Friday, August 28, 2009

On the healthcare crisis

I looked it up the other day. The grand total for health care expenditures in the U.S. is $2.5 trillion annually. $2,500,000,000,000.00 That's 17.6 percent of our Gross Domestic Product. The highest of any nation.

They say 50 million people are without any insurance, but they still need, and get, health care.

So dividing the $2.5t number above by 300 million people in the U.S. you get $8,333.33 per person, insured, or not. Per capita if you prefer. The U.S. spends more per capita on health care than any other country in the world.

As I sit here thinking about it, I'm struck by these figures. They seem way too high. Granted, you can easily spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to keep one terminally ill patient alive for two or three additional, miserable, painful years, as they did with my dad.

But still, eight grand a year for every man, woman and child? I'm lucky with my health - knock on wood - I haven't spent eight grand in my entire lifetime on healthcare.

I'm also struck, almost on a daily basis, by the fact that the carpetbaggers, the snake oil salesmen, the charlatans, the con artists, the flim flam men, the run-of-the-mill crooks and profiteers are all still out there amongst us. Many of them are even walking the halls of Congress.

When there is a pool of money that large, hordes of crooks are trying to figure out how to get at that money. They are trying to figure out how to get at that money without trying to provide any service whatsoever. They are trying to figure out how to provide minimal and limited services. They have figured out how to exclude pre-existing conditions and have come up with other limitations to coverage.

They are trying to figure out, and have figured out (in some cases) how to grow their profits to windfall proportions.

My point is that there is bleeding. The system is bleeding. It has to be. There is too much money at stake. Too much profit to be had.

Until we fix the bleeding, all efforts to reform the system will be in vain.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Facundo Posadas Interview with Kumiko Ueki

Facundo y Kely Posadas dancing a candombe ::

[Note that Kely Posadas died on April 27, 2009. She and Facundo had ended their partnership in 2007. She was 69 years old.]

I first ran across Kumiko Ueki's interviews on Facebook. There are three interviews so far on her blog "Cuartito de los Milongueros" - Facundo Posadas, Raul Bravo and Jorge Torres.

It's obviously very important to get all the information we can from the people who have been around tango the longest - to record it in any way possible for the historic record - interviews, video, articles, reviews, documentary films. I would guess that not enough is being done in any organized or complete fashion to document the early years of tango. Much of it may ultimately be lost forever.

She has graciously granted me permission to re-post here. Many thanks to Kumi for her interest and efforts.

Here is the link to interview on her blog.

Facundo Posadas is one of the few old milongueros that remain in the tango scene. He has been dancing tango since back in the 50's, which was still in the tango golden age. He may be the only Afroargentine that tours around the world, known by his dancing and teaching Tango, Milonga and Candombe.

How long have you been dancing tango? How old were you when you started?

I’ve danced for many years. I started 55 years ago in youth meetings that we called “Asaltos”; the girls used to bring cakes and the boys refreshments. That was my beginning at 13 years old and Gavito was 11 years old at that time.

Did everybody dance tango back then?

In those years people danced a lot and in those meetings. We listened to tipica (orchestra) and Jazz; tipica for “Tango” and “Jazz” because everybody danced that rhythm at that time. Hardly ever a Tango Orchestra was performing alone, in general it was accompanied by a Jazz Orchestra.

Did you go dancing with your friends or with your partners?

In those years, because we were so young we went dancing with a group of friends (male and female); we were not thinking to have exclusive partners or girlfriends.

What were Milongas like back then?

In the 50’s and 60’s, people danced respecting the line of dance. Nobody was hardly ever pushed or tried to pass the dancers in front of them. If someone didn’t dance well people had the patience to wait until the end of the song. In those years, the codes were respected. If there was no order, it is impossible to enjoy the dance. Why do we respect the order on a highway? Not being aware of this would create a serious chaos. Well the same applies for the dance floor. Nowadays people don’t respect it and produce chaos. They don’t care to follow the codes and have no clue about dancing in the place where the couple in front of you has left the space free. In those times they did care about this. A good dancer (leader) must have enough resources to dance and not to let his partner (follower) to be hit by other dancers. This I call dancing well.

Which Milongas did you go?

