Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Standing on my own 2 feet (at last !)

6 weeks non-weight bearing.

That was the prescription given to allow my repaired meniscus time to heal up.

I scribbled a calendar onto my board and marked off the non-weight bearing days as they went by counting down from week 6(+) to week zero. Lots of red check marks.

Now, finally after nearly 2 months of standing around on my left leg, I've got the go ahead to start putting weight onto my right.

Baby steps at first.

Partial-weight bearing walking with 2 crutches.
Scheduled time throughout the day standing and shifting partial weight on and off of the leg to get all the tissues and bones used to the stresses of use again so as to begin rebuilding themselves accordingly.

It's good to be back on 2 feet !

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Maria Tallchief

I was looking around for DVDs of Ballerina Maria Tallchief. For someone that I'd heard so much about I was surprised that I only found 1 DVD devote to her: an anthology of NBC and Radio-Canada performances. Well OK, I'll take whatever I can get.

Beautiful artistry, that's what it is.

In the performance of 'Les Sylphides' (B&W photo above), the nuances of the music are breathed into the performance. Also striking to me was how the quality and size of the movements matched up with the changing dynamics (loud/soft) of the music. I've not seen that so brought out until now.

With a few exceptions, changing of dynamics/tempo is something that most popular music does not have. If you want a change of mood, you play a different song. Only in classical-based music are there shifts of mood/tempo/dyamic and that adds a another dimension that can be expressed in a dance choreographed for the piece.
So the dance can change from lilting and delicate one moment to forceful and sharp the next. She does it all with refined artistry.

If anyone knows of any more DVDs of her, let me know !

voice of dance page on Maria Tallchief with video (at the time of this writing)

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Out with the OLD and In with the NEW

The surgeon gave me a set of pictures taken during my ACL reconstruction and Meniscus repair.
While these procedures are well known, proven and 'nothing new', it's always more interesting when it's ones own knee that's being looked at.

The first picture shows my old torn ACL which has literally been hanging around and doing nothing for a decade, it was removed.

The second picture shows the guide wire that was used to thread the donor ACL graft into place. Holes were drilled in my upper and lower leg bones to allow the replacement ACL to be drawn into place by pulling on the attached guide wire. The replacement ACL was then screwed into place with the amount of tension that is required for it to perform it's binding function.

The third picture shows the new ACL graft in place. It's the fuzzy white blob in the middle. As the graft doesn't arrive until shortly before surgery, I requested of the surgeon that he abort the surgery in the 1/1000000 chance that the donor graft looks deficient in any way. After the operation he told me that the graft looked good and was 9mm in width (mmm.. slightly more than 1/3 of an inch).

The fourth picture shows the meniscus repair. The edges of the torn meniscus were roughed up to make them bleed which stimulates the growth of repair tissue. The surgeon stapled the ends together to hold them in place and the body will do the rest. There's a 90% chance that the repair will take and that I will emerge from my 5 more weeks of crutch-encrusted life with a whole, complete meniscus.

I'm really looking forward to a future with a strong and healthy knee !

Thursday, November 12, 2009

My Last Stand

For a while...

I reported to the Hospital at 6am this morning for ACL reconstruction surgery on my knee (thanks Sis and Mom for getting up so early to shuttle me over !).

10 years ago I completely tore the ACL (ligament) out of my right knee during my fight at a full-contact martial arts tournament. I had gotten knocked back and fell backwards onto my knee 'the wrong way'. My corner man had kept urging me to 'go for the kill' as I had stunned my opponent numerous times with strong but nearly undetectable body blows which left him completely open and defenseless against any quick followup attack. I found out in the ring that I had no desire to beat down a helpless person for sport (it would be a completely different story in cases of real combat or legitimate self-defense, of course !). So, I hobbled out of that match gaining some self-knowlege but losing an ACL.

