May 30, 2020

Female athletes to make comeback as hot girl type during restless phase, and athletes are butt women not boob women

Out of nowhere YouTube started pressuring me to watch clips of women's track & field events that showcased the ass-and-thighs of the athletes. OK, you got me.

Aside from looking nice physically, they're decently entertaining to watch -- not long and boring, no complicated rules, and minimal equipment. Just a brief burst of display of overall athleticism and coordination. Not so different from watching dancers, just leaning more toward the athletic than the coordination side.

First impression: 100% of athletes are butt women rather than boob women, confirming yet again that corporeal people are ass people rather than boob people (who are cerebral). It has nothing to do with having low body fat -- there are plenty of women who are skinny and busty. Fitness does not melt away breast tissue. And there are plenty of women with a normal or chubby level of body fat who carry more of it in the back than in the front. It's the kinesthetic orientation itself that is tied to being a butt woman rather than a boob woman.

As for above the neck, the relay sprinters have the prettiest faces. Perhaps because this is not a championship sport, it lets in less tomboy-ish women who don't have to make the sport the main focus of their lives.

Then I wondered why YouTube was pushing this type now. Athletes haven't been a hot girl type for awhile in pop culture. In fact, throughout the vulnerable phase of the excitement cycle, from 2015-'19, the most resonant portrayal of them was as sexual assault victims, i.e. the US gymnastic sex abuse scandal. Far from being confined to the sports world, one of those victims (Aly Raisman) was featured in "Me Too: the Music Video," AKA "Girls Like You" by Maroon 5, one of the mega-hits of that emo phase.

It seems like not too long ago, female athletes could become instant sex symbols, like this 2012 viral video of Australian hurdler Michelle Jenneke doing her bouncy warm-up dance:

But then that was the manic phase of the excitement cycle, 2010-'14, before energy levels crashed into a refractory phase and everyone went emo. There was nothing incompatible, though, about sexy athletes and a zeitgeist marked by soaring energy levels.

There was even greater popular horniness over athletes during the restless warm-up phase just before, during the late 2000s. Consulting the first list I could find of most attractive female athletes, I narrowed it to only those I have actually heard of. (I'm not a sports fan, so if I don't know them, they were not a pop-culture-wide phenomenon.) From 2005-'09, there was Danica Patrick, Maria Sharapova, and Gina Carano (during the original MMA craze).

Left off of that list because she was only a 17 year-old high schooler at the time, is the most pined-after athlete of the late 2000s, Allison Stokke from California. All those little men trying to pole-vault up into her eyes...

From the vulnerable phase of the early 2000s, there's no one I recognized, although Anna Kournikova was a sex symbol during both the late '90s and early 2000s. But no one who became a hit sensation during 2000-'04. The parallels with 2015-'19 are striking.

There were plenty of them before then, however, beginning in the restless warm-up phase of the early '90s and lasting into the late '90s manic phase (when Kournikova first broke out). The most memorable was beach volleyball player Gabrielle Reece, who became a model and host of a show on MTV. At the same time, swimmer Summer Sanders during the 1992 Olympics was singled out for her pretty looks, and by the late '90s was the face of VO5 in TV commercials.

And who can forget the 1994 episode of Seinfeld that revolves around lusting after and dating a former Olympic gymnast? Or the fact that in that same year tabloid newspapers and TV shows, as well as Penthouse, made a sex symbol out of figure skater Tonya Harding by publishing images from a sex tape of hers? Gross if you ask me, but it resonated widely enough to be sought after by the media. In 1999, soccer player Brandi Chastain became famous for tearing off her shirt to reveal her sports bra after winning the Women's World Cup.

I can't find any major examples from before the '90s -- women's sports were just not a big thing, and the handful of athletes who were widely known were not also babes, let alone cultural icons of beauty.

Still, that leaves two full cycles' worth of history, and it does look like athletes lose their sex symbol status during the vulnerable phase. People's energy levels are so negative, the guys can't imagine being with a woman who they assume would be too full of energy in bed, and the girls can't imagine wanting to be the type of sex symbol also known for bursts of athletic activity. Everyone just wants to hide under a pile of blankets until their energy levels recover.

When their energy does recover during the restless warm-up phase, the appeal of warm-up exercises leads both guys and girls to naturally look toward athletes as role models of attractiveness. That only continues into the following manic phase, when energy levels are on a sustained spike.

With the restless phase having begun this year, expect to see the return of athlete babes in pop culture over the next 5 to 10 years. Judging from history, it will be one from an individual rather than a team sport. Whoever it turns out to be, we do know in advance that she'll be showing off a great set of buns rather than breasts.

May 26, 2020

Teenagers coming out of their shells in public places, as restless zeitgeist resumes its course

At the end of last year, I wrote two social weather reports (here and here) about signs that the social mood was shifting out of the vulnerable phase of the excitement cycle, and into the restless warm-up phase.

The telltale signs were teenage and 20-something girls starting to openly brush against me in public retail stores, as well as catcalling me from their car. It hadn't happened since the summer of 2015, which is the year the vulnerable phase began. And that had been standard stuff going back to 2005, when the last restless warm-up phase began. It was far less common during the early 2000s when I was in college (probably the lamest and most frustrating time to be there, other than the late 2010s). But it did happen during the '90s when I was in middle and high school.

So it rises and falls according to the excitement cycle -- getting warmed up during the warm-up phase, lasting through the manic phase, then falling off a cliff during the vulnerable phase.

I assumed these behaviors would continue throughout this year, although the initial coronavirus lockdown seemed to put a halt to the cycle's plans. They're less willing to brush against you when the norm is social distancing.

Still, the fact that people are so restless under quarantine only proves that we are in fact in the restless phase, and out of the vulnerable phase. Otherwise we'd be happy to burrow away in our snug little cocoons indefinitely, where no one could socially and emotionally over-stimulate us and cause us pain. We're now craving that social stimulation, and we don't want to stay holed up forever where no one can interact with us.

Young people more than others seem especially eager to get back outside. And I don't mean "back" as in returning to their behavior of last year or the year before, when they were in the emo phase like everyone else. I mean for the first time in five years to really be out and about.

And sure enough, after a few months of lockdown mentality, they're chafing at the social isolation and have resumed their flirtatious behavior in public places. Not in retail stores anymore -- those are mostly closed, and on the few occasions I've gone to a grocery store, there were mainly old people around. But they're making the best of their circumstances, and taking their restless behavior to streets, sidewalks, and parks -- walking, riding bikes, roller-blading, skateboarding, and so on.

To keep from going stir-crazy, I go out for a drive a few times a week, always with the windows down so it doesn't feel like another enclosed space, and to pick up everyone's mood with the music streaming out. Pedestrians react friendly rather than annoyed, confirming my pre-corona report that strangers had begun saying "Hi" in the park again for the first time in five years.

But in the past week or so, perhaps driven by the warm weather, I've noticed the girls giving more forward signs than just a friendly smile. Today as I slowed to a red light -- "Cars" playing on the radio -- a cute teenager walking by turned her head, gave me a nervous double-take look through over-sized sunglasses, and started involuntarily petting her hair.

Omigosh, is that a random hot guy? Finally, a chance to restore my validation reserves!!!

Who am I to harm her self-esteem by denying her? Nothing wrong with some steady confident eye-contact for several moments at a red light. It must've been the first contact she'd had in a long time.

I do take those situations seriously -- she's willing to put herself out there on multiple levels. She's going through adolescence, she's coming out of the vulnerable-phase cocoon, and she's trying to stay normal under the quarantine. She deserves a reward for taking the risk, and if she wants to claim that validation reward from me rather than someone else, that's just the duty I'll have to fulfill in order to help keep society whole rather than fragmented. Especially when she's just indulging in some wholesome flirtation, and not anything slutty or crazy.

The week before, I came to a red light with "Rock and Roll High School" on the CD player. Two high school girls were riding bikes in the other direction, and I noticed the usual look on their faces. I put on my left turn signal while waiting, and they then decided to turn right on red, heading the same direction but making me chase them a little after the light turned green. They'd been at the red light first, and could've turned right before I even got there; only when I put on my left signal did they decide to go down there.

After driving around them, I turned left at the next stop sign, and not long after noticed that they'd made the same turn again to follow me. It's an unusual path in the neighborhood -- I was taking a scenic route while cruising around aimlessly -- and all the other walkers, joggers, bike riders, and dog walkers just move along that first street that we were both on. For them to take two unusual turns is not exactly subtle -- but then their brains are too soaked in hormones to practice less conspicuous tailing behavior.

And besides, their point was not to creepily stalk me -- it was to play "tag, you're it!" After some initial eye-contact to tag me, they made me follow behind and beside them, then once I'd carefully passed them on the narrow street, I had effectively tagged them back, and they began chasing me to tag me back again.

It was cute! But I wasn't going to egg them on too much, so I picked up a little speed and made a few more turns so they wouldn't be so hot on my tail. They'd gotten enough of a reward for taking their pro-social risk in a public place like that.

I get followed around in retail stores by those girls, but this was the first occasion where they had upped the ante to vehicular pursuit. It's probably only a matter of time before the roller-bladers and skater girls pull up to my bumper, grab on, and ask me to please carry them along for a ride...

May 25, 2020

"Rain on Me" by Lady Gaga: end of backlash against UNH-tss rhythm, return of percussion to dance music

A quick note on the new Lady Gaga and Ariana Grande song "Rain on Me".

In the historical survey of dance fevers during restless warm-up phases of the excitement cycle, I noted that the dance craze from the late 2000s was unusual in one respect. It did accent the offbeat in the rhythm, but it did this almost exclusively through non-percussion instruments -- mainly a synthesizer playing notes rhythmically, not melodically.

