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August 31, 2010

fitness: a nice walk

distance: 3.5km, feeling: great, effort: 2/5

No exercise since last week, after a weekend away. Fighting the last bits of a crappy cold - the first since I started running months and months ago! But this was such a beautiful day, I just had to walk.

"fitness: a nice walk" was posted by dogpossum on August 31, 2010 4:08 PM in the category fitness and walking | Comments (0)

August 26, 2010

fitness: dance work

duration: 01:45, feeling: great, effort: 3/5

I've come down with a crappy cold, but it didn't stop me doing dance work. Which is either a sad indication of how little effort I put into it, or a glorious testament to my awesomeness. Or the awesomeness of cold and flu tablets.
Also: hamstrings. Sore in so many ways.

"fitness: dance work" was posted by dogpossum on August 26, 2010 4:06 PM in the category fitness and lindy hop and other dances | Comments (0)

August 24, 2010

fitness: c25k w6r1

distance: 4.45km, time: 0:30, pace: 06:44, calories: 389, feeling: great, effort: 4/5

Better time, better distance. But dealing with a nasty knot of cramp in my left calf which started on Sunday during dance work. Will rest and stretch, rest and stretch.
Got puffed, got snotty (it's spring!), but think I've finally ditched that annoying slumpy bug that was bringing me down. All-strong, all the time from now on.

"fitness: c25k w6r1" was posted by dogpossum on August 24, 2010 1:55 PM in the category c25k and fitness and running and walking | Comments (0)

August 23, 2010

some interesting links

  • Building participatory archives - directly relevant to what I'm learning atm.
  • "New shit has come to light": Information seeking behavior in The Big Lebowski
  • Living the Poor Life: untold history of the poor now online
  • "some interesting links" was posted by dogpossum on August 23, 2010 11:49 AM in the category curating and collecting and learning | Comments (0)

    August 22, 2010

    fitness: dance work

    duration: 2:00, feeling: good

    Slow, steady, nothing exciting. Developed knot in left calf at end of session

    "fitness: dance work" was posted by dogpossum on August 22, 2010 1:54 PM in the category fitness and lindy hop and other dances | Comments (0)

    August 21, 2010

    fitness: social dancing

    duration: 1:30, feeling: good

    Social dancing. More vigorous at the beginning, less exciting as things progress.

    "fitness: social dancing" was posted by dogpossum on August 21, 2010 1:53 PM in the category fitness and lindy hop and other dances | Comments (0)

    August 19, 2010

    fitness: a nice walk in the sun

    distance: 4.79km, effort: 1/5, feeling: great

    Nice - windy and sunny and warm

    "fitness: a nice walk in the sun" was posted by dogpossum on August 19, 2010 5:04 PM in the category fitness and walking | Comments (0)

    August 18, 2010

    fitness: c25k w5r3

    distance: 3.99km, duration: 0:30, pace: 07:31, calories: 389, feeling: good: effort: 3/5

    Had some minor knee aches yesterday and thought perhaps I shouldn't do the 20min running block of wk5r3 today, but I couldn't help myself. Will see if I pay for this. Think knee pain is related to failure to do knee exercises on weekend. Bad, bad elite athlete.
    Found the longer block fine, though I worked a bit harder than I thought I would. Overall, I'm fitter than I was the first time I did this, but I have lost a lot of fitness since I finished c25k the first time

    "fitness: c25k w5r3" was posted by dogpossum on August 18, 2010 5:03 PM in the category c25k and fitness and running and walking | Comments (0)

    August 16, 2010

    fitness: c25k w5r2

    distance: 3.99km, duration: 0:30, pace: 07:31, calories: 389

    I am STILL running the same distance as during week 4.
    The two long blocks were surprisingly unhard. I thought it was another ipod mistake, and took it as a challenge. It was nice to actually think 'oo, this will be harder' and then to push myself a bit. But I didn't actually run very fast or very far, so I guess it wasn't that big a deal.
    But I'm looking forward to the rest of the week5 runs.

    "fitness: c25k w5r2" was posted by dogpossum on August 16, 2010 5:01 PM in the category c25k and fitness and running and walking | Comments (0)

    djing for noobs

    Tim has asked about DJing for beginners, so I'm going to talk about the set I did last Friday at the Swingpit here in Sydney. Once again I'll disclaim: this is just my opinion, not gospel, people will disagree and that's a good thing, etc etc etc.

    DJing for new dancers: my approach, and a case study

    Firstly, my general rule for DJing, for anyone, is "everyone should dance, and everyone should have a really good time." There are other rules: "make it easy to have fun" and "don't try to 'teach' anyone anything or 'test' dancers". Just get up there and DJ that badass shit, motherfucker.

    I find that DJing for new dancers is a bit like leading a new dancer. Do your very best work. And make it easy for everyone to have fun. So avoid the stunts, avoid the tricks, play good songs, do nice stuff and enjoy yourself. There's a reason we have favourite songs, and a reason we have 'basic' or foundational or fundamental steps. The swingout is generally considered the 'foundational' step for lindy hop (this is of course debateable, but let's talk about that another time, huh?), and I take it as a model for my DJing.

    It should swing.
    I wouldn't play neo for advanced dancers, so why would I play it for new dancers? It's shit. Don't play it. Same goes for rock and roll, slow groovy blues and so on. Play good, solid swinging jazz. Because it's both awesome and also challenging and interesting. It's also new to new dancers, for the most part, so introduce them to your very best friends. Your best friends are the ones you like the most, the most forgiving, the kindest and the funnest. You have other friends, but these are the ones you'll take to this particular party.

    There are no rules about tempo.
    Some people think you should only play slow songs for new dancers. I think that's bullshit. You wouldn't play only fast songs for experienced dancers, so don't insult your noobs. But this does highlight an important point: new dancers don't have good lindy hop fitness. Even if they're super fit athletes already. Lindy hop kicks your arse and requires good motor skills, balance and coordination. All with a strange person. So it's quite tiring when you're just beginning. So remember when you're DJing for new dancers, that they'll get tired quickly. This brings me to the next important point...

    Work that goddamn wave.
    Move through the tempos (120-140-160-180-200 and down again) quickly and efficiently. Don't do crazy jumps (120-200), but don't linger at a particular tempo. You can do a bit more time in the < 160 territory if people are especially tired, but don't sit down there too long. You might want to restrict your highest tempo if you're DJing a particularly tired group of new dancers, but do NOT assume that they don't want to dance fast. No one's told them a song is 'too fast' yet, so they'll have a go at anything. Which is WONDERFUL and something experienced dancers don't do any more.
    All this is really just good DJing practice. Working the tempos helps you work the energy in the room, and also the emotions in the room. I like to build to a crescendo (to a climax, or to the punchline of a good joke), where half the pleasure lies in the expectation. So building up is as important as arriving.

    Work with emotions and energy.
    I do tend to avoid the overly sexy songs or songs that feel sexy, mostly because new dancers are often uncomfortable dancing close to strangers and sexy songs adds to that discomfort. Especially in mixed age groups. I also lean a bit on the cheery songs (rather than the moodier stuff), but then, that's lindy hop. It's meant to be a big, fat kick of adrenaline and happyjoyjoy. It could be manic or kind of arsekicking happyjoyjoy, but it's still a good feeling. I take Frankie as a model: he used to aim to make a woman laugh when he danced with her. And I reckon it's a good approach. He might've been doing it to get laid, but I'm doing it to have a good time for a more ordinary sort. I want to see dancers on the floor and sidelines laughing and smiling. Not cranky.

    Play your best songs.
    Not your newest, strangest songs or songs you're not really sure of. Play your best songs. This can be a hard one, especially if you're a new DJ and not really sure what constitutes 'best'. For my money, the 'best' songs are often the favourites. The Lincoln Centre Jazz Orchestra playing 'C Jam Blues' is a best song. It's a bloody good band recorded live, playing a bloody good song at an accessible tempo. It has lots of energy. It has fun breaks. It's good. It's ok to old, overplayed favourites for new dancers. They're favourites for a reason. And they're not 'old' to new dancers - they're new. You're introducing new dancers to your best friends, right? So introduce them to the songs people love. As The Squeeze says "I'm here to have a good time. Play good songs, and play some songs I know."

    I'm not saying don't ever play a new or untested song to new dancers. I found, DJing the Funpit in Melbourne, that I'd often test my newer stuff on those guys because they were up for ANYTHING, so long as it was fun. But I try to cushion the songs I'm not sure of. Build up with a safe song, follow up with a safe song. So I'd prepare the crowd for something new and strange with 'C Jam Blues' and have something like 'Apollo Jump' on hand in case it bombed. If it went well, I'd follow up with something else, perhaps go in a new direction stylistically or otherwise take another risk. Try to figure out what they liked in the song.

    Try to go easy on song length.
    This isn't a hard and fast rule. But newer dancers do tend to lack stamina, and new leads can get a bit sick of their same 3 moves, and new follows can suddenly figure out 1 minute into a song why no other woman will dance with that unpleasant older man. So cut them some slack and play shorter songs.

    Live bands.
    I do not, however, support the suggestion that live bands should follow any of these rules (except for the neo one - don't play that shit. It's nasty. Unless you are actually a neo band. Then I probably won't be at your gig). Long songs = important for bands because they give musicians a chance to improvise and shine. I tend to drop the 2-dance rule when I'm dancing to really long songs.

