Saturday, October 26, 2013



Our maestra Coca doesn't like to be too risqué... but she can't resist pretty feminine dresses.  So whenever she wears any skirt or dress with floating, transparent gossamer layers of tulle, she asks us in a loud whisper:

"Is it too see-thru?  Is it too see-thru?"

And we reply:

"Yes, we can see everything!  Whooo-hoooo, how very sexy!"

And Coca will give us the evil eye.

Paulina once told us a story about a horrible milonga she went to. "Everyone was doing high kicks on the dance floor and didn't care a jot that people were around them.  Alberto got kicked in the back and the perpetrator didn't even apologize!"

She paused dramatically and then described the most horrible thing of all.  "One couple was dancing dangerous stage tango movements right in the middle of the crowded floor and all of a sudden, he flipped her upside down and her skirt flopped over her head - AND THERE WAS NOTHING LEFT TO THE IMAGINATION!!!!"
I think the last thing most milongueras would want is to have her bombacha showing.  It's just not classy.  When we are in the company of our milonguera friends in a Buenos Aires milonga watching a performance by the next up-and-coming tango couple and some gratuitous underwear exposure comes up - they always turn to us secretively and give us a solemn "look" of disapproval.

We share their distress.  But not for the reasons you think!

"Like many gentlemen, I like looking at nice lady's underwear now and then - but no, not your granny panties, Irene!" said Man Yung.  "However, in traditional Chinese culture, lady's knickers have a devastating mysterious power that should not be underestimated or misused."

"What do you mean, Man Yung?"

"I'll give you an example.  Irene, you have seen many Chinese sword and sorcery movies.  You always get this scene the dueling Chinese wizards are so evenly matched, they are stuck in a stalemate and neither can win.  Of course, the good wizard's assistant saves the day by throwing a pair of (used) lady's knickers at the bad wizard which makes his magic backfire and implode.  The side of good wins the day, thanks to knickers!"

"I remember now - you are absolutely right!"

"Knickers have also been used throughout Chinese history to counter bewitchment and ward off evil spirits."

"If what you are saying is true, then any tango performance that results in a lot of panty-flashing is very beneficial for the audience.  We should try to go and see as many such performances as possible for our health, wealth and good fortune!"

How lucky we are to get to see everything

"Not so fast, Irene.  Seeing the underwear is not lucky - it is in fact very UNLUCKY.  If you are a gambler having a lucky streak at the casino, any hint of the sight of knickers will make you lose IMMEDIATELY.  Any person who wants to play mahjong, go to a card game, or even buy a lottery ticket after watching your standard furious foot flapping, jumping, spinning, flipping, kicking AND knicker flaunting tango show is doomed to LOSE."*

* I think the theory behind this ancient Chinese wisdom is that attracting luck for gambling purposes is a type of enchantment which would be instantly broken at the sight of the knickers.  This is why Irene is always considerate at the milonga.   Whenever she is wearing anything that is somewhat short, or somewhat transparent, you can be sure that she will be wearing some sturdy bike shorts underneath.  Don't worry, Paulina - no one can see anything, even if you turn Irene upside down!  Of course, you can do like the Nuevo Tangoistas and just wear a pair of pants under your skirt - but maybe, just maybe, this is overkill.**

** Ladies, if you have to flash someone in Tango, is there a way to do it that is not so bad?  For example, is black underwear somehow better than wearing white underwear or vice versa?  Are knickers that are the same colour as your dress less offensive?  Or does wearing knickers matching your skin colour "magically" make the whole knicker exposure issue disappear because you aren't supposed to see it anymore? ***

*** Unfortunately, "Nude" knickers are not really visible or invisible ... don't know what to say except when we saw this recently, our Milonguera friend sitting next to us covered her eyes and screamed, "I've gone blind!  I've gone blind!"

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Alberto Dassieu and Paulina Spinoso - Performances at Nuevo Chique, October 2011

It was Alberto's birthday on Sunday and we called him to wish him a happy birthday.  We think of Alberto and Paulina often, and we talk about the times we have spent together, and the advice they have given us about Tango and about life.

We would like to share with you the videos we took of Alberto and Paulina's performances of Tango, Vals and Milonga at Nuevo Chique in 2011 - even though someone else has put their video of the event on Youtube as well, it's nice to see their performance again:

Osvaldo and Coca came too and we had a wonderful time.  This photo brings back happy memories of that night:

We miss our friends in Buenos Aires very very much and wish them all the best.

