Saturday, December 24, 2011

Nature. Beauty. Gratitude. A Good Day.

Best wishes to you and yours...love and light...Alex

A Christmas Message from America's Rich - Matt Taibi | Rolling Stone

DSC_0032

Cross-posted From Matt Taibi / TAIBBLOG / ROLLING STONE. Original article here.

It seems America’s bankers are tired of all the abuse. They’ve decided to speak out.

True, they’re doing it from behind the ropeline, in front of friendly crowds at industry conferences and country clubs, meaning they don’t have to look the rest of America in the eye when they call us all imbeciles and complain that they shouldn’t have to apologize for being so successful.

But while they haven’t yet deigned to talk to protesting America face to face, they are willing to scribble out some complaints on notes and send them downstairs on silver trays. Courtesy of a remarkable story by Max Abelson at Bloomberg, we now get to hear some of those choice comments.

Home Depot co-founder Bernard Marcus, for instance, is not worried about OWS:

“Who gives a crap about some imbecile?” Marcus said. “Are you kidding me?”

Former New York gurbernatorial candidate Tom Golisano, the billionaire owner of the billing firm Paychex, offered his wisdom while his half-his-age tennis champion girlfriend hung on his arm:

“If I hear a politician use the term ‘paying your fair share’ one more time, I’m going to vomit,” said Golisano, who turned 70 last month, celebrating the birthday with girlfriend Monica Seles, the former tennis star who won nine Grand Slam singles titles.

Then there’s Leon Cooperman, the former chief of Goldman Sachs’s money-management unit, who said he was urged to speak out by his fellow golfers. His message was a version of Wall Street’s increasingly popular If-you-people-want-a-job, then-you’ll-shut-the-fuck-up rhetorical line:

Cooperman, 68, said in an interview that he can’t walk through the dining room of St. Andrews Country Club in Boca Raton, Florida, without being thanked for speaking up. At least four people expressed their gratitude on Dec. 5 while he was eating an egg-white omelet, he said.

“You’ll get more out of me,” the billionaire said, “if you treat me with respect.”

Finally, there is this from Blackstone CEO Steven Schwartzman:

Asked if he were willing to pay more taxes in a Nov. 30 interview with Bloomberg Television, Blackstone Group LP CEO Stephen Schwarzman spoke about lower-income U.S. families who pay no income tax.

“You have to have skin in the game,” said Schwarzman, 64. “I’m not saying how much people should do. But we should all be part of the system.”

There are obviously a great many things that one could say about this remarkable collection of quotes. One could even, if one wanted, simply savor them alone, without commentary, like lumps of fresh caviar, or raw oysters.

But out of Abelson’s collection of doleful woe-is-us complaints from the offended rich, the one that deserves the most attention is Schwarzman’s line about lower-income folks lacking “skin in the game.” This incredible statement gets right to the heart of why these people suck.

Why? It's not because Schwarzman is factually wrong about lower-income people having no “skin in the game,” ignoring the fact that everyone pays sales taxes, and most everyone pays payroll taxes, and of course there are property taxes for even the lowliest subprime mortgage holders, and so on.

It’s not even because Schwarzman probably himself pays close to zero in income tax – as a private equity chief, he doesn’t pay income tax but tax on carried interest, which carries a maximum 15% tax rate, half the rate of a New York City firefighter.

The real issue has to do with the context of Schwarzman’s quote. The Blackstone billionaire, remember, is one of the more uniquely abhorrent, self-congratulating jerks in the entire world – a man who famously symbolized the excesses of the crisis era when, just as the rest of America was heading into a recession, he threw himself a $5 million birthday party, featuring private performances by Rod Stewart and Patti Labelle, to celebrate an IPO that made him $677 million in a matter of days (within a year, incidentally, the investors who bought that stock would lose three-fourths of their investments).

So that IPO birthday boy is now standing up and insisting, with a straight face, that America’s problem is that compared to taxpaying billionaires like himself, poor people are not invested enough in our society’s future. Apparently, we’d all be in much better shape if the poor were as motivated as Steven Schwarzman is to make America a better place.

But it seems to me that if you’re broke enough that you’re not paying any income tax, you’ve got nothing but skin in the game. You've got it all riding on how well America works.

You can’t afford private security: you need to depend on the police. You can’t afford private health care: Medicare is all you have. You get arrested, you’re not hiring Davis, Polk to get you out of jail: you rely on a public defender to negotiate a court system you'd better pray deals with everyone from the same deck. And you can’t hire landscapers to manicure your lawn and trim your trees: you need the garbage man to come on time and you need the city to patch the potholes in your street.

And in the bigger picture, of course, you need the state and the private sector both to be functioning well enough to provide you with regular work, and a safe place to raise your children, and clean water and clean air.

The entire ethos of modern Wall Street, on the other hand, is complete indifference to all of these matters. The very rich on today’s Wall Street are now so rich that they buy their own social infrastructure. They hire private security, they live on gated mansions on islands and other tax havens, and most notably, they buy their own justice and their own government.

An ordinary person who has a problem that needs fixing puts a letter in the mail to his congressman and sends it to stand in a line in some DC mailroom with thousands of others, waiting for a response.

But citizens of the stateless archipelago where people like Schwarzman live spend millions a year lobbying and donating to political campaigns so that they can jump the line. They don’t need to make sure the government is fulfilling its customer-service obligations, because they buy special access to the government, and get the special service and the metaphorical comped bottle of VIP-room Cristal afforded to select customers.

Want to lower the capital reserve requirements for investment banks? Then-Goldman CEO Hank Paulson takes a meeting with SEC chief Bill Donaldson, and gets it done. Want to kill an attempt to erase the carried interest tax break? Guys like Schwarzman, and Apollo’s Leon Black, and Carlyle’s David Rubenstein, they just show up in Washington at Max Baucus’s doorstep, and they get it killed.

Some of these people take that VIP-room idea a step further. J.P. Morgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon – the man the New York Times once called “Obama’s favorite banker” – had an excellent method of guaranteeing that the Federal Reserve system’s doors would always be open to him. What he did was, he served as the Chairman of the Board of the New York Fed.

And in 2008, in that moonlighting capacity, he orchestrated a deal in which the Fed provided $29 billion in assistance to help his own bank, Chase, buy up the teetering investment firm Bear Stearns. You read that right: Jamie Dimon helped give himself a bailout. Who needs to worry about good government, when you are the government?

Dimon, incidentally, is another one of those bankers who’s complaining now about the unfair criticism. “Acting like everyone who’s been successful is bad and because you’re rich you’re bad, I don’t understand it,” he recently said, at an investor’s conference.

Hmm. Is Dimon right? Do people hate him just because he’s rich and successful? That really would be unfair. Maybe we should ask the people of Jefferson County, Alabama, what they think.

That particular locality is now in bankruptcy proceedings primarily because Dimon’s bank, Chase, used middlemen to bribe local officials – literally bribe, with cash and watches and new suits – to sign on to a series of onerous interest-rate swap deals that vastly expanded the county’s debt burden.

Essentially, Jamie Dimon handed Birmingham, Alabama a Chase credit card and then bribed its local officials to run up a gigantic balance, leaving future residents and those residents’ children with the bill. As a result, the citizens of Jefferson County will now be making payments to Chase until the end of time.

Do you think Jamie Dimon would have done that deal if he lived in Jefferson County? Put it this way: if he was trying to support two kids on $30,000 a year, and lived in a Birmingham neighborhood full of people in the same boat, would he sign off on a deal that jacked up everyone’s sewer bills 400% for the next thirty years?

Doubtful. But then again, people like Jamie Dimon aren’t really citizens of any country. They live in their own gated archipelago, and the rest of the world is a dumping ground.

Just look at how Chase behaved in Greece, for example.

Having seen how well interest-rate swaps worked for Jefferson County, Alabama, Chase “helped” Greece mask its debt problem for years by selling a similar series of swaps to the Greek government. The bank then turned around and worked with banks like Goldman, Sachs to create a thing called the iTraxx SovX Western Europe index, which allowed investors to bet against Greek debt.

In other words, Chase knowingly larded up the nation of Greece with a crippling future debt burden, then turned around and helped the world bet against Greek debt.

