Thoughts On Figure Skating

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As we all know, I’m a die-hard figure skating fan. I have been a casual fan since I was a child but became a ‘watch every event I can’ fan probably about a decade ago now. For some reason my favorite discipline has always been men’s skating. For the time that I’ve been a big fan, for the most part, ladies skating has been very technical and less artistic than men’s skating. It sounds like it would be the opposite, but in watching skating I always observed that men’s skating seemed to have more choreography, more diverse music, and in a lot of cases, more interesting composition. After the change came to allow songs with lyrics, this changed some and ladies skating started to have more choreography and musical diversity, so it has been evening out. However because men’s skating was already my favorite discipline, I stayed set in my ways.

The past few years, however, a lot has changed about that and I find myself getting to the point where my beloved men’s skating isn’t my favorite anymore because of one thing: quads.

Don’t get me wrong, quads have been a thing in men’s skating since I have been watching. I’ll never forget Evgeni Plushenko’s giant quad jumps and the power in those beauties. I love watching skaters jump quads, because there’s something so amazing about the height and rate of speed at which they spin. I don’t even dislike quads now that they’re so overwhelmingly prevalent, because they’re still amazingly impressive feats that you can’t help be wowed by.

My issue with quads is that over the past four years or so it’s become all about the quads. Men’s skating always appealed to me because it was more artistic to watch of the skating disciplines (apart from Ice Dance, which is still my very favorite of them all) and you had artists of the ice who delivered sweeping, beautiful, emotional, happy, fun, entertaining performances that had the fans clapping along and engrossed in the charm or emotions of the skater on the ice. These days, though those performances still exist, skaters are moving away from the performance to focus on the quads. Of the top ten men, it’s a pretty even split on who is entertaining to watch and who jumps the highest and spins the fastest. Some of the best jumpers are the best performers, sure, but a fair few of the best jumpers don’t really bother giving a performance and telling a story in between their jumping passes.

Though I will not deride any skater, because they’re all very talented in their own ways, as a fan, I want to see a performance. Figure skating is ballet on ice, not gymnastics on ice. I get even more upset when some skaters are clearly capable of delivering a great performance as demonstrated by their exhibition skates but sacrifice that charm and emotion to get more revolutions in the air during competition. They skate programs they clearly don’t care about and don’t pretend to care about that make them appear bored out of their minds just because they can win with it because they’re very bouncy and spinny

Some of the best skaters in the world may never win a major medal. Some of them go their entire career never being at the top. A skater that comes to mind as one of these skaters, though he did manage his first Grand Prix Medal in the 2017 GP season, is Misha Ge. Misha Ge is easily one of the most beautiful skaters to ever skate. His performances are far more enjoyable to watch than any of the top five men in the world apart from Yuzuru Hanyu* and yet because he has no quads, he has never had half the success of men who are infinitely less pleasing to watch skate.

*Yuzuru Hanyu is the best figure skater, in my opinion, to ever grace the sport with his presence. He is exempt from basically everything I have to say about men’s skating. If there is ever a skater in the future who even comes close to the ability of Yuzuru Hanyu, I will be beyond stunned.

And it isn’t just the fact that someone who has no quads can’t do well. I’m bothered by the fact that so many skaters who have vastly superior artistic skills, not just in the visible artistry but in the details (edges, pacing, speed, ice coverage, consistency, choreography, ect.) only the trained eye can spot have no chance at ever amounting to what someone who can skate around, do some big jumps, and fulfill the basic element requirements can. But most of all, what bothers me with the quads is that an ugly quad with a fall still gets higher points than a perfect triple. I’m aware that the difficulty is exponentially higher, but it’s just absolutely frustrating to a spectator that someone with a perfect triple with +3 GOE can be outscored by a crappy quad.

I won’t bore you with all the details but an example would be how the base value for the triple salchow is 4.4 points, and a +3 GOE, which means it was absolutely perfect in every way would add a value of 2.1 points, for a total jump point value of 6.5 points. The base value for a quad salchow is 10.5 points. Even with -3 GOE, which deducts 4.0 points, that means the jump still has the value of 6.5 points. With this example, it’s worth noting that a +3 GOE is incredibly rare. Some of the most well executed jumps are in the +1 and +2 range.

The conclusion drawn is that, realistically, a bad 4S is worth more than a near-perfect 3S. And this will never not upset me.

