TikTok & Ping Pong

Well the kids are back at school and there is a hint that normality might be around the corner but I’ve decided to steer clear of all that boring stuff about routines and sleep patterns (way too useful) and talk about something completely different, TikTok. Now I first became aware of TikTok when all those dance crazes flooded social media at the start of lockdown and of course Donald Trump (remember him) brought it to our attention that he wasn’t a fan (probably couldn’t do the Blinding Lights choreography). I even got the boys to give one or two of the dance routines a try, thus helping to while away some otherwise uneventful hours before cabin fever set in. I was intrigued but put it in a box marked “to be revisited”.

Fast forward to last week and every second video I liked on twitter seemed to be TikTok generated content so to prove (to myself if nobody else) that I am still down with the youth I signed myself up and decided to have a look around. After answering a few generic questions about my interests, TikTok then proceeded to point me in the direction of a few accounts that it thought I might like. Straight away my senses were assaulted by some very loud videos of boy-racers going through Donegal (Letterkenny being a particular hotbed), Russians (good looking ones at that) pretending to be Avengers and very large boats crashing through some even larger storm waves like a Perfect Storm but (spoiler alert) without the unhappy ending. I’m not sure what algorithm they’ve got working in the background but I quickly searched for some TikTok dancers and that got me back on the straight and narrow.

A couple of searches later I discovered something that would change my life forever (or at least a weekend until I got bored), a man named trick shot dav or at least that is what his TikTok handle indicates, who specialises in elaborate trick shots involving ping pong balls and a lot of saucepans. The man’s slogan is “Impossible. Is. In. Our. Minds. muscle emoji” which indicates a strong sense of determination, if not a strong grasp of how punctuation works. But he definitely had something going with this ping pong malarkey, now this was something I could get my head around and also use to impress my increasingly apathetic boys. I quickly learned that there are three essential parts to setting up a trick shot (i) getting a consistent bounce, (ii) repetition and (iii) patience (the last two being intrinsically linked). We definitely had enough saucepans but we were way short on ping pong balls. An order was quickly placed for more balls and to be honest I feel that we could still be a bit light in this area but I couldn’t bring myself to purchase more than 6 at a time, it’s terrible to feel that the world is judging you for your table tennis addiction!

I tinkered with various different formats for my trick shot, the depth and diameter of pans each having an affect on the velocity and flight path of the ping pong balls. Initially I was tempted to go with a criss-cross scenario before settling on a slightly less challenging step-by-step (still causes me to go into New Kids on the Block falsetto) type formation. Once the pots were in place it was then a matter of dropping the ping pong ball at the correct height and then capturing the magical process on video, easy peasy you might think. However a slight variation in spin or drop height would set ping pong balls careering off around the hard floor of our kitchen jeering me with their machine gun laughter. It was then that I utilised my secret weapon, for trick shot dav on TikTok only seemed to operate by himself whereas I had a crack team of minions, I mean children, to ensure a constant supply of attempts. Even better was that each one wanted to be the one to successfully complete the task, generating a constant desire for self-improvement that most successful corporations spend millions striving for.

On this occasion Lochlan was the one to rise to the challenge and his moment of triumph is now captured forever as my first TikTok. Hey my 6 followers must be absolutely thrilled!

The End Result

Tales from Lockdown Part 3


In previous weeks I have discussed how online quizzes and jigsaws have helped me and my family (Aaron 10, Lochlan 8, Oscar 7 and Ella 3, not forgetting my ageless wife Niki) get through this incredibly strange period of our lifetime. This week I want to explore an area of modern culture which had completely escaped me before March 13th, that is tik tok dance routines. As bit of background for the uninitiated, tik tok is a social media app which originated in China and is ideal for short-form mobile videos. It seems to have filled the void that was created by the fall of Vine (I miss those 6 second tidbits of fun) and run with it in a big way! Of course the fact that it comes from China has led to some concerns about data privacy but hey, ain’t that just a fact of life these days! I first came across tik tok when people started to post various tik tok challenges on twitter, which is where I pick up most of my pop culture these days. These challenges were typically short choreographed dance routines to a popular piece of music (although quite often the piece of music would become popular because of the tik tok routine), and so began my brief obsession with young folk dancing to “My hips don’t lie” while going down escalators in shopping malls (check it out). All too quickly, I found myself down the rabbit-hole of YouTube compilations of the best tik tok dance routines of 2020 parts 1 through 10. Then I began to wonder how to turn this craze that appeared to be sweeping the youngsters of the planet to my own benefit?

I have always loved to dance, I remember fondly my days on the dance-floors of my youth, Peg Woffingtons, Hollywood Nights and Club USI seems to stand out, but there were so many other places where I would get caught up by the late night flow of a thumping base-beat. Happy as Larry, I’d flail my arms around, bite my lower lip and try to keep my legs going in time to the rhythm of Children by Robert Miles or some other Euro-dance classic. Happily I seem to have passed this affinity for dance to my kids because when I floated the idea of synchronised tik tok dancing, they didn’t give me their usual response to my suggestions i.e. a gasp of exasperation, eyes to heaven and bodies thrown to the floor as if they have been shot (can be used on their own or more commonly, as combinations of two or all three elements). Choosing a tik tok routine is fraught with danger, they come in all shapes and sizes and can vary from the very basic to the extremely complicated (not quite sure if the boys can handle a back flip to splits just yet). There is also the added danger that a number of them have content which could not be considered “child appropriate”. Bearing this in mind I put together a medley of “Blinding Lights”, “Say So (clean version)” and “Toosie Slide (also clean version)”. To be honest, it was Say So that got the kids hooked on it, in particular the line which allowed them to throw fake punches at or near their brothers!

The training was a slow process, I began to see myself as that dance teacher from “Fame”, the one who says that you have to pay for fame with sweat! The boys quickly told me to put my dance stick away! After repeated viewings of the routines and the multiple variants on YouTube, we learned that perfection was never going to be achievable and that putting an individual spin on things was vital. Importantly for yours truly the constant working and re-working of the routines kept the boys busy yet physically active at the same time! I hope you enjoy the fruits of our labours and hopefully it will display correctly!

So apart from endlessly practicing dance routines we have also had some other significant changes to our daily routine. Gone from our lives are the usual maddening rush of the school run and the multiple drops to after-school activities. Instead our days are measured by Joe Wicks’ PE routines and the arrival of the post man usually around 11am and the DHL guy usually around noon. Every day we hope that there is something new and exciting for us but we are nearly always disappointed when it is another package for mommy! More recently our exasperation has grown as we are awaiting series 5 of Survivor in dvd format. These dvds are only available for shipment from the US and seem to have fallen foul of restrictions around Covid-19 so can take months to reach our shores. We started to watch Survivor pre-lockdown as I bought myself season 1 as a Christmas present for myself. I had never seen the original “you’ve been voted off the island” series and given that it was something involving a screen, my boys were drawn to it. They quickly became engrossed, they were impressed by the regular back-stabbing and in particular the highly competitive elimination challenges. This definitely appeals to their sense of sibling rivalry and I think that each one secretly hopes that one day they will have the opportunity to vote one of their brothers out of the family! The only problem with watching dvds of Survivor is that the ultimate winner is always placed front and centre on the dvd box cover, based on the assumption that everybody had watched it already back in 2005! This does tend to take away some of the suspense as good old Jeff reads out the results of the elimination votes, particularly from the later episodes. This time round I’ve promised to intercept the box and hide it away before the boys can see it so they can have a genuine first-time watcher experience!