The Adventures of FastMikie
in search of Truth and Beauty in the art of pocket billiards.
Friday, November 30, 2007
Yesterday I saw the physical therapist again, and endured some seriously deep massage, which was not at all enjoyable, but seemed magically effective.
Completely worn out from the experience, I got to bed early and slept late this morning, so I was good and rested when I finally rolled out of bed.
I knew when I was in the shower that it was going to be a good day.
I could reach straight up with my left hand, extending as far as possible, and still there was no pain, not even discomfort.
It was strangely wonderful. To have a normal left arm again, even for just a moment.
I had been waiting for this sign for months. It meant that today I would hit some balls, and rejoin The Way of The Cue, the path to enlightenment, and of course to global domination at billiards.
Some may suggest that such a goal is unrealistic. I suggest that the people who say these things have a certain lack of imagination.
In any case, the Universe provided me with an opportunity to take the first step along The Way. The phone rang, it was Dr. Mark, my arch-rival who challenges me at every turn, and between us, according to him, we play for the "World Championship", and bragging rights, of course, which are of the utmost importance.
Aye, the gods were with me today, and I went undefeated in two matches of 8-ball, and won back the crown which he took from me when my arm was at its weakest.
Undefeated. I love that word.
Even though this was only a local grudge match, it was nevertheless a win.
Starting at the moment of a win, a person becomes, or continues to be, Undefeated.
It has been coming for a long time, but I never really knew When it would start, so I have just now committed to draw a line in the sand, and decided that New Pool would start as of the New Year, which seems appropriate.
To that end, and to help keep me focused on that new beginning, and to help with the math, there is a New Pool countdown, located at the bottom of the right hand column, quietly ticking off the days, hours, minutes and seconds until the start of New Pool.
Above is my last attempt, from last night, at the exercise mentioned in the first part of this discussion on lag shots.
You are looking at the foot rail. I shot from the foot string to the head rail, then back to the foot rail. Yes, this is the reverse of how a lag is typically done, but it was closer to the electrical outlet for the cameras.
Nine of the shots are within two ball diameters from the cushion. Four shots had their midpoint within 1 ball diameter. One shot was snug on the rail.
And, of course we can not ignore that one shot sitting out there by itself that didn't even make it past the last diamond. It's pretty clear that I must have been thinking about something other than the shot at hand. Or maybe I had a stroke-spasm, who knows...
Another thing that shows up from this drill, especially obvious from marking the resting places, is that all the shots have drifted off to my left. (All shots started on the foot string, midway between the rightmost diamond and rail.) This drifting may indicate either the table is off, or I'm giving the slightest bit of left english.
What I would like is a tighter pattern, of course. Ideally, I would have 10 pasties all piled on top of each other, 1.125" from the rail.
I have been giving some thought to how I will get back in stroke after I am recovered from my shoulder injury. That got me to thinking about different drills that may help.
Then, I took it one step more, as I often do, when I look deeply into the nature of things, especially around the time of the New or Full moon.
I imagined that I was new to the game, a rank beginner who never hit a ball, and also that I was a teacher. What would I have a novice do first?
The answer I got was the lag shot. It is very basic, just the cue ball, no object, and yet combines the elements of speed control, absolute center ball hit, follow through, stance, grip, etc.
I devised a simple drill to test all this: Taking ball in hand, lag 10 times. Mark the resting place for each shot (using self-adhesive ring binder hole reinforcements) to give visual evidence of the consistency of the results.
I probably did this lag drill at least 10 times today. Certainly more than 100 shots in all.
At first I was all over the place, and I noticed that my pre-shot routine was highly erratic. So I focused on the process, and not so much on the results.
After lots of attention to what I was doing, I devised a pre-shot routine as follows:
I started each shot from the same stance, about 5 feet away from the table, and moved into the shot keeping my eyes burned into the cue ball, exactly where I intended to hit it, on the vertical centerline, just above horizontal centerline.
