Gnip Gnop

June 13, 2014

Friday the 13th, a Full Moon, and a Honey Moon!!!

Jason Vorhees says hello! (It's the first Honey Moon on Friday the 13th in about 100 years.)

Campaign 2100

I've spent most of the last four days focused on the rewrite of my science fiction novel Campaign 2100: Rise of the Moderates. A publisher is interested in this novel, which features table tennis extensively. The rewrite is done, for now. However, from July 25 - Aug. 2 I'll be at writer's workshop in Manchester, New Hampshire, where the first seven chapters of the novel are being extensively critiqued, so I'll be doing more rewriting on that. And then I send the rewrite to the publisher, and pray to the TT and SF gods. (The publisher really liked the novel, but had specific areas they wanted rewritten or expanded on.)

The novel covers the election for president of Earth in the year 2100, where the entire world has adopted the American two-party electoral system. (Why did they do this? It's explained in the novel.) The novel is a drama that satirizes and skewers American politics. I hope for it to come out in January, 2016, as the presidential election takes off. I hope to be on all the political talk shows!

How is table tennis in the novel? Let's see (and there are some spoilers here):

  • One of the four main characters is the highly sarcastic and brilliant Bruce Sims. (Confession: he's really me, unleashed to say whatever I want!) He had helped run the campaign for the current president, but left the campaign over policy disagreements and because he considers the president an idiot. He plays professional table tennis on the college circuit - yes, it's professionalized - and he's quite wealthy from it. He's one of the best in the world, which is dominated by American and Chinese players. There's an entire chapter early on where he's introduced as he's playing the semifinals of the national college championships. At deuce in the fifth, he simultaneously gets into arguments with his opponent, with members of the crowd, and with the referee, all while listening to breaking news (in a mental implant) about the upcoming election and an alien ambassador who just arrived and got into a spat with the president - first contact. He walks off the court on the spot to get involved. Soon he's traveling the world running a quixotic third-party moderate challenge for president of Earth, against the conservative president and the liberal challenger. (Campaign slogan: "Extremism in the pursuit of moderation is no vice.")
  • In the year 2100, nearly all the top athletes, including professional table tennis players, are big, hulking brutes on steroid-type drugs. Bruce is one of the few who refuses to use them, and so is always at a disadvantage against his more powerful opponents. In fact, he names his racket Sling after the weapon used by David against Goliath.
  • Bruce teaches the alien ambassador, Twenty-Two, how to play table tennis. They play regularly as they travel the world during the campaign. Because her ancestors snatched flying insects out of the air, her reflexes and coordination are far beyond human - and she soon starts beating him, to his great chagrin.
  • The publisher said the best chapter of the novel is the Ping-Pong Diplomacy scene in China, where Bruce and Twenty-two play an exhibition for the Chinese leadership while trying to convince them to support their candidate. After the match, on orders from the world president, world security forces show up and arrest Twenty-two on the ping-pong court, causing an international incident.  
  • Bruce's racket Sling is the latest model of ping-pong paddle, a Maestro Prime covered with Spinsey pinhole sponge, both from Trump Sports. When the ball hits it, the Spinsey sponge compresses, forcing air out through the tiny, angled holes that permeate the surface. If he held it one way, the air shoots upward from the parallel holes, creating a topspin. If he flipped the paddle, so the backhand side became the forehand side and vice versa, then the air would shoot downward, creating a backspin. He also has shoes with variable grippiness, depending on the floor.
  • There's a scene where Bruce is walking through the Great Mall of China (500 miles long and growing, paralleling the Great Wall of China, one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World introduced in the novel), and finds a table tennis store, where he buys a new racket. (His old one, Sling, had been broken.)
  • Bruce is running the campaign for president for Toby Platt. Toby's son, Tyler, age 13, is also an active table tennis player and is running for president of his middle school. Despite his running a worldwide campaign for president, Bruce gets very involved in both coaching Tyler and running his campaign for school president.
  • One of Bruce's idiosyncrasies is that he always carries a ping-pong ball around, tossing it back and forth in his hands, fidgeting with it, throwing it against walls, etc. When he's irritated at someone, he smacks him with the ball.

