The Ruffled Crow

Animation, Art, and Other Shiny Things

Tag Archives: Z

The New Roller Derby Queens

In 1935 endurance contests were all the rage; walkathons, bicycle races, danceathons, so many types of endurance contests that Michigan (and South Carolina too, I believe) enacted a law banning the promotion, conducting, or participation in any that lasted more than a day.

1935 Winners Clarice Martin and Bernie McKay

Despite this, the contests continued to endure (sorry, but not really) and one sports promoter by the name of Leo Seltzer decided to cash in on the fad by staging a “Transcontinental Roller Derby”.

From the National Museum of Roller Skating web site:

Drawing on a restaurant tablecloth in Chicago’s Johnny Ricketts restaurant, sports promoter Leo A. Seltzer, came up with the idea of a roller marathon in the spring of 1935. By early August, 50 skaters had been selected to compete in 25 male-female teams. The first Transcontinental Roller Derby opened at noon on August 13, 1935. Twenty thousand Chicagoans filled the air-conditioned Chicago Coliseum to witness the 25 teams skate 3,000 miles around the track, a distance equal to that between San Diego and New York City. The winners would be the team to cover that distance in the shortest time. Each team had to travel a given number of miles in every 11 1/2 hour daily skating session. During the entire time allotted for the race, one of the two members had to skate or else the team risked disqualification.

The event lasted until September 11th and was so popular Seltzer took it on the road.

In 1937, however, changes were made to the sport that created the Roller Derby we know (and love) today. Instead of multiple male/female pairs, teams were comprised of 5 players each and two teams competed to score points which were earned by lapping opposing players. Contact was also allowed, letting players push and shove each other.

And that’s when Roller Derby really took off.

Raquel Welch in Kansas City Bomber (1972)

With pushing and shoving and elbows flying, the Roller Derby of the 1950’s and 60’s had a close kinship to the exaggeration of “Wrassling” (aka pro-wrestling) with matches following more of a morality play style of storyline which helped fuel the huge popularity of the sport.

As a kid in the 60’s I watched Roller Derby whenever I could, which usually meant late Friday or Saturday nights and almost always included the Bay City Bombers as one of the contestants. (of course I saw Raquel Welch’s movie Kansas City Bomber! It wasn’t just for the Roller Derby, though…)

In the early 70’s, and despite a huge fan base, Roller Derby began to suffer bankruptcies and in 1973 pretty much ceased to exist. Although relatives tried to spring up, such as RollerGames and RollerJam, nothing really caught on like the old Derby recipe itself. I tried to get my interest in them, but the glitz and glamour sounded the wrong note for a grit and guts game that I felt Roller Derby was. Almost as soon as they formed they faded away anyways.

Until 2004…

The banked tracks, if you could find them, were old. Building new ones was expensive and insurance costs were prohibitive even if you could afford to. WWE had a hammer-lock on the sports entertainment industry. That didn’t mean alot to a group of women out of Austin, Texas who tweaked the game into a version that could be played in a roller-skating rink and in 2004 the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association (WFTDA) was formed.

Now this wasn’t exactly like the old Roller Derby – while the hype and show around the game was still over-the-top, the game itself became an actual competitive game without a pre-decided direction or outcome.

Surrounded with a “Rock-and-Roll Rebel” style and kitschy sensibilities Roller Derby is on the rise again with 117 WFTDA member leagues and 72 “apprentice” leagues spread across the country.

Seattle's Own Roller Derby Queens. Their Mascot? Rat Bastard, of Course

And I feel quite fortunate that one of those leagues is here in Seattle; The Rat City RollerGirls.

Aunt Bee and I had been promising ourselves to make it to a match ever since RCRG formed, but it took Young Master Z to make it happen by giving me a couple tickets for Father’s Day. They were for the RCRG Championships, no less.