I move forward from the pre-shot stance at the moment of completing a full breath in, and release the breath as I move to address the ball. One more breath in as I take warm up strokes, then release the breath, then stroke through the ball, staying down until the ball reaches the far rail.
The challenge in all of this is to stay in the moment, to think of noting else but the shot at hand, and to do this consistently for all 10 shots. I found it helpful to think to myself: "Come back to the rail" at the time of the stroke.
I videotaped all of these drills today, adjusting the camera position many times to find the ideal location to analyze my stroke, and to correlate it with the result.
The entire process was very educational, and I highly recommend it.
The sun has just set, and the full moon is rising.
It's that time of the month again. More precisely, it is one of two times per month, the New Moon, and the Full Moon, which have a most predictable influence on me: I write.
For the longest time I had no idea of any particular cause for my writing. I didn't notice any cycle to it. After I got interested in celestial mechanics and especially lunar influences, it was then that I put it all together.
Have you noticed how these cycles influence you? If the moon's passing can lift the oceans as it does, then why can't we harness that power to create free energy for all?
Even solar energy is subject to weather, and latitude, but the lunar energy has no such limitations. Who's working on that, and what's holding them back, the oil companies?
I just got back from a walk on the beach. I love the Full Moon sunsets because they bring massive low tides and the wide beaches bring expansive feelings and deep breathing and my thoughts are unrestricted, in harmony with the universe.
It was just yesterday, for the first time in two weeks, that I picked up my cue to play a game of pool.
It's probably the longest I have not played in 4 years. I have been healing and strengthening my shoulder, and after a month of focus I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. My range of motion increases a little, almost daily, as the pain decreases, and now it could only be called discomfort.
But I need to be a lot stronger to get back into tournaments. It will take time.
Meanwhile I've been giving a lot of thought to where I go with my game from here. I feel that my game is strong and will get stronger. I have not yet reached my prime, but that may be closer than I might imagine. I try not to think about that too much.
I know I do not want to turn pro. Because I do not want to travel. I'm a hermit, first and foremost.
Therefore I need to get the pros to come to FastMikie's Fun House. This plan is still in development.
Also, future plans will include video, and of course writing will continue.
Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: That the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one's favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way.
Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has Genius, Power and Magic in it. Begin it Now!
Some people ask: Why do I write this stuff? It's complicated, but here are a few answers:
"We write to taste life twice." (Anais Nin)
"Words come to me and I must write to set them free. If you read these words, or not, my work is done. I had to do it." (FastMikie)
This blog is a diary, or journal, of my pool adventures. It began in early 2004 when I decided to get serious about the game after having been away from it for 40 years. It's all here, as it happens. The lessons, the wins, and even the losses. The people, the strategies, the emotions, and hopefully, sometime in the future, the Enlightenment, that point when it all makes sense, and it comes naturally, as if it were there all along...
There are many reasons why I write:
1. Reference.The primary purpose of this journal is for my own reference, so I can learn more fully from my experiences, record my progress.
2. History. So I have something to remember as it actually happened, when I'm old and gray and my memory, vision, judgment, and/or stroke have gone away.
3. Clarity. The act of writing slows the mind to select the right words, so thinking becomes clearer, priorities emerge.
4. Book. Keeping this journal has been a good way to accumulate material for a book on the subject, coming soon.
5. Commitment. The reason why I put this private stuff on the internet is because I have learned that by sharing with others I become more committed to my goals.
6. Law of Karma. Additionally, by making my experiences available to help others who come along after me, the Law of Karma is working to help me.
7. Immortality. A final motivation: writers write in the hope of some measure of immortality; the possibility that future generations of pool shooters, possibly in another millenium, will look on these words with appreciation. The Way of The Cue will persist as long as it brings good into the world.
this blog is one of the better things I can be doing to improve my game, whether or not anyone reads it, but my game will benefit as it benefits others.