Does a citizen of Greece do that deal? Forget that: does a human being do that deal?

Operations like the Greek swap/short index maneuver were easy money for banks like Goldman and Chase – hell, it’s a no-lose play, like cutting a car’s brake lines and then betting on the driver to crash – but they helped create the monstrous European debt problem that this very minute is threatening to send the entire world economy into collapse, which would result in who knows what horrors. At minimum, millions might lose their jobs and benefits and homes. Millions more will be ruined financially.

But why should Chase and Goldman care what happens to those people? Do they have any skin in that game?

Of course not. We’re talking about banks that not only didn’t warn the citizens of Greece about their future debt disaster, they actively traded on that information, to make money for themselves.

People like Dimon, and Schwarzman, and John Paulson, and all of the rest of them who think the “imbeciles” on the streets are simply full of reasonless class anger, they don’t get it. Nobody hates them for being successful. And not that this needs repeating, but nobody even minds that they are rich.

What makes people furious is that they have stopped being citizens.

Most of us 99-percenters couldn’t even let our dogs leave a dump on the sidewalk without feeling ashamed before our neighbors. It's called having a conscience: even though there are plenty of things most of us could get away with doing, we just don’t do them, because, well, we live here. Most of us wouldn’t take a million dollars to swindle the local school system, or put our next door neighbors out on the street with a robosigned foreclosure, or steal the life’s savings of some old pensioner down the block by selling him a bunch of worthless securities.

But our Too-Big-To-Fail banks unhesitatingly take billions in bailout money and then turn right around and finance the export of jobs to new locations in China and India. They defraud the pension funds of state workers into buying billions of their crap mortgage assets. They take zero-interest loans from the state and then lend that same money back to us at interest. Or, like Chase, they bribe the politicians serving countries and states and cities and even school boards to take on crippling debt deals.

Nobody with real skin in the game, who had any kind of stake in our collective future, would do any of those things. Or, if a person did do those things, you’d at least expect him to have enough shame not to whine to a Bloomberg reporter when the rest of us complained about it.

But these people don’t have shame. What they have, in the place where most of us have shame, are extra sets of balls. Just listen to Cooperman, the former Goldman exec from that country club in Boca. According to Cooperman, the rich do contribute to society:

Capitalists “are not the scourge that they are too often made out to be” and the wealthy aren’t “a monolithic, selfish and unfeeling lot,” Cooperman wrote. They make products that “fill store shelves at Christmas…”

Unbelievable. Merry Christmas, bankers. And good luck getting that message out.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Our Economy Was Built on Bull. Until We Admit That, We’re Screwed

Arturo Di Modica Charging Bull on Wall Street

Here's a great article by Kai Wright/ColorLines - very well written - and it mirrors my views on the subject. This is something that is close to my heart and mind on nearly a daily basis as I watch our world devolve into something new and possibly highly unpleasant for large numbers of our fellow citizens. Hell, it already is highly unpleasant for large numbers of our fellow citizens.

I've been wanting to write a post like this for some time. Kai Wright has done it for me - more eloquently than I could have. Definitely more succinctly than I would have. Or could have. Besides, I'm on vacation - the first "real" one in a long, long time - me and sweetiepiehoneybunch and Diggeroo. So I'm taking the lazy way out and cross-posting his piece.

http://colorlines.com/archives/2011/12/get_honest_about_economic_justice_in_2012_or_live_to_regret_it.html

I've been saying this for years, that our heads are in the sand regarding the real truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. As long as we the people continue to ignore and refuse to acknowledge the truth about what is going on across the board and across the planet, we are collectively pissing in the wind. Meaning, we are pissing all over ourselves whilst "trying" (in our beluded state - belief and delusion at the same time) to "solve" "our" "problems" and "issues".

What greater gift could we give to ourselves, our children, their children, our fellow citizens on this planet, the entire planet itself - what greater gift could we give than to be brutally and unequivocally honest about the root causes of the challenges that face us?

What greater gift could we give to the world for our leaders to "man up" and lead with maturity, insight, thoughtfulness, awareness, open-mindedness, and love? To move the profit motive lower on the list. Much lower. Maybe even at the bottom of the list.

I wonder what that economy might look like...?

Without the basis of the fundamental truth as a starting point, we are deluding ourselves that long-term solutions to the issues that face us can be found.

Anyway, I could go on and on, so here's the article:

At the foot of Manhattan’s Broadway Ave., just below Wall Street, stands one of the city’s most reliable tourism draws: Arturo Di Modica’s 3.5-ton statue of a charging bull. Since 1989, the sculpture has been an iconic symbol of American wealth, of the aggressive capitalist spirit that, it is argued, made this country great and powerful. Visitors flock from around the world to rub the bull’s horns for good luck. Or they used to, at least. Now, tourists snap pictures from behind police barricades.

For more than two months, the raging bull of wealth has sat caged, facing eye-to-eye with a New York Police Department cruiser as cops have worked around the clock to protect it from the Occupy Wall Street movement. The park’s administrator called has the security “Orwellian.” That’s to say the least.

If you’re looking for visuals to encapsulate 2011, look no further than the bizarre scene at Di Modica’s bull. Daily, the country’s largest police force mobilizes to protect the idea of American prosperity from an imagined threat, while the actual economy lays gored and gutted by demonstrable and ongoing crimes.

In the immediate, this perversity results from a spectacular failure of political leadership. We traveled a long, winding road to the point at which no-brainers like a modest payroll tax cut and an extension of unemployment benefits demand political brinksmanship. People of varying ideologies and partisan affiliations may debate endlessly who’s more at fault, but to do so is to truly miss the forest for the trees. The ugly reality is no leader in either party has yet shown the mettle to rise and meet the enormity of today’s challenges.

That’s not to suggest moral equivalencies. Republican leaders have been openly obstructionist, preferring a broken economy to a successful Obama presidency. Their cynicism has rarely been as bald as this week’s House vote on the payroll tax cut, but they’ve never made much effort to conceal it.

Still, even if President Obama had been given a willing Congress, the solutions he has championed aren’t nearly on par with the problem. Like his congressional opponents, he insists the structural foundation of our economy remains strong. Rather than confront the core issues—inequity and instability—Obama has thrashed around with Republicans in the margins—over how to control debt, over the degree to which health care should be a commodity rather than a right, over which borrowers were the least irresponsible and thus deserving of help. Meanwhile, at each crucial juncture in his reform-branded presidency, Obama has left financial players to voluntarily take responsibility for their behavior. They remain steadfast in their refusal to do so.

These bipartisan leadership failures have prolonged the immediate crisis, which dates back to 2007, when the foreclosures that would bring down the system first began consuming working-class communities of color in particular. Four years later, Republicans and Democrats alike are still working off of the optimistic notion that we need only contain the immediate problem until we can get back to growth—that we need only protect the bull with barricades until those pesky protesters disappear and allow its charge to resume. With each year that our chosen leaders have indulged this fantasy, a cancer has spread. Each year has brought new records in the poverty, hunger and inequality that will ultimately consume this country.

But that’s just the immediate crisis. As we move into an election year, in which U.S. residents will have prolonged debate over our collective priorities and values, we must pursue answers to a broader question. Since at least 1981, when the Reagan revolution overtook public policy, we have built an economy on two related fictions. The first is that boundless growth is sustainable. The second is that unrestrained capitalism, particularly in the financial sector, will create wealth for everyone. These are discredited ideas, and the question of 2012 must be how we begin building a society based on something different.

This broader question is crucial because, in truth, the problem extends past the economy. Look around and you’ll find one broken institution after another, each of them buckling under the weight of the late 20th century consensus that greed is good, that a winner-takes-all individualism will somehow improve our collective endeavors. Industries, communities, natural resources, even sports leagues have collapsed as Ronald Reagan’s corrosive vision has become dominant.

