The Giant Face in the Sky

October 15, 2013

RGIII Response Video

On Friday, Robert Griffin III (alias RGIII, the Washington Redskins quarterback) put out a video (3:22) where he talked about his Olympic dreams. At the end of it (go to 2:57) he jokes that he might make the Olympics in ping-pong.

We at MDTTC decided we were not going to take this quietly. Here is the response video (1:15), put together by Nathan Hsu (17, 2303 but recently 2397), with players Derek Nie (12, 2297), Crystal Wang (11, 2267), and Roy Ke (14, 2261).

LET'S MAKE THIS VIDEO GO VIRAL!!! Post it wherever you can - on Facebook, Twitter, in blogs, any place you can. It's already the Video of the Day at USA Table Tennis, with RGIII's video featured on Friday.

Go Girls

Did you know that girls are dominating the lower age groups in the U.S. right now? Go to the USATT ratings, click on "Customizable Member Lists," and put in the proper settings (make sure to put in a number in the first field), and here's what you get.

In Under 9, the #1 player is Tiffany Ke of Maryland at 1749. (The #2 is Ted Chensheng Li of Texas at 1559.) Among girls, the #2 is Katherine Fang, also of Texas, at 819, almost a thousand points behind Tiffany.

In Under 10, the top two are Youruo Wu and Rachel Sung of California, both girls, rated 1978 and 1906. Tiffany Ke is #4 at 1749.

In Under 11, the #1 is Amy Wang of New Jersey at 2217. Youruo Wu is #4 at 1978, Rachel Sung #6 at 1906, Kelly Zhao #9 at 1796, and Tiffany Ke #12 at 1749.

In Under 12, the #1 is Crystal Wang of Maryland at 2267. Amy Wang is #2 at 2217. Youruo Wu is #12 at 1978.

Drill Your Skills with the Chinese National Team, Part 1

Here's a video (7:41), covering the forehand serve.

Best of Penholder Players

Here's a video (5:56) that shows spectacular rallies and shots by penholders, such as Ma Lin, Xu Xin, Wang Hao, and Ryu Seungmin. Some really great rallies here.

Ping-Pong Ball Fires

Here's an article about a beer-pong ball setting an apartment alight. But that's nothing. Here's a short article about a half million ping-pong balls bursting into flame. (Go to the "Noisier Than Bubble Wrap" segment, but the entire text follows.) "During a heat wave in Hong Kong this summer, a metal container packed with more than half a million ping-pong balls burst into flames. 'The blast was probably caused by air expansion inside the ping-pong balls,' a police spokesperson said."

Alternate Piggyback Pong

Here are two attempts at this incredibly difficult and dangerous version of table tennis. Here are Yahao Zhang and his wife (15 sec), and here are Adam Hugh and Michael Landers (20sec). Do not try this yourself - these are trained professionals!

Non-Table Tennis - Cover of My Novel

My novel "The Giant Face in the Sky" comes out Nov. 15 from Class Act Books. It's a humorous fantasy that parodies the U.S.-Soviet space race of the 1960s, but with sorcerers instead of astronauts. It's Hitchhiker's Guide meets the Space Race. Here's the cover. And here's the blurb on the back cover:

It is 1969, at the height of tensions between the U.S. and the Soviet Union. Neil, 13, badly wants to be someone. Instead he's stuck as a sorcerer's apprentice for Gus, the "meanest sorcerer in the world.” Gus creates a magical talisman to spy on the Soviets, but instead it spies on them and sends text into space. A Giant Face in the Sky shows up, reading the text.

Since whoever gets to the Face will have the world at their mercy, the Race to the Face begins. The Soviets invade the U.S. in their attempts to kill Neil, who is prophesied to defeat them. A floating, talking meteor assassin named Buzz becomes Neil's companion--but in one week, Buzz must kill Neil.

President Kennedy puts together a motley crew that includes Neil, Gus, Buzz, a dragon, a 2-D sorcerer, and the sorceress Jackie Kennedy. Can they make it to the Face before the Soviets, and before Buzz kills Neil?

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July 17, 2013

MDTTC Camp

Yesterday's focus was on the backhand. I gave a talk on it, explaining both the technique and the variations, such as how dropping the tip gives more power (sort of a second forehand) but you lose quickness and have more trouble in the middle, while holding the tip higher does the reverse - though you can still hit it pretty hard. I also explained how the backhand has evolved, from the flatter backhands of the past to the more topspinny ones of the modern day. I also talked about the revolutionary change in penhold play, from conventional backhands to reverse penhold backhands.

