So You Think You Can Dance: A Review Of The Future

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  “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?

            Big big difference.

            

The Two Americas

 

The Two Americas
            I hate this sense of polarization in the United States, this propaganda-driven idea that it’s US Versus THEM.  I thought I might take a look at the groups, the US and the THEM and see if I can’t analyze the difference.
            First of all, let me state that I am firmly one of the US.  I wouldn’t let a THEM in my house nor allow my sister to marry or divorce one of THEM.
            There are many lifestyles in this country and I think the US/THEM divide flows along lifestyle differences.
            There are two kinds of people in this country.  Hostess Twinkie People and Progresso Soup People.
            I heard a snippet of a Sarah Palin speech yesterday and she is a Hostess Twinkie person.  Her speech began with the question, “Dontcha wanna get back to the good ol’ America that we grew up with?”
            This is the archetypal Hostess Twinkie question. It’s the soft white piece of cake on the outside.  It has no meaning, no nutritive value and is uttered to appeal to the most childish type of person.  Then Ms Palin said, “Doncha want to return to the America that respected values, like honest hard work?  Values like believing in God and the family?” This is the payoff, the creamy center, made from shortening, corn syrup, fructose, sodium glycol and unspecified binding agents.  It does not require teeth to be eaten.  It does not require a mind to give pleasure to childish people.  It just needs to be sweet and gooey.
            The Progresso Soup people are looking for an honest lunch in a can.  The packaging of Progresso Soup conveys a return to old-country quality and nutrition.  If it was called “Progress Soup” it would sound cold and industrialized.  The addition of the “O” transforms it to grandma’s home made blend of split peas, onions, celery, noodles and chunks of chicken.  It became so successful that it forced Campbells to make better soups.  You know, the soups that NFL players’ moms force them to eat.
            I’m not saying that a Progresso Person won’t eat a Twinky or that a Twinky person won’t eat Progresso Soup.
            The point I’m making is that there are a lot of people in this country with empty minds.  They have no curiosity, and are too lazy to figure things out for themselves.  They are content to be fed the intellectual equivalent of cake and candy.  Due to their lazy childishness, these people are easy to manipulate.  That’s what scares me.  Twinkie people are being lied to.  They are being told that Progresso Soup people are not real Americans, that they’re trying to undermine the constitution and destroy the values imbued in this country by the Founding Fathers.
            They believe these lies because they want to, because it’s easier to believe a comforting lie than to search out a truth that might not go koochy koochy koo.
            Twinkie People are slowly being turned into mobs who will chase Progresso Soup people down the street, force them to hide in attics, and, sooner or later, put them on trains going nowhere.
            We will look a little odd when they make us wear Progresso Soup labels on our jackets.  However, we will be squirting little doses of Ecstasy into the creamy centers of their Twinkies, so I expect the results to be worth the struggle.

About my fantasy novel, THE GODS OF THE GIFT

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It was in the late seventies. I turned right onto Third Street in San Rafael and my inner vision exploded with a scene. I was seeing a huge monastic building like a Tibetan lamasery. Think of The Potala. Here was this enormous structure flying in the air, floating away from the ground trailing roots and boulders. It seemed to be headed towards a moon that was chartreuse and hovered above the monastery in a kind of leering way, sinister. Then a voice began speaking. Never mind what it was saying. It was talking inside my head. Like dictation. It was describing things like Destiny; the way Destiny is determined by the thoughts of the one who thinks. Yes yes, very metaphysical.

I drove home listening to this voice describing a system of discipline, a system that corresponded to what I know of Tibetan Tantric practice. I know very little about Tibetan Tantric practice. I have a clue, that’s all.

A book grew from this vision and this voice. At the time I was flush from my recent award from Playboy Magazine and my agent gave the manuscript to an editor and when I was in New York we discussed the book. The agent, Scott Meredith, moved the book around from publisher to publisher for a year. There were no takers.

Lucky me. It would have been a tragedy to have published that book in 1980. I take decades to write my books. They are like big oak trees. They need time to develop.

The Gods Of The Gift has changed so much over the years that it has become a real grown-up book.   It’s a book for grown-ups. It’ a book that will be most enjoyed by people who’ve spent some time reading esoteric stuff like Rudolph Steiner, Madame Blavatsky, Annie Besant. The old school mystics. Gurdjieff, Ouspensky. Most of those books are dense, turgid and old fashioned. The Gods Of The Gift should be fun, even though it’s loaded with obscure information and the science part of it is completely crazy.

