September 21, 2012

My new blog is up now–just one post so far, and a relatively lengthy “About” section.  If you’re interested, it can be found at




I said in my last post that I wouldn’t be creating any new tomato-themed images, but I spoke too soon.  The above image is a homage to my new Wonderful Wonderful WonderBra.  This bra is a miracle of design, that other women should know about if they don’t already know.  Also, purchasing my new bra sparked in me the realization that the collection of tomato-themed images in this blog would not be complete without an image of tomatoes reinvisaged as breasts.

This is especially true since I’ve used captions for the images that incorporate the French term for tomatoes, “pommes d’amour”, that literally translates into “love apples”, which is a slang term in English for breasts.  It’s not a slang term that is popular in these parts (‘melons’ is a more popular term here, or ‘knockers’, or the widely-popular ‘boobs’, or even just ‘tomatoes’), but when some English speakers who know at least a little French mentally translate “pommes d’amour” into “love apples” they may immediately think of breasts.  (Perhaps “pommes d’amour” is itself sometimes used as a French slang term for breasts.  I don’t know.)

I’m not new to WonderBras in general.  WonderBra has a model that has been my mainstay, everyday, bra for roughly thirty years, in all the colours in which they make it.  As far as I can tell, they haven’t changed that model at all in all the years I’ve been buying it.  But when I was looking at that model last week, the price had crept up to $40 (before tax), which seemed like an awful lot to be paying for a basic, everyday, bra, so I kept looking.  In the past, I wouldn’t have bought what was labelled as a “sports bra” unless I was going to use it specifically for sports, but I lucked upon a single WonderBra “low-impact” sports bra in my size, on sale for half-price (the regular price was almost as much as the other bra), that had some similarities with my mainstay bra, that was relatively attractive as well as being functional, so I thought I’d give it a try.     


With the special mesh areas for ventilation, it’s great for wearing in the summer heat–although, apart from a few relatively hot days last week when I got to test the garment in the heat, we haven’t had much of that this summer in Vancouver.  (I stayed at home this weekend doing graphics on my iPad, instead of going to the beach as I had planned.)  I also like the width of the straps, a little wider than the straps of most bras, so there is better support.  All in all, it’s so very comfortable, while doing the job it’s supposed to do of providing support and giving the breasts a pleasant shape.  I highly recommend this WonderBra model to women like myself who may have stuck with a model of bra they’ve liked for years, or even for decades, not realizing there have been some advances in the design of bras in recent years–or to anyone else who needs a good, everyday, bra.

Incidentally, I didn’t know until I was doing a little research for this post that the WonderBra was invented in Canada.  In 2007, in a survey done by CBC, the basic WonderBra design was ranked by Canadians 5th out of the top 50 greatest Canadian inventions.  Apparently, the brand started to gain international prominence only in the 1990s.  By then, I’d already been wearing my basic WonderBras for a couple of decades–but this new WonderBra sports bra beats them all.  It is indeed Wonderful, Wonderful.

I don’t think the image I’ve created of “love apples” is quite as successful as the bra itself (the tomatoes may be a little lopsided); but it has been duly added to the gallery of key images from this blog included in the preceding post, “The Final Tomatoes Diary Post.”

I hope my readers are enjoying their summers.  While I’ve been tieing up loose ends on this blog, I’ve been thinking about my new blog, that I plan to have up and running in the early fall.  I have a name for it now, which I’ve registered with WordPress, but I won’t divulge the name until the blog has some content. 




This blog has run its course. It’s been only about eight months since I started this blog, yet the events about which I wrote in its first post occurred almost exactly a year ago, in June of 2011.  I’ve decided not to grow another crop of actual tomatoes this year: it’s mainly because the space available in our garden for growing tomatoes, beside the cedar hedge, doesn’t get enough sun for tomatoes to properly ripen, as last year’s experiment proved.  But even if I were to grow another crop of actual tomatoes and, thus, be able to include comments about that process in this blog, and have more home-grown tomatoes to use as raw material for more tomato graphics, the reasons for ending this blog at this point would outweigh those for keeping it going.

This blog has served its primary function of being a learning tool for me while I was learning to set up and maintain a basic blog, and gaining some facility with the graphics tools available to me on my ‘new’ iPad–that I’ve now had for about nine months.  I’m not a rank amateur any more, and I feel I’m now ready for and, for professional reasons need, a somewhat more sophisticated blog, both thematically and graphically.  As this blog has evolved, I’ve started to use it for a secondary function of referring potential employers to it who might want to see samples of my work, and much of the work in this blog is, I fully admit, the work of a beginner blogger and iPad-art artist.  (At least from my point of view, the writing itself is relatively strong–although probably overly diverse in theme for a blog.)  Also, although I’ve had some fun creating the tomato-themed images in this blog, I don’t want to be restricted forever to images of tomatoes.

