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John Emerson

Everything he says is right-libertarian boilerplate of the common hardass variety. It's the kind of thing I leave the house hoping to avoid, all too aware that I might run into it anyway. Whatever interest it has comes from who it is that says it. It's like a veteran musician dropping down to death metal at the end of his career.

A lot of hardass rebels are completely self-centered, as he confesses to being here -- radical when poor and reactionary when rich. Getting in people's faces is their whole story.

Nancy

Wow this is such a great piece!

Bob Westal

Very nicely done, sir. Not quite as complete, or as heated, but if I may self-plub on the occasion of his last self-outing as a conservative, I had this to say.

El Jefe

John,

"It's like a veteran musician dropping down to daeth metal at the end of his career."
and
"A lot of hardass rebels are completely self-centered."

These. Especially the second (a halfway competent crowd of death-metal fans would devour Mamet like a "fish" in the drunk tank.) It's rather like commentators -- and they exist in all colors of the political rainbow, sadly, one of the joys of this place is that our gracious host is *not* one -- who enjoy, at that deep monkey-brain human level, the sanctimony much more than they do the principles. And when it comes to professional rebels they tend to share that quality Lance described here as only juggling the same three or four knives with their eyes closed. That has a shelf life out to about the end of their twenties, but beyond that lies only aggressive bitterness visited on the undeserving and a deeply felt assholery.

Nancy,

Yes it is.

Lance,

It's interesting you mention "You Have Meddled" in relation to Baldwin's speech, which is indeed a quick and vituperative Mamet knockoff. I probably like Chayefsky less than a lot of folks because he had a hard time getting through any long piece without a staged monologue rant (the "staged" part is important, there are plenty of rants in the Sopranos and Deadwood and a few in the Wire, but they emerge from the moment of the story and what that character's going through, rather than being ported in by a gifted but cranky editorial voice.) But "You Have Meddled" has to be one of the two or three greatest monologues in a play from the last hundred years (and Chayefsky was a playwright at heart even if he cheated by relying on the first version of a medium -- movies -- that he used "Newtork" to condemn in its second version.) Beatty could just have showed up for that scene and never worked again and it would be enough.

KLG

Thanks Lance. This reminds me of a scientist I have known since I was an undergraduate. Even before the most recent excrescence of "Tea Party" horsesh*t he liked to go on and on about how the only jobs for the government were to deliver the mail (he never seemed to figure out that the USPS had supplanted the Post Office Department) and guard the coasts. This from a man who went to college and graduate schools at public universities, spent 2 years on active duty in the early 1950s and thirty years in the reserves, played out his entire academic career in a public university when the split was 75:25 state funding:tuition, funded his research for most of that time (until terminal deadwoodism set in) with money from the National Science Foundation and the Atomic Energy Commission and the National Institutes of Health. He is now living on a fixed pension that pays him an inflation-adjusted 80% of the average salary of his top three years, Social Security, a DoD pension, and Medicare. All he could talk about back in the day was "parasites." Probably still the same. Oh, and his scientific work? Pedestrian in the extreme.

M.A. Peel

The only thing I have ever liked about Mamet is that he once referenced Yertle the Turtle in an interview.

El Jefe

M.A. Peel,

That's a beautiful sentence, and a better sentiment.

Lance,

Ref: Kelsey Grammer, since you brought him up, I'd think you could shut him up about being all square with hanging out with homophobes with six words. "John Mahoney and David Hyde Pierce." Wonder how he gets that extra decade in the public consciousness without them ....

Jim Treacher

"Not only does he know the score and have all the angles figured out, it’s made him piles of cash he has no intention of sharing with anybody"

So he's a miser? He never buys anything?

Lance Mannion

Jim, read the opening graph? I meant it. For all I know he is the soul of generosity. I'm just describing how Mamet himself is making himself sound these days. And, technically, buying is not sharing.

DaveH

I am in awe whenever Wolcott picks up his scalpel and proceeds to filet a particularly nasty character.

Dan Coyle

Lance, re: that opening graf:

I hate P.J. O'Rourke with everything in me. I find his ideas loathsome, his jokes pallid, his all-encompassing cynicism wearying to the point of making me want to commit suicide, his insufferable smirk punchable. I read some of Don't Vote, It Just Encourages the Bastards an felt like screaming. To paraphrase one of David Mament's new heroes, Dennis Prager: He's one of the few things in the world that I truly feel does no good.

And yet, I have heard, from reliable sources, that he's taken care of friends, paid for their health care when they're sick, even when he himself was sick. He has some sliver of humanity in him. At one point during the day, the mask can slip, if only for a moment.

