Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Irene vs. Man Yung, and vice versa

For all you folks totally scratching your heads and wondering just how Man Yung and I got to be such "great, trend-setting tango dancers" (Or not - and I refer you to this link), it's not all about "prodigious natural gifts", "exceptionally gnarly DNA", "extensive dance/music/movement training by the venerable old master Pai Mei" or even "born to be beautiful" (even though all of the above were certainly helpful).

We are going to let you all on a little secret.

The secret to the success of Casa del Tango de Irene and Man Yung (or not) is:


We would like to share this fascinating video on Youtube which aptly encapsulates the strenuous "thought-processes", the "working-out"-edness, and the endless "striving for mutual understanding" that would be the hallmark of "Irene and Man Yung's secret technique for COMMUNICATION in tango":

Jealous? Ha! I knew you would all be.

* By the way, Man Yung and I take turns being Batman. Which means that we also take turns being the Joker. In case you were curious - Nope, I didn't get what the hell Man Yung was talking about, and vice versa.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

"Excuse me, ma'am - who are you and what have you done with my wife?"

About three hours into our favourite Friday night milonga, Man Yung turns to me and remarks, "What's wrong with you? You have been dancing strangely all night!"

I, on the other hand, thought I had been dancing great. My legs couldn't look better in my lovely (newish) red suede leopard print Comme Il Fauts. In fact, I thought it was Man Yung who had been dancing rather strangely - all this gratuitous pushing and shoving when I thought I had been following perfectly and just gliding along!

Well, this decidedly non-complimentary stance that Man Yung was taking vis-a-vis my dancing "strangely" (in his opinion) does not dance harmony make. We were just about to top our escalating "heated exchange of salty Cantonese expletives" with a good ol' fashioned "fistfight" when I suddenly realized one thing.

It was the shoes.

We have been dancing rather "seriously" for the past few months (translation: We've been taking advantage of all the free time we had before my evening graduate classes started again, in fact, taking advantage of it so much we've been dancing until my feet hurt), so I have been dancing in tango shoes with heels no higher than 3 inches.

But what's a girl to do when she's got a closet full of Comme Il Fauts with heels not only 3 inches, but also 3.5 inches, and 4 inches high? You have to wear them sometimes, right?

And just by wearing a Comme Il Fauts with 3.5 inch heels, suddenly I was dancing like "Dynasty", or "Valley of the Dolls" or perhaps even "Desperate Housewives" (according to Man Yung), instead of plain old boring Irene!

If half an inch in heel height can turn me into a completely different woman, just imagine the transformative possibilities of the following....

FOUR inch high Comme Il Fauts

SEVEN inch high Comme Il Fauts (but they don't make shoes like these the last time I checked - pity because these would be perfect for pole dancing)

LEFT shoe at FOUR inches, RIGHT shoe at THREE inches (good for Milonga)

RIGHT shoe at FOUR inches, LEFT shoe at THREE inches (good for Candombe)

FLIPPERS (excellent for Swimming and for Colgadas)

CLEATS (to be really, really GROUNDED)

ONE shoe ON and ONE shoe OFF

I think I may actually be able to save a bundle on Halloween costumes this year!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Buenos Aires March 2008 Part I - Finally a Computer that works!

Finally, a computer that works!
From: Irene
Sent: March 2, 2008 1:01:27 AM
To: V

Dear V,

Sorry for the delay in getting you an update, but I´ve been having the worst /%&$%"/&%!!! problems with accessing the internet. It took me forever to figure out how to use WiFi with the HTC Touch phone, and the computer in the hotel was somehow excruciatingly slow. In addition, we have had non-stop action here so there was no time to compose emails.

Unlike last year of the big flight-delaying snowstorm, we were actually able to get on our flight and leave on time! You won’t believe the amount of checking I did on the internet for potential weather problems here in Toronto and Chicago (not that bad news would make any difference – if you are delayed you’re delayed). Our “airport limo” to the airport this time was a minivan taxi. Man Yung thought it was great – cheaper and more space!

Waiting to board the plane from Toronto to Chicago, we saw a lot of women at the airport wearing a lot of lululemon, and using the lululemon bags (not the ones you buy, but the ones you get to put your lululemon purchases in) as handbags. I wonder, is this a good or a bad thing? Does this mean we can now use the Loblaws and Dominion enviro-bags as fashion statement too? I can tell you that in this respect Man Yung is already ahead of the pack.

