Saturday 23 December 2017

Octopus for a Preemie

These two amusing little creatures are my first attempts at the Octopus for a Preemie pattern. They are made by volunteers to go to hospitals. The hospitals give them to premature babies in incubators, so they can wrap their minute hands around the slender tentacles, as they would with the umbilical cord; it keeps them calm, and stops them pulling out the tubes that are keeping them alive. When they leave the hospital, I think they take them home, but the parents are advised to put them aside because they're not advisable as a toy for a fully developed baby.

The octopuses have to pass a rigorous quality inspection, and since these are my first try, it's likely they won't pass. Most people's don't. I've done my best, but I'm not sure if all the stitches are tight enough or not. But if they don't pass, they won't be wasted - they will be given to babies that didn't live. It could be that I've made them to be grave goods, which is a thing to think about next time you watch a pop archaeology programme on telly.

The world-wide list of group websites is here. I gave the Facebook link above because the UK one is down for maintenance. The Argentinian group Abrazos de Pulpitos has good tutorials on YouTube.

Some things I have learned from leading socially

A few things I have learned about dancing, by regularly dancing both roles socially for two or three years. My experiences may or may not be in common with anyone else.

  • There is a tremendous range between OK, good, and great followers, of which they are almost all totally unaware.
  • Leading poor followers is very difficult; it requires a range of skills, resilience, and physical training.
  • Leading OK followers is fun, especially if they are interested or enthusiastic and easy to be with.
  • Leading good followers is more fun, especially if, etc.
  • Leading great followers is amazing, and you don't feel like you have to do anything, and whatever you do do is totally effortless.
  • There are a lot more than those categories.
  • Don't bother raiding the cool guys' “harems”, they're disappointing, dance-wise.
  • In a good ronda, under good physical conditions, with good followers, leading is cognitively much less demanding than following. The difference is dramatic. Getting the basics to a good standard is quite a lot of work, but if you can do that and then stay within what you've mastered, good and great followers will dance with you, and it is effortless.
  • It is possible to flirt with the table of glamorous Dutch lesbians through the medium of another woman's body.
  • There exist men who are both hot and good followers. Hang on a minute –

Wednesday 20 December 2017

The Biagi Pandas

I said Biagi seemed never to have recorded a bad or boring track.

I take it back. The ones with Carlos Acuña sound like Biagi trying to sound like Troilo, and the result is the auditory equivalent of one of those videos of 20 baby pandas falling over in different ways. I'm glad he didn't continue in that artistic direction.

Sunday 10 December 2017

On social maleness

mikeintonbridge, in a comment on the previous post, says an interesting thing:

As a man who likes to dance with both women and men, and to lead and follow I confess I don't think much about what my choice of clothes says about that. It's fascinating to learn how much more this means to a woman - or perhaps just to this particular woman.
I can't make general claims about other women who do this. I may have thought about it more carefully than most, because the subject interests me.  However, there are a few ways of looking at that difference, if we assume it exists.

One is that women generally have a lot more choice of look within the range of what counts as usual female clothing, so automatically we have to make some choice. All clothing means something. While men have to go quite far out of the usual, or be unusually thoughtful and sophisticated, to do anything beyond dressing either well or badly.

A second is that in this context, a conflict exists for me that is, as far as I can see, much less marked for men. When I originally floated the idea of a talk, Ray reframed part of my thought as "can a woman lead [and remain socially female]?". 

As is so popularly observed, gender and sex are two different things; while sex is more-or-less  biological, gender is a social concept, more-or-less performative, and what that peformance consists of can be anything - it depends on the particular place and time and social context. You can perform the gender society assigns you, or another one, to a greater or lesser degree, and other people can accept that performance either more or less. And there is obviously no reason to expect that the kinds or levels of work to perform any given gender in any particular context will be equal; you can't even assume that there are only two genders. Humans can, and do, assign themselves and each other to as many different classifications as they happen to feel are required to understand their world.

In my specific context, it is easier for a woman to perform male gender than for a man to perform female gender. I can do it almost accidentally to a surprising extent by just skipping some tedious tasks that advertise peformance of female gender, like painting my toenails or the customary depilation and exposure of the legs; if in addition, I ably and publicly peform a male-gendered task, I am half way there, and need to think about counteracting it a bit (such as with earrings).

When I lead socially I become, in certain limited but noticeable respects, socially male. For example, as soon as I started leading socially, publicly, to a barely-acceptable standard, I had a strong sense that my social presence and social boundaries were treated with more respect. Of course, the effects are incomplete, and unreliable. But they seem quite noticeable to me.

So I can, and therefore I must, make a choice whether to counteract or to enhance that social maleness with my dress - and there are sacrifices involved either way. The deep, instinctive sense that I sacrifice a valuable social masculinity, and that what I get in return is less valuable, is one of the things that I struggle with in deciding what to wear.

The bottom line is that it takes quite a lot of good dancing, of feeling loved, of the meditative high and skilful challenge of following, quite a lot of pleasant male bodily presence, connection, and attention, quite a lot of male appreciation, even admiration, to counterbalance that sensation of people just mysteriously acting like you actually matter. Even though I love all that stuff. There's a trade-off, and the answer isn't always the same. It depends.

While a man who follows is, socially, just a man who follows. (Men who follow - is this false? Ray suggested that, at least for gay men, it's a bit more complicated than that. I'd be interested to read about how it's false - or not - in your experience).