[5-Minute Dance Party] Jimmy’s Gang






OH!


It may be the grayest spring in recent memory— but it doesn’t mean we can’t dance, right? What I love about Parov Stelar‘s take on electro swing is his use of a live band. (Do you want to see Parov Stelar actually play this piece? Here’s Jimmy’s Gang (Unplugged)

Today’s upcoming story is one of love and obsession and mythology, so it felt appropriate to post a music video built on the lexicon of dream logic. Are you excited? We’re excited! Let’s go-go-go!


Sports Mania SPECIAL broadcast: Post-Saint Patrick’s Day wrap-up




Action shot of Irish Stepdancers in Ireland.



BRIGHT BLUE SET of SPORTS MANIA television sports show. Newscasters CHET and ERNESTO sit behind a bright blue DESK tapping their PAPERS and chatting as the Sports Mania’s THEME MUSIC plays.




(ESTABLISHING SHOT of Ernesto and Chet sitting behind a bright blue desk of bright blue Sports Mania set.)

Chet: (Deep in conversation with Ernesto)…so then I sez to the produce guy, I sez to him—

(CUT TO: MEDIUM SHOT of Ernesto and Chet.)

Ernesto: What’d you say to him? Jeeeezuuuu— (Startled. Realizes show just started.)-ssssszzz. (Clears throat.) Hello! And welcome to Sports Mania’s St. Patrick’s Day post-game wrap-up. It was an exciting St. Patrick’s Day this year wasn’t it, Chet?

Chet: (Professional smile) It sure was, Ernesto! We had wins and losses all over the map! From Omsk, Russia to Lowell, Massachusetts, Irish Stepdancers and local revellers went head to head!

Ernesto: (Professional laugh.) They sure did, Chet! But there was one memorable moment from yesterday, wasn’t there? Let’s go to our interview with Niamh Ni Dálaigh, Irish stepdancer. (Trim dark-haired young woman comes up on a built in screen behind the Sports Mania desk. Ernesto and Chet turn to face screen) Niamh, how are you this morning?

Niamh Ni Dálaigh: (Sounds tired and hoarse.) I’m fine, Ernesto—just fine, all things considered.




(CUT TO: CLOSE-UP. Ernesto and Chet share a SPLIT SCREEN with NIAMH NI DÁLAIGH.)

Ernesto: (Serious face.) Now, Niamh, I’d like to show the footage from your midnight St. Patrick’s Day performance at the Wise Rhino last night. Sports fans, let me set up this clip for you. The Wise Rhino is a pub infamous for packing in the St. Patrick’s Day crowds and skimping on stage space. Niamh, how big was the stage where you danced your final show last night?

Niamh: Two feet by two feet, plus two feet high. (Pause.) And I had to share it with the band and five other dancers.

Chet: Well, that is one small stage, Niamh!

(Niamh laughs uncomfortably.)




Ernesto: (Cutting off Chet.) If you’re tuning into the broadcast just now, Irish Dancer Niamh Ni Dálaigh from Reno, Nevada is talking about last night’s performance.

Chet: Let’s run that tape.

(Footage shows Niamh dancing in place on a two-foot high stage. Amateur drunks are standing in front of the stage bobbing and weaving and shouting. The traditional Irish band sits behind her—they’re nearly sitting in each other’s laps.)

Chet: Now, watch carefully as this guy over here— (Circles a drunk guy in front and to the left of Niamh with a green screen pen.) —starts to reach out to touch Niamh’s dancing costume right here. (Chet draws wobbly green screen arrow to Niamh’s dress.)

(Footage continues. Drunk guy starts to grab the skirt of Niamh’s $1500 performance dress. Niamh executes a quick turn, yanking the dress out of his hand, but the turn sends her sprawling into the band right behind her. )




Chet: (Excitedly.) Right there— (Draws six green screen arrows on the footage.)

Ernesto: (Slaps pen out of Chet’s hand.) Shhhh!

(Niamh, still on the split screen, covers her eyes with one hand.)

(Footage: A random drunk hand goes over the lens of the camera, but viewers can hear a SQUEAK and a YELP and the WHINE-POP-PING of several squashed INSTRUMENTS.)

Chet: (Excitedly.) Wow, I’ve never seen—

Ernesto: Shhhh!

(Niamh, still on the split screen, covers her entire face with her hands.)