I sufficiently like creating images of tomatoes, and I sufficiently like the results of some of my efforts in this area, that I’m going to devote some time during the remaining couple of months of this summer to redoing some of the tomato images in this blog–and others that didn’t make it into the blog.  Some of the earlier images, in particular, need work. I think there may be commercial applications for some of these images–without the captions, of course, that tie them to this blog–perhaps as greeting cards.  (If any readers have any ideas in this regard, please let me know.  I can be contacted through this blog.)  After that, I’m ready for a different visual theme–or themes.

Other than a possible short post in the early fall once I’ve set up my new, as yet unnamed blog, directing readers to the new blog, this will be the last post in “The Tomatoes Diary.”  I very much thank those who followed this blog during its relatively short existence, and hope that you, and others, will check out my new, and improved, blog in the fall.




J’adore the weekly free music and music-video downloads on iTunes Canada, primarily by contemporary Canadian artists and in both the English and French languages.  I started availing myself of these free downloads almost as soon as I got my iPad, about nine months ago.  By now, mainly through free iTunes downloads, I’ve accumulated a fair-sized collection of Canadian digital music, with close to half of it being en française.  (I now have quite a collection of digital American and British music, too, acquired from other sources.)

I’ve especially enjoyed listening to la musique canadienne-française that, without these free downloads, it’s unlikely I would ever have known about living here in Vancouver, in a very unilingual environment.  Some of the music is, musically speaking, merveilleux, and I’ve also appreciated the opportunity to practice my French.  I’ve found it somewhat frustrating, however, that bien que je puisse lire français, and can understand most spoken French lorsque la langue est parlée clairement, I miss many of les paroles of these French songs–and sometimes I can catch only a few words ici et là.  Through trolling around on the Internet, I’ve found les paroles for some of the chansons françaises whose lyrics have eluded me, sometimes translated into English and sometimes just en française.  It would be so very helpful if iTunes Canada provided the lyrics, both in English and dans la langue française, to their free French downloads on their primarily-English site.  However, I recognize that’s a lot to ask of a business headquartered in the United States, that is not in the business of promoting Canadian bilingualism and greater harmonie entre Canada anglais et français: the cost of providing the lyrics would probably exceed any increase in revenue from paid French downloads.

Providing les paroles for la musique canadienne-française is much better suited for the on-line music program of the taxpayer-funded Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, or CBC.  Thus far, however, despite the successful precedent of iTunes Canada, the CBC’s on-line music program hasn’t even made any effort to integrate English-language and French-language music on a single site: the music section of the English-language CBC website has virtually only English-language music (the few exceptions are individual artists and groups that perform in both English and le français), with la musique canadienne-française reserved for the website of the French-language counterpart of the CBC, Radio-Canada.  Lyrics, in any language, are not included on either of the fundamentally unilingual sites.

À mon avis, providing a relatively limited number of free downloads of English-Canadian music and French-Canadian musique, with accompanying lyrics in both English and le français, and possibly also biographical information about our Canadian musical artists in both English and le français, would be a far better use of Canadian taxpayers’ money than providing the hundreds of thousands of free unilingual downloads, and all the hours of free unilingual streaming, that the CBC now offers–that it may not be able to offer much longer if the courts agree with the various on-line music businesses that recently have accused the CBC of engaging in unfair practices.  (I tend to agree with the businesses.)

If the CBC won’t do it, it’s something I’d like to do myself–if I could get the funding, bien sûr.

















A few weeks ago, I and my iPad were at the centre of an incident at my local public library that, anywhere but in Vancouver, would be considered odd–extremely odd.  Even long-time Vancouverites are likely to find the incident amusing, but I doubt that most Vancouverites would find it odd–indeed, extremely odd–as would those who have spent considerable time living in other places, including even just other Canadian cities.

I was using my iPad at the library, that has free WiFi for its patrons, to watch an episode of the TV show “Smash”, the show that debuted this season about the making of a Broadway musical, with singing and dancing throughout.  I’ve never invested in any of the various other systems that are now available for watching TV shows at irregular times and, since I now have an iPad, I’ve started to use it for that purpose–especially when I miss an episode of “Smash”.  The show is my weekly private indulgence–or it was private, until that incident in the library.

After watching a full, hour-long, episode of the show on my iPad, while sitting at a table in the library on a busy Saturday morning, I was putting away my iPad when I realized I hadn’t plugged in the headset properly.  I asked the young man who was sitting across the table from me using a laptop if he had been able to hear the show, and he confirmed that this was the case.  This was a tech-savvy young guy who was sitting right across from me so he would have been able to see I was wearing a headset, who should have been able to readily deduce that I hadn’t intended for him to hear the show, and that the problem was simply that I hadn’t properly plugged in the headset.  Yet he didn’t say anything through the duration of the show, nor did he seem at all annoyed with me when I was speaking with him afterwards.  I figured maybe he also was a secret musical theatre fan–even though he didn’t particularly look the part.

