Friday, June 10, 2005

Dancing with the Stars

I managed to catch it this week, and it was a trip. 6 celebrities of the kind that participate in reality shows were paired with 6 top pro dance instructor/performers, and they're competing for marks from the judges and the audience. Each couple must dance one dance a week, with the whole floor to themselves. Of course we have an "execution" at the end of each show starting this week until we have a final winner.

The dances themselves are the so-called standard and Latin dances - the international style. Standard includes foxtrot, waltz, quickstep, Viennese waltz and tango, and Latin includes rumba, cha cha, jive, samba and paso doble. The series is six weeks long, so presumably they'll be doing six of the above. We've seen 4 - the ladies have done waltz and rumba, and the men have done cha cha and quickstep. It would be a crime if the other two weren't tango and jive (think swing/Charleston/Lindy). Standard Viennese waltz is boring (as opposed to American style smooth Viennese waltz), foxtrot is too much like quickstep and waltz, paso doble isn't so accessible and samba just has a little too much personality.

Each dance is rigorously defined for judging purposes by various organizations. Ordinarily the actual choreography is limited to using figures which are "part of the dance", but they're probably a bit relaxed here. There are three judges for each dance in a token attempt to maintain discipline and to give some useful feedback, but the results tell us that the audience rules the roost. Otherwise Kelly Monaco would be gone instead of Trista, with Evander not far behind.

(Evander Who? Yep, that's Evander Holyfield, past heavyweight boxing champion who has "danced" with Mike Tyson et al. One judge had just finished criticizing Evander's quickstep when another proposed that the first be given 5 weeks of training and then put in the ring with Evander).

Watching this could be intimidating to potential dancers. They have to understand that those routines, at least what I've seen so far, would take the average person many many lessons and much practice to learn. We're talking years at typical rates of study and progress. If you see showy moves, it's because they've had several intensive weeks to prepare with the full attention of top pros, and they know that much of their audience won't bust them on technical stuff like the judges will. (Also, the dancers have the floor to themselves, so "floorcraft" isn't an issue - they don't have to work around the other dancers like at real competitions or social gatherings. That makes life a lot simpler for everyone, especially inexperienced men doing standard dances)

A cynic might say that of course it takes time to learn - dance instructors typically get paid by the hour. To that I can only say "try it", and consider that somebody like Joey MacIntyre, who was the youngest man competing, has been dancing for a long time, and presumably wants to look good, had plenty of trouble working with his quickstep routine.

They don't call it quickstep for nothing - you could call it a faster foxtrot that at times looks like calisthenics for two. The tempo wasn't really brutal, but it was plenty for men who weren't professionals, and many of those beats were split into two steps. Anyway, it's harder than it looks, especially when the pros do it. Anyway, I can't wait to see Evander Holyfield attempt it - he'll literally need to be on his toes.

Meanwhile the ladies are doing rumba, which is the slowest Latin dance. It's supposed to be the most erotic, and it definitely doesn't look right if you look like you're dancing with your sister. That seemed to bother Trista, who basically wanted to clear some of it with her husband first (don't worry, honey, you're not your partner's type).

Stacy's Mom has got it goin' on - Rachel Hunter did well, even with some challenging moves. Trista just wasn't into it enough or maybe she just couldn't relax. Kelly Monaco, an ex Playboy Playmate, had no trouble with heat but needed work on her movement.

Joey MacIntyre was OK. John O'Hurley looked the part and got the highest marks. Evander? Well, he was a fan favorite, but he wasn't exactly lightfooted. Just don't tell him I said that.

If you liked the show you might consider going to a dance competition. I'll write about that in another post.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

A trip to Mars

It's Tuesday night on the north side of Baltimore and I'm bored. This, from an engineer/IT guy who's studied a fair amount of statistics, accounting and economics. I know bored - this is the real thing.

I don't react well to boredom. Bored engineers are especially dangerous, and the results often include property damage. Bored neighborhood kids used to make pipe bombs out of old lawn furniture, match heads and homemade gunpower, and I marvel to this day that we all escaped with all of our eyeballs and fingers. The worst I ever did on my own was a respectable fire that only caused a little smoke damage and a slightly cracked commode before I put it out.