For some reason many coaches do not have their students do backhand footwork. I too am sometimes guilty of getting lazy on that, focusing on forehand footwork. Often players only do backhand footwork in conjunction with forehands, such as alternating forehand and backhand shots (either alternating from the corners or alternating both shots from the backhand corner). How about backhand-backhand footwork, where the coach puts a ball to the wide backhand, and then a ball to the middle backhand (or even more to the middle), and the player moves side to side hitting backhands? This type of footwork is even more important for players who use good topspin their backhands, whether looping or just having a topspinny backhand, since these players have longer strokes, and so positioning is even more important to get it right. (Players with more of a blocking stroke should also move for each ball, but can often get away with more reaching.)

Later I completed my serving lecture, going over deception and fast serves. Then we had service practice. As usual, we finished with games. Many Brazilian teams were victorious, many cups were knocked off tables, and poor Froggy also got smacked around a bit.

I had a little fun demonstrating long-distance serves, where I'd serve on a table from 50 feet away, usually from the side, using sidespin to curve the ball onto both sides of the table.

Speaking of serves, several of our top juniors are fiddling around with some seriously funky trick serves. One used one at the recent U.S. Open over and over, and kept winning points with it, often about twice a game. I'll never understand why players don't develop their serves more. It's not a matter of trying to rely on trick serves; it's a matter of not throwing away points by an inability to throw variations at an opponent, including a few trick serves for free points. If you don't, you are giving away points and playing level. (Trick serves are generally serves that will win a few free points, but once an opponent gets used to them, they are ineffective. Players should mostly rely on serves that set up their game - usually their attack - while mixing in a few trick serves now and then. There's an overlap between the two types of serves.)  

New Non-Celluloid Ball

Here's a discussion of the new non-celluloid ball proposed for 2014. They say it's confirmed. Anyone want to do some investigative work on this?

I'm Going to Haunt You

Here's a video (5:39) of table tennis to the music of Sharleen Spieri's "I'm going to haunt you," which sounds like country music to me. (Someone correct me if I'm wrong.)

New Balance Shoe Commercial

Here's a commercial from New Balance (16 sec) that features table tennis as they advertise that they employ 1300 U.S. workers while their competitors employ zero. I have no idea how the table tennis is relevant to the commercial. But it's table tennis!!!

Non-Table Tennis - Novel Sale

Yesterday I blogged about selling my novel, "The Giant Face in the Sky." The novel is about 90,000 words and 451 pages double spaced. It's a humorous fantasy retelling of the U.S.-Soviet race to the moon in the '60s, but with sorcerers instead of astronauts - sort of Hitchhiker's Guide meets the Space Race. Here's the three-paragraph description in my cover letter when I submitted it. (Not mentioned here - at the start, all Neil wants to do is play ping-pong. He has to drop this "childish" desire to save the world.) 

It is 1969, at the height of tensions between the U.S. and the Soviet Union. The powerful sorcerer John F. Kennedy has just won his third term as president of the United States. Neil (alias Neil Armstrong, though his last name is never mentioned) is 13 years old, and badly wants to be someone, do something. It's his mantra. Instead, he's stuck as a sorcerer's apprentice for Gus, the "meanest sorcerer in the world," and who (along with just about everyone else) constantly berates and humiliates Neil. Gus creates a magical talisman to spy on the Soviets, but instead it spies on them and sends the text into space. A Giant Face in the Sky shows up, reading the text. It fixates on Neil, reacting wordlessly to whatever he and those around him say or do.

Realizing that anyone who gets to the Face can lob down spells and have the world at their mercy, the Race to the Face begins. The Soviets, led by General Death, invade the U.S. over and over in an attempt to kill Neil, who is prophesied to defeat them. When a meteor assassin named Buzz fails to kill Neil, the talking, floating meteor becomes Neil's protector and companion--with the rather unfortunate problem that in exactly one week, Buzz must kill Neil.

Kennedy, with advice from the ghost of Abraham Lincoln, and with trusty sidekick Dogface (alias Lee Harvey Oswald), puts together a motley crew to go to the Face: Neil, Gus, Buzz, and the sorcerers Jackie Kennedy (weapons expert), Conrad (a hippy dragon whose hobby is swallowing celebrities), Wernhera (a sorcerer living in Conrad's stomach), Apollo (the Greek God and son of famed children's author Dr. Zeus), and Jim (a 2-D sorcerer from another universe). Can they make it to the Face before General Death, and before Buzz kills Neil?

***
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July 16, 2012

 

Tip of the Week

Serving Low.

