Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Update on the No Show Showcase

(This is a continuation of part 1.)

I talked to L today, and she said everyone is apologizing to her. The three women B, H, and M apologized at L’s party on Saturday. D called her yesterday and fell all over himself apologizing.

What happened is, like I said, B, H, and M were organizing the showcase. But then some emergency matters came up for H and she gave duties to B and M. Then they realized they were not up to doing all the work themselves, so they gave all organizing duties over to their instructor D, but not before B and H got pissed at each other and stopped talking, which explains why B did not sit at the same table as H and M at the party, something I had not mentioned.

Then D, already known as a flake, decided he couldn’t deal with the organizing, so he gave all duties over to instructor T who, until then, had been a fairly minor player in all this. T was far removed from the original populist stance and saw no reason not to inject an exorbitant entry fee into the deal. After all, it’s just business, right?

L understands that this is how people do things. Her own students are out of the showcase and she is cool with everything. Of all the characters in this story, she has the most reason to be pissed, but she never really was pissed. The whole thing just makes her want to do things on her own terms, including having her own showcase sometime. And she says she still will go to this showcase as a spectator, because she knows all the people and wants to support them.

Me, I have not nearly as much reason to be pissed, but I am pissed. I'm pissed that it seems that B, M, H, and D just seemed to let T take over and levy his fees, and nobody really did anything about it until it occurred to them to tell L just 1.5 weeks before the event, and she started asking questions. Then it was like, "Oh yeah, sorry, I guess we screwed you." (But maybe there's more to this and I shouldn't speculate.) And I’m pissed at B for the way she told me about the entry fee, with the attitude that everything was settled and I probably wasn’t going to be performing, but I’d still be coming to watch, right? But maybe I should give her a break. When she first brought the issue up, she probably thought L had already told me. But I’m kind of glad L had not, because that put B in the hot spot of having to explain it to me and falling back on her Bush Press Secretary techniques.

After all those folks apologized to L, instructor T, originator of the entry fee, called L. In his salesperson voice, he said, “I understand you have some questions about the showcase.”

“Oh no,” L said. “No questions. We’re just not doing it.”

He was silent for a moment, then asked why.

She said she doesn’t believe in the entry fee.

He said some blah blah about why the fee was necessary, and he hoped they could work together sometime in the future, and L said cheerily, “Okay,” and that was the end of that.

Now the three women B, H, and M are eating their own breakfast for letting the showcase fall into the wrong hands. Though their entry fee is discounted to $100.00 (an offer not made to L’s students but which she learned about through a leak) it is still $10.00 higher than the $90.00 they used to pay to dance in the other studio showcases that had inspired them to hold their own showcase with no entry fee. So here they go paying an entry fee again. Genius, I tell you. The situation is way beyond my Dirty Dancing analogy. Now, it’s like how we always end up helping the sorts of people in the Middle East we claim to be fighting against. First we helped the Sunni tribes in Afghanistan to kick out the Soviets. Some of those jihadist fighters were the precursors of the Taliban and Al Qaeda who, feeling empowered by defeating one superpower, decided to lure the other superpower into fighting them in Afghanistan where they would be able to declare another “victory.” So we go and give them not one, but two wars -- and in Iraq, our war allows the influx of Al Qaeda into Sunni territory, causing us to empower Sunni tribes to fight Al Qaeda, thereby undercutting the Iraqi army and the Iraqi government that we had said we were working so hard to uphold, and empowering the tribes, which makes the Sunni regions of Iraq look more like Afghanistan, which is where 9/11 terrorism was fomented in the first place.

Meanwhile, in the Sunni districts of Baghdad, the leader of the resistance to Al Qaeda is someone nicknamed "Abu Abd" who was once an officer in the Baath party, then a member of the “Islamic Army” which resisted the Americans before allying with the Americans to kick out Al Qaeda. His three-month agreement with the Americans is about over, but it could be renewed. Read about it here.

Continue . . .

Sunday, November 25, 2007

No Case for the Showcase

I’m dancing with B and she says, “Are you coming to the showcase next Sunday?” I say, “Yeah, I’m dancing in it.” It’s what L and I have revised our old tango routine for. Everyone involved knows we are in the showcase.

B says, “Maybe.”

I say, “What do you mean ‘maybe’?”

She says there’s an entry fee. $150.00.

The showcase is a week and a half away, and this is the first I’ve heard of an entry fee.

Dance showcases are kind of like piano recitals in that dance students perform for other students and friends and family. Showcases are usually held by studios that have several instructors and lots of students, and on the docket of performances are student/student pairings, student/instructor pairings, and a few instructor/instructor pairings just to show off and spice things up.

