Monday, April 27, 2009

Frankie Manning, Inventor of Lindy Hop, Teacher of Cool

Frankie Manning, one of the originators of the dance known as Lindy Hop, or Jitterbug, or swing, or whatever you like to call it, died this morning, two months shy of his 95th birthday. And while one can't feel too sad at a good life that lasted a very long time, it is hard to imagine a world without Frankie Manning.

When Frankie taught Lindy Hop, he would pair everyone up and then tell the guys to look at the girls.

"Fellas," he would say genially, "do you see that lady before you? That lady is a princess. And what do you do when you see a princess? You bow."

This wasn't a lesson in manners, this was a lesson in leading the swingout. Frankie would take a step back as he bent at the waist, his right arm sweeping back, and look very much as though he were bowing as his partner stepped forward.

That was what was so cool about taking classes from Frankie. He didn't just teach the mechanics of dance, he taught the attitude. Frankie was all about attitude. Watch the video below. That's Frankie dancing with Dawn Hampton, another swing legend. Nothing they're doing is particularly difficult from a technical standpoint, but it takes decades to learn to be that cool. You can see they have the music deep in their bones.

Frankie was the only teacher I've ever had who really focused on attitude. One of my favorite Frankie moves begins with a traveling tuck turn, in which you lead the girl to turn while moving foward in a straight line, and all you have to do is stay even with her as she moves. There's really nothing to that, but when Frankie moved alongside the girl, he did it with this elfen charm, this light, twinkling step (Frankie always twinkled, when he spoke, when he danced, and of course when he smiled) to what was essentially just a 2 second stroll. And he emphasized that this was part of the step, that you needed to create that feeling; you couldn't just walk along as though it didn't mean anything.

I think about the way Frankie moved when I lead that step, but I don't have it yet. Hopefully I will by the time I turn 94. I wish I could take another lesson from him, and just see again exactly how he does it, but now, alas, I am on my own.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

How to create customer dissatisfaction with ease

Sometime back I signed up for some sight called, because they had a facebook app, and this was before I got sick of facebook apps.

I'm not quite sure what is, but you tell it what music you like and it tells you something. It will tell you when bands you like are performing, but I don't go to concerts so I set my iLike email notification settings to never tell me about favorite bands performing.

So when I got an email notice from iLike that U2 was playing near me soon, I was annoyed. I went to the site and checked my settings, and sure enough, my settings were such that I should not have received that email.

Okay, so there's some flaw with their programming. That's no big deal, sites always have issues. I'll just contact someone on the site and let them know there's a problem and give them a chance to fix it, right?

Wrong, because there is no way to contact anyone on the site. There is no way to report any problem. I could not find a single, solitary email address for users. So then I thought, okay, I'll just close my account so the can't bother me any more. But guess what? I couldn't find any way to close my account.

So I added iLike into my spam filter. iLike is dead to me. A site that does not want to hear from its users should not, in my opinion, have any users.