Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Alice Starmore's Fulmar x 2

Just finished another Alice Starmore sweater - it's Fulmar again, but in white (Aran, natural) using yarns from our favourite guernsey yarn supplier Frangipani:


I think Fulmar (from Alice Starmore's book "Aran Knitting") is one of Alice Starmore's most timeless designs.  Man Yung already has the same sweater in Herring Girl Pink and he requested that I make him another one in white because he likes the design so much. 

Here are the two Fulmars we have photographed together.  Apparently Fulmar is some kind of seabird, but it wasn't exactly flying off my needles.  It took me two years to knit this one:


And here's Man Yung modeling the sweater:


I think knitting someone a sweater and having him/her wear it all the time so you can admire your own handiwork is even better than knitting a sweater for yourself!

Man Yung wanted a white sweater for a long time, since I knit Alice Starmore's Inishmore for myself using Jaeger Alpaca yarn.  I made Inishmore eons ago - it's still my cosy and classic choice for winter wear every year:

Alice Starmore's Inishmore from her book "Fishermen's Sweaters", 
paired with the pink Fulmar again... Can anyone spot the two mistakes in the cables? 

Haven't gone anything lined up yet for my next knitting project.  It feels weird not to have anything on the knitting needles!  We're just enjoying the sweaters we have for the time being - a good feeling to have, not wanting anything or rushing towards any goal in particular.


Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Cabeceo Fail

Man Yung may be an expert at the cabeceo, but I am not. 

We started dancing in Toronto (in 2004!) in the era of "everything goes".  The cabeceo was only used by, like, three people in Toronto and they wisely stuck to dancing with each other because dancing with anyone else would likely land them in the emergency room.  Ah.... the good ol' days when dancers in Toronto were all staging on their own personal Tango Extravaganzas on the dance floor and no-one had the foresight to get together beforehand to synchronize their choreography.  Yes, we had to protect ourselves with shin guards and padded body armor but at least I didn't have to worry about being tempted to ask anyone to dance.

Years passed.  Tango evolved - even in Toronto.   People danced better, or at least less recklessly and following the line of dance.  Tango culture of Buenos Aires seeped in...cabeceo became the norm instead of the exception...

EXCEPT - I never learned to cabeceo.  I was sidelined by a decade-long series of Tango mishaps which made me not want to dance very much, including but not limited to the following:

1.  There was an exponential increase in the number of steps I had to dance in any given Tango night, thanks to the ingenuity of my wonderful partner Man Yung.  This made me too tired to even think about dancing with anyone else.

2.  For a couple of years in the beginning, my shoes didn't fit and my feet hurt (and they were made to measure shoes too).  I didn't even want to sit down in my shoes, let alone dance in them.

3.  My shoes improved (Comme Il Fauts!) but my feet still hurt.  I think Man Yung was watching a lot of YouTube Tango, and presto!  MORE steps.

4.  My feet hurt, my knees hurt.  Must have hit middle age (or maybe it was a mysterious old karate injury).  Didn't even want to dance with Man Yung.

Thanks to a very good course of massage therapy by Man Yung (Thank you Dr. Chang Chao-Han, your origin point therapy really works) my knees are better. I'm also starting to dance better, lighter!  I've joked about other Tangueras dancing like a truck with square wheels - I must have been doing a little of that too to have my feet hurt that much.

Anyway, after years and years of practicing anti-cabeceo (consisting of playing Plants vs. Zombies or Angry Birds on my phone and looking at no-one and saying no to any Tanguero who came over to ask me to dance - really works, trust me), I found myself not being able to cabeceo anyone when I actually wanted to dance with them!

Tried to use the cabeceo in Buenos Aires.  No-one understood what I was doing.  The Milongueras might have thought I was doing the cabeceo for Man Yung - he got plenty of dances with the lovely ladies, while I just danced with Roberto Segarra...a lot.  And that was because he was sitting at our table.

Tried to use the cabeceo in Toronto.  Total cabeceo failure!   The first time, the mirada didn't work so I ran onto the dance floor and jumped up and down in front of the gentleman until he realized I wanted to dance with him.  Being an gentleman, he actually agreed to dance the remaining one Tango of the tanda with me.  That Tango was awkward because in my excitement to dance with him...I had forgotten that I had taken off my shoes.

The second time, the gentleman I was cabeceo-ing thought Man Yung was asking the lady behind him to dance (my cabeceo was so vague and puny, Man Yung had to help). After a lot of gesticulating and yelling on our part and pointing by the said gentleman to the person behind him, beside him, and finally to himself, we finally got the point across.

