A Clean, Unlighted Place

A Prelude to the Dan Goldman Interview

by shathley Q

21 February 2014

Dan's fearlessness is, in all truth, the light of rationalism, and the courage of spirit that comes from humanistic values. And that is the fireside we both sit at, as we head into the darker winter of the conversation ahead.

It’s not the elegy I’d hoped for, not the elegy either of us had hoped for, but there’s something else, something deeper, something more closely approximating sadness. Something Robert Frost with that horse out there in the dark night. Something more Hemingway, more clean, more well-lighted.

We’re slow to boot up the conversation proper. Maybe it’s a successive lag from the Gmail crash the weekend before. When @SuperFanPR first introduced us, it was in a convivially twenty first century way, via email. But of course it was no introduction at all, or at least, no introduction until much, much later, when the Gmail crash had passed and we were finally able to make contact.

So we’re slow to get things started. We talk about Dan’s work, I complement his process. The same process he’ll fill me in on in much greater detail later in the conversation. We talk about Red Light Properties. We talk about living in New York, about Dan’s having lived in Brazil (we talk about his Miami later, when he talks about his dad in a way that stirs me to tears, well almost to tears, it’s a well-known fact that men don’t cry), we talk about my having licked toads outside the realms of acceptability (which is to say, at the end of a daytrip up the river). We talk about The Drunken Taoist. And only then do we fall into it.

We begin with the violence immediately. With the exorcism of the rape scene.

But before we delve into that right now, Dear Reader, before we leap headlong into Dan at his most open, most emotionally honest, we need to share in the context that Dan and I already do at this point. And the context is this.

Jude runs a realty office in South Florida. It’s always hot. It’s always balmy. No one’s overworked, but everyone’s underpaid. And by underpaid I mean struggling in the economy, but also struggling through personal history, complications, what we charmingly thought of as “baggage” in the ‘90s, what Facebook refers to as “it’s complicated…”

Jude’s also a shaman-exorcist.

Red Light Properties, the company he co-owns and operates with his wife, has a weird remit. It flips previously-haunted properties. Flips that is, after Jude performs the necessary exorcisms. We begin the interview, properly begin that is, because it behooves a somewhat jaded critic such as myself to circle around the subject as a person for a little while before we actually begin, with one of the most haunting, most well-crafted, most skilled parts of the book—the exorcism of the rape-memory.

Jude’s been called out to an unusual case. On the surface of it, it seems like a haunting, but it’s quickly discovered to be much worse. The apartment in question has retained the memory of a violent act, rather than a violent death.

I read the transcript now and it reads like part police incident report, part confession, part breakthrough from a therapist’s couch.

PM: Here’s the frame; there’s a scene in Red Light Properties, this is later in the book, around the rape-exorcism, when Jude’s done he hands a certificate over to the client. It’s a green light certificate I think. That was a very powerful scene for me.

Dan Goldman: Yes, that’s where they get the firm’s name from red light vs. green light properties.

PM: It just felt to me like this was a commentary on the subprime market.

Dan Goldman: How so?

PM: That this guy, the landlord, doesn’t even realize what he’s involved in, he doesn’t sense the shamanic world the way Jude can (or the world of the dead at least). And yet he’s purchasing something from that world from Jude. So there’s an economy here, but there’s no credible knowledge base for both parties involved in the transaction. The scene seems to hone in on the idea that belief can get real fluid. And that seems to be a hallmark of the inherent untrustworthiness of how the subprime loan market seems to have worked.

Dan Goldman: Right, and that’s something Jude deals with daily, his whole life. And to answer the second part, well, belief gets real fluid when there’s money on the table, y’know?

Dan Goldman: It comes down to the idea in society of the “expert” doesn’t it? The expert knows, trust the expert.

PM: yeah [:

Dan Goldman: I’ve seen loads of bad doctors, bad accountants, etc. And since then learned to listen to my body, my brain, etc before anyone else.

PM: Trust the broker, he won’t sell you a toxic asset, trust the surgeon he won’t operate when he doesn’t need to…

Dan Goldman: Totally. But most of the world isn’t that engaged to function without it. Default setting is always: “LISTEN TO EXPERT” even if you’re going to a franking (except, Dan didn’t quite say “franking”) movie.

This the prelude for everything else that happens in the conversation. This is Genesis, and perhaps the deepest insight into Dan as a creator. Later when we get into the tactical issues of what it means to make art in a postmodern era (and why it is he has the courage to continue to stand by his original creative impulse and ‘shop in photo backgrounds rather than draw them), when we get into his work for AMC and his status as perhaps the first of the truly transmedia creators (in that he creates in transmedia, rather than simply creating transmedia objects), and even later when we get into his time at the track with his dad (that didn’t really happen did it?), we keep returning to this simple humility and this simple conviction.

Dan’s words reach beyond the instrumentalist. He returns us to the simple idea that creativity is a choice and one always hinged up being an act of courage. “Most of the world isn’t engaged to function without blind adherence expertise,” Dan says. And then he constructs a fiction that will play out this same fearless hunt for rationalism embodies a deeper adherence to a kind of intellectual freedom scarcely glimpsed at mainstream commercial creativity. It is it’s own kind of fearlessness. In “The ‘Assassins’ Religion,” possibly the most beautiful piece of video game criticism written this early in the new century, Nick Dinicola offers:

In both games, Altaïr is used as a symbol for everything that the Assassins represent: he is atheistic, driven by rationality and curiosity and he is faithless, which is not to say that he doesn’t trust anything but that he doesn’t trust anything unknown. Throughout the game, his leader Al Mualim tries to convince him of the dangers of knowledge. He commands Altaïr to kill, expecting him to follow without question. But to Altaïr, a true Assassin who uses reason and logic to determine what is best for the common good, the denial of knowledge is practically heresy. So it is not surprising that Altaïr continues to question his master even after being warned not to.

Dan’s fearlessness is, in all truth, the light of rationalism, and the courage of spirit that comes from humanistic values. And that is the fireside we both sit at, as we head into the darker winter of the conversation ahead.

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