Meanwhile, racism and racial injustice remain rooted in our society in no small part because they are necessary to explain why unrestrained capitalism and unfettered growth fail so spectacularly in creating widespread wealth. The entrenched, generational poverty that has gripped so many black communities and the yawning racial gaps that persist in wealth and income, among other things, can only be explained if they are blamed on the individuals hurt by them. Thus “welfare queens” and “super predator” youth and cheating “illegals” and “lazy Indians” and on and on. These caricatures continue to inform public policy on poverty, education, immigration and more. They continue to explain away inequity and provide villians against which struggling whites can define themselves without questioning the larger system. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s quote about slave owners—the original unrestrained capitalists—still rings true: “The Southern aristocracy took the world and gave the poor white man Jim Crow.”

Di Modica offered a quote on capitalism, too. In November, Newark’s Star-Ledger asked the artist what he thought about the security around his statue. He didn’t like it. “The bull is for the people,” he declared. “The bull is for everyone, the people with money and the people with no money.” If only it were so.

Wall Street’s bull markets have proven to be for the benefit of a very few. But as the financial industry’s largest players have been unleashed to pursue profit for themselves at all costs, the dreadful consequences have surely impacted everyone. Pensions have been wiped out. Family homes have been stripped of value, many taken away altogether. Small businesses have been locked out of credit markets. More than 14 million people are exiled from the labor force. A galling one in three black children and nearly as many Latino children are growing up in poverty right now, while the president brags about ferreting out fraud in the food stamp program rather than getting more money for it.

Our chosen political leaders have tolerated all of this in order to maintain the fiction that our economic system still works, that the organizing principles of our society remain valid. So the central question of 2012’s likely all-consuming political debate must be simple: How do we acknowledge that our current economy is built on lies and then start erecting a new one based on equity and sustainability?


Again, here is the original article by Kai Wright...

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Tango Addiction :: A not-so-new tango blog

red embrace
[Photo by Leone Perugino]

Boy do I feel like a putz. A real wanker. I've been so "disassociated" from this blog that I haven't added a link in the sidebar for one of my favorite blogs. One of the few I actually make time to read. And not that I would ever believe this blog, ATF, is "all that" and is somehow the standard bearer for all links to all tango blogs.

Quite the contrary. I'm sure that there are at least a dozen or two new blogs that I am missing in my links sidebar. I'm pretty sure I'm quite incomplete and out of date that way. I just like to include the good ones, blogs of note, blogs of tango friends (who I've never met and never danced with, and may never), blogs with good writing and good humor and astute/keen observation. This blog, from Terpsichoral Tangoaddict, a friend through Facebook.

She's a follower, living and dancing in Buenos Aires.

Please accept my most humble apologies, kind Muse.

In her latest post, "The Oestrogen Cloud", she describes the feel of a particular type of follower thusly: "...that the best of them feel as light as pedaling a bicycle downhill; as soft as my old velveteen teddy bear with one missing eye; as responsive as a thoroughbred horse; and yet as tranquil as an aged labrador...".

It's the "pedaling a bicycle downhill" that got me. This is an almost perfect analogy of what it feels like to dance with these women. I've weakly characterized it before as "dancing with a butterfly", which obviously no one can know what that feels like, and can only imagine.

I first felt it in an epiphanous (not a word?) dance with a porten~a teacher in a private lesson in the frigid Masonic Temple in Glenwood Springs, Colorado. Epiphany, breakthrough, come-to-jesus, hallelujah, whatever you want to call it. It was a seminal moment of seminal moments. With none of my usual sophomoric innuendo whatsoever.

Reading her post simultaneously transported me back to BA (where I was one of those foreign guys within an estrogen cloud of two, if that counts...dutifully doing the promotional/advertising tandas with/for them...and failing miserably with my Quasimodo cabeceo, scaring the local women no doubt, finally resorting in the wee hours to getting drunk on vino tinto and stuffing empanadas in my pie hole...), and back to that two hours with Gabriella in Colorado. Anyway, Gaby and I were "just" dancing during that private, and she would stop to correct me, correct my lead - explain what I was doing wrong (or not doing), and explain how it felt (wrong), and how she wanted it to feel. Little tweakages here and there. Nuances. Ever-so-slight. Ever-so-light, but without doubt of intention. So I'm babbling again. Driveling. My point is that this light-but-with-clarity-and-purpose-and-sublimely-connected-responsive feeling is reciprocal in both follow and lead. Mutuality.

Unfortunately, in my world, rare. I only know it exists through luck and happenstance. I know it exists because I have felt it. Because I have danced it. Because I have had it danced unto me. Into me.

I miss it.

For me, that's the sign of good writing. Writing that communicates a concept, a moment, an experience, a dance, a feeling - and dredges up your own memories - touching, poignant, whatever. Memories, and feelings. Dredged up to feel it all over again, sitting wide awake at 4am in a seedy motel next to a refinery in Odessa, Texas. (The dickweeds who woke me up are sound asleep now...)

I may owe my lead to Gaby. My elusive lead, the "I'm not sure if it's still there" lead.

Anyway, check out Tango Addiction. Dig back into the archives.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thanks. Giving.

árbol soledad o una tormenta está viniendo...¿cuál?

This photo always makes me think of this time of year for some reason. It's on the wall above my desk.

There is so much to be thankful for. Thankful is not enough. Gratitude. Abundance. Abundant. Gratitude.

I can't help but think that we've somehow gotten it all wrong. Being thankful is good yes. But is abundance and the horn of plenty in life something to be celebrated - when so many are having such a difficult time on this planet?

I can't help but keep thinking the holiday might be rendered more meaningful as a holiday to fast...not feast. A holiday to give to those who are hungry right now. Those who can't afford a luxurious turkey dinner with all the trimmings.

I can't help but wonder. Is this guilt that I'm feeling as a side-dish with my gratitude in this life? Or is the the salty sting of shame? Next year I may choose to go without - and volunteer at a homeless shelter.

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Tolype velleda

Here's a moth I shot just outside the back door the other day - a better/larger photo than my previous email upload. Sweetpiehoneybunch ID'd it - thanks, hon. Here's the link: http://www.butterfliesandmoths.org/species/Tolype-velleda

We're kinda like Euell Gibbons and Rachel Carson. Or maybe more like Edward Abbey and Phoebe Snetsinger - always finding all kinds of nature to be curious about here on El Rancho.

It's like a Garden of Eden.

Tolype velleda

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Tolype Velleda

Your message is ready to be sent with the following file or link
attachments:

ALX_0084


Note: To protect against computer viruses, e-mail programs may prevent
sending or receiving certain types of file attachments. Check your e-mail
security settings to determine how attachments are handled.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Busy as a one-eyed dog in a smokehouse...

A rammed earth subcontractor bellied up on me and I decided to put together a crew and self-perform it...

All 276,725 pounds of it...

I've been busy with other/life/work type 'o stuff...I think the anniversary of this blog even came and went...

These are the first two of a total of seven walls...

ALX_0466

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Friday, October 14, 2011

Miss Representation | A film by Jennifer Siebel Newsom



Airing nationally on October 20 @ 9pm...

http://missrepresentation.org/

Thanks go to Jani Sauna-Man for the find...

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Friday, October 7, 2011

Las nubes, el maíz, el granero, la lluvia y mija

Las nubes, el maíz, el granero ... y la lluvia

This was shot up in Illinois just outside of Chicago, moving my daughter up there a few weeks ago to start Law School. Shot from my iPhone, in a rainstorm, window down, driving 65mph, pulling a UHaul, daughter napping.

It was a dadder-daughter rite of passage weekend aka life milestone event. Five straight days of one-on-one time, perhaps for the last time in our lives. Just being together, talking, laughing, being quiet, thinking.

I miss her.

Badly.

While I'm very happy for her, and very proud of her, and excited for her embarking on some intensive studies and a career, this photo pretty much reflects my mood with regard to her absence from my life, our lives, our local proximity. We all miss her.

She's not my little girl anymore.

Y'all have a good weekend.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Brief definition of a milonguero - by Cacho Dante

cacho dante
[Photo by Leone Perugino]


Oscar (“Cacho”) Dante
Amsterdam
17 September 1996


Chatting the night away in a cafe in Amsterdam with some friends, I was asked to describe what a milonguero is.

As it happens, it is something very difficult for me to explain. It’s one thing to be one — to feel it — and another, very different, is to be able to express its meaning in words that are clear for others, and give a real idea of what I think. But I will attempt to do it, trying not to hurt anybody’s feelings.

