Saturday 31 July 2010

Sock Dragon

Here is the Sock Dragon. La Tanguerita and Pip both guessed right in the previous post.
You instantiate a Sock Dragon by knitting out of sock wool. It doesn't eat any extra socks for being instantiated.

The wings are slightly stiffened with a nylon-coated steel twist - it's soft, you can sew with it, but it gives them just a little bit of shape. The eyes - last, as always - are made with small red beads and gold sequins.

It has two rear feet like this with four front toes and a backward-pointing toe. They are made as bobbles. The leg is knitted like a toe-up sock with bobbles.

I considered knitting the spines along his back but I haven't done that kind of edging before, and it also seems a bit floppier and more difficult than the crochet alternative.

I have no memory right now of how I did these, it seemed obvious at the time, but essentially there's a row of dc along his back in the purl gully between two mirrored 6x6 cables.

That's followed by two layers. I've done a few ch and some stitches of progressive height, then covered them over with long-legged dc, but I've completely forgotten what the logic was. Not at my most stellar today.

Monday 26 July 2010

Tango Art

I have yet to see a representational tango drawing or painting that worked for me emotionally (though I do like some photographs, and I've seen some very well-drawn and amusing satirical cartoons; I thought they were good, just not really speaking to what I cared about).

I think that if I'm going to like a representational piece about dance, it has to be a good figure drawing. I'm not saying it has to be a conventional drawing, or a precise drawing, or an accurate drawing, or ploddingly representational to the exclusion of other meaning, but I do feel it should be a good figure drawing in the sense that the figure or figures should be believable in themselves and meaningfully placed in some analogue of space, and in some meaningful relation to each other. If you're going to draw a partner dance like tango, then I want you to be sharing or seeking some insight into what the relationship between the bodies when they dance actually is. If you don't know what you're looking at, then a person who does, is going to be able to tell that you don't, and is going to find the piece (well, is in my case at least) weak and inane and unsatisfying. I don't like fairies-in-air drawings.

Of course, nobody else will care. And why should they? This is personal; I daresay somebody's bought the piece that made me think this, in the RA Summer Exhibition.

I wouldn't have bought it. It struck me as an "oh look it must be magic" rather than "this is how it's magic" drawing; a communication of ignorance rather than insight, artistic or otherwise.

I'm not saying you have to do the dance yourself, I'm sure Degas didn't do ballet. But he understood and cared what the bodies were doing.

I know I have at least three professional or semi-professional artists among my regular or irregular readers, so feel free to discuss. Do you feel the same irritation, and if not, why not?

Floorcraft: exiting the kill zone

Ghost has been doing some more floorcraft experiments, because he cares a lot about keeping his followers safe and wants to figure out how to do it successfully in London - what works? If you've ever tried it, you'll know that it's not obvious, especially if you either don't have much experience at all or you don't have much experience of how it works anywhere else.

First, swordcraft, or a martial-arts perspective on keeping your distance:

The answer is if you're holding a 41" sword (the unfortunately-named hand and a half or b******* sword) in your right hand (bearing in mind the follower restricts how high you can lift you arm with her embrace) the leader in front of you should be *just* outside the range where you could hit him without taking a step. ie about 5 feet .... Just to clarify, 5 feet from leader to leader not 5 feet between couples. I reckon the woman takes up about 2 feet ...
And secondly, why it's a good idea to use the corners and hug the side, and how to do these things successfully so that someone tailgating you stops being a problem - or at any rate, stops being your problem:

When you come to a corner, go right into it. You're safe there. Now for the Killbox - as you exit the corner, that's when you're vulnerable. ... Fortunately even in close embrace you'll always be able to see to your left.
Both posts have drawings to explain why these things work, so definitely look if you like to learn visually. 

Many people whose social dancing I respect a lot, give similar advice (if in metres or paces rather than feet or swords-lengths), so there's good reason to expect it to work. Also, I've tested some it myself in a class where I was required to lead, and I managed not to have any bumps, so it works pretty well even with minimal leading skills.

But the more people do it, and know how to do it, the more effective this stuff gets.

Thursday 22 July 2010

Renaissance Drawings, tango al fresco

I don't feel so dancey when it's hot. But Tangocommuter has a lovely little video of dancing feet from Tango al fresco - I was away - I'll definitely make the second weekend though. I totally agree that people dance better on crowded floors and it's often more fun. I always have a good time at tango al fresco. Go and check him out.

I went to Renaissance Drawings this evening, it's the last few days. Pretty busy; it's an effort to keep calm, choose what to look at, and wait patiently for a space. There's a Titian.

My favourite thing is the little Leonardo of a little child playing with a cat - it's so funny.

Thursday 15 July 2010

Tribulaciones de milonga: Tango Queer, Milonga Gay

An interesting thing happened today. Argentina became the first Latin American country to institute same-sex marriage.

Una Milonguera, who writes in Spanish, I presume for a mainly local audience, has a special celebratory post. I read Spanish about well enough to understand what she's saying, with a couple of read-throughs, but I don't think I can really venture a translation. In summary, she talks about the "gay-friendly" milongas in Buenos Aires, and how they may be looked at as more than a "gay community" thing, being also there for people who simply want to dance with whoever they want, in whatever role they mutually agree, without unnecessary drama or causing alarm or distress.

UnaMilonguera:Tango Queer, Milonga Gay: 
Segundo postulado:
el tango es cuestión de conexión entre dos personas, de sentimiento, de contacto, de seducción.
Creo que estamos todos de acuerdo.