Barring a few minor mishaps, the torn ACL had not been an issue until I took up dancing 3 years ago. Through all my dance training and classes, when I would start to advance to the next levels of technique my knee would have trouble handling leaps, jumps and general hopping off the floor (well, the landing parts of said manuvers anyway). I would get swelling and painful knees and have to take a break to recover. Finally, having been through numerous of these hop-injure-recover cycles, the time has come to finally have the ACL reconstructed, especially before it leads to more serious injuries: cartiledge damage and arthritis (which a torn ACL will eventually lead to dancing or no dancing).

There are a number of techniques for reconstructing the ACL. All of them involve attaching ligament material to the leg bones where the torn ACL was. Some of the methods involve taking the ligament material from yourself (patellar tendon or hamstring tendon) and another involves using a ligament taken from a deceased donor. I've opted for the 'Frankenstein' donor method. Miraculously after the foriegn donor graft is 'accepted' by the body (there is only a slight chance of rejection), the body begins to grow blood vessels into the graft and accepts it as it's own !
The long post-surgery recovery time (6-9 months) is required to regrow the drilled out bone material (holes required to able to thread and secure the new graft into the bones) and for assimilation of the donor graft..

It will be nice to able to hop about on an uncompromised (well, less compromised) knee after the recovery is complete !

Update: 16:20 I just got off the phone with the surgeon. Looks like I've gotten a bonus Meniscus repair in the back of the knee.. 6 weeks on crutches while it heals ! I need to see about getting a handicap permit !

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Stuntman the 'Thelonious Monk' of BBoying

Rarely within established styles of artistic expression do we come across an individual with a developed style that is truly unique and is also at the top of the 'expression' game.

In the 'classic Jazz' realm, Thelonious Monk was one of those artists. His style was 'off-beat', totally unique and supremely expressive. I don't think I've yet run across another pianist that plays like he did.

Similarly, in the BBoy 'Breakdancing' world I've noted the unique dancing style of 'Stuntman' with 'Originality Stands Alone'. Over the years, 'Breakdancing' has come to have a staple of 'classical movements': Headspins, Air Flares (legs in the air spread out a stretch and spinning like a helicopter blade), etc. Often watching Breakdance contests can be like witnessing a gymnastic or ice skating competition, there are a number of well known moves and you judge their execution (and because this is dancing, also on their musicality): OK, here's the Air Flare, now a Headspin, Oh wait, that 6-step seems to be rushing ahead of the beat. 'Stuntman' on the other hand has a completely unique style that doesn't really utilize much of the repertoire of 'standard' moves, but still fits within the boundaries of the BBoy style. I really like it. It's imaginative and it's highly expressive. It takes a complete disregard for convention to show up
at a BBoy contest and dance like no other dancers do, judges be damned. Kind of like Thelonious Monk was when he played the piano and made music in his own unique way.

YouTube: Stuntman, Originality Stands Alone vs Hound Dawg Truckers

Stuntman @0:00 @3:04

Monday, October 26, 2009

Dancing is for the Birdz

It was great a weekend of dance artistry for me. Saturday night I joined some co-conspirators and enjoyed a spectacular performance at Yerba Buena Center by

Alonzo King's Lines Ballet

I have to admit that for me the overall style took some adjusting to on my part, but once that was done I was thoroughly engaged. I can add nothing in words about the experience, it has to be seen in person for full effect !

On Sunday afternoon I played videographer for

Kathy Mata Ballet

to capture the performance put on for the residents at the Sequioa's Senior Center in San Francisco. It was a pleasant couple of hours of serious and playful Ballet, Mambo, HipHop, Belly Dance and a great piano vocal duo Jack and Adele performing favorite standards and hits (e.g. 'I've got you under my skin')

Over the years I've wondered what it is that drives people to make music and to dance. Every culture (except for those espoused by the likes of the Taliban whom advocate the abolishment of music and dance) has their form of music and dance all commonly bound by concepts of rhythm and melody (and where there's absence of rhythm or melody, usually it's that way on purpose to make a statement about rhythm or melody, as in: 'hey, guess what's NOT here ?'). One of my favorite 90's music videos is by the B-52s and features clips of people from various cultures doing their dances (you might be able to find 'B52s Roam' on YouTube subject to the whims of the controlling Music Industry Dinosaurs).