Table Tennis in Recent Movies

Table Tennis has been in three recent movies that I've seen in the past two weeks or so. There was of course Ping Pong Summer, which I reviewed on Monday. Then there's that scene from X-Men: Days of Future Past where we are introduced to the superfast Quicksilver by watching him play table tennis by himself - here's an animated gif of him playing, with Hank/Beast, a young Charles Xavier (in background), and Wolverine looking on. And then last night I saw 22 Jump Street, where there were several table tennis scenes where Jenko (played by Channing Tatum) plays at a college fraternity, using a wood paddle with no covering and the handle broken off. I don't have video of that, but here's video from the movie of Tatum holding up a Beer Pong shirt (link should take you directly to this, 51 seconds in). As an added bonus, here's video (10 sec) of Tatum levitating a ping pong ball with his breath, though this isn't from the movie. (The ball bounces up and down when he does it; when I do this, I not only can keep the ball in one place, but by spinning the ball I can do it sideways so the ball appears to float to the side of my head. I'll post video of this some other time.)

Building Depth Footwork Skills

Here's the coaching article.

100-Day Countdown to Change in the ITTF's Presidency

Former USATT President Sheri Pittman Cioroslan is doing an article every day during the last 100 days of Adham Sharara's ITTF presidency. Previous ones are linked from the USATT News page, as well as in my past blogs. Twenty-one down, 79 to go!

  • Day 80: Interview with ITTF’s Deputy CEO Glenn Tepper

World Hopes Week Draw

Here's the article. USA's Amy Wang is seeded #1 in girls' singles, and she and USA's Michael Tran are seeded #1 in Teams. (This is for players ages 11-12, and is taking place at the Werner Schlager Academy in Austria.)

World Team Championships - Most Watched in History

Here's the article from the ITTF. 188 million watched it.

Johnny Leach's Legacy

Here's the article.

Ariel Hsing, Welcome to China!

Here's how they welcome her.

Name the Game Contest

Here's the video (49 sec) where you are asked to come up with a name for the game. Alas, it's already been done - they are playing gnip gnop (read it backwards), where you hit the ball so it hits your side of the table first instead of directly over the net. I was introduced to this game back when I first started in 1976, and it's been a favorite at camps ever since, and presumably for many years before. I sometimes teach the game to beginning kids, as it's easier for them to rally this way while they develop their hand-eye coordination, but I mostly don't because it's too addictive, and once they get started with gnip gnop it's all they want to play.

Maria Sharapova Plays Table Tennis

Here she is shortly after winning the French Open. For some reason she's playing left-handed, even though she's a righty in tennis. Anyone know who her opponent is? Here are four more pictures of her playing: photo1 photo2 photo3 photo4

Herbalife Soccer Ad

Here's video (30 sec) of an ad from three years ago for Herbalife, a nutrition and weight management company. It features Argentina's star player Lionel Messi, who is currently playing for them at the World Cup. This is a rare combination of the world's two most popular participation sports!

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April 20, 2011

Counterlooping

This afternoon during our Spring Break Camp here at MDTTC, I spent some time counterlooping with Nathan Hsu, one of our top cadet players. (Age 14, rated 2239.) During the ITTF Coaching seminar I taught this past weekend I talked about counterlooping, and yesterday I wrote about how my counterlooping had improved as a result. But at age 51, I'm still much slower and stiffer than I used to be, and I was a bit reticent about wasting Nathan's time counterlooping, since it's a strength of his, and I wasn't sure if I could keep up. Lo and behold, I was able to stay with him - barely! But I also realized everything had to be just right for me to do so. As we started, I had to really focus on my hand and racket position, start my stroke earlier than I normally would, take a slightly longer swing than normal, and take the ball at just the right spot (just after top of bounce so the ball couldn't jump away from me). Once the counterloops starting hitting, I basically blanked my mind out and just let the shots happen. Mentally, I was just an observer. When I tried to intervene and get involved, I'd miss; when I sat back and mentally ate popcorn and just watched, I counterlooped better than I had in years. Afterwards, Nathan commented he'd never seen me counterloop with so much power. (Okay, Mr. Lupulesku, I'm ready for you now!)

Jungle Pong and Gnip-Gnop

Yesterday I wrote about some games we do in our training camps. During break, about 15 of the kids were playing "Jungle Pong." Basically the rules are you have to let the ball come off the table, and make your return after the ball has hit the floor. You can hit the ball to either side of the table - so the opponent has to be ready to change sides quickly. Since the ball has to bounce off the table and hit the floor, players have time to run it down. It's a rather strange game, but a lot of fun.

Another game they are playing is Gnip-Gnop, which I taught them a while back. The rules are simple: instead of hitting the ball directly over the net, you hit it onto your side of the table so that it then bounces over the net. I've been playing this game for 35 years. Perhaps it's time for a Gnip Gnop Training Camp?

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