You are here: home > archives > October 2005

October 27, 2005

peanuts or pistachio nuts?


Right now I'm reading this book - What Made Pistachio Nuts? by Henry Jenkins. It's about vaudville aesthetic and the shift to narrative in early comedy-musical Hollywood film (1930s or so). Sorry, that sounded like I can't speak or write English.

Anyway, it's by Henry Jenkins and it's interesting. I was reading it on the tram Tuesday and did get momentarily distracted by the elephants (you can see them from the tram as you pass the zoo). And frankly, who wouldn't be? I hope I never cease to be distracted by real live elephants.
I'll report back when I've read more.

"peanuts or pistachio nuts?" was posted by dogpossum on October 27, 2005 12:36 PM in the category academia

October 26, 2005

You know it's a low-hygiene week...

when you use the vacuum to clean the garlic clove skins off the kitchen bench.

I bend my head in shame.

"You know it's a low-hygiene week..." was posted by dogpossum on October 26, 2005 6:58 PM in the category domesticity

October 24, 2005

three words: dee vee dee

I've been thinking about why I'm watching so much telly lately, and what it all means. Because, you see, I've not been a regular tv viewer for aaages - I'm simply too busy out dancing or doing other things in the evenings to watch telly (let's not talk about daytime tv - I ignore it). But lately I've been catching up on my tv viewing with some dvd versions of telly programs. Now, I know that I'm not watching these programs as they were intended (ie once a week over 12 weeks or so), I'm bingeing, and this is changing the ways I think about these programs - as texts and narratives, but...

Well, look, it's an interesting point, isn't it? I read an interesting point on the Firefly fan site (yes, it's sad - deride me. I deserve it) about the idea of 'time' in telly series. Someone noted that Whedon had to use 9 characters on Firefly and Angel because two or three simply can't sustain interest and complexity over 12 weeks. You need more people because you can offer more story lines over a long period of time (what, 12 hours worth?). It's kind of the soap opera rule, I guess. And that's kind of a cereal thing.
So, ok, you've got 9 characters and 12 hours to use in developing a narrative.
With a film, you have 2 hours max. So 9 characters can get crowded (which is one of the justifications for [Serenity spoiler approaches] killing off Wash and Book in Serenity. One I'm not too sure I'm buying - Wash!).

So what happens when I watch 12 episodes of Dead Like Me in a row? Or 4 or 5 on one Sunday afternoon?
When I do these binges, I tend to feel a bit crowded inside. Lots of characters, lots of events, lots of stuff to absorb. I miss out on the slow assimilation of information. I don't do the between-episode thinking and digesting. I kind of feel like I'm also not doing the adding-in part of viewing to the same extent. You know the way a program and characters live in your mind between viewings? The way you think about them, talk about them, read about them online, see parallels and homages to them in other programs... When you binge, you miss that stuff. So am I making these programs less interesting for myself?
Thing is, programs like Firefly and Twin Peaks and Buffy and Angel and Battlestar Galactica can handle being watched in binges - they're interesting. Dumb shows with less going on, narrative-wise, character-wise, plot-wise, brain-wise (or discursively-wise) tend to get really tedious in big binges. You need to watch them weekly.

Now I'm thinking: does this explain why these shows get such hardcore fan bases?
And then I think 'nah'. Because dumb shows like 90210 or Friends get hardcore fan bases. And I suspect that weekly screenings help - esp if you're watching with friends. I think about queer readings of Friends: you add stuff in to make it interesting. So you view with a bent eye to add in interesting stuff. You do more work, watching, to make the two guys (whose names I can't remember) who live together into a couple. Could you do this if you were bingeing? Would you have time - brain time - to re-read these doods as queer?
Hm. I'm not convinced. I think about the way I love chick flicks: I'm adding in stuff when I view, and I don't need 'more time' to do it...

Well, either way, binge-viewing certainly changes my experience of the program. I do repeat viewings in different ways too - I binge, then I go back and revisit particular episodes to catch favourite moments, explore issues, etc. I rewatch the whole lot (another binge) to pick up the bits I missed the first time. I rewatch with friends for added pleasure. These extra bits don't include the names of episodes - I can never remember them. I don't much care, either: I tend to think of the seperate episodes as chapters in the whole story. So they could be '1' or '3rd'.
All this is similar to the way I read books. Binge and then re-read.

I remember watching Twin Peaks weekly in a proper 'fannish' way. Lunchtime analysis and deconstruction. Scanning magazines for articles about characters/actors. Chasing down the director and actors' past work. All this added to my weekly viewing.
With my binge viewing, I supplement my binges with online read-ups (though I'm not that keen for that stuff). We didn't have access to that in 1990 (or whenever it was), so we made do with magazines.

