This setup was inspired by an old spline spine setup, which was just more complex than it needed to be. Also, since I like to create rigs that don't depend on scripts and ikHandles, this simple structure seemed to make sense. I'm sure that it's been done before, but I figured that it could use some explanation (11min). The joints in the chain can still be used with iK setups.
More video tutorials are available in my interactive iPad books about rigging and tools in Maya. itunes.apple.com/us/artist/jeremy-a.-parrish/id507724058?mt=11