Thursday, February 27, 2014

Me Versus A Program

There's the me the world sees; then there's there me I see. Let's go take a tour....

How other skater's see me:
But on the inside, I'm a hottie:
(Catch the whole visual pun there? Huh? Huh?)

My coach sees me as suitable for Character Roles:

I think of myself differently:

The hair I'll need for my program (Captain Hook from Peter Pan):

The hair I want to have -- in a completely different program:

The costume I need to have for Captain Hook:

The costume I want to have--in a completely different program
I'm 62, but decades of weightlifting--I gots shoulders
I gots the boobies too
(The face--not so much)

The audience reaction to 'hottie me'?

Hey! Notz fair!

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

The Ice Doesn't Care Fantasy Reality TV Show

Figure skating needs a reality TV show. You know to pitch a show in televisionland you have to do it in a single sentence. Here it is:


1. This is about the science of figure skating, and how science actually works in skating. 
2. Adult skaters: Two men, two women. Preferably, each with some kind of science, engineering or mathematics background. The skaters drive the show, and need to be sciency smart, witty and funny.
3. Some coaches: The coaches, actually coach and are there to be real coach, but also to provide insights into competitions, presentation, skating culture, and skating skills and to put skaters on the ice for comps and test. 

Rules: No eliminations. Skaters are working towards, say, ISI Nationals or Worlds. They prepare during the show and they go.  Their scores are what they get.  No fake competitions. No screaming at the skaters by the coaches.
Why ISI? Because there's a really much wider category of programs in ISI. I mean, we want to make the show funny but realistic.  Not everyone is going to skate at the top most level. And ISI has a really cool 'good sportsmanship' oath.

Each skater gets highlighted in one show to lead the topic.  However, during the show, everyone has a few minutes on screen to work on their skills with a coach or cover a side topic. Ribaldry and hilarity follow. Think of it as a cascade, as each program is created, its topic keeps popping up in the programs that follow, so by the end the show has actually become quite complex.

 And the individual shows are like this:

The science of ice manufacture. Why figure skating ice is different than hockey or curling ice. One of the skaters learns to drive the zamboni.  A visit to Disney on Ice to learn how to skate in one of their show costumes and how they set up the arenas. Possibly a short segment that involves people bitching about their boots and their modifications.

Program design: One of the skaters gets to meet with their Dream Choreographer and they go through the rules for the program in the manual and create a program. Another skater gets to go to Disney on Ice and learn how they build their big multiperson programs.
Costumes:  This is actually a complex topic. The effect of color: bright lights, white surface, the skater's natural coloration on costume color. The need for stretch material. The need for makeup to keep the skater from being washed out. How the costume needs to support the program. Why skaters use sparkles. One skater gets to meet with their Dream Costume designer for a dream design, but has to make it on his or her own. Another skater can go to Disney on Ice and talk about how they build their show costumes. 

Props: Not allowed in USFSA, but sometimes required in ISI. And you have a time limit to set it up. Lot of opportunity to watch people build props, that fall down during program practice.  You've heard me say it before, "It's not an ISI program unless it involves a Dremel tool."An opportunity to see how Disney on Ice makes props.

Practice and Competition: The final show would consist of two sections. Each skater's  program  is sho side by side with how they skated it the first time and then after lots of practice and coaching. Then they go to Nationals and see what happens there.

Segments that can be fitted in here and there.
Dream Coach: One or two skaters get a lesson with their Dream Coach. 
Backstage: If the opportunity is available, one or two skaters could go backstage at a National USFSA competition with an escort from USFSA. Not to interview skaters,this  would be about what goes on behind the scenes: the tossie wranglers, the gate guards, the ice resurfacers, the team captain.  Or go behind the scenes at Disney on Ice.

What would make this show would be the personality of the skaters and the coaches.  They need to be funny, and yet able to instruct and solve problems (the prop and costume segments might involve group efforts--group stoning!)

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Encroaching! During Group Lessons

I was at ice dance group lessons this week and it was festival of "encroaching". Encroaching happens when multiple coaches are conducting group classes in a small space and some can't stay inside their assigned area.

