Thursday, April 29, 2010

Terrible Beauty & Sublime Ugliness

It almost looks like a beautiful abstract painting or photograph. The oil slick is making first contact with the Louisiana coastline (at the mouth of the Mississippi River) as I write this. I won't go into what I am thinking and feeling about this. I'll just leave you with the images, and your imagination, to ponder the impacts in the ensuing days, weeks, months, years, possibly even decades, on the ecosystems there, the fisheries, the rookeries, the people who depend on the delta. This in the wake of Hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Ike - from which those coastal communities and ecosystems are still recovering.

Devastation is upon this key region of our Mother Earth, those who inhabit it, all the creatures great and small, and all of us, by proxy.

We are all responsible for this.

Transocean Deepwater Horizon Drilling rig oil slick, Gulf of Mexico, USA

Image from the NASA Aqua Satellite on April 25:
NASA AquaSat Image of the Oil Slick

Link to the "See the spill from space" article [on msnbc's "cosmic log"] where I found these images:

[Post title credit to La Nuit Blanche]

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Tango Glide de Luxe

[Foto by Alex.Tango.Fuego - from last night]

I DJ'd a live music milonga last night - The Austin Piazzolla Quintet.
They are a talented ensemble and a welcome addition to the Austin tango/music scene.

Being that I don't really do much dancing to Piazzolla (preferring to listen), I had some time on my hands. Or on my eyes, more accurately.

I've always been reluctant to critique what I see, unless it's a fedora or white shoes on a leader. But if I may, I would like to offer a tidbit that hopefully will be perceived as constructive counsel.

I noticed most of the followers were "stepping". On their toes. With heels elevated.

Now I'm not an expert by any means, and I have only taken only one "Follower Technique" class (with Luiza Paes) over the six years I've been dancing tango. But, I have taken lots and lots of classes, workshops, privates, intensivos, blah blah blah. With many different teachers. I was there when they were correcting my partner. I was paying attention to the instruction and feedback they were giving the followers.

As I recall, they all said "heels down" (but not weighted); extend (the leg, to its maximum comfortable natural step, depending on the size of the step being led); and "caress" the floor (just barely caressing - with no real scuffing or shuffling noise from sole contact with the floor). The "heels down" principle is during the step, as the foot is moving backwards, and not an ending default position only after the stepping foot has collected alongside the weighted foot - that one is an embellishment, not a fundamental truth of the tango universe.

Heel down, extend, caress. Glide. Smooth. Liso.

My primary teacher frequently used a story to illustrate/visualize this concept:

"Imagine there are little Lilliputians (from Gulliver's Travels), with ropes tied to your heels, and they are pulling your leg back, from your heel."

Using this visualization exercise, and manifesting this in real time would keep the heel down and extend the leg in a backstep to its maximum comfortable "natural" step.

There are a couple/a few reasons for this as I recall, but I'm only going to focus on one. It really applies only to close embrace - chest-to-breasts. In a more open/separated embrace, "stepping" doesn't really manifest any undesirable effects - except for the aesthetic.

In close embrace, it's a different story. "Stepping" in close embrace imparts a slight verticality to the follower's movement. It can manifest as a "bounce". Gentle-like, but still a slight vertical bounce. Some have called it a bop. At its worst, for me, with shorter followers, it manifested as the top of their head bopping into the bottom of my jaw as we walked. Whenever it happens, the thought actually pops into my head that I should have a mouth guard in my pocket. But that's my own internal tongue-in-cheek overkill twisted humor. Obviously I would never have to resort to that. But it's good for illustrating a worst-case manifestation of the issue.

As I write this, it's dawning on me that I may notice this more, because I am more of a walker in my tango. I walk every chance I get. Every time the music tells me to walk, I walk. Now that I think about it, I (think I) notice most leaders doing lots of other "stuff", but not doing much walking. Maybe this "glide vs. bounce" issue is not so much of an issue if you're not doing much walking? Hmmm.

Heels-down, extending, caressing - "gliding" - imparts a smoothness, almost like a hawk flying in a slipstream in the sky. Or paddling a stripper in the early morning light on a glassy lake. Water skiing on a snake infested cafe' au lait colored Louisiana bayou - so narrow and twisty the ski boat has to come to a complete stop to turn around and go back downstream. So narrow of a channel through the thick cypress that no wind could ever ripple the water's surface. That feeling. Smooth beyond smooth. The word glide is an understatement. Floating. Airy. Dreamy.

