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Thursday, January 31, 2008


Today I failed the Flower Test at work. It's the first time I've done that since I started working here.

When I started this job, I did not realize that the owner of our company is famous. But I am not an interior designer--it's not my world.

It would be like if you got a job working for Pablo Veron (you can insert another famous name here if you want) and you didn't know anything about tango, and then you discovered that the mention of your boss's name made other random people raise an eyebrow or speak reverently, in hushed tones.

I just think it's funny though how some of the people who work here (I can't speak for the whole world of interior design) get really intense (read: bitchy) about certain things that don't matter a whole heck of a lot in the big scheme. A few people can get very Norma Desmond-y in this office. Or a little Devil Wears Prada-y. You just have to laugh. But not in front of them, of course.

When I started working here, I was warned about having to buy flowers when VIP clients come into the office. They can't just be flowers, they must be flowers. They must speak to us somehow.

I'm not a complete dummy. I don't buy mums or carnations, or even roses. (They don't like roses.) I buy interesting flowers, nothing too bright or fragrant or flowery. I find flowers with texture.

Today's flowers did not make the cut (the normal people here liked them). In fact, they were banished from the front table when I wasn't looking. But now the flowers are sitting by my computer. They are fluffy and white and they smell really fantastic. It smells like springtime at my desk. And they totally block my vision of the drama queeny person who sneered at them in the first place.

Strangers on a Train

When I first moved to the city, I used to really love taking the train to work. The whole idea of not having to sit in traffic, worry about parking, look for gas stations when the tank's on empty--all of those normal little anxieties instantly evaporated. (Actually, I still am really grateful for not having to deal with those things anymore.)

I used to tell people that I loved Muni when I first moved here, and they looked at me like I had carrots growing out of my ears. Now I realize that that was a pretty greenhorn thing to say because the SF public transportation system has some major problems. But taking the train still beats driving (at least here in the city where people drive like nuts--be warned). Now I just get embarrased for us in theory, picturing what imaginary Parisians taking our trains must think because our meager subway system is such a sad little joke when compared to the Paris metro.

You just have to learn the unspoken rules on how to ride on the train. Like where to stand on the platform to get on the least crowded train or who gets dibs on a newly vacated seat. The other thing you are supposed to learn about the train is how not to look at people. (There's an interesting concept about the familiar stranger that ties in with this, and of course the Walker Evans photo above says a lot.)

When I don't get a seat (which means I can't read my book--I'm not one of those talented, multi-tasking riders who can grip a pole with one hand and a book in the other), I have my little train games. I still do enjoy looking at people (it's my train cabaceo). Once in a while I can get a person to smile back at me. I like to wink at the occasional little kid, but many of them are unresponsive. My other game is to decide if which rider I would pick to kiss if it was my last kiss on earth. Sometimes I don't have very good choices with that game. Or if a person resembled an animal, which one they would be.

I like to see what other people are reading. One Thousand Years of Solitude has been a very popular book on trains I ride. Also The Kite Runner and Absurdistan. Lately, I've noticed a few Atonements (myself being a recent McEwan fan, too, but not because of the film) and some Jane Austen--Northanger Abbey and Emma. Lots of people read The Economist and The New York Times. It makes me happy to see that people on the N-Judah have pretty good taste in their reading material. Once in a while, I'll see someone reading a book that I've never heard of before but looks really interesting and I put it on my mental reading list.

Once in a very great while, you actually strike up a conversation with a fellow traveller. One night, I was on my way home and just finishing the last few pages of Fahrenheit 451. A scruffy young guy--not homeless but definitely wandering--sat next to me, noticed what I was reading, and his face lit up. He said to me, Wow, I remember when I read that book when I was a kid. I really liked it a lot.

I told him the book is still as good as he remembered it (I read it in the 7th grade and again several times years later) and asked him what he likes to read now. He told me that he really didn't buy books anymore (I could have guessed that), but once in a while he goes to the library. I gave him my book and said it's one of those great books that's worth re-reading, but that he had to promise to give it to someone else when he was done with it, because that's the whole point of Fahrenheit 451: Read books and pass 'em on.

He was so happy. It was really cool. That's a little train game I'd like to play again some day.

Even though it doesn't get the hype that Rear Window, Vertigo or North By Northwest gets, I think Strangers on a Train is one of Alfred Hitchock's great movies. Check it out if you haven't seen it. Robert Walker is really, really creepy in it.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008


At 3am on Sunday morning, I woke up to the sound of rain pelting against the windows of my bedroom. So much water this weekend: tears, mist, fog, rain, being very aware of the great expanse of the Pacific Ocean so near to my house. The rain this past Sunday was really powerful; big fat drops that streaked and splattered across the windows. There are more storms predicted this week and I'm looking forward to them.

