Watching

Adaptation (2002)

illustration by Tom Ralston

I’m useless. I’ve abandoned 11 essays in the past six months. I’m in a rut. I can’t remember how to do my job. I can’t remember how to watch a movie and translate the experience into something cogent. I used to do it all the time. Now I can’t finish anything. I’m pathetic.

Voyeur. The “Voyeur” issue. I’ve already abandoned two ideas for this month. Voyeur. So that’s the beginning, I guess. We decided the July theme would be “Voyeur,” so I did what I always do—no, present tense, keep it all present tense, it’ll feel more urgent—I do what I always do: I go to Letterboxd, organize my viewing history by “Your Rating — Highest First” and skim until something strikes me.

Adaptation strikes me. The whole third act is about characters spying on other characters, plus the protagonist is passive, so he’s an observer of his own life. You could make it about the voyeurism of viewership—the watching of watching a movie. There’s something there. I’ve always wanted to tackle Adaptation, that’s always seemed like a fun challenge. An Adaptation essay can’t just be a normal essay, it has to be about the writing of itself. So you have to ditch all the rules about what makes an essay work and invent some new form that does justice to the movie’s experimentation while still landing in a satisfying place. It would be really hard to get that balance right, but getting it right would be enough to jolt me out of the rut. It would have to be.

The verb form of watch is derived from the Proto-Germanic term wakkjan, which means to awaken. That double meaning was maintained through the Old English wæccan and the Middle English wacchen. Watching is a form of awakening. By watching, we awaken to the world around us.

“By slow, thoughtful watching,” Ernest Vincent Wright wrote in his 1939 novel Gadsby: A Story of Over 50,000 Words Without Using the Letter ‘E’, “you can gain much, as against working up a wild, panicky condition.”

“The unreality of the watched makes the watching real,” Octavio Paz wrote in his 1966 poem “Blanco.”

“We are here to notice each thing so each thing gets noticed,” Annie Dillard wrote in her 1982 book Teaching a Stone to Talk: Expeditions and Encounters. “We notice the beautiful faces and complex natures of each other. We are here to bring to consciousness the beauty and power that are around us and to praise the people who are here with us.”

“I like to prowl ordinary places and taste the people,” Charles Bukowski wrote in his poem “59 Cents a Pound,” included in his 1979 collection Play the Piano Drunk Like a Percussion Instrument Until the Fingers Begin to Bleed a Bit. “I feel sorry for us all or glad for us/all/caught alive together/and awkward in that way.”

This already isn’t working. I don’t have enough examples. I can’t just leave it all to implication. What am I even trying to say? There’s no way to do an Adaptation essay. The whole self-reflexive conceit is hacky. And even beyond that, Charlie Kaufman is doing too much with that screenplay, and doing it too intelligently and effectively. How am I ever going to touch something so intricate and perfect? My coffee got too cold before I started drinking it this morning, now my whole day is thrown off. I’m going to spend the rest of the day trying to reverse the laws of thermodynamics. When should I pitch this to Chad? Pitching makes it real, but I can’t pitch another essay I don’t finish. I’ve already deleted so much of this one. I just want to get this right. I don’t know how long I can keep not getting things right.

“I would wake up every morning with this intense depression,” Charlie Kaufman told Marc Maron in 2016 about the writer’s block that inspired Adaptation. “I figured I’d figure it out, and I didn’t. And then I thought, Let me write about the thing I’m most fascinated with now. And the thing I was most fascinated with now was being stuck.”

The 2002 feature film Adaptation tells the story (or, a story) of the writing of the 2002 feature film Adaptation. Written by Charlie Kaufman, who was at that time struggling to adapt Susan Orlean’s The Orchid Thief, the film concerns Charlie Kaufman (Nicolas Cage) and his struggle to adapt Susan Orlean’s (Meryl Streep) The Orchid Thief, which inspires him to write the film that will become Adaptation, concerning his own struggle to adapt Susan Orlean’s The Orchid Thief. At one point, Charlie’s identical twin brother, Donald (Cage), mentions an ouroboros, that classic image of a snake eating its own tail, and Charlie latches onto the comparison. The more appropriate analogy for this film, though, might be a fractal, a geometric figure made up of infinite iterations of itself. Stare too long at those nested recursions and you’re apt to feel like you’re falling down some bottomless chasm.

