Thursday, December 30, 2010

Auld Lang Syne

I'm a wee bit premature with this, but I'll be very busy for the next couple of days. I wanted to share it, and also offer the kind and humble message of new hope in this new year. New beginnings, new friendships, strengthening and deepening of all our relationships, continuing in the quest for enlightenment, compassion, understanding, love and light, hope. This is my wish for myself, my loved ones, and for all.

Happy New Year to you and yours. It will be a good one.

You can buy it here.

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
and never brought to mind ?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
and auld lang syne* ?

For auld lang syne, my jo,
for auld lang syne,
we’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.

And surely ye’ll be your pint-stowp !
and surely I’ll be mine !
And we’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.


We twa hae run about the braes,
and pu’d the gowans fine ;
But we’ve wander’d mony a weary fit,
sin auld lang syne.


We twa hae paidl’d i' the burn,
frae morning sun till dine ;
But seas between us braid hae roar’d
sin auld lang syne.


And there’s a hand, my trusty fiere !
and gie's a hand o’ thine !
And we’ll tak a right gude-willy waught,
for auld lang syne.


Friday, December 24, 2010

Feliz Navidad!

Whether Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Atheist, Pagan, Indigenous, Spiritual-But-Not-Religious, Church of Argentine Tango...

"Here's to us all! God bless us every one."
[Tiny Tim's toast in The Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens]

I sincerely hope this season finds you warm and well and happy, spending time with family and friends, with love in your life.

Yours truly,


Feliz Navidad!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Tango Gift Ideas, direct from Austin, Texas

Glover by Laura Burlton
[Glover Gill by Laura Burlton, Houston Photographer]

We're extremely lucky to have our very own Tango composer and performer (piano, accordion) here in Austin (and Houston). Not to mention the other artists who complete the Tosca Tango Orchestra - Tosca String Quartet. They have been called "an exquisite ensemble of estrogen-driven musicality".

I love the challenge of dancing to them live. There's something about dancing to a live orchestra that tests, piques, energizes, electrifies, a leader's listening/musicality/interpretation/improvisation on the fly and to the hilt. Something wonderful. Truly an example of letting it go in your ears, filter through you heart and soul, and manifest itself in those four feet on the pista.

I've posted this video before, an "invitation" to the first annual Houston Tango Festival, produced by the local dancers of the Houston Tango community. HouTango is a great bunch of folks who I almost never see, nor dance with nearly enough. The song is "Mi Otra Mitad de Naranja" from the soundtrack for the film "Waking Life":

I just did a one-click download of it on Or you can "Gift" it to someone. Click here. I'm not sure if the actual CD is still available. It looks like some used ones might be available.

My other recommendation is Glover's "Solo Tango". The entire CD is great, but I would recommend that you buy it solely for the "Malena" track. For me, it rivals - no it bests - by a great margin, Lucio Demare's Malena piano solo. Evidence: I'm clicking through my various versions of Malena, trying to find the one other piano solo in my collection. I find Demare's, listen a bit, and then click on Glover's in passing before I come back here. The hairs on the back of my neck immediately stand up. Good enough indicator for me.

And, it's extremely danceable.

You can buy Solo Tango through PayPal directly on Glover's website - and there are several other CD's there as well. Also note that there is sheet music for sale as well.

My only connection to Glover is that I know him, not well, but well enough to know he's a "good guy" and a very talented artist. Extremely talented, and he shares that talent with the local tango community with great humility - and shares it frequently. He is the tango dancer's composer/performer, and we're unbelievably blessed to have him in our lives.

That, and apparently his mom and my mom knew each other - growing up in the same San Antonio neighborhood back in the day.

Small world. I'll bet those teenage girls woulda never guessed their future sons would be connected out there in the great wide infinite - some 65 years later - connected by El Tango.

Small world indeed.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee with some Tango thrown in at the bottom

"The Three Chiefs - Piegan"
["Plate 209 - The Three Chiefs - Piegan" by Edward S. Curtis - circa 1900]

December 22, 2010 - I originally wrote this post back on April 4. I'm not sure why I never posted it. Perhaps it fell into the "too much drivel" category - like the stupid Cosmo v. Alex Gift Ideas thing I pulled yesterday. Sorry for that. Those of you subscribing via Readers/Feeders got it anyway. Sorry for that, too.

Perhaps I didn't post it originally because I felt blasphemous about the obtuse tie between Tango and Wounded Knee. But the tie is there - I'm being honest about that. These guys, talking tango up in Montana, prompted me to look at a map, which prompted a flood of memories from my past.

