At my 30th high school reunion this weekend, the hired gun photographer was set up in the corner to take "prom" photos, so I took it upon myself to walk around taking papparazzi photos...I was the yearbook photographer my senior year, so it didn't take much for me to step back into that role...
I like this one the best...I extended my arm full length over my head...to the right bit...did my best to aim...and got my best shot of the night...
In a few hours, I'll be on the road to my 30th high school reunion. I went to the 20th, but somehow it wasn't the same as this one. This one seems to be deeper, more meaningful somehow. Over the past month, I have reconnected with friends, and with that time of my life - forgotten snapshots of a life lived thirty years ago.
I could go on and on telling stories. Stories about being a canoe guide in the Atchafalaya Basin - leading groups of folks down the Fausse Point Cut, with a short portage across to Lake Gravenburg, then slipping silently deep into the swamp. Winding through the cypress trees and knees into the backwaters of Buffalo Cove. Have you ever seen clear black water? It's black from the tannic acids released by the cypress. Water that's smooth as silk, sometimes choked with the alien water hyacinth, sometimes coated with a green blanket of tiny two-leafed duck weed, sometimes open black water...
I could talk about the mouth-watering foods - crawfish boils, cochon du laits (pig roasts), boudin sausage, my ex-grandma's rolls that she baked in a cast iron frying pan, beignets, and on and on...so much good food there...
I could talk about my time as a weekend sawyer - felling thirty inch diameter, one hundred foot tall pine trees in the forest to build a log cabin...
I could talk about my solo backpacking trips into the Kisatchie National Forest, getting lost once in the darkening night, sleeping under a bush in the rain...vowing never to forget my map and compass again...
I could talk about my short time as a nuisance nutria trapper...
I could talk about paddling my canoe around the neighborhood lake every day after school, contemplating my universe...and killing cottonmouths and copperheads with a swift and silent blow from my Clément paddle...I loved that paddle...
I could talk about walking around the neighborhood during a hurricane, wearing waders and a slicker, carrying a shovel to clear debris out all the culvert pipes...
I could talk about the creosote burns I got all over my torso one hot summer - creosote splattered from the pounding of boards with a sledge hammer - driving them into the soft, squishy, stinky black mud to build a bulkhead along the lake...
I could talk about the now fading memories of friends from those days...
I could talk about it all...for a long time...but I have to get some sleep...
So I will just say this...
An accordion solo :: Allons a Lafayette ::
From a documentary on Cajun Music ::
And another featuring Nathan Abshire and the Pine Grove Boys performing "ma negresse" :: with a short clip at the end of "Allons a Lafayette"
And finally, more Nathan Abshire with a slide show of crawfish boil images ::
More :: A great indie film :: Shultze Gets the Blues :: about a German accordionist who discovers cajun music and makes a pilgrimage to the Bayou country
Great (and very, very scary for this elitist) Newsweek article by Sam Harris...thanks Nancy!
"...an over-the-brink, Rapture-ready extremist? Palin seems as though she might be the real McCoy..."
"I believe that with the nomination of Sarah Palin for the vice presidency, the silliness of our politics has finally put our nation at risk."
We have all now witnessed apparently sentient human beings, once provoked by a reporter's microphone, saying things like, "I'm voting for Sarah because she's a mom. She knows what it's like to be a mom." Such sentiments suggest an uncanny (and, one fears, especially American) detachment from the real problems of today. The next administration must immediately confront issues like nuclear proliferation, ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan (and covert wars elsewhere), global climate change, a convulsing economy, Russian belligerence, the rise of China, emerging epidemics, Islamism on a hundred fronts, a defunct United Nations, the deterioration of American schools, failures of energy, infrastructure and Internet security … the list is long, and Sarah Palin does not seem competent even to rank these items in order of importance, much less address any one of them.
Apparently, either I did something to break my feed, or it just broke all by itself. My feed is not updating past September 3rd for some reason. I think this was around the time I burned my feed on FeedBurner for some stupid reason.
Burn your feed on FeedBurner and sure enough it will crash and burn in a fireball of napalm.
I've tried some feeble research, on how to "unburn" or repair my feed, and find myself immediately getting into some heavy coding language that I wouldn't even begin to know where to cut and paste.
I've tried unsubscribing and re-subscribing to my own feed in Bloglines to see if is an issue there. The posts updated, but only up until September 3 - nothing since then.
I've tried "pinging" my feed, but to no avail.
One thought just occurred to me - my one year anniversary was on Sept 9 - maybe that has something to do with it.
