Thursday, June 30, 2016

Cyndi Lauper: Time After Time

Cyndi Lauper sings “Time After Time,” which Lauper wrote with Rob Hyman and which was recorded for her debut studio album, She's So Unusual (1983), Wikipedia writes: “It was the second single to be released from the album and became Lauper's first #1 hit in the U.S. The song was written in the album's final stages, after "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun", "She Bop" and "All Through the Night" had been written. The writing began with the title, which Lauper had seen in TV Guide magazine, referring to the 1979 science fiction film Time After Time.”

You can watch the official music video here.

Time After Time
by Cyndi Lauper and Rob Hyman

Lying in my bed I hear the clock tick,
And think of you
Caught up in circles confusion
Is nothing new
Flashback warm nights
Almost left behind
Suitcases of memories,
Time after

Sometimes you picture me
I'm walking too far ahead
You're calling to me, I can't hear
What you've said
Then you say go slow
I fall behind
The second hand unwinds

If you're lost you can look and you will find me
Time after time
If you fall I will catch you I'll be waiting
Time after time

If you're lost you can look and you will find me
Time after time
If you fall I will catch you I'll be waiting
Time after time

After my picture fades and darkness has
Turned to gray
Watching through windows you're wondering
If I'm OK
Secrets stolen from deep inside
The drum beats out of time

If you're lost you can look and you will find me
Time after time
If you fall I will catch you I'll be waiting
Time after time

You said go slow
I fall behind
The second hand unwinds

If you're lost you can look and you will find me
Time after time
If you fall I will catch you I'll be waiting
Time after time

If you're lost you can look and you will find me
Time after time
If you fall I will catch you I'll be waiting
Time after time

Time after time
Time after time
Time after time

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Personal Thoughts On Training

Health & Wellness

“Not lost, but gone before.”
Lucius Annaeus Seneca [4BCE—65 CE], Letter LXIII, line 16,
Epistulae Morales ad Lucilium (Moral Letters to Lucilius)

“Always listen to experts. They'll tell you what can't be done, and why. Then do it.” 
Robert A. HeinleinTime Enough for Love (1973)

Push Ups: This remains one of the best training exercises to build upper body strength and endurance. One of the benefits is that it can be done at home; and, equally important, you can monitor your progress from week to week. It has been said that one of the chief differences between working out and training is that training is done with a purpose, with a goal in mind.
Photo Credit & Source: Men’s Fitness

On June 20th, I celebrated 3½ years cancer free, which places me closer to the 5-year milestone that all persons diagnosed with cancer see as important. My health has improved, and if it has, it is a combination of physical effort on my part, of being born with particular set of genes, and of things unknown and currently inexplicable.

That is, it is hard to precisely say how much effect genetics has and how much effect the environment has, which includes not only what we eat and drink but also how we care for our bodies. Science tends to view the body in a mechanistic fashion. This part needs fixing or replacing and let’s do and hope for the best and all that sort of thing. I am no medical scientist, but there seems something lacking in this view. Yet, without any other sort of believable and valid operating system, we tend to follow the dictums of medical science and its branches of inquiry.

Yet, the thing with experts is that they can’t always be right. The problem is that they don't know when they are wrong, when they are off the mark. That their expertise is limited. That they can’t even admit they often don’t know. Well, that’s enough metaphysics for today. Back to basics, the fundamentals of health.

Bodies age. Despite our best and most valiant efforts they always do. We can slow down or prolong the process, but it is inevitable that our bodies will (eventually) give up in some fashion or another. There are, when you consider it, as many ways to die as to live. Dying a slow and horrible death is less preferable than dying a “good death.” Or death with dignity. This is what the experts say.

This sounds so morbid, and it might well be. But these are the kind of thoughts that spin around the mind of someone like me. A disease like cancer does that; it forces you to encounter mortality and how not to meet it just yet.  I am now more aware of my mortality and I don’t plan to allow the cold hand of death to touch my body, now or in the near future. (Not until my youngest is grown up, on his way and doesn’t need me anymore.) So, I am doing everything within my means and my power to return this aging body to the shape it once was when it was younger. Personal. Training.

