Friday, March 27, 2009

yo-yo #36: peak #16


fanboys...

they're everywhere. i guess they always have been, but lately, the yo-yoing community has taken a turn for the more factious, and the negative aspects of this species have become more apparent.

i received this particular yo-yo for xmas in 2006. from my MOM.

my mom [who has never in her life visited the yyn forum (to her great personal advantage, probably)] logged on to the store site in effort to buy me a yo-yo for xmas. she knew i liked yo-yo's and that i had some metal ones, so she didn't mind shelling out. she said she chose "the peak" because she thought it was the prettiest, and the mountain graphic reminded her of the tetons, which we visited often throughout my youth.

the peak's release was noteworthy, in part because, after months of online thread-hype, it sold out in a matter of minutes, and became the first in a series of cathartic server-crashes that have riled yoyonation f5-mashers for the past few years. how hilarious is it that my mom just happened to waltz in during the frenzy and snag a peak without actually "caring" about what she got me? i think she must be the only person to have bought a peak (or any caribou yo-yo) without actually premeditating her purchase or giving a shit about it. cool!

when i opened the peak, i was stunned. both by my mom's inadvertant achievement (of which she was, of course, blissfully and endearingly ignorant), but also by the yo-yo. the peak was a small-release project by the hitherto-unknown chris mikulin (c-foam on yyn). at the time, he was affiliated with g-string's paul wallace, but said partnership has since disintegrated, as so many do. the peak was unique among yo-yo's due to its painted, airbrushed finish. chris had employed an immensely talented local artist named levi mccarroll to emblazon a bright blue mountain icon over an austere white background. rather than go for the ever-popular laser-engraved art, chris opted to hand-write the logos and serial numbers in fat silver sharpie on one side. mine sported "clyw peak #16". although at first, i found this to be a little "bootleg", steve brown actually helped me realize that, in a world of "over-produced" yo-yo's and art, this actually had an organic appeal that worked. in any case, the overall effect was so visually striking that this first run of painted peaks became insanely sought-after, immediately following their release. as a well-machined yo-yo with a firm bearing seat and deep silicone grooves, it also played incredibly well. (though honestly, i believe it could have played at a much lower standard and still have been wildly popular on looks alone.) mine remains pretty pristine, but for a few chips alex berenguel gave it at worlds one year, when he used it as his freestyle alternate. i subseuently covered them with white out (really) and teflon nail polish. another time, it fell from my pocket as i was getting out of the car. the dirt and schmutz that were pushed into the tiny dings have been impossible to fully remove, but i'm ok with that. if i were a yo-yo, i wouldn't want to be "mint".

bidding wars on the b/s/t forums pushed the peak's after-market value into the $400+ realm in the ensuing months, and since any $400 yo-yo MUST be incredible, a proper army of clyw fanboys emerged, augmented exponentially by the release of the bear vs. man the following year. these guys seemed to convert to the "church of clyw" overnight, and it's no coincidence that yyn's server issues were exacerbated by the company's subsequent releases. bear in mind, chris is a good friend, and i LOVE that his company is popular. it's a well-branded company that puts out well-made yo-yo's, and it deserves to be popular, but from my perspective, this fanboyism hasn't so much to do with clyw's (or any company's) positive attributes as it does with peoples' negative ones.

as i see it there are two types of fanboys. one sort, consisting mainly of children (and i do not actually mean that as a derrogation), seems to gravitate toward a yo-yo brand in the desperate attempt to hang on to something. they enter into this maelstrom of opinion and product and aesthetic that is the yo-yo community, and it's more than a little terrifying. they feel that they must find something greater than themselves to identify with, or else be utterly lost in the dissonant cacaphony. i feel for these kids, because for the most part, the're just seeking an in; just seeking inclusion, and their empty attempts to cling to one or another company as the be-all and end-all must be forgiven. they put the "boy" in fanboy, and mostly all of us have been there in some capacity, and at some point.

the second style of fanboy i find more dangerous, and infinitely more repugnant. unlike their youthful and innocent counterparts, these guys are often older and cleverer. they latch on to a product or company NOT just to belong, but to acquire. by association, they seek to become "that clyw guy" or "that 888 guy" or what-have-you. they allign themselves with this or that brand (and just as often AGAINST one or more others) and they sit back and imagine that they're doing something positive for the community by having 12 of a given metal. the unfortunate side-effect is that in alligning themselves with the one, they effectively cut ties with most, if not all others.

the result is that the "community" is divided. it undergoes a kind of mitosis and splinters into several different competing niches, which leaves everyone arguing. in addition to a "clyw fanboy", you can also be a "yyf fanboy", a "one drop fanboy" (which has, itself given rise to a backlash of "yyn fanboys") or a "duncan fanboy". there are even "yomega fanboys" out there who seem like all they want in the world is to be the last surviving die-hard yomega fan so that, dear lord SOMEONE will associate them with SOMETHING, ANYTHING! in a sense, it doesn't matter WHAT they like, so much as THAT they like. the object of their affection is, in fact, an OBJECT, being manipulated not so much out of joy, but from a desire to have their online identity amplified, as if from a bullhorn. *shudder*

so you get angry threads about scalpers who sell peaks for $250 (which people snap up in a trice). you get jerks who obsess over whether this or that design is uniquely original. you get jabs over every variable of play and aesthetic. everyone's rallying around their chosen standard, but it's all war-cries and no battles.