And if O'Rourke can, maybe Mamet can too.

actor212

Interesting.

I've done a fair amount of Mamet in my day, which to a NY based actor is like saying I've breathed a little.

First: “I fucking got mine, they fucking got theirs, you fucking get yours, if you fucking can, you weak and stupid fucks.”

Which is the plot of American Buffalo, except Mamet manages to leave the interpretation of the impact of that up to the actors, which may be his gift as a playwright (can't really speak to his "gift" as a director, because I think he's singularly ungifted in that respect).

When I sat down with my director for "Buffalo," we tossed ideas back and forth about how the play ought to go down, and the one thing we kept coming back to was the word "Buffalo." Ungainly, shambling beast, almost extinct. Donnie and Teach are the buffalo, Bob and (offstage) Fletch have got it together.

Donnie and Teach believe life has treated them badly. They decide to make it better. They fail, miserably, but it's the journey that gets them there, particularly how they treat Bob, that has an awful lot of "bleeding heart thinking" involved.

Or not. Again, it depends how you stage it. We staged it as a "don't do this" warning piece, that karma comes to those who waste.

Likewise, Oleanna. The way we staged it, you could not possibly know if Carol or John was to blame for the situation. Most likely, as in life, both people screwed up and overreacted. The reaction Mamet was going for, I felt, was to piss *everyone* off, no matter which side you would take. I thought it was one of the best plays I've ever read, certainly the best I've ever performed, and was one for which I got my best reactions.

I suspect Mamet tried to play things down the middle, and finally jsut got frustrated that he was being misinterpreted, which is ironic because that seems to be precisely how he writes, with ambiguity and uncertainty. Even going back to "Sexual Perversities," with it's ambiguous sexuality and relationships, Mamet is distinctly showing us a side of ourselves we probably don't want to look at too often because it rips our mask off.

He may have self-identified as a liberal at one time, but I suspect that was the mask Mamet did not want taken off.

Nancy Nall

Very nice work, Lance. As always.

loretta

Don't know why the Twitter sign-in is down...anyway, Mamet's interview (or at least the excerpt of it) doesn't even really make much sense. There are some explanations for his conversion to the dark side, if you don't mind armchair psychoanalysis:

1. He is losing his mind. This is quite possible, considering he could be experiencing early-onset dementia, or he has a brain tumor. His madness could be organic.

2. The part of him that has always been parodied in the past (sociopathic greed) is emerging because he resents having to pay taxes and he now relates and commiserates with overpaid CEOs and Wall Street Execs. In other words, greed has consumed him.

3. He suffers from a sad malady called "scarcity mentality" in which he believes that there is only so much pie to go around and he has to hoard his. Scarcity mentality naturally manifests itself in envy and covetousness, which explains his scorn for "English majors" and others who have a broader range of expression, are better writers, are better thinkers, are not as lazy as he.

4. He's just a dick and always has been.

Robkroese

If all the stuff you're accusing him of was evident in that interview, he WOULD be an asshole. But I don't see any resemblance between what he's saying and the strawman you're portraying. Like many liberals, you assume that conservatives are generally opportunists who say whatever the hell they need to in order to get make money or get elected (or, in Mamet's case, to entertain himself). You think (for example) that he couldn't possibly believe that black people would be better off without so much government intervention, and then you wrack your brain trying to imagine why he would say something so ridiculous and obviously untrue. Maybe, you think, deep down he's really a good guy (i.e. a liberal), but he's acting like such a conservative! It doesn't compute!

Here's a possibility: Maybe he IS a conservative. Maybe he's not doing this to piss people off. Maybe he's just talking about his actual beliefs about government, regardless of how people will take it. I didn't see the part of the interview where he talked about not wanting to give any money to his own kid, or the part where he thinks he owes none of his success to actors, directors, technicians, etc. Either that stuff was edited out of what I read or you're just making it up. It seems like you heard a few conservative catchwords and then constructed this artificial Scrooge persona for him. Then you spend 2 pages tearing down your made-up persona, all the while protesting that maybe you're wrong, but he sure seems like an asshole to me from the 12 sentences he spoke in an interview I read.

Anyway, as I said on Twitter, your post is well-written and argued, but in the end it seems like mostly bunk to me.

moe99

I'll echo the superlatives of all the other commenters. However, just one quibble (it's the compulsive editor in me as Nancy well knows) In your Al Pacino link, I think the word is "do" not "due."

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