Introduction and Page 1 / 2 / 3 / 4 / 5 / 6 / 7 / 8 / 9 / 10 / 11 / 12 / 13 / 14 / 15 / 16 / 17 / 18 / 19 / 20 / 21 / 22 / 23 / 24 / 25 / 26 / 27 / 28 / 29 / 30 / 31 / 32 / 33 / 34 / 35 / 36 / 37 / 38 / 39 / 40 / 41 / 42 / 43 / 44 / 45 / 46 / 47 / 48 / 49 / 50 / 51 / 52 / 53 / 54 / 55 / 56 / 57 / 58 / 59 / 60 / 61 / 62 / 63 / 64 / 65 / 66 / 67 / 68 / 69 / 70 / 71 / 72 / 73 / 74 / 75 / 76 / 77 / 78 / 79 / 80 / 81 / 82 / 83 / 84 / 85 / 86 / 87 / 88 / 89 / 90 / 91 / 92 / 93 / 94 / 95 / 96 / 97 / 98 / 99 / 100 / 101 / 102 / 103 / 104 / 105 / 106 / 107 / 108 / 109 / 110 / 111 / 112 / 113 / 114 / 115 / 116 / 117 / 118 / 119 / 120 / 121 / 122

37 < Page 38 < 39

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.

Click here for best printing of text

Subj: The Haircut

Dear Dr. Carney,

If any one could help me it would be you. Do you know if John Cassavetes's The Haircut is available to rent, buy, or view? Or where I could get more information on it's avalialbitly?

Any information would be greatly appreciated.

Joe Campbell

Ray Carney replies:

It's one of the "extras" on a Tamar Simon Hoffs DVD. I think it's included with her "The All Nighter" but I may be misremembering. Check the listings and you'll definitely find it included with one of her DVDs as a short film "bonus."


hi prof. carney,

it's about midnight here in southern california. pretty cold, to my surprise.

wow, i don't know where to start. it's so late that you would be the only person i feel like i can write to because...well, i have a hunch you'd find this interesting. and i really wanted to share this with someone who i have a lot of respect for. it proves much of the points that you constantly bring up in your writing (i just got through your mike leigh book, by the way...i am fond of "abigail's party" and your discussion on it was dead-on. brilliant work).

so, i was compelled to write to you and share a little story.

about 30 minutes ago, i got off the phone with a girl. yeah, a girl i like. and she's someone i've not even met. i know, i know - it's the online community network thing that usually spells disaster and heartbreak, not to mention iscommunication and self-deception. but i met her online through a friend's message board and, well - the rest you can sort of fill in.

but we've been talking on and off for several months. i view her as a penpal, except that instead of letters - we call each other. and the thing is that...because of the nature of our "relationship," she's very honest with me. she's told me things about myself that i don't like to or want to hear - but she's right. absolutely right! about my stubborn attitude, how i contradict people just to have an argument, how i judge people harshly, my pompous points-of-view, my ridiculous high standards.

i don't like to 'fess up to this, but i was caught red-handed...she wasn't wrong about any of this. i am all those things. but in moderation, of course. like all people, the flaws arise depending on the context. depending on my mood.

but it got me thinking - earlier today i watched "tape" and "my dinner with andre." i'd seen both movies before. i actually saw "my dinner with andre" a few years back when i saw "the wife" and i became very enamored with wallace shawn's acting style. he's truly distinctive and carries more range than i think he gets credit for. anyhow, both films for me were rather compelling. it was the fifth or sixth time i'd seen each, and i realized that as human beings, the major characters all confront really terrible, ungainly truths about themselves. like all the films of cassavetes or ozu or bresson or all of the other greats. it's about confronting other aspects of one's personality that aren't flattering. the ugly stuff. the real shit.

this is nothing new. you've said it many times, and others have said it for centuries before. but with that girl, that wonderfully honest and smart girl i spoke to - she opened me up to aspects of myself i hated. and i loved her and wanted to smack her for it. i was angry and thrilled. i did cry a little. i was humiliated. i was emasculated. and then i told her what i hated about her personality, and she was mad at me. and we started yelling, then laughing. and then a minute of silence. then i told her i really found her sexy, and she told me she didn't find me physically attractive. i thanked her for her honesty, and she told me she valued me deeply as a friend. on and on it went. it was a rollercoaster conversation, one of the most intense and uncomfortable i've ever had.

and you know what? i feel great. because for once in a long, long time, no one bullshitted me. no one told me what i wanted to hear. and mr. carney, i respect you so much because on a daily basis the stuff that you've written and the movies and books i've seen or read due to your recommendations - i am constantly re-understanding myself and the life i lead with others. i've started to learn how to accept the huge, friggin' mess that life is and can be. i read "the beast in the jungle" because of what your wrote about henry james. it was scary. i realized that i am chicken. like mr. cassavetes says, "people are so chicken. they hide behind things." i hide, i hide behind so much in my life. the beast is my own insecurity. the beast is different for different people. i like that i am scared and that i don't know what to expect.

