Gold Crown IV

Gold Crown IV
FastMikie's Fun House, Del Mar, California

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Cutest Cueists: Jamilra

Jamilra and Jeanette

Maybe it's just me, but the photo above gets me thinking that I'd like to see more of this in pool:  a top ranked player like Jeanette Lee (on the right) teaching a young newbie.  

Jamilra is her name.  She's supposed to be a "top Uzbekistan fashion model" according to the Dragon Promotions press release from the Second Annual Showdown in Seoul Korea. However, when I Googled "Jamilra", I could find almost nothing. except for these yummy images.

I want to thank Charlie Williams of Dragon Promotions for showing us the way, and for Jeanette Lee for her leadership and good example.  It makes me want to find a young, impressionable newbie just like Jamilra and teach her everything I know, and even some things about pool.  I'm thinking I might start looking in Uzbekistan...

For photos and info on my other "cutest cueists" hit parade, click here.  Enjoy!

Friday, November 28, 2008

What do you read?

You can't be shooting pool ALL the time, right?  And you can't be reading about pool all the rest of the time, right?  Isn't there some saying like "All pool and no ... makes Jack a dull boy"?   So what's your "..."?

Surely there is more to life than pool, right?

Recently I was fiddling with my Facebook page and discovered a neat little applet called Visual Bookshelf where you can share some of your favorite books.  Of course, you have probably seen my complete collection of pool & billiard books, DVDs, etc which I'm always expanding, desperately hoping to find some shred of insight that will help me improve my game (and sometimes I do!).

But, back to the central theme of this post:  there's more to life than pool...  One of my favorite philosophers is (was) the greatest of all Samurai, Miyamoto Musashi, who suggested "From one thing, know all things.  From all things, know one thing."  (Hey, it's philosophy, it's supposed to be simple, yet complex.)  During those times he was not slaying his adversaries, or sharpening his skills, and his blades, he continued to learn about life, death, and art by being involved in activities outside of sword fighting.  And, of course, these things helped him stay alive when opponents were bent on lopping off his head with razor sharp swords.  He was very good at staying alive, and was never cut.  He died a natural death, an old man.

So, applying all this to the main point:  What do you read?  Seriously, I'm interested.  Here's a list of some of my favorite reading, not pool related.  You might be interested in joining up with the Virtual Bookshelf and swapping a few books, or recommendations, or insights, not just with me, but some of the other members.  Maybe we can all learn something from each other, and maybe, as Musashi suggested, "... from all things, learn one thing" (pool).

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thanksgiving at the Fun House

It's Thanksgiving, and a New Moon all on the same day.  What more could you ask?  How about the world's best cookies?  

Many years ago, my daugter Kendra made me a batch of cookies that were the best I have ever had, and that's saying something for a cookie connoisseur like me.  And so it has become a tradition on my every birthday, Fathers' Day, and Christmas that she whips up a fresh batch for me.  I live for these days!

However, I have never been one to leave well enough, or even Great, alone.  I have been secretly making continuous improvements to her recipe and after exhaustive experimentation and testing (it's a tough job, but somebody's got to do it), I am ready to announce to the world that I have concoted the PERFECT cookie.

As my way of giving thanks, on this Thanksgiving Day, I am sharing some of these wonderful little bits of heaven with some special friends, and for the rest of you, I give you the recipe.  You know what they say, give a pool shooter a cookie, and you feed him for a day, but give a pool shooter a cookie recipe, and you feed him for life.  Now go and do this in remembrance of me...

Sunday, November 23, 2008

New Cloth: Simonis 760 Tournament Blue



Yesterday was a big day here at FastMikie's Fun House.  I finally got the new cloth installed, and it is most excellent.  

After searching for the BEST, the Michelangelo of table mechanics, and based on recommendations of friends, I finally selected Steve Leistikow ("TableMechanic" at AZ Billiards forum) to do the job.  He started in on disassembling the table and then moved to recovering the rails, and that's when I got my first look at what a quality job Steve does.  

Check out the photo below.  You're looking at a before/after photo of two rails, upside down, facing each other.  On the left is the prior rail covering job done by someone else. On the right is the new job, done by Steve.  And this is on a part of the table no one will ever see once it's assembled.  'Nuf said, eh?

BEFORE                 AFTER

About 8 hours later, the job was done, including releveling, lowering the table an inch, and drawing the rack outline on the cloth (for straight pool).  Needless to say I was chomping at the bit to hit some balls.  It had been a couple of years since I hit some balls on fresh cloth.  It's something I really enjoy, not just because of the perfection and cleanliness, but because the behavior of the balls is so different from cloth just a few weeks old.  Most of all, I wanted to try drawing the cue ball the length of the table, and how sweet it was when I actually did it!  My life is now complete.  (I'm easy to please.)

