Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Put On Those White Shoes

I finally broke down and gave up on my fantasy of owning Vivo Barefoot shoes any time soon (the Terra Plana web site has almost all varieties out of stock), and went searching for shoes in earnest. Normally, I'd just go buy a pair of New Balance's again, as they have the width I need. But I saw somewhere these cool shell enclosures on a pair of throwback shoes, but I couldn't place the brand or the occasion.

Looked around on-line and finally found out I was looking at the old Adidas shell-toe from the Superstar line. So I started looking around for them, and failed to find a store that had them in my size. Even the Adidas store at the Spectrum! Bleh.

See the flat sole? The shell toe?

Then, I realized the other day that I saw them on Jofflyn Valencia (who says he wears them when he swing dances). Damn! Now I'm just a guy who copies. And I'm 100% sure now that he's the one I saw them on originally. Well, Charles too. Great, now we'll be shoe buddies.

Well, I found them in my size today. Needs a bit of stretching out. I might dance in them.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Cash That Check

From the Freakonomics Blog:

What kind of people use check-cashing places? How do they work?
In their video “Checkmate,” the Internets Celebrities, a.k.a. Dallas Penn and Rafi Kam, explore these questions ...

I hardly ever use cash, carding everything, then paying my balance at the end of the month.

The ancillary business surrounding the check cashing places are really creepy to see.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Fred Rogers Earns $10M in 10 Minutes

Hat Tip to

"Well I'm supposed to be a pretty tough guy, and this is the first time I've had goosebumps in the last two days."

I'll admit to listening to it twice, and tearing up a bit the second time I heard Fred Rogers say, "I like you just the way you are." Put me right back in my childhood.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008


I've been fighting through a few months of stagnant feelings in my dancing, but have been re-energized recently with some conversations and classes.

The first shock was my private lesson with Laura Keat... sort of. Let me be clear in saying it was an awesome, mind-blowing lesson that focused on a new connection paradigm. But in some ways, it's forced me to regress and focus on all my basic moves. As a result, my dancing doesn't feel as interesting. That's a bit frustrating, though I imagine if I took more private lessons, I would make faster progress.

Next was the series on smooth Lindy that Augie Freeman taught at Atomic Ballroom in April (2008). His swing-out basic involved a constant rotation on counts 3-6, giving the swing-out an extremely smooth, rotational feel. Very cool.

Next was a conversation with Jofflyn Valencia and Amber Villa. They filled-in as teachers for a class in April, and it was the most like taking a class with Jerry Jordan that I've ever had. That is, they were able to break down the footwork of their moves with extremely insightful technique observations. This month, they started teaching a level 1 and level 2 series on Tuesdays, as well as DJ'ing regularly on Tuesday nights. They mentioned in passing that all their technique and dancing was revolutionized by badgering (my word) competition judges for notes. Then they compiled their notes into a theory behind their dancing.

So after I heard all this, I contacted Jofflyn and told him I'd like to hear about his theory. We finally chatted this past Friday night and I got the brief version. They view dancing as broken down to movement, momentum, and rhythm. That's it, stripped bare. They re-emphasized the swing-out that Augie taught as what a basic swing-out should be, stripped of all styling. To this point, they view the slotted swing-out as a styling, theorizing that it was developed for movie formation work (single camera, no camera moves). Very interesting. The theory behind this is the idea of continuous movement: taking out as many of the places in which dancers come to a complete stop. I danced with Amber a bit and she had me strengthen my right elbow and smooth out my rotation (I was still accelerating through counts 5-6). Oh, she also wanted me to look her in the eye as much as possible. That felt creepy. :-)

Amber and Jofflyn also had me work on my Balboa basic. They tell me that I shouldn't gather, then step on 3-4 and 7-8. Rather, move my foot directly from where it was to where it's going. Again, as a basic, stripped of all styling. Much smoother. Very cool feeling. I know I've learned this before, but it's gotten lost in the mists of ... trying to learn moves. :-)

May's series with Augie starts out with us working on Balboa, and this same feeling carries across to his class. We start out working on our basic, doing a box step instead of a linear basic. We slightly change 2 and 6 to slightly sideways steps. Then we add the "lilt," leaning forward in the first half of the basic, then tilting back in the last half. Tweaked connection by focusing on leaning in and against each other and having leads connect to follows with the right forearm, relaxing the hand completely.

This week focused on spike-outs. And though this was a level 3 class, I was shocked how much I've learned. The first revelation for me was that I wasn't making "catching" contact early enough. If I contact on 7, the natural motion of the return rolls the follow back into my forearm. If I contact on 8, the follow gets so far away that my arm extends and she jerks to a stop. This dovetails with Amber and Jofflyn's continuous motion theory. My spike-out is so much better from this one class. We add a spike-out variation where the leads face away on 5, with the left arm wrapped around us clock-wise just below shoulder level. We need to have our right hand ready to catch on 7 again. Also continuous spike-outs: We do another spike-out instead of a come-around to end it.

