As per the request of one of the DanceNet readers, here are copies of the past ramblings of the DanceNet Webmaster.
Some people will just put me on their mailing list so that I get their generic mailings along with everyone else on their list. I suppose this is the easiest thing to do and involves the least amount of work on their part. This is also a very bad thing to do since that encourages laziness on my part. When I get a *long* email about everything that's happening at a venue, my eyes tend to glaze over and miss some information. If the news looks similar to previous mailings, I'll assume that it's a redundant mailing. Occasionally I'll look it over (probably once a month) to compare against the DanceNet calendar. This means that that I might not know to remove a date if something changes or that anything changed at all.
Other venues don't bother sending me anything. A certain dance studio took me off their mailing list twice, even though I had one of their teachers put me back on once; that's why you might not see their new class schedules announced here. Likewise with a certain dance organization that appears to ignore my repeated requests for information.
At the other extreme, the Boston Swing Dance Network sends me their dance schedule several months in advance. That ensures that their information will be visible for many months in advance. Hop To The Beat sends preformatted text (including the change bars) for my weekly newsletter so that it takes only 10 seconds to cut and paste into the newsletter (and ensures that I get the right spellings). They address items specifically to *me* so that I can ignore the mass mailings later that contain the same information.
And everyone else falls in between. The best way to get information added to the website is to send a message to *me* about the changes that are needed (additions as well as deletions). Don't send a long newsletter that I have to wade through. Chances are, I'll pick out information that I think is important but not necessarily what the venue wanted.
Some of you might be wondering why don't I just contact all of these venues and explain it to them? In a sentence, "it's not my job". And also, "been there, done that". I don't make any money doing what I do and there's no point in bothering people who don't care (who don't think this website is relevent to their business or clique). I'm supporting pages for many bands and studios, and the website serves not only the Swing community, but also the ballroom, Argentine Tango, and Hustle crowds, and chasing down a venue for their information is the last thing on my mind. The people using dancing to pay their rent or mortgages or next meal should think about taking advantage of this free resource to help their business. Considering the number of dancers who get their information off this website (why am I getting a lot of California and New York readers every week?) and the number of businesses who have gained new customers through this website, I think it's a bad business decision for a venue not to send their dance information to me in a timely manner.
The "secret" I was talking about?
One more thing: it's my general policy *NOT* to take things off other websites. Please don't send me a note to look at your website for new information. Announcements made in websites, such as the Boston Speakeasy or other forums, do not get reflected here because those discussions among a focused group of dancers; I don't consider them official announcements. I don't want to be looking at websites for information during the day (during work) and if I'm travelling, I don't get on-line after work. Email is the best way to get your information to me, even if you have to cut and paste off your website.
PS: I've been asked why I don't just set up a system where people can enter their own information. I've decided that I wanted some control over the quality and consistency over the information that appears on this website. You should never see things like "Come to the hottest dance club in town" on this website. Such an open system would allow abuse and gives an advantage over venues who are not computer-literate. Baby-sitting such a system responsibly would take up even more of my time.
One thing in particular about these free websites is the use of "cookies" by the hosting ISP. I turn off the browser's cookies (actually, I get notified of the cookies so I can choose to "cancel" them) and I see that most, if not all, of these free websites place cookies on the reader's computers. I imagine that most of them are fairly benign, but it does bring up questions of privacy, and it's a pain to have to sit through them to "cancel" them. One website had about 21 cookies to sit through before I could see their information. If I'm looking at information on a dance studio, club, or event, I wonder why I should have to deal with the browser cookies and whatever information that ISP is looking for.
I believe that a real business (anyone making money) would want to look more professional and be willing to pay (not all that much money) to get a clean website that contains no other information except for their own. Having "cookies" as part of the website makes people wonder what that information is being used for. Adding in the cost of a URL for that venue isn't all that expensive and should be considered a business expense. I currently help support the webpage for a restaurant in San Jose called Mondo Burrito. I think it's actually hosted by Yahoo. The monthly cost is about what I'd pay for a lunch, plus the annual registration of the URL (though it might actually be included in the monthly cost). For little money, a business can get a low maintenance but very professional-looking website with no advertisement for *other* businesses (I heard Roger designs websites, folks).