How can you tell if it's happening? It's noticeable in the chest-to-breasts contact - the vertical motion can be felt. It's noticeable if there's any cheek-to-cheek contact as well. Or jaw-to-forehead. One might also use a video camera for "diagnostic" purposes.

I noticed it mostly in the women I was watching last night. There were only two or three followers who actually had the caress/glide movement down pat. Two or three out of twenty or thirty. Too few.

My understanding is that followers have to retrain themselves to walk (backwards in 4cm heels), or remake, or reform their backwards movement so that almost all of the verticality is removed - manifesting a much smoother, mas liso, dance. Mucho walking backwards. Mucho practice. Mucho work to get the walk smoothed out.

I could be wrong. Please comment if I am. Share your views and experience with this. Please please purty please.

Again, I'm reluctant to offer "instructional" type posts, and reluctant to bring things up that I see in my own community, because it is so small. Some of the women I noticed this with, I dance with - others I have not had the pleasure of their company on the dance floor. Yet. I hope it doesn't blow up in my face.

This post will be one of the few times I do this. I'm doing it now because I'm selfish.

Yo quiero el tango glide de luxe.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Earth Day 2010 :: What is your Eco-wish?

Independence Pass::Colorado
[Foto by Alex.Tango.Fuego]

Today is the 40th Anniversary of Earth Day! Wow, a time-warp all the way back to 1970.

When I opened up my computer just now, the first thing I really noticed was this Eco-Wish piece from Vanity Fair Magazine. So I'll roll with that. I had planned to lead up to today with various environmental posts - and then have something that I could really be proud of to post today. But I've been busy these days.

Here's VF's "Green Archive".

My wish for the 40th Anniversary of Earth Day is the same as actress Marion Cotillard [in the video above], for "Awareness, good sense, and love, because it is the only energy that will change things."

And Deepak Chopra's, that "we renew our relationship with our Mother Earth"...

And Dr. Steven Chu [U.S. Secretary of Energy], that "people around the world, will come together and begin take action with regard to energy and climate change..."

My wish is that people will begin to realize that recycling, ending their use of plastic bottles, increasing their use of compact fluorescent light bulbs, and turning down the thermostat, while these are a good start - that they are only a start, and the true answers to our problems lie in rather dramatic change in the Western way of life. And a huge part of that change is...

My wish is for the pace of this life to slow down, to temper our frantic, frenetic, arrogant and relentless pursuit of the dollar, so that we can appreciate and intimately know our magnificent Mother Earth, return to the deeper extended family relationships of the past, and have more time in our daily lives to come together in order to design and implement and forge a new, sustainable lifestyle based in love and tolerance, and not profit...

My wish is for human kind to acknowledge that we live on a planet with finite resources, and an ever-increasing population will only continue to tax our vital renewable resources such as clean air and water, arable land, nutrient-rich topsoil, forests, marine and fresh water fisheries, and ocean ecosystems to the breaking point - that we will acknowledge this, and begin to address the challenge of over-population...

My wish is that John Adams [The Series]; Food, Inc.; Baraka; The Beautiful Truth; Flow, For Love of Water; Coal Country; (and a few other documentaries) would all be required viewing in high school...

My wish is that we direct our resources - financial and human capital - into the solution of core problems, and less and less on the symptoms of those problems, all while ignoring the core cause of those symptoms...

My wish is that we focus more of our [human] energy and resources into education, and more K-12 education about the Earth and her miraculous systems - the earth and environmental sciences of Ecology, Biology, Botany, Hydrology, Water Resources, Renewable Energy, Climatology, Oceanography, Soils, Agriculture - all with an emphasis on sustainability...

My wish is for more people to turn off their televisions, read more, listen to NPR on a daily basis, and when they do have to turn it on - to watch PBS and the various nature/environment channels more...

My wish is for people to become aware that we are running out of fossil fuels in the next 20-40 years, that even coal and yellow cake (the raw material for uranium for nukes) are finite and will eventually run out...and...

