D I A R Y
of a

P O O L    S H O O T E R

The Adventures of FastMikie
in search of Truth and Beauty in the art of pocket billiards.




Monday, October 27, 2008

Student Actually Learns Something!

Every once in a while a student will actually pay attention, and then, against all odds, actually DO something with what they learn.  Case in point, this email I received over the weekend:

Hey Michael,  I  just want to say thank you for the lessons, I  used your help last week and this week. I  put in practice a couple of shots: the break, the rail shots, the english you taught me, shooting a ball on the rail to the corner pocket and come back 3 rails for the 9 or the 8 which I  did twice.  Every time I  chalk, walk around the table, did a couple very good safeties, and something that I  remember you told me to do, step back if the opponent starts talking to me or get close to me when I'm shooting.  That happened 4 times - I  told my captain and didn't try to talk to the opponent which really makes them mad, which is very good for me.  Once again thank you very much.  Hope I can shoot some pool with you so I  can learn something new.   (CD)

Teachers live for student feedback like this!   When is the last time you actually thanked one of your teachers?   Do it now!  (assuming you actually learned something from them)

Saturday, October 25, 2008

The Stroke Zone by Bob Henning

This just-published book will join "The Pleasures of Small Motions" as one of the masterworks of the art of billiards, especially as it occurs in competition.

I have all of Bob Henning's books and DVDs, and give them all the highest marks, but this little book is the best of all of them. I plan on reading it many times, until it becomes a part of my being.

To get your copy (only $19.95), email Bob Henning directly at
bebob@mich.com and tell him FastMikie sent you! That won't get you a discount, and it won't get me a commission, but it'll be a fun way for me to thank him for writing an extraordinary book.

Finally Here: The Billiard Encyclopedia, 3rd edition


Subtitle:  "An Illustrated History of the Sport"

After many delays in publication, and a wait of more than 6 months after I ordered it, this epic work finally arrived at my doorstep yesterday afternoon.

Because billiards has been around for several hundred years, there is a good bit of billiards history, therefore this is a really big book:  600+ pages and 10" x 13".  Huge sucker!  And a zillion photos and illustrations.  It will keep me busy for a long time.

This new 3rd edition just started shipping a few days ago.  The 2nd edition was sold out years ago and a bidding war on those old copies more than doubled the cover price, if you could find one.  I never did get one of those previous editions, so I'm feeling good about spending some serious reading time with this one.


Thursday, October 23, 2008

Bare handed with a fresh tip and sanded shaft

This afternoon's win in the 8-ball tournament was made especially sweet because I was stroking with a brand new Moori tip (medium), just put on two days ago.  Dave Whitsell,  the cue guru, also likes to sweeten the shaft with some very light sanding.  I worry that multiple sandings, over time, will alter the playability of the shaft.  But I also love, really love, the feel of a lightly sanded shaft and a bare-handed (gloveless) loop bridge in a low humidity environment.  It's very sensual, almost feels like living skin.  Freaky!

The sensory experience is heightened even more when the stroke is flowing and the table and the balls behave well and kindly.  Triple freaky!

It all gets flowing and good stuff happens.  I win again. 
 
I remember that I am still, and always will be, a student of the art.  I enjoy doing these public live art performances.  I like to focus on performing my art, which I have found, frequently leads to a tournament win.  Focus on the process, not the result.  One shot at a time.

More tournament notes:  I lost the first game, but won the next 4, to make it to the finals where I lost the first game of the race to 2, but did what I had to do, and I got a roll.  Gunny is always a worthy opponent, and it was close because he was playing good.

So it occurs to me that I faced six different games where I absolutely had to win, and I did.  I also faced two games where it was not absolutely necessary for me to win, and I didn't.  I think this is one of the more interesting things about pool is that it can be such a microcosm of Life in general.  What we learn is that we can do almost anything we can imagine, although we actually do so little.  The thing that keeps us from achieving according to our imaginings is that we so seldom take the next step, committing to the goal, and the process.  Commitment is the key.  Once you are truly committed, the result draws near. 

Nothing creates Commitment more than a do-or-die situation.  If you see your situation as do-or-die, then your mind will be focused, your stroke will be true, you will take nothing for granted.  What more could you want than to have Victory hanging on every stroke?

Winning under challenging conditions

I won the Thursday afternoon 8-ball tournament (again), but it could have turned out differently...

The outside temperature shot up past 85, and I guess that kicked in the room air conditioning higher than normal, and it got pretty nippy, and that is not a good thing for me.  With a low blubber index, my bones get cold fast, and I start to shivver and shake, and then it seems I gotta pee, and I just can't shoot very well when I'm in that condition.  (Now you know my Achilles' heel.)

I guess I got lucky, and won anyway.

That helps me get over my non-win last week, about which I refrained from blogging until now.  My mom always said "If you can't say anything nice, then don't say anything at all".  Hence my quietude.   Suffice it to say that I did not win last week, and it was all because I let my head get in the way.  I was shooting very well until the end when the playoffs started.  I was undefeated with 5-0 record, and there were 4 other players with a 4-1 record, so I just naturally assumed that the 4 would play down to only one, who I would play in the finals.  But it didn't happen that way.  Instead, I had to play two of the one-loss players, and the "injustice" of it all tweaked my brain so bad that I was just not playing the shot in front of me, at all.  

Wouldn't it be great if there were a switch we could use to turn off our emotions and negative thinking, and leave only the pool-shooting brain functions?

I'm working on it.

Friday, October 17, 2008

There's more to life than pool: Sunsets





Sometimes you just gotta stop and enjoy the sunset.  If you don't get these where you live, then try smelling the roses, or kissing your wife/lover/(both?)/kids/dog/whatever.  

There's more to life than pool...