The hard rain made me feel a lot calmer. Your thoughts and wishes and advice did too.


I am learning that events like this past weekend that cause introspection end up being so helpful to me, even if they are very difficult or very sad events. They are catalysts for change, focus and direction (or redirection), and in my life, I'm trying to always be open to change. These times feel to me like being in a very dark room, not knowing what's in there, afraid you might bump into some furniture and maybe even hurt yourself. And you grope around in the dark and then you find the light switch on the wall, and in an instant, you flood the room with light.

And then you can see what is before you and around you. Then you can decide if you like what's in the room, if you want to move the furniture around, or if you want to throw everything away and start over. Even if you turn the light off again, at least you know what's in that room.


Obviously I don't have any more answers to my big questions than I did a few days ago, but I do have a great support system and a mind that doesn't stop working, which to me are very good things indeed.

I remembered one of my favorite scenes from one of my favorite movies. I won't say that I get all of my life advice from Woody Allen, but there are times when I certainly can relate.

Eternity is really long, especially near the end.--Woody Allen

Saturday, January 26, 2008

I Wouldn't Read This Post If I Were You

Alternate Title: Existential Crisis.

When I first started writing this blog, I didn't think anyone would read it, so I just wrote whatever I felt like. And then people started reading it, and I still sort of wrote whatever I felt like. It's the writing part that has been somewhat therapeutic for me, even if it's only about dancing or a movie or whatever interests me at the moment. I've always wanted to write but either felt I didn't have anything to write about or lacked the discipline. There's something about the blog format that somehow makes it easy for me to put my thoughts together in a way that is pleasing to me. The act of putting words together, moving my fingers on the keyboard and watching the typed words appear before me on the screen is satisfying in a very real way.

So I am writing this post with that in mind. That it will be somewhat therapeutic for me and will help me sort out my thoughts. So you don't have to read it. I just have to write it.

My grandpa is in the hospital. I went to see him today and he looked so completely fragile and terrible that it almost made me gasp. Apparently last night he fainted and fell over in the bathtub, and my grandma called my mom and dad and they rushed over and then called the paramedics. They took him to emergency and this morning admitted him into the hospital for a few days.

The doctor thinks he has pneumonia and right now he's hooked up to an IV and they're giving him antibiotics and a diuretic to help with the fluid that has accumulated in his body which is making it hard for him to breathe. I was in the room when the doctor came in and spoke to him, and it didn't really sound like this was going to be too much of a big deal and that my grandpa could go home in a few days.

My grandpa is 91 years old and for most of his life, I think he has been a pretty healthy person. He's a cool guy, not a real grandfatherly type, in my mind. He is to me someone you can have a fascinating conversation with about 20th century history, politics, old movies, current events. He used to work in the printing industry, and since that was what I got my college degree in, we used to talk about typesetting and printing presses. My grandpa is not one of those cuddly types; he's pretty reserved and very deliberate and thoughtful in his manner of speaking. He was an MP in the Army during WWII and landed at Normandy. I think it was Omaha Beach. I know for a fact he saw a lot of things that affected him for the rest of his life even though he refused to really talk about it. Although I don't really know what he did in France, he is a hero to me.

God. I can't stop crying right now. I am a mess. Normally when I am feeling out of sorts, I desperately want to go dancing because it's so perfect at taking me out of myself, my problems, my worries. Being close to another human being, breathing and just feeling the music. But I can't even think about that right now. I think if someone tried to dance with me, I would dissolve into a puddle of tears. I am doing that right now.

I'm trying to figure it all out. Part of my problem is that I don't believe in heaven/afterlife. Or reincarnation. I wish I did. It would make me feel so much better for my grandpa. And for me. I mean, he's lived a long life and if I could think that he would go on living it somewhere else, I'd feel better about him being sick in the hospital. I brought my deck of cards and did two little silly card tricks for him and my grandma and my dad. Something to entertain but it seemed so pathetic. He was too tired. When I left, I told him I loved him and he said, "Why would you love an old man like me?" It was so small and sad the way he said it. I made myself not cry until I got outside to the car.

I've spent years now making a concerted effort to do the things I really want to do and surround myself with interesting friends. I stopped my fantasy of having a "career" years ago when all it seemed like was that I was working myself to death to make someone else a lot of money. So now I have a job that is well below my abilities but it doesn't give me any stress. I make a decent living and can afford to buy myself the things I want, engage in activities that interest me, and travel once or twice a year. I don't want to have any regrets or think that when I'm very old, I denied myself the experiences that I wanted to have. I think about that a lot. But right now all of those things just seem like postponing the inevitable. Who am I kidding?

