2012 NMAs: Sports

Before I look at the nominees for the sports category, I must discuss a recent event that may or may not be influencing my judgement. I am writing this not long after Ryder Hesjedal, the Canadian pro cyclist, made history by becoming the first Canuck to win the Giro d’Italia…hell, the first Canadian to win a Grand Tour. That I was barely able to contain my freak out of joy in a public park as I followed the final stage of the race on my phone puts me the small group known as “Canadian cycling fans.” I had a similar freak out, albeit much more subdued, when I saw Richard Poplack’s profile of Hesjedal in The Walrus last year—a long-form article in a Canadian magazine explaining cycling to Canadians. Wonderful! And Poplack nailed it. This article will win the NMA and I don’t think that’s just my cyclo-bias talking.

Giving Poplack’s story a run for its money is Rachel Heinrichs’ “The Running Cult”, which appeared in Toronto Life. Heinrichs looks at how marathon running changed from a strictly sporto pursuit to a popular, Oprah-endorsed journey of self-discovery.

Since this is the Canadian magazine awards, we should have an article on hockey. However, this one comes to us from Russia. “The Team that Disappeared” by Brett Popplewell appeared in the new Sportsnet magazine. This story chronicles the plane crash that killed almost all of the KHL team Lokomotiv Yaroslavl and the aftermath of the disaster. Popplewell’s story is a great  piece of reporting. He works in “how did he get that?!” kind of details (and how did the fact checker check ’em?!), such as

And there was Alexander Sizov, a 52-year-old flight engineer, one of two engineers on-board, who had inspected the plane before takeoff and who now sat behind the players, his seatbelt unbuckled.

His seatbelt unbuckled. Nice.

But, the prose in this story doesn’t match the reporting. The words do drift to the purple side of the spectrum. (“And so it began, the shortest journey and the darkest day in the history of hockey.”) And no one should use the phrase “a large black plume rising into the sky” to describe smoke lifting from a wreck. Retire that one, kids.

While I’m picking on prose, Swerve magazine’s “The Kid is The Man” by Scott Penny does not have the lead it needs. I took a look at the story and thought “It’s about the game of horseshoes? BORING!” Jerk reaction? Yes. Totally. But I don’t think I’m in the minority there. This story needs to get to the good stuff quickly. Penny has a great style and great story about Buddy “The Kid” Dyrda, a wunderkind horseshoe tosser whose life was turned around by the sport. But, the first paragraph is a scene setter taking the reader to a horseshoe pitch. Boring…even if it’s “North America’s premier indoor horseshoe pitching facility” and it’s next to a school for attack dogs.

From the hint of violence, we come to actual violence in “Georges St-Pierre, gentleman gladiateur” by Jonathan Trudel for L’actualite, which profiles Montreal’s star UFC fighter. The Aristotle-quoting St-Pierre is a thinking man’s fighter. No wonder Leonardo DiCaprio is a fan.

Rob Duffy’s “The Numbers Game” from The Grid looks at a different find of fight—that between TSN and the young upstart Sportsnet.

explore, a sibling to my magazine, has three entries in this category: “Birdzilla” by J.B. MacKinnon [.pdf of story]; “Mostly Awesome, With Brief Periods of Terrible” by Shaughnesy Bishop-Stall [.pdf of story]; and “The Big Blue” by Charles Wilkins [.pdf of story]. All three writers are out of their elements in adventures that include competitive bird watching, hiking the Bruce trail and paddling the Atlantic, respectively. The average person trying a sport in which he or she has little to no experience is conceit given to us by Papa Plimpton. The everyman/woman is our guide into the world of the specialists. The guide sees things as the reader might. I think MacKinnon is the best of the three at this type of New Journalism. Throughout his story, he remains the reader’s guide. With Bishop-Stall and Wilkins, their stories focus too much on them as actors. The amateurishness of their actions isn’t our amateurishness reflected back at us. It’s just them, as amateurs. MacKinnon is also a fine stylist. My favourite line of his is “only the ruby-crowned kinglet, a minuscule creature that looks like it’s wearing a yarmulke made of hot lava, lights up the gloom.” However, I fear that his story is too quiet in its charms to be a winner.