At first, I assumed it was just this young man, sitting at the same table as me, who had overheard my private indulgence–including, that week, a raucous, full-orchestra, full-chorus, finale number.  But as I was getting up to leave, I turned to face a young woman who was shelving books about fifteen feet away from the table, and she told me she had heard it all as well.  She laughed it off, telling me the music made her shelving duties more enjoyable.

If she had heard the show, too, it meant that the audio had to have been quite loud. I then realized that I, myself, had been listening to the show not through the headset but, rather, through the air, with earbuds in my ears, so the audio had to have been VERY LOUD–loud enough that everyone in the section of the library where I had been sitting could have heard the show loud and clear, assuming they weren’t completely deaf.  At least a couple of dozen people had been in that section of the library during the period that I was watching “Smash” on my iPad, several for the full duration, sitting at the library’s computers nearby, yet nobody, not even an employee of the library, had even asked me to turn down the volume a tad.  Perhaps I should point out here that I’m neither physically intimidating nor sufficiently pathetic-looking that I merit special forbearance.  (To be fair to the other employees of this library, the library is constructed basically in the shape of a ‘U’, and I had been situated around the bend from where the other librarians, including the more senior librarians, were situated, so they probably didn’t hear the show–or at least not at full-volume.)

My initial interpretation of this strange incident was that more Vancouverites, especially more Vancouver public-library patrons, must like the show “Smash” than its ratings would suggest.  I imagined a video testimonial for the show, to help save it from possible cancellation (this was before it was announced last week the show has been renewed for half of next season), that would be essentially the opposite of the library scene in the musical, “The Music Man”: instead of Marion, the Librarian, hushing everyone, the librarians, and everyone else in the library, could be singing and dancing to music from “Smash”.  But surely it wasn’t just a question of them liking the show.  Even if all the people in the library that morning actually did like the show, and liked listening to the audio portion of the show while they were at the library on a Saturday morning, at least some of them must have realized that this was an embarrassing situation for me–this was “Smash”, after all–and, as a basic courtesy to me, should have let me know what was happening.  These people weren’t speaking up when–at least as I see it–they should have spoken up.

One of my sisters, a long-time Toronto resident, is now visiting from Toronto, where I myself lived for about ten years, and I told her about this incident.  She immediately interpreted the incident as being something that could have happened only in Vancouver.  Although this isn’t originally how I interpreted it, after having given the subject some thought, I now tend to agree.  As I’ve known for a long time, although at first I didn’t make the connection with this particular incident, Vancouver is unique among Canada’s major cities in how strangers in public spaces relate to each other. 

The more obvious sign of Vancouver’s uniqueness in this area is too much talking.  In Vancouver, strangers in public spaces commonly talk to each other, or at each other, without having first determined, through non-verbal communication or through the use of standard verbal cues such as “Excuse me, but ….” that they have the attention of the person to whom they are talking.  This happens all the time here, including in situations when one really does need one’s full attention–such as when one is preparing to cross a busy street, and one is attending to traffic lights and traffic: out of the blue, with no advance indication, a complete stranger may start talking to you about some trivial matter completely unrelated to crossing the street, or to whatever else you are thinking about.  All kinds of people in Vancouver do this, including young and old alike, from all walks of life–and not just lonely elderly people or crazy street people.  As someone who is originally from Vancouver, but who has lived in other Canadian cities, especially Toronto and Montreal, for at least as much of my adult life as I’ve lived in Vancouver, this drives me crazy.

In Montreal, people interacting with strangers in public spaces also are relatively talkative–or at least those Montrealers who are bilingual and who aren’t overly worried about possible language barriers when talking with strangers are relatively talkative.  But Montrealers, unlike many Vancouverites, almost invariably look before they leap into a conversation, relying heavily on non-verbal cues, especially eye-contact, before they engage someone else in conversation.

