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 !