Back when people bought music by walking into stores and sampling CDs, I remember watching a group of IQ challenged students come in to listen to some CDs. Regardless of differences in the brain from 'persons of normal IQ', they definitely felt and enjoyed the rhythm of what they were listening to and were happily rocking their bodies to the beat. Clearly, there's something innate in humans that allows us to create music and dance.

It turns out that this ability may be broader than something common to human kind though. Some researchers conjecture that dance may be something common to all earthly beings that have the ability to speak. Speaking requires the articulation of particular body parts at the correct time, the theory goes, and this ability to coordinate these actions to create speech implies the existence of a sense of rhythm. Included in the beings so blessed are talking birds, as reported in this

2008 NYT article: Avian Dancing

The article refers to videos of 'Snowball' a dancing bird. To test that Snowball was not bobbing and stepping in time with the music 'by coincidence' the researcher varied the tempo of the music and found that Snowbird adjusted his movements to whatever the tempo of the music was. Yes, that bird was dancing !

Video of Snowbird Doing It

So Dancing is for Birds, and I'm loving every minute of it !

Monday, October 12, 2009

DanceWright Night Delights

I went to see a concert put on by the SF DanceWright Project at Dance Mission Theatre in SF.

The DanceWright Project

It was a marvelous evening featuring 4 companies:
Labayen Dance/SF
Kat Worthington and Dancers

All but DAC PAC performed premiere works that evening and the air was especially electric with the freshness of the new works being presented to the packed house.

I was particularly stunned by the performance of DAC PAC.

DAC PAC were amazing. Aside from the flexibility and energy that one might expect from young (pre-18 year old) dancers, the real surprise was the level of ensemble work. When the choreography called for homogeneous group movement, I don't think I've ever witnessed a group that has performed more tightly. Everyone was exactly on beat, even when falling to the floor (which yielded a satisfying unified 'whump'). When arms moved, they all moved at the same time and AT THE SAME PLACES. Even the smallest movements the hands and fingers were in sync. The effect of this was to feel a powerful wave effect from the group, like a school of swimming fish suddenly changing direction. If any member had been off in time or space, this effect would be diminished. It was not. And the effect was maintained and not diminished for the length of the entire piece.


I highly recommend catching DAC PAC when you can !

Monday, September 28, 2009

Lazy San Francisco Sunday

It was a beautiful, sunny and warm Sunday in San Francisco.
The day started off with some time at a cafe doing a little bit of work that needed to get finished. At one point I looked out the window and noticed 2 cyclists taking a break outside the window. I used to be quite the avid road bicyclist myself but I'm apparently of the old school. When we took breaks back in the day, we'd stand around, drink water and talk to each other. I notice here that when the new cyclists take a break, rather than go for the water, out come the phones so that they can separately communicate with persons not physically present. How times have changed.

It's time to go to afternoon Ballet class downtown. As I'm packing up to go, I notice that someone has hung an inflatable blue octopus outside their window. Nice surprise.

Ballet class over, I'm to meet up with some dancers at a cafe to plan a rehearsal schedule for a group dance piece that I'll be performing in at a charity dance concert in November. As I pulled up to the cafe, I saw that the mural on the outside of the cafe wall looked like the perfect backdrop to absorb the bike.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Michael Jackson: Live in Japan 1985

After getting the Michael Jackson live in Bucharest (1992) DVD

Michael Jackson Live in Bucharest

I was happy to see this Michael Jackson Live in Japan Tour DVD at my local video rental store (yes, I physically go to a locally owned video store where they have people who know me and recommend good movies from their own experience (not from inferences made by computerized data mining and correlation)).

I rented it and had a look.

