Imagine a happy, peaceful, healthy and prosperous New Year. Then dance it into existence.
Wednesday, December 31, 2008
Tuesday, December 30, 2008
What a stupid fucking question. The media always comes across as surprised in their tone with questions like this.
Of course schools kill creativity. They murder it. They decapitate it in a most heinous and vicious manner.
Schools are about conformity, not creativity.
I took a creative writing class in high school. The teacher was late, and I was reading a book sitting in my undersized desk. All the other kids were cutting up and throwing paper airplanes and running around - things intellectually stunted, cognitively impoverished high school kids do.
When the teacher walked in, she was angry, made everyone sit down, and said "I want everyone to write twenty lines with the sentence 'I will not misbehave in class'..." My first thought was that I was not misbehaving, so that I should not have to write lines. Remember writing lines - punishment writing the same sentence over and over?
My second thought was that this was a creative writing class. Had she asked everyone to write one paragraph on why we should not misbehave in class, I probably would have done it. Even a one page essay would have been acceptable to me.
As I sat reading my book whilst everyone else wrote their asinine lines, the teacher noticed, walked up to me and asked "Why aren't you writing your lines?" I said, "Well, I wasn't misbehaving like everyone else, so I assumed I didn't have to write them." She said "Well, you do". I went back to reading my book. She said, "If you insist on not writing your lines right now, then turn in fifty lines to me tomorrow".
When I didn't turn in the fifty lines the next day, it went to one hundred lines, then five hundred, then one thousand, then two thousand - for each day I showed up without the lines. When I showed up and didn't have the two thousand lines, she sent me to the principal's office. I explained my position to him and he said "Just write the original twenty lines and you can go back to class". I said, "I'm not going to write the lines". He said, "Until you write the twenty lines, you can just sit here outside my office during this class".
So I reported to the floor outside of his office for a week or so - in lieu of showing up in class. I continued to read my book during that hour. After a week or so, he stopped checking on me, so I started going back to class. No questions asked. No lines. No nothing.
The book? It was a book of essays by Henry David Thoreau - including "Civil Disobedience".
Here's the talk on TED that prompted this post...Sir Ken Robinson back in 2006...thanks to Nuit for the find...
Sir Ken Robinson makes an entertaining and profoundly moving case for creating an education system that nurtures (rather than undermines) creativity.
Monday, December 29, 2008
Here's one I haven't seen before...Javier Rodriguez y Geraldine Rojas back in 2002. I found out about two years after the fact that they had split up. Javier is married to Andrea Misse and Geraldine is married to Ezequiel Paludi now. Ezequiel had been partnered with Sabrina Masso.
It's just not the same with either couple.
What would you think about a guy with two years of dancing experience offering [the general dancing public] to accelerate the tango learning process by 200-500%
In my experience, the normal tango learning curve (for a leader) would be that you will be an "okay" dancer - still a beginner, but with a solid grasp of most of the basics - after one year of classes and dancing. A leader would most likely still not have his walk on his one year anniversary. I know six year dancers who still don't have their walk.
So this particular teacher is saying he will make you a year five dancer after just one year, or at least a year two dancer.
Don'tcha just hate that? I wonder if he offers a money-back guarantee?
Oh, and just to clarify, he wears the big, baggy pants, so he's not really teaching tango, but rather big baggy pants dancing, so maybe the 500% thing is possible in that context.
Because in my view, a 500% accelerated one year big baggy pants dancer doesn't even hold a little tiny birthday cake candle to a 100% five year tango dancer. Or even a 50% five year tango dancer.
It's been scientifically proven (by the little scientists running around in my head) that you can't accelerate the learning of tango. You can't take privates and dance 10 hours a day, seven days a week, week after week, month after month, festival after festival and expect to be a great dancer in a year. The little scientists have video evidence of this. We've seen it. We think that intensive of an effort is actually counter-productive, e.g., making you a worse dancer, not better.
It has to seep in over time. There has to be an osmosis of tango into your bones and soul. You have to study the culture, and understand the history and the codigos. You have to listen to the music for months and years on end. You have to study the lyrics and ponder those days of yore. You have to visualize and transport yourself to that time - the Golden Age of Tango. Transport yourself dancing. You have to understand what tango meant to those people - the people who danced it and played it and sung it and wrote it into existence.
You have to be patient, allowing the days and months and years to pass, with tango seeping in slowly. Let it absorb into every fiber of your being - mind, muscle, heart, soul and bone.
Then and only then. Patience my friend. Dance it into existence.
500% my ass.
[ Photo by alex.tango.fuego... ]
This is one of my shots from Guerrilla Milonga 4° on the rowing dock at Town Lake in Austin. It was a nice evening - warm and a bit windy - with a small but great group of folks. It was nice for me to break out of dancing mode and into photographer mode.
Although, one comment on the concept of the Guerrilla milonga, or Flash Mob tango. The idea is that these work best in public places with lots of people - and the people are surprised and captivated by the scene of folks breaking into spontaneous tango, and then dispersing into the crowd. It's both an artistic endeavor and a way to plant a few seeds to grow your local tango community, in theory.
Click here to see the rest.
Wednesday, December 24, 2008
Click here for a blowup of the snow globe...it had a built in fan and was actually blowing faux snow inside...
I babelfished the title, so forgive me if the español no es bueno, plus, I recognize that it's not the same to take a saying like "merry christmas from my house to yours" and translate literally into español. But it's the thought that counts, right?
Oh, and that's not actually my house. It's one I passed in Bastrop, Texas today, saw the snow globe, and doubled back a few blocks to get a photo.
Beyond the obvious religious connotations, this being the birth day of Jesus and all, for me, Christmas is about love, spending quality time with family and friends, eating too much good food and giving of your heart and soul. The capitalistic, materialistic, fantastic, overdone, overblown, over-important 'giving' [consuming] that Christmas has become is an abomination in my mind. I won't go there. Ya'll know how I feel about that stuff.
Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, et al, agnostic, and atheist alike, I hope this Christmas Eve [and Hannukah season] finds you and yours in the best of health, with love and light in your life, belly full, and plenty of good tango for all.
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
Imagine a big oaf of a man, with 'Alley Oop' feet, rendered ever so slightly more graceful from four plus years of tango. Picture him scrunched and hunched on the wood floor wrapping a gift or two, in his torn at both knees button fly lucky brand jeans. Unshaven, unshowered for a day, a black ski hat with a tassle dangling, hiding his needing a haircut shaggy mane from the general public. Imagine his large, clumsy, alleyoop fingers, trying to tie a bow with real satin ribbon and make it all purty.
Not exactly a scene from GQ magazine. But knowing you women, ya'll probably find this kinda imagery sexy as hell.
You'll also note the evidence of my being the non-traditionalist, opting for black and white scroll in lieu of green and red Christmas-ey themed paper. Hey - it was in the Christmas section at Crate & Barrel...it must be Christmas paper right?
Guys click here.
The character Billy Mack performing "Christmas is All Around Us" in a music video, from the movie "Love Actually". Although I don't remember seeing any of this in the movie.
Click on the "Love Actually" link above to check out the trailer...at 2:15, when the little girls start dancing to Hugh Grant and his driver caroling, it's hilarious...here's the entire scene...
Nat King Cole...with a cool yule log...
This truly is my favorite song at Christmas. When I was growing up, my dad had bought a Mormon Tabernacle Choir/London Philharmonic Orchestra Christmas album. The version of O Holy Night on that album is unbelievable. It would make me cry, it's so powerful. It's lost, and I can't find the album anywhere. One year, I spent hours searching online for it, but to no avail.
Oh well, I can still hear it in my head when I think about it.
