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May 03, 2005

Weirdos and Culture

Michael Blowhard writes:

Dear Blowhards --

Arts and Letters Daily links to a hilarious memoir by Terry Castle about her friendship with the recently-deceased intellectual legend Susan Sontag.


In one passage, Castle takes a friend to Sontag's apartment to introduce her to the great lady:

Half an hour later, somewhat blowsily, Sontag finally emerged from a back room. I introduced her to Blakey, and said rather nervously that I hoped we hadn't woken her up from a nap. It was as if I had accused her of never having read Proust, or of watching soap operas all day. Her face instantly darkened and she snapped at me violently. Why on earth did I think she'd been having a nap? Didn't I know she never had naps? Of course she wasn't having a nap! She would never have a nap! Never in a million years! What a stupid remark to make! How had I gotten so stupid? A nap -- for God's sake!

My main response: What a weirdo!

John Massengale reprints a Sharon Waxman piece about the film director David O. Russell.


In one passage, Waxman describes Russell's behavior on the set of his recent film "I [Heart] Huckabees" this way:

Mr. Russell is almost never in the usual director's position behind the monitor. Giddy and childlike, he rolls on the ground, dances, does push-ups and shouts at the actors with a megaphone. ''I never want it to end,'' he whispers. Mr. Russell starts the day wearing a suit, but it's slowly coming off: first the jacket, then the shirt. Also, he keeps rubbing his body up against the women and men on the set -- actors, friends, visitors.

My main response: what a weirdo!

At the moment, I'm currently going through Robert Greenberg's Teaching Company lecture series on Tchaikovsky. Tchaikovsky might have been designed by God specifically to have his life turned into a Ken Russell movie. A hypersensitive mama's boy right from the outset, Tchaikovsky grew up to become compulsively addicted to cigarettes, booze, and 14 year old boys. With age, he became ever more delusional and paranoid. He imagined slights where there were none, and he held grudges unforgivingly for decades at a stretch.


At one point, Tchaikovsky convinced himself that what he needed most was to be married --- and so he went and married the first woman who'd take him. (She turned out to be crazy in her own right, as well as a nymphomaniac.) In despair over how badly the marriage was working out, Tchaikovsky became hysterical; he walked into a freezing river in an attempt to commit suicide. In fact, he didn't even catch a cold. A short while after leaving his marriage, he developed a walloping case of hemorrhoids. Convinced that he was dying, Tchaikovsky had his will drawn up.

My main response: What a weirdo!

The lesbian feminist Andrea Dworkin, who recently died, not only all but called all instances of heterosexual intercourse rape; she was married to a gay man, whom she treated abusively as a kind of slave.


My main response: What a weirdo!

All of which has got me thinking about weirdos and the art-and-media life.

When I came to NYC in the late '70s and sneaked into the culture-and-media world, I was under the sway of a lot of Romantic-'60s ideas about art, inspiration, and madness. My reasoning -- too dignified a term for what was really a set of adolescent feelings and fantasies -- went along these lines: you have to be a little crazy to commit substantial life-resources to the culture world. The culture-life is impractical and quixotic, after all. But that kind of craziness is good! It's sweet! It's generous! It's a gift! It's all about the giving and the getting of pleasure! And pleasure is a wonderful, indeed priceless, thing! I think I had a dim image in my mind of Jean-Paul Belmondo and Jean Seberg chasing through Paris in pursuit of art and sex, and being charmingly neurotic and stylish together.


I arrived in the city feeling full of creative promise, and eager to meet other charming oddballs. After all, wasn't I an oddball myself? I certainly didn't lack for bizarro interests, and one side of my family is made up almost entirely of eccentric -- seriously eccentric -- people. I know from eccentric.

So why then did I struggle so hard and so long with what I encountered? What hit first was what was projected onto me. (Not that many people were paying any attention to me at all, of course.) I found myself being typed as "the WASP," for instance -- this despite the facts that I'm only half-WASP, and non-moneyed half-WASP at that. Yet there I found myself, assigned the role of "the WASP" in other people's psychodramas.

Sometimes this was a pain. I was hated for being "the WASP"; shit I didn't ask for was being worked out on me. Other times, though, it was enjoyable. What fun to learn that some "ethnic" girls love zeroing in all their heat and passion on guys whom they enjoy thinking of as repressed. (And how interesting to learn that, for some people, "polite and reserved" equals "repressed.") I confess that I became pretty good at using this "repressed" angle to my advantage. Ethnic ladies -- bring me your warmth!

I also found myself being treated as one of the fortunate ones -- a Mr. Moneybags in some cases, a fascist frat boy in others. Yet I've never earned much money. And, in conventional American high-school terms, I've never been anything like Mr. All-American. My high-school role was "a brain"; on a very, very good day, I could sometimes get away with "a reasonably-presentable -- as in could play a sport or two, and could sometimes land a date -- brain."

What an odd experience. As far as I was concerned, I was a former brain who was in the full flower of my hippie-anarchist/punk-rocker phase. Yet many people were determined to take me as a WASPy winner-type -- and were scarily determined that I should play along.

Was it simply that straight/white/non-Jewish/non-Catholic men are thin on the ground in the culture-world? Perhaps I was merely learning what it's like to be a minority -- fair enough. But finally it all seemed to go deeper than that. Over and over, I found myself reeling from the behavior of many of the people I encountered, and exhausted from the effort it took to treat them decently.

It took me ages to understand that many of the people I was encountering in the cultureworld weren't charming eccentrics or engaging oddballs. What I finally woke up to was the simple fact that many people in the cultureword are real weirdos -- people who are so deeply off as to be close to mentally ill, if not actually mentally ill. They aren't crazy with a small c -- crazy as in eccentric. No, they're Crazy with a great big C -- crazy as in loony-bin-worthy, or something close to it.

I also woke up to the fact that many inhabitants of the cultureworld aren't sweetly nuts. They're destructively nuts. In my clueless smalltown way, I'd had trouble imagining that anyone -- anyone short of a Hitler, a Stalin, or a Jeffrey Dahmer -- might wish the general run of humanity ill. Yet what I found was that a fair number of people in the American cultureworld seethe with bile and contempt towards the mainstream.

Silly me: I'd spent years trying to have friendships and acquaintanceships with people who turned out to be so deeply freaky that, over and over, I regretted ever getting close to them.

[Disclaimer: I'm not arguing that the majority of people in the cultureworld are nuts -- nothing like it. And I'm not under the impression that I don't present some challenges myself. I'm just trying to reflect honestly on life as I've found it.]

I'd imagined encountering people who were, whatever their looninesses, well-motivated -- interested in contributing to the general welfare, even if in their own oddball ways. What I often found instead were humorless, self-centered megalomaniacs who thought the world should pay for what they'd had to endure while growing up, yet should at the same time celebrate them for their genius. "You don't understand," one guy who I thought of as a friend once snapped at me. "You played soccer. I was the class faggot."

As far as I could tell, this very bright and talented man had developed his whole NYCity personality around this; he made having been the "class faggot" central to his personality. I certainly didn't impose that role on him, and I came to dislike the frat-boy/conventional/winner role he assigned to me. I finally found it impossible to have even a cordial relationship with him.

Short aside: nothing makes many of these people happier than the David Lynch/"Boys Don't Cry" vision of mid-America: out in the heartland, people aren't benign.

No, "normal" isn't normal; "normal" really means homophobic, racist, violent, fascist. The idea that the violent losers in a given community might not represent the repressed heart of that community -- they might, but chances are good they don't -- is offensive to many bigcity crazies, who have banked their lives on the idea that "normal" is evil.

I've come to suspect that this kind of capital-C Craziness helps explain some of the characteristics of our cultural world. The cultureworld exists in defiance of normal life because the people in it really do stand in opposition to normal life. Normal life made them suffer. Not only can they not forgive, they're determined to find meaning in that suffering. They didn't suffer back in high school because they were weird. No, they were made to suffer because they were special -- special and better.

In the cultureworld, among others who are like themselves, these sufferers don't have to wrestle with being strange, out-of-control, vindictive people with loony and burning fantasies about their deep-down superiority to the rest of us. They get to compete on their own terms. A consequence: pretentious and affected people like Sontag get away with deluded carrying-on in the cultureworld because she's never called on her behavior.

This is too bad for the rest of us -- we semi-normals -- because many of our culture-producers truly don't have our best interests in mind. Instead they have their idea of our best interests in mind -- and their idea is basically that we should die, and then thank them for killing us. It's too bad too (or so it seems to me) for the cultureworld itself, which often takes on an upside-down aspect: the biggest, the most brilliant, and the most networking weirdoes win, with the other weirdos becoming hangers-on and supporters of this value system -- culture-priests and culture-acolytes.

It's an odd world for a semi-normal to try to find his footing in. What you're used to considering as your virtues are seen here as marks of loser-hood, if not fascist-hood. And this world of upside-down values has a do-or-die quality that's ... unusual, at least if you're someone who has any sense of perspective at all. If you go into the cultureworld without feeling as though you're struggling for your very life at every single instant, you're at a disadvantage.

For the true culture-crazies, imposing themselves on the cultureworld -- or at least finding a niche in it -- really is do-or-die. They don't have any other alternatives. They compete viciously, because if they don't make it here, they really aren't going to make it anywhere else. They're simply too weird. So weirdo values are enforced with terrific fanaticism. Confronted with all this, most interested semi-normals (who, after all, do have alternatives) tend to bail out and go into non-culture fields instead.

