American Pragmatism

oshie

the geometry of the thing couldn't be any more obvious: a rectangle with standardized dimensions and rounded corners; a swath of freshly zambonied ice about half the width of the rink; a puck from dead middle centre ice on a plumb line straight vertical to the goal; a goaltender crouching in the way, also dead centre on this plumb line to victory.

modern sport writ large: sochi olympic men's ice hockey prelims; usa vs. russia; shootout; tj oshie is picked to shoot an unprecedented 6 times and almost single-handedly lifts team usa to the win.

but it's the style of the how which concerns us here, not simply the 4 goals oshie scored (after beating the russian goalie bobrovsky cleanly on all 6 attempts, it should be added). what was so devastating about his approach?

think expressive lines. it begins in the difference from the line oshie takes relative to the plumb vertical, not to mention the more normative lines skated by other players in shootout situations.

the orthodox lines that constitute shootout normativity? think of full-bore speed straight down the plumb line with a little deke at the goalmouth; or one big arc before coming to the strong hand and sniping from the slot; or the dangle that emerges at the end from an otherwise gentle wave of a line; or that crazy mess of a scribbled line when the coach puts in the wrong shooter to win the game — the indecisive line.

(or perhaps putting the brakes on, right before the crease, showering the goldtender in the eyes with a little snowy blindness?)

oshie has taken flight from this expressive normativity in a number of ways. first, the tempo: his opening arc is extremely slow relative to the average shooter, and the pace and shape of the arc somehow suggest a snake charmer conjuring the relational cobra with a tune. second, his use of space: he explores almost the entire width of the freshly flooded ice, even to the point of skating beyond that outer limit a few times (and in the process suffering stumbles to otherwise smooth curves).

oshie

because of the first two, slowness and width of arc, there emerges a third: oshie is able to complete a pretty full two turns of generous and seductive curvature in the opening of his approach, relative to what is usually at most only one. as a result he doesn't reveal his handedness too early to bobrovsky (which is to say his contextual handedness — ie. front or back hand — rather than a general handedness — ie. left or right shot).

these turns are of descending amplitude: there is a gravitational pulling-towards the epicentre that is the goal, oshie generating an intensity with the big slow arcs before the lightning and chaotic finish right at the net. it is vortical: his line expresses a tornado that has bobrovsky as its subject and the goal right behind if the displacement is successful enough ("in other words, a figure in which all the points of space are simultaneously occupied according to laws of frequency or of accumulation, distribution" — d+g, atp, p.489). oshie has shortened the phase of the relational tango between he and bobrovsky using an exponential time signature on skates.

(it is noteworthy that oshie's stumbles from going wide on the opening turn didn't necessarily result in a miss; in fact, they seemed to add even more chaos to the approach, allowing oshie a greater disequilibrium with/in which to play at the goal.)

oshie

so which one of these lines or attempts constitutes oshie's "ideal form", then?

of course it is the topology itself — the biogram — held within a sort of statistical probability of lines that may be expressed. it is all six of the attempts, and more ("a physics of packs, turbulences, 'catastrophes,' and epidemics corresponding to a geometry of war, of the art of war and its machines" — d+g, atp, p.489). it is oshie's ability to manipulate and intensify experiential time, and then quickly read the relational tango that emerges such to avoid formatted routines. and it is the confidence born of inherited results which ultimately state either a functional yes or no — even if you've beaten the goalie cleanly on six and only scored on four.

Winter, Classically

winter, classically

The NHL is the top hockey league in the world, and if we are looking at this from a sports production standpoint this means we are describing the most highly skilled manufacture of competition and uncertain hockey outcomes on the planet, as an ongoing concern — which is to say as a matter of accumulation rather than the elite event-based production of the Olympics.

But of course the game is also about the production of spectacle, of audience aggregation and synthetic storylines and target marketing — and thus the most highly skilled manufacture of sporting gesture and its transmission, of affective receptivity, of qualified fanaticism and quantified consumerism.

For most of the 20th century, as John Bale points out, the former has meant an increasingly hygienic space of sporting production, in which the values of achievement sport most desired by accumulation find their way into the daily churn of the professional sport industry. In a sense, it was not simply a standardization that mattered but the removal of noise which could otherwise contaminate the truth of the results.

winter, classically

And for most of the 20th century spectacle played along, developing an increasingly elaborate logistics of perception to disguise production altogether and present the viscera of pure, competitive play-at-work. The surgicality of the endeavour is even more pronounced here, with thousands of sensory cuts rendered and stitched together to somehow produce the skin of a sporting Gesamtkunstwerk.

Which is what makes the NHL's Winter Classic so interesting: by playing the game outdoors and subject to the elements (snow, wind, glare), not only is a particular sporting nostalgia of backyard shinny and pond hockey revived, but spectacle itself becomes more spectacular by explicitly refusing the hygienic paradigm of modern sport. Noise is introduced, friction enters the system, and by the standards of achievement sport the event's game production occurs at a shockingly substandard level.

There is a refusal of hygiene in the play-at-work space, but only by cutting through the spatiotemporal fold and admitting the past. A futural noise, friction or filth would still be unimaginable here.

winter, classically

If there is in fact a zone in which the past-present of the Winter Classic meets the future, it remains bound with that other element of achievement sport — the record. Only the record of interest here is one of accumulation: the largest crowd in hockey history ever to witness a live contest, as 105,491 jammed into the University of Michigan football stadium to watch the game.