Next, Steve and I got into shooting some 8 ball to give the setup a good test.  We played at least half a dozen games, and I gave him the breaks each time (I'm still hurting in the shoulder).  Needless to say, this setup plays LOTS faster than the old cloth, but I liked the speed and won all the games except one.  I even made a few nice shots, enough to be moved to say to him "Go and tell all what you have seen here tonight!" (only partially joking).

Thanks, Steve!  You did a great job.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

E-mail Inbox: Lester from Kansas City

Every once in a while, a pool shooter will discover this blog, and even more amazingly, actually read one of my pool short stories, which are somewhat hidden around here like Easter eggs. Today, "Lester from Kansas City" stopped in for a visit and found the story about my surprise match up with Loree Jon Jones. It wasn't my pool that caught his attention, but my cue. And then he gets into one of his fondest memories about the Fat man himself. Let's hear it from Lester:

Just read your story of retiring your Hoppe (cue). I bought my Hoppe in 1965 maybe. I got robbed but I sure wish I had it back. My stick was a 19.5 with a pool shaft and a snooker shaft. It was sweet.

But the thing that struck me was the story of you beating the lady (Loree Jon Jones). I have a similar story but it is not about me. I have the knowledge of what to do but had a vision problem and depth perception was poor, it also created an additional problem of my stroke wavered. I am good enough to win from most amateurs but never would have been a contender no matter how hard I practiced, which I did ten hours a day for several years.

But my story was not of me. There was a kid barely 16 we lived in Kansas City in the mid 60s his name was Jimmy Warner the kid was a natural he was taught by a old stick named John Rags. John had glaucoma and could hardly see, still he was a hell of a snooker player. He taught Jimmy. One day every one at our home pool hall Pass Time Cue heard Minnesota Fats was going to give an exhibition over at the Golden Cue in Raytown Missouri just a few miles away so we all jumped in our cars and headed that way. Now Jimmy had the best 9 ball break at that time in Kansas City it was not unusual for him to make 3-5 on the break and would run three out of five after the break, the kid was great.

Well the same thing happened with Fats. He asked if anyone was up for a 9 ball game with him and Jimmy stood up. Fats couldn't believe that a kid would stand up to him and started to laugh him off. A lot of the audience were in the know of who Jimmy was and they started snickering to, not at Jimmy but at Fats. Now Fats thought that they were laughing at Jimmy so he changed his mind and decided to make Jimmy look foolish so he gave Jimmy the break. Bang, Jimmy broke made 4 and run. Fats looked choked like he had swallowed a cow and told Jimmy to break, bang Jimmy hit that rack and made the 9 on the break. The fat man couldn't believe his eyes and made it look like Jimmy was just lucky last game Jimmy never gave him a shot. Fats quit, told Jimmy to sit down and everybody laughed including Fats. The fat man made a few trick shots and left town.

I quit playing the pool halls around Kansas City I loved the action but knew I was not going to make a living with a stick, I lost track of Jimmy and never knew what happened to him. Lost my Hoppe oh well. I hope this will give you a chuckle. Lester From Kansas City

Thanks for sharing, Lester!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Why I pay $3.50 instead of 25 cents for chalk

About 5 years ago I was in Las Vegas for the APA team 8-ball national championships, my first-ever exposure to a big pool event. There were lots of companies selling stuff: cues, tables, cases, etc. I stopped at the Longoni table to check out the neat cases, and noticed something called "Blue Diamond" chalk which they were selling for about $3.50 per cube, but you had to buy 2 cubes minimum.

I'm thinking to myself that they gotta be NUTS. What could possibly be so special about a cube of chalk that would make it worth 14 times more than a regular cube of Master chalk, the standard of the industry. Everybody uses Master chalk, right?

Needless to say, I passed on the opportunity to pay such a ridiculous amount for chalk.

Fast-forward 5 years, and I noticed this thread on AZ billiards forum about Blue Diamond chalk. Some people were skeptical, of course, just like me. And others just raved about it. But I still didn't get any.

But in the fullness of time, I finally broke down and ordered some here. It was a pretty girl who pushed me over the edge (what else is new, eh?).

Now that I have been using the stuff for a while, I'm a convert. The stuff is WAY better than Master chalk. I keep the Blue Diamond chalk in my pocket chalk holder for personal use, and I leave the regular old Master chalk out on the table for guests to use. Momma didn't raise no fool...

How is it better? I notice it lasts longer, goes on easier, more completely, in a finer layer, no clumping (especially important in a humid environment), gives better control, less miscues, yadda-yadda-yadda. Check out the AZ link above to see what others say.