Charlie has another take on his own work: “It’s self-indulgent,” he moans to Donald after deciding to write himself and his struggles into his screenplay. “It’s narcissistic. It’s solipsistic. It’s pathetic.”

Ever the cock-eyed optimist, Donald has a more sanguine approach to Charlie’s choice: it’s “kinda weird, huh?” As always, Donald seems half-admiring of his brother’s ingenuity while half pitying him for making life so difficult.

Donald Kaufman does not exist. Or, rather, he exists in the world of Adaptation, but he does not exist in the same three dimensions as you and I do (if we occupy the same three dimensions at all; if there isn’t some invisible veil of perception separating each of us). Donald is a narrative device—he is Charlie Kaufman’s observing eye. It’s as though Kaufman (the writer) has carved off whatever part of himself might be capable of happiness and turned that slice of consciousness into a sort of hangdog Jiminy Cricket for the despondent Charlie (the character). Kaufman grants Charlie the dubious gift of self-consciousness via a carefree observer who just doesn’t get why this is so hard. Why not just do it? Just write. Just read a screenwriting manual. Just go to a story seminar. Just learn the principles, and then just do it. It’s easy. Just watch.

Adaptation is an exceedingly cerebral movie, but it’s not an excessively alienating one (yes it is, of course it is).

Adaptation is a film dense with alienation effects. Yet those effects serve, paradoxically, to draw the viewer close to a story that’s ultimately emotional and satisfying (except that when I first saw it, I felt like it had total contempt for me, like the movie was mocking my attempts at comprehension, so what the fuck am I talking about?).

Adaptation is an exercise in falsehood-within-falsehood. Not only is the film a clear and open fictionalization—not only was the real Kaufman, in fact, happily married, not to mention quite trim, during the time that he depicted himself as a corpulent bachelor—but the film features a schism point where it veers off of the fictionalized depiction of its own writing and becomes an intellectual exercise in self-loathing fictionalized fictionalization.

Charlie hopes to eschew every tradition of screen narrative. He rejects the very idea of a conventional screenplay, believing he can chart some new course. Only when Donald wears down Charlie’s resolve and sends him to a seminar led by renowned—and real—screenwriting guru Robert McKee (Brian Cox) does his resolve buckle. Informed by McKee that Charlie really has no choice but to insert a conventionally satisfying third act if he wants any chance at having the film seen—let alone completing the screenplay—Charlie, with Donald by his side, pursues Susan to Florida, where they observe a clandestine love affair between the author and her subject, John Laroche (Chris Cooper), exactly the sort of lurid detail Charlie swore not to invent. Soon, the brothers Kaufman are enmeshed in a car chase/gunfight/deadly alligator attack, exactly the sort of sensational incident he promised would never find its way into his work. For all Charlie’s insistence that a good screenplay should be realistic, McKee turns out to have been correct: real life can be just as dramatic as any pulp thriller.

Except—the implication seems clear—for the fact that the McKee scene represents a breach of the film’s reality. The diegesis gives way to meta-diegesis (what?), narrative becomes origami (come on), as we feel the hand of Charlie—as opposed to Kaufman, who is puppeteering Charlie, who now puppeteers a third character we might think of as “Charlie”—rhetorically navigating “Charlie” through a manic fruition of his worst fears concerning his own artistry. And so Kaufman looks over the lid of his own cinematic ant farm to grin at the viewer, or at least any viewer who’s primed to pick up what he’s laying down. Are the events we’re watching “really” happening? Well, that’s a funny question isn’t it? After all, what is reality anyway?

Even as the movie crawls through a portal up its own ass (gross), it arrives at a place of startling catharsis. Kaufman (don’t forget Spike Jonze—just because the movie is about the writer doesn’t mean it belongs to the writer; there was a director, and a good one) manages to have it both ways: he creates a hall-of-mirrors story that calls attention to its own cerebralism while offering an emotional payoff—a moment of understanding between brothers who just happen to be one prismatized consciousness—and manages to dodge any whiff of condescension. He achieves McKeean narrative harmony by embodying the worst misinterpretation of McKee’s (basically reasonable) storytelling tenets. Charlie may hold McKee and his acolytes in contempt, but Kaufman has more respect for his audience and their desires. He just asks that they respect his, too.