Candice White's 2009 Theater of Dreams tango calendar is very nicely done. I should know, I have one hanging on my wall.
Like all fine art calendars, it's more photography than calendar. It's large format, 11" x 17", so the photos are large - roughly 8x10. Each month's calendar is in the lower right hand corner. It's spiral bound with a hanging thingamajigger on the top, so it hangs flat, and doesn't rip out the holes like so many other calendars. The paper is very nice quality glossy stock - you could conceivably cut out your favorite photos and frame them.
The photography is as good as it gets, all done in the studio, all in black and white with a few splashes of red for effect. Another very nice touch is that there are poems, or at least excerpts of poems, at the bottom of each page. The layout is nice, with text working in concert with the photo on each page.
Her models are all dancers in the Dallas tango community - and the calendar was photographed, and handcrafted with loving care in the great State of Texas. Ordering is through PayPal, and I think Candice ships them directly - so delivery should be pretty quick. She only runs a limited number, so they will be gone pretty quick...
Good god! I just read the January poem! Yowza! November is my page. My poem anyway. An excerpt of my poem "Silent Tango", which was my feeble attempt to capture an amazing dream I had. [Thanks for including that Candice...] But you have to buy the calendar to read it.
Monday, December 22, 2008
I've started reading Johanna's book again, and it's really good stuff. If you have a tango friend you need to get a last minute gift for, this is it. You would probably have to special order it, it might take a week or so, or you could get a gift card and include a note that it's specifically intended for this book.
Come to think of it, you would do well to get this for non-tango friends you want to convert, or enlighten - it's all applicable to real life as well.
Sunday, December 21, 2008
Photo by alex.tango.fuego...
I wrote this back in Jawwguh (Georgia) back in early September and didn't post it for some reason. I also found that some posts reverted back to "drafts" - unposted. Strange.
Anyway, here's the post...I'm not sure why I never posted it...
So I'm sort of in the process of figuring out what I want to do when I grow up. My move back to Austin is a re-birth of sorts for me. A new life. A clean slate. Tabula Rasa. More or less.
I'm talking to one company about a "regular" job, in a fantastic little town on the Blanco River outside of Austin. A town most people would die to live and work in. A Chief Estimator type of deal. They're expecting 50-55 hours a week with a salary that is 1/2 to 1/3 of where I should be for maximal intellectual, spiritual, and economic stimulation. I ran the numbers and this is just a tad more than a break even scenario for me. It would be a 15 year retrograde salary-wise and capability-wise. It would be drudgery. It would pay the rent and the bills y nada mas.
So here's the deal. It dawned on me tonight if I am going to live a break even life, that I must break even on my own terms. On MY OWN terms, not someone else's terms. There's something deeply ingrained in me that I can't seem to rid myself of. Something about myself that I have been aware of since the wise old age of sixteen. Something that I don't want to "rid" myself of.
It's freedom. I've tasted it. Pure, sweet, unadulterated freedom. I've lived it the past several years. This freedom cost me dearly. Getting to this point has left me but a shell of a man. But I am a free man now. It's a freedom that I have lived in past lives. Past lives of freedom that I feel in my bones, that I know in my heart of hearts.
It's a freedom so familiar and so comfortable and so sweet that I can't have - no - won't - have it any other way. I refuse. I refute. I rebuke. Locked down by the shackles of the corporate world. Constrained by the iron bars of the pursuit of the almighty motherfucking dollar. Excuse my French. Constrained, restrained, ingrained, and contained in a windowless, five foot by five foot cold, gray, dank, dark concrete cell called capitalism. Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. The American Dream. Fuck that noise.
I simply won't have any more of it. I simply cannot continue to lead a life that admittedly is my own perception of what society expects of me. Be a good boy. Go to college. Work hard. Get married. Have 2.3 kids. Mortgageyourasstothehiltforthehousewiththewhitepicketfence. Pay your bills on time. Use credit to the fullest extent possible. Don't make waves. Climb the corporate ladder. Go with the flow. Be responsible. Exceed expectations. On time. Within budget. Buy, consume, prosper.
I gave it thirty years and I paid for it with my soul. It was too steep of a price for me, too dear of a sacrifice.
I checked my mailbox a little while ago. The new "The Territory Ahead" catalog was in there amongst some junk mail. There's a new shirt that I like. It's called the "Rancho Poet Shirt". The first line of the description reads thusly: Pulled calves, fixed fence, finished sonnet - this shirt is for men who invent their days.
I like that - "men who invent their days...". I want to invent my days. On my own terms. I want to reclaim my soul.
Nearly as good as a stiff cup of coffee or espresso...lightning fast Thierry Le Coq and Delphine Blanco...thanks to Ron for this find...
Note that this is "BIG" Milonga, Milonga Grande, and is not suitable for dancing socially. The discerning and skilled leader could dissect the various elements of the dance, and adapt some of them for the social dance floor, by appropriately "dialing back" the chosen element to be much, much smaller.
Saturday, December 20, 2008
Check out this video from Dateline NBC.
Sure, some people need to be evicted, they can't live indefinitely without paying rent or mortgage payments, but as Bush said today about the $17,000,000,000 automobile industry bailout - "these are not ordinary times".
If you stick it out until the end of the fifteen minute video, they profile a retired school principal who refinanced her home to pay for her daughter's college - she had been accepted into an Ivy League university. The mother thought she was getting a 30 year fixed, but ended up with an ARM with onerous resets of the interest rate. Her bank worked with her in the end, but not before she had tapped out her retirement account to make her mortgage payments.
These are not ordinary times. The time of living beyond our means has come to an end. The time of onerous, predatory lending practices has come to an end.
Or has it?
Thursday, December 18, 2008
I have long considered our entire economic system to be a gigantic Ponzi scheme, dependent on all of us to spend 110% of our net income just to break even - to keep the thing "running". I have also pondered how this whole mortgage debacle, and other aspects of the ongoing fiscal destabilization, is essentially a "looting of the country". Yes, many millions are losing their collective asses, but I'm sure many millions are also cashing in on others' misfortunes.
In this article, the woman's attorney is quoted when discussing the mortgage crisis - using the phrases "giant Ponzi scheme" and "looting of the country".
"Unilateral transfer of wealth" also comes to mind.
Stealing. Legalized robbery.
In theory, because the banks and mortgage companies and investment houses were the "bad guys" in this, conspiratorial in their behavior, predatory in their advertising, policies and lending rules - they should be taking a hit, not being made whole again - a BIG hit.
The recent business-as-usual spending spree by bailed out insurance giant AIG should be evidence enough that these assholes are not taking a hit, but having a grand time on our dime.
Sure the investment houses have disappeared, but there's no doubt in my mind that their chief executives and primary beneficiaries are safely ensconced in their ivory towers. But the banks and mortgage firms - I have a sneaking suspicion they have found ways to make themselves whole again, and continue in their predatory practices, lining pockets in the process.
I could go on and on, but I won't. I'm going to have to do some research and be sure I understand it all, and am able to speak intelligently on the subject.
Greed. Greed. Not a good thing.
Good day my friends.
P.S. I've purposely avoided Madoff's $50 Billion Ponzi scheme. This one is brewing.
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
The $300 billion housing bailout (passed by Congress this past summer) to supposedly help hundreds of thousands (+/-400,000) of homeowners avoid foreclosure has failed miserably.
Only 312 homeowners have filled out the application paperwork.
Of those 312 who applied - guess the number who have been able to forestall foreclosure and stay in their homes - ZERO.
Sad, but true, and I am not surprised in the least. This is our own federal government of the United States of America. It's time we admit that it is fundamentally impossible for them to do anything effectively, efficiently, or that actually results in the desired/planned/needed outcome.
