Thursday, June 25, 2009

Urgent Press Release :: Oppose the House Climate Bill

Our House of Representatives is in the process of screwing the pooch on energy and climate. Friends of the Earth is asking that we all contact our Representatives - they make it easy for you with a zip code lookup - just a few buttons to press and you're done.

Government of the people, by the people, for the people. The 4th of July is upon us. Remember that famous document our forefathers wrote? It's called The Declaration of Independence. I feel you all must get tired of my preaching, but really, we all must become more active in our own governance. Most don't realize it yet, but it's a different world out there. There is no "back to normal". Okay, I'm preaching again.

Pick your cause. Pick a few causes. Become active in them. Join. Send them a little bit of money. Volunteer locally to help them. I know, believe me, I know it's a pain in the ass and none of us has time for this. But we all have to make the time. The alternatives are a much, much bigger pain in the ass. Real pain.

Thanks in advance. Here is the press release:

* Global Warming
* Energy

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

CONTACT:
Nick Berning, 202-222-0748
Erich Pica, 202-222-0739

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Friends of the Earth launched an advertising campaign today against the energy and climate change bill that is expected to come to the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives later this week.

The progressive environmental group's ads will run on a variety of progressive and environmental blogs and websites. The ads call attention to the fact that the bill is based on a blueprint written in part by polluting corporations like Shell Oil and Duke Energy, which has undermined the ability of the bill to solve the problems it is intended to address.

Friends of the Earth President Brent Blackwelder had the following statement:

“Corporate polluters including Shell and Duke Energy helped write this bill, and the result is that we’re left with legislation that fails to come anywhere close to solving the climate crisis. Worse, the bill eliminates preexisting EPA authority to address global warming—that means it's actually a step backward.

“Last November, the American people voted for change. Unfortunately, while the party in power may have changed, the process through which this bill was negotiated makes it clear that the overwhelming influence of corporate special interests has not. This exercise in politics as usual is a wholly unacceptable response to one of the greatest challenges of our time, and it endangers the welfare of current and future generations. Speaker Pelosi and congressional Democrats simply must do better. We are calling on them to vote against this bill unless it is substantially strengthened. If the ‘political reality’ at present cannot accommodate stronger legislation, their first task must be to expand what is politically possible—not to pass a counterproductive bill. This is the message carried by the ad campaign we are launching today.”

The initial ads that are running in the campaign can be viewed at: http://www.foe.org/new-ads-opposition-house-climate-bill.

Friends of the Earth is urging citizens to send messages about the bill to Congress, and has set up a web page where they can take action at http://action.foe.org/t/8815/p/dia/action/public/?action_KEY=1117.

###

Friends of the Earth (www.foe.org) is the U.S. voice of the world’s largest grassroots environmental network, with member groups in 77 countries. Since 1969, Friends of the Earth has been at the forefront of high-profile efforts to create a more healthy, just world.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Lost in Argentina

Ruh roh...

Alledgedly, the Governor of South Carolina had gone hiking on the Appalachian Trail for a solo vacation. As it turns out, he was actually in Argentina. It looks like his absence caused a great deal of speculation as to his whereabouts.

I wonder if tango in the mecca drew him there?

I haven't read the article, but here is the link:

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/31522908/ns/politics-more_politics/

This guy is my kinda governor.

Update @ 6:40pm

I wrote this before the news of the 'affair' broke. Just to clarify, he would have been my kinda governor, had he just chosen to disappear to Buenos Aires for a few days. He would have been my kind of governor had he not wanted to tell anyone where the fuck he was going. He would have been my kind of governor (politician) to not play by the rules. He would have been my kind of governor if he were a Democrat and not a Republican. I'm not going to judge him about his affair, nor his handling of it. Relationships are imperfect. Men are imperfect. Very imperfect.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

On Father's Day :: A letter to my daughter

My first wife and I had used the rhythm method of birth control for many years. I won't bore you with the details, but suffice it to say it's based on knowing the few-to-several days that a woman is ovulating - fertile. So, the method can also be very useful when a couple is trying very hard to get pregnant. In that seventh year of our marriage, it was based on the timing of college graduation and getting a job afterwards.