    What else? Hmmm. Be prepared for new dancers to come running up to say "What was that song?!" and then to have to explain who Ella Fitzgerald is.


    Be aware of the music in the class before the social dancing, if you're DJing after a class.
    This is a big one. I try to give half an ear to what they're teaching in the class, and what music they're using. This can be hard if they're using neo to teach dodgy stuff. But what I might think is 'oh, I'll play hi-fi stuff with lots of energy and probably vocals'. Because that's what people like about neo. They also tend to like its non-swingingness because it's familiar (and more like rock n roll or punk or whatever). But I won't pander to that. I will perhaps play some upenergy jump blues, but I won't play neo. Yucky.
    If they're teaching with really really really slooooow music, then you're going to have some trouble getting the tempos up later on. If you come in with something at 160 after they've been learning at 112 (welcome to recent life), you're going to scare them. So come in a bit slower. But get the tempos up. Don't sit down there on 112. That's bad news. Because you're introducing new dancers to your best friends, remember? And you have more friends than just 'Night Train', right? RIGHT?

    I try to match the feel and the energy and the style of the last song they play in class. Which is where I segue to my last set....

    First set @ Swingpit, Friday 13th August 2010

    title - artist - album - bpm - year - song length

    My Baby Just Cares For Me Nina Simone The Great Nina Simone 120 3:38
    Let's Do It Terra Hazelton (feat. Jeff Healey, Marty Grosz, Dan Levinson, Vince Giordano) Anybody's Baby 126 2004 4:28
    Massachusetts Maxine Sullivan With Buster Bailey, Milt Hinton, Jerome Richardson, Osie Johnson, Dick Hyman, Wendell Marshall A Tribute To Andy Razaf 147 1956 3:19
    For Dancers Only Jimmie Lunceford and his Orchestra Swingsation - Jimmie Lunceford 148 1937 2:41
    Walk 'Em Buddy Johnson and his Orchestra Walk 'Em 131 1946 2:53
    Cole Slaw Jesse Stone and His Orchestra Original Swingers: Hipsters, Zoots and Wingtips vol 2 145 2:57
    Jump Through The Window Roy Eldridge and his Orchestra (Zutty Singleton) After You've Gone 154 1943 2:42
    Big Fat Mama Lucky Millinder and his Orchestra (Trevor Bacon, Buster Bailey) Apollo Jump 135 1941 3:09
    Leap Frog Louis Armstrong and his Orchestra (Luis Russell) The Complete Louis Armstrong Decca Sessions (1935-1946) (disc 7) 159 1941 3:00
    Stuffy Jonathan Stout and his Campus Five Jammin' the Blues 153 2003 3:46
    Blues In Hoss's Flat Count Basie and his Orchestra Chairman Of The Board [Bonus Tracks] 144 1958 3:13
    Blue Monday Jay McShann and his Band (Jimmy Witherspoon) Goin' To Kansas City Blues 125 1957 3:40
    Gimme A Pigfoot Lavern Baker La Vern Baker Sings Bessie Smith 120 1958 3:11
    The Spinach Song Terra Hazelton (feat. Jeff Healey's Jazz Wizards) Anybody's Baby 165 2004 4:57
    San Francisco Bay Blues Lu Watters' Yerba Buena Jazz Band with Barbara Dane Blues Over Bodega 160 1964 3:42
    You Can Have My Husband Tuba Skinny (Erika Lewis, Todd, Kiowa, Shaye Cohn, Barnabus, Alynda Lee, Robin) Tuba Skinny 144 2010 3:49
    Bizet Has His Day The Solomon Douglas Swingtet Ain't No School Like the Old School 155 2010 3:44
    Twenty Four Robbers Gordon Webster (with Brianna Thomas, Jesse Selengut, Matt Musselman, Adrian Cunningham, Cassidy Holden, Rod Adkins, Jeremy Noller) Happy When I'm With You 209 2009 2:39
    Yacht Club Swing Echoes of Swing Harlem Joys 164 2008 3:20
    Be Careful (If You Can't Be Good) Buddy Johnson and his Orchestra Walk 'Em 121 1951 3:09
    Long Gone John Gordon Webster (with Brianna Thomas, Jesse Selengut, Matt Musselman, Adrian Cunningham, Cassidy Holden, Rod Adkins, Jeremy Noller) Happy When I'm With You 140 2009 3:57
    Solid as a Rock Count Basie and his Orchestra with The Deep River Boys Count Basie and His Orchestra 1950-1951 140 1950 3:04

    The teachers had been using CW Stoneking's 'Don't Go Dancin' (from King Hokum) which I initially thought was a bad idea, until I saw the routine. It was Friday 13th and they were doing a 'spooky' routine which was actually quite fun. The students were _really_ enjoying it, and would go from quiet and attentive during demonstrations to raucous and rowdy during rotations to new partners.

    So I began with 'My Baby Just Cares For Me' because 'Don't go Dancin'' is just vocals + a bit of rinky tink uke action. Difficult dancing. I chose 'My Baby Just Cares For Me' because it's also sparse instrumentation. The piano dominates, with a nice, simple walking bass line and the vocals are delivered quite simply and plainly. It's a mood change, but it still works in much the same ways as 'Don't Go Dancin''. I wanted to change the mood because I couldn't stay down there in moody land. But I did want to use the clutch while changing gears. 'My Baby Just Cares For Me' about the same speed, but it builds in energy. It's an old favourite. It's fun to dance to because of the breaks, and because the piano is actually quite clever (go Nina, Go!) and allows room for jokes. I like it. It's overplayed because it's good. New dancers love it. They also recognise it because of the claymation video clip that used to get played on Rage a lot.

    I played 'Let's Do it' because it's another iconic jazz song. Most people know it. It's saucy, but not in an up-in-your-grill way. This version is hi-fi and fun. Same slow tempo, because I'm still prepping the room. I'm playing nice, to get everyone up and feeling good and comfortable. This song went down really really well.

    'Massachusetts' is another overplayed gem. It's good. It starts simply, but it has a lovely, chunky rhythm that's easy to dance to. It's a little faster, but not crazily so. It's funness and easiness actually makes people dance, even though it is faster. With bubs, at this point, I want to convince them to try to dance, to get some endorphines, and then to decide they like dancing. So I play nice at this early point.

    All three of these have lyrics. Which is good for people who never listen to jazz. They're all women, so they link. They all have quite conventional deliveries, which is also useful (no Cangelosi Cards just yet). All this action is safe. But there's no fucking Buble here. This is good stuff. I'm warming the room.

    'For Dancers Only' is a switch to a big band, because I wanted a bigger sound. It's another old favourite. It's also overplayed. It went well. It also worked as a trigger for the social dancers who'd arrived (and I noticed there were quite a few there that night - far more than the students from the class).

    I wanted to play nice, so I went down a few bpm to 'Walk em', which is a song I think of as a 'beginner song', partly because of Johnson's comments in the liner notes of that album about playing slower songs for inexperienced dancers. It worked, and filled the flor a little more.

    'Cole Slaw' - more overplayedness. But clapping. At an easy tempo, but a little higher than 'Walk em'.

    'Jump Through the Window'. Yes, just assume that I'm playing all overplayed favourites unless I say othewise, ok? This had mixed results. The squawky trumpet kind of blew up the sound quality and this song really demonstrated the limitations of the sound gear at that venue. Boo. It sounded squawky and without enough sound in the mid range. I fiddled with the equaliser, but it wasn't really going to do much good. I resisted the urge to pump the volume so I could 'hear' the mids, because that doesn't actually work.

    Back down the tempos again, but playing 'Big Fat Mama' because it has vocals and is fun and accessible. Still a big band.

    ....I'm losing interest in this post, actually, so I can't really be bothered writing any more. The only thing worth pointing out is that I should have skipped that version of 'Yacht Club Swing' (or replaced '24 Robbers' with it) and gone straight to the lower tempoed Fats version of 'All That Meat and No Potatoes' I'd intended, instead of pushing a smart arse Fats theme (they're all Fats Waller songs). Too fast.
    Also, that version of 'Bizet has his day' bombed. I thought it might work because it has clapping. And I remembered it as being the most appropriate from Sol's new album for this crowd. I was wrong. I had set it up properly with the upenergy 'San Francisco Bay Blues' and then the mellower 'You Can Have My Husband', as 'Bizet Has his Day' starts mellow and then builds. But it just bombed. Listening, I thought 'oo, this isn't that good a song'. I find the solos a bit intrusive and annoying and the transitions between solos are a little clunky. It's a bit of an unusual song, but I had set it up properly. I'll try it again, but not soon (sorry Sol).

    The second half of the set was mostly newer or less familiar songs, and they had mixed results with the new dancers. But by that point there was a more mixed crowd, so I wanted to change things. the Terra Hazelton and Tuba Skinny are going down really well (both here and at Canberrang) and they're a nice combination.

    We ended on a birthday/farewell jam and then I danced a couple of songs before suddenly discovering I had A SICK STOMACH and having to rush home to bed. That sucked ARSE and was entirely unexpected. I was feeling fine and wanted to DANCE. A big BOO to that.

    "djing for noobs" was posted by dogpossum on August 16, 2010 4:51 PM in the category djing and lindy hop and other dances and lolfrankie and music | Comments (0)

    August 14, 2010

    boat people!

