Thursday, August 30, 2007

Weekend in NYC

After being sick last weekend and missing all tango events for almost a week, we were looking forward to the Labor day weekend in NYC. Until our sleeping arrangements fell through. Since we are both on a tight budget, we found someone to host us, but something came up and now, a couple of days before the trip, we have no place to sleep at. I just looked at "availability" of hotel rooms (which I can't afford), yeah, good look finding affordable room in NYC or even around it for the Labor Day weekend, two days before it...

Maybe I'll just pitch a tent in Central park.

Anyway, if any of you knows someone in NYC who can offer a little bit of floor space (we have an air mattress) this weekend for Saturday and/or Sunday nights, please let me know. Now I'm going to look for that tent ...

Alternatively, if a 2-3 people from Boston would like to spend the weekend in NYC and would like to share a room and ride, that would certainly make it more affordable.

1 comment:

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Shitty weekend ...

Friday at the milonga we left early as I wasn't feeling well. My stomach was upset. Once we got home it got worse and by morning I was feeling like I was going to die. Gas, cramps, nausea and weakness. After some pepto-bismol the nausea subsided a bit and diarrhea kicked in. Around 3pm, Deb was hit hard by the same thing. So instead of spending the night dancing at the all night LongaMilonga, which we were both looking forward to, we spent the evening in bed trying to watch a movie, between the often visits to the bathroom.

This morning Deb had to drive to western Mass and I have to run some errands. I wish a had a portable bathroom ...

The only thing I've managed to accomplish yesterday was to make the front pockets for a pair of pants I'm making. After spending a couple of hours on that, and finishing them, I realized the pant panels were cut using the wrong pattern. When I first took the pattern months ago, I made a pair of test pants and then I adjusted the pattern for a perfect fit. Now the panels are cut using that first rough pattern because I forgot to get rid of it ... Grrrrrrrrrr. The fabric is beautiful though, so I'll have to think of a way to salvage it.

OK, I gotta go now to pick up a stove. Hope to make it without ... accidents. Wish me luck ...


Wednesday, August 22, 2007


Last night I went to the "Odd Tuesday" milonga. It's one of the better ones in Boston as far as the quality of dancers, but once the again the very limited space on the dance floor cramped my style. I doubt I will ever enjoy dancing in a crowd.

The only really good tanda was with P, a local dancer on some rather odd music before everybody arrived. Speaking of odd music, S, the DJ last night played some odd sets. Some people seem to enjoy dancing on music which is not normally played at milongas. I don't, I prefer to dance on music I really like, because if I dance on music I don't care for, my dancing becomes monotonous and boring, I just go on "auto-pilot".

So last night I decided on a new "strategy". Instead of just sitting when there is music I don't particularly like, I will ask the newer members of the community. They are unlikely to notice the difference, and it's very useful to dance with more advanced dancers as I learned very early in my tango "career". I would suggest to the more experienced dancers to do the same. You might make someone's night and help with the development of the community. Especially advanced followers, when you have 10 minutes to spare, find a beginner leader and ask him to dance. It helped me a lot when I was starting.

1 comment:

Monday, August 20, 2007

Aside from technique ...

The quest for becoming a "perfect follow" or a "perfect lead" is a long one and it involves lots of practice to improve the technique. But there are some things that one can do right away, aside from technique, to make a single dance or an entire evening a better experience and PLEASE trust me, they are VERY important.