            You don’t have to be an Adept of The Secret Doctrine to get enjoyment from this book. It follows many Fantasy and Sci Fi conventions. There’s the Pinocchio Theme. A race of Androids yearns to be human.   But these androids, or as I call them, Robiots, know they’re not human. They call themselves New Sentients. They were originally made to perform work but somewhere along the way a few of them started tinkering with their own nervous systems and found that emotion was possible and even desirable. That’s one of my classic Sci Fi themes. I’ve got astrophysics galore, Black Holes, all that stuff.   The book is as much influenced by Kurosawa films as it is by metaphysical lore. There are sword fights, kidnappings, cosmic gangsters and quasi-immortals called Planet-People. These are avatars from the Starwind Communion. When their civilization was doomed they decided to emigrate by squishing all the individuals from each planet into one body.   So one hundred eight worlds became one hundred eight Planet-People. One of them, Calakadon, was a rogue and a murderer. He is the book’s main bad guy. He’s murdering the other one hundred seven of his kindred and stealing their Puzzle Pieces.   These objects are precious beyond knowing. They will some day be assembled into The Puzzle Of The Endless Gates. Here is another Buddhist concept, in case you’ve never heard that mantra: Gate Gate Beyond The Gate Another Gate—-Bodhisattva.  It refers to the endless nature of the progression of Consciousness.  A Boddhisatva is one who has achieved enlightenment but chooses to reincarnate in order to be of service to the universe.  A compassionate and difficult choice.  Life in a body, physical life, is challenging.  

I refer to this book as a Sacred Monster. I’ve been at it so long that I have no objectivity with regard to it.  I only know the work that I’ve done.  In most things I’m a lazy human being.  Not in writing.  When my writing engine is engaged I have a work ethic that makes me proud. This book has been part of my life for decades.  I had a glitch, a narrative problem that baffled me for fifteen years. Three years ago  I resolved that problem. It was like a seam on a garment.  The dang thing wouldn’t hold together until I figured out that seam.  Now it works and i’m satisfied.  Relatively.

Galaxy’s Light or The Earth Gets An Oil Change

  Think about this.  WHAT DOES THE SKY LOOK LIKE from a habitable planet near the center of the galaxy?

            On earth we don’t even know there’s a night sky, we’ve so polluted the air with bright lights and smog.  But there are billions of other planets.  Odds are staggeringly in favor of there being intelligent species all over the universe.  Each of these sapient races will have its own sky, its own mythology, its own culture brought down the ages of their unique development.
            Given a moderate world with ample water, there can be human-type beings whizzing around the central bulge, near enough, but not too near, the black hole that resides at the heart of nearly every spiral. 
            These races will have daylight, and they will have night light bright with stars, nebulae, clusters in such abundance that our imaginations must reel.
            What if…what if what if what if…the farther away from the Center a planet resides, the more primitive are the sentient beings who live there?  I mean, what if?
I’m letting my mind drift into crazy ideas.  We earthlings live two thirds of the way out to the edge.  We see (when we see) a sky of great beauty but of relatively slight distinction on the scale of galactic possibilities.
            To live near the center of the galaxy!  What a privilege!  What staggering beauty!
           
The black hole and its increasing crowd of stars whizzing faster and faster around its gravitational vortex would be a sphere of lethality, a lifeless zone of intense radiance.  It would the galactic no-fly zone, a sphere of quarantine.
            There may be planets in this zone holding the ruins of ancient civilizations.  Their peoples may have emigrated, or even hurled themselves into the black hole as the ultimate act of service to the mystery of infinite gravity.
            Stars move, stars travel around the galaxy.  It takes our sun approximately two hundred fifty million years to make one rotation of the Milky Way.  We know that our sun moves up and down relative to the galactic plane, describing a curve taking some thirty two million years each way. 
Are we also moving towards the Center or away from it?  Astronomers calculate that the sun’s orbit relative to the Milky Way is an ellipse.  We are going both towards and away from the Center, depending upon the epoch we consider.
            What if..what if the more evolved a planet’s creatures become, the closer it migrates towards the center?  We earthlings aren’t very advanced.  That much is obvious.  We just unplugged the whole planetary oil tank, whoops!  Do not trespass, authorized personnel only, danger, hazardous waste!!
It was too early for an oil change.  We had another hundred trillion miles to go.  If we are this moronic, what kind of people are WORSE than we are?  What if…what if farther out, towards the galaxy’s edge, live people who war and hate, cheat and plot, plunder on a scale we can’t imagine?!  Farther IN live people who have refined themselves beyond our eco-cidal addictions to toxic energy sources. 
I’m just playing with ideas.  I’m not a helium-headed New Age nut case.
I’m not a believer.  I’m an inquirer.    
Wouldn’t that be an interesting way to organize a galaxy’s spiritual hierarchy?  If there were such a thing…and why not?  What don’t we know?
What DO we know?
            Very little.  We’re just frightened world-killers in a sea of stars.