    Finally saw a Liberal party election ad last night. It made me angry because it was so factually inaccurate. Illegal immigration is not at crisis point, unless you regard Australia's failure to welcome the desperate as a crisis.
    Retweeted comments by Bob Hawke about how "We're all bloody boat people" reminded me of this little image.I remember seeing it pinned to someone's office door years ago, stealing it, photocopying it and returning it. I found a digital copy today, created in 2004. It shits me that this is still a freaking issue. Haven't we learnt compassion yet?

    "boat people!" was posted by dogpossum on August 14, 2010 9:31 PM in the category wimminz | Comments (0)

    more new orleans?

    You have to check out the map in this blog post.

    "more new orleans?" was posted by dogpossum on August 14, 2010 2:42 AM in the category clicky | Comments (0)

    August 13, 2010

    fitness: c25k w5r1

    duration: 00:30, pace: 07:31, calories: 389, effort:3/5, feeling: good, distance: 3.99km

    Nice. Week 5 reminds me that this is actually running, not a doodleoodle walk. It wasn't as hard the first time, but my body made it clear that it's not really as fit as it was.
    I've been off the antihistamines for a couple of days and I reckon it's making me feel less lethargic. Or at least the placebo is thoroughly on-track. :D

    "fitness: c25k w5r1" was posted by dogpossum on August 13, 2010 10:37 PM in the category c25k and fitness and running and walking | Comments (0)

    house keeping

    I am, very slowly, making my way through the styles on this site, fixing things up. But it's a bit annoying because Movable Type really does suck these days. I'm looking at moving over to something else (Wordpress perhaps?) but I don't really think that's going to happen any time soon. There's too much backing up and installing and so on involved. Plus I'd have to start again from scratch with the CSS. Argh.

    So apologies for the obvious wonkiness and the continuing fiddling.

    "house keeping" was posted by dogpossum on August 13, 2010 8:11 AM in the category dogpossum and webbing | Comments (0)

    August 12, 2010

    my concerns about burlesque

    I've written about this before, but not in a proper post. In this post I try to articulate some of the reasons why burlesque performances at swing dance events (lindy hop and blues) make me feel uncomfortable. This isn't the end of my thinking, and I do want to make the point, first, that badass burlesque performers are seriously badass.

    Burlesque has been having something of a surge in popularity within swing dancing scenes in Australia (and overseas I suppose) for a few years now. Burlesque is actually quite a big scene in Sydney, and there're a range of regular events featuring burlesque shows (including Black Cherry and Gurlesque) as well as a stream of workshops, classes and so on. There are a number of burlesque performers who are also lindy hoppers, but they tend to be people who came to lindy _after_ burlesque (or carny stuff). There are more 'swing' dancers into burlesque, but when I say 'swing', I'm mostly referring to the neo-swing/rockabilly/rock n roll/goth crossover scene which is larger and more firmly established than the lindy scene.

    So I've seen a range of burlesque acts, with a range of politics and presentation and framing styles. I'm by no means an aficionado and I've never taken a burlesque class of any type. But I have seen acts that range from your standard tits-out (eventually) tease show to more sophisticated (politically speaking) cabaret and circus-skills type performance.

    But I want to talk about is burlesque within the context of a swing or lindy hop scene. When I say 'swing or lindy hop' I'm talking about the dancers who're into recreating 1920s, 30s and 40s dances rather than neo swing/rockabilly cross over stuff. Though it's a little difficult to do that in Sydney where there's so much cross-polination. With the hardcore lindy/swing scene, though, the emphasis is more on dancing that costume, and the standard of dancing tends to be much higher.

    I am often unsure of the burlesque shows I see at a swing events. I want to cheer and be appreciative, I want to celebrate women learning mad skillz, choreographing routines, running businesses and celebrating the sheer orsm of the female form (and sexuality). But I'm not entirely convinced by the majority of shows that I see. For the most part, when I see a burlesque show at a swing event (and there're more and more these days), I see women who aren't exactly super-skilled, and whose shows aren't exactly unique or professionally choreographed. This often means that they don't quite manage the properly professional performance that burlesque requires. I mean, if I'm going to buy the argument that burlesque is empowering or a celebration of women's sexuality, I need to see confident, polished acts and performances. Performances that function on more levels than just 'here, get off on this'.

    In the more sophisticated acts the tension is established not solely through anticipation (the 'tease') but through the presentation of a performance of sexuality, where it is quite clear that we are invited to suspend belief, or to adopt a role as 'audience' in what is, essentially, a performance of gendered, sexual relations. I mean, I'm not at all cool with the idea of a bunch of men going along to watch a woman or two getting their gear off and flaunt their bits, simply for the audience's pleasure. Not if that's all there is to the story.

    Because that's not feminist. Not at all. Not even in a post-second wave feminist social context. Because, of course, we're not living in a post-patriarchy. Images of women in mainstream culture - fuck, in subcultures too - still tend to favour Mulvey's male gaze, and we see women's bodies almost always in reference to a sexualised ideal. In this context, a dodgy, single-layered (and unprofessional) burlesque act is really just an extension of an ordinary strip show, just with shittier pay, crapper performance skills and some bullshit line that this is somehow 'empowering' the performers. I'm also a little fucking reluctant to accept that - by extension - this performance is somehow empowering me. Because it's fucking not.

    I go to a great deal of trouble on the social dance floor, in lindy hop and other jazz dances, to establish my public persona, or to perform a gendered identity that deviates from, that totally fucks up the idea that I am most fulfilled or powerful or beautiful or desirable when I'm admired and desired as an object by a man.

    ... I guess I'm not as cool and calm about this issue as I'd thought...

    I think that this is the root of my frustration: poorly realised burlesque, in a swing setting, reminds us that women are sexualised by our society, and that our bodies are continually presented and represented as objects to be consumed by a male gaze.


    (picture stoled from here but of course an iconic photo of Bessie Smith).

    As I said, I do a lot of discursive, practical and thinking work to find myself role models - ways of being a woman - that do not work this way. I seek out women like Bessie Smith who made it clear that heterosexuality was dull, that physical strength was powerful, and that musical and creative independence was an essential part of womanhood. I also look to women like Josephine Baker, who may have performed in a garland of bananas, but who also tipped conventional ideas about women on their head. She used comedy and a hyper-sexualised, bizarre presentation of race and gender to fuck up gender norms of her day. And film footage of her dancing is still provocative and unsettling to the status quo (you can check her out in this bit of a documentary). I've written about this a bunch of times before, including in this post.

    So when I see women getting up in front of a crowd of mildly embarrassed swing dancers, wearing a few spangles and then proceeding to conceal-and-reveal them with varying degrees of proficiency, I think 'what the fuck?! Imma gonna have to work extra hard to wipe that image out of the minds of this crowd after this. Everything I'm going to do on the dance floor (and as a DJ and event manager) is once again going to be in reference to this fucked up, commodified, sexualised, disempowering image'. And for the good Goddess's sake, I'd much rather work to produce a new set of genders and gender roles, ones which might include sexualised bodies, but which are not set up in opposition to (or marginalised by) an idealised sexualised female body. Which is - in these particular shows - white, young, hetero, etc etc etc.

    I also have trouble with these dodgy burlesque shows because I see the way they make men in the audience feel uncomfortable. They might very well find these women attractive (because they are), but they've also spent the last few years being re-socialised by the heteronormativity of lindy hop which suggests that women aren't just there to be looked at. The men in these audiences are also products of a 21st century culture which asks men to position this sort of sexualised display-and-consumption within all-male spaces. So I suppose, on the one hand, these shows approach some sort of empowerment by inviting men to openly acknowledge their desire for sexually confident women. But in reality, these aren't actually sexually confident women. They're women trying to present a sexually confident facade. And not quite bringing it off. And at any rate, there's not exactly a shortage of spaces in which men can acknowledge their sexual desire for women.

    There's also the fact that these women performers are not really in a position to play with the queer (and necessarily transgressive) gaze presented by performing to a crowd of men and women. The Australian swing scene is quite homophobic, and while women dancers are quite good at cheering on their sisters on stage, they're not comfortable with expressing sexual desire/titillation/whatevs for another woman. Not even in a performance or 'made up' setting. I think that these shows, particularly in regards to male audiences, ask men (and not women) to adopt a role as desiring subject for a powerless object. Quite a lot of men don't really like the idea that they're participating in the objectification of women's bodies, and quite a few men would really rather support and participate in feminist projects which do the opposite.

    In contrast, there're very good burlesque shows which do all the tricky, slippery stuff that make burlesque (potentially) a site for gender play and subversion. Gurlesque, with its women-only crowds immediately tips over the heteronormativity necessitated by patriarchy. Shows that involve acrobatics or serious skills (hoops, knives, rope work, etc), are also undoing the idea of passive-woman as desirable-woman. And a clever returned-gaze or audience participation is equally powerful.

    So I think what I'm saying is that I'm not ok with burlesque at lindy hop events. Or blues dancing events. Unless it is that second sort of show. But it's difficult to distinguish between the two; do you ask to preview the performance before you put it in your program?