Wow, what a difference 7 years makes when comparing this 1985 performance to the 1992 Bucharest show.

The younger Michael is far more energetic. Where one move was done in 1992, in 1985 he does 3 or 4. Where one spin was done in 1992, he does 3. The body movements have more articulated parts moving around, his balance on one foot is more precise and the 'moonwalk' is comparatively smoother with no uneveness...

In contrast to Michael's more catchy dancing in 1985, guitarist Jennifer Batten's hair was a lot more tame in the 1985 show as compared to gloriously expansive puff that it was in 1992. Well, win some, lose some..

The video quality is not great, but seeing MJ perform like that supercedes any disappointment that was felt over the fuzzy picture !

Monday, September 14, 2009

Craigslist is destroying Democracy


Quite a shocking thing to assert, but there's some sound reasoning behind this idea.
I was listening to the latest podcast of 'StackOverflow' by Joel Spolsky and Jeff Atwood.

This series of podcasts began as Joel and Jeff began documenting their adventures in setting up the great

website in which software programmers and pose questions to and get help from other programmers. The premise of talking about the stackoverflow website serves as a springboard for discussions about all manner of things software and software industry related.

So in this podcast

podcast #67

Joel reasons that a functioning democracy requires an informed public. When government's business is not open for inspection, it is easier for a government to no longer be accountable to those that they are supposed to be serving (in a democracy anyway).

That said one of the effects of craiglist is to take away revenue that newspapers used to get from classified advertisements. This classified ad revenue subsidized the work of investigative reporters. With newspapers dying off because of the loss of this revenue, the function of the investigative reporter is being lost and is not being replaced (tweeting and general blogging is not investigative journalism). Without an informed citizenry, democracy cannot function.

It's a bit of a reach, but I think there's some merit to this idea.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Holiday Getaway and a Death Knell

I loaded up my trusty Triumph and got out of town for a holiday weekend overnight.
So that I would miss the heavy return traffic on the last day of the holiday weekend, I timed my return to take place on the day after.

I stopped for a snack at a gas station and noticed the local newspaper headline. It shouted loudly to me the death knell of the daily paper. The right hand panel read:

"Bridge won't reopen today"

referring to the San Francisco Oakland Bay Bridge work that closed down the bridge over the weekend. Of course this headline was completely WRONG. The Bridge DID indeed reopen that day. In all fairness to the paper editors, it probably was true that at the time that the paper was being composed, it looked like the bridge would not reopen, so they went ahead and printed that story. Once printed and distributed, you can't change or easily callback all the papers. This shortcoming will be the death of the daily newspaper. Situations can change too quickly for the 12 hour (or whatever it is) printed newspaper issuance cycle. Anyone that heard local news on broadcast television or read an on-line news source got the 'true' story: The Bridge DID reopen that day. The newspaper was wrong.

This isn't to say that the printed newspaper is dead though. I still have a subscription to the Sunday New York Times. I don't subscribe to it for the main news section, I subscribe for the Business, Arts and Books sections and for the weekly 'magazine'. The editors of those sections consistently choose topics that I both find interesting and might not go out of my way to look for. That's the true value of a paper to me, the editor's who are on the lookout where I usually don't explore (no 'wisdom of the crowd' concept applies here).
So despite the rising subscription rates for a paper that's getting thinner every month, I look forward to getting it on Sunday mornings. I hope the death of the daily newspaper doesn't sink the Sunday editions.. what would I do then ? sigh...

Monday, September 7, 2009

Michael Jackson 'Dangerous' Tour

I just got the DVD of Michael Jackson's 1992 'Dangerous' tour live in Bucharest.
I've been trying to track down a recording of an NBC TV special that he did sometime in the late 1980's early 1990's but have not been able to find one yet so this 'Dangerous' DVD will do for now.