In desperate need of help, hell-bent for catastrophe. The melting of the polar ice cap, the change in oceanic salinity, the slowing, then cessation of the Atlantic current, the unbelieveable rapidity of a new Ice Age, accompanied by famine then extermination.

i don't really understand or know why i wrote this, except to say that i pondered what you would say about all this. i've always written about movies to you, whether it was about caveh's new work or "mutual appreciation" or random cassavetes observations. but i lack so much genuine encounters with others in my daily life. i think we all go through droughts of experience...pure experience. and i know that when you read this and if you respond, you are not a man who tolerates bullshit. and it's not validation i need, it's acknowledgement. that i acknowledge how completely messed up and imperfect we are and that i'll never have a normal relationship with a woman and that no "hack" dr. phil is going to make my self-esteem better or worse. this is life, and tonight was a little bit of an awakening that's a long process to go. very long and a very winding road, so to speak.

and i'm giddy and wanted to talk to someone and i saw the mike leigh book by my monitor, and i thought, "dammit, ray carney...i want to share my excitement! i want you to hear this rant!" because i still don't even know what i'm excited about. i am and will always try to figure out what on earth we are doing here in this tiny little planet.

and all because of a phone call from a girl who refused to lie to me.

and you know what? i'm still pissed that she doesn't find me attractive. and i'm offended by her criticisms. and i love her laugh and i love hearing her yell, and the silences are so overwhelming. ah well. she likes me anyway. or does she? whatever.

thanks for reading, i hope i've not rambled too far off the edge of sanity! i got an e-mail from andrew bujalski. i am so thrilled to hear he's teaching a class at BU.

have a good one. be hard on your students come finals week. they'll be better for it!


Ray Carney replies:

Thanks for sharing your experience with me. It's very deep, very touching, and very important. It's always surprising how the shocks of life can be deep lessons. "Everything is a teaching" as a Zen master once said. All of life is giving us lessons, if we open ourselves to learn from them. But you're right: we screen them out usually and only want to hear the good things, the compliments. So we go to art that flatters us and makes us feel smart; we seek out people who reinforce our views; and we crave compliments from our teachers and mentors. D.H. Lawrence uses the metaphor of a parasol. He says we don't want to look at the sky, but only at the painted images on the inside of a parasol we hold over our heads. The painted images are smooth and beautiful and calming. The sky is fearful and rough. And only when a rock comes crashing down and breaks a hole in our parasol do we get a glimpse of reality. But we stitch up the hole as quick as we can in fear of the view.

But even shocks fade. I think of what another Zen master told me about a student saying he had an enlightenment experience the night before, but when the Roshi asked him to show it to him, the student said "It's not as vivid now. It seems distant." The Roshi laughed and laughed. He said to me "And he called that enlightenment!" The student didn't understand that that was a teaching too. Your experience will fade. It will seem less vivid and more distant, but keep allowing more punctures to happen. He who disagrees with us is our friend, as William Blake said. No progression without contraries. Sailing or flying are only possible against the wind.

In terms of my job (since you mention it): my students don't want to hear that any more than George Bush does. Most of them want compliments and agreement. They haven't understood that progress only happens when there is disagreement. That agreement is the negation of creativity. They want everyone to get along all the time; they themselves want to imitate and borrow and follow the leader when they should be questioning everything constantly. It puzzles me why disagreement scares them. Sometimes I think it's the result of too many years of "raising self-esteem" education, where only positive things were allowed to be said. Where everyone agreed with them all the time and indoctrinated them into believing that agreement was the goal of life. It makes them fear opposition rather than learn from it. It makes them want to go along with everything. It creates passivity.

But I don't want to sound too hard on the students. Most professors are no different either. They are born followers in their own right. Organization men (and women) who go along to get along. Intellectually speaking, they are slaves to intellectual fashions and styles. That's their parasol. Their way of feeling safe and comfortable.

Keep going. There are a lot of upheavals in life. Most of them good. All of them lessons.