    There's also a tradition in Australian lindy hop of accepting and encouraging performances by dancers during your weekend. Including visiting or local dancers demonstrates welcomingness, and it also works quite nicely in a weekend's program to have the odd performance to break up the social dancing. And, in the final analysis, most dancers really enjoying watching performances. Particularly because they really enjoy the interaction of a performance - clapping, cheering, shouting - and enjoy seeing dancing from other communities. This pleasure, though, is usually tempered during a burlesque performance. The room is often uncomfortably quiet, the setting large, open, airy and inappropriate for burlesque (which often plays with line-of-sight and the fourth wall of the conventional stage). The audience is unsure of when to cheer, how to cheer, and even if they should cheer.

    I think that if I was running a weekend event and approached by a burlesque performer interested in doing a show during the weekend, I would be very careful in including them in my program. I'd preview their show first, and I'd only include acts which were both professional and also very clearly subversive or transgressive. I'd be this picky because I think that feminism is something that we do everyday, in ordinary, everyday settings. It's not (just) about marches and protests and legislation. It's also about how you style your swivel, whether you dance alone or not, how you get to and from events, and how you manage the program of your event. I have found that there are lots and lots of little ways to do good, solid community work in running dance events, and I see feminist work as community work - good for women, good for men, good for all of us. Or else it's not feminist, not in my mind.

    I think I have more to say about this, but I want to think a bit more and perhaps post again later. At the moment, I'm torn between wanting to support women performers unequivocably, and wanting to actually further the cause of feminism. And, in the end, I sure as fuck don't want to support activities that undermine all the stuff I - and other women and men - have worked to achieve in gender performance in contemporary swing dance culture.

    "my concerns about burlesque" was posted by dogpossum on August 12, 2010 10:32 PM in the category djing and lindy hop and other dances and wimminz | Comments (1)

    new orleans jazz?

    I'm interested in the way dancers and DJs use the term 'New Orleans' when they're talking about music. Different dancers use the term in different ways. There, are, for example, a number of dancers who've moved to New Orleans itself, and use the term 'New Orleans music' (or NOLA music or whatever) to refer to all the bands currently playing in that city. The expression is used to refer to a geographic and cultural grouping of bands and musicians. Not all of these are jazz bands. In this post I'm going to try to explore some of the ways 'New Orleans' is used in swing dance discourse, and how it carries so many different connotations and functions in so many ways.


    Last year the Ultimate Lindy Hop Showdown, one of the highest profile and most influential events in the lindy community, was held in New Orleans, and it will be again this year. It's interesting to see how the promotion for Showdown has expanded from an exclusive focus on dancing itself to a broader promotion of New Orleans as a cultural mecca for jazz dancers and musicians. The food and weather and architecture are as important to the event as the social dancing.

    (NOLA map of jazz neighbourhoods from here)

    This idea of New Orleans as musically and culturally unique is not new - the HBO series Treme makes that point (rather aggressively) throughout its first season. In this program the music anchors the narrative, both in terms of setting scenes, but also in terms of structuring the lives of some of the main characters who happen to be musicians or music-lovers. Food, however, is just as important, with one main character running a restaurant that later becomes a pivot point for a key plot point, as well as a meeting place for a series of otherwise unrelated characters.


    I'm not entirely convinced Treme is the best program out there (though at least this time the characters manage to pass the Bechdel test... just... almost), but it certainly hit the international swing community with a degree of serendipity. Though it isn't widely watched in Australia (not broadcast here, and really only available through... shall we say, by way of the jolly roger), the music has been trickling down to various DJs and dancers in Australia, coinciding with a growing interest in New Orleans as the home (or at least most recent resting place) of Showdown.

    My key source for music from Treme, beyond the program itself, has been the Songs from Treme blog, which I learnt about via twitter and other music and Wire loving friends.
    I liked the way the music was largely by independent or by lesser known artists (and so available from my preferred indy sources - CDBaby, emusic and so on), and one of the pleasures of watching the program was identifying artists in the background of scenes. I think, perhaps, that this might be one of the more difficult parts of the program - without these musicians and music to spot, the story line and dialogue are far less complex and interesting than those of the Wire. But then, it's also interesting to see a program using music in this way.

    I think it's worth pausing to watch the opening credits of Treme (which you can watch on youtube here).

    Ken Burns Jazz series spent an inordinate amount of time in New Orleans, and that itself was more than a little problematic. While the city was absolutely central to the development of American jazz, for so many reasons (and we have to mention its role as a sea port and consequent role as a gathering point for musicians of so many international cultures and traditions), it was not and is not the only place in that country (or others) contributing to the development of jazz. I mention this program because it is so iconic, and because it plays such a key role in Australian swing dance culture. It saw the release of a series of very useful CDs, a fascinating book, and of course, a range of DVDs which even mention lindy hop at one point.

    But I think John Goodman's ill-fated character makes the best point of all in Treme when he reminds his Youtube audience that the city is more than the picturesque French quarter and live jazz. It is also political corruption, a disturbing crime problem, grinding poverty and burning racial tensions. Many Australian or international dancers, I think, would be surprised to see not only the devastation still remaining from Katrina, but also the ground-in social difficulties beyond the wrought-iron and narrow streets of the tourist quarter. A jazz fan might argue that it is out of these conditions that jazz was born, but I'm fairly sure a New Orleans local might also like (or even prefer) reliable electricity and political ethics.

    This brings me (in a roundabout way) to my original point. The way dancers use 'New Orleans' when they're discussing music for dancing. I've heard it used in a number of ways, including contexts where I've thought 'hey, that's just wrong'. But then, language is flexible and jazz dance reminds us every single day that there's no right or wrong, just the way that you do it.

    When I say 'New Orleans' jazz, I'm referring to one (or a number of) these:

    Music or musicians currently working in the city itself.

    So I might be talking about various parts of the Loose Marbles or other 'street bands' working in or hailing from New Orleans. Not all of these are jazz or in the jazz tradition. But the bands dancers in Australia tend to be most interested in are.


    One of my favourite songs from the Treme soundtrack is 'Shallow Water' by Donald Harrison (which you can listen to here. I love this song for running, and I also love it for the way it ties into the story arc considering the New Orleans indians and Big Chiefs (who fascinate and delight me with their costumes, posing and strutting and cultural appropriation of native American imagery in combination with very African practices and rhythms). But I wouldn't play this song at a swing dance, even though the complicated rhythms work perfectly with the complicated rhythms we dance and hear in jazz.

    So when most dancers talk about the great bands that they saw in New Orleans, or the great CDs they've just bought or the songs they're playing for dancers, most of them aren't talking about Donald Harrison, they're talking about the younger street bands, recreationist bands like the New Orleans Jazz Vipers, The Palmetto Bug Stompers, Tuba Skinny, Meschiya Lake and the Little Big Horns or perhaps (at a pinch) not-quite-street-band-people like Kermit Ruffins or the (incomparable) Preservation Hall Jazz band. I often find that a lot of dancers conflate all the recent round of street jazz bands as 'New Orleans', even if they're not from New Orleans. This might include bands like the Cangelosi Cards, Tin Pan or Baby Soda.

    Music or musicians of the 'jazz' era who hailed from New Orleans.

    (pic of the King Oliver Jazz Band stoled from here)

    This includes people like Louis Armstrong, Lil Hardin, Jelly Roll Morton and so on. While their earlier stuff is definitely 'New Orleans', and artists like Armstrong made great mileage from New Orleans revival type music in the 40s and 50s, these guys didn't stand still, musically speaking. Armstrong (who is the most obvious, but certainly not the only example) developed from his work as a musician in King Oliver's band to doing hardcore big band swing, and then ballads, torch songs and a whole range of other things. So simply identifying a musician as 'New Orleans' might give you an idea of their history or their influences, but really isn't enough to describe their entire career or every song they played.

    Music of the 'New Orleans' style.

    Now this is where I've seen the greatest range of opinions. I heard a dancer the other night describe a song by Artie Shaw that I was playing as 'New Orleans'. This surprised me as Shaw was white, born in New York, grew up in Connecticut and isn't known as a New Orleans style musician at all. I think, in that case, the dancer meant that this song wasn't groove, or was earlier, or classic jazz.

    I could imagine a difference of opinion about whether a musician was 'New Orleans' or 'Chicago', particularly as many jazz musicians left New Orleans for Chicago in the 20s, and you can hear the music shifting as it moved between cities. But even then, there's quite clear distinctions...

    What I think a lot of dancers mean, when they say a song is 'New Orleans' is that it has a sort of raucous collective instrumentation (as opposed to the tightly arranged big bands of the 30s and later), where musicians improvise within the structure of an arrangement. Most of these band have about eight or fewer musicians, as this sort of musicality is difficult to hold together with bigger bands. I seem to remember Gunther Schuller talking about this, but I'd have to look it up, and the book's downstairs.

    This type of band really tended to dominate the 20s, but was later 'revived' in the 30s and 40s by the 'moldy figs' and others who held that swing was modern and not really 'true' jazz at all - a highly contentious argument that particularly shat the bebop jazz musicians.

    Instrumentation tended to include a tuba player (to replace the bass player), a drummer who played a sparser, pared back kit (or who was even replaced by a washboard player or other type of rhythm instrumentalist - playing a suitcase or other simple rhythm instrument), some brass (trumpet or cornet, a trombonist...) and perhaps a pianist, if a piano was to be had. There were often lyrics, provided either by a guest vocalist, by one of the band, or by the band ensemble.