Does tango do that to us? Trigger or otherwise incubate or nourish introspection and memory and curiosity and emotion and deep pondering of things various and sundry?


Tango does do something to us...those of us who find our hearts clenched in its tendrils...and that, my friends, as always, is a subject for another post.

Anyway, all blasphemy aside - I decided to run with the original title of the post. I may run another one, let's call it Part II, on the 29th - the anniversary of the massacre at Wounded Knee.

So here it is...

April 4, 2010

Boy, what an obtuse and convoluted and twisted thread my mind sometimes weaves. I friended another blogger on Facebook a few days ago. He happens to live up in the northern plains of Montana - somewhere along the Yellowstone River, or perhaps the Bighorn. Where exactly is not important.

Anyway, whilst doing my thing on Facebook, I noticed an interesting dialog between him and a friend of his - about tango. It's some "good stuff" on a subject near and dear to my heart - which we will eventually get to.

But first, I want to follow my thread. We're off to Inner Mongolia first.

I'm continually intrigued by the geography of tango - where it exists on this planet; where it is danced; where it was planted and is now taking root, and by whom. Occasionally, when I check the stats for this blog, I notice a remote corner of the world that generated a hit. The Namib Desert of Africa generated a hit from Google two years ago - with the search words "tango quotes".

The other day there was a hit from Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia - with the search string "electricity production", which probably came from this.

So, I found it interesting to find a couple of dudes on Facebook having this very deep-tango-though-ish discussion way up in Montana. I already knew there was tango up there in the Big Sky country. A few of those folks always trickled down to the Denver festivals. Montana and Idaho tango folks. Anyway, interesting. So I got their permission to lift their conversation and put it in here. Eventually. Way down there at the bottom. Feel free to skip ahead and avoid my drivel.

Sam (the blogger I mentioned) posted something about going to the funeral of a friend's daughter in Crow Agency, the "capital" of the Crow Nation. That was my starting point. Just out of curiosity, I wanted to see where that was in my world. I always need to do that when geography is on my mind - look at an analog map. Good old fashioned paper. I had to go digging for my road atlas up in the studio. Don't forget the magnifying glass. Ah, there it is.

I started out looking for an appropriate image to lead this post with. The first thing that came to mind was a photo of some verdant northern plains grasslands - preferably just rolling native tall-grass prairie. No such luck. I didn't look too hard - found some with tatanka grazing(Lakota Sioux for bison/buffalo) - some with tipis. All too stereotypical for what I had in mind.

I was trying to make a geographic tie to Montana to the spot on this Earth where this post originated. This land. This Mother Earth of ours.

Looking at all of the images, looking at the maps, reading and remembering the names of the rivers and the mountain ranges - all of it unleashed a flood of memories and emotions for me. I could feel it welling up inside me. Artesian-like.

Now I'm fucking crying. I hate it when that shit happens.

I've never been to Montana, but I have spent some time in the Wind River Range of Wyoming. Lander. Dubois. Pinedale. I went in one side of the range and came out on the other side 33 days later. Backpacking and mountaineering. With a 90 pound pack. I was at my healthiest and strongest in that summer of 1978. Sweet memories of mountains and women and the drive from Lafayette, Louisiana in my loaded-for-bear VW Rabbit. The Green River (other side of the divide) has huge meaning for me, but is a subject for another post. Grasshopper Creek and the "Miraculous Nike Running Shoes In My Size Manifesting Themselves Under a Fallen Spruce Whilst Bushwacking After I Had Blown Out My Own Shoes On An Eleven Mile Cache/Resupply Hike Story". Bathing in a creek that flows from beneath a glacier at 10,000 feet or so. (Talk about shrinkage.) Rock climbing in Sinks Canyon. The Popo Agie River. The Wind River. It becomes the Bighorn and flows north into Montana - just past Crow Agency - right through the Crow Nation. Tons of memories almost long forgotten.

I played pool (billiards) that summer of '78 in a smoky dive bar in Lander, Wyoming with a few Shoshone. Or were they Arapahoe? Lander is on the edge of the Wind River Indian Reservation. We played pool until daylight. They took a liking to me and wouldn't let me leave. We got drunk and played pool all night. There is a vague and foggy memory of waking up on a pool table as the morning light streamed in through the door. As I recall I was drunk all the next day, hiking and scrambling around near my campsite in Sinks Canyon on the Popo Agie River all by my lonesome. Me and something big in a cave. Mountain lion? Big enough to turn me around licketysplit. I met a group of girls from New York City that day and was no longer so lonesome - I recently reconnected with one of them on Facebook. Okay, now I'm really digressing.