I was reminded of some of this the other night when I watched a good documentary on the Trio network called "Cinemania." (It can also be bought here.) The film takes as its subject a half-dozen out-there film buffs. Their passion for filmgoing isn't mere buffery; it's truly all-consuming. The most presentable of the bunch is a witty and self-aware-seeming guy. He knows it's nuts to give over so fully to film-fandom; he takes a chuckling glee in his enthusiasm for filmgoing, and relishes saying things like (roughly) "You aren't a film maniac until your love of filmgoing has done real damage to your life."

Funny! Yet, yet ... This guy may seem in charge of his craziness -- he may seem like a sweet eccentric who has some odd if strong passions. He's the kind of person with whom, a couple of decades ago, I'd have tried to establish a friendship. But these days, while I wish him well, I'd choose to avoid him. Engaging though this cinemaniac is, he makes too many warning bells go off. That obsessiveness ... That inability to let it go ... It was sad, if satisfying, to learn in the course of the movie that all of the featured cinemaniacs are genuine mental cases -- mental, as in "on disability" mental.

For what little it's worth, I once met Susan Sontag. Or rather, I stood in her presence for a few minutes; I clearly wasn't registering on her radar screen. Whew, what a lofty thing she was. The Wife, on the other hand, once spent a few minutes actually conversing with Sontag. She tells me that the Sontag she met was indeed the ludicrous diva-intellectual Terry Castle describes.

I also once chatted with Andrea Dworkin. Two things surprised me about Dworkin. The first was that she wasn't without soul, charm, and brains, if of a big-spoiled-sloppy-neurotic-baby sort. We talked for a very pleasant ten minutes about this and that. The other thing that surprised me came along when the conversation turned to the topic of sex. Vile, anti-male, anti-heterosexual hysteria rose instantly to the surface and turned her into a deranged monster. One moment I was enjoying the company of a bright oddball; the next moment I was wondering if I should call Bellevue.

I've had to adjust my ideas about myself too. Where once I considered myself pleasantly loony, these days I put myself at around 30% oddball/70% normal. A common conversation between the Wife and me involves trying to sort out who among our current acquaintances is destructively crazy. We scrutinize our friends-list regularly with the goal of including as few nutcases on it as possible.

I confess that one major reason I celebrate the blogosophere is that it's giving us semi-normals a chance to speak out on cultural topics. I wonder what the impact of this development will prove to be. Any thoughts? Will the tastes, preferences, and opinions of the semi-normal call the weirdos a little to account? Perhaps not, but one can hope.

I tend to think the culture-world is more full of destructive weirdos than most fields are. The Wife disagrees. She claims that all fields have their share of crazies, and she points out examples of this: the way engineering and Silicon Valley are awash in Asperger-y types; the way law and medicine abound in egomaniacs; the way business is bursting with Genghis Khan-wannabes.

She certainly has a good point. And it's certainly possible that, when I think along these lines, I'm being a self-pitying drama queen. Still, I wonder: how could the cultureworld not be more full of crazies than most other fields are? The cultureworld might almost have been created in order to attract crazies. The arts are vaporous yet glamorous, a combo many deranged people must find it irresistable. And art-and-culture is a field where dreams and fantasy play powerful roles. Many culturepeople are able to get by on ineffables: promise, personality, brains, flash. All this, to me, means that the cultureworld must be catnip for psychos.

Sharon Waxman has recently published a book about '90s film directors: Russell, Soderburgh, Tarantino, Spike Jonze, etc. -- seriously weird, avoid-getting-close-to-'em geeks, every one of them.

Scribbling Woman supplies lots of Andrea Dworkin links. Cathy Young calls Andrea Dworkin "insane."

Here's an amusing online "How normal are you?" quiz. I scored 70% -- bingo.

I'm curious to hear about other people's impressions and observations. Is the cultureworld more full of crazies than most fields? How full of crazies are other fields? And what did you score on the "how normal are you" quiz?



UPDATE: Steve Sailer comments on Susan Sontag.

posted by Michael at May 3, 2005


Oh, you can see superiority complexes most anywhere you go among creative types. Every year the San Diego Comic Con has a fantasy artist panel, where the participants snark about the mundanity of those fantasy artists who aren't there.

And then you have those who follow the Gospel According to he World of Darkness®, to whom all else is but merry sunshine and benign idiocy. Give a bad name to pretentious loons they do.

Posted by: Alan Kellogg on May 3, 2005 8:22 PM

I dunno about that quiz, Michael.

I'm about as square as you can get (so my self-image tells me -- dress Preppy, frat man in college, Ivy League grad degree, vote mostly Republican, generally dislike avant-garde stuff, patriotic military veteran, have a "buzz" haircut, drive a big American car). Yet I scored only 50% normal. Hmm. Maybe the definition of "normal" changed during my lifetime.

I'm inclined to think crazies go cultural, though any field has its eccentrics. A case in point was Col. John Boyd, the brilliant Air Force pilot and tactician and subject of a couple biographies.

Also, I think the Village punches way above its weight crazy-wise, so you likely got a skewed, pure-dose version of the type. There are several interesting books about the Village and its denizens, and a (relatively) recent one that I enjoyed is "REPUBLIC OF DREAMS Greenwich Village: The American Bohemia, 1910-1960" by Ross Wetzteon, Simon & Schuster, 2002.

Posted by: Donald Pittenger on May 3, 2005 8:59 PM

Oops -- the last name of that author is Wetzsteon.

He was a Montana guy who live much of his life in the Village and free-lanced for the Voice. He died in 1998.

Posted by: Donald Pittenger on May 3, 2005 9:05 PM

So you happen to witness Dworkin fuming about males and heterosexuals and you think it's a sure sign she was certifiably insane?
Thank god you're not a court psychologist.

Aren't we all, semi-, quarter- or 100%-normals have our own pet set of issues, our little pushbuttons: lightest touch (accidentally or deliberately, especially deliberately) - and we'll explode? (double entendre intended - isn't orgasm the other side of the medal?)
Now, buttons go thru their own developement: what is an amorphous matter at 17 becomes a leathered corn at 47.

I'm saying it all being in defensive mode, of course. I had just quarrelled with somebody and I'm afraid I looked exactly like the "class fagot" you described, albeit my button is different. And the closer to you that button-pusher is, the fireworks are higher.

Uh, well, I guessed my "polite and reserved" only works until particular fuse is lit. After all, I'm in 55% on that highly scientific quiz (interesting, btw, what did it: my preference for blue? throwing away out-of-style clothes? or was it a sex question?) - definite pre-requisite for the Wife's "undesirable crazies" list.


Posted by: Tatyana on May 3, 2005 9:15 PM

65% Normal

Having just had one of those slightly abnormal experiences where a ex-coworker, wonderful, gentle family man, kind and funny to his colleagues, given early retirement because of on-the-job scruples....shot his wife & her boyfriend and put the pistol in his mouth.

I think we are none of us to be trusted.

Posted by: bob mcmanus on May 3, 2005 9:26 PM

Normal? There's no such thing as normal. I think we're all a bit deviant in one way or another and "normal" is just a set of rules that most people abide by (at least in public) so society doesn't fall apart.

Posted by: sya on May 3, 2005 9:33 PM

Well, some of the people you mentioned were highly successful prima donnas in their worlds. Very successful people are often shits -- what I've read about Thomas Edison, for example, is pretty awful. Liar, bully, poseur.

I also pick it up from the other end. I think that jazz is one of the great artistic achievements of the last century. A high proportion of jazz musicians had major problems, not limited to drugs. My feeling is, it's the price they paid, and it was worth it.

In my own life, I now regret the 25 years I spent trying to be normal and doing the 40 hour grind. I think that it seriously cost me. I'm able to do the things I want to do now, but I've lost a lot of oomph, which I wasted on a basically crappy job.

People don't think much about the cost of normality.

Posted by: John Emerson on May 3, 2005 11:50 PM

There's another thing too. There's a market for weirdness. Dworkin filled a niche. Allen Ginsberg filled a niche. Tiny Tim filled a niche. Liberace. Tennesse Williams. On and on.

Abnormal people in entertainment are often, in some sense, representing the cliche Repressed Other of normality.

Posted by: John Emerson on May 3, 2005 11:54 PM

Your experiences definitely square with those that I had during my two year experience as an "anarchist." Here are some interesting characters I can remember off the top of my head: A female roommate who, when entering the house, would spend 3 minutes hugging and kissing her dogs before even acknowledging the prescence of other people in the room, and who would often say things like, "I wouldn't mind our city being nuked by Iraq, as long as it means the destruction of America." An alcoholic, who only had one change of clothes and no socks or underwear, who believed that all people who didn't live as hunter-gatherers should be wiped out of existence. An influential and charismatic feminist, who took serious issue with me saying "I'll grant you that" as a way of expressing agreement, and who thought my use of the term "non-white" implied a white-supremacist mindset. Another crazy dog-owning woman who I rented from, who booted me out of her house for yelling, "Dammit, you got mud all over my clothes!" at her dog who jumped on me *inside the house* and got mud all over my clothes. (She told me that she didn't need that type of "negative energy" in her house.)

I could go on forever, but I won't. Although I did make a few friends during those two years (only one of whom I still have any contact with), the vast majority of them didn't like me much. I'm not without fault, in that regard, given that I was obnoxiously and pretensiously overly-intellectual at the time. More importantly, I think I was regarded as somewhat of a square. These counter-cultural cliques are actually far less inclusive and far more insular than mainstream society -- if you don't conform to their dress-code or understand their self-referential conversations, they don't even want to talk to you.