So, while I was checking out the Blue Diamond stuff, I also got some Sang Lee chalk to test. I figured that if Sang Lee can do those incredible masse' shots with chalk he recommends, then maybe there's something to it. Not only do I like his chalk better than Master, but it comes in a trick plastic box to keep the stuff from being affected by humidity (the enemy of chalk). Check it out here. Sang Lee chalk is even a bit more expensive than the Blue Diamond.

The latest development in chalk is the NIR Super Professional product by Longoni. I have a box of 3 cubes, but haven't started to test them yet. More on that stuff later.

The bottom line is this: once I know there is something better out there that can help my game, then I just have to use it. Especially if it's only going to cost a few bucks more.

Disclaimer: I don't sell the stuff, and I don't get a commission if you buy it. I just like to share my discoveries. I'm a giver... Enjoy!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Pool & Billiards Library: DVD Additions

It seems that the recent pool matches on TV have been mostly re-runs, so when the IPT offered competition 8-ball DVDs for less than 5 bucks each, I jumped at the chance to buy a few DVDs featuring my favorite players.

I play these, and others, when I'm on the treadmill in the morning, and during my yoga/stretching and shoulder exercises. The best thing about these DVDs is that I can stop, skip back, replay, slow motion, etc. This really helps to learn what is going on. And of course, the more I play them, the more I can learn.

These new disks feature some of my favorite players: Efren Reyes, Francisco Bustamante, Johnny Archer, Earl Strickland, Thorsten Hohmann, Charlie Williams and others. The more I watch their play, the more I can model what they do, how they stroke, position, safety play, etc.

Of course there is more to my Pool & Billiard Library than just competition DVDs. There are lots of instruction books, autobiographies, full-length movies, and reference materials.

To check out the entire FastMikie Pool & Billiard Library, click here!

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Second Place, giving up the breaks

Yesterday's visit to the physiotherapist left me in more pain than I started out with, so I was thinking I might just pass on today's 8-ball tournament in Encinitas. This morning I was feeling even worse, but I figured, what the heck, maybe I'll just show up and watch the action.

Yeah, right... I'm such a pool whore, I can't get near a pool table and not hit some balls. Once I got to the tournament, there was no way I was just going to watch. But my right shoulder hurt so bad I decided I would give up the break, and just play nice and easy.

That decision turned out OK, as I went undefeated in all 6 of my matches to get into the finals with Eric the Brit, a formidable competitor. Although I made it past Eric in one of those 6 previous matches, I lost the first game of the final race to two, and in the next (and last) game I was leaning over the table for a long shot when I was called with a foul when my shirt touched a ball, so I gave up ball in hand and you just don't give Eric ball in hand and survive. Congrats, Eric, you played great.

That left me with second place, giving up the breaks. And I hadn't touched a cue in the last 7 days. Not too shabby. But I sure wish my shoulders would get better. Patience, grasshopper...

The shirt foul was all my fault. It was a bone-head move to play with a loose fitting shirt. Live and learn.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

How many FastMikies to change a light bulb?

The answer is NONE.

The doctor says I shouldn't raise my hands much above shoulder level, with the specific warning against trying to change a light bulb, as an example of what not to do.  This is part of the results from yesterday's meeting with a new physical therapist.  My shoulder challenges (pain, reduced range of motion, etc) were not getting much improvement with the previous therapist, so I decided to get a second opinion with full-on medical evaluation with an orthopedic surgeon.  The new doc prescribed the new therapist.

He also prescribed an arthrogram, a special form of MRI which produces an enhanced image after special dye is injected into the shoulder area.  And before they do that, they need to determine, via blood test, if my kidneys can handle the dye.  Hold on...  this is sounding radical, especially with all the sticking of needles, etc.  I'm going to wait a bit and see if the new therapy can help.

Of course, now that he mentioned it,  I have noticed that there are about 5 lightbulbs that have gone dark at the Fun House, so I guess I'll have to delegate the changing of the bulbs.   Or, as the Chinese proverb says:  'Tis better to light a candle than curse the darkness.

All of this relates to pool because jump-shots are an absolute NO, and masse' and break shots need to be dialed way back.  In fact, I think it was a jump shot that further damaged my right shoulder supraspinatus muscle.  Who knew pool could be so rough on the bod?

In other news, I didn't make it to the finals in the Thursday afternoon 8-ball tournament, but I did play some really nice pool, including one runout that featured two bank shots and one carom.   And in other games I did some really nice shots and lockup safties.   I have been focusing more on playing well and less on winning, and I seem to enjoy it more.  Gunny made it to the finals again, all the while complaining that his vision was real bad.  (How do you get to the finals if you can't see?)  When he gets his eyes fixed he's going to be a serious competitor!  But it was John who prevailed for his first win in the 3+ months I have been going there.  Congratulatons, John!