Obama plays ping-pong … and he dares to look happy

Obama and Cameron managed tonight to find their way to a London school and engage in a table-tennis match with two 16-year-old kids. All a complete surprise, all brilliantly choreographed by their entourages. My daughter reminds me that we had a game on one of those public tables outside the Tate Britain last summer. Was it our example?

Table tennis has been under-appreciated. There’s no physical  sport which reduces down to such a small  space. I appreciate that arm-wrestling has its fans, and that fingers get well-exercised by tiddly-winks, but table tennis is the real thing. We had I remember an old dining table at home with bevelled edges and lots of polish, of which there  was little in our play…

The logic is that Obama should now take on the Chinese president at ping-pong, their hitherto national sport, as Mao decreed. But what happens were he to win? They couldn’t surely be on the same side of the table as Cameron and Obama were tonight.

But it seems even if he wins Obama can’t win. I took in the bloggers commenting on the ABC coverage of Obama’s  ping-pong game. Several were going on about Joplin, where over hundred have been killed in a tornado.  ‘What a guy Rome Burns he plays, people die in storms here he and his wife dine in Europe.’ US population 310,000,000.

OK he’s enjoying himself, but he’s allowed that, surely, and that’s the way you build friendships. Friendships don’t happen because you’re miserable. I guess the problem is that every event has equal status on 24 hour news, and everything can be directly compared, as it never could be before. Every time a politician shows the semblance of smile there will someone berating him.

Once upon a time, with distance we could see a way through the trees. These days, much closer to, it’s nigh on impossible. He who shouts loudest leads the way, and we know who they are. And he who grumbles loudest, well, he  always gets heard. He who smiles – don’t, bad idea.

The naming of names

Everything has to have a name. Or does it? My favourite no-name is Innominate Tarn in the Lake District. There’s also its close relation, Innominate Crag, and I gather even an Innominate Crack up on Simonside in the Cheviots.

Roger Deakin in Wildwood mentions two moths which also have had partial success in resisting our urge to name everything, the uncertain and the anomalous, yes, both names, and both members of the Noctuidae.

Moving from moths to movies, there is of course not the moth but the man with no name…

What is it, not to have a name? Tarn, moths, cowboy, they all have identities. But no past, and no future. That’s the idea anyway. And then there’s Juliet:

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose / By any other name would smell as sweet.”

She loves the person, not the name. Not Montague.

Well, don’t we have to name everything? Any experience, whether a person, an object, a thought or emotion, even a state of mind, has to have an identity if we’re to recall it. But that way we bring all sorts of other associations into play.

That’s why I like Innominate Tarn: no associations. Uncertain and anomalous moths: they come from nowhere and fly back into the night. And Juliet: she willed that there might be no name, no past, and sadly for her, there was no future either.

I will, if I may, coin a name: innomination, the act of not naming. (Maybe it does exist, maybe someone has beaten me to it.) Something we can only do by not doing. Something to engage in when the hurly-burly gets too much for us.