Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Pyette and the "rural areas of Ontario".

Editing to say that now that I've processed the interview more, Scott went out of his way to avoid saying "Ilderton". In fact, he steered our attention to Tessa and him being "true Londoners". Always before Scott made sure we knew he bled Ilderton sod. His buddies, and "my family" are Ildertonians, but it was Pyette who asked if they'd shot in London and Ilderton. It was the perfect opportunity for Scott to get in his usual compulsive Ilderton plugs, but I don't think Ilderton came out of Scott's mouth. "Rural areas of Ontario" my ass.

And, as someone pointed out in the comments, who the hell else touts their projects with declarations about how sincere and genuine and real they're going to be? As opposed to what? When they've been something else? Have they been deceptive, manipulative assholes in other projects or something?

They always do this. Scott flops and twists and shifts like a fish on a dock, Tessa always goes where you just think if you pricked HER skin, the needle would break on the solid ice in her veins. The exceptionally weird in Scott's facial expressions are how tight and twisted his mouth is and he keeps trying to smile with it while keeping it tight and twisted.

Could it be Love?

This is sort of a round-up post:


Davis White's Kelloggs spot. As with most Olympic promotionals, second-hand embarrassment swamps the viewer like a load of toxic off-gas. Whether it's Virtue and Moir and their moms suddenly discovering they were really, really upset not to be on the 2006 Olympic team, and, retroactively, could hardly watch the event because they thought they should be there, and didn't even know if there would ever be a chance to go to another one, or this, Meryl and Charlie's great love sponsored by Kelloggs, it's enough to make you choke on your morning cereal.

Back in March 2012, the blog approvingly reported that Meryl said this:
But I think people respect and appreciate Charlie and my relationship, and we would never want to pretend it was something else.”*
That was then. Now all bets are off, baby.

That's closer than they get on the ice.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

I'm ready

I've been practicing, and if Tanith, or any other ice dance commentator, is unable to perform, I'm prepared to step in. See below.

Before beginning, be it noted that if Virtue Moir fans question Davis White's high scores, it's whinging desperation. Let V/M beat freaking W/P and every other Davis White uber suddenly finds what a judging panel decides to do open to question and fair game. It's just amazing.

But not as amazing as Meryl and Charlie.

Okay, here goes. They key is to comment on the most ordinary attributes of Davis and White's program as if nobody else in skating has, does, or can do these things.

Wow. And she's wearing a dress.*

This is so difficult. Except for the transitions, they're doing
this entire step sequence one edge at a time.

They're just - that's an incredible lift. Meryl is upside down
and then she changes position in this same lift.*

And Charlie has to rotate while holding onto Meryl at the same time.


The core strength!

Those twizzles. They're rotating them in synch.

And side by side.



What makes this section stand out is their Finnstep
pattern is in time to the music.
Exactly - the music has that bright, lighthearted quality to it, and these two are able to match that in every detail from their costumes to their smiles.

They're smiling now!

It's just ... remarkable. It really is.
*Charlie's in a modified snow plow and Meryl is literally on her boot. Look at the blade.

*This season, we learn that no ice dancer has ever been upside down in a lift before, forget what you've been told by your lying eyes. And if they have, were they able to keep their legs straight up while clinging to their partner for dear life with both arms?

With permission

These videos are embedded with permission from youtube's Canadablue.

Compared in the video below are the Senior B outings of Virtue and Moir's and Davis and White's short programs. The structure and actual skating content of these programs do not alter performance to performance. In terms of skating skills, they are not equal in their real world base value. This is not something that changes with a strong performance from one team or the other.

Free Dance:

I love this - 2013 free dances.

Thank you, Canadablue.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

This is the woman who claimed she cut her contacts to seven
so she could focus on Vancouver. Gold must be a lock in Sochi.
They're thisclose to turning into drag queen versions of their pretend 2010 selves.

Also this:

34 year old Stockard Channing playing 17 in Grease.
30something Gabrielle Carteris playing a high schooler in 90210.
Poor Cindy Brady.
Down the road:

Monday, October 21, 2013

Tessa and Scott: It's not our skating that's special.

Well one preview and that's the takeaway. It's always the takeaway.  Leave the special, magical, dominating, gold-inevitable, sophisticated, soul-connected skating to Meryl Davis and Charlie White. That's not what make Scott and Tessa special.

Scott and Tessa are just special.