(Footage: Normal filming resumes. A stunned Niamh sits sprawl-legged on stage surrounded by pieces of mandolin. Three of the four musicians are wearing the remains of a smashed hammer dulcimer. The fourth, a CONCERTINA PLAYER, has the bellows of his instrument wrapped around his neck, which he’s clawing to remove. The dulcimer player is weeping loudly. His tweed vest is in ribbons. )




Chet: Can I—(Waits to be shushed again, by Ernesto. Ernesto nods.)—talk now? (A beat.) So, Niamh, what was going through your mind when you executed that turn?

Niamh: Well, not much of anything, Chet. That was my 40th performance in three cities in five days—

Ernesto: (Looking at camera.) —the standard lead-up to St. Patrick’s Day, right?

Niamh: Yes. Yes, it is. (A pause.) —but, like I said, like every year, I’d been doing these performances since the first of March, really, and by last night, I didn’t even know my own name. Ernesto, I was so tired that I put on one soft shoe and one hard shoe at the beginning of that performance, and I would have gone on stage like that had another dancer not stopped me.

Chet: Wow, that IS tired, Niamh!

Niamh: (Nods.) Yeah. So, if I was thinking anything, I don’t remember it. But I remember what happened after the drunk guy grabbed the skirt part of my solo costume. I fell into the band, Chet. And all you could hear around me in the blur of the moment was Pop! Twaaaa-aaaang! Blawwp!

Niamh: (Continues.) I was smacked in the shoulder with that concertina—that thing should always be holstered when not in use—and somehow I sat on Jim’s mandolin. (Covers eyes.) All those smashed instruments and crying men. I’m never going to get that sound out of my ears, Chet. Never.




Ernesto: We’ve only got another minute here, Niamh. What I want to know is, what happened to the original drunk guy who grabbed your dress?

Niamh: Well… (Hand covers her mouth.) He started laughing.

Chet: Wow! What did you do?

Niamh: At first I was too stunned from the accident, but then I saw him doubled over, and like I said, he was laughing at us.

Ernesto and Chet: (Spellbound.) Yes?

Niamh: So I, uh, got up from the stage floor. (A final pause.) And then I walked over and punched him in the nose.

Ernesto: Whoa! That’s a serious party foul! How many Feiseanna do you have to sit out for this penalty?

Niamh: (Genuine smile.) Six. My Claddagh ring broke off in the drunk guy’s left nostril, and he smashed his face with his own beer bottle trying to pull it out. So, I’m out for one dance competition per stitch.

Chet: (Mouth open.) How much of your Claddagh ring ended up in his nose?

Niamh: The heart, the hands, and the entire crown broke off inside his nose, Chet. It was bad. It was really bad.




Ernesto: If you had to do last night all over again, would you have done anything differently?

(Niamh hesitates, then—)

Niamh: Yeah. (A beat.) I would have worn a bigger ring.

(Sports Mania theme music plays.)

Chet: Folks at home, we’ll see you after the commercial break. We’d like to thank our guest, Niamh Ni Dálaigh, who had to wake up before noon on the day after St. Patrick’s Day to be with us!

( Niamh waves a bleary hand at the camera. The split screen dissolves.)




(MEDIUM SHOT of Ernesto and Chet behind Sports Mania desk.)

Ernesto: (Continuing on.) After the break, we’re going to talk to a an eight-hand Irish figures team who got into a fight with half of the metropolitan symphony in Poughkeepsee, New York! This is Ernesto—

Chet: —and Chet. Live, with our day after St. Patrick’s Day wrap up on—

Ernesto and Chet: Sports Mania!

(Theme music swells.)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)




PRONUNCIATION GUIDE


Niamh Ni Dálaigh   NEEV   NEH DOHL-lee 

(Irish name. “Ni” replaces “O’” in feminine names.)

Feiseanna  Fesh-eAN-na  

(Irish Stepdancing competitions.)


[5-Minute Dance Party] Folk You









Flick and flick

and heel stamp!




Hey everybody! Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Did you think I could possibly forget about you on the one day of the year I refuse to wear the color green?

The truth is, I spend half the year thinking about what funny/strange/absurd short film I can show you on St. Pat’s!

This year, I decided to go with the dangerously funny Irish step-dancing duo Up & Over It one more time. Just like last year, Up & Over It decided to release a brand new video just before March 17th, but we decided to go with last year’s St. Pat’s Day release.

