For fun’s sake by da-AL

Spanish wax napkin origami of Flamenco (Sevillana) dancers.
By Eekiv – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

Surfing about the net while I’ve been editing my soon-to-be self-published novel, “Flamenco & the Sitting Cat,” I found this and thought you might enjoy it too — for all the time I spend writing via my computer, I still love paper! And dance! And travel! And cafes in Spain! And creativity!…

And more cuteness! Here’s my dear doggie before our walk…

My dear doggie before our walk. Photo by Khashayar Parsi.

And here she is when we went out and encountered this uplifting chalk art!…

“Stand here & think about someone you love.”
“You are loved.”

Do you love writing, paper, dancing, foreign cafes, creativity, and cuteness too?…

Flamenco Fusion by da-AL

“Flamenco & the Sitting Cat” is the title of the first of my soon-to-be self-published novels. The ‘Sitting Cat’ part of the title refers to the geographical shape of Iran…

Map of Iran out lined in shape of a Sitting Cat.
Map of Iran outlined in the shape of a Sitting Cat.

I grew up with only classical music — and flamenco music and dance. My father, who left Barcelona in his mid-20s, wanted it that way. Since I left home at 18, it’s a gift to watch any type of dance I like and to listen to every kind of music that comes my way.

Shahrokh Moshkin Ghalam respectfully and lovingly fuses dance cultures.
Shahrokh Moshkin Ghalam respectfully and lovingly fuses dance cultures.

I still love classical — and flamenco! Especially fascinating to me is when flamenco is fused with the dance of Iran, where my husband was raised. Shahrokh Moshkin Ghalam is an Iranian dancer now residing in France. Flamenco is as much about individuality as it is about technique — it accommodates all cultures, all forms of beauty.

If only politics were as intent on creating a climate of ‘we’ rather than an ‘us vs. them’!

The way Ghalam (click here for his Facebook page) fuses dance styles is respectful and hypnotic…

For more flamenco, check out Part 3: Marvelous Madrid — Flamenco

What fusion art do you enjoy?

3. Ever been told…? by da-AL

Flamenco woman with text over that reads: Ever been told that 'all Middle Eastern women are sexy,' that they have 'hypnotic eyes,' & that 'you know what goes on under those burqas'?

Ever been told that ‘all Middle Eastern women are sexy,’ that they have ‘hypnotic eyes,’ and that ‘you know what goes on under those burqas’ as if they’re an exotic species?

Flamenco and the Sitting Cat: a video intro to my novel by da-AL

“Flamenco & the Sitting Cat” is a twelve-part serialized adult general fiction literary novel I’m writing. The transcript of this video about “Flamenco & the Sitting Cat” is underneath it. Its sequel is, “Tango & the Sitting Cat.”

Among the events that inspired me to write it is how, when I was growing up, my mom often supported the family. Given that between my parents and me, we were from three different countries, my earliest memories have to do with questioning how gender and culture shape us.

By the time I turned forty, I had won a number of journalism honors. Among them was an Emmy nomination and then an Emmy award for documentaries that I produced on social issues. That year that I turned forty, I married a wonderful man who added yet another country to my family’s mix.

I regard my life as a series of ongoing ‘coming of ages.’ Not just the traditional one of when I was eighteen and left my parents’ apartment to live on my own and support myself. This got me to wondering, ‘what if there was a 40-year-old-virgin-woman, not in terms of sex, but as far as trusting straight men and the institution of marriage?’

I love challenges, so I decided to learn to write fiction. The protagonist would have to be the most difficult to depict; a woman who is neither young nor old. The supporting characters would have to be an intercultural mix of personalities as multidimensional and confusing as people are in real life.

The twelve installments of “Flamenco and the Sitting Cat” comprise a sort of anti-novel that illustrates the need for tolerance and that happiness is available to any of us — during any of our coming of ages!

As the story unfolds over these posts, I’d love to know what you think about the novel’s content and unfolding. Any first-hand experience with successfully promoting literary fiction for adults would be welcome too.

Appease October Ghouls with International Food Idioms! by da-AL

Can idioms satisfy ghouls?
Can idioms satisfy ghouls?

Fright month — October, when tales of vampires and other ghouls feasting on humans are at their scariest — calls for self defense.

When my husband mentioned how in his native Iran, someone saying wanting to eat your liver means they love you, it got me to thinking.

Might food idioms placate blood thirsty villains?

Fingers crossed, I’ve collected a few from the countries I’m directly related to — my natal U.S., my paternal Spain, and my maternal Argentina.

Here at home, my sweet heart is the apple of my eye, while a bad egg is someone I don’t want to be around. Cheesy and corny people are silly. Conversely, big cheeses are VIPs.

Spaniards typically encourage flamenco performers with jaleo shouts. Hechale papas, to throw some potatoes into it, commands that dancers put even more into their moves.

Over there, a very attractive is like a cheese, es como un queso! When someone is like a soup, como una sopa, they’re soaked from the rain.

In Argentina, to be in the oven, estar al horno, is to be in trouble. Estar al horno con papas, with chips added, means big trouble. To send fruit, mandar fruta, means someone is talking nonsense.