My wish is that "Green" becomes less of a marketing gimmick for the few, and more of a real, substantial, sustainable lifestyle for the many...

My wish is for the people, through the government, will escalate research and development into renewable, sustainable, alternative energy and transportation technologies...

My wish is for the U.S. to embark on a nation-wide mass transit infrastructure development initiative...

My wish is for people to begin to understand that we need to be figuring out ways to use LESS energy, not create MORE energy...

My wish is for corporations not to have the same rights as citizens under the U.S. Constitution, and that they be held accountable for the true, full-life-cycle costs of their activities, especially as it relates to environmental degradation, globally...

A choice is before us today. We can choose to be remembered as the (few) generations who despoiled the planet within 200 years, for profit. Or, we who are alive today, and our children, and their children, can be remembered 100 or 500 or 1,000, or even 5,000 years from now, as the five generations who were able to come to grips with what our current path is doing and will continue to do to the planet, stop and take notice, begin taking the steps towards change, and holding our governments and world leaders accountable in the process, towards a sustainable and beautiful future.

That was one helluva run-on sentence. Five generations. That's what I see it will take - starting from today. Those who are alive today - the great-grandparents (get to sit back and watch), the grandparents, our parents, us (we, The Baby Boomers), our children, their children and their children's children - the next 100 years will tell - but we have to start today.

Go out today and grab a handful of dirt, rub it between your fingers, smell it. Crunch some leaves or grass up and smell that. Or smell a wildflower. Ride a bike. Sit under a tree and watch the branches and leaves sway in the breeze. Go to the nearest ocean and dip your toes into the water. Paddle a canoe on your closest river or lake. Look up at the sky. Experience our Mother Earth. Smell her, listen to her, lay your eyes upon her, and love her - today, and every day. She is our Mother, and she's all we've got.

Five generations. One hundred years. Starting today.

"Awareness, good sense, and love, because that is the only energy that will change things."
[Marion Cotillard, Actress]

The Story Behind "La Cumparsita"

La Cumparsita


La Cumparsita is the song that is traditionally the last song played at a milonga. It signals to everyone that this is the last song, and that the milonga has concluded. There was a time when I was on a mission to collect as many versions of the song as I could find. At this point, I have forty [40] distinct versions.

It was written by Gerardo Hernán Matos Rodríguez, an amateur pianist and architecture student, in late 1915 or early 1916 by all accounts. He was 17 years old when he wrote it. It's important to note that he was a student in Montevideo - so the song originated in Uruguay.

The song has a very interesting story behind it - with changed lyrics, new music arrangements, ownership and royalties lawsuits (four or five), and plenty of drama over the years. It's often billed as "the most famous tango in the world". Astor Piazzolla called it "the most frighteningly poor thing in this world" in reference to the original score by Matos Rodríguez and its simple melody.

Here are a couple of links to good, in depth treatments of the song and its history:

Keith Elshaw's

Ricardo García Blaya's

Note that both of these sites contain a wealth of information about tango music and all things tango.

Alberto Paz' includes a lyrics translation of the re-written version. Alberto's site is well known for his lyrics translations, and also includes a wealth of information about tango.

This 1930 version, with the original lyrics sung by the opera singer Tito Schipa, is my personal favorite.

Lastly, here's a "mashup" of many versions over 26 years...

Monday, April 19, 2010

Musicality Resurrected Redux

Regurgitating an old post for a friend. Eleven [11] different couples dancing to Francisco Canaro's "Poema".

Make that 12. Here's Sebastian Arce y Mariana Montes.

From an old post...buried in the archives from just over a year ago...when I had two visitors a there was zero commentary...maybe now we can get some discussion going...

Here are some examples of different musical interpretations, different musicality expressions, all danced to the song "Poema" by Francisco Canaro:

Jennifer Bratt y Ney Melo::

Geraldine Rojas y Javier Rodriguez::

Moira Castellano y Pablo Inza::

Mila y Korey::

Silvia y Tete::

Romina Tumini y Silvio Lavia::

Natacha Poberaj & Fabian Peralta::

Eugenia Parrilla y Mariano 'Chicho' Frúmboli::

Luna Palacios y Carlos Copello::

And one new one...