Or at least the best shape it can be considering its age and what it has been through. Our desire is to have a healthy body. There are limitations, however; annoying but real limitations that get in the way of our goals.

I said above that my health has generally improved: I have more strength and endurance than a few years ago. I think and feel that I can improve more, that I can increase these physical attributes. Are my thoughts and feelings in harmony with my body? Getting closer. This is not suggesting, however, that I can now run a marathon. Some areas have not improved, remaining the same sore spots they were since their unwelcome arrival. I am living with these limitations, although I can’t say that it pleases me in any way. Something has been lost. Or should I accept this as not lost but as it—something intangible—has gone ahead for some yet unknown purpose?

Should I make peace with them, these limitations that make their presence felt? Or should I continue fighting to wring out any and every ounce of improvement? I think you know what my answer is, with all its human limits and limitations. Keep on training; keep on pushing my body. Train. My.Self.

Monday, June 27, 2016

No Harm In Stretching Yourself

The Sporting Life

Static Stretching: What was once old is new again, Reynolds writes for the NYT: “For generations, gym students were taught to stretch before working out or playing games. Then the practice fell out of favor: Studies seemed to show that such ‘‘static’’ stretching (holding a pose for anywhere from a few seconds to several minutes) temporarily reduces muscular power, weakens athletic performance and increases the risk of injury. So most fitness experts currently advise against static stretches before exercise. But now a comprehensive new review of decades’ worth of research indicates that they might not be such a bad idea after all.”
Illustration Credit: Sam Island
Source: NYT

An article, by Gretchen Reynolds, in The New York Times says that stretching before engaging in an athletic activity is OK once again; this comes after recent findings said it was bad for athletic performance. This proves the adage that what was once good for you, then bad for you, is again good for you, just like the consumption of butter, eggs and coffee.

In “The Right Way to Stretch” (June 21, 2016), Reynolds writes:
This month, the journal Applied Physiology, Nutrition and Metabolism published a study by four distinguished exercise scientists who analyzed more than 200 studies of how stretching affects subsequent exercise. (The authors had conducted some of these studies themselves.) In broad terms, they found that static stretching can briefly inhibit the ability to generate power. So if you reach for your toes and hold that position, tautening your hamstrings, you might not then be able to leap as high or start a sprint as forcefully as if you hadn’t stretched.
Those undesirable effects were generally found, however, only if each stretch was held for more than 60 seconds and the subject then immediately became fully active, with no further warm-up. Those are hardly real-world conditions, says Malachy McHugh, the director of research at the Nicholas Institute of Sports Medicine and Athletic Trauma at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York, who is the study’s co-author. Outside the lab, he says, most people are unlikely to hold a warm-up stretch for longer than about 30 seconds. The review found few lingering negative impacts from these short stretches, especially if the volunteers followed that stretching with several minutes of jogging or other basic warm-up movements. In fact, these short static stretches turned out to have a positive correlation. People who stretched in this way for at least five minutes during a warm-up were significantly less likely to strain or tear a muscle subsequently.
I don’t always listen to the latest medical and health research findings. so I continued to do static stretches, even though I had read a while back that it was no longer advisable. Now I can continue stretching—guilt-free—without the gnawing feeling that it has been bad for me all along, that it has done irreparable harm to this 58-year-old body. Alas, there is no harm in stretching yourself.

Happy workouts, everyone.

For more, go to [NYT].