When I was living in Montreal attending McGill, the first time I had been away from Vancouver for an extended period of time, it was pointed out to me by a close friend, a native Montrealer, that I myself often engaged people in conversation without first getting their attention.  One incident in particular stands out in my mind.  She and I were walking along a sidewalk on a street where some heavy street construction was underway and, after observing a driver of a big truck involved in the construction do a particularly complex manoeuver with the truck, without first having the driver’s attention, I shouted out to him, en anglais bien sûr, some sort of compliment, like “Great driving!!  You should get a prize for that.”  (When I was travelling in England only a couple of years before that, I’d attended a “truckers’ rodeo” in Banbury-Cross, the city from the nursery rhyme, which probably inspired that comment.)  I thought he would have appreciated the compliment; but, as my friend pointed out, when I shouted out to him he was still involved in manipulating the rig, and my comment, out of the blue, in a language he may not have understood, could have resulted in him having an accident with the truck.  I didn’t really realize until I returned to Vancouver after being away for several years where my early tendency to speak to, or even to shout out to, strangers in public spaces without first getting their attention, had come from–and how annoying, and sometimes even dangerous, this could actually be.

In Toronto, there is relatively little talk among strangers in public spaces–but I don’t think of this as a sign of coldness.  I’ve generally found the Torontonians I’ve got to know well warm and open, and the relative lack of chat among strangers in public spaces in Toronto seems to be more out of respect for others–and for themselves–than because Torontonians generally are cold, uncommunicative, people.

It may be difficult at first to see a relationship between chatty, often intrusive, Vancouverites on Vancouver sidewalks, and on Vancouver busses, and in Vancouver malls, and so on, and the silent library patrons that Saturday morning that I was watching “Smash” with my iPad at full-volume, effectively without a headset; but I think these two phenomena may actually be two sides of the same coin.

Generally speaking, Vancouverites don’t seem to be as “self-empowered” (I mean this in a specific sense, which I’ll provide shortly) as Canadians from Canada’s other major cities, especially Toronto and Montreal with which I have the most familiarity.  To be more specific, long-time Vancouverities in general, especially those who haven’t spent much time away from Vancouver, don’t seem to recognize, at least to the same degree as those from other cities, that their private thoughts and mental meanderings are important, and that they have a right to not have their thoughts interrupted by random voices, and random show tunes, as they go about their daily routines.  Regarding Vancouver’s many chatterboxes, I would suggest there aren’t sufficient people in Vancouver who are sufficiently self-empowered to tell the chatterboxes that they don’t wish to be spoken at when their attention is elsewhere, so that the chatterboxes get the message loud and clear, and desist.  Also, if the chatty Vancouverites that drive me crazy were more self-empowered themselves, they probably would recognize to a greater extent the value of the inner thoughts of others, and wouldn’t impose themselves on others the way that they do.   

When I was away from Vancouver for many years, I seem to have become more “self-empowered” myself, in the particular sense I am using this term here, even without being aware of it, to the extent that, now, not only do I commonly tell strangers off when they are interrupting me (assuming they have nothing important to say) but also I consider it the responsibility of my fellow Vancouverites to tell me to quieten down if I am interrupting them–especially if I’m interrupting them with full-volume “Smash”.  (“Shut the hell up!” would seem to be entirely appropriate in this instance.)
















Commentators on hockey and hockey injuries almost invariably have long, complicated, histories with the sport and, as such, may overlook basic things that are more salient to relative newcomers like myself.  I started to take a somewhat serious interest in hockey only last year.  Prior to that, I was one of those people who, in an entire season, might watch just parts of a couple of games on television, if the hometown team was doing especially well or was on the brink of elimination.  I previously mentioned in this blog that I did once attend a parade in Montreal celebrating the Montreal Canadiens winning the Stanley Cup that year and, while I probably watched the final game (parts of it anyway), it’s unlikely I watched any other hockey game that year.  (I was then a serious McGill student, too busy for much television of any kind.)  That parade was a cultural phenomenon, and wasn’t just about hockey.  



Things changed last year when I registered for an on-line hockey pool sponsored by The Vancouver Sun newspaper.  Although, as I’ve also previously mentioned in this blog, I’ve entered a fair number of contests in the past couple of years, I’d never before been in a hockey pool, or a sports pool of any kind.  Watching professional male sports teams compete had never been my thing, and I figured I didn’t know enough about the subject to stand a chance of winning, so being in any of those pools would have been a waste of time.  I initially entered the Sun‘s hockey pool last year because it was free to enter and because there were some relatively nice prizes up for grabs for early registration, regardless of how one fared in the actual pool–and I actually won one of those prizes, a $200 gift certificate good at any of the several restaurants and sports bars that are part of the Donnelly Group.  Once I was entered in the pool, I decided to play along for a while, with no real expectation of winning anything else.

This particular hockey pool was one of the most basic kinds (as I’ve learned in the past year, there are several different kinds of hockey pools) and involved, during the regular season, simply predicting the win/loss outcomes each week on those NHL games that involved Canadian teams.  During the regular season, Canadian teams played in about 25 games each week.  (In the playoff round, all games, including those with just American teams, were included in the pool.)  For each correct prediction, one earned a single point.  There were weekly prizes as well as monthly prizes.

