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This is a short and admittedly slightly random post based on a collection of observations about table tennis/ ping pong: I saw an exhibition in IMMA yesterday by Mark Clare and it seems that table tennis is the mode du jour to address geopolitical issues. Very zeitgesity.

There is a pleasing symnetry to it when you start to see it in an epic,East versus West, Communism versus Capitalism kind of way. After the jump, a short anthology of culturally important moments in table tennis. Contributions welcome…


1. An impoverished ping pong table collapses in the midst of a game among youngsters at Santa Anita assembly center for evacuees of Japanese ancestry, California, 1942. Image held here

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My earliest connection with Berlin are two souvenir shot glasses that were a gift from my cousin Sean.  Sean was my eldest cousin who lived in America, who decided to go travelling in Europe one summer, Europe, then as now, having a different meaning and weight to someone brought up in the States than to me. Especially me as someone who probably was barely ten at the time. 

I remember him as charming and full of plamás, and a bit of chancer, so it was little surprise in retrospect that he brought back a piece of the Berlin wall. I’m not sure if it had even been taken down at the time, and I remember having difficulty understanding the significance of this smallish, innocuous looking piece of grey concrete. I don’t remember that much about it except that it was smallish (maybe the size of a ten year old palm) and was lighter than I expected something so important to be. 

I was born in 1981 and for me the falling of the Berlin Wall is a memory but it feels like fiction. It belongs to a time of the Live Aid concert, mullet haircuts, a certain cut of leather jacket, and not being allowed to watch Home and Away (‘too much sex in it’). I can feel all these memories even though I was not even four when the Live Aid concert happened. They are impossible memories, recorded on the grainy analogue of VHS, and played on a video player our household did not possess until the mid nineties. 

Sean died in the Twin Towers on September 11th 2001. I felt his loss and remembered him in Berlin.  

July 2020