Also, I just tested another Blogger blog of mine - just a name that is not active. It is not updating either. So, it appears that it's an issue stemming from my Blogger account.
Any thoughts from the more tech savvy readers out there?
Some of you may have picked up on the fact that my thirty year high school reunion is this coming Saturday. I have reconnected with bunches of high school friends, and their curiosity has been piqued about tango - this dance that I seem to be obsessed with. I could write for hours on the subject, so it will be challenging to keep this brief. All of my blog friends, and others "in" tango understand about this - explaining to family and friends - "non" tango folks - explaining what tango is all about. It can be a difficult thing to convey.
Okay, here we go, off the top of my head.
First, I use the word "tango" to describe Argentine tango, which is not American/Ballroom/International Tango which is what you see on "Dances With The Stars".
Tango is chess. Salsa is checkers.
Tango is probably the most difficult "casual" "social" dance you can endeavor to learn - ballet would be harder.
There is no head snapping movement in tango. There are no roses in the teeth with tango. That's Flamenco, an entirely different dance - from Spain.
The fedora is an unfortunate stereotype from one particular aspect of tango in years past - the "dandy" character - which I won't go into. Real men do dance tango, but real men do not wear fedoras indoors at night in the presence of women.
Tango sprang forth from the cultural melting pot of Buenos Aires - from very early beginnings in the 1880's through the 1920's. The "Golden Age" of tango was in the 1930's and 1940's. Argentine tango was actually very popular in Europe in the 1910's and 1920's - before it became all the rage in Argentina. There have been changes - ebbs and flows - in the culture of tango in Buenos Aires over the years - mostly due to the military dictatorships in Argentina. Tango has enjoyed a resurgence in the U.S. and Europe since the late 1980's and early 1990's.
Tango is a feeling...that you dance.
Tango is all about the music, and the connection with your partner. The dance and the movement flow from the music, which we refer to as "musicality". It flows "from" the music, but to outside observers, it appears that the dancers are dancing "to" the music.
Tango is not about showy or flashy moves or figures. It is danced between two people, for their own mutual enjoyment and the social aspects of the dance. They don't dance for an audience, and there is no competition nor competitive events for Argentine tango.
However, there is "show" or "fantasia" or "stage" tango which is danced in the shows (on stage) in Buenos Aires and traveling tango shows around the world. There are varieties or styles of tango which include "salon" (dynamic embrace between open and close), "milonguero" (almost entirely unbroken close embrace), and "fantasia". Am I missing one?
Tango is purely improvisational, with no choreography or memorized steps. Many people migrate over from ballroom dances for this reason. There are "fundamentals" and "vocabulary", but each leader is interpreting the music in his own way. Prior to tango's emergence in the early part of the last century, partner dances required everyone to do the same exact steps at the same exact time. Tango was also the first partner dance to bring the leader and follower into close proximity/contact with each other.
Sometimes, the connection between two dancers can be so intense and intimate that evokes a strong psycho/meta/physical response. Some call it a "tango trance", some call it a "tangasm". A guy named Dan Boccia up in Alaska came up with the best definition of a "tango trance" that I have run across - "the state of being so completely immersed in the music and so profoundly connected to your partner that movement flows from within the partnership uninhibited by conscious thought..."
It can take one to two years or more for a leader to get to the level where he is dancing "uninhibited by conscious thought". There are leaders who have been dancing tango for six years and still don't get it, and some prodigies who "get it" after only six months.
The learning curve for followers is less steep - I would say in one or two months (of weekly classes) a follower will have the basics down enough to start dancing socially.
A social dance party/event is called a milonga. There is also music called "milonga" and the dance that you dance to that music is "milonga". So, you can dance milonga, to milonga music, at a milonga. Confusing, I know. Then there is "tango", and "vals" or waltz. Milonga, Candombe, and Canyengue are all precursors to tango - they existed before tango and tango evolved out of these dances.
The lead is all from the connection and the torso. There are no hand signals or use of the arms or verbal cues in the dance. The follower has to be very in tune with the leader - she has to "listen" to the lead - feel the lead - wait for the lead.
One of the most difficult aspects of tango for followers is the concept of "surrender". Not submission. Not subservience. Not passivity. She must surrender to be led. She must "give" herself to the leader to be led. I can feel it in the first three seconds of the embrace either she wants to be there with me, in that moment, and gives herself to me, or not. Brand new beginners can nail the surrender in the first embrace. Long time followers can have no clue of what it means to surrender. There is much debate about whether this can be taught/learned or not.