For the first several weeks that I was in the pool, I never ranked better than about 300, and usually ranked at about 1000, in a pool of about 2500 players, only about 2000 of whom seemed to be active participants after the first week or two.  During that early period, I started to take a little more active interest in hockey than I usually did, watching parts of a few more games on television than I usually did and sometimes soliciting information from a male co-worker who watched all of all the games, and had done so for years, about the parts I hadn’t watched and those games I had missed entirely.  But I was still far from being hooked on hockey–even though the local team, the Vancouver Canucks, already was doing very well that year, and was generating much excitement locally.  

At about the Week 10 mark in the pool, never having ranked more than about 300 in the weekly rankings, I figured I had nothing to lose.  When I was picking my teams for the upcoming week, instead of actually selecting teams, I just clicked on the “Random” button on the team selection screen on the hockey pool website.   Astonishingly, I ended up winning the weekly pool that week, correctly ‘predicting’ 21 out of 25 or 26 games.  (I don’t recall the exact number of games.)  If only my luck were that good with randomly generated “lucky pick” lottery tickets, when serious cash winnings are at stake!  In the case of the hockey pool, I won a $100 gift certificate to be spent at a sports store specializing in hockey-related gear.  (With the gift certificate, I bought as Christmas presents kitschy Canucks pajamas for one of my sisters, that she really liked, for the kitsch and the comfort, and a non-team hoodie for her partner, who isn’t much into hockey, or kitsch, but who does jog.)  Besides winning the gift certificate, I had my name published in the sports section of The Vancouver Sun, for a second time, as a winner in their ongoing hockey pool.  (The first time was just for winning the early registration prize, but my name was published in the sports section, in conjunction with hockey, all the same.) 

After winning the hockey pool that week, based on sheer, statistically improbable, luck, and having my name published in the sports section of Vancouver’s major newspaper for a second time, I figured I should become more knowledgable about Canada’s national sport, about which I may have, quite undeservedly, acquired a reputation as being something of an expert.  (A lot of my Arts friends and acquaintances, if they ever opened the sports section and came across my name, may have been dumbfounded.)  Also, since I’d now won the weekly hockey pool once, if only through luck, another weekly win, or even a monthly win, seemed more within reach, if I became more knowledgeable about the game.  (I realized my chances of winning a second week by again clicking on “Random” were infinitesimal.) 

I started to watch more televised hockey games, often in their entirely.  Watching more games, with the aim of predicting winners and losers, and then knowing little about the fine points of the game, I focussed on the one variable that struck me the most: the average speed at which the skaters on a team skated.  (There was nothing scientific about my calculations.  I just eyeballed the skaters on my TV screen.)  At first, I saw speed only as an advantage, reasoning that a faster team could generally outmaneuver a slower team and thereby make more goals, and also have greater success in preventing goals made against them (assuming the team had a reasonably good goalie, course).  Focussing on the single variable of speed, my actual predictions became somewhat better, although I was still nowhere near the top of the weekly rankings in my hockey pool.  (The New York Rangers and Nashville got my votes based on speed and, while both teams went through some good stretches, they weren’t reliable.)

Besides watching more televised games, I submitted myself to a serious (or at least semi-serious) reading regime, reading everything that came my way about ice-hockey, including newspaper and magazine articles that I formerly would have ignored, as well as a couple of books I came across in the library, including a book written a few years ago by the Globe and Mail sportswriter Bruce Dowbiggen: The Meaning of Puck: How Hockey Explains Modern CanadaDowbiggen’s book consists largely of a historical chronicle of hockey in Canada, beginning with how the sport came into being and the conditions under which the first games were played, and how those conditions evolved over the years.  

Thinking about changes in those conditions, and focussing on ice-skating speed to help me make my hockey pool picks, and inevitably thinking about injuries in current NHL hockey as I followed the sport more closely, I started to make some connections.



I have a theory that NHL players generally are skating faster than they have ever done in the past, and that these faster speeds, in combination with NHL hockey continuing to be a full-contact sport, are a major contributor to today’s hockey injuries, including concussions. 

A scientific analysis of differences in skating speeds among today’s NHL players and those from the past is beyond the scope of this blog post.  However, simple reasoning would suggest that average skating speed generally has greatly increased since the NHL was formed in 1917, due to changes in four main areas: ice conditions; hockey skates; the fitness level of players; and the amount of ice-time time that individual players have in individual games.  At least a full book chapter probably could be devoted to each of these subjects; but, for my present purposes, the following brief comments will suffice.