Homer y Cristina Ladas::

And one more...
Melina Sedo & Detlef Engel dance to Poema, a Tango by Francisco Canaro in Geneve, Switzerland. Occasion is the Milonga of Kap'Danse in April 2008.

Do you have a favorite? Comments? Observations? Epiphanies?

Sunday, April 18, 2010

E pluribus unum

Out of many, one. This Latin phrase is the unofficial motto of The United States of America. Originally it was based on the thirteen colonies becoming one country. Now it seems to mean the many peoples of the U.S., of the entire world really, all coming together as one. The melting pot theory. "Can't we all just get along?" kinda thing.

This post stems from a recurring memory over the past several months - perhaps even a year. A recurring memory of something forgotten. Someone forgotten. Not so much a memory but a nagging "the damn thing keeps popping into my head and I keep trying to remember but to no avail" kinda thing. All the while, it was right here buried in the archives of this blog - posted almost two years ago in June of 2008.

Yesterday, I Googled for almost an hour - "photographer who illustrates large quantities" ... "photographs that conceptualize large values" ... and many variations ... illustrative ... photograph/s/er/y ... "how much in a millon/billion/trillion?".

I was beginning to get frustrated, drawing upon nothing, not getting big numbers, not getting any meaningful returns in my searches. I almost gave up. (I wish I could remember the successful search string, but I can't now.)

I found the post from before a few minutes ago - on whim entering his name to search my blog. And there it was. Chris Jordan.

Chris Jordan. A UT [University of Texas] alum - UT, right here in Austin. Small world.

So Chris is an activist artist. Or activist photographer. Or activist/artist/photographer. He lets the image tell the story. He lets the viewer begin to get their head around the numbers that his images represent. The numbers they represent, and the world issue that they represent.

In this case, his 2009 work titled "E Pluribus Unum" is a five story high (I would say 4 stories) 45 foot x 45 foot mandala. That's 13.7 meters x 13.7 meters. The lines of the mandala are actually the names of 1,000,000 [one million] "organizations around the world that are devoted to peace, environmental stewardship, social justice, and the preservation of diverse and indigenous culture". In 10 point font.

If you were able to cut out all the names and lay them end to end, they would stretch 27 miles, or 142,560 feet or 43km. In 10 point font.

Lots of organizations - the total number is unknown. Jordan's work is based on Paul Hawken's estimation [in his book "Blessed Unrest" on the "movement movement"] that there are between one million and two million such organizations. Paul Hawken is named as a collaborator on the piece.

Chris Jordan is prolific. The TED talk I posted two years ago in 2008 was titled "Picturing Excess", and is based, I think, on his project "Running the Numbers :: An American Self-Portrait".

He came out with "Running the Numbers II :: Portraits of Global Mass Culture" in 2009. He has one from 2005 on Hurricane Katrina's aftermath titled "In Katrina's Wake :: Portraits of Loss from an Unnatural Disaster". And "Intolerable Beauty :: Portraits of American Mass Consumption 2003-2005".

They are all on his website at I would have given the individual links to each work, but his website is not set up that way. You'll have to go clicking and reading and viewing on your own.

The post I did before was on his TED Talk - the "Picturing Excess" one. I included this quote which I lifted from the lecture:

"I have this fear that we aren't feeling enough in our culture today . There is this kind of anesthesia in America at the moment. We've lost our sense of outrage, our anger, and our grief about what is going on in our culture right now, what is going on in our country, the atrocities that are going on in our names around the world....they've gone missing, these feelings have gone missing..." [Chris Jordan]

Here it is - from February of 2008:

Be sure to check out his website and look at the all of the "Running the Numbers" works.

Here is the E Pluribus Unum work:

chris jordan e pluribus unum 1

chris jordan e pluribus unum 2

chris jordan e pluribus unum 3

chris jordan e pluribus unum 4

chris jordan e pluribus unum 5

chris jordan e pluribus unum 6

chris jordan e pluribus unum 7

chris jordan e pluribus unum 8

E pluribus unum. We are many, but we are one. Many peoples. Many nations. Many beliefs. Many forms of governance. We are one with the earth, and we have only one earth.