The Squeeze goes to regular screenings of BSG with his BSG nerd mates. As one of them said in response to my 'oh man, I couldn't handle wasting a whole day watching telly - I'd rather be talking or playing games or eating or something' , it's not about the watching, really. It's about the getting-together. You might be talking about BSG, you might be talking about uni or work or flirting or whatever. It's the social interaction that's important.

I'm not that keen on bingeing socially, though... hm. Well, I like watching with The Squeeze (though I'm just as happy watching alone)...
This reminds me of a point in my research where I was thinking about swing dancers as fans. While you can watch telly alone and never speak of your passion for Firefly with anyone else, you have to swing dance with other people. It's absolutely, and inevitably and undeniably about social interaction. It's also about physical, embodied social interaction with lots of physical contact and body-thinking and talking. Being a swing dancer is about community. Being a telly fan isn't necessarily about sharing the experience. But it can help.

It's all interesting.
And of course, all my supes' fault: it was that paper she gave on teen telly. And possibly there's some link to my crazy Firefly/DLM/BSG viewing....

"three words: dee vee dee" was posted by dogpossum on October 24, 2005 7:34 PM in the category

a thesis outline sort of testy thingy...

If I do put the schools chapter last, I think I'll use it in the following way:

I begin with Afro-American vernacular dance because contemporary swing dance culture itself 'begins' with af-am v dance. The 'original swing era' is a powerful myth in swing culture. It is used to justify many cultural and social practices, beginning with actually dancing itself - learning to dance swing dances is seen as a way of 'reviving' dances from this 'original swing era'. The idea that these dances need reviving implies that they are in some way 'dead' or otherwise incapacitated. Literature discussing vernacular dances makes the point that they are continually changing and responding to cultural and social context as cultural discourse. For a particular dance step or dance style to be danced, it must retain relevance. In other words, dances 'go out of style' because they no longer appeal or embody the needs and interests of dancers. This is quite often related to changes in musical form - swing dances like the lindy hop were replaced by dances which were better 'suited' to the successive musical forms, and to the needs of successive generations of dancers.
The point is also made in much of the literature dealing with Afro-American vernacular dance, that particular moves or movements are not always wholly lost. The cross-generational nature of vernacular dance - it occurs in ordinary, everyday, cross-generational community spaces rather than in segregated 'youth' or other spaces - means that dance steps are more likely to move between generations than in generationally-segregated dance traditions.
The lindy hop, then is not 'dead' - it is still present in the movements and bodies of Afro-American dances today.
To declare that it is dead is to make an ideological statement about creative and cultural form. It is an act of power. It is also shifting the dance form out of Afro-American vernacular dance discourse and into middle class, urban youth culture. This shift is achieved through the use of a range of communications technology - media - and through institutional mediation of dance-discourse (schools or studios). This shift - this cultural transmission - is inflected by power and ideology and wider social relations. The 'revival' of swing dances in non-Afro-American communities is an embodiment of relationships between white-dominated middle class, mainstream discourse in the USA, Australia, Europe (and ethnically congruent groups in Korea, Singapore and Japan), etc and Afro-American people today.

The thesis, then, will begin with Afro-American vernacular dance, positioning lindy hop and other swing dances within a tradition of vernacular dance and identifying the cultural social uses and forms of dance in this context. Particular themes in Afro-American vernacular dance are identified in this initial chapter, and then attended to in later chapters. This thesis reads swing dancing as an Afro-American vernacular dance form which has been transmitted to another culture - another time and space and group of people. This approach is an attempt to question the centrality of white, middle class heterosexual cultural in Australian discourse. It is also an attempt to assess the processes of hegemony in the appropriation of a black dance form for a white community.

This first chapter also positions dance as cultural discourse - as a series of texts and positionings and relationships guided by ideology and instutitions - the ideas and beliefs of individuals and groups. It suggests that swing dance culture today - the embodied practices of contemporary swing dance communities - carry evidence of the ideological and social practice of its participants. The primary concern of this thesis is with the role of media in these practices.

Afro-American vernacular dance - though inflected by various media technologies such as radio, film and recorded music - is centered on face to face interaction - embodied practice.
Contemporary swing dance culture is far more heavily informed by media technology.

The second chapter pursues this point, noting the ways in which contemporary swing dance culture is mediated both by communications technology, and by insitutional bodies - the dance school or studio specificially.
This chapter also introduces the ways in which contemporary swing dance culture is a localised global community of interest. Afro-American vernacular dance is a product of African diaspora, carrying within it an embodied history of African culture, slavery in America, emancipation, oppression and finally movements towards cultural autonomy and freedom. Each decendent of that original African diaspora - each Africanist society - is unique and inflects cultural form in unique ways. There are distinctions to be made within the 'Afro-American' community, across time and geography - local distinctions.
Contemporary swing dance culture is a localised 'global' community. The community is not necessarily one of ethnic or genetic heritage - it is one of interest and cultural form. The links between local communities are maintained by travel and by media use and practice.