Although I now live a much more conventional lifestyle, I still am somewhat outside the norm of mainstream society. I have a bunch of tattoos, listen to metal, don't own a TV, rarely watch movies, don't drive, and am somewhat of a loner (only choosing a small-number of friends, none of whom know each other). However, I do *not* find myself judged negatively or ostracized by people who are more mainstream. Most mainstream people are very friendly towards me, and are often quite curious about my eccentricities, even if not choosing to adopt them for themselves. Even when my lifestyle was more obviously oddball than it is now, I found that average rednecks and white collar workers were far *less* judgmental of me than the supposed freaks that I tried to hang out with, and were far *more* amiable.

Posted by: chris w on May 4, 2005 12:06 AM

John Emerson:
"In my own life, I now regret the 25 years I spent trying to be normal and doing the 40 hour grind. I think that it seriously cost me. I'm able to do the things I want to do now, but I've lost a lot of oomph, which I wasted on a basically crappy job."

I don't think that one should try to be either normal or abnormal. I think that one should adopt the lifestyle most appropriate to one's needs. I don't think that it would suit my needs to conform to the common middle-class steretype, but I've learned from experience that purposefully trying to alienate (or to alienate myself from) the mainstream also doesn't suit my needs.

Posted by: chris w on May 4, 2005 12:19 AM

All I can speak to is the hayseed local music cultureworld, and with about a 10% exception rate, I want never to talk to another creative person again. Watch them perform, pay for their albums, promote them to my friends and readers -- just fine. Hold a conversation -- only if I'm in a very mellow moood, and drunker than Cooter Brown. I find that they mostly want me to need them, and I just don't, really.

55% normal by that test thingy. Guess I best go get a cat to carry around with me.

Posted by: Scott Chaffin on May 4, 2005 1:05 AM

I clock in at 50% normal. I guess Mr. Pittenger and I are so square we've become sort of deviant.

As to the main thrust of the post, many characters in the culture world strike me as analogous to the central character of a Henry James short story (the name of which I sadly no longer remember.) In it, you meet this guy who is clearly a bit crazy. As the story goes along, this character is so eloquent and vigorous in his argument that you get sucked into his point of view. And then, at the climax, you realize he is exactly the deluded goof he struck you as when James first introduced him.

I distinctly remember the first time I read some Susan Sontag thinking that she seemed a bit mentally ill. So dramatic! Every utterance a world-historical event! Just a first impression, not something I could have defended at all. Reading the memoir by Terry Castle, I remembered my first little flash of insight, before I got steamrollered by Ms. Sontag's rhetoric and her reputation. It was sort of a Henry James moment in real life...first impressions are not to be ignored.

Saul Bellow, no stranger to the world of self-promoting intellectuals, points out--I think in Herzog--how often the goals and behavior of those in the "delirious professions" are completely infantile. One wonders if the social role of such people is to somehow refresh our own moral sense. Clearly, anyone looking to the Sontags or the Dworkins of the world for ethical advice is barking up a seriously wrong tree--for them morality is just another tree limb to be brandished by their needy inner child.

Posted by: Friedrich von Blowhard on May 4, 2005 2:30 AM

This tracks something almost perfectly that I discovered in college. I was too square for my art class/indie rock world. I divided my time between painting and photography versus learning about international relations and the Soviet Union. I was writing twenty page papers on the Soviet Union, then going to classes where people drooled, snapped gum and discussed how transgressive blah blah blah was, when it really wasn't.

Michael, it seems to me that some of the people you encountered must have found you a threat to their self-image. Afterall, you were one of them, but you didn't fit the stereotypes, and your affection and interest in bohemia, the arts, etc, must have been scary for them. They've clearly got low-self esteem and their whole self-image is predicated on being superior to the squares, but what happens when the squares move in on their turf? What if the squares could do exactly what they do only better? They already feel inferior to the squares as a result of high school, as a result of not being pretty enough, thin enough, muscular enough, smart enough, etc, etc. No wonder they chased you off. More people like you could have demolished the entire world they'd created in their heads. More squares in the art world would probably do the art world some good.

I wonder if the most successful people in the artsworld are the squarest people or the weirdest people or is it just random? Someone who walks the edge of sanity isn't going to be successful for long.

Posted by: lindenen on May 4, 2005 3:21 AM

heh, all you're describing is that the "cultureworld" (as opposed to the "blogosphere" :) is full of characters... what a revelation! you sound like that kid from whit stillman's metropolitan :D like saying a group of people (the object of your ire) suffers from some deep and abiding victimhood and then claiming it for yourself sounds rather, um, clichéd...


Posted by: videlicet on May 4, 2005 3:39 AM

"Someone who walks the edge of sanity isn't going to be successful for long."

My son saw a documentary about Thelonius Monk, and apparently "walked the edge of sanity" described him pretty well. He was actually a nice guy, but the only thing he was able to do was play music. He needed a caretaker, which was his wife. It went beyond being impractical and eccentric.

Y'all are starting to sound a bit too much like Sinclair Lewis characters.

Posted by: John Emerson on May 4, 2005 6:57 AM

I registered 55% on the test, which is far less normal than I've always believed myself to be. Perhaps I just seem normal to myself because I hang with a bullmoose looney crowd. I have to admit there's a (nutty) little voice inside that aspires to a well-deserved reputation for eccentricity. In the theatrical world, though, you have to go pretty far afield for that.

I once knew an actor who decided to approach the Business as a business. He worked eight hours a day, every day on his career. He took an hour for lunch. He gave himself vacations and 'bonuses'. He used spreadsheets and time analyses. Everything was on paper and was filed and organized within an inch of it's life. It turned out to be a very good business model for him and he did very well for a long time. But no one left any sissors out when he was around.

Posted by: Sluggo on May 4, 2005 10:00 AM

A white male who grew up in the South, I went to film school at NYU because I loved making movies. Something of a mistaken move. Clearly, I was not their kind of people, though I sincerely wanted to be. I was consistently underestimated, sometimes in the crassest ways. Ditto the comments about "insularity." Finally, I had an epipheny: I asked myself "What would I REALLY like to do?" and the answer was "write...and never deal with film people again." I did just that. :)

Posted by: DR on May 4, 2005 10:13 AM

I am 40% normal. And as a fair-skinned, blue-eyed blonde who looks as all-American as they get, I've been assumed not to have "culture" (or whatever) because I haven't lived a life of suffering and wasn't consumed with bitterness. And this by people who don't have a clue as to what kind of suffering or bitterness I've experienced. All was judged based on my looks, my middle-class background, and how "normal" I seemed.


Good post. I love the blogosphere, don't you?

Posted by: Waterfall on May 4, 2005 10:31 AM

I don't think weird people are special to the arts world. There are lots of weird, crazy or just plain nasty people in business. The way I look at it, thank God for the private sector because at least the jerks can do something productive. Otherwise they might go into politics and do real damage. Rich Karlgaard had an op-ed profile of Steve Jobs in yesterday's WSJ and made exactly this point. Jobs fits your archetype perfectly. Karlgaard argued that in a totalitarian society Jobs might have done terrible things, whereas in the modern USA, while he is still a jerk, business incentives channel his considerable energies into mainly productive activity.

Posted by: Jonathan on May 4, 2005 11:01 AM

I bet you're gonna get some "who peed in your cheerios?" responses to this (I didn't read a single comment before I wrote this), but I can back you up 100% on this kind of experience, as I've gone through the same thing a few times. I remember when it dawned on me these "creative" people who are represented in the arts as cute, fuzzy iconoclasts really were little cancer cells just trying to spread the wealth. I finally understood the source of the punk idea that once you've succeeded financially, you've sold out - and why it was so morally and intellectually bankrupt. The face I presented to those types after that - of just barely patronizing them, and smiling blandly to indicate I was putting up with their shite pretty much to pass the time until something fun presented itself - infuriated them. Hee hee. A good friend of mine who kinda bought into their game was always mildly irritated with me because he thought I was just being purposely obtuse and that if I only "got" these people, I'd be better off. I think a couple times I tried to explain these were just bored, disenfranchised people who were trying to work out their craziness - to use your term - on those around rather than having the decency to go hit a therapist's couch for a while. But my buddy just took that as further indication of my lack of sophistication. Oh well.

And I agree with your wife. Hopefully since this is not my blog, I won't get Dooced over this, but in my current position, we are all still recovering from a nutball that used to work here. She was so messed up and dysfunctional, people would go to extreme measures to not attract her attention, kinda like she was the big evil burning Sauron eye in LOTR. Only now that new projects are starting without any of her poison poured in are they going relatively smoothly.

In my experience, these nuts are everywhere. I think the salient concern is how much damage can they do through the influence their chosen profession provides. Arts, media, law, and education are the most dangerous places for these clods to be, say as opposed to software development, shipping, mercantile/trade, and construction.

Posted by: Yahmdallah on May 4, 2005 11:09 AM

There are crazies the world over, true. And supersuccessful people, who are by definition superambitious people, can be unpleasant whatever the field. It takes a lot of determination to make it to the top.

But it seems like the "creative" have been given special dispensation to behave badly. I wonder, is this a 20th century thing? Seems like many who enter this oh-so-insular world are determined to reject "bourgeois" values, like good manners. Perhaps it begins with the Bloomsbury crowd. Or earlier, the Romantics.

Posted by: Rachel on May 4, 2005 11:16 AM

Whoa, almost as popular a topic as bottled water!

Alan -- The egos and touchinesses of people involved in a world specifically devoted to fantasy must be awe-inspiring.