It was most definitely a planned pregnancy. Frequent attempts during ovulation, morning, noon and night. My work was close by, so I drove home from work each day at lunch to do my duty. After several months of this, I was spent. Our timing window was closing, so we eventually gave up. The month after that, it happened. That's the way of the universe.

We chose the option where it was like a suite in the hospital - the feeling of giving birth at home - except that the actual birth was in the delivery room. Her mom had to stay in recovery for several hours, so after they had cleaned up the little boo (I still call her Boo) and counted her fingers and toes, they brought her to me in our suite. I sat in a rocking chair and held her in my arms, looking down at this little miracle her mom and I had created - plan or no plan. As I recall, I held her in my arms for three or four hours, with nurses coming in to check on us.

The bond between parent and child is a strong one. It's a love that cannot be described, cannot be explained, cannot be analyzed. It's not meant to be. It's meant to just exist. It is the kind where you would throw yourself in front of a speeding, million ton diesel locomotive to push your child to safety. Is the kind where you would give your own heart for a transplant, without a moment's hesitation. To say you would give your life for your child doesn't even touch the surface. If it meant a better life for my child, if it ensured her happiness, I would take in all the pain and suffering in the entire world. I would take it into myself and make it go away. That is the bond. That is the love.

Leaving her mom was the hardest thing I have ever done in my life. But that is another story. Boo was six when I asked her mom for a divorce. I remember sitting on the edge of the bed, looking her mom in the eye, and telling her I didn't love her any more. We had been together seventeen years. My biggest fears were the potential negative outcomes of divorce. That her mom might try to poison my own daughter against me. That she might use this beautiful child as a weapon in our divorce and ensuing years. Fears that her relationships with men in her adult life could be effected. Other fears, mostly unfounded. A few years ago, we talked for the first time about that period - the divorce and her memories. The thing that stuck is that she said she remembered me never being around. That was, and is still, painful for me.

Fast forward to today. Her adult life is here, now. She'll be 21 in October. "Legal". I could say she's a good kid buy I would be lying. She's a great kid, a wonderful daughter. Intelligent, beautiful, sweet, nice, thoughtful, passionate, open-minded, funny, and so-far-so-good, liberal. She's well on her way in this crazy world - which I worry about. What does the future hold for my boo? All I can do at this point is hope for the best and be there for her when she needs me.

We're close physically, finally living in the same city, but I wish we were closer emotionally. I wish she would come to me with her problems and her worries, if there are any. Perhaps, in time, this will come to pass.

Sugarpiehoneybunch and I were at a Midsummer's Eve celebration last night - to celebrate the dawn of the summer solstice with dear friends - old and new. To celebrate the marriage of the earth and the sky. To celebrate love and light and goodness. To pray for abundance and bounty on the earth. To ponder spirit and soul and ego. To think of Stonehenge, the Temple of the Sun, and their perfect alignment with the track of the sun on its zenith. To question it all, to seek to understand it all. For a moment, to wonder at the meaning of this life, on this planet.

I didn't write my fantasy on a piece of paper to be read and burned in the fire as the others did. Fantasy, wish, hope, offering, sacrifice - whatever it was to be - I couldn't come up with anything. As I stared into the firelight, listening to the troubadours play, making music with guitar and flute and cool breeze and sky and fire, it came to me. My wish is for my daughter.

