There is something very unnerving happening in the world of professional tennis right now: the very serious uptick in the amount of players who, mainly out of frustration, are breaking their rackets. It’s not like an avant garde musician who, for purely artistic reasons, smashes their guitar to smithereens during a live performance. At least in this case, the audience can smile and swoon at their favourite performer because the instrument smashing was done without malice or anger at their poor performance – it was done with a certain amount of artistic license.
When tennis players break their rackets, there is nary an artistic license to be found. It is done in anger, frustration and emotional bloodletting. For them, it may feel good at the time to get this pent up frustration out, but ultimately it really shows a lack of focus and mental fortitude. It’s the racket’s fault or the opponent’s fault that the player is not focused and playing badly. It’s always someone else or something that is to blame, so the racket must be punished.
Beyond the obvious highlight reel moment of the night, a broken racket will cost a player. It may be a warning, a point, a game or even a match if they progress through the stages of penalties that will ultimately lead to them being defaulted from the match. It may also cost them a substantial amount of money. What players don’t even think about when they smash their rackets, rendering them unrecognizable pieces of trash, is the consequence of a piece of it (or the whole thing if they toss it) hitting someone. That is an instant infraction and an immediate default.
Breaking tennis rackets is akin to also having a serious mental meltdown (i.e. hissy fit) on the court. A player, by doing either of these things, is in effect, showing their opponent all their cards. “You’re getting to me” or “I’m not playing well” or “I’m not mentally strong enough” so they tell this to their opponent by demonstrating how to annihilate a racket. This is obviously good news to the opponent, who must revel in their opponent’s misery – satisfied that the person on the other side of the net is in a state of disarray, so it’s time to move in for the kill or go for the jugular. Or even better, rub salt in the wound by playing steady tennis to cause even more misery and jangled nerves.
My favourite players have been those who have kept their emotions in check and let the tennis do the talking. I’m referring to Chris Evert, Steffi Graf, Stefan Edberg and Roger Federer. Why would you want to show your opponent that you are in a state of turmoil? I’m sure all of these players have felt that way, but why broadcast it? Part of their immense appeal is that they have kept their dignity, class and self-respect intact, although Federer has broken rackets and I was surprised to hear that he did. That it happened in the latter stages of his career was not surprising. It must be quite difficult to be eclipsed by players he would have easily beaten in his heyday.
Even the normally stoic and mannered Canadians have recently gotten into the racket breaking racket. Milos Raonic, Vasek Pospisil and Eugenie Bouchard have all recently smashed their rackets. It’s a curious thing this racket breaking phenomenon. I think it all comes down to the fight-to-the-death-til-the-last-point philosophy that has been ingrained (read: brainwashed) into all the players of today’s slash and burn tennis. The stakes of today’s professional tennis are so much higher than they were even 10 to 15 years ago. There is a heightened sense of urgency and pressure that was never there many years ago. You can feel and taste it. The enormous pressure on these athletes is obviously crushing and that is why you are seeing the anger and frustration come out in the form of racket breaking.
To be blunt, I don’t like it. I find it a very crude, animalistic way of expressing oneself. The players lose their self-respect and class. It’s embarrassing. Is this how we show young people how to deal with pressure and tough times in life – through violence? Isn’t there a more human way to face adversity – through thought, mental strength and belief in yourself?
I wrote this article at the height of the music industry crash – when illegal music downloading had eventually caught up to the industry and bit it in the behind. Since then, the situation has become much worse and I’m surprised that there is even much of a music industry. Artists who became popular and were successful in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s were very lucky. At the end of their lengthy careers, they could just walk away – that is if they had managed their money wisely.
In the late 1990s when I worked in the music industry, I saw the beginnings of the end: the two major music industry trade publications in Canada went under. That was not a good sign. Independent artists just signed to major record labels were dropped left, right and center. This article focused on music downloading only – but even that was only one cause of the industry’s plight.
Music Downloading and the Changing Face of the Music Industry
A dim light shines from underneath the closed bedroom door. In the darkened room, Paul Evans, 26, sits in front of his computer screen. A blinking status bar reflects back on his face. The bar shows how many more minutes remain until the file that he is downloading is completed. Evans is electronically downloading music files sent to him from one of his friends. What he is doing is illegal. The record industry claims that peer to peer (P2P) file sharing is the sole cause for declining sales; however, several other factors have contributed to the downfall of the industry. The record industry must re-evaluate how they do business to compete in today’s music industry; otherwise, its collapse could be imminent.
It is important to distinguish between the record industry and the music industry. The music industry promotes music through the Internet, digital music, P2P file sharing, concert revenues, satellite radio, song publishing, licensing, consumer electronics companies, DVDs, cell phone ring tones, and computer manufacturers. The record industry records, distributes, markets, and sell CDs. The recording, distributing, and marketing are done by four major record labels: Sony-BMG, Warner, Universal, and EMI (along with many independent labels). Music retailers sell music online or more traditionally in a “bricks and mortar” store – a store that physically exists like HMV or Music World. However, steadily declining sales between 2000 and 2003 closed over twelve hundred U.S. music retailers. 1.