We stopped at Chicago O’Hare airport for a connecting flight to Buenos Aires. The airport was great for several reasons. We didn’t have eat “mystery/surprise” airport food (the special airport restaurants, bars and food courts we’ve encountered always look like they have a fancy food offerings, but mysteriously/surprisingly, the food ends up expensive and bland), O’Hare had MCDONALD’S so we were able to eat McDonald’s (yeah, I know it’s McDonald’s but at least it is consistent McDonald’s). There were some really good deals at the Duty Free. We bought some ridiculously inexpensive Chivas Regal for Martha & Manolo, Osvaldo & Coca and Alberto, and the bottles came with a free gift – fancy orange and black wheeled backpacks with the “Chiva’s Regal” logo. We spent hours wandering the airport, checking out the stores and waiting for the connecting flight – I’d say that’s the miracle of booking through discount flights with extra long waits between connections.

The novelty of being in an airport still hasn’t worn out for me – perhaps because airport = anticipation of the pleasures of being on vacation? Everything seems wonderful – the generic “hangar” airport architecture (so you will get confused as to which airport in the world you are in), lots of “brand name” stores with tons of books and magazines and shiny new “travel necessities” that you don’t need but you would be always tempted to buy because you have nothing else to do, the spectacle of people frantically clawing each other out of the way for a chance to use the electric outlets to recharge their laptops, and a string of Wolfgang Puck themed restaurants charging $4 for a bottle of water and $12 for a sandwich from a fridge! There were also big banners all over the airport indicating that Wi-Fi was enabled in the airport. I tried connecting to it with my phone. Didn’t manage to do it but it sure killed time!

We flew American Airlines this time. I’m a Continental fan myself, but for a promise of a few bucks in discount I would fly any plane! I was disappointed that seats on the plane from Chicago to Buenos Aires did not have their own individual tv screen and video system – they had the old 80’s overhead tv screens in the aisles instead. And the only movie available was some arctic documentary narrated by Queen Latifah. I didn’t bother to strain my neck to watch.

It seems that the trend nowadays in airplane travel is to either 1) bring all your luggage on board as carry-on or 2) check in your luggage and then lose it. The overhead bins are always jammed to capacity, and late boarders have literally no place to put their carry-ons. The poor lady seated next to me was one of the late boarders. She was a business traveler so she had all her stuff in a wheeled suitcase that just squeaked by the airport regulations for carry-ons. Unfortunately, the overhead bins up and down the aisle on both sides were completely full, and the suitcase was too large to fit under the seat in front of her. She was offered the possibility of checking in that piece of luggage, but she refused. So what happened? She stuffed the suitcase in the narrow legroom between her seat and the seat in front of her. So, where did she put her legs for the duration of the 12 hour flight? One of these days I should draw you a diagram. She must have been a Yogi master, because she neither exhibited discomfort nor died of a blood clot. In fact, I was restlessly moving around about 10 times more than her throughout the flight.

We were seated right next to the washrooms at the back of the plane. I thought Man Yung would be bothered by this, but in fact he thinks that these are some of the best seats on the plane, be damned! It wasn’t really that noisy, and we always knew when the washrooms were vacant. With the additional space, we could always get up and stretch without disturbing all the passengers within a 5 seat radius. Why is it that people always seem to look so awkward stumbling from their seats and lining up waiting for the washrooms to be vacant? Well, we completely avoided the embarrassment of having to be airplane washroom queuer-uppers! In fact, in our privileged seating positions we could stare disconcertingly at the people in the queues - more free entertainment than you can shake a leg at.

A couple of hours before landing, the yogi master/business traveler next to me noticed that I was watching tango videos on my phone, and struck up a conversation with me. She was a portena who travels a lot to the States to do business – in fact, she was a doctor who worked for a pharmaceutical company in Argentina. She had just been to Buffalo on business, but she had also traveled to Toronto before, and liked it very much and had a good impression of Torontonians as being really friendly and nice.

I don’t know whether it would be possible in an chance encounter with a stranger from any other country (certainly I don’t think it would be possible with Hong Kong-ers), but our fellow traveler immediately treated us like friends after a very short conversation. We exchanged business cards, phone numbers, email addresses and was invited to go shopping! We knew we were going to be just too busy to take up on her invitation, but it was really so nice of her to offer. In our experience of Argentinians, they are so welcoming and so warm that they are more family than some of our actual family members. Going to Buenos Aires is like going home.

Since we arrived in Bs As it has been really busy. We arrived just past noon on Friday, and we had to call Alberto and M&M right away. After calling Alberto we immediately had plans for Friday with him, and M&M asked us to meet them in the Canyengue class on Saturday at 1 p.m.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Falling, Falling, Falling...