The second chapter introduces the notion of a community of dancers which is heavily mediated.

The third chapter begins an analysis of the forms of this mediation in contemporary swing dance culture. It examines the uses of Audio-Visual media in three periods in contemporary swing dance culture - the original 'revivalist' era of the 1980s, the rise of significant local communities in the 1990s, and the development of a locally inflected global community of dancers in the 2000s. The first period is characterised by the use of archival film in the revival of swing dances - footage of dancers from the 'original swing era'. The second period is noted for the rise of videos produced by local communities and individuals in the promotion (and commodification) of local teachers and events. Specificially, commemorative videos for camps and exchanges and instructional videos. The third era, however, is characterised by the massive increase in AV media production, disemination and consumption in swing communities around the world made possible by the development of digital AV media technology. Here, dancers not only download and view clips filmed in other communities, they also film themselves and members of their own community to upload and share with the wider international swing dance community.
These three periods are broadly read as correlating with the face to face dance themes of immitation and impersonation; improvisation and innovation; and a later combination of the two, as dancers have increased access to both archival footage and images of contemporary dancers in their embodied dance practices, which they then film and disseminate.

The fourth chapter explores DJing in contemporary swing dance culture. The rise of DJs as a distinct role and identity in local communities is an indication of that community's age and development of cultural form and practice. DJs not only make extensive use of digital media in their embodied practice - playing music for dancers - they are also making great use of digitial media in their acquisition, research and discussion of music online. Swing DJs have also developed an international community of interest which complements their face to face practices in their local community.
This chapter reads DJing in terms of impersonation and immitation in DJ's choice of music and DJing style (specifically, in their intensely 'recreationist' ideology), yet also sees them as innovating and improvising in both their online and face to face practices. DJing in swing culture is seen not only as the ability to recreate musical moments from the past, but also as being capable of responding to the immediate needs and demands of the dancers on the floor before them.

Both AV media and DJing practice in swing dance culture are mediated by their relationship to - or place within - various discourses wihtin local and global communities. The final chapter explores the local Melbourne swing dance community as one which has increasingly become the preserve of one major institution - a dance school. This school not only manages the face to face events at which DJs work but also discursively manages the music DJs play and dancers' responses to this music. This discourse is not only embodied in dance classes and at events, but also exists online in newsletters, websites and other 'official' discursive texts and forms. Schools also produce official AV media - videos and DVDs - though their management of 'unofficial' digital media is more complex.

The final chapter of this thesis explores the role of the swing dance school in contemporary Melbourne swing dance culture, and the ways in which it mediates embodied dance practice within this community. This chapter explores the commodification of dance - through classes and performances - and the twin imperatives of creating and sustaining a market which motivate schools' social and cultural activities. Swing dance schools justify their activities with the revivalist myth that they are 'recreating' and 'reviving' a vanished art form and cultural practice. This notion is used to justify the commodification of dance, and the management of face to face practice in ways which impede the development of a contemporary vernacular dance culture in Melbourne.
This chapter is concerned with the ways in which pedagogy - as practice and ethos - is utilised in the commodification of cultural practice, and in the mediation of discourse.
This chapter sees dance schools as emphasising immitation and impersonation rather than innovation and improvisation in both teaching and discursive practice, and discouraging alternative forms of learning and acquiring knowledge which deconstruct challenge institutional heirarchies of knowledge and - consequently - power.

The thesis closes with this chapter as an examination of a local swing dance community where institutional discourse attempts to manage a local dance discourse in an increasingly globalised - or internationally networked community. Changes in this school's internal practices and discursive practices are read as responses to these community changes which attempt to reposition dance as a commodity - a product to be bought and sold - rather than as a process of cultural production or a discourse which can be made or created or participated in beyond the bounds of institutional discourse or practice.

"a thesis outline sort of testy thingy..." was posted by dogpossum on October 24, 2005 6:37 PM in the category thesis

thesis update

A thesis round-up:
- I have completed a full draft of the thesis. Yes. My candidacy technically runs out on the 7th February, but I took a month or two (or 6 weeks?) of sick leave when mum was ill. So I guess I'm to finish up at the end of March? I'm thinking of applying for the extension. I have some completion anxiety.
Last meeting with the supes (or the meeting before), we decided to ditch the last chapter on camps and to replace it with a chapter on schools. Or institutional bodies, really. So the thesis will be:
ch 1: afro-american vernacular dance
ch 2: contemporary swing dance culture
ch 3: AV media
ch 4: DJing
and then ch 5: schools
But we're thinking maybe the schools chapter should go after/before the contemporary swing dance culture chapter (it seems to make the most sense there).
We are having Big Question issues. We meaning me.
And I haven't written that schools chapter yet (though it is so thoroughly planned). I have a little resumption anxiety. I don't know if I can start that chapter again. Eeeek. I reckon it's a manifestation of my completion anxiety: once I finish the chapter, I'll be that one step closer to completing. And that is some scary shit.