Another problem with some websites (swing dance or otherwise) is the usual "links page". Most links pages include just a link to other related websites, but no description to tell readers why they might want to click on that link. If I'm looking for a website for any venue near me, I don't want to be jumping to a website for a venue in Kokomo, Indiana (yes, the town does exist; I've been there.). Also, having a links page invites anyone to ask for a link (DanceNet is one huge links page). I once asked a studio to include a link to DanceNet because they asked for one on this website. They didn't want to because I linked to their competitors. I suggested that their links page was adding nothing to their website so they removed their links page.
Perusing a website and all of its pages and links should not be a painful, or even annoying experience. There should be no distractions from the main message for the website and there certainly shouldn't be messages for activites unrelated to venue ("Get the new invisible braces for your teeth!" on a dance website?). Imagine if some studio paid for an ad with the ISP and it showed up on *your* dance webpage?
One more thing. As a follow-on to last week's Soapbox, I offer a suggestion to everyone who's ever asked me to look on their website for information for this website: please try printing out every page on your website.
I just checked out someone's website and tried to print out their classes page so I could take it with me after work. On both the office inkjet and the laser printers, it caused them to try to spit out 38 mostly blank pages.
This was not just a crime. This was not just terrorism. This is mass murder, an atrocity on a scale which no sane human being could possibly condone. They killed innocent cilivians who did nothing wrong except get out of bed that morning. They even killed those heroes who put their lives on the line trying to save other lives. The people who committed or planned this crime against God and humanity are nothing short of absolute evil. I hope they enjoy their long stay in Hell.
This event certainly hits home as I've been in Boston Logan International Airport twice a month for at least the last 12 months (coming and going); in my last job, I was there even more often. As it happens, I'm in Silicon Valley as I write this, having flown in from Boston into San Francisco on a non-stop United flight. I was woken up at 6:30 am PST by my brother-in-law so I got to the TV fairly early. It certainly made me pause to think that security failed so badly in the airport where I spend so much of my time.
I hope you will all join me in praying for the souls of those who perished in this national tragedy.
God bless America.
Many of you know that I travel to California regularly for business. Thank you to everyone who checked to make sure I was okay.
I got email from some of you about certain symbolic actions to show unity in America. Let me tell you what I think will demonstrate our unity: pictures of people standing in line for several blocks waiting at the hospitals to give our blood for our fellow Americans. Giving up our tax refunds to pay for the relief effort. *That* is a demonstration of our unity and our resolve. That's what I'll be doing. I hope you'll join me.
I had scheduled taking the Friday redeye home from San Francisco so I'd be home for the IC dance on Saturday (a silly reason to rush home). Since Logan was closed at the time, my flight was cancelled. When Logan announced a 5:00 am Saturday opening, I had managed somehow to get through to United Airlines reservations after a couple of hours of calling and got onto flight 46 Saturday morning at 8:00 am (arriving in Boston at 4:40 pm). As we had been warned to get to the airport at least two hours in advance, I got there at 5:00 am to return the rental car. When the rental bus dropped us off at the terminal, the driver gave us one piece of advice: "Be patient".
The line for United Airlines was...probably about a quarter-mile long. Well, maybe not quite, but it went for a while. At least the line was inside the building by the time I got there (inside the physical structure but not in the North Terminal). I've never seen the line that long in my entire life and I fly a lot. Everyone had the same wild-eyed look when they kept walking and weren't even close to the end of the line. However, instead of crawling inches at a time, we moved about 20 feet every time the line moved. I was able to see the ticket counters off in the distance after about 30 minutes. Eventually, all the 8:00 am passengers got picked out of the line and moved to a dedicated set of agents and I had my ticket by 6:30 am. I saw some worried looks but the mood in the crowd was good and no one complained about the long lines.
My flight was scheduled for 8:00 am but the incoming plane was arriving at 8:12 am from Maui and I think they were two hours late. They rolled out another plane to keep us on schedule and it looked like we were going to get out on time. A little after 8:00 am, they realized that they were missing three passengers. (I don't need this right now!) These passengers had luggage in the cargo hold so they had to pull out their luggage before we could leave. Eventually, we took off around 9:00 am PST.
I had been afraid that they might make me check my backpack (a Targus bag for my laptop), but their rules were the normal carry-on rules. (Thank you, Kevin, for offering me your normal-looking briefcase). There were definitely more security in the airport including armed police and Border Patrol (?!?!) personnel. I heard that Honolulu had National Guardmen with M16's patrolling the airport. One thing that never happened before: they sent my cellphone through the X-ray machine. Make sure you take out anything sharp from your carry-on luggage; make sure you've looked over your luggage.