Donald - "Crazies go cultural" is a good phrase, and I'm gonna steal it in the near future, tks. But other fields too ... You've got me wondering how the various kinds of crazies tend to divvy up according to field, both within and without the arts. Does policework, for instance, tend to appeal to one kind of crazy, while being an actor appeals to another kind? And why haven't studies been done of this? Well, the prof would probably screw it up anyway and submit it all to Theory. Which raises the question: what kind of crazy tends to go into academia? The kind that's attracted to Theory? And what kind is that?

Tatyana -- I did a bad job of evoking just how nuts Dworkin seemed to me. Tatyana (or, for that matter, The Wife) flares up, and it's a fiery moment -- something's been touched. But it's been touched in someone who's more-or-less solid. With Dworkin the feeling was the same feeling you get when you encounter a psycho street person: "Uh-oh, best to stay away from this." The very Mouth of Madness Itself opened up, and all I could imagine doing was gettting the hell out of there.

Bob - Scary the way it seems that the ground can slip out from under any of us, no? Seems to me that one of the hardest things about getting older is learning more and more about how unsolid the ground beneath us is after all.

SYA -- I think you're right that "normal" is a bit of a creation, and can't really be pinned down. On the other hand, when you write "I think we're all a bit deviant in one way or another and 'normal' is just a set of rules that most people abide by (at least in public) so society doesn't fall apart," I also think you're onto something about normality. Why is it some people choose to do that? What enables them to do it? And why do some other people never find the groove? Perhaps they don't want to. Perhaps they're unable to. What's that about? So I finally think "normal," while it can be a trap if taken too literally, if taken informally is a helpful concept.

John -- I wouldn't imagine the 9-5/SUV life would suit you at all! And yeah, some of these very weird people do very well for themselves, both within their own world and in the larger world generally. It leaves me wondering what role they play in the "normal" imagination. There's a market demand, I guess, for people able to play the romantic-intellectual, or the artist-genius. I see this as fairly harmless, though I do get annoyed when people start taking the whole charade too seriously. Sometimes the time comes when balloons need to be punctured.

Chris W -- That's a funny and smart account, tks. Funny how the one thing that the world that's supposed to be welcoming to everything can't stand is ... what? Normality? Ease with yourself? The ol' thing: liberals are tolerant of everyone except those who disagree with them. But especially in anarchist circles, it seems to go beyond that, doesn't it? I actually liked (and learned from) some of the super-far-out people I've encountered. But in almost every case the weirdest damn things would crop up -- and once again I'd find myself being used as a strawman in someone's bizarro psychodrama. Many of these people seem to have an irrepressible need to rage and protest, and if not at the headlines then at someone like you or me. I wonder where the overwhelmingness of that need to protest comes from. We all protest occasionally -- it's part of being human. But relatively few of us, at least past a certain age, define ourselves by our need to protest, or identify semi-totally with it. All hunches about this appreciated, believe me.

Scott -- "I find that they mostly want me to need them, and I just don't, really." That's a good way of putting it, as well as a heckuva country-western lyric. Lived-in, rhythmic, rueful, snappily-turned ...

FvB -- I tired of Bellow a while back, but clearly I gotta get around to "Herzog." What's your hunch about what the semi-normals get out of the carrying-on of the geniuses? I was often struck in France by the way the run-of-the-mill Frenchies both followed radical philsophizing yet at the same time didn't finally take it very seriously. That seemed very sensible. The radical posturing was entertaining, and good fodder for cafe chatter and bedroom talk, and that seemed to be how most Frenchies took it. It was hot, and bourgeois life is a little dull and boring, so people appreciated the edgy carrying-on as sexy provocation. Americans don't seem to have that kind of savoir-faire, though, do we? We tend to be much more earnest, and to take people at their word. I guess some of that's nice. Some of it does annoy me, though -- we're so damn earnest, credulous, and literal-minded. I suppose I should stop protesting against that...

Lindenen -- You're giving me 'way too much credit: no one ever took too much note of me, and there's no reason they should have. But I think your general impressions of how these people work and think, and what they need and how they're driven to behave is right on the money. You seem to be wising up to them much faster than I did!

Videlicit -- "Characters" isn't quite right: that's pretty much what I expected and was perfectly-well prepared for. What I often ran across instead went 'way beyond "characters": unstable, untrustworthy, seriously-disturbed, borderline-insane, genuinely destructive and malicious was often more like it. That I wasn't prepared for. And I took 'way too long puzzling it all out: how deep the real craziness went, how to take them and deal with them, etc. BTW, small-town mid-America, where I come from, is full of "characters." 99% of them, in my experience, are harmless. That final 1% can get awfully "Blue Velvet," though.

Sluggo -- The balance thing is important, don't you find? I mean, I'm not terribly well-suited to standard-issue American life. I like it and am glad it's there, but when I'm out in the 'burbs listening to people talk about schools and tennis and kids I fall instantly asleep. I like having some culture and ideas and zany adventurous people around, if only because it keeps me alert and interested. Yet life in the loony bin is 'way too much for me. I'm not sure there's any solution to the problem, but maybe there are better ways of balancing things than I've hit on. Sounds like you make the effort to keep the different sides of yourself alive -- what are your methods and secrets?

DR - Sensible move! I spent five minutes looking into the film world too -- what fun, making movies! Or so I supposed. I think what I was imagining was going out with a dozen friends and having a party and then spending a few months in the editing room and then being interviewed in the film magazines. But the ambitious-young-filmworld that I encountered put me off almost instantly. Nutty, high-strung, often vicious people, hysterically determined to make it, and willing to kill their moms if that's what it took. I picked up my skirts, fled, and have never regretted it, film fan though I continue to be. I still shake my head a bit over the fact that some of these fruitcakes actually turn out to have talent, and to be able to make the occasional movie I enjoy.

Waterfall -- LOL, that's a great evocation. It seems that, in the eyes of the more visibly-emotional (and often darker-complected), we sandy-vanilla bland-o appearing people aren't supposed to have inner lives, let alone passions, juice, ideas, culture, or feelings. Funny to discover that you play this kind of iconic role in their fantasy lives, no? There's a blog posting I've always wanted to write and have always failed at writing, which is about American culture in the late 1800s. We're kinda-semi-informally taught in art-and-lit-history classes that America didn't really have much culture prior to that point, with a few exceptions. The implication is that the great waves of immigration in the late 1800s and early 1900s were what gave us real culture. Yet that isn't true. We had quite an extensive, zany, wonderful, oddball culture prior to the great waves of immigration. What did happen was that many of those immigrants made their way into the culture worlds -- and good for them. Once there, they re-wrote American cultural history in their own image, leaving us bland-o vanilla types who came later under the impression that we owe all our art, culture, passion and good food to the imports. God bless the imports and their contributions, of course. But that simply ain't the case.

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on May 4, 2005 11:40 AM

I think it's probably correct to estimate a greater probabilities of crazies in the arts--

There are two factors at work, I think.

First of all, it seems like there are more crazies in the arts. This is by virtue of their generally performative nature. This may or may not be true, but creates the impression that it is true, and I think then begins to make people self-select in a way that biases the distributions.

Second of all, I think the nature of the game in the arts is set to reward acting out and self-destructive behavior. This is, I think, a cultural phenomenon reinforced both from within and from without. I think, in general, it is not incorrect to note that crazy people want external validation. I've encountered this before, as you did too Michael -- They want you to play in their game, and if you don't they try and either draw you in or force you out. Broader culture is permissive of this sort of behavior because of the idea (which I think is a Romantic notion, as noted previously) that artists have to be destructively loony.

Posted by: . on May 4, 2005 11:51 AM

I scored 75% and am not surprised given that the questions do not touch on anything that I think sets people apart: like their personal philosophies, phobias, passions, or perversions. Can one diagnose Atheism from a lack of daily towel washing? Hardly.

As for weirdness in other professions, I agree with your wife: I worked on Wall Street for 10 years, most of it on trading floors and in highly volatile markets. I have to say that the number of misfits is very, very high. Yes there are the Ghengis Khahn types, but there are also quite a number of other “special” types, from thieves, to temper-tantrum-throwing two-year-olds, to horrible philanderers, to sociopaths of the worst sorts. At one point, I swear, I worked for the evil twin of the pointy-haired boss in the Dilbert comic strip.

But the number of real assholes (jerks, scum, troglodytes) was just astounding. I don’t know if the allure of lucre brings in these people, or if the money itself works a kind of corruption of the spirit. I don’t know.

This is not to say that most people I worked with weren’t great: they were. But compared to other professions, I cannot believe that the incidence of such types could possibly be as high.

Posted by: Garth on May 4, 2005 12:16 PM

I scored 55% normal, kind of what I expected. It did say that I keep my weirdness to myself. My parents would be happy to know the good manners they tried to instill in me are working.

Posted by: Lynn on May 4, 2005 12:21 PM

55% normal. The bad part is...I have no idea at all which questions made me "normal" and which questions made me "abnormal." It says I have some serious "freak" in me but I largely keep it to myself. It would be easier to do that if I knew which part I should be hiding.

Anyway---I want to thank you for the first three paragraphs in particular---completely hilarious. I think the three words "what a wierdo" should always be tattooed somewhere (hmm...maybe that's the part of me which is "abnormal."). However, you might be surprised to know, I think that it is likely that the Arts have more overt wierdos, but I think there are real needy wierdos in EVERY walk of life, just perhaps less obviously histrionic. I mean---this blog has repeatedly discussed the wierdos of academia, shrinkdom, publishing!

