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January 27, 2006

i've stumbled into a cute-spiral and can't get out

I can only attribute it to incipient thesis-completion-madness, but I'm finding these sorts of sites irresistable. No, wait, don't go look at that site - rush to this site to see a cute kid singing a cute song.

"Some parts of the internet should be nice, for the nice people."

I've stumbled into a cute-spiral and can't get out.

"i've stumbled into a cute-spiral and can't get out" was posted by dogpossum on January 27, 2006 10:20 AM in the category clicky

January 26, 2006

i just can't get enough of this

i love those little paws! look at the fur on the bottom of them! look at this little thing!

"i just can't get enough of this" was posted by dogpossum on January 26, 2006 6:06 PM in the category clicky

those kisses-and-kisses had better be good

In our house there are complicated rules about when to speak and when not to speak in the morning.
Most of these rules are not written down, or even vocalised. They also tend to vary, according to the day, the night before, the temperature, the amount of thesis conducted, the scholarship extension progress and so on.

A generally good, all-rounder type of rule:

do not speak unless spoken to

Which is partnered by the rule:

do not touch unless touched first

And just when it seems like these rules are completely crazy and really just a masque for a completely crazy person, who almost seems like they are always in that week before the red zone on the pill packet - the week that should actually be coloured red, The Squeeze decided, because that's the really dangerous part of the month. And red is a good colour for danger. Or warning.

... and wait, what was I saying? Yeah, so ok, so just when you think that all these Alice in Wonderland rules are really just signs that the other person you live with is, actually, wishing they could fit into a teapot, they wake up at just the right temperature after a full 9hours and grab you and kiss you and kiss you.

I know I'd like to think that those are the moments you wait for - the kissing-and-kissing. But do they really make up for the crazed ranting and furious yanking-out of clock radio cords, just as you've slowly woken up out of the deepest sleep, at just the right temperature, and are really quite enjoying that lovely string concerto? Particularly when you flash the little scared wide-eyes response to the insane declaration: "It/you woke me up again! I was asleep! I need to be asleep!"
... it seems like that little rant can happen at any time, regardless of whether or not you've made any noise at all.

I guess some people are just nuts. And don't wake up well.
Those kisses-and-kisses had better be good.

"those kisses-and-kisses had better be good" was posted by dogpossum on January 26, 2006 5:53 PM in the category domesticity

too much cute

couldn't you just die?

"too much cute" was posted by dogpossum on January 26, 2006 11:52 AM in the category clicky

January 25, 2006


Recent news:

Last weekend it was 42 during the day on Saturday and Sunday. 24 hours later it was 12 degrees. That's some crazy, mixed up shit. Ah, Melbourne - every temperature you care to name. In a week.
We nearly expired of the heat over the weekend, and resolutely spent the time indoors. As per usual, I spent the time constructively fiddling with websites.

No, not this one. The new site for MLX6. No, don't bother looking - it's not up yet.
It is, however, a spectacularly clever application of Movable Type. Hoorah for powerful, simple ways of publishing. Free and powerful - what could be better. I'm particulary proud of the way I've used categories to order my pages, and the seperate 'entry body', 'extended entry' and 'title' fields to organise the data on the page. I am quite the cleverest person I know right now.
Its use of categories means there are only 2 templates to fiddle with. Hoorah - less work!
Its use of Movable type means that updating content on the site will be as easy as accessing the MT editing page, typing in the boxes and hitting 'save'. Yay! It also means that anyone can update content, so if I suddenly go MIA, someone else can take over - double yay!

We have yet to decide on things like themes for MLX6 (any ideas?), and we haven't even decided who's doing what exactly. We have, however, started thinking about an organised approach to PR, and to making contact with our contacts. After last year we have conclusive proof that we are an arse-kicking event management team, that running MLX can be low stress and actually fun, and that this year's MLX will be fantabulous. My major concerns are, of course, visuals and layouts - a neat logo, a catchy theme, etc etc. The rest of the crew can worry about inconsequentials like bands and DJs and dance floors (though if you can think of any good ones...).

On other fronts, The Squeeze and Crinks have been sending each other photos of insanely cute rodents like this little thing and the ones in the flickr bunny pool (linkage, crinkle?). This is the latest in a torrent of images from places like RMB is one of those stupid voting sites where you rate a picture - could be of a poo, a penis, a face, kittens, puppies, whatever. The bunny site is the best, in part because bunnies are so unusual (to me, anyway), because I'm not allergic to bunnies, and because bunnies have really big ears.
I have a strict bunny-rating criteria: less than 5 for crap quality photos. Less than 3 if there's a child or person in the photo. Bunnies with 'up' ears are likier to score well than ones with 'down' ears, though there are exceptions. Dress your bunny up in demeaning human costumes and you score less than 3. Include baby bunny photos and you can add 2 points automatically.
I can happily burn hours (ok, minutes) on RMB: good, clean family fun.