For both leaders and followers :
* NEVER talk (about people/room/shoes/scenery) to your partner (or even worst, with someone else) while dancing. Not only you are likely ruining it for him/her, but you are ruining it for everyone in your close vicinity. So, please do everyone the favor of shutting the hell up. If your partner is the "talker", don't talk back. In many cases, that should take care of it. If she/he insists, say you can't talk and dance at the same time.
* The milonga is the place where your joy of dancing should come out. It's not the place to refine techniques, to learn steps, etc. Many times I enjoyed dances with dancers who were far from being perfect, because I could feel their joy. Don't lose track of the fact that tango is a dance, and it's SUPPOSED to be enjoyed.
* For a lot of people it is extremely annoying when the music is drowned by chatter. So when you are on the sidelines socializing, lower your voice. Get closer to the person you're talking to, or move away from the speaker. Don't try to talk OVER the music for crying out loud.
* Do not be a "baby seater". If you asked someone to dance and they said, "I'm tired, maybe later", DO NOT SIT DOWN NEXT TO THEM AND WAIT FOR THE "LATER". Ever. The only exception to that rule is if THEY ASK you to sit down and wait with them.
* Bring more then one shirt/top, if you know you are sweating a lot.
* Use unscented deodorant (and yes, for the love of God, do use deodorant).
* Don't try to cover a bad smell with deodorant/perfume. It never works. Take a shower, now it's not the time to save money by conserving water.
* If on your way to the milonga, people in your close proximity had sudden respiratory problems, you may be wearing too much perfume. Knock it off.

For followers, under any circumstances do not :
* Look around while dancing, checking out people/room/shoes/scenery. Or, even worst, checking out yourself in the mirror. If you are easily distracted, close your eyes. Some follows like to assist with navigation, and it's useful ONLY when done right. That means, no head turning and not getting tense. If you can't help getting tense when other dancers are getting close, close your eyes.The only thing I should feel from you is a subtle increase in the groundness and/or a slight tightening of the embrace when you think the current direction we're moving could lead to a collision. The key words here are "subtle" and "slight".
* Second guess your leader in navigation. If your lead leads you to step somewhere, step, even if you think will lead to a collision (feel free to communicate your concern by the afore mentioned increase in groundness), but don't refuse to move (or worst, hesitate). I know I'll have some followers (and even leaders) disagree with this, "but he asked me to step on somebody's toes!". For the most part, you don't know that, since you didn't step. The other side of the coin is, do not dance with someone if you don't COMPLETELY trust their ability to navigate in the current circumstances. For example, if a beginner asks you to dance and you think they can't navigate competently in that environment, tell them "not now, it's a bit too crowded, how about later?". And do go get them later, when you think they can hack it ... errr ... I mean, do it.
* Apologize for ANYTHING but hurting someone. Whatever you do, NEVER, EVER apologize for missing a lead or screwing up a step. If you absolutely have to apologize for something, keep it until the dance/song is over.
* Allow your right hand to hang from your leader's left hand like a dead rabbit hanged in a tree. Unlike the tree, we get tired. And it doesn't feel that great holding a dead rabbit in one's hand either, I promise. Keep your own hand up please.

For leaders, under any circumstances do not :

* Aside for keeping an eye on your immediate surroundings, look around while dancing, checking out people/room/shoes/scenery. Or, even worst, checking out yourself in the mirror.
* Appologise for ANYTHING but hurting someone. Whatever you do, NEVER, EVER apologize for a step/sequence/figure that didn't come out as you wanted it. First, since she doesn't know what you wanted to do (hopefully, you are not trying to communicate verbally), she can't tell it didn't come out as you intended it. Second, it makes you look like an insecure leader, and we all know how much women love an insecure man...
* Teach on the dance floor at a milonga. While this is covered by the "do not talk" rule, it merits it's own space. Every time you stop to show your partner something, you are likely blocking the line of dance, forcing people to navigate around you. Which makes you an asshole. Stop that please. Most women resent unsolicited advice on the dance floor at a milonga anyway, so you are effectively shooting yourself in the foot there. If advice is solicited, get off the dance floor or at a minimum, go to the middle of the dance floor. If I see you trying to impress a beginner by "teaching" her your favorite (usually poorly executed) colgada-volcada-dip-sacada combination I will make it my mission for that milonga to dance with all your victims and gently inform them about milonga codes and what kind of leaders they should avoid. With a little help most women figure out the assholes pretty quickly.

And here are a few suggestions, they don't always apply, and they are not a huge deal, but at least consider them.