It just ain't gonna happen.
Now here's my question...where's our $300 billion?
Here's the link to the video on NBC.
By the way, $300,000,000,000 divided by 400,000 equals $750,000 per homeowner. Something's wrong with our government's math.
Headline : "China - Growth may not equal happiness"
And this: "China's middle class vents anger"
Why does the media (and everyone else) always seem surprised with these headlines about shit that I have known in my heart and soul since I was twelve years old?
I'll take it a few steps further - "growth" and "development" and "more/good/better/best" not only don't equal happiness, THEY ARE ACTUALLY BAD for the human condition and humankind, mother nature, and all the cute little plants and animals. This applies all over the world, in every country, for every government, dictatorship and democracy alike, every ideology, everywhere, under all circumstances.
Growth ≠ Happiness
Happiness = Good
Growth + Development = Sprawl = Not Sustainable = Not Good = Bad
I'll put a positive, hopeful spin on it with this caveat - "unchecked, rampant" growth and development. Were we smarter about it, less motivated by greed and more motivated by good as a species, we could have built a sustainable Utopia over the past two hundred years.
We still can.
He stops typing, and mutters under his breath..."I need some tango, quick, someone give me some tango".
[Stay tuned for my next post - "De Luxe :: Luxury, something we deserve or a disease that infects us?"]
The 2° Houston Tango Festival is right around the corner, both in proximity and time - January 22-25, 2009.
Here is the lineup ::
Brigitta Winkler [Berlin]
Tomas Howlin [BsAs/Montreal]
Cecilia Gonzalez [BsAs]
Donato Juarez [BsAs]
Javier Rochwarger [BsAs]
w/ Monica Caivano [Austin]
Tova & Carlos Moreno [Boston]
Special Master Classes
Horacio Godoy & Cecilia Garcia [BsAs]
Immersion Tango Workshop for Beginners
Ector Gutierrez [Baton Rouge/New Orleans]
Avik Basu [Ann Arbor]
Jason Laughlin [North Carolina]
Ramu Pyreddy [Philadelphia/DC]
Shorey Meyers [San Francisco]
Vijay Namasivayam [San Francisco]
Yulia Kriskovets [DC]
Andrew Dugas [Houston]
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
Monday, December 15, 2008
I heard from the 2nd ex-wife today...sad news that she put Groucho down today...he battled an illness for the past year or so...it's a sad day for me...now I know why I've been in a funk for the past several days...he was a good dog...and will be missed...
Saturday, December 13, 2008
[I tried to find a photo with a woman doing a boleo, but I couldn't... which tells you where I've been dancing...]
From Limerick Tango, this one bears repeating in every class, practica, milonga and blog across the land...
"You don't *do* boleos. Boleos happen." [Limerick Tango]
At the aforementioned recent tango event, unled boleos were being done all over the place.
The difficult part is conveying that instantaneous state of controlled flaccidity or ready relaxation in the free leg, alternating from leg to leg, so that the leader can cause a boleo to happen.
Definition :: Cabeceo is the natural, normal, non-verbal communication using body language of the eyes/face/head to invite someone you know to dance, or at least let them know you're interested. The challenge is making it work with someone you don't know, at a distance, in a dimly lit ballroom, while she's trying to cabeceo someone who is not you, and three other guys are trying to cabeceo her.
At a recent tango event, the organizer said this during the (very long) announcements:
"Oh, and ladies, it's *okaaay* to ask the men to dance. After all, this *is* Austin, we're more relaxed here."
The audible thud was my lower jaw smacking the poorly jointed plywood floor. I couldn't believe it. An organizer, actually caught, publicly, in the act of spreading dis-information about Argentine Tango, counter-propaganda AGAINST the proven and decades-old codigo of cabeceo.
Here's a good post on cabeceo from Miss Tango. It's from the follower's perspective, dancing in Buenos Aires, but gives good leader insight as well. Be sure to read the comments as well.
Granted, in the U.S. use of the cabeceo is spotty at best. Ballrooms at festivals are large and dimly lit. I practice what I will call "recon" cabeceo. You can't do it sitting statically in the same seat all night. You have to get up and mingle. Get your water. Get your vino tinto. Chitty chat with friends. Strike up conversations with women you don't know.
In short, you have to "work the room". Keep in mind that I am not the type who is at the milonga to dance every tanda or every follower. I'm into quality over quantity. If you are always on the dance floor, even during cortinas (another BIG no-no...BIG), the principles of cabeceo become less applicable to you.
Also note that cabeceo'ing someone while you are both on the dance floor, or one of you is on the dance floor and another is not, is also a big no-no. No, no, no, no, no, no. (Imagine my inflection.)
I once danced with a woman who I could discern was scanning the horizon for leaders behind me. When I mentioned to her friend that I was put off by it, the friend told her, and she said "he could tell that?". Yes I could, dearest. At the time I said I would never dance with her again (her friend didn't tell her this, I don't think), and this is highly likely. I may give her once more chance if I ever see her again. Maybe. Perhaps.
The same holds true if I witness a woman doing it with another leader (cabeceo on the dance floor). If she's doing it with/to him, she'll do it with/to me. The point is this. She's not *there* in the dance/tanda with *me*. She's not present. She's there but she's not. Her mind is elsewhere and the quality and character of the dance will no doubt suffer.
On cabeceo for leaders, here's a reply I left for a commenter last month:
I'm curious how you managed to ask people to dance at Fandango. Heard it is huge space filled with lots of people sitting around all over the place. You can't do it via eye contact. Any tips?
Night vision binoculars and morse code with a flashlight.
Another idea is a t-shirt emblazoned front and back "For a good tanda, call 555-1212".
It is next to impossible to cabaceo from one side of the ballroom to the other. I typically sit over on the right with my back to the wall (it's a Texas thing). I scope followers out on the dance floor as best I can, and then make note of where they are sitting. I have a little map and number the tables, then I use a numerical ranking system 6 through 10. 1 through 5 are not even on my radar. I'm kidding, I'm kidding!
I do try to make mental note of where different followers are sitting, and then try to intercept her (at her table) during the cortina. I'm kinda weird about this - it doesn't seem proper to approach her right on the edge of the dance floor, or even after she has just sat down. I try to give her a minute, or at least a few seconds, but often lose out to other leads who are more aggressive in their invitations. Oh well. You snooze you lose.
Some of the better followers never leave the dance floor, because they/their leads don't follow the codigo/tradition of clearing the dance floor during the cortina. If they do end a tanda with a leader, they will likely get intercepted on the dance floor by another overzealous lead. To me, it's all about being/playing fair and sharing the best followers. Not 'hogging' them tanda after tanda in other words.
So, in my cruising the back row (along the wall where the exit doors are), to scope things out on the other side of the room, I make a lot of eye contact, stop and chat, say hi, use the 'water cooler move', or just generally lurk/loiter/wander aimlessly (but don't "stalk") any technique like that - to lay the ground work for future invites. You might call it guerrilla cabeceo or search and destroy - not a good word - let's say 'recon' missions.
Very often these shenanigans on my part end up in an invite along the way and I'll end up on the dance floor, without ever really making it back to my table much.
But, cabeceo while sitting is next to impossible, except for the people in your immediate vicinity. I'm also at a disadvantage (as many are), in that I'm behind most of the followers (with my back to the wall ya know?). I once made the mistake of tapping a woman on the shoulder from behind to ask her to dance - she was sitting in the singles/followers row of seats facing the dance floor - let's just say it was not a good idea.
So, there's a lot of verbal inviting, but it's based on preliminary 'recon' cabeceo while walking around.
