Monthly Archives: October 2004

recursive Bambino, tennis memes

This morning I was reading about memes on the web – ideas that rapidly spread to all parts of the internet. The originator of the term meme, Richard Dawkins, described the meme as an idea that is passed from generation to generation. The idea of God for example and the perfect meme of all time: the bible. Any behavior can be supported or refuted if you search the bible long enough. It answers all possible questions you could possibly have about life and even encourages you to recruit more Christians, built-in meme generation behavior. Memes on the web are mostly short-lived, they have a short life in the meme pool Dawkins would say, but some memes make a big splash.

For instance, the curse of the Bambino. The Red Sox (as of today mind you) have not won a World Series since they traded Babe Ruth to the hated Yankees. Every year the media writes nonstop about the curse and television cameras scan Fenway Park with images of Red Sox fans wringing their hands and praying for an end to the the curse, recursive behavior you could call it because the mythical idea of the curse is reinforced every time it is mentioned.

Here is yet another reason I am pushing for Curt Schilling as a write-in candidate for president. In a recent Time magazine article Schilling intelligently explained that any baseball player who thinks that games are won or lost because of a curse instead of superior play is not likely to taste success any time soon.

And yet we all have this behavior. Last week I played in my league playoffs. My opponent was winning every game with a rocket serve and a vacuum cleaner net game. He was eating me for lunch and I was fully cooperating. I should have tried something different, anything at all, because the alternative was losing and I was already doing that. I could have come to the net. Come to the net on his second serve, come to the net on my first serve, hell, come to the net on any serve. If I’m at the net, it’s harder for him to get there. I might have lost a lot of points but I probably would have won a lot more than I did. That’s what happens when we tell ourselves that we are baseline players. We perpetuate a mythical curse on our tennis game that prevents us from seeing opportunities that could lead to a win.

In some matches your opponent is in the zone and will win no matter what you do, in some matches you are in the zone and will win no matter what they do. Most of the time, though, there’s a way to win so if I think of myself as a tennis player who can find a way to win rather than repeatedly reinforce the idea that I am a only a baseline player, I’m gonna win a lot more of those matches.

Injury Report: my physical therapist, Andy Choi, suggests that I twist my shoulders before my trunk on my backswing. This increases my twist and therefore increases my power.

He also suggests that I shift my weight to my back leg before I hit the ball on my serve so that I can better keep my eyes on the ball.

swingers, rehab

I once worked with a group of women who were trying to start a women only sex party. As part of my “research”, I spent an evening at LA Couples, a weekly downtown Los Angeles swingers club site. My job was to serve wine to the clubgoers. As the evening wore on, more than seventy or eighty couples and an assortment of unaccompanied women (unaccompanied men were not admitted) mingled in the cafe and moved together in different configurations on the dance floor – the women usually in the middle and the men outside of them making sure not to get too close to each other. Periodically, various couplings went off to the Arabian theme room or the doctor’s theme room or the Sultan’s tent theme room to have some fun. The man who was helping me serve wine disappeared now and then to chat up latino women to see if he could set them up with his wife. Now that is an accomodating husband!

I was thinking about this as I was doing my gym workout this morning. I do a lot of cable pull exercises with rubber bands that involve twisting my hips. The idea is that my arms don’t move the cables, the movement of my hips does all the work. I discovered this morning that if I move my hips slowly as I’m twisting, I can engage my hips better and build up more strength. It also feels kinda sensual. I’m telling you, there is no end to the benefits of tennis strokes.

We never were able to get the sex party started but we had fun trying.

Injury Report: the sprained ligament in my thumb is not healing. I have to stop playing tennis (oy!) until it heals. I hope to be back playing the week after Thanksgiving. Nobody pays me a million dollars to play tennis so I have to come up with my own rehab plan:
1. see the physical therapist once a week to get ultrasound on the thumb
2. go to the gym three times a week instead of two
3. go for hikes two days a week, sometimes substitute aerobic sessions at the gym
4. mentally rehearse my practice routine so I keep the feel of my strokes.
5. practice my serve without my racket so I can continue to increase the range of motion in my shoulder

Curt Schilling for president

Last night I saw For and End to the Judgment of God/Kissing God Goodbye, a theater piece directed by Peter Sellars. The text is the translation of a work performed by Antonin Artaud on French radio (and immediately banned) in 1947, and the poem Kissing God Goodbye by June Jordan.