My wish is for my daughter to always be happy. To play and laugh and enjoy good times. To always have a roof over her head and a warm bed to sleep in and dream sweet dreams in. Delicious food, pure water, libation in moderation. To always remain safe and out of harm's way. To be blessed with good health, and the drive to maintain a healthy lifestyle. To listen to her heart. To stay true to her heart. To be blessed with confidence and self-assuredness, but never arrogance or ego. To do what she loves for a livelihood - the money will follow. For all her friendships and relationships to be filled with joy and respect. For the men in her life to care for her as I do. For the loves in her life to always respect and honor and cherish her heart and mind and soul. Absent jealousy and heartache. For her heart to never be broken. Or if it is, for her to grow and learn from it, come out of it with a stronger heart and soul - a stronger woman. Forever, to thine own self be true.

This is my wish on this Father's Day, on this Summer 's Solstice, for my daughter.

I love you boo.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Tango Beginner's Questionnaire

Ms. Hedgehog's Beginner's Questionnaire bears repeating. Limerick should add it to his "Blog Posts to Read Before You Die".

It's a much better approach (to determine if you're being taught 'properly') than the negatively tuned prior post from Tango-L.

http://mshedgehog.blogspot.com/2008/10/beginners-questionnaire.html

The point is, there are some really crappy tango teachers out there in the world trying to separate you from your money, and leave you with, well, some foul smelling tango.

Hopefully, this flurry of posts, and my newly shut down brand new blog "Tango Teacher and DJ Reviews", will give you some thinking points when evaluating your teacher and workshop options.

Caveat emptor. (Let the buyer beware.)

Detecting Sham or Incompetent Tango Teachers

While on the subject...a little birdie pointed out this old thread from Tango-L...

Let's face it, tango is not cheap. During the first three years for me, I would guess (I'm afraid to actually run the numbers) I spent $15,000 to $20,000 on workshops, festivals, travel, hotels. It probably cost me more in indirect cost impacts - focusing on my tango addiction more than other areas of my life.

So, tango newbies (and others who still take workshops) should be able to get the most bang for their buck. I always approached workshops a little differently. I always said to myself, "Self, if you end up with only one item, one piece of vocabulary, one tango product, then it was worth the $100 or so you paid..." Now, I can't afford that mindset. A full festival pass, hotel, travel, meals, vino tinto, could easily run $600-800 even if you are bare-bonesing it.

So, bang for the buck - maximizing your tango learning (and retention) for your dollars expended. Learning "proper" technique. Learning fundamentals, the subtle nuances of lead and follow. Being taught (but perhaps never learning) codigos and floorcraft. In my experience, it's surprising (no, not really) that there are so many leaders with really piss-poor technique and no desire to improve. Many are dancing the Basic-8 over and over. I would rather learn less "stuff" and gain more fundamental truth from a nice, friendly couple, than have tons of elaborate figures thrown at me by arrogant, self-aggrandizing teachers who think they are hot shit tango demi-gods.

Anyway, this all came up out of the blue. The recent thread on Tango-L made me start thinking about it - and you all know how I think too much. Maybe I should just keep my mouth shut and leave well enough alone. After all, it's not like people are being harmed or somehow damaged by bad teachers teaching bad tango. Or are they?

IMPORTANT NOTE!!! Luckily, there aren't that many of these tango carpetbaggers out there...the vast majority of tango teachers are careful, conscious, diligent, knowledgeable, curious, genuine, all-around good people. Also, the vast majority of festival and workshop organizers are only going to bring in the tried and true teachers for their events - they have done the due diligence for us end users.

Here's the thread...from 2003...from someone named "TangoGuy"


Sham or incompetent teachers
One needs to be suspicious of any teacher who exhibits any of the following. However, one needs to look at and think deeply about the overall picture and not rush to judgment. After all, it isn't fair to incorrectly evaluate a legitimate, good and dedicated teacher. And one may be passing up a very fine learning opportunity.

This list won't help the poor hapless vulnerable and total beginner because in all likelihood, he wouldn't have had the opportunity to have read it. But one can warn and guide any beginners one may encounter. Also, one can give the beginner a copy of this list.