Also, I'll try to strike up conversations with women out in the lobby - looking at shoes or clothes or whatever - just to break the ice. Then it's easier to say "Let's dance later - I'll look for you..." or something like that.
It's also easier if you are taking the classes, then you will 'know' or at least recognize women you may have danced with in class.
Lastly, I know more Texas followers this time around, so the ice has already been broken with many more women, making it a given that I will invite them to dance.
The most important tip I can offer is not to ask a woman to dance unless you've seen her dance. It's not always possible, but I try to stick to this as much as I can.
Hope this helps.
No women asked me to dance at the event where the announcement was made...a very good sign...
Thursday, December 11, 2008
I needed a long USB printer cable so I went to Office Depot. $39.99. Outrageous. So then I went to Target. No way in hell they had any kind of cables there. So then I went to Wal-Mart. $19.99. That's more like it. So I saved $20 bucks.
But I felt guilty. I am a blasphemer, a hypocrite. To make matters worse, it wasn't just any Wal-Mart. It was a Super Wal-Mart. 14 acres of trinkets. Actually, I exaggerate. It's actually about 3.67 acres - 160,000 square feet of trinkets. Eight hundred and ninety three cars in the parking lot. I counted them. One hundred and eight cars trying leave through the one exit at the same time.
Try as I might to make it a surgical shopping strike, a search and destroy mission, in and out, quick and dirty, they forced me to walk by the flat plasma & liquid crystal diode TV's or whatever you call them. You can get a 42" 1080p for $998 now. I was like a one-eyed dog in a smokehouse eyeballin' those things.
Then, as if to grind salt into the fresh wounds, they made me buy some "Limited Edition" cookies. Pepperidge Farm Milanos "drenched" in Dark Chocolate.
'Tis the season.
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
The milonguero way needs to be protected, and advocated...methinks a milonguero jihad may be in order...
I'm copyrighting and trademarking the term "Milonguero Jihad"...right here, right now.
And also "Homeophobe", for someone who has a fear/phobia of all things homeopathic and new-agey mumbo-jumbo...
I was a homeophobe, but now I'm taking fish oil pills, eating organic spinach, and sweetening my organically beaned coffee with agave nectar...thank you.
Impeccable dancing from Javier & Andrea, but to be honest, the hand form is distracting from the dancing, all the fingers sticking out akimbo...what's up with that?
The song is a cover of Canaro's "Reliquias Porteñas".
And an even better one she sent me...this is actually one of my all time favorites...with two very understated/rated dancers...Oliver Kolker y Luna Palacios...
Photo by Alex.Tango.Fuego
For followers, there is really nothing to remember in tango. This is an acknowledged gross oversimplification.
But, there are three primary things to remember, with every fiber of your being, remember without thinking, ingrained in your heart and soul...
Numero Uno :: Commit
As in commit to one foot and only one foot at a time...commit to 100% of your weight being on that one foot...unless you feel a lead to do otherwise...
Numero Dos :: Collect
Collect your now free, relaxed foot/leg, right up next to the active foot, the one carrying your weight, the one 'working'...think in terms of 'ready relaxation' and/or 'controlled flaccidity' with the free leg...but don't think...
(there are all kinds of stylistic things with regard to collecting, but for brevity, I won't go into...)
Numero Tres :: Wait
Wait for the lead. Don't anticipate. Don't think. Feel the music. Feel the lead. Listen to the music. Listen to the lead. Wait. Wait for the lead.
Numero Cuatro :: Surrender
The 'surrender' is a difficult one to verbalize. It's not submission, it's permission. Give me permission to control your axis in space and time. By your leave, allow me to control the placement of your feet on the dance floor. Surrender yourself to me to be led. Give yourself to me. Trust in me that I will protect you on the dance floor. Trust in me that I will not lead you beyond your experience.
This was more than three things and more than one line, but you get the point - short and sweet - and hopefully helpful to both followers and leaders who are learning - or have forgotten.
Make this your new mantra - Surrender :: Commit :: Collect :: Wait
Plus, I figger I'd better write ~something~ about tango once in a while.
Tuesday, December 9, 2008
Regarding my letter requesting that she *not* support the automotive industry bailout.
[Here's the letter from my Congressman - Lloyd Doggett)
It's important to note (in the kind Senator's letter) that before all this jumped to the forefront in the news media, Congress had already appropriated $25 billion in "loans". The $25-50 billion they are requesting now is on top of that figure.
Tuesday, December 2, 2008
Dear Mr. Tango.Fuego:
Thank you for contacting me regarding the financial state of the U.S. automobile industry. I welcome your thoughts and comments on this issue.
Our economy is facing dramatic challenges. Financial conditions are rapidly deteriorating, creating volatility and uncertainty for businesses, small and large, across the country.
As Texans, we have learned to take responsibility for our actions and being asked to pay for the mistakes of others is something many, including myself, find deeply troubling. While I am a firm believer of free market principles, I also believe that our economy is facing new challenges that if unaddressed, may produce serious unwarranted costs.
On September 30, 2008, the President signed into law H.R. 2638, the Consolidated Security, Disaster Assistance, and Continuing Appropriations Act of 2009. This legislation included, among many items, funding to support a $25 billion loan program for U.S. automakers. The loans, which will be repaid with interest, are intended for long-term business restructuring to promote innovative technologies and new fuel efficient products. The Department of Energy, which is administering the loan program, has indicated that the loans are scheduled to be released in 12 to 18 months.
Several weeks after H.R. 2638 was signed into law, executives of the three major U.S. automakers requested Congress provide an additional $25 billion to $50 billion from the Treasury’s Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) to support their short-term funding needs. The CEOs of the largest U.S. automakers testified before Congress that their companies are facing a liquidity crisis, and without an immediate injection of capital, their businesses may fail, creating massive job losses across the country.
The domestic auto industry has failed to meet foreign competition, and I do not think taxpayers should have to provide additional money from the TARP to the auto industry. Instead, I have proposed restructuring and expediting the $25 billion Department of Energy loan program to help the American auto industry weather the financial storm and retain their employees across the country. Requiring these prior funds, which are required to be paid back with interest, to be used on long-term expenditures is not the best use of federal resources when these companies are struggling to stay operational. Rather, these funds should be utilized for short-term needs first. I also believe that any government plan to aid the auto industry must include significant taxpayer protections, including restrictions on executive compensation, concessions from the unions, and assurances that each recipient of federal loans is financially viable.
As Congress returns to debate this issue, you may be certain I will keep your views in mind.
I appreciate hearing from you. I hope you will not hesitate to contact me on any issue of concern to you.
Kay Bailey Hutchison
United States Senator
284 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510
Monday, December 8, 2008
I didn't feel right about posting anything right on the heels of the news of the death of my friend Luciano. I felt my blog should be in mourning, with the flag at half staff. It definitely hit home, this news. We were a close knit group, several of us in Aspen, Luciano in Buenos Aires, now all scattered to far corners, but still in contact. To have one of that group gone now is strange.
But, (and there always is a but), he didn't suffer. His death didn't drag on for weeks or months or years. His mom didn't have to agonize. He wasn't kept alive on life support, brain dead, his body wasting away at great profit to the stockholders.
My views on death are very unconventional, perhaps even downright bizarre. You see, I view death as a beautiful thing. It's part of life. It's a law of nature. It's a fundamental truth of the universe. Sure, it's scary to be in the process of actually dying and fear that process, the possibility of crippling pain, the unknown of what lies beyond. Sure, it's sad when young people die before their time. Sure, it's difficult for the living who are left behind. Sure it's sad to die when you're in the middle of a beautiful life.