This was a backlash against the UNH-tss rhythm typical of the early '90s dance fever, which grew during the late '90s and carried over into the early 2000s. Once the next dance fever erupted, in the late 2000s, they wanted a different approach to avoid the widespread stigma of UNH-tss music.

So they cut out most of the percussion, especially on the offbeat, and replaced it with synth notes. The style is "electropop," as it derived this sparse percussion and rhythmic use of synths from the "electroclash" style of the early 2000s (which was more niche back then, and electro-"pop" brought it into the mainstream).

By far the greatest example of that style was Lady Gaga. None of her numerous #1 Billboard Dance Club hits had percussion devoted only to the offbeat, and it was sparse even on the main beats. That continued with her lesser big hits during the manic phase of the early 2010s, such as "Edge of Glory". And in fact, it seemed to be continuing right up through the nascent dance fever of the current warm-up phase which began in 2020 -- "Stupid Love" has minimal percussion, none on the offbeat, while synth notes establish the rhythm.

But with the release of "Rain on Me," even the foremost example of minimalist percussion in dance music has given in to the drum revival under way. Bass drum on the 1 and 3 main beats, hand claps on the backbeat of 2 and 4, and a tap on the hi-hat during the offbeats in between.

It's a disco rhythm for the neo-neo-neo-disco era. Not too different from the UNH-tss rhythm that began during the dance fever of the early '90s warm-up phase, especially when supported by the rhythmic synth chords. Most commentary on the song has highlighted this early '90s style.

Aside from the music, the lyrics also touch on the common themes of the warm-up phase, now that the vulnerable phase is over and people are no longer in a refractory state. They're restless to get out and interacting again. No more victimhood Olympics, Me Too hysteria, etc.

Now the mood is about getting over it and moving past it. It's impossible not to notice the stark contrast between this song's uplifting tone and energetic feel, and the mellow wallowing of her main hits from the vulnerable phase, "A Million Reasons" and "Shallow".

For my money, "Break My Heart" by Dua Lipa is still the gold standard for club music during the neo-neo-neo-disco era. But "Rain on Me" is still good dance music, and its lyrical tone and theme are a welcome relief from the trauma porn of the now-gone vulnerable phase. I think this one will have a greater impact socially and emotionally than culturally, but that's no less of a role in the shift between phases of the excitement cycle.

BTW, don't look at the Tik Tok compilations for this song just yet -- right now, it's only her mega-fans doing them, i.e. fags and trannies, hardly any girls. Stick with the music video instead.

Incidentally, Ariana Grande looks more wild and mature with her hair down, during the later part. She does have a cute baby doll face that is showcased by clearing away all her hair into a upward ponytail, and she could even pull off a short pixie style. But nothing gets the blood going like long, dark hair flowing down like the hanging gardens of Babylon.

May 23, 2020

"Complex" rhythms are simple when danced: Balkan pop-folk music with 5 beats per measure

To further underscore the inseparability of music and dance, let's look at meter, or how many beats there are per measure (i.e., before the pattern repeats).

This is the aspect of music that cerebral nerds fixate on and screw around with to produce "weird" time signatures -- prog rock, math rock, etc.

But it turns out that plain old folk music can produce unusual time signatures without a cerebral orientation -- indeed, from a purely corporeal approach, which simplifies the process. Alternating the number of steps within a pass in a dance -- e.g., a 2-step followed by a 3-step, and repeat -- actually provides motivation for an unusual time signature -- rather than pulling it out of your ass to showcase your brainpower.

The fundamental meters have either 2 or 3 beats per measure, with main stress on the first beat and weak beats trailing after: "ONE two, ONE two" or "ONE two three, ONE two three".

The standard is 4 beats per measure, but you actually hear it and move your body to it as though it were two pairs of two beats apiece, each pair having stress on the first beat and a weak beat after, but with the first pair's stress being even stronger than that of the second pair. This yields three degrees of stress -- strong on 1, medium on 3, weak on 2 and 4. "ONE two, THREE four, ONE two, THREE four".

If you don't subdivide the measure into those two pairs, and try to preserve only one degree of stress, that would yield 1 stressed beat and 3 weak beats. For example, "ONE two three four". It's not impossible, but those three consecutive weak beats trail off a little too long. The natural tendency is to break up three weak beats in a row, and give one of them stress -- albeit to a lesser degree than the main stress. Hence grouping them into two pairs, each with its own stress (strong, weak, medium, weak).

Before getting to the unusual meters, let's ground the discussion of 4 beats in a kinesthetic activity. Normally I'd say marching in place to the rhythm, but that won't work if we're using 2 or 3 weak beats in a row. For walking or marching, one foot marks the strong beat, the other marks the weak beat. Two or three weak beats in a row would require putting the same foot forward for 2 or 3 steps -- doesn't work. So instead, try hopping -- hop on one foot for a strong beat, hop on the other foot for a weak beat. There's nothing impossible about hopping on the weak-beat foot for 2 or 3 times in a row.

Now try hopping to a count of "ONE two three four" -- strong foot once, then weak foot three times in a row, and repeat it over again. There's too many weak hops in a row, and only one strong hop to relieve the monotony! It feels like you're going to keel over in the weak-foot direction, or buckle under the pressure, or otherwise shut down your activity level.

But alternate back and forth, so that the 3rd beat gets the strong foot, and it feels totally natural and sustaining of your activity level. If your strong foot hits equally hard on 1 and 3, that's really just a 2-beat meter. So try to give the 3rd beat only medium strength -- more than the weak foot does, but not as forceful as the main 1st beat. Now you've got a 4-beat measure that's subdivided into two pairs, with primary and secondary stress.

We've solved the mystery of why 4-beat measures in music almost always get subdivided into two pairs -- because 3 weak beats in a row, with only 1 strong beat to relieve them, is conceptually imaginable, but corporeally destructive. It shuts down your dancing activity. Solution: subdivide 4 beats into 2 pairs with strong and medium stress, and suddenly you can alternate your feet and thereby preserve your energy level and balance. Musical choices are constrained by the requirements of dancing.

So why allow 3-beat measures, with their 2 weak beats in a row? Don't think, just give it a try -- hop on the strong foot once, then hop on the weak foot twice, and repeat. It's not as awkward as three weak beats in a row. It does throw you slightly off-balance, but not so much that you can't recover. And it does drag your energy down slightly, but not as much as when there are three straight beats worth of low-energy motions.

If we want any departure at all from the simple "ONE two, ONE two" meter, and its "RIGHT left, RIGHT left" motions, let's only depart as minimally as possible, just to keep it grounded. And in fact, you're getting a lot more leeway than you'd think. With "ONE two three..." the number of strong beats is the same, but now you've got twice as many weak beats -- a 100% increase. That's plenty.

* * *

This brings us naturally to a meter with 5 beats per measure. We're fine with a 2-beat pair, we're fine with a 3-beat triplet, and we're fine with combining 2 pairs into a 4-beat measure. So why not try another minimal combination? -- two groupings as before, but instead of 2 + 2, it's 2 + 3, which gives us 5 beats total. There's still stress on the first beat of each grouping, and still primary stress on the first grouping, and secondary stress on the second grouping. Then it's, "ONE two THREE four five, ONE two THREE four five".

To dance to this rhythm, hop on your feet: strong weak, strong weak weak. Again, on the 3rd beat, your strong foot should only get medium-level force, not as much as on the 1st beat, but clearly more than on the weak beats. And if that's too difficult at first, just give your strong foot the same force on both 1 and 3. Having medium force on the secondary stress is more important when there's 4 beats per measure, where using the same force on 1 and 3 would make it sound like only 2 beats per measure.

When there's 5 beats, subdivided into 2 + 3, there's no way to confuse the first and second grouping because each has a different number of beats. So distinguishing the first from the second grouping does not depend so much on varying the force delivered on the stressed beat of each one, and differing primary from secondary stress is not necessary. (But it does help emphasize the different groupings.)

In the comments later, I'll add some thoughts on why 2 + 3 is more natural than 3 + 2, the other possible way to combine a pair and a triplet together to make 5 beats. It's not relevant now, though. But it does derive from the mechanics of dancing.

For a more interesting dance, rather than just hopping in place, try moving sideways in a line. Move in the direction of your strong foot, so that you land on a strong beat. For the weak beat, just hop in place on your weak foot. So it goes: "STEP hop, STEP hop hop" and repeat. Maybe it's more of a jump than a step to the side -- something more forceful than the hop.

And that's it -- "unusual" time signatures with 5 beats per measure are not so strange if the music is motivated by dancing, like Mother Nature intended. We could do 7 beats per measure, but it would break down according to the same principles -- e.g., combine a pair, a pair, and a triplet. The sideways dance would go, "STEP hop, STEP hop, STEP hop hop" and repeat.

These asymmetrical meters allow for some pleasant variety in the rhythm, while also keeping us from falling all over ourselves. It mixes things up while still keeping them in a simple, orderly structure.

* * *

Now for some actual music with 5 beats per measure, driven entirely by dances that involve a 2-step and then a 3-step movement. The ground zero for their popularity seems to be Thrace, which is today split between Bulgaria, Greece, and Turkey, in Southeastern Europe. From my cursory survey, 5-beat meter seems to be a fairly reliable marker of Indo-European lineage, but that's a topic for another post.

National folk music saw a resurgence after the end of the Communist era in Eastern Europe, and in Bulgaria this was mixed with pop music to produce "pop-folk". It also went under the name "chalga," but that label has rapidly changed in meaning over the past 10-15 years to mean generic international genres that are mixed together (techno, rap, etc.), without a strong Bulgarian folk influence. The songs below are from before that transition, and the instrumental backing band hails from Thrace (Yambol).