So that doesn't keep me from being frightened about what comes next. I've only seen one dead person in my life. It was my boyfriend Dave's mother. She had ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig's disease, which is something you wouldn't wish on your worst enemy. When I met her, we basically were there to say goodbye to her, even though none of us said as much. She was obviously an extremely bright woman and faced her condition with what I can only say was a very enlightened outlook and a real sense of humor. She struck me as being an incredibly brave person even though by that time she had already lost most of her ability to speak and move. I remember thinking that I could never be as brave as she was. The next time I saw her was in the funeral home.

I know me very well. I know that in a few days I will feel okay again and I will move on. I always do. But right now I just had to write this all down so I don't wander around the house in circles. It feels like the only thing I can do.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Fade to Black

Noir City, the 6th Annual San Francisco Film Noir Festival, starts this Friday.

I really didn't know much about film noir until I came under the tutelage of The Boy. For such an irrespressibly cheery fellow, he certainly loves these dark, gritty tales of tough guys and tougher dames.

As always, watching these films as they were intended to be seen, in a rare classic movie house--The Castro Theatre--sitting amongst hundreds of avid film buffs, makes events such as this and the San Francisco Silent Film Festival a huge treat.

I'm reviewing the program schedule to find the films I most want to see. I'm not that much of a diehard noir enthusiast that I will miss a milonga or a class, but there are several movies that are on my list.

One film I own on DVD but would love to see big and bold on the screen is Gun Grazy. This B-movie is a cult classic, and the over-the-top dramatics of the femme fatale, played by Peggy Cummins, will stay in your mind for a long time. A while back I found this great super-condensed version of Gun Crazy, which captures a lot of the spirit of the film in a mere couple of minutes.

Bart: "We go together, Annie. I don't know why. Maybe like guns and ammunition go together."

Gun Crazy from LadyRebecca on Vimeo.

PS. Two other movies on the festival roster that I highly, highly recommend besides Gun Crazy are the original D.O.A. (which has great footage of San Francisco in the 50s) and Jules Dassin's gripping noir, Night and the City, starring Richard Widmark and Gene Tierney. And speaking of Jules Dassin, my all-time favorite movie of his is Rififi, the jewel heist movie that was the mother of them all. If you can't make it to the festival, all of the above-mentioned movies are on DVD.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

The Food Baby Strikes Back

For those of you who remember that I had a baby on Thanksgiving, I'm now pleased to tell you that the Crack Potato and Turkey baby now has a new sibling named Thanh Long.

If you live in or near San Francisco, or plan to swing through town, you must visit this restaurant (it's much nicer and less crowded and touristy than its sister restaurant Crustacean on Polk). If you live near the N-Judah line, the train stops right in front of the place, so you don't even have to drive!

Hear me now, do as I say and just order these things: the Roasted Crab, and Garlic Noodles. Also the Colossal Royal Tiger Prawns. You can get an appetizer and dessert if you want but the food baby you have will be large enough without them.

Definitely wear pants with elastic. Sweat pants would work. My jeans are seriously unbuttoned right now.


The other day, The Boy, Ms. Wellspring and I shared a wonderful sushi dinner with some new friends visiting from New Zealand that The Boy met at MacWorld.

These charming, bright young men recently started their own company, Polar Bear Farm, which creates applications for the new love of my life, the iPhone. The Boy, in his inimitable way, befriended these guys at MacWorld and then spent the day after the conference taking them on his special tour of San Francisco. Ms. Wellspring and I agreed that it's such a unique delight to meet and share with people from other countries.

Over the course of dinner, I learned three new things.

  1. That McDonald's in New Zealand serve lamb chops (Eva! Let's go!);
  2. That New Zealand's politicians receive campaign funding from the government, so political campaigns are never centered around raising money; and
  3. That when you order sake at a good Japanese restaurant, the sake is poured to overflow into a little wooden box and that generosity is to wish the person abundance in their life (thank you, Ms. Wellspring, for explaining that to me).


The reminder about abundance came up for me again yesterday in Ney's class. Ney's presence and ease with students, and the manner of his teaching reminded me of that sake flowing into the glass and over the glass and into the lacquer box. Everyone was having such a good time learning and laughing and enjoying themselves. There isn't that stress that you feel in some classes, the pressure to learn and the frustration of not getting it. We never have that in his class.

What happens is that a feeling of generosity and openness and fun is created, and then that spills over into the milonga afterwards. Ney not only teaches us how to dance but how to enjoy each other. That may be an even greater gift than the dance itself.


There are short-cuts to happiness, and dancing is one of them. ~Vicki Baum

Photo from flickr.