A milonguero is a slave of the music, the tempo, and the space. When he dances, music invades his body and is translated into his steps and his movements. He never misses a tempo. Such blending with the music is what produces a sensation that their bodies are actually speaking (chamuyan).

The milonguero dances level with the floor, managing space is essential for him, he follows the “ronda”. His steps, turns, and walks are always aimed forwards, he never overtakes another couple, he takes care not to cross other people’s path. He will do his thing (milonguea) in whatever space is left. He dances for himself and his partner, not for the spectators. He does not exhibit.

A milonguero stands out by the subtle way in which he manages space, his sense of rhythm and the intensity — or lightness — of the feelings he conveys. The pleasure he feels, he transfers with elegance to the woman’s body. She, in turn, follows him, generally with eyes closed. She follows like the perfume he is wearing, she sticks together in this joyful journey. She dances apilada to him — but not like “cannonball necklace.” Apilarse doesn’t mean hang — this is not always visible for others, but he can certainly feel it.

A milonguero is inspired by the orchestra, the piece, or the woman. He also allows his emotional states to influence the dance. Before beginning a dance, he will take the woman in his arms, listen to the music, feel their respiration, their heartbeats, and only then will he take the first step.

Fortunately, each milonguero dances distinctively. Their personality, style, and cadence are unique to each one. There is plenty of variety among them, with a rich diversity of steps and dance experience. Although they sometimes give in to admiration, their priority is always the woman and the sentimiento (feelings — the main motivation for the dance). They are anonymous. Sometimes timid, and very concentrated. They do not dance much, they are demanding when choosing the music and the partner. One or two tandas well danced will make the evening.

A milonguero will dress very smart, he will be very careful with the shining of his shoes, the crease of his trousers and [his] perfume. You’ll see them sitting at the table checking out the floor and the minas ; they only ask for a dance with a head movement (“de cabeceo”) or an eye movement (“de ojito”). Meanwhile, there are also the milongueras — many, and very good. They are ageless. Their posture, the charm of their footstep, and the subtleties of their movements make for the man’s inspiration, and it’s them who make the man shine. They are simply chiche bombon!!!

I believe it makes no sense to claim that someone is number one or the best, or that one owns a step, or to say that others have stolen somebody’s step. We’ve all learned from the rest and adapted what we learned to our personality. And we will continue to learn from each other in a never-ending process. That is how we enrich our dance, the tango. The tango, like feelings, doesn’t have and never had an owner.

Dancing (milonguear) as well as learning to dance, should be a joy, not an exigency, competition, or hard work; there is enough of that already in our every day life. Our duty and responsibility as teachers does not consist in overwhelming our students with our skills and knowledge, but to be able to communicate these with sentimiento (feelings) and simplicity. We must therefore avoid mistaking our dancing or performing abilities with our teaching abilities. It’s essential, not only [to] count the number of students we have — which is certainly important financially speaking — but also to make an honest balance and observe how many of our students are milongueando in the salons. We must be sincere with ourselves if we wish to see the tango grow.

I wish to express my humble gratitude for entrusting me, for all the students in all the places I have visited as a teacher. Also to their teachers (including all styles and nationalities), for their passion in promoting Tango, and who have not permitted that I feel alone anywhere I go, even if I do not speak their language or ignore their customs. The Tango in all the tango corners of the world I have visited makes me feel at home wherever I go. Bailando tangos uno nunca esta sólo.

This article was originally published in “La Cadena”, a tango magazine in Holland; “El Once” in London and “Tandoneon” in Madrid.

The Tango and Trapeze Acts

Re: the Cacho Dante quote I just posted...he's the one dancing in the video down below with Sally Potter (from 0:30 to 0:58) in this scene from "The Tango Lesson". You will also notice Gustavo Naveira, Fabian Salas, and Omar Vega (RIP).

Re: the title of this post - it's a 1998 article by Cacho Dante - and the source of the quote. Here it is, by Cacho Dante:

The Tango and Trapeze Acts
By Cacho Dante, Milonguero de Buenos Aires
November 1998



Thirty years ago, the tango wasn't a trapeze act. It didn't have choreographies, and the woman was not just a follower, she was to whom the tango was dedicated. Around that time, under the pressure of the dictatorship in Argentina, many milongueros stopped dancing. They were tired of getting picked up by the authorities every weekend to see if they had a police record.

Some milongueros went back to the neighborhood clubs where they had to dance with their neighbors,their cousins, the sisters of friends—all under the watchful eyes of mothers. It was an enormous bore.

The guys at that time had already surpassed the stage of steps. They had already passed through the filter:When they didn't really know how to dance, they did 20 steps; when they knew a bit more, they did 10; and when they really knew what they were doing, they danced five...but with real quality.

The rest they learned from the orchestras at the time: how to navigate the dance floor; how to lead the rhythm. They danced then to some of the best orchestras live every day, Osvaldo Pugliese, Anibal Troilo,Juan D'Arienzo, Francisco Canaro, Alfredo Gobbi, etc.

Later, everything changed. The tango climbed onto the trapeze and became choreographed. And it became a dance of the deaf. The dance floor today also sometimes seems like a war zone. Women don't even get the chance to choose their partners. Men snatch them from the tables as if they were fruit in a supermarket bin.

When some of the milongueros returned to dance, myself included, we wanted to be in style, to learn choreographies. But it was late for that because for us it was more important to be appreciated by the woman than to be admired by those who liked to be seen. Women chose the tango milonguero. They embraced the old guys and then later embraced the young ones as well. Even if we milongueros are fat and bald, we still carry our heads high and have plenty of women to dance with.

Sometimes you hear that tango milonguero will die with the last milonguero. But those who say that don't seem to be aware that the last one is only 17 years old and is already teaching the dance.

Nowadays, we dance to orchestras and singers that are long gone. The sons of the great orchestra leaders,as children do, did not listen to their parents. Today, unfortunately, there isn't really any new music to dance to. The orchestras now knock themselves out to follow the singers, whereas in the old days the singer was just another instrument.

The tango, some say, is growing. Others say it is getting fat. I believe it is swollen, like someone who has eaten too much. Luckily, the example of the milonguero exists and it is not by chance nor just because it is something in vogue that some young people here and other people abroad dance in a close embrace and fly. To fly, you must have your feet firmly on the earth. We Pugliese fans plant our feet on the dance floor and we fly with our torsos. There is no other way to dance the silences and the pauses. With D'Arienzo,you dance in fourth gear, with Pugliese, in first. For Pugliese, you must lower the turns and with D'Arienzo, lift them.

The tango is a feeling that is danced. That's why it is not choreographed, though it can have sequences,like all feelings. You can dance love, rage, happiness, pleasure, every mood. The tango is not a dance to demonstrate ability but rather an interpretation of feeling. It is not just moving your feet and posturing.The tango is Argentine, but it belongs to all those who understand its feelings and its codes.Guys, to dance tango, you must listen to the heart of the woman.



Tango is feeling that is danced

I've heard variations of this quote before, but I don't think I've ever read the actual quote until now, thanks to BoraTango. "The tango is a feeling that is danced. That's why it is not choreographed, though it can have sequences, like all feelings. You can dance love, rage, happiness, pleasure, every mood. The tango is not a dance to demonstrate ability but rather an interpretation of feeling. It is not just moving your feet and posturing. The tango is Argentine, but it belongs to all those who understand its feelings and its codes." [Cacho Dante]

Monday, September 5, 2011

Rigorous Intuition

"John Steinbeck accounted for the failure of socialism in America by the underclass regarding itself not as the exploited poor but as temporarily embarrassed millionaires. Silly beggars. But they didn't come by that idea all by themselves. That's the conditioning of decades of political animal husbandry, and the dulling engorgement of mass instruction masquerading as entertainment." [Jeff Wells | Rigorous Intution]

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Back to the Start - Willie Nelson & Chipotle Grill

The video below is an advertisement for Chipotle Grill - but the message is clear - getting back to sustainable agriculture/food - and away from industrialized food production. I find it interesting that I chose the three pigs' photograph for my last post, with a different message in mind for that one.

Gotta love a good segue. Oh, and buy the song on iTunes. Proceeds go to The Chipotle Cultivate Foundation. Here is the press release, and here is the foundation's website.