As the years passed we left the neighborhoods for “milonguear” (dance tango) in downtown. We went around to many different dance floors following the orchestras of our preference wherever they played. Many Saturdays we went to listen and dance with “Carlos Di Sarli’s Orchestra”. We stayed until one in the morning then immediately ran off to another place because “Anibal Troilo’s Orchestra” was playing. And another Saturday, for example, we went to see “Osvaldo Pugliese’s Orchestra” and later “Juan D’Arienzo’s Orchestra” as well, and this we called “Doblete”, (double night).

When was the most exciting time in the tango for you? “Tango Golden Age”

My beginning in the tango scene was in the “Golden Era” with friends who were older than me. There were “reales milongueros” (real tango dancers), and if they saw that you had a real style, they would invite you to practice. But if your purpose was only to spend time there just for fun they didn’t pay attention to you. They had us walk for months, and they said to us that in order to build a solid house one must have a solid foundation. No figures or tricks. If you don’t know how to walk, to step, or to put your feet in the right places; then you will never know how to dance despite what you believe.

Do you have any interesting or funny stories about tango from back then?

I have lots of memories and anecdotes of places that happened in my life. I remember that being very young I got into a cabaret called “El Dragon Rojo” (The red dragon), located at Uruguay Street between Peron and Bartolome Mitre’s streets. When I was going down the stairs, a man of my skin color stopped me, telling me that I was too young to be there. But he would go with me for some time and then I would have to leave. Imagine the jokes that people made on him because he was with a ‘negrito’ (little black). Many years later, I found out that this gentleman was “El Principe Cubano” (the Cuban prince). He accompanied Juan D’Arienzo for many years as his master of ceremonies. I also had the fortune to work with Jose Bassos’ Orchestra.

When was the first time you traveled overseas to teach tango? And which country was it?

My first trip to U.S.A. was in 1997 when I was invited to L.A. by Kobayashi who was a student and friend of Gloria and Eduardo Arquimbau and also the Director of the Tango Ballet in Tokyo. I continued my tour through Reno, invited by Alberto and Valorie. And Danel Bastone and Maria opened my door in NYC, and they made sure that I follow Bob Drosky through Montreal and Chicago to a place called “Tango nada mas” (Tango, nothing more) that was baptized by Gavito. To all these people, I owe my stay in U.S.A. until today and much more because I’m waiting for my residence and I will live my future days in North Carolina.

What do you enjoy most about tango?

I enjoy everything that tango offers me, all its passion, all its melancholy, the scent of a woman’s skin, her skin through her hands and cheeks, her perfume, her heartbeat. Mixing everything at once we get a cocktail called “Sensuality”; and without this chemistry, there’s no tango. They feel the same when they are in our arms, that we have to be gentle with our marks and movements, stepping correctly and simultaneously on the beat. We must dance INSIDE THE MUSIC and not before, it’s not possible to dance and then listen.

What is “Good Milonguero”? How could we become one?

To become a good milonguero, we need to respect who have more experience and not to be anxious to dance. The tango is patience; the tango waits; it’s an unattainable challenge that never ends. As the years pass, we must dance with more dignity. We can’t try to imitate the young ones, we can’t do what we were doing when we were 20 years old. We should dance thinking of our dance partners; be elegant with our moves; be subtle and transmit it to the person that we have in our arms.

In tango, we talk a lot about elegance. Could you explain what is elegant and what is not? What makes a dance beautiful?

How to be elegant while you're dancing means to have a good standing, to be relaxed; to step firmly and with precision; to make controlled steps and movements. We must lead our body wherever we want to go and not the other way around. It is very gratifying to see a good dancer making few figures; more than five in tango is too much. Just walk well. In the walking, one can see the elegance, and this is the most difficult thing in tango. Many people who have danced for more than 20 years do not know how to walk. They've been studying only figures, and in order to know how to walk, they will have to start all over again mending it and crossing through a long journey, erasing everything and starting from scratch.

Please tell us if there’s anything else that you would like to mention.