The singer in the first one was a Turkish-speaking Gypsy of Bulgarian nationality -- talk about being at the crossroads between Europe and Asia. It may be hard to hear the 2 + 3 rhythm at first, but wait until the clarinet solo when there's just a spare bass rhythm otherwise. The primary stress is on 1, then a rest or silence on 2. There's a little offbeat before 3, the secondary stress on 3 itself, which builds through weak beats 4 and 5, then crashes down again on 1.

Try tapping your fingers in order to the rhythm. If you use only your four fingers, and not your thumb, you'll notice that the main stress falls on a different finger from one measure to the next. Namely, the next one in order from whatever it was previously. If it were a 4-beat measure, it should fall on the same finger each time. Since it's moving over one finger each measure, that means there's 1 more beat than 4 -- 5 beats per measure.

If you start with your pinky, that gets the heavy stress, the ring gets a rest, the middle gets the secondary stress, and the fore and thumb get two weak building-up beats, before cycling back to the heavy stress on the pinky again. Slow it down in YouTube if you need to. That also goes for getting used to dancing to it.

The second song is a little harder to hear, but it's the only other example I could quickly find while browsing a country's music that I'm pretty unfamiliar with. It's also a faster tempo than the first example, so try this one out after you've got the first one down.

The first music video brings back memories of the good ol' days here, where the band was ugly guys who could compose and play instruments well, a cute songbird on the microphone, and random babes moving their bodies to fully integrate dance with music and singing, as Mother Nature intended.

"Kaynana" by Reyhan and Orchestra Kristal (2002):

"Limon" by Toni Dacheva and Orchestra Kristal (1993):

May 22, 2020

Preview of power pop's 15-year cycle: "Needles and Pins" in 4 ways

I'm preparing something more in-depth on the cycles of power pop music (including so-called jangle pop). For now, suffice it to say that it emerges during the restless warm-up phase of the 15-year excitement cycle, as people come out of their vulnerable-phase shells and are eager to start mingling with the opposite sex again. Power pop is the sensitive-guy form that this trend takes.

In the meantime, a striking finding as I was going through the history. "Needles and Pins" is a staple of the genre, and most pop music fans will only be familiar with the version by the Searchers. But it was originally recorded a year before by a female singer. Later, two separate cover versions were released, also within a year of each other.

These all came out during a restless warm-up phase of the cycle -- early '60s and late '70s. (Tom Petty and Stevie Nicks played it live in '85, a vulnerable phase, but I'm talking about recording it in the studio for an album or single.)

The Ramones version highlights the multifaceted nature of the zeitgeist, in any phase. They're mostly a punk band, and the explosion of stripped-down 'tude indeed takes place during restless phases -- surf rock of the early '60s, punk of the late '70s, pop-punk (and some grunge) of the early '90s, and pop-punk and emo of the late 2000s.

And yet here they are during the heyday of punk, covering an earnest pining-and-yearning sensitive-guy anthem. Well sure, why not? -- they're two different ways of expressing the same underlying theme of restlessness, the urge to return to socializing and having fun after five years in the vulnerable-phase cocoon.

It would be nice to hear this one again during the just-beginning restless warm-up phase, but remember that music doesn't do cover songs anymore, despite TV and movies being entirely remakes, reboots, etc. Maybe there will be another early '60s prestige TV show like Mad Men (from the late 2000s -- matching phases), and they can work the song into the soundtrack somewhere.

The Searchers (1964):

Jackie DeShannon (1963):

Smokie (1977):

The Ramones (1978):

May 19, 2020

The ancient Indo-European roots of good luck charms in New Year's dessert, from Celtic Christmas pudding to samanu for Nowruz

I've been bitten by the Indo-European bug again, this time after looking into the cultural evolution of food. Years ago -- use google to search the blog for "Indo-European" -- I looked into iconography, dance, wedding rituals, etc., but didn't touch food.

In order to determine that some piece of culture has been inherited over the generations, it's best to study a piece that is not strongly shaped by material concerns -- and food certainly is. Not just the local environment containing different raw materials, but convergent evolution that could make two disparate lineages appear to share a common source.

For example, all pastoralist cultures will include dairy products in some way, even though some of them evolved separately and independently of each other way back when. At this level, you can't tell which ones share a common ancestor. But perhaps there are finer-grained aspects of their dairy culture that do in fact distinguish one from the other. That is true for Indo-Europeans as contrasted with Hamito-Semites, but that's a broad topic for another post.

To ease back into the subject matter, we'll start with a more specific case -- desserts for the New Year's celebration. As far as I can tell, this is an original discovery.

One crucial criterion I set for the earlier analysis was looking at pieces of culture that are highly ritualistic, as these are less susceptible to alteration -- which amounts to sacrilege -- and less influenced by foreign customs. That impedes the two major sources of change (from within and from without).

For mundane culture, you might adopt some other group's street food if it tastes good, but you're not going to adopt their culinary rituals for some holiday that you don't even celebrate yourself, and which might displace your own rituals for the holidays that you do actually celebrate.

And ritualistic pieces of culture are not so strongly influenced by material, utilitarian concerns. Making do with what you've got in order to not starve on a daily basis, could easily shape two distinct food cultures into similar ones, if their environmental pressures were similar. But what you eat, and how you prepare it, for some rare holiday -- that's not going to make or break your health on a quotidian level. You can keep doing it in the inscrutable, not-so-instrumental way without plunging your family into starvation.

That is the approach of genetics in reconstructing who came from where, and who is related to who else by what degree. You look at parts of the genome that are neutral in an adaptive sense. It's like an ID number generated at random, and whose digits do not influence anything about your ability to survive and reproduce. So if you and someone else have the same ID number, you must be closely related. Imagine flipping a million-sided die and getting the same number twice -- that's no coincidence, and both of your numbers must have descended from a single die roll in the past belonging to a shared ancestor.

For the current case, the epiphany came after looking into Armenian food culture. They are Indo-Europeans who have been holed up in the Caucasus highlands and mountains for millennia, and mountains are harder for foreigners to invade. If you can't invade physically, you can't invade culturally. All three branches of the Indo-European language family that have only one surviving member are located in hilly / mountainous terrain -- Albanian, Greek, and Armenian, who have resisted the spread of far more numerous sister branches (Slavic for the first two, Indo-Iranian for the last one).

A staple of Armenian food culture is a large sweet bread called gata. On a special occasion, they put something special in the dough -- a button or a coin (or perhaps some other trinket in some other local variation). Whoever gets the piece with the hidden prize is supposed to have good luck for the rest of the year. This special occasion is Candlemas, which marks the end of the Christmas / Epiphany season, and in that way is timed with the end of the old year and beginning of the new year.

This is a clear counterpart to various traditions throughout Europe, all of which are timed around the New Year, although perhaps Christianized in some way (Christmas, Mardi Gras, etc.). There's the king's cake from Spain and France, the vasilopita in Greece and similar non-Christianized versions in the Balkans and Eastern Europe, the Christmas pudding in Britain, and the Christmas rice pudding in Scandinavia.

In fact, there's an even older pre-Christian version from the Roman holiday of Saturnalia, also timed around the end of December. As part of the carnivalesque inversion of the social hierarchy, a King of Saturnalia was chosen from the lower-ranking members, to preside over the merrymaking. He was chosen by lot -- a cake was baked with a bean somewhere inside the dough, and whoever got the piece with the bean had the good fortune of assuming the role. (This good luck is shorter in duration, although higher in intensity and more palpable, compared to the later interpretation that it was generic yearlong good luck.)

We could say that it all began with the Romans and was inherited by former political colonies of the Roman Empire, or by cultures that owed their Christianity to Roman influence. But perhaps the current variety of traditions do not stem from a Roman source, but are descendants of an even older ancestor, such as Indo-European. In that view, the British custom came from a Celtic source, the Scandinavian custom from a Germanic source, the Ukrainian custom from a Slavic source, etc. Only the Western Mediterranean customs would come from an Italic source, in this view.

This is how we analyze the languages spoken by these groups. If the word for "three" appears so similar across all of them, it's not necessarily because they all descend from Latin via the Roman Empire's influence and colonization. It's because each of them has its own older source, which is only Latin for the Romance branch, but those older sources themselves have an even older source in common -- Proto-Indo-European.

Still, if we only restrict our investigation to Europe, it can be hard to conclude decisively one way or another, because there are so few cases that can only be interpreted to support one view rather than the other view. That's why we have to look at the broader Indo-European spectrum.

And the example from Armenia argues strongly in favor of the Indo-European roots of the tradition, since most of Greater Armenia was not politically conquered by the Roman Empire, nor was its primary cultural influence from Rome. In antiquity, it was torn between the Romans and the Persians (who did not practice Saturnalia, and who would never become Christian). If Armenia did not receive these traditions through contact with the Romans, then they must have already been in place due to shared ancestry with an even older Indo-European origin.

The Roman Empire / Christian origin can also be ruled out from the other direction, by looking at cultures that were part of the Roman Empire, some of whom also became Christian, but who are Hamito-Semitic rather than Indo-European. That includes North Africa and the Levant. The obvious test is Lebanon (both a former Roman colony and early Christians). Although their Christmas dessert is a rice pudding, it does not involve the tradition of hiding an item that will bring good luck to whoever receives that portion.

That reflects the wider similarities in food culture between the Levant and non-Indo-European cultures of the region, but we'll get back to that topic when we explore the use of dairy among Indo-European vs. Hamito-Semitic cultures.