Saturday, January 19, 2008


If you don't hear from me for a while, it's because my new iPhone and I have ridden off into the sunset together.

I'm in iLove.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Three Men Who Made the World Smile

Happy Birthday, Cary, Oliver and Danny. We could use a few more guys like you around here these days.

Below are links to their biographical information, and some of their classic work on video.

Cary Grant
An article from The Atlantic.

A great scene from Bringing Up Baby.

If you haven't seen The Awful Truth, you are missing out on one of the best screwball comedies ever. It's one of my all-time favorite movies. (The whole movie is on youtube, and this is just one of the best parts, but go get the DVD.)

A TCM Tribute to Cary Grant, narrated by Michael Caine.

Oliver Hardy
Below is one of my favorite Laurel & Hardy films, Brats. The entire film is here below, in two parts. (Brats is not available on DVD, so having it here is a rare treat.)

And another rare classic scene: "Soda, soda, soda...and what will you have, Stan?" This scene is awesome.

Danny Kaye

Who doesn't love The Court Jester?

Hawkins: I've got it! The pellet with the poison's in the vessel with the pestle; the chalice from the palace has the brew that is true! Right?

Griselda: Right! -- but there's been a change: they broke the chalice from the palace...

Hawkins: They broke the chalice from the palace?

Griselda: ...and replaced it. With a flagon.

Hawkins: A flagon?

Griselda: With the figure of a dragon.

Hawkins: Flagon with a dragon.

Griselda: Right.

Hawkins: ...but did you put the pellet with the poison in the vessel with the pestle?

Griselda: No! The pellet with the poison's in the flagon with the dragon! The vessel with the pestle has the brew that is true!

Hawkins: The pellet with the poison's in the flagon with the dragon, the vessel with the pestle has the brew that is true.

Griselda: Just remember that!

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

A Question for My UK Tango Friends

This great milonga traspie features Ricardo Maceiras and Veronica Lorenz dancing at the Tango Nagracha club in Holborn, London. Are these regular teachers in London or visiting guests?

So, are any of you guys in the background of this little video? I'm dying to know if you're there!



Well, maybe not Tin Man rusty. But I was squeaky.

My first class and milonga after the hiatus. The class was great. Ney, of course. Friendly faces I had missed seeing, and more leaders than followers. That's nice for a change.

El V, friendly and crowded but not my night. I broke my milonga rule and danced a partial tanda of milongas with someone I didn't know and hadn't seen dance milonga before. I'm glad I made it out with all of my toes, but I had to cut and run after the third song. It just wasn't a good match. He was really hard to follow and didn't seem to notice he was dragging me all over the floor.

It's amazing when you haven't worn heels for two weeks how quickly your feet can start to hurt. It's like I'll have to break them in again and remind them to toughen up.

All in all, it was just great to be out, and the best part was just being with friendly company, chatting and listening to the music. Some people asked where I had been, and told me they had missed me. That was sweet, and it made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

Tonight it was totally okay to have a less-than-perfect dancing night. I'm in this for the long haul--tango will be here tomorrow, too.

I just have to find my oil can and get some of the squeaks out.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008


I'm going dancing! (Finally!)

A class with Ney, and then a milonga.

In the meantime, I'll just watch Ney and Jennifer dance to keep me going until tonight.

First, my favorite vals: Desde el Alma (if I'm lucky, maybe I'll dance to this one, too.)

And then a second, just because I love to watch Jennifer's feet. Maybe I'll wear green shoes tonight, too.

Monday, January 14, 2008

The Tao of Tango Book Club: First Reading Selection

UPDATE 1/14/08: Hi everyone! Let's try this again. ;-)

I know there are some of you out there in the blogosphere who want to participate in our little book club/salon. It was hard getting together with the holidays and everything, so let's start this over from the beginning.

**If you haven't read Johanna's good news, check it out here.**

Since we're starting from the beginning, I've reposted the Book Club discussion concept, as well as the first reading assignment. If someone wants to start off the conversation, please do. Otherwise it will be just me and Johanna, and we will be lonely without you.

So, please read below, and let's jump into the Preface and Chapter 1!


For each installment of our Tao of Tango discussion, I'll select one or more points to open the conversation. I think our book club community would love to hear how this book made you examine or understand tango as it pertains to your personal experience. Again, if you have not read the book but feel you want to contribute based upon the excerpts or questions posed, please do.

