So I have to make do with what amounts to about an EP's worth of new material, after I've gapped out all the redundant crap that nobody needs to hear. What's left is, of course, brilliant. And that's not a word I toss around lightly. Right now I'm in the middle of "Elektro Kardiogramm" and the heartbeat sound in the background affects me so much that my own heart rate is trying to synch up with it. I've listened to that track well over 20 times now and I always try not to let that happen -- it's my heart, I ought to be able to control it better than a couple of old cranks on another continent -- but no, my internal organs would rather get their marching orders elsewhere. Stupid krauts.
I wasn't wrong about feeling the effects of my Thursday night climb for days to come. I put off an engagement I had on Friday because I was limping around in pain. I've got a big bruise on my knee. Thinking back on it now, I can see that Kevin was trying to goad me into going beyond my own limits, and he often succeeded. I have to decide if that was a good thing or not before next Thursday.
There's a lot of stuff I was looking forward to that turned out badly that I was planning to review. "Ghost World," for instance. I was expecting a whole lot more from the guy who brought us "Crumb," one of my personal top 20 favorite films of all time. But I've long known that you are no bigger than the things that annoy you, and now I'm trying to put that into practice. There's no use wasting valuable brain cycles writing about things I don't like. Better to turn toward the light.
Sunday morning, my mom and sister got back from a short trip to D.C. I went to pick them up at the airport, then we sat on the back porch bird-watching and looking at Jean's Australia pictures. That was nice I guess, I but I can't help but feel guarded about it. The definitive version of that story hasn't been written yet.
A few days ago, right here in this blog, I wrote about a turning point in my life, from about a year ago. I had felt murky about the situation until then, but now it seems pretty well nailed down. So I guess I can say I've reduced the span between an event and writing the definitive version of it down to 12 months. That's much better than I've normally done, but I wish I could compress it further. I feel vaguely like I've done the right thing, staying here in a place I don't like for this long, but I'd like to read what I'm going to write about it a year from now so I'd know for sure.
Here's something I can write about that I did like, even more than I expected to. The Dancemaker is a documentary about Paul Taylor's dance company, a choreographer I'd never heard of before, but he's apparently been a big deal in the dance world since before I was born.
I'm not crazy about dance as an art form, and the documentary didn't change my mind on that subject. I suppose I am now open enough to the concept that I might go to see a performance if someone else wanted to, but not enough that I'd seek it out on my own. What I am very passionate about is believers.
That's my new preferred way of dividing up the world. Intelligence doesn't matter nearly as much as people seem to think. Hard work and dedication are a lot more important. But first, you have to believe.
I can very well remember the year or so leading up to what turned out to be my two biggest successes in life so far, which happened to come within months of each other. Most of the time I felt like I was very far out on a limb and that I was foolish to believe that such a thing could ever work. I felt like a fraud, so much so that I didn't tell anybody about it, until it was a done deal.
The people surrounding Paul Taylor take belief to a whole new level that I am not personally familiar with. The dancers talk of going to audition after audition for years, every time encountering 200 other people that want the job and would be just as good at it.
Those are longer odds than I want to go up against. But I admire people like that, who are willing to take that chance.
Even for the dancers that have somewhat secure jobs in Taylor's dance company, they are still very much operating on faith. My favorite scene in the film involves Taylor thinking up the moves for a new show he's about to put on. He's standing in a studio with Francie Huber, one of his dancers. He thinks for a minute, then clumsily demonstrates a dance move while thinking aloud: "Why don't we do a move like this ... and then like this ... and then one of these." A second after Paul's clumsy take, Francie performs her own interpretation, which is roughly the same thing he did, only about eighty seven billion times better. She's far more lithe and graceful than he is, she adds a little flourish here and there that Paul didn't think of, executing the idea far better than Paul's original, if you ask me. But almost every time his face registers either no reaction at all or mild disapproval, and he has another suggestion, and once again she executes it with more flair and sophistication than I could have ever imagined, but no, that's not good enough either. The scene is intercut with an interview with Francie alone: "I have to read his mind. I don't know if he's stuck, if he's thinking, if it's okay for me to add my own suggestion now, or if I should just shut up and do what he wants. I never know."
I don't get it. To me, Taylor seems like a self-satisfied poncy fop. I sure wouldn't want to work with him. But nearly everything said about him by everybody is close to hero worship. The one and only time Taylor comes into any criticism is from his dancers, when he fires one of them. But even then they are willing to put aside their disappointment and carry on. They all very fervently BELIEVE, bending over backwards to turn his visions into reality. His business director is interviewed and he doesn't seem to have an artistic bone in his body, but he believes just as much as the dancers do. He talks with a passion not often heard about how he's out there slaying dragons 16 hours a day to make it possible for Taylor to do his thing. It's not the kind of dedication you'll ever see from someone who's just in it for the money.
And dammit, I couldn't help but believe along with them. I don't personally believe in their crusade, but I believe in their belief! It was making my pulse quicken, feeling them lit up inside.
Matthew Diamond, the director, makes it easy for us. He gives you a view of Taylor's dance performances that you'd never see in real life, but it seems very real anyway. He has miked a lot of incidental sounds that you'd never be able to hear out in the audience: rustlings, exertions, skin scraping against the stage, groans, heavy footfalls, breathing. It's a grim reminder that the performances look pretty but it's all a great deal of work. Diamond finds plenty of other ways to drive the point home. He spends a lot of time on the dancers' injuries. One girl is talking about something or the other and the camera pans down to reveal that she is soaking her feet in a sink. Surprisingly, almost every dancer is shown smoking at some point, Taylor included.
Well, that settles it. I think I'm about to abandon fiction altogether. It's far too easy to lie. I already gave up novels, six or seven years ago. Not surprisingly, the last "fiction" author I read seriously was Charles Bukowski. The only reason he calls his novels "fiction" is that writing about real life and getting all the facts straight is too much trouble. He wants to be able to tell his story in his own way without anybody being able to say "no, that's not how it happened." Actually a lot of the participants from his life have done just that, but he's given himself the perfect defense: They were just novels, silly.
The last good book I read was a real-life account of an around-the-world sailboat race. The last three good films I saw were all documentaries. That's the way I'm going to be leaning from now on.