The biggest change in ice conditions for ice-hockey in Canada was pre-NHL, when the sport shifted from being an exclusively outdoor sport to being mainly an indoor sport.  The first organized indoor game was played in Montreal, in 1875.  Perhaps in the very early years of the NHL, a fair number of regulation games were played outdoors.  (This information probably is available somewhere, but I haven’t found it.)   However, with the exception of the one annual Winter Classic game, for many decades, all regulation NHL games have been played indoors.  Considering just indoor rinks, ice conditions vary to some extent from rink to rink, depending mainly on temperature; but, in recent decades, with the introduction of professional ice-makers, greater consistency has been achieved, with the ice now kept hard, and fast, at most rinks, most of the time.

My very basic research concerning the evolution of hockey skates indicates that, since the first skates were invented and patented in Nova Scotia in 1866, hockey skates have undergone significant changes.  These changes include wider blades that skate faster than blades used in the past.  In old television footage from hockey games in the ’60s and ’70s, many of the players seem to be using a much choppier skating style than is now prevalent among NHL players, a difference which is likely due at least in part to differences in the hockey skates used by NHLers then and now.  (Another probable factor is a shift in skating style itself, irrespective of the skates used, to maximize performance.)

Regarding the fitness level of players, probably due largely to major increases in recent decades in the salaries of NHL players, earning a spot on an NHL team has become much more competitive.  Only in recent decades have NHL players been expected to maintain a very high level of overall physical fitness–comparable to the fitness levels of athletes in the most demanding of other sports.  Not too many years ago, many professional hockey players apparently still smoked, and players commonly had a smoke between periods; but this is no longer the case.  (A television hockey commentator, I’ve forgotten who now, mentioned this as an aside.)  Also, with the major increase in NHL salaries in recent decades, it’s likely that the NHL now attracts more highly gifted athletes, who could have had great success in other professional sports, or had lucrative careers other than in sports.

Turning to ice-time, in the very early days of NHL hockey, most players were on the ice through the entire game, or virtually the entire game.  In the early 1930s, NHL hockey transitioned from being a game played by six players to being a game with various ‘lines’, and transitions on the fly.  In 1932, average ice time  already had declined to less than 23 minutes per game, which would seem to be roughly the same as the average ice-time played by today’s NHL players.  According to an answer posted on Wiki Answers about current NHL ice-time, by someone who seems to know NHL hockey well, “The average time on ice for a hockey player in one game … anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes.  Usually the better defencemen spend around 25-30 minutes on the ice each night, but average forwards usually spend around 20-25 minutes.”  It also is worthy of note that, in the current NHL game, an average shift lasts only about 45 seconds, and only in exceptional cases does a shift last as long as 90 seconds.  Due to the basic fact that people get physically exhausted when they exert themselves over prolonged periods, a player who spends relatively little time on the ice, and whose overall ice-time is broken down into small segments, is likely to generally skate faster than a player who spends more time on the ice, and with fewer breaks–assuming, of course, their roles in the game are similar.  

Back in the 1930s, a greater skating speed associated with less ice-time, and more breaks, for individual players, probably significantly enhanced NHL hockey, making it more exciting, but without making it overly dangerous; however, in our current age, with various other factors contributing to greater speed–including improved ice conditions and hockey skates, and better player fitness–maybe ice-time needs to be reconsidered.  A NHL player skating at full-capacity who is skating on fast ice, wearing the most technologically advanced of today’s hockey skates, and who is in top physical condition, stands a much greater chance of inflicting serious harm on other players, intentionally or unintentionally, or even on himself, than a player skating at full-capacity on slow ice, wearing slow skates, who is not in good physical condition–and who may be a heavy cigarette smoker to boot.  It’s like developments in the alpine sport of luge: an activity that is generally safe at relatively low speeds can, as we learned from the luge event in the 2010 Winter Olympics, be catastrophically dangerous beyond certain speed thresholds.



If NHL hockey is to remain a full-contact sport–and I happen to agree with Don Cherry that it should remain such–and if we wish to reduce serious injuries, including concussions, it seems that steps should be taken to reduce players’ skating speed somewhat, without changing the game as we know it. 

One possibility that is unlikely to catch on, but that is amusing to consider, is loading weights on players as part of their penalties for certain infractions, like weights are loaded on race-horses in certain situations.  The weights on the hockey players would have the basic function of slowing them down.  For example, an infraction involving ramming another player overly hard, without causing a serious injury, could earn both a 2-minute penalty and 20 pounds in penalty weight.  Regarding the material used to add the extra poundage, since metal weights, wherever they were situated on the players, could be used as, or inadvertently become, lethal weapons, a soft and squishy, but also relatively heavy, substance, would seem to be best–although it’s unlikely NHL players would take well to strapping on modified colostomy bags before they stepped on the ice.