Teachers can view this list as a way of checking themselves. They shouldn't construe any part of what I say as meaning they are necessarily sham or incompetent teachers. However, if any part applies to them, they need to take it as a helpful hint. It's the responsibility of every teacher to improve both their dancing and their teaching skills. Doing so improves ones service to their students and to the wider Tango community.

Obviously, most truly sham teachers are going to continue shamming. I just hope some will have a pang of conscience that will lead them to change their ways.

I have attempted to create an exhaustive list but if I have left anything out, please let me know. All helpful comments and critiques are welcome and requests for clarifications will be honored.

1)Money seems to be a teacher's paramount concern. It's certainly ok for a teacher to make money but it shouldn't be his chief concern. Their chief concern needs to be the welfare of their students and the wider Tango community. It becomes a concern to other Tango dancers when they end-up dancing with a poorly trained person. Beginners are one thing; poorly trained dancers are another.

Alex here...I disagree with this...for full-time professional teachers, this is how they put bread on the table...not being concerned about paying your bills from month to month would be difficult/impossible for any of us to do.


2)A teacher doesn't concentrate on basics with a beginner. As a student advances, he will often need to be reminded or helped from time to time with relevant basics. A teacher needs to be willing to do this regardless of the class level. I have already mentioned elsewhere in this posting a type of class structure that will accommodate this.

3)A teacher is unwilling to correct a student. The teacher may be afraid to lose a student due to too many needed corrections.

4)A teacher teaches a beginner figures other than Salidas, Crosses and Ochos. These figures are used as a way to convey basics to a student so it may be possible to use additional figures to convey needed basics.

5)A teacher who teaches a lot of flashy, fancy and/or sexy figures is probably attempting to hook or keep students. Latter on as a dancer becomes more advanced, such figures are a lot of fun.

6)The teacher doesn't dance well or is not smooth or doesn't dance elegantly or doesn't give a lady time to complete a figure or doesn't insert strategic pauses to give a lady time to do adornments.

7)A teacher doesn't seem to have sufficient dedication to Tango. A truly dedicated teacher has enough interest in Tango to go beyond the actual dance itself. Almost everything about Tango needs to be of interest to the teacher. Things such as the music, Tango personalities, Tango history, etc. A teacher can convey such info to the student in bits and snippets.

8)A teacher needs to tell students (even beginners) about Tango-L, Tango-A and other Tango related websites. He should have bibliographies of books, videos and CD's (or at least he can refer students to sources or others who have)

9)A teacher doesn't name techniques, figures and steps that are being taught. (Terms and names are best given in Spanish because a foreign language is freer of the non-tango related connotations and associations then ones own native language has.)

If a teacher doesn't know the names of what he is teaching, one needs to wonder how much the teacher actually knows.

If a teacher knows but won't give names of what he is teaching, the teacher is probably attempting to control how rapidly a student is learning with the intent of keeping the student in the teacher's classes as long as possible.

If a student doesn't have a name for something, it is difficult for him to think about. One needs a language and its words to think about anything. Not being able to think about something is a severe handicap to learning. This is called illiteracy.

Words gives a student the ability to discuss a technique, figure or step in as few words a possible. A word conveys a complex sets of ideas efficiently. Discussions with others helps a student to understand and learn a new technique, figure or step better.

A student can use the words to record efficient notes.

10)A teacher doesn't convey any sort of mental structure to the student. A structure is a way a student can think about Tango and its techniques, movements, steps and figures. A good structure aids the student in his quest toward tango. A teacher needs to structure the class and what he teaches along the lines of the mental structure he is attempting to convey.

Because Tango is essentially an improvisational dance, it doesn't have structure in the same way as Ballroom. The mental structure is only mental and is not applied to the actual dance itself. The intent of a structure is to help a student to think and learn in as clear and efficient manner as possible.

A beginner often depends on the mental structure as a sort of a crutch. As the beginner progresses, the need for the crutch gradually drops away. Later on, the mental structure can be used as a way a student can analyze and choreograph their own figures.

