I haven’t had much time for proper blogging lately, but I’ve been commenting elsewhere a bit, so I’m doing a series of short posts about that in an attempt to get back into the proper blogging habit.

Cambridge Vintage Night

I went to the inaugural Cambridge Vintage Night recently, so I was interested to read what Anthony thought of it and to stick my oar in:

One odd thing about this event was that I wasn’t quite sure what it was trying to be: it wasn’t quite advertised as a lindy event, but it was advertised to the local lindy hoppers (on Facebook) and it started with an introductory lindy lesson. There was a reasonable contingent of people from the various lindy scenes around Cambs, but we were outnumbered by muggles. I think everyone complaining about the music being too fast is a lindy hopper and so they mean “too many fast songs for (sustained) lindy” (which I’d agree with). I’m not sure what the non-dancers thought of it. The other Paul (who, if he’s who I think he is, runs a fun local event outside Cambridge, he’s probably too modest to say) has some good points on how you welcome in newbies at lindy events. There are plenty of people in Cambs who know how to do events like that if that’s what you want your event to be.

Playing for lindy hoppers is a different thing from playing from people who’ve come to bop around while wearing flapper dresses (there’s nothing wrong with the latter, of course). Lindy hoppers do turn up to things where there might be suitable music and make what we can of it without feeling hard done by if it doesn’t work out. But if you’ve sort of positioned it as a lindy thing and then it doesn’t work, the people who came thinking it was a lindy thing will be annoyed (hi Mark!)

Swing Dance Frame as Non-Newtonian Fluid | Jason Sager
Neat analogy for the way some moves work by resisting impulses (so that they are transferred and provide a net impetus to the follower) but not resisting smooth movement.
(tags: lindy frame fluid lindyhop dance)
A quine (program that produces its own source code as output) which passes through 50 programming languages along the way. Utterly barking, in a good way. Via andrewducker.
(tags: quine programming)
Who By Very Slow Decay | Slate Star Codex
More excellent, harrowing stuff on the standard of end of life care and relatives who won’t let go.
(tags: death poetry medicine intensive-care aging)

Rebecca Brightly did a couple of posts on connection and sexism in lindy recently. I found it via the discussion on Reddit.

Brightly’s stuff is getting so much comment because it combines thoughts on how to enjoy dancing more (which is good) with an Internet-feminist deontology (which is wrong, as any respectable consequentialist could tell you). She’s now at the Defcon 3 stage of talking about “de-railing”, deleting comments, and closing down threads when people disagree with her premise. So I thought I’d put my response here.

Context: in partnered dances, there are usually two roles: one person leads, another follows. Quite what each role entails is a settled question for some dance cultures and a matter of intense mass debating in some corners of others. Traditionally, the leader is a man and the follower is a woman.

Brightly seems to say that followers should take more initiative while dancing, in part because this will combat sexism. Now read on.

Stuff I agree with:

In lindy, (most of?) the really good leaders can handle the follower initiating movements, and (most of?) the really good follows do so. You can tell this is true because there are so many videos of it on YouTube.

If you’re both into it, this can increase the fun, and is therefore a good thing.

The tradition that the man leads and the woman follows arose out of a sexist (and homophobic) culture.

Having the tradition enforced (whether by teachers or by the disapproval of other dancers) such that people feel they cannot choose to dance the non-traditional role limits fun and is therefore bad.

Stuff I’m not convinced there’s much reason to believe:

Everyone should be taught both roles from beginning of their dancing career (the premise of the Ambidanceterous blog).
Everyone should learn both roles.
(I mean these either for a categorical or hypothetical “should”, Kant fans, with the hypothetical being “if you want to be a good dancer”).

The mere fact that the traditional association between roles and sexes is still common today is a moral wrong that ought to be righted.

Stuff I disagree with:

There’s a moral duty for followers to take the initiative more and for leaders to learn to deal with that. This duty arises because:
1. The idea that follows should not initiate movements is sexist.
2. There’s a moral duty to eliminate anything which could be labelled “sexism”.

I disagree with 1 and 2 jointly and severally.

2 is the Internet-feminist deontology I mentioned. It’s usually either just asserted (as Brightly does) or advanced by deploying the worst argument in the world. As commenter Devonavar says, it’s not clear that there are bad consequences of having non-initiatory followers, so even if it is sexist, it’s not clear we should care, or at least, that we should care more than we care about other stuff, like having fun (we can reasonably assume that some people dance like that because they enjoy it).