So far as our education flicker fest goes, we had a recent run of rubbish: I found a J-Lo film I hadn't seen, we saw the Peter Sellers biopic and completely wasted our time with the Ray Charles biopic: it was fucking awful. Tedious! Dull! Dumb! Poorly acted! Unnecessarily wanky editing and camera tricks. Everyone knows that a decent biopic just tells it like it is: if they're not interesting enough people to make a good story, don't try to dress it up with fancy camera stuff. From Ray, you'd think the man was dull as dog shit - surely he wasn't? Oh well.

But tonight it's Chinatown. More gangstery/noir goodness.

"bunnytown" was posted by dogpossum on January 25, 2006 7:14 PM in the category clicky

January 20, 2006

casualties from the lindy battle

Today is Friday, and I'm in some pain. Last night was a big dancing night for me, and also a big out-the-house-day, all in quite hot weather. If you're interested in the illustrated version, follow this link to the set on flickr.
Yes, I know I'm writing like it's my second language, but I'm also lying on the bed on my tummy with the laptop and it's hard to write.

Ok, so back to me (don't you love the way blogging is all about me? Don't you love the way we can talk about the Genre like we're not already self-reflexive enough?).

Yesterday about 2pm I decided I needed to leave the house. I'm waiting for a meeting with the Supes as I've forgotten where I'd gotten to in my chapter editing and need her to read (reread? who can say) some chapter before I continue. Actually, I have 6 chapters she can read, but I'm letting her off lightly: 2 in 2 weeks, then 3 more in a couple more weeks. Hey, she's the one who chose to take Christmas off when she had obsessively-complulsively productive phd girl in the final editing stages.

So anyway, I've gone through some chapters, starting on the intro again and decided I need to reread some key books so I can remember what they're about. One problem with a phd: who can remember what they read 3 years ago in adequate detail?
Thankfully it's dance stuff, which is interesting to read, even when it's not really terribly excellent. I'm interested in the way dance studies and cultural studies do/don't really get along and the way dance studies is all resentful of this. Hey, I blame sociology.

At any rate, that prompted the previous post and a trip to Melbourne uni library (which, owing to the dance degree at their Vic College of Arts campus and a dance elective in their education degree (I think), has a damn fine collection of dance stuff).

After that I went to see Underworld Evolution because I loved the first one. It was terribly great: gorey, soft core porn for the teen boy/middle aged female SF fan audience. Then we went for a lie in the park (Exhibition Gardens actually), right near the fountain. We lay on our backs and read, one of us wandered off to take photos, and the other stared and stared at a couple further down the avenue who snogged and snogged for the hour and a bit we were there. It was very Paris. Or very Paris-as-depicted-by-Hollywood. Check the photos to see why.

After that we rode down to have dumplings (15 pan-fried pork/veggie; 8 steamed chicken/prawn = $13.50) at Shanghai village in china town, where the walls are bright pink and they have one solitary goldfish in a tank.

Then it was off to disgusting CBD for dancing.

A practice version of the team battles bit of this was planned and I went in it. Not sure what battle is? Check this out, think about You Got Served, but with less choreography*. Or the film Drumline with more dancing and fewer musicians. Or, of course, Rize.
Battling is an Afro-American vernacular dance/music tradition with its roots in Africa, where dance or music function as a forum for the resolution of rivalries or grudges in a socially sanctioned public space. Ralph Ellison discusses 'cutting contests' in his stories of jazz in Harlem in the 30s and 40s, Hazzard Gordon discusses street parties and competitions in her book Jookin', etc etc etc.

Things that'll make a battle work:
passion and 'bringing it' on the dance floor
an ability to improvise and respond to your opponents, partner and team
creativity in dance
being able to 'relax' and give in to your emotions
not being afraid to look stupid
girls not standing back and waiting for the guys to bring it

Most of these things are incredibly difficult for most of Melbourne's dancers. The emphasis in their classes is on repetition, immitation, routines, choreography and 'looking good' rather than bringing it - risking looking crap for the sake of creative or emotional authenticity. It's also difficult for these white, middle class teenagers to relax and express themselves in dance.
So the whole thing was a bit crap and contrived - as are most of the examples I've seen in footage.
It wasn't as good as the battle we had in Herrang with Peter and Sugar. But ....

It was fun, and I'd do it again, in a casual context. It was like a fun game. I don't know how cool it'd be in the formal competition context, though.

I have some issues with the selection of team captains (who really should be able to tell the end of a phrase), but now have a better idea of how these things may work in future.

I've seen clips of American Battles and wasn't terribly impressed - things can go wrong too easily. Wrong, of course, equates to Dull or Boring.

Major problems:
choreograph or plan something too fiercely in such a spontaneous format and you will fuck up: leave it looser and you're actually able to respond to your opponents with creativity rather than pre-planned schlock.
a lack of lindy hop will make for a lack of dynamic energy.
a lack of swing dances and excess of silly made-up dancing will make for dull viewing.
most lindy hoppers don't have any experience with battling in their general social context, so they have to learn how - so our battles are really kind of lame.