Tercer postulado: excepto para algunas personas retrógradas e incorregiblemente machistas y homofóbicas, sabemos que la conexión, el sentimiento, el contacto, la seducción, se pueden dar perfectamente entre dos personas del mismo sexo.
Conclusión: como el ambiente del tango es machista, algunas personas que no se identificaban con ese machismo pero sí querían bailar tango sin que los echaran a codazos de la pista (como ocurre en muchas milongas tradicionales, cuando no les piden lisa y llanamiente retirarse) han decidido abrir sus propios lugares de baile, en los que hombres pueden bailar con hombres, mujeres con mujeres, o se pueden intercambiar los roles sin herir la susceptibilidad de nadie.
I've quoted at some length, but there's more, with comments. She leaves the last word to the organisers of the Tango Queer milonga, open to all, and Festival Internacional de Tango Queer, equally open to all (I can't find this text on the website though):
El intento por homogeneizar, estetizar y “normalizar” las formas del baile y los ambientes en los que ésta se desarrolla va en contra de la permanente improvisación y movimiento que constituyen la dinámica tanguera, la cual pugna permanentemente por formas que vayan adaptándose a los cambios culturales y sociales de quienes forman parte de ella.
Bienvenida, Igualidad!

Wednesday 14 July 2010

Best tango domain name yet

I don't think I have the time or the money or the right sort of transport to go to the milonguera?si! Festivalito Rural, but:

  • I met Sašo, who seems to be organising, and who handed me the flyer, and Blaž, who I think is DJing for the last bit, at Les Cigales, they were both lovely dancers, a real treat.
  • I had to look up where Slovenia exactly was. It's the one that dropped quite peacefully off the left hand side of Yugoslavia at the beginning of the 90s, and then joined the EU in 2004 and adopted the Euro. The Tourist Board has found a way of getting "I feel love" into their logo.
  • Best tango domain name yet. And works as well! 
That's all.

Friday 9 July 2010

Out of Office Message

I think the Big Dance thing is great, I always have a good time at tango al fresco (looks like great weather for it too, and a picnic) and usually at Spitalfields, which has a more Dome-ish vibe. At Spitalfields the floor is *usually* concrete, it might not be on this occasion. In case it is, wear suitable street shoes and take care of your knees. Tango en el Cielo pointed out to me in a lesson that in this kind of situation it's OK to surreptitiously walk around pivots instead, you end up in logically the same place and your partner probably won't know. It's better than pivoting on concrete, which has certainly done me some damage before.

But I'm going to miss it all this weekend because I'm away on holiday, I'll be back next week. It's a pity, but it just happened to be the same weekend.

Couple of totally off-topic things which will interest some of my readers:

The power of asking really small, really big questions, one by one - a miniature masterclass from renowned trial attorney David Boies. Hat tip Felix Salmon again, I have no idea how he reads and writes so much in a day.

It's notable that the reason this works is that it doesn't seem like an option for the witnesses to say "no, America is not about equality, or if it is I don't think it should be", which is almost certainly their actual view, but they can't really say that, for reasons which I find very interesting to consider.

Other topics to keep the mind ticking over: I have sometimes been puzzled by articles arguing that the right way to regulate banks is to make their problematic activities less profitable, while apparently accepting the position that the problem with the activities is that they are dangerously loss-making. So are the activities profitable, or not? The question is elegantly resolved in this interview with Professor William K. Black, the white-collar criminologist (only the first half-minute - after the jazz - is in Icelandic, the interview itself is in English). Unfortunately that link, which isn't working for me today, may not be permanent. They refer briefly to Professor Black's previous appearance on Silfur Egils the year before, which is on YouTube and covers more or less the same ground, though less elegantly: Part 1,

part 2.

This stuff makes me cross. Bunch of shameless thieves.

Another animal but I'm not saying what it is yet.

A creature is in progress.


Nearly done. The last bit is quite fiddly, though.

Monday 5 July 2010

Dance and not throwing your tea around

On Friday I was walking down a clean, smoothly carpeted corridor, carrying two mugs of tea, one for myself and one for a colleague.

Nobody was anywhere near me, there was nothing on the floor, and the most difficult task ahead of me was to get through a closed door without spilling any tea.

I very, very nearly spontaneously tripped over my own feet sideways and fell into a meeting room.

I don't know whether it's just inexplicable that I can dance at all, or it's the dance that saved me from actually falling over and throwing tea all over the meeting room.

Thursday 1 July 2010

Fun music thing to do at a practica

I discovered this accidentally with a friend and practice partner. I was in the off-floor bar area at a milonga, and I had in one hand about the remaining half of a large alcoholic drink.

A milonga came on that I know well and like a lot, but no partner happened to be in sight except a friend who clearly wanted a rest, and I didn't care to abandon my drink in the absence of someone reliable.

So I started dancing around all by myself, stepping and occasionally twirling with my own interpretation of the music.

After a moment, my friend started stepping with me; effectively, following me from a few feet away. As far as I remember we did this for most of a couple of milongas, just dancing around in the bar, with me drinking my drink.

It's often said that women can learn a lot about what's inside the music by following people who know it well, but men rarely have that opportunity. This way, he could follow me without me having to be able to lead or him having to use anything but the most basic concept of following.

Once we had finished fooling around I went back inside and forgot all about it, but he reckons he got a lot out of it. So much so that he went off and persuaded his regular teacher to do the same thing. I don't know if that's why, but I feel his dance has got dramatically more musical a few weeks later. I suppose it's just listening together with someone who hears more, and the fact that you're moving your whole body as well makes it more effective.

Anyway it's fun to do, especially with a large drink. Maybe lots of people do this, but I'd never seen it done.