There is to be no backleading by the follower. I have been backled very rarely, and always only once with that follower, because I will never invite her to dance again.
Invitations are more verbal in the U.S., but in Buenos Aires there are "codigos" or guidelines that call for the use of "cabeceo", or non-verbal invitations by raising the eyebrows with a slight nod. If the woman accepts, she will meet the man's eyes and nod back. If she wishes to decline, she will avert her eyes.
Tango is a walking dance. The upper body is very still and level - "liso" or smooth. There is no hip action like in salsa dancing.
The leader should always walk the follower back to her table after the dance - if she was in a tango trance, she may not know where she is on the dance floor in relation to her table.
Tango music is played in groups of three or four songs called a "tanda", which are separated by a non-tango clip of a song 30 seconds long or so. These are called "cortinas" or curtains, and allow the dancers to change partners between tandas. Once you've invited a woman to dance, you've committed to the entire tanda. The parties say "thank you" at the end of the tanda. "Thank you" means "I'm done". If a woman says thank you after the first song, it means she is having a really unpleasant time and needs to end the dance immediately. This is rare.
Tango is all about the woman. Hold her in your embrace. Protecting her from other leaders bad navigation on the dance floor. You want her to feel safe and protected with you.
Tango typically is all about dancing with various partners. Some married couples dance only with each other, but even that is rare. Some women dance tango without their husbands - hubby is off fishing or hunting - and she is out dancing tango.
It's about the dance, the connection with another human being, the music, the socializing with friends - it's not about sex. Tango has a reputation of being sensual and intimate, which it can be - but there is a line that people generally do not cross. The sensuality and intimacy ends at the edge of the dance floor - it ends with the end of the three or four song tanda. The songs are roughly three minutes each - so the dance with a partner lasts 10-12 minutes.
Sometimes, I can feel a woman's heart fluttering against my chest.
All tango music is very old. Most of what we listen to is from the 1920's through the early 1950's. After that, the orchestras disbanded during the military junta and in general, never regrouped. There are newer orchestras and quartets and quintets, but they are just not able to duplicate that original sound and feeling. There is also newer electronic (and unplugged) music called "Nuevo" or "Alt" Tango.
Tango can be addictive. They say "you don't choose tango, tango chooses you...". Some people approach it as a hobby, take classes in other dances like swing and salsa and two step and may move away from tango over time.
Others, like me, know that they are addicted to this dance for life. I eat, sleep and breathe tango. I think about it all the time. I listen to tango music all the time - at least when I'm not listening to Jimi Hendrix, The Allman Brothers, Johnny Cash, etc. I started dancing tango about four years ago. I've been writing this blog for a year and a week.
Because, you see, it's not "just" a dance. It's a feeling. It's a culture. It's an art form. It's a social outlet and event. It can become a part of your life, or it can become your life.
Here are a bunch of sayings and quotes about tango I have collected over the past year...
"It's not so much that he led me, but more like he willed my movements..."
"Life is like Tango... sad, sensual, sexy, violent and quiet."
"Tango is like riding a bike, there are no standard memorized movements that you have to recall..."
"Tango is like a language - you learn the alphabet, the vocabulary, the definitions, the grammar, the style and usage - then you can write whatever you like...."
"Other music exists to heal wounds; but the tango when sung and played is for the purpose of opening them, for the purpose of sticking you finger in the wound and to tear them until they bleed."
"Tango is not a dance, it's a feeling. And how do you teach a feeling?"
"We dance tango because we have secrets." :: Marilyn Cole Lownes
"Great dancers are not great because of their technique; they are great because of their passion." :: Martha Graham 1894-1919, Dancer, Teacher and Choreographer
"I come to tango to relax - the music carries me and makes a dance for me. With other music, I have to make a dance myself"
"I believe that Tango has the potential to bring out the best in each of us, at least while in the embrace. We surrender our egos; leave prickly personality traits at the table; and cease to be CEOs, taxi drivers, engineers, unemployed. We replace all our externals with a purity of spirit, a generosity of kindness, splendid caring. And when these elements flow freely between partners, it is...the joy." (Johanna Siegmann)
"Tango is not about what is done, but how it is done" (E. Santos Discepolo)
"Please, just for me, forget the steps...hold me, feel the music, and give me your soul. Then I can give you mine." [Sallycat]
Said by "El Flaco" Dany Garcia, subsequently interpreted by others - and now paraphrased here by me: "The music goes in my ears, is filtered through my heart, and comes out through my feet."