And hence the flaw in Bale's analysis: for him, pace Baudrillard and Virilio, it was the television audience that was always right and so to perfectly satisfy the hygienic requirements of achievement sport the spectators at the live event had to be removed, leaving behind only an inert ludic container in which the game could be played, fair play assesed, and television imagery produced. But it appears that accumulation is never so teleological, the crowd is precisely necessary to give the alibi to spectacle, and it is hygienic achievement which can be removed from the equation and left behind without losing a truth verdict in the process.

In this case, witness-noise makes a virtue of production-noise to set a nostalgic record, though one wonders what the hyperbolic curve will demand as it increasingly detaches from its counterpart in linear accumulation.

all in for contagion. (biogram/biopsy)

all in for contagion

you need communal excitement.

basket

Petros Efstathiadis
Basket
2009

Rafe Bartholomew:

"[Pete] Axthelm's phrase 'unique communal excitement' is perfect. It captures the social aspect of basketball and why many of us love the sport. Plays like Ginobili's between-the-legs pass or Parker's U-turn remind us of the best times we've had on a court, when for a half or a quarter or even one possession, we entered mind-meld territory with our teammates, executed pretty give-and-go handoffs, and spun off defenders to catch lob passes and finish them for layups. For 99 percent of us, nothing we have ever done on a basketball court remotely compares to what Parker and Ginobili do, but we have felt something close to what they're feeling on those perfect possessions. That emotional charge you get when you and four teammates are truly clicking — it scales down to your playground or your YMCA or your high school gym. The Spurs don't just achieve the sublime; they allow us to share in it" (emphasis added).

on accelerating

iBolt (No.22)

on the surface it seems profoundly anti-"ecological" (to use a term floating around right now) to go wholesale into an acceleration: ecologies are more profoundly periods of stillness mixed with accelerations. the latter are very traumatic, especially when considered intensively — childbirth is an acceleration of sorts, in which the "speed" and "distance" involved don't seem like much, and yet are extremely traumatic in both material and psychic senses (and we could include the traumas of other accelerations, such as returning from space travel, car accidents, the fall of the Berlin Wall, etc. etc.).

what sort of ruptures, tears and detachments would be implied in an accelerationism at the planetary level?

before this technical infrastructure was "turned on", so to speak, i'd love to know more about the ontological, epistemological and ethical problems entailed — for example, collaborative decision-making which is shot through by speed and its intensified fragmentation of part-knowledges and part-subjects.

since it wouldn't be animals, rocks or other "objects" creating these technical infrastructures it seems fair to ask these questions even if they seem a little "humanist" in the process.

 

Speeedd

 

in the meantime, can we start more simply by "training" for an accelerationist world, not unlike how a world-class sprinter would do: by dialing up tempo and intensity incrementally, learning how to endure, speeding up and slowing down "schizostrategically" (to use joseph's term), allowing traumas (muscular, psychic, relational) to heal more readily, all while preparing for the "big race" — even if we don't know what or when said race is, or if it is for a people to come?

__________

(thoughts that have been gestating for a while, and which have only "accelerated" since reading nick srnicek and alex williams' #accelerate manifesto and mckenzie wark's response a few weeks ago.)

I Run Because I Can

boston finish

by Lindsay LaMorre

 

Two days of complete exhaustion and emotional depletion after the Boston Marathon … and I find both the desire and need to run.

I ask myself why??

Running makes me smile and has the power to change a day.
I run because no two runs are ever the same.
I run because it fills my heart with joy.
I run because success and happiness lies within.
I run to keep my mind and spirit clear and strong.
I run because I value and care for my health.
I run to be with amazing friends.
I run to be a part of an incredible community of runners that have welcomed, mentored, supported and encouraged.
I run because of the journey.
I run to embrace adversity.
I run because I can.

What was supposed to be a celebratory, joyous, and momentous event … turned into disappointment.

I ask myself why?

Was it the cowardly acts of terrorism that destroyed and deflated the whole event, manufacturing the run as completely meaningless? Was it my heavy heart for the victims who were fighting for lives and limbs? Was it the media that glorified the terror to enhance its spectacle? Or had it been something more personal, more selfish? Was it the thought of all those winter training hours suddenly deemed insignificant due to the bronchitis that had attacked my chest and lungs just days before I was to run? Was it that I couldn’t have my peak physical performance on the stage of the world’s oldest and most iconic marathon?

Maybe . . .

But the tragic events that occurred in Boston have impacted me personally and changed my perspective forever. My true disappointment laid within me … it rested in my inability to actually go back to the foundations of why I run in the first place. In the moment, I forgot to savour the opportunity and experience I was so blessed and privileged to have. Success isn't measured by a stopwatch; it's distinguished by the journey.

Explosions Sirens Chaos Panic Confusion

Why?

Within a blink, I may not have been so lucky — an opportunity lost and an experience taken for granted.

I finished the Boston Marathon.
I was with a loved one at the time of the explosion.
I was warm.
I had my belongings.
I was safe and healthy.
I was so very blessed.

I am fortunate enough to get a second chance in 2014 to revisit this question of "why?"

Running is my comfort … Boston is my inspiration.

_______________

(Lindsay LaMorre is a Health and Physical Education specialist who lives and works in Toronto. She wore bib number 10577 at Boston 2013.)