    Blues-structured songs would often dominate the repertoire of these bands, but not necessarily so. Singers were not amplified, and it's not surprising that shouters are associated with these bands, even though they might not necessarily have begun with these bands at all. The singing style of musicians like Meschiya Lake certainly encourage this association.

    Timing-wise, the rhythm was often 2/4, or felt like 1-2, 1-2, 1-2 rather than 1-2-3-4 of later swing (and of course there's the Basie quote: "I can't dig that two-beat jive the New Orleans cats play; cause my boys and I got to have four heavy beats to a bar and no cheating"). This is a tricky thing to talk about, and I don't really have the language for it. It's not right to say that all New Orleans jazz (then or now) was 2/4 or even that it all had that uppy-downy feeling rather than the flatter, 4/4 time swing does. But if I hear a song with that sort of instrumentation, in 2/4 time or with that really uppy-downy rhythm that makes me want to do 20s charleston rather than low, flat out lindy hop, I tend to think 'New Orleans', even though it's not strictly accurate.

    I use 'New Orleans' in my music collection to identify a particular type of music or sound. I distinguish between 20s society jazz, 20s big band jazz, 20s hot big bands and New Orleans jazz. If it gets the New Orleans tag from me, it's hot (as opposed to sweet), it's a smaller band, it has that collective improvisation (which often sounds like a bunch of pots being thrown around) and it doesn't have a shuffle rhythm in the drum section. But I wouldn't use this definition to discuss or describe the music to another person in conversation. I feel a bit strange writing it here.

    But I also want to note one other type of music which falls under the New Orleans umbrella, but which I don't think is quite the same:

    New Orleans revival.

    (Sidney Bechet with Bob Wilbur, as stoled from Riverwalk Jazz)

    There was, literally, something of a New Orleans revival in the 30s and 40s. I've read a bit about it, but from what I can gather from some really unreliable sources (and I just don't know if it's a true story or not), this revival was prompted by white music fans, including those writing jazz magazines (I'd have to check the titles I'm afraid, but I have made a list of my posts approaching this topic here), and eventually running jazz festivals. These guys felt that the 'modern' jazz of the day (swing and later bebop) wasn't 'real' jazz, and so they sought out surviving musicians (like Bunk Johnson) and got them to record.
    Other musicians rerecorded or revisited their stuff from the 20s as well, so you get people like Sidney Bechet recording New Orleans standards in the 40s and 50s. They're great songs, it's great stuff. But it often has some different stuff going on in the rhythm section (the drums is where I hear it most - a shuffle rhythm rather than cooking pots clashing and bashing or steady thump). It also often feels as though the uppy downy beat is smoothed out a bit, swung a bit. For me, this often leaves me thinking 'should I charleston or lindy hop to this?'

    Interestingly, I've noticed that a lot of Australian jazz clubs (in both Sydney and Melbourne anyway) favour this sound. I think this is because the New Orleans revival sound was very popular in Australia in the 40s and 50s. Which is interesting as well because black American musicians were not allowed into Australia from about 1928 until the mid 1950s (I track my (limited) research into this topic in this post, which includes a pic of the American band that prompted the ban). The ban was initiated for a number of (racist) reasons, but also because of pressure from the Australian musicians union. So the Australian jazz musicians and scene gained their influence not from seeing and jamming with African American musicians, but from records, visiting white musicians, magazines from the United States and their occasional trips overseas. Needless to say, most Australian jazz musicians were (and are) white. So the sound that dominates much of Australian jazz is what I'd think of as 'New Orleans revival'. Even though it's probably not really accurate.


    Ok, so this post is really just an overview of some of the things I've noticed about the way people use the term 'New Orleans' in discussions about music for dancing. It's probably very inaccurate, and I'll probably disagree with it myself in a little while. But I wanted to write this because the street bands of New Orleans are very popular at the moment with more experienced Australian dancers. The 20s sound generally is very popular, in part because it's chic with America's experienced dancers (who teach here in Australia) and at the highest profile American events (which we experience via Youtube, Facebook and stories from returning travellers).

    I also want to state that though I'm very fond of these bands, and some are extraordinarily good, I do have reservations about their dominance. I've started pushing for solid, big band swing in my sets, and I've really started missing this stuff in other DJs' sets. In Sydney we hear all sorts of music, so I'm ok here. But I do hear a lot of that other stuff in other cities. While I do love the smaller bands, there's nothing quite like a big band in full flight. And I do miss the flattened out feeling of a really good, swinging rhythm. I do have some concerns about what I see in some dancers dancing - lots of flattened feet, a flatter, unbouncy lindy hop and a general economy of movement which suits the scorching tempos and unpredictable nature of the collective improvisation of this stuff. While there's amazing stuff going on, sometimes I worry that the more interesting stuff - the greater range of arm movements, feet way off the ground, the triple steps and so on - are neglected.

    But then, really, who the fuck am I to pass judgement on this stuff? It's all dancing, and dancing is a Good Thing. And, to be honest, I really like to see dancers experimenting with form and style and musicality. And it's a very wonderful thing to see young musicians working with this music and dancers supporting new bands by buying their CDs and booking them for gigs.

    "new orleans jazz?" was posted by dogpossum on August 12, 2010 12:28 AM in the category djing and lindy hop and other dances and music and research | Comments (1)

    August 11, 2010

    fitness: c25k w4r3

    km tracked: 3.99, pace: 07:31, duration: 0:30, calories: 389, feeling: alright

    Tired tired tired. I've had enough of this low-energy tiredness. But it didn't really affect my running that much, just made me feel tiiiiired.
    I did run 3 of c25k wk4 again because I've had a week off for Canberrang.

    "fitness: c25k w4r3" was posted by dogpossum on August 11, 2010 8:59 PM in the category c25k and fitness and running and walking | Comments (0)

    strange angels

    Strange Angels site

    I've just finished the third book in this series, 'Jealousy'. The cover art for the third book is so bad I can barely look at it, so I won't waste bandwidth with it here. And it looks like I'm having trouble stringing a sentence together today, so bare with me, friends.

    I really enjoyed all three of the books in the series ('Strange Angels', 'Betrayals' and 'Jealousy').

    I read quite a bit of YA paranormal fiction, usually ones picked out by my mother and sent up in a postpack. That means they tend to be heavy on the romance, and quite often heavy the crapitude. But this series is quite good. The protagonist is female, and while the books fail the Bechdel test, I find Dru less objectionable than most supernatural romance YA heroines.

    I've just read my way through the first two 'Vampire Acadamy' books, and they're awful. Even though they do pass the Bechdel test.

    I can't really think of anything to say, but I like this series.

    Otherwise, I'm also reading 'Obernewtyn' (Isobelle Carmody) which I missed as a kid as they came out after I'd moved on to adult books... or they came into our household after I'd moved on. I'm also reading 'White Mare's Daughter' (Judith Tarr) which I _think_ is a grownup book, but is mostly a sort of reworking of the whole matriarchy v patriarchy in 'ancient times' device. But with ponies. It's actually far better than the rest of this trash I'm reading, and I've a bunch more of them to burn through after this.

    "strange angels" was posted by dogpossum on August 11, 2010 1:06 AM in the category books | Comments (0)

    August 10, 2010

    fitness: dance practice

    duration: 00:45, feeling: good

    Not really much of a workout, but I want to keep track of the stuff I do that puts pressure on my knee/foot. And dance practice on a concrete floor does that.

    "fitness: dance practice" was posted by dogpossum on August 10, 2010 9:04 PM in the category fitness and lindy hop and other dances | Comments (0)

    Canberräng report and djing


    Well, it's been a bit of a long time since I've written anything here. Boo to me. I'm really not sure why. I think it's a matter of being busy with other things, and with simply not writing a lot _generally_. Which is a Bad Thing. But this is a post about Canberräng, the DJing I did there, and the dancing I almost did.

    (That's Terra Hazelton in the pic)

    Anyways, Canberräng was on this weekend just past, and it was good. I didn't actually dance very much, which surprised me, especially after going so nuts at MSF. I think I've been nursing some sort of bug or cold or something for a while. Or else I've just been feeling a bit depressed or kind of mopey, and nothing makes it harder to get creative on the dance floor like feeling anxious and unhappy. But I've not been feeling all that miserable lately, and I did have a lot of nice chats and laughs and hanging-outs with good folk, so.... I'm just going to blame it on a bit of low-level germiness, a bit of pre-semester anxiety (which is largely resolved now by the happy news that I have only Excellent Teacher for both subjects), a lack of badass running (which I'll fix this week with a return to c25k with the arse-kicking week 5), and a lack of general inspiration.

    That paragraph of self-inspection is a bit relevant to a talk about my DJing at Canberräng. I didn't actually dance very much at all, and that meant that I wasn't really plugged into the music for dancing, or to what other people were feeling while they were dancing. I did my first set at the welcome dance at Tilly's, and that was ok. The second set I did at the late night on Friday, which was harder, and which I don't feel was all that strong.
    Basically, I think I proved my own theory that I don't DJ very well when I'm not dancing much. I do my best work when I've been dancing a bit, when I dance a bit over the weekend, and when I'm generally a bit more plugged into what other dancers and DJs are into all over the country. I dunno if this applies to other DJs, but I suspect so. I generally feel that if you're not dancing lindy hop (or bal or whatever), you're not really going to do as good a job DJing it.