It's pretty phenomenal. All aspects of his personal life aside, and though he did not invent a lot of the pop-lock influence dance moves that he does, he is an electrifying performer and this recording captures that. The atmosphere in Bucharest for the show may have been heightened even more as this show took place less than 3 years after the fall of the Ceausescu. There were probably a lot of pent up feelings to let loose in the audience that night and some of them were indeed going nuts out there.

One aspect of his show that I appreciate a lot is the judicious use of stillness and long pauses at appropriate moments. In my few years of looking at and considering dance choreography so far, I've come to notice 2 major "don't"s:

1. Don't do the same basic types of movement through an entire piece. Changes in theme
or pace are needed to complement each other.
I especially see this "don't" in some HipHop pieces that come off as one long unending
series of 'the same' gesticulations and my mind begins to wander off mid-piece.

2. Don't repeat the same movement more than 2 times in a row. Though sometimes you
can get away with 3 times in a row, usually by the 3rd time of repeating it, the mind starts
saying 'yeah, been there already !'.

It was noticeable in this DVD that Michael had a only a handful of basic 'bread and butter'
moves but he uses them effectively to convey the feeling of rhythm or flowing. He makes judicious use of short and long still pauses and never makes the 'too many repetitions in a row' mistake so his dancing never gets tiring to look at.

I was also happy to see that killer guitarist Jennifer Batten got a few spotlights on stage. She's a great guitarist. There's a clip of her playing 'Flight of the BumbleBee' out there somewhere that shows great virtuosity on her instrument.. Getting to see her playing on stage is an extra plus.

A highly recommended DVD for Jackson and/or Dance fans !

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Electricity != Electrons

I first heard it about a decade ago on a local TV news broadcast story about an increase in Electric Utility rates:

"Soon you'll be paying even more to get those electrons"

The idea behind this statement being:
Electricity = Electrons, therefore when we pay for Electricity we are paying for the Utility company to reach into it's bag and hand us more electrons.

It's too bad that it's the wrong concept and is just not true.
I chalked up that incident to general ignorance of the TV news staff (nothing uncommon here, I remember the same staff reporting once that they were amazed to discover that "The radar guns that the Police use emit some kind of a wave !").

Time forward to this last weekend.
I was listening to an NPR podcast and heard it again:
"Paying for Electricity means paying to get Electrons"



In direct current (DC) such as what we get out of a battery, there is a one way electron flow that corresponds to the electric energy that we get from the battery.

But in our houses we get alternating current (AC), alternating meaning that the polarity of the 'electricity' in the 2 poles of the plug is constantly switching back and forth from positive to negative (many times a second). So actually, rather then moving in just one direction, the Electrons are constantly moving back and forth in the wires. We're not paying to 'get' electrons, we're actually paying for the energy that's related to the electrons constantly being 'given and taken back'.

While electrodynamics is a complex specialty subject that one could make an entire career out of, I think they taught us these basic ideas about AC current in the 3rd grade. They also taught us about the concept of the Electromagnetic Spectrum in the 3rd grade as well (Radar is a wave !).

What's with education these days ?

Saturday, August 22, 2009

iPod Video screen replacement

Last week I broke the video screen on my iPod.
While I could just barely make out the wording on the Menus, watching any kind of video was out of the question.

Time to install a replacement screen.
I ordered one @ $25 installation tools included. Such a deal (I think).

All went smoothly:
Open the case
Remove the hard drive
Separate the cast metal chassis from the plastic front face
Replace the broken screen with the new one.
Video viewing now available again

20 minutes start to finish !

Psycho Donuts

I went down to Psycho Donuts today to check out the concept. The clerks are outfitted in hospital dress and the walls have illuminated pictures of injury X-rays on them. Fun idea. There are some pretty wacky donuts like their 'Mood Swing' donut. It's one half chocolate with nuts and one half chocolate with Coconut flakes. Bipolar indeed. I opted for a 'Head Trauma' bleeding jelly donut and a more conventional 'Apricot Jam' which is an Apricot Fritter, mmmmm....

The place was packed and noisy, not your usual muted donut shop atmosphere.