Saturday, June 25, 2016

The Competitive Life

Sports Training

“The harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph.” 
Thomas Paine

Summit SeriesIn this iconic photo, Paul Henderson (no. 19) and Yvan Cournoyer (no. 12) celebrate the goal that won the Summit Series in Moscow, Soviet Union, September 28, 1972. This is without a doubt the most famous moment in hockey: Paul Henderson of Canada scores against Vladislav Tretiak of the USSR with 34 seconds left in the final game (Game 8) of the series, which Canada won by a score of 6–5, winning the series 4–3–1. The Russians, most notably Tretiak, were formidable opponents. This was known in Canada as the Canada-Russia series, which millions of Canadians watched—this includes me. This final and pivotal game was the only time I missed school without a “valid reason,” taking the afternoon off with my friends. Well, as many Canadians from this generation know and can attest, there was a valid reason—this has become an important part of Canadian history. You can view the highlights of the last game, which shows this goal, here.
Photo Credit: ©Frank Lennon, Canadian Press, 1972
Source: CBC

If sports teaches you anything, it is that in competition, the better team or player wins. There are winners and there are losers. It is both a simple and elegant statement as one can make. No matter what one thinks of sports, of its utility to society, it can and does teach many people valuable and important lessons that can be transferred to school, to work, to life. Yes, this makes sports a metaphor of life.

One can, for example, deny that life is competitive, but after a while an inescapable conclusion hits you: the denial is fabricated from wishful thinking. People compete all the time, not only in sports, but also in school, in work, in business, in international relations, in dating, and in mating. It is natural and normal, a human instinct, to want the best for yourself and for your offspring, and by extension for your school, business and nation. Thus, competition is normal, and the best understand this and easily and quickly adapt to its requirements.

If I have been reluctant to admit this, it is a reluctance based on the ideas of equality, fairness and opportunity, and that competition can also be a negative. Yet, as much as I would like such noble ideas to prevail, the world does not primarily operate on such premises. It operates on achievement, on competition and on battles both intellectual and physical that are based to a large degree on making the necessary effort to win.

Undoubtedly, we ought to strive to make the world a better place, but at the same time, we need recognize that we are all, to some extent, competing for both what we need and what we want, In terms of fairness, all sports have written rules and there are penalties for breaking them. This makes the playing field even, yet as this said, there are many cases where a person has to “fight” to get on it. Often, this is not easy, which raises the issues of character, of dedication, of courage and of perseverance—all enduring sports metaphors. There is satisfaction in winning; in beating your opponent in a fair competition. This is called good sportsmanship [for example, see The Good Sport].

So, while the value of sports can be over-stated, it can also be under-stated. I played a lot of sports when I was young, and also watched a lot of sports, both on TV and at various arenas and stadiums. This has contributed to my understanding of the world and my development as a human being—even if I have not always put these ideas into play in my professional life. My reluctance to do so is something that I need examine, to see if it has hindered me in achieving my potential as a human being. Even now, it seems that I am finding out things about myself.

On one hand success has its own rewards; and on the other hand competition can be stressful. Such internal conflict can easily prevent someone from achieving success. How one resolves such conflicts is important, not only to achieving success, but to do so with a minimum of conflict.

There is always the future tomorrow, which begins with earnest preparation and training today. Now that I have returned to sports and the training required to achieve a measure of personal success, my thinking is beginning to change in crucial areas—notably in regards to positive views of the competitive life. There is no achieving success without understanding the basis of competition, which includes finding (and doing) your personal best.

For an excellent article on what the Summit Series meant for Canadians, go to [TheAtlantic].

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Quantum Physics Tells Us What We Don’t (Yet) Know

The Search

“The first and last thing required of genius is the love of truth.”
Maxim 382; “Maxims and Reflections” (1833)

Quantum Equations: At the heart of theoretical physics is math, beautiful and elegant equations that act as gateways to worlds that contain rules that seem different than ours. There is no lack of strangeness in the quantum world, where mathematicians, theoretical physicists (and poets) find a home. On this note Philip Ball writes for The Atlantic about such a finding from 80 years ago: “But in 1935, Einstein and two younger colleagues unwittingly stumbled upon what looks like the strangest quantum property of all, by showing that, according to quantum mechanics, two particles can be placed in a state in which making an observation on one of them immediately affects the state of the other—even if they’re allowed to travel light years apart before measuring one of them. Two such particles are said to be entangled, and this apparent instantaneous “action at a distance” is an example of quantum nonlocality.”
Photo Credit: Boscorelli; Shuttlestock
Source: The Atlantic

After reading another article, the latest by Philip Ball in The Atlantic, on the strange world of quantum physics, I come away with the idea that man’s knowledge of the universe is much less than his ability to make complete sense of it. We truly only get a glimpse. Perhaps, it will always be this way, that our reach will be greater than our grasp. It is not that man should forego the search—by all means, he should continue—and yet, there is the uncomfortable sense that what is required for humanity is less hubris and more humility.