P.S. May I post an anonymized version of your letter on the site? There is a lot in it that can teach others valuable truths. Compared to these sorts of experiences, the rest of life is as worthless as TV or the (so-called) news. (Our newspapers and magzines are worse than Hollywood in their banality, their stupidity, their reliance on clichés.)

hi prof. carney,

thanks for responding so quickly. after a long night's sleep, i can see how much of the initial impact of last night's conversation had subsided. the initial shock waves have seemed to simmer down. the facts and the truths still remain. really, the d.h. lawrence quote is incredibly apt. i don't think there is anyone who can honestly say that they don't carry some form of a parasol over their perceptions. in fact, i look at some of what i wrote to you last night - and i am surprised to find certain phrases and observations. am i just that fickle about my emotions? it's been in the past few weeks that i've come to acknowledge my own problems - which is to say, not the problems that one goes to a therapist for, but the inherent problems of feeling different and having varying opinions on a minute-by-minute basis. it drives everyone crazy. as it would drive me crazy when i hang out with equally indecisive friends. but you're right: the real friends are the ones who can kick you in the ass from time to time. the ones who don't coddle my comfortable view of the world. because that would be a form of self-deception - to willingly forego the waking realities of pain and cruelty and love and compassion and divorce and war and drugs and lies and truth and friends and enemies. all in one basket.

it'd be fine if you posted an anonymous-version of the letter. so many of the letters you post there are quite affecting. the one written to you earlier in the summer (?) wherein a man mentioned his torrid road trip and affair with a woman. something along those lines. it was an intense read - again, because it wasn't laced with bullshit. i don't remember the details of the letter, but i remember the ferocity of the text. the urgency of his emotions.

and it's like how i view you and your writing: i'm not in 100% agreement with all you say. there are some works that i don't find as interesting, as i'm sure there are certain things i value that you would dismiss. but that's irrelevant. no one has an obligation to agree with each other ALL the time. how boring that would be! it still didn't prevent me from learning valuable things from you and other writers and artists and painters and poets and filmmakers.

the zen master is correct: everything IS a learning experience. even writing this e-mail back to you...i'm reevaluating some of my thoughts as i type. how crazy
and strange we humans are.

thanks again. for being an open ear.


Hi Ray,

I just stumbled across this and thought you might be interested. (Click here to access it.)

In case that doesn't open, it is a book called Early Escapades, and it's a collection of writings and drawings from Eudora Welty's childhood. It was just released a month ago.

Also, another Library of America volume of Henry James will be released next year. (Click here to access it.)

I hope you are well. I recently read your note about being replaced as director of the film program. BU's loss, and unfortunately, a bigger loss for its students. Best wishes for next semester and all your endeavors.

-Robert Quirk

hi, Ray,

i met you in 1997 and you autographed your book THE FILMS OF JOHN CASSAVETES for me. i'm an alum of BU (English MA '89). i'm the author of THE ART OF KISSING and am working on a new book for St. Martin's press on movie kisses. my problem is i don't know how to get good enough photos from DVDs (still photos) to print in the book. if you have any idea, please let me know. (there is no way i can use actual film as this would be prohibitively costly).

if you have any idea, or can suggest anyone at BU or elsewhere who might know, please pass that contact info along to me.

thanks in advance.


p.s. your website is excellence personified!

Ray Carney replies:


You can do a frame capture and run a thumbnail sized photo that is fine for grayscale use in a book. But you must keep it small. If you go larger than about 2 by 3 inches, there just isn't enough detail resolution on a regular DVD. (HiDef DVD will be better, but that's a year off at least.)

There is no way to improve the resolution. The source is only as good as it is. Not very good in other words.

Color is much more fussy. And harder to get good quality off of. Focus/definition issues arise.

But be aware that you need permission to run anything that is copyrighted. Getting the shot is one thing. Permission is totally separate. The film owner, not the DVD releaser, must provide that. And any reputable publisher will insist on the paperwork being in order to avoid a future claim (or law suit.) All photos in my books are run with permission. And it ain't cheap. I spend thousands of dollars on that alone for each book. Sorry. Don't shoot the messenger. You can ultimately thank the damned and damnable Michael Eisner for most of the legal hoops you will have to jump through. He changed the copyright law a few years ago with his high paid lobbyists and made permissions and copyrights much more stringent and longer in duration. Corporate America triumphs again. The same people who brought us Enron and Worldcom strike again.


PS. Thanks for the kind words about the web site. I wish my bosses at Boston U. felt the same way!