>The tango trance. > >Seek it, and it will elude you. >Talk about it in too much detail. >and it will haunt you evily. >Live for it, and you will die many deaths > >Treasure it, but don't hold onto it. >Dance with love and freedom. >and it will embrace you. >Be vulnerable, and feel it's power. > >Dan Boccia
"Tango can save your life, and it will break your heart." [Credit - Ms. Heartbreak Tango]
"I have tasted a lover's tears on my lips. But I have never felt his eyeballs moving inside their sockets." [Ms. Nuit of La Nuit Blanche - found by Ms. Heartbreak Tango]
“The tango can be debated, and we have debates over it, but it still encloses, as does all that which is truthful, a secret.” [Jorge Luis Borges]
There is the now cliche'd one from the film "The Tango Lesson", Sally Potter asks Pablo Veron “How did you choose the tango?”, and he replies “I didn’t. The tango chose me.” So we now often hear the saying…”You don’t choose tango, tango chooses you…” [I suppose credit goes to Sally Potter, who I assume wrote the screenplay.]
“The follower feels the first half of the sentence [from my lead], and then she completes the second half of the sentence...” [Murat Erdemsel]
“Surrender Tango [a documentary], delves into the mystery of the tango connection--why sometimes you lose yourself in your partner's arms and other times three minutes seems like three hours. This thirty-minute film goes beyond tango as a dance to tango as a metaphor for relationships. The rules and roles of tango partnering reveal how giving space actually creates more intimacy. The film breaks down various aspects of the dance to see how a good embrace is about sharing; the lead is about clarity and commitment; the follow is about sensitivity and surrender. But surrender requires that the dancers be centered and independent of each other before they can truly give themselves to each other. Sensuality is the fusion that adds tension and excitement to the dance and music is the glue that holds the couple together.” [Film Commentary about the documentary film “Surrender Tango” – produced and directed by Tango dancer Marcia Rock]
A famous quote attributed to Enrique Santos Discepolo, a poet, journalist and philosopher, "Tango is a sad thought that is danced."
And some "general" dance quotes...
Movement never lies. ~ Martha Graham
Dancers are the athletes of God. ~Albert Einstein
A day I don't dance is a day I don't live. ~ Anonymous Tunisian dancer
Dancing is like dreaming with your feet! ~ Constanze
Only the wise can dance the rhythm of life. ~ Unknown
Nothing is more revealing than movement. ~ Martha Graham
Dance first. Think later. It's the natural order. ~ Samuel Beckett
Dancing is a relatively safe form of intoxication. ~ from Copeland & Cohen
Don't dance for the audience; dance for yourself. ~ Bob Fosse
Dance is not something to talk about. Dance is to dance. ~ Peter Saint James
Everyday I count wasted in which there has been no dancing. ~ Nitzsche
We're fools whether we dance or not, so might as well dance. ~Japanese Proverb
There are short-cuts to happiness, and dancing is one of them. ~ Vicki Baum
Will you, won'te you, will you, won't you, will you join the dance? ~ Lewis Caroll
It is impossible for a man to learn what he thinks he already knows. ~ Epictetus
There are tango communities in most major cities and smaller towns across the U.S. and around the globe.
I'll post some YouTube videos tomorrow...this is enough to digest for now...so much for brevity...
To sum this all up, tango has changed my life. Four years ago I was a rhythmic retard and was always uncomfortable/inhibited about getting up there and dancing. To sum up, if you've been thinking about taking up dancing - do it - whatever the dance may be. Just do it.
I didn't know him personally, but I took some private lessons from him in BA just last year. I don't know a lot about him. I know he was one of the many folks who starred in Sally Potter's "The Tango Lesson".
It's always a terrible loss when one of our own passes away.
Here is his CV from his website :: Hello, my name is Omar Vega, and first of all, I want to thank you for visiting my new website and for your interest in my curriculum vitae. Twenty-five years ago, I never thought that I would become a tango professional. I thank my mother, Irma Jeronima Vega, for this possibility, since she is of African heritage, and I thank my grandparents for being of color, and, of course, for giving me this heritage in my blood. Because of this heritage, whenever I hear a drum or any kind of African music, my blood begins to boil in my veins and my heart begins to pulsate and my body to vibrate to the beat of a tango, milonga, salasa, mambo, or danzon, even if I am standing still.