Imagine this, here's the ice dance class, skating the width of the rink. Coach has us doing rolls, swing roll, edge changes, whatever. It was all big sweepy moves.
Here's the ice dance group class
Then the Basic 2 class on one side, and the hockey learn to play class on the other, kept ENCROACHING into our area! They couldn't stop, and some of them had hockey sticks (and couldn't stop).

Our coach asked the other coaches to keep their class in their assigned area. She even drew a line on the ice. Did it do any good? No.

What I thought:

What I wanted to do:
"Stay out of my space! Okay!"
Well, I didn't say anything, but I scared a couple of people by skating close to them when I was in a pattern and they skated right in front of me. I paid for lessons, and if someone crosses into my space, tough beans! (honestly, I'm waiting for someone to say something to me about it, at which point I'll give them a piece of my mind.)

Monday, February 17, 2014

That Amazing Davis and White Lift

From their winning appearance in US Nationals 2014, this video shows the amazing lift D&W did for their Sheherezade performance.

Jaw dropping doesn't begin to describe it.

When I saw it at the Olympics (I was standing in the lobby of my ice rink, watching them on the world's crappiest TV without sound) I gasped.

Now, for your enjoyment, 11 seconds of the most amazing ice dance lift ever.


And since I don't follow women's singles, I'm done with the Olympics.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Jeremy Abbott's Fall: Some Comments

Recently one of my posts (Why there's no ASTM Approved Helmets for Figure Skating) has been getting a lot of page views. I want to use some still shots of Jeremy Abbott's fall to show how an accomplished skater preserves himself from injury even in a high speed high rotation fall. I'm not going to discuss anything that happens before the fall, just the part where he hits the ice. (All photos property of the AP and NBC).

The fall begins. He is rotating clockwise.

He reflexively reaches to the ice even as his body continues to rotate.
In a less experienced skater, this could result in a broken wrist.

Years of training take over. He doesn't put his palm on the ice in the fall.
Instead, he keeps his wrist off the ice,and uses the lower part of his arm
above the wrist for bracing.

He hits the ice hard. But look, his head and upper shoulders
are well off the ice. As hard as he hit, that takes a lot of strength,
experience and quick reflexes.
Sadly here, it looks like he hit his kidney.  This was no ordinary fall.

Good reflexes in keeping his head from hitting the boards.
 I've read that to get a triple axel takes thousands of falls. It must take more to get the quad.  Figure skaters are experienced fallers. Here Jeremy exhibits all the skills that figure skaters learn to do in falls: head off the ice, don't jam the wrist,  He was just unlucky enough here to hit at such an angle that his body was stunned.

Props to him for finishing his program.

Unlike Johnny Weir at 2003 Nationals who seemed to lose the will to skate after a fall, then fell again.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Visualizing Program Scores

The New York Times has come up with an innovative graphic to show the jump scores of skaters. This graphic compares the jump scores of Patrick Chan and Yuzuru Hanyu.

 From a graphics point of view, this is excellent. I've never seen anything like this before for figure skating. If you go to the source page and click on each colored circle on the graph, you'll see the exact GOE for that jump.

You can see that Hanyu did two triple axel combinations after the halfway mark, and he got a 'good' score for that (perhaps that's the GOE?). While Chan only got one triple Axel, did poorly and it was before the halfway mark.  Whereas Chan did a good quad-double toe combo before the halfway mark, it wasn't enough to offset the number of excellent jumps that Hanyu had after the halfway point. 

Want to compare that with popular US entrant Jason Brown? Here's his program scores as shown in the NYT way.

Not saying the overall graphic couldn't be improved, for example, adding grades for skating skills such as footwork, but it's an excellent start. Also, the cumulative score could be added across the bottom as a line graph, to show how each jump affects the score.

Really liking how the NYT developed this graph and is able to crank it out during the competition and not afterwards. I hope they develop something as innovative for Ice Dance.