Well, I did have a dance lesson tonight. Some might prefer boredom - welcome to my life. But hey, my Latin dancing is getting more recognizable.
< rant>!@#$@ metric dancing! - of course those contrary furriners don't do it the same way. You might think that Latin (international style) rumba or cha cha cha (sic) would be the same as rhythm (American style) rumba and cha cha, but no, and they morphed east coast swing into something called "jive". And who came up with that leg-crossing limping-looking thing called samba? They start their rumba on the 2nd beat, which is contrary (although rhythm dances like mambo and salsa do it too). Somehow underarm turns became "alemanas", crossovers are "New Yorks", and what amounts to a right side pass becomes a "hockey stick". And there's exactly one standard "syllabus" of steps for each dance for teaching and competitive judging purpose, instead of the multiplicity we have in the US, so as usual when innovation is needed it comes from the Americans.< /rant>

Natasha was my instructor tonight. She's a young (<20?) girl with the kind of figure you can only get from dancing. Like about all the staff at the studio (website here), she is from Minsk, Belarus or thereabouts. And they're all good - the owners, Igor and Polina Pilipenchuk, have been 10-Dance champions. (Sheesh, how'd they wind up in Towson? Don't tell me - they got bored.)

Then it's off to the Guitar Center almost next door. Oh, the toys! Now if only I had some talent. Or at least a repertoire. But I'm not going to buy anything, so once again I'm bored.

Alright, better head for the motel. But I can't go the same way every time, or straight back - let's go up York Road. Yeah, let's check out the famous Best Buy where they had a guy busted for passing $2 bills. The guy at the door assured me that they accept $2 bills now. He asked me if I had any and I said no, I was just looking for trouble. I would have bought some stuff, but the line was so long that I wasn't going to wait even though there was some spectacular eye candy just a couple of places ahead of me in the line. I guess I should have expected the long line - obviously they'd had trouble hiring good help.

Then at last, my trip to Mars. No, nothing in Rand Simberg's turf - if you're familiar with Baltimore you know Mars is a local grocery chain. I had to ask the deli clerk and the checkout lady the worst lines they'd ever heard playing on the store's name, but they didn't have any ideas. Boring. I guess I'd better leave the JayWalking to the professionals.

Across the street was a Bertucci's, which makes terrific but pricy pizzas. While I was waiting for one the other day I told the kid at the counter that they were going to open a strip joint next door and call it "Bare Tushies". He liked the idea, or at least humored me until I left with my pizza.

Actually boredom itself is kind of boring. What I have must be something special, like ennui. I'm ennuied. Or something like that - Dr. Weevil would know.

That's what I need - a blogger get-together like when I was in St. Louis. We even managed to get a couple of us together on a weeknight when Tim Blair stopped in town on his transAmerican tour a couple of years ago. Around here of course there's Dr. W, intrepid investigator Bryan Preston, curmudgeonly and skeptical Rodger Schultz, and probably a few others I don't know about. And we're not too far from DC, where they have people like Michelle Malkin, "Deacon" Mirengoff of PowerLine, La Shawn Barber and the Galley Slaves. Maybe we can arrange something before I'm out of here around mid July.

Alright, this post is long enough. I may still be bored, but at least now I know you are too.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

The EMP Threat

I've been waiting for someone to do a good writeup on this. Read it and weep:
If Osama bin Laden - or the dictators of North Korea or Iran - could destroy America as a twenty-first century society and superpower, would they be tempted to try? Given their track records and stated hostility to the United States, we have to operate on the assumption that they would. That assumption would be especially frightening if this destruction could be accomplished with a single attack involving just one relatively small-yield nuclear weapon - and if the nature of the attack would mean that its perpetrator might not be immediately or easily identified.

Unfortunately, such a scenario is not far-fetched. According to a report issued last summer by a blue-ribbon, Congressionally-mandated commission, a single specialized nuclear weapon delivered to an altitude of a few hundred miles over the United States by a ballistic missile would be "capable of causing catastrophe for the nation." The source of such a cataclysm might be considered the ultimate "weapon of mass destruction" (WMD) - yet it is hardly ever mentioned in the litany of dangerous WMDs we face today. It is known as electromagnetic pulse (EMP).

Read the rest here
Incidentally, in case anyone has forgotten, it's the Democrats who oppose missile defense. Remember that if you ever find yourself sitting in the dark, with a heap of ruined electronics equipment (including your computer), and no idea what happened or when it will be fixed.

Queer behavior

I was talking to a young mother the other day who was disturbed that her children were calling each other "faggot". We traced it back to a 10 year old boy who apparently uses it regularly as a general purpose pejorative.

I know the kid's family, and I've never ever heard them use that word, whether describing sausages, embers or gays. It's not as if it's common on TV or pop music (I don't think I've heard it on the radio at all except for an occasional uncensored version of "Money for Nothing" by Dire Straits). So where did he get that from?