And today I have 23 years as a dancer, teacher, and choreographer. And I have had the good fortune to know many countries in Europe: Germany, Holland, Switzerland, Italy, Spain, Denmark, and France. And many cities and states in the US: New York, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, Colorado, Atlanta, and many more…
I was born in Concordia in the province of Entre Rios in 1959 to an Argentine mother and German father, and in the first two months of my life they brought me to live in Buenos Aires, so I am really a gaucho by nature. I learned folkloric dance as part of growing up, but it was not so with tango, milonga, and vals. I studied those dances for five years in a cultural arts center where I learned a lot about tango dancing for shows; but not much about the social dance floor. One day a friend said to me: “Look at all the dancing you are doing, and you never go to the milongas!” She motivated me to go to a milonga, and there I got a big disappointment, because the first step I did, dancing with a 65 year old milonguera, was a backward step, causing the lady to run into a veteran milonguero within the first 15 seconds of dancing. The women led me by the arm back to my table and said to me: “Pibe, when you learn to dance tango, ask me to dance!” Two minutes later, the man we bumped into on the dance floor came over and said to me: “Pibe, you like the tango?”. I answered arrogantly, thinking inside, “Don’t you see that I’m a dancer?” and he continued, “so why don’t you learn how to dance tango?” That was the most frustrating day of my career, and after that I dedicated myself fully to learning about the social dance floor: the sense of the space, the sense of where I am standing, how to begin to dance, etc…
I worked in films like “The Tango Lesson” dancing with the lead actress and director, Sally Potter. In “Convivencia” (“Coexistence”) with the maestro Osvaldo Pugliese. In television, in “Solo Tango”, where I have video documention of two pieces of choreography. I worked with Julian and El Choclo, who gave my career great enhancement. I had the opportunity to travel around a lot of the world. I won many tango championships and received first place in Argentina in 1999.
I have taught in the best places for tango, such as Almagro, Nino Bien, and at Parakultural, at festivals such as the Boston Tango Festival, and in Los Angeles.
My flagstone crew was apparently picked up this morning by the Border Patrol.
I'm struck by the fact that it is illegal to have the desire to work in the U.S., and act on that desire in order to better your family, to better your life.
It is not illegal however, to short sell, dabble in derivatives, and all sorts of other as yet unknown shady shenanigans in the financial markets, and make millions or billions doing it.
If there is a loss, there is a corresponding profit on the other side. If someone loses their ass, gets their clock cleaned, some other asshole profits from it. It's the "Amehrehcan" Way. The "Amerhehcan" Dream. Involuntary transfer of wealth, capitalism, whatever you want to call it.
So it's not illegal to be intelligent and crafty and conniving and figure out how to outsmart the system and make a windfall profit by fucking other people (like the taxpayers or the victims of predatory lending practices).
But it is illegal to simply want to come to this country and work for $8 or $10 bucks an hour doing hard physical work lazy assed Norte Americanos don't want to do.
On NPR today, I heard an interview with Thomas Frank, the author of "The Wrecking Crew". He made a convincing argument that deficits have evolved into a weapons against the left. I'm probably oversimplifying here, but check out the link below to the New York Times review of the book. I plan to buy it as soon as I win the lottery.
It dawned on me in listening to the author, that when there are tax cuts, that the people who don't receive the cuts are paying for those who do receive the cuts, either now, or into the future. Either way, it sucks. We are being bent over and Enron'd in the ass. On a daily basis. I don't like it. Not one little bit.
Here is the link to The New York Times book review by Michael Lind.
I just got back from a very nice milonga in Atlanta. Four hours of driving to dance for three hours and fifteen minutes. My last tango/s in Georgia, and saying my goodbyes to a few friends. It was a nice milonga, nice dances. I will miss the Atlanta tango community.
Off to try to catch some z's and dream some sweet dreams.
The LHC, the Large Hadron Collider, is starting up at 1:30am Central Daylight time on Wednesday, September 10. The U.S. had a superconducting supercollider at one time - in Waxahachie, Texas - just down the road from Dallas. In their infinite stupidity, our government, us, we the people, decided to cut funding. It is this type of research that will free us from the constraints of a primitive internal combustion and carbon based fuel burning mode of being. I'm not sure, because I haven't done any checking, but there may be one operating elsewhere in the U.S.
These are some smart fuckers. How DO you catch a particle you can't see?
Not by me, neither in the find, nor in the review. A link in the middle of the night from my friend Nancy, a link to a book review of "BRO" [written by Daniel Maurer] by Holly Brubach/BiblioFile in The New York Times Style Magazine. Note that it's intertwined by her review of the book "Guyland: The Perilous World Where Boys Become Men" by Michael Kimmell.