I generally dislike stereotyping and stereotypes. Stereotyping bespeaks of simultaneous laziness of perception and laziness of reason, but damn if there wasn't a Police Cruiser parked right outside the donut shop ! sigh....

psycho donuts

Saturday, August 8, 2009

And now, the PDF revolution..

'Personal Dance Floor', a dance surface at home, that is...

I'll try to put this in context by describing its meaning in terms of another Personal Revolution: The Personal Computer Revolution.

Anyone that was interested in computer programming in the mid-70s and before had a problem to overcome: access to a computer. If one was associated with a University computer dept or worked at a business as a programmer you were set. All others were left to their own devices (or lack of their own device). In my case, I managed to get time on a small business mini-computer on (I think it was) Tuesday and Thursday nights after 9pm. So I would arrange my life to make the most of the few hours a week that I had access to the computer. Even then my options were limited. Being a business oriented computer the only high level language that was available was a limited business oriented interpreted language, not the best thing in the world. Happily, the machines were built on 8080 processors, so I could also write programs in the 8080 Assembler language. Needless to say, with only a handful of hours a week available, progress was slow. With the advent of the personal computer and with modern advances to date, that whole problem of access to computing power for personal use is now solved.

There's nothing like the give of a 'sprung' floor for dancing on. The floor feels alive and absorbs harsh impact giving some protection to the lower joints. Not many can afford to have a room built and dedicated for this purpose in their house or apt. So one alternative is to rent time in a dance studio for practice, or to clear out a part of the house and be careful of impact and resistance (this is what I've been doing so far). I've just gotten a 'portable' sprung wooden 6ft x 6ft dance floor and installed it in my study room. Very nice. The floor comes in panels that are machined to be easily fitted together via a set of spring clips. It's quickly assembled and if necessary can be quickly disassembled. Instant 'Personal Dance Floor'. The problem of access to a dance floor for individual practice is now solved.

I'm happy that my study room now houses both the 'Personal Computer' and 'Personal Dance Floor'.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Back to Civilization

It's good to be home again.
I went to Ballet class today feeling a little rusty after basically being off my feet and sitting on a motorcycle for the last 3 days. The classes I take are for beginners, and I'm struggling mightily to earn the title 'beginner'. As fate would have it, today a highly accomplished world class ballerina dropped in to take our class. Maria Kochetkova trained with the Russian Bolshoi and is currently a principal with the San Francisco Ballet:

Maria Kotchetkova Blog

Not that even in my best form would I be anything to sing about, but it was a little deflating being rustier than usual on the pirouettes and arabesques while being in the presence of a dancing star, sigh. It was really great to watch her matter of factly doing fantastic things up close and personal like :-)

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Homeward Bound

I caught sight of someone taking their classic Ford out for a July 4th spin. Only managed to get the front half of the car in my action shot but take my word for it though, the rear half the car matched the style of the front half exactly !

Next shot: No trip down US 101 south of Eureka is complete without rolling through the 'Avenue of the Giants'. One interesting bit about Redwood trees is that their roots are very shallow. The roots of the trees in a stand are intertwined so that as group the trees are holding each other up. United we stand, indeed.

My trip read is the autobiography of Kate Adie the BBC news correspondent. I had heard so many BBC broadcasts that opened with "Presented by Kate Adie" that I became curious about who she was. A pioneering BBC broadcast journalist, she had to start off being handed 'female appropriate' 'Homemaking' assignments. Her mettle in handling more 'serious' topics became apparent over time and it's telling that the photo on the cover of her autobiography 'The Kindness of Strangers' shows her in war correspondent battle dress complete with her blood type written in big letters on the front of a shoulder strap (!). The account of her pioneering days in getting new BBC programming off the ground reads with a great sense of perspective and humor and takes us along into a world where the paths to the attainment of goals are fraught with setbacks and detours, but a steadfast eye on the ultimate destination along with an uncanny ability to 'wing-it' can lead to surprising results (or spectacular failures !). A very good read so far. 1/2 left to go. Highly recommended !