Apparently he got it from his school buddies. I'll grant that things were tamer when I was his age, but I didn't run across that word until I was about 12 or so. Even then I had to look it up in the dictionary - it hadn't occurred to me that there was such a thing as homosexuality.

A few years earlier I had heard a family friend use a certain compound word in a context where he clearly disapproved of someone's behavior, but he didn't say it as if it were profane. Cool - now I had a new name for the kids I couldn't catch if we were playing tag. So I hollered it at the top of my lungs one summer's day before AC was popular, so the people who weren't cooling off outside could hear it through their windows for blocks around.

I was summoned and grilled about this. No, I didn't know what it meant, but it really didn't take much thinking to figure it out. People did that? Well, I guess that's what the girls were doing in those pictures I found, but I thought they were gross.

I learned more as time went on. About the time I learned "faggot" I remember learning a word for a certain sexual practice which kind of revolted and amused me, and I immediately embraced the word as a nickname for a kid named Cornell. But even then it was in a heterosexual context. I could figure out that it could be done to either sex, but that was just in principle - it never occurred to me that men actually did it to each other. (and later I learned that it wasn't even reciprocal. Not that way, ya perv - I mean that there are two roles, and typically the "tops" didn't trade places with the "bottoms". If I'm wrong, well, ignorance has its place.)

Would my education have been better served with information like this? (Nasty Material Alert!) It seems that it's something of a priority to present such, um, educational material in the hands of kids.

Would it have harmed me? I guess it would depend on how much influence my teachers had on me, and whether my parents had found out. I hadn't had any counter-education, so my reactions were my own, and I don't know that I was different from other local kids in that regard.

So I have to wonder if this type of education won't backfire on the proponents.

"Anti-gay hate screechers outwitted, outmaneuvered"

In the Lord of the Rings someone proposed killing Gollum just because. Gandalf replied that he might yet have a role to play. What do you know, he did.

Now we have Fred Phelps's "god hates fags" crowd again, getting ink in MA. These creeps thrive on publicity - why give it to them?

Because the schools are trying to change the subject. They want the media to help them outshout the parents who are outraged that this was available at a gay/lesbian promotion at a MA high school. And of course they're trying to establish equivalence between their opponents and Fred Phelps - if you disagree with them, you must "hate fags".

Hey, don't go thinking that administrators don't attempt to protect kids from stuff they "shouldn't see":Why were they there?
Dracut attracted the hate group's attention after a student wrote an essay about gay talk show host Ellen DeGeneres. Bedford flew a rainbow flag at John Glenn Middle School, and Lexington grabbed headlines when a parent demanded to be notified when his child was taught about gay lifestyles.
Got that? A parent dares to demand notification about what his kid is being taught, and the school system has a problem with it. If that same kid had objected to a cross in the classroom, or acknowledgement of the scientific truth that evolution is properly described as a theory you can bet the coverage would have a different tone.

Oh yeah, some from the sinister side of the blogosphere have been trying the usual stunt of denying that distribution of that black book linked above had actually occurred. Nice try, creeps - check this out. In what is otherwise a rant against groups they don't like, including a reference to Matthew Shepard even, they manage to acknowledge that "a local AIDS Action group brought, and made available, explicit sexual materials that are totally inappropriate for high school students". Yeah, right - his only objection is probably that the books didn't have anything explicit for the lesbians.

Anyway, despite his intentions, Fred Phelps might actually have done some good. Without his groups' presence, there might not have been any publicity at all about this nonsense.

Monday, June 06, 2005


Let's quit pretending that this medicinal mariijuana legalization business is about anything but legalizing pot across the board.

Is it about providing a better product for consumers? I'll believe that when the medicinal marijuana users give up administering pot in a "wild" form and instead submit it to a process to assure consistent dosage consistent with requirements for pharmaceuticals.

Is it about state's rights? Yeah, right - where are you guys when people are talking about Roe v. Wade? There are always plenty of fair-weather federalists. Maybe the Court found a right to be free of pot smokers in some "penumbra" or "emanation" from the Constitution, and were just too stoned to write it down.

I can't get too wound up about pot, or much of anything else in the War on Drugs (especially civil forfeiture laws). I don't know any long-term potheads who are worth a hoot, but then I wouldn't like them any better as drunks either. If someone wants to foul up their life, they'll find a way.

But those who want federalism to be taken seriously didn't have to wait for this decision to start complaining.

Information from Guantanamo Detainees

A discussion of detainees, their skills, training and other things.

Stolen from Ace, who has lots of other good stuff on that post too.

Sunday, June 05, 2005