Saturday, February 16, 2013

on collaboration and jazz

total rambling here, don't hold me to much, but there was an itch to talk about how relatively disparate ideas connect up in my head.  i don't know anyone playing with the same mishmash of public administration/policy classes and lindy hop background, so blog it is.

i'm not dancing much these days.  i have class on the local dance night, and by the time that gets out it's cold, i'm too tired and hungry to want to bike across town in the dark, and the local group's shifted just enough that it's not really mine right now.  doctoral program = just not up to the minimal level of involvement to make it more fun than chore.  (i'd call myself a shy extrovert, if that helps make sense of the energy balance equation... energy from being around people, but only once i've woven myself into the social fabric a bit.)  might be a while, but i imagine i'll get back to it eventually.

but i've been thinking about dancing.

and more about how dancers get an awful lot done, despite relying a lot on volunteers and flat organizational structures if any and so on.  i do understand that knoxville as it was when i was first learning lindy hop is sort of special -- so many people working with no monetary compensation, wide ownership of the community, a few key players but never the sort of centralized organizing you see most places -- and that i was a teensy bit too late to directly witness how they built that culture.  but it was up and working and amazing (and yes, i still miss it!).

and about how the improvisational elements of jazz bands and lindy hop work.  this jumped off from a comment in one of my textbooks talking about how organizations need to be able to operate to solve 21st century problems, "It could not succeed unless each of those programs supported the overall mission, much as different pieces of an orchestra combine to produce fine music--except that in the case [of complex programs], the orchestra plays without a conductor." (that's Don Kettl, by the way.)  hello, jazz.  well, yes, there are band leaders... but it still seems to me that the level of interdependence and individual player autonomy and the listening skills (even in dance we call it listening more often than watching, i think? because it's part of that back-and-forth lead-and-follow language when there's less full-out imperative, more mutual adjustment)... the skills it takes to make social dancing and improv playing work are really really connected to the stuff we talk about in completely different terms in my classes on org theory and collaboration.  even if it's a metaphorical connection and i haven't figured out AT ALL how to translate the necessary skill set back across.  just a bit of hope... humans can do amazing feats of spontaneous complex coordination and cooperation in music and dance, so why not as governments learning to face big problems?

(off-topic, but i've also been thinking about dancing because i'm playing in the school wind ensemble, BASSOON!  back in that classical setting with right answers and trying to learn to focus on coming in exactly on time... some of this is just lack of confidence from not playing for years, but i have to laugh at how strongly my follower brain really wants to work on the make-the-part-fit-with-the-others part of the puzzle instead of staying with the conductor.  i DO need both here, but there's some retraining work for appropriate relative emphasis and attention.  fun times.)

Thursday, June 16, 2011

8 tracks

i had Ella Fitzgerald's Live at the Savoy version of "Digga Digga Doo" set up as an alarm this morning... the one where she's leading a HOT band, not singing. it got stuck in my head and wouldn't unstick. i wanted to share. i couldn't find it posted up someplace easily share-able.

so i threw another seven tracks onto a playlist on 8tracks.com and posted it to facebook... thought i'd share here too, since it's a pretty good representation of what i've been overplaying lately. not that i've been playing much for dancers... thursday night classes at the university and agreeing to be at the dance at a particular time don't mix all that well.

(meanwhile, i'll be over at yehoodi radio listening to dogpossum's featured set!)

Thursday, January 14, 2010

playlist - 1/14/2010

first set of the year for me... and also following up what was probably my biggest gap in dancing since i started. (most of a month!)

Ya Gotta See Baby Tonight - Louis Prima 146
Do The Hucklebuck - Gunhild Carling And Her Swing Band 150
Mahzel (Means Good Luck) - Benny Goodman 153
Jazz O' Jazz - Adrian Rollini 173
Hallelujah Joe Ain't Preachin' No More - Harlem Hamfats 166
Who Threw The Whiskey In The Well - Lucky Millinder 160
Touch And Go - Wynona Carr 162
Bogg’s Boogie - Spade Cooley 188
Back to Tennessee - Christabel and the Jons 131
Saint James Infirmary - GĂ©rard Messonnier And The Hot Kings 94
Don't Be That Way - Lionel Hampton 140
Bearcat Shuffle - Andy Kirk And His Twelve Clouds Of Joy, Mary Lou Williams 158
East St. Louis Toodle-O - Hot Owls 162
Celery Stalks No. 2 - Will Bradley/Ray McKinley 170
Are You Hep To The Jive? - Cab Calloway 158
In The Mood - Oscar Aleman 175
Sing An Old Fashioned Song (To A Young Sophisticated Lady) - Fats Waller 163
See No Evil Hear No Evil Speak No Evil - Don Redman All Stars 186
Balti Nights In Birmingham - Bob Hunt's Duke Ellington Orchestra 193

i kept the tempos fairly mellow and stuck to a bigger-than-usual of proportion of familiar over unfamiliar. honestly, that was the dancing mood i was in... trying to feel my way back into my feet, not up for any huge challenges... and with exception of a few folks who'd been to lindy focus or glen echo over the holidays, i figured a lot of the group might've been in the same boat. i got one request for "a balboa" towards the end, but mostly the floor seemed pretty down with comfortable.

