Friday, July 15, 2005

Last call for Virginia Ball

Yes, the Virginia State Ballroom Championships are going on tonight and tomorrow. You'll see terrific professional dancers and top amateurs live and up close, and during breaks you'll get a shot at the dance floor with live DJ music.

Oh, alright, here's the address - the Hyatt Regency Town Center at 1800 Presidents Street, Reston, VA 20190 near the Dulles airport.

There's not too much else going on in competitive dancesport this weekend or next. But on 7/27/2005 there's the Volunteer State Dancesport Challenge in Nashville, TN. So you have two weeks to plan - get ready for a good show!

Incidentally, one of the best American Smooth couples ever is based in Nashville - Ben and Shalene Archer Ermis (if you see a guy who looks like Roy Rogers dancing with a redhead, it's them). And they teach at the American Ballroom Center in Nashville. If you want to learn from or possibly tour with top pros, you can hardly go wrong with them.

And now I'll try to suck up to Glenn Reynolds because it's been a long time between Instalanches around here. So I'll give you all 8 months of warning before the next Smoky Mountain Dancesport Championships in Knoxville. They haven't posted a date for the next one, but last year's show was in February. Hey, if you start now you'll even have time to learn a few things and maybe even compete there, eh?

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Hero worship

Thomas Sowell can pack more good stuff into one column than anyone I know of.

From above:
Will even the bloody terrorist attacks in London put a stop to the media's hand-wringing because they don't think we have been nice enough to some of the cut-throats who are locked up in Guantanamo? The media have never shown any such interest in how prisoners are treated anywhere else on the island of Cuba, such as in Castro's prisons.
Now try to imagine Castro lying awake wondering "why do they hate me?"
There have always been people without judgment but this is the first era in which being non-judgmental is considered good -- though how anything can be considered good if you are non-judgmental is another puzzle.
Really. Similar logic applies to "tolerance".
The next time someone demands a timetable for the war in Iraq, ask them to name just one war -- anywhere -- that had such a thing.
"Alright, Roosevelt - if you're not in Tokyo in two weeks we're pulling out of the Pacific".
None of the people who said that Saddam Hussein was developing weapons of mass destruction -- and who said it before George W. Bush became President -- is accused of lying. Neither are foreign leaders or foreign intelligence services that said the same thing before or during this administration.
But of course there's nothing *partisan* about this.

Thank you Thomas Sowell, and here's hoping you're good for another 75 years.

The voyeur's guide to ballroom dance competition

They probably wouldn't let me in the ladies' dressing rooms at the dancesport events. No, I haven't tried - not even in the name of that most self-sanctified of all callings - Journalism! But I have a pretty good idea about what I would see anyway (not that that's ever kept me from taking a good look before...).

There'd be women of all ages for pro-am events, but the competitive pros are between about 18 on the low end to about 40 or so on the high end. Latin in particular is very physically demanding, so the women retire fairly young. Then they typically go on to get their own studios and teach, or take students to pro-am competitions, or they become judges or other officials for dance events. They don't have anywhere near the coaching opportunities men do, because the amateur competitors in my experience number around two women for every man.

If you're looking for "diversity" this isn't the place. If you were expecting to see a lot of Latins in the Latin dancing, sorry. Competing is expensive for amateurs, especially on the road. (Even top pros can't make much money consistently - the purses just aren't there.) So if you look into the backgrounds of top amateur dancers you'll find that they are often well compensated professional women and all that that implies demographically. In particular, it seems lily-white - I recall two black male pros from Miami and a woman amateur from DC, but that's about it, and the audience isn't much different in my experience.

Physically the amateurs would be all over the map, with some downright hefty girls competing. Heights ranging from tiny 6 year olds to 6' plus. The pros all seem to be in a range of about 5'2" to 5'10", roughly estimated, and they're buff - the years of training and practice trim and shape them as few other things can. But they still look like women.

Well, some of them want to look more like women. There's falsies, particularly in the standard/smooth where the girls are more covered. For the rest there's Wonderbras, but there's only so much that upholstery can do. The meatier amateurs are often willing to let it all hang out, but I don't recall seeing many pros over a B cup or so. My goddess Charlotte Jorgensen from "Dancing with the Stars" is typical, and that's fine with me.

There would be lots of instant tanning compound. A lot of those dancers are naturally very fair-skinned, and bright lights on the floor make them all but disappear. So you'll see many "tanned" palms and soles, and no doubt some strange looking effects once you get to what the costumes cover. I hear that the stuff is expensive too.