Finally, we have Toronto Life’s “The Poker Face” by Jason McBride, a profile not only of the dysfunctional poker pro Matt Marafioti, but of the game itself. If the sport category were a bike race, I’d put McBride on a podium next to Poplack and Heinrichs. However, it is more like a poker game, with the winner taking all. While McBride does cover gambling well, my money remains on the story about cycling.

2012 NMAs: Words and Pictures

Before that upstart World Wide Web came along with its clickable slide shows or the iPad arrived with its two-finger zooming, magazines were the best place to tell stories with both words and pictures. Despite the advances made by those Young Turks of media, the ink-and-paper medium still excels when mixing text and image. In this category, I would expect the winner to have not only great photography or illustrations, but well-crafted prose to match the visuals.

On the Interweb tip, “Toronto’s Waterfront Is…” by The Grid seems to take its visual cues from Web design, especially the three panes that run throughout the story. (Although, I think it’s telling that they display this story online as large images of the magazine pages.) It’s a fun layout that mixes streeters and gee-whiz facts and figures about Toronto’s waterfront. I don’t know if I’d say the photos and the words are award-winning, but they do add up to more than the sum of their parts. While subject matter shouldn’t matter, this story is up against some top articles that cover pretty heavy topics: no day at the beach.

Maclean’s “Japan: Special Report” is one of those heavy stories. It has stunning photography of the damage done by the earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan in March 2011. The writing mixes the experiences of a few individuals in Japan during the catastrophe with the larger social and political happenings during that time. The reader gets an epic snapshot of the disaster. The prose isn’t straight-ahead newsy; it has stylish bits, such as “the Earth’s movement twisted sidewalks with a grotesque licorice ease.”

The Walrus looks at the 157 Canadian soldiers who died in Afghanistan with “Portraits of the War.” Joanne Tod’s 6″ x 5″ portraits make a quiet and effective tribute. enRoute combines pretty pictures of food and descriptions of it in “What’s the Story, Morning Glory?” Geist provides a guide through Vancouver’s literary history with “Signs of Literary Life in Vancouver” [.pdf of story]. Also very literary, Cottage Life, a sibling magazine to my own, gives us a portrait of poet Al Purdy’s A-frame cottage by another famous Canadian poet, George Bowering [.pdf of story].

Toronto Life’s “Going Mobile” takes us to a GTA trailer park. It has some of the strongest writing in this group, but I don’t think its photography can compete with the power and drama of those in “Japan: Special Report,” which is my call for the winner of this category.

An Incomplete Guide to the 2012 National Magazine Awards

On June 7, many editors, art directors, writers, illustrators, photographers and a bunch of other magazine types will dress up really nicely and head to The Carlu for what I like to call the Oscars of Canadian magazines. Like the Oscars, the National Magazine Awards cover many categories: art direction for a single magazine article to words and pictures and 43 others in between. Usually, when I sit down at my table right before the awards ceremony, I take a moment to go through my program and guess who will win in each category. It’s an incredibly unscientific process. “Oh, I’ve heard of that guy.” “I don’t know any of these, but I like the sound of that story.” “The editor of that magazine just stiffed me at the bar, so I’m not picking that one.”

To try and make the selection process in my little NMA pool a bit more rigorous, I’m reading as many stories in as many categories as I can. With 362 nominated submissions and roughly two weeks until the event, I know I will only be able to scratch the surface. For those playing along at home, here are my predictions.

In Over My Head at the National Cyclocross Championships

I shouldn’t have been standing at the centre of the second row of the start line. I joked with the rider beside me, “I feel bad for the guys behind who’ll have to get around me.” In a cyclocross race, the sprint from the start line to the first corner is key. It’s easier to keep a position than to gain one, so everyone fights for that corner.

“Yeah, they’ll have to get around me, too,” said the other rider.

He was being modest. I wasn’t.

