Monday, August 31, 2015
"What's wrong with kids today?"
This lament has been uttered by every generation since Adam and Eve discovered they were pregnant a second time.
So....what IS wrong with kids these days?
They feel as if they have no future. The last few extant generations simply don't. Futures come in handy when you feel as though the world will be unrecognizable before you've grown up. As a child of The Mushroom Cloud I know what that feels like, that amputation of the future. It made me really angry. My friends and I were more likely to commit petty crimes and indulge in drugs. Without a future, why bother? Why work hard in school? Why cultivate disciplines, interests, social connections? The oceans are rising and will drown your block or your whole neighborhood. The coolest animals will be extinct. No elephants, no polar bears. What kind of future is that?
Then I discovered a TV show called "So You Think You Can Dance". You can knock me over with what these kids are doing! Their bodies must be INCREDIBLY strong and flexible. These kids are doing the impossible! Has the human race mutated? Do we have extra joints, super-human muscle memory? Who ARE these people?
They're just kids. Their secret is that they found a passion, something that interested them so much that they said "fuck it" to the absence of the future and decided to live for this thing called Dance. It was better than being a thug. Thugs are mean, WAY mean and being mean doesn't feel very good. Not as good as practicing B-moves, Krumping, flapping, sapping, tapping, robot-twitching, water-waving, learning your body's capabilities and stretching them further, further, further!
This is IT! Sometimes it's called ART. Don't be embarrassed by the word ART. It's cool to do ART. It's okay. Even if it's gay it doesn't matter. Nobody cares about gay any more. You can be gay, you can change from man to woman or woman to man, nobody cares! If you want to know where it is, where the cutting edge in creativity can be found these days you can see it on "So You Think You Can Dance". The judges aren't scary. They aren't there to cut you down. They want to show you The Future. Word up, Bro. There IS a future. Nobody can stop it. It takes some work. Everything good takes work. Making a future is hard work. It's not like it used to be, when the Future was going to happen no matter what. Now it takes a little faith and a lot of work, but it's there: you... DO...Have...A...Future. Do you want it to kick you in the nuts or do you want to dance with it?
When has anyone given a shit about choreoraphy? Are you kidding? Corey-who? Shazam! Choreographers are the composers of Dance. They arrange the time-space-music continuum in which Dance exists. On the TV show they are not only given credit, they are like stars! Now I know the work of Tice Diorio, Mia Michaels, Sonya Tayeh, "Nappytab", Stacey Tookey and Travis Wall. Choreographers come from the elder population of dancers. They still dance but they are the keepers of the flame, the mentors of the seventeen through twenty two year old dancers who are living the dreams.
I'm not sure there is any more difficult art form than what is now appearing as Dance. It's not enough to specialize. You can't be a ballroom dancer, a hip-hopper or a Broadway hoofer. One of the messages of So You Think You Can Dance is that you must be trained in ALL the dance styles. Choreographers wont' hire you if you don't know all the styles of dance. Choreographers are the Gate Keepers, the bosses, the ones who hire dancers. Get tight with the choreographers who work at SYTYCD and you will be employed for years to come. In time, you will become a choreographer.
The most amazing thing about the dance numbers on this show is their purity. We're not seeing arrangements for pop superstars. We're not seeing choreography for Taylor Swift or Michael Jackson (RIP). These dance routines are created for the television audience. For US! Sometimes magic happens on that stage. Those of you who watch the show know what I mean. In ten years time this show has lifted the art of Dance so that each season is more amazing than the last. The mutations continue. Evolution is visible year to year. Dancers get more flexible, their muscle memories become more detailed, malleable, imprintable. This happens in front of our eyes. Sure, it's a TV contest show aimed at a teenage demographic. That's how things work. Consider the difference between the egregious karaoke of American Idol and the drama and high art of So You Think You Can Dance. Big difference, yeah?
Wednesday, August 26, 2015
Oprah and The Selling of Dream Fulfillment Technology
Every time I go to the supermarket I see "O" magazine displayed at the checkout stand and every issue of "O" magazine has a photo of Oprah Winfrey on its cover. There is something disturbing about a person who puts herself on the cover of her own magazine month after month. She can do what she wants with it, but we know what Oprah looks like by now and I feel a little embarrassed for her. She could give us inspiring landscape photos or images of other worthy people. Instead, we get a simple complacent message:"Look at me! I'm Oprah. I'm still young, slim and beautiful." Even though she's not.
If it's wisdom that I seek from the pages of "O" magazine, I would as soon discuss life with a REAL funky old black broad than with this promoter of the so-called Ideal Life.
It takes only a brief glimpse at the titles of the articles to make me feel utterly shitty about myself. I'm not losing weight. I'm not making more money. I'm not getting younger. My libido is vanishing. My dreams haven't been fulfilled.
This last item, about dream fulfillment, is an arrow pointing into the center of Oprah's empire. This uber-wealthy celebrity is selling what I call DREAM FULFILLMENT TECHNOLOGY. She has become rich and powerful peddling this stuff and the irony of it is this: there is no such thing as DREAM FULFILLMENT TECHNOLOGY. There are various tools to help us cope better with life's stresses. There are psychotherapy, meditation, exercise, nutrition and a raft of spiritual practices. None of these, however, guarantees that dreams will come true. Only a very few people, lucky or possessing a certain kind of karma, get to live their dreams. The rest of us must accept the lives we have been dealt. Life is sometimes good, sometimes bad, sometimes a nightmare and occasionally a dream.
The problem with dreams is that one can dream the wrong dream. Watch any episode of "American Idol" to witness inept dreamers. The depth of people's belief in themselves is shockingly at odds with their lack of talent. Dreams are, by their nature, elusive. If people are willing to commit decades of their lives to pursuing a goal, it might be wise to let the process of pursuit become the defining reality. If you do a thing and you love doing it, stay with that love and don't be distracted by some end point called Success. That way, when dreams fail to materialize, the disappointment does not become bitterness. If a dream IS fulfilled, then there must be a new dream, and yet another in an infinite progression of dreams. Such is the stuff of being alive. The world itself is a dream.
Oprah is but one of many thousands of merchants of Fulfillment. They thrive in hard times and these are hard times. I want to go "tut tut" and say "Shame on you for exploiting the frustration and gullibility of your clients."
It seems to me that the big-time sellers of Dream Fulfillment Technology are making a lot more money than their customers. That's why the cover of "O" magazine gives me the creeps.
I realize that Oprah has supported many great causes, given a host of writers their defining break and has represented a general movement towards positive awareness. It's the cult of personality that bothers me. I wouldn't be surprised at the establishment of a Dalai-lama style lineage so that in a thousand years we may be addressing the Fourteenth Oprah as she descends from her hover-carpet to bless the multitudes. I hope that she will be a crotchety old black broad with a whip-sharp tongue and no patience for fools.
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