The third time, the gentleman from across the floor looked at the ceiling, the wall, the floor, the table, his drink - anywhere except in my direction.  It was as if my years of anti-cabeceo had turned into a superpower that creates a negative force field around me (like the Nothing in The Neverending Story) and no-one wants to look at it for fear of going blind.  Or perhaps he just didn't want to dance with me.

I reluctantly had to ask Man Yung for advice.

"Next time you use the cabeceo, you have to be more aggressive with your EYES!" he said.  He gave me a look with his brows bristling like he wanted to kill someone.  "In Hong Kong, the triads use this look to make innocent shopkeepers give them extortion money!  Loan sharks also use it to make their debtors pay up!"

"I'm not going to stare at people as if they owe me money," I said.  "What if they find it frightening?"

"Don't worry, you are only using your forceful stare to get their attention.  All the Buenos Aires Milongueras do it - like Myriam Pincen, for example, if she looks at you, she twists her head in your direction and her eyes are like laser beams.  You really know she is looking at you!  When you finally get their attention, you have to smile sweetly like this - "


I scratched my head.  "Eh....like I don't have a mouth?"

"Whoops, wrong example.  More like this:"

Everyone at my table celebrates when my cabeceo finally works!  
But honestly, what was more frightening - my staring or my grinning 
like a japanese anime nightmare cat monster that followed afterwards?












Sunday, January 11, 2015

Don Juan


Apparently, I'm Don Giovanni and Man Yung is the Commandatore.  If I don't repent now, he's going to drag me straight to the depths of hell (of forgotten and cast off past loves)!

Man Yung and I have different perspectives on love - especially "Old Loves".  The "Love" we are talking about in this sense could be for people, places, things, activities...

Man Yung says that whatever he has loved, he will love forever. This goes for artworks by Picasso and Modigliani, music by Beethoven, Martial Arts of any type (he still practices at every opportunity), Scotch (and some Bourbons), films with Alain Delon in them, etc. 

Man Yung even claims that he loves all his ex-girlfriends.  And all the sweaters they knitted for him. 

"But you aren't with them anymore," I said. 

"Ah...but that hasn't stopped me from loving them until now," said Man Yung.

While I pondered that strange notion of still loving everything (including ex-girlfriends you are no longer with), I thought about my own "Old Loves".

I certainly don't love my exes anymore.  I used to be a Martial Arts fanatic, but no longer.  I still love the opera, but I don't listen to it more than a few times a year.  I still knit, but instead of producing one sweater a month, I've slowed down to a sweater every 1.5 to 2 years...

"The problem you have is that you latch onto something - and then you become completely obsessed with it.  You think about it night and day, you devote time, money, energy into it...and then you run out of steam and eventually cast it aside for the next obsession," said Man Yung.  

I protested.  "But my method is extremely productive.*  I got my black belt within like, three years.  I knew everything there is to know about opera and opera singers and even learned the lyrics to some arias and duets by heart.  I produced ten to twelve sweaters a year.  Even with Tango - I learned how to dance, I found out lots of information about Argentinian culture and history - I even learned Spanish and made loads of Argentinian friends.  Every time I fall in love, I achieve something!"

* About ex-boyfriends - I was just relieved to have a boyfriend!  Doesn't matter that we didn't really like each other and we were completely incompatible, at least I was dating!  How's that for cynicism?

"Love shouldn't be about achievement.  You are like Don Juan and his conquests - you conquer something that takes your fancy, put a notch in your bedpost (or a mark in your notebook), and then move onto the next one.  You leave a trail of broken hearts behind you.  The sad neglected karate uniform at the bottom of your closet. Opera CDs and librettos that have not been enjoyed in years.  A half-finished knitting project languishing on its needles.  Sooner or later, you may even stop loving Tango (and/or me).  Are we going to have to donate your mountain of Tango shoes (and your poor husband) to Goodwill?"

Man Yung has been nagging me for years about this one.  He believes that I shouldn't take a journey just to get at the big shiny goal at the end of it. 

"What you have to love and enjoy is the process, and not do something just for the reward.  You have to reach a state where you don't care if you will win, you don't care if you will lose, you don't care what people think.  That's how you find enduring love in what you do.  And that's how you gain real expertise in something - it becomes part of you, and you don't have to prove it to anyone."

Thanks Man Yung for that fascinating piece of philosophy - but I'll stick to my flings.  What's wrong with chasing after bright shiny new things?  Everybody does it.  I love me some carrots on a stick - if something isn't being dangled in front of me, I won't be moving forward at all but sitting on my couch, eating chips and watching Seinfeld re-runs!






Alberto Dassieu

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