1. Everything always changes. Many times I will post an entry, then go back later and make some changes, additions, deletions. For example, I frequently re-read my old posts, and notice that I should clarify some point, or eliminate some redundancy, or add a link to some reference, or add a photo. So readers may want to occasionally review some of the posts you have already read, just to see if there is something more. People who subscribe to the post notices (free) will only be notified of new blog entries, and will miss out on getting notified of minor edits and revisions of previous entries.
2. Positive comments and questions are encouraged.If you have something to share on the topic of a blog entry, please leave a comment or question. However, this is a place for positive vibes only. Other vibes are deleted.
3. No Gambling. I play only for the love of the game, so there are no references to gambling here. There is no paid advertising on this website. All pool tournament winnings are donated to these charities.
This entry may seem entirely self-congratulatory, and even capriciously, gratuitously so.
However, I can assure you that all is not as it appears.
(click for a really good look)
Today is cleaning day here at FastMikie's Fun House. A trained professional comes in to do the job right, and to take care of the heavy lifting, an activity to which I have become increasingly allergic over the years.
Since the last Fun House major cleaning, just a month ago, there were huge wildfires surrounding Del Mar. Wildfires cause ash, which gets everywhere, even into the hallowed halls of FastMikie's Fun House, and even, (oh, the horror) onto my cherished pool trophies.
I like my trophies. But I don't gloat about them so much, as time goes by. After a year or so, they're kinda old news. I like the memories, that's the best, but the trophies seem to accumulate, get moved around the Fun House, used as paperweights, doorstops, etc. Been there, done that. What's next? Show me something I can't do...
And now, here is this cleaning mission I didn't ask for. It was an Act of God. (the fire thing, remember?)
So I had the need to gather up these trophies, for special handling purposes only, you see. Even a trained professional cleaning technician should not be given such important personal mementos, especially with the pointy sticks, delicate materials, etc.
Now here I am presented with a gaggle of trophies. A bundle of bling, if you will. And, the photographer in me immediately noticed the Kodak Moment.
Now you know the story. Every word of it true. It was an Act of God.
God wanted me to show you all my trophies.
I've done my part.
Now I know what you are asking: "What are all those trophies FOR?" right? Ok, here goes:
Left Side, front to back: 1. 2005 Triple Play "Masters" MVP (undefeated) 2. 2007 Perfect Season (undefeated) 8-ball 3. 2004 Division 9 ball champions (team)
Middle column, front to back: 1. 2005 Division 8-ball champions (team) 2. 2004 City Champions 9-ball (team)
Right Side, front to back: 1. 2007 MVP 8 ball (undefeated) 2. 2004 US Amateur Championships, California (undefeated) 3. 2007 Division Champions 8 ball (team)
Included in the photo are various patches to wear, for those times when carrying your trophies into a party or to the store, is a bit awkward. And that's my cue butt (Samsara #1676) in the foreground. It seems my cue is always butting into the picture.
All right, little children. You're all cleaned up and now off you go. Back to your lonely lives as doorstops, paperweights, and bookends. Back to your lives of obscurity, to serve quietly until some wayward glance will greet you, and memories of your big day will give me a smile.
And today was another shining hour, with all your friends, brought together for a moment in the sun. I hope you all enjoyed it.
There you have it, dear reader. True story. Act of God. I'm not the raving ego-maniac you might judge me to be.
And now that I have shown you mine, you should feel perfectly at ease showing me yours.
There were 1,930 people from 421 cities in 50 countries, who visited this humble website, since counting started less than 11 days ago.
Wow! That's a lot of visitors for a hermit like me.
But they were all well-behaved: they didn't track in any dirt, and they were very quiet.
I didn't even notice them. They slip in the front door without a sound, and root around, looking for cookies, and pearls of wisdom, as if they owned the place, but again, it's all very quiet, and they don't get in the way... no harm at all, really. Maybe it's like living with Casper the Friendly Ghost. (Although I'd just be guessing.)
So, all you spooky people out there: "Howdy!" Thanks for stopping by.
