Sunday, July 29, 2012

Hong Kong Brainwashing

We were glad when the Toronto Star printed this story today:

http://www.thestar.com/news/world/article/1233716--thousands-in-hong-kong-protest-chinese-brainwashing

This means that the international news community took notice of this event - it's no longer some insignificant localized issue.  Man Yung has been reading about this controversy in the past few weeks and hoping that there would be a big turn out at the protest on July 29.  The Hong Kong government had predicted "a few thousand" people would participate.  Man Yung guessed optimistically maybe around 20,000 (Hong Kongers are typically very reserved and practical-minded and not inclined to participate in any kind of political demonstration).  Despite what the article said (The Star got its information of "19,000" from the "official counts" of the biased HK government - they have been discounting the numbers of people protesting by about 80% since 1997 to make the numerous and growing protests look "not so serious") - the tally is around 90,000.

That's 90,000 really flaming angry parents and grandparents, protesting in blazing hot, humid conditions.  They had their kids - babies, toddlers, children, teens - in tow.  There were enough protesters to fill the largest sports stadium in Hong Kong three times over.   Many of these protesters were first time protesters, those who never participate in the any of the 6/4 memorial or 7/1 annual protests.  You know what?  The corrupt Communist regime had really pissed these people off with their planned "Brainwashing" Curriculum.

So what is the "Moral and National Education" curriculum about that has made people so angry?  It's about brainwashing people to be "good citizens" - defined as being brainwashed robots who will slavishly adore the Chinese Communist Party and to shut up and not speak out when their rights are trampled on.  Anyone read "Nineteen Eighty-Four"?  Thank you Orwell, for writing about totalitarianism and predicting the mind control and brainwashing tactics of totalitarian regimes like the one in China - because this is exactly what the "Moral and National Education" curriculum is about. 

Heck, even the government admits it's brainwashing!  Several corrupt chinese officials came right out and said, "Yes, it's brainwashing - you hoity-toity Hong Kongers with all yer fancy-schnancy notions about rights and freedoms and democracy need to be brainwashed and be obedient!" These are the same corrupt chinese officials who have sent all their children overseas to be educated in the United Kingdom, U.S.A. or Canada - even they know something really stinks in the People's Republic of Corrupt Communist China.

They even have a name for all these corrupt chinese officials who have sent their entire families overseas once they have earned a whole bunch of $$$$ through corruption to fund this immigration - they are called "Naked Officials".  They are "Naked", because they have sent all their loved ones overseas, they are the only ones left "Naked" in China, still trying to embezzle and cheat and steal all that they can from the people under them.  The money they get from corruption, they'll send it overseas to be safeguarded by their family.  If they get caught (or rather, when they get purged for siding with the wrong political faction within the Communist Party - there's an endless internal struggle for power), they will face the music but their money and their family are safe.

Which brings us to the recent, massive and violent protest in Jiang Su.  The top corrupt chinese official there signed a deal with a foreign enterprise for a foreign factory to be built next to the main river.  The factory dumped tons of toxic waste into the water (it was cheaper to bribe the corrupt chinese officials to overlook the lack of environmental controls instead of installing them to minimize pollution), affecting the health and livelihood of the people in the region.  About 100,000 protesters stormed the government buildings, overturning police cars and dumping all the paperwork in the government offices into the street:



What's remarkable is not the police car tipping, or the paperwork dumping.  The remarkable thing was the "Corrupt Chinese Official Stripping".  The protesters managed to grab hold of the head honcho responsible and strip him naked:

Corrupt Communist Chinese Official Before and After: The Makeover Edition

"I don't like this photo," I said to Man Yung.  "The guy should look terrified, or at least contrite.  Here, he looks almost happy."

Man Yung was sorry there wasn't a better, "Not so Happy" photo of the guy.

I added, "You know what, the protesters in Jiang Su are pretty peaceful - they didn't even beat up the guy.  But give it another six months - I bet that there'll be a even bigger protest somewhere else, and some Corrupt Chinese Official will not only be stripped naked, they will be lynched."

I think something is going to explode in China sometime soon, and when it does it's not going to be pretty.