If the national cyclocross championships this past Saturday were a gunfight, I had shown up not with a pistol, or even a knife, but a rusty pair of nail clippers. Usually I race in a category called M3. The ‘M’ is for “masters,” those 35 years old and older. The ‘3’ means that the master only applies to age, not ability. It’s usually one of the largest categories in the local Sunday cyclocross races. But this was the nationals. Many of the guys I race against were smart enough to stay home. For this race, riders were just grouped by age. My category was 30 to 39. I was up against guys who are M1, two rankings higher, and elite, which means younger and faster. As for my position in the second row, a lottery put me there, and that little bit of fortune used up my luck quotient for the race.

After the start whistle, the riders with their gatling-gun legs did fire around me. I was about fourth from the end at the first corner. We tore along a paved path and then turned off into the woods. Like most of the others, I dismounted for the first tight, muddy turn. I got back on the bike, pedalled along. Then, for some reason of which I’m still not sure, I was doing a summersault along the side of the single track, and my bike bounced to other side. By the time I was pedalling again, everyone was out of sight.

If you are last in a race, like really last, you are an isolated particle. There’s no presence behind pushing you forward and there’s no wheel in front to draw you on. Because ’cross courses are so varied, there’s no “going for one’s personal best” for motivation, or to apply later as an ego balm. So at the back of the pack, you have this wonderful freedom to choose how you’ll lose. I’ve seen a rider mix his physical pain with his emotional dissatisfaction, which just seems sulky. Maybe there is someone at the finish line who will coo for him, “Oh, there there. You just didn’t have the legs I know you have.” I know of another rider who rides with such disdain when he’s losing. He looks back at barriers as if he overhead them say “I don’t get the deal with Daydream Nation” as he was browsing records. His performance is amusing, but he comes across like a prick. I decided to try to not look shitty and to give’er…or a least look like I was given’er.

My mind descended into its race haze. At certain points, the announcer’s words came into focus and seemed to be narrating my ride.

“Riding on the grass really saps the legs of energy, which makes going up those hills even tougher.”

Yes. Yes. Don’t remind me.

“And as a rider continues and gets more and more tired, his judgement also starts to go. The technical parts get more difficult.”

Yes. Thank you. Stop drawing people’s attention to that corner I just took too wide.

A photographer snapped a shot of me as I teetered and fell at the top of a hard climb.

“You just had to get that shot,” I said.



I did keep my wits on the barriers: dismounting, running over them and mounting smoothly. Same with the running through the swing-set sandpit. After the race, my friend had the most sincere backhanded compliment: “You did really well at the non-cycling parts.”

The only ray of hope came in the race’s second last lap. As I came down the the hill toward the start line, the second last rider didn’t seem so far away. Maybe I could catch him. I hit the gas on the paved section and went roaring into the forest. I stalked him through the woods around the twisting muddy corners. He had no idea I was gaining. Perfect. At the switchback coming out of the forest and back onto the paved path, he saw me and bolted. Maybe I could catch him in the technical section past the finish line. I had one more hellish lap to salvage something. But at the bend before the start of my last lap, a race official tweeted his whistle at me. Both my second-last nemesis and I were in danger of being lapped, which meant our races were over one lap before the others.

As my friend with the backhanded compliments would say, “Well, you did finish the race ahead of the winner.”

Fifty-Six Riders Return to the 2011 Grand Prix Cycliste de Quebec and Montreal

Of the roughly 176 cyclists who raced in last year’s inaugural Grand Prix Cycliste de Quebec and Montreal, 56 are returning this week for the 2011 editions. BMC seems to have the most returning riders with five. For the full, tentative 2011 start lists, visit Canadian Cyclist. Did I miss anyone?

  • Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Transitions, now Garmin-Cervelo)
  • Timothy Duggan (Garmin-Transitions, now Liquigas-Cannondale)
  • Danny Pate (Garmin Transitions, now HTC-Highroad)
  • Samuel Sanchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi)
  • Miguel Minguez (Euskaltel-Euskadi)
  • Alan Perez (Euskaltel-Euskadi)
  • Robert Gesink (Rabobank)
  • Tom Stamsnijder (Rabobank, now Leopard Trek)
  • Dennis van Winden (Rabobank)
  • Levi Leipheimer (Team Radioshack)
  • Kristijan Koren (Liquigas-Domino, now Liquigas-Cannondale)
  • Brian Vandborg (Liquigas-Domino, now Liquigas-Cannondale)
  • Dries Devenyns (Quick Step)
  • Jérôme Pineau (Quick Step)
  • Francesco Reda (Quick Step)
  • Jurgen van de Walle (Quick Step, now Omega Pharma-Lotto)
  • Edvald Boasson Hagen (Sky)
  • Michael Barry (was scheduled to race in 2010, but couldn’t because of a broken rib)
  • Sandy Casar (FDJ)
  • Thibault Pinot (FDJ)
  • Michael Morkov (Saxo Bank, now Saxo Bank Sungard)
  • André Steensen (Saxo Bank, now Saxo Bank Sungard)
  • Damiano Cunego (Lampre-Farnese Vini, now Lampre-ISD, but the grapevine says he is ill and won’t be racing)
  • Simone Ponzi (Lampre-Farnese Vini, now Lampre-ISD)
  • Simon Spilak (Lampre-Farnese Vini, now Lampre-ISD)
  • Diego Ulissi (Lampre-Farnese Vini, now Lampre-ISD)
  • Gert Dockx (HTC-Columbia, now Omega Pharma-Lotto)
  • Patrick Gretsch (HTC-Columbia, now HTC-Highroad)
  • Craig Lewis (HTC-Columbia, now HTC-Highroad)
  • Frantisek Rabon (HTC-Columbia, now HTC-Highroad)
  • Jose Ivan Gutierrez (Caisse d’Epargne, now Movistar)
  • Jose Joaquin Rojas (Caisse d’Epargne, now Movistar)
  • Gerald Ciolek (Milram, now Quick Step)
  • Niki Terpstra (Milram, now Quick Step)
  • Fabian Wegmann (Milram, now Leopard Trek)
  • Mirko Selvaggi (Astana, now Vacansoleil-DCM Pro)
  • Yukiya Arashiro (Bbox Bouygues Telecom, now Europcar)
  • Pierrick Fedrigo (Bbox Bouygues Telecom, now FDJ)
  • Cyril Gautier (Bbox Bouygues Telecom, now Europcar)
  • Sébastien Turgot (Bbox Bouygues Telecom, now Europcar)
  • Alessandro Ballan (BMC)
  • Brent Bookwalter (BMC)
  • George Hincapie (BMC)
  • Jeffrey Louder (BMC)
  • Danilo Wyss (BMC)
  • Mickaël Buffaz (Cofidis)
  • Rémi Cusin (Cofidis)
  • Leonardo Fabio Duque (Cofidis)
  • Sébastien Minard (Confidis, now AG2R La Mondiale)
  • Amaël Moinard (Confidis, now BMC)
  • Dominique Rollin (Team Canada, now FDJ)
  • Bruno Langlois (Team Canada [Quebec City race only], now Spidertech p/b C10 [Quebec City race only])
  • François Parisien (Team Canada, now Spidertech p/b C10)
  • Will Routley (Team Canada, now Spidertech p/b C10)
  • David Veilleux (Team Canada, now Europcar)
  • Ryan Anderson (Team Canada [Montreal race only], now Spidertech p/b C10)

Why a Fellow Cyclist Said Nasty Things to Me this Morning

I was heading east on Dundas this morning when I stopped for a red light at Shaw Street, east of Ossington. A scruffy guy pedalled up from behind, ambling in a high gear, and blew through the red. It changed to green and I was at the guy’s rear wheel after a few pedal strokes. He continued to amble, so I passed him and came to a stop by a minivan at the red at Montrose Avenue. Ambler went by but before he cleared the intersection, I had to call him out.

“Oh yeah, keep going. I don’t want to catch you again,” I said with what I’m sure was playful sarcasm.

“Fuck you, asshole!” he yelled over his shoulder.