I see death as the beginning of a new adventure, a transition to the next plane of existence for the energetic being I call "me". As in "me, myself and I". Me is the true me - who I am at my core. Myself is my self, this physical shell that I occupy on this bluegreen planet. I is my ego, which is the fucker who springs forth from the battle between the energetic and the physical. Which, or who? Which. I won't give I/ego the validation of "who-dom". Fuckin' fucker. Me don't like that asshole I, but you gotta love him.
That's my view today anyway. I'm ready for it. I've lived a full and pretty happy life. I, with the help of a beautiful woman, created another human being in the form of my daughter. Or was it me who was planting the seed that day long ago? I'm twenty years or so beyond a natural life expectancy - of thirty years - at least in the "natural" days before drugs and medicine and diet and economics (industrial age versus a hunter/gatherer economy) extended natural life expectancies - doubled them basically.
My uncle (in law) dropped dead in his late 40's of a massive coronary, on the dance floor, dancing with his daughter at her Sweet 16 birthday party. He was dead before he hit the floor. Traumatic for her to say the least.
My dad died from lung cancer many years ago. He was 54. Young. Too young to have known the joy of being a grandfather. Adenocarcinoma with metastasis got him. In layman's terms, that means "bad shit that spreads all over your body". He fought it, valiantly, for almost four years. In the end, he was tripping on a morphine drip, and only barely lucid for a few moments on his best days. It was not fun to watch him die this way. A four year, $700,000 death.
$700,000 to extend a dying man's life by four years. Four years fraught with pain and agony and concern and worry, not only for my dad, but for all of us who loved him. We put our pets to sleep - to end their suffering - for $70. We don't want our pets to suffer, but we will drag out the death of someone we love for months and years.
I remember the day my dad died like it was yesterday. Leaving the hospital after he was gone, I walked along the sidewalk to the parking lot. A blue norther was in full tilt - low, dark blue clouds scudding lickety-split across the sky. Cold winds whipping about. Sharp, icy needles of rain drops stinging my face and washing away the salty tears as I sobbed my way to the car. I cursed him for dying.
But I digress.
The business of death is that it is big business. Death is good for business. Half a million people succumbing each year to the ancillary effects of tobacco is good business. Especially after having been faithful customers of your deadly product for forty or fifty years. Your beautifully deadly product with agricultural subsidies from the government. Smart business. Alcohol. Drunk Driving. Drugs. Rx Drugs. White processed sugar. High fructose corn syrup. Products that addict are the perfect products. Products that extend their nasty tentacles into society, into the macro economy. Perfect beautiful nasty tasty products. Ma Nuit said it once - "terrible beauty and sublime ugliness". So much death and dying as we just stand by and watch. Because it's good for business. Death is good for the economy. I know this is a controversial viewpoint, but I will carry it with me until the day I die.
I just want to know my grandkids before I shapeshift into my next life. I didn't know my grandparents - they died before I was born. On my mom's side, they died in a house fire (caused by a cousin who smoked, by the way) and a plane crash (sabotage during WWII). You should know your grandkids before you die. Luciano didn't have that chance. That's sad, for sure.
To close, here's how I want to go. My first choice is to drop dead dancing tango. Not any tango, but Di Sarli's Verdemar, with its dark and deathly lyrics. Dancing to Verdemar in the perfection of a perfect connection. Dancing with a beautiful woman in my embrace. Dancing with the beautiful woman I love. Dancing with the woman who loves me back. To die dancing tango, in love, is all that I can ask for in this life.
Or alternately, to die screwing. No, let's call it making love. With the woman I love who loves me back. At the apex of the orgasm. A big one. A good one. A big, good one. Mind blowing. Make it a simultaneous orgasm. Right then, at that moment in time. Boom and dead and gone. Or perhaps during the inevitable nap that follows. In my sleep. Yeah, in my sleep, during the inevitable post-coitus nap, after the incredible, good, big, mindblowing, holyshitwhatthefuckwasthat?, simultaneous orgasm. I like the irony of experiencing the climax of life, this climax of life we call death, in the midst of a climax. Irony, or whatever.
What the fuck was that? Oh, I just died. That's how I want to go.
Goodbye my friend.
P.S. Either way, I want to be cremated and someone to sprinkle my ashes on the dance floors of milongas in Buenos Aires. A little bit here, a little bit there, with a pinch or two into the wind at the top of Enchanted Rock. Into the north wind, as a blue norther rolls in.
Monday, December 1, 2008
I've been without internet access for a few days and was just now checking my email. I received the bad news that he died of a heart attack this morning at age 41. He had a heart attack on 21 Nov and was in intensive care recovering for the past 10 days. He had knee surgery on Oct 17 - I wonder if a blood clot was dislodged or something - to cause the first heart attack. He was fit and trim and healthy. I don't understand it.
I was just thinking about him the other day - that I had not heard from him in a while - and that I needed to touch base with him and see how he was doing.
I'll fill you in on more details as I find out. If you know any details, or if you knew Luciano, please leave a comment.
Very sad news indeed. I need to go cry now.
Friday, November 28, 2008
Stampede of Savages :: Throng of 2,000 Bargain Shoppers Tramples WalMart Employee to Death. I cobbed together this headline from the words in the article.
Remember past stories of shoppers fighting in the aisles over worthless Chinese manufactured capitalist materialist consumerist trinkets? I don't shop at WalMart out of principle. The towering stacks of trinkets, the stench of plastics and all kinds of shit outgassing into the atmosphere is too much. I literally feel dizzy walking into those places.
You'd better not get in the way of some inconspicuous consumer on his or her way to buy a 48" LCD TV. Stand between a rabid, foaming at the mouth American consumer, with their nearly maxed out stack of credit cards, barely making the 30% interest payments on the aggregate balance, between them and some product the media convinced them they need - they gotta have it - and be prepared to be trampled to death, or bludgeoned to death with a 12 pack of Charmin tissue, or beaten severely about the head and shoulders with a Barbie Doll.
'Tis the season.
Sad. So very sad. The guy is dead.
The following post is laced with profanity. Mostly the F word. Okay, only the F word.
NOTES TO FESTIVAL/MILONGA ORGANIZERS ::
As the organizer, the buck stops with you. Just because it's your Nth annual event, doesn't mean you can sit back and rest on your laurels.
Observe with a critical eye.
Listen with a critical ear.
Feel the energy of the room with your heart and soul.
Feel the temperature of the room with your skin. From meat locker one night, to muggy, subtropical evening the next is indicative of a problem. Make sure you've got the building engineer or facilities guy on a short leash. If guys are shedding jackets and changing into dry shirts in the men's room - check the T-stat.
Get rid of the fucking plastic wrist bands. The implied/default assumption that people are going to try to steal from you - steal a milonga, or steal a class, is insulting. Tango people don't steal tango. If a few do, fuck them, but don't fuck with the rest of us. Tickets or badges or a list or even a stamp on the hand are the best - least obtrusive.
I'm stopping here, not sure of where to go with this...each year bring in someone with a fresh viewpoint and tweak things...with a "continuous improvement" mindset and approach...and don't lose sight of the fact that your festival is for the dancers, not the teachers, not the DJ's and especially not you.
NOTES TO STUDENTS/DANCERS ::
DO NOT EVER TEACH OR WORK THROUGH 'MOVES' ON THE DANCE FLOOR AT A SOCIAL MILONGA. YOU ARE EMBARRASSING YOURSELF, AND YOU ARE EMBARRASSING THE WOMAN YOU ARE DANCING WITH. WE ARE EMBARRASSED FOR YOU, AND FEEL SORRY FOR HER.
Do not ever teach or work through 'moves' with your partner [you just learned in class today] in the corner, off the dance floor, at a social milonga.