But by far the clearest evidence of the Indo-European origin of this tradition is the rituals involved in making and eating samanu in the eastern, Indo-Iranian range of the I-E territory. The special occasion is Nowruz, the New Year, celebrated in Iran, Afghanistan, and other areas nearby. Like Saturnalia being pre-Christian, Nowruz is pre-Islamic. Samanu is a sweet pudding made from wheatgrass, cooked in large pots.

From Wikipedia:

In Afghanistan and Uzbekistan the whole gathering, mostly women, gather near the huge pot: sit in a circle, sing songs, have fun, each of them waits for their turn to stir the sumalak [AKA samanu]. While stirring the samanak [AKA samanu], wishes can be made. Also, whole walnuts are thrown in near the end of the preparation while making a wish.

In her book Recipes from My Persian Kitchen, Nasreen Zereshki mentions that finding an unshelled nut in your serving of samanu is a "good omen". These are intended to be inedible trinkets or charms, since they are left unshelled, as opposed to shelling nuts when used as raw ingredients for an edible meal.

This exactly parallels the Christmas pudding rituals from the opposite side of the I-E territory, among the Celts (British). From Wikipedia's article on Stir-up Sunday:

Everyone takes a turn to stir the pudding mix for each person involved is able to make a special wish for the year ahead. Practically, stirring the mixture is hard work, therefore as many as possible are involved... In some households, silver coins are added to the pudding mix. It is believed that finding a coin brings good luck.

The special occasion is the New Year, a sweet pudding is being made in a pot, a group has gathered socially (not just one cook), they take turns stirring, each one makes a wish as they do so, some charms are thrown into the mix, and whoever gets one in their serving will enjoy good luck.

I tried looking for a counterpart in the Indian subcontinent, but could not easily find one -- it's too diverse, and with several potential holidays to sift through. I'm sure there's something there, just not an example I could identify right away. My targets are Pakistani and NW Indian customs for Diwali, Holi, and Lohri, although hopefully their Muslims are similar to European Christians in preserving local pagan traditions for nominally Abrahamic occasions.

I'd also like to find a counterpart in Turkey, which is more Indo-European than Hamito-Semitic (and is Turkic in language only, from known invaders). Ideally from their pre-Islamic celebrations, akin to Nowruz further to the east.

Still, this is mind-blowing stuff for archaeologists of culture. Why hasn't the connection been made before? Because academics are cerebrals and blind to most of material culture. They will notice that languages and mythologies are shared at a deep level among Indo-Europeans, but not their corporeal folkways. Sure, they know about the shared subsistence modes and basic ecosystems, like the I-E people having words for snow and cows. But not what we would call folk culture, customs, rituals, and the like -- especially by investigating those folkways directly, rather than through linguistic hints.

Those rituals are still being performed to this day, for similar purposes as before. So why not investigate their lineages? Not because they're fuzzy rather than sharply defined -- again, academics have no problem positing a shared pantheon, mythological narratives, and other things that are less clearly defined than "the pronunciation of the word for 'cow'". It's because they're too much a part of corporeal activities.

That's why I'm focusing on the topics I've chosen -- iconography, dance, wedding customs, and now food. It's mostly untapped, but no less important to appreciating the deep roots of all these seemingly disparate cultures today.

May 16, 2020

Historical survey of offbeat-heavy dance rhythms, from warm-up phases of 15-year excitement cycle

To conclude this series on accenting the offbeat to produce danceable rhythms (previous posts here, here, and here), we'll take a whirlwind tour through the past 60 years for examples.

First, though, we need to understand the role that dance crazes play within the broader social, emotional, and cultural zeitgeist. In the original post on the restless warm-up phase of the 15-year excitement cycle, there's a detailed explanation of why dance fever breaks out during this phase. I'm already pressed for space here, so I'll only summarize.

During the preceding vulnerable phase, people had been in a refractory state: their energy levels had collapsed into negative territory after their soaring flight during the manic phase just before that. In this refractory state, most audiences just want to numb themselves to any potential stimulation -- which would feel painful -- and prefer the ethereal, floaty dream pop style of music, whether in an indie form or a mainstream form. Even among the minority who do feel like going out to nightclubs, dance music takes on a spastic rhythm that makes it hard for the average person to move their body to.

As that refractory state ends, energy levels return to baseline -- suddenly, they're capable of stimulation, feeling restless for physical activity and social interaction. But since they're only just waking up, the motions must be simple -- warm-up exercises. They need clear rhythmic markers of when to stop the wind-up motion and begin the delivery-of-force motion in their dancing. Enter the accent on the offbeat: it guides them effortlessly through the motions. It's so easy, anyone can do it -- therefore, everyone will do it, and dance fever breaks out.

One final caveat: not all dance fever songs have an instrument that plays only the offbeat and not the main beat. However, that is the purest form since it makes the offbeat more perceptually salient. It's easier for the dancer to isolate and sync up with the offbeat if there's a dedicated instrumental cue -- a 100% correlation between hearing a certain instrument, and the arrival of the offbeat. At least, something needs to play the offbeat, and whether or not it also plays the main beat depends on just how dance-y the goal is.

* * *


This warm-up phase followed the moody, emo late '50s, and led to the manic late '60s.

The early R&B dance beat is only proto-disco, without an pronounced offbeat. But in both songs below, there is a steady cymbal on both the offbeat and main beat, unlike pop music of the '50s. "The Loco-Motion" even has an soft offbeat, although not made by its own instrument -- it's the same snare drum that plays the main beat on 2 and 4 (the "backbeat"), but with softer pressure applied. For that reason, it only plays half of the offbeats (before 2 and 4), not all of them. Still, you can hear the disco beat in a primitive form.

Bossa nova enjoyed its heyday during this period, and it too was keen on percussion accenting offbeats (e.g., Jobim's interpretation of "Agua de Beber" from 1963). It was meant to be danced to. In countries outside Brazil, bossa nova did not lead to future styles, so I'm only mentioning it in passing due to its minor historical interest here. But it was essential to the early '60s zeitgeist here as well.

I'll make a separate post covering super-danceable ska music's 15-year cycle, with peaks during the warm-up phase as well. I'm focusing on R&B now because it has the richest relationships before and after the '60s in modern dance music.

"Mashed Potato Time" by Dee Dee Sharp (1962):

"The Loco-Motion" by Little Eva (1962):

* * *


This warm-up phase followed the moody, schmaltzy early '70s, and led to the manic early '80s.

Now we're in the era of disco proper, and its characteristic beat is easy to hear (and move to). The selections below add further offbeat instruments and voices.

The intro beat of "Let's All Chant" features a triplet of claps that hit two offbeats and the main beat in between -- "and 4 and". They use a voice in the chants of "ooh-ah ooh-ah," which covers "1 and 2 and" in the rhythm. The offbeat syllable "ah" is unstressed, matching musical and linguistic weakness.

The heavy offbeat is from the hi-hat, played as two quick sixteenth notes rather than the usual single eighth note. Expanding the offbeat from just "and" for eighth notes, to "and then it's" for sixteenth notes, the hi-hat hits the "then it's" portion of the offbeat. Since those two offbeats are followed by a main beat, and the mind groups elements that are contiguous, we hear this as "da-da-DA, da-da-DA," in a galloping rhythm. All the more body-moving.

"Bad Girls" shares those features. The hi-hat plays the galloping sixteenth notes during the offbeat. Both the piano and the brass section play a chord rhythmically for the offbeat on either side of 4 (every other measure). And there's an onomatopoetic chant (alternating "toot-TOOT" or "beep-BEEP") that links the end of one measure to the start of the next ("and 1" in the count). The offbeat has the unstressed syllable of the chant, matching musical and linguistic weakness. Not to mention the maracas and whistles -- overall an intricate layering of rhythms, but still simple to move your body to, thanks to the prominent offbeat on the hi-hat.

"Let's All Chant" by Michael Zager Band (1977):

"Bad Girls" by Donna Summer (1979):

* * *


This warm-up phase followed the soft-rock, power ballad late '80s, and led to the manic late '90s.

Neo-disco -- Eurodance, house, etc. -- revived the disco rhythm, only now using a drum machine instead of a person playing a drum kit. Otherwise not a whole lot else to say about this period -- probably the most lowkey among the dance fever phases, and the one whose succeeding manic phase was the most kitschy (techno of the late '90s).

Similar to disco, "What Is Love" supplements with a keyboard rhythmically playing a chord during the offbeats on either side of 4. In "Show Me Love," there's a heavy accent on the offbeat before 3, from both the keyboard hook and the maracas.

"What Is Love" by Haddaway (1993):

"Show Me Love" by Robin S. (1993):

* * *


This warm-up phase followed the emo early 2000s, and led to the manic early 2010s.

It may be hard to remember for those who were packed into the clubs back then, but upon re-listening to the big dance hits from this period, I was struck by how little percussion there is at all. And if anything, it's on the main beat only -- I had to search high and low to find a pure dance song that had an accented offbeat for percussion. Literally every big dance artist of the day did it that way, it was the approach to rhythm during that dance fever period.

That may have been a backlash against the negative stereotype that had grown around "disco rhythm on a drum machine" -- UNH-tss, UNH-tss, UNH-tss, UNH-tss. It was so derided that people actually referred to it by its percussive rhythm -- "that's just UNH-tss music, boring". That backlash against '90s techno probably began during the early 2000s, although among the less mainstream dance groups. Loosely called electroclash, this style was percussively very sparse, minimalist, and bleak.