What’s lovely about this film is that it feels antithetical to all of the stereotypes of the Irish dancing experience, even for people like me who live nearly two decades inside the Irish stepdancing world. It’s sunny and melancholy and funny and spare. I do hope you enjoy it.


Here’s one of the inside jokes: Irish stepdancing is not folk dancing. (Hence, the “folk you.” Folk dancing choreographies and steps do not change whatsoever—what people danced in the 19th century is what they dance today. The goal in folk dance is to preserve dance forms exactly as they were.

But in Irish dancing, the steps are always being created or made more difficult, and the choreographies themselves belong to individual dancers or dance schools. Everything is new all of the time, even when certain rules about form are not changeable whatsoever, e.g. feet are still crossed, turnout has become even more strict, and you don’t ever land with bent knees.) The best comparison I can give you is solo ice skating competitors—they’re always trying to push past what’s already been done to something no one has ever seen before.

This short film goes out to all my homies who have been dancing for audiences all over every city in the world since 6 a.m. St. Patrick’s Day morning (and who will probably be dancing on some tiny stage somewhere until midnight tonight.) May all of your performance venues have large restrooms in which you can change your clothes, and may every floor on which you dance today be wooden and not cobblestones or concrete.


ALL THE ST. PATRICK’S DAY STORIES:


    I Was a Teenage Irish Stepdancer! Or, A Few Notes on Irish Stepdancing That I’ve Been Meaning to Write Down for Years Now
    [5-Minute Dance Party] It’s ON
    [5-Minute Dance Party] Tu vuò fà l’americano
    [5-Minute Dance Party] Danny Boy (Surprise Version!)


MORE IRISH DANCE STORIES


    Adulthood CONFIDENTIAL! You Will Win the Trophy; You Will Lose the Trophy. Keep Dancing.
    [5-Minute Dance Party] Learn to Fly (with the Rince Nia Academy)




[5-Minute Dance Party] Bitten By The Frost









I live for the lightning

to strike twice.




About a month ago, The Husband and I were watching the replay of final figure skating free skate for the Sochi Olympics. My competition background gives me sharp eyes for mistakes and successes in form and execution. I pointed out a few things to him that I found interesting about the competitors, and, as a result, we got into a discussion about failure and success in high-pressure situations.

Champions, to abuse a quote from F. Scott Fitzgerald, are different from you and me.


Well, yeah, you’re saying to yourself in a teenagerish voice. That’s because they’re champions, Courtenay. Duh.

Well, yes and no, y’all. From my background as a competition Irish Dancer and a career journalist, I can definitively that the elements that make a champion ultimately comes down to a list of traits.

 

Champions and future champions:

 

    1. learn from failure.
    2. practice every day.
    3. show excellent self-assessment and self-correction skills.
    4. perform consistently in high-pressure situations.


It would be easy to wail on about the advantages of money and good support. Yes, those things do help, but they don’t consistently produce champions. Not to knock the power of money—money can buy you the best equipment and the best training and put forth travel opportunities for competitions, and trust you me those things do help quite a bit, but they aren’t the absolute predictors of success.

You could also posit that past success predicts future success. But that hypothesis fails quickly in messy real-life situations. Besides that, hypotheses of that sort feel flat out ridiculous, don’t they? It’s the snake swallowing its own tail. Q: How do you succeed? A: Well, first you must succeed. (Bullhockey!)

Everyone has seen at least one low-ranked competitor break through to the top level of their competitive field due to some use or permutation of the traits of champions I listed above. My feeling on this phenomenon is that, in the right situation, failure can be a great teacher for a late-blooming champion.

What I don’t know is whether these traits can be learned from the ground up, or whether temperament and tendency predicts the ability to adapt, learn, and thrive in competition. (If you have any thoughts on this, let me know in the comments!)


While these five characteristics show up again and again in sports and competitive dance champions*, traits like this should but don’t always equally apply to accomplished artists in non-performance fields.

Take photographer W. Eugene Smith, for instance.

While Smith proved himself able to perform consistently under pressure and he practiced his profession every day (save the two years after his combat injury), he had that typical high ego-low self-esteem thing that can really throw an artist to the ropes, even one like Smith.