I'll say.
Blah blah blah unique unique haven't picked up a thesaurus in four years. 
What's a synonym? Unique. We needed a book of lies AND a documentary of lies
four years later to say we're unique.
What am I missing? Didn't we journey to Ilderton and
the Unique four years ago in the book?

Not that many people outside parts of the Jersey Shore hang out in full make-up and swarovski-studded swimsuits. So that's special-ish.

Give her credit, she's not biting her lower lip over Detroit while she's doing it.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

A few of my favorite things

Before I start gifing, may I mention that Tanith really needs to write an advice column explaining how one services one's live-in boyfriend from several hundred yards away. That's talent.

Here she is, with thanks to the person who transcribed for me:
These two are never satisfied. We know that about them by now. They are their own worst critics and biggest motivators, they know what they are capable of, and every single day in training, they're trying to find the new limit and break through it and create a new standard. And every single year, we see more and more from them. But this season, with this free dance, I truly believe it is the most detailed, complex choreography we have ever seen from them, and I had an interview with their coach, Marina Zoueva, earlier. She said this is the first time she's really seen them connected in their souls, through and through. It's something people said that Meryl and Charlie would never have, they'd never have the chemistry of a Virtue and Moir, and this program demonstrates that they are absolutely capable of connecting at a very deep level.
That's an actual headlock. What happened to Meryl poking her arm free? And what is supposed to be outstanding about this lift? Charlie's rocking blades?

Oh wait, I'm doing it wrong. I should follow Tanith's lead and describe them clutching each other as a feature. Not every partner can skate with the challenge of his partner's arms around his neck like a vise. Very difficult. Many skaters would asphyxiate.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

This did not look so good

Acknowledging that Meryl and Charlie fake their skating (meaning, fake the calibre of their skating with a lot of non-skating hoo ha); we know what a full on Meryl and Charlie outing looks like. So, when they skate so even an casual viewer understands that wasn't the greatest, as in this short program - it wasn't good.

So give them 75 points!

But you know, it was a fairly generously scored competition segment, so to only muster 75 for DW's sluggish outing comes thisclose to saying they were disappointing. Tanith did all she could to avoid talking about tech. She ignored the standstill twizzles, and I don't blame her. No character of the music as usual, and not even a nod to sustaining an edge out of the element, not to mention the second set they both rotated like an overhead fan that had been switched off 30 seconds ago.

My impression of the speed is - slower than the Shibs by some miles. The Shibs had longer run of blade. Ice coverage not so wonderful. Lots of hesitation throughout.

When I watched this program, I thought that in a fairly scored world, this isn't the smartest short dance for them. The musical phrase to which they perform the twizzles does nothing with momentum or tension or drama to cue the audience that the twizzles are fast. This is a light, happy dance, not a pound the drums and bang the cymbols number. At the same time, it's not a peasant dance, a la Giselle. It's supposed to be actual ballroom - light, refined.

Without the music to enhance the impression of speed and dynamic skating, we can see that they're not just not fast, but much simpler than those performed by the others, and the program is fairly empty. It didn't help that the Shibutanis did three sets of twizzles that were fast, that were in the character of the music, that were powerful, and showed sustained speed, not to mention bigger run of blade in and out (DW had no run of blade out).

None of this stopped Tanith's pre-determined narrative. Last season, D/W declared they had chemistry you could cut with a knife. This season the narrative appears to be that these two are the refined, nuanced skaters in the game, the ones who carry the technique through to the most minuscule refinements of fingertips, head and neck. That's not snow Charlie kicks up while skating - that's diamond dust.

One wonders how Tanith is going to maintain the Charlie/Meryl's carriage and other refinements are the class of the discipline storytelling when they're up against VM in the same competition. Doubtless she'll find other points of focus.

The real problem with Meryl and Charlie's supposed refinement is that unlike The Shibs, Virtue Moir, and Paul Islam, the refinement isn't carried up from their blades. They're not using their entire bodies to skate. It's all styling and applied on top of, and disconnected from, the action (or lack of action) of their blades.

I use this screen cap to illustrate the point about carriage. They don't engage their pelvis/hips. If you're using your entire body - which is what great carriage is about, it's the length of your spine, your hips, your pelvis, your glutes, etc. It's not, generically, the "upper body". The chest is open. The chests up there aren't open.

Also, their butts aren't under them. By some miracle, Tara Lipinski, in her professional career, decided that perhaps she needed some technical assistance. She enlisted Lori Nichols (Michelle Kwan's choreographer). Nichols got Tara's butt underneath her, and because of that, every aspect of Lipinski's skating as a pro improved (I refer everyone to her number with Kurt Browning on youtube).