TANGO IS NOT BALLROOM. TANGO IS NOT SWING. TANGO IS NOT SWANGO. TANGO IS NOT SALSA. TANGO IS NOT TWO-STEP. TANGO IS NOT MERENGUE. TANGO IS NOT BACHATA. TANGO IS NOT MAMBO. NONE OF THESE DANCES OFFER ANYTHING, ABSOLUTELY FUCKING NOTHING, THAT CAN BE TRANSFERRED OR CARRIED OVER TO TANGO. THIS MEANS CHECK YOUR BALLROOM DYNAMISM AT THE DOOR, AMONG OTHER THINGS.
EL TANGO ES EL TANGO. Google it, do the research, and figure it the fuck out.
In a social milonga setting, do not lean against the wall and do ballet type stretching and leg swinging. Even if you are an old fart. If you need to warm up and stretch, do it in your hotel room, outside where no one will see you, or in the privacy of a toilet stall after you've taken a dump.
Wash your fucking hands when you leave the bathroom. With soap. Your followers and the leaders who dance with them after you do will appreciate it.
Ladies, do not hold on to a chair and do boleos to warm up before dancing at a milonga. This is a turn off.
For festival milongas, go buy some black slacks at WalMart for $19.95. Jeans are a sign of your lack of respect for all that tango is, dude. Especially the high waisted Wranglers, cowboy. Do the jeans at local milongas, practicas, and classes, no problem. Tango is supposed to be elegant and beautiful. Jeans ain't elegant nor beautiful.
If you can't tell by now, I am in a mood.
Your woman just wants to dance. Dance her. Dance with her. Do your best to make her feel special. Purge all thoughts of yourself, your 'self', your feet, your 'moves', the figures you just learned today. That stuff will sink in - in time - with practice - with dancing - with sleeping - but not tonight. Be present with that woman in your embrace. The Power of Now.
NOTES TO DJ's AND ASPIRING DJ's ::
Think "Top 40".
You know the dance, the feeling, is totally inspired by/from/of the music. Play music that inspires, that makes people get up and want to dance.
Like it or not, you are educating the newbies. If they learn to dance to crap, they will dance like crap, and they will only want to hear crap. Don't play crap no one's ever heard before. We don't want to dance to the music you like. We want to dance to the music WE like. If it's something new and unusual, just make sure it's good. Damn good.
Invest in your music collection. Make the acquisitions. Spend the $2k to travel to Buenos Aires and listen to what they play there. Spend the $1k on music while you're there. Spend another $1k on more stuff once you're back home. Beg, borrow or steal everything else. Pay attention to what all the other DJ's are playing. Do the research. Do the hard work categorizing everything. Do the hard work listening to EVERYTHING in your collection. Do the hard work. If your collection is not there, if it's weak, if the hard work has not been done, then you are not a DJ and do not offer yourself as such - especially at the festival level.
For a milonga that goes until 3am, playing nuevo/alt music at midnight is too soon. This is a TANGO festival. People have traveled far and wide at great expense to listen to TANGO music and dance EL TANGO.
If you must play nuevo/alt music, play music that is tango danceable. Look for a 4 beat. It's not a good sign if your nuevo song has half the dancers dancing swing or some swango aberration. Nuevo/alt music should inspire nuevo and/or traditional tango, not some other dance. Again, this is a TANGO festival.
Re: Milonga tandas - there are not that many milonga tandas in an evening. There are a great many FANTASTIC milonga songs. If you are playing foursies in a TTVTTM format, there will be three milongas per hour. In a six hour milonga, usually the max, you are looking for 18-20 top shelf milonga songs. Don't play some 'off' crap we've never heard.
If lots of people are sitting, this is a bad sign. If almost no one is sitting, this is a good sign. If the people staying until the very end do not want to sit down or stop dancing, this is a good sign. If the crowd appears to be thinning early-ish, or people are noticeably just getting up and leaving, this is a bad sign.
IMPORTANT NOTE ::
I am NOT an authority on tango, milongas, festivals, DJ'ing, teaching, learning, etc. Take this with a grain of salt. This is my personal opinion, mis dos centavos. I ate too much and woke up from a bad dream about hammerhead sharks trying to eat me and I should have just gone back to sleep.
Oh well...there ya have it.
I did have one excellent vals tanda with a good friend tonight, and then I left.
Thursday, November 27, 2008
Photo by Alex.Tango.Fuego. Click here for full size.
Seriously, I have a lot to be thankful and grateful for this Thanksgiving, not the least of which is having tango in my life. My life is a better, richer life because of tango.
I'm in Austin now, starting a new life, or re-focusing my current life. I'm with my family, except my sister who is living the expat life in Ethiopia. I have beautiful people, with wonderful souls, in my life. I have new friends and have reconnected with old friends. I have people who care deeply for me in my life. I have my health. I have a roof over my head and very high thread-count sheets to sleep on. I have cash flow for the next few months. I have freedom. I have tango.
For all of this, I give thanks.
Love and Happy Thanksgiving to everyone.
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
A comment I made over at Debbi's blog last night, well, my reflection on the comment this morning made me think of this scene from one of the Trinity westerns...
Her blog post is about a comment a prick leader made to a group of women, and the comment below is a follow-up to my first comment that "someone shoulda slapped the shit out of him"...
Here's the comment:
I think a well timed, well placed slap, delivered with the proper amount of force, can be a beautiful thing when a man is being an asshole.
That's what women did in the old days when a man made inappropriate advances or comments, right? At least that's the way it's always portrayed in film. If another man was witness to it, especially if she was close to him (wife, daughter, etc.), it would fall upon him to defend her honor, no? A duel, swordplay, a gunfight, or a general ass-kicking.
Again, I'm not advocating violence - I'm not a violent man, have never been in a fist fight in my life, have never been slapped as I recall, but I just find it interesting to talk about (and ponder) this subject.
I did however, have my right ear lobe half bit off by one of my ex's. I was being an asshole. We made mad, passionate love after the bleeding stopped. I can still feel the scar line where her two front teeth parted my flesh.
Apparently, I'm not the only one thinking this...
Article from Newsweek...interview with author and activist Van Jones...
What I call the 'waiter with a tray', with the palm anything less than vertical in the "Y" axis, although usually more horizontal than Korey's hand in this photo, is a Nuevo-esque anomaly/influence, in my opinion...
I hate to continue the whole traditional v. nuevo debate...but hey, what can I say? I am an admitted purist.
I'll even throw a little gas on the fire. If your hand is less than vertical, okay, I'll give you a few degrees.... if you are holding your left hand more than 15 degrees off of vertical (in the "Y" axis), then you are dancing NUEVO, which makes you a Nuevo Dancer!!!
Have at it my nuevo friends...
Pablo's palm is vertical in the "Y" axis, and rotated slightly toward his face in the "X" plane...
Just like mine!
Photo by Leone...
Photo by Leone
Actually when this subject first cropped up in a tango forum/discussion list, and my hand position was referred to as odd/quirky, I did a little research and found that my hand form is very similar to the following dancers:
Gavito (when not doing a show) (deceased)
Dany 'El Flaco' Garcia
Omar Vega (deceased)
I only found Julio Balmaceda's hand form to be different, leaning more towards the 'waiter with a tray' form...
All these guys are the examples from whom I draw inspiration...
I'm man enough to be open to the possibility to possibly admit I might be wrong, perhaps....or, it's always the leader's fault...
Because I complained about getting the "thumb guillotine" sometimes, where the woman grasps my thumb like a baby chimpanzee, even to the point of the tip of it turning bright red, and thought it was a follower axis/balance issue, where she was "hanging" on for dear life kinda thing...which I do more commonly get this with beginning followers...
