Sketch of the day

April 4th, Classical Underground.

About every two  months, we drive to an industrial desert in Torrance and, with salad and wine, enter one of the nondescript halls. There we join Alexis Steel in his art studio, packed with his large symbolist paintings. The Ukrainian painter organizes a music program for an audience of more than 100 people. Last monday we tremendously enjoyed listening to the singer Delaram Kamareh and the violinist Asya Sorshneva and many more. He says “Art is Great,”  we say “Alexis the Great.”


Sketch of the day

Oktober 31, 2015

The Fighting Tango

In a tango book club we discussed the essay “A History of the Tango” by Jorge Louis Borges (1955). Borges emphasizes that apart from the sexual aspects, violence should be considered the very nature of tango. He refers to violence as part of vir (man), and virtus (courage), the fight as a celebration. This ‘joy of combat’ is best transmitted by music, Borges states, even better than by words. According to Borges, the tango degenerated and lost this element of pure courage in the 20th century, while a moral tone entered the dance.

One of the book club attendants wondered how this nature of violence relates to the tango we are dancing nowadays, where we put so much emphasis on connection. Has the violence disappeared or has it been sublimated in certain movements, like the gancho, or the volcado? Or does Borges refer more to the party in general, the milonga, than to the dance itself? Although some of us experienced fights during a milonga, these are a rarity. Is this force sublimated too, in the well-regulated but subtle game of who dances with whom?

After diving a little deeper into the work of Borges, I see another layer of his statement. Borges despised nationalism. He revolted against the idea of national identity and of seeing the tango as a symbol of Argentinian history. He is much more in favor of the rebel who is lead by his own passion. This rebel can be found between the poor and uneducated. I wonder if Borges ever danced the tango himself… but milonga-lyrics he wrote!

Milonga of Albornoz

Milonga of Albornoz

Milonga of Albornoz (translation by Alastair Reid)

Someone has counted the hours
Someone knows the days,
Someone impervious
to hurry or delay.

Whistling a local milonga,
Albornoz sidles by.
under the brim of his black hat,
morning is in his eye.

The morning of this day,
1890, or so.
On the borders of Retiro
they have lost count by now

of his loves and his games of truco
lasting till dawn, and the dangers-
knife fights with army sergeants,
with his own kind, and with strangers.

More then one thug and crony
has sworn to end his life.
In some corner of the Southside
it waits for him, the knife.

Not one knife but three.
The day had barely dawned
when they faced him, three of them,
and the man took his stand.

A knife thrust found his heart.
His face gave nothing away.
Alejo Albornoz died
as something everyday.

I think that it would please him
that they still tell his story
in a milonga. For time
is both loss and memory.

Sketch of the day

October 7th, 2015


Not straight outta Compton


P. enters the metro

Sitting man (M.): “ Do you have a boyfriend?”

P: “…huhh? I am married, my daughter is 21!”

M: “O.K…. just asking, no problem!”

M: “Are you studying research or something?”

P: “Yes, I study the city.”

M: “Cool…should check out Compton… but not at night! You see… you start talking to me, a black girl would not if she would’ve been married. She would think I would think she wants something from me, you know!”

M: “You dare walking outside, everywhere. A black girl doesn’t. In the hood, if she would walk outside, all she wants is something, you know. “

P: “Is Compton your hood?”

M: “… I was born in Venice. Was at Venice High school. Parents divorced so I spent the weekends in Compton. In Venice I had rich friends. In Compton we hang out in the streets all the time. I am from both worlds. It is all about trust.”

Sketch of the day

September 19, 2015

I was not the only one counting…

This week is LA City bike and pedestrian-count week  #LABikePedCount

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESWednesday afternoon I counted for two hours at the corner Crenshaw – Washington Boulevard. The sun was hot and there was not much going on, bike-wise.  A guy approached…

“Could you please help me to take off my chain?,” he asked me. Indeed a fine golden chain with a tiny clasp on a big sweaty neck, something for female fingers.


It all made sense when I saw where he went next.