My flight was alledgedly sold out by 9:00 am on Friday, but I had gotten my seat about 6 hours later so I wonder if a lot of people cancelled. The plane itself was about a third empty; I had a whole row to myself. It was quite noticeable that we got metal forks but plastic knives with breakfast; they needed knives for putting the cheese spread on the bagels (I expect they'll get rid of them in the future).
I'm typing this in around 10:45 am PST or 1:45 pm EST on this United 757; I heard the pilots contacting Denver air control just now. I think we're at 33,000 feet right now. If you see me at the dance on Saturday (and I'll be there) or, I suppose, if you're reading this, I made it home safely. My bed always felt special whenever I flew home, but never more than now. The flight itself was somewhat anti-climatic (always a good thing), but several things happened.
Towards the end of the flight (around 4:00 pm EST), the flight attendants opened four bottles of champagne and handed out cups to everyone. One flight attendant led a moment of silence and then offered a toast to the memory of the people who died on Tuesday. She had a really rough time making it through the dedication.
I expected that the passengers would to start clapping when we touched down and they did; I almost started it myself. What did surprise me were the outside ground crew waving flags and clapping as our plane pulled into the gate. It was a pretty heart-warming sight. When the door opened we could hear on-duty crew cheering and applauding on the jetway and most of the passengers hugged the flight attendants on the way off the plane. In the terminal itself, a large crowd of off-duty (?) United employees were waiting for us to get off the plane. They too were cheering and clapping and singing the national anthem. I'm not sure if they were doing that for everyone or just for the United employees who came home on that flight. I think we were the first San Francisco flight in for United. It didn't change how I felt that moment.
When thinking about the heroes of this crisis, please don't forget the people who crew these planes. Even after what happened, they still showed up for work and put away all of their fears and anxieties in the closet for the trip so that we passengers could feel safe about flying.
I only became a US citizen in '78 but I never felt prouder of it than at that moment.
Hope you're all home and safe.
I went into an Eddie Bauer store last week in San Francisco and came away with this relevation:
A pessimist is unhappy when the pants they're trying on is *too small*.I guess I prefer to be an optimist.
An optimist is happy when the pants they're trying on is *too big*.
A friend of mine told me this story once.
He had a chance, many years ago, to see Count Basie and his orchestra live in concert many years ago. For one reason or another, this guy decided not to go, thinking, "I'll see him when he comes by next time." Of course, Count Basie passed away that year so my friend never did get to see the legend in concert.
There are a lot of people who fit that profile (Count Basie, that is) that we seem to just assume they'll always be around. Most of the time this just means our parents and grandparents. However, there are others who have had an impact on our lives and we just take their presence for granted until the day that they're not there anymore.
This line of thought had not occurred to me, but it made sense. Racism abounds, even in people who don't know they have it in themselves. We all try to be good Americans (we should all think about what that means) and be good to all of our neighbors. Remember that America is filled with people who fled unreasonable conditions in their home country and came to this country to look for hope. This country isn't perfect, but it does give hope and does offer opportunities that don't exist in many other countries.
The older generation will remember what happened to the Japanese-Americans during World War II; not necessarily our most shining moment. Even if it were a Japanese, Vietnamese, Korean, Phillipino, etc. terrorist this time, all of us Asians would be scared sh*tless because, let's face it, most of you non-Asians really can't tell the difference (if *I* can't tell the difference, I bet you can't). Could you possibly imagine the thoughts of those from the Middle East who immigrated here?
These people from the Middle East and elsewhere chose to leave their homelands (not an easy decision) and decided to come here and become Americans in every sense of the word. They give their allegiance to this country, for better or for worse, because they find the hope that they didn't have back home. Let's not prove them wrong.
We should all take a moment to remember what is the *first* amendment of the United States of America: Freedom of Religion.
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.That also means that no one should suffer for their religion or alledged religion! That goes along with Amendments V & VI which say that everyone deserves the presumption of innocence until proven guilty. A good honest person of particular descent should *not* have to needlessly suffer the sins of other people of similar descent. We are Americans because we support the US Constitution and all of its ideals.