It feels good to hear about one more company doing the right thing and doing the thing right - putting their money where their mouth is. Not just talking the talk, but walking the walk. Placing people right there alongside profits. Recognizing that being green and sustainable not only can be and should be, but *is* profitable. And, not to mention, it's the right and very necessary thing to do/way to be. Sustainability is ultimately about the survival of the planet - and all of us critters who inhabit it. It's pretty simple if you just remove the greed component from a corporate culture.

Coldplay's haunting classic 'The Scientist' is performed by country music legend Willie Nelson for the soundtrack of the short film entitled, "Back to the Start." The film, by film-maker Johnny Kelly, depicts the life of a farmer as he slowly turns his family farm into an industrial animal factory before seeing the errors of his ways and opting for a more sustainable future. Both the film and the soundtrack were commissioned by Chipotle to emphasize the importance of developing a sustainable food system.

Download the song "The Scientist" by Willie Nelson now available on iTunes for $0.99. Label and artist proceeds benefit The Chipotle Cultivate Foundation.
http://itunes.apple.com/us/album/the-scientist-single/id458479961


Friday, August 26, 2011

The Deficit Tango or, The Federal Budget Put in Simpler Terms

(Note: the best part of this post is all the way down at the bottom...)

Pigs

Sorry folks, but no, this is not my post about how much my tango has cost me over the past seven years. Or is it eight? I dunno. Some day I may get around to writing that post. It would be an interesting one, especially when you factor in lost opportunity costs and loss of profit. I get this nagging retro rearview don't want to look at it was it all a dream feeling that my tango came at great cost to me. HUGE investment. The return on that investment? Hmm. You'll have to stay tuned whilst I ponder and cipher on that one. And I'm not talking about greenbacks. Well, maybe kindasorta that too. Whatever. But I digress. (grin)

This one is about Warren Buffet's op-ed in the New York Times about the super-wealthy getting preferential treatment by Congress and not paying enough taxes. I haven't actually read it yet, but I wanted to post it before I get too far down the road and forget.

Here's the link: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/15/opinion/stop-coddling-the-super-rich.html

And then there's this little tidbit from Warren - thanks to La Reina for sending it to me:

The Federal Budget put in simpler terms...

The U.S. Congress sets a federal budget every year in the trillions of dollars. Few people know how much money that is, so we created a breakdown of federal spending in simple terms. Let's put the 2011 federal budget into perspective:

• U.S. income: $2,170,000,000,000

• Federal budget: $3,820,000,000,000

• New debt: $ 1,650,000,000,000

• National debt: $14,271,000,000,000

• Recent budget cut: $ 38,500,000,000 (about 1 percent of the budget)


It helps to think about these numbers in terms that we can relate to. Therefore, let's remove eight zeros from these numbers and pretend this is the household budget for the fictitious Jones family.

• Total annual income for the Jones family: $21,700
• Amount of money the Jones family spent: $38,200
• Amount of new debt added to the credit card: $16,500
• Outstanding balance on the credit card: $142,710
• Amount cut from the budget: $385

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Nuevo Nuevo

Home grown music, right here in Austin, from my close friend Meagan and Riddlore?...CD release at Esquina Tango a couple of weeks ago...

kind of illusion

bajo la tierra :: riddlore?



megalore :: meganoke [artwork for this one is Alejandro Almanza (HOU) I believe]



Beautiful Tango

Hindi Zahra ...thanks go to Emily Valentine and "Tanguera PorSiempre" on Facebook for the find...





Saturday, July 16, 2011

Rebuild the Dream | This Weekend

Van Jones has formed a new organization called "Rebuild The Dream" as in the American Dream - emphasis on "Jobs" and "The Economy", with some other really good ideas that we've all be thinking and talking about. And *not* talking about.

Organization, or "movement" - it appears there might be a possibility to get some steam going on the grassroots level. We've got the Tea Party, the Coffee Party, MoveOn.org, and several others I'm sure, and now we're going to have #RebuildDream. The folks who are gonna tell Congress how it's gonna be? This might be a dream. But it's worth a shot.

Don't get me wrong, I think my tone may be coming across as cynical. I'm into this, I really am - I'm mjust a bit concerned that we may yet again miss the mark and miss out on a tremendous opportunity to effect change and ultimately lose steam. Some vitally important marks in my view. Marks or targets across the board in our world today. I could go on and on and get all verbose and blogarrheal, but I won't. I just wanted to share the agenda/talking points for tomorrow's House Meetings which are being held across the country. Actually they're calling them "Dream Meetings". Kind corny, but I'll go with it. I'll be going to one in Austin - it's filled up at 100 enterprising attendees. I've been looking for a way to get more involved in my own governance. It will be interesting to say the least.

One thing - I'm with sweetiepiehoneybunch on this - the phrase "The American Dream" is so cliche'd to the point of being hackneyed, overused, misunderstood, misdreamed, misdirected, misinformed and exclusionary to the point of being insulting and delusional. It was our collective pursuit of "The American Dream" that got us here. Follow the "The American Dream" formula and you'll get the house with the white picket fence and 2.3 kids, a dog, a cat, a boat or Harley or both and live happily ever after.

I'm not sure I, or we, want to "rebuild" "The American Dream". I think we need to re-think it first. Re-dream it? Re-evaluate it? Re-up it? Re-deconstruct it? Re-name it? Vision? Mission? Construct? Contract? Covenant? And it can't be just "American". Sure it can start here - but it must include a global vision in cooperation with our fellow inhabitants of the planet. Not "our" plan/vision/dream/construct foisted on "them", but our plans in coordination and cooperation with their plans.

I'm with Van and his people on the Top 40 list in the agenda. Narrowing it to 12 as the basis of "the contract" to "Rebuild" "The Dream" will be a little difficult - but do-able. I would go with the Top 40 as the contract, but y'all know me - Mr. Long-Winded Man I Am. So much for not getting verbose in this one. (grin)

Let's call it "The New Global Vision For The Long Term Sustainability and Viability of Humanity and All Critters and Ecosystems to Ensure We All Survive For at Least Another 1,000 Years and Hope that the Aliens Rescue Us with Some Cool Technology By Then" or something along those lines. Start taking care of ourselves AND our neighbors AND Mother Nature. Someone with more time on their hands can come up with something snappy, an acronym, and a logo with some good PR "ooomph". Muscle, horsepower, punch. Something to get everyone's attention and keep it for the next 50 years.

I just thought of a good one, but I also just censored/filtered myself. Y'all will just have to imagine. It was colorful, damned colorful I say.

Anyway, 'nuff said. Here's the agenda for tomorrow's meetings across the country. More to follow in August - August 10 is our "Action Day" - getting the message (gelled from tomorrow's meetings) to Congress during their recess. And then more House Meetings in September. I'm thinking we'll host one out here. We'll see.

Y'all have a great weekend! Time to run the ranch and mow the yard.


Rebuild the Dream Dream Meeting Agenda

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Learn to Tango with Alex Krebs & Jenna Rohrbacher iPhone/Pad App

Alex Krebs & the divine Ms. Jenna Rohrbacher.

Only Volume 1 "Beginners" is available. Priced at $9.99.

http://itunes.apple.com/us/artist/tango-berretin-llc/id441320271

Here are descriptions of all 7 volumes: http://www.tangoberretin.com/theapp/

Monday, July 4, 2011

Two Dreams

A couple of weeks ago, a couple of tango friends on Facebook were lamenting the cancellation of the fireworks to celebrate July 4th here in Austin this year. Actually, fireworks have been banned throughout the Texas Hill Country because of the extreme drought. Zero tolerance.

I commented something lame like "Let's use the funds that would have been spent on fireworks to build rainwater collection systems..." A noble thought, perhaps. I thought I was being creative to tie the cancellation of the fireworks due to drought back to the drought itself.

What I really wanted to say is this. "Wouldn't it be amazing if we could gather en masse, without the need for fireworks, and celebrate and honor and ponder and discuss the true meaning of the Independence Day. Not just way back in the good 'ol days - the meaning of the Declaration of Independence - not just that auspicious July 4th back in 1776. But the words themselves. The meaning behind the words. The intent. The vision. Take that and transport it forward to today and what does it mean now? Examine it. Feel it. Inhabit it."