There some interesting concepts raised in the book/review, beyond the "Bro-cabulary". "Trojan whores" is hilarious to me - wherein a BRO hides in a group of hot babes in order to get into a hot club. That might work for some squirrelly little pencil necked tiny fucker, but not a "gargantu-man" like me. I just made that up.
Another concept is that I might be dancing tango not only to prove my manhood, but to also prove that I am not gay.
This one goes to Kimmell :: Brubach writes Kimmel is ultimately less interested in the details of what goes on in Guyland than in the conditions that created the need for Guyland in the first place, not the least of which are economic. He cites statistics indicating that annual earnings for men ages 25 to 34 with full-time jobs have steadily declined, to the point where in 2002 they were 17 percent lower than they were back in 1971. The only way to get rich in America today, the guys Kimmel interviewed believe, is ‘‘not by working hard, saving and sacrificing, but by winning the lottery.’’
And lastly, my favorite, "Here’s another idea, this one from Kimmel. We appeal to boys on the strength of the notion that they shouldn’t be forced to choose between their masculinity and their humanity." We could definitely use some more humanity out there in the world. Lots more.
These are definitely two books I'm going to have to add to my library. Once I win the lottery that is.
Is there nothing more to life than watching football, getting drunk and getting laid? Of course there is. There’s literature, which is good for quoting when sex is the objective. There’s art, which can advertise your sophistication, improving your chances when it comes to sex.
And then there’s baseball, which is handy in the off-season for those times when the chances of sex are zero.
It may no longer be a man’s world, but it’s a guy’s theme park. Guyland, in Michael Kimmel’s description, is ‘‘both a social space and a stage of life,’’ an ad hoc fraternity and a way station on the road to manhood. In ‘‘Guyland: The Perilous World Where Boys Become Men’’ (Harper), Kimmel goes door to door, conducting a census of this estrogen-free zone and its inhabitants, many of whom show no signs of wanting to leave anytime soon, or ever. ‘‘Passage between adolescence and adulthood has morphed from a transitional moment to a separate life stage,’’ Kimmel writes. ‘‘Adolescence starts earlier and earlier, and adulthood starts later and later.’’ He concludes that the expansion of Guyland to accommodate more and more guys for longer periods of time, into their 30s and beyond, does not bode well for the future of our society, though anyone who owns a bar should be in good shape.
Kimmel commutes to Guyland, getting his ticket punched and returning home at night to sleep on the far side of the border, in a neighborhood not so much anonymous as nameless, where full-fledged adults make commitments, buy houses and raise children. It’s a place that Guyland residents visit on rare occasion and only, one suspects, under some duress, staying just long enough to witness one of their own inducted into the marriage-and-a-family ranks before scurrying back to their beer pong and ‘‘The Mike and Mike Show.’’ These tragic occasions call for what Daniel (Danimal) Maurer calls a ‘‘brobituary,’’ a wedding toast that effectively eulogizes the groom, since ‘‘your bro’s life is over as he knows it.’’
Maurer has written ‘‘Brocabulary: The New Man-i-festo of Dude Talk’’ (Collins Living), a lexicon for the Guyland dialect so full of bluster and bravado, so relentless and manic — man-ic? — that I found myself needing to paint my toenails and take bubble baths between chapters, just to hold my ground in the face of such an onslaught of testosterone. Maurer has coined a word for everything, and then some. ‘‘Manecdote — an anecdote that shows what a man you are.’’ ‘‘Cupgrade — to upgrade to a girl with a bigger bra size.’’ ‘‘Hornery — ornery and horny at the same time.’’ ‘‘Trojan whores — hot chicks that you hide amidst in order to get into a club: ‘The doorman wasn’t going to let us in but we told these Trojan whores we’d buy their drinks all night if they took us in with them.’ ’’ To name only four examples, chosen not so much for their verbal ingenuity, which is typical of Maurer’s brand of wit, as for the fact that they are printable.
Maurer is the garrulous guide to the ins and outs of this 24/7 resort community in our midst, like the fun-loving local pictured on a Chamber of Commerce brochure depicting island life as one big margarita by the bay. Kimmel, with his tales of lethal drinking games, traumatic hazing rituals and date rape, helps to put Maurer’s boozy exuberance into perspective. Though both Kimmel and Maurer acknowledge ‘‘Bros before hos’’ to be the undisputed law of the land, it has a decidedly altruistic ring in Maurer’s anthem to the joys of male bonding, while coming across as alarming and downright sinister in Kimmel’s account of the silence boys learn in response to other men’s violence, even when that silence means abetting a crime.