So if I’m mimicking the structure of Adaptation, then around now I should be burying myself in research to cover for the fact that I’m flailing—which is awfully convenient. So I search JSTOR for “Charlie Kaufman.” There’s more than I ever imagined. Thank God.

“It is useful to examine the dynamic qualities that infuse each actor’s movements,” Cynthia Baron writes in her 2006 paper, “Performances in Adaptation: Analyzing Human Movement in Motion Pictures.” “By studying the actors’ movements, it is possible to see that the qualities of their movements contribute to our understanding of the characters’ abiding dispositions and transitory feelings and to our sense of their tacit connections and lasting differences.”

Sure.

“The film’s representation of narration and its insistence on foregrounding narrative acts,” Barbara Simerka and Christopher B. Weimer write in their 2005 paper “Duplicitous Diegesis,” “are central to Adaptation’s postmodernism and to its homologies with the early modernism of Don Quijote.

That’s interesting, I guess. I should read Don Quijote. I’m never going to read Don Quijote.

“Far from an abject capitulation, then, to the spirit of narrative,” Joshua Landy writes in his 2011 paper “Still Life in a Narrative Age: Charlie Kaufman’s Adaptation,” “[Adaptation] invites us to wonder whether…phenomena that do not have a history in the full sense of the word may not, when all is said and done, be the most important ones there are.”

Phenomenology. Fantastic. There is nothing I understand less than phenomenology.

“As close as Charlie/Kaufman may have gotten to an inescapable femininity,” Sergio Rizzo writes in his 2008 paper “(In)fidelity Criticism and the Sexual Politics of Adaptation,” “he avoids becoming a woman and eventually finds his manhood—not unlike Foreman’s ‘gelded’ screenwriter who pulls the phallic screenplay out of his hat and/or pants to rescue that ‘Don Juan without a penis,’ the director.”

I’m hungry. I should order lunch. I should make lunch. What should I order? I wonder what’s happening on Twitter. It’s just going to make me miserable. I’ll finish writing about how I’m going to open Twitter, and then I’ll open Twitter. I just need a button on this section, so I’ll use needing a button as the button, and when I’m done typing this sentence, I can open Twitter.

Spike Jonze is generally counted among the “Indiewood” generation, a loose collection of directors who emerged in the 1990s, riding the wave kicked off by the success of sex, lies, and videotape (1989) and amplified by the blockbuster hit that was Pulp Fiction (1994). Suddenly, major studios were racing to set up “indie” divisions, nurturing a generation of auteurs—Andersons Paul Thomas and Wes, Davids Fincher and O. Russell, Sofia Coppola, Alexander Payne, and more—who proved capable of balancing idiosyncratic vision with at least some demands of the Hollywood machine. 

So what unites these directors? Thematically, it’s a generation that Jeffrey Sconce, in a 2002 Screen essay, suggested is motivated by “irony, black humor, fatalism, relativism, and, yes, even nihilism.” In his view, these directors shared a “veneer of studied detachment [and] cultivated disaffection.” It’s a cynical perspective on a diverse body of art, but Sconce’s allegations are largely borne out in a film like 1999’s Being John Malkovich, with Jonze’s bleak, grungy mise-en-scène drawing every drop of hyper-inventive dread from Kaufman’s script. Still, Sconce skips over the wounded, throbbing heart at the core of that film and so many others up for analysis in the essay (The Royal Tenenbaums, Magnolia, and Donnie Darko, to name a few). A more generous read on the Indiewood cohort was offered by Jesse Fox Mayshark in his 2007 book Post-Pop Cinema: The Search for Meaning in New American Film. Mayshark argued that the Indiewood filmmakers were motivated not by hollow provocation, but rather “a sort of self-conscious meaningfulness,” yielding a canon of turn-of-the-millenium art that represents “a generation’s efforts to make sense of itself and the world around it.”

Which is a long way of saying: as with a lot of his peers, it’s not particularly useful to think of Spike Jonze movies as “independent films,” what with their multi-million dollar budgets and movie-star leads, but he certainly makes the kind of movies referred to casually as “indie.” So how to account for that discrepancy? Well, in his 2011 book Indie: An American Film Culture, Michael Z. Newman argued that the term indie is not so much a business classification as a set of shared “viewing strategies” that guides our cultural consensus on what makes a movie indie. Be it an A24 production or a Sony Pictures Classic, indie means what we say it means, and that requires a common parlance as we make sense of any mystifying art—say, the rail-jumping third act schism in Adaptation—that we’re handed for absorption, processing, and debate (ideally in that order, though not necessarily). Indie movies aren’t just movies, according to Newman—they’re “community networks.”