However there is some hope for the future. There are talks about crazy changes in scoring for the future of the ISU in order to encourage more artistic skating than there is lately. I’m pretty iffy on the idea of an artistic skate and an athletic skate instead of short and free programs. I might go so far as to say I’m not just iffy, I kind of hate that idea. The most likely to be considered suggested fix is to lower base values of jumps in a way that makes the quads more fairly valued. The example scale shows that the value of the jumps in my example above would be 4.3 for the 3S and 9.7 for the 4S.

The changes already approved by the ISU for the next figure skating season are hit or miss.

The ISU already has approved changes that will impact the TES totals in men’s singles and pairs beginning with the 2018-19 season: reducing the free skate time by 30 seconds, to four minutes, and eliminating one of the men’s eight jumping passes. Because there is not a finite TES maximum like there is with PCS, removing one major element should bring the scores closer together.

The ISU also has already signed off on another scoring change for 2018-19, increasing the number of Grade of Execution (GOE) scores from seven (+3 through -3, including 0) to 11 (+5 through -5, also including 0). The interval between the scores would be set at 10 percent of the base value, as opposed to the current system, which has no standardized relationship to the base value.

I personally don’t see how that’s going to solve much of anything. If anything, taking away 30 seconds and only 1 jumping pass sounds like it will hurt the artistry of the skate more than the athleticism. The GOE changes make sense to level the athleticism playing field, but I don’t see how any of this is supposed to a help the artistic side of the sport at all. It actually increases the percentage value of GOE for quads vs triples that way.

At the end of the day, my biggest hope for figure skating as a sport is to find something that brings back the artistry in men’s skating to the level it was when I began loving figure skating. I would personally suggest limiting the number of quads that can be performed in each program. So many quads just endangers the skaters, takes the focus away from the beauty of skating, lowers the necessity to have good performance scores to win, and frustrates fans who see beautiful, moving, entertaining skates end up below stiff, boring, jump-fest programs on the leader board.

Until that day, thankfully, ladies skating has really become far more artistic and entertaining to watch in the past three or four years, and ice dance is always wonderful. So in closing, let’s just admire some beautiful ice dancing from my favorite US Ice Dance pair without the burden of worrying about quads, triples, or any jumps at all!

Book Review: An Unnatural Vice (Sins of the City #2) by K. J. Charles

An Unnatural Vice (Sins of the Cities, #2)An Unnatural Vice by K.J. Charles

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

First review of 2018 and I have to say, I really enjoyed this second installation of the Sins of the Cities series!

In the same story from the first in the series, this installation follows Nathanial Roy, friend of the protagonist of the first int he series, as he seeks to write an expose about spiritualists in London and instead finds himself once again entangled in the drama of the Missing Earl from an entirely different angle.

I have to say, I really liked the way that this second book had far more detail in the plot. There was more story going on than in the first, and though I liked the first, this was definitely a step up. The author took the intriguing story and made it something the reader can really delve into and get lost in. I was so caught up in ‘what happens next?!?!’ that I didn’t even realize how close to the end I was until I got there.

Oh yeah, and the romance in this one was equally as endearing and steamy as the first.

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Book Review: An Unseen Attraction (Sins of the Cities #1) by K.J. Charles

An Unseen Attraction (Sins of the Cities, #1)An Unseen Attraction by K.J. Charles

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I’ve had this one on my list for a while, and I decided to take a break in my reading of another fairly long historical queer fiction series to try this one, and I was not disappointed!

Following the story of Clem, the bastard son of an Earl, and Rowley, a taxidermist who lodges at the house Clem runs, An Unseen Attraction is a story of mystery, murder, and romance set in the dingy, foggy city of London. When one of Clem’s lodgers is murdered and Rowley’s shop is broken into, the question of what the killer is after turns right back around on Clem in the most unexpected way.

To start with, Clem is a very interesting character. Written in a way that makes it clear he is what we today would call autistic in a time where nobody knew that was a thing, he’s easily one of the most intricately detailed characters I’ve read in a book in quite a while. I really, really like him. I also really enjoy his romance with Rowley. Rowley is such a strange person in his combination of traits and interests, but he weirdly fits perfectly with Clem. Their romance is quite enjoyable to read. The story is very interesting as well, though it has a little less substance than I think it leads the reader to expect. I’m a big fan of mystery and historical fiction so this is generally just my kind of book.

Don’t let the 3* rating throw you off. I’m just really harsh on rating books. A 5* rating from me is really hard to come by (… even though I’ve had like 5 this year, okay, it was just a REALLY GOOD YEAR!!!) and I’ve already got the second one, so it’s definitely good enough for me to read on.

