Monday, 9 February 2015

Two Baby Hats

For my next-door neighbour, who has produced a wee boy. I improvised the red one, using an online size guide for a newborn and putting a seed-stitch heart on the front.

The second one uses up the rest of the lovely pale-brown alpaca that I used for the blanket on the friendly alpaca I made for a friend's granddaughter.

This time I followed a pattern, "Djvellue", which you can get on Ravelry. I couldn't find the two different sizes of needle normally used, which you need for the garter-stitch border, so I replaced it with TechKnitter's tubular edging, like a tiny brim.

It's a totally charming traditional style with the darling little point over the baby's nose, and the ties under the chin. I quite want a hat like that to wear myself.

Sunday, 8 February 2015

Tango Fire again

I took my Mum to this year's edition of Tango Fire.

I'd recommend it to Strictly fans who like tango. You'll see much better stage-tango than you've seen on TV. It's done with great energy and technique, so that they spend most of the time dancing rather than posing. And it's definitely authentic in the sense that they mean: for instance, the most alert and knowledgeable Strictly fans might know the choreographer, German Cornejo, as the same man who actually won the Tango World Championship (Show section) in 2005, one of the years Vincent and Flavia occasionally still make it sound like they did. I think the performance he won with is a nice piece of tango-ballet, and so is this show. The choreography is such that the cast look as though they're showing off and enjoying themselves rather than being stressed out or frantic. As a whole it felt kind of warm and rather tasteful. I actually thought the nude jumpsuit with the leaves on it looked absolutely gorgeous, as did the taffeta dresses, and the young men in their coloured, matte suits.

Company pieces broadly alternate with one couple at a time; there are some solos with the singer; and some instrumental sections in the second half. The first half is the usual succession of scenes and horseplay.

In the second half, the women let down their hair extensions, the band play Piazzolla, and it gets more abstract, with more hotpants and more lifts. I loved the Piazzolla and so did my Mum. It's great, powerful music. The dancing was less one-paced than the last time I saw Tango Fire, in 2009 I think, but there was no variety of style and I remember no musical climax - not even in milonga or vals - that wasn't a lot of fast, static kicks. Again, this is much better done than on Strictly, with proper tango technique and connection instead of stiff legs and awkwardness, but I was sorry not to see a talented cast challenged to do a bit more. Maybe the problem here is me being only interested in tango rather than having any appreciation of contemporary dance or any of the other things the cast and choreographer have done.

Tango people won't see a single second of anything they haven't seen a hundred times. Nor will they see any more than the tiniest sliver of what they know is there. In a way this disappoints me, because it always feels as though, if you really wanted to make a tango-ballet of two hours including interval, you could have all sorts of fun not only with different styles, but with things like love, friendship, teamwork, rivalry, conflict, confidence, gender, sexuality, role-playing, society, history, and so on. Even just with what the songs themselves are giving you. They used El día que mi quieras and Ventarrón for the soloists with the singer - both of which have stories that there were no more than nods in the direction of telling. Hell, you could even say something about tango, beyond the cliché of the hilarious accidental kick in the balls (scene 2). I don't know that it would even necessarily alienate the less-informed audience.

The show is not tempted by any of that.

However, that would be a different sort of show - and nobody wants variety or originality in a serving of steak and chips. The intended audience probably wants steak and chips; this is steak and chips, with a reasonably happy salad. And Mum was highly entertained by the whole thing, especially the band, not having seen a bandoneon before and being fascinated by how it was played.

I detected no trace whatsoever of meaning. But it is exactly what it says it is, the programme notes are sensible, it's very pretty, and I really enjoyed the band.

Take your favourite Strictly fan to the Peacock Theatre, Tuesday-Saturday at 19:30, Matinees at the weekend, tickets from £15 for some innocent entertainment.


* This long-ago misunderstanding probably explains a lot about the 'tango' technique seen and discussed on Strictly, in my view.

Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Working from home rant

Today I sent a troublemaking email to a Chief Psychologist. I had no idea that the rather formless and confusing multinational I work for employed a Chief Psychologist to advise management on the wellbeing of its employees - until he wrote a blog post about home working.

I pointed out that while his advice was very sensible and relevant, it was very sensible and relevant in a world where (1) employees live in houses with spare rooms and (2) working from home is felt as a benefit rather than as a unilateral transfer of significant costs of doing business onto the employee, when the employer finds it inconvenient to provide a place to work.

They were of limited application in a world where the capital cost of an additional room in a private dwelling is more than 300% of the employee's total annual income before tax, where almost everyone shares their living space with someone else (often not a spouse or children), where the employee often does not own their home, cannot make alterations, and has no security of tenure, where the cost of heating is far from negligible, and where there is constant noise and disturbance from neighbouring dwellings.

To put it in a more positive way; high quality office space to work in can be a meaningful benefit. Colleagues in Mumbai appreciate air-conditioning that reliably works. Colleagues in London are often annoyed by air-conditioning, but they appreciate some space, some quiet, adequate natural light, a breakout room, and somewhere safe for the brave to put bicycles. There's a good chance that they don't have any of those things at home. Any large company would do well to stop faffing about with meaningless recognition schemes and think about things more realistically from the employee's point of view.

I have a couple of long posts in the works - they're careful discussions of various subjects, and they're stuck in the drafts file because I can't quite decide whether I really agree with them or not.

Sunday, 11 January 2015

Sharing music

Completing the incomplete thought of my previous post, I want to explain again some of what the pleasure is, specifically, in dancing the way I dance.

Imagine you were very young and you had some favourite music and you found a friend who thought it was as just as cool as you did. You could listen to it together and you knew it very well, but you were still two people, hearing it with four ears. You could look at each other and you could wave your arms or go "dum, dum, DUMMMM!" at all the cool bits, and sometimes your friend would notice something you hadn't noticed and go "Laa laa laaa diddly PLINK!" and you would pick up on it as they were saying it and by the time they got to the PLINK! you were doing the same thing, only differently, and more so, and there was so much more happiness in sharing that, than in appreciating it all alone.

And imagine you could hug each other and climb inside the music together, telling each other's bodies without any words exactly how it sounded for each of you.

[Edit: here's a video suggested by Matthew in the comments. It's lovely, and it pretty much makes the same point. :) ]

Saturday, 10 January 2015

Regarded as creditable

I'm so glad I had a longish break; I had a fantastic evening tonight. Taking several weeks off does make me appreciate and enjoy it more, and concentrate better.

It's so amazing that I can do that with as many men as I like as often as I like, nothing bad happens, and being good at it is regarded as creditable, even for women.

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Musicality with Dawn Hampton and John Dokes (Swing)

My favourite thing about this video is that the band is LIVE and both of them still dance as though they know every split second of the music. Because they understand it as dance music, and so does the band, and they're all paying attention to each other, and when you cooperate and you understand the form and what each other are doing, you don't need to know exactly what's coming next.

For example: at 00:50, the feigned surprise is funny because he completely hit that, and that's why he seemed like a leaf on the wind of sound. And at 05:05, again.

The band would appear to be The George Gee Jump, Jivin' Wailers of New York City.

I've posted this video before, in 2009. It still makes me happy - it might make you happy, too.

Sunday, 7 December 2014


This is what I ended up knitting for a friend's new granddaughter. I was in Lillehammer, in Norway, and I walked into a yarn shop looking for inspiration. They had some lovely sock-weight alpaca in soft colours, and on the ball band was a little drawing of a goofy alpaca face.

It looked a bit like this.

So I made one.

He's got a little tail, and a little fluffy hairdo, blue eyes, and a blanket with flowers on.

They also had some wooden circular needles with square cross-section, which are very nice to work with, and since I hadn't brought anything with me and needed to start right away, I got those too. I love Norwegian yarn shops.

There's another animal I made this year which you've missed out on because the photos were destroyed in an SD card disaster. Anyway, it was a pink and purple owl, and there's no other one like it anywhere.