Please feel free to address the questions here, or you can also discuss something else that made an impact on you in the reading. All I ask (to keep things simple):
  1. Reply in keeping with the reading matter (don't jump ahead to a chapter we haven't covered yet).
  2. Reply in this blog so all of us can keep a consistent thread of conversation. If there is more than one chapter, please reference the particular chapter so it is easier for us to know what you are replying to.
  3. Don't feel that you have to reply to every question. Reply to as many or as few questions as you like. (But if you're normally just reading, please give participation a try... don't sit on the sidelines all the time. Don't be shy. We'd like to hear from you!)
  4. If you would like to reply to or comment on another reader's comment, that's fine. I know you all will be respectful of each other and see no reason to moderate comments.
We can tweak things as we go along if we need to. Okay, enough rules...thanks!


Reading Selection: Preface

In the preface, the author gives us an insight into her personality based on her understanding of male/female energies. She describes her struggle to appreciate/accept the feminine, passive energy (yin) and her identification with a more masculine, active energy (yang) was based on her impression that passivity=weakness and activity=independence. The author states:
I simply could not understand that there was a monumental difference between male and female energy and male and female behavior.

  1. How do you define the difference between energy and behavior? How do you feel that energy and behavior affect your dancing?
  2. Did you consciously think of tango as a way to self-understanding? Did you ever see it for anything other than a dance? If so, when?
  3. Is there another point in the Preface that you would like to address? (Please give us an excerpt or page number in your comment so we know where you are coming from.)
Reading Selection: Chapter 1 - The First Step

In this chapter, the author describes how she started tango and the surprising impact this dance had on her immediately. I would call this chapter a description of an awakening.
  1. How did you get started in tango? What were the circumstances that made you start?
  2. What was the first real "lesson" that you learned from tango, besides the basic steps? What made you realize that tango could be more than just a dance?
  3. Is there something about the essence of tango that you consciously try to keep integrated into your daily life?
  4. Is there another point in Chapter 1 that you would like to address? (Please give us an excerpt or page number in your comment so we know where you are coming from.)

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Your Thoughtfulness Is Greatly Appreciated

Today I walked again in the Land of the Living.

It was a small revelation to me to be outside in the sunshine, breathing effortlessly (i.e., without the need for a wad of Kleenex stuffed in each pocket, and no coughing). For the first time in two weeks, I felt pretty again.

Even though I only ran a few small errands at the neighborhood shops, I relished each step. I really did.

What I thought about, besides my happiness at being restored to myself again, were those of you who took the time over the last two weeks to comment on my blog, to write me an email, to call me and leave me a voicemail--just to say that you were thinking of me and you had a wish that I would feel better soon or had some advice to help me get there.

I just read this quote and it seemed appropriate:

What a wonderful thing is the mail, capable of conveying across continents a warm human hand-clasp. ~Author Unknown

It may not have seemed like a lot to you, but it meant a lot to me. So you know who you are...and I thank you. You are good medicine.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Chacarera, Anyone?

I always use the break at a milonga (it's usually salsa at the milongas I go to) to rest my feet. I don't know how to salsa, anyway. And if I'm lucky, I do need a chance to rest before the next tanda.

But if it was a Chacarera break, then it would be a different story. That is one of the other things I will miss when Roberto leaves for Argentina. He is the only teacher I know who teaches Chacarera, and always has that dance as his break instead of salsa.

The Chacarera is the folkloric dance of Argentina. It's lively and earthy and it makes you smile. You get to stomp your feet and clap your hands. And if you are a lady, you get to swoosh your skirt, too (if there's something to swoosh). It's really a lot of fun, and it's one of the things I always looked forward to at Roberto's milongas (if I could find a partner--not everyone knows or wants to do it because I think it's more of a performance as many people sit it out and watch.)

I know it's probably very common to have the Chacarera break in Argentina (duh) but here it is not. But I'm curious...do any of you go to milongas where the Chacarera is played regularly? Do your teachers give classes in it?

There really is no opportunity here to dance it here that I'm aware of except for Roberto's milongas. I'm sad I won't have a chance to do the Chacarera anymore unless I get back down to BA, which means that I'm probably going to forget how to do it sooner than later.

Below are some of the better videos I found of Chacarera, to give you an idea of what it looks like if you haven't seen it before. Unlike tango, there aren't a lot of great examples on youtube. These all are folkloric groups, not regular people at milongas, and I think you'll enjoy their dancing.

En Garde!

Dear Eva and Malena,

You've inspired me to dust off my glove, mask and foil! Here is some fun viewing for my "Sisters of the Sword."


The first video, full of classic swashbuckling, is great because it has a clip of Maureen O'Hara in At Sword's Point. She was an accomplished fencer and did many or most of her own stunts. The actors shown here were known for their prowess with the sword, even though these fights were all obviously choreographed. And my first love, Errol, is featured after the Maureen O'Hara clip. *swoon*

This clip gives a nice historical setting to the modern day art of fencing. I think I'll have to get this DVD for myself:

I just found an article that descibes fencing as the martial art of incurable romantics...perhaps that's the tie between tango and fencing? That might explain it.




Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Eye of Newt

I must be the crabbiest sick person in San Francisco. I am sick of being sick!!! (Kicks trash can under desk spitefully.)


It seemed that just this past Sunday, I could see the light at the end of the tunnel. I was singing hosanas to Sudafed and its powers. But now I can see that the light at the end of the tunnel was actually the oncoming train.


No dancing tonight. Ney is back and I was so so so so so looking forward to his class. I can't go looking like the Wreck of the Hesperus. Or breathe on somebody.

The colorful picture above is a rhinovirus. If you ever wanted to know how these little buggers keep you from enjoying your life, click here. It's actually kind of interesting.

No it isn't. I hate them.

I think I'm going to walk over to Chinatown today at lunch and see if I can find a new remedy. The streets of Chinatown are lined with herbalist shops filled with bins of wood chips, unidentified dried roots and dead creepy crawly things: maybe they have something better than Sudafed. I'd even suck on an eye of newt* if it would help.

No, I changed my mind. I would take another Sudafed.

*"Eye of newt, and toe of frog, wool of bat, and tongue of dog" was part of the incantation of the three witches in Shakespeare's Macbeth. Did they know something the makers of Sudafed don't?

Monday, January 7, 2008

The Boy's Other Girlfriend

We missed her birthday. It was yesterday.

Since we don't have Employee's Entrance yet, we'll just have to look at something else.

I know this last picture is your favorite! heh heh.


I have to admit that I'm one of those people who breaks chain letters.

But Ms. Wellspring tagged me, and this little exercise does seem like fun, and there's no wierd karmic threat imposed by my not participating, so here is my reply to her tag. But first, here
are the rules:

Link to the person who tagged you (okay, I've done it twice for good measure) and post the rules on your blog (here ya go): Share seven random and/or weird things (you can decide if they're wierd) about yourself. Tag seven people at the end of your post and include links to their blogs. Let each person know they have been tagged by leaving a comment on their blog (done).

My hero is Carl Sagan. I wish I could have met him.

I've taught myself to do two things in my dreams: How to drive a stick-shift car (no joke) and I invented my recipe for my famous mashed potatoes that are so deliciously addictive that The Boy has named them Crack Potatoes. I guess I am a very practical dreamer when I want to be.

I have been TV-free for more than 12 years (and no, I don't miss it one bit). That doesn't mean I don't sit on my butt a lot. I read about 1-2 books per week, and if you ever check out the Recently in the DVD Player section on my blog, you know I watch a ton of old movies on our movie projector system.

My astrological sign is Scorpio, which isn't wierd, but apparently pretty much all of my planets and whatchamacallits are also under the sign of Scorpio, too, which raises eyebrows among those who are astrologically inclined. My birthday is 11/11 and I just think that's super cool. Even though I don't believe in astrology or numerology. (No, this is not my chart. Mine is in my underwear drawer.)

I have never had a cavity. It's not that I'm a paragon of dental care, I'm just really lucky. I think my sister got all of my cavities, and hers too.

Until I was about 16 years old, I wanted to be a paleontologist. I still am fascinated by dinosaurs. I just don't want to get hot and dirty digging them up.

Johanna won't believe this, but my favorite food is actually not chocolate. It's lamb chops.

No, not that Lamb Chop!

These lamb chops. Mmmm. Must be the T-Rex in me.



My little tagging victims--er, bloggers are (should you decide to accept the challenge):

Le Chemin du Tango
Ms. Hedgehog
Tangrila (Ms. Johanna renamed!)
Working Artist
Siguendo mi corazon
Old Hollywood Glamour
UPDATE: Heartbreak Tango

Friday, January 4, 2008

Cheap Thrills

The other day I had to do one of those marathon shopping sprees that took me to all of the Big Box stores. I made my Costco run and, since I was in the area, a once-a-year stop at Wal-Mart.

The real reason I had to go to Wal-Mart?


Like most other makeup artists and junkies, I am on a quest. A Quest for the Holy Grail of Mascara. Fickle, pouty, never-satisfied mascara questers like myself are constantly pouring over the makeup blogs (god help me) and reading reviews of the newest products. I have banned myself intermittently from reading makeupalley.com because it fills my head with a new crop of brands I've never heard of but now must try, and cosmetics that I feel I can't live without, even though I just learned about them five minutes ago.