I’ll spare you a play-by-play because, frankly, I can’t recall exactly how it all went down, but suffice it to say that we had a most excellent time! Starting with the National Anthem done by a Mexican brass band Banda Vagos, through the 3rd/4th place game (Derby Liberation Front vs Sockit Wenches), via the halftime Aerialistas, and on into the final match to crown the Champion (Grave Danger vs Throttle Rockets), it was a circus atmosphere punctuated by hard-fought games.

The gentleman with the horned headgear is wearing a red and black tutu. So is the kid behind him with the pom-poms.

And the fans! We were sitting in the Grave Danger team’s section and a couple rows in front of us sat a huge, powerful looking guy in GD red and black wearing a tutu. Think about that for a moment. Yeah, that’s a Fan, big time, and the arena was full of em (over 4,000 folks). We weren’t sure we would ‘blend in’ to the crowd, our being 50ish hippie throwbacks, and me with long, white hair, but there was such a riot of style and color and age that there was no way you couldn’t fit in!

Re-AnimateHer, My RCRG favorite player. And she's not just a pretty face (plus), this girl can skate!

And there, inside Key Arena in Seattle, where I’d watched many a NBA and WNBA game, my love of Roller Derby was renewed and refreshed. Now I have a favorite intra-league team to root for (ok, two of em, actually) and a favorite player (Re-AnimateHer) and intend on making it to more than one game next season.

On the down side, though, I probably won’t be meeting any of my Roller Derby Queens any time soon as the post-match parties are at a bar and I have yet to darken a pub’s door since getting out of the pool three years back. But perhaps by next year…

(if you’re wondering, and i assume you must be if you’re still reading this, Grave Danger won the championship. if you weren’t wondering, then i commend you on your politeness at reading this entire post. a blog needs more readers like you. well done.)

Hard Rock(abye), Baby!

There’s a series of CDs that have been coming into the library over the past while that caught my attention with the sheer incongruity of the juxtaposition of elements.

The Rockabye Baby! series of lullaby renditions of heavy metal artists. Led Zeppelin, Nirvana, Tool, Black Sabbath, Aerosmith – the list goes on.

It’s tough to wrap my mind around the thought of my infant drifting off to sleep to the soft strains of “Pet” (…counting bodies like sheep to the rhythm of the war drums…) or “Closer” by Nine Inch Nails (I won’t be quoting those lyrics, thankyouverymuch), and the Sabbath song “Fairies Wear Boots” seems particularly cruel as a lullaby.

I did grab the ‘Renditions of Tool’ CD and gave it a bit of a listen and I do have to admit that I didn’t howl in pain after the first 3 notes, but I can’t say it’ll get into my play-list rotation.

Truth be told, even if they had been around when The Z was a wee one they wouldn’t have hit the cassette player. He got the full dose of Aerosmith and Zeppelin and Pink Floyd. Also quite alot of Nat King Cole, Miles Davis, and Steve Khan, as well as a good helping of fusion jazz. In a range like that you can always find something the kid’ll like whatever his toddler-muddied mood. You gotta work with what you got.

I guess on one level I can understand the proud parent wanting to create that special ‘connection through generational-spanning music’ or some sort of  rationale for subjecting their spawn to syrupy covers of perfectly good music. No elevator required! Bonus!

On the other hand I can’t see a reason to potentially stunt or delay the sprout’s burgeoning music appreciation abilities. I wasn’t one to talk baby-talk to The Z for much the same reason. You aren’t surprised, I’d imagine. In any event, The Z did turn out with a pretty varied taste in tunage and I didn’t end up with a box of tapes to dispose of along the way.

Now, I’m not one to try and talk you out of picking up one of these fabulous tinkly re-treads, in fact let me be the first to suggest you also pick up a copy of Pat Boone’s “In a Metal Mood”. You’ll love it.

The Lion Sleeps Tonite

Five years ago a young lady decided she wanted another dog. Sensitive to the plight of hundreds of thousands of abandoned and unwanted animals she began her search at the pounds and shelters of our metropolitan area.

And Miz Liz came home with a cat.