I'm sensitive to the fact that I'm referencing Native American culture all over the map, literally. The photo at the top is of three Piegan or Blackfoot Chiefs [from northern Montana]. The Wounded Knee Massacre happened in South Dakota and involved the Hunkpapa Sioux. The Wind Rivers are home to the Shoshone and Arapahoe Nations. And the Crow Nation, in southern Montana is close to where Sam lives. (Re-reading this six months after I wrote it (wrote it in April, reading & possibly posting in December, I'm guessing this is probably all wrong...)

I read the book "Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee" by Dee Brown in 1975, at the age of 15. It's written from the Native American viewpoint. I became very interested in Native American history and culture, very interested in the history of the American West and the culture of the Mountain Men and the fur trade. I read everything I could get my hands on.

I have always taken the counter-view (to the norm of the majority, I suppose) with regard to Native Americans. I believe, deeply, that they were wronged by the Wasi'chu. Were, and are now and probably will be forever wronged. That's all I'll say about that, for now, in the interest of brevity. I'm just barely touching the surface of my thoughts on that subject. I've always taken the counter-view with regard to most everything - especially environmental and development related "stuff". I'm not sure why that is, but it is. I used to keep it all to myself, keeping my mouth shut about what I think and feel about the world around me. Forty-seven years of silence is long enough. (Dec 2010 - Forty-seven? Okay, I was forty-nine back in April, so maybe I figgered I didn't start talking, and hence could not yet be "silent" until the age of two...? HTF knows what I was thinking back then...)

Montana and the other northern plains states encompass some beautiful country. The last remnants of a beautiful people live and love and struggle there. Some tango has taken root up there, and I feel blasphemous to even make the tie, but the tie is there. The tie that binds.

Here is Sam's blog. It's called "Men...101".

And here, finally, is that dialog about Tango from Facebook:

Sam: Tango instructors: Teach the system, not the style. You can quote me on that.

Ken: However, I'm not quite sure how one separates it out? How is style different from system? Are there fundamentals or not? And, from what I understand, there is great argument about "the true tango"?

Sam: I should probably keep my mouth shut and wait (generations?) for them to figure it out. But, as I am impatient, I'll borrow and paraphrase definitions from a skilled teacher of motion (thanks Skip): "SYSTEM - The unification of related concepts, principles, ideas, facts, truths, and basic elements of (Argentine tango). STYLE - The manner in which an individual applies and executes the (tango) they have learned."

Sam: The "true tango" debate is probably not different from the "pure karate" debate Ed Parker had with traditional martial artists. It is probably inevitable that this occurs with tango, especially as it spreads to other countries. The Argentines will lose CONTROL over it - with a predictable outcome.

Sam: Looking at my old notebooks now, and thinking of all the nifty little ideas employing simple definitions (from Kenpo) to tango: theory of proportional dimensions, ideal phase, what-if and formulation phases, extemporaneous and spontaneous action (for Chrissake WHEN is anyone going to get this as a fundamental idea in tango!), tailoring, dimensional sequence of movement, plus countless others that have yet to be developed because we're moving to MUSIC!!!! But . . . I'm ranting.

Sam: Of course, tango has spread to other countries. Time is slowly beginning to tell, with the debate about "true tango." How long has this been going on? Decades? And there must be fundamentals. The embrace we use is a convention, with basics emerging as 'form to function.' The fact that it's hard for someone who's been doing tango for a while to name and describe some of the fundamentals is atrocious, and speaks to the RELATIVE INFANCY of it - and perhaps the EGOIC BASE and lack of EMPATHY, or BEGINNER'S MIND (a feature particular to a master) among some of the advanced practitioners and teachers. It's not rocket science - why not break it down so others can learn it!

Sam: Now I'm on a roll. FURTHERMORE - there's the whole "gender thing" to consider. Far be it from me to express a humble opinion there . . . 'cause most of my opinions are not humble . . . or within apology. I'm about to choke the next person who uses some poor-white-trash-gender stereotype to get their "teaching point" across. On another topic: ...If someone wants to teach tango, fine. Lead or follow for at least 500 hours. 'Nuff said. Learn to correct "mistakes" without even saying a word. Find a minimum of 5 basics/fundamentals, and be able to use beginner, intermediate, and advanced dance "moves" to express them. (However, I don't think the dance is in the "moves," it's in the passionate, physical manifestation of the music, but that's something else. Nothing like seeing a bunch of fancy moves WITH NO PASSION. Testosterone should ooze from a man with his every step. WOW, that's good! Someone please, please quote me on that!) Oh, and learn a simple way to make beginners value basics so that they want to practice on their own. I can go on and on . . . think I've bottled this up for a while?