If you want to have some free fun, and do something good for yourself, and others, click on this banner below:
And then, tell a friend about Free Rice! Kids love it too.
Three years ago, when I decided to get serious about pool, I replaced my 8+' Olhausen table with a new, standard 9' Bruswick Gold Crown IV. I have given this table strong use over several years. It's a good table. But...
A real pool table has real wood, and leather.
Gold Crown lacks both. Brunswick designed and built these tables as a unit of commerce first and foremost. Built to survive hazardous environments. But it is soul-less.
The retro design is good. I like it, actually. Except for the moon-lander feet.
But what's with the bogus wood? And all that metal? Somebody went a bit too far.
One of my main disappointments with the GC IV is the utter lack of attention to detail. It's as if the phrase "fit and finish" were unknown. The quality is at 1950's levels. It needs real wood and real leather.
Can one be built this way? And would it be built by craftsmen who want to build furniture for discriminating owners rather than units of commerce for pool halls.
If not, is there an option? Is there a table that the highest level players fully accept and welcome as an alternative to the Gold Crown IV, and that is built with real wood and leather?
Is that option a Diamond?
They make these tables with somewhat more challenging pockets, and a stunning Honduran rosewood is available, real wood, real leather. And it's available with normal legs, without the moon-lander feet.
I'm not necessarily sold on the design. But it's real wood and leather. The way a real table should be. If I got this table, would I soon again find some fatal flaw in it, and in another year or so, start to look again, endlessly searching for that perfect table, which always rolls true, and gives me effortless and spectacular runs in the hundreds?
For 20 years, a very good friend in Australia has never, ever spelled my name right. He insists on "Mikey" or "Mickey" or "Micky" even though I always spell it "Mikie". Don't get me wrong, I like Mikey (not Mickey), but I figured you could only have it one way, so I chose Mikie.
Well, I finally got tired of the game, so I got FastMikey.com and FastMickey.com and they come right here, just like FastMikie.com and, for those who like the old way, poolshooter.blogspot.com gets here too, but that's a lot to type, especially if you're using a PDA, iPhone, iPod touch...
So, spell it your way. If you like Mikey, Mickey, Mikie, Mike, or even Micky just be sure to add Fast, and you're on your way here.
I now have a Fast Mikie/Mikey/Mickey/Micky/Mike market monopoly. (say that 3 times, Fast) ;o)
On the entire worldwide web, many are Fast, and many are Mikie, but there is only one FastMikie.
Notice that there is no space in FastMikie. Space is Time. It takes time for that space, and if time is used unnecessarily, then it is not as Fast as possible. FastMikie is so fast that it is all one word, no space. FastMikie is so fast, that it is spoken as one syllable. This will take practice. Be persistent. You will succeed.
For the first time in a couple of months the pain is subsiding, and I can move my left arm with more confidence. This morning I could reach the top of my head, for the first time in months. Ah, the joy in simple things!
This is the first mention of my left shoulder, which was in such pain and limited range of motion that I actually went to a doctor, my good friend Mark Kalina, who gave me a shot of cortisone which relieved the worst of the pain, but then it wasn't getting any better, so I went to a physical therapist Mark suggested, and after two sessions, and doing two sets of exercises, well... it is a miraculous example of the power of mind-->action-->result, or if you want my system: Think - Plan - Do - Repeat.
So it looks like I just may shoot pool again. Thank you, god, whoever you are.
I have not spoken of this challenge before because it is The Way of The Cue to create only positive realities. To write the words of a victim mindset is to give life to that which limits you.
Additional background on this physical challenge: It was midsummer this year, about 4 months ago, the right side of my neck became progressively tighter, with pain that I relieved with Advil to excess. I figured the cause was the stress of continuing my undefeated season. The pain moved to my left shoulder and increased right through and after, the end of the season. That's when I resolved to rest and heal, to take a vacation from pool, but without positive results after several weeks, that's when I finally gave in and decided to Act. It is only by positive action that results are achieved. It is The Way of The Cue.