1 is correctly challenged by commenter Josephine, who identifies the problem as the enforced association of roles with sexes. At most, the idea that followers should rarely initiate is indirectly sexist while the enforcement continues, but seeing as the enforcement does more harm, why not just work on that directly?

Ambidancetrous: The Blog — “We don’t want to make people uncomfortable.” (aka, “What about teh menz?!”)
"Ultimately, some of the worry that some straight guys will be uncomfortable dancing with other men (or being led by a woman) may be justified." Het guys: you lost the oppression Olympics, so your comfort and consent about who touches you is less important than our plan to build a utopia through dance. PROBLEMATIC. Well, OK, that bit rubbed me up the wrong way. But seriously, I think an "ambidancetrous" dance scene would be less "problematic" if the expectations (and how they differ from pretty much every other scene) were made clear up front. What I expect would happen then is that if you insisted every lesson was ambidancetrous, you’d never get enough people to make a viable community. Maybe it’d work as an option within an established scene, though.
(tags: lindy consent gender feminism lindyhop dance)
A doctor writes about the difficulties of dealing with obesity: dealing with a social problem, and applying epidemiology to individuals. Via Metafilter.
(tags: food fat obesity medicine health)
On the stupidity of asking, “but where’s the evidence we need evidence for things?”
"it’s a mistake to think that if someone thinks maybe you should have some evidence for a particular thing you believe, they are therefore committed to a sweeping philosophical doctrine about needing evidence for absolutely everything."
(tags: evidence philosophy epistemology)
Online Child Porn – What the Papers Aren’t Telling You.
Could Google really block it? (Hint: no)
(tags: google porn filtering internet)
Ukip Activist Marty Caine Provokes Fury by Branding Drummer Lee Rigby’s Family ‘Idiots’ – IBTimes UK
Looks like the old "the EDL are the provisional wing of UKIP" joke is actually true.
(tags: edl lee-rigby islam racism ukip)

How to do it right
How to do it right
Over at What Should We Call Swing Dance, someone posted an image macro about how it’s a bit crushing when someone turns down a dance with you and then goes and dances the same song with someone else. There’s a bit of etiquette (which is shared among the partner dances I’m familiar with) that if you turn someone down, you respond as if you didn’t want to dance that song anyway (“I’m tired, I’ll sit this one out”, “I hate Big Bad Voodoo Daddy”) and then sit out for that song, even if you really refused because you don’t particularly want to dance with that person right now. Conversely, if you do go off and dance the song with someone else, it’s a pretty deliberate signal that you don’t want the orignal asker to ask you again, ever ever. (One can also achieve this with the manner of one’s refusal, of course, but this is an advanced skill: Nikolas Lloyd has a training video).

It being Tumblr, this meme gets called out as heteronormative (Oh Tumblr! Never change!) because the caller-out is a woman who mostly leads but is in one of those rare scenes where there are too many guys (who also mainly lead), and doesn’t like the implication that it’s rude to turn them down when they ask her to follow.

Is there such an implication? Only if the caller-out then goes on to dance that song. The etiquette (and the meme) does not say it’s rude to turn people down. But it does seem like there’s room for some improvement here.

Core Etiquette Addendum 1

Everyone's a winner
Everyone’s a winner
If some people are willing to switch (as we call it in my subculture) but most people have a preferred role, and someone is asked to dance the opposite role to their preference, it seems that one could (a) see whether the asker will dance that role instead, and if not (b) dance with someone who will, with no loss of face for the original asker. I hereby declare that people who do this are Not Rude.


There is a further bit of etiquette (not so far referenced in any image macros, as far as I know) which just plain says its rude to turn people down. I agree that this is problematic (as we say on Tumblr). I think it’s usually propagated by dancing teachers in an effort to make dancing more friendly and less cliquey, but you shouldn’t be made to feel guilty for refusing extended physical contact with people you don’t want to have that contact with. The etiquette is exploitable (as we say on 4Chan) by bad actors: see this educational video (Tumblr users: trigger warning for satire).

I cast Summon Shitstorm!

There is a wider question of why it is that men usually lead and women usually follow and whether this is a good thing, but again, Lloyd sorted that out a while ago, so there’s probably no more room for debate about it, I’d’ve thought.