Lessons learned today:

1.  Maybe this is not a good time for Tango Teachers to go on a teaching tour of China, no matter how lucrative it may be (and don't forget, you will be eating lots of poisonous food while you are there);

2.  Brainwashing?  Ha!  In Tango we eat brainwashing for breakfast, lunch and dinner!  For example, you might have been led to believe the following:

  a)  It's perfectly OK for a little (or a lot) of bumping on the dance floor.  Just pretend that you haven't been gouged in the shin by stiletto heel of someone's over-enthusiastic boleo - a little bleeding and bruising has never hurt anyone!

  b)  All Tango Teachers from Argentina are "Maestros" and/or All Tango Teachers from Argentina are really great dancers! (Especially Fabio!)

  c)  Everyone loves "The Life of the Party" - what laughs, what fun!  Sure, you would never take her to meet your ma because she is way too loud and vulgar (and reminds you of "El Carnival de los Animales") but what a hoot!

  d)  New Tango isn't Dead - no sirree!  It is being revitalized every day like the legendary Phoenix - by middle-aged men with flappy pants and untucked shirts hiding their protruding paunches who make eager newbies do endless leg wraps+voleo+boleo combos because heck, all that leg wrapping near their groin area is like, titillating and stuff. 

  e)  If you want to improve your Tango Community, you've got to be friendly and say "Yes" more!  I'll be the first to say yes to a), b), c), and d) above!




Sunday, July 22, 2012

Martha and Manolo in Toronto, April 2006

Martha and Manolo (and us!) in Detroit in 2007.  We had a great time attending Martha and Manolo's workshops at Lori Burton's Argentine Tango Detroit studios, and also their workshops at the Camicando festival in 2007, 2008 and 2009.

Last post we talked about ordinary dancers from your local community traveling to Buenos Aires to bring back The Tango.  Although there's nothing quite like being in the city itself and steeping yourself in its unique culture, those who couldn't make it to Buenos Aires can still have a chance to experience it by learning from traveling Porteño teachers - especially those who have lived and danced in the Golden Age of Tango.

That's why we were so excited when we first learned Martha and Manolo were coming to Toronto, way back in our Tango infancy in 2006.  We didn't have Youtube (or, Youtube had only two or three rather poor quality Tango videos) back then - we only had a few precious and rare tango instruction videos ordered over the phone (Online Tango shopping was not yet a biggie).  One of these videos was a video about Canyengue, and had Martha Anton teaching with her previous partner, Luis Grodona - and one other video we had was of Manolo with his former partner Coca (not to be confused with Coca of Osvaldo and Coca), teaching his unique style of milonga.  And now, both Martha and Manolo were coming to Toronto!

Here's the story of how we first met Martha and Manolo.  But that's only part of the story.  Let us tell you about the amazing month we spent learning from Martha and Manolo!

Martha and Manolo had a LOT of material to teach - they are experts in Tango Salon from the Fifties, Canyengue, Milonga and Milonga Fantasia (being Milonga but in the very tricky reverse position) - and they were totally generous about it.  They had literally the fullest schedule of classes, ever - two classes every weeknight, six classes on Saturday and on Sunday too.  When we took a look at the schedule, we look at each other aghast, and wondered out aloud, "Who would possibly be able to take so many classes?"

After taking just one class with Martha and Manolo, we found out.

WE WERE THE ONES WHO WERE GOING TO TAKE ALL THE CLASSES.

It was the best investment of time and money we ever made in Tango.  After learning intensively from Martha and Manolo for 52 hours, we had an unbeatable foundation in Tango, Canyengue and Milonga.  The things we learned we would be able to keep with us for the rest of our dancing lives.

When we look back to those times, we don't know how we made it - and we're pretty sure we couldn't do it again (being pretty old and tired now).  I had to leave work an hour early every day to rush home, have a bite to eat - and then we would drive all the way downtown in heavy traffic to Lisandro and Tatiana's Tango Sur studio to take classes.  We were often late for class, but luckily Martha and Manolo are patient and kind (and they knew beforehand about my scheduling) and were never angry about the tardiness!