Posted by: annette on May 4, 2005 12:22 PM

BTW--Unrelated Request for Help. Does anybody know how to say "Goodnight" and "Sorry if I was boring" (don't ask) in French???

Posted by: annette on May 4, 2005 12:26 PM

Oops, I'm late for a lunch date just as I wanted to start yakking with the most recent commenters. Later!

Quickly: Good night in French can either be "bonne nuit" (usually for going-to-beddy-bye), or "bon soir" (a social kind of "good evening"). Sorry if I was boring might go "Je regrette si j'etais ennuyeuse" -- but that's very literal, and there may well be a jazzier, more colloquial way of saying it.

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on May 4, 2005 12:39 PM

35% normal, which seems to be the lowest yet announced here. It surprises me a bit, but probably shouldn't. Along about the time I entered High School, I came to the realization that what made me happiest was to do what I wanted without regard to the opinions of others. If others agreed, great, love to have the company. If not, well at least I was doing what I wanted.

This works for me, introvert that I am, but probably wouldn't for most. The commonness of the "lets all be nonconformists together; don't forget to wear your nonconformist uniform tomorrow" attitude would seem to support my contention.

I don't know whether there are more toxic crazies in the arts world than elsewhere, even though I have some experience there. I do think that it's harder to avoid them in the arts world than elsewhere. This might be because this sort of craziness is validated by the more sane in a way that is less true in the general population, so it tends to reinforce itself.

Michael: "Does policework, for instance, tend to appeal to one kind of crazy, while being an actor appeals to another kind?"

In my experience, yes, and it's not a pretty kind of crazy, either. I have several acquaintances that are cops, former cops, and wannabe cops. They tend toward a particular sort of authoritarian cynicism and arrogance that annoys me to no end.

Posted by: Doug Sundseth on May 4, 2005 1:08 PM

One important facet of the behavior of art crazies is that every last one of them must have a Plan to Save the World.

I have a summer home in Woodstock, NY, and just about every loony artist in town has a Plan to Save the World. In 40 years of living in San Francisco, New York City and Woodstock, I'd estimate that I've endured 10 million Plans to Save the World.

The World Savers are usually hopeless basket cases in their personal lives, and often cannot afford to buy new underpants.

Among the Plans to Save the World I've suffered through are: (1) plans to coerce every last man on earth to engage in homosexual relations, (2) plans to eliminate private property, (3) plans to rid the world of men, and (4) plans to teach the world the sexually enlightened world view of Bonobo chimps. Plan 4 seems to be the current favorite of all art crazies in New York.

Incidently, I now charge $20 an hour to sit and listen to anybody's Plan to Save the World.

Posted by: Stephen on May 4, 2005 1:31 PM

60% normal, whatever that means.

I have the opposite problem - although I have a very mainstream job as a university professor, there is something about my style of dress that implies I must be an "artiste."

At least once a day, someone will stop me and say, "You must be an artist, right?"

Really wrong, dude.

But it's a great disguise :)

Posted by: Maureen on May 4, 2005 2:06 PM

This craziness in the culture world might even be self-perpetuating: some people involved in that world might feel compelled to *act* weird in order to fit in!

Posted by: Peter on May 4, 2005 3:23 PM

I'm a twenty-one year old gay HIV+ alcoholic and recovering meth addict who suffers from chronic depression, speaks three languages, and is completing a master's degree. Somehow I wouldn't have rated myself 70% normal, but maybe I just don't get out enough into the "counterculture". Does that make us equals on some level, MB?

By the way, isn't your use of the word "semi-normal" just another example of what you're trying to condemn? That is, a way of maintaining your belief in your own superiority, one that also preserves the delusion that your blog and self-published pontificating aren't just another form of "deluded carrying-on"? No, you're "semi-normal": you're culturally-literate, and thus not a red neck or blue-collar worker, you're quick to remind us, but nor are you a part of that crowd. I wonder.

Anyway, thank goodness for Michael Warner.

Posted by: Michael on May 4, 2005 3:38 PM

I'm having a tough time with this -- I agree with most of what you said, having experienced it myself while hanging in 'cool kid' circles. I'm just "too normal" apparently.

But you almost lost me with the anecdote about your "bright and talented" friend in NYC. I know exactly where that "class faggot" stance comes from and, while I understand how some can wallow in a victim mentality, that "Boys Don't Cry" vision didn't appear out of nowhere. I've found all too often that "normal" is often worn as a badge by some really hateful people.

It's a Mobius strip of a question: can I tolerate others' differences when their differences include intolence? I'd have to say no. As you said, it's about calling people on their behaviour.

And, Michael, your wife is right in that this kind of narcissistic behaviour is hardly limited to artists. I've worked with "normal" office types and witnessed some of the most appallingly cruel and narcissistic people ever.

There's just a bit too much 'typing' going on here: "normal" people can be both benign AND evil; creative types both idealistic AND messianistic. We just have to try to understand each other's backgrounds and respect each other's boundaries. And yes, that may too hard for some.

Posted by: Scott D on May 4, 2005 5:17 PM

There is, of course, no such thing as 'intolence' but you knew what I was doing :)

Posted by: Scott D on May 4, 2005 5:36 PM

Interesting. I'm a physician (the MDs for my name, not degree) and yes, there are egos in this corner of the world, allright. I'm a pathologist to boot, and yes, there's eccentrics in this part of the world allright.

What's interesting about medicine is how people try to be hyper-together and hyper-'normal' (whatever that may be - well, ok, in this world it's thinking you can always have everything under control and always have your sh*t together). When I was a medical student, I remember practicing how I would present a patient - how I would present everything perfectly, but non-chalantly, cool and in control.

I'm a little fascinated with the culture world because it feels like (looking from the outside) this world where you get to be, I dunno, not so controlled all the time. And then when I get around non-controlled people, I can't help thinking: jeez, get it together. You think you got it bad? Let me tell you what I saw at the hospital today....cold, yes, but this hyper world can make you a little hard.

Posted by: MD on May 4, 2005 5:58 PM

40% normal. Woo-hoo! I beat almost all of you losers!

This reminds me of a debate at the Corner (go here then scroll up) on the question: are the truly great artists mostly normal, bourgeois types? Their answer seemed to be mostly yes. I'm not sure if it's true -- in my area (classical music) you have a few Wagners and Beethovens sprinkled among the Bachs and Mendelssohns -- but I can imagine it's possible that a subculture's tone could be set by nasty types (they wouldn't even have to be a majority to set the tone) even while the creme de la creme are fairly decent people.

Posted by: Fred on May 4, 2005 6:20 PM

To paraphrase Larry Summers (the guy who allegedly created a "controversy" around the variability (not average) of women's IQs to explain why so few females are at the rightmost edge), most genuine artists who have made a mark are not one or two but three, perhaps four standard deviations above the average. That automatically makes them categorically "freaks", as a freak is someone who is noticably a "mutant".

However, in our "consumer culture" age where "equal access" became the ultimate political norm, this fact about artists (or creative types) have created a confusion. Now, it may be true the creative freaks may find the norms of the "normal" (i.e. "average") to constraining, and have therefore threw them away to create their own. But it is socially disasterous to read this causation backwards: that throwing away the normal will emphatically *not* make you a genius. Unfortunately, in our equal-access-obsessed culture, a few too many dysfunctionals may have gotten the wrong idea that by dumping their weirdness on the rest of us, they may eventually attain the privileges that come with the territory of being four-standard-deviations-above-the-norm talented.

I'd hate to insult your intellect with a cliche, but it's true that the genuinely creative freaks are not terribly interested in having "artistic personas"; they're too consumed by art for that. They spend their lives building things, and therefore are too busy for having well-publicized, high-profile "anti-culture" lives.

And, last but not least, those genuinely creative freaks do not revile normalcy for its own sake; most of them yearn all their lives to be accepted, loved, and respected as... well, as normal people.

Dump these Jerry-Springer pseudo-creative types. Stick with the model of good old Beethoven.

Posted by: Jonathan Doington on May 4, 2005 6:21 PM

Genre and Ego: No more than any other field in my experience. At the same time it is home to rather passionate fans (in the original sense) ready to expound at great (usually poorly informed) length on their interests. Since it does deal with emotions and feelings concerning matters magical and/or fantastical it does have a tendency to attract those on the fringes of intellectual inquiry. Most everytime I bring up the subject of magic as an (alternate reality) science at the ENWorld message boards inevitably someone shows up proclaiming that magic should be magical and should never be treated even hypothetically as a science.

Creativity and the Lunatic: We do seem to go together, don't we? :) It's been long known in medical science that creativite types tend to see the world in 'different' ways. Might be the wiring. Life experience from my experience has a big part to play in it. Then again, for some it might be part of the 'creative type' role.

And that last will lead to neurological changes reflecting one's interests and activities. New connections being made, new neurons (from stem cells) being produced for those actively exercised parts of the brain, changes in neurotransmitter production and use.

And that's my contribution for this go around.

Posted by: Alan Kellogg on May 4, 2005 6:33 PM

Speaking of weirdos in art, I'm surprised you didn't mention Romaine Brooks, the lesbian/bisexual painter whose most famous self-portrait looks exactly like the photograph you post of Sontag. (You can see both images side by side on my blog.) From what I hear, she was a little but "off".

I sometimes wonder if all lesbians are crazed.

Posted by: GayLikeAFox on May 4, 2005 6:37 PM

I sometimes wonder if all lesbians are crazed.

Nah. Just surly.