So by the late 2000s, the solution was to have the keyboard take over the main rhythm duties -- playing the same note, or perhaps a brief flourish, during the offbeat. This sparse, minimalist approach may be better than no rhythm at all, but it does render this period less infectiously danceable than the other dance fever periods (including the early '60s).

But not to worry -- the late 2000s also saw a fusion of disco / dance music with rock / punk music, and all of those songs played a heavily accented offbeat on the hi-hat, straight out of the original disco era. They avoided the negative association with UNH-tss music because their percussion was a person playing a drum kit, not a drum machine, and the overall sound was clearly rock rather than R&B or dance. I'll devote a whole 'nother post just to surveying that phenomenon. For now, some examples of what pure dance music sounded like back then.

Madonna had decades-old roots in dance music, and was the only one to stick closely to the disco rhythm in percussion. "Sorry" from 2005 has a standard disco beat on the drum machine, but it sounds a little too much like '90s UNH-tss music. The more authentically late 2000s hit of hers was "Hung Up," which does use a hi-hat, but only on half of the offbeats (before 2 and 4). What plays on every offbeat is instead the synth -- two identical sixteenth notes that set up the galloping rhythm before a main beat. The distinctive synth flourish, sampled from ABBA, highlights the offbeats before 4 and 1, linking one measure to the next.

(Edit: I just turned up the volume on "Hung Up," and the hi-hat does play during the offbeats before 1 and 3, but it's two quick taps on a closed hi-hat -- barely audible underneath the synth notes which are playing with the exact same rhythm and at a louder volume. The hi-hat before 2 and 4 is open when struck and rings out, allowing it to be heard over the synth notes. The conclusion is the same: the average person will only hear offbeat percussion on half the offbeats, before 2 and 4, and the synth is given priority over percussion for establishing the rhythm.)

"Just Dance" is a better representative of the time. During the verse, there is no percussion on the offbeat at all, only a bass drum for the main beats, and snare for the backbeat. The offbeats are entirely played by synths, which are not part of a melodic phrase, just rhythmic single notes or brief flourishes. The chorus does use a cymbal crash, but it sounds like it's only on the main beat, then ringing out somewhat into the offbeat (or maybe there's a quiet hi-hat on the offbeat then -- hard to tell). At any rate, no percussion dedicated to the offbeat.

"Hung Up" by Madonna (2005):

"Just Dance" by Lady Gaga (2008):

* * *


This warm-up phase follows the most emo phase of all-time, the late 2010s, and will lead to another manic phase in the late 2020s.

So far, not much to say about this very young dance fever phase. But it's worth noting that the sparse percussion of the late 2000s is gone, and we're returning to disco fundamentals, usually a single hit from the hi-hat during the offbeat. By now, dance music is no longer tainted by association with UNH-tss music from over 20 years and several cycles ago. No need for a backlash against it, no need to find alternate rhythmic solutions caused by removing almost all percussion.

"Break My Heart" adds flourishes from a rhythm guitar and string section during the chorus, making it sound even more like original disco. In "Dance Again," the dark, chopped timbre on the bass makes it sound like Justice's Cross album from 2007 (among countless other examples of the time). But that's only a superficial similarity, since the basic approach to rhythm is very different now -- back to hi-hats to accent the offbeat, rather than rhythmic synth notes.

"Break My Heart" by Dua Lipa (2020):

"Dance Again" by Selena Gomez (2020):

How rhythmic instruments implement dance beats

Now it's time to look at how dance rhythms are made concretely with actual instruments, after a general discussion on the importance of accenting the offbeat, and an overview of music and dance being inseparable from each other. So far, we've only been using human speech to mark time -- saying out loud, "1 and 2 and 3 and 4 and..."

Apart from accenting the offbeat, the most important aspect of a dance rhythm when actually played is that the instrument produce a weaker sound on the offbeat, and a stronger sound on the main beat -- to dovetail naturally with the rhythmic weakness vs. strength, as well as the weakness vs. strength of the bodily motion that the dancer is making on the offbeat vs. main beat.

Weak rhythmic beat, and a weak wind-up motion in the dancer -- weak sound from the instrument. Strong rhythmic beat, and a full delivery-of-force motion in the dancer -- strong sound from the instrument. Again, "weak" sound does not mean silence. There has to be some sound, just not as attention-getting as the sound of the main beat.

The primary set of instruments for creating the rhythm is percussion. The main beats, especially in a dance song, will be made by the bass drum -- a strong, booming, low-pitched sound. The "backbeat," or the relatively weaker main beats of 2 and 4 (compared to the more prominent 1 and 3), will get a snare drum -- still pretty forceful and noticeable, but higher pitched and not as booming. Then for the offbeat, that leaves the cymbals, usually but not always the hi-hat in a standard drum kit. They're quieter, less resonant, and higher-pitched than the other instruments the drummer plays.

Secondary rhythmic instruments follow the same principles. For a guitar being strummed rhythmically, rather than to carry out the melody, there are two motions made, just as with a dancer -- a weaker upward strum and a stronger downward strum. Offbeats require an upstrum, main beats a downstrum. When the rhythm guitar is used to accent the offbeat -- that is, to play only those offbeats, making them really stand out by not mixing them in by playing the main beats -- you get the characteristic choppy "skank" guitar rhythm of ska music, which is what makes it so danceable.

(I'll do a separate brief post on ska's 15-year cycle, in which the style emerges during the restless warm-up phase of the excitement cycle, as part of the broader dance fever of that phase: the early '60s, late '70s, and early '90s -- albeit with an absence during the late 2000s, with a potential revival in the early 2020s to be determined.)

The brass instruments can be played only on the offbeat, such as in ska. Weaker sound on the offbeat means a lighter puff of air, rather than a blaring lung-emptying honk.

Keyboard instruments can be played rhythmically -- early R&B music could use a single piano chord to play both the offbeat and main beat, instead of the drummer hitting those beats on the cymbals. The weaker sound on the offbeat comes from simply applying less force to the pressure-sensitive keys.

And as new wave and synth-pop developed, they used the synthesizer to play notes or chords rhythmically rather than, or in addition to, playing them melodically. Their keys are not necessarily pressure-sensitive, so they instead varied the pitch -- high pitch for the offbeat, low pitch for the main beat. To make it clear that these were supposed to be perceived as a pair (with a weaker twin and a stronger twin), they played the same letter-note (say, C) in two different octaves. This "octave bass synth" produces a very bouncy rhythm, perfect for alternating the dancer's body between its wind-up and delivery motions.

Finally we return to where we began -- the human voice. Not singing the lyrics, which is part of the melody, but human speech sounds used to accent the rhythm. Calls, filler words like "oh!", and the like. Weaker sound for the offbeat usually means less phonetic stress.

But while just about any instrument, or voice, can be used rhythmically, the percussion instruments form the backbone, so we'll focus just on them to get the basic idea.

From a recent post on the return of the disco-punk style, here's a brief explanation of the disco drum pattern, which is the template for all modern dance music. Remember there are four main beats per measure, with four weaker offbeats in between: "1 and 2 and 3 and 4 and..."

Typically a dance rhythm will use the hi-hat cymbals on these "and" offbeats -- and usually, only the offbeats, not also the 4 main beats. For a standard disco beat, there is a bass drum on all four main beats (and none of the offbeats), and a snare drum on the 2 and 4 beats (and none of the offbeats). Listen to this brief explanatory video. The disco beat is just one example of a dance rhythm that uses little sounds on the offbeats, which is the most important aspect for our purposes -- whether it has a bass drum on all four main beats is not.

For examples, see the post linked to above, which has several linked and embedded videos.

The next and final post in this series will do a quick historical survey of when these simple-step dance rhythms explode in popularity, and how it relates to the social and emotional changes taking place during the restless warm-up phase of the cultural excitement cycle.

May 13, 2020

The crucial role of accenting the offbeat in dance rhythms

Having discussed the inter-relationship of music and dance in the previous post, we'll move on to the specific topic of how musical rhythm and dance relate to each other, with special attention to the role of accenting the offbeat when making dance rhythms.

From a recent post on the current revival of disco rhythms, here's a straightforward model to understand the link between rhythm and dance, using the simplest of dances:

Consider marching in place to a count that goes: 1, 2, 3, 4; 1, 2, 3, 4; etc. One of your feet is striking the ground on each of those four main beats. Now insert a little "and" in between each of those four main beats: 1 and 2 and 3 and 4 and; 1 and 2 and 3 and 4 and; etc. These "and" spots are the offbeat, and correspond to raising your leg up, before striking it down on the ground on the main beat.

We're using 4 beats per measure because that's the standard. Giving them equal length makes each one of them a quarter note. When we squeeze in those "and" offbeats, that makes each note only half as long -- eighth notes. Squeezing in more, shorter offbeats produces sixteenth notes, but using this level of complexity is less common. (To sound it out: 1 and then it's 2 and then it's 3 and then it's 4 and then it's, etc.)

In addition to marching in place, consider some other simple rhythmic activities, and see which motions involve the main beat and which involve the offbeat.

Doing jumping jacks -- the main beat is when your feet hit the ground to your sides and your hands reach their highest point over your shoulders. The offbeat is when your feet retract to being right under you and hit the ground, and when your hands retract back to your sides. If you count out loud while doing them, you'll say the numbers when your limbs are most extended, while saying "and" each time they retract back.

Pumping your fist in the air -- your wind-up is completed with the offbeat, and the fullest extension is completed with the main beat. Counting out loud, you'll say "and" when your arm is fully wound up, and say the numbers when your fist punches as far as it's going to.

Nodding or bobbing your head -- you wind up your neck backward until the offbeat hits, then nod or bob it forward until the main beat hits. You'll say "and" when your head is furthest back, and say the numbers when it's furthest forward.