Stiffest Player in the World

It's official. I'm the stiffest player in the world. Even Jim Butler (2-time USA Table Tennis Olympian) says so. Recently I've been doing lots and Lots and LOTS of multiball coaching, and standing to the side of a table and feeding balls all day long is a great way to make stiff muscles even stiffer. (We have a new MDTTC camp starting this morning - week #5 of our eleven consecutive weeks of training camps - and I'll be spending my morning feeding multiball again. Afterwards I'll carve my initials in a diamond with my muscles.)

Ironically, it doesn't really affect me in static drills. If someone needs to work on their block, I can loop over and over with ease, and I can even more to loop. But if the ball starts scattering around the table, the stiffness seems to slow down my reactions, and so I'm slow in reacting to forehand and backhand shots. Subconsciously my mind knows this, and so it's overanticipating where the next ball goes, and so I'm often moving to do a forehand while the ball goes to my backhand, and vice versa.

Yes, I'm stretching regularly. But that's like asking a diamond to stretch so as to lose some of its stiffness. Doesn't do a lot. What I need to do is simply play very active table tennis (or other sports, such as tennis), and stretch after I play, when the muscles are loose. After a coaching session, the muscles are the opposite of loose; they are catatonic.

I regularly remind players I coach not to copy my stiffness. I'm sure there are juniors who look at my stiffness and think, "Gee, I'm too loose, I better tighten my muscles if I want to be a top player like Coach Larry!"

Review of New Plastic Balls

A while back I posted a video of Australian National Team Member William Henzell's review of the new plastic balls that we're supposed to switch to worldwide in 2014. Here is his review again, this time with both text and a link to the video (5:45).

U.S. Open Ratings

The ratings from the U.S. Open have been processed. Unfortunately, for some reason the ratings from the ITTF Junior Pro Tour have not yet been processed. (I assume they will be.) So the ratings aren't quite up to date for most of our juniors.

MDTTC has some nice junior rankings after the Open.

  • Under 18 Boys: #1: Wang Qing Liang 2641
  • Under 15 Boys: #2 Chen Bo Wen 2431, #10 Tong Tong Gong 2334 (There's a huge jam of players within 100 points of each other.)
  • Under 12 Boys: #2 Derek Nie 2170
  • Under 12 Girls: #1 Crystal Wang 2099, #3 Amy Lu 1838, #4 Princess Ke 1821
    (Crystal is #1 in Under 11, Under 12, and Under 13 Girls.)

Complete the Sentence

From the ITTF: "Table Tennis makes me feel __________"?

USA's Worst Olympic Sports

There are only three Olympic Sports that USA has never medalled in: Badminton, Handball, and (you guessed it) Table Tennis. Here's an article on the subject.

Mizutani High Toss Serve

Pingskills brings you this new video on the Mizutani High Toss Serve (2:23).

Brain Pong

Here's a video (3:17) on a project to allow one to play the computer game Pong with your mind via brain waves. Really!

Werner Schlager versus the Three-Year-Old

That's 2003 World Men's Singles Champion Werner Schlager on the right, and that's his three-year-old son Nick on the table, showing great tennis volleying form. Quick, anyone, is it illegal to stand on the table? Show me a rule that forbids it!

Non-Table Tennis: Agent Says No

Here's a letdown. An agent from one of the largest agencies has been interested in my humorous fantasy novel "The Giant Face in the Sky." Unfortunately, after contemplating it for just over a year, he decided to turn it down. The moderately good news is that a small press that owns a science fiction magazine that's published a few of my stories is interested in publishing it - but they've agreed to let me shop it around first to large publishers and agents. I'm debating whether to take their offer or keep shopping it around. (Another agent liked the first two chapters and asked for the rest; hopefully they won't take a year.) Below is the agent's rejection note - kind of a nice one, but still a rejection. So it's back to table tennis coaching, right? (I do both.)

I'm cartoonishly embarrassed that it's been so many months since you first sent along The Giant Face of the Sky, and I apologize for the egregiously extended radio silence! Every time I picked up your novel, I was torn between how fluid and likeable your idiosyncratic imagination was, and how right-from-the-get-go-off-the-wall the story was, and the "what could possibly happen next?" kept me moving forward even as I was wishing for more context, more of an explanation for at least some of the world the story found itself occurring in, etc. Ultimately, despite my sincere admiration for the inventiveness on display here, I just wasn't able to figure out exactly how (or to whom) I'd pitch your book, and that's my failing, and my failing alone, but it does mean that I'm not the right agent for you. I'm very sorry to disappoint you, and sorrier still to have taken so long to respond, but I'm extremely grateful for the opportunity to have seen your work, and I wish you nothing but the best of luck, inside and outside of fortune cookies!

***

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