Classes were intense - Martha and Manolo were always going around to each student giving individual attention, explaining the material and demonstrating, working out the kinks. We've heard horror stories about unprofessional Tango Teachers - demonstrating a step here or there and then GOING OFF somewhere to drink a mate, smoke a cigarette, chat with their mates or girlfriend - while their students floundered helplessly.  Martha and Manolo gave the class their undivided attention - they expected everyone to work hard, and they worked harder than anyone else.  Martha and Manolo put their heart and soul into teaching, and everyone who took their classes felt it.  They wanted us to learn, and would do everything in their power to make sure that we did.

Classes on weekdays would last until 10, 10:30 p.m. - and then we would have to rush home, have another bite to eat, sleep - and then the same for the next day until the weekend rolled around.  The weekend was so full of classes it was hard to fit in lunch or dinner (or even laundry, or sleep)!  We'd be so tired we'd stop practicing and Martha and Manolo would catch us slacking off.  "But we are so exhausted and Man Yung is old!" I'd protest.  Martha and Manolo would smile and say, "We're much older than either of you and we have been on our feet teaching private classes even before your group class started!  Come on, keep on practicing!"  Martha and Manolo are tireless like that.

We only had a crappy Canon PowerShot A400 those days (Man Yung was too embarrassed to use it when we went on our trip to Montreal because it was SOOOOO outdated compared to the cameras of the Mainland Chinese Tourists from the China wrestling Olympic team who were on the same tour bus - another story, another time) and it only took three minutes of video at a time, but what memories we have preserved of Martha and Manolo's classes!

Here's Martha and Manolo demonstrating their Milonga Fantasia after class:



Here's a sample of their Canyengue:



Here's their Tango Salon of the Fifties:



And here's Milonga by Manolo - the Maestro's unique style:



If not for Martha and Manolo, we would have never made it Buenos Aires.  Part of it was from their patient teaching - because of them, we improved exponentially.  Part of it was from their endless encouragement - because of them, we started to have faith in the way that we danced.  And part of it was from their love and friendship.  "Come visit us in Buenos Aires, we want to see you again and we're having a festival!" Martha said in her email to us a few months after they had returned to Buenos Aires.

After meeting Martha and Manolo in Toronto, we knew that we will have them as lifelong friends in Buenos Aires - and so we took the leap, booked our flights, and went.  And started writing this blog. And the rest is history.

Here are videos of two more demos by Martha and Manolo in Toronto - first, a Tango Salon (they are demonstrating to Di Sarli's "La Cachila") and a Milonga (this time, "Milonga Sentimental" by Canaro):





Martha and Manolo - Muchissimas Gracias and we love you!








Sunday, July 15, 2012

...and they brought back The Tango

 Lo de Celia

I was chatting with a Toronto Milonguero and his Toronto Milonguera wife last night about their last trip to Buenos Aires.  They had a great time, and enjoyed many of the milongas we had gone to.  Unfortunately, during their trip, they got mugged.  It was quite a terrifying experience for them as one of the assailants was armed - but luckily they both survived the mugging relatively unscathed, and felt well enough to go dancing the following night. 

They are planning another trip to Buenos Aires next year.

Now, Man Yung and I have been very lucky in that in our seven trips to Buenos Aires, the worst we have encountered are: Two (2) rather aggressive panhandlers, One (1) remise driver who took us on a scenic route, One (1) counterfeit bill from a taxi driver, and One (1) shady looking person who followed us while we were walking around in broad daylight on Corrientes (and gave up).  That's not too bad a tally considering we have traveled to Buenos Aires seven times.  You would encounter these kinds of situations (or worse) traveling in any major city in the world - heck, you would even find these kinds of scenarios in Toronto.

Nevertheless, we admit that going on any pilgrimage - in this case, for the sake of Tango - has its dangers.  There are the physical risks - the risks of having an accident, the risk of becoming a victim of a scam or of crime, the risks of getting sick.  There are the financial costs - the cost of your plane ticket, your accommodations, the cost of food and entradas and for your classes and activities - totaling thousands of dollars and putting a good-sized dent into your hard-earned, blood, sweat and tears savings (or worse, putting you in debt).