i'm particularly confused by the current "one drop fanboy-vs.-the-world" firework-display that seems to light up the boards every week or two. if you read my 'project' blog, you know that i was kinda rankled by the way the one drop/yyn drama went down (and which, according to the "observer effect" i guess i also had a hand in). i can't deny my bias, and i'm not trying to. i still think the project is a great yo-yo, but man... the "one drop fanboys" just slay me. i've been linked to their forums by several friends on several occasions and 90% of it just seems like this incestuous little party wherein the members (more than the company itself, mind you) glorify the mighty one drop totem and bemoan all the "bad guy" companies. for the record, i think david, with whom i've dialogued just a bit, generally does a pretty fair job of trying to walk the line on his forums. he tries to rep his company positively, but the masses that clamor over the "evil empires" of yoyofactory and yoyonation just don't do him many favors. they're not alone; one drop fanboyism is just easy to single out, because they sort of "went off on their own", at least in so far as the community perceives it. so their forum is obviously populated with zealous one drop lovers. no problem there whatsoever, except what are they going to talk about after awhile? there's only so much you can praise two yo-yo's and hype an imminent third before the conversation will shift inexorably toward other companies, and often in a divisive context. (every time i write about one drop, i'm aware that i comes off as all embittered, but in this case, it's not the company that bothers me at all. they're doing their thing. anyway, i know they won't be too miffed because, "i'm talking about them, right?")

oh, btw... did i mention that i have 25 no jives? i guess i'm a fanboy (we can smell our own). i like to think that since tom kuhn custom yo-yo's is, effectively, a relic of the past (they're certainly not making any new no jives), my fanboyism is reasonably innocuous. but it's still there. i find it's really liberating for my favorite yo-yo to be pretty much defunct. i don't worry over new releases. there's no "team" to get on. since tk isn't competing with modern yo-yo's, it's not like i'm compelled to trash on other companies (all evidence to the contrary). and bear in mind, i didn't select no jives arbitrarily. i had to yo-yo for a decade before i realized what i actually like to play, and didn't gravitate to it sans a lot of experimentation, which does not seem to be true for many of the more adamant fanboys i encounter. i am acutely conscious of the fact that i'm always talking about that particular yo-yo, and i'm sure there's any number of people that wish i would just shut up about it (i'm ok with that - i wish i would too, sometimes). apologies for that, and for digressing.

this blog is about questioning and self-exploration, and maybe my obsession with throwing wood is just as detrimental as what i'm trying to bring up here. i don't believe that any of the aforementioned fanboys are sitting in a dark room, twisting their fingers around like montgomery burns, scheming about how they can further divide the community. (to quote the film "zero effect", 'there aren't "good guys" and "evil guys"! it's just a bunch of GUYS!') we're all expert at justifying ourselves TO ourselves, and how does it hurt anyone to "like a yo-yo company a lot"? it doesn't, at least until it inwardly justifies your "disliking another a lot". and it doesn't actually appear to help anyone either.

this blog is kind of a soapbox, but, contrary to what i may have inadvertently puked out, i'm not trying to use it to deride any yo-yo companies. it's the people; people that seem to tote their brand loyalty around like its this massive dead weight. they're burdened and exhausted by the need to constantly rep, because in repping the company, they rep themselves. none of it has any meaning; not to them or to the whole. how do you enjoy yo-yoing like that, i wonder? how is yo-yoing "freeing" when you're perpetually mindful of the alliances and discords that are constantly fizzing on the boards like so much toxic soda? every other week there's a thread about "what's wrong with the yo-yo community"... and then immediately thereafter, there are threads composed of the most blatant self-importance, blasting this or that company for being shady or incompetent. really, what negativity in yo-yoing exists APART from the rampant poison that fuels these daily fires?

this was a tough blog to write (particularly without referencing specific people, conversations, or comments, which i'd expect anyone reading to find for themselves). obviously, the peak was just the springboard for a much greater (or lesser) idea, and i kind of wish i had used it to bounce into more positive territory (apologies, chris). it's hard to remember that all of this shit only really exists in the anonymous online vaccuum. you get to a contest and no one gives a crap what you throw, mostly. people just seem too stunned by the revelation that "damn! that guy's a human being?" to bother hating each other. we inject ourselves daily with this noxious drama, but in the end, we're still just all yo-yo nerds. (mm-hmm, you too.)

notice that i didn't talk about any crappy yo-yo's at all here (well... i don't like a lot of yomegas, but whatever). i'd gladly throw any of the brands i've brought up (and have, regularly). this particular peak is incredible, and as i said, it SHOULD be adored. clyw, yyf, duncan, one drop, whatever. it's all good stuff; all gets you there. your allegiance to this or that brand pales in comparison to your duty to the collective. would that we could realize that shit every day.

all companies "deserve" fanboys. but the community deserves more.

3 comments:

Chris "Dr.YoYo" Allen said...

I agree with the heart of your write up Ed. I think we should be YoYoFans and find the common ground based on that.
Nicely put.

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