Who's the fairest of them all?

24 June 2002

I am sitting, knitting. Ok, I'm sitting, typing, but it gets tiresome writing all one's actions in the past tense, even if it were only less than a minute ago. If I wish to describe something in present tense, and be truthful, I know that this really requires telling the future - I realize what I'm doing several seconds after (well, I'm not always that slow. But let's give me 500 msec (or half-a-second to be less erudite) for nerve conduction, processing, etc.) Then it takes some time more to record this event. Do we get a dt cushion for writing?

The thing is we never see the RIGHT NOW because it doesn't even exist. But I don't want to get bogged down in that metaphysics. As a species we deal better with discussing God than discussing time. People start confusing successful mathematical models with reality, and you get put in the ridiculous position of shouting at people "But HOW does the universe decide which path to take? Why are we conscious of only the one? And, for crying out loud, how does this make the probability come out right?" Well, it looks ridiculous when someone is just trying to impress you with their broad knowledge of quantum physics, and you're just being rude by undercutting them and their pretensions. But I'm mean that way.

Again I digress from anything tangible, and tangibility is a favorite of mine. I like to style myself a mystic, and I do enjoy mystic contemplation, but that's not something one can really write about without boring most people or convincing people you're loony. The truth is, in talking and writing, I'm more likely to talk of very practical things, with very practical points of view. Someone recently asked me about censorship laws for the Internet, and I said, "How the hell can you censor the Internet? Of course it's a bad law, because it's impossible to enforce." I am not interested in theoretical political discussions, especially of political systems that are downright idiotic in their willful ignorance of human nature (communism, I'm looking at =you=).

So last week I was going to describe my experience at the Dance Sampler at Symphony Space. I stayed for only half, for when you're trying to get from the Upper West Side on a Saturday night to pretty far out in Queens, which will take about an hour and a half, You don't want to sit through a 4-hour production ending at 11 p.m. I'm sure the second half was just as good as the first (and probably better, unless they want to piss off people who had the great patience to sit through that amount of continuous modern dance -- the intermissions, between each hour, lasted little more than ten minutes each.) I did enjoy what I saw and disliked only one piece, which was too Ballanchiney and involved women of the standard Ballanchine-type -- tall, too skinny, and you can tell they must have ugly feet. You know, ballet can still have relevance today, as long as they decide to move away from their old version of body modification.

For modern dance is definitely the realm of short, stocky women. And it's a beautiful sight to behold. More to the point, in many ways, the modern dance pieces were smoother than the single ballet example. The ballet dancers were too careful in a certain ways - I could see them =thinking= about where they were placing their feet, their hands. Perhaps it was those particular dancers, perhaps they had not practiced enough so that they'd be in the flow, for I have seen great modern ballet pieces. Maybe it's just that I hate the Ballanchine style -- it's such a bore.

As for the structure of the program, there were 4 pieces per hour, and a very short intermission between hours. I noticed that the least popular pieces were put first in each hour, and the sure-fire crowd pleasers at the end of each; remember, of course, that I'm generalizing from two of the four hours.

Okay, train of thought has been stopped and given a change of engines. It's been about a week since I started the above, so my thoughts have mainly dissolved on the Dance Sampler. All I will do now is provide a transciption of all the notes I made in my program:

Sounds like any modern dance production to me.

What I want to talk about now is mirrors. I know what I have to say is far from original (but hey - that's never stopped me before... look at that last phrase - so often used). So let's start with a quote from Persuasion, by Jane Austen:

`I have done very little besides sending away some of the large looking-glasses from my dressing-room, which was your father's. A very good man, and very much the gentleman I am sure -- but I should think, Miss Elliot'(looking with serious reflection) `I should think he must be rather a dressy man for his time of life. -- Such a number of looking-glasses! oh Lord! there was no getting away from oneself. I hot Sophy to lend me a hand, and we soon shifted their quarters; and now I am quite snug, with my little shaving glass in one corner, and another great thing that I never go near.'

That was Admiral Croft, in Chapter 2 of the 2nd part from the book, explaining to Anne Elliot the changes he and Mrs. Croft had made to her old house. For those who haven't read the book, Anne is the middle daughter of baronet, Sir Walter, and due to his spendthrift nature (and unwillingness to change his habits) finds himself forced to lease out his estate. Sir Walter is a man so absorbed in his own good looks, which I suppose is good for him as he has absolutely no other substance. The man who replaces him at his manor, Admiral Croft, is shown to be completely different: a man who achieved his rank and money through accomplishment, a man who never talks about himself, or if he does mention himself he's sure to mention his wife (Sophy) as well.

Think of what the ubiquity of mirrors has done to the conception of self.

And think of the people who most often look in mirrors (I mean people who have no professional need to - I'm not including performers here). I think I can add a new aphorism to my pile -- My original statement was that the more holes a person puts into themselves, and the more permanent marks they put on themselves, the less interesting I know them to be. Now, I add to this the ancient wisdom "the more a person looks into a mirror, the more likely that what you see is what you get."

Still, I wonder how strong a cultural drive to thoughts of individuality would have been without mirrors? Of course, I could be confusing cause and effect. Still, I remember that one of the most off-putting things I said to a person I really wanted to put off was that I thought she'd be happier if she started thinking about other people more and thought about herself less. That's going into the toolbox of unwelcome advice, I may want to use it again.

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