We must also consider the psychological dangers.  What if what you found in Buenos Aires was totally not you had envisioned?  And what if you discover that you are not only not quite the "Tango Star" you had believed, dancing quite happily in your little Tango Community back home (heck, some might have been "tango professionals" in their home town)?  What if you discover that you are in fact quite a dismal failure at Tango, attracting the evil eye everywhere you crash into because you lack the navigation skills to safely complete a ronda on the very crowded Porteño dance floor?*

* Which reminds me of a very funny story we overheard one time - an overseas Argentinian (yes, you heard right - an Argentinian) Tango Professional and Local Tango Community Tango Ace was complaining to his students that he got no respect when he went to Buenos Aires.  Not only did no one stop to admire how "elegantly" he danced (and how 'big' he walked) when he danced in the milongas, locals actually had the gall to give him the evil eye!  

"I was happily minding my own business when I was dancing at Sunderland when some guy bumped me," [OR DID YOU BUMP HIM? WE ASK. HMMMMMMMM] he said.  "I yelled at the guy in Spanish, 'Hey, what the hell?' and glared at him.  The guy glared back at me and muttered something about 'those damn foreigners causing hazards on the dance floor'.  Ha, I really showed him - I told him that he was completely wrong about thinking that I was a foreigner.  I told him that I AM ARGENTINIAN."

In our humble opinion, he would have been better off if he didn't admit he was Argentinian.  With the non-navigational, four-directional-bouncing, dizzy-whirling-dervish, dangerous-high-kicking, callous-disregard-of-others way he danced, it would have been much better if kept quiet and let people think he was just another crazy foreigner, don't you think?

Let's face it - stepping out of the safety and comfort of your home and into the big, wide world is not easy.  Some can't afford to travel to Buenos Aires - they either don't have the time or the money - even though they really want to.  For those, we hope that you will be able to make it there someday soon.

...Some, however, won't go because they don't have the guts.  They can't speak Spanish.  They'd get lost.  They'd get pickpocketed or robbed or they'd get run over by the maniac Porteño drivers.  Or they are afraid of disillusionment - of not being asked to dance, of getting the evil eye, or - of being told that they are terrible dancers.

They may reassure themselves - it's so much better to stay home and be safe.  We're in _____________ (fill in your own first world country).   It's more "civilized" to do it "our way" here.  "No way" to cabeceo - it's not "friendly" or "nice" to say no to an invitation to dance in our part of the universe.   And while you are at it, "No way" to lead and follow too - it's too complicated, it's better if we practice "Tango Posing" and memorize step patterns so there's no "guesswork" and confusion.  What, we are supposed to learn how to dance with strangers who haven't memorized the same steps as us?  Are you joking? 

Or maybe, after all, they will go - but only in a minimum-risk, strictly controlled environment.  A full-service tour**, with all accommodations, meals, milongas, classes pre-arranged.  No need to mix with the locals!  If no-one asks them to dance all night, they can dance with their own group, or their tour organizers will arrange for someone to dance with them.  If they discover they actually suck at Tango, someone will be there to hold their hand, rationalize their doubts away and stroke their egos.  The less risk to their safety and sanity, the better.  "Thank God, it's just like we never left home!" they'd say afterwards with much relief.

** We are talking about the very commercialized, slick, hermetically-sealed "Tango Extravaganza Experiences" here in which the tour group may never get to see the inside of a local Porteño milonga (ok, maybe just Confiteria Ideal or Dandi, and that's it).  Conversely, there are many excellent tours run by either Porteño or Ex-Pat Tango Professionals living in Buenos Aires in which participants will get to meet and learn from Milongueros, learn about milonga culture (and the CABECEO!), and get encouraged to try it themselves in a real-life setting.  These tours will teach people the ropes of surviving in the milonga and in the city - and some graduates may feel confident enough afterwards so that the next time they travel to Buenos Aires, they could venture forth on their own.

Some, however, may be disappointed to find out that in these authentic Tango tours, they won't learn how to chomp lasciviously on roses while posing in their skimpy sequined tango costumes and perform on stage in a little "End of tour Tango Gala" - for these individuals, maybe it is best to stick to your all-inclusive seven night "Tango Extravaganza Experiences".

So for the thousands who did have the courage and the resources to make it Buenos Aires and were touched, body and soul, by the Tango, like the Toronto Milonguero couple we were talking to yesterday - we'd like to say: Thank you.

Thank you for braving the perils of travel - and of exposing yourself despite the risks to cultural experiences and ideas that you wouldn't encounter if you stayed at home, all for the sake of Tango.