    I had a bit of a case of the shitty pants in the evening on Friday, which was largely related to costuming, but probably just some free-floating menstrual rage and pre-semester anxiety settling on the most obvious target - what I looked like. It took me a while to shake that shit off. I should have just jumped into the dancing and sought out some adrenaline, but I really wasn't feeling physically amazing either. Snot. I live with it every fucking day at the moment.

    By the time the late night came around, I was better company, but I was feeling a bit tired. I ended up dancing the first part of the night in the 'party room' which really was. It was warmer in there, the sound wasn't so loud, and the music was fun, funky stuff. Dave and I spent a couple of hours just mucking about in there, beginning with some cuddle dancing and then progressing to no-holds-barred silly dancing on our own, which actually just became straight out dancing-on-our-own fun dancing. I blame Jase for making me move from just a bit of quiet cuddle dancing with my squeeze to dancing like a crazy fool fer serious.

    I had a lot of trouble with volume over the weekend. My ears are getting really sore these days when the sound is too loud, and I found I'd get a massive headache if I spent too long in the main room with the horrid volume. I ended up putting in ear plugs and found that even then the sound was too loud.

    This is a bad thing, and partly the result of many DJs a) having shithouse hearing themselves; b) just pushing the volume so high it distorts the sound; and c) loudness being too much for nanna. I'm going to start getting serious about volume from now on, I think. Especially in my own sets.

    My problem is that the sound system often isn't powerful enough for the space (100watt will not fill a hall, I'm afraid), so DJs pump up the volume. The volume is then so loud that a) the amp or speakers can't really hack it and the sound fucks up; b) the quality of the shitty mp3s becomes extra shitty, and the music stops being a song and just ends up being a bunch of screaming noise. That makes me especially shitty because you end up dancing to _nothing_ but screamy noise, and can't hear any of the more interesting rhythms and instrumentation.

    I'm not suggesting that Canberräng was a particularly bad event for this, but I am stating that most DJs don't pay enough attention to managing volume, and that most events don't actually use the right sound set up for their spaces. I am also stating that I can't hack the pain in my ears from too-loud volume any more. And I know that I can be a shocker for too much volume while I'm DJing. I think it's just that you start adding volume as your ears adjust. You want to get 'more' into your songs, and you do that by adding volume. When what you should be doing is reducing treble or adding mids or whatever.

    Anyways, Saturday night I was less of a shitty pants, and had a lovely time at the winery during the day (as per usual). I quite liked the ball - there is no way any other Australian event can top using the Great Hall at the Australian Parliament House. It is the most impressive venue ever. Of all time. I was a bit meh about the band, but then that could just have been a bit of residual shittypants. I am also now firmly committed only to wearing comfortable dresses that make me feel good to Balls. No more fancy, uncomfortable costumes.

    The late night was nice. I liked that party room again. It was quieter, warmer, smaller and _felt_ nicer. I did, however, still have a shit headache boiling, and spending any time in the main room (where I really wanted to lindy hop) with the bad volume really hurt. The second DJ was particularly bad for excessive volume, so I ended up hanging about talking to people, eating stuff and apologising or making up for being unexcellent the night before. That last part was ok, because it meant that I really just asked a bunch of nice ladies to dance and then had a nice chat with them. Win-win, really.

    I did hear some nice DJing over the weekend. I heard Drew DJ for the first time, and that was nice. I also got to follow Andy DJing on the Friday, which is a) a challenge, and b) excellent. He's a bit of a badass DJ, and whips the dancers into a frenzy with his high-energy party music. He literally had dancers delirious with adrenaline, yelling and throwing themselves about the floor in a frenzy. I was following him, and had the last set of the night. I found that at the end of his set half the room suddenly realised they couldn't walk any more, and had to go home. It took me a little while to figure out the room and I'm not entirely sure I rocked it.

    I enjoyed DJing on the Saturday, partly because I was in a better mood, but also because I was sharing the table with an old friend and got to chat a bit, and also because I was a bit more together and had a better grasp of the vibe in the room. But I had made a minor technical error a little earlier. I'd been chasing that headache with a painkiller, and then thought a plate of blue-green jelly would be nice. I was wrong. Oh, my guts. Painkiller + headache + jelly nausea + a sugar rush so mighty I felt faint. But eventually they settled down. And then I went and DJed and it was ok.

    A note about Canberräng: it's well run. It really is.

    Anyways, here's the set I did on Thursday night. I was second on (9-10pm), and the venue was Tilly's, a restaurant/cafe joint with lots of normal punters eating and drinking. They brought in a temporary dance floor and it was positioned right in front of the DJ booth, which was good.

    Title - artist - album - bpm - year - length

    Blue Monday Jay McShann and his Band (Jimmy Witherspoon) Goin' To Kansas City Blues 125 1957 3:40
    Gimme A Pigfoot Lavern Baker La Vern Baker Sings Bessie Smith 120 1958 3:11
    Sugar Blues Terra Hazelton (feat. Jeff Healey's Jazz Wizards) Anybody's Baby 113 2004 3:44
    My Man Stands Out Di Anne Price Barrel House Queen 145 2010 2:54
    You Got to Give Me Some Midnight Serenaders Magnolia 187 2007 4:02
    San Francisco Bay Blues Lu Watters' Yerba Buena Jazz Band with Barbara Dane Blues Over Bodega 160 1964 3:42
    Yacht Club Swing Echoes of Swing Harlem Joys 164 2008 3:20
    When I Get Low I Get High Linnzi Zaorski and Delta Royale (Charlie Fardella, Robert Snow, Matt Rhody, Seva Venet, Chaz Leary) Hotsy-Totsy 165 2004 2:36
    Just Because You Can Catherine Russell Inside This Heart of Mine 136 2010 4:10
    Do Your Duty Tuba Skinny (Erika Lewis, Todd, Kiowa, Shaye Cohn, Barnabus, Alynda Lee, Robin) Tuba Skinny 122 2010 3:47
    Long Gone John Gordon Webster (with Brianna Thomas, Jesse Selengut, Matt Musselman, Adrian Cunningham, Cassidy Holden, Rod Adkins, Jeremy Noller) Happy When I'm With You 140 2009 3:57
    Flat Foot Floogie Carol Ralph Swinging Jazz Portrait 186 2005 3:44
    Now Or Never Katharine Whalen Jazz Squad 167 1999 2:14
    Knock Myself Out Asylum Street Spankers Spanker Madness 126 2000 2:48
    The Spinach Song Terra Hazelton (feat. Jeff Healey's Jazz Wizards) Anybody's Baby 165 2004 4:57
    Half Tight Boogie Jonathan Stout and his Campus Five Jammin' the Blues 150 2003 3:13

    I began with Jay McShann because I know Russel always thinks 'oh man, Sam's DJing again' when I start with a song from that album. It was also a good transition from the previous DJ. I played 'Pigfoot' because I wanted to play a bunch of beer-drinking songs with dirty lyrics and a party feel. I also wanted to play all hi-fi or modern versions of good songs, by good modern bands.

    Terra Hazelton is a singer I've only just discovered. She doesn't have the best voice, but she does some great songs. Including this fun version of 'Sugar Blues' which I played with Tim in mind, because he loves the Preservation Hall's version of this songs.
    Di Anne Price is someone I've just bought a lot of for blues dancers. Best voice.
    You know how I feel about the Midnight Serenaders. They are still my FAVOURITE modern band. They have two good albums, but I overplay this particular song. I love it's light, fun feeling, and the way its lovely, light, sprightly feel contrasts with the dirty lyrics. Best trumpet solos.

    I then played a bunch of songs I play all the time in Sydney. They all work really well with a crowd, and they're all accessible tempos... well, for the Roxbury in Sydney, where we tend to sit on 180bpm as an average these days.

    Tuba Skinny is a new band for me. I like their street-jazz-band sound, but that that aren't all up your face with massive loud intensity. I like the vocalist. I fucking love Bessie Smith's version of 'Do Your Duty', but figured the hi-fi modern version was the best for this gang.

    The restaurant manager kept telling me how much she liked my music. I figured the saucy woman singer stuff worked pretty well for an arsekicking feminist playing a dykalicious venue.

    There's not a lot else to say about this set. It's pretty samey, really. I was happy with Katharine Whalen, the singer from the Squirrel Nut Zippers who I used to DJ ages ago, but have recently revisited as part of this sort of nu-skool versions of old-school set. All female vocals. Lots of food/sex/drug references. Smaller bands. Novelty vocal sounds.

    By the end of this set I was _totally_ over this style of music. And craving some big band. But I have to go catch a bus now, so I'll post the other two set lists later on.