Artaud was an avant-garde French playwright and actor. As part of a long history of mental illness, in 1937 he was taken to a mental institution in France. During his ten years at the institution he was subjected to fifty-seven (yes, fifty seven) electro-shock treatments and suffered from malnutrition. The rest of the wartime population ate poorly but those in institutions ate hardly at all. He died a year after he was released, the text above was written and performed during that year.

The performance takes the form of an American naval officer giving a press conference during a war, in this case, of course, the war in Iraq. Along with the garden-variety crazy person?s obsession with poop and farts, the naval officer explodes with the gut-wrenching suffering, and inevitable truths, of a madman. Now and then he is forced to take a break for military press conference images of limbless bodies and repeated bomb explosions accompanied by a drumbeat. At the end of the press conference he asks if there are any questions. An actress stands and recites June Jordan’s poem Kissing God Goodbye in response. ?Are you asking a question?? the officer says.

Sellars introduced the piece. He asked us to listen to the pain of the rest of the world, to listen to what they are trying to tell us. Yes, if we are bombing the shit out of a country or they are bombing the shit out of each other as part of the turmoil following our interference in their affairs, we had better be feeling their pain.

I have a problem with much of the current barrage of art aimed at shaming us into removing the blight from our country that is George Bush. In a New Yorker personal profile by Larissa Mac Farquhar, British writer and playwright Michael Frayn decries the ??literature of denunciation?-the kind of fiction that emerges from the view that, as he puts it, ?what writers should be doing is making people conscious of how inadequate and bad they are and how they don?t respond adequately to the sufferings of others.?? It could just be my repressed British upbringing but I agree with him.

We now have Farenheit 9/11, Farenhype 9.11, Celsius 41.11 and Michael Moore is a Big Fat Stupid White Man. Michael Moore has more guts than anyone in the Democratic party. If a miracle occurs and Kerry wins, Moore should get the credit. Me, however, I always liked Jimmy Carter, global mediator extraordinaire and Nobel Peace Prize winner. But Carter is synonymous with weakness in the presidential food chain. Mediation doesn?t sell, it?s not sexy. Can you imagine the reality show, ?Big Corporation Crushes Little Guy Then Goes Off To A Desert Isle For Mediation? starring Jimmy Carter?

In yoga, disease and pain arise from doing nothing (a-yoga), doing too much (ati-yoga), doing something but not enough(alpa-yoga), or doing something incorrectly (mitya-yoga). Refusing to take on the Republicans with the same ferocity that they attack you is doing nothing, sending Michael Moore out to do the job is doing too much and doing it incorrectly, going to a Bruce Springsteen concert for John Kerry is not doing enough.

Appropriate yoga (yukta-yoga) eases the pain and disease. Though we are unlikely to agree on an appropriate response, we can probably agree that it would be very nice for someone to stand up and actually say what they think, to admit that they are a liberal and will raise taxes, to rise to the occasion that our current global role calls for.

Curt Schilling comes to mind. Need a hero: suture the wayward tendon causing his ankle pain, strap him into a shoe and send him out on the mound to beat down the curse, need someone who speaks his mind: Schilling called in and blasted the hosts of a sports radio show for trying to start a feud between him and Pedro Martinez, need an economist: Schilling negotiated his own multimillion dollar contract. A lot of people are much more excited about the possibility of the first Red Sox championship since 1918 than they are about our presidential election. No amount of pain seems likely to change that.

model tennis

For a minute there I thought I was watching a Robert Palmer music video – may he rest in peace. Supermodels in minidresses and high bouffants draped with guitars. Or maybe I mistook it for one of those motorcycle ads with a high heeled babe in a miniskirt impossibly draped over a crotch-rocket speedster with no pretense that she was ever going to ride it.

No, I was watching a tennis match. The Madrid Masters Tennis Tournament has hired 25 female fashion models between the ages of 19-27 and paid them $1,125 for the week to run around in black tank tops and white knee-length skirts chasing balls and giving towels to players.