Friday, July 3, 2009

Brrrr.. No C-C-C-Coos Bay to-d-d-daaay

It was a cold, foggy and overcast day today along the California and Oregon coasts. A bit adverse to making it up to Coos Bay and having time to wander around at an appropriately leisurely pace. So I wandered around the coast not quite so north as I had originally planned. There were a lot of other people on motorcycles going up and down this beautiful coastline today, um, 99% of them with windshields so appropriate for the weather.. Speaking of the weather, I learned today that the weather conditions in the areas that I ranged over are uniquely suited to the cultivation of very good Easter Lily Bulbs. That thought made my day, actually...

Thursday, July 2, 2009

3 day chopper getaway

I looked at my calendar and noticed that I hadn't taken any vacation time since last Sept. Well, we need to remedy that ! So I'm off for 3 days heading north to Oregon. I'd like to swing by Coos Bay, OR. I was last in Coos Bay in 1978 visiting my sister who lived there at the time. That visit was my first close contact with small town life. My sister's friends thought that I was a complete paranoid freak from the city constantly insisting on locking things (like vehicles) anytime we were leaving them. This was a town where no one bothered to lock the doors to their houses when no one was at home. It's a likely bet that things are a little different now, 30 years later.
On this trip I'm taking my Honda Fury, a bike not suited to making this kind of journey. There's no real luggage capacity, the seat is skimpy and hard and there's no wind protection. I've done many motorcycle miles on bikes with at least a minimal windscreen which makes it possible to do many miles at high speed per day. So this time it will be fewer miles at slower speeds. All the better notice more with not a chance of getting a speeding ticket. While on the open highway I caught up on a lot of my favorite podcasts: Culture, News, Technology and History from BBC, Deutsche Welle, PRI, Radio Australia, Radio Romania, Radio Austria, Radio Japan and NPR. It's a relaxing luxury to be able to listen to the queued up casts serially and completely.
One of the action shots shown was taken while passing a vineyard. It's sobering to think that 90 years ago or so, making wine would be illegal. Times change.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Little Humpbacked Horse

This is a great DVD of the Russian Ballet:

The Little Humpbacked Horse

The primary role of the Queen-Maiden is danced by Maya Plisetskaya. The music is a refreshing score written in the '50s so it's not so heavily formal as classical music in the 18th or even 19th centuries tended to be. The composer Rodion Shchedrin is Plisetskaya's husband (what a life they must have together !).
The story is based on a Russian Folktale and features a pure, guileless proletarian hero and a bumbling, inept aristocracy. Just the thing for a politically correct '50s era Soviet production. Thankfully, the ballet is un-political and utterly delightful with such novelties as:
a dancing horse (the cute heroine Humpedback Horse),
dancing jellyfish !
dancing anemonies !

Plisetskaya shines in the role of the Maiden-Queen. She, like all great artists, has marvelous technique, but is able to transcend the physical to give us something that we get lost in as we are drawn to it.

Filmed in 1961, the DVD simulates the experience of going to the Ballet in Soviet Russia: starting with reading the performance announcement in the paper, going to the theatre, watching the ballet acts and wandering around the foyer during the intermissions and finishing with the curtain calls...

Nice and recommended !

from Video Artists International:

Monday, June 8, 2009

2 weeks of Fury

Well, I've had this Honda Fury for 2 weeks now and it has been a phenomenal experience. I don't think that the marketeers at Honda in their wildest dreams could have imagined the reception that this machine is getting with the casual public. At practically every location that I park this bike at people are drawn to look at it and more than a small percentage of them want to talk about it. The casual public that I'm referring to isn't restricted to 'motorcycle enthusiasts', the appearance of the bike has touched the psyche of the non-motorcycling public as well. Perhaps the recent spate of 'chopper builder reality shows' has seeded minds with this aesthetic, I don't know, but the effects aesthetic recognition are there.
I have been a long time custom bike chopper fan, but the cost of obtaining one was always beyond what I am willing to pay.. a price of $30 to $40,000 or more is just too much for me to even contemplate. The idea of fabricating one myself holds a lot of appeal, but I don't imagine having the time to engage in a project like that till after I retire (if that ever happens !)..