Showcases are very much unlike piano recitals in that they charge big bucks to any performing couple where one or both partners is a student. (Since I am not a professional or an instructor, I qualify as a student as L's partner.) In other words, the students have to pay to perform. They are paying for this after having already paid for many private lessons to get their routine ready in the first place. So, while piano recitals are viewed by piano instructors as chance for students to show what they can do, dance showcases are viewed by instructors as a chance to gouge their students for more money.

One studio in our area charges $90.00 to perform in a showcase, and $35.00 just for a ticket for a spectator! Remember, spectators are paying this to see mostly amateurs perform -- not to see a wholly professional show.

In the past B has performed in such showcases, and so have her friends M and H. These three women have paid $90.00 to perform and have had nearly no friends or family come to watch because the spectators’ tickets were so expensive. So, the three of them decided to organize this upcoming showcase and run things differently. Their own instructor, D, who is not affiliated with a studio, was involved from the beginning. So was my dance partner L, who is also an unaffiliated instructor.

L got several of her student couples to prepare routines for it, and she asked me to do the tango routine with revisions with her and I agreed, and we’ve been working pretty hard on it.

So now, in this somewhat circumspect way, B is telling me that “Maybe” I would perform because, at some point, an entry fee was tacked on for performers. It is up to L and me to decide whether we will pay it -- but B is presuming that, because of the entry fee, we will only be “Maybe” performing.

She is right to think that the entry fee would be prohibitive. But it’s not her business to presume.

I say, “I never knew of an entry fee.”

She says most showcases have entry fees.

I say “But this showcase was supposed to be populist. You weren’t going to charge exorbitant entry fees like the studios do.”

She says “Well, we are trying to get away from [what another studio owner in our area does]. She charges $90.00 per performance.”

“But you are charging more!” All this time, we’re trying to do samba, but all I can think to do is the most basic step because of this ridiculous conversation we’re having.

B says, “We have to pay for the [venue at the local university].”

I don’t think to ask why they are only now realizing how much that venue costs.

“It was miscommunication,” B says. “People playing phone tag.”

The dance is over and we’re going back to her seat. “But anyone could have sent an email explaining about the entry fee at any time,” I say.

“Well, eventually that’s what happened,” she says.

It’s like talking to Bush’s Press Secretary.

All this happens at L’s dance party last night. At its end, as we’re taking down decorations, I talk to L about it. She says she’s sorry she hadn't told me about the entry fee. She had only heard about it two days before, and there was Thanksgiving.

“We are boycotting it,” she says. She doesn’t want her students to have to pay like this. So we’re not doing the routine.

She says she’ll have her own little showcase at one of her parties. She’ll just have the students do their routines for each other that way.

I think that in the end, what L is describing is what this whole showcase was supposed to be in the first place. Just folks getting together and dancing for each other. Lots of mutual support there. And she and I will do our routine there, so all this prep will not be for nothing.

A third instructor, T, had been brought into the showcase mix later in the planning. He may have been the one to bring up the entry fee idea. L has written to D and T asking who will get all this entry fee money which, for the expected 20 performances, will come to $3000.00. No one has responded. The fact that they had told her about it as an afterthought means that she probably was not going to see any of the money.

Nobody puts Baby in the corner. This dirty dealing is like in Dirty Dancing, where misunderstanding and politics edged Johnny Castle out of performing the finale in the season talent show.

Now, it’s not that L and I were going to be the hit that Castle and Baby were when he came back to fight the power and perform. And it’s not like we would make a stand for populism the way Castle did when he involved the audience members in dancing at the end. But it IS about the common good being suppressed in the name of some personal gain -- in this case, greed. This independent showcase has become what it set out to counteract.

As she was leaving L’s party, B told me that she hoped I would come to the showcase. I said it depends on how much I have to pay. B said spectator’s tickets were only $10.00. So, in this respect I guess, it is cheaper than the typical dance studio showcase. I said “maybe,” using her word from our first conversation. But I’m not going. They changed the deal on us, then told us about it without the slightest sympathy for our position. So I’ll put my energy into L’s little improvised showcase whenever that happens. And you know what? I bet L won’t put up any restrictions or obstacles to who can perform (one reason being that there won’t be that many entries anyway). So probably B, M, and H can perform there if they want to. For free, and with their instructor D. Already, they regularly come to L’s parties, and don’t they feel welcome? As a single guy and capable dancer, don’t I make sure they get some dances in? Again, it’s not that I set world on fire. It’s that most of the men at L’s dances are pretty much beginners and have come with their wives and don’t feel comfortable dancing with anyone else. I’m usually one of about three men that do. So I make sure that B, M, and H get some dances.

Maybe its time I start charging a little “entry fee.”

Part 2 of this saga is here.

Continue . . .