Squatting down and popping back up -- you reach the lowest depth and your knees are bent when the offbeat hits, and you are standing upright and your knees are straight when the main beat hits. You'll say "and" by the time you squat the furthest down, and say the numbers upon regaining upright posture.

Pelvic thrusting -- offbeat when your pelvis is furthest back, main beat when it's furthest forward. You'll say "and" when it's fully back, and say the numbers when it's fully forward. If you're moving your pelvis side-to-side to bump hips with someone next to you, the offbeat hits when your hips are furthest away from their target, and the main beat hits when they contact their target. You'll say "and" when they're furthest away, and say the numbers when they make contact.

You get the idea. Each of these activities consists of two motions -- a wind-up, and a delivery of force. Naturally, the fullest delivery of force should coincide with the strong main beats, while the less forceful wind-up should coincide with the weak offbeats.

During an actual instance of dancing, you probably won't be doing just one of these activities over and over, but these are some of the building blocks that can be assembled into a more varied dance, whether doing one at a time and changing them up, or doing several simultaneously.

To return to the broader topic of the inseparability of music and dance, the models above are not just learning aids or analogies. Musical rhythms are marked by offbeats and main beats precisely because music is so dependent upon dance -- it is designed to coordinate rhythmic bodily movement, whatever else it may or may not be doing in any particular song. (The converse dependency -- dance depending upon music -- is not controversial.)

Those bodily movements involve a wind-up motion and a delivery motion, so musicians must play two different kinds of beats. And since music is meant to dovetail with dance, the strength or weakness is matched between the musical rhythm and the dance motions -- with the weak kind of beat timed with the weak kind of motion, and the strong kind of beat timed with the strong kind of motion.

But why does dance music need to saliently mark the offbeats? Can't there just be rhythmic silence between the main beats -- 1, 2, 3, 4, with no "and"s in between -- and it's understood that the weak wind-up motion will happen some time during the silence, while the strong delivery will happen with the main beat? In other words: silence is weak, so why not pair silence with the weak motion of winding up?

Because although winding up is a weak motion, it does have a definite end-point, and it helps the body coordinate itself to the music if there's a clear marker of when the winding-up motion should stop, and the delivery motion should begin.

That's the problem that non-kinesthetic people have -- they draw out one motion for too long and start the next one late, or they cut one motion too short and start the next one early, so that their changing of motions is not in sync with the beat. Accenting the offbeat (in addition to the main beat) helps to keep both types of motion -- the weak wind-up and the strong delivery -- easily timed by the audience.

Try pumping your fist to a sparse count of 1, 2, 3, 4 -- you'll notice that your wind-up is not as drawn back, and you may not even be moving the upper part of your arm and shoulder, just moving your fist back and forth with your forearm only. Pretty crappy fist-pumping. But put an offbeat between each main beat, and fist-pump to a count of 1 and 2 and 3 and 4 and. Now you'll notice pulling your whole arm further back, feeling more coiled strength when the offbeat "and" hits, and then delivering a more forceful pump by the time the main beat hits.

For cerebral people, who are awkward in their own body, this may feel disturbing, like your body is being controlled by a musical puppeteer, or better yet like a wind-up toy. Each micro-motion of your body being marked with a rhythmic pulse -- it brings to mind the phrase "marching in lockstep," or movie scenes of an ancient ship's slaves rowing their oars while their supervisor bangs a drum to coordinate them.

But as usual with cerebrals, their rationalizing gets the better of them -- marking these main beats and offbeats helps the audience member to coordinate their body, both individually and collectively (as we already saw with doing the bump in pairs, or something similar in a larger group like a circle dance).

The regimented rhythm is not discouraging or shutting down something -- it is enabling and encouraging something. Without it, most people wouldn't be able to dance for shit. They'd embarrass themselves and turn off the opposite sex. With it, they've got enough of a kinesthetic aid to guide them through the motions effortlessly.

Moving your body in sync with the rhythm is not machinelike or robotic, it is allowing you to be fully human -- rather than just some disembodied mind. Nobody thinks of dancers, athletes, and other kinesthetic types as robots -- that would be the stereotype of cerebrals who are tone-deaf, have two left feet, fumble-fingers, and so on and so forth.

That's it for the overall discussion of why the offbeat must be marked in the rhythm of a dance song. So far, this marking has only taken the form of speech -- saying the numbers for main beats, and saying "and" for the offbeats. In an actual song, it's the percussion instruments that will take over this job, perhaps with some help from other instruments that are being played rhythmically rather than melodically.

In the next post, we'll get into the concrete details of the basic drum pattern for dancing, with a survey of examples from the restless warm-up phase of the 15-year cultural excitement cycle, when this kind of song emerges.

May 12, 2020

Music and dance require each other: An attempt to explain corporeal activity to cerebral readers

I'm preparing a post on the role of accenting the offbeat in dance rhythms, which will draw examples from dance fever phases over many recurrences of the 15-year excitement cycle. But first there must be a brief review of some general principles on the relationship of music and dance.

The difficult thing about explaining how rhythm and dance work is that it's intuitive for corporeal people, most of whom however are not interested in reading explanations of how things work, an activity that appeals more to cerebral people -- who, for their part, have little sense of rhythm and either don't like dancing, or at best are awkward on the dance floor.

It's like trying to explain how color works in painting -- those who are visually gifted get it intuitively and don't need an explanation, while those who enjoy reading abstractions and "theory" are more likely to be colorblind. Or trying to explain what something tastes like to an intellectual audience that has impaired taste buds, whereas the gourmands understand already without the explanation.

So, in the next post, I'm going to try to bridge the gap. It should make sense to corporeal people -- making them aware of something they already appreciated intuitively. But it'll be simple enough to make sense for the largely cerebral audience of internet readers.

In fact, dance fevers employ a highly simplified, color-by-numbers approach to rhythm, so it won't be complicated to understand. And the models for kinesthetic activities will be simple too: marching in place, doing jumping jacks, pumping your fist, nodding your head, etc., something that even nerds already know how to do and can make a connection with.

For now, a concise overview of the inseparability of music and dance.

Cerebral people do not appreciate that music and dance go together as interconnectedly as smell and taste -- fundamentally, there is no such thing as music that does not provoke a rhythmic bodily response in the audience (of some kind, to some degree). And conversely, there is no such activity as dancing in the absence of music. They're two aspects of the same holistic collective activity, playing-and-dancing-to music.

For completeness, you might separate divine from mundane music, with the rhythmic corporeality of popular music purged from divine music to emphasize its spirituality. However, usually when you hear music that is not even remotely danceable, it's just bland and poorly made, likely by nerds -- not sublime, heavenly "high" music made by spiritual geniuses.

In fairness, perhaps it's ethereal music made by good musicians who are just temporarily collapsed into a refractory state during the vulnerable phase of the excitement cycle. Generally, though, the answer is that they are not good at making music, and they, their audience, and the critics who favor them are cerebrals trying to rationalize the low quality of the music. (Not unlike abstract or conceptual visual art since the mid-20th century.)

And in any case, there's a richly populated overlap zone between mundane and divine music, showing that they are not separate. Namely, where the divine is channeled through a shaman, or some similar leader of a spirit possession cult. This figure is not a mundane layman (given to popular music), but neither is he an exalted high priest in a highly stratified religious group (given to divine music). He occupies a level of social complexity in between, and the music that accompanies his performance is both divine and rhythmically corporeal at the same time. His ritual naturally incorporates dancing as well as music.

Various evangelical revival movements within modern Western Christianity share these features of shamanic and spirit possession religions, such as the Shakers and the Appalachian snake handlers. The religious organization is less highly stratified, and their weekly rituals incorporate energetic dancing as well as music.

It's also a mistake to equate "non-corporeal" or even "anti-corporeal" with what is "spiritual" or "divine". That only applies to some kinds of religion, most notably today the off-shoots of Puritanical Protestantism, but also the self-flagellating strains of Catholicism, and Eastern religions like Buddhism.

It is contradicted by religions where the divine is thoroughly corporeal, although perhaps of a different kind of material substance than what we experience in our everyday mundane lives, and in which our corporeal experiences today are preparing us for our corporeal experiences of the afterlife. The goal is not to negate or denigrate the body, but to prepare it for a somewhat different kind of material reality. That includes major growth religions like Mormonism, but also historically widespread ones like Zoroastrianism.

So, music -- especially its rhythmic component -- is designed to get the audience dancing, i.e. moving their bodies in time with what they're hearing. No specific kind of dancing is implied, as each kind of music has its own style of dancing, some more restrained and some more energetic. It could be members of a military marching to music played by the military band, or it could be 20-somethings shaking their bodies to attract the opposite sex in nightclubs.

We're only looking at Western pop music since 1960, and the kinds of dances and the places where its audiences gather to dance, for three reasons: it's the most salient, it extends far enough back to trace repeating cycles, and it continues into the present to make it topical.

May 11, 2020

Disco revival in "Rock Bottom" by MisterWives

As the restless warm-up phase of the excitement cycle continues, we're hearing more disco type music, just as expected. For those keeping track, the early 2020s is the neo-neo-neo-disco era (after the proto-disco of the early '60s, original disco of the late '70s, then revivals in the early '90s and late 2000s).

Here's one song I stumbled upon by an indie band. Not bad, and better than anything else I found under "new music" by less-than-mainstream groups. They've got a horn section, and are really drawing attention to the disco drum pattern during the chorus with the hi-hat on the off-beat -- using two quick hits instead of the usual one of normal length. And lyrically the theme is resilience -- we're in the restless phase when people are ready to come out of their shells, after wallowing in helplessness, victimhood Olympics, and trauma porn during the refractory state of the vulnerable phase.