Likewise the makeup is overdone for cameras and lights. They wear enough so that close up they're almost clownlike, but somehow they keep it from running during long energetic dance events. Like in theater and on TV, some of the men wear it too. I can only imagine how hot that must be.

The hair! Good grief, they way most of them do it you'd think it would never move again. It's usually longer than what you see, anyway. It's true that you don't want anyone stepping on it or to have it dragging on the ground (these girls are flexible), nor do you want it used as a weapon, but I think I'd rather have them all wearing helmets than what they do wear. Even the women with short hair plaster it down. Many of them dye it bright colors.

Psst, wanna talk underwear? Well, experience has shown that it's necessary to have some rules what with the short skirts and very flexible women out on the floor. A certain minimum amount of coverage is required in the rules to avoid this. Stockings are found, regular or fishnet, but they don't last long.

As for dresses, the ones for smooth or standard dances(waltz, etc.) are long and snug in the body. They'll come nearly to the floor. There might be a lot of skin showing, or long slits in the skirt, but the dances are more about grace than glamour so there's a practical limit.

The Latin outfits are another thing. Even the men usually wear something open all the way down the front, and the women...well, there's not much there, They use strategically placed transparent straps to hold things together, and I wouldn't be surprised if some used glue in places.

("Wardrobe malfunctions"? You betcha - I've seen a few. Usually it's a heel caught in the hem of a dress, and in an energetic dance like jive they can do this with a very short skirt. I've been told that a top competitor once had a top split right down the front in the middle of a number, but she managed to keep it together long enough to finish and get off the floor. There's no stage, and nowhere to hide - the only way out is through the audience)

Now really, what other blog could offer you such inside dope with a twisted angle? Or would resort to such a lame device to end a post?

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Double standard

The Baltimore City Paper has a big article on solar photovoltaic power. It notes that the stuff is expensive, so only affluent people are installing it.

It also pushes for programs to subsidize installation and operation of solar PV.

IOW they want programs to make it cheaper for affluent people to buy something they'd buy anyway.

Isn't this what lefties like to call "welfare for the rich?"

Armadillos breeding

I'm not kidding. Publishing this probably says something about my own breeding.

The video itself is from a Letterman show, so it's tame enough for TV. But lots of other stuff on the site is NSFW.

Monday, July 11, 2005

Lit Lileks-lookalike launcher

Kim DuToit calls this guy the moron of the year, and it's hard to argue.

Some commenters offered alternate candidates, such as the guys who let fireworks explode in their mouths. The guy with the M-80 lived, the one with the M-100 did not. The pictures are nasty.

I don't know if the commenter's story about the .22 bullet used as a fuse is for real or not, but who cares? - it deserves to be true.

Who should be on the next "Dancing with the Stars"?

Hmm. I have a few suggestions, not all of which are serious. Chelsea Clinton. Monica Lewinsky. Gary Coleman. Kathy Lee Gifford. Al Gore. Keith Olbermann. Ruben Studdard. Ken Jennings. Jenna Jameson. Terrell Owens. The guy who does the "6 Flags" ads. Michael Richards. Tara Reid. Kelly Ripa.

Come on, let's have some suggestions....

Close call

After the final dances by the finalists on DWTS, MC Tom Bergeron was introducing the judging segment with his usual patter.

The final dance for the finalists in DWTS was unique in that it was not restricted to a particular style. I don't know for sure who did the choreography, but presumably it was the professional half of each team. That would have been Charlotte Jorgensen for John O'Hurley and Alec Mazo for Kelly Monaco. As it happened, both dances had included segments where the woman grabbed the man's shoulders, jumped into the air and wrapped her legs tightly around his waist while leaning backwards.

I suppose the true aesthete sees such a positioning as pure Art. As for me, well, there's this thing called a "kneetrembler"...

Tom Bergeron, the co-MC, must have been thinking along similar lines. After the performers had finished and standing before the judges he went into his patter mumbling something about the parts of the show that would be on Pay per View. And just behind him you could see Charlotte Jorgensen swinging her hand at him as if to pop him upside the head.

These women are feisty, I'm telling you. Last week Ashly DelGrosso, Joey MacIntyre's partner, looked like she was about ready to go rounds with the judges when she and Joey were told that what they had done was "not foxtrot". But you don't insult the alligators until after you've crossed the river, and that week they were eliminated.

And the winner is...

Alright, you have two women competing for a job. One of them is fresh from a good college but has no experience. The other is a bit older and has been doing a very similar job for several years but doesn't have the degree. Which one gets hired?

The one with the biggest boobs, of course. (Gimme a break - what do you expect from a feminist joke?)

