October 14, 2013

Tip of the Week

Playing Choppers. This week I'm "cheating" - this is a previously published article that's listed in the Articles section here. However, I've had several requests for advice on playing choppers, and I realized that none of my 139 weekly tips since I started them in January, 2011, covered this. However, I did some rewriting of the section, so it's not exactly the same. Also, I plan on publishing a compilation of all these tips next year, and this will make them a bit more complete. (I was going to do a Tip on why it's often best to give the serve away at the start of a match, but I'll save that for next time.)


Last Thursday I blogged about my day on the set of the HBO comedy "Veep." I was only there on Wednesday - for 13 long hours. The episode featured table tennis, and I went in originally as one of the table tennis players - but they wanted only players in their 20's, and so I was relegated to being a possible extra as a janitor - but they didn't use me, alas, as even there they wanted people in their 20s. On Thursday they did the actual table tennis scene. I wasn't there, but Toby Kutler told me about it.

He and Khaleel Asgarali were the real table tennis players in the scene. (Qiming Chen was there the day before but wasn't there on Thursday.) Two actors who - falsely - claimed to be good table tennis players were also used. Toby said that he was originally told that he and Khaleel would be playing, and that he would accidentally smack a ball that would hit star Julie Dreyfus, that he'd get to speak a line "Sorry about that," or something like that), and that she and her aides would all get angry and start screaming at him and the other players, and tell them to leave. However, there was a last-minute directorial decision to have them play doubles, and so the two actors who said they could play were added, meaning the rallies were much weaker. One of the others than had the honor of hitting the ball that smacked Dreyfus, and there were no speaking lines from the real TT players. Also, the players didn't actually hit her; they used a ping-pong gun to shoot a ball at her instead.

The table tennis episode is Episode 3.3, the third one of season three, and will air in March or April of 2014. Toby, Khaleel, and Qiming will be seen in the episode not only as TT players but as workers on a computer and walking by, possibly in several scenes.

The Brains of Einstein and Chinese Table Tennis Players

Here's an article from yesterday's Washington Post (though it apparently appeared first in the LA Times) about Einstein's brain. It references a technique developed by a Chinese physicists for "measuring the thickness of the corpus callosum in Chinese table tennis players, whose sport requires remarkable feats of inter-hemispheric coordination."

China's Top-Down Take on Innovation

Here's an article from the Wall Street Journal that references table tennis as an example of where China is good at innovation, while explaining why, in general, it is not. "To understand why China has such a tough time producing world-class innovations, take a look at how the Chinese play games. Ping pong tables are everywhere in public spaces and open to all comers, from kids to agile retirees, producing a reservoir of talent that has made China a ping pong innovator and champion. By contrast, basketball courts in China are generally locked up. Entrance is controlled by the state—in this case, school officials—shrinking the talent pool and the chance for youngsters to hone their moves. The result: basketball mediocrity."

Nine-Year-Old's Trick Shot Compilation

Here's an article with a link to a video (1:27) of a nine-year-old's ping-pong ball trick shots. Pretty impressive for any age!

Bobby Riggs Commercial

Here's a video (38 sec) from the 1970s that advertises Hasbro's Power Tennis Game, and shows Bobby Riggs playing a version of table tennis in a commercial that spoofs his internationally televised "Battle of the Sexes" match against Billie Jean King. Here are some pictures of Riggs playing table tennis: photo1 (Reba Monness on left) photo2 (Mary McIllwain on left) photo3 photo4 (jockey Chris McCarron on left) photo5 (tennis player Billie Jean King on right)

Non-Table Tennis - Capclave

I spent Friday night, and about half of Saturday and Sunday at the Capclave Science Fiction Convention in Gaithersburg, MD, held five minutes away from the Maryland Table Tennis Center. I was on three panels, including two that I moderated, plus I did a reading. (I still managed to get a number of coaching hours over the weekend, but I was able to reschedule many of them.)

I moderated the infamous "Religion and Politics" panel, which can get rather heated, but we managed to keep it mostly low-key this time around - much of the discussion wasn't about actual religion or politics, but about famous religious or political novels and movies that influenced the world. This was a good fit for me, as many of my short stories and both of my novels (one coming Nov. 15, the other in a state of flux as I do a rewrite for a publisher) are political. I sat next to the famous James Morrow during the panel. It's the second time I've been on a panel at a convention with him.

I also moderated the panel on "Amazon - Good or Bad?" I had to great moments in this panel. At the start, after we introduced the panelists, I said, "I have some disturbing news. Some of us who really hate Amazon have gotten together and formed an Orange Crush Party." (I held up a can of Orange Crush that I'd just picked up from the con suite.) "We demand that Amazon be closed down immediately. Otherwise, we will defund and close down Capclave. There will be no more panels, the exhibits and dealer's room will be closed, and all parties are cancelled." At first people in the audience thought I was serious, but they figured it out and laughed at the end. I also did a stunt where, right there on stage, I bought a book from one of my four fellow panelists on my Kindle. I also explained my experiences with Amazon in selling my TT books. One surprise - I thought most of the people would think Amazon was bad, as they continued to use it, but the general consensus - with a few notable exceptions - was that Amazon was good.

I was also on the "1001 Uses for an Unsold Story" panel where we talked about the possibilities - rewriting it, reusing the central ideas of the story in another story, using it in a novel, or just saving it for the appropriate anthology that might someday come along. Or printing it out to line your parakeet cage.

I did a 25-minute reading on Sunday, where I read an excerpt from my upcoming novel, "The Giant Face in the Sky." I also had time to read my "cult classic" story, "The Bat Nerd," about a bat that thinks it's a superhero.

And I got to meet and shake hands with George R.R. Martin, author of the Game of Thrones novels, now an award-winning HBO series. Plus I attended a number of panels and readings, and spent much time in the dealer's room, where I ended up buying only two books somehow.

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