A guy in the minivan called to me, across a woman in the passenger seat :

“He’s going to get hit someday.”

It was offered like a consolation. Sure, ambler was passing you and slowing you up, but he’d get what’s coming, don’t worry ruler-follower. The words were also a show of solidarity. We didn’t run red lights. We were good drivers. It’s like we were on the same team. But we’re not.

“Yeah, but that happens to cyclists who follow the rules, too,” I said.

We both started moving on the green.

An Array Music Concert on Oscar Night

I have my own Oscar bet going tonight. Even though I’ll miss the start of the ceremonies, I think I’ll still be home in time to catch Anne Hathaway’s penultimate wardrobe change. I’ll be at an ensemble concert that the Music Gallery put on by Array Music. It will feature five works from Array Music’s library.

First in the lineup is “(Damper) Coaster” composed by Martin Arnold. Next is “Soccer” by Scott Godin. I believe the full name of the piece is “Soccer: In Memoriam Hugh Kenner”. Although, I’m not sure what the links are between the world’s most popular sport and a Canadian literary critic. (See if you can hear them for yourself; you can find an excerpt halfway down this page.) You can hear the third work, Michael Oesterle’s “Assume Sometimes,” in its entirety on the composer’s site. The fourth piece has shared its title with the night’s event: “Four Seasons One Tree.” It’s by Rodney Sharman who writes the following on the work:

The piece is a meditation on magical, “seasonally complex” trees I have seen on North America’s West Coast, in Canada, California and Mexico. These extraordinary trees exhibit features of their entire life cycle at the same time, sometimes on a single branch, from smallest bud to fullest fruit, falling leaves and bare twig.
The music is a set of constantly changing variations, contrasted with four solos for each of the sustaining instruments of the ensemble: trumpet, violin, bass clarinet and double bass.

The final piece is “Stare at the River” by Linda Catlin Smith, which she has described as “gazing with the ear.”

The main focus, for me at least, of this concert is not the five musical pieces per se, but the conductor, Gregory Oh. The folks at Musicworks magazine have set me on a profile of Oh, who is also a pianist and member of the group Toca Loca. I’ve been theorizing as to where I should sit so that I have the best view of the conductor: not a common concert-goer’s goal. Any tips?

After the event, I’ll shoot of the Spadina Line to see if I can get home before Spielberg presents the best motion picture Oscar.

LoK8Tr Left Me, But Is About to Return

Yes, I have been known to drop projects and if you look at this past November’s posts, it does seem like I just dropped the article on the Canadian Music Centre’s LoK8Tr project. In fact, I was dropped. My contact with LoK8Tr sent me a message saying he was “shutting down communication [with me] effective immediately.” He also requested that I “cease writing about the LoK8Tr project in any form.” So, I did what any journalist would do: I wrote a story anyway. I wanted to call it “LoK8Tr Has a Cold.” You can read the tale of the breakup—more aptly entitled “dis-LoK8Ted”— in the current issue of Musicworks magazine. (On newsstands now!)

The LoK8Tr project has started. If you are keen on checking it out, as I am, you should become Facebook friends with Lo Katr and check out CMC’s page on the project. Also, don’t forget that LoK8Tr and the cool cats at Mannlicher Carcano will be performing an on-air collaboration this Saturday at 3pm on CFRU (93.3 FM if you live in Guelph, Ont.).

Organizer Serge Arsenault on Canada’s Two ProTour Races

Quebec City and Montreal will be hosting International Cycling Union (UCI) road races this September, the first ProTour races ever to be held in North America. I not only want to attend these races, the Quebec City and Montreal Grands Prix Cyclistes, to watch dudes bike up hills faster than I can bike down them, but I hope to cover the races in some capacity. I’m still cooking up some plans for that, but as part of my research, I spoke with Serge Arsenault, the organizer of the two races, last Friday.

