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A Profile of a Profile of Charlie Kaufman

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Charlie Kaufman is the writer behind movies including Adaptation, Being John Malkovitch, and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. (He also wrote two episodes of the TV classic Get a Life, though he didn't win any Oscars for them.) In the leadup to Kaufman's directorial debut Synecdoche, New York, Wired decided to write a profile of the man -- because the Wired folks, like me, are huge fans. In true Kaufman style, the Wired editors decided to add a layer to the story: document the process of writing the profile during the writing of the profile.

So, despite not having actually interviewed Kaufman (yet), Wired writers have been posting daily to a blog called Storyboard, currently featuring nine entries (including a fairly dry video of a staff meeting). The stated idea is to provide a look inside the process of writing a profile, but if Kaufman's writing is any guide, watch for the Storyboard blog to go off the rails -- and fast. Just as Kaufman's Adaptation was ostensibly an adaptation of Susan Orlean's The Orchid Thief, the movie is in fact a crazy mixture of a drug caper and a think piece about trying to adapt a book about flowers (which, lacking much action, is hard to do...hence the drug caper). More than that, Adaptation an examination of identity and time and evolution and sex and frustration and storytelling. The result is transformative and wonderful -- one of my very favorite movies ever -- but it's a very different text from The Orchid Thief. (Which itself is an entertaining and enlightening read.)

Anyway, Wired's Storyboard blog currently features behind-the-scenes material from various editors talking about scheduling interviews with Kaufman and various other people in his circle (Spike Jonze, Michel Gondry, and so on). But the text of the blogs seems to suggest (to me, at least) that this is all a set-up for the kind of meta-narrative for which Kaufman is famous. Here's a sample from Jason Tanz's post on August 29:

2) this threatens to become REALLY corny, but: a) if Kaufman's project [Synecdoche, New York] is "emotional truth," and he thinks that the standard storytelling tropes (and commercial imperatives) obscure that truth; and b) my job is to present some "truth" about Kaufman; then c) there's some parallel between the movie and the article (or really any creative project, I guess). It will be a challenge to bring the meta without also bringing the obnoxious, but maybe there's a theme to touch lightly upon there.

3) the dude doesn't like to talk about his personal life, which is fair enough, and doesn't like to explain his work, which is also fair enough. I haven't hear him talk much about his influences, which would seem a pretty good place to start. I'm assuming like Borges, Kafka, Dick (he wrote an early adaptation of Scanner, Darkly), etc. I don't want to overdo the recluse angle, which has been done to death already.

Stay tuned, folks. For Kaufman fans, this is about to get interesting.

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The Time Douglas Adams Met Jim Henson
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John Gooch/Keystone/Getty Images

On September 13, 1983, Jim Henson and The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy author Douglas Adams had dinner for the first time. Henson, who was born on this day in 1936, noted the event in his "Red Book" journal, in characteristic short-form style: "Dinner with Douglas Adams – 1st met." Over the next few years the men discussed how they might work together—they shared interests in technology, entertainment, and education, and ended up collaborating on several projects (including a Labyrinth video game). They also came up with the idea for a "Muppet Institute of Technology" project, a computer literacy TV special that was never produced. Henson historians described the project as follows:

Adams had been working with the Henson team that year on the Muppet Institute of Technology project. Collaborating with Digital Productions (the computer animation people), Chris Cerf, Jon Stone, Joe Bailey, Mark Salzman and Douglas Adams, Jim’s goal was to raise awareness about the potential for personal computer use and dispel fears about their complexity. In a one-hour television special, the familiar Muppets would (according to the pitch material), “spark the public’s interest in computing,” in an entertaining fashion, highlighting all sorts of hardware and software being used in special effects, digital animation, and robotics. Viewers would get a tour of the fictional institute – a series of computer-generated rooms manipulated by the dean, Dr. Bunsen Honeydew, and stumble on various characters taking advantage of computers’ capabilities. Fozzie, for example, would be hard at work in the “Department of Artificial Stupidity,” proving that computers are only as funny as the bears that program them. Hinting at what would come in The Jim Henson Hour, viewers, “…might even see Jim Henson himself using an input device called a ‘Waldo’ to manipulate a digitally-controlled puppet.”

While the show was never produced, the development process gave Jim and Douglas Adams a chance to get to know each other and explore a shared passion. It seems fitting that when production started on the 2005 film of Adams’s classic Hitchhiker’s Guide, Jim Henson’s Creature Shop would create animatronic creatures like the slovenly Vogons, the Babel Fish, and Marvin the robot, perhaps a relative of the robot designed by Michael Frith for the MIT project.

You can read a bit on the project more from Muppet Wiki, largely based on the same article.

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Everything That’s Leaving Netflix in October
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NBC - © 2012 NBCUniversal Media, LLC

Netflix subscribers are already counting down the days until the premiere of the new season of Stranger Things. But, as always, in order to make room for the near-90 new titles making their way to the streaming site, some of your favorite titles—including all of 30 Rock, The Wonder Years, and Malcolm in the Middle—must go. Here’s everything that’s leaving Netflix in October ... binge ‘em while you can!

October 1

30 Rock (Seasons 1-7)

A Love in Times of Selfies

Across the Universe

Barton Fink

Bella

Big Daddy

Carousel

Cradle 2 the Grave

Crafting a Nation

Curious George: A Halloween Boo Fest

Daddy’s Little Girls

Dark Was the Night

David Attenborough’s Rise of the Animals: Triumph of the Vertebrates (Season 1)

Day of the Kamikaze

Death Beach

Dowry Law

Dr. Dolittle: Tail to the Chief

Friday Night Lights (Seasons 1-5)

Happy Feet

Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison

Hellboy

Kagemusha

Laura

Love Actually

Malcolm in the Middle (Seasons 1-7)

Max Dugan Returns

Millennium 

Million Dollar Baby

Mortal Combat

Mr. 3000

Mulholland Dr.

My Father the Hero

My Name Is Earl (Seasons 1-4)

One Tree Hill (Seasons 1-9)

Patton

Picture This

Prison Break (Seasons 1-4)

The Bernie Mac Show (Seasons 1-5)

The Shining

The Wonder Years (Seasons 1-6)

Titanic

October 19

The Cleveland Show (Seasons 1-4)

October 21

Bones (Seasons 5-11)

October 27

Lie to Me (Seasons 2-3)

Louie (Seasons 1-5)

Hot Transylvania 2

October 29

Family Guy (Seasons 9-14)

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