Thursday, 26 April 2012

Umpire's Chair

If a poet couldn’t use a camera, this might well be how he would write.

The Uphigher’s Chair
A solitary seat – no nest for two;
Having someone else up there would spoil the view.
A highchair for grown-ups,
Lookout, for the Lord of the dust off white lines.
Judge and jury – hand out fines.

Sitting duck for assassins,
Discriminates against paraplegics,
Can be electrified during thunderstorms.
Seat of burning,
Lofty abode.
Highly unsuitable as a commode.

Monday, 23 April 2012

How To Play The Sweep Stroke

Lower the head. Whatever grip you’re accustomed to, to do this properly, you need to start your sweep with the brush-head low on the Forehand side. Swing forward and up. Your arm motion will bring the brush-head toward the ball and sweep up at the same time. Practice! The only way to add this stroke to your arsenal is through repetition. Keep trying no matter how awkward it seems at first. Before you know it, your ball will clear the street more often and stay in bounds more often. 

Friday, 20 April 2012

On The Evolution Of The Ping Pong Table

Early ping pong tables were flawed in at least one major respect; the tabletop contained holes - the playing-surface looked more like the net. This necessitated enormous balls, balls big enough as not to fall through the table. However balls were often broken, hence the original meaning of the term ‘ball-breaker’: a physically demanding table that’s holes destroyed the player’s balls.
It's easy to see the some of the ways in which the modern ping pong table has evolved from its primitive origins: the legs - although still of the original folding kind - have become much sturdier: early designs of leg would often tremble, or buckle, even, during particularly heated exchanges; the net has relocated to the middle of the table (where it still provides a tricky hurdle for low-flying balls); the tabletop has become a single solid surface and as a result balls have shrunk. Finally, the modern ping pong table is much greener than its early forbearers. But don’t confuse that with recycling. 
To be continued...

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Between A Table Tennis Table And The Pea Green Sea

Diving boards don’t as many believe originate from ironing boards, they were conceived from the distant cousin of the ironing board the table tennis table. Look at the evidence (the photograph): the ping-pong ball head, the table tennis-green colour of the figure, and the water (sea) is created simply by straightening out the net, as nets have long been commonplace in the sea. Paddles are also associated with water, and what’s a table tennis bat if not a paddle by another name? In the 1890s the Parker brothers began manufacturing an Indoor Table Tennis Kit that included a portable net, a small ball covered in netting, and paddles. And if you slap your stomach with a table tennis bat you get a painful sensation (and sound) akin to the dreaded ‘belly-flop’. And don’t you pop-up ‘like a ping-pong’ ball after diving into to deep water? And another thing: it’s important to bend your knees when taking off to dive: table tennis tables too have folding legs.

Sunday, 15 April 2012

No Ball Games

No ball game: get a pen, get down low, close up to the net, and use it as a grid to trace the outline of the tree behind the table. Take the net off the table, roll it up, climb the tree (to the same high-point in the tree where the net crosses the tree-shape on the table).  Hang the net in the branches and use it as a grid to trace the outline of the shape of the tree on the table below. Roll up the net and keep it. Keep it hidden for a year. Once the year is up, unroll the net on a table (at home) and retrace the two tracings onto the tabletop. See if you can tell the difference between the tree on the table and the tree from the table.

Thursday, 12 April 2012

Friable And Unplayable

How I Take Certain of My Photographs (after Roussel)
I’ve always been meaning to explain the way in which I take certain of my photographs - certain images that suggest a narrative. I am always mindful not to include a beginning (reason for/why) in my photographs. All photographs are the “end” – the resolution - of a story. Mine often start at the end and end in the middle. I choose a subject linked by two almost identical words (reminiscent of metagams), for example, friable and unplayable (in the case of this table-tennis table I could have also used table and unstable). The two words found, it was a case of taking a photograph that would contain a foreground of the first word (friable - the end of the table), and a middle ground of the second word (unplayable – the state of the table).

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

End In The Middle

Part of the originality of Raymond Roussel’s novel Impressions of Africa (1910) lies in its structure. The book is divided into two halves. The first half chronicles a series of bizarre spectacles – game-like performances - described in photo-realistic detail yet with no explanation. Only in the second half does the reader learn the stories behind these strange performances. But far from explaining the intentions and origins behind the strange spectacles, the explanations add more layers of fantastical complications that upend the reader further. I suggest that anyone coming fresh to Impressions of Africa should start the book in the middle, and read to the end before attempting the first half of the book. Reading Roussel is a bit like playing ping-pong, alone, on a defective table: the ending crumbles away when balanced against the middle.

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Holey Smoke

Recording the wind-tune played by a gatepost on the Pembrokeshire coast. Holier than any church organ: a real windpipe.

Sunday, 1 April 2012

My Lady Nicotine: A Study In Smoke

I was a mere bachelor, drifting toward what I now see to be a tragic middle age. I had become so accustomed to smoke issuing from my mouth that I felt incomplete without it… To lay aside my courgette was to find myself afterward wandering restlessly round the garden.” (J.M. Barrie, My Lady Nicotine: A Study In Smoke; Boston, 1896. Chapter 1)