Ken: Or, that tango is culture and not "science." The same debate goes on in capoeira which was a folkloric form learn from body to body, without words. As it became a "performance" and subject to "academic" or "scientific" standards, it changed.

From what I can tell the old milongueros danced and had a way of teaching body to body, just as the old capoeira players. And, with the arrival of the Japanese teachers, who had forms and close to 300 years of western influence, the old capoeira players were forced to change.

Much the same is happening with tango. You might find the "tango discovery" series interesting...

My objection is that this approach replaces poetry with steps and stages.

Me, I like history and poetry.

Ken: Oh, well, while I was writing the above, you took off on a whole other tack. Yes, there should be drama in the simple forms. And, there should be music in every step. And, learning a lot of maneuvers is not enough :o)

But, that is what the Argentine's say -- tango without heart and passion, it is so English :o)

Ken: Oh, from what I've read, the old milongueros learned the "women's" part before they learned the "man's." As to gender roles, think Jung, think the deep archetypes. Dance is seduction, and seduction plays off the deep and classic patterns of romance and gender identity -- as understood in a culture. It ain't rocket science, thank G-d !! And, it ain't gymnastics, either.

Sam: I think the dance evolves within the individual, given a self-value system that a) inclines one to evolve, because b) mastery and self-evolution are inherently valuable. It will probably be the yoga people who do tango that bring this to the dance, if the zenned-out conflict avoidance (spiritual bypass) crutch doesn't impede them (not that yoga makes everyone a conflict avoider - most of them aren't).

Ken: OK, I re-read the above and think I understand. Here is where I would disagree. The individual will integrate into tango. Tango is not an individual, it is a community. So, a necessary part of learning tango is learning to be part of the community of tango. This is a complex community which is historic, worldwide and local. It resides between the ... members of the community as they explore not only their transient selves but as they come to be master communicators in the idiom. The idiom includes the classic music of the tango. While non-tango music may be "cute" it is the music that developed with the dance that leads one into the depth of tango.

Sam: The culture of tango and the dance of tango are not separated in my view, either. I think the path evolves from learning fundamentals - and that a beginner should know what some of those are after a few lessons. Because you mention something of communication, I'll use the "language analogy", keeping in mind the co-creative aspect of this (it ...takes two to tango!). Phonetics of motion become letters of motion, which become words of motion, which becomes sentences of motion, which become paragraphs of motion, which eventually leads to the co-creation of a "story" of motion. The common path is to teach "phrases of motion," which are better than nothing, but grossly limited, because the phonetics are not clearly addressed. You can't learn the language, and enter the 'culture' when all you can do is ask where the bathroom is. Problematic, because a) learning "phrases" presents the ILLUSION of learning a language when the speaker has not, and b) learning phrases creates a "rolodex of moves" (which helps create burn-out). The basics, truths, principles of motion, etc. that comprise the fundamentals of tango need to be developed. Create the "grammar for motion," and the "culture of tango" will be more easily accessed. Beginners and intermediates won't have the horrible time some of us had, and are having. Of course, people will lose their authority . .. and status within the culture . . . and students may want to discuss and debate and test concepts . . . but the dance will EVOLVE. Which means some of the egoic midgets (male and female) will have to grow too.

Sam: There are a few teachers out there who teach conceptually. Mike Malixi is one of them. The problem is that people like to "collect" things, such as cool dance moves. Few want to spend much time learning to hold their core, keep their frame from moving (vs. pulling your partner around with your arms), pointing your toe as you step back (which creates that sexy, elegant step so many of us like to watch a woman do), hold forward intention, etc. Of course, a good teacher can use "advanced vocabulary" to teach these principles . . .which makes a beginner see the value in having good basics, which makes them want to practice basics more, which makes them better dancers.

Sam: Short story: I saw my kenpo teacher many, many times teach "advanced techniques" to beginners. Everyone wants to do weapons stuff in the martial arts - it just feels so cool to use a knife, or sword, or staff, or nunchaku, or fight multiple opponents. But you learn that you can hurt YOURSELF more than anyone else if you don't have SOLID BASICS... Which makes new students want to practice basics more . . . And I just gave tango instructors a clue (take two - they're small) how to make their teaching life easier.