About tango wardrobe: In almost every opportunity of going out dancing women prepare themselves with anticipation, making this special event a ceremony. They dress with the best they have in some cases. They choose their stockings, shoes, dresses, etc. Almost always they match colors along with perfumes and hairstyles. To dash away with her sensual legs, they wear fishnet stockings, and by the way, who doesn't want to look at them with them? Men used to respond with the same coquetry, it was mutual respect. Nowadays on almost all dance floors, we see some men in jeans, shirts outside the pants, and snickers. Some don't even shave and their hair doesn't look very clean, not to mention the lack of perfume or deodorant. When I started dancing I noticed that women didn't accept dancing with men who weren't neat; they gave us the example or punishment that way. We all made sure to look good and most of all to have good breath, which one cannot hide in this cheek-to-cheek dance. The way to respect our female dance partners in the good tango is to be able to never give up these essential codes. We must learn again to respect those that accompany us in our embrace; like men used to do before the codes disappeared. We should come back and be men no machos.

In New York, we often have trouble with the “line of dance”. Could you explain what is line of dance to us, and what are the general rules? Are there any techniques we should know, or to practice to make it happen?

People on the dance floor have to respect their own line of dance; one cannot dance tango in zigzag. Imagine a highway where everybody circulates as they wish? To be able to follow the line we must stand at ninety degrees and return to the circulation, don't go any step backwards. And in very few opportunities, one could dance forward counterclockwise. I would say that there isn't any technique for this, only to be aware that we aren't alone. The dance floor is for everybody and not just for a few.

Tango has changed since you had started dancing. How do you feel about the changes? And do you have any messages and advise for us who are continuing to carry on the culture and to dance Tango?

Since I started, Tango has changed a lot. Many people in the dance halls today dance in order to be seen and neglect their partners just to show off.

These days the number of people dancing tango seems bigger. The tango went across borders. The dance made of one heart and four legs have conquered almost all societies of the world. It's wonderful how tango opened a door of communication, interlaced together without knowing the languages in order to enjoy this musical walk. It will never cease to be. Even if someone wants to change it; there will always be a milonguero defending it; is part of the culture.

I don't want to offend anyone with my beliefs or with my words; they are only supplication. From my almost sixty nine years of age, my humble wish is to not waste it or take it for granted, or try to change it. And if you dance with respect, the tango will give you the immense happiness that you were looking for.

Love and hugs for everybody.

Forever yours

(Interviewed in March 2009)

Friday, August 21, 2009

July 1, 2005 ::: The Anniversary of Carlos Gavito's Death

Originally uploaded by leone.

We all know that Gavito is dead of course, but I was just going back and looking up a post topic that I didn't follow through with back in May. I ran across something on S&M starlet Eva Norvind somehow, somewhere, and found that she started making a documentary about the life of Carlos Gavito in May of 2005. She drowned in Oaxaca, Mexico on May 15, 2006 - before the film was completed. The fact that Gavito died on July 1, just a couple of months after she started the film, may have doomed the project.

In looking back on my notes on the Eva Norvind post, I noted the July 1 anniversary of his death. I can't for the life of me remember what my angle was going to be - something about the unlikely tie between Norvind and Gavito perhaps. I seem to recall that he was her teacher, but perhaps that were also lovers. I dunno. The memory is not what it used to be.

Anyway, here's a bunch of stuff I found on Gavito, his tango, and his life.

Interview with Jackie Ling Wong on Keith Elshaw's

Article in TangoNoticias (Chicago) :: September 2005

Tango In Her Eyes :: Tango is a Religion :: September 27, 2005

Reportango Interview

La Vida Tango Newsletter Interview :: October 1, 2004

Oz (in Italian) :: February 25, 2005

Terence Clark on Blogcritics :: "Tango, Fine Spanish Wine and Carlos Gavito" :: September 18, 2007

YouTube video of a Gavito Class in 2004

YouTube video of another class, uploaded by PlanetTango "I teach tango y nada mas"

Here are some videos, some of which I've posted in the past...

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Houston Tango Fest ::: Mark your calendars

January 14-18, 2010

Festival website:

Great bunch of people/dancers/organizers those Houston folks are. You won't regret this one. I've been wanting/trying to go to the last two, but regrettably have missed them. I've heard good things. I'm pretty sure I'll be able to make it to this one.

See you there.

And the surveys says!

There is a new tango survey using word association...100 takes 5 or 10 minutes to complete...I found it interesting to see my own reaction/answer to each word...

Here is the link: