Rabelais, one of the seminal writers of fiction during the Reformation (and of scatology during Western Civilization) is often used as an example of a useful and powerful writing tool. No, not poems about codpieces. Lists. Lists have been used in storytelling for millenia, from the numbering of warriors' possessions in the Iliad to the names of the dwarfs in the Norse Eddas to Norman Mailer's list of what sort of breasts he likes.
Everyone understands lists - they convey a large amount of information with a minimum of extraneous prose. They have a power, too, to describe variety, breadth, or even the inverse of those, by use of example. They fit well with our minds, somehow. This is also reflected in the fact that they are easy to remember (well, easier), which is why they turn up so much in material descended from oral tradition.
And they are easy to write, and it's the Monday morning after the Thanksgiving holiday.
So, without further ado, here's a list of my opinions about the Performing Arts. Well, some of them.
I like theater. No, I don't spell it "theatre". And, unless you suffer from hereditary tea poisoning, neither should you. We had a revolution just so we could move a few inches farther from French (i.e. anti-phonetic) spellings.
Anyways, theater is good. Well, most of it. Shakespeare, for instance. Death of a Salesman. Waiting for Godot. One must be cautious, though - in recent years... hm, no, actually not necessarily all that recent. Theater has been suffering from hoity-toity crap at least since the Victorians. Oscar Wilde is great, mind you. Anyways, there exists 'theater' which should be avoided at all costs, because some playwrights have taken it upon themselves not to write plays which are intelligible commentaries on the human condition but rather unintelligible commentaries on how they feel about theater. As a general rule - no, safety tip - avoid anything even vaguely autobiographical.
Some of these are wonderful, such as Hal Holbrooke's Mark Twain. But the pitfall of the writer thinking he is somehow fascinating and important also lurks here. Do not see anything with the words "despondency", "leaden", "soul", "suicide", or "daffodils" in it. Trust me on that last one.
It's in a foreign language. How good can it be? I mean, if it were really incisive and important, someone would translate it. The Germans (always reliable barometers of culture, those Germans) figured that out centuries ago, and ditched Italian for Mozart and Wagner.
I enjoy opera only in the sense that it is there. It is great to listen to, and that is how it should be enjoyed, at high volume on one's car CD player while swerving in and out of traffic and doing the booty dance, occasionally waving one's arms around like a conductor. This also serves to warn other drivers that you are listening to opera, and to give you more than the usual three centimeters of comfort zone.
Going to see opera is a waste of time and money. Lots and lots of money.
When they decided to listen to me and write opera in English, they also decided to dumb it down for the masses. Which, frankly, is fine. I like musical theater, and unlike opera it is worth paying the eye, leg, and first child that it takes to go and see. Note, of course, that what you will be going to see has been written by Andrew Lloyd Webber, who sold his soul in a very lucrative bargain to prevent anyone else from ever getting musical theater produced.
Except, of course, Disney, who he sold his soul to.
If I mock ballet, my fiance will slay me.
Being a male, I spurn ice skating like I would spurn a vomit milkshake. It's not a sport, and why on earth prancing around like a spastic trying to remove a shrubbery from his rectum using his toes while skating is better than while not skating is beyond me. Skates are for sports. There are races on skates. Performance ice skating is just dance with a handicap.
I'm treading perilously close to ballet, but sometimes my need to rant overcomes my fear of death. I have no problem with dancing. Dancing, in fact, is fun. But why watch someone else do it? Okay, to learn, that's valid. But people pay lots of money to see people "express themselves through dance".
Fucking talk! That's why we invented language! I see no reason to regress to a Cro-Magnon so that some cretin in pants so tight you can guess their religion can explain in twenty minutes how sad he is that his lover has tight shoes! Or whatever.
Now, much as I may seem like a curmudgeon in my despisal of all things since the 1900s, that is only because these things suck. "Performance Art" can actually be remarkably cool. I'm thinking here of "Blue Man Group". All the rest of it sucks.
Yeah, I need to discuss this.
Okay, that's all we have time for this week! Tune in later (much, much later, with all probability) when I'll skewer the circus, stand-up comedy, and ferretlegging!
- Sun Ra
Columns by Sun Ra