Posted by: jimbo on May 4, 2005 6:48 PM

hellooooo holden caufield!

ya'll are so sensitive... and a bunch of phonies :D

Posted by: videlicet on May 4, 2005 7:23 PM

That quiz is total rubbish. I scored 85% "abnormally normal" but according to my psychiatrist I have Borderline Personality Disorder.

Posted by: A Nonymous on May 4, 2005 7:43 PM

Brilliand post. Whenever I start to think you are going off the edge with the teenage girls taking their shirts off on video or some such stuff, you come roaring back with something solid as a steel girder, like this post.

"Will the tastes, preferences, and opinions of the semi-normal bring the weirdos a little to account? Perhaps not, but one can hope."

The essence of the Internet generally and the blogosphere specifically is that like-minded people can find each other, and ideas and tastes and music and everything can be disseminated laterally all over the place, rather than threw only a few channels which everyone is, perforce, required to turn to. These channels of communication were until recently very limited in scope, and had, and have, "gatekeepers". Susan Sontag and Andrea Dworking, in their own way, and in their own fields, held this gatekeeper position. Others lusted and struggled and connived to obtain similar positions. Taste and artistic "correctness" was set and determined by a few people who had managed to attain these commanding heights. This will always, probably, be true to some degree. There will always be trendsetters who, by force of personality or intellect or cleverness or some indefinable charisma manage to be the persons looked to for what is now hip, or cool, or whatever term is now used. But this process is far less universal and powerful as a result of all the networked, lateral communication going on. Technology has changed the playing field. This current trend is usually summarized by the term "disintermediation". It will allow many, many more disparate communities of taste and interest to develop, find each other, communicate with each other. So the answer to your question is yes. That is the empirical answer. The unstated value question is: Is that a good thing. I'd answer yes to that, too.

Posted by: Lexington Green on May 4, 2005 7:59 PM

The quiz worked for me: I regard myself as 50% normal, and that's exactly what I scored!

Posted by: A non-mouse on May 4, 2005 8:34 PM

Did anyone even think to check what answers give "normal" and "not normal" responses? It literally makes me sad to see people assigning so much weight to the numbers they get on this test.

Here are all the "abnormal" answers:
1. Can you roll your tongue? No
2. You change your towels... When they seem like they need changing
3. How do you button your shirt? From bottom up
4. What's closer to the amount of cash you carry around... $40
5. You are more likely to stop wearing something because... It's gone out of style
6. You would rather... Be a bit late and look perfect
7. Have you ever given someone a fake name or phone number? No
8. Have you ever smoked pot? No
9. Living together before marriage is... Not a good idea
10. Spanking kids on the butt...Is not okay
11. You prefer... Apples
12. You would rather: Gain 150 lbs
13. Having someone in the room while you go to the bathroom... Is okay
14. Do you speak a second language? No
15. What color do you prefer? Red
16. You would rather have... An aisle seat
17. You are: A night person
18. You find it harder to control: How much money you spend
19. How many times have you fallen in love? A few times
20. Which is closer to the idea amount of sex for you? A half dozen times a month

So, it's normal to change your towels every day, condone spanking, prefer bananas over apples and window seats over aisle seats, speak a second language, and want to have sex every other day?

Posted by: Paul N on May 4, 2005 8:37 PM

It literally makes me sad to see people like Paul N assigning so much weight to this test. I somehow doubt that most of the people who've taken this quiz assign much weight to it.

Posted by: lindenen on May 4, 2005 8:58 PM

I really enjoyed this post and apart from the theme about normalcy in the culture world I really responded to this topic as well: " It took me ages to understand . . ." It took me ages to understand many things about the culture world too. For instance the journals of opinion, the tastemaking small reviews, all that. When I was in college etc I would look at those publications in awe and think Wow, that review by X is so knowing and authoritative and impressive and so forth. It took me years to realize those were/are written by egotistical young punks who are anxious to climb into the cultural whirl and much better than I was at hiding all their anxieties about it. If they had any. Maybe they were just crazier. Why did it take me so long? Maybe it wasn't worth the energy to learn much earlier.

Posted by: Frank on May 4, 2005 9:09 PM

A big part of the craziness in the world of show business is the ethnic dimension. Show business is populated by many of the people whose ancestors and relatives started various revolutions around the world - the Russian Revolution most famous among them.

In addition to said ethnic group, other European ethnic groups - like the French - are particularly notable for left-of-center craziness.

Might be an interesting exercise to see whether there are any cultures in which the artists are "normal people". Japan, maybe? The guys who make Final Fantasy are artists of the highest caliber, and I'd bet they're all family men.

As a tangent, it might also be interesting to make a list of the most bioculturally left & right wing ethnic groups. Left: Frenchmen and Ashkenazim. Right: Germans and Japanese. etc.

Posted by: academic on May 4, 2005 9:39 PM

Out of curiosity, *academic, what part of academia you inhabit?
Just wondering what scientific backing you have for your assertions:
1. Ashkenazim is an ethnic group on par with French and German
2.Quantitativly level of craziness in Ashkenazim is higher than "normal"
3. Russian revolution started by Ashkenazim
4. Japanese and German artists are normal family men while Ashkenazim and French are crazies (=single bohemians?)
And may I humbly ask you to enlighten me what is the definition of "biocultural right and left"?

Posted by: Tatyana on May 5, 2005 9:24 AM

Artists and Lunacy, anectdotal evidence from my family:
My father has 6 brothers and sisters. The next youngest was institutionalized at the age of 16 for paranoid schizophrenia and died there in her early thirties. The second youngest is an artist and suffers a milder paranoid schizophrenia. One other aunt is even less extreme, but nonetheless, touched.
My artist aunt really tries to fit in and be nice. She wasn't really successful as an artist, her mental illness is too extreme, for instance, she developed a phobia of painting oils. Perhaps if she were a little less crazy, she might have resembled more the artists you talked about.
Charles Murray, in "Human Accomplishment", talked about elites, including artists, and compared and contrasted european elites of today with those of the renaissance. They are quite different he concluded; but I wonder if perhaps they shared lunacy?

Posted by: Emily B. on May 5, 2005 11:11 AM

Well, I'm not sure "academic" put it as sensitively as he/she might have, but there's something in purely American art-historical terms to his musing.

American culture prior to the great immigrations of the late 19th and early 20th centuries was something very different in character and tone than what it's become since. Publishing changed, architecture changed, music changed ...

An example is the acting style known as The Method. It's almost entirely an import, and it's pretty well described and understood as immigrant acting. This is OK, by the way, not a put-down: The Method basically comes from Russia, and it was adopted and promoted mostly by immigrants and recent arrivials (Mediterranean and Eastern European) whose personal and art styles were very different than those of the (if you will) natives. What has happened since is that many of these styles and p-o-vs have become central to our idea of ourselves, and so we now look back on earlier styles through the lens of things like The Method. The winners have re-written history.

Publishing's another example. Smart, entrepreneurial and bookish Jews moved into the American publishing biz in the early 20th century and did really well. (And good for them.) They did the publishing-thing somewhat differently than it had been done before, and had a lot of success doing so. But this redefinition of publishing has had one bad side effect, which is the myth that America had no "real" publishing life before the immigrants redefined publishing. The winners have re-written history. Really, honest to god: there are lots of smart and pretty-informed people who believe that America had no real publishing life (or the lamest kind of publishing life) before the immigrants took it over. But of course we did have an amazing publishing life prior to the 20th century.

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on May 5, 2005 11:29 AM

And who were the people in American publishing and theater before 20 century, Michael? You don't mean to tell me they were Native American tribes, do you?
So one wave of European immigrants brought something new into the savage "blank slate" country in 17th century, than subsiquent waves continued the process, enhancing the culture further. In a meanwhile earlier settlers draw on their local experience and developed cultural trends of their own. It's probably simplification, but that's how I see it - you can correct me if I'm wrong.

*academic didn't talk about general "immigrant" influences, Michael, and (s)he didn't mean ethnic Russians, so it's not an immigrant sensibility issue. His (hers) asertions are factually wrong and, frankly, stink disgustingly.

Besides, nobody forced American public to adopt new ideas and technologies from newcomers, I don't suppose government made it mandatory under the threat of jail sentence for theaters to adopt The Method. It was result of good ole capitalist market forces, however repellent the phrase sounds to the likes of John Emerson.

Posted by: Tatyana on May 5, 2005 12:57 PM

Tatyana -- I don't see how we disagree. Enlightenment, please?

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on May 5, 2005 1:48 PM

Your agreement with *academic seems to imply that prior to invasion of those crazy Jews (Ashkenazim, dear learned *academic, are ethnic Jews who resided in Europe for centuries and developed dialects related to their countries of residence; if compared to Germans and French at all, comparison to regional ethnic groups is much more feasible: f.ex., Silesians or people from Provence - but I digress) Americans (as if there ever was a homogenious ethnic American entity) had their own autentic culture. And this here invasion misled gullible American public and destroyed this homegrown and uniquely American culture. Bad, bad unmentionables, no biscuit.

If, on the contrary, you don't subscribe to this interesting theory, we have no disagreement.

Posted by: Tatyana on May 5, 2005 2:57 PM

How weird is Jennifer Wilbanks, the Georgia runaway bride? I don't think she's weird at all, she just flaked-out and the press happened to be there, cameras popping, because they expected a sexy white corpse and instead got a live one.

What does this mean? Only that what is weird is what you are looking at.

Creative types are no weirder than the rest of the world. You just look at them more. They are distinguished by their ability to command attention, not by how weird they are.