So, anyway, hopefully the whole thing will get more interesting and creative in future efforts. It was nice to see a mix of dancers from different backgrounds and experience: the important part is having dancers who are prepared to bring it. I wish I could explain that phrase more accurately. But it really is something which defies words - it's about dancing with passion, with attitude, with aggression (but not being aggressive...). It's about challenge and really feeling what you're doing. It's also about being so in your body, and so aware of how your body works, and so able to transfer emotion to rhythmic movement that 'bringing it' is instinctive and natural.
And of course, truly 'bringing it' is a bit too much for most Melbourne dancers - there are too many social and institutional limitations, founded on the heirarchal structures of a school, and on the way these institutionalised assessments/performances/definitions of 'ability' discourage less experienced or lower status dancers from having faith in their own ability.

Bringing it reminds me of discussions of 'cool' in Tommy deFrantz' work and in the literature on Afro-American vernacular dance (including Jacqui Malone's). It's about having 'attitude' but being 'cool' - ie staying in control in your face, but having a furiously hot body. So it's about attitude, not being out of control, but staying cool and making it all look effortless while your body is going crazy. While at the same time being all about bringing it. It's a difficult juxtaposition. But think of rap or rnb video clips: the swaggering rapper with hardcore lyrics, the hardcore dancing, the extreme clothing. But a cool, sneering or impassive face. The contrast between 'breaks' - static poses - and full-on dancing. The importance of tableau as a challenge in the midst of a frenetically moving dance sequence.

But anyway.
So we did that last night. I don't feel that I really brought it - I felt like I didn't really know what was expected of me, having a captain who was quite controlling discouraged me from improvising and taking the inititiave - it made me feel like I had to wait til the moves were 'called' - and following rather than leading made me feel like I should wait for my partner to take the initiative. It was the first time, though, so things could go differently in the future...

So now, today, I'm totally buggered and wrecked. It was so hot and sweaty I was totally stuffed by the end of the thing, especially considering that I'd been social dancing like a fool in the hour or so before hand. I was so tired I feel like I failed to put in a good showing for my partners in the following Jack and Jill. Oh well. Nor did I drink enough water (as per usual - I hate the way I feel guilty about drinking my own water at that place. Sure, I'll buy a drink, but I'm also going to drink at least 2-3 litres while I'm out dancing. And I can't afford to buy that much water!

Then I rode home (which was nice with the cool breeze, esp as it was still so hot) at 12:30am, but had to stop at the 7-11 for a drink.

At the 7-11 it made me smile to see some Italian kids in their 20s posing with their cars, boys with shirts off. It made me think about the battle and how the battle should have had the same type of posing but didn't.

*this was a truly crap film, but the dancing was good

"casualties from the lindy battle" was posted by dogpossum on January 20, 2006 3:32 PM in the category lindy hop and other dances

January 19, 2006

Meaning in Motion - Jane Desmond 306.484MEAN -B-

Human Action Signs in Cultural Context - Farnell 306.4HUMA -B/E-

Looking Out - David Gere - 792.82LOOK -B/E-

Moving Words - Gay Morris - 780.7MOVI -E-

Dance in the City - Helen Thomas - 306.484 DANC -B-

"" was posted by dogpossum on January 19, 2006 1:27 PM in the category

January 17, 2006

raging ham

This week has seen The Squeeze fiddling with a very old Mac - a blue and white G3 - for Crinks. It's frankenbox now as we've desperately scrounged memory to make it fast enough to run imovie. Thing is, it's a piece of shit that's not worth the plastic it's made of, so it's been kind of a struggle. But you know Macsluts - they can't let go of Mac crap. Gotta hoard it. In evidence: one of the little rubbery stops/feet on my ibook has fallen out. I hadn't noticed, but it's worrying The Squeeze.
At any rate, Crinks was overjoyed with her new digital freedom and asked what The Squeeze would like in repayment.
As I explained to her:
[with husking voice]: "One day I'm gonna come to you with a difficult proposition. And you will remember this."

Don Hamleoni can afford to be generous with the skills of others.

Tonight we went to see The Family Stone which I really enjoyed, mostly for the elder Wilson brother (I would marry those Wilson boys), but also because it provided me with some chick-slapstick. There's nothing I like more than women falling down. Followed perhaps by serious pathos. I laughed a lot at Claire Danes falling down some bus steps. More than anyone else in the crowded cinema. The Squeeze takes inordinate delight in my laughing inappropriately in the cinema - it's the naughty side of him. I blame my mother for my strange sense of humour. I can't help it. Puns, black humour, slapstick. It's the simple stuff I like.