Kimmel is ultimately less interested in the details of what goes on in Guyland than in the conditions that created the need for Guyland in the first place, not the least of which are economic. He cites statistics indicating that annual earnings for men ages 25 to 34 with full-time jobs have steadily declined, to the point where in 2002 they were 17 percent lower than they were back in 1971. The only way to get rich in America today, the guys Kimmel interviewed believe, is ‘‘not by working hard, saving and sacrificing, but by winning the lottery.’’ One grad-school student claims that his whole life ‘‘has been one long exercise in delayed gratification’’ that will end only when he gets tenure. ‘‘I mean, by the time I can exhale and have a little fun, I’ll be in my mid-30s,’’ he whines, and Kimmel summarizes his case for the reader: ‘‘Matt is paving the way for his career, but he can’t wait to regress.’’ I’m not sure what gratification these guys seem to think they’re owed — though I understand that sex and drinking figure prominently — but have they ever met anyone who went to medical school?
Both Kimmel and Maurer offer 10 commandments, and while Maurer’s are mostly lame satirical variations on the Biblical kind (‘‘Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it wholly devoted to watching football’’), Kimmel’s are an inventory of the unwritten rules that most men in our society live by: ‘‘Boys Don’t Cry.’’ ‘‘He Who Has the Most Toys When He Dies, Wins.’’ ‘‘Nice Guys Finish Last.’’ ‘‘Don’t Get Mad — Get Even.’’ ‘‘From an early age, boys are taught to refrain from crying, to suppress their emotions, never to display vulnerability,’’ Kimmel tells us, summarizing recent thinking. ‘‘As a result, boys feel effeminate not only if they express their emotions, but even if they feel them.’’
Kimmel professes amazement at discovering that ‘‘men subscribe to these ideals not because they want to impress women’’ or ‘‘test themselves.’’ No, they do it to impress one another. Masculinity, he concludes, is a ‘‘homosocial experience, performed for, and judged by, other men.’’ Well, next time, just ask. Any woman could have told him that. The success of the performance comes down to what Kimmel calls ‘‘the single cardinal rule of manhood, the one from which all the other characteristics — wealth, power, status, strength, physicality — are derived.’’ That is, to demonstrate, constantly and repeatedly, that you’re not gay. This is hardly a new idea, but this book makes a persuasive case for it as the bedrock on which Guyland has been built. Without guys’ need to perform for one another, Guyland wouldn’t exist.
But even before Guyland existed, being a man seems to have been fraught with complications. Not that anyone was willing to admit to it. Mark S. Micale’s ‘‘Hysterical Men: The Hidden History of Male Nervous Illness’’ (Harvard University Press) attests to the fact that researchers discover and doctors diagnose only those conditions that their culture allows them to find.
The ancient Greek supposition that hysteria was situated in the uterus made men anatomically impervious to it, a cherished belief that persisted for centuries. The breakthrough in medical terms, according to Micale, came during the late Renaissance, with the emergence of a secular worldview: ‘‘What was once regarded as a divinely created soul in spiritual distress came more and more to be construed as a naturalistic mind, psyche or personality that suffered emotionally or psychologically,’’ he writes.
Even so, official instances of male hysteria seem to have waxed and waned according to the expectations of how men were supposed to behave, until the 18th century broadened the possibilities, for the healthy as well as for the sick. Nervous maladies like madness, melancholia and hysteria were regarded as signs of the refined sensibility characteristic of artists and aristocrats. ‘‘Good blood and bad nerves went hand in hand,’’ Micale says. In their lives and in their work, men of letters like James Boswell and David Hume corroborated what physicians were now prepared to believe, as ‘‘the Georgian literary hypochondriac evolved into a recognized cultural personality.’’
Not only were men permitted to deviate from the norm, but the deviation itself became the norm. ‘‘In contrast to Victorian medical moralizing, which linked nervousness to a contemptible lack of will and a hereditarian scheme of degeneration, there is notably little condemnation of the nervous patient in the 1700s,’’ Micale notes. Most amazing from the perspective of Guyland is the fact that signs of hysteria in men seem not to have diminished their perceived virility. Micale contends that ‘‘18th-century Britons conceptualized manliness largely in moral, rather than physical, terms,’’ and he lists ‘‘wisdom, virtue, rectitude, sympathy and responsiveness’’ as the era’s ‘‘key ‘manly’ attributes.’’