Look at the butt jutt in DW.

In reality, the "refinements" should be subordinate to the blades. Whether it's Tara or it's DW. However, DW are inferior to VM. There is nothing DW have over VM. It stands to reason if they're going to claim greater sophistication that they'd get something as basic as their asses underneath them. But I guess not.

In Marina Zoueva's pre-Skate America remarks, she mentioned that at the last competition the judges mentioned they'd like to see more speed from Davis White. Davis White are skating with the same speed they've always skated, but they've dialed down the hopping and skipping (although the hopping and skipping had more emphasis this time), so perhaps the judges are looking for ways for Meryl and Charlie to continue to fake speed. That aside, if the judges wanted more speed, and the judges wanted anything changed about the lifts, how did they end up awarding 110 at the first outing of the season? Was it going to be 120 if DW were sufficiently speedy?

Tanith was resolute in her talk about Davis and White's style and how very few teams sustain the style of the music throughout the program (which is plain wrong - many actually do). I don't think she made a single remark about element quality or execution. She blandly continued on about styling through the twizzles, the footwork and the Finnstep.

P.S. when I watched this program my impression was there were more instances of hopping and skipping than I remembered from Salt Lake City. Were they reintroducing that stuff after dialing it down? So I rewatched SLC, and no. They simply hit the hops harder and bigger in this outing than that one.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Can you even tell them apart?

Notice the position Tessa's head, arms and back are in when Scott takes her leg and arrests her glide, and how it matches the head, arm and back position she's in when she's in the lift. And how completely extended is her body. I love when Scott extends his free leg forward to match her leg. Also, this is the opposite (meaning better) version of how Meryl and Charlie use a "pull". Meryl stops skating and Charlie's planted on two feet (actually planted - he braces himself and his butt juts) and he pulls her into him, then he flips her or hoists her up. Here, Tessa is sailing away from him on an edge, back arched, head up and chin up, arms up and extended, Scott arrests her motion and pulls her into him while he's in lift position. He's not planted, bracing himself, pulling her leg, and once she's in, he squats. He is in pliĆ© as he pulls her in. Everything here is seamless. There's no prep.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

>>Do you disagree that a lot of the transitions seem like they’re out of the D/W playbook (although yes, executed on another level entirely)? To me, that’s not enough. I don’t think the content itself is somehow elevated to V/M's standard just by them executing it.<<<

Visitor 3:36, Oct. 6, comments section two posts below.
I’m going to post Vancouver’s Mahler and Finlandia’s Seasons later, but first I want to pull from the “discussion” (it’s actually now my monologue) two posts below.

After many comments, I realized my response, and my dismay, pivots off the perspective expressed above and likeminded comments from others. I think that I – finally - got to the core of it in the comment I'm going to repost here.
To the above. I disagree completely. The content itself IS elevated to VM’s standard by their execution. The execution IS the content, first and foremost. Everything else is subordinate.

In terms of competitive athletics, dance and choreography are a medium that, in the ice dance discipline, deliver figure skating. Figure skating is not a medium that delivers dance and choreography. In shows, yes. In Olympic competition, no. Most of the comments here appear to see the skating as a given and also the skating as the medium, and their concern is the choreography. I find that so upsetting (not in a personal way, just upsetting and extremely frustrating).
It absolutely KILLS me that above, the “although yes, executed on another level entirely” is a PARENTHETICAL.

It absolutely kills me that people are taking for granted the almost astonishing development of VM’s power and speed and every aspect of their skating over four years, how their skating has matured and developed over four years, and say that Seasons reflects insufficient development of CHOREOGRAPHY.

Carmen feet, Seasons feet

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Seasons isn't fully feet only because the camera angles won't allow that without whole segments completely concealed. 

In this past some blog visitors have had trouble viewing uploaded videos as opposed to youtube embeds. These are uploads. If people continue to have issues I'll upload them to youtube later on.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

This just in: Meryl and Charlie are from the mean streets (a/k/a This is what shameless looks like)

ETA: This just in. I looked again at the company owned by Charlie's dad. Below in this entry, I mention I'd assumed his dad worked in a corporate office, but when Charlie mentioned his dad worked "downtown", I found the petroleum bulk station was located in an industrial section of Detroit. I then assumed that this was where his dad went every day, as Charlie had implied. Since it's industrial, and there's cracked asphalt and weeds, it looked gritty to Charlie.