There’s something comforting there, I think. If watching means awakening, then we awaken together in the dark and then turn in our seats to affirm one another’s consciousness through that shared experience of consuming narrative. A movie as dense and deep as Adaptation—one my fragile teenage self was violently unable to comprehend on first viewing—offers a communal awakening, one that ideally leads to new insights on the human capacity for thought and emotion. It’s a collaborative project spanning the entirety of human history: a long-term effort to establish a cultural lingua franca. At least I think that’s so. 

At least I wish I thought that were so. There’s another theory I think about often: psychiatrist Thomas Singer’s use of the term group spirit, which he defines as “the ineffable core beliefs or sense of identity that binds people together.” It’s a lovely concept, but as described in his 2007 paper “Trump and the American Group Psyche,” Singer has recently observed a rift in the American group spirit, one “amplified on all sides by an even deeper, less conscious threat that I call extinction anxiety.” In the face of a feeling like that, it can be hard to believe the shared experience of art has much value. 

Except for the fact that how we interpret art has a lot to do with how we interpret one another. One more theory for the road: in 1973, Stuart Hall introduced what’s been termed the encoding/decoding theory of communication. Using TV broadcasting as his theoretical framework, Hall argued that the circuit of any communication—be it mass media or intimately interpersonal—involves a sender encoding a message and a receiver decoding it. Joining our diffuse perspectives for any type of effective code-breaking involves so many complex leaps of interpretation and projection. And it sure does feel like it’s getting harder all the time.

I read the Adaptation screenplay. There’s plenty that’s different—Charlie masturbates even more; there’s a scene where Charlie, Darwin, and Aristotle have a tea party that turns into a brawl—but basically, the script is the movie. Kaufman is seemingly not a writer given to novelistic screenwriting; he follows the rules, stays out of the way of his own ideas. So much for that.

I rewatch all of Kaufman’s movies—even Human Nature (2001, dir. Michel Gondry) and Confessions of a Dangerous Mind (2002, dir. George Clooney); I’m nothing if not thorough (bullshit). Those two don’t give me much, but Being John Malkovich (1999, dir. Spike Jonze), that fits the “watching” concept perfectly—a movie about being so sick of your own perspective that you start compulsively inhabiting someone else’s, only capable of feeling fulfilled when looking at the world from behind another pair of eyes. And Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004, dir. Michel Gondry), that’s perfect, too—a movie about regretting the memories you’ve made, only to regret your regret too late, left to race through your own recollected perspective attempting to save your own crumbling perceptions. Synecdoche, New York (2008, dir. Charlie Kaufman), a movie about gazing upon the world and finding it so agonizing that it’s preferable to build a—eventually and increasingly fractalized—simulacrum thereof to secret oneself within. Anomalisa (2015, dir. Charlie Kaufman and Duke Johnson), a movie about being so depressed that you can’t perceive any difference between anyone at all. And I’m Thinking of Ending Things (2020, dir. Charlie Kaufman), sort of the ultimate Kaufman movie—the story of a woman who’s actually being invented by a man based on his most ardent fantasies, a filmic reality subject to the addled and indecisive urges of a despairing mind. Plus his novel, Antkind—y’know what, I read every single one of those 720 pages back in 2020, I still have no idea what the hell that was all about, and I’m certainly not rereading it, so never mind. But those features, what a canon—a screenwriter-auteur’s progress through stations of perceptual agony. How can we really perceive one another, Kaufman asks repeatedly, when things get so hopelessly warped in the journey between the world, our eyes, and our minds?

It’s all great, a perfect thematic throughline. A pretty obvious one, really. Kind of the main way of talking about him and his work. Good stuff, genius. Should we call Cahiers du Cinema about your breakthrough? 

I listen compulsively to Kaufman interviews. In 2016, he told Marc Maron that his entire career was an effort to figure out what it sounds like when we think. Is that what I’m looking for? In a 2020 conversation for City Arts & Lectures, Pulitzer-winning author Andrew Sean Greer asked Kaufman whether he considers himself a surrealist, and while Kaufman agreed that the comparison makes sense, he sees his dreamscapes primarily as an avenue to get at something real. That’s good. I can connect that to something and find my way to an ending, right? Then maybe I can double back to the beginning and find my way to a point. In 2020, Kaufman told Ringer editor Sean Fennessy that all his best work comes from one feeling: I can’t do this, therefore I must do this. That’s promising, I’ll hold onto that. I’ll reorganize my notes. Nobody cares. Nobody’s ever going to read this. The world’s on fire and getting hotter every day. 