I had been reading a review on Capital Hill Barbie about this Maybelline XXL mascara I haven't tried yet, and she waxed so poetic about it that I was convinced it might be The One, or at least a runner-up. Since most mascaras end up being a bit of a disappointment, I really don't want to pay full price for them, even if it's drugstore stuff. I might end up using it once or twice before it goes in the trash, so that's where Wal-Mart comes into play. I also tend to go on drugstore-brand binges from time to time, when my Chanel and NARS and YSL products go on hiatus while I dump a treasure trove of cheapie makeup all over my vanity table (some or most of which then usually goes in the trash at some point, too).

The problem with beauty items being discounted is that a person with a demented brain will buy more of them.

When they have no business doing so.

So my Wal-Mart haul ended up being pretty fruitful. Not only did I get the Maybelline mascara (which I haven't tried yet, silly me), but I got the Cover Girl Lash Blast mascara, which to my surprise, I actually like more than I thought I would. You do need at least four coats, though, to get the "Blast" they must be talking about. I also got the new Maybelline mineral liquid foundation which is apparently so new that I can't find a link to show you. Even though I have to mix two shades together to get my color, the foundation has a very nice finish and SPF 18. For sentimental reasons, I also got some Coty loose powder. This is a vintage beauty product if ever there was one. I forgot how light and silky the powder is, and the scent reminds me of my high school makeup days. It's actually a very nice finishing powder (get the Translucent), and they have a fragrance-free version if you don't want to go around having a face that smells as nice as it looks. ;-)

But the biggest score of all was at Costco. Ladies, get yourself this brush set! For $21.95, which won't even buy you a single brush at Sephora, this is a very, very nice brush set. It has all the basics, and a few nice extras, including a brush roll and some more "fancy" type brushes like a fan brush and a kabuki brush, both of which are great to have, and purchased individually would cost you more than the whole shebang.

If you can get over the fact that all of your brushes say "Kirkland" on them, I think this is one of the best beauty buys I've seen in a while.


So while I'm in Cheap Thrills mode, here are some drugstore products that I use regularly, which are really quite nice and won't break the bank:

NYC Ultra Moist Lipwear in Sheer Red, at a whopping $0.99 a tube. Great consistency, gorgeous berry color (can be used as a stain). I'm on my fourth tube of this one.

Rimmel Gentle Eye Makeup Remover: It's not oily so you won't get goo in your eyes. It doesn't sting, either! Not good for waterproof mascara, though.

Rimmel Soft Kohl Kajal Eye Pencil in Jet Black: I can't speak for the other colors (and those may not be the same quality) but this black pencil is sooty black, soft enough to smudge and full of pigment. This has to be the blackest pencil I've ever used. I'm hooked.

Max Factor Pan-Stick Ultra Creamy Makeup: This is some real old-timey stuff, but it's a worthy and overlooked foundation. Max Factor pretty much created the modern cosmetics industry, and anyone who likes makeup owes him a debt of gratitude. (A fabulous book, if you can find it--I got mine on Amazon-- is Max Factor's Hollywood: Glamour, Movies, Make-Up). But aside from that, this makeup can be blended out for sheer coverage, or layered for more coverage, and best of all, it's quick and easy. Use it with the Costco foundation brush!

Jane Blushing Cheeks: Jane is an Estee Lauder brand so you're getting department store quality at a fraction of the price. I probably have almost every shade of these blushes, even though I am a confirmed NARS blush junkie. But these are really nice for the money and I use them a lot.

Bye Bye Blemish: You can spend $20 on the Mario Badescu version at Nordstrom, or shell out $9.00 and get this stuff. I swear this pink liquid is the bomb if you break out. It's a sulfur-based product that you dab on at night with a q-tip and I promise your pimple will be gone in the morning. It is a little stinky but don't let that stop you. Even The Boy uses it and if he reads this he will make me erase this sentence, so I am going to live dangerously here.

Alpha Hydrox products: I haven't tried all of them but the ones I have (the souffle, lotion and the revitalizing peel) rival any expensive department store or dermatologist brand skin care. The pH of these AHA products is actually effective (so many others are buffered to the point that they are useless) so you can get some really good results with these if you use them regularly. (If all of this sounds a bit too technical, let me know and I'll explain it better.)

Clean & Clear Oil Absorbing Sheets: Don't even buy anything else. The only other thing that works better (and is free) are toilet seat paper cover/protector thingys. Right, Elizabeth?

Cococare Cocoa Butter Lip Balm: Awesome lip balm. Great for bedtime. And it's what, $1.25?!! If you want to smell like a giant piece of chocolate (Johanna?), get the Hand and Body lotion. It's really great for dry skin but if you start going on chocolate binges in the middle of the night, it's not my fault.

The way I look it is if you subsidize your vanity with a few of these Cheap Thrills, then you'll have more money for things that are really important...like shoes.