The countries that support these terrorists are afraid of this country. Why? Because of the power of the US Constitution. We represent the freedom that their peoples don't have. We've proven what our people can achieve with their freedom. Imagine the fear of those countries that suppress their population because they're afraid of the power that they'll lose if the peoples understood their potential. Imagine all the women who would not bow down to the patriarches of their country if they knew they could work, fly, drive, rule, and do anything generally reserved for the men. The average female cadet out of West Point could probably shoot a cigarette out of their mouth at 100 feet without touching a hair on their beards. They see this country and the power it gives to the people and they tremble. They'd rather let their peoples suffer in poverty and hunger than see them empowered.
The people who committed the atrocities in NYC and Washington want a holy war between Islam and The West. They're willing to sacrifice millions of their own people, including unwilling victims, to this end. Followers of Islam? No, They sound like disciples of the Devil in disguise (and I'm not even religious). They want us to hate Muslims and other cultures from the Middle East; they're probably hoping we're clueless enough to attack *anyone* who looks like they're from the Middle East (including Jews and Indians). Let us not give them that victory. A part of me wants to turn Afghanistan (and Iraq) into the world's cheapest supply of charcoal (or even bring back burning at the stake), but we can't give into our baser instincts. We must proceed carefully and when when we're sure of the perpetrators of this crime, we deliver justice, not retribution, not revenge. Let no more innocents suffer for the sins of the guilty.
I suspect that our government is already supplying the Afghan opposition, the Northern Alliance, to fight. They alledgedly are 15,000-30,000 strong and are recognized internationally as the legitimate government of Afghanistan. I imagine that this organization would not hesitate to extradite alledged terrorist Osama bin Laden if they defeated the Taliban, or at least they would kick him out and make him into a homeless person. It might require all of the US Special Forces to go in and hunt him down, but I do not expect nuclear war. A barrage of cruise missiles into the Afghan government buildings might speed up the process (and make us feel better). Should have invested in Raytheon...:-P
The professionals are there to make a living...in order to keep on living. For some of them, this is their only means of making a living. They are not automatically a charity. They don't necessarily make all that much money and don't necessarily have all that much to give. Most of them can't even afford health insurance (I know because I was investigating cheaper insurance for them). If people ask these professionals to perform or teach for free, these promoters are asking them to take food out of their mouths. The big fundraiser events always pay their help, especially the performers. The professionals are not expected to donate their time. If they were, they'd go bankrupt because they'd only be doing charity work.
The ones who should be asked to give money to charity are the attendees of the event. They're the ones with "disposable" income, not the performers. The performers should not be asked to risk their financial security, regardless of the cause, because frankly, they don't have the money to give. If the professionals volunteer their services, fine, but don't make them feel guilty about it.
In your enthusiasm to support the efforts in NYC and Washington, please remember that there are going to be a lot of good charities that will be getting *fewer* or smaller donations because so much of the disposable cash is going to the various disaster relief funds or because the economy has slowed down so much. Please don't forget that there are a lot of other people in need and that there are many other charities (including the ones that this website supports) who are doing good work.
Congratulations to Domenic Valarioti and Swing Out Productions for pulling off a class event. The lineup of invited teachers was first rate and each one was quite "reachable" for the entire weekend. A group of us was able to snag Frankie Manning for dinner on Saturday.
Dom V and the Swing Out Big Band were hot on Saturday. They kept up the energy level all night long.
I liked Johnny Martinez as MC. Good job.
I finally got to dance with both the twins, Suzanne and Rochelle. And now I can finally figure out which one is which. Of course, Lou got to dance with both of them at the same time.
I wish I had asked Kelly Buckwalter to dance...:-(
I got to meet a lot of my nice readers out there who had never met me but figured out who the nerd sitting in the back typing on his laptop was.
Sylvia Sykes won both the Invitation WCS Jack & Jill *AND* the Invitational Lindy Jack & Jill. She's the best.
People will still fly thousands of miles for Frankie Manning. Frankie is the patron saint of Swing.
Paolo Piselli won 1.3 awards for each contest he entered. Randi Cohen won 1.5 awards for each contest she entered. Hey, didn't notice that Slick Mike got 2.0 awards for each contest entered (assuming, of course, they all placed in all contests they'd entered).
I can't believe that Jordan Frisbee and Tatiana Mollman are only 18. After watching their performance, I'm ready to hang up my dance shoes.
I was disappointed that some of my friends scheduled their respective dances during this event because they weren't around for me to dance with.