In “How Quantum Mechanics Can Even Be Weirder (June 22, 2016),” Ball writes:
What’s more, over the past several decades we’ve come to understand that the classical and quantum worlds don’t exactly operate by “different” rules. Rather, the classical world emerges from the quantum in a comprehensible way: you might say that classical physics is simply what quantum physics looks like at the human scale.
All the same, we’re confronted with the question: why is the quantum world the way it is? Why do fundamental particles dictate this set of rules and not some other? Normally that question carries an implication that quantum particles are being a bit perverse by not behaving like billiard balls, reassuringly solid and definite and thing-like. But that might be the wrong way to think about it. Last December, I spoke with Romanian-British physicist Sandu Popescu of Bristol University in England, who told me that things could have been even stranger than quantum.
In fact, Sandu said, we’re not even completely sure that things aren’t even stranger. Maybe we just haven’t detected this extra strangeness yet.
For most people, this strangeness matters not, never giving it a thought. You don’t have the know the fundamental laws of the universe in order to go to school, go to work, raise children, play sports, have fun, etc. Yet, the idea that we have only seen the tip of the iceberg as regards the quantum world, does say a lot about what we do know. It also tells us about what we don’t know. Nature does not easily give up its secrets, even though such are often found when the right conditions are present; love of truth and expressions of gratitude of finding it always help the search.

For more, go to [TheAtlantic]

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

The First Day Of Summer (2016)

The Seasons

Summer Days: This photo of the park was taken from my sixth-floor balcony. (Temperature 32°C (89°F) with partly cloudy skies) yesterday at 6:54 p.m, 18 minutes after summer officially began in the northern hemisphere at 22:34 UTC, or 6:34 p.m. EDT here in Toronto. This year’s June solstice also coincided with a rare event—a full moon. The last time this occurred was in 1967, the “Summer of Love.” Does history repeat itself?
Photo Credit & Source: ©Perry J. Greenbaum, 2016

Monday, June 20, 2016

Father’s Day At Edwards Gardens (2016)

Seasonal Beauty

Yesterday, we spent a lovely day at Edwards Gardens, part of Toronto Botanical Garden, one of my favorite spots in Toronto. The weather was picture perfect, hot with clear skies, the way I like it. And, yes, that’s me in my new summer hat. Many of the flowers were in full bloom, coaxed out by the hot weather (above 30°C) we have been experiencing the last few days. Many people were out and about. Absent, at least this time, were the ducks and the geese we usually encounter by the water; but we did meet a couple of groundhogs (Marmota monax)which are not only called woodchucks, but also bear a strong resemblance to squirrels.

All Photos: Credit & Source: ©Perry J. Greenbaum, 2016

Sunday, June 19, 2016

The Eagles: One Of These Nights (1977)

The Eagles perform “One Of These Nights,” the title track of the band’s fourth studio album, which has long been my favorite song from this band, or at least the one I played the most on my turntable after it came out in June 1975. I clearly remember the moment that I first heard it; it was the summer of 1975 and I had just graduated from high school. My parents took us on a vacation to upstate New York, where we were staying at a budget motel in Plattsburgh. While driving in the car to the beach, this song came on the radio. I loved it immediately and begged my father to take us to the mall, where I bought the album. The artwork for the album cover has become as iconic and memorable as the guitar intro.

Happy Father’s Day to all the Dads out there, especially those rockin’ on so many decades later.

