blame George Bush for "going along with the CIA" are themselves going along with their bosses, or their jobs, or their handbooks for living. People who blame the defense department for spending a thousand dollars on a toilet seat are themselves spending tens of thousands of dollars on equally stupid things to keep up with the style system. George Bush is no different from anyone I know in my university. He is a follower; they are followers. He is confused and doing his best; they are confused and doing their best. All are afraid. All are limited. Where do we get off feeling superior? Where do we get off feeling more courageous? Oh, he ends up doing worse things than the professors and administrators I've met, but only because he has more power to wield, more weapons at his disposal. Not because he is weaker, less principled, or less moral than they are. They're all equally flawed, equally afraid of being criticized, equally willing to think with someone else's brain, equally inclined to pass the buck and not take responsibility for the consequences of their actions.

And one more yes: Bonnie Myotai Treace and Geoffrey Shugen Arnold are doing great Zen work in the city. As is Bernie Glassman. And so many others. They know there is no "them." That it is all us. They know there is no there. They know that everything in the world is happening to us and is part of us and is caused by us and is redeemed by us. There is nothing and no one else. Laugh and God laughs with you.


P.S. Almost forgot: Praise to the great Bill Viola also. How he cleanses perception. His work is a treasure trove of fresh visions.


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© Text Copyright 2007 by Ray Carney. All rights reserved. May not be reprinted without written permission of the author.