I have continued our cinematic journey through Important Films We Haven't Seen, this week themeing them 'men movies', in honour of the Squeeze, who's been a bit poorly. The other week it was One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, which was great, and I caught part of Easy Rider on telly the other night, which I have fond memories of ("Have you got helmet?" "Yeah, i got a helmet").
I think we should get China Town out next, and then Mean Streets and The Outsiders because I want to get to Rumble Fish which I adored as a teenager.
This week there was Hunt for Red October (nothing makes a sicky bub feel better than a submarine movie - he regularly rewatches Das Boat in the middle of the night to comfort him when he can't sleep), followed by Godfather III, which did not please us as much as I or II, both of which we loved (though I wins by a nose).

Last night we watched Raging Bull. It took hours and hours, and we were a bit bored by the end. Sure, it's great and all, but still...

In other news, I have of late been susceptible to bouts of furious rage, usually in response to meaningless acts or events. Asking me to find out which film I'd like to see was enough to cause a mighty shouting and raging last night. The day before it was the garage clothes line's being canibalised for a party (in November). Yesterday it was not having the door answered when I demanded it.
The poor Squeeze is, for the most party, the hapless victim of this senseless fury. He is a walking definition of the word stoicism. If it weren't for the 'shut up!' voice and the dance of derision, he'd no doubt have murdered me by now.
I blame it all on thesis-completion anxiety and an overwhelming paranoia about my extension application.
Though it may also perhaps have something to do with all these gangstah films we've been watching...

"raging ham" was posted by dogpossum on January 17, 2006 9:36 PM in the category fillums

January 9, 2006

yes, don Hamleoni

I have tired brain. I'm not tired physically, I just suddenly become tired when I start reading this chapter I'm trying to edit. The words sort of blur together and I realise how frequently I repeat myself. It's humid and warm today and I'm hiding inside. It's not really working, as my sinuses have reminded me that humidity is good for mould. Not Bob Mould, but the other type.
I have this chapter to finish, then the other difficult one (DJing) to finish, and all before the end of the month. 20 days, with weekends off. Meanwhile, the date for submitting my application for extension draws closer and closer (loom is the appropriate word here), my panic ebbs and flows. It's given me strange dreams, a combination of the hardcore inter-species war being conducted in the Judas Unchained universe and my sudden Lost bingeing.

I hadn't watched Lost ever before, but an impulse added it to my trawl at the video shop last week. I thoroughly enjoyed the first 4 episodes or so, but it's kind of losing its appeal - it's getting silly. I keep noticing things that could either be continuity errors or clever plot lines. If this was David Lynch, I'd be overjoyed and suspecting the latter. But it's not. One thing I want to know: how is it I can never find half a dozen functioning bobby pins in my own home, when the blondey asthma chick can find at least 20 every day on a desert island? I also want to know how the Korean chick managed to explain to the black guy which type of leaf she needed to do a little eucalyptus naturopath action on blondey. And why she didn't punch him when he came back with an armload of wattle* instead. That's not to mention my disbelief at his success finding this particular type of indigenous Australian plant on a tropical island which does not show any other plants from the same family or micro-climte group at all.

Ok, so it could all just be woo-aliens or wooo-government-conspiracy, but please. Respect the bounds of my belief!

On another television front, I think I could be interested in Carnivale on the ABC, but seeing as how I only ever watch telly on DVDs now, that could be difficult...

Meanwhile, we continue the Godfather Experience with Godfather II this week, prompted in part by our delight with phrases like "would I make my sister a widow?" and threatening Crinkle with waking up with the severed head of one of her beloved bunnies in her bed if she gave us any trouble. And no, despite first impressions, it wouldn't be just like waking up with your period in the night, it would be horrific and she'd scream and scream and scream. And then come on a night time revenge visit with half a dozen henchmen and a machine gun.
In our house, if you displease don Hamleoni, you're offered a trip to Vegas.

But back on the thesis thing: surely I'll find my focus again soon? Surely?

*it could have been a particular alpine eucalypt indigenous only to alpine Tasmania, but please.

"yes, don Hamleoni" was posted by dogpossum on January 9, 2006 11:38 AM in the category television and thesis

January 5, 2006

slim gaillard Laughing in Rhythm (Proper)

Laughing in Rhythm - Slim Gaillard - Proper box set

I'm going to start listing the albums I'm chasing on this site so I can find them easily. I know, I know, it's crazy shit. And I know I could also do it more easily using some sort of wishlist arrangement. But hell, I'm all about categories atm.

Slim Gaillard Laughing in Rhythm - the Proper Box set.

I want this.

Amazon listing

"slim gaillard Laughing in Rhythm (Proper)" was posted by dogpossum on January 5, 2006 3:43 PM in the category objects of desire

entymology or etymology?

I'm listening to a Black Eyed Peas album on itunes (Behind the Front, actually) for the first time, and it strikes me that I listen to jazz in a very different way to other music. No, let's get specific. When I'm listening to jazz on itunes via my laptop when I'm using my laptop (as opposed to when I'm hanging around the house doing other things and incidentally listening to music from my laptop via the stereo), my brain and listening bits work in a particular way.

I ask myself: "could you dance to this?" Well, it's not actually a conscious thing, it's more of a response. Does this song fulfill the following criteria:

- swinging timing (as opposed to latin or bebop or unswing or whatever)
- does this song make me want to move my arse?
- is the musicianship of a decent standard?
- is the song 'interesting' - ie does it offer me musical inspiration for said moving of arse, or do I immediately wander off to find a nectarine to eat?

and then:

- how is the quality of this song - would it cut it on a shitty sound system, and are the basic elements (rhythm section, vocals, etc) distinguishable as individual elements? In other words, can you hear the beat, can you hear the words, does the music have 'levels' or is it a flat 'monotone' mess?

I also have a few other criteria which are entirely idiosyncratic:
- is it 'new testament' - ie 50s or later swinging jazz? If so, does it make me want to gag or is it bearable?
- is it a 'new band' (ie someone from the contemporary music scene), and if it is, are they worth worrying about?*
- is this a 'better' version of a song I already have?
- is it 'swinging lindyhop', 'groovy swinging lindyhop', 'groovy lindyhop', 'swinging blues', 'groovy swinging blues', 'groovy blues', 'charleston', 'swinging charleston', 'slow drag', 'kissing song' or some other animal?
- what's the bpm? Is it too slow to lindy hop to on an average dance night? Or would you put it in the 'blues' folder?

and, most importantly
- how many stars?

This is a crazy way to think about music. Listening to the Black Eyed Peas, I had a momentary instinct to assess the 'danceability'. Sheesh. Bpm? Who gives a fuck!

And of course, all this is in part of my ongoing issue with DJing.

I have half thought about DJing, but frankly, the main reasons I've abstained so far (in order of importance):
1. we only have one decent DJed dance night a week, and only one a fortnight which are at least 2 hours long (2.5 for the former, 2.5-3 for the second). And we call ourselves the biggest swing scene in the country? Fuck - even Hobart has more social dancing action. At any rate, this paucity of DJed social dancing action means that I'm reluctant to waste it standing in front of my laptop playing my favourite dancing songs to a bunch of people who aren't me.

2. if I'm not there to dance, I'm not particularly interested in being there. I'm not terribly interested in the company of most swing dancers, and I'm certainly not interested in trying to hold a conversation with them in a noisy room where I can only guarantee their attention for 3 minutes. If that. Added to that, our two regular DJed spaces are shitty. The weekely venue is a shitbox - the sort of rank nightclub you'd go to when you were 15 because you could get in. And score some low grade speed while posing for amateur porn. If you were so inclined. The other joint is better, but it's a dance studio, superhot and overcrowded. Not so cool.

3. the few times I have DJed, I've nearly died of boredom. Sure, there are interesting aspects - keeping people on the floor, choosing songs to suit the 'mood' or tempo you've got going, etc etc. But really, at the end of the day, you're just playing a bunch of songs for other people to dance to. See point 1.

4. Most people on the floor aren't particularly interested in excellent swinging jazz. They'd be just as happy dancing to Royal Crown Revue as Basie. This sticks in my craw. It's even more infuriating when I think of the fact that most of the teachers teaching these people feel the same way - and teach with that crap. Frankly, I couldn't handle that shit.
I feel - obviously erroneously - that you should dance because the music tells you to. And it should tell you how to dance. For me, if I'm looking to dance lindy hop or charleston or whatever, I need jazz. With lindy hop, I need swinging jazz because the structure of the music is reflected in the dance form. An 8-count basic, where a 4-count rhythm is played out first favouring one foot, then favouring the second. That same 8-count basic is a balance between 'closed' and 'open' position. 'Closed' roughly correlates with scored music, and 'open' with improvised, unscored music. The execution of this basic - the steps - involves bounce. And bounce is swinging tempo embodied: it's about accent and emphasis and delay on particular terms. And all that with a partner on a crowded dance floor - which is, of course, the equivalent to the band.
So not giving a shit about what music you dance to is - to me - a fundamental declaration of a misunderstanding of the way this dance works. Which is fine... but it's also INFURIATING!

Reasons I would consider DJing:
1. the music I hear when I go out is so ordinary, I consider a civic duty to pull out the good shit. There are problems with this: I don't know what I'm doing and am just as likely to fuck it up as work it properly for the crowd. But I am attracted to the idea of reminding people of the good stuff, and generally contributing to a musical discourse which expands beyond goddamn Royal Crown Revue. Gotta be in it to win it, I guess. Or, if it's broke, get off your arse and fix it rather than bitching til someone else does.

2. I really like the music. So hearing it on a big sound system rocks. Though most of our systems suck (esp in the night club joint), and I don't know how to fix it to make it sound better.

3. You get paid. Not much, but seeing how poor I am at the moment, anything is better than nothing. And it'd get me essential items such as the Slim Gaillard Proper Box set.

4. It'd be a good way to get skilled up. And I love learning how to do new things.

At any rate, this ongoing dilemma/conflict/internal discussion has led to my insane approach to 'listening' to music. I go about this complicated system of classification in part with an eye to DJing at some point in the future, but also because it's certainly been an advantage when it comes to getting music together to work on dance, whether I'm working alone or with other people. I'm also a little ob-con, and this sort of crazy classification is pretty much an extension of my crazy laundry obessiveness, or my deep passion for tidying and arranging glass jars full of ingredients in the kitchen.
It has also been somewhat self perpetuating - the more interest I take in the music, the more interested in the music I become. I've learnt more about swinging jazz and jazz generally in the last year than ever before. I have about 400 albums in various forms that I'd consider 'danceable', I've discovered new artists that I really love, and come to understand and be interested in artists I hadn't really liked before. The technical knowledge I had from endless singing/performing/classes at school has been expanded and I've really developed a greater interest in the relationship between musical form and dance - particularly in terms of the relationship between improvisation and scored music within a song, how this is a reflection of relationships between musicians in a band, the bandleader's approach, and then - of course - the ways a dancer may respond to all this.
I wouldn't say that all this has made me a better dancer - you can't be a better dancer if you don't dance, and sitting on your clack fussing over your itunes doesn't quite equate to dancing. Listening to music with this critical ear is definitely not the same as the way I listen to music when I'm dancing. When I'm dancing I'm not 'conscious' of musical structure. In fact, I rely on my ability to unconsciously follow the structure of the music. If I had to actually count out the bars or sets of '8' in a phrase while I was dancing I'd be stuffed. I have noticed, though, that my responses to the music have changed and gotten more complex since I've been more into the music.
At the end of the day, however, your ability to actually make the music visible - to embody the music - is limited by basic stuff like dance fitness, body awareness (ie do you actually know how to move your arm to make that shape or relax/tense that muscle?), response time, connection with your partner (and ability to influence that connection) and so on. All that shit is really the product of:

1. dancing
2. aerobic fitness
3. experience in your body - dancing, sports, whatever
4. physical experimentation - trying shit out

Sitting there in front of you your itunes you're not really going to become a better dancer. Nor will you by watching other people dance. You need to move your arse.

Does this lead me to a kind of anxiety about DJing? Perhaps - if I'm sitting there DJing half the night, will my dancing go down in quality? Will I lose fitness? I think it's very likely. But, having said that, if I'm sitting there disgusted by the music, won't my dancing suffer the same fate?

So I guess I'll just continue with my ob-con musical classification. And collection. All those songs are really just specimens in my collection, I guess.

*there seems an instinct to grasp at any contemporary artist who plays anything even remotely 'swinging' and then foist it on vulnerable dancers in the swing scene. Just because Harry Connick Jnr is singing a 'swing song', don't mean it necessarily swings, or is even half worth dancing to. Further, the standard of most contemporary swinging jazz artists simply doesn't match the old skool doods - we have no Basie or Ellington or Armstrong or Holiday or Fitzgerald. They're all over there in indy rock, thanks.

"entymology or etymology?" was posted by dogpossum on January 5, 2006 2:52 PM in the category lindy hop and other dances and music

January 3, 2006

every girl needs a bike

Galaxy has been reading Life of Pi. I'm reading Judas Unchained by Peter F. Hamilton. It's monstrously huge, and full of complicated politics which I'm having trouble remembering from Pandora's Star. Oh well. I have some issues with his gender politics at times, but I do love the galaxy-spanning intrigue...

oh wait... back to the other thing I was writing about...
So, Galaxy's reading Life of Pi:

I didn’t agree with Pi’s stance on agnosticism:
It is not atheists who get stuck in my craw, but agnostics. Doubt is useful for a while. We must all pass through the garden of Gesthamane. If Christ played with doubt, so must we. ... But we must move on. To choose doubt as a philosophy of life is akin to choosing immobility as a means of transportation.

Perhaps the ... quote explains why I walk; and I suppose that public transport could sometimes be described as immobile. I wouldn’t, however, characterise doubt as static. I think doubt is the opposite of stasis. Doubt is a state of never arriving; surely it’s resting after the arrival at an imagined certainty that produces inactivity?

I'm agreeing with these points - the bit about pt as immobile and resting in/with/after certainty as producing inactivity.

... although, on the latter point, I'd probably like to note that certainty can be galvanising. I'm never more productive than when I've arrived at a plan and am set to work on it. And sometimes, doubt can be paralysing: maybe it's selfdoubt that the paralysing force, though? There's nothing more likely to make me hesitate than a crisis of selfdoubt or indecision. Do, don't, do, don't: I'm far more likely to do if I haven't paused to panic over a particular thought, over and over again in that sort of heart-pounding anxiety that makes you worry you're going to gag on your own pulse.

Ok, but back to the pt point. But I'm going to wander off, on a tangent, really, rather than addressing the serious question in Galaxy's post, or seeking out Pi to test the source.

I'm not so much a walker as a bike rider, and I know the greatest appeal for bike riding is the independence. I know when I'll get somewhere, and how, and I get no end of satisfaction from being fit enough and physically coordinated enough to get from one place to another in the inner city without getting killed or dying of exhaustion. For me, getting myself about - being master of my own mobility - is exhilarating and energising. It's independence as empowerment, and the empowerment of knowing exactly what you're physically capable of. The same sort of thrill I get from doing something difficult at yoga (usually upside down and involving ropes), the sort of thrill I get from a stream of useful and clever thought (sigh - I need that now, mid-chapter), the sort of thrill that is the greatest motivating and mobilising force I know.

There is no greater inertia than that being satisified that you couldn't do something, or that you don't care that you don't know whether you could do something or not.

Sitting on a tram, at the mercy of traffic and power outages and rampaging ticket collectors, there's no way to prove that I could opt out of various physical and economic limitations. I know there are folks who feel that fare evasion is tactical resistance and all, but - personally - I think it's far more exhilarating to zip past a halted tram on the downhill slope of Swanston Street, feeling like I'm going a million miles an hour, muscles quivering in that really working way, riding my endorphines and not prefacing every journey in terms of conflict or resistance. In this way simply choosing another way to get around is exciting and stimulating, but also productive and valuable.

For me, to ride my bike (or to walk, though riding is more exciting - more endorphines, greater speed, the thrill of mechanical skill and mastery, etc etc etc) is to choose to find out what I am physically capable of. I've always thought that girls wearing skirts for their school uniform functioned as a limitation on their physical (and social?) activity. In choosing to ride my bike, I also choose to sacrifice impractical fashion for pragmatic trousers or shorts, sensible necklines, resilient hairstyles, tough and comfortable shoes, limited jewellry and so on.
And not having to concern myself with challenges to my modesty that a skirt on a bike offer, or the ridiculousness of heeled shoes on pedals frees me to enjoy the experience, to take satisfaction in my independence, to take pride in my abilities, and to seek out further physical challenges. To see just what I am capable of in my body, and on my own terms.

I wonder, though, if physical ability is really another way of talking about physical control as a way of gaining social control - of the self, in the case of women? I know that eating disorders are read by many therapists as a means by which young men and women gain control of their lives, symbolically. Exercise, likewise.
I think the key point there, however, is when choosing physical control becomes and obession and ultimately adversely affects further rights to choose and to be independent: damaging health to the point of illness or death; damaging a social or cultural life to the point of isolation and loneliness.

I don't doubt that my riding a bike is a manifestation of my feminist sensitivities. Every girl needs a bike?

"every girl needs a bike" was posted by dogpossum on January 3, 2006 1:50 PM in the category bikes

david bigword

Describing my hair as looking as if it had just been plopped onto my head, David Bigword (as he insists I referr to him, following his recent exploration of the English Language) advocated a hair cut. I will comply - I can't hack the mass no longer.

"david bigword" was posted by dogpossum on January 3, 2006 1:38 PM in the category dogpossum

January 2, 2006

cultural relevence and dance

Here's something I wrote about cultural relevence and swing dance a while back. I think it was posted on Swing Talk. I'm reposting it here because it's got some interesting points that I want to hang onto and think about with the chapter I'm writing atm.

[quote begins]

In terms of music: one of the neat things about Afro-American vernacular jazz dance is that it was 'made' in tandem with the music - that's why live music is important. Jazz totally leans on improvisation. So jazz dances do too. Being able to improvise is as important for us as dancers as it is for jazz musicians: it tests us. It pushes us to our creative limits. It makes the whole thing harder and so much funner.

So if I assume that the original line was: "the way vernacular dance maintains its relevancy to ordinary people's lives. Dance styles and fashions stick around because they have use-value - they respond to the culture of the day". You could also use 'society' instead I guess.

You know, I've thought about this a lot lately. It's something that has relevancy to me as a dancer, and to me as a feminist researcher looking at issues of power and discourse and ideology in a dance culture.

nerdy academic rambling
As a cultural studies person, I believe that 'culture' ...

- ie 'stuff' like texts (ie music and songs and pictures and paintings and sculpture and story and dances and magazines and television programs and film clips and so on)
and 'practices' (stuff we do - like talk about things or share clips or publish magazines or produce paintings or make clothes or whatever) a nice way to look at what a society or culture is thinking and doing at a particular moment in time. As a cultural studies person I tend to be interested in 'now' - I'm not a historian, but sometimes I might do historical research. I don't use historical research techniques. Nor do I use a sociological or anthropological techniques in the same way as people in those fields do.

I assume - as a feminist cultural studies researcher - that the relationships between people - 'politics' are indicated or represented in cultural 'stuff' and 'practices'. So if I examine a song from 1935 I could make some guesses about the language and culture of the time. For these guesses to be more productive, I'd look at this text in context. So I'd look at other songs, I'd do interviews with people of the 30s, I'd read newspapers of the day, I'd read academic and popular work of and about that time. I guess that’s what I’m doing with my thesis: I’m looking at how the media we produce (be that dance or online) can be read to identify ideological discourse.