I've been getting some feedback on the position of my left hand in this photo ::
I looked at all the photos I have of myself dancing, and my hand is pretty much in this position in all of them...okay, scratch the "pretty much"...
Here's the "excuse" I offered ::
98% of the time I get a "normal" hand situation with the woman, where her fingertips are up in the crook of my thumb and index finger, with my fingers lightly clasped around hers...this follower always does this (with me anyway)...there's another woman here who always does this, but lets her hand slide down to my wrist, which always feel problematic to me...
I was using the photo to illustrate my thumb position (in space) more than my hand position...usually my wrist is cocked back a bit, but not into the full waiter with a tray position, which is unnatural to me...
But, all that said, I will be more aware of what's going on in that department...
[more excuses before my full blown "guilty" admission}
But see, the guy in this photo has the same hand position [palm perpendicular to his body...mine is perpendicular or facing my face a bit], and she has sweetly slid her little soft hand up into the crook between his thumb and forefinger...that's what I get, or end up with, most of the time...
I don't know who the dude is, but he's gotta be good, and gotta know what he's doing, because he's dancing at Canning, right? (grin)
So, I'm man enough to be open to the possibility to possibly admit that I might be wrong about the position of my left hand, perhaps, maybe...and, that the thumb guillotine could actually be my issue, and not a follower issue...or, "it's always the leader's fault"...(grin)
I'm dancing tonight at the first milonga of the Fandango, so I'll pay attention to what's going on...and report back...
Check out Johanna's post on this subject (of my hand position), and the resulting commentary here....
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
I've been thinking how this economic morass could be solved with new investment in alternative energy and mass transit, although the time frame to 'flip the switch' from fossil fuels to other alternatives is likely decades, not years, and especially not fiscal quarters or months.
If you read the article, everyone is saying that with low fossil fuel prices, we can't "afford" to invest in alternative energy (and mass transit, which is inextricably tied).
So let me get this straight. We can't "afford" to invest, to focus, to expand our views and thinking (and our hearts), to think outside our capitalist box, to change directions in technologies (and lifestyles) which will ensure the future of humanity for at least another couple of hundred years. We should actually be looking at a five hundred year window, when the capitalists typically look at a five year payback. There's a huge disconnect for ya. Electrical pun intended.
But we CAN afford to invest, to blindly follow, to bury our collective cabezas in the sand, to keep paying our utility bills like good little citizens, to keep enriching the wealthy, and the stockholders of energy/utility companies and automobile manufacturers, to be "safe and sound" with more of the same, worsening our environment each day, raping our Mother Earth and its future generations in our indifference, ensuring the demise of humanity on this earth. I see, YES WE CAN!
Maybe this means Circuit City doesn't have to go bankrupt. If we're not going to invest in ALT Energy Inc., then maybe we can go ahead and buy that 175 foot yacht I've been wanting.
"Hey Steve, hey good morning, it's Alex. I hope I'm not calling you too early. Hey do me a favor. Will you start working on consolidating some liquid assets for me. I need $100 million for this yacht I've been looking at. Actually just 25 for now. I'm pretty sure the salesman said that was the amount of the deposit. I can take possession with 25. I want to take the little lady for a cruise around the Med as a Christmas gift. Can you pull it together in three weeks? Pirates? There are pirates in the Med? I thought they were only around the bend in the Gulf. Oh. Better make it 30. I'll need some operating funds anyway. You know anyone over at Blackwater? No? I'll call Cheney, he'll know someone. Alright. Thanks. Talk later. [click] Hey Dick! Good morning to ya...this is Alex..."
No, I'm not that naive. I know that's not how it works. I know people can't consider investment in things that don't return that investment, plus a little something we call return on investment. ROI. Perhaps that is the ultimate question...okay, not the ultimate, but pretty high up there. Would you give money away, knowing you would never see it again, to ensure the future of humanity on the earth? Would you give money away to ensure the starving of the world could eat and be nourished? Would you give money away to develop alternate energies and mass transit? Would you give money away to ensure clean water, clean air, a safe food supply, healthy topsoil, a clean and sober society, healthy people through preventative medicine, smart(er) people through better education, more justice in the justice system, and on and on and on.
That's essentially what taxes are. We give our money away never to see it again. But for me, I see that as an investment. I want to see a return on that investment. We should all want to see a return on that investment. Huge funding, HUGE return. I don't want to see it go into the black hole of government, only to be pulled out of someone's pocket next month to pay their utility bill.
I'm headin' off to work. Got bills to pay.
Monday, November 24, 2008
November 24, 2008
I received your request, indicating your disapproval of a bailout for Chrysler, General Motors and Ford. As you know, I voted against the earlier Wall Street bailout because it did not have enough limitations on Wall Street or protections for taxpayers. Even though there was no vote on any new bailout, last week, I introduced legislation to stop guidance secretly issued by the Treasury Department that gives away billions of dollars to banks.
I am attaching excerpts from a recent Washington Post article that describes how Treasury quietly issued this guidance that would create a $140 billion loophole in the tax code. It is fundamentally wrong that while aid for struggling families and other important national priorities must survive a long and difficult legislative process, $140 billion is handed out Treasury's backdoor to subsidize banks.
Be assured I will continue my hard work combating special interests and closing tax loopholes like these, which only increase the burden on families and small businesses.
I would also appreciate your thoughts on other issues that may be considered in Congress. If you have not done so already, please take a moment to visit my website at www.house.gov/doggett where you can complete a survey online.
A Quiet Windfall For U.S. Banks
With Attention on Bailout Debate, Treasury Made Change to Tax Policy
By Amit R. Paley
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, November 10, 2008; A01
The financial world was fixated on Capitol Hill as Congress battled over the Bush administration's request for a $700 billion bailout of the banking industry. In the midst of this late-September drama, the Treasury Department issued a five-sentence notice that attracted almost no public attention.
But corporate tax lawyers quickly realized the enormous implications of the document: Administration officials had just given American banks a windfall of as much as $140 billion.
The sweeping change to two decades of tax policy escaped the notice of lawmakers for several days, as they remained consumed with the controversial bailout bill. When they found out, some legislators were furious. Some congressional staff members have privately concluded that the notice was illegal. But they have worried that saying so publicly could unravel several recent bank mergers made possible by the change and send the economy into an even deeper tailspin.
"Did the Treasury Department have the authority to do this? I think almost every tax expert would agree that the answer is no," said George K. Yin, the former chief of staff of the Joint Committee on Taxation, the nonpartisan congressional authority on taxes. "They basically repealed a 22-year-old law that Congress passed as a backdoor way of providing aid to banks."
The story of the obscure provision underscores what critics in Congress, academia and the legal profession warn are the dangers of the broad authority being exercised by Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson Jr. in addressing the financial crisis. Lawmakers are now looking at whether the new notice was introduced to benefit specific banks, as well as whether it inappropriately accelerated bank takeovers.
The change to Section 382 of the tax code -- a provision that limited a kind of tax shelter arising in corporate mergers -- came after a two-decade effort by conservative economists and Republican administration officials to eliminate or overhaul the law, which is so little-known that even influential tax experts sometimes draw a blank at its mention. Until the financial meltdown, its opponents thought it would be nearly impossible to revamp the section because this would look like a corporate giveaway, according to lobbyists.
Andrew C. DeSouza, a Treasury spokesman, said the administration had the legal authority to issue the notice as part of its power to interpret the tax code and provide legal guidance to companies. He described the Sept. 30 notice, which allows some banks to keep more money by lowering their taxes, as a way to help financial institutions during a time of economic crisis. "This is part of our overall effort to provide relief," he said.