That's the bulk station/bulk plant owned by his dad. His dad's business contact information cites Farmington, MI. I googled that too, saw the street view.

Per wikipedia:
Farmington is a city in Oakland County of the U.S. state of Michigan. It is a part of the affluent northern suburbs of Metropolitan Detroit.
The company retails oil and oil services in Farmington. If one looks at the general business statistics available on the web, including its (quite small) number of employees, the estimated annual revenue, and when the business was established*, it seems a good bet that some time back this company hit the (extremely) sunny side of the income/overhead ratio. The type of company that becomes the foundation mare, so to speak, for money applied to other revenue producing and wealth safe-guarding instruments.

Re the below, as I say towards the end of this entry, there's nothing wrong with coming from comfortable circumstances. It's not a character deficit, any more than poverty is a character attribute.

There is something wrong with appropriating a city's misery as a prop.

Particularly when you live a privileged/comfortable existence in an upscale community immediately adjacent to the city in America with the country's highest misery index, and your actual awareness of that reality is somewhere between invisible and nonexistent. #roadtosochi

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Russia and LGBT

I would feel weird not having a post about this since in the past the blog has beaten up Skate Canada and some Moirs about all things skating and gayness.

Some skaters have been asked about Russia's discriminatory policies against LGBT people and for the most part their answers are miserable. Even Johnny Weir, while reaffirming his beliefs, sort of solutioned the whole thing with "So go over there and be fabulous!" I may be selling him short.

First out of the gate was Jeremy Abbott on twitter who compared criticizing Russia's LGBT policies to insulting a host's drapes and taste in decor. Naturally one wonders if he'd have made the same analogy about Nazi Germany. Oh hey, not the choice I'd have made, but if that's how they roll over there, it's not our place to say!

Considering Abbott, one wonders if he'd have been a Jewish athlete saying that about Nazi Germany for fear if he spoke out against it, the US would boycott and he'd lose his Olympic moment. (The U.S. did not boycott the Berlin Olympics, so I don't know what Abbott is fussing about. They're not going to boycott Sochi, and if he speaks out, nobody's going to spike his Borscht. If it's courtesy that concerns him, how about courtesy towards Russian LGBT people and those that have put themselves on the line to protest and defend?) Abbott got his ass whipped for being such a pusillanimous little punk, but he can relax now, he has company among his teammates.

Then there's Lysacek who punted it to the IOC. He's not wrong - it's the IOC that needs to loudly clarify and reaffirm its position and policies, and it's the IOC that needs to acknowledge that the Olympic athletes are being asked to address it. In the artificial construct that is eligible Olympic athletics, the IOC is the parent.

The IOC needs to acknowledge there's a situation and recognize it publicly and address it more proactively than they've done to date. It needs to make a clear statement that the athletes can strongly get behind without looking as if they're passing the buck, which is how Lysacek looks, and how most of them look. Not all of them. Most of them.

I don't want to do much defending of the athletes. I know they lead circumscribed lives with a narrow focus and I know the Olympics means everything to them but give me a fucking break already. If you are intelligent - and certainly not all of them are - you don't need to study political science for years in order to formulate a position on discrimination. You know what that is if you dropped out in grade school. They all act scared to touch it.

Charlie White and Meryl Davis's response sucked so much I hope with all my heart neither Scott nor Tessa address this issue. White and Davis are two INCREDIBLY privileged people who answered like this:
“I don’t think we can speak because we haven’t really talked about between the two of us very much,’’ White said.

“I don’t think the Olympics is really the right place for an athlete to make a political statement,” Davis said.

Asked if this was not a political issue but a human rights issue, White said, “Unfortunately, it’s semantics. To Russia, it is a political statement. And they are the host country. I think that is probably all we will say on the subject.”
That's pretty damn close to keeping your mouth shut about the drapes, Charlie White and Meryl Davis. You can't criticize the host. (Again, Nazi Germany hosted the Olympics - would White think the same about that? Jews schmews, it's all semantics.).

What kind of reasoning is that? To Russia, it's politics, so to Charlie it's politics? To Russia, it's important to discriminate against LGBT people, too. Is Charlie deferring to official Russia there as well? When in Rome.

It's not semantics. Human rights isn't fucking politics, Charlie and Meryl.

They don't want to give offense, that's what it's about. They don't want to "offend" official Russia. Maybe they don't want to offend Kelloggs. Yep, don't criticize human rights abuses, you might offend someone in power (or someone who will sponsor you) who supports those abuses. It's such a tricky line to walk.