Imagine a true celebration and honoring of a concept. A concept applicable to all of humanity through all time. "Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." A celebration and honoring with families and friends and strangers talking about what it meant and what it means. No fireworks, no apple pie, no homemade ice cream, no BBQ, no American flag. Okay, maybe that's a stretch. That would be like celebrating Christmas by going to church and serving soup at the homeless shelter y nada mas. Perhaps. Maybe. Probably not. But it's the thought that counts, right? We Americans would never give up the pleasure centers, the purely hedonistic, the capitalistic aspects of a holiday - to reflect deeply and inwardly about the true meaning of a concept such as this.

We like to have fun. And that's okay. That's a good thing. Have fun and shoot off some fireworks. Celebrate. It's just a little bit sad that we all don't think a little more about what's behind it all. Like we've lost or maybe even willingly given up on all the stuff that's behind it.

So then this past week I've also been pondering The American Dream. I got an email from MoveOn.org about a "house meeting" in a couple of weeks, which I do plan to attend. Actually lots of house meetings across the country - to meet with like-minded folks and talk about Van Jones' "Rebuild The Dream" "American Dream Movement". As best I can tell, it's mostly about correcting income inequality and strengthening the middle class. It reminded me about my pretty much inactive and languishing cuz I never did anything with it Facebook Group called "The New American Dream". Which I created after reading a Vanity Fair article on the subject - I've posted about that before in here. But that's not what this post is about.

Anyway, so I go to NPR this past Sunday to check out the latest show at Krista Tippet's "On Being". It's titled "The Inward Work of Democracy" - an interview with philosopher Jacob Needleman, author of "The American Soul".

I'm started listening (and have yet to finish listening) and got to clicking around and came across his essay "Two Dreams of America", which is part of The Fetzer Institute's project, begun in 1999, called "Deepening the American Dream". You might recall The Fetzer Institute's "Charter for Compassion".

So, get to the point Alex...I find it interesting that a person can open their heart and mind, have a little tiny epiphany about something, ponder it for a few days, and then be led directly to it by happenstance.

I could go on an on about the essay, but I'm running out of time. Gotta go water the bamboo and catch the latest installment of True Blood. I'll leave it to you guys to dive in a read.

Perfect for some introspection on the subject of freedom and democracy on July 4th.

An absolutely perfect way to celebrate and honor this, and every, Independence Day.



Two Dreams of America | Essays on Deepening the American Dream | Jacob Needleman

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Industrial Scars :: Abstraction in Destruction

Aluminum-Refinery-Photographer-J Henry Fair-Gerald Peters Gallery

ALL RIGHTS RESERVED - J Henry Fair Photographer
www.industrialscars.com/
www.jhenryfair.com/
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/J_Henry_Fair
www.gpgallery.com/


"Abstraction in Destruction"
- past exhibition at the Gerald Peters Gallery in New York.

New York Times' art review of the exhibition, back in January, titled "An Artful Environmental Impact Statement".
.
.
.
.
.
.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Connection and The Power of Vulnerability

Good stuff in this one. Very good stuff. Poignant, in that I am one of the ones with vulnerability issues, which I have been unaware of, or numb to, until watching this. Interesting how things we need to hear and discover about ourselves come along http://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gifjust in the nick of time...

Here's the TEDx intro: Brene Brown studies human connection -- our ability to empathize, belong, love. In a poignant, funny talk at TEDxHouston, she shares a deep insight from her research, one that sent her on a personal quest to know herself as well as to understand humanity. A talk to share.

http://www.brenebrown.com/

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Last Tango in Buenos Aires

Please head on over to Facebook and "Like" Tracy's new travel fiction book titled "Last Tango in Buenos Aires".

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Last-Tango-in-Buenos-Aires/212361298804513?sk=info

Last tango in Buenos Aires by Tracy Johnson

Sunday, June 19, 2011

I always miss my Dad on Father's Day

Next March will be the thirtieth anniversary of my Dad's death.

I miss him still.

Dad Me Pool

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Plains Milky Way

It's a high-res video so it takes a bit to load - at least it does out here in the infrastructure impoverished hill country. It's a high-res video of a really cool time-lapse photography project.

But it's worth it. (The load-wait.)

It'll make a grown man feel like nothing.

Nothing-ness.

Well, like a speck of dust maybe. Perhaps.

Cosmic dust.

A infinitesimal speck of uncreative cosmic dust on my camera sitting on a dusty shelf in a dusty office.


Plains Milky Way from Randy Halverson on Vimeo.

The Truth about the Economy

Robert Reich explains it all in 5 bullet points in 2 minutes. Down there. At the bottom of my insipid ramblings.

Back in the early 1990's, I remember having a very strong gut feeling about an undercurrent redistribution of wealth. We were a family of three living in Flower Mound, Texas - I was a project manager/estimator for a construction company, wifey was a dental assistant/office manager, daughter in public school.

We we living a modest lifestyle within our means - a $95k garden home, an Isuzu Trooper, a Nissan Sentra - no boat, no jet ski, no motor cycle, no lavish vacations, no debt besides mortgage and car notes. Hell, we only budgeted "movie night" (with dinner out) once a month. Our vacations were to Colorado and northern New Mexico - camping out in the National Forest - with a night in a cheap motel every third night or so.

The problem was that this modest lifestyle was eating up essentially 100% of our net income. We didn't have much in the way of savings. No investments. I think I had a 401k. Sundays were my budgeting/bill paying/expense projection days. I tried and tried to figure out where to cut back. Sure, we could have cancelled our cable and saved $25 or perhaps $35 a month. There were no cell phones back then so we had to have a land line. I'm remembering now that I had a company car - so the gasoline bills were low, too.

I remembered looking back to our first car after we were married - a Toyota Corolla for $1,200. And looking at my Isuzu Trooper at $12,000 - my college graduation-gift-to-myself. And then Sentra six years later at $16,000 - used. I remember projecting my weekly take-home pay week after week, month after month, and nothing ever accumulating.

I'm sitting here now acknowledging that we could have shopped for clothes at Wal-Mart instead of Dillard's. We bought our furniture - what little we owned - at Haverty's and Dillards and Foley's. I remember going from a full-size bed to a queen size and thinking/feeling how indulgent and luxurious it seemed.

I remember wondering how we could be working so hard, making good money, living within our means - managing at just above the frugal level. I remember wondering why we were basically just breaking even. I remember wondering why all our neighbors had boats and jet skis and motor cycles and were taking Disney and European Vacations. Most of that was credit cards and HELOC (home equity line of credit), if that credit/default/redistribution of wealth device even existed then.

What I remember most is the feeling that someone, somewhere, was getting rich - accumulating wealth off the backs of the hard working common folks - the "middle class" - and that someone damn sure wasn't me (us).

Those memories are fading into the distant past now - my recollection is vague - but I remember it being very strong back then. A very powerful gut feeling of injustice happening out there in the world. Ah. It's still there, that feeling.

Oh well.

Whatever.

I think I'll make myself a tequila sunrise and go bake myself outside in the shade.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The Texas Manual on Rainwater Harvesting

Free and comprehensive.

rainwaterharvestingmanual_3rdedition

Sunday, June 12, 2011

The Unforeseen Revisited Redux

The documentary "The Unforeseen" came up at dinner last night. I have also been noticing over the past several months that a new mega-strip (large scale strip development - my terminology) development is being built on South Mopac.

Just what we need, more big-box pharmacies and big-box liquor stores. Actually, I'm not sure who/what the tenants will be, but it really doesn't matter.

Actually, here's a list of everything I've been aware of down here in Hays County and southwest Travis county:

:: Widening of two major roads from Wimberley east to the I-35 corridor.

:: Widening of Elder Hill Road - the secret back short-cut from the Salt Lick BBQ to Wimberley.

:: New primary high-voltage power lines along (future) Toll 45 SW.

:: PEC (Pedernales Electric Co-Op) performing a large scale (hundreds of trucks) electrical upgrade of some sort throughout their service area.

:: A new mega-convenience store/gas station at 45 & 1826.