Finally, we worked on improv steps. We're repeating certain counts. Last week was repeatedly shuffling 5-6 until we felt the need to go on. This week, we do paddles, something which I've never learned successfully. Augie makes it easy. :-) Initially, we prep our 1-3 like a transition step, down on 3 rotating to the left. Hold 4. Repeat 5-6 (right, left) either rotationally or in-line. Similar action with feet reversed on 1-2 (after down on 7, hold 8). Fall-onto/off-the-log are the final move, starting with either a left foot kick on 4 or a right foot kick on 8. Just realized we can do either the on or off version by leading the weight shift.

Anyway, this smoother style of basic is awesome. Application, there's a heavier follow who comes regularly to Atomic. Well, there are lots, but this one dances extremely heavy. Before, I had to really dig in on 3-4 and 7-8 in order to keep from getting overbalanced. I dance with her every night, so I specifically remember this happening last week. Last night with this continuous motion swing-out, it was effortless on 3-6. Even 7-8 was better with a more circular feel.

Danced with Caitlin of the Bobbysox Brigade (Amber and Jofflyn's troupe) last night. Amazing.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

More Fun Conversations

D [to C]: Hey! Muffin and cupcake. Muffin and cupcake.
Me: New rule, guys. Don't use pet names during swing team practice.
D: Those aren't pet names. It's an inside joke.
Me: Guess what, they'll be pet names whenever I tell this story on my blog!
D: What?!
Me: Yeah. I just need to decide who's cupcake and who's muffin.
D: Someone called us muffins, so we decided that as a couple we were like muffins (just sweet enough), and not like cupcakes (so sweet they make your stomach hurt). So some couples are muffins and some are cupcakes.
Me: Keep telling yourself that, cupcake.
Cupcake: Hey!!!!


Me: I think I might be a muffin while P is a cupcake.
D: I think all girls are closet cupcakes. But together, you're pretty muffin-ish.
Me: Try telling Kate that.
D: What do you mean.
Me: Every time we see her, we fake-tongue kiss with big sloppy tongues wagging in the air.
D: That's disgusting.
Me: That what Kate says!

Saturday, May 10, 2008

The Conversation In Which

.... I don't get the best lines.

Exterior. Irvine, California. Outside of Atomic Ballroom. S and I are part of a group cooling down and taking a break from late-night dancing. C & D exit Atomic and head towards the parking lot and C's new car.

C&D: [as they pass the group] Good night everyone!
Group: Good night!
S: [after a pause] Have fun in the car! [not quite under her breath] Driving, I mean.
Me: What?! [breaks into laughter]
S: Oh no! Internal dialog! Internal!
Me: This is totally going in my blog..
S: What?! Why do I show up in your blog again?
D: He writes about me too! [pouts] Though not recently. Do I have to shake my butt again? [shakes her butt] You missed it.
Me: [muttering] Oh no I didn't.

Thursday, May 8, 2008


The thing I'm most pissed off about the Miley Cyrus fake controversy is the use of the term "tween" to describe Ms. Cyrus. Tweens are pre-adolescents, as in younger than 13. 15 is a teenager. So Cyrus is a teen, though her fans might be tweens.

OK, now I hate myself for spending time thinking about it.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Quick Hit: New Chinese aphrodisiac: real estate

Marketplace: New Chinese aphrodisiac: real estate:
"In big cities in China, single women may still be looking for men with charm, wit, intelligence and good looks. But what really makes them swoon is a man who owns a home. Lisa Chow reports."
I always suspected that the bias towards having a male child (the 2000 m:f ratio was 117:100) would eventually empower women in some way.

By the way, Marketplace is an awesome NPR show. The link takes to to streaming audio, mp3 download, and the podcast link.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Annoying Dew

OK, this is a personal failing, but I really find this Mountain Dew commercial annoying.

I hate made-up retro. Especially when the real thing is so much less cool. It really tickles my innards.

But it's also about the mismatch between today's positioning of Mountain Dew as a young, hip drink, while my embedded memories from the 1980's have it positioned as the "redneck outdoorsy" drink. "Dewin' It Country Cool" indeed!

Oh, not redneck enough for you?

[EDIT: Hey, I just noticed that professional skateboarder Tony Hawk is in this commercial! If you pause at 0:24, you can clearly see that it's Tony Hawk. But if you go back, he's everywhere (I'm basing that on matching his clothes). He's the very last skater at 0:11 (out of focus). Looks like his legs doing the flip at 0:13, and all the tricks from 0:16 to 0:21. I am SHOCKED to find out that there wasn't really a huge cowboy-skateboarder revolution during the 1980s!]

Oh, still not redneck enough for you?!

That's right, they progressed from serious "hick" positioning (tickling' yer innards)

to extreme indy teen behavior:

No hint of the "mountain hick" origins at all. So I figured I'd tell all eight of you who read this. :-)

SSC 22

Short Shameful Confession:

Sometimes someone will mention a brand name and I'll sing a snippet of the 1980's commercial jingle that no one else remembers. And everyone will think I'm insane.