Sam: If I had to list the principles of tango, I'd start out with things like core/center, frame, and directional harmony. Students will magnify all the errors in their teacher's motion, so if a teacher isn't getting their own lessons . . . well . . . let's just say it's the difference between pursuing mastery, and pursuing a masterful image. As we used to say in the kenpo world, their is a difference between martial art and partial art.

Ken: Well, there is having fun :o)


Thanks guys - Sam and Ken - for allowing me to post your conversation. Perhaps our paths will cross one of these days. Let me know if you ever get down this way.

Oh, and one last thought. I do want my heart to be buried somewhere. Right here. Right here on this spot is where I want my heart to lie. In the meadow, near the spot where we make the bonfires. Cremate the rest; sprinkle a little of my dust here, on the ground covering my heart; a vial or two on the pistas of the milongas in Buenos Aires; and keep some in an urn on a shelf. But not for a while. I have more to say. Much more to say and do in this life.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Gift Ideas for the Man in Your Life :: Alex v. Cosmo Magazine

I'll unhide this...but file it under "Drivel"...

The other day I saw this really stupid thing on Facebook from Cosmopolitan Magazine: "What to buy your boyfriend for Christmas!"

Curious, I clicked on the link, only to be disappointed beyond disbelief. Lame. Really lame bordering on asinine and an insult to any man's intelligence. More mindboggling-ly-ness-ish. Whatever. The fuck.

So, I thought I would come up with my own "Gifts for the Man in Your Life" as alternates to the selections from Cosmo.

Here ya always, would the two of you readers please let me know what you think? Thanks in advance!

Happy Holidays, bah humbug, and Joy to the World. Seriously, and not necessarily in that order.

Cosmopolitan Magazine: Dirty Joke Book
AlexTangoFuego: The Way of the Superior Man by David Deida

Sidenote: Gentlemen tell funny jokes, not dirty jokes. I have remembered only one joke over the years, and it works every time. Told only when the rare and appropriate opportunity presents itself.

Cosmopolitan Magazine: Jack Robie Men's Shirt [$115]
AlexTangoFuego: Ike Behar White Dress Shirt with French Cuffs (or a Lucky Brand Cowboy Shirt with pearl snaps as an alternate)

Sidenote: Only so he can now wear the killer one-of-a-kind cufflinks you searched the world over to find. And yes, even a hillbilly like me can find an opportunity to wear French cuffs/links - even if it's only once a year - on New Year's Eve, or bringing Mom to church at St. Mark's.

Cosmopolitan Magazine: NASCAR Race Car Ride
AlexTangoFuego: Argentine Tango Lessons

Sidenote: If your guy is into NASCAR, he ain't a "real" man. Dump him. Now. Tango gives him that same counterclockwise ronda, only navigating as slowly as humanly possible through the crowd, and much, much more manly.

Cosmopolitan Magazine: DVD "Get Him to the Greek"
AlexTangoFuego: DVD "Baraka"

Sidenote: What the fuck?

Cosmopolitan Magazine: Piece of Ireland [$49.99]
AlexTangoFuego: Photography Book of Ireland, or Greece, or Italy or...

Cosmopolitan Magazine: Beatles Album Cover Coasters
AlexTangoFuego: Beatles Book or actual CD or iTunes Gift

Sidenote: Again, what the fuck? Coasters? What kind of man wants Beatles coasters? If you really want to get him some coasters, make them yourself, like Martha Stewart would. Find a local steel supply house or fabrication shop, ask them to cut you some 1/4" steel plate into 3-1/2" squares and grind them smooth. Then go to Tandy leather and buy some heavy suede leather. Glue that to one side (the bottom) of the steel plates, and trim and file it smooth. With foot file. Or, go to your local blacksmith, he or she will do it up right - handforged, with hammer marks and patina and bluing. Ah, and a sprayed on clearcoat, or dark natural waxed finish (car wax will do).

Those will be coasters worthy of a man.

Cosmopolitan Magazine: Apple Remote
AlexTangoFuego: Apple Shuffle (if they still make it) Or, even cooler, an Apple Airport Express (even if he has a PC). It will allow wireless streaming of music from PC or MacBook to stereo or boom box. Very cool.

Sidenote: Now he won't have any excuses not to get out there and jog and/or ride the mountain bike. Music = movement.

Cosmopolitan Magazine: Fake Parking Tickets (to hand out to enemies???)
AlexTangoFuego: Louise Hay daily affirmation cards in a box - just get the most manly ones you can find. I have these, they were my second ex-wife's, but she left them with me.