:: Development Notice signage at 1826 & Nutty Brown Road. Rumor has it that another mega-convenience store/gas station will be going in here.

:: A high-rise pole mounted billboard on RR 1826.

:: New model homes popping up in the formerly foreclosed development "Avana" along 45.

:: New golf course water permits being issued by the Hays-Trinity Water Conservation District.

:: New DFC (Desired Future Condition) issued by the Texas Water Development Board allowing a thirty-five foot (35') draw down of the aquifer.

:: A new report indicating that at current growth and use rates, the Colorado River (and Barton Springs and basically all the other rivers in Central Texas) will be DRY AS A BONE by the year 2060 - in fifty years.

It appears that everything is progressing according to plan.

Here's the original "Revisited" post from August of 2008 - in its entirety:


Great Blue Heron

Well, that was a first. It was the first time I have ever cried watching an environmental documentary. Perhaps it hit home for me because it was all so close to home for me. Austin, Barton Springs, Barton Creek, The Edwards Aquifer, The Texas Hill Country. My roots there pre-date the Alamo. My roots go back in Texas before there was a Texas, before there was The Republic of Texas. Deep, deep roots. Deeper feelings, or rather, emotions, about it all.

So, I just finished watching the documentary "The Unforeseen" (on the Sundance Channel), mostly about development, urban sprawl, growth and water in one particular area of Austin, Texas. It carries a much bigger message though, a broad and deep message about all that is facing us these days. It goes not to our standard of living, but to our quality of life. Not quality as in "how good is it?", but quality as in what is the depth, breadth, character, texture, taste, and feeling of our day-to-day lives as individuals, families, social circles, as communities, cultures, societies and nations.

Following are some things, key points, key words that stuck out for me. At the end of the post are some links for you to find out how to purchase or rent the DVD. Or, just be on the lookout for it and watch it when you can.

::
Developers defined as the "classic American character", reshaping the future and getting rich in the process...

::
On golf courses: "I find them repulsive, so uniform and so green, the earth whipped into submission for these men..."

::
Developers, they know the cost of everything, but they know the value of nothing...

::
A conservative lobbyist, speaking, apparently, on "liberals" who enjoy swimming and leisure time along Barton Creek..."these self-indulgences will catch up to you eventually..."

::
"If the people will lead, the leaders will follow..."

::
Robert Redford: "...quick return on short term investment, with long term damage...a scar is all that is left..."

::
A private citizen on private property rights: "...don't want a bunch of sumbitches telling us what to do with it (our land)...."

::
A private citizen shouting and waving a placard: "People are number one! Bugs and birds are at the bottom of the list...Save people first!..."

::
Economists have set up this meter of economic activity...that all growth is good...that ANY economic activity that involves money changing hands is good for the economy...and does not take into account any down side or long term unforeseen costs...

::
There should be honest accounting...the true cost...the long term cost...

::
People are making choices that damage other people...that damage everyone...that damage nature and the environment...that damage the world...and humanity...

::
We should be living in harmony with nature, not in opposition to it...

::
Add quality to the housing stock, without actually expanding housing...housing for everyone...affordable housing...use what's already there...it's not all about size and quantity and gargantuan scale...improve the landscape until we run out of opportunities to improve it...

::
Something about "the pursuit of the almighty dollar"...

::
If you don't act on the gift (of the natural world), then you are part of destroying it...

::
Growth itself is not the enemy...it is the nature of that growth...the quality and character within it...

::
"...where all the land has not been consumed by intention..."

::
We should have a stronger, more mature regard for the future, unwilling to leave a mess behind us...

I was struck by the title "the unforeseen" - that today, we are actually living and reaping the unforeseen consequences of multitudes of actions and directions - paths and choices - individually and collectively - both societal and economic. Are we evolving or devolving?

We are reaping the unforeseen.

The Unforeseen Film Site

The Unforeseen on IMDB.

The Unforeseen on Treehugger.com

The Unforeseen on PBS

Pre-Purchase the DVD :: Release Date September 16, 2008

The Unforeseen on NetFlix

Here's my original post :: On the universe, life and water :: The Unforeseen

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Once upon a time you dressed so fine...

Happy Birthday to Bob Dylan...



Like a rolling stone

Once upon a time you dressed so fine
You threw the bums a dime in your prime, didn't you ?
People'd call, say, "Beware doll, you're bound to fall"
You thought they were all kiddin' you
You used to laugh about
Everybody that was hangin' out
Now you don't talk so loud
Now you don't seem so proud
About having to be scrounging for your next meal.

How does it feel
How does it feel
To be without a home
Like a complete unknown
Like a rolling stone ?

You've gone to the finest school all right, Miss Lonely
But you know you only used to get juiced in it
And nobody has ever taught you how to live on the street
And now you find out you're gonna have to get used to it
You said you'd never compromise
With the mystery tramp, but know you realize
He's not selling any alibis
As you stare into the vacuum of his eyes
And say do you want to make a deal?

How does it feel
How does it feel
To be on your own
With no direction home
Like a complete unknown
Like a rolling stone ?
You never turned around to see the frowns on the jugglers and the clowns
When they all come down and did tricks for you
You never understood that it ain't no good
You shouldn't let other people get your kicks for you
You used to ride on the chrome horse with your diplomat
Who carried on his shoulder a Siamese cat
Ain't it hard when you discover that
He really wasn't where it's at
After he took from you everything he could steal.

How does it feel
How does it feel
To be on your own
With no direction home
Like a complete unknown
Like a rolling stone ?

Princess on the steeple and all the pretty people
They're drinkin', thinkin' that they got it made
Exchanging all precious gifts
But you'd better take your diamond ring, you'd better pawn it babe
You used to be so amused
At Napoleon in rags and the language that he used
Go to him now, he calls you, you can't refuse
When you got nothing, you got nothing to lose
You're invisible now, you got no secrets to conceal.

How does it feel
How does it feel
To be on your own
With no direction home
Like a complete unknown
Like a rolling stone ?

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Nunca hay lluvia...

This thunderhead swept by in a glancing blow the other day, dropping only 150,000 drops on us, hustling off to the north and east in short order. In the photos below, the anvil head is about 30-40 miles away, roughly 20 miles east of Austin, more or less on top of Bastrop, Texas.

It hasn't really rained since September of 2010, with no end to the drought in sight.

This storm was at the very tail end of the system that swept through the southeast spawning all the tornadic activity of biblical proportions over the past two to three days. Rough times for those poor folks in the path of destruction in Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia. The death toll is now passing 300, and they are saying there are another 400 folks "unaccounted for".

ALX_0484

ALX_0499

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Shout out to Tashkent, Republic of Uzbekistan!

Hello and thanks for reading!

Здравствуйте и спасибо за чтение!

Merhaba ve okuma için teşekkür ederiz!

Привіт і спасибі за читання!

ہیلو اور پڑھنے کے لیے شکریہ!

Përshëndetje dhe faleminderit për lexim!

Salam və oxu üçün təşəkkür edirik!

Добры дзень і дзякуй за чытанне!

Sorry, but there's no translator for Uzbek or Karakalpak.

How is the tango scene in Tashkent?

Извините, но нет переводчика для узбекском или каракалпакском.

Как танго сцены в Ташкенте?

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Tango Statics, Strengths, Structural Dynamics and Moments of Intertia

Tango Statics, Strengths, Structural Dynamics and Moments of Intertia


If the man's right hand is located on the woman's left shoulder blade (aka angel wing) a structural deficiency may exist within the psycho-motor-cerebro-cortical-hormonal-pheromonal-energetic-structo-dynamic-cognito-emotive-electro-chemical-synaptic-meta-physical-historical-musico-melodo-rhythmic-primordial-soup-tango-embrace system, resulting in less than optimally balanced dopamine, norepinephrine and serotonin systems, interactions, and inter-relationships, and may induce or result in a less than a maximally pleasurable tango experience.

That is all.

Have a good 'un.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Haynesville



http://www.youtube.com/haynesvillefilm



Release Date ::
Available now on DVD at www.HaynesvilleMovie.com OR on iTunes
Genre ::
Documentary
Studio ::
Three Penny Productions
About ::
Three lives. A nation's thirst for energy. And the find that could change it all.