* For followers, take your glasses off. It's nearly impossible to dance close embrace comfortably with eyeglasses on. Consider contacts. This applies to leaders as well if you can still see well enough to navigate...
* For followers (not much a problem for men), don't wear anything that creates a bulge on your chest/abdomen, no matter how small (like dresses with a knot in front, jewelry, etc). It makes it very uncomfortable in close embrace.
* For leaders. If you get an erection during the dance, err on the side of caution and assume she's not appreciating it. Move to open embrace immediately if it's not visible or just excuse yourself claiming a "bathroom emergency".
* For followers, don't wear tight skirts, dresses. If you can't comfortably take a the largest step you can take wearing pants, it's too tight.

Feel free to add your own ...


Wednesday, August 15, 2007

God damn mega-pixels!

Since many people are aware I'm a photography nut, not a week passes without someone asking me for a suggestion on their next digital camera, since they have an old one that can "only" take 3 (or 2 or 4) mega-pixels pictures and the pictures are not that great. So they want to know if 6 MP is enough, or maybe they need 9 or even 12.

Sigh ...

OK, I'll try to make this as clear and short as possible. The "mega-pixels" (the number of individual pixels the camera sensor has) is ONE of a camera's properties, GENERALLY the LEAST important. Why is everyone talking about MEGA-PIXELS then? Because the manufacturers exasperated by the the increasing dumbness of the general public they finally found a NUMBER they can print on the box. Biiiig number good! Small number baaaaad! So when you're looking at your camera and you see 3 (mega-pixels) and then you look at the one in the store and you see 12, you KNOW it must be the missing 9 meeeeeeega-pixels that make your pictures look like shit.

For those that are not convinced, here are two pictures. Both of them are roughly 1 mega-pixel pictures (click on it to see full size).

Can you tell the difference? If not, stop reading right now and have your eyes checked. Seriously. go now. Don't drive though, take a cab, you must be legally blind. On the top is a picture from my "camera" phone. On the bottom, it's a picture from my compact digital FinePix F31fd (which was set to capture a 1 MP image). Why are they different? For the same reason two 6 cylinder cars are different, one of them can be a recent marvel of engineering german car which gets to 60mph in 4 seconds and makes 30MPG, and the other can be a 1950 piece of shit that needs 4 hours to get to 60MPH and it barely makes it from gas station to the next. Not to mention looks, handling, brakes, noise, interior, ABS, sound system, etc. When you buy a car do you take into account more then the number of cylinders? I certainly hope it's the LAST thing you'd consider. The number of mega-pixels should be the LAST thing you should consider when buying a camera.

Incidentally, the Brownie camera that Kodak started to sell in February 1900 for $1 was likely able to take more clear pictures then more then 50% of the current crop of "camera" phones.

What's important then? Like with anything else, it's a complicated answer. It depends on how are you planning on using your camera. Are you taking most of your pictures outdoors during the day ? Then almost ANY digital camera will do. Do you take lots of pictures in low light and hate the way the flash make most faces look? Then you have to look for low light perfomance (sensor and optics). Do you often go in the wilderness for weeks? Then battery life/type might be important to you.

Here's a list with the most important properties of a camera to get you started.

* The quality of the sensor (flashless low light performance is a good approximation of the overall quality of the sensor and lens)
* The quality of the optics (here bigger, in size, is better. The smaller the glass is, the crappier it will be. Sorry, the laws of physics are at fault).
* Battery type and battery life (bigger battery is better)
* Autofocus speed (try to capture the kitten jumping around? A camera that needs 3 seconds to focus might not work all that well)

There are many other things to take into account and yes, it involves research and ... gasp... thinking!

P.S. I just bought a compact digital camera to have with me when I don't feel like carrying my (rather large) digital SLR. It a Fuji Finepix F31fd camera. Great little thing, only $250. So if you can't be bothered to do your own research, get this one. Sigh ... I know you'll be asking. It's a six God damn mega-pixels.