Tangobaby and the Damned Crazy Blustery Day

We are having the craziest rainstorm here today!
The wind is blowing so hard that it's shaking the giant windows in our 9th floor office. Some of us aren't real keen on that. (My boss says we'll be okay but he's glad we're not on a higher floor.)

I couldn't even use my umbrella today to walk down the street because I almost ended up like Mary Poppins--the wind turned my umbrella into a paraglider.

I know for those of you who live in places where there's actually real weather (snow, hurricanes, etc.) you're probably laughing, but for us babies in California, this is very exciting.

UPDATE: Okay, maybe we're not such babies. On the news it says the winds are clocked at 70 m.p.h.!

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Sweet and Bittersweet

In between some serious product testing of the various types of cold medications (they're all crap pretty much, except maybe for Mucinex) and different kinds of Kleenex (the ones with aloe are the best), I had one glorious, sparkling day of health where I felt fabulous and I went dancing. It seems so long ago, but it was only last Friday.

I went to one of Roberto's last classes and milongas here in the U.S. My teacher Roberto is moving back to Argentina. I get the impression that if it's not a permanent move, it's somewhat semipermanent and he's going to be gone for a while.

Roberto was the first teacher I had who didn't teach me steps. In fact, the first class I took with him confused the heck out of me because it seemed like he wasn't teaching "tango" at all. Where were the patterns, who steps where and does what when? Instead, Roberto had us doing exercises like pretending to hold invisible beach balls between us and our partner, and putting our hands on our partners hearts and moving (not dancing) with our eyes closed. I seriously didn't get him at all.

I almost didn't go back after that first time because I didn't think I was going to learn anything about tango with Roberto. Ha, shows what a dummy a smartypants girl can be. I'm so glad I got over myself because, if it wasn't for Roberto, I'd probably be doing some form of Tango LEGO. Plug-n-play tango.

Roberto is one of those guys that truly has a twinkle in his eye. His eyes sparkle with humor, sometimes devilish, but always with fun. He's got the most charming, crookedest grin, too. Roberto has a thick accent and lots of times I still don't really understand what he's saying. But at the end of the day, the lesson still sinks in. He makes us laugh, but at the same time, teaches us things like no one else can.

I ended up going to Buenos Aires with Roberto and some of his other students. It was a totally random last-minute decision, but it was because of him and the experience he created for me in BA that completely changed how I came to understand tango and why I love it now the way that I do. On our trip, Roberto took all of us under his wing, but made each one of us feel special. Whether it was making sure we got home safely from a milonga, interpreting an ardent admirer's invitation to "get a coffee" (remind me to tell you about that someday), dancing with us when no one else would cabaceo us, Roberto was there for us. He taught us how to appreciate the music we listened to, why a good DJ is so important, and how to admire the styles of tango from all periods of history.

At this last milonga, I just had to ask Roberto for a tanda. Because he's the DJ and also the teacher, I feel funny about asking him (or any teacher for that matter) to dance with me because, well--maybe he wouldn't want to dance with me socially, just because he's my teacher. But he ended up making a whole tanda (with five songs, no less), and even though I'm sure I screwed up royally a few times, I wanted to savor every moment I could get with him. I reminded Roberto of a dance we had together in Sunderland: it was a vals and he was doing all of these crazy little things where he was playing with my feet while we were dancing, and I couldn't stop giggling. It was so fun. I felt like I was gliding like a swan but at the same time having the best little joke. Roberto didn't remember this, but it's one of my favorite memories of BA.

Just thinking that I won't get to see Roberto after January reminded me of that classic song We'll Meet Again:

We'll meet again, don't know where, don't know when,
But I know we'll meet again, some sunny day.

Ciao, Roberto. Safe travels to you and lots of love, always.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Okay, So I'm a Teeny Bit Late

But I really mean it. Happy New Year! And...

Xin nian yu kuai!

Godt Nytår!

Gelukkig nieuwjaar!

Bonne année!

Aith-bhliain Fe Nhaise Dhuit!

Gutes Neues Jahr!

Shanah tovah!

Buon Capo d'Anno!

Akemashite Omedetou Gozaimasu!

Godt Nyttår!

Maligayang Bagong Taon!

Szczesliwego Nowego roku!

Feliz ano novo!

La Multi Ani!

S Novym Godom!

Feliz Año Nuevo!

Gott Nytt År!

Yeni Yiliniz Kutlu Olsun!

Blwyddyn Newydd Dda!

And Merry (insert your holiday here), too. Hope it was fab! (Boy, they were so cute. I miss George.)

And lastly, a perfectly truthful New Year's adage from (still) the funniest writer in American history:

New Year's Day: Now is the accepted time to make your regular annual good resolutions. Next week you can begin paving hell with them as usual.