One of These Nights
By Glenn Frey & Don Henley

One of these nights, one of these crazy old nights
We’re gonna find out, pretty mama, what turns on your lights
The full moon is calling, the fever is high
And the wicked wind whispers and moans
You got your demons, you got your desires
Well, I got a few of my own

Oh, someone to be kind to in between the dark and the light
Oh, coming right behind you, swear I’m gonna find you, one of these nights

One of these dreams, one of these lost and lonely dreams, now
We're gonna find one, mm, one that really screams
I’ve been searching for the daughter of the devil himself
I’ve been searching for an angel in white
I’ve been waiting for a woman who’s a little of both
And I can feel her but she’s nowhere in sight

Oh, loneliness will blind you in between the wrong and the right
Oh, coming right behind you, swear I'm gonna find you, one of these nights

Saturday, June 18, 2016

The Eagles: Take It Easy (1977)

The Eagles perform “Take it Easy” in this 1977 performance, when they were one of the top-performing bands in the world. I saw them perform that same year (at the Montreal Forum) during their Hotel California Tour (1976–78). The song, written by Jackson Browne and Glenn Frey, was the band’s first single, in 1972, and is the title track on the album, Eagles (1972). This soon became their signature song.

For all the fathers out there, tomorrow being Father’s Day, take it easy. 

Take it Easy
by Jackson Browne and Glenn Frey

Well I'm a-runnin' down the road try'n to loosen my load
I've got seven women on my mind
Four that want to own me, two that want to stone me
One says she's a friend of mine
Take it easy, take it easy
Don't let the sound of your own wheels drive you crazy
Lighten up while you still can
Don't even try to understand
Just find a place to make your stand, and take it easy

Well, I'm a standin' on a corner in Winslow, Arizona
Such a fine sight to see
It's a girl, my Lord, in a flat-bed Ford
Slowin' down to take a look at me
Come on, baby, don't say maybe
I gotta know if your sweet love is gonna save me
We may lose and we may win, though we will never be here again
So open up I'm climbin' in, so take it easy

Well, I'm a runnin' down the road tryin' to loosen my load
Got a world of trouble on my mind
Lookin' for a lover who won't blow my cover, she's so hard to find
Take it easy, take it easy
Don't let the sound of your own wheels make you crazy
Come on baby, don't say maybe
I gotta know if your sweet love is gonna save me

Oh, we got it easy
We outghta take it easy

Friday, June 17, 2016

Stress Test

The Sporting Life

“Concentration is a fine antidote to anxiety.”
Jack Nicklaus, the Golden Bear (Golf Great)

My Racquet: I have had this Wilson tennis racquet for 20 years, and it still looks in good shape. I play with an L4 (4½) grip size.
Photo Credit & Source: ©Perry J. Greenbaum, 2016

I haven’t picked up my tennis racquet in five years, but I recently decided to play an old high school friend in a few weeks who has always been competitive, which is fine by me: the date of our match is July 4th, Independence Day. The significance of the date is not lost on me, since playing a game, or even hitting some balls, and running around the court for an hour, would be an accomplishment for me.

Post-cancer, I might still have much against me: neuropathy on my hands and feet, which limit my full function of these limbs; limited stamina and endurance; and a body and mind that has not played any sports for years. Yet, I am in fairly good shape, according to my family doctor and the blood tests. Also according to the numbers, for someone my age (58). My weight of 75 kg (165 lb) is within normal and healthy range for my height of 1.77 m (5 ft 10 in). My BMI is less than 25 (i.e., 23.7), but my waist in the last few years has ballooned to 38 inches, a result I think comes from a combination of surgery to remove a malignant tumor and steroids given during chemotherapy.

Before cancer and chemo, I used to have no mid-section bulge. None; in fact, I was on the lean side, with a 34 inch waist and a BMI closer to 20. I would like to get rid of this unshapely bulge. This is not me, and I don’t easily accept its presence in my life. I have been working out faithfully at the gym since December to deal with it. I have reduced my waistline by only an inch.