So, along comes Honda who have decided to produce one. They wisely hired a team of AMERICAN designers who understand the genre very well and let them call the shots when it came to specifying the bike's style. Honda have proceeded to manufacture a mass production 'chopper' at a mass production price that I was willing to pay.

They've hit the mark dead center and as a result people just aren't leaving me alone when I park the thing.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Harley-Davidson product of Globalization

It's a bit paradoxical. To a good percentage of motorcycle enthusiasts Harley-Davidson is the ultimate symbol of the American bike. To people who aren't into motorcycles (and to some people who are), the passion that some express towards Harley-Davidson motorcycles to the exclusion of other brands (and especially to the exclusion of Japanese brands) is puzzling, I mean, I might prefer Coke to Pepsi but I don't look down on Pepsi drinkers and I *surely* would not tattoo the Coke logo on my arm, but such are the extremes to which some people feel.
The paradox of the 'American-ness' of the Harley brand vs. what it is in 'cold steel (and aluminum and plastic) reality' shows itself most readily when one has to service the brakes of, say, the popular Softail model.

To remove the front brakes and brake pads for servicing requires that one use a metric (re: foreign) 10 mm wrench AND an American 1/4 inch wrench. The need for using 2 sets of tools working in 2 different measurement standards is because the brake body is from an American company whereas the fork leg that the brake body is mounted on is from a Japanese company (and for all we know the fork leg could have been manufactured in Thailand or something).

If that isn't symbolic of globalization, I don't know what is !

Thursday, April 16, 2009

pre-Torn and pre-Worn

It all started in the 80's, I think.

After the movie 'Flashdance' became wildly popular, loose tops with rips at the seams began appearing on the apparel floors in Women's Clothing Departments. If one wanted to emulate the 'Flashdance' look, but couldn't trust themselves to tear up their clothing 'just right', you could just go in and buy a brand new top already ripped for you fresh from the factory.

A decade or so later, I think, came the phenomenon of new 'stressed' jeans, new jeans that one can buy in the store that look like they've been worn for a couple of years. No need to hunt for a used pair at the local Goodwill store when you can just pay up and walk out with a worn looking pair jeans that fits just right.

Now, the other day I got a music instrument catalogue in the mailbox. Right on the cover (see photo), you can buy a brand new Fender guitar or bass that comes from the factory with a finish called 'Road Worn'. The from the factory guitars have chipped and scratched wood showing along with the finish worn off in just the right places. Now you don't have to look like some Jr High School dweeb that just learned how to play 'Louie Louie' on your brand new shiny guitar*. Instead your new guitar looks like it seen a decade of traveling from coffee shop to coffee shop with a lot of street corners thrown in along the way...

oh my... I guess the look screams "yeah, dude, I PAID my dues !"

(with cash)

* (I'm saying this very tongue in cheek, I respect and appreciate anyone who values music !)

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Minty Boost USB charger

I found some time at last to solder and assemble my MintyBoost !

MintyBoost Kit

It's small handy USB charger powered by 2 AA Batteries. I've been using a 4AA battery USB charger for years, but after saw this neat smaller and lighter 2AA charger kit that fits neatly inside an Altoids Gum Tin, I knew that I wanted one. The kit is well thought out. The printed circuit board is designed to fit the contours of the Tin container. The circuit board is etched with handy part numbers and markings that make it easy to correctly place the electronic components for soldering in to place. The electronics are necessary to boost the ~3 Volts from the pair of batteries in series up to the required ~5 Volts that USB works with.

Very very nice solution. Much easier to carry around than my old 4 battery charger (plus it looks cute to boot (or is that 'boost' ?))