Thank you for learning to dance close - and for preferring it over any other way of dancing Tango, because you have brought back home the magic of the embrace.

Thank you for respecting other couples on the dance floor - because that's the way of the milongueros, and dancing in a room filled with considerate people like you makes dancing Tango outside of Buenos Aires so much safer and sweeter.

Thank you for experiencing Buenos Aires and Tango firsthand - because when we talk to you about Tango, we have a common ground and shared understanding, and we can, as a group, have some experience to enable us to differentiate between what is good and bad in Tango. 

Thank you for appreciating what is traditional, danceable Tango music by listening to what is being played at milongas in Buenos Aires - and encouraging it to be played when you return home either by speaking out to your local Tango organizers, or becoming DJs who play traditional music yourselves.

Thank you for posting your photos and videos of Buenos Aires and Tango on Youtube - so we can see what it is like with our own eyes, and have material to fuel our dreams.

And for those of you who write books or blog about Tango - Thank you for sharing your honest thoughts and experiences of what it is like to dance and live Tango in Buenos Aires, so people who have not yet been lucky enough to have an opportunity to go won't be kept in the dark - and also so that "Tango Professionals" who want to keep others in the dark for business or other reasons cannot do so indefinitely.

Thank you, for you have brought back with you The Tango.












Sunday, July 8, 2012

Cacophony, or....The Carnival of the Animals!

I was mightily entertained yesterday by some videos I found on Youtube.  Man Yung heard me giggling from the next room.

"What are you watching?  More Tango videos?" he asked.

"I wouldn't be laughing so much if I was just watching Tango.  In fact, the state of "Professional Tango Performance posted on Youtube" these days is more likely to elicit snores or snorts of disgust.  Look, cute animals!"

And indeed, watching videos of animal antics is the perfect way to kill an afternoon - and much more interesting than practicing continuous automatic ochos, brushing up my Tango Resumé, or plotting to take over the entire Tango Universe.

For example, did you know that Pugs sound like pig/monkey/baby hybrids (especially if you have taken their favourite toy?):



Talking about one animal sounding like another - this Rabbit sounds exactly like an elephant:



I swear, I've heard this chortling and whooping before...yes, these Hyenas are making exactly the same celebratory noise usually made by Corrupt Communist Chinese Officials over the big mountain of money they made from corruption!:



And did you know that some goats can be really annoyed by political questionnaires (in Spanish, no less!) and have the ability to shoot snot from their nostrils and yell "WHAAAA?  WHAAAAAA?" like they were tough guys from a Scorsese movie?:



Well, this Donkey doesn't sound like another animal, but it sure sounds like... a really passionate, angry Donkey!:



And no, I was misled - The Heavy Metal Gods do not have a monopoly on the most ear-piercing screams.  Here's someone's Top Ten on Youtube:



...Not at all impressive if you just peek into the talent pool from the animal kingdom - This poor kitty, for example (his/her name is "Burger and Fries"), can give the Heavy Metal Gods a run for their money:



...And so can this Fox:



...and this Peacock:



...these Howler Monkeys managed a duet:



...the Crows, not to be bested, created this magnificent symphony:



...Even the lowly Frog can sound more awesome than, say, Axl Rose or Steven Tyler:



"Look at all these freakin' talented animals!" I said to Man Yung.  "I am totally amazed!"

"Ha!  Not at all amazing, if you ask me," said Man Yung, smugly.

"And why not?" I asked.

"Don't you realize that you can get all of this - and more - in just one person?  And you can experience the scintillating performance at your favourite local milonga every weekend!"

By golly, Man Yung is right again!

You CAN get all the yelling, screeching, guffawing, grunting, cackling, bellowing, hooting, yipping, yodeling, screaming, clacking, howling, shrieking, squealing - you name it, you got it - ALL NIGHT LONG, from just ONE PERSON.  And you'll hear it, from the moment she enters into the milonga to the moment she leaves it, no matter whether she is sitting, standing, gabbing, eating, drinking, dancing, or even going to the washroom!

No need to shell out hard earned dough for airfare to travel to any Jungle Jamboree, Safari Shindig or even Death Metal Mayhem!  We can have our own Carnival of the Animals while relaxing to our favourite Di Sarli, Caló, Fresedo etc. etc. tunes and we didn't even have to pay extra entrada - what a BONUS!