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Book Review: Hoarfrost (Whyborne & Griffin #6) by Jordan L. Hawk

Hoarfrost (Whyborne & Griffin, #6)Hoarfrost by Jordan L. Hawk

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I’m a lot late to write this review, but here we go. The sixth installment of this wonderful series was, without a doubt, a very welcome addition!

In this adventure, we follow Whyborne and Griffin as they travel to the remote mining settlement of Hoarfrost to look into a discovery made by Griffin’s long-lost-but-recently-found brother in the deepest tundra of the north. What they find there is far beyond some archeological dig site, but something far bigger and far more sinister at work.

To start with, while this one wasn’t quite as engrossing as some of the others have been, this one had so much emotion! I have to be honest, the main reason I love this book is that we get such a different dynamic to work with here. They’ve been married for a while now and you really see that ‘married couple’ relationship dynamic shining through. I love the consistency this series has given to them as people and their progression as a couple has really, really worked. I also really loved Christine in this one, as I always do. I think the one negative I could have is how absolutely clueless Griffin’s brother is, but honestly, I guess if you WANT so hard to believe something, then you could actually be that clueless. It’s a small gripe, and definitely not enough to get me to knock off a star. This series is still the best series I’ve read in a very long time.

I didn’t rush straight on to the next book, choosing to read something else in the interim, but I have already bought the next one in the series, so I will be sure to read it in the new year!

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Book Review: Bloodline (Whyborne & Griffin #5) by Jordan L Hawke

Bloodline (Whyborne & Griffin #5)Bloodline by Jordan L. Hawk

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

What the last book lacked in personal feelings this one had in excess!

Bloodline has us joining Whyborne and Griffin on the eve of a horrible event that shakes the Whyborne family to the core. Little did I know that, as the book progressed, the horrific toll this entire ordeal would take on the Whyborne family as well.

This book had everything that I’ve come to love about these books, relationships of all sorts, mysterious plot twists you don’t see coming, ‘how will they survive this?!’ action sequences, and this one has those things all in a far larger scale than the previous ones have. I love how this brought back some of the threads that had been introduced all the way back as far as the beginning of the series and finally it all made sense. I confess, I realized what was coming when the poem was revealed, but it still was a shocker to actually see it all unfold. I genuinely didn’t expect the sweet ending of this one, but there were moments I nearly cried I was so sure all was lost, so that was a very nice touch.

Once again, this series is like someone took my wants and put them on pages for me. I cannot express enough how much I love this book, which was easily the best of the entire series so far.

Eagerly heading onto the next one RIGHT NOW!

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Book Review: Stormhaven by Jordan L. Hawk

Stormhaven (Whyborne & Griffin)Stormhaven by Jordan L. Hawk

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Still As Wonderful As The Last

Every book further I read in that series I expect has to fall in quality, because I rarely give 5* reviews, but I really think the author just shares my tastes in literature.

In this installment’s adventure, Whyborne’s co-worker is accused of murdering his uncle in a fit of madness and is condemned to Stormhaven asylum. When Griffin takes the case, it quickly becomes apparent that nothing is what it seems.

I really felt for poor Griffin in this one. We got more of an insight into his past, his family, and the horrors of his time committed to an asylum, and all of it was so, utterly heartbreaking. This book leaves you so happy for him that he found Whyborne to care for him when he needs someone to make him feel whole.

Also, no spoilers, but that climax was incredibly dramatic and not at all what I expected (in the best way of course!)

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NaNoWriMo Day 30: Look What I Did!!!

NaNoDay30

I ended NaNo with another win… this time with the end of a sex scene. Lol. Talk about going out with a ‘bang’!

In all seriousness, this was my first year doing NaNoWriMo with a full time job, and it wasn’t as hard as I feared it would be, but I have had to neglect a lot of other hobbies to make it work. I really struggled for most of the middle, as you see from my progress chart. I have no idea how people with families AND jobs do this shit every year. I see it all the time, people talking about their kids and their job while NaNo-ing and I’m just like, “HOW?!?!”

Unlike last year’s NaNo story, that I hated and still loathe to this day, this one I plan to finish, like my first year. I’m really into this story and 50k is really only MAYBE half of this story. It’s science fiction so all the world building takes up time and space (lol). I’ll keep you guys updated to the progress of Into the Beyond as I continue it in the future.

Thank you guys so much for keeping up with my progress this year, and I wish you all luck in finishing up your NaNoWriMo tonight (if you haven’t already) as well!