Micale’s survey stops short of the 21st century, with the reassurance that the symptoms and preoccupations previously diagnosed as hysteria are simply among the occupational hazards of being human, and a worrisome conclusion: that ‘‘the true male malady’’ is what he calls the chronic inability to reflect on oneself — without heroics, evasion or self-deception.
But hey, too much heavy thinking going on here and not enough drinking. Let’s get back to basics. Like the blonde at the end of the bar. Her sidekick is a double-wide, but your wingman agrees to hog tie her (‘‘hog tie — to tie up a fatty in conversation so that your bro can hit on her hot friend’’) while you strongcharm the blonde (‘‘strongcharm — to strongarm a woman with your charm’’) and try to remember Maurer’s foolproof tips for seduction, like ‘‘Display an utter certainty that she wants you’’ and ‘‘If you don’t let her talk, she can’t reject you.’’ Yeah, that works every time.
‘‘Brocabulary’’ should come with a warning label: May Cause Apoplexy in Feminists and Fathers of Girls. Its instructions for how to dump chicks, guilt-free, and how to get over an ex (find someone who looks like her but has bigger breasts) certainly corroborate Kimmel’s observation that the guys he interviewed ‘‘consistently spoke of women more with contempt than desire.’’
And then, after who knows how many years, guys graduate to manhood, right? Anyway, that’s the plan. And the long-forgotten one-night stands and the addiction to porn and the utter disregard for the women they malienated (‘‘malienate — to alienate a woman with male behavior’’) give way to profound respect and appreciation and love for a woman with whom they want to make a life. Will somebody please tell me how that happens? I think it’s safe to say that manhood in America has an image problem, but it’s nothing that a really good marketing campaign couldn’t solve. We need to pitch boys on the joys of mortgage payments and parenthood, on the virtues of staying late at the office and saving for retirement. Maybe Danimal Maurer could be brought on board to coin some new words, to make adult responsibility sound like something clever and even more fun than getting hammered with your friends on a Friday night. How about ‘‘manticipation — financial planning for your future children’s college tuition’’? Or ‘‘manogamy — sexual fidelity because, after 10 years of marriage, she’s still the hottest woman you know’’? O.K., I can see that this is going to be a hard sell.
Here’s another idea, this one from Kimmel. We appeal to boys on the strength of the notion that they shouldn’t be forced to choose between their masculinity and their humanity. That might work.
Today was the start of the tutoring program that I volunteer for. Believe it or not, I'm the high school level (and 8th grade) Algebra tutor. I spent about thirty minutes sharpening pencils, tons of dull pencils. One of the first things that struck me was the crappy, weak, electric pencil sharpener made available for the job. It would shudder and shake, overheat and seize up - and that was with me going very easy on it, not trying to shove the pencil down it's throat in the least. Anyway, I was thinking "Whatever happened to the old silver hand cranked models?". Those worked just fine. Heavy duty industrial all metal parts. Now we get half plastic crap from China.
I was also struck by the fact that 9 out of 10 pencils, besides being dull leaded, were in fine shape. Full length, almost brand new shiny yellow No. 2 pencils. But, and there always is a but, the erasers were rubbed down to nothing on more than half of them. A pretty, almost brand new pencil, but with the eraser gone in the first few uses of its life.
I wonder what this means? What can this tell us about a school, or a weekend tutoring program, or even the state of our educational system nation-wide? What can it tell us about an economic demographic in a particular area of a city when the erasers are all rubbed to a nub.
This is a photo of mine from a camping/horseback riding trip to Moab last year. I drove and hiked to get this shot, then joined the group down at the crick. They were riding with an extra horse and I rode the last stretch in a narrow, narrow canyon. Our ride was stopped at a rockfall, a huge, house-sized boulder, wedged between the canyon walls. We sheltered from the sun underneath and drank piss-warm beers.
This spot is three hours from Aspen. I do miss that aspect of living there - being so close to some beautiful country.
For some reason, I was just sitting here thinking about nothing, and thought of the time I saw Chris Isaak live at the Belly Up in Aspen. He's definitely a performer. As I recall, it was a great show.
And then I ran across this one, "Baby did a bad bad thing", which reminded me that my buddy is in Las Vegas right now having fun. This song/music video has a Vegas feel about it, but then again, so does Chris Isaak.
Oh, and I had completely forgotten about Laetitia Casta. Yowzuh.