I've been too busy to read tango blogs lately, but I wonder if anyone has made a comment recently about the impact of the financial crisis on the tango scene? It is a timely and relevant topic, I doubt that anyone can think pure tango thoughts anymore without a goodly dose of worry about falling stock, falling property prices, falling pension values, imploding financial systems....

I just read in the paper that the Canadian dollar's value has fallen to 83.41 cents US. That's 26 cents less than the all-time peak of 110.3 cents US in November, 2007, less than a year ago. And there's no indication that the downward slide will halt anytime soon.

The Canadian Dollar today will definitely buy less Comme Il Fauts than a year ago!

I am aware of two schools of thought regarding foreign currency vs. prices in Buenos Aires (I'm sure there are more, but I won't get into that now). In these current dire worldwide economic conditions, the proponents of the 1st school will definitely bitch about the rising prices, how everything costs more, why isn't Buenos Aires cheaper, how misled they were now that Buenos Aires is so expensive etc.

I recently read somewhere on the internet a description of disgruntled tourists, loitering in the cafes, mortified at the prices and regretting their trip - "But we had already booked it months ago, we couldn't cancel so we had to come anyway".

The 2nd school of thought (which Man Yung and I belong to), would be concerned about the prices in Buenos Aires and the buying power of the dollar too. After all, we are planning to return next year, and the last time we checked, we hadn't won the lottery.

But more importantly, we are more worried about how our friends in Buenos Aires are doing, whether they can get enough income from their teaching, whether they can meet their day-to-day expenses - in all whether the economic crisis is adversely affecting their lives. Buenos Aires is their home - whatever the economic outlook might be, they must live with it, and it is not a question of booking a one-way plane ticket out of there.

Yes, lodging and transportation and everything is going to be more expensive the next time we go, however, we are fortunate in that going to Buenos Aires for us will never be about how much stuff we can buy, how many milongas/classes/festivals we can attend, or how many fancy meals we can afford.

A nuestros queridos gran amigos porteños: We love you and we are thinking about you every day. We pray for your good health and happiness, hope that everything is ok, and we look forward the joy we will feel when we embrace each other again in Buenos Aires. Hasta entonces,

Irene y Man Yung

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

2008 Canadian Federal Election

We're going to the polls next Tuesday!

Man Yung doesn't want to vote this time. I understand his reluctance. We're confronted with a virtual Smörgåsbord of potential Prime Ministerial candidates to choose from. Some of the delights on the menu include:

NDP Leader, The Honourable Doctor John Gilbert "Jack" Layton: *

(yep, the one with the geeeeeeitar)

Conservative Leader, The Right Honourable Stephen Joseph Harper: **

(yep, the one with the teeny kittenzzz)

Liberal Leader, The Honourable Doctor Stéphane Maurice Dion:***

(yep, the one without the cluezzz)

...Wow, finding a good candidate to vote for is exactly like trying to choose a good leader to dance with in Toronto!

Man Yung says, "Let's vote for the dancing monkeys instead!"

* Distinguishing features: Snarly, snarky
** Distinguishing features: Lumpy, grumpy
*** Distinguishing features: Dumpy, frumpy

Friday, October 3, 2008


I've been trying to read some of the assigned Marx readings for my grad course, but I find that I am falling asleep within seconds of opening my hefty volume of David McLellan's "riveting" anthology of "Karl Marx: Selected Writings".

Am I getting 1) tired, 2) old or 3) both? Or have I succumbed to a virally induced strain of "Marx Narcolepsy" that medical science has yet to know about?

One distressing symptom is my complete alienation from the desire to either a) make ice cream or b) eat ice cream.

At this rate I'm going to rapidly lose weight and finally become the skinny stick-insect x-ray tango-junkie flaquita-ista I've always aspired to become!

Just think about it, with all that extra Marx-induced sleep, I will finally have the energy and drive to accomplish what I have always wanted to do i.e. RULE THE (Ontario, or maybe at least Toronto) TANGO WORLD. I may even find in my Marxist dream state the inspiration to emulate the marvelous dance stylings of the fabulous harem-pants-wearing partners of "Chicho"/"Pulpo"/"Homer"/"John Doe"/"Fred Bloggs" etc

Face-dancing, shoulder-shrugging, butt-shimmying, arm-lifting, pelvis-grinding, roomworkingschmoozing tango/trance/ecstasy, here I come!

Toronto Weather

Buenos Aires Weather