Saturday, October 31, 2015

(Very) Small Mercies. The Shibutanis at Skate Canada

 The only upside to the Shibs coming in second at Skate Canada was at least it wasn't: "Did you hear something?" "Nope, I didn't hear anything."

They're in the runner-up mix now. Oh joy. Leaps and bounds for the ice dance team that I, for one, now consider the best in the world. If only ice dance could become a sport.

For me, Skate America was a huge what else is new, although a poster on Goldenskate had a belated observation, which will be cited later.

Before touching on the Shibs at Skate Canada, let's check in with life along the Milk and Honey Route, where Tessa plays model, hawks her jewelry line, and fiddles with filters and photoshop on instagram, while Scott's menage a trois continues strong:

I've followed this crap enough to be
pretty sure those are Kaitlyn's feet.
Nothing to brag about, not saying it is.
 What a life. It's almost a sister wives arrangement he's got going here. Scott Moir, who knew. Still, it's a bit odd to me that this is a guy whose primary influences in his career have been women (no matter what he pretends, it ain't Mike Babcock), and yet it's the women who appear to have more insecurity about the perception of Scott's traditional masculinity than I imagine any man could possibly have. Maybe some feminist consciousness raising is in order in Ilderton.

So, Skate America. These remarks from Goldenskate, I think, cover everything:

From "Moon" at Goldenskate. About Gilles & Poirier, but could easily be about Chock & Bates:
 I think that this is the point many people are trying to make. They are fun to watch but ice dance is a sport and is and should be marked predominantly on technique and quality of the blades knees and hips. This is the quality that makes good icedance versus pairs without lifts.
 I think sloppy feet and poor extension is a quality that any dancer is trying to show no matter what style they choose. This is not just a G/P problem. So many teams are trying to emulate SYTYCD programs and it has turned into messy show dancing. If you cant control your body movements and are constantly clutching and grabbing your partner for balance then scale back on the OTT moves and concentrate on partnering properly and blade work.

Oh come on now Moon, that horse left the barn after 2012. Why would anyone scale back when every deficit you're highlighting put an Olympic gold medal in Davis and White's possession vis a vis a team that not just did everything better than they did, but did it better than anybody in the world to that point. More accurate to say the "silver medalists" did everything, and the ones wearing gold didn't do anything that the rules, standards and critieria tell us are needed to get the highest protocols. Not to mention Virtue and Moir weren’t the only ones who beat Davis White on the actual ice.

Okay, Skate Canada. Duhamel Radford won pairs:

My problem with their skating is that Megan's run of blade is miniscule, and she is so stiff, so tight, so cautious, so pitched forward, she seems not to be breathing, let alone breathing through her movements, and, strikingly so compared to Radford's fluidity. The poverty of her range of motion makes Meryl Davis look like Misty Copeland (okay, not really. They both suck). This is another team scored on the stronger partner, contrary to what the rules proscribe. Duhamel used to be a demolition derby. I guess everybody's decided clenched is an enormous improvement. There's also this:

Lutz entry to the split triple twist, without the actual lutz part. Look at the protocols. Let's not get the outside edge, and just say she did.


Skate Canada and the Shibs:

Their two magnificently skated programs came in second to a couple of polished (but not as polished as the Shibs themselves) journeyman efforts by the home team. Naturally and as ever, the team that crushed their competition in pcs, on paper, LOST the competition in pcs.

Quote from Sun Dae on Goldenskate:

Free dance practice was also very convincing for The Shibutani's. Hard to put my finger on it but they are skating with a lot of "moxie" and confidence. New music section works well with footwork which had emotion and expression throughout. Maia looks completely different this year. Not a little girl any more at all.

 I'll put my finger on it, Sun Dae. They're skating their programs, and at the highest level. Clean feet, speed, power, unison, fluidity, musicality, run of blade, tremendous ice coverage, seamless transitions, using the entire rink. Remember that? Weaver and Poje were pedestrian compared to the Shibs.
Love this from the Shibs short program:

In terms of gifs, it was between this and the stunning rotational in the long. Compare either of this programs with - forget Weaver and Poje - anything the current World Champions have ever tried.

If I were scoring this, the Shibs would have run away with the competition, Brobrova and Soloviev about six points back in second, but neck and neck with Weaver and Poje for third.

I'm only slagging off on Weaver and Poje vis a vis the Shibs. Weaver and Poje are Virtue and Moir compared to Chock/Bates and Gilles Poirier, yet the Grand Prix final and Worlds set up to score ice dance in inverse relation to what any team delivers on the ice so that God forbid a Marina Zoueva team win a major title in a third Olympic cycle. That's all we're looking at here. Paul/Islam, unfortunately, are elbowing a bunch of other teams for consideration up in Montreal, and the fact that they're Canadian probably works against them there.