So I'm distracting myself with the Ears Nose and Throat doctor I have to go to (bad ears, bad ears). I turned up there at 11.15 today to realise the appointment is tomorrow. Yay. So I'm going back tomorrow. More yay.

But maybe the schools chapter won't be so bad.

"thesis update" was posted by dogpossum on October 24, 2005 5:33 PM in the category thesis

fan attack


and we're done.

We watched the last episode of Firefly last night, and that's it - finito. I am definitely going back to the cinema to see the fillum again, though.


To help me get over the loss, I'm watching masses of episodes of Dead Like Me which I'm quite enjoying. It's no Firefly, but it's passing the time.
We also have some Veronica Mars to watch, but I'm not sure how I'm going to feel about it - it looks a bit glam. It better be as dark as the other stuff we've been watching.

"fan attack" was posted by dogpossum on October 24, 2005 3:57 PM in the category television

October 21, 2005

kind of snowy and cold and, well... no, I have no point.

I've been thinking about Russia a bit lately. The other day I saw a documentary about living in Moscow on SBS. Basically, the story was about 'business stealing' in Moscow. It seems that if you have a bunch of private security doods (ie private police force), you forge some proof of ownership documents (including those documenting the sale of a business), have a contact or two in the government, you can simply walk into a business with your private police force and take over. Then it belongs to you. If you sell it on, the person who buys it legally owns it, because they bought it in good faith. There are next to no legal options for the person whose business you've stolen. And if you want some land somebody's house is on, you simply burn down the house. Because, under Russian law, if your house burns down, you no longer own the land.

There are some corruption issues in Russia atm.

Then we saw that Night Watch film. And I thought about the people in that documentary when I saw that film. I bet the ordinary Moscow citizens wish there was a watch for Russian businessmen and politicians.

And then I was thinking about the Russian lindy hoppers. Each year at Herrang there are a bunch of Russian lindy hoppers. They're subsidised by the Herrang organisers because the Russians are so economically rooted. As a consequence, there are some seriously kick arse Russian lindy hoppers. I wonder about this... should Australian visitors to Herrang be sponsored as well, because they don't have the money to travel to Herrang? I know that the Swingapore people offer scholarships to promising dancers each year - they have all their dance classes paid for, and have to do classes in all sorts of dance styles (not just lindy) at the studio, which does salsa, hip hop, etc as well as lindy.

And then there are a few Russian people living in my area - I hear them talking in Russian on the tram or bus every now and then.

On a slightly different tack, I knew a Polish woman about my age (or a bit older) when I was at unimelb. She told stories about compulsorary military training when she was at high school. It was like me having to learn to use a machine gun and a rocket launcher. She told this story as well (and I paraphrase):

When I was in primary school, we had to go a long way to school each day. In winter, the snow was very heavy and it was hard to get there. We used to catch a bus that was old and didn't run very well. One day the bus didn't come because it had been blown up. So we couldn't get to school on the bus any more - we had to walk. In the winter, we often couldn't get to school at all

And this was a story by a young woman just like me, sitting in a conference room with a bunch of other pgrads who were going to be hosts at the open day. Can you believe that story?

I often think about how Poland wants to become part of the EU (I don't know if they are yet - I haven't checked). And about Turkey. The other night we saw a film on the ABC which starred Bill Nighy and Kelly Macdonald, which was an odd, quiet film about a shy, awkward English public servant who worked for the councellor of the exchequour (sp?) and met a girl in a coffee shop whom he invited to come with him on a business trip to Reykjavik in Iceland. Turns out it was the G8 meeting. And they were discussing extreme poverty. And this girl is so outspoken about poverty she's asked to leave. It was an interesting film. Mostly about this man's utter discomfort with human relationships, and with this girl's obsession with children. It was called The Girl in the Cafe. We only saw it by accident, but it was interesting.

Iceland seems cold. I once saw a film called Cold Fever about a Japanese guy who has to travel to Iceland to do some rites in memoriam to his parents who died there. That film is quite lovely - sort of cold and still and eery.

Yeah, anyway, there's no point to all these stories, really, I'm just kind of thinking about these cold, snowy countries and places I haven't been. But have seen in films and on telly.