(These graphs are the sole property of the New York Times, and are shown here only for review purposes)

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Upset In the Men's Short Program-Sochi

Evgeny Plusheko retires due to injury:

Reaction of American Viewers
Russian Viewers
But really, he couldn't even take first in the Russian Nationals, and got to take the only Olympic slot for Russia, solely based on a 'private' display to his federation. So Russia has no chance for a men's medal in singles.

Here's Putin in the after action interview:

And then Jeremy Abbott fell, and laid on the ice for 10 seconds:
American Viewers
Patrick Chan Didn't fall (for once)!
"Doin' your job, man."
A virtually unknown skater in the USA is now in first:
Hanyu Yuzuru
and another relative unknown in third:
Javier Fernandez
Things are getting interesting!

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Fitness Tips from Figure Skaters at the Olympics

While you're waiting for some more skating, here's some articles about skating fitness, on ice beauty secrets, and development of expression in performance.

Davis and White talk about some fitness tips for building up their quads

Building powerful calves with Tara Lipinski

Gracie Gold's Core building exercises 

Gracie Gold's Leg building exercises

Evan Lysacek's manly workout.

Jason Brown's Jumping Warm-up exercises. (complementary video from ability to do doubles)

Makeup tips for female skaters. Hey, Spin pins are used by Meryl Davis! I've written about them for tests.

Mime classes are used by several elite skaters....would that Julia Lipnitskya would take some mime classes to get expression, and control those arms.
It's a game based on a 15 year old
Russian skating phenom, who has out of control arms

YES, I am full of snark. Go Team USA!

Monday, February 10, 2014

Figure Skating Tropes: Sequins and Makeup

Now let us hear from sports journalists making the usual whiny complaints about figure skaters' costumes and make-up..

From Slate's Justin Peters a typical quote:
Figure skating does not prize subtlety. Young women slather on makeup, load up on sequins, and plaster on huge smiles to win high marks from the judges.
He's missing the point:

It's about winning and entertainment

He doesn't understand, or care to record, that costumes and makeup are for the audience in the arena, not the audience on TV. The skating is for the JUDGES. The smiles and the sequins, and the makeup aren't for the judges. They're for the arena audience.

Figure skaters skate on a rink that is roughly 100 by 200 feet. They are skating in an arena under bright white lights, on a white unforgiving background. As in a stage performance, make up has to be big and bold to be seen some distance away. Details are unimportant because of the inability of the human eye to discriminate details at a distance. Makeup also has to be heavy to compete with the bright white light and the bright white of the ice. Television focuses on closeups so that you can see every pimple, this means the stage makeup needed for the audience in the arena, becomes exaggerated and unattractive on TV. Without makeup, the face looks like a tiny little blur if you're in the arena audience. Skaters need exaggerated makeup in order to look human on the ice from a distance. And the makeup has to be heavy to be seen under the arena lights.

Also, what's with his snark about slathering on makeup. Has he seen the Khardasians?

Now, as for the sparkle on costumes. Justin, the skaters are on a white background of ~100x200 feet, remember? Under bright glaring lights. What happens when elites skate? Tiny figures on a white background, zipping (and yes elite skaters go remarkably fast), spinning, and jumping. The sparkle is added to keep the skaters from being just a blob, and to provide some visual  distinction for the movement of the legs, arms and body. Yeah, it looks silly on TV, but it's not designed for TV, it's designed, like a stage costume to be seen from a distance.

When TV intrudes into the arena the sparkle is overemphasized by close ups. Then it's seen by the general public as 'figure skating weirdness', when really, it's classic stage costume technique for costumes viewed at a distance.

Once upon a time, skaters wore simple mono-color costumes. That was in the days when the audience was sitting up against the boards, or the first row would be on the ice.  What skaters wore was simple. You can't get away with that today in television, because snarky journalists would say, "Wow, that's so boring a costume. Where's the flair?"

Figure skaters can't win.

So, Justin, figure skaters go to the arena to compete.  The put on makeup and design costumes guessed it...the arena. If the audience in the arena was subjected to costumes and makeup designed to look good on TV, they'd be disappointed. Since the arena audience paid for their tickets, I figure that skaters should wear costumes and makeup suitable for...wait for it...the arena.