Monday, October 7, 2013

We gave up Tango for Nuit Blanche

 Toronto is beautiful - City Hall all lit up for Nuit Blanche

....well, only for one night.  Man Yung was not happy though, he'd rather dance.  "I don't have any expectations about the 'art' on display, and it would be too crowded to see anything!"  he said.

"This year, we have to go - I insist!  Every year we Tango instead of going to Nuit Blanche - it's the eighth year, surely we can give up Tango for one Saturday night ONCE!  And I'm not saying we are going to 'savor' art because I don't have very high expectations either - I just want to experience what the atmosphere of Nuit Blanche in Toronto is like."

So off we headed to Nuit Blanche.  We went during peak hours, so we got to experience what it was like 1) being stuck in a traffic jam going to the city centre and 2) driving around for forty-five minutes looking for a parking space, finally parking like, twenty blocks from the event, and 3) walking slowly with great effort and difficulty towards Nathan Phillips Square against a crowd of people streaming the opposite direction ("See, told you there was nothing to look at - all the people are already going home!" said Man Yung).

"Haven't seen so many people out so late at night for a long time!" I said.

In Hong Kong, apparently, this is a nightly occurrence because it's more densely populated and there's more night life.  "Reminds me of the Hong Kong night markets like on Temple Street, Lady Street and the now long defunct Dai Dat Dei." said Man Yung. "Here in Nuit Blanche, you have non-official performers everywhere setting up stalls and speakers and putting on shows, performances, singing, etc. and crowds gathering to watch.  I remember going to Dai Dat Dei and experiencing similar entertainment - but even more amusing, like Cantonese opera performances, acrobats, and strongmen smashing cinder blocks on their chests with sledgehammers and bending spears with their throats. Not to mention really great Dai Pai Dong food!  Here you only get corn on the cob ("BUT IT'S OBSCENELY HUGE BUTTERED UP CORN ON THE COB," I said, staring at a lady who was looking lasciviously at her enormous stick of 'corn'), hot dogs and tiny donuts the size of oreo cookies at a FREAKING EXPENSIVE $5.00 per DOZEN!  And you have to line up for over half an hour to buy food. Doesn't really compare, sorry."

"Oh well, just look at this as the North American equivalent of Dai Dat Dei - since it's not like I can travel back to all those fun times that you had when you were young," I said.  "Let's give Nuit Blanche a chance shall we?"

This is what we saw:

Unmanned cars circling in the dry skating rink in "Crash Cars".  I really kept on waiting for them to crash.  I was to be disappointed - car destruction wasn't part of the art installation.

Ai Wei Wei's "Forever Bicycles" sculpture.  I was disappointed that they weren't functioning bicycles but just metal in the shape of bicycles.  Man Yung was disappointed that there wasn't more reference to Tienanmen Square Massacre. 


More crowds.  Looking at the lights (an artwork called "A rose is without why") we are nearly blinded.

We escape to the Peace Garden on the podium roof.  We wouldn't go there usually at night or during the day but because there were people everywhere we felt safe.

Fantastic view of the Toronto skyline from the podium roof - people, people everywhere, including the guy in the red jacket dancing a merry jig.

"Clothesline Canopy".  We were amazed that they used so many clean socks. "It would be more realistic if they used worn-out socks, socks with holes, and socks with indelible dirty patches," said Man Yung.  "But then people would be kind of reluctant to 'interact' with the artwork, I think," I said.

Man Yung is also amazed that I managed to ruin the photo by making sure there was a sock shadow across Man Yung's face.

This mountain of fabric is actually the "Parade Queen's" butt.  Man Yung wanted to take a photo of the security guard but I argued that it was not "artistic" (I think the guard was there making sure no-one took a peek under Parade Queen's skirt because you don't know what she/he/it would be hiding under there.  Maybe a HUGE CORN ON THE COB?????).

The "Ferris Wheel" was kind of small.  Reminded Man Yung of the neon "Fish, Lobster, Crab" signs outside many Toronto chinese restaurants.

Even though Man Yung is known to dance for five hours at a milonga without stopping, just two and a half hours of walking made him totally exhausted ("But it was very draining fighting against the crowd most of that time!" he explained) and we went home.

We didn't see a lot of the art on display at Nuit Blanche so we can't comment on the whole thing, but what we did see we didn't find all that extraordinary.  We like, however, seeing so many people of all different ages, races and backgrounds coming out and enjoying the night in a safe*, peaceful, joyful, optimistic, hopeful atmosphere, and local businesses getting a boost from all that increased activity downtown. However, we aren't planning to go again soon - it was a little too much 'crowd' and not quite enough 'art' for us!  ** ***

* Safe - mostly.  Unfortunately, someone did get stabbed and killed at Nuit Blanche - the newspapers say it was part of dispute that started at a impromptu rave party in the festival area. 