Friday, August 10, 2007

Video and photography at tango events

As some of you may know, I am a passionate photographer and in the last few months I covered a few festivals and milongas (you can see the results on my website under EVENTS). I have a 9-5 job, as a computer programmer but I'm getting to a point where I'd like to stop doing that. As such, I put some thought into becoming a full time photographer. Part of that research was to see if one can combine tango with photography and try to make some money (not necessarily make a living just by covering tango events).

So for a few of the festivals I covered, I offered prints for sale, at what I thought would be a reasonable cost ($3.75 per 4x6 print). Alternatively, I also offered the full resolution files for a similar cost. While I was not expecting much, I was quite surprised to see that among the three festivals I covered (Alternative in Providence, Yale in spring and Boston in June), only ONE person purchased 3 prints. That's it. I was wondering if anyone cared to comment on that. Is this what you would've guessed? I know I would certainly pay to have some good shots of myself. One reason I can think of is that people could see (and download) a decent size picture from the web for free and apparently that is good enough for most people.

To try to clarify what kind of future a professional "Tango photographer" and/or "Tango/videographer" might have, I have a few questions I would like to ask the community.

1) If a screen resolution picture of you dancing is free to download, would you have any interest in a 4x6 paper print at $3.75? How about in having the full resolution file for $3.75

2) If a screen resolution picture of you dancing is NOT available to download (but rather just a tiny thumbnail size one or a screen size image with watermarking covering most of the surface), would you have any interest in a 4x6 paper print at $3.75? How about in having the full resolution file for $3.75

3) I was thinking about offering (at festivals and/or milongas) a service to record video of the patrons dancing (on demand). It would work like this, the interested party would come see me, pay a fee (per song), and we'd agree on timing. Then I would record them dance with their favorite partner (using a device that allows me to film from a height of 12-15feet, which would allow me to track them at all times). They would then get a DVD at the end of the evening with a high quality recoding. The price I have in mind right now would be $10 per DVD + $10 for each song recorded. So to have a full 3 song tanda recorded, the fee would be $40. If one more DVD (with the same content) is needed, for the other partner, it would be $10 extra. Is this something you would be interested in? Do you find the price: too high, low, about right? An example of a recording I made is here : . Obviously the quality the youtube video is abysmal compared with the original file which the customer would get.

I would appreciate any thoughts you might have on this issue.


Monday, August 06, 2007

Water heater ...

Last year one of my tenant's water heater broke down. I called a plumber and $800 later I had a new heater installed. This morning the water heater for my apartment went dead. Screw it, I'm not paying another $800.

Browsed craislist, found a listing for a relatively new one, drove to Rockport (50 miles away) and picked it up for $75. The gas will be about $20. Stopped at HomeDepot and spent $30 on parts and 2 hours later ... :
Hot water! Not bad for $125 (and 4 hours of driving stop and go traffic ... Grrrrrr). I'm going to take a shower now.


Friday, August 03, 2007

Connection between effort/performance and reward

It constantly blows my mind how little connection between these two paradigms is in the tango world. The DJ plays crap music, everyone still dances. Some dancer sucks badly and they've been sucking for years, yet people are still dancing with them. From the dawn of time, evolution happened because there was a connection between performance/effort and the reward. You didn't move fast enough, you didn't eat. So you either learned to move faster or smarter or you'd die. The good old times ...

Listen, if a DJ sucks, he/she has no reason to change what he/she is doing unless there is a relation between his/her performance and the results (people dancing). In some cases, the DJ doesn't even know how badly they suck, since everyone is dancing anyway. Same with dancers.

So, when a DJ plays some music you don't like, walk off the dance floor. You PAID for the event, they are there to cater to you, not to play for themselves. When a dancer does something that's generally frown upon, walk off the dance floor, but DO TELL THEM WHY, as they might not be aware of it. It may sound harsh, but when I was a beginner, the few times when my partner thanked me in a middle of the tanda, I was disappointed AND confused. If a dancer is a bad dancer and he/she doesn't seem to improve, don't dance with them. That would make them either improve or quit. It's a win/win.