Maia and Alex Shibutani after the free at Skate Canada.
Considering how they've been fucked over, their
passion and their skill are extraordinary. Even NOT
considering that, they're extraordinary.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

I'm sure they've got a lot to say.

And now, "skating":

Weaver and Poje
Finlandia 2015 short dance

The skating got rough with the music change, but then they actually do skate their programs while remaining engaged with each other.

And here's Bratislava:

Oh  hey. Power and speed.
Let's ignore it.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Senior B

I was just catching up with Nebelhorn and

The generation of ice dancers (the group who went for it in 2010) immediately previous to the cluster of meh currently competing, seemed to be having a good time when they competed, at least most of the time. There was adrenalin on the ice and in the audience. There was enthusiasm among the skaters skating their programs, warming up, or in practice. There was a rush when stakes were high, even more when everything clicked, that made it easy to understand why so many figure skaters are addicted to the sport.

Since - and with the majority help of the North American officials in both the USA and Canada -  it was agreed in the last Olympic cycle that neither skating nor dance should be important in competitive ice dance, all vitality is gone from what was once almost a sport. Sport goes when the measurable, defined athletic and technical skills that make it sport (in this instance, the skating and dancing parts of ice dance) are no longer relevant. But it wasn't replaced with anything. It's not like the having legit wrestling supplanted by the circus of the WWW. Nothing's come through the grapevine telling the skaters/coaches to develop performance value or build particular entertainment attributes in their programs, no edict to pump it full of romance, drama, personality, musicality, nothing. The sport part's been supplanted by a void. We've got futility on ice, and unsurprisingly, it's turned ice dance into a big swamp of meh. Many skaters execute like they're pumped full of benzodiazepines.* Forget excitement. The skaters are missing affect.

Even if you decide accept that it's all fixed, and set out to enjoy the skating in ice dance for its own sake, regardless of outcome, that option has gone to crap as well. The stasis in ice dance has made the pre-determined winners overly deliberate, executing programs built around a caution and self-protection that's masquerading as choreography. It’s created anxiety among those who deserve to improve their placement. It’s had an overall adverse impact on speed, glide, power, and ice coverage, and its accompanying momentum, which makes everything dull, on camera and in person. Teams appear to be watching themselves skate, to be outside themselves, and from my perspective it's also suppressing any organic connection the skaters have with the music, their choreography, and each other. Skaters are skating as if they’re oppressed; they're skating with the wrong kind of tension.

 I think even for those at the top, the futility of ice dance has had a quelling effect. It’s about getting their hardware, their placement, that the organization is already planning to give them, and not fucking it up. For those lower down, it’s about hoping whatever they achieve in performance on the ice isn’t futile, but worrying it is.

I don’t think it’s a whole lot of fun for skating fans either. With one or two exceptions, none of whom made the world podium or appear likely to do so this season, the field is populated by the mediocre – mediocre skaters, mediocre dancers, mediocre partnerships. For these, the proscribed work around is to put something together that can be executed cleanly, meaning without a perceptible fall or obvious stumble, right out of the gate at the start of the season, skate at a pedestrian pace with unexceptional ice coverage, and signal the importance of a moment and the security of your skills with your face and arms. It’s about posing your skills, instead of actually having them, and we can all see there's an obvious aversion to actually skating out there. Too risky, too much exposure. The season starts like that and remains a flatline through Worlds. The ISU is rewarding stasis. Ice dance has all the joy of a Stalinist era military exercise.

This is just from watching ice dance at Nebelhorn. That was depressing. I like Paul and Islam’s free dance, and their skating, and they did stumble (as did Madison Chock), but even when a team like that skates their very considerable best, there’s a sense that they can’t permit themselves to show conviction that they are skating their best, or maybe it’s that they can’t muster up any conviction that it matters or would matter if they did. Of course it's even more so when there are any glitches.

Chock and Bates are skating to maintain where they are, maintain all the way to the top of the World Podium, what with Papadakis and Cizeran, and possibly Weaver Poje, out right now. Their prospects for gold medals in the Grand Prix and one at worlds are bright, with the absence of the other two teams, a certainty even. Look how excited they are, how much fun they're having, just as it should be at a low pressure Senior B without terribly much at stake.Just enjoying themselves.