Another, somewhat more realistic, possibility is to modify the skates used by NHL players to reduce their skating speed–other than simply loading down their skates with encapsulated blubber (or whatever).  I suspect that closely monitoring the skates used by NHL players would be difficult, and expensive; however, I’m not ready to dismiss modifications to hockey skates as part of the solution to the excessive speeds of today’s professional hockey players, relative to the game that they are playing.

Another possibility, that seems to be the most robust–and realistic–of all the possibilities I’ve been able to come up with is to modify certain rules of the game, so that individual players are required to spend more time on the ice, and with fewer breaks, than is now the case–even to the point where they are sometimes required to play when they are plum tuckered out.  One rule that could be reconsidered is that concerning the maximum number of players that an NHL team can ‘dress’ for a game.  Currently, the maximum number of players that an NHL team can ‘dress’ is 20: maybe that should be reduced, perhaps to 15.  Another possible modification is to mandate a minimum length for a single shift, of perhaps 2 full minutes. 

Besides slowing down NHL games somewhat, to a somewhat safer average speed, requiring that individual NHL players spend more time on the ice is likely to shift the emphasis in NHL hockey to player endurance, as well as versatility–which are qualities that I believe spectators would appreciate, at least as much, if not more than, raw speed. 




Through the first part of the second half of last year’s hockey season, when I believed greater average skating speed was only an asset to a hockey team, my weekly rankings in the Sun‘s hockey pool remained relatively constant, in the 150 to 200 range.  Once I abandoned that preconception, and realized that greater speed also could be a liability for individual hockey players, their teams, and even for NHL hockey as a whole, my weekly rankings started to climb.  (By now, I knew enough about hockey to also consider a few more variables when I was making my predictions.)  

For Week 22 of the pool, I was again THE WINNER, this time without resorting to the “Random” button.  I won another $100 gift certificate for use at the sports store specializing in hockey gear and, once again, my name was published in the sports section of The Vancouver Sun as a weekly winner in their hockey pool.  (See above.  I am not making this up!)  This time, I felt less embarrassed, and even quite proud, about my name being in the paper because, this time, I had won fair and square.  I used my second $100 gift certificate to buy myself a Canucks jersey, that I wore on Canucks game days during the Canucks’ run for the Stanley Cup.  

This season, I haven’t followed hockey as closely as I generally did last season.  (I followed the game more closely after I won the pool the first time than I did before that win.)  The Vancouver Sun didn’t have an on-line hockey pool this season, instead running a football pool during the football season, that overlapped with the hockey season.  (Since there weren’t any prizes for just registering for the football pool, I didn’t participate in the football pool either.)  Also, following hockey closely takes a lot of time, and much of my free time now is spent using my new iPad–including working on this blog.  (I won the iPad, too, but that win had nothing to do with hockey.)  Still, I kept an eye on our Canucks.  Although they seemed to have a problem scoring this season, they were again Presidents’ Trophy winners for having the best regular season record, and I expected them to at least make it through the first round of the playoffs.  Instead, they lost four games to one in that first round to Los Angeles. 

If Daniel Sedin, the top scorer for the Canucks, had played in the first three games of the first playoff round, all of which the Canucks lost to LA, the outcome likely would have been different.  Unfortunately, Sedin was out with a concussion.  In one of the last games of the Canucks regular season, against the Chicago Blackhawks, the Blackhawks’ defenceman, Duncan Keith, elbowed Sedin in the head, in retaliation for a hit Sedin apparently inadvertently made on Keith in a previous game.  (Sedin’s hit seemed relatively minor, and didn’t even receive a penalty.)  If the players had been skating a little more slowly, a hit like the hit that Sedin made was unlikely to have had the impact that it did–on Keith, Sedin himself, the Canucks team, and so on.


April 15, 2012



With the exception of a couple of my very earliest posts in which I discussed the process of growing my first crop of actual tomatoes, this is the first post in this blog that doesn’t include any tomato art, or any other graphic material.  It’s deliberate, to make a point.

Since attending the opening of the Beat Nation show at the Vancouver Art Gallery, and writing about that show for this blog (see the post dated March 15), I’ve been doing some thinking about what ‘art’ now means to me, and the implications for the new meaning at which I arrived.  Writing about the show, I mentioned the point made by Deborah Sparrow of the Musqueam Band in her introductory comments to the show that, in traditional Aboriginal cultures, there were no words equivalent to our word, ‘art’; because everything that was made in these cultures had a practical use, ‘art’ wasn’t a meaningful category.  After my couple of weeks of (very part-time) deliberation, I’ve concluded that the word ‘art’ no longer has much real meaning to most of us of Western cultural descent–except, of course, when speaking of our cultural history.  Moreover, the continued use of this word by those with an interest in the activities and products collectively said to be “the Arts” may actually be lessening the support we receive from the broader community rather than helping to garner support.  Perhaps it’s time that we considered doing away with the word ‘art’ (except when speaking of our cultural history), and found other more contemporary, more meaningful, more practical, ways of talking about, these activities and products.