I need to quit while I still can. I finally told Chad I was writing about Adaptation for the “Voyeur” issue. He was so excited. I need to warn him about how hard I’m leaning on the self-reflexivity gimmick. I need to pull this essay. I should be trying to get on base at this point, not swinging this hard. I’ll go back to the Hamlet (2000, dir. Michael Almereyda) essay. That had a lot of promise. There is so much voyeurism in that movie. And there is so much on JSTOR about it.

“There are too many ideas and things and people, too many directions to go. I was starting to believe the reason it matters to care passionately about something is that it whittles the world down to a more manageable size.”

That’s a passage from The Orchid Thief, and in Adaptation, it serves as a sort of activator for Charlie. Kaufman, having failed to cinematically render Orlean, grants Charlie a fascination with Susan that becomes an obsession. It’s this obsession that leads him to New York in search of answers as to how and why to do his job. Rather than to a conversation, though, the journey leads only to yet another question: as the brothers covertly observe Susan crying at her desk, Donald murmurs, “What’s she hiding?”

Susan is hiding a number of things from her loved ones, but her secrets stem from one great secret shame: her inability to find purpose through focus, and so care passionately about her work, and so engage passionately with her life. This is the blockage that binds her to Charlie—unable to find their angle on the world, they mask their hollowness with an accumulation of information. None of it salves the wound that is lack of inspiration, though, and so each of them envies LaRoche and his ability to fixate unselfconsciously on orchids. Sounds familiar.

OK, y’know what, now’s the time when I have to find my Robert McKee, right? I need to find the Robert McKee of non-fiction. That’s what I’ll do, that’s what I have to do, I have to learn from them, and ideally I need to hate myself a little bit for learning from them, but at least somehow that’ll power me into the ending, right? So who is it? Who’s the ideal middlebrow populist with lessons to share?

Oh, hell yeah.

“The act of writing about others is not a trivial act,” the sonorous—if slightly nasal—voiceover goes. “It’s not entertainment. It’s not a distraction. You don’t read non-fiction for the same reason that you chew gum or watch the Kardashians on television.” We see B-roll of anonymously comfortable furnishings, the sort you’d see in a mid-budget hotel lobby. “You read it because you’re in search of something powerful and fundamental about what it means to be a better person.”

The esteemed essayist and author settles into his chair as the title card fades in: Malcolm Gladwell Teaches Writing.

Malcolm Gladwell’s MasterClass is a five-hour, 22-lesson seminar comprising videos with titles like Humor and Melancholy and A Theory of Other Minds, but I’m most drawn to lesson three: Holding Readers — Tools for Engagement. This lesson is subdivided into parts, and the second is entitled, Give The Reader Some Candy.

“There’s a difference between the meal and the treat,” Gladwell insists, “and that corresponds to a difference in the way that people talk about things and think about things. The way you think about something is complicated, it may have many different parts, it may be contradictory in certain ways…But the things that you talk about when you’ve consumed something are the things you can talk about…And so candy in a story is stuff for people to talk about.”

It’s only a six-hour flight from Boston to LA, and only a half-hour drive from the airport to Charlie Kaufman’s Beverly Hills mansion. I’m met at the door by a tuxedoed butler, who leads me through the gilded rooms and out to the poolside cabana, where Kaufman lounges in a kimono reading Kierkegaard. 

“I don’t know how anyone could feel secure in the world as it is right now,” Kaufman muses as his butler takes our drink orders. “Everything is up in the air, and also in some odd way feels irrelevant. Things are so awful, so who cares where my career is?”

I tell Kaufman about my agonies, my inability to get my hands around Adaptation. I ask what it all means. I’m not sure which it I’m referring to, but the question feels right.

“I’ve made a practice throughout my career of not explaining my intent,” he drawls, languidly twirling the swizzle stick in his daiquiri.

I turn to go. This was a mistake. But just as I leave the cabana, Kaufman calls me back.