Arsenault has been involved with road racing for more than 30 years. In 1974, he was a Radio Canada commentator for the UCI Road World Championships in Montreal, which the great Eddy Merckx won. From 1988 to 1991, Arsenault organized the races in Montreal that were part of the UCI’s World Cup circuit. His television stations, Serdy Vidéo and Canal Évasion, have broadcasted the Tour de France. Out of these experiences, Arsenault was able gain a UCI licence last summer to hold North America’s first ProTour races.

The Quebec City race, on Friday, September 10, is a 12.6 kilometre circuit that will take riders by the Plains of Abraham and through the old city 15 times. The Montreal race, two days later, is a 12.9 kilometre circuit that takes riders around Mont Royal 16 times. According to Arsenault, they are tough, aggressive courses. He figures only 40 per cent of the riders, out of roughly 170, will finish the race.

“A rider won’t win in Montreal and Quebec City by chance. He and his team will have to have a perfect day and execute their game of chess without mistakes,” Arsenault says alluding to the myriad tactics involved in winning a road race.

For Arsenault, these two races mark the future of professional cycling. From the early 1900s to the 1970s, cycling was a continental European sport dominated by riders from France, Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands, Switzerland and Spain. The riders from the U.K., North America and Australia have only been a fixture over the last 30 years, over which time the field has become even more international. There is pressure to make the ProTour races reflect this growing internationalism and to take the sport beyond Europe. While there are continental UCI races around the world, only Europe and Australia have had ProTour races.

“Both Russia and China want races,” Arsenault says, “In the next year—maximum two years—the U.S. will have race.”

Arsenault wants to be ahead of this wave of expansion and be a part of the new face of cycling. For the two Canadian Grand Prix races, he’s pulling out all of the stops. You know those motorcyclists who follow the cyclists in the Tour de France? The ones with a cameraman on the back. Arsenault has hired those guys because they are the best. It’s a good thing too. These races will be broadcast during the afternoon, Eastern Standard Time, but during prime time in Europe. Arsenault is also trying to create a festival atmosphere around the races. One proposed event is a festival express train that will take riders, journalists and fans from Quebec City to Montreal on the Saturday between the races. The train ride has been billed as an event in and of itself.

There may be one damper on the festivities already though. The races in Quebec will happen in the midst of the Vuelta a España, which is the last of the three Grand Tours, after the Giro d’Italia in May and the Tour de France in July. This arrangement doesn’t seem to worry Arsenault too much. The ProTeams have to send eight racers each to the Canadian races so there will be no problem stocking the event. But how attractive will these races be for riders? Will the big name cyclists want to ride in these new races, or participate in the Vuelta with its history and prestige? In terms of the points a rider can earn from these races, which determine his UCI World Ranking, Arsenault sees the Canadian races as a better deal.

“A winner at both Quebec and Montreal will get 160 points,” he said. “That’s in just two days. A win at the Vuelta, which is 21 days of racing, will bring 170 points.”

Arsenault added that the Vuelta is in decline. This year may be its 75th anniversary, but it also seems to be its last as a 21-day race. In 2011, it will run 14 days. The ProTour calendar is already pretty busy, and will get busier. There just doesn’t seem to be room of 21-day epics. However, the Vuelta still carries weight amongst riders. Dominique Rollin, a member of Cervélo Test Team, has some ambivalence over the Canadian races and the Spanish Grand Tour. He’s the only Canadian on the Canadian-backed team, which is, however, based in Switzerland. He knows it would be good from a marketing perspective to be in Quebec City and Montreal, but his sights are set on the Grand Tours and he would prefer to attend the Vuelta.

I can’t blame Rollin for wanting to go to Spain at the end of August for three weeks. But, I’m keen on watching the Canadian races in their respective cities, even if that press pass doesn’t work out. There are many reasons to go. One of those reasons, which Arsenault pointed out near the end of our conversation, is that cycling is the only professional sport that you can attend for free.