while i was in tennessee, i borrowed my dad's car to go see a few friends. for whatever reason, when you plug my mp3 player into my dad's car sound system, it plays files in the order they were put on the player. (it took me a while to find all the recently loaded podcasts first-go-round while driving to knoxville.) rollini's "jazz o' jazz" happened to be the track that came up first all the time... and thus got listened to pretty much EVERY time i made a short enough drive not to mess with it. it's been tending to get stuck in my head at random ever since.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

new site

black friday, there was a really nice sale going on at dreamhost, so i bought myself some web space... i'm playing a little with php, and i thought it'd be fun to have someplace.

i wasn't doing much fit for public consumption, so i installed wordpress just to play with that too.

so now there's a blog at kaitmahar.com (i know, the domain name originality is STUNNING)... formatting around it's not so pretty yet, but i'll be playing. since i seem to have a mix of lindy hoppers and not coming by here, and since i now have a gratuitous number of blogs, i think i'm going to keep this one for the lindy and jazz stuff, and move the not-so-lindy to the other. except i'm lazy, so i won't be moving the archives. subscribe to one or both as you like.

Monday, October 26, 2009

big fan

i had no idea exactly how spoiled i was by knoxville's downtown west cinema until i moved -- how many small U.S. cities have an 8-screen theater dedicated to the artsy-indie-foreign films? nonetheless, living less than a mile from the naro here in norfolk is making up for a lot.

it's only one screen, so if you want to see a particular movie you have to mean it... it's probably playing once an evening, and if you wait, even a week, it might not be there anymore. the selections tend to run a bit behind knoxville, which i actually find rather convenient, since i can bug friends for reviews on what upcoming movies will be worth seeing. the theater itself is independent (i.e., no regal or carmike affiliation), it has an old-school balcony and stage to go with that one screen, and they host a lot of special events. the local film critic hosts a summertime series of classic movies, environmental documentaries tend to come with local experts, etc. it's neat.

the series that is quickly growing to be one of my favorite things to do in hampton roads, though, is the firstlook film forum. sunday mornings at 10, show up for brunch, a surprise film that isn't showing in the area yet, and discussion. a few weeks back, i saw the latest francis ford coppola film, tetro... this weekend's selection was big fan, written by a former editor-in-chief for the onion and starring that guy who did remy's voice in ratatouille.

while i've been happy with both selections, if they do choose a bomb, there's ample opportunity to lambast during the discussion. and honestly, the discussion is a lot of what draws me. in college, the tennessee tech honors program had a weekly "mindful movie", attended largely by freshmen who could earn what would've otherwise been work-study credit by being active in honors... idea was to watch a thought-provoking movie and then talk about it. i loved it, kept coming long after i had no need for signed papers proving i'd been there, and eventually chaired the committee that chose movies and moderated discussion for a semester. and i find myself referring to the firstlook film forum as "mindful movies for grownups." except with no feet-draggers who have to be there, just interesting people who like to talk about movies. i'm still feeling a bit too shy to actually ask for one of the microphones and say anything during the discussion -- the old habit of wanting to observe a social milieu for a while before actively participating in it dies hard -- but i find it quite cool.

whereas tetro was a film geek's delight --black and white, with stylized, deliberate lighting that's begging to be analyzed, cinematic references throughout-- big fan is more the sort of thing our old mindful movie committee would've chosen. it takes a "what if" --what if a hardcore football fan were beaten up by his favorite player?-- and runs with it. and by creating what are fairly believable characters and taking them through this plot, by finding a rather nice balance between the funny-sad extreme situation and the uncomfortably close to us (one lady who'd laughed more than most of the audience later explained that it was because the main character's family reminded her of her own... and the sports talk radio mini-celebrities seem a lot closer to home if i think about the lindy community for a couple seconds...), the film opens up all kinds of discussions about identity, violence, celebrity, society in general. it didn't come up in the discussion, but i found my mind wandering to the recent re-controversy over the roman polanski rape case, lest film fans get too superior about relegating celebrity criminals and troubled public reactions to the sports world. it's definitely a movie for a broader audience than those who'd normally flock to "sports" genre pics.