It’s almost as as much fun as watching Davis White’s glacial, strained, gasp across the finish line effort in Sochi, which was an exercise in not falling down and nothing else, and it showed. Now the whole sport looks like that, even among the real skaters. I wonder if the Shibs were so demoralized last season it will affect them as well.

*Class of tranquilizers.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Looking back to look ahead

My favorite thing after spending part of this week looking at a few of the new programs unveiled in this (nearly) past summer’s competitions:

Predictable favorite, but I can't yet get excited about, say, ice dance until Papadakis Cizeron show us their new stuff. It's sure to be a revelation of general flowy-ness, blowy hair, wavy arms, honey-toned highlights and pretty tans. Can't really assess the potential in the 2015-2016 dance scene until those two show us where the bar is.

Many fans are excited about Ilushechkina/Moscovitch's Led Zeppelin short, but this Rachmaninoff long program has what I like best at the highest level of pairs skating (skating-wise, not placement-wise). The visceral thrill parts, a rolling wave of music and movement that sweeps the audience along until climaxing with the huge triple throw - in this program, it happens on a musically rumbling, low thundering downbeat.* (Blogger won't let me upload any version of the video clip illustration I made. The peak moment I'm talking about starts, in the above video, at 2:26 - 2:52 )

There is also this:

Kill me now.

Meagan and Erik, taking the skating out of pairs skating one quad throw at a time. They’re unabashedly crawling and cautious here, and no matter what the rest of the program looks like, it'll still be slow mo for these two tricks. They stalk that second quad for how long, killing how many seconds? He's doing more throwing her up (as it were) than across. Yet the likelihood is they repeat as World Champs.

Although they need bigger tricks to compete at the highest level, let me not overlook another Canadian pairs team:

Gilles and Poirier

Friday, July 31, 2015

Scott and Tessa are still "Tessa and Scott"

Tessa and Scott, presented by the W Network.
Partnership venture with the NY Times to follow?
This post takes a winding road to the subject of Tessa and Scott:
And to other reporters: Democracy is not a game. It is not a means of getting our names on the front page or setting the world abuzz about our latest scoop. It is about providing information so that an electorate can make decisions based on reality. It is about being fair and being accurate. This despicable Times story was neither.
Journalist Kurt Eichenwald, for Newsweek. He says “Democracy”, but for me, the point is journalism is not a means of self-promotion and self-positioning for the individual journalist, and all other considerations can fuck off. But as times have evolved, that’s all journalism has mostly become.

The block quote opening this blog post is a summing up from an old school, veteran investigative journalist writing about last week’s New York Times’ rushing into above-the-fold print a “criminal referral into Hillary Clinton’s handling of emails” story based upon a document that turned out to not concern Hillary Clinton and not be a criminal inquiry. The document dealt with a dispute between the U.S. State Department and the Office of the Inspector General over the classification of emails currently being reviewed for release in response to the Freedom of Information Act. The IG office is saying to State: “We disagree with your classification process/criteria” and the State Department is saying, “Fuck off, this is our turf.”

So, Pulitzers all around, and throw that uppity witch in jail. In a separate interview, Eichenwald mentioned that one of the Times reporters on the story has a reputation as a hype artist, and had bungled a non-political 2009 story, an event that seemingly did not stick in the NY Times institutional memory. The paper appears happy to employ and promote witless morons.

While a whole bunch of commentators are deriding the Times, and calling for accountability, the Times is shrugging it off. It even reasserted how proud it is of its “aggressive”, if factually inaccurate, faked up political reporting. Critics are just jellus.

I just put this here for anyone wondering why the sports and entertainment media is blithe about telling us whatever Scott and Tessa want said about them, or for anyone insisting that the media would blow Scott and Tessa's cover if they were lying. There’s no accountability at the presumptive highest level of journalism, and there certainly is none among the bottom feeders (sports, entertainment and all soft “news” programs) and talking heads.

The title of the document upon which the Times story purported to be based, a public document as easily obtained as a press release, was "Potential Issues Identified by the Office of the Inspector General of the Intelligence Community Concerning the Department of State’s Process for the Review of Former Secretary Clinton’s Emails under the Freedom of Information Act (ESP-15-05).” This was somehow interpreted by the Times and its source(s) as: “Office of the Inspector General Hereby Makes a Criminal Referral into the Actions of Hillary Clinton vis a vis her Emails while Secretary of State.”

This happened because neither the reporters, nor the individual widely believed to be their source:

Draco Malfoy*
had seen or read the easily obtained document that formed the basis of the Times’ blockbuster scoop.