"kind of snowy and cold and, well... no, I have no point." was posted by dogpossum on October 21, 2005 12:57 PM in the category fillums

October 20, 2005

drama, soap opera, cereal

My obsession with Firefly continues. Maybe I'm understimulated - and that's why I like it so much...
Last night we went to see Night Watch/Nochnoi Dozor, a Russian vampire/woo scary fillum. I didn't mind it...sorry. I know I should have something more interesting to say, but David and Margerate said it all. I mean, I should be going nuts for this flick, what with it being a really interesting Russian contribution to Hollywood (there are 2 more to come and a big fat Hollywood budget for the last one at least, so I've heard), but ... meh. It was ok, and there were bits I quite liked (it was interesting to see something like this set in Moscow), and there were some pretty interesting and unique approaches to cinematography/CGI/subtitles, but... Maybe the next one will blow my pants off. Thing is, being such a fan of vampire/supernatural/sc-fant/sci-fi stuff, my standards are quite high. Well, I'll watch any old woo crap, but to be impressed, I need more.
It was certainly no Fireflly.

On other filmic fronts, Pride and Prejudice is out now, which I'm quite keen on seeing. I'm a bit of an Austen fan, and Ang Lee's Sense and Sensibility pleased me immensely (that could just be the Ang Lee factor, though). I'm also a huge fan of lovely period costume and sets.
There's actually a stack of lady-movies out at the moment: In Her Shoes (or whatever it's called), Must Love Dogs etc etc etc. eeeeexxxceeellllent. Though of course, this sudden bounty happens just as I get back into the whole thesis thing. Dang.
Similarly, last night I saw a copy of The Truth About Cats and Dogs in a clearance bin at Kmart for only $11. I should have bought it.

Should I be ashamed of this passion for ladyfilms?
I mostly like them because they're dialogue driven, so you can 'watch' them while you quilt/sew/crochet - it doesn't really matter if you don't watch the screen the whole time. Unlike action films where it's all about watching the screen*. Interestingly, Firefly is about half and half: I could quilt while I watched it (as if!)...

Right now I've taken a break from Diana Wynn Jones (after a million zillion wonderful books) to read Alexander McCall Smith's book 44 Scotland Street which was originally written as a serialised novel in The Scotsman newspaper. Here's a story about that. I quite like it - and I'm facinated by the idea of the format. How GREAT. How oldskool - I keep thinking about how the 'soap opera' or serialised drama format is as old as Dickens.

So it's oldskool to love Firefly.

*I know I should have used the word 'spectacle' here, or made some reference to masculinity and scopophilia but really. That would would be wanky. And kind of dumb.

"drama, soap opera, cereal" was posted by dogpossum on October 20, 2005 12:38 PM in the category books and fillums and television

October 18, 2005

phew. draft1 done

Draft #1 of the paper for the CSAA conference is done. I've yet to source some decent footage of social dancing to insert (though I'll do that easily over the next few weeks: have video camera, will film), and the supes has to look through it for me (not til after the weekend she said, but I understand), but it's looking pretty dang ok.
Once that's under control, I can get back to the chapters. The final chapter has been rewritten/replanned to discuss schools and other institutional bodies in Melbourne swing culture, rather than a discussion of camps and exchanges, mostly because the camps/exchanges thing just wasn't working. The schools chapter, however, seems to make more sense. So I've absorbed the important parts of that camps chapter (well, I will absorb them - when I get back to editing) and I have to write that schools chapter. It should go ok. Once I get back into it. I'm feeling pretty low-stress and keen to write. I think I'm going to thank Firefly for that.
[BG, btw, is getting sillier and more desperate for plottage by the minute... man, I should not have watched the two together]

On a slightly different tack, the mlx5 stuff is rolling along smoothly. Want to buy a Tshirt? Completed a final draft of the final pamphlet (program and whatnot) and it's looking pretty dang sweet. Alls I really have to get sorted now is the volunteer roster (not so hard, really: Brian's ob-con tendencies in that department mean that I've a good idea of how many people are needed when. Now all I have to do is
match personalities/availabilties and jobs.
... oh, and do all the little jobs that have accumulated.

I'm quite looking forward to the MLX weekend: it's going to be fuuu-uuun.

Meanwhile, I have a few sewing projects that need finishing, and I'm about to go to yoga (in about an hour and a half). I haven't been in a while because I've been busy and distracted by other things (mostly the couch), and I'm looking forward to it tonight. Isn't my life exciting?