If I am making a big deal about  my health, about my body image and about getting on the court, it is because it is a big deal for me. I have become more self-conscious, when before I was oblivious to my body. It is not narcissism or excessive vanity that is driving me, but falls within the norms of conventional vanity: wanting to look good. Your. Best. Possible, Self.

More to the point, I have a sense that I need to do this in order to show/prove that I can, that my health challenges have not defeated me—at least not completely. On the sporting level, I don’t expect to hit the ball with the same velocity and depth I did when I was much younger, but it would be nice if I get in a few good well-placed shots inches from the baseline. More important, it would be good if I can last on the court for at least 45 minutes.

These small accomplishments are important for me well-being, not only physically, but mentally. Yes, I am stressed about this; and yes I am nervous about how well I can play on July 4th, whether my desires exceed my abilities. This is one of those cases where I won’t know till I try. I have to put myself out there. Talking about it is also important, if only to put it out there to get any good advice.

So, if anyone has any tips on how to reduce my waistline, or on good work-out regimes, and on how to get in proper shape for tennis (at my age), please let me know. I am open to suggestions and advice.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Throwing A Baseball

The Sporting Life

“Any baseball is beautiful. No other small package comes as close to the ideal in design and utility. It is a perfect object for a man’s hand. Pick it up and it instantly suggests its purpose: it is meant to be thrown a considerable distance—thrown hard and with precision.”
Roger Angell

Nothing in our daily life offers more of the comfort of continuity, the generational connection of belonging to a vast and complicated American family, the powerful sense of home, the freedom from time's constraints, and the great gift of accumulated memory than does our National Pastime.”
Ken Burns

“Whoever wants to know the heart and mind of America had better learn baseball.”
Jacques Barzun

Baseball Gloves & Ball: It does not take much to play pitch and catch; it requires the minimum of equipment—just a glove and a ball and a open field. If you add a bat, then you can hit some fly balls. 
Photo Credit & Source: ©Perry J. Greenbaum, 2016

If you have ever thrown a baseball, you will get why I find it enjoyable. Last week, my youngest son (age 8) and I went to the local park and we brought our baseball mitts (mine more worked in than his) and a baseball, both made by Rawlings Sporting Goods, a company whose association with baseball gloves dates to the 1920s. [I suggest that you read the linked article in Smithsonian.] That’s a long tradition, and speaking of which, I had since last year wanted to introduce my son to the enjoyments of toss and catch, the feeling of throwing a baseball and the feeling of accomplishment of catching it.

I came to playing sports relatively late, at around 12 or 13, but I do remember tossing a ball with my father when I was around my youngest son’s age; this is a good memory. When I did take up sports, including baseball, I did so with the same kind of enthusiasm and dedication to becoming better as I did with schooling and academics. There is much science to sports, including in baseball, where the physics or mechanics of spin play a large part in how the ball moves in space. You don’t have to know any physics to throw a baseball; it won’t help you if you do.

Great players throw naturally without thought of the physics or biomechanics behind their pitches, which does not take away the science (and art) of pitching. But it does tell you what is at the heart of all sports, including baseball. Practice. Practice. Practice. Tens of thousands of pitches can make you better. This is the case with all sports. It takes serious dedication to become better; it takes so much more to become a pro who can regularly throw pitches at more than 90 mph. Although the human limit seems to be 105 mph, which gives a batter less than 0.5 seconds to respond or react. And the best of them can and do.

As is the case with many sports, beginnings are hard, since skills do not yet exist that comes with repetition. Much repetition. True, my youngest son did not catch many balls, but he caught a few, and was enthusiastic and persevered. His throwing is better, but it will take thousands of more thrown balls to increase his accuracy, if not the velocity of his pitches. He will improve in this area, because he has said he wants to. This counts, too.

I can also see that he will catch more balls, that he will get the feel of it. It will take practice, and with practice will come the skill and then the confidence. And Agnell says what is true for many. When you pick up a baseball, which fits neatly in your hand, you have an object that is designed to throw both far and fast. If you know what you are doing, you can throw it ever so many ways, including a fastball, a slider, a curve and a change-up.