That’s a lot here above in this post about stuff that’s not directly related to Tessa and Scott. It relates to media accountability at what some consider the highest level. As we can see, when tested, there isn’t any. Write what you want. Lie your face off. I think the cultural change over the past decade is the media no longer even pays lip service to what the consumer thinks. They’re sort of flaunting the fact that credibility is a non-issue, because "we" don’t factor into their process. I think a lot of those in media are having a sustained tantrum over the reality that, vis a vis social media, the public has a direct voice, and that fact has made “legit” media hostile to the public. One of the reasons the blog started in the first place was to reassert that the public has a voice through social media, and social media doesn’t have a hierarchy. Virtue and Moir were using social media as a one-way street. “We’re the celebrities, we tell you what’s true, you shut up and pretend to believe it, while we entertain ourselves mocking you for believing it.” IOW, “we’re somebody, y’all are nobody.” When the blog began, it was because I didn’t see any reason why skating fans shouldn’t join the members of the public that push back on assumptions like that one.

Today, journalism is just a job to leverage the “journalist” into celebrity. That’s the agenda behind the decisions made by many many people in media. It has nothing to do with delivering information, or even (setting the bar low) accurately promoting something. The only thing most journalists are interested in promoting is themselves. Don’t get in the way, public.


I did my monthly twitter review and found nothing of interest, except that Tessa and Scott continue to spend way more time together on non-skating appearances than that other famously compatible platonic pair, Tanith Belbin and Ben Agosto managed post Vancouver. If there are more freeze-frame style canoodling instagram images of Kaitlyn and Scott, I can’t wait to see them.**

I looked at some of Tessa and Scott’s promotion rounds on youtube, including their downright painfully stale TEDxyouth appearance last spring. Awkward, recycled, zero points for effort, with a side of cattiness and pandering bitchery. Kudos to the young Toronto audience for its palpable collective uncertainty, and for the "This is really WTF, but I don’t want to be impolite” ambience with which it received Scott and Tessa’s nuggets of self-referential wisdom (arcane “wisdom” applicable only to Scott and Tessa if the content of Scott and Tessa's remarks were true, but as it’s lies and backstabbing, it's applicable to nobody). I don’t understand how Scott can recite the same lies for going on the second decade, zero variation, yet at one point lose his place and train of thought while he fumbles his index cards. His tells used to be endearing, now I think they’re calculated. “I hate lying so much, I get clumsy and conspicuously uncomfortable when I do it.”  Except it’s bullshit.

Tessa and Scott use the TEDxyouth talk (from the TEDxYouth website: “TEDxYouth events are fun, imaginative, and smart TEDx events designed for, and often organized by, young people. They bring ideas worth spreading to all ages.”) to recycle stale circa 2010 fake biography talking points, including Tessa’s fan fiction about the compartment syndrome rift, and much cattiness and side eye about Canton. Throughout, Tessa’s voice quavered and Scott fidgeted. Tessa continued her nervous habit of smiling while catty, which I think made the audience uncomfortable. Virtue and Moir did basically nothing to help the audience go from micro (Tessa and Scott's particular experience) to macro (takeaways the audience could apply to their own challenges). They were lazy.

According to Tessa, when they trained in Waterloo, they were enveloped in support and warmth, an environment which helped them sustain some normalcy, such as going to an actual school in a real building. But when exiled in the United States among a bunch of Russians and Americans, things sure changed. They were forced to take classes on line. Michigan didn’t allow them to physically attend school in an actual building. This had nothing to do with the schedule of a couple of elite, high performance athletes training for Olympic competition, and everything to do with Michigan’s hostile environment towards soft-hearted Canadians. The coaches were inapproachable, cold bitches, Scott and Tessa were separately forced to room with high strung competitor skaters out to get them. They had to sleep with one eye open. There were no responsible adults in sight. 

I know some of us were under the impression, based on what, I’m certainly not sure, that Kate Virtue moved first to Waterloo, and then to Michigan, to room with her vulnerable daughter, and were further under the impression that Kate Virtue publicized this after Vancouver so that none of us could speculate that Scott Moir ever had the slightest opportunity to take Tessa’s virginity.

Apart from “Try to adapt, as we did, if, during your training for the ice dance Olympics, your partner develops compartment syndrome”, and “Be glad you’re Canadian, because the US is full of nasty, backstabbing Americans and cold, inapproachable Russians who might pretend to support your goals but will undermine them at every step.” – there wasn’t much of the typical TED talk: “Here is my specific experience, and now let me pull back, open the aperture, develop context, cite other people’s experience, reference research, and draw connections in a way that you could apply to your own life/goals”. Tessa and Scott’s TED talk reaffirms that they have a very shaky concept of “others". At their most low-maintenance, well-groomed and polite, they still think it’s about their story. Them. Even in a TED talk, it’s not about finding ways (you know, giving some real thought to the experience of other people) for their story to reach out and help people with their own challenges. 