I remember when rocker Alice Temple and fashion model Rachel Williams posed on a bed together for Vanity Fair in a public announcement of their relationship, 1995 I think it was. “Oh great”, I thought, “now I am not allowed to just be a woman who wears comfortable shoes, I have to compete with lesbian fashion models.” The L Word on Showtime only makes it worse. If you don’t have a hot tub and a stunning girlfriend, you’re nothing. Think how is must be for the adolescent ballgirls and ballboys with pimples and awkward growth spurts trying to compete with long legs and miniskirts. They even work for free and it’s not enough.

The basketball sneaker became an example of a simulacrum, reality is replaced by something representing reality, basketball was replaced by a basketball sneaker and you too could be as cool as Michael Jordan just by wearing his Air Jordan sneakers. The sneaker was separated from its reason for being: flying through the air and dunking a basketball. It became a fashionable and popular orphan.

That is what these models are: fashionable – they’re fashion models aren’t they?, popular – ask Anna Kournikova, orphaned – do any of these models even play tennis? I must say that I often feel the same way. Not so much fashionable or popular but orphaned. It’s a strange thing to spend this much time playing and thinking about a sport and then writing about it when it’s not clear anyone is paying attention. But at least I am actually playing a game not just posing for it. Surely that counts for something.

Practice and Competition Report: played one set with T., 6-4
Solutions Analysis: more detailed visualization before each serve is resulting in better placement.
Success Analysis: this is the third week in a row that I have won at least a set from T. after a year of losing virtually every time despite the fact that he gives me three games in each set. Strategy rules! Hit short then lob – hit short then lob… Might be time to reduce those three gimmes ­čÖé

backsliding into the playoffs


No not those playoffs! I don’t plan to play for 5 hours 2 minutes and 12 innings then go out the next day and play 5 hours 49 minutes and 16 innings leaving ten men on base like the Red Sox and Yankees during the last two days. There were dramatic but, somehow, not suspenseful. Suspense comes from a well played game not a dragged out affair where outfielders misplay balls and neither team seems to be able to put the other out of its misery. If you wanted suspense you had to watch the Cards and the Astros, both pitchers left last night’s game with one-hitters.

No, I am backsliding into the LATA singles playoffs. Only the top four players in each level get to the playoffs and I was number five but one of the players is out so I am in! Now I have to add a goal statement to my position-technique-self set of goals.

A very important concept in manifestation work – getting what you want – is to immediately begin acting as though you already have what you want. So my position goal for the playoffs is: I am the winner of the level 4 round robin tournament. Not “I will be” or “I want to be” or “I plan to be” but “I am.”

The next step is to put a plan together to reach the goal. The plan here might be:
1. Study the notes I made about my opponents’ games and come up with a plan to attack their weaknesses and minimize mine.
2. Mentally rehearse playing each opponent and winning.
3. Think of every scenario that could happen – I am far ahead in the match or way behind, my opponent throws a fit because of a perceived bad line call, I lose my service rhythm, my opponent decides to play the match in fishnet stockings, a low cut blouse and a diamond tiara (could happen) – and come up with a game plan to deal with it.
4. Get to the court an hour and a half early on the day of the tournament and practice lobs, drop shots and passing shots.

Lanny Bassham tells a story about shipping his shooting equipment to the Olympics. He shipped his main rifle and his teammate’s backup rifle together in one box and shipped his backup rifle and his teammate’s main rifle in another box. Sure enough, one of the boxes was lost for a few days after their arrival at the Olympics but they both had equipment to practice with because they have taken care of every contingency.

Practice and Competition Report: played with M. in between the raindrops: 5-7, 6-1, 1-2
Solutions Analysis:
1. Follow through on backhand and forehand is imperative for hitting balls deep.
2. I’ve been hitting patsy second serves. Today I used exactly the same service motion for my first and second serve but I tossed the ball over my head for the second serve so that I have to hit a kick serve not just a patsy serve.
Success Analysis:
1. I was able to move M. around the court by hitting repeated short cross court shots then hitting deep to the other side of the court.
2. I visualized my serve more fully including the toss, sticking my butt out, seeing the ball as I hit it and the the ball landing at its target.