PLOT OUTLINE ::

"Haynesville: A Nation's Hunt for an Energy Future" is a documentary chronicling the discovery of the largest natural gas field in the United States (and maybe the world - valued at $1.75 trillion dollars). The film examines the historic find in the backwoods of Louisiana, a formation called the "Haynesville Shale," from the personal level as well as from the higher perspective of the current energy picture and energy future.

As the Haynesville boom erupts, we cover three personal stories directly affected by the find: A single mother taking it upon herself to become an activist and environmentalist for her community, an African American preacher who believes that God delivered the Haynesville to make him and his budding congregation rich and a salt-of-the-earth outdoorsman finding himself conflicted as he weighs losing his land because an oil company wants to make him a millionaire.

From the higher perspective, we look at the current energy situation and what something the scale of the Haynesville (170 trillion cubic feet or the equivalent of 28 billion barrels of oil) could mean to the energy picture.

Environmentalists, academics and oil and gas folks explore the idea of trying to find cleaner energy sources and how this natural gas could possibly bridge the country to a renewable energy future.

Directed By ::
Gregory Kallenberg
Produced By ::
Gregory Kallenberg, Mark Bullard

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Here Comes The Sun

When Earthly vexations vex, something like this comes along to put me in my place and give me new perspective.

Up in Buffalo, New York, Alan Friedman makes greeting cards by day, and is an amateur astronomer and astrophotographer by night.

Greeting card maker, amateur astronomer and astrophotographer.

Seems to me to be a gross understatement, when one man, of the seven plus billion on the face of the planet, can bring us images such as these to gaze upon and ponder in wonderment.

Note that you can buy blank cards with some of his amazing images on them.


Have a beautiful, sunny day my friends.




pb-110309-sun-10a.photoblog900 amateur astrophotographer alan friedman




sun_cracked_071710




sun071510_color









http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sun

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

The Awful Truth or The Beautiful Truth?

This is most definitely one of my "non-tango" posts, so please, by all means, feel free to click on past.

I'm sitting here in the early morning dark, reading the "news" as I often do.

Reading and pondering.

For many years now, actually decades, I've wondered about a society's (our society, Western society, or perhaps more accurately, Western civilization) ability to manifest continued/sustained economic growth, resulting in an ever-increasing standard of living, in concert with an ever-increasing level of population.

The population math is simple. 5th grade level. Or it should be. The most recent Crude Birth Rate data for the U.S. available is for 2007. Birth rate of 14.2. Death rate of 8.3. That makes the net increase 5.9. The rates are "per thousand" and the U.S. population is just over 300,000,000. That's three hundred million for the decimally challenged.

The knee-jerk result is pretty much a net increase of 5,000 heartbeats per day. Let me re-phrase. 5,000 new hearts beating per day.

The quick-and-dirty analysis/conclusion I'm about to make is simplistic - that this 5,000 new beating hearts will advance like a wave through the years, eventually turning 18, and wanting/needing a job. Actually, of the 6,128.92 folks who will die today, not all of them had jobs - many are retired and/or permanently unemployed. So that advancing (daily) wave of munchkins/rugrats/young'uns is closer to the daily birthrate figure of 11,671.23. Per day.

The real figure is probably somewhere around 8,000 or 10,000. Ten thousand teenagers turning eighteen today, needing a job this summer, or going off to college next fall, enlisting in their favored branch of the U.S. Military/Industrial/PetroChemical Complex, joining the Peace Corps or a commune, or just being lazy/un-motivated and deciding to live with Mom and Dad for a few more years until they figure it out, or lightning strikes.

10,000 doing their thing to increase their standard of living. Following the formula of The American Dream.

Let's say half of those actually need to be put to work, the other half are doing college or one of the other options.

So that's 5,000/day. Every day. New jobs. New jobs, that as a society, that we need to "create", out of thin air, that didn't exist yesterday. New paper delivery boys/girls, new lawn mower men/women, new babysitters, new burger flippers, new WalMart stockers, new positions, new businesses, new widgets and gadgets and chochkees and whatchamacallits to be invented and manufactured and offered up for sale and/or to separate us from our money, new whatever. New shit to buy with absolutely no redeeming social value. Can't have new jobs for new people without someone somewhere buying some useless shit they are assembling or making or packaging or selling or otherwise offering up to masses. Oh, I forgot, all those types of jobs have been long out-sourced overseas or across the Rio Grande.

Or else they go to the unemployment and/or welfare rolls. Can an eighteen year old kid get unemployment if they've never been employed before? I think not. So the unemployment figures are skewed from the get-go.

They are saying, "they" being the BLS, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, that as of Jan 2011, there are 15,000,000 people unemployed, and only 6,643,000 of those actually "want" jobs.

As I understand it, the self-employed, the under-employed, and those who have given up and are no longer seeking employment are not in those figures. I would say the real figure is closer to 20 or 25 or 30 million. I would offer the great big sucking noise of our economy as evidence.

Not as many worker-bees in the economy, not as much cash in the economy. Or, more accurately, not as much credit in the economy. We weren't living in a cash-based economy, we've been living in a credit-based-live-beyond-your-means-on-borrowed-money economy. Y'all know what I think on that subject.

5,000 new jobs per day.

150,000 new jobs per month.

1,825,000 new jobs per year.

Just to account for population growth.

So, get on with the ponderage Alex. Or is it ponderments? Ponderifications?

I'm sitting here, reading this article, and wondering if a society/civilization/economy can reach a tipping point, a critical mass, where simply no more new jobs can be created. No more new inventions, widgets, trinkets, treasure, fashions can be thought up to separate the masses from their greenbacks. No new services, no new entertainment, no new sports, no new holidays - a critical mass of we've done all we can do to grow the economy, to create new jobs.

We've done it all. Or have we? Is it all/ways about growth and ever higher and higher standards of living? How much more comfortable and luxurious can we human beings "need" to get? Human doings. Maybe we need to do less and be more.

I've gotten to the point that I laugh (okay, maybe not laugh out loud, but at least crack a grin) when I hear the politicians, even our savior Mr. Obama, talk of "creating" jobs and new industry to compete in the world market. I don't discriminate - Blue, Red, tannic acid tea color, even Green - most either don't get it, or won't admit it if they do. When they talk of "growth" and "jobs". Will we have grown "enough" when there is a Rite-Aid or Walgreens Pharmacy or Starbucks on every single corner of every single neighborhood in the land? Is this truly our goal as a society? Is this what is most important to us?

The tipping point is upon us. It is here. We just refuse to see it. We refuse to believe that it could be true - that we've actually been on the wrong path for a long, long time. We're too busy. We've got too much to do. We've got the economic growth engine to be attended to, to be tuned and re-tuned and tweaked and souped-up. The problem is, the problems are, too big to solve. We can't agree on the solutions due to political and philosophical discord. We can't even agree to disagree, we just bitch and moan and disagree all the time while the ship is on fire and sinking. It's just no use even trying.

If this is the case, then it is an awful truth. But I refuse to believe it. The beautiful truth to me is that we can come together, acknowledge the problems that face us like adults, discuss the solutions intelligently and rationally and with civility and compassion and respect and honor.

As I see it, we should be honoring our children, and their children, and many generations into the future, our neighbors, and the planet, and every living creature and ecosystem upon it.

That is the beauty of it. We have before us a beautiful opportunity. An opportunity to change the world for the better for many, many generations to come. To change the way we perceive and approach things with an emphasis on sustainability. Not an emphasis. Sustainability is the way. The only way. Our demise is at the end of this continued path of unsustainable life.

To me, the ultimate form of life, the ultimate standard of living, the highest we can achieve as homo sapiens sapiens, is the sustainable one that honors the planet and future generations.

Even if it means having less in the material sense, making the same amount of money year after year until the day I die, and having more, much more in the life/spiritual/musical/dance/experiential/relationships sense. Family. Friends. Knowing.

Growth yes. But not material/economic growth. Spiritual and intellectual and sentient growth. Growth of mindfulness and awareness. Truth. Beautiful Truth.

Beautiful Truth.

A Facebook friend of mine says we don't have it in us.

I hope he's wrong.