Posted by: diana on May 5, 2005 3:04 PM

Tatyana -- I'll let you and "academic" duke out whatever needs duking out between the two of you. But it's certainly true that American culture up to the late 1800s was one thing -- if a hyper-variegated, wild-and wooly thing -- and that it changed considerably with the arrival of the great waves of circa-1900 immigration. Whether this is/was a good thing isn't something I can get worked up about: it's a long-done deal, after all. But I can't see the point of denying the fact of the change either, do you? Conceptions of what's art and what's not (and of artistic worth generally) changed dramatically. FWIW, knowing about the impact of this wave of immigration strikes me as one of the half-dozen most basic things to understand about American cultural history.

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on May 5, 2005 3:09 PM

How wierd is Jennifer Wilbanks? Gosh, I think that's a bad example. She appears to be mother f***ing wierd to me!!! Those bug eyes in the photographs prior to the running away should have tipped somebody in Duluth, Georgia off! I agree that part of the attention this has gotten is just because the press found there to be ratings in the Laci Peterson case and was hoping (as gruesome as it is) for a re-run. But Wilbanks can certainly not be considered a "normal" girl who just got some unfortunate publicity. And I don't think the cases Michael pointed to in his original posting are just "normal" folk who found the spotlight.

Posted by: annette on May 5, 2005 3:41 PM

Of course it was a change for the late 1800'America, as big a change as the one brought by newcomers of late 1700, and the newcomers of late 1600 before them.
What was the prevalent culture in Luisiana before the Purchase, f.ex, or in Minnessota before Swedish and German farmers settled in? I bet it was radically different, and there were plenty of old-timers who were not impressed with the change.
What's interesting nobody seriously cries over all the possible ways local culture could go "if" those events didn't happen, but it is perfectly fine to assume largely negative role that immigration of the late 1800 played.
Especially entertaining when the question of what exactly ethnic groups comprised that wave of immigration? is raised. Or, rather, avoided - and *academics like the one above hint transparently to namely immigration of European Jews, as the source of all evil, while in reality large percentage of Irish and Italian immigrants, among others, were coming in at the same time.

Looks like *academic is engaged otherwise at the moment, so sadly I can't follow your "duking out" advice. But you did started your comment with what I interpret as partial agreement with Mr/Ms academic, no?

Posted by: Tatyana on May 5, 2005 3:44 PM

Tatyana -- The effects of the circa-1900 immigration on American culture were really immense, and it set the tone for our experience of culture in the 20th century. I suspect we both agree about that. The "was it bad or good" thing doesn't interest me. But something that can be said about one of the impacts of that wave of immigration is that "expressiveness" in the current sense of the word became much more highly valued. Which makes sense: Mediterranean and Eastern European people often are more "expressive" than Anglo-Germans. Is there any harm in saying such a thing? Is there any point in denying it? The people who created The Method, for example, talked explicitly about wanting to develop an acting style that would result in more expressiveness. Simple fact of history.

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on May 5, 2005 3:59 PM

Formulated thus, I have no disagreement - except that the Method was founded by ethnic Russian Konstantin Stanislavsky and popularized in America also by ethnic Russian, Michail Chekhov, as were ethnic Russians the principal playrights working for the implementor of the theory, Khudozhesvenny Theatr (Artistic Theater) - Anton Chekhov and Maksim Gorky (Alexei Peshkov)

Posted by: Tatyana on May 5, 2005 4:22 PM

Apologies for screwed-up links.
It should be:
and Stanislavsky.

Aside: there is hilarious satire on Artistic Theater, Stanislavsky, nemirovich-Danchenko (S.'s co-author of the Method and co-founder of the theater), veteran actors and theater world in general, writtren by once their pet playwright, Michail Bulgakov: "Theatrical Novel".
Highly recommended.

Posted by: Tatyana on May 5, 2005 4:31 PM

Small nitpick: The Method was what Americans made of Stanislavsky. But of course you're right: Stanislavsky was the founding godhead.

Actually I realize that I'm unsure about something: do we consider Russians "Eastern Europeans" or not? I remember Kundera writing about how we shouldn't. But he was desperate to distinguish between his people and their oppressors, so I don't know whether to trust him on that. And haven't I run across many others using "Eastern European" to include Russians? But I'm experiencing a real "I don't know what I'm talking about" twinkle here ...

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on May 5, 2005 4:37 PM

You're not alone on this issue, Michael. Russians themselves seem to be divided: pro-Western part of society from the times of Tzarina Ekaterina the Great prefer the country to be referred as European; so called "Soil" party, or slavyanofiles, or "the People's" fraction insisted on Russia having it's own, unique way and place (not downright Asian, since they didn't want to be associated with nomadic uncivilised tribes of Mongholia and Siberia), but something separate. Hence the idea of Third Rome in Russian Orthodoxy.

Posted by: Tatyana on May 5, 2005 5:01 PM

Huh, found it: alas, only in Britain.
But it worth the trouble.
Sluggo, as somebody who can relate from the inside, I'm sure you would be particularly pleased.

Posted by: Tatyana on May 5, 2005 5:11 PM

>A big part of the craziness in the world of show business is the ethnic dimension. Show business is populated by many of the people whose ancestors and relatives started various revolutions around the world - the Russian Revolution most famous among them.

A little known fact: Ben Stiller's great grandfather- Lenin

Posted by: Joe O on May 5, 2005 5:23 PM

"What was the prevalent culture in Louisiana before the Purchase, f.ex, or in Minnesota before Swedish and German farmers settled in? I bet it was radically different, and there were plenty of old-timers who were not impressed with the change."

Thorstein Veblen wrote something about this. basically the pre-Scandinavian culture of Minnesota was an entrepreneurial, speculative pioneer culture, but the Germans and Scandinavians intended to be more rooted. Pioneer America could be wild and crazy. The immigrants were stodgy.

I've read family histories and local histories about Minnesota and Iowa, and in general the Dutch and Norwegian settlers in the two places were welcomed because they were white and Protestant. There were a lot of jokes about "dumb Swedes" in my Dad's generation (b. 1914) or the one before.

One thing that came through in these memoirs was the importance put in free public education. Schools were built as soon as subsistence was attained.

Posted by: John Emerson on May 5, 2005 6:32 PM

I'm no expert on acting, but I've often wondered about the recent wave of brilliant Australian actors and what training they've had. From what I've read, it sounds like many of them are classically trained, not Method-trained. I wonder if they do a hybrid or their training is just not so common anymore, so they're performances have greater impact on us or maybe they were just lucky to have so many great actors in one place? Maybe it was just chance? Anyway, with few exceptions like DeNiro and whatshisname, I wonder if The Method actually works for most actors.

Do you have any links regarding publishing prior to the vast waves of immigration?

Posted by: lindenen on May 5, 2005 10:40 PM

Oh my god. "their" performances...

Posted by: lindenen on May 5, 2005 11:55 PM

It seems to me that there are a higher proportion of crazy people, and more severe craziness, in fields with lower barriers to entry. And also in fields which deal with purely subjective matters.

Case in point: policework is another "profession" with very low entry requirements. I think it self-selects for mental defectives.

Not to say that there are no crazy doctors, lawyers, engineers, etc, but their craziness has to be tempered by objective reality, at least to a certain extent.

Tatyana: it is patently obvious that the Ashkenazi are an ethnic group, and equally obvious that they are not on par with the French.

Posted by: Luke the Drifter on May 6, 2005 4:08 AM

It seems to me that the modern or postmodern cultural and artistic community is indeed, at least in the Western world, largely characterized by nihilistic, destructive, anti-social, intentionally offensive, juvenile, self-indulgent, pathological tendencies. I think there is a symbiotic relationship between these tendencies and the entire political-social-educational superstructure of our present culture. We are in a downward spiral.

I believe that this can be attributed, at least in part, to multiculturalism. While it may be true that what constitutes art is determined by the eye of the beholder, it seems reasonable to presume that if an observing eye has much in common with the eyes of its neighbors, there will be less variance between what is widely accepted as being art.

I would put forth the postulate that ones aesthetic sensibilities are influenced by ones genetic ancestry.

Posted by: Luke the Drifter on May 6, 2005 4:32 AM

Luke the Drifter, thanks for URL provided in your signature. Illuminating.

Posted by: Tatyana on May 6, 2005 8:48 AM


The Scandinavians and Germans brought socialism and radical labor activism to the mid- and far west. See under: IWW. You wrote me once about Finnish commies.


"was it bad or good" thing doesn't interest me.


Mediterranean and Eastern European people often are more "expressive" than Anglo-Germans.

Oh, please. Stop saying things like that. It's beyond unscientific.

Posted by: Diana on May 6, 2005 10:25 AM

Lindsay -- It's a good point. I should pull together a posting about American publishing history, thanks for the nudge.

Diana -- So, in your observations and your speech, you confine yourself entirely to what's been scientifically validated? Wow, I'd really love to see how you get through the day.

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on May 6, 2005 11:06 AM

"I would put forth the postulate that ones aesthetic sensibilities are influenced by ones genetic ancestry." - Luke the Drifter

I would qualify that with "a PORTION of ones aesthetic sensibilities are influenced." I think the art and music that springs from America - still the melting pot - proves that lineage is not the only influence, if even a major influence.

Posted by: Yahmdallah on May 6, 2005 12:16 PM

I don't want to get in the middle of the discussion about the "national character" differences of "Mediterranean", "Eastern European", and "Germanic" culture, except to say that perceptions of "national character" vary greatly with time.