Double Blind (Love), an Online Collaboration

Right now, two blindfolded people are singing “love, love, love” a fragment from U2’s “Until the End of the World.” The woman, Annie Abrahams, is in Montpellier, France. The man, Curt Cloninger, is in Asheville, NC, USA and also playing a suitcase-model Rhodes piano. They’ve been at it for four hours, and will probably be at it for two hours more. When I checked out the live online broadcast of it at just before 2 p.m. Abrahams wasn’t in front of her web cam. Had she bailed? Or had she just taken a break? The two don’t have an “I’m done” signal, so any pauses in the singing could be just pauses or simply the end.

The performance is called Double Blind (Love) is being performed simultaneously in three spaces: the Black Mountain College Museum and Arts Centre, in Asheville, NC, USA; Living Room espace de création contemporaine, Montpellier, France; and online at selfworld.net. The performance started at noon Eastern Standard time or 6 p.m. Central European time. The pair’s plan is to sing together for as long as they can. Yesterday, Cloninger figured the performance will go for close to five hours.

“Annie is hardcore,” he said.

Cloninger himself is quite hardcore. Not only does he have a background in punk and speed metal bands, but he’s sung a line from a pop song, for six hours, three times before. The Pop Mantras, as Cloninger calls them, involved “We ride tonight/ Ghost horses” from Radiohead’s “You and Whose Army”; “For a minute there/ I lost myself” from Radiohead’s “Karma Police” and ” and “Tonight/ Wait now” from the Ramones “I Just Want to have Something to Do.”

For Cloninger, these micro-focused music marathons, including Double Blind (Love), can be an attempt to communicate something to an audience.

“If there was a way to cause people feel what certain songs make me feel,” he said, “that would be valuable, but of course this is impossible. So then it’s this stupid brute force kind of Samuel Becket–inspired attempt to just continue to repeat that thing over and over and over as if that was going to do it. But of course it doesn’t. And something else happens.

“It’s a way to fail rigorously,” he adds. “You can’t just fail because it’s boring. Anybody can fail. But it’s valuable to try and achieve something that you know is not going to be achievable and just to push on that.”

The main challenge that Cloninger and Abrahams face is the delay inherent in sending audio/visual signals over the Web. Their improv is not in sync, and the time delay shifts because of buffering. Cloninger wrote about this challenge to their collaborating in an email to Abrahams:

We don’t have the luxury of being “in” the same time, and so much traditional composition is based on the assumption that the performers have the luxury of being in synchronized time. Our compositional variability (changes/differences) will have to be based on blunt phases (loud/soft, complex/simple, monotonous/erratic, a cappella/instrumentally-accompanied, etc.) Who knows what others we will develop. Each of these phase shifts can be initiated by either of us. We will just have to be attentive to the each other. And these phasings in and out will be sluggish and gradual, because we share a time with each other that is similar, but not exact.

We have given ourselves enough “time” to negotiate and explore this odd timescape. It is a time of “desire” (we only remain in it as long as we want to). And hopefully our changes will be motivated by desire rather than by mere “musical innovation.” In other words, we will change what we are doing not because we want to “entertain” anybody, but because we are personally bored and we desire to do something else, or because we are in communication with each other and we desire to connect, or because we are curious, or because we are following a flow to see where it leads, or whatever. And we can’t change the melody or the lyrics. We can only change the affective things that we can change. So we have taken most of the “elements” of music (rhythm, melody, harmony) and rigorously modified them. But I think the performance will still wind up functioning as a piece of music (at least in some sense, although that won’t be all it is doing).

And of course our faces will be doing whatever they are doing, but that will be a residual effect. We will be attentive to the audio and not as attentive to the video. Usually in new media art it is the other way around (visuals first, then audio as residual).

Over the past four hours the singing has shifted through various modes. The pair has just mumble sung, and other times, just drawn out phonemes from the word love. They’ve wailed and caterwauled. Sometimes it’s a dirge, other times it’s a fight.

Tomorrow I plan to speak with Cloninger to get his thoughts on this online collaboration. How did he feel in that moment when Abrahams disappeared. (She disappeared again as I was writing this.) I’m hoping Cloninger’s thoughts on online collaboration will give me some more insight into my search for LoK8Tr. Cloninger and Abrahams may be singing blind, but I’m writing in the dark with respect to my assignment.