To be rowing in dulce de leche (Argentine’s amped version of caramel), estar remando en dulce de leche, means one is in a sticky situation.

What are your favorite food idioms that are guaranteed to make your local cannibals salivate?

All Hail the Amateur Dancer: a Video by da-AL

My 8th Toastmasters speech: use visual aids. I only recorded myself from my desktop computer while hashing it out at home, so this is admittedly a bit funky, but I hope it’ll make you laugh the way it has others. The text is featured on Long Beach Underground — my good friend Peter’s brand new site dedicated to unsung artists. Check out his Facebook too, for great performances from recent his launch party.

Dada-daaa da-da-da-da-daaa. “Trying hard now…” Da/da/da/da/da/daaaa. Da-da-daaaa. Da-da-da-da-daaaaa… “Gonna fly, fly, fly…”

Note the damp towel at my neck, under the hood of my green workout jacket. Pretend there’s a locker-room reek to the air around me, a whiff of some over sweet protein-maxed drink that’s spilled onto the gym bag at my feet. Ignore how, under the above-the-waist stuff, I’ve got on a flamenco skirt. I’m aiming for a, albeit girly version, of a Rocky Balboa vibe.

Pumping my left fist into the air while grasping the lyric sheet in my right, anyone can hear how off-key my rendition of the “Rocky” movie theme is. I’m no professional singer, and I don’t care to be one.

I’m here to praise the Amateur.

Who hasn’t watched at least one of Hollywood’s billion variations on the ultimate American icon — the underdog? Those characters who never give up clawing their ways to their goals? No matter how many times they’re knocked down, again and again they dust themselves off to start all over.

Underdogs surpass all. For them lamentable backgrounds and situations are jet fuel. They spur them to dream bigger, work harder, and stay persistent! In the end, like phoenixes rising from ashes with moon beams and sunshine combined to halo their outstretched wings, movie underdogs always win.

Phooey. My praise is reserved for the Amateur.

The underdog fantasy is encrusted with sayings in the vein of, “Do what you love and the money will follow,” and, “Do what you love, follow your dreams, and you’ll win lots of praise.” This is where Jiminy Cricket warbles “When You Wish Upon a Star.”

Amateur is stronger than all that! To the Amateur, money and praise are irrelevant. That’s because the Amateur is defined by the sincerest of love.

Look up the definition for Amateur. Better yet, don’t. All you’ll find are filthy words best not repeated. Words that have zilch to do with how the root of Amateur, is Amour, the French word for Love.

It may take a while to agree with me, given that it took me five years to arrive at this level of respect Amateurs. That’s because, for five years, I tried to master the maddeningly impossible to learn 12-beat rhythm of flamenco dance.

Taking my cue from underdog lore, for those five years I labored to become decent at flamenco. My efforts included:

  • attending several group classes per week
  • taking private lessons
  • practicing at outside of class
  • dancing publicly
  • buying custom fitted shoes from Spain
  • experimenting with different teachers
  • sewing my own costume
  • buying costumes
  • listening to flamenco music wherever I went, whatever I did
  • watching flamenco movies and documentaries
  • attending shows
  • reading about flamenco
  • hoping, praying, dreaming, talking — all about wanting to get good at flamenco

For people like me, Flamenco is a cruel love. Picture me:

  • swirling my hands as nearly like graceful doves as I could
  • arcing my arms as arabesque-ish as possible
  • standing as straight as solid as I might, rat-a-tat-tatting my heels for all I’m worth
  • swishing my skirt with all the emotion and conviction I was able to muster

None of it mattered. Nothing ratcheted into place. I never became anywhere near wonderful at it, nowhere close to a success at that damned 12-beat flamenco rhythm. If I was lucky, maybe on a super good day, I attained mediocrity.

It took all that, those five infuriating years, to fling aside my flamenco practice skirt.

That’s when I had my epiphany. Forget about experts and professionals. Amateurs — Amateurs! — are the ones who deserve praise!

Sure, experts and professionals work hard. But its easy get out of bed every day to practice something fun that you’re getting paid for. It’s painless to sink money behind money into a goal when a payoff is guaranteed.

Yeah, some experts and professionals swear they’re not doing it for the money. Whether they’re telling the truth or not, those truckloads of encouragement go a long way. So do the ribbons, trophies, and bragging points. With everyone exalting them, telling them how tremendous they are, how their dancing benefits the world of today and tomorrow, how could experts and professionals not keep at their goals?!

Real strength lies in committing to an endeavor devoid of all promise of any external validation. It’s deciding to enjoy it regardless of people sneering at one’s lack of mastery. Moreover, that strength defines mastery of the art of living a good life!

Life is not just a beginning, a middle, and an end. It’s not some race toward a goal. I’m not racing to be born or to be in the middle of things. I’m not racing to die.

Life is every note of the entire song. Its every dance step. It’s savoring every moment. It’s embracing every pratfall, every misstep.

Only Amateurs transcend mastery of the 12-beat rhythm of flamenco. Only Amateurs are experts of what’s truly important — the call and the beat of one’s own heart.

All hail the Amateur!

What do you think of amateurs? Are you one?