The best example may be the change in perceptions of German and French "character":

From the 18th to mid-19th century, Germans were perceived as "romantic" -- poets, artists, composers, novelists. OTOH, at that time (and even up to the beginning of the 20th century, the French were seen as scientists and intellectuals.

Those perceptions are now completely reversed.

To the extent that "national character" exists, it's not clear to me that we can determine its nature, especially over time.

Posted by: Doug Sundseth on May 6, 2005 12:25 PM

Am I the only one noticing the dung-covered elephant in this room?
Check out Luke the Drifter's website he signed his comment with:

Posted by: Tatyana on May 6, 2005 1:15 PM


Luke, dude? You aren't welcome around here anymore.

Thanks, Tatyana.

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on May 6, 2005 1:27 PM

I must say I'm very disappointed by your knee-jerk response, Mike. You are obviously a very intelligent guy, but way too politically correct and easily cowed. By caving in to Tatski’s implied and baseless accusations, which in truth are leveled as much against yourself as against Luke, you are granting Tatski undeserved censorial powers, and ensuring that she will shriek even more insistently the next time she encounters a subjectively unpleasant link. She’s essentially saying that unless you prevent Luke’s participation, you are endorsing anti-Semitism, an assertion which is clearly indefensible and ridiculous.

Take a deep breath and calm down, Tatyanski.

You'll note that Luke used a different link with each post.

Are all his posts automatically incorrect and unacceptable simply because you are offended by something he didn't write?

As an act of contrition, if he were to post a link to AIPAC, would you consider him to be rehabilitated?

Or if he had, from the start, linked exclusively to pro-Zionist sites, would his credibility be enhanced in your eyes?

Deal with what Luke says, not with his extraneous links.

Posted by: Spike Jones on May 6, 2005 3:22 PM

My sympathies don't extend to self-declared anti-semites. My welcome doesn't, either.

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on May 6, 2005 3:49 PM

I don't see where Luke declared himself to be an anti-Semite.

But I do see where Tatyana leaped to the unjustified conclusion that he was.

Do you believe it is an anti-Semitic act to say anything negative about Israel?

Or, even worse, do you consider it anti-Semitic to say something uncomplimentary, though not necessarily negative, about Israel?

Must discourse regarding Israel be limited to positive comments in order to avoid being slandered as an anti-Semite?

It seems pathetic to be so afraid of being falsely accused of a thought-crime.

Posted by: Spike Jones on May 6, 2005 4:10 PM

Good Lord, what is going on here? Luke and Spike seem to be a wackjob tag-team. What is the nexus of anti-cop anti-war anti-Semites? Not worth even engaging, and don't start with the pseudo-logic Spike, just take your copy of protocols and go back the rock you live under.

And I was having so much fun deciphering the other stuff.

I wanted to go back to the original post, which I liked quite a bit, and throw something out there. This is probably off subject now, but I have always been interested in Sherwood Anderson's story, early 1900s author. He wrote Winesburg, Ohio, and the Triumph of the Egg short stories, (every kid has read his stuff in high school). Anyway, he was a very succesful advertising executive and then paint company owner, family man, pretty mainstream, and just kind of cracked in his late 30s, abandoning his family and company for his art.

Moved to Chicago where he hung out with Sandburg and Dreiser and the other "literati", and created a new life. He was 37 when he did this.

I'm 38.

Anyway, seems like the original post deals with this split between the real world and the world of the imagination, where art comes from. The tug of war exists in most of us, but there are probably very few Sherwood Anderson's today, and if there are, there are probably some unhappy families because of it. Oh well.

Posted by: paul on May 6, 2005 9:43 PM

As they in say in Blogville - Word.
It's all muggles and non-muggles, isn't it? And what an unpleasant way to examine life - making a list of who's in and who's out of a little clique of "correct" people based on who would put up with your pretensions.

Seems to me, though, that it's not so much that people in the arts and whatnot are more horrible and messed up than regular people but that people in the arts and whatnot have either more of commitment to this bizarre and unrealistic view of the world and so cling to it or else they have something - either the aforementioned commitment or good looks or charm or extra energy for ass-kissing - that allow them to make a place in the arts and whatnot and get away with being horrible and messed up. In the real world, horrible and messed up people have to choice between finding a way to cover for being horrible and messed up or being accurately labeled. (Cite: post history above.)

In a cheap and inaccurate call to Freud, I'd say these people just want - for reasons that I simply do not understand - for the whole wide world to be an adoring and slightly guilty mommy and daddy who eager to fawn and fawn and fawn. (What I don't understand is how anyone can want attention for people when one doesn't have any sense of who other people are. They're like a monstrous parody of toddlers - lurching into the room to be in the middle of whatever we nice grownup people are doing with no idea or concern for what is going on and no qualms about using volume and destruction to make it all about them.)

And I'd like to divorce the idea that the art we have is only or represents the artistic impulse. (See Quilting link in most recent Blowhard posting.) Doesn't the original post introduce the idea that people are in "the arts" not because of some creative joy but because that's a place for them to be whatever damnasshell thing they've cooked up?

That's the crazy ones, anyway. I haven't met and certainly haven't interacted with as nearly as many of the People magazine elite as you, M. Blowhard, but from the sidelines it does seem there's a good supply of people who just push and take advantage of whatever luck comes their way to push and push more. Haven't met Brian Grazer, but he comes to mind.

Have you read much chick-lit, lately? The general theme is as narrowly emotional and self-serving as "Don't you understand, I was the class faggot!"

Haven't we discussed my view that many of the seemingly wide-eye fans of the latest Disney Channel product geared up to movie stardom are in fact fans of that lucky girl's ability to be an awful whore on the money she earns for portraying a caricature of plucky goodness? My big fear is that hoards of fans are not buying the image but celebrating the spoiledness.

I've often thought that "All About Eve" should be shown in business schools. And I think it's interesting how often people forget that, in the end, Eve gets everything she wants.

Re white-bread Midwest looks and associated class assumptions: the "girl" vantage point is probably slightly different.

Should have stopped at WORD.

(Sadly, this one time I do not agree with The Wife. Was in the company of MS. Sontag at a smallish event and found her to be an amazing harridan. Of course, by that time she had been Susan Sontag for a long, long time so perhaps she felt obligated to torture the help and spend most of the evening in a barely-containted jealous rage.)

Posted by: j.c. on May 7, 2005 3:44 PM

No, I must go on.

First - I agree with The Wife - whew. Read "ludicrous" as "lucious." Who knows how many great misunderstandings are due to pets walking in front of screens and newspapers?

Second - M. Blowhard, it is very likely that you are simply a much nicer person than I am - or even than most people are. Where I live, "Big-spoiled-sloppy-neurotic-baby" negates any suggestion of charm and brains (although I'd hope that rage like Dworkin's is based in a soul). My final view on "culture" and what's wrong with it is that we are so fat and happy in the US of A and much of the western world that almost everyone can act like royalty - narcissistic, spoiled, and paranoid royalty. And the victim role is so easy: other people do the work! It's not like being a pioneer or funny or something, the victim just has to keep pointing out how badly the poor victim is being treated and, given how badly people treat people, this is easy.

Naturally, I grant charm and brains to the various "Big-spoiled-sloppy-neurotic-baby" people who are friends of mine.

Posted by: j.c. on May 7, 2005 3:53 PM

Okay, darn it, just one more thing... I think being "normal" is important insofar as if you want to communicate with others you need some baseline to work from. People who are known for bursting into tears or flying off the handle are not likely to hear what people really think. And then they're sad or angry because they feel isolated. Ironic.

Am I stating the obvious again, or has this been absent in this set of postings?

Posted by: j.c. on May 7, 2005 3:58 PM

"30% oddball/70% normal." You should include, "100% misanthrope."

Posted by: Jacob on May 7, 2005 9:06 PM

Although wierdness is clearly no indicator of artistic talent there have been wierdos (Beethoven, D.H. Lawrence, Hemingway, Picasso) whose work though in no way justifying their behavior makes it (somewhat) forgiveable.
But of course, what a tiny minority of wierdom they are!

Posted by: ricpic on May 8, 2005 3:36 PM

A propos crazy actors, etc:
"Method in her mmadness. Or, is it", Harry Grove asked, "madness in her Method?"

(Ngaio Marsh, Killer Dolphin)

Posted by: Tatyana on May 9, 2005 12:48 PM

I think we need to distinguish between weirdness (which many clever and or accomplished people share -- Isn't obsessive excellence a weirdness itself?)
and sheer bloody sh*ttiness. So many "artistic" types are a**holes of the first magnitude. Some of this may be a byproduct of their particular condition, but as you noted some of it is just a response to the romantic notion that this sort of behavior is ok, or worse, cool. In some circles there is even a demand for it. It should be inexcusable, yet there are areas where being a "Bad boy" makes you more desirable.

That many a**holes have done great things in art (or music, business, science, etc.) does not excuse their being a**holes. If there is any way that semi-normals may change things, it is to skew preferences so that people are condemned for being jerks, no matter how creative or brilliant or successful.

That we sometimes can't help ourselves doesn't mean we shouldn't try, nor that we should be rewarded for failing to do so.

Posted by: john on May 9, 2005 6:57 PM

I don't have enough time to read ALL these comments right now to see if this has been said already too many times, but: there are awful, crazy people in every walk of life. Maybe those creative types you met just got to express their awfulness more fully. Lots of quiet boy-next-door types are buggy crazy and lots of ordinary-looking husbands-and-wives, who write nothing, direct nothing, paint nothing, are harming each other and the people in their lives with their weirdness.

Posted by: Melinama on May 11, 2005 7:09 AM

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