Nathalie and Yuval bring new definition to the word, "aerials".
After watching Marcus and Barbl, I think that it's impossible that anyone (else) could possibly move their feet that fast. Psst! Happy Birthday, Marcus!
It was clear that the West Coast Swing dancers were the party animals. They outlasted the Lindy dancers (2:30? 3:00 am?). Of course the Lindy/ECS dancers countered that they danced a lot harder so the WCS dancers had more energy left after midnight. :-P
I would have liked to see more mixing of the Lindy and WCS dancers in the main room on Saturday. Having a separate WCS room during the main dancing literally put up a wall between the two crowds. There were times when I wanted to find certain WCS dancer friends and we were in different rooms.
Those who forget that bell-bottom blue jeans died for a reason twenty years ago are doomed to wear them again. (Yes, *I* used to wear them as a kid and I haven't forgotten).
This was rewritten because a couple of readers didn't understand my intent here.
Some people are seriously into competitions and some aren't. Whatever. I personally don't care for them myself, though I enjoy watching non-advanced dancers try Jack & Jill's to encourage them to see what they could do with a partner they didn't pick and to watch the "really-cool" Invitational or Champion dancers because they're expected to be a cut above the rest and to bring something new to the dance (like the performance by Lance Shermoen & Tatiana Mollman. in the Invitational Jack & Jill at the NESDC).
Jack & Jill competitions are suppose to be "just for fun", a way to be seen, a way to have exclusive rights to the dance floor for a few minutes, and a way to brag to non-dancers. For more advanced dancers, this is a true test of "lead/follow". Not having a chance to pick your own partner, even taking a chance of drawing a *bad* partner, is part of the fun and part of the challenge. (Yes, I did hear about one dancer complaining about drawing a bad partner. Boo-hoo.).
While it is suppose to be just for fun, what remains afterwards are the "official results" and the placement within that contest. Bragging rights are earned at this point for the people who "placed" in the contest. The level at which one dances, or should dance, is part of the court of public opinion.
Some people use the results of various contests, especially non-Jack & Jill events at national competitions, as credentials for teaching because, for many of us, that's the only apparent objective qualifications with which to judge these teachers. The *teaching* ability of these contest winners becomes apparent only after taking one of their classes. As a result, these competitions "wins" become very important.
People who accept money for teaching dancing, particularly at a higher level, are expected to have certain "tangible" credentials. This implies a teaching or dancing talent of a certain level. What they risk by competing is getting a "non-win" (not getting 1st Place or not even placing at all). I think this diminishes them in the eyes of their current and potential students, especially in smaller, local events (placing *last* at the US Open would be okay with me, assuming they'd even let me in the door).
This becomes even more important if the teacher competes at a *lower* level of ability.
The rules offer a way for people to determine what level at which they should be competing, but it only offers a blindly objective way to determine one's qualifications. For example, I've been dancing for about 10 years now. By the rules, I qualify for "novice/newcomer" competitions. If I competed, I really should be at least at the Intermediate level, but I'm qualified to dance at the Novice level. Some dancers, through honesty or ego, petition to get bumped up to the next level because that's where they feel they should be (the public would determine whether or not they stayed there).
A teacher, especially one who spends a lot of time teaching dance and has or had a lot of students *and* competes, is taking a risk at competing "for fun" because if they win, it's assumed that they won because they're teachers; they really don't get all that much additional incremental credit. If they lose, they run the risk of people questioning if those teachers were really that good in the first place. If a teacher dances at a lower level (non-advanced!), then they are assumed to be sandbagging or are really not that good in the first place and dancers might assume some doubt about whether or not they should be taking lessons from that teacher. In a Jack & Jill, it's the luck of the draw and one takes the chance of drawing a bad partner; it's a lot to gamble one's prestige and reputation on that luck.
I think that it's great that some teachers will be very successful with students who go on to great achievement, sometimes being great teachers themselves. This happens quite often. Paraphrasing loosely from Star Wars:
When I left you, you were the Master and I was but the student. Now *I* am the Master...I think that the mark of great teachers is the number of their students who dance well, not the number of additional contests they compete in.
At the risk of repeating an old story, I had once helped to judge an impromptu dance contest "billions and billions of years ago" at the old IC hall. One dance teacher leaned over to another and said, "Hey, all the competitors are *my* students". The other teacher smiled and said, "Yeah, but all the *judges* are mine".