(and... i started writing this on monday, got sidetracked, and it's lunchbreak on thursday. time to hit post whether it's ready for primetime or not.)

Monday, September 28, 2009

how i wound up with two bicycles

a few wednesdays back, i woke up. i did all the usual pre-out-the-door stuff, then went out to the porch to grab my bike.

er, except no bike. just a gaping expanse of porch. with one of the pickets, the one i'd chained my bicycle to, dislocated. (i originally thought it'd been cut... on later inspection, it was more like bent.)

in shock, i called in late to work and started walking. didn't think about stopping to change to comfier shoes... thus winding up with blisters, 4 days before my half marathon. the bicycle thief not only gets blamed for the bike itself, he or she made me EVEN SLOWER that i would've been.

i called in a police report. not because i expected it to have any results -- i'm aware that the norfolk police have other priorities -- but it somehow made me feel better.

i love walking, but not when it means getting up earlier. or being exposed to more rain. life as a non-bicycle-owner just wasn't going to cut it anymore. i started shopping.

while i read craigslist non-stop in hopes of finding my bike or a relatively similar one for a good price, i started visiting the local bicycle shops. i fell in love with a giant hybrid bike that was way out of my price-range. i tried out nearly everything else they had in my size. i dragged jesse down to the performance bike shop in virginia beach and made laps around their store. playing on all the hybrids, i decided that i really like the feel of the ones that are on the road bike end of the spectrum. if/when i can afford a bike for fun, and when i can afford to take my time finding a good deal, i think maybe i will buy a road bike.

but for getting back and forth to work and groceries and errands? need utility bike.

i wound up with a dahon speed d7 from the local bike shop. it folds. it fits under my desk and/or in the corner of the living room, so i don't have to worry about its continuing existence in the spot where i left it. it's cute. it's zippier than my dear old schwinn, and super-easy to carry. it's hopefully sturdy enough to deal with my daily commute for a long time to come. i haven't figured out a big luggage solution that lets it still fold yet (folding pannier baskets are an option, maybe?), but on weekends i've been attaching a file crate to the back rack to haul things around. here it is, posing on the way to the recycling center:
recycling

one week after buying the dahon, a week and a half after the disappearance, my schwinn world tourist came back. we got home from one of the dirt cheap blues dances in the early-sunday-morning hours, and there it was -- propped up against the stop sign across the street.

unfortunately, no narrative note left with it, and the bike won't tell me where it's been, so guesses about the disappearing/reappearing act are all we've got. kid whose mom finally noticed and made him or her bring it back? homeless person who "traded it" for a more legit charity bike? bicycling criminal at large just happened to be picked up across the street from the site of the bike theft? (one of our houseguests DID report seeing some police lights over there earlier in the night.) who knows.

the schwinn came back a little worse for wear -- it'd obviously slept outside in the rain for a few nights and had a new clunking sound from the front wheel, and the computer, U-lock, and crate were gone... so now it's spent a while upside down in the living room. the amount of whining i put on while it was gone convinced me that i do, in fact, like THAT bike, so i've finally invested more than i paid for the bike itself for a new set of tires. last night's adventures led to completely exploding one new tube before figuring out how to more-or-less solidly get new tire and tube securely on the rim. bike wheel technology has apparently updated a bit in the last 25 years, and modern tires aren't all that comfortable with classic smooth-bead rims. i decided to stop after the front one so i can give it a little test ride and see if it's really ok before replacing the other...

so yeah. two bicycles. and i guess figuring out bicycle maintenance just might be my newest hobby.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

august-september - the organized overview

once again, it's been long enough since posting here that i can't figure out how to attack. so here's the quick, organized, chronological version of things since the last time i wrote here, with memory supplemented by google calendar and twitter feed:
  • camp hollywood in l.a.
  • development of obsession with farmer's market and random food experiments
  • entering the heart of hurricane season, which is thus far mild but still features enough flooding for a little adventure and further development of my heavy rain phobia
  • international lindy hop championships in d.c.
  • bike stolen
  • half marathon survived
  • new folding bike!
upcoming excitement:
  • dirt cheap blues (ok, so i'm not much into blues and therefore not that excited, but i am looking forward to seeing people and need to clean up the apartment TONIGHT so we can host, so i'd better work on the enthusiasm.)
  • jesse gets 2 weeks off for minor surgery?
  • new phone - what should i choose?
  • CSA subscription starts!
  • further adventures to NYC on the chinatown bus
and on to the omnidirectional rambling. maybe. (and maybe i should split it up into a few posts.)