Until we start acting like it, acting like we have to take care of this planet we all live on - until we do that - we're in trouble. Once we do that, well, that's when the hard work begins.

Have a great Sunday y'all.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Dan Barber :: Como me enamoré de un pez

Food Inc.

We've been watching the documentary "Food, Inc." for a few weeks now - I think we're two-thirds of the way through it. It's "everything you didn't want to know" about our industrial/factory food/farming system. I was surprised to find out that most farm raised fish is corn-fed. Just about everything we eat is corn-fed. Check out "Food, Inc.". You'll never eat another hamburger, I promise. Even pork will be difficult after you see the brief glimpse of the pig crusher/killer mechanism. It is disturbing, and it is a "must see". Disturbing and very cool at the same time - with regard to the really interesting farmers who are on the forefront of sustainability.

Depressing, and enlightening, and invigoratingly (probably not a word) positive and uplifting all at the same time. There is hope. Which reminds me of a new thing I came up with last night - driving back from the San Antonio airport in the rain and fog - fetching her back to the ranch - weaving along Devil's Backbone in the waning dusky darkness. The new thing? "Severely Unenlightened". I'm sure I can find lots of uses for this one. But I digress to the subject of yet another post.

I've been on a green/organic/sustainability/(and now)food *FRAUD* bender of late - thanks in large part to the disturbing details presented in "Food, Inc.". But that is the subject of another post.

The real subject (and title of) of this post is this video from It is Chef Dan Barber's TedTalk "I fell in love with a fish" - talking about his search for sustainably raised fish. He was surprised to learn that his favorite fish, the one he was first in love with, that was supposedly "sustainably" farmed raised, in floating pens far out in the ocean, was fed 30% "sustainable protein" aka chicken meal pellets.

He does ultimately find a new fish to love. In Spain. I love Spain. I have always loved Spain. My 7th great maternal grandmother was from Spain. Maria de Jesus Delgado Curbelo. Or Curbelo Delgado. I forget.

Mari seems to have more time than me these days for all the good finds, and we apparently think alike. The check for "research services" is in the mail Mari. Thanks for this one! Sincerely.

Note that subtitles are now available - in 12 different languages!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

I find my tango bliss

Tango Bliss

"I find my tango bliss in a place far deeper than a dance, in a place far beyond the music or the surroundings or the people watching, in a place of pure energy between two exquisitely matched dancers and the music, that perhaps I can never explain."
[Sally Blake aka Sallycat aka Sallycatway]

Me too.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Sometimes I see things

Walking around on the land a few minutes ago...checking out the new bamboo growth...I saw this...

gotitas de agua en una tela de araña...

Gotitas de agua dos
[Foto by Alex.Tango.Fuego]

Friday, April 9, 2010

The Incomparable Junior Brown

Think of a used tractor salesman from Plainview, Texas, way out here, who works hard by day selling John Deere tractors, but by night, he teaches himself to play guitar and even figures out how to customize a GUIT-Steel. That's what Junior Brown reminds me of. Although I think he's from Lubbock, and he may have been an elementary or junior high school principal and coach. He has that look. [None of this is true...I made this stuff up...]

He's actually from Cottonwood, Arizona, and man can this guy play. Consummate professional performer. I first saw him at Antone's in Austin, standing dead center right in front of him during the entire show. I think he dripped sweat on me. He'll be at Gruene Hall in Gruene (pronounced 'green') tomorrow night, and the Continental Club on Sunday night.

My favorite song of his is "My Wife Thinks You're Dead", which you can dance tango to.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Hable con ella

I wish I could remember who shared this with me initially, so I could give proper credit - Oleh perhaps...? Thanks to whomever. No, it was Mari. Thanks to Mari.

Films and songs and art and artists come into our lives - like they never could before the internet. Like they never could before Facebook. These jewels come into our lives and we are richer for it.

It's not tango, but it's so good I must share. Hell, 90% of this blog is not tango related. The video is a clip from the film Hable con ella by Pedro Almodóvar [2002]. It's Caetano Veloso singing Cucurrucucu Paloma in the clip.

Beautiful and haunting and sad- the song, this particular performance of it, and this clip from the film adding to the poignancy of the song. I can't stop watching and listening. Yesterday, I was listening to it after purchasing the song on iTunes. I had just talked to my daughter on the phone, catching up with her after being incommunicado for about a week.