So I think it's really neat that Afro-American vernacular dance builds this idea of cultural relevancy into its very structure... I mean, all dances do, but Afro-American vernacular dance totally DIGS it and positions it as very important. Hell, the swingout is revolutionary because it broke open the highly structured European partner dance form and gave partners all that time to do their own thing - to improvise.

So I like to see people do 'their' thing in those moments. And I think we can analyse those moments to see what sort of person they are, their dance experience and knowledge, their physical abilities, even their political or social beliefs and position (take a look at girl x's swingout compared to guy x's swingout - what does this tell you about gender relations? about sexuality? about musicality?). It's there that we make the dance mean something.

more specific rambling

I wonder how we might combine 'making the dance relevant to us today' with any sense of historical 'accuracy' or congruency? ie getting new stuff in without losing the old stuff?
It wasn't a problem in Afro-American dance communities in the 'original swing era' (or in vernacular dance traditions generally) - the shared knowledge and skill base was just added to. Useful stuff stuck. Other stuff was shelved.

But many of us feel - as swing dance revivalists - that there's a responsibility to take a historical moment (be it 1935 in Harlem, 1930 in Kansas city, 1942 in Los Angeles or that heady summer on Balboa Island) and preserve it. Because it's beautiful or fascinating or exciting or wonderful or awful or scary or whatever. We just want to get onto that moment and somehow make it stick.

It's an interesting tension, I think.

Some ways I've noticed contemporary dancers make swing dances reflect their contemporary lives by exploiting the inherent flexibility of a dance that incorporates things like improvisation, impersonation and imitation:

- women leading and woman/woman dance partnerships not a new thing for partner dance by any means.
Same sex dance partnerships were there waaay back in Europe when partner dancing got going, it was there in various African nations pre American slavery (particularly when mixed-sex partner dancing was taboo), it was there in Afro-American vernacular dance from the beginning, right through the 30s to now.
For me, it's about reconciling my passion for dance with my frustration with patriarchal and hetero-normative gender roles and dynamics. It's also about getting to dance with my female friends.

- dancing lindyhop and other swing dances to contemporary music. I know, it makes me cringe sometimes, but hell, if it gets people dancing... I just ask that you dance to olden days music as well: don't replace the old stuff with the new. Hang onto the bits that are useful. And I think swinging jazz is useful.

- incorporating 'new skool' moves into oldskool dances:
the body roll (sexy new skool... or is it really oldskool made newskool already?);
running man (humorous performance of 1980s/70s oldskool... which might also be really oldskool made new and then made new again);
various hip hop bits and pieces (as in hip hop lindy)... again, isn't this oldskool made newskool in the 80s?

- women and men 'dancing like themselves'. So seeing men and women actually taking the structure of swing dances to perform their own personality and identity, outside a static gender role or identity. So, seeing a young heterosexual woman dancing with 'power' or kickarse to show that she's an independent woman, in a way she mightn't have been able to in the 1930s or 40s. Especially if her family or ethnic group weren't into female empowerment in that time. Or seeing an assertive, alpha-type chick take a moment to just 'follow' and stop making decisions for a while. Or seeing a young man not worrying that he may look 'gay' or whatever for relaxing and really feeling the music in ways that mightn't go down so well at a conventional night club. Or seeing a young gay guy working with female partners in a close embrace and not having to second guess the sexual tensions that would accompany this contact in a non-dance setting. Or perhaps even more exciting, see things like that first young woman [I]perform[/I] a meek, stereotypical ‘good Asian girl’ and then rework it to totally subvert it.

- one of the things I'm most interested in at the moment: swing dancers getting into solo stuff. Especially if they've never done any type of dancing - not even disco dancing - before swing. I am really interested in the ring structure for things like big apples, charleston-offs, a bit of jazzedy jiggywiggy or whatever - people dancing in a circle so they can see each other, and all be a part of the deal, and yet experimenting with moves and the music independently. I think this is a nice way for people to use a really, really, really old dance form to experiment with their own bodies and personalities in a public place, trying on all sorts of moves. I especially like it when it's all girl or all boy - I like to see some same sex peer work. But then I also dig a mixed gender thing too...
in this setting you see people for whom dance has never been part of their everyday lives before taking a bit of a chance that they might embarrass themselves and really exploring the things they're physically capable of, the limits of their 'jazz' vocabulary, their ability to steal steps from people near by or make up new steps. It's different to the big apple dances of the olden days, but it's still using similar themes and structures.


"cultural relevence and dance" was posted by dogpossum on January 2, 2006 12:26 PM in the category lindy hop and other dances

mince pies

Dave demonstrates his mastery of pastry once again. I'd add a photo of the pies I made for Christmas day, but they're all gone, and his were so much better it'd shame me to show mine.
Long live the home-made mince pie, with home-made fruit mince and home-made pastry... oh, and home-made stars.

"mince pies" was posted by dogpossum on January 2, 2006 12:07 PM in the category fewd