The Treasury itself did not estimate how much the tax change would cost, DeSouza said.
A Tax Law 'Shock'
The guidance issued from the IRS caught even some of the closest followers of tax law off guard because it seemed to come out of the blue when Treasury's work seemed focused almost exclusively on the bailout.
"It was a shock to most of the tax law community. It was one of those things where it pops up on your screen and your jaw drops," said Candace A. Ridgway, a partner at Jones Day, a law firm that represents banks that could benefit from the notice. "I've been in tax law for 20 years, and I've never seen anything like this."
More than a dozen tax lawyers interviewed for this story -- including several representing banks that stand to reap billions from the change -- said the Treasury had no authority to issue the notice.
Several other tax lawyers, all of whom represent banks, said the change was legal. Like DeSouza, they said the legal authority came from Section 382 itself, which says the secretary can write regulations to "carry out the purposes of this section."
Section 382 of the tax code was created by Congress in 1986 to end what it considered an abuse of the tax system: companies sheltering their profits from taxation by acquiring shell companies whose only real value was the losses on their books. The firms would then use the acquired company's losses to offset their gains and avoid paying taxes.
Lawmakers decried the tax shelters as a scam and created a formula to strictly limit the use of those purchased losses for tax purposes.
The notice was released on a momentous day in the banking industry. It not only came 24 hours after the House of Representatives initially defeated the bailout bill, but also one day after Wachovia agreed to be acquired by Citigroup in a government-brokered deal.
The Treasury notice suddenly made it much more attractive to acquire distressed banks, and Wells Fargo, which had been an earlier suitor for Wachovia, made a new and ultimately successful play to take it over.
The Jones Day law firm said the tax change, which some analysts soon dubbed "the Wells Fargo Ruling," could be worth about $25 billion for Wells Fargo. Wells Fargo declined to comment for this article.
The tax world, meanwhile, was rushing to figure out the full impact of the notice and who was responsible for the change.
Jones Day released a widely circulated commentary that concluded that the change could cost taxpayers about $140 billion. Robert L. Willens, a prominent corporate tax expert in New York City, said the price is more likely to be $105 billion to $110 billion.
Over the next month, two more bank mergers took place with the benefit of the new tax guidance. PNC, which took over National City, saved about $5.1 billion from the modification, about the total amount that it spent to acquire the bank, Willens said. Banco Santander which took over Sovereign Bancorp, netted an extra $2 billion because of the change, he said. A spokesman for PNC said Willens's estimate was too high but declined to provide an alternate one; Santander declined to comment.
Attorneys representing banks celebrated the notice. The week after it was issued, former Treasury officials now in private practice met with Solomon, the department's top tax policy official. They asked him to relax the limitations on banks even further, so that foreign banks could benefit from the tax break, too.
Congress Looks for Answers
No one in the Treasury informed the tax-writing committees of Congress about this move, which could reduce revenue by tens of billions of dollars. Legislators learned about the notice only days later.
DeSouza, the Treasury spokesman, said Congress is not normally consulted about administrative guidance.
Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa), ranking member on the Finance Committee, was particularly outraged and had his staff push for an explanation from the Bush administration, according to congressional aides.
In an off-the-record conference call on Oct. 7, nearly a dozen Capitol Hill staffers demanded answers from Solomon for about an hour. Several of the participants left the call even more convinced that the administration had overstepped its authority, according to people familiar with the conversation.
Lawmakers are considering legislation to undo the change. According to tax attorneys, no one would have legal standing to file a lawsuit challenging the Treasury notice, so only Congress or Treasury could reverse it. Such action could undo the notice going forward or make it clear that it was never legal, a move that experts say would be unlikely.
But several aides said they were still torn between their belief that the change is illegal and fear of further destabilizing the economy.
"None of us wants to be blamed for ruining these mergers and creating a new Great Depression," one said.
Some legal experts said these under-the-radar objections mirror the objections to the congressional resolution authorizing the war in Iraq.
"It's just like after September 11. Back then no one wanted to be seen as not patriotic, and now no one wants to be seen as not doing all they can to save the financial system," said Lee A. Sheppard, a tax attorney who is a contributing editor at the trade publication Tax Analysts. "We're left now with congressional Democrats that have spines like overcooked spaghetti. So who is going to stop the Treasury secretary from doing whatever he wants?"
U.S. House of Representatives
25th District of Texas
Here's a video from our buddy Miles - Homer & Cristina demo'ing some volcada technique/vocabulary. In spite of Homer's "ever so slight" nuevo-esque stylistic influences, their volcadas look like the real deal. I have no doubt that Homer falls in the class of "good", or even "great" tango teachers.
They even do one that I have in my bag of tricks but had forgotten about - I'll call it the "volcadafollowedbyadoublepivotingcalesitaresultinginawoundupcontratensionreleaseintoanothervolcada" or perhaps the double pivoting double volcada. Whatever.
Also note that you can lead a volcada at almost any point the woman's leg is free (from a pause/stop obviously). A cool version is to get one as she unwinds out of the cross on the close side. Always a nice little surprise for her.
Note that the juiciest volcadas are tiny, milonguero volcadas - languid (my new favorite word 8) ), lush, sweeping, juicy - fluid. At least that's the feedback I've always gotten from mine.
Again, don't try this at home without some good instruction. Try as you might, you won't learn it from these videos, and you could endanger/injure her lower back.
By the way, the song is "Sin Rumbo Fijo"... sung by Ángel Vargas... Orquestra Tipica Victor... recorded in 1938...
The Fandango, as we call it here in Austin, starts on Wednesday with the first classes and milonga. It's not too late to book a flight and a room. Drive on in if you are close enough. Although in Texas, that's a loaded statement. Nothing's close in Texas.
Los "maestros" are:
Fabian Salas y Maria Paz Giorgi
Guillermo Merlo y Fernanda Ghi
Diego di Falco y Carolina Zokalski
Nito y Elba Garcia
Alex Krebs y Luciana Valle
Pablo Pugliese y Noel Strazza
The topics of the classes are not announced until the morning of the day of the classes. The DJ's for the milongas are not announced in advance either. You find out when you get there. It's one of the most expensive, if not the most expensive festivals in the U.S. $589 for the full, unlimited pass. $159 for the "all milonga" pass (seven milongas), $119 if you skip the Thanksgiving brunch milonga (six milongas). Plus, there's no 'a la carte' class pricing, only full day passes. You could ski all four mountains in Aspen, rent skis, have lunch and drink apres ski at Ajax Tavern for less. Ricardo won't like that I am being negative, but it's a festival that really discriminates against local dancers (especially our UT student contingent), and sometimes the truth hurts. But, he's been doing it for 10 years now, and I'm sure he knows what works for him.
The hotel/venue is a nice one - the Omni Hotel Southpark - 5 minutes away. I had a luxurious delusion at one point of getting a suite, and having a "hospitality suite", sort of like a green room that all festivals are sorely lacking. It's an extravagance I can't justify right now. My recent move and then the long road trip set me back about four or five festivals, including airfare and hotel. Or two festivals in Europe, or three trips to Buenos Aires. Or one Nikon D-3 body. Oh well. We do what we gotta do.
This festival has a "ballroomy" undertone to it. At least that's what I felt last year. I understand that the organizer Ricardo comes from the ballroom world, and I hear that the event organization and pricing structure is similar to what you might encounter for a ballroom dance event.
That being said, I had some really good dances last year, one or two amazing dances, reconnected with old friends, and made some new ones. I'm looking forward to seeing friends from Dallas and Houston. My Phoenix cohorts can't make it though. Bummer.