"phew. draft1 done" was posted by dogpossum on October 18, 2005 5:38 PM in the category conferences

October 14, 2005

pro J&J = space jump

Just watching some clips of Manu (one of my absolute favourite lindy hop leads - in that I want to be him) here and got to thinking: pro Jack and Jill comps (where you're randomly matched with a partner and have to dance to music you don't choose) are just like theatre sports. Well, when Manu and Sylvia do it, anyway...
This is how I feel about Jack and Jill comps - they're like a fun party game. This is one of the reasons I don't get nervous with J&J comps (or other dance performances, really): it's a game. Even if it's just you performing, it's still a game, because the audience has a role to play as well - they have to be The Audience. I wonder how much of this approach to performance and competition is a result of my research and developing ideas about the roles of performers and audiences in swing - and how both are 'performances'?
I have moments of nerves - literally moments - but I don't get nervous about performances or comps. Same as I don't get nervous when I'm tutoring or lecturing. I just enjoy it so much, I don't have time to be nervous.
It reminds me of something that Crinks said the other night. She mentioned a discussion she'd had with some other dancers (people with lots of performance experience) about getting nervous. Someone said 'I wish I didn't get nervous' or something similar, and the other person said 'I wish I still did - I don't any more. And the nerves were part of what made it exciting. Now it's just pedestrian' (I am paraphrasing majorly here).
It's funny, because I find that I do a better job if I'm not nervous, and I can relax and get on with focussing on the other stuff and doing a better job. Especially in the case of teaching or lecturing or giving papers: if I'm nervous, I can't concentrate on the questions people ask, and I don't do the best job I could.

So when I watched Manu and Sylvia in that J&J, all relaxed and having fun, I thought 'yes, this is what it's supposed to be like - fun. And a game'. Space Jump.

"pro J&J = space jump" was posted by dogpossum on October 14, 2005 12:38 PM in the category lindy hop and other dances

October 13, 2005

yeah, right. fat lot you know

Sure, it looks like I'm wasting time while I should be thesising. And yes, I have downloaded and watched a bunch of dance clips, solved a few minor MLX problems, uploaded a page on the MLX site to plug the new Tshirts (only $22 each, btw and tres sexy), blogged like I'm avoiding something, altered a skirt and had breakfast today. And all after getting up at 12pm (it's this blocked ear: I'm sleeping like the dead, for hours and blissfully uninterrupted hours).
But that doesn't mean I haven't also written a draft of the paper I'm giving at the CSSA conference (complete with stupid jokes about Dancing with the Stars and comparisons between academic conference goers and lindy-crazed exchange punters). I've even inserted at least one clip of blues dancers to make a point (and a joke), and surveyed other clips, looking for the perfect bit of footage to open the paper with. Hence the interest in clips today: it's research.

It is quite lovely to be back on the insanely productive horse again. Sigh. I've had enough of thesis-blockage issues, and what seems to be an ever-increasing case of thesis-completion-anxiety. Something only those of us who've been at uni since 1993 (seriously - only 2 6month periods off!) can lay claim to.

Oh, I should note: I've been watching Firefly, because we finally got around to getting it, and because we saw Serenity and it galvanised us. We love Firefly. It's better than Battlestar Galactica even, because BG takes itself sooooo seriously, andFirefly is for clever postmodern people like us. And it has queer-friendly jokes which makes me happy and silly gun jokes which make Dave happy.

"yeah, right. fat lot you know" was posted by dogpossum on October 13, 2005 6:37 PM in the category academia

Recent Lindy Hop adventures

I've just seen some clips from the Ultimate Lindy Hop Showdown competition this year (on a french site whose name I can't remember, sorry) and I've noticed some interesting tropes.
What's the ULHS?
The ULHS is one of the most well-respected lindy competitions in the swinguverse. The emphasis is on hardcore dancing, with a relaxed attitude. Sure, Hellzapoppin' is still the lindy hop competition, but the ULHS is less about choreography and schmaltz than painful comps like the ALHC (american lindy hop comp/championships?) or the Australian Jitterbug Champs.
A word on lindy comps
I'm not a big fan of comps: I'm all about social dancing. But I also recognise the role comps can play in a dance community. They galvanise dancers, getting them keen and working on dance in a serious way. This of course brings up their dancing ability level, and setting new standards in the community.
The obvious draw-back is related to the type of competition: the VRRDA (victorian rock n roll dance association) comps which obsessed Melbourne dancers for ages about 4 years ago are all about the worst aspects of competitive dancing: 100% tacky, schmaltzy, choreographed rubbish (which is pleasurable, but in a different way of course); the AJC where the organisers would enter their own competition (it took 2 years for them to realise how unethical this was): what kind of cultural example is being set there? And of course, Dancesport: the name says it all.

So what did I notice about ULHS?

everything oldskool is nuskool
This is the age of the first wave lindy hop... or second wave.
The kids are getting hardcore into their old clips. THANK GOD! This has led to some scary second-rate imitations further down the line, but the first rank dancers are doing some seriously awesome shit.

crazy = good
This warms my heart (what with being a crazy dancer by trade).
20s solo charleston is still cooking along
Yay. One day Melbourne will get into it in a big way.