As with The Way of The Sword, The Way of The Cue is a way of Life, whereby a participant discovers their true Self, and the secrets of the Universe.
As the Samurai has his sword, the pool shooter has his cue. Each is a Warrior who faces opponents in a contest where there is only one winner.
The one who has greatest focus, concentration, stamina, knowledge and skill will survive to be victorious.
Full Attention is the primary element.
The Way of The Cue is celebrated in its highest form in a formal event. There are 4 types of events:
1. The Lesson 2. The Competition 3. The Exhibition 4. Practice
Each event has these defined elements: 1. It is video recorded. Each participant gets a copy. 2. One - two hour segments. 3. 15 minute break before resuming next segment.
Pre-Event Preparation At Home 1. Full body cleansing with unscented soaps, deodorants, etc 2. Uniform: all black, pants, shirt, no adornments, no advertisements, jewelry, buckles, rivets, etc. (respect for the table) 3. Water, candy, etc. 4. Equipment: case, 2 cues, 2 spare shafts, chalk, tool, towel, glove, (no powder - respect for the table) 5. Meditation, self-hypnosis, affirmations, etc. 6. Any item not specifically permitted above is disallowed. (no iPods, earplugs, books, papers, computers, PDAs, etc)
Note on chalk use: participants keep personal chalk in pants pocket at all times when not chalking, not on table. Chalking takes place over the floor, not over the playing surface or rails.
Pre-Event Site Preparation 1. Clean balls 2. Clean table (vacuum, Chalk-off, then brush) 3. Video setup 4. Refrigeration for water 5. Participants' personal private area (restroom, soap, towels) 6. Participants' event chairs and table
Immediate Pre-Event Preparation 1. Participants remain in dressing rooms until one minute before the event. 2. Meditation, final equipment preparations, 3. Use the loo, wash hands.
The Four Event Types:
1. The Competition is a contest between two or more participants with only one winner determined by known rules. a. quiet: no talking, etc. no sounds. b. calm: no displays of emotion c. respect: integrity, sportsmanship, no sharking, etc. d. At start and finish, Participants face each other, bow. (no physical contact during entire event)
2. The Lesson is an event whereby the student and teacher work on one specific element of the Way.
3. The Exhibition is an event whereby a 1 or 2 participants perform.
4. Practice is an event whereby a sole participant focuses on one or more elements of the Way.
Each event is identified with a unique series of letters and numbers, and a website address where more information about the event is available. (Names of participants, date, location, notes, etc) Also at this website address is an open forum for further discussion after the event.
The first time I saw this shot made, I couldn't believe my eyes. However, the proof is in the video. And if I can do it, so can you.
The object ball is frozen to the foot rail. Shoot the cue ball with extreme low right english, lots of follow through, aiming to hit the rail first, and the object ball is cut in from behind, on the rebound off the rail. When this shot is hit perfectly, the cue ball comes straight back to the head rail, and the object ball runs strongly into the pocket.
In this sequence, El Maestro, in the white shirt, demonstrates first. Then it's my turn (dark shirt).
After you've seen the video clip above, check out the short one below. In this one El Maestro challenged me with the same shot, only tougher.
Every once in a while everything just goes right and the quality of hit is perfect.
OK, now you've seen it, and it's your turn to do it...
Video shot on location at Fast Mikie's Fun House in Del Mar, CA.
The cue ball and object balls are frozen to the foot rail, and you need to get shape on the 9 ball on the head rail.
Use extreme low right with a strong smooth stroke with lots of follow through while aiming just to the left of the center of the object ball. The resulting action of the cue ball is caused partly by draw, and partly by the english which spins the cue ball off the long rail.
El Maestro, in the white shirt, demonstrates first, and then me (dark shirt).
Through the miracle of video editing, you don't have to suffer through the 40+ times I flubbed it before I finally made it.