“I think so much of what is wrong right now in the world,” he tells me with the studied detachment of a mountaintop sage, “is that people don’t see each other. We literally do not see each other as human beings—as people with fear and desires and longings. And therefore, you’re able to treat other people as objects that you can use to get what you want. It’s a hard thing to do, to see people on a personal scale. It’s a very hard thing. I think if we could do that, we’d make better decisions as societies and individuals, be better and kinder, and just by that alone, the world would be a better place.”

“Can I get your perspective on something?” I ask Cait as we sit on the porch swing during the kids’ nap. “It would involve you indulging me a little.”

“I can indulge you a little.”

“So I’m writing about Adaptation—we watched it back in like 2012, when I was reading the book for grad school.”

“I don’t remember that.”

“Well we did. So the movie is about the writing of itself, and so the essay has to be about the writing of itself. And the whole gimmick of the movie is that it all gets progressively desperate and sweaty until there’s a kind of schism point in the third act and it jumps into this false, heightened reality. So I need to do something like that with the essay, and I’m thinking about falsifying an interview with Charlie Kaufman, but make it really obvious what I’m doing—say, like, It’s only a six-hour flight from Boston to LA, and only a half-hour drive from the airport to Charlie Kaufman’s Beverly Hills mansion. I’m met at the door by a tuxedoed butler, who leads me through the gilded rooms and out to the poolside cabana, where Kaufman lounges in a kimono reading Kierkegaard. Do you think that works?”

“So you’re just lying?”

“Well, I was going to take quotes from other interviews. Like, I found a good one from the BFI, and one from the Guardian, and one from Vulture. So it would be kind of a composite interview that’s pretending not to be.”

She thinks about all of it as the swing drifts lazily. “I mean, it doesn’t really sound like you’re writing about the movie at that point, does it?” she asks.

It doesn’t. Because this is a terrible idea. Because I’ve written myself into a corner. Because I have no idea what I’m trying to say. Because I’m useless. Because

FUCK!

That last part really happened. So did this part:

I asked my wife’s perspective that day because my faith in this essay had been shaken in a way outside of the self-reflexive self-doubt I’ve employed here to heighten my own angst. Watching Malcolm Gladwell’s MasterClass, I’d been most struck not by his comments on candy but by something from the conclusion to the whole hours-long saga: “Almost all good non-fiction writing,” Gladwell says, “is giving us a window into other people’s hearts and souls and minds. In essence, it’s different from some forms of art, which are about giving us a window into the artist’s mind…[non-fiction] is not about representing the contents of our own mind to our audience, it is going out and finding someone else and inhabiting their world and representing it to readers.”

Gladwell’s words hit me where it hurts. I had intended this essay—and so many of my essays before it—to be playfully self-involved, but now I felt shaken in my belief that such a thing is really useful in film criticism. There’s no real point to an Adaptation essay at the end of the day, at least not this kind. Real film analysis means putting your own subjectivity in the back seat in favor of absorbing and processing the art and then presenting it to the reader in a legibly insightful form. 

On the other hand:

I’ve had something saved in my work files for the past two and a half years, ever since I first tried to write this essay. I held it in the back of my mind through the writing of this draft, but I never hauled it back out for a good read; I was too busy creating new files for all my new reading and listening and watching. But I finally took a look at Charlie Kaufman’s 2011 BAFTA Screenwriters’ Lecture, and I was struck anew by one passage that I have always found pretty moving:

“Do you. It isn’t easy but it’s essential…Think, ‘Perhaps I’m not interesting but I am the only thing I have to offer, and I want to offer something. And by offering myself in a true way I am doing a great service to the world, because it is rare and it will help.’”

I think I’ll side with Kaufman over Gladwell. The esteemed essayist and author goes on to say that writing “is an act of service, and it’s also an empathetic act,” and I agree, but I reject his prescriptivism regarding the difference between representing one’s own mind and the minds of one’s subjects. That isn’t how perception works; it’s impossible to fully inhabit another point of view, let alone effectively communicate that embodiment. All we can do is watch the world, awaken, and report back on our own perceptions. “Without having some understanding of what goes on in other people’s minds, you can’t be fully human,” Gladwell says, and I guess I feel the same; I just see it from the Charlie Kaufman point of view.

All right, I came to some kind of ending. Now I can go back and really get started. I took my first sip of coffee at just the right moment today. The temperature was perfect down to the last drop.