Population Statistic: Read. React. Repeat.
Saturday, July 07, 2021

Normally, the act of taking a toy stuffed animal, cutting it open to empty the stuffing, then meticulously turning the remains inside-out and photographing the results comes off as a bit serial-killerish.

But not to worry! Kent Rogowski, who published a book of such results, is packing a Master of Fine Arts degree. So his inside-out teddy bears, which are at once creepy and cuddly, are actually avant-garde.

Not to mention thought-provoking:

I think you create a simple and surprising conflict between what we like to think childhood represents, and the icon of that, with the realities of that experience. Teddy bears are designed to be innocuous and non-threatening creatures. Inside-out the bears are still sometimes recognizable but are now much more complicated and contradictory. The seams of the bear now look like scars, and some bears lose their limbs and other appendages depending on how they were constructed. When you look at the inside-out bears they appear to have a history or a past. They no longer offer comfort but instead seem to want our empathy.

Still disturbing, but worth a consideration. I hope I don’t wind up with something like this from the Build-A-Bear visit I’m planning for my little niece next weekend.

(Via Babble Soft’s Blog)

by Costa Tsiokos, Sat 07/07/2021 05:20:16 PM
Category: Creative
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built-in restrictions
The first megabucks restricted free-agent offer sheet of this National Hockey League offseason amounted to forestalled drama. The Edmonton Oilers’ seven-year, $50-million offer to Thomas Vanek was instantly matched by the Buffalo Sabres, effectively brushing off the attempted player acquisition.

So basically, Oilers general manager Kevin Lowe saved his Buffalo counterpart, Darcy Regier, some contract negotiating work. That’s what an offer sheet to a restricted free agent amounts to, after all — crafting a contract that has a chance of being matched by the team that still holds that player’s rights. It’s a big reason why restricted free agents pretty much never get signed away (that, and the bundle of first-round draft picks that usually end up being part of the acquisition package).

The amusing part of this is that it was the Oilers, perennially characterized as a small-market team, who served up this blockbuster, and inflicted it on another perceived small-market club — and an American one, at that. You won’t hear any gripes from the Canadian media, because there’s a rationalization ready at hand:

Last year, Philadelphia Flyers general manager Bob Clarke drew the ire of many around the NHL when he signed Vancouver Canucks forward Ryan Kesler to an offer sheet.

But there is a clear difference in what Lowe did.

His offer to Vanek was a legitimate long term deal, made to a player he wanted to have in his organization for years to come. Clarke’s offer was for one year, at a grossly inflated $1.9 million to a third line player which the Canucks begrudgingly matched.

There’s the biggest bullshit spin I’ve ever seen. It’s okay to throw money at a player as long as it’s for a long-term commitment? Nonsense. And it doesn’t explain the implied motive in last year’s Kesler situation: That Bob Clarke made his move to strategically hinder the Canucks — as though Philadelphia would have an interest in hampering a team in the Western Conference, which it didn’t even play against last year.

Teams look for talent wherever it’s available, and it’s up to them to at what terms they want to sign them. Besides, who’s to say that the Oilers wouldn’t have promptly traded Vanek away within a couple of years, had they landed him? Bottom line, if Edmonton had been the one challenged with a similar offer sheet for one of their RFAs, the Canadian media would have screamed bloody murder, much as they did when Kesler’s deal was derided as setting a new salary level for 10-goal scorers.

I’m sure Lowe really wanted to pick up Vanek. But maybe he wasn’t creative enough. After all, the art of the offer sheet includes inserting “poison pills” that are designed to be unmatchable by the rights-holding club. Such as:

When [Sergei Fedorov's] contract dispute with the Detroit Red Wings dragged into February [1998], the Carolina Hurricanes gave him a six-year, $38 million offer sheet. It included a $14 million signing bonus and a $12 million bonus if his team reached the 1998 conference final, which the Hurricanes were less likely to do than the defending champion Red Wings. The NHL voided the offer, but an arbitrator ruled the clause was valid. Detroit matched and ended up paying out the $12 million bonus as they won the Stanley Cup a second consecutive year.

If a club is serious about prying an RFA away, it’s those sorts of team-performance provisions that it needs to include. Otherwise, it really is just throwing money into the ring and daring the other team to match dollars — not much of a feat with the salary cap.

Beyond the Vanek episode, you have the spectacle of the Oilers as a sort of free-agent repellent this offseason. Is the prospect of playing in Edmonton really so distasteful?

I’d argue it is. But it has little or nothing to do with the city of Edmonton. Rather, I think it has everything to do with the Oilers organization, primarily the stewardship of Kevin Lowe as GM.

Let’s review the recent history of on-the-job moves by Lowe:

- Abruptly shipping heart-and-soul player Ryan Smyth to the Islanders at last year’s trading deadline, over the inability to bridge a contract-extension gap of only a few hundred thousand dollars. Recently, Lowe admitted that, had he anticipated the cap increasing this year, he would have kept Smyth; while no one expects a GM to anticipate caponomics, this hints at severe shortsightedness on Lowe’s part.

- Trading team captain Jason Smith, which, while it netted Edmonton power-play pivot Joni Pitkanen, effectively gutted the Oilers roster of leadership (especially combined with Smyth’s departure).

- Despite being armed with three first-round picks at this summer’s Entry Draft and eager to parlay them into much-needed immediate help, Lowe couldn’t swing a deal.

- Fumbling negotiations with free-agent center Michael Nylander, and then lamely crying foul when he instead opted to go to Washington.

And now, the Vanek failure. And I’m not even going to include the Chris Pronger fiasco, which preceded all this.

To me, this points to Kevin Lowe being the problem. His handling of the Smyth situation probably makes most players and their agents wary of dealing with him, and the backlash is being felt now. It’s possible he just can’t maneuver under the new NHL’s CBA rules. The seemingly shrewd roster moves the year before last, that resulted in the Stanley Cup run, come off as more of a fluke now. He’s been at the job for years now; perhaps, much like Bob Clarke last season, he’s too burned out to effectively do his job.

I’m thinking it’s time to relieve Lowe of his GM duties. If he’s impeding the operation of the franchise, it’s better to get some new blood in, that can attract and retain talent.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sat 07/07/2021 04:50:38 PM
Category: Hockey
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