Friday, October 17, 2008

Sorry, were you meowing?

Part 1: Welcome to the carousel, please leave your brains at the door

Being away with 14- to 18-hour days tends to do a couple of things to you. One, MSN created a new system called “Live!” and promptly decided that since I hadn’t had any time to log on, I was not quite alive after all. Second, you forget what it’s like to watch TV.

I wandered into the living room and into the 21st century fad of creating sequels to anything that seems to make a buck in theatres. In some cases, considering the titles of some of the movies they’re cloning, it gets a bit ridiculous. Final Fantasy 4, for example. Or, in my case, Save the Last Dance 2. Sounds like Barbra Streisand’s 10th year on a “farewell” tour.

There were some interesting bits though, even without the commanding presence of Julia Stiles in the Save the Last Dance sequel. Like the part where the Julliard dance professor says something to the tune of “How do you know when you’ve made the right motion? The motion becomes you. You become the motion. All things disappear and all you have left is pure emotion.”

Yuuuup, I got a good laugh out of that one. If music has any parallels as an art form, this is pure rubbish. Only amateurs turn off their brains and let pure emotion take over.

And yet so often that’s how it is with life. When things are really worthwhile, one turns off one’s brains and lets emotion take over. Which is often a recipe for forgetting that there’s an open trap door while your all emotional pirouetting makes you think you’re rising to the heavens.

Part 2: Wisdom from the mouths of buffaloes

I have to admire some of these actors and actresses who get picked to do sequels. First of all, they have to realize not only that they weren’t picked for the original movie, but that for the sequel Julia Stiles probably first turned it down, or is now elevated to a new pay bracket. Second, sequels tend to have crappy lines compared to the original, and they have to read it with as much conviction as if they were decent ones. I wonder if they take medication to prevent smirking. Or incessant blinking. Or coughing up yesterday’s lunch.

Sometimes they don’t though. The new dance protagonist actually gets to throw up. If the lines that follow are any indication, she probably didn’t need to fake it. “But it’s just so tough.” Interesting enough though, the responding line by the dance instructor isn’t half bad: “It’s supposed to be tough. Otherwise it wouldn’t be worth it.”

I think that really does touch the heart of it. What really separates winners from quitters isn’t some prize at the end of the road. It’s taking up the challenge. And becoming better for it.

Of course I’m baised, but give me a little credit that I have the guts to admit it. I’ve had to deal with quitters recently, which have made things particularly complex for me. Spectacularly complex, actually. And I’ve been thinking of how at this stage of life one is more aware of our continued upbringing – no longer as young children of our parents, but how we bring ourselves up further as adults.

Let’s say someone has a bad experience with someone who treats animals badly. For a while, our Dogdar or Catdar is all of sudden hyper. We suddenly notice that some of our best friends don’t feed strays who come to the table and meow. We go on a crusade to fight for the rights of undertrodden guinea pigs being used for shampoo research, without first finding out whether their fur coats really do have a brighter sheen. We learn the difference between a chihuahua and a chili dog. And we buy stock in Hello Kitty products. Then probably later than sooner, life goes on and a certain balance is restored, but we’ll always have a extra something when it comes to people who treat animals particularly well – or particularly badly. Just a little something, a little extra. But it’s there.

And so I have a new Quittometer installed and it’s in overdrive. Smells out the scent of unrealized potential and lack of commitment like a durian in a Calvin Clein promotion. There are setbacks however – after a year of practicing till having blisters on my chin, sprains on my back and two bruised wrist bones, it’s finally dawned on me that I’m ready for my audition, and the only thing that has held me back all this while is quite simply that on a stage or in front of a camera, I try too hard. Unnecessary bow pressure creates additional chin pressure and the whole balance is off. The irony of it all should be that the secret to doing well tomorrow is quite simply: while quitters and quitting have no place, there are times when to succeed one has to quit trying too hard.

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