Sidenote: Gentlemen don't have enemies, they have friends. And if he's into giving out fake parking tickets, he needs the daily affirmations. Badly.

Cosmopolitan Magazine: Chocri Chocolate
AlexTangoFuego: Any kind of gourmet dark chocolate - check Whole Foods. If all you have is a Piggly Wiggly, a plain 'ol Hershey Bar will do.

Sidenote: This Chocri shit looks

Cosmopolitan Magazine: Grooming Kit
AlexTangoFuego: A straight razor and a strop and a cool brush/cake/cup. Or a vintage Gillette Safety Razor (like our Dads used) with the double edged blades.

Sidenote: We don't do "kits". Unless it's a set of Klein screwdrivers or a couple of 18 volt driver/drills in a box with extra batteries.

Cosmopolitan Magazine: Corporate Flashcards
AlexTangoFuego: Dominoes (the little rectangular things with dots on them)

Sidenote: My dad played dominoes, and I still look forward to learning and playing on a little flimsy card table with a group of like-minded men. Human interaction, male bonding, exercising your brain - always wins out over any kind of corporate mumbo-jumbo malarkey BS.

Cosmopolitan Magazine: Mini Air Hockey Table [$22]
AlexTangoFuego: Tickets to an actual hockey game.

Sidenote: Even if he's not into hockey, this will be fun as shit, trust me. (Fun as shit is a good thing.)

Cosmopolitan Magazine: DVD Trilogy/Set (aka "Kit") "Back to the Future"
AlexTangoFuego: DVD Set (okay, a "Kit") "John Adams The Miniseries" or at least the unrated version of "The Hangover" or if you're into trilogies - box set of "The Lord of the Rings". The book/s. Okay, I guess the film would be okay.

Sidenote: You've got to be fucking kidding me...!? Maybe he'll find a role model in John Adams or Thomas Jefferson.

Cosmopolitan Magazine: Toms Shoes
AlexTangoFuego: Toms Shoes

Hard to argue with. This is a good cause. But don't git'cher little feelings hurt if he never wears them and gives them to GoodWill.

Cosmopolitan Magazine: Binoculars from REI
AlexTangoFuego: Binoculars from REI, and a bird identification book.

Again, hard to argue with, and get him an REI membership, too, while your at it. And don't get pissy if you catch him scoping out the babes on the other side at the ice hockey game when you come back from the bathroom. Go easy on him, he's only looking, not touching. He's there with you, and going home with you, and waking up with you, right? Right.

That's the end of my alternate selections for your consideration. The Cosmo thing made me wonder who wrote that piece up, and who on the editorial staff approved it. They must/might have early 20 something bimbettes running their Facebook presence. It sounded like shit that the girls working at McDonald's and Wendy's would talk about on their breaks. "I'm getting my Johnny a mini-air hockey game for Christmas! Maybe he'll ask me to marry him!"

Beam me the fuck up, Scotty.

AlexTangoFuego Exclusives:

Random other stuff I thought up and/or saw sitting around my office...

Telescope - a good one - for y'all to ponder the Universe together on cold starlit nights. And to look at the lunar eclipse tonight on the Winter Solstice - oops! Too late!

Anvil - Peddinghaus drop forged, #12, 275 pounds. But, ladies, be damned sure there's some blacksmith in him first. This is just the beginning of a substantial investment of time and money. You won't see much of him for long stretches of time, but he'll make you a one-of-a-kind-in-the-universe pot rack or blow dryer hook or lipstick storage thingamajigger.

Journal - leather bound. For him to express his inner-most desires and feelings. Think Hemingway or Jack Kerouac.

Books - photography, of the coffee table variety; poetry, of the Neruda or Robert Service variety; classics of the Iliad & The Odyssey variety.

Longneck zip-up coozies - practical stocking stuffers - for long days in the forge learning how to use that anvil, or at least with his feet propped up on it writing in the leather journal. With a six-pack of Miller High-Life, The Champagne of Beers, long necks.

On the beer subject, a cast, handpainted nekkid lady church key. It doesn't work, e.g. it won't actually open a beer bottle, but I like it. It's hanging in a tree next to the BBQ grill.

Ah! SSTL BBQ grill. Nice-ish ones have come down hugely in price over the past few years. The less expensive ones are not 100% stainless steel [sstl] and lighter gauge, but more than adequate. Like $299-ish. Or something along those lines. Check Home Depot or Lowe's although I loathe those joints - you can't beat the pricing.