** Yes, we are all complainy about the art at Nuit Blanche - and you know we are complainy about Tango too.  Martha and Manolo are better people than we are - they always say, "So long people are dancing Tango, it will be ok!" and they are forgiving most of the stuff that would get the Evil Eye from us. I guess the "art" equivalent is "So long people are promoting and producing art, it will be ok!"

*** Man Yung almost got into a fist fight with a Tanguera about differing views on Ai Wei Wei's artwork at the Sunday night milonga after Nuit Blanche!  Ok, I exaggerate, there were "raised voices" and "deadly looks" and no actual punching.  And it turned out they weren't even talking about the same thing - she was talking about Ai Wei Wei's exhibition at the AGO, and he was actually talking about the beekeepers meditating at the AGO during Nuit Blanche. Doh!

Wednesday, October 2, 2013


We went to a friends' house for dinner recently.  We don't really like to go to this house to eat because the house REEKS of cooking smells, and after we go there the smell is in our clothes, our hair, everything!  But we can't refuse, it would hurt our friends' feelings if we turned them down. 

This time when the invitation to dinner came, we tried to be smart.  "Look, let us cook dinner and bring it over!" we said.  So we made a couple of dishes (and we had to be super rush, since it was on a weeknight after work) and went over.

"It really seems like there is less stench today!" I whispered to Man Yung as we served our hot food to our friends.  We spent a pleasant evening eating and chatting and having dessert and coffee afterwards - without that dreadful sensation of "Ick, I can't wait to get home to take a shower right now!"

However, as we were driving back home, Man Yung sniffed his clothes, rolled down the windows, and said, "Irene, there wasn't any cooking in their house this evening, so why do I smell like a stale fried pork chop!"

Yep, me too.

We didn't notice it when we were sitting in their house, but the cooking smell was permeating our skin minute by minute!

"Oh boy, even when they aren't cooking, the smell is still there, seeping out of the walls, floor, ceiling and even the furniture.  That's what decades of roasting chicken, pan-frying fish and stir-frying pork with peanut oil without proper ventilation will do!"

And our friends are completely oblivious to the problem because they have been living with that smell for so long, they can't even smell it anymore. 

"This reminds me of an ancient Chinese saying," said Man Yung, who always has edifying Chinese sayings on the tip of his tongue (lucky me!).  "When you are dwelling among fine cultured gentlefolk, it is like living among fragrant orchids - and after a while you aren't aware of the perfume.  However, when you are dwelling among ignorant lowlife louts, it is like working in an abalone shop.  After a while you don't know it's stinky."*

"Wow, delicious and expensive!  
Who knew that abalone used to be one of the top disgusting smells in China?"

*And when you dance grotesquely in a community of other tangueros who also dance grotesquely, you would feel completely at home and you wouldn't know that you suck!   But here in Toronto, we also get this strange phenomena: People who dance like they are the love-child of Quasimodo and Elaine Benis at venues where all the other people are dancing quite nicely - and they don't feel out of place at all!  Are they immune from the influence of good dancers because they are encased in a magical invisible bubble of self-sucking obliviousness?  Sometimes they are so confident they even put on PERFORMANCES for all the other dancers who are scowling and not pleased - remember dear Toronto Organizers, please do not spring this SURPRISE on us and warn us well in advance so we can decide NOT to come to the milonga and stay home!

"I thought abalones were supposed to be prized delicacies! You can't get any decent ones unless you paid like, hundreds of dollars for an ounce these days. I didn't know they had a reputation for smelling horrible," I said.

"This saying comes from hundreds of years ago, when people probably didn't know how to preserve abalone.  Abalone smelled so bad, when the Emperor Qin died on his travels in China and his ministers wanted to hide the fact of his death in order to prevent unrest among the people, they pulled down the curtains in his carriage and put a load of abalones in the carts next to his carriage.  They continued to travel for weeks, stopping and cooking three meals a day for the Emperor so that no one would realize he had died.  Even though the Emperor's corpse was decomposing badly in the hot weather no one suspected he was dead.  If anyone commented on the smell, the ministers would  point to the smelly abalones and say there was no way around it, the Emperor took them with him everywhere as they were one of his favourite foods."

"Hee hee, that's a fun fact about abalones.  I'll keep that in mind the next time they serve abalones at a banquet - I'll tell that story and when everyone would rather barf than eat any I can eat as many servings as I want!"

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