    [edit: below is the stuff I added when I got home]

    Second set of the Canberräng, 2-3am Friday night.
    Title artist album bpm year length

    Rag Mop Bob Crosby and the Bobcats Bob Crosby and the Bobcats: The Complete Standard Transcript 164 1950 2:15
    Davenport Blues Adrian Rollini and his Orchestra (Jack Teagarden) Father Of Jazz Trombone 136 1934 3:14
    Madame Dynamite Eddie Condon and his Orchestra (Pee Wee Russell, Eddie Condon, Sidney Catlett) Classic Sessions 1927-49 (Volume 2) 176 1933 2:56
    I'se A Muggin' Stuff Smith and his Onyx Club Boys (Jonah Jones, Raymond Smith, Bobby Bennett, Mack Walker, John Washington) Stuff Smith: Complete Jazz Series 1936 - 1939 161 1936 3:14
    [Gettin' Much Lately?] Ain't Nothin' To It Fats Waller, his Rhythm and his Orchestra (John Hamilton, Bob Williams, Herman Autrey, Geoge Wilson, Ray Hogan, Jimmy Powell, Dave McRae, Gene Sedric, Bob Carroll, Al Casey, Cedric Wallace, Slick Jones) Last Years (1940-1943) (Disc 2) 134 1941 3:10
    Sweet Nothin's Midnight Serenaders Sweet Nothin's 154 2009 3:14
    On Revival Day Terra Hazelton (feat. Jeff Healey's Jazz Wizards) Anybody's Baby 219 2004 3:41
    Dinah Preservation Hall Preservation Hall Hot 4 With Duke Dejan 154 2004 5:01
    You Can Have My Husband Tuba Skinny (Erika Lewis, Todd, Kiowa, Shaye Cohn, Barnabus, Alynda Lee, Robin) Tuba Skinny 144 2010 3:49
    Joog, Joog Duke Ellington and his Orchestra Duke Ellington and his Orchestra: 1949-1950 146 1949 3:01
    Solid as a Rock Count Basie and his Orchestra with The Deep River Boys Count Basie and His Orchestra 1950-1951 140 1950 3:04
    C Jam Blues Duke Ellington and his Orchestra At The Hollywood Empire 185 1949 3:23
    Mop Mop Teddy Wilson Sextet (Emmett Berry, Benny Morton, Edmond Hall, Slam Stewart, Big Sid Catlett) The Complete Associated Transcriptions 1944 144 1944 4:58
    Peckin' Johnny Hodges and his Orchestra (Cootie Williams, Barney Bigard, Otto Hardwick, Harry Carney, Duke Ellington, Fred Guy, Hayes Alvis, Sonny Greer, Buddy Clark) The Duke's Men: Small Groups Vol. 1 (Disc 2) 165 1937 3:10
    Turn It Over Bus Moten and his Men Kansas City Blues 1944-1949 (Disc 3) 148 1949 2:38
    Sweet Patootie Noble Sissle's Swingsters (Sidney Bechet) Shake 'Em Up 117 1938 3:16
    Chasing Shadows (-1) Putney Dandridge and his Orchestra (Roy Eldridge, Chu Berry, Nappy Lamare) Classic Chu Berry Columbia And Victor Sessions (Disc 1) 137 1935 2:40
    Do Your Duty Bessie Smith acc by Buck and his Band (Frank Newton, Jack Teagarden, Benny Goodman, Chu Berry, Buck Washington, Bobby Johnson, Billy Taylor) Classic Chu Berry Columbia And Victor Sessions (Disc 1) 121 1933 3:31
    Blues For Smedley Clark Terry, Ed Thigpen, Oscar Peterson, Ray Brown Oscar Peterson Trio + One: Clark Terry 137 1964 6:57
    It Takes Two to Tango Lester Young and Oscar Peterson Lester Young With the Oscar Peterson Trio 104 6:09

    The previous DJ (Andy) had been playing massively high-energy stuff all set, and people were kind of insane. The change over of DJs is usually a natural break, and you often lose the crowd at that point of a late night when people suddenly have a chance to stop and think. I didn't do the best job ever, either, so I lost people there. I really didn't know what I should be doing, and just didn't feel confident. Whereas I feel I had something going on the previous night, this night I was a bit up in the air. It really makes a difference if you're not feeling the lindy hop (and I wasn't). But it wasn't as shit as it could have been. A few people said they liked the set, but I expect more of myself.

    I began with 'Rag Mop' as I know it's a good energy song. But by the end, people were a bit buggered and even I was feeling a bit over the 'big' sound. 'Davenport Blues' is my good easing-back song, but it actually builds energy towards the end, so it's a good way to get back to high energy again. I played it as a mellowing-out song, and as a transition to some older stuff I wanted to play.

    I overplay 'Madame Dynamite' at home. I wonder, now if we should worry about playing stuff we overplay at home when we DJ at exchanges, or if this is the sort of stuff we should play, because it's representative of our style? I think, in my own brainz, and in regards to my own DJing, that I'll play some stuff I know works (especially if I have a crowd with plenty of my local dancers in it, as Canberräng did - 76 Sydney people, and only 86 locals + assorted others). I'll also play stuff that I haven't tried at home, but only if I'm reasonably sure it'll work (eg it's good sound quality, it feels really good, it has the usual markers of a 'good' song, etc). I tend to play higher tempo, more complex songs when I'm doing larger events like MLX, or events like MSF with a crowd of more experienced dancers. Canberräng was a decent sized crowd (about 200 at late nights, perhaps a few less), but I wasn't entirely sure it was the right place for really unusual stuff. But that didn't make me stop and second guess myself.

    Then I played 'I'se a Muggin'' by Stuff Smith etc, but not the 'musical numbers' version that was a bit chic in Herräng/the US recently, because that version shits me. But this version is cool because it end with the suggestion that listeners flip over the record to hear the musical numbers game. I like this song (and other Stuff Smith stuff) because it's a good transition to other vocal-heavy, quirky/funny stuff like Fats Waller.
    So I played some slower Fats Waller that I know people like. It has a lovely shouty shout chorus at the end.

    More Midnight Serenaders. Sell out.

    The Hazelton version of 'Revival Day' was a mistake. Why? It was too late at night, and people were too tired. I didn't build up to it with something slower tempoed, but higher energy. I was definitely pushing an agenda - I wanted to play that specific song to show it off. But I mistimed it's position in the set, it cleared the floor, and generally fucked up. That'll teach me. I knew it was a risk, I knew it probably wouldn't work, but my judgement was off.

    So I played that version of 'Dinah', even though it's a bit long, because it's really good. I've played it before as a 'recovery' song, and it works well. It feels gentle (rather than in your face), and I use it for running and find it a good, consistent, 'encouraging' song that keeps me going with its lighter, gentler sound. It's a very familiar, iconic melody, but played at a much slower tempo than usual. It's hi-fi. It has some excellent solos, but no lyrics. It can sound a bit samey, but it's a good samey. You'd have a nice, safe dance to it. It did the job.

    By this point I finally figured out that people were tired. It was about 2.30 and people were really feeling Andy's arse kicking. So I played this mellow Tuba Skinny song. I'm not entirely sure of the vocal style of the singer (she sounds a bit too soul for this stuff), but it's a nice, easy tempo and another good recovery song. But it also has some nice breaks, and builds a little towards the end.

    'Joog Joog' is one of my go-to songs. It has an odd intro (Ivie Anderson I think?), which usually has dancers turning up their noses. But it also has a really good, solid, driving thumping beat that's not too intense. It's a real 'joog joog' rhythm. Which is just what the lyrics are all about. It also builds and builds. At this point I was also thinking 'what the fuck am I doing with this small group bullshit? We are ready for some proper big band action. Four on the floor and no cheating!

    I often play the 'Joog Joog'/'Solid as a Rock' combination. 'Solid as a Rock' is a solid favourite, and the clapping and familiar rhythm always get people up and moving. It was a nice step up in energy from 'Joog Joog' and worked just as I'd intended. I had the floor totally full with 'Joog Joog' then I was a winner with 'Solid as a Rock'.

    Now, from here, there were a number of things I could do. In a usual setting, earlier in the night, when dancers have lots of energy, I'd step it up, tempo and energy wise. I'd go up from the easypeasy 140bpm to 180 without a qualm. So I took a punt with 'C Jam Blues', thinking I'd safely built then energy up to the point I needed. But I underestimated the lateness of the night and also the effect the hard floor was having on dancers' bodies. If I'd actually been dancing more I'd have realised just how tiring that floor was. That version of 'C-Jam Blues' is another new one for me, and a little lump of gold from a collection of transcripts. I love that action: broadcast and recorded 'live'. It's 1949, so it's the same 12 month period as the last two songs, and really meshed well with their late swing era style. It's still solid, chunking Ellington (rather than wacky doo later Ellington), it's a very familiar song and melody, it has some extremely badass solos, and it really rocks along. Great dancing. And people dug it. It just slowly killed them until only a few strong couples were left.

    So I decided to recover with some more solid swing (smaller group, though), and another new purchase. It's a very good song, it just doesn't quite rock for dancing in this setting, as the small group experimentation with repeating (and repeating and repeating) the riff got a bit dull after a while.

    I figured 'ok' and followed up with another favourite, but also a song that starts mellow and then builds. But it annoyed me a bit with its earlier sound. I decided to just stop fucking about and go back to playing the favourite/solid later swing era stuff. And to ease off the bastard tempos. 'Turn It Over' is a song I used to play a _lot_ in Melbourne, but which I hardly ever play in Sydney. Mostly because it doesn't work on the shitty, under-powered Swingpit sound system. But it's such a good, fun song. And it worked perfectly. Crowd returns to floor. I promise to be kind.

    'Sweet Patootie' is a lovely song, and not one I've played for dancers before, though I play it a lot at home. It's slow. It's very slow for lindy hop. And as I put it on I said to myself "right, you lindy hoppers, you can dance fast, but can you dance slow?" and they could. It's such a good little melody, such lovely, drawly lyrics, such dirty dirty entendre... _And_ it's Bechet with Noble Sissle, which is my favourite Bechet. It has the sort of rolly rhythm of a later swing era song of the 40s, but it's actually only late 30s. It feels like it's going to become some good, solid Kansas early rnb, but it doesn't quite. The dancers really liked it. Which was a big relief.

