Monday, March 26, 2012

The Scale of the Universe

A terrific website that allows you to move up and down the scale of the Universe.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Vote for His Nibs blog

Although you'll have to sign up for a free account, if you've enjoyed this blog over the years, I'd appreciate your vote. Thanks! It's under 'Business & Technology'.


Saturday, March 10, 2012

The Visconti Titanic LE Fountain Pen

I wrote about an earlier version of this pen about 7 years ago, at the beginning of a blog entry here.

Friday, March 09, 2012

A Throwback Player, With a Wardrobe to Match

Published: March 8, 2012
With his vintage clothes and classic paddle, Marty Reisman is a relic from a bolder era of New York table tennis.
Marty Reisman wears vintage Borsalino fedoras because no one makes a good hat anymore.

Richard Perry/The New York Times
Marty Reisman studies a portrait of himself at SPiN on East 23rd Street.

Carl T. Gossett/The New York Times
Marty Reisman at the Riverside Table Tennis Courts, at 96th Street and Broadway, in 1960.
He is known to measure the height of table tennis nets with $100 bills because, sure, a $1 bill is just as long, but why be “chintzy” about it? 

He likes the city’s trendy new Ping-Pong parlors just fine, particularly if some hot rapscallion has the gall to challenge him. 

But Mr. Reisman misses his friends, those relics from the underbelly of a postwar New York that loved a good showman, winked at a friendly — or not so friendly — wager and supported these habits with a series of underground money matches among the game’s best. 

“I took on people in the gladiatorial spirit,” Mr. Reisman, 82, said. “Never backed down from a bet.”
But with the death last month of Mr. Reisman’s friend and rival, 94-year-old Sol Schiff, the man known as “Mr. Table Tennis,” the game’s departure from a bygone city era has perhaps never been starker. Mr. Schiff’s tutelage came at the 92nd Street Y, which no longer has a working table tennis court on site. In a sport that once counted Americans among the world’s best, the United States has not earned a medal since the game was certified for the 1988 Olympics. (China has won 20 of 24 golds.) 

While Mr. Schiff did not seek out money games as Mr. Reisman did, they and other table tennis luminaries were once treated as kings at their haunts, like Lawrence’s in Midtown Manhattan, where the walls were dotted with bullet holes and other badges of its speakeasy past, or Mr. Reisman’s eponymous parlor on 96th Street near Broadway. 

Today, New York’s best-known table tennis personality may be the actress Susan Sarandon, who, as co-owner of the “Ping-Pong social club” SPiN on East 23rd Street, helped guide the game’s unlikely recasting as a chic staple of urban night life. 

Mr. Reisman, if photo archives are any indication, may have been the first player to reach the intersection of champion table tennis and immutable style. This week, during a trip to the site of his old parlor on the occasion of Mr. Schiff’s recent death, he wore a dark brown Borsalino, tinted glasses and a red turtleneck.
Before owning the shop, Mr. Reisman starred as the halftime act for the Harlem Globetrotters in Europe and competed for prizes as lofty as world championships and as lowly as a $50 war bond in Columbus, Ohio. After owning the shop, he invested in a chain of Chinese restaurants. The former national and international champion is a three-time millionaire, he said, and a three-time former millionaire.

Mr. Reisman said he operated the parlor, in what is now the back of a cellphone store, from 1958 until the late 1970s. He installed a closed-circuit television on the sidewalk, so pedestrians and passing drivers could watch the matches. 

“It looked like a hustler’s paradise,” said Tim Boggan, the historian for USA Table Tennis, the game’s national association. 

Mr. Reisman reached a new audience in 2008 when, during a surprise cameo on the “Late Show,” he tried his signature parlor trick: breaking a cigarette in half from across the table. 

“Look, the shoes match the shirt,” the host, David Letterman, noted, pointing to his bright red sneakers.
It is in this capacity — as the throwback magician, with outfits to match — that the city’s young talents know Mr. Reisman. 

On Tuesday, Mr. Reisman hoped to find some of them, traveling to SPiN with two paddles in his bag. Each was covered in sandpaper. He prefers that he and any opponents use these classic paddles, not the spongy material that has come to dominate the game. 

“The modern game is played with fraud, deceit and deception,” he said. “This racket is the purest reflection of a player’s ability.” 

The below-ground club, at least, seems to know its history. Mr. Reisman’s likeness appears in no fewer than three places, including one portrait in which he wears leopard-print pants. In the painting beside it, a female player in a black bikini top holds her racket in a belt loop of her cutoff jeans, her hands raised behind her head. 

“You look fantastic up there!” a young blond employee said after Mr. Reisman entered, referring to a photograph in the upstairs lobby. 

“You look fantastic down here,” he said, shuffling toward the courts. 

Once he got there, he trained his eyes on a player, Mark Croitoroo, 20, practicing a serve that concealed the ball with his body until the moment of contact. Mr. Reisman does not care for such ploys. 

He asked if Mr. Croitoroo would mind hitting a few with the sandpaper racket. Mr. Croitoroo obliged. And so they began exchanging strokes, the older man pursing his lips with each forehand, the younger appearing to grow restless with the rally. 

Suddenly, Mr. Reisman began to turn his shoulders, tucking his right arm against his body. He flicked a backhand with a quick jolt of the wrist, dooming Mr. Croitoroo to a wayward return on his own backhand side. 

Mr. Reisman smiled. Mr. Croitoroo smirked, complimenting the shot. He said he should probably return to his practice. Mr. Reisman thanked him. 

“He’s a hustler,” Mr. Croitoroo said later, as he watched the legend try another trick. 

Mr. Reisman looked across a table at a man with a camera. 

Did anyone, the old paddler asked, doubt that he could hit the lens with his serve? 

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:
Correction: March 9, 2012

An earlier version of a headline on a video accompanying this article had an incorrect age for Marty Reisman. He is 82.

Follow the link below to see some video of Marty in action:

Thursday, March 08, 2012