Wall calendar - not puppies, but maybe horses or Ansel Adams photography or Sierra Club wilderness ones. Y'all don't like 'em cluttering up the walls, but we do like 'em. They have replaced our adolescent posters of Farrah Fawcett's nips on the back of our bedroom door, only now we're more sophisticated, and the FF image is permanently burned into the solid state random access memory banks. (Every American man who just read that, now has pulled the image up in his mind's eye...I guarantee it...but I digress....)

Letter opener - not just any 'ol letter opener. One like this. Good luck finding it. If you get him the anvil, then he can make one like it.

A hammer - here are my favorites. Estwing straight/ripping claw. 28 ounce. Smooth face. Klein screw drivers. Milwaukee or Makita or Hitachi or DeWalt or Bosch power tools. No Black and Decker or other handyhomeowner brands. Good tools cost a lot, but last forever.

Tango Music - Guardia Vieja/Golden Age preferably. Hard to find though. This would have to be the subject of another post. Here is some Canaro on Amazon - Poema is a good one.

Wine - Far Niente, Cabernet. Or MacMurray Ranch Pinot Noir. Good stuff either way. Far Niente is my dead cousin's winery in Napa, or Oak Hill.

Wine opener - Chateau Laguiole.

The common themes - humility, strength, honor, wisdom, intellect, creativity - iron, leather, stone, fire, heft, tactile, long-lasting, earthy, awe-inspiring - something he can pass on to the kids and then the grandkids. Something he will cherish and use for years and years - something beyond just the material aspect of it. Something with some soul and energy in it, ideally.

Hope this helps in some way/shape/form. I'm cutting myself off. I was about to start preaching. Instead, I'll leave you with this, something I found somewhere and wrote on the first page of that journal...

Something I wrote on the first page of the journal below...

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Day One In Buenos Aires: "Oh God"

Here's a guest post from my good friend Rigoberto about a new blog he found - Bora's Tango Journey:

"Over the last few years there have been a number of blog posts about first visits to BsAs--mostly women, but a few men. This one is written by a young woman, and chronicles each day of her month long visit. She's about halfway through the trip, and posts each day. It really is a fascinating look at tango culture there now--the milongas, people, classes--as seen from a visiting dancer's perspective. This is the first post from a couple weeks ago. They make more sense, of course, if read in order. At the top right of each post, you can click on the next day's post. She's up to Day 17."

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

práctica en ladrillo rojo

diggin' around on the hard drive...a shot from the last time I was in Aspen...about two years ago...oops...make that three years ago...

práctica en ladrillo rojo

Sunday, December 12, 2010

When The Tango Became Music [by Alberto Paz]

Once again, National Tango Day (Argentina, and globally), December 11, has come and gone without fanfare, at least with regard to this humble blogger. Not just yesterday, but last year as well - not a peep. I just couldn't pull anything out of my proverbial fedora, couldn't come up with anything of any value myself. I Googled around, feebly, looking for an official website, announcement, press release, something, anything to post to mark the day.

But nothing. Nothing came. I pondered this day for a week or so, my computer calendar popping up with a reminder each day, but still nothing.

There is the "Global Milonga" event that uses December 11 - ostensibly in celebration of the National Tango Day or Day of Tango or Dia del Tango - but their mission appears to be more globally oriented, calling attention to the environment, "celebrating Tango's ability to unite and transform" - with this year's theme being to planting trees in the ravaged and struggling country of Haiti.

A good and noble cause, but not what I was looking for.

We had planned to go to a milonga last night, after a very small dinner party with a close friend. I figgered that would be my own little celebration, my own private acknowledgment of the day, to dance a little tango with my love in my arms in honor of this love my tango. But it was not meant to be. Chopin played on a grand piano, with a glass of vino tinto trumps tango. Every time.

So, this morning, booting myself up on Facebook, I was pleased when I read Alberto Paz' piece honoring the day. I couldn't have even come close to anything like this, and Alberto was gracious enough to allow me to re-post it here in its entirety.

I love the natural and innate flow of the Universe, of tango, of this blog, of my life. Everything always seems to come together, falling into place as it was meant to, as it wants to, as it has to. Natural and without force, guided by love and friends and friendship and good, well intentioned energy. The world is as it should be. Mostly. But that, my friends, is the subject of another post, and as usual, I am digressing.