In this situation, Russia is hosting the Olympics in accordance with IOC policies. The IOC has clear anti-discrimination policies, including against LGBT persons. These skaters have been media trained within an inch of their lives and they can't re-affirm that? They can't say that they condemn Russia's discriminatory policies and practices against LGBT persons, but it's in conflict with the IOC's own position, and the IOC governs how the Olympics are conducted, and how everyone connected with the Olympics are treated, and Russia agreed to abide by IOC policy when they were awarded Sochi?

That's a basic diplomatic turn it around, how hard is it? How hard is it to say they're aware these policies are no reflection of the attitudes held by many Russian athletes and much of the citizenry, including the citizens of Sochi, many many of whom deplore these practices as well?

Why doesn't the IOC, and the North American Federations - Skate Canada and the USFSA - get out in front so the athletes can get behind it. Instead the athletes are coming off enabling and mealy mouthed, appeasing, and frankly, creepy. Yeah, I'm human rights positive and everything but you gotta understand, my whole life is this skating stuff so you know, not really my problem.

It's not POLITICS, Meryl, but this is a woman who was famously (in my head it was famous) puzzled on twitter when Detroit was named the worst place to live in the United States. What about Ann Arbor?

By the way, here's Bode Miller:
"I think it's so embarrassing that there's countries and people who are that ignorant. … As a human being, I think it's embarrassing,"
That's more like it. There, he's standing with some of the athletes who have made scathing comments against discrimination while playing the notoriously LGBT-friendly game of football. If I were figure skating I'd be fucking embarrassed that football has a better track record of speaking out against LGBT discrimination, but maybe if they thought the Super Bowl was at stake some of those who have been outspoken would have reconsidered, I don't know.

Here's what bugs. What if Russia were, out loud, proclaiming, legislating, institutionalizing, making no bones, discriminating against Jews? Declaring it was going to arrest people who made a point of their Jewishness, who showed they were Jewish, who acted Jewish (in how they dressed or prayed in public, for example). What if it were aggressively discriminating against women - arresting women? Pick another category of humanity.

The creepy part is it's gayness, so it's "different" and it's okay to hedge. These athletes are acting like gayness policies are cultural. Was Nazi Germany cultural? Are some of the policies against women in the middle east and elsewhere cultural? Drapes and decor?

Athletes are not being asked to solve the issue. I think the athletes are asked their opinion vis a vis Russia's discrimination against LGBT persons. I think what is turning so many people off when they read what the athletes say is that many of the athletes who are equivocating appear to be doing so because they're afraid if they come out against LGBT discrimination they'll cause offense somewhere among people who support LGBT discrimination. Better not take sides. Fair to both.

That sucks.

I know they feel all hot potato and uncomfortable. In that case, don't comment. These people sound like they don't give a fuck, just please God, don't give the US or Canada ideas about boycotting Sochi!

Canada and the US won't boycott the fucking Sochi Olympics. If the USFSA and Skate Canada have told its athletes to say nothing, then the athletes should say nothing, and Skate Canada and USFSA should say something that represents them. Not point to the policy book - SAY something. Don't act so freaking terrified of the topic. Pull the stick out. Act human. The IOC should as well.

However, I don't think the Federations or the IOC have told the athletes to say nothing, because the athletes are saying stuff. So why is THIS what they're saying? What the hell are they scared of? Are Meryl and Charlie afraid of rocking the boat with Kelloggs? Neither one of them hesitates to tweet when they're chomping on a Nutrigrain. What's next - instagrams of Fiber Plus in their intestines?

Are the skaters afraid the US or Canada will boycott?

Is "figure skating" at large leery of turning off close-minded parents who will keep their sons from skating because they don't want their kids to be thought gay or turned gay, and speaking out against Russia's policies will just affirm that skating is gay? That's historically how cultures have handled discrimination, right? That's how change is effected. Wait til the scared and prejudiced people are comfortable - wait til the military is comfortable! Wait til this or that state's citizens gets used to having African Americans in the same restaurant.

What the hell do these self-styled role models think a role model is? Well, I already know - a sanitized smiley cipher that can lend its image to a corporate sponsor.

No comment is better than trivializing this and sounding like complete collaborators. There's the old saw about the only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good [people] to do nothing. I don't expect the athletes to DO anything, but words are also actions. They're not responsible for this, how it's handled isn't their call, but PLEASE stop fucking acting like a fucking weasel. Shut the fuck up and just let Ashley Wagner and Bode Miller talk.