Traffic Waves – YouTube
If you drive at the average speed of the traffic and leave a gap in front of you, you can alleviate traffic jams, apparently.
(tags: traffic waves cars driving)
Salsa Dance Etiquette for Leads: How to Avoid Being Blacklisted When Social Dancing | danceclasschallenge
Also applies to a bunch of other partner dances.
(tags: dancing leading etiquette salsa dance)
Salsa Dance Etiquette for Follows: How to Avoid Being Blacklisted When Social Dancing | danceclasschallenge
Much of this is applicable to other partner dances.
(tags: dancing following etiquette salsa)
Why you shouldn’t believe the Resurrection happened » The Polemical MedicThe Polemical Medic
A nice summary of some good and bad arguments about the Resurrection.
(tags: religion miracles christianity resurrection philosophy)
Top 10 Reasons our Kids Leave Church « Marc5Solas
An American Christian on why they’re losing their youth. Obviously, they’re not going to say "because it’s all lies", but I don’t think an atheist has to support the idea that all de-converts thought very hard about it and left on rational grounds.
(tags: religion christianity de-conversion atheism)
Kevin and Jo videos
Jo and Kevin recap a course they did a couple of years ago, which has some of the same material they taught in Cambridge recently, but in a Charleston context.
(tags: dancing charleston lindy)
Power of Suggestion – The Chronicle Review – The Chronicle of Higher Education
"The amazing influence of unconscious cues is among the most fascinating discoveries of our time­—that is, if it’s true." Attempts to replicate some of the classic experiments in psychological priming have failed. Interesting article about the role of reputations in science (as well as about priming).
(tags: priming psychology science)
hot as fuck: bands |
Top tips for bands playing for dancers (and dancers dancing to bands).
(tags: music dancing lindy jazz lindyhop)
Carsie Blanton’s Baby Can Dance – OFFICIAL VIDEO – YouTube
Nice song, cool lindy in the video (almost all lead and followed apparently, there’s no choreography apart from one tiny bit) illustrating that it’s not all about the aerials.
(tags: music lindy lindyhop dance)
European Swing Dance Championships presents: Lindy Hop Bloopers – YouTube
Alternatively hilarious and terrifying. My favourite is the one where they kick the spotter, I think.
(tags: dancing lindy funny aerials lindyhop)

Dungeons and Discourse revision – help with spells?
Yvain wants suggestions for spell names and effects in his Dungeons and Discourse games. These should be horrible puns on scientific, mathematical or philosophical concepts.There are some good ones in the comments.
(tags: mathematics maths funny humour philosophy magic)
A Jazz Anthology MP3 Choose listen download 36004 tunes jazz artists
Lots of out of copyright jazz stuff.
(tags: lindyhop lindy free mp3 jazz music)
Rationally Speaking: On guns: the facts, the reasons
(tags: shooting law violence guns)
God & Sandy Hook | Talking Philosophy
Mike LaBossiere wrote my blog post for me: he talks about Mike Huckabee’s response and the two ways to take it (either as an assertion that God judged America or as a statement about moral education) and notes that in either case, God doesn’t really come out well.
(tags: huckabee mike-huckabee violence shooting sandy-hook philosophy christian religion theodicy)

Let the Universe Be the Universe | Cosmic Variance | Discover Magazine
Sean Caroll got mentioned in Craig’s podcast, and responds: “The moment of the Big Bang is, if anything is, a place where quantum gravity is supremely important. The Borde-Guth-Vilenkin results are simply not about quantum gravity.” “But when we’re not experts, it’s not intellectually honest to distort the words of experts to make them sound like they fit our pre-conceived narrative. That’s why engagement with people like Craig is fundamentally less interesting than engagement with open-minded people who are willing to take what the universe has to offer, rather than forcing it into their favorite boxes.”
(tags: inflation william-lane-craig big-bang cosmology religion god physics sean-carroll)
Obama’s Address to United Nations –
“Mr. Obama appeared to relish the larger canvas of the United Nations and his subject, freedom of speech and why in the United States, even making “a crude and disgusting video” is a right of all citizens.” Interesting: some of this is heading off Romney’s criticism, but it’s good to see, anyway.
(tags: UN united-nations islam politics freedom speech obama)
The Facts In The Case Of Dr. Andrew Wakefield
Cool comic about the MMR nonsense.
(tags: fraud medicine autism andrew-wakefield comic vaccination vaccine MMR)
“Popular Fast Tunes (>= 195 bpm)” by Ms. Lindy Hopper – Grooveshark
(tags: lindyhop playlist charleston music lindy jazz)