An old, cranky biddy, floppy belly from litters of kittens, black with white points and striking green eyes. Jazmine was 8 or 9 years old and had an attitude that gave no quarter to those that didn’t understand that all she surveyed was indeed hers. She didn’t play well with others and demanded to be the only feline within any given domain. Female cats are termed “Queens” and she lived up to the title, if not defined it.

A 9-pound cat with a half-ton personality.

When Miz Liz moved to the Rose City, Jazmine came to live with Aunt Bee and I. Without missing a beat she took over our house and our lives – and we loved every minute of it.


At 9:30pm, any night of the week, Jaz and Aunt Bee pursued parallel naps in front of the tv.

Better than any alarm clock, she insured we got up by 7am daily. Her food dish wasn’t going to fill itself and she needed the use of an opposable thumb and we had the only ones in the house. At 5pm she began stalking the wild Friskies can, also called “The Food Dance” as her steps were fairly ritualized: around the table, between my feet and the chair – be sure to tail whip the legs so I know she’s made a circuit – climb Mt Aunt Bee, and do it all again until one of us silly ‘hoomans’ goes to the food room and makes that “skritch” sound right before food appears in the shiny thing at proper cat height.

An exclusively indoor cat, she still took her role as protector very seriously. A cat shows up on the patio? Jazmine would climb the screen door in our defense. (I haven’t been able to find my hooman-cat dictionary, but I’m pretty sure that old Queen had one heckuva potty mouth on her.)

Jaz in the bedroom windowShe ran a tight and secure ship. When the late-show monologues came on she was ready for her handful of dry food and then escorted us to bed – on point. Once in bed, she’d tuck us in, drape across Aunt Bee for a few seconds (to fix her in place, probably) then scoot off to see if The Z was still up. If he was, Jaz would loudly request access to his room from the hallway. She had an uncanny time-sense to wait that 10 to 15 minutes until you’re in that sweet spot on the edge of sleep to come back into our bedroom and complain about being denied access to The Z’s room, or tell us how boring we were when we slept all those good hours away.

Yesterday, to use the parlance of Erin Hunter (all three authors who use the pseudonym), she went to hunt with Starclan. A battle with hyperthyroidism and kidney failure, both common in older cats, had reduced her to a slip of her former self.

The decision to put her to sleep was, and still is, stunningly devastating. What gave us the right to make that decision for her? I should have been able to fix it for her. What should I have done? How could I have failed Miz Liz so miserably by not keeping Jaz healthy? How could I have failed Jazmine so completely?

Aunt Bee is being so much more well adjusted about this than I am, the rock that she is, and reasonably I know she’s right. It was for the best, no matter our pain. But the questions still nag at me and probably always will. It’s just how I’m made and that’s just life. What isn’t in question, though, is the importance she had to our lives and in our family.

Trotting through the house, her belly flopping to and fro. Head butts and cat butts. Schedules and rituals. The little “I’m here” brrr you hear when walking into a room and the “goodnight-sleep tight” brrr’d conversation we’d have as we got ready for bed. Such little things. Such important things. So missed and so treasured.

So, thank you Miz Jaz-cat, for everything. It was a privilege to be your minion. Hunt well.

(Jaz Cat flickr pics can be found here)

A Life Less Liquid

The reasons for June 30th 2008 had been laid down over the course of decades, the planning for that day had begun 3 months prior.

I’d gotten up one morning in March, sick as usual, doing what I could to become normal enough to operate until the hangover passed enough to ignore, or I got off work and was able to treat it.

It was bad; mornings were getting worse. I couldn’t keep much of anything down for the first few hours anymore, though the coffee usually stayed put long enough to give me a slight buzz – if I drank enough fast enough.

Perhaps I should start considering a morning bracer. Being a beer drinker wouldn’t make that easy. My wife gets up at the same time I do. And I don’t stop after just the one, never have. So I’ll need to figure out how to carry a steady buzz throughout the day without overdoing it and being in full sail by noon. You can’t drink beer at work very discreetly, so booze of choice would have to change as well. Vodka? Ugh. If I have to…

Unfortunately however, I have rules. Read more of this post

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