This is by no means the first time I’ve deliberated about the meaning of ‘art’, or even reached this basic conclusion.  I did, after all, do graduate work in Education, not terribly long ago (I finished a PhD twelve years ago), and one of my interests as a graduate student was “arts education”, a term with which I became increasingly uncomfortable through the course of my studies.  But I think a much stronger case could be made now, than even just a dozen years ago, for the abandonment of the term ‘art’.

Especially due to recent developments in digital technology, activities and products traditionally said to be ‘art’ have become more central to Western culture than they have ever been–or at least more central than they have been for several centuries.  Even the most basic amateur blog, for example, inevitably includes not only text but also the graphic design elements associated with the design template, or ‘theme’, that the blogger has selected for the blog, and also is likely to include some photographs.  Professionally designed websites commonly rely heavily upon varied graphic elements, including not only static images but also video.  Music and drama also play a vital role on many blogs and websites, including not only those that are specifically entertainment-related.  In addition, employing digital material loaded onto their laptops or iPads, speakers making live presentations now commonly incorporate graphics, and sometimes also music and other recorded performances, including drama and even dance, into their presentations.

It’s become increasingly important, to the point of even being essential, that young people now learn how to create and to manipulate varied digital material if they are to lead successful personal and professional lives.  The written word just doesn’t have the preeminence that it once had in Western culture as a communications medium and, in many contexts, including post-secondary education, even the spoken word has lost much of its former status.  (It used to be common that university and college teachers were referred to as ‘lecturers’, but no longer.)

Just for practical reasons, just to get by in the modern world, it has become increasingly important that young people acquire some familiarity with graphics, and photography, and film-making, and music, and drama, and even dance (not necessarily ballet, although a ballet background is generally much more useful than many people think).  Again using the example of blogging, if they are able to even maintain a basic blog, that is visited regularly by even relatives and close friends, they need to acquire some familiarity with these varied products and activities traditionally conceived as all falling within the broad category of “the Arts”.  (Some knowledge of SEO strategies might also help, but that’s a subject for another post.)  There are other members of this broad category that generally are less directly relevant to blogging per se, including sculpture, but that also are worth checking out.

Writing traditionally has not been included in this category, apart from certain kinds of writing traditionally regarded as “creative writing”, including poetry and novels.  There are historical, philosophical, reasons for the conceptual separation in Western culture of writing, other than “creative writing”, from “the Arts”; but these reasons seem to no longer strongly resonate in the West–other than in certain faculties within our universities.  (If any readers of this blog aren’t already familiar with the philosophical issues and want to know more, they can start by typing in ‘postmodernism’ on Google.)  In current practical terms, for the purposes of maintaining a blog, for example, good writing remains important; but, generally speaking, unless one’s blog consists of only, or virtually only, the written word, which is neither common nor advisable if one wants anyone to visit the blog (unless, of course, one omits the other elements for a single post to make a point, as I’m doing here), good writing is no more important than its other elements.  All of the elements of a blog, including the writing, may be said to be, at once, ‘art’ and ‘not art’, which is to say that the category of ‘art’ is not really useful anymore.

Although I continue to sometimes use the term ‘art’ myself, I can see a real danger in using it today, especially in the “Arts education” context.  A lot of people today are probably very much turned off by the term ‘art’, since ‘art’ has traditionally commonly been associated with elitism and non-practicality–or with, as I suggested in my previous post, with “beholding” as opposed to “holding and using”.  To increase the chances that students today, and in the future, do get the exposure to, and training in, the non-verbal forms of communication they will need to prosper it seems that it generally would be advantageous to call these non-verbal forms of communication just that, “non-verbal forms of communication.”  Or, if that’s too unwieldy, maybe we should be talking about the specific crafts in question, such as graphics, or film-making, or whatever–just as traditional Aboriginal ‘art’ is divided into the various crafts of carving, weaving, and so on.

There are some objects–including many objects displayed in art galleries these days–that can’t readily be classified as crafts, of any kind.  Some prime examples are the installations of the British conceptual artist, Damien Hurst, including various dead animals floating in formaldehyde, about which Leah McLaren wrote in her Globe and Mail column last weekend.  This kind of art follows more closely in the Western arts tradition than first meets the eye (or the nose), and maybe we could retain the word ‘art’ for this kind of thing.  But, rest assured, it’s not what educators, and parents, and kids themselves, usually are referring to when they request more money for “the Arts”: nor are they referring simply to ‘crafts’, in the somewhat derogatory traditional Western sense.









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