Regardless, this famed war photographer managed to succeed despite fear, to thrive despite failure, and to innovate despite the ridiculous attentions of fame.

I gotta tell you—I’d take a dozen W. Eugene Smiths over a thousand regular champions any day. There’s just more there there.




* Really, any performer whose abilities can be quantitatively and qualitatively measured fall within these margins also. (Like who? Competition-trained classical musicians being a good example here.)




UP NEXT! An Our Sunday Best about photographer W. Eugene Smith’s break from convention, his wife, and his suburban life!

Our Sunday Best is Bluebird Blvd.’s original award-winning feature series. Established in 2011, Our Sunday Best has covered everything from multimedia haiku to fantastic failure to Tenzing Norgay. For the last two years, Our Sunday Best has focused its lens on a history of modern photography.

Accept no inferior substitutes! And don’t take any wooden nickels, you hear?


PSST! And tomorrow being St. Patrick’s Day and all, we’ll have another wild totally CONFIDENTIAL Irish step-dancing story for your reading pleasure coupled with a St. Patrick’s Day 5-Minute Dance Party that’s been a guarded secret for weeks! (EEEEE! I can’t wait! Come on by! I’ll put the coffee on!)


ABOUT THIS SONG/VIDEO: Olly Knights (often misspelled as “Knight”) is a recording artist in the UK equally famous for his solo work as well as his work as part of the music duo Turin Brakes. This song comes from his self-produced release If Not Now When? (also available direct from the artist on the Olly Knights Etchshop. The video is by internet-savvy filmmaker/film tech blogger Philip Bloom.

[Super-Secret Friday Night 5-Minute Dance Party] Third Uncle









*Uh, there may or may not be a rude word right at the beginning of this song—I can’t tell. It’s Bauhaus singing Brian Eno, right? You’ve got to expect a little ’70s redux grittiness, no?


This Bauhaus cover of Brian Eno‘s “Third Uncle” is one of my favorite songs in the world of all time, ever.

Yet every time I hear it, I feel like I’m listening to a completely different song.


You see, I can’t understand the words.

And I’m not alone: No one can understand the words to “Third Uncle.”


Does anyone know the exact words to this song?

To this one question, I can happily offer you a “yes.”


Exactly two people in the world know what’s going on here:

    Brian Eno, who penned the original “Third Uncle” and is notorious for withholding the lyrics to his music, and—
    Peter Murphy of Bauhaus, who basically made up a mostly different version…I think.


Since Brian Eno is infamous for not publishing his lyrics to his songs, Eno fans have been parsing his songs for nigh on five decades now.

“Third Uncle” is probably the most curious creation of the period, and that’s saying a lot because there’s some incomprehensible stuff in his 1974 full-length album, Taking Tiger Mountain (By Strategy).


Lovable proto-goth scamps Bauhaus covered “Third Uncle” in 1982 as a b-side to their single of the Bowie-penned “Ziggy Stardust.”

That funky bunch made it a habit to be rather soft-focused themselves about lyrics and meanings. Expect no help from the Bauhausian quarter—they aim to confuse.


Looking for exact terms like “Third Uncle Lyrics” on Google would be a waste of typing because you’ll find copies of the same, absolutely incorrect lyrics for both versions, thanks to those awful lyrics scraper sites, who do nothing but copy one another’s mistakes, and slather their sites with illegal amounts of Google ads.

(You couldn’t possibly be more lazy than those ad-crammed fake lyrics sites. Really. They’ve done their damage: Most songs have incorrect lyric sheets because of those fools.)


Based on nothing but three chords and the truth I’ve put together what I think may be the first stanza to the Bauhaus version of “Third Uncle.”

The intro to the Bauhaus cover of Brian Eno’s “Third Uncle” clocks in at 01:36, but the entire song only runs to 5:20.

After the 01:36 mark, Peter Murphy (lead singer and frontman of Bauhaus) sings (I think):

 

    There are t-ts

    There are sports

    There are legs

    There are jocks

    And a strong pair of hips

    No there’s nothing, but despite [but the spite?]

    There is you

    And then there was you


And that’s it. That’s all I’ve got so far from pressing my Sennheiser headphones against my head with the volume turned (more than slightly) up, playing the first stanza of “Third Uncle” over and over and over and over and over for about twenty minutes.

Even with all of that fuss, I still don’t think I got that lyrics snippet quite right.