Based out of my childhood home of New Orleans, Louisiana, Alberto is well known for his Planet Tango website and greatly appreciated for his tango lyrics translations, now at Letras de Tango. He's also coming back strong after a serious health scare. We were all worried about him, and the word is he's feeling much better and feeling strong enough to dance again. I'll speak for all of us and extend well wishes to him (and to Valorie) in his continued recovery. They have both been to hell and back - a big Texas hug from me.

So, without further ado, and thanks again Alberto, and take good care of that ticker...

When The Tango Became Music
Posted by Alberto Paz on Sunday, December 12, 2010 at 12:21am

Nearing the end of the first thirty years of the twentieth century, every orchestra sounded more or less the same way as if the original sound born out of many sounds had become a long road to musical boredom. Along the way had traveled the heroic itinerant trios that perched on the corners of tough neighborhoods, the artistic innovation that brought the incorporation of the bandoneon, and the legendary quartets.

To be fair, every ensemble had a leader and everyone attempted to add a bit of his own personal touch, but in general, the styles of the orchestras were so similar that it was hard to tell apart the works of Vicente Greco, Juan Maglio Pacho, Roberto Firpo, Francisco Canaro or Augusto Berto.

Julio De Caro, whose birthday on December 11 contributed to the designation of the date as National Day of Tango in Buenos Aires, broke ranks with the traditional style and led a genuine opening into renovation, a revolution that saved the tango from oblivion. Yet, De Caro did not discard what others had done before. His typical sextet gave new life to some of the greatest creations of Eduardo Arolas and Agustin Bardi.

They amalgamated into a genial coexistence with the new found beauty of the romantic melodies emanating from the creative muse of Juan Carlos Cobian, Osvaldo Fresedo, and Enrique Delfino.

During the early days of the twentieth century very few people stayed in school beyond the third grade and illiteracy in Buenos Aires was very high. Thus the music of the tangos of that period suited very well the simply minds of the audiences. When mandatory public school was established, the popular culture grew up and the music of the tanguitos of Arolas began to be insufficient for the larger intellectual capacity of the new audiences.

This generational change of guard led the Argentine Tango to a musical evolution that paralleled the cultural evolution of the porteño. The sounds of a changing Tango continued to be Tango, much in the same way that an educated porteño continued being a porteño.

History has appointed Julio De Caro, the supreme priest of the major renovation vanguard that took place in the mid 1920’s. The word vanguard had been used mostly in military lingo to identify what is up front, at the leading edge of the battlefield. With the stellar appearance of Julio De Caro, the history of the Tango was divided in two major hemispheres, the pre and post De Caro era. At the helm of the renovation, the sexteto tipico lead by Julio De Caro paved the way for the vanguardistas who continued to advance, faithful to their commitment to always be ahead of the rest.

The concepts and style which have become known as integral parts of the Decarean school, have constituted a standard by which all instrumental renovation of the Tango has been measured, both in terms of authenticity and naturalness. In very simple terms, the Decarean concept was to embellish the melody of the Tango.

In his memoirs, Julio De Caro remembers the time when, as a third violin for one of Cobian’s recording sessions, he found a section of one of the Tangos to be very poor. With no time to write a new arrangement, De Caro decided to add a counterpoint with the intention of embellishing the melody. This addition had very good acceptance but as Cobian found out about the daring modification that De Caro had done, he admonished him reminding him about who was the boss.

This reprimand in lieu of a praise was enough for 24 year-old De Caro to leave the Cobian sextet. He took with him bandoneon players Pedro Maffia and Luis Petrucelli, called upon his brother Francisco to play the piano, drafted Leopoldo Thompson (the inventor of the canyengue sound effect) to play the bass and brought yet another brother, Emilio as a second violin.

Historian Luis Adolfo Sierra has written perhaps one of the most celebrated hyperbole about the De Caro tendencies, “the harmonic accompaniment of the piano, the phrasing and variations of the bandoneons, the counterpoint of the violin knitting melodies of pleasant contrast with the central theme, plus the piano and bandoneon solos expressed with a harmonic and sonorous richness never heard before then, are some of the most valuable contributions that those real innovators introduced in the execution of the Tango.”

Jose Gobello says that what it is most recognizable of the De Caro sextet, is the intention to synthesize the insolence with the romanticism, the rusticity of the outskirts with the refinement from the conservatories. While Julio was best represented by the cheeky twist in (listen to Mala Junta), his brother Francisco embodied the romantic flair of (listen to Flores Negras).

Thanks to Julio De Caro the destiny of the Tango was also in the music, not just in the dance or the singing.