So get out from behind the computer Justin, and go to the arena and watch a competition. Then when you've done something more than watching TV, like y'know, that 'research thing' journalists are supposed to do, then your opinion will count.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Useless Competition Trivia: How Many Tuxes Does Charlie White Have?

The Ice Doesn't Care goes to figure skating places where people don't care! But hey, I look up at team figure skating and Charlie's in another damn tux when he and Meryl Davis do their short program. Damn! That man's always in a tux!

But this one looks familiar, so does he get a new one for every program, or does he just use an old one?

Tux 1: 18th Century Style. Double breasted, short tailed, with white weskit, wing collar, and cravat.

Tux 2: 19th Century. Swallow tail, single breasted, white tie.

OOh, love her dress. But probably didn't show up well on ice

Undefined: Sort of a pirate tux. I don't like puffy shirts. I'm going to count this as a non-tux
So, it looks like Meryl gets a new costume every time and Charlie just recycles his when a tux is required!

Friday, February 7, 2014

Figure Skating Ice Quality Rants

It's an old trope that the Eskimo have 40 words for snow. Sadly in English, we only have 37.

Now it's time to get down to naming different kinds of rink ice.

Hockey ice <turns head and spits in disgust> Hard, cold, and chips easily. The basic ice of most American rinks.

Now let's get serious-- Figure skating ice types

"Good Ice" - smooth top surface, 26-28° F, with a sensation of skating on butter. Just enough bite on the edges to give the skater a good run with minimal push

"Boulder ice" - when the dehumidifier doesn't work, and water condenses on the rafters then drops on the ice below. Sometimes boulders the size of a fist will form on the surface.

"Pebble ice" - a variation of Boulder Ice, but when the ice is covered in small lumps over the surface. It seems to occur when the ice resurfacer doesn't have hot enough water in it

"Lizard Skin" -- when the ice resurfacer dumps too much water and/or goes too fast. Usually found at the ends of the rink over the spots for the hockey goals where the resurfacer turns to go down the center line.

"Picked Over" or "Hammered" -- someone who's working on their Lutz has hammer toed their mark over the ice

"Guttered" or "Chopped" or "Hockeyed Over" - Post hockey game or hockey  practice ice. Long ruts in the ice which a resurfacing did not fix

"Snow" -- when it's a public after two hours with a hundred people on the ice

"WTF IS THIS!"===yeah, sometimes something trips me. Like sand when the ice got so thin it actually broke through (no fat jokes please) or pools of water or covered with ICE TOURISTS!

(Enjoy watching the Olympics)

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Bloggable Moment: Mohawks BOTH! Sides

I've been working on my mohawk, especially the 'bad' side, off-ice this week. To bring you up to speed, I completely lost my right mohawk.  Couldn't even bring my free foot to my skating foot. I won't bore you with the 'how' since it's peculiar to my arthritic, bursitisitic, shingle-ized right hip.  Let's just say that hip looks really spectacular on X-rays, MRIs, and CAT scans.

To make a long story short, it involved do a lot of 'fifth position' work when talking to my bosses to stretch out my hip. Yes, you have to work your hips to get to here:

Because of the Polar Vortex Express, I haven't skated in a week. I get on the ice and warm up. Three turn here and there, good side mohawk...take a breath...bad side mohawk.

It's sort of like a tiny little hop from one foot to the other. I practice it using the Five Minute Rule, then Miss Bianca is ready for my lesson. 

I show her my good side mohawk. It flows like a river.

Miss Bianca smiles. "That very, very good. Really excellent." She says.

Then I show her my 'bad side' mohawk. It actually works! I have a tiny bit of flow! "It's a beginner mohawk," I say. "But it's a start."

"Oh no," Miss Bianca says, "It's actually a couple of levels above beginner."
Yes! Two levels above beginner!
"Ooh, " I tell Miss Bianca. "Bloggable moment!"