Melbourne is still trying to be the USA, dance wise
Sure, there are good reasons to be inspired by the American example, but imitation... hm. It's kind of a dilemma, because lindy hop is all about imitation - historical recreation. But my concern is with dancers immitating recreationists, rather than dancers getting out there and exploring the original footage.

How to dress
On the other hand, one thing I did think while watching the clips was how appropriate it is to wear contemporary dress while swing dancing. It's like Shakespeare: it's always set in the 'current day'. So wearing contemporary clothes is very appropriate (especially as we are always 'wearing' our contemporary cultural 'clothes' when we dance or move or speak or write or....).
It's a dilemma: everything old is new again, and yet everything new is also very appropriate.

One thing I noted (on this point) was the way performers would wear 'old' clothes (vintage or recreationist) for performances, and then 'new' clothes when they competed. It strikes me as an example of framing and 'performing' identity. When performing in formal Performances, they're putting on an historic identity, framing their dancing performance as recreation. When they perform in competitions, they're performing their own identities - their own selves (or another of their own selves?), so they wear their 'own' clothes. And of course, the two identities and performances aren't seperate: they are intended to be read intertextually. So when we see Frida in her crazy modern young person clothes, we are still reading her in reference to her historical recreationist work in the Silver Shadows, and in the Hot Shots. This historical cross-referencing serves to authenticate and justify her authority as a dancer, and her status as a 'good' dancer.

And just one more point:
Vaudville and lindy hop
I need to get a hold of Henry Jenkins' book on early musical cinema (1930s). He discusses the vaudville aesthetic and the shift to cinematic narrative in these films. This issue has caught my interest as well, in reference to swing dancers. The ULHS reinforced the vaudvillian aspect of swing dancing: it's a matter of sitting down to watch a series of individual 'spectacles' which we read intertextually. Just as with vaudville theatre, there's room for audience participation: being an audience is 'active'.
I've been thinking about vaudville and shows like Dancing with the Stars a bit lately, and how we really like it, as audiences. I'd also hazard a speculation that vaudville didn't really go away - telly is all about pieces of 'spectacle' which we put together in a larger viewing 'whole'. This of course echoes some of the 80s (or was it 90s?) stuff on telly and the 'glance' and 'segments' of image/narrative/viewing. It emphasises the 'active' viewer. Which is what swing dancers are all about: active viewing. Active spectatorship.

"Recent Lindy Hop adventures" was posted by dogpossum on October 13, 2005 6:07 PM in the category lindy hop and other dances

October 12, 2005

technical issues

apologies for the dodgy list of categories over there on the lef t- I've not gotten back to fixing this site properly (I doubt it'll ever get fixed, really). And apologies for the rank archives page. I will fix it one day. I promise. Oh yeah, and I'll fix up freeswingpress some day too....

"technical issues" was posted by dogpossum on October 12, 2005 7:27 PM in the category dogpossum

conferences = exchanges

I'm booked to do a paper in Sydney the weekend after MLX5 at the CSSA conference. I'm keen to listen to some papers (oh, how naive of me!) but I'm also a bit unkeen about the wanky cultural studies bullshit. I'm sure I'll meet some nice people and have a lovely time, though.
The paper is on camps and exchanges as 'fixes' (a la the theme: culture fix). Which is kind of interesting as I'm coming straight from running MLX. We only have 30 mins all up (or is it 20...?) so, after clippage (which is mandatory), I'll only have about 15 minutes to talk. Which is a shame, as I love to talk. And I love to give loooong, boring papers. But it'll be a relief for the punters.... I hope I can narrow it down to just the one point.

What will that point be?
Something about how camps and exchanges are like fan conventions I think. Something about the appeal/addictiveness of camps/exchanges and the en masse and utterly intense experience of a camp/exchange? Surely I can make some sort of comment about wild men's weekends and immersion events...
Heck, it'll be fun: I've scored $$ for the fare, I'm staying with local swingers (yay!) and I'm going to see if I can get in for free/cheap for volunteering. It will be a nice break after MLX I think.

Or perhaps it'll be all about the parallels between academic conferences and lindy exchanges... or is that too painfully wanky even for a cultural studies conference? It'll certainly make the point about the arbitrary (and ideological) demarkation of 'the field' and 'the academy', or 'subjects' and 'researchers' ...

"conferences = exchanges" was posted by dogpossum on October 12, 2005 7:24 PM in the category conferences

Creativity +

Things are getting interesting over here at the House of Nerd.
The Squeeze has contracted me to do him a new website. I have worked up a lovely page using CSS, and have just sourced a most amazing looking system for publishing galleries of photos: stopdesign gallery templates which also uses photon, a neat plug in for publishing photos from iphoto to your blog. The whole thing also uses Movable Type, which The Squeeze was keen on anyway.