Aside from the lyrics, there’s a lot to ponder in “Third Uncle.” I love the rangy, twangy flavor of Bauhaus’ cover version and the picked up tempo feels a little more mysterious and big than Eno’s original. Some folks, including me, think the Bauhaus version is the better version, but you can’t have the Bauhaus without the Eno original. So there’s that.

I’d like to think that Eno’s written so many brilliant things, he can afford to give over on this one little alternate arrangement of one of his early greats. I know it doesn’t work that way, and it would piss me off should someone suggest that to me over something I’ve created. So there’s that, too, I guess.


Peter Murphy has been pretty straightforward in interviews about not revealing the lyrics of “Third Uncle.” Here’s a 2013 interview of Peter Murphy in the Miami New Times, which should give you a sense of what the man’s like.

Though I read this piece and a few others in order to research this Super-Secret Friday Night 5-Minute Dance Party, I personally don’t enjoy interviews with Murphy. The nicest way I can think to put it is that he works best when he remains wreathed in a little simple mystery because he tends to get ahead of himself.

But don’t we all? I think that’s why I’ve liked “Third Uncle” all of these years—it’s a song that’s a list, a silly and awful list—categorizing who knows what, for who knows what reason. And yet it makes sense anyway, right?

Well, sort of.


AND THE MYSTERY DEEPENS: I originally had a completely different tribute video lined up for this song, but I had to pull that video completely and alert YouTube because the creator of the original Bauhaus “Third Uncle” tribute—(you’re not going to believe this)—slipped in a subliminal box with text in it somewhere between 04:39 to 04:41 of the video montage. It was a very bizarre thing after an entire story of bizarre things. Oh, “Third Uncle”! You always bring something weird to the party, don’t you?

Instant Bluebird! She Is Kawehi!


Music artist Kawehi appears to have eight arms, all playing music.


Since we featured Kawehi on Bluebird Blvd.’s one and only 5-Minute Dance Party today, it seemed like a good idea to share a few more songs from Kawehi’s ear-friendly musical output. So, here’s a Kawehi playlist for you to enjoy offline at your leisure! The playlist is free to download*, songs courtesy of the artist. If you liked these selections, do check out more of Kawehi’s music on SoundCloud, BandCamp, and Kawehi’s official website.




*Caveat Emptor: You do have to sign up for a free with-no-strings-attached SoundCloud account.

[5-Minute Dance Party] I’d Never Tell






Don’t send me postcards—

my blood runs too thick.



The startling talents of multi-instrumentalist singer-songwriter Kawehi is such a treat to share with you on this lovely Friday afternoon. Her versatility and her professionalism just amaze me. I love it when people succeed at something they do well, don’t you?


Kawehi’s most recent release is available for purchase on Bandcamp: From Kansas With Love. Stay tuned for some free music from Kawehi! UP next right here on Bluebird Blvd.!


Bet there’s real good dinner specials at the No Whiner Diner





The colorful No Whiner Diner in Carlsbad, NM


Are you the kind of person who shoots photographs out of car windows?   I am.


Sorry for the absence, y’all, but I’ve been reallyreallyreally sick with allergies all spring. (The truth is I’ve been a big sniffly, crabby spaced-out doofus.) The last four weeks have especially been sinus-hellish. But I live in hope: My insurance kicks in next month and I should be able to see a specialist. (HooRAAAAAY!)

Here’s a picture of a restaurant I shot out of a moving car with my phone last December and edited in Photoshop, Gimp and Lightroom. We were driving through Carlsbad, NM, where the famous No Whiner Diner is located. (When was the last time you shot a picture out of a moving vehicle? What was it? How did it turn out? And why did you shoot out of a car window versus stopping to take the shot?)

And just so you know—I’ve missed you a ton all these weeks. Inflamed sinuses can make a bluebird awfully lonely. I’m thinking of you tonight, and I am hoping you are well. A big hypoallergenic hug to you and yours.


PSSSSST! GUESS what’s happening NEXT SUNDAY! No, really! GUESS! BLUEBIRD BLVD.’S most POPULAR and completely ORIGINAL feature, OUR SUNDAY BEST, will be RETURNING to ITS REGULARLY SCHEDULED BROADCAST. Accept no inferior substitutes! And don’t take any wooden nickles, ya hear?

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