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Revising that Red Dress Routine

Revised the tango routine from last March. Second half is mostly different. Now, to get to where we can really do it.

Gotta figure out what I should do with my hands in a lot of places. She always knows what to do with hers. Lot of style points for me to work on too. Regardless, it always looks better in compressed video. She wears the dress and shoes in practice every now and then, 'cause it makes a difference.

Continue . . .

Sunday, November 4, 2007

That Good News From Iraq You Keep Not Hearing

Sunny pro-war editorials say there is much success to recognize in the Iraq war. And they say I'm the one that can't face reality?

Fred Kagan at the Weekly Standard says Iraq’s politicians are just being politicians. It will take them time to hash out laws, just like it does in the United States, but basically the democracy in in place and is working. He says, not all the differences between tribal and religious groups need to be worked out for us to call the war a success. And he says, eventually, the warring factions will learn that they are hurting themselves more than helping with their violence.

The Times Online says that much success has been achieved by Petraeus in working toward the conditions in which Sunnis and Shia can begin to reconcile their differences.

Andrew Bolt says the war in Iraq has already been won, and that troops just need to stay there to maintain vigilance. His article appears at news.au, but a note says it’s from the Daily Telegraph.

In the Wall Street Journal, Natan Sharansky makes a lot of abstract statements to back his assertion that democracy is on the rise in the Middle East, that the Bush doctrine is the right track.

What do all these news publications have in common? You guessed it!

Here are my questions which, according to these articles, constitute my not being willing to face reality:

If it took cooperation with Sunni tribes in Anbar to drive out Al Qaeda -- that is, to do what the U.S. military could not do alone, and what the Iraqi military certainly could not do -- then doesn’t that mean that the power to make differences like this is in the tribes? Any pro-war advocate calling this ousting of Al Qaeda (which wasn’t there before we invaded anyway) political progress is forgetting that it has nothing to do with legitimizing the official Iraqi government. In fact, over at Small Wars Journal, there’s an article that explains that the tribes simply decided they had had enough of the fundamentalism that Al Qaeda was bringing to their regions -- fundamentalism that was being imported from outside Iraq which, I emphasize, was not there anyway before we invaded.

Here’s a video statement by Juan Cole on what he thinks is really happening with respect to the Sunni tribes. “We are bribing them . . . it’s not a matter of political loyalty,” he says. “There's no evidence that these groups have an interest in cooperating with the al-Maliki Shiite government.”

An anonymous commenter on Informed Comment says that the Basra region is almost completely under the control of Shiite militias. He says that though al-Maliki has fired the governor of Basra, that governor is still in charge because the militias that support him trump any influence by the official Iraqi government. He says that oil revenue in this region goes to these militias, not to to legitimate institutions in Iraq. Maybe an anonymous commenter is not to be trusted; but here is a Christian Science Monitor article saying that as the British left the Basra region, the local militias did take over. And here’s another article saying that Taliban-like strictures are on the rise in southern Iraq. This means that Iraq can not earn the expected oil revenue which was supposed to help with reconstruction; and it means that Islamic fundamentalism has not been decreased, but rather increased, in the region. How do these optimistic editorialists answer this?

(The neocon interrupts: "Hold on there, Buckaroo. If this is what happens when coalition forces leave, then it means the U.S. military should not leave." My response: "Easy there, Killer. Saddam kept a tyrannical lid on that country for decades. As soon as that lid was lifted, the Shiite militias appeared. Suppose our own military stays for decades and ends up enforcing peace and unity for that country. Eventually, we will have to leave. Who says Shiite militias, and other tribal loyalties, won't reappear just as easily then? You say you will win their hearts and minds truly by then? By doing what differently from what you've been doing so far which has not resulted in friendlier hearts and minds, overall?)

And if the Sunni tribes show no sign of cooperating with the Iraqi government, and the mainly Shiite region is being run by independent militias, then it doesn’t matter whether the Green Zone government begins to pass laws. They will never have an effect outside the Green Zone.

If Iraq is going better now, can the 4 million refugees forced from their homes (2 million out of the country to Syria and Jordan) return? ‘Cause they’re draining resources where they are being housed now, temporarily.

If Fallujah is experiencing peace now, as the Times Online piece says, it’s because there has been a complete ban on vehicle traffic. According to Juan Cole's commentary on that city and the Anbar province, there is 80% unemployment in Fallujah. What will happen when vehicle traffic is reinstated, as it must be for the economy to function normally again?

Okay, but maybe Iraq really is going well, and we just need to continue to usher the country along its noble path to true democracy. If these editorials stay online, they will be accessible a year from now. (I’ve saved some on my computer anyway.) We’ll see who was right then. And ask yourself now, have any neocons or pro-war advocates been right about anything yet?

Continue . . .