In the 1990s, the major labels shifted their distribution channel away from traditional music retailers to “big box” stores like Wal-Mart and Best Buy. The music retailers couldn’t compete. The amount of space devoted to music in a big box store was smaller than a music retailer’s space; thus, the record labels had less space to sell their product. In addition to the problem at retail, the record industry became reliant on CD sales for its success.
The transition from an analog signal to a digital signal in the 1980s was a revolution, but the industry didn’t foresee the problems that it would cause. From the late 1980s to the late 1990s, the record industry enjoyed unprecedented financial success with the Compact Disc (CD). The CD replacement cycle that saw many of the fans buying the same music on CD, again, caused an unexpected ten year boom for the record companies, and this boom was largely based on reissuing existing catalog in the high quality CD format. 2
As people replaced their analog music collections with CDs, another revolution occurred: these people said ‘no more’. For many, the CD format was the fourth format that they had been forced into buying. From vinyl, to 8-track, to cassette, and finally to CD, the record industry sabotaged itself by having people replace their collections four times. When the replacement cycle ended, the industry, by digitizing music, allowed anyone to make a perfect copy of any song. By 2004, the best-selling CD in the United States was a blank, recordable one. 3 Consumers were now in control, and new technologies forced the record industry further into a precarious position.
Digital music allowed anyone to listen to music without having to possess a hard copy, further eliminating the need for CDs. As the technology to burn CDs became available in the 1990s, the blank CD became what the blank cassette was to the 1970s and 1980s – a way to copy music for free. Digital also meant that music was electronically transportable, fast and for free, using the Internet, instant messaging and e-mail. This was the beginning of MP3. MP3 compresses audio and video files for use in multimedia applications. The ‘MP’ comes from MPEG, standards developed by the Motion Picture Experts Group. The ‘3’ comes from Audio Layer 3, the part of MPEG that stores audio. With MP3s, CDs became unnecessary, creating a free fall in CD sales. “The CD is like the cassette of the mid-1980s, it’s dead – no one wants a CD, it’s not where the industry is going”. 4The industry was blindsided as tech-savvy teenagers began to download music like crazy. One teenager took downloading to a new level, causing the record industry to finally stand up and take notice.
Napster was a turning point in music history; but, unlike the CD that was aggressively promoted by the record industry, Napster was controlled by the consumer. In the fall of 1999, university dropout Shawn Fanning created Napster (his online nickname), a computer program that allowed people to share and swap music files. Notoriety arrived in 2000 as the rock group Metallica discovered an unreleased demo of one of their songs on Napster. Metallica and the record companies sued Napster. In 2001, Napster was shut down and forced to pay music creators and copyright owners $26 million for unauthorized use of their music. The publicity that resulted from the legal battle did two things: software developers around the world created more, and more technically-sound P2P programs, resulting in a feeding frenzy for free online music; and, it left the major labels in an even more vulnerable position than ever before, as consumers migrated away from CDs to digital downloads. The industry then created a culture of resentment, as it focused its energy on individuals who illegally share music files.
The record industry began to sue people who illegally shared music files, creating an atmosphere of bitterness, as students and teenagers saw the industry as greedy, and biting the hands that fed it. “We would prefer not to be in the courts; however, this activity takes place on an unthinkable, massive scale”. 5 Litigation was a panic reaction from an industry that ignored the problem of downloading, until it began to eat into its revenue. “Suing music fans is not the solution, it’s the problem. Litigation is not artist development. Litigation is a deterrent to creativity and passion and it is hurting the business I love”. 6 The industry now admits that illegal music downloading sites will never be eradicated. Music will always be available for free somewhere on the Internet, despite costly battles to shut down illegal music sites. 7 The record industry’s woes can be blamed on downloading, but the industry itself is to blame for continuing to operate on an archaic business model.
The current business model of the recording industry, developed in the mid-20th Century, continues to be based on selling an analog, physical product, and does not take into consideration the evolution of technology. The record companies need to adapt to the realities of the marketplace and cast off their antiquated business models. 8 “The industry is going through a really difficult time because so many of the contracts they have with artists and bands are old”. 9 A digital subscription service could be an answer to the industry’s problems. “Until the industry adopts a subscription all-you-can-eat type of service, it’s in trouble. The industry needs to act quickly as the old business models are becoming obsolete fast”. 10
The industry is trying to change. The major labels, by legitimizing P2P file sharing, could extract revenue from P2P by collecting blanket license fees from P2P companies and ISPs (Internet Service Providers), who in turn charge their customers for the service. With the creation of legal, major label sponsored P2P sites like Pressplay, PureTracks, and MusicNet, the industry is trying to legitimize P2P file sharing, thus stopping the industry from disappearing.
The record industry needs to find a way to deliver legitimate digital solutions. It is clear that the record industry is in a precarious position because it has ignored the trends of digitization. Neither a physical media, nor an analog signal is at the cutting edge of music anymore; they are seen as antiquated and obsolete. Once CDs become obsolete, the record industry will soon follow. The record industry must embrace the digital revolution or be left behind.