An integral part of any mental structure are words and names of things. Much of what I have already said in regards to words and names also applies to mental structures.

A mental structure relates techniques, movements, steps and figures according to their similarities, differences and according to ease of learning. Easy simple things, that may be found as part of more complex and harder figures, are taught early. When the more complex and harder figures are taught, the student will find them easier to learn because much of it has already been learned.

Any structure a teacher develops can be conveyed in a gradual fashion and not all at once.

11)A teacher doesn't encourage note taking.

12)A student remains in the class without much improvement while the teacher attempts to convince him he is improving. A student can measure their own progress at practicas and milongas and the response of other dancers with whom they dance. A dancer can test their lead/follow abilities by dancing with people less advanced then himself such as beginners.

13)A lot of what is being taught is not being retained by a student.

Exception: In the case of a student being in a class over their head, it would be the responsibility of the teacher to direct the student to a class and teacher that can better help the student.

Another thing the teacher can do is to structure the class so that each student is learning at their own particular level. Students at about the same level can be taught as a subgroup within the class. With this method, a single class can accommodate students of several different levels at the same time. The class can be on-going without beginning or end. Teachers can accept new students at any time without regard to the student's dance ability. To make such a structure work, the teacher needs to be willing to give each student more one-on-one attention. Sort of like giving private lessons in a group setting.

14)A teacher seems to make a lot of mistakes either in what he is teaching or how he is teaching.

15)A teacher seems make a lot of excuses for shortcomings.

16)A teacher seems to have more explanation than results.

17)A teacher seems to be defensive with questions whose answers may reveal the incompetence or fraud.

18)A teacher deliberately teaches incorrectly with the intent of handicapping the student. A sham teacher wants to keep the student dependent on the teacher so he continues with the teacher. I think this is the worst kind of teacher and I hope it is rare even among sham teachers.

19)A teacher deliberately withholds information from the student with the intent of either handicapping the student or in an attempt to keep the student from finding out the teachers fraudulence.

20)Any uncivility or discourtesy on the part of the teacher. This includes snapping at a student or any impatience. A teacher needs to be a paragon of patience.

21)A teacher who is unwilling to repeat or review prior material as often as is needed. I have already mentioned elsewhere in this posting a type of class structure that will accommodate this.

Tango Teacher & DJ Reviews

Here's a new blog I just created where you can leave (anonymously, or not) comments, feedback, constructive criticism, and/or complaints about Tango Teachers and DJ's.

There is also a post for "Worst Teacher Stories" and "Frauds, False Tango Prophets, Charlatans and Payasos (clowns)" for those who should really not be teaching (or dancing) tango.

It's not complete, and will be a work in progress, so bear with me. Let me know if you would like to help for your city or state - I'll make you an admin on the blog.

http://tangoteacherreviews.blogspot.com/

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Love is why people dance tango...

From a thread on an Argentine Tango forum...started today by Stephen up in Dallas...about why people dance tango...

Here's my response...

The music, cuz it's "cool", cuz it's the most difficult dance in the world to learn and master, the social/camaraderie aspects, to look for a mate or just to date...(mate not MA-teh the drink...these items offered by others on the thread...)

All this, of course, and for me, the love of the origins, history, and culture of traditional tango, and the desire to keep it alive...

One more thing, as I look out my window at the flitting birds and swaying grass and ponder this topic... (taking a short break from reviewing contract language...)

I've explored this in my blog ad nauseum...I think there is something special/unique/mystical/energetic about tango that is absent from most/all other dances (and even perhaps life)...that obscure and unknown element that addicts and entrances and obsesses...my 'theory' that tango exists on the energetic thread that binds the universe together...I call it "pure love"...not romantic love...but love as energy...universal love...connecting with another human being in an embrace full of love and respect...

Love is why people dance tango...