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

While doing twitter catch-up, I began hoping wondering if Scott and Tessa could be taking a shot at re-setting the narrative. Maybe they were toying with the idea of launching a menage a trois along the lines of Anais Nin/Henry Miller/June Miller. Tessa and Kaitlyn sort of fit the parts. Maybe the Kaitlyn Lawes/Scott Moir origin story would take a turn:

From wikipedia:
At the end of 1931, [Anais] Nin, finds herself dissatisfied with being a timid, faithful wife to her banker husband, Nin and her husband contemplate the possibility of opening their relationship. However when Anais meets June Miller, she is magnetically drawn to her and perceives June to be the most beautiful and charismatic woman she has ever met. Nin pursues an extremely intense, ambiguous, sexually charged friendship with her. When June leaves, Nin becomes involved with Henry, and begins an uninhibited sexual and emotional affair with him, which prompts an intellectual and sensual awakening. A friendship is formed between the two that was maintained throughout both artist's lives.
Henry, June and Anais

It’s right under our nose.

Come on guys, do something. Apropos of something much more serious, The Daily Show's Jon Stewart recently talked about "the nuanced language of lack of effort." Scott and Tessa's social media presence isn't all that nuanced, but the lack of effort part is nailed. I don't know if it's @jonescurl ladies specifically, or curling in general, but the curling angle has dull optics.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

T'was not the Season(s)

This gif-fest reacts to a small segment of the Virtue Moir fandom who criticized VM's choice to skate a debacle like Seasons at the Olympics instead of something mesmerizingly awesome such as Papadakis Cizeron's 2014-2015 free dance.

There are about 12 VM gifs and a few more PC gifs than that, so I'll get started now and finish up later.

When I made the gifs for these two programs, obviously I muted the music, and then we had two programs in the lyrical-romantic vein, so it was hard to decide where to be mesmerized, until you looked at skating content. Among other things.

Notes: Tessa Virtue straightens her legs rather more than Gabrielle Papadakis, who never straightens hers ever, while possessing hips nearly tighter than Meryl Davis's. I don't think either Virtue and Moir's skating, nor their choreography in Seasons suffers much in comparison to Papadakis/Cizeron's performance, despite Seasons's deficiency of drooping-flower-in-the-meadow body language or dramatic head rolls. And despite Tessa's failure to use fluttery fabric on her skirt. And despite Tessa and Scott neglecting to acquire matching light tans. Tessa does her own, interdependent skating while in and out of connection with Scott, rather than relying upon him to steer and turn her around the ice, but OTOH there's a clearly insufficient number of fluttery pirouettes performed in place as Scott gesticulates emotively while gliding, and yes, possibly Virtue and Moir could have raised their arms and eyes to the arena ceiling more frequently.

Yet, while I could see these choreographic omissions being perceived as less romantic, I don't get why some think it lesser skating. Or even less "impactful" skating, the most important category, usurping all others.

I think the main reason some may have preferred Papadakis/Cizeron to Virtue/Moir is they think the music is prettier. The clothes are prettier, the hair is styled more romantically, and the emoting gives more feels.

But the skating - it's not better. Or even in the same universe. I think lifts were mentioned, so I can't wait to get to those.

Here are the gifs (there will be some commentary):

Maybe Virtue and Moir's skating is too big?
The enormous run of blade/ice coverage thwarts

Though Papadakis Cizeron work to convey otherwise, a strong 
skating program is performed more with the blades than by
swinging the arms. Kudos for their arms remaining attached
to their shoulders after this performance; that took some doing.
One of VM's tired, easy lifts.

I'm not convinced all of ^  is what the figure skating
glossary means by "knee action".

My gifing slowed down a bunch at this point,
because the whole program looks like this.^
I kept thinking I was stuck at the same place, and
had to double check.
These guys could be the 2015 World Champions.

I wonder if Virtue and Moir would have lost half their fans if some of these fans had only found Meryl Davis to be a prettier looking woman. Or if Meryl Davis had a longer leg to torso ratio.

To be continued, but until then, jumping ahead to this:

So VM fans can gnash their teeth over how Tessa and
Scott's lackluster 2014 Olympic program didn't have this move
featuring a Weaver & Poje circa 2009 hydroblade
with an easier entrance, and Gabrielle using a full Meryl Davis
back-hooked arm around Guillame's neck coming out.