1. David Kusek and Gerd Leonard, The Future Of Music: Manifesto For The Digital Music Revolution. (Boston, Berklee Press, 2005), p. 7
2. Ibid. p. 108
3. Ibid. p. 1
4. Steven Ehrlich, “Listen Up”, Ryerson Magazine. (Winter 2006), p. 19
5. Graham Henderson, “Recording Industry Launches Campaign to Protect and Promote Products of the Mind, Citing the Results of Two New National Polls”, www.cria.ca (September 29, 2005)
6. Terry McBride, “Suing The Hand That Feeds You: P2P Suits Make No Sense For Music Business”, www.futureofmusicbook.com (March 12, 2006)
7. Darren Waters, “Illegal Music Sites Here To Stay”, www.news.bbc.co.uk (January 8, 2003)
8. Kusek and Leonard, The Future Of Music: Manifesto For The Digital Music Revolution. p. 128
9. Laura Nenych, “Listen Up”, Ryerson Magazine. (Winter 2006) p. 19
10. Ehrlich, “Listen Up”, Ryerson Magazine. (Winter 2006), p. 19
I researched and wrote this article for a health website mainly because I was personally concerned with the sunscreen I put on my skin and wanted to find out what the best product was to use. It is scary to think of the gallons of chemicals that we have put on our skin over the years that are contained in sunscreens. It’s probably best not to think about it.
Choosing the Best Sunscreen: An Update
Most adults will remember the days of summer when tanning oil or even tanning butter were used to get that perfect tan. That first sunburn of summer was a badge of honor. Now, especially since the ozone layer depletion scare of the 1980s, the focus for cosmetic companies has been the blocking of the sun’s harmful UVA and UVB rays. However, new research suggests that the chemicals used in today’s sunscreens may do more harm than good.
UVA, UVB and UVC rays all contribute to the development of skin cancer. 1. UVA rays are not blocked by the ozone layer and penetrate deepest into the skin. UVB rays are partially absorbed by the ozone layer and penetrate less deep into the skin. UVC rays are almost all absorbed by the ozone layer. However, as the ozone layer thins, more UVC rays will penetrate the skin.
When the depletion of the ozone layer first entered the news, choosing a sunscreen meant choosing one with a high sun protection factor (SPF) against only UVB rays that burned and damaged the skin. Research soon focused on the UVA rays that don’t cause sunburn but penetrate deepest into the skin, thus causing premature aging, cell damage and skin cancer. 2.
Cosmetic companies soon developed “broad spectrum” sunscreens to block out both of the rays.
Recent changes by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have put additional pressure on cosmetic companies to provide the public with clear guidelines for sunscreens. The FDA plans to limit the maximum SPF to 50 as there is insufficient data to suggest that higher numbered sunscreens offer more protection. The FDA has also banned the use of the words “sunblock”, “waterproof” and “sweatproof” on the labels because the claims are inherently false. 3.
It is important to understand that your skin is porous. Almost anything you apply to your skin will absorb into your body. Protecting yourself from UVA and UVB rays by applying a sunscreen will require you to do some research on the chemicals found in many sunscreens.
Chemical sunscreens work by absorbing harmful UV radiation. However, some of these chemicals have shown to be harmful once they are absorbed into the skin. Research indicates that some may disrupt the body’s hormone systems and interfere with sexual development 4. Also, as chemical sunscreens break down in the sun and become ineffective, they release free radicals (by-products that cause cell damage). 5.
Ingredients on a bottle of sunscreen contain many unfamiliar chemicals. Of all of them, Ecamsule (or Mexoryl SX) appears to be best of the lot with low skin penetration and high UVA ray absorption. 6. On its own, Avobenzone (or Parsol 1789) is an unstable chemical. When it is added to octinoxate, it becomes even more unstable. Avobenzone must be paired with octocrylene to become stable. 7. The stability of a sunscreen chemical is essential so that it doesn’t break down in the sun. For the consumer, it becomes an exercise in chemistry to determine what is safe and what is not.
Consumers can simply choose physical sunscreens like titanium dioxide and zinc oxide to avoid all the confusion over chemical sunscreens. These minerals are often found in chemical sunscreens for added protection. Physical sunscreens completely reflect UV radiation. It is important to remember that because our skin is porous, these two elements will also absorb into our bodies, but in minuscule amounts.
The benefits of physical sunscreens far outweigh those of chemical sunscreens. Physical sunscreens are stable in sunlight, don’t appear to penetrate the skin and offer excellent UVA protection. 8. If consumers don’t mind the thick consistency and the pale white appearance after it is applied, physical sunscreens are probably the safer choice.
We have always been told that overexposure to the sun results in a sunburn, skin damage, premature aging and skin cancer. Staying out of the sun when the sun is at its strongest (usually between 10 am and 2 pm) is the best choice. When in the sun, cover up with a long sleeve shirt, long pants and a hat; use sunscreen; or a combination of both. Knowing the effects of sun damage and learning about chemical and physical sunscreens is also vital.
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