As they say: Win-Win!* + **

* Toronto Tangueros/Tangueras sure appreciate their entertainment - none of Ms. Jungle Jamboree's friends (including some Organizers!) make any noise even close to the variety or volume exhibited by their "Friend" (maybe they are AFRAID that being noisy and laughing and screaming loudly would be "DISTURBING THE MILONGA ATMOSPHERE" - what a thought!).  In fact, they will sit back and enjoy this cackling and cawing all night long.  This just shows - we polite Torontonians know when to let the "Professionals" do their thing.  Good job guys!


** Buenos Aires Milongueros are such kill-joys by comparison.  When we went to the same milonga as Ms. Jungle Jamboree in Buenos Aires, no less than FOUR sets of milongueros/milonguero couples asked us if we knew her (because everyone got word She was from Toronto).  



We said no.


The milongueros were all visibly relieved.






Sunday, July 1, 2012

Upgrading... a true story

Anyone else out there tired of Irene and Man Yung's "Youtube videos that are either too grainy and blurry or where the dancers appear the size of peas"?  We are!

Our trusty Canon PowerShot SD880 isn't broken, but the 4x zoom is so puny, and the quality of the video so poor compared to all the "HD" videos that everybody including your grandaunt takes with their cameras nowadays...well, we decided it was time to upgrade our camera to something that would take much better videos and photos. 

So we traded in our Airmiles and got... a Canon PowerShot SX240HS!  20x zoom, Full HD video, huge viewfinder screen - sweet!

We rushed out to the park and immediately took a patriotic photo of the Canadian flag - from literally, like, TEN MILLION MILES AWAY!:

Happy Canada Day!

We also took photos of Canadian Geese - again, from TEN MILLION MILES AWAY (O, the Power of Zoom 20x!):

Canadian Geese - like from Canada (hint, hint)

More Canadian Geese...from CANADA!

Apart from all the "Canadian Themed" photos, in our uncontrolled excitement, we also took photos of like storks and dogs and stuff:

Canadian....Stork!

Canadian...Dog!  His name is Buster.  We love Boston Terriers - 
their perky ears make them look like cats (Shhhh!  Don't let them know!)

We love our new camera!  However, now that we have made the upgrade, we suddenly have a whole slew of "upgrading" problems.

1.  The new camera is bigger than the old one and it doesn't fit our old camera pouch.  That means:  We've got to buy a new camera bag.

2.  The new camera battery doesn't last as long as the old camera battery in our old camera (this is because it takes more electricity to power all the fancy HD video and 20x Zoom stuff).  We have to get an extra battery so we don't run out of power.

3.  The new camera is faster - for better quality photos and videos, we can't use our old 4 speed SD memory cards.  We have to get a whole bunch of 10 speed SD cards to match our new camera write speed.

4.  The HD videos we take with our new camera convert very very slowly (like, 10 times more slowly) in our existing conversion program because they contain a lot more data.  And when we convert them, they can only play on our iPad and not on our iPod because they are in HD.  Solution:  New, faster conversion program, possibly new, faster computer, and totally new iPod.

5.  In order to fully appreciate the beauty of HD video, we can't play them on our ancient, "I will live forever!  Mwahahahaha!" JVC TV from 1999.  We have to get the latest big screen HDTV.

6.  Once we have the latest big screen HDTV, all our other "college-era, hand-me-down, vintage" home decor will look very out of place and passé.  We will have to completely redecorate our living room, and quite possibly our whole condo because once you start renovating one room, all our other rooms have to match too, right?

7.  In fact, our condo wall is just way too small for HDTV, and we will have to upgrade to a bigger condo - no, house - with bigger walls, in a much better neighbourhood. 

8.  Come to think of it, we've watched the HD videos of our most recent practice, and you know what?  The video quality is so clear that we can clearly see that we both look old and saggy.  In addition, our wrinkles are too big and our pores are too large.

IRENE AND MAN YUNG WILL HAVE TO UPGRADE THEIR TANGO PARTNER(S) AND GET A COMPLETELY BRAND NEW ONE(S).


Alberto Dassieu

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