It's all a bit of a tricky project (for me, anyway): Dave works with masses of photos, rather than just the 30 or so at a time that ordinary people use. The other night, for example, he shot 300 photos at a party. That's just a starting-total for him, really. On a big night, he shoots zillions. So we needed a way of handling and publishing hundreds and hundreds of photos - whole galleries - at a time. We used to use picasa (a nice, free setup which does this sooo easily), but it's not a mac thing.
Blogging software rocks: it's an easy way to upload information quickly and easily.
Dave wasn't keen on using flickr (the usual option for blogging photos), and I'm not sure it's really the tool for this quantity of photos.
So we're going to install the photon plugin (which could be useful anyway), we'll check out the stopdesign templates, and we'll explore the MT plugins. Once I figure out how it all works, I'll see about styling it up to look like the mock site I've already done for Dave (which isn't up anywhere, I'm afraid - I'll see if I can source a screen shot). He really doesn't want too much: white/grey colour scheme, simple, san-serif fonts. It's going to be fat with images, will ignore screen-reader accessability issues (because the blind aren't really his demographic) and basically be somewhere to hang all his lovely photos.

I'm looking forward to this. I'm especially interested in the way the stopdesign guy uses MT to do unbloglike things. I'm getting a bit facinated by categories myself, so we'll just see how we go, shall we?

And why am I so interested in all this? Thesis avoidance, of course!
It can't be helped: I've developed this massive case of thesis anxiety. No reason for it: the thesis is actually going very well. I guess it's thesis-completion anxiety. The job-searching continues, however.

"Creativity +" was posted by dogpossum on October 12, 2005 7:07 PM in the category webbing

October 7, 2005

man. do not let me be that type of writer

I have recently read ths article and I have some issues with it.
Having read the blog entry to which the article referrs, and having read that bloggers' site for a while, I suspect the article's author has gotten hold of the wrong end of the stick.
Not one to pull my punches, I've no trouble with public scuffling. in fact, i quite like it. most of the time. the age article, however, seems misinformed. the blogger - who i don't actually know in person (though i think we've met), but who's blog i read and who i've 'spoken' to online in blog comments and other discussions, is one of the least confrontational and least stroppy bloggers i know. the article's author is kind of, well, wrong in the things she's read. down with her. up with everyone else.

to return to the age's article.
that piece is fairly sorry-arse in content and thought. i've only read through it once or twice (quickly) and am writing this entry quickly (i want to return to this topic, though), but i was struck by this bit: the article's author apparently sees the rise of blogging as part of the

democratisation of debate

i sigh.
i shake my head.
really: are we still buying that old line? i mean, really, who's believed that the internet and blogging is in any way a demonstration of democracy?
the 'internet' ... wait, ... the Internet ... is hardly a democratic place, with all voices of all citizens present in any type of equitable discourse. it's the territory of white middle class kids. and most of those are blokes.

i want to mention that i read that age article online.
i want to talk about journalism and blogging and blogging as 'journalism'.
i want to talk about public and private talk (and the bullshit myth that the two were ever different animals).
i have so much more to say about this article, but i have to go to a party and i don't want to go cranky. plus i have a new dress to go try on. priorities.

but if the slandered blogger is reading this, please: ignore that rubbishy article. it's a bundle of crap. and the clearest case of bullying i've read in a while.

"man. do not let me be that type of writer" was posted by dogpossum on October 7, 2005 7:32 PM in the category academia

quick update

i know the comments aren't working yet, folks, but i'm too busy to sort it out just yet! so hang loose til i deal with it...

btw, anyone want to buy an MLX5 tshirt? they're black with a white shoe and 'MLX5' in the mlx5 font next to it. they should arrive in about... a week and a half? only $22. and some are sweatshop free. yay!

"quick update" was posted by dogpossum on October 7, 2005 7:22 PM in the category dogpossum

team brunswick is so adorable


"team brunswick is so adorable" was posted by dogpossum on October 7, 2005 7:00 PM in the category people i know

October 3, 2005

dogpossum galactica

do you like the new theme?
i know, i know, those stars are a bit much. i'll make them smaller, just wait.
but you should note: that was the first time i'd ever tiled anything on a site. aren't i clever?

here is a bit more text to test something.

"dogpossum galactica" was posted by dogpossum on October 3, 2005 8:28 PM in the category dogpossum

another entry

this entry is pretty much just a test.
i'm fiddling with dogpossum again, mostly because i'm having thesis blockage issue. but a meeting with the supes on wednesday will fix that right up.
goddamn this blockage - of course it would happen NOW when i'm right near the end and cruising along comfortably with the mlx prep... i can never do anything when i don't have a deadline hanging over me1

"another entry" was posted by dogpossum on October 3, 2005 3:13 PM in the category