Their output from the earlier vulnerable phase was more mellow and less danceable -- as everyone's music was from roughly 2015-'19. Now even those who you'd think would be mopey art school grads are getting back into the swing of simple-step dance music, to warm up the body with basic exercises after having slumbered in melancholy isolation for the past 5 years.

Earlier post with other examples.

May 6, 2020

Teri Hatcher, Levantine lovely: Or, ethnic "passing" without an exotic name

After watching the Bond movies, where I saw Teri Hatcher play a brief role in Tomorrow Never Dies, I figured I'd move on to Desperate Housewives in order to re-familiarize myself with the zeitgeist of the late 2000s, since we're entering another restless warm-up phase of the excitement cycle. I'll write about that show later, as part of a larger look at the late 2000s.

But for now, I'll just note that she's 1/4 Syrian through her mother, whose maiden name is Beshur. (In her looks, she's more than just 1/4.) Googling didn't turn up much about the surname; the only hint is that it's connected to the Tartus region of Syria, right on the Mediterranean Sea, where the Alawites are the majority and Christians a decent minority. I'm guessing those roots are not Muslim, but either Christian or crypto-Christian.

She always had a dark exotic look, especially those half-moon eyelids. But without an exotic surname to match, it made her blend in more with the mainstream ethnicities. If she went by Teri Beshur, it would have all made sense from the beginning.

It's a good reminder that when we're evaluating someone's ethnicity, it's not just racial / genetic / biological traits that our intuition is paying attention to, but other social / cultural markers like names.

It should be easier for someone of an exotic background to pass as mainstream, if their surname obscures their background. In our system of inheriting the father's surname, their mother must be where the exotic background comes from. If the exotic background comes from the father's side, that may well show up in her surname, and will jolt our mind into paying attention to her biological features that we might otherwise have ignored.

For instance, how exotic would Kim Kardashian strike us if she were known as Kim Houghton, her mother's maiden name? But slap an Armenian surname on her, and suddenly we're nodding along about how exotic she looks.

It's not so different from the person deliberately altering their surname in order to disguise their background and appear more mainstream.

Since the pressures toward assimilating are far greater than standing out, I wonder if that's something that women with exotic surnames are looking for in a husband -- the chance to give their kids a mainstream surname and help them fit in socially and culturally, despite mommy's exotic genetic background. If it were an exotic man looking for a mainstream wife, he wouldn't get that social-cultural bonus -- his kids would continue to have his exotic surname.

That predicts that inter-cultural marriage should be biased towards exotic wife and mainstream husband, rather than mainstream wife and exotic husband. And generally, that's how it goes -- when choice is involved, at any rate. Certainly an exotic husband could be part of a foreign invasion that is raping and pillaging its way through a conquered people.

It further predicts that, even controlling for degree of exoticness, a woman will feel greater pressure to assimilate by marrying a mainstream husband if her surname reveals her exotic background. Take two half-Syrian / half-Anglo women, one whose Syrian side is paternal and another whose Syrian side is maternal. The one with the paternal Syrian background should be more eager to marry a mainstream husband -- like Teri Hatcher's mother did.

As a side benefit, the exotic woman also gets to take the mainstream surname of her husband and fit in more herself, although there's still the record of her maiden name "out there" to be discovered. With her children, though, they've got mainstream surnames from birth.

Just something to keep in mind for the guys who prefer exotitude in their babes. Make sure it shows up in her surname as well, and she'll be more willing to pair up with you (assuming you're mainstream yourself). If she's exotic through her mother only, it won't show up in her surname, and she won't be as eager to bag a mainstream guy for a husband.

May 4, 2020

Best Bond movies from restless phase of excitement cycle, worst from vulnerable phase, hit or miss during manic phase

Going through all the Bond movies in quick succession, while they were available on Amazon Prime, I couldn't help but notice the rhythm of their high and low entries matching up with the phases of the 15-year cultural excitement cycle. I never would've watched all of them one at a time, and even so, the pattern would not have leapt out so starkly if the viewing had been spread out over a long period. But since they were all there, and with little else to entertain myself with, I blew through them all in a couple weeks.

The restless warm-up phase of the cycle made consistently good Bond movies: the early '60s (Dr. No, From Russia with Love, Goldfinger), the late '70s (The Spy Who Loved Me), and the late 2000s (Casino Royale). The only disappointing one from this phase was Quantum of Solace from the late 2000s. The first third or so of Moonraker is good, from the late '70s.

Unfortunately no Bond movies were made during the early '90s, so we can't judge that warm-up phase. It was a real missed opportunity, given all the other excellent thrillers of that time -- if only the Brosnan ones had begun a few years earlier, it would have been better than GoldenEye. Or if he wasn't available, make one or two standalone movies with someone like Kyle MacLachlan (just coming off of his Dale Cooper role), or Harrison Ford (a mainstay of early '90s thrillers). They're not British, but then neither was George Lazenby.

The entries of the following manic phase are more hit-or-miss. There are good ones from the late '60s (Thunderball, On Her Majesty's Secret Service), the early '80s (Never Say Never Again), and the late '90s (GoldenEye). Watchable ones from the early '80s (For Your Eyes Only) and the early 2010s (Skyfall). And bad ones from the late '60s (You Only Live Twice), the early '80s (Octopussy), and the late '90s (Tomorrow Never Dies, The World Is Not Enough).

By far the worst phase for Bond movies is the vulnerable phase afterward: the early '70s (Diamonds Are Forever, Live and Let Die, The Man with the Golden Gun), the late '80s (A View to a Kill, The Living Daylights, Licence to Kill), the early 2000s (Die Another Day), and the late 2010s (Spectre). The Dalton entries from the late '80s (LD, LK) are the least offensive of the group, but only in contrast to the late entries of the Roger Moore era that they followed. Otherwise they're just big dumb action movies of the time -- not even close to the best of '80s action movies, nor among the best of the Bond movies. Just forgettable.

This evaluation matches up with those of Rotten Tomatoes scores, fansite rankings, and the like, except that those ones reward the Dalton movies for getting past the Roger Moore era, whereas I evaluate them on their own merits (forgettable).

What about Bond movies makes them so in sync with the restless warm-up phase? It's what distinguishes them from other action / crime / suspense / thriller movies -- Bond being a ladies' man, the back-and-forth flirtatious banter between him and the babes, his style, and the nightlife settings.

These are all part of the restless phase zeitgeist, as described in the original post on that phase. As men and women are coming out of their refractory-phase cocoons, they first have to go through simple warm-up exercises to get their dating-and-mating behaviors back into shape. That means flirting and bantering back-and-forth, in a color-by-numbers approach to getting to know the opposite sex all over again.

I have yet to write a separate post on the topic, but guys get more deliberately "dressed up" during this phase of emerging from their cocoon -- it's a clear visual signal to women that they're out of their shells and eager to make an impression on them, whereas they had previously been hunkered down in a drab look to ward off the opposite sex during the vulnerable phase.

The Mad Men-type suits of the early '60s, the leisure suits of the late '70s (I didn't say they were timeless fashion, just a visual social signal of their time), the nightclub suits of the early '90s (Madonna's "Vogue," etc., later parodied in Night at the Roxbury), and the revival of suits and skinny ties -- or at least the "statement blazer" -- during the late 2000s.

The Bond-mobile distinguishes the series from others of the genre, and that's also related to creating his sense of style, especially to make a good impression on the women.

These interactions must take place in a setting where it's clear that the people going there are out of their cocoons and eager to mix it up with the opposite sex again. Since they're only just coming out of their shells, they can't flirt and date in any old place -- they need to go through the simple motions first, to get warmed up in their social skills. That requires a clearly designated location where everyone expects nightlife to take place (club, outdoor dance floor, casino, etc.).

Related to the theme of nightlife is dancing. Simple, step-based dances flourish during the restless phase, as detailed at length in the original post on it. People get dance fever all of a sudden. There was proto-disco during the early '60s, disco during the late '70s, neo-disco during the early '90s, neo-neo-disco during the late 2000s, and neo-neo-neo-disco to come during the early 2020s (already evident in Dua Lipa's current hit "Break My Heart").

Typically these elements come together in a refined setting, like the high-stakes casino resort in Casino Royale, but they could just as well incorporate the less civilized exotic locations that distinguish the franchise -- such as the night scene at the Gypsy camp in From Russia with Love.

These themes begin to wane in importance during the manic phase that follows, since people have already come out of their shells. But they're still up for dancing, flirting, looking cool, and hanging out in nightlife spots. They've just moved into a more spontaneous mood, and don't need to have their hands held by simple, deliberate warm-up exercises anymore. Bond maintains his appeal, but is not so necessary to the zeitgeist.

Finally, when energy levels crash into a refractory state during the vulnerable phase, Bond loses his appeal altogether. Men and women don't want to flirt with each other, and if anything are hostile toward each other. That was already true in the first vulnerable-phase Bond movie, Diamonds Are Forever, where the Bond girl is more aloof, and whom Bond insults as a "bitch". People start dressing in drab colors, baggy sizing, and in a deliberate anti-style of casual. They've gotten over their dance fever, and aren't drawn to the nightlife in general. So much for the appeal of a suave ladies' man.

Let's wrap up by discussing the new one coming out this year, No Time to Die. Technically this will be from a restless warm-up phase, and therefore predicted to be a good one. However, it was mostly conceived, created, filmed, and finished in the late 2010s vulnerable phase, which predicts that it will suck. It's continuing the plot and characters of Spectre, which was bad, and at least for awhile its conception had a strong Me Too influence.