    So I followed up with 'Chasing Shadows', which is a song Trev put me onto aaaages ago (he played it to very good effect one MLX yonks ago), and which I adore. I have a faster, fun version by Louis Prima in the 20s, but this one is perfect for a mellower crowd who still want interesting rhythms and melodies. I love the vocals. The Roy Eldridge/Chu Berry combo is unstoppable. Putney Dandridge is kind of nothing (I looked him up in the discographies, and he's only done a few recordings, really, in the vein we like), but it's a nice, chunky slower song just right for a late night lindy crowd who aren't really up for extreme lindy hop any more.

    'Do Your Duty' is my favourite Bessie Smith song. That's her and a stellar cast of musicians. Truly amazing. I also had to make up for playing the modern version the night before. I often play this song late at night at exchanges, and I find that dancers really like Bessie Smith's delivery. I'm always surprised by the way people respond to her singing, even through the static and shitty recordings. I always get comments from dancers, and it's not that common to see dancers respond that way to a vocalist. I see Billie Holiday get the same response in blues rooms, but it's a rare thing to hear dancers really _feeling_ the singer's delivery in the way they feel another musician. I think Smith is underrated by a lot of lindy hop DJs, and I always try to play more of her in blues rooms. I think she (and Billie) are very important in the history of jazz and blues. I think Smith is super important in jazz and swing history because so many musicians played with her earlier in their careers as accompanists (Fletcher Henderson, Clarence Williams, Buster Bailey, Louis Armstrong, Don Redman, Jack Teagarden, Chu Berry, Benny Goodman(!), Coleman Hawkins, Roy Eldridge), and I'm sure her indomitable style shaped their music.

    Then it was time to go home, and I was feeling a bit badly behaved. So I just changed style without the clutch. I love 'Blues for Smedley' and often play it late at night. Best solos ever. Then another Oscar Peterson, but this one has the best lyrics by Lester Young. There's nothing quite an elderly man of indeterminate sexuality and certain inebriety asking you to take your knickers off.

    It's late, now, so I'll have a look at the third set tomorrow. If I can be bothered.

    [edit: the Saturday set]

    This is the set I played on the Saturday night, doing the second last set and starting at 2am. I began with James Brown because they needed a song to play while people bashed at the piñata. If ever there was a time to need the Mexican Hat Dance song... but I'm not sure the level of craziness that song induces is really a good thing when blind folded people are wielding a giant stick in a crowded room.

    title artist album bpm year song length

    Get Up (I Feel Like Being A) Sex Machine James Brown Sex Machine 110 1991 5:17
    Every Day I Have The Blues Count Basie and his Orchestra (Ella Fitzgerald, Joe Williams) Complete Clef/Verve Count Basie Fifties Studio Recordings [Disc 8] 110 1956 5:12
    Blues In Hoss's Flat Count Basie and his Orchestra Chairman Of The Board [Bonus Tracks] 144 1958 3:13
    The Jumpin' Blues Jay McShann and his Band (Jimmy Witherspoon) Goin' To Kansas City Blues 155 1957 3:04
    I Diddle Dinah Washington Dinah Washington with Quincy Jones 153 3:05
    On Revival Day Carrie Smith acc. by George Kelly, Ram Ramirez, Billy Butler When You're Down and Out 189 1977 3:49
    I Ain't Mad At You Mildred Anderson No More In Life 158 1960 3:04
    Gimme A Pigfoot Lavern Baker La Vern Baker Sings Bessie Smith 120 1958 3:11
    Lemonade Louis Jordan and his Tympany Five Louis Jordan And His Tympany Five (vol 5) 117 1950 3:17
    Drinkin' Wine, Spo-Dee-O-Dee Lionel Hampton and his Orchestra with Sonny Parker Hamp: The Legendary Decca Recordings 134 1949 3:24
    Savoy Lucky Millinder and his Orchestra (Trevor Bacon) Anthology Of Big Band Swing (Disc 2) 166 1942 3:05
    Leap Frog Louis Armstrong and his Orchestra (Luis Russell) The Complete Louis Armstrong Decca Sessions (1935-1946) (disc 7) 159 1941 3:00
    Don't Be That Way Lionel Hampton and his Orchestra The Complete Lionel Hampton Victor Sessions 1937-1941 (disc 2) 136 1938 2:36
    Alligator Meat (B / R Vox Only) - Joe Swift, Johnny Otis Ban Joe Swift, Johnny Otis Band Studio Cuts 122 2:56
    My Blue Heaven The Cangelosi Cards Clinton Street Recordings, I 145 4:12
    You Got to Give Me Some Midnight Serenaders Magnolia 187 2007 4:02

    I could do anything I liked, really, because the piñata thing kind of interrupted the flow. When I first started DJing I used to start with the Breakfast Dance and Barbeque version of 'Every Day I Have The Blues' because it's slow and lets me build the room up from nothing. I started with this version because I hear it so rarely. It's from the Mosaic Basie set, and is a really good duet. I decided I wanted to play some hi-fi big band action, in part because I was sick of small groups, and also because I wanted to play 'easy' stuff that everyone would like. It worked well.

    'Blues In Hoss's Flat' just because.

    'The Jumpin' Blues' because it continues the theme. I wanted to echo the shouty male vocals and keep to the hi-fi big band action.

    'I Diddle' because I was sick of the in-your-face wall-of-sound, both emotionally (it's pretty intense) and volume-wise (the previous DJ had really overdone the volume in a bad way). It's a total sell-out song, but then I still like it. It's fun to dance to. And sometimes it's just nice to play songs everyone knows, so everyone can have some fun.

    I was watching a dancer on the floor and thought 'imma gonna play this song for her' and that's why I played 'On Revival Day'. It's not the version most people play - it's faster and a stack of fun. It went down well, and that particular dancer ran up to me in a froth saying "I love this blah blah blah!!!" in a kind of delirious crazy-person shout. So I figured that was a win.

    I've promised myself I wouldn't play 'I Ain't Mad At You' again, but it's a fun song. I love Anderson's voice. The breaks always go down well.

    But by then I was all up in people's grills with the energy and big sound, so I mellowed it out with _another_ overplayed favourite. But 'Gimme a Pigfoot' is a good song.

    Then I wanted to get a bit more old school, and 'Lemonade' (overplayed song no.6 599 000) is a good transition.

    Then another overplayed party song. But people enjoyed it. I was thinking of building things up with some old school big band, and 'Savoy' is a good tool for that job (another overplayed one). But people were looking a bit arse-kicked, so I played 'Leap Frog', which is kind of mellow, but builds up. It's great lindy hoppping. They looked tired, and I felt a bit tired, so I mellowed it out again with 'Don't Be That Way', which is a supergreat song. 'Alligator Meat' isn't that great, but it's easy and fun.

    Then I was sick of all that rubbish and decided to play something more interesting. That version of 'My Blue Heaven' is a good one for rebuilding a floor, as it's kind of light and easy-going, but it builds up. And it's a really good song.
    I finished with another one of my overplayed favourites. It's the only one song I played twice over the weekend. I think it's also the only song that I'd heard played before over the weekend, which I then played. I tried my best to avoid re-playing songs I heard other DJs play, but I could have missed one as I wasn't really paying attention to other DJs all that much. But I'm really sick of going to exchanges and hearing the same songs over and over again, in every DJ's set. I figure, if we're not good enough to make a set work without revisiting the same old shit, we're not good enough to play an exchange.

    Righto, that's it for my Canberrang DJing. Not as exciting as I'd hoped. But I didn't suck arse. The first set was the best one, I think. Though I enjoyed doing the last one the most, and people really enjoyed that one the most.

    "Canberräng report and djing" was posted by dogpossum on August 10, 2010 1:11 AM in the category djing and lindy hop and other dances and music | Comments (0)

    August 5, 2010

    fitness: c25k w4r3

    feeling: good, distance: 3.99 km, duration: 00:30, pace: 07:31, calories: 389

    Nice. I'm kind of ready to get back to proper running in my brainz, but I will resist and keep taking it easy so my knee doesn't explode.
    less than a minute ago

    "fitness: c25k w4r3" was posted by dogpossum on August 5, 2010 2:12 AM in the category c25k and fitness and running and walking | Comments (0)

    August 2, 2010

    fitness: c25k w4r2

    km tracked: 3.9, duration: 0:30, pace: 7:41, feeling: good, effort: 3/5, calories: 389

    A bit stiff and sore in the hammies after yesterday's bending and scrubbing work.
    2 minutes ago

    "fitness: c25k w4r2" was posted by dogpossum on August 2, 2010 8:32 PM in the category c25k and fitness and running and walking | Comments (0)

    August 1, 2010

    fitness: walking

    km tracked: 3:21, feeling: good, effort: 2/5, calories: 22

    Who could resist a nice walk on a clear afternoon?
    I did feel it in my knees, though, and it was a mistake to walk on the same day I ran just as I move up a level. Oh well, we'll see how things pan out tomorrow. After I dance my arse off.

    "fitness: walking" was posted by dogpossum on August 1, 2010 6:02 AM in the category fitness and walking | Comments (0)