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The winner of the race is fearless from that first step


"The winner of the race is fearless from that first step."

This excellent quote is the personal tagline of Holly Ryan, the Manager of the National Championship Series for Cue Sports International.

That kinda says it all.  Thanks, Holly!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The Long Road Ahead

Vacation is over.  My pool year begins again.

My 3 weeks of no pool practice ended Saturday when El Maestro came by FastMikie's Fun House to shoot some straight pool to 150 points.  He won, of course, but that was expected since I haven't really practiced at all for so long.  But I had a decent run of about 22 balls.  Well, that's what he told me.  I wasn't really paying attention to the running count, just focused on the shot of the moment.  And I figure that's a good thing.

Yesterday, Earl and Paul E. stopped by for some cut-throat and some 9-ball, so that helped get me back into stroke a little.

And it was yesterday morning that I got back into my physical workout routine with some time on the treadmill.  I use the treadmill time to watch & study one or two previously recorded TV pool matches.  In addition to the treadmill, I do  several stretching and strengthening exercises for lower back, shoulders, and  neck, a few of the areas that have been giving me trouble in past pool tournaments.

I have 11 months to prepare for the next U.S. Amateur championship.  It's a long road ahead, but it will go by fast if I just take it one ball, one step, at a time.

Friday, October 10, 2008

An Unexpected Win

This is my time to relax after many months of focused practice. Now, absolutely no practice for the last 3 weeks. So I was getting restless and decided to show up for the Thursday afternoon 8-ball tournament. I just wanted to hit a few balls. I really wasn't expecting anything. Surprisingly, I won.

Some thoughts:
A. I played well because I was loose, relaxed, and without expectations for the outcome.
B. The advanced techniques I use in my "Optimum Practice" routines allow me to play well with a lot less time on the practice table.
C. I got lucky.
D. All of the above.

Hmmm....

(top)


Monday, October 06, 2008

FastMikie Teaches - and Learns

This past weekend, two new students visited the Fun House for their first, possibly only, lesson.  Both of them had been shooting pool for about a year, both having no formal instruction in billiards.  

It was like looking at myself, 5 years ago.  I could see in them the challenges I had, and I could see how much I have learned, and I could also see how much work it will take to grow beyond their existing level.  

The teacher may Teach, but the student must Do.  It is only by much practice that any Learning can take place.  The teacher can only offer ideas and suggestions, but the student learns nothing without many hours of focused practice.

It is said that "The Teacher Teaches What He Needs To Learn".  A major revelation of this past weekend's teaching is just how painful and challenging it must have been for El Maestro during those early years when he was teaching me.   Gracias, El Maestro.   Namaste'.

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Saturday, October 04, 2008

Browser buggy? Try Google's "Chrome" browser

I long ago moved beyond Microsoft's browser to Firefox, but lately Firefox has been acting strange, like freezing up completely, then crashing.  That's what got me to check out Google's new browser, named "Chrome".

It's fast, dirt simple, and tight.  If one tab crashes, it let's other tabs live.  And I love the feature where you can drag a tab to the desktop to automatically open a new window with the tab.  

PC only, not Mac yet.  It's free.  Try it: Google Chrome




Friday, October 03, 2008

New Cloth Project: Finding the "da Vinci mechanic"

I have decided that the cloth will be Simonis 760 tournament blue. What is still undecided is who will take that cloth and create the canvas where I will perform my art.

In fact, that canvas, that table recovering project, is another person's art. I am looking for that "table mechanic" who treats his work as art.

Why all this focus on quality of the work? For starters, I'm a Virgo, which means perfectionist, meticulous, etc. I'm going to be spending a LOT of time with that table, not just playing on it, but also because it is the focal point of my living space, and because I am in my living space virtually 24/7. Whatever flaw there may be in the re-covering job will be noticed.

Another reason why the quality of the work is important is that I get some very important and knowledgeable people in the pool world who visit "FastMikie's Fun House" (my home) and who play on this table. They deserve to play on the highest quality equipment possible.

It would be my goal to have my table be of such high quality that a visitor, after playing on the table, would be driven to say that it was the best they have ever experienced. These are the conditions I want for myself, and for guests.

Ideally, the artist I'm looking for would be local, close enough to be able to make any adjustments after the initial work. It seems that there are always a few details that crop up after the fact. However, reputation trumps location. And it would be unlikely that the best would happen to be local. If there were someone who is generally acclaimed to be the best table mechanic, and they were not local, then I want to consider the extra cost of transporting them, hotel, etc. Of course, with this artist coming into town for this "commission", they would be well taken care of, with the best meals, lodging, transportation, and other niceties. All of these things will communicate my message of appreciation for their creation.

The artist who would clothe my table would be encouraged to sign his work. Why is that not done now? Why would it not be traditional for a table mechanic to leave his mark in some out-of-the-way place on the table? I can not imagine doing my best work and leaving it un-signed!

I have heard from many sources that the best mechanic in Southern California is Ernesto Dominguez. Yes, the professional pool player. I have called him and asked him to do the table, and he said it was too far. But maybe I caught him at a bad time. I didn't get a chance to tell him how important a job it is. I could have done a better job of helping him see how important it would be for him. Maybe I could make it fun as well as profitable for him. Maybe I could send a limo to pick up and deliver the Leonardo da Vinci of billiard tables in the style befitting his reputation? Would he be more favorably disposed to do my table if he knew his creation would be in many videos, seen by many people worldwide, and that each of these videos would mention his name as the table mechanic? Would such an artist be interested in the fame and glory that comes with the commission? Maybe I could also buy a lesson or two in the game while he is here. What would it take to attract him to this opportunity?

Or, maybe there is another da Vinci. Maybe there is a Michelangelo?

There is no rush. No deadline as for a tournament. No search for some lowest bidder. Only the best.


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