She was telling me about her Easter visit with her uncle - my first ex's eldest brother - who has brain cancer. The docs gave him a month to live - but that was five or six years ago. The cancer recently came back - and they performed one last surgery not too long ago. She told me that he didn't want the surgery - that he wanted to let things run their course. But his wife and kids wanted "more time" with him. Understandable yet incomprehensible. The docs had to remove more of one of his frontal lobes than they had anticipated. He had been mildly impaired before from previous surgeries, but now the effects are dramatic, my daughter told me.

He can longer carry on a conversation because the words escape him. She told me he knows the word he wants to use, but the connections are broken for him to identify it and use it in conversation. He's frustrated by this, she said. I'm sure there are other cognitive effects that he's dealing with now. She said he is easily overwhelmed by the interactions of too many people at family gatherings. My daughter accompanied him on a walk to get some fresh air. I'm so proud of my boo - dealing with someone she loves and is dying - dealing with such pain head on. She's not my little boo anymore - she'll be going off to Law School after next year, possibly in Ann Arbor, Michigan - International Law, she told me yesterday.

She said he was able to verbalize this: "Everything is different now, and I don't like it."

Anyway, I was listening to the song on iTunes and started crying. Crying and thinking about my ex brother-in-law, my daughter's uncle. He is a good man and a gentle soul and I hate to see (or hear of) him going through this. I can only imagine.

And now I am crying again.

We all need more music, and more singing in our lives. More love. More laughter. More hugs. More smiles. More family and friends. More play. More working with our hands and our hearts. More dancing. More art. More beauty. More of the stuff that counts, and much less of the stuff that doesn't.

Because life is just too damned short, and too damned beautiful, to have it any other way.

I've queued this one up on NetFlix and moved it to the #1 position in order to watch it this weekend.

Here's the synopsis:

Pedro Almodóvar's Oscar-winning drama explores the bond forged between two men under tragic circumstances. When a bullfighting accident sends his girlfriend, Lydia (Rosario Flores), into a coma, Marco (Darío Grandinetti) visits her in a clinic where he befriends nurse Benigno (Javier Cámara). Shy and a bit strange, Benigno tirelessly tends to another patient, Alicia (Leonor Watling), a comatose ballet dancer and the object of his obsession.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Proprioception and Aliaception in Tango

For some reason, I was thinking of these words today, racking my brain trying to remember them, and their meaning.

Proprioception (pronounced /ˌproʊpri.ɵˈsɛpʃən/ PRO-pree-o-SEP-shən), from Latin proprius, meaning "one's own" and perception) is the sense of the relative position of neighbouring parts of the body. Unlike the six exteroceptive senses (sight, taste, smell, touch, hearing, and balance) by which we perceive the outside world, and interoceptive senses, by which we perceive the pain and movement of internal organs, proprioception is a third distinct sensory modality that provides feedback solely on the status of the body internally. It is the sense that indicates whether the body is moving with required effort, as well as where the various parts of the body are located in relation to each other.

The word proprioception can apparently be used interchangeably with kinesthesia.

Aliaception is a recently born protologism, thanks to Bryan de Valdivia over the pond in Bonn, Germany. He defines it as "The [sense or perception or] knowledge of another person's body (tension, [relaxation], positioning, and quality [and character] of movement [through time and space]) via one's sense of touch [or extremely close proximity]."

[the wording in brackets are my additions]

Anyway, I was able to remember them eventually, which is a good sign, especially after finishing the final coat on the deck and inhaling VOC's for eight hours. No tellin' how many brain cells I killed with that swift move. These are big and important words in tango. We should all know them and use them and bandy them about and try to make our bodies and brains actually do the shit that these big important tango words mean. Scientific shit that goes on when we are dancing tango and we don't even know it - we aren't even aware of it - a "rock of eye" or "Blink (the book)" sorta thing. Kindasorta. Same thing only different. Whatever.

Basically I just wanted to stick these words in the blog so I don't forget again and have to search around for them in the future.

My apologies if I got you all fluffed up over something profound, and then it turned out to be something to file under "stupid stuff".