Justly or not, that's also what happened on "Dancing with the Stars". Kelly Monaco, once picked to be one of the first to go, wound up winning over John O'Hurley and his incredible professional partner Charlotte Jorgensen. Ms. Jorgensen could make anyone look good, including O'Hurley, but in the end he was just too much of a load.

Should O'Hurley have won? Well, I won't call myself a good enough judge for that. The consensus of the pros I've asked who saw it was that O'Hurley should have won. I'll assume that the fact that the input included no straight males had nothing to do with that decision. Anyway, I'd like to see how well he would do in a social setting without a world-class partner to backlead him.

IMO O'Hurley overdid it much of the time though. And his strengths were in the standard rather than the Latin dances - the latter are more telegenic IMO, and Kelly Monaco had the figure for it (oh, did she...there had to be a lust factor here).

Ah, Kelly Monaco. Her strengths weren't technical. She could stretch and spin and could survive some of the more elaborate footwork, but if she winds up dancing professionally it'll be about her presence, not her chops.

Both O'Hurley and Monaco had made tremendous progress in a short time. But men have more to learn to reach a given level of dancing in any case, so O'Hurley started out in the hole. In the minor leagues where I labor, men and women ordinarily don't compete directly for that reason.

Injustice or no, I hear another season will be coming soon.

Nonlethal weapons are lethal

After the recent show of barbarism in the UK I'm not so sure I like this idea. Good grief, after all the silliness about Gitmo, next thing you know our troops in the field won't be permitted to kill anyone either. That might be a great concept for a movie like Terminator 2, but combine that with opposition to the death penalty and we won't be able to eliminate anyone no matter how much of a threat to society they are.

"But we can imprison and rehabilitate these people!" Yeah, right - don't even get me started. We can't execute people, in practice we can't keep them locked up (it's been alleged that the bombers in the UK had recently been released from Gitmo) - the minute technology permits, we won't even be able to kill people who are actively trying to kill us on a battlefield. If the aliens come a la "War of the Worlds", ten minutes later we'll have a lobby crying out for their rights.

Then again, we may not need murder anymore. Just incapacitate someone with one of these weapons while they're doing something dangerous and then let nature take its course. No marks, no other evidence left behind, no way to trace the shooter... And the opportunities for use in terrorism are unbounded.

Our only hope will be if our invaders are fetuses. Then we'll be permitted to dismember them, suck their brains out or otherwise destroy them in any way possible.

{edited for closer resemblance to literate English)

Sunday, July 10, 2005

I'm in the wrong business

A few days ago I watched a dance DVD. A couple was teaching to the lamest, cheesiest $50 Casio organ music I had ever heard. Alright, I know it costs money to license music, but I had no idea just how much of a racket it was.

"Mad Hot Ballroom" is a documentary about a ballroom dance program in NY elementary schools. Of course that means that they used a lot of music, and much of it was expensive. This article tells about it. Consider this:
Stay Free!: There's a scene where a woman's cell phone rings and she has the "Rocky" theme ring tone. I noticed that you even cleared that! I would have thought that could be an example of fair use.

Sewell: I thought so too. It's only six seconds! But our lawyer said we needed to clear it. So I called Sprint, which owns the ring tone master rights, and they gave it to me for free because they saw it as product placement. But then I called EMI, which owns the publishing rights and they asked for $10,000. I said no way--even the classics weren't getting that much. Luckily, we were able to get it for less.

Stay Free!: How much did it cost for the average song?

Sewell: It depends on how many entities are attached to it. Our typical total cost for a classic was about $15,000-20,000, split between publisher and master rights. With the Rocky theme, the publishers didn't want to overexpose the song. That was the issue with Ray Charles' "Hit the Road Jack" as well.

and this
Stay Free!: Were there any scenes you had to cut out of the film because of copyright?

Sewell: When we were down shooting the boys playing foosball, Ronnie yelled out, "Everybody dance now!" Just when I think we've finished the film, someone points out that we have to clear that because it's a "visual vocal cue." So I went back to the publishers, and the first publisher, Spirit, says they'll throw it in with the other things we've cleared if Warner Chappell throws it in. But Warner Chappell said, "Look, we've cut you some nice deals, we can't give this to you." They said this three-second bit would cost $5,000. And since they had Most Favored Nation status it would have raised the cost on similar uses, like the Rocky ring-tone. So I went back to lawyer and said we should keep it in because this should be a poster child for fair use. But he didn't recommend taking on the music industry. Those corporations have too much money for us to play Norma Rae our first time out.
Good grief.

Army recruiting problems

Lately we've been hearing a lot about difficulties in recruiting for the Army. It's nothing new. Check out this, describing how things were in WWII.