Dear Prof. Carney,

I had the good fortune to see snatches of It's A Wonderful Life last night. I love that movie, hadn't seen it in years. I thought I'd like to share a few of my thoughts about it.

When I went to bed and was trying to fall asleep, for some reason, I kept thinking about Zuzu's petals. Zuzu's petals. How precious and wonderful. How fragile and tender that little scene between George and his daughter. To pretend to have fixed the rose that had lost a few of its petals, and then telling her it was better to fall asleep than stay awake to look at a single rose, when she could dream of a whole garden of them... And I thought of how later, the petals disappeared during George's nightmare of finding out he had never been born. And how Zuzu's petals returned magically to his pocket when George came alive again, and were infinitely more precious. How to understand this miracle? Reality intruding on magic or magic intruding upon reality? These accidental "talismans," marking moments of magic and innocence, these reminders that magic happens?

And then the scene with Mary and George sharing the phone as they "talked" to hee-haw Sam Wainwright, and the flutters of feeling across their faces as you watched them realized they were in love, falling deep and hard, so many shifts of feeling and confusion and weakness and awe. Being swept away by love feelings without a single word spoken. Sooo beautiful. Amazing acting... Their faces both unforgettable... And here again, reality intruding on magic or magic intruding upon reality?

Anyway, I wish I had your Capra book so I could read again what you had written about It's A Wonderful Life, but it will keep.

Ah, those magical moments of shifting away from reality into another universe of the imagination. Entire worlds await us there...

And I think you might enjoy this article "Art, Truth & Politics" by Harold Pinter. writes a fascinating account of his creative process. (Click here to go to Pinter's Nobel Prize acceptance speech.) And Harold Pinter writing a whole play on a word or a phrase, brings me back to Zuzu's petals. Zuzu's petals. I think I could write an entire volume on "Zuzu's petals"...! Wonderful stuff...

Ray Carney replies:

I know. I agree. That's what's so magic about the film. George is an imaginer. Not a doer necessarily, or only unimportantly. A feeler and thinker. He imagines the Explorers' Club and South Sea islands. He imagines skyscrapers. He imagines lassoing the moon. Things that he wil never do or that can't ever be done by anyone. And the magic of the movie is that Capra shows us everything twice. Once with his imagination and once without it (when he has not been born). And shows us that THE WORLD IS DIFFERENT because of his imagination. That's the miracle. We all have dreams, but to think that they actually change, have changed the world, is the miracle.

I love that movie. I went to a play version of it about a week ago and cried all the way through. I couldn't stop. It's a magic work. Downright Keatsian! "Much have I travelled in the realms of gold, round many Western islands have I been, and many goodly states and kingdoms seen, Oft of one wide expanse have I been told, Deep browed Homer rules as his desmene, Yet never breathed its air serere, till I heard Chapman speak out loud and bold........" Chapman, not sailing is what takes us there. Imaginative gold, far greater than real world gold. Balboa not Cortez is the rich one. Wild surmises not greedy graspings are the real possession of life. The vision is greater than the deed.

I'm in the middle of Carlyle's The French Revolution right now and living the same thing today. I can't sleep for the desire to read it.

37 < Page 38 < 39

Introduction and Page 1 / 2 / 3 / 4 / 5 / 6 / 7 / 8 / 9 / 10 / 11 / 12 / 13 / 14 / 15 / 16 / 17 / 18 / 19 / 20 / 21 / 22 / 23 / 24 / 25 / 26 / 27 / 28 / 29 / 30 / 31 / 32 / 33 / 34 / 35 / 36 / 37 / 38 / 39 / 40 / 41 / 42 / 43 / 44 / 45 / 46 / 47 / 48 / 49 / 50 / 51 / 52 / 53 / 54 / 55 / 56 / 57 / 58 / 59 / 60 / 61 / 62 / 63 / 64 / 65 / 66 / 67 / 68 / 69 / 70 / 71 / 72 / 73 / 74 / 75 / 76 / 77 / 78 / 79 / 80 / 81 / 82 / 83 / 84 / 85 / 86 / 87 / 88 / 89 / 90 / 91 / 92 / 93 / 94 / 95 / 96 / 97 / 98 / 99 / 100 / 101 / 102 / 103 / 104 / 105 / 106 / 107 / 108 / 109 / 110 / 111 / 112 / 113 / 114 / 115 / 116 / 117 / 118 / 119 / 120 / 121 / 122

Top of Page


© Text Copyright 2006 by Ray Carney. All rights reserved. May not be reprinted without written permission of the author.