It was supposed to come out in April, but has been delayed until November due to the coronavirus pandemic. We'll have to wait and see, but my impression is that it will be more like the vulnerable phase ones, having been mostly made during that phase. It's true that it was supposed to be released early in the first year of a restless phase, but the other restless phases didn't see a Bond movie until the second or third year of the phase ('62, '77, '06), when the zeitgeist was firmly established.

I don't think it will be hailed as a "return to form" like the previous restless phase movies Casino Royale and The Spy Who Loved Me (along with the originals from '62-'64, which created the form to begin with). Plus Daniel Craig is getting long in the tooth at 51, and the lead Bond "girl" is 34 and already appeared in the last movie.

If they re-boot the franchise with a new younger Bond in a year or so, they'd have a much easier time returning to form. Make sure the lead Bond girl is a 20-something. And get Dua Lipa to be the big-voice diva for the theme song (unlike the emo Billie Eilish who's doing the song for the upcoming one, another sign of it being shaped mostly by the previous vulnerable phase).

May 1, 2020

Manic pixie stream girls

We've entered the restless warm-up phase of the excitement cycle, and there's now a new cohort of 20-somethings whose development has been shaped mainly by the manic phase -- they imprinted on a manic phase around their birth, as well as their second birth around age 15 when they emerged from their adolescent chrysalis.

These people were born during the late 1990s and turned 15 during the early 2010s, and we haven't seen or heard much of them until now. (The last time we were in this situation was the warm-up phase of the late 2000s, with 20-somethings who were born in the early '80s and turned 15 in the late '90s.)

Shaped by a zeitgeist of carefree invincibility, this cohort comes off differently from those shaped by the other two phases -- those born during a vulnerable phase (such as the late '80s or early '70s), who come off more emo, and those born during a restless phase (such as the early '90s or late '70s), who come off as the wild child type. Manic-phase births are carefree, resilient, easygoing, fun-loving, happy-go-lucky types.

Technically, the most recent crop of manic-phase births were those born during the early 2010s, but they haven't even turned 15 yet, so they aren't going to make an impression on the broader culture for awhile. Before them, the most recent crop are the late '90s births, and they're in their early 20s now, ready to contribute directly to the zeitgeist.

And that's causing some resistance among the other young-ish cohorts. The vulnerable-phase births of the late '80s bristle at their cheerful and resilient disposition, while the restless-phase births of the early '90s dismiss them as not risk-taking enough to qualify as a true youth culture -- and who are instead just a watered-down version of their early '90s wild-child elders.

However, as the manic-phase late '90s births begin to make their impression, some of the older young-ish cohorts will start to appreciate their differences -- mainly the older guys appreciating the younger girls.

Judging from the past two waves of manic pixie dream girls (who are born during a manic phase), their older male love interests will be born during a warm-up phase. These men are most able to take the leap of faith required to open up to the MPDG, and leave their humdrum emo cocoon behind, because they were shaped by the risk-taking recklessness of the restless phase (most recently the late 2000s, also the early '90s, late '70s, and early '60s).

Earlier pop culture examples include Zach Braff and Orlando Bloom, born in the late '70s; Jim Carrey, born in the early '60s; and Richard Gere and Steve Martin, born in the late '40s. This is not about a certain age gap, since those men were paired with women that resulted in a wide variety of age gaps, but all of them consisting of a warm-up-phase man and a manic-phase girl (Natalie Portman and Rachel Bilson, Kirsten Dunst, Zooey Deschanel, Julia Roberts, and Sarah Jessica Parker, respectively). Today, that means guys born in the early '90s -- or perhaps older ones still, born in the late '70s -- taking a shine to girls born in the late '90s.

Guys born in all phases will be drawn to the MPDG in this phase, because all guys have been in a vulnerable-phase cocoon from 2015-'19, and all are ready to come out of their shells in the present warm-up phase. And that's the role of the MPDG -- to coax romantically wary men out of their shells. I'm simply saying who the main male target audience will be, and who she's most likely to be paired with in pop culture examples.

We're already seeing a hint of that with the hype surrounding Zach Braff and Florence Pugh. Braff is a restless-phase birth (late '70s), while Pugh is a manic-phase birth (late '90s). Braff's earlier love interests were also manic-phase births -- then, the early '80s -- during the zeitgeist of a restless phase (the late 2000s). Somehow he skipped over those born in the late '80s and early '90s, and landed on another manic-phase birth. Although they have yet to be paired in a MPDG movie during the early 2020s, it would make a natural fit.

I don't buy the idea that women who chafe at their relationship are reacting to the age gap per se -- if she were a late '80s or early '90s birth, that would still make for a double-digit age gap. It's really the fact that she's born in a different phase from the disapproving women, and these older young-ish women don't want the late '90s cohort to start making an impression and exerting influence on the actual dating-and-mating market, or on pop culture. Their specialty is in being withdrawn and emo (late '80s) or a wild child (early '90s), so they can't compete in the MPDG niche, which selects for manic-phase births.

Elsewhere we're seeing the sudden popularity of late '90s girls from the world of video game streaming, who also post on Twitter, pose on Instagram, dance on TikTok, and put these all together on YouTube. The most famous example is @neekolul, AKA "OK Boomer girl". She made a viral TikTok video of herself wearing a Bernie shirt, set to a song version of the "OK Boomer" meme. I'd get too bored seeing what she's like playing video games, so here's a brief compilation of her TikTok dance videos:

Notice that she's not withdrawn, emo, dark, or tortured like the vulnerable phase births (late '80s, or early 2000s like Billie Eilish). And she's not wild-eyed, dangerous, chaotic, or instigating, like a restless-phase birth (early '90s). She's upbeat, carefree, happy-go-lucky, engaging in some harmless silly fun, and indulging in her cutesy and girly side. You can see why people shaped by those other phases might bristle at her, but she wouldn't have become such an overnight phenomenon if she weren't appealing to a broad audience.

It's not "e-girls thirst-trapping simps" since this happens across all phases, and does not explain why her haters are so opposed to her rather than other e-girls who have a different persona, and who appeal to a different group of guys for a different reason. They are mainly reacting against her upbeat, harmless-fun personality, since they let the other varieties of e-girls and simps skate on the charges of being too-online.

I don't think she's started to play the role of encouraging romantically wary guys to come out of their shells and take a chance on connecting with a free-spirited guardian angel -- yet. We're only four months into the warm-up phase. But it's not hard to see her doing this for her massive male audience, either by becoming such a persona herself, or speaking matter-of-factly about what they ought to do to find their own MPDG. What else is there to talk about while streaming video gameplay for hours and hours every day? Especially with a video game addict audience, "dating advice for the romantically wary" would be an instant hit.

Although Neeko is the most famous so far, I actually think a more promising example is @pokimanelol. She's the other name that came up when I searched for "neekolul," so there could be other better examples -- I'm just not going to browse through dozens of video game streamer girls. A simple compare / contrast of two will have to do for now.

She's also born in the late '90s, upbeat and carefree, cutesy and girly. But she fits the profile of a MPDG more than Neeko does -- namely, by having a thicc fertile body shape, rather than the "no meat, narrow hips, big boobs" shape. She seems more corporeal as well, judging from her more natural dancing ability. Correlated with the more fertile shape, she's got a stronger nurturing instinct, helplessly coo-ing over babies and little animals. These nurturing traits are at the core of the MPDG, since she'll be nursing the guy back to social-emotional health.

Here's a compilation of her TikTok videos, both playing video games and lip syncing / dancing:

For those keeping track, Neeko is American of Mexican background, and Pokimane is Canadian of mostly Moroccan background, with a bit of Iberian. The fact that she took and discussed a DNA test -- non-ironically, and without worrying about whether that makes her a Nazi skull-measurer -- shows that she's appealing to a broader audience, while Neeko's Bernie shirt was a clear nod to the online Left, who are a million times more ideologically woke. (Further evidence that political junkies are boob men and women, not butt men and women.) So, Pokimane has more potential to go mainstream as a MPDG, whether by assuming the role for herself or by giving her male audience the kind of advice and encouragement that a MPDG would give.

I didn't do a search for older video game streamer girls, but one of them trended on Twitter the other day -- @Alinity. She's born in the late '80s and has a more dark and brooding persona, judging from Google Images. She does more degenerate stuff on camera (like flashing her boob during a livestream, which got her trending on social media). She's from Colombia, and I'm not sure if they're on the same timing of phases in the excitement cycle as we are. She seems like a classic wild-child type, or perhaps a dark emo type, but definitely not a carefree and upbeat type born during a manic phase. She's certainly not going to be coaxing wary men out of their shells.

That's all I'm willing to investigate into the video game streaming world. YouTube personalities would be another area to sift through, but I'd be too bored for that as well. However, I do occasionally watch stuff from the FBE channel -- you may remember them from years ago, with "teens react to Walkmans / film cameras / other ancient artifacts". Now they're all reactions to pop culture, and simple physical challenges (try not to laugh, eat as much as you can, etc.).

There's pretty clear MPDG potential there -- Tori -- who naturally was born in the late '90s, has a modest chest and a fertile figure, and is upbeat, carefree, super-extraverted, ditzy, quirky, and all the rest. Mikaela comes in a close 2nd, born in the late '90s, mostly the same personality traits as Tori, but having a "narrow figure with big boobs" shape that keeps her from being 100% natural in the role. This early in the warm-up phase, it remains to be seen what roles they will play. (So far, Tori has only been sham-partnered with another FBE participant, Eric, who is flamingly gay -- typical Hollywood relationship.)