No doubt, there is pleasure and satisfaction in learning to do something well. In this way, sports has much to teach my son, even at this young age, including the value of discipline and perseverance. No one here is suggesting that sports is everything, but sports can add value to a person’s life and provide much enjoyment; this includes the simple game of pitch and catch. Baseball is not going to change the world, but it will certainly not make it any worse than it already is. No, quite the contrary.

Now, if someone can tell me why is it that a hot dog tastes better at the ballpark?

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Thoughts On Tennis

The Sporting Life

Some of you might have noticed my absence; after more than five years of unpaid dedication, I was contemplating closing this blog. I have changed my mind. I have decided to continue it, but to no longer write or post anything about politics or social issues, at least not directly, but change direction and write more about other things, including sports, which played a large part in my life, especially during my formative years as an adolescent and young adult. It is in sports that one can easily see the kind of particular and single-minded dedication that one requires to achieve greatness and recognition as a superb athlete. Sports uses a lot of superlatives, it is true, but if it does so, it is within the realm of reason and understanding. The athletes who perform at such a high level seem to be suprahuman. the best of them are “poetry in motion.”


If you enjoy playing tennis at some level—as I do and have been since I was a teenager (much too late for a serious player)—and great writing on sport, you will enjoy David Foster Wallace’s thoughtful understanding of the game, as is found in String Theory: David Foster Wallace on Tennis (May 10, 2016), a Library of America (LOA) imprint.

In it, Wallace [1962–2008] explains what it takes to become a high-ranked player, and why aspiration and hard work is not enough. It takes a combination of dedication and athletic and mental ability and toughness—something so rare that few humans possess these traits. Such explains much about what it takes to be ranked the best in the game.

The Library of America (LOA) writes:
Out today from Library of America, String Theory: David Foster Wallace on Tennis collects all five of the writer’s celebrated tennis essays in one hardcover volume for the first time, along with a new introduction by John Jeremiah Sullivan.
Several of Wallace’s tennis pieces have attained classic status in the years since they originally appeared, as Esquire Classic acknowledged when it recently devoted an entire podcast to the essay “Tennis Player Michael Joyce’s Professional Artistry as a Paradigm of Certain Stuff about Choice, Freedom, Limitation, Joy, Grotesquerie, and Human Completeness,” which originally ran in the July 1996 issue of Esquire magazine under the title “The String Theory.” Podcast host David Brancaccio calls it “one of the strangest and most exhilarating pieces of sports journalism I’ve ever seen.” Wallace fans may particularly enjoy Brancaccio’s analysis, with current Esquire editor in chief David Granger, of how many sportswriting conventions Wallace successfully flouts in the work.
The essay in Esquire (”The String Theory;” September 7, 2008) is especially wonderful for what it is not; in it, he gives you a personal perspective, with no pretense of objectivity or distance, which is what people who play sports tend to do when chatting with friends. There is immense pleasure in serving an ace, hitting a winning ground stroke down the line inches from the baseline, or making a well placed top-spin lob over your opponent’s head, or volleying a shot cross-court while your opponent is running in the opposite direction.

Wallace understands all this, not only as an individual who has played the game seriously, but also one who understands its limitations and boundaries, its mathematical precision and its many sacrifices, and its beauty and its grotesqueness. How many amateurs and club players once held unrealistic and unrealized aspirations of tennis greatness (“playing center court at Wimbledon or the U.S. Open”), but quickly realized that they better find another day job? Many I would guess.

Wallace writes not as an individual far-removed from the game’s realities, but as someone who places you inside the mind of a competitive tennis player.  It is you against your opponent, and no team-mates to back you up. No excuses. Tennis is not a game of equality, but of meritocracy. The best man wins, at least in that match; and the top players win often, many times with ease. It is as much a game of the mind as of the heart.

You can listen to the Esquire Classic podcast here.

For more, go to [LOA]