Monday, April 6, 2009

yo-yo #'s 38 and 39: doc pop bolt and element x

TGL-004 was the beginning of the end for me.

it's amusing to think of how many people will probably read that and know exactly what i'm talking about.

brian cabildo (glasseye) runs the glass lab. during its heyday, it featured the newest, most innovative, and most strikingly-cut yo-yo videos. they felt epic; like GOOD skate videos. if you haven't been to the glass lab and watched essentially EVERY "experiment", then you're missing a huge chunk of the yo-yo past, which has cotinued to inform a huger chunk of the yo-yo present. (you know what? stop reading this blog and just go here immediately.) collectively, the page represents an important document (much like sector_y), and was a colossal source of inspiration to a lot of today's most inspiring players.

i think experiment #4 was the first one i saw. by the end of it i was a yo-yoer again.

as i've noted previously, i've played yo-yo for a long time; since 1985 if you haven't been keeping track. i remember josh schlichting (who incidentally shot part of said video) telling me that he tracked his "yo-yo career" as having really started when he learned trapeze. for me that happened in about 1990. i don't really feel good about saying i was "yo-yoing" though until about 1997. yeah, i had yo-yo's, and yeah, i played them to some extent and could hit 1 trapeze for every 30 tries, but a.) i was awful, and b.) i didn't really feel like i was a part of something. in 1997, that all changed. the boom came about, and i gave myself (or a part therof) over to it, as if it were some heathen god. when it evaporated, so did my own fervent interest. i still had yo-yo's, still played them... but i wasn't exploring. i wasn't inventing. i wasn't connected. i was alone, playing with a toy in a vacuum.

when i saw "experiment #4", i wasn't anymore. something in me broke (or was repaired) during those 5.5 minutes, the ember of which has sustained itself for the past 5 years, during which i have cared about yo-yoing, i've played every day, and with regularity have gone to bed and risen from it with it on my mind. i'm not saying that i think the sun rises and sets in doc's or brian's pants, though both are incredible yo-yoers and fascinating, multi-faceted people. i'm saying that "#4" was a catalyst that initiated changes in me that have just not gone away. i still watch it and geek out.

doc started playing yo-yo on or around his 21st birthday, when he bought a seattle "space needle" yo-yo (having decided on that souvenir rather than a snowglobe - i find it hilarious that he might have gone on to become a tremendous "snowglobe innovator"). in a relatively short time, his skill and creativity transcended the tricks of the day and he was recognized as a legitimate force of innovation. this was during the period wherein yo-yoers were really "reclaiming" the 1a style and forging it into the manifestation that would become (and remain) the dominant style of progressive yo-yoing, forcibly wrenching the focus away from 2a .

in early 2001, doc sent several hours of yo-yo footage to glasseye. it was filmed in weird locales, like a freight elevator and an aquarium tunnel. it's a trick video (and classics like "gerbil" and "hoopla" and "dr. strange" make their debuts within), but like all great videos, it's relevant because it puts you in doc's world for a few minutes. it's got great candid and incidental shots that don't make it seem like doc's life happens in a 4-foot square about his chest, and in front of a black background. i have no patience for yo-yo videos that try to make me care about the yo-yoing without caring about the person. i feel like, if you want me to give you 2 minutes of MY time, you need to give me something that says "this is who i am", and not just "look at this trick and love me". when disconnected from its human anchor, yo-yoing is NOTHING.

most of doc's yo-yoing in "#4" is with a tug-responsive henry's viper. as someone who primarily plays responsive, it's a pretty seminal work to me. sure, using today's materials, and in comparison with today's string-origami, some of those tricks may look pretty primitive. but i'd challenge you to find anyone today who makes yo-yoing look as fun and engaging as doc did in 2001. it was something i just knew that i wanted "in" on. whereas a lot of yo-yoing comes off as intensely self-involved, this was (and is) really expressive. renaissance man and performer that he is, doc's yo-yoing is attractive to people who fancy themselves "cool and interesting" (and yeah, i'm guilty of such). doc's a musician, and a comic-book artist, and a tailor. as opposed to guys who seem like they live and breathe yo-yoing, with doc, it just seems like one of many amazing things that he does. people who are only incredible in one direction just don't hold my interest for very long.

fast forward several years, and doc had been justly immortalized by a nyyl "trick innovator of the year" award, and a slew of "signature yo-yo's" like the yyj "super scientist" and "super sellout" (an extra $5 of added yo-yo awesomeness!), and the "doc pop hesitator". all of these were simply aesthetic variations on existing yo-yo's, and the doc pop element x was a similar venture. essentially just a large bearing buzz-on elex, docs version was available in either red or blue marble (bazan's yo-yo's were well known for rad dye-patterns), and featured verbose "doc pop: purveyor of the retro-winding, double-knob toy" pogs. i e-mailed doc at some point and bought the 2nd-to-last he said he had available.

not long thereafter, yoyojam collaborated with doc to create "the bolt". as what was basically a celcon version of the yoyojam patriot, but with dual o-ring response, it represented a truly distinct entity, and as a low maintenance performance shape, became wildly popular (PUN!!!!). these were only available directly through doc's website, and the bolts could be bought either stock or performance-modded by doc, himself (i did mine mself - satin-finished, flush o-rings, and a clean bearing). at first, they were kind of a red-orange (or orange-red; thanks, crayola!). later incarnations came in a bright orange with updated pogs, followed by a bright blue in 07. in the last year, bootleg bolts ("boltlegs", which are just modded projams) have become ubiquitous on the boards.

both of these yo-yo's were featured in doc's 2005 video "doc pop in san francisco" (i think - but maybe just the elex?). set to a deltron soundtrack, full of longer, more technical combos, as well as 5a, and set throughout sf, this offering reinforced doc's continued relevance within the yo-yo world. it's easy for me to forget, but i owe him a lot. it's cheesy, but a lo of people would not see yo-yoing in the same light had it not been for him, and he doesn't get all that much attention for it these days. i'm abashed to admit that he's one of the few yo-yoers i've really wanted to meet, but somehow haven't (i don't get out to the left coast all that much). hell, this blog even started as a bit of an homage to his "28 days project". i'll admit that i don't really pick up these yo-yo's and "try to yo-yo like doc", but at the same time... i guess i sort of do that with any yo-yo.


Anonymous said...

I was on a trip to visit my brother (coincidently the weekend of Phish in 99 or 00, I cant remember) in MN and we went to the mall Of America so I could go to my first real yoyo shop, "Infinite illusions". To my surprise, a famous yoer was working that day. Doc Pop. I could not believe that a guy I knew of online from vids was actually in MN and ready to talk yo w/ me. I think he mentioned he was moving out west.

Anywho, I got a henry's beach diabolo, and a super spinfaktor, which to this day is the smoothest bearing I ever felt. Still.

Doc pop taught me skin the gerbil, the only time I have actually seen a good yoyoer in person. I was so shocked he was at the store I can't even tell you.

This blog brings back those memories.

Jon said...

Weird. When I first started yoyoing, all the stuff at TGL was waaay over my head... When I got better, I just watched one (I can't remember which) video, and just thought it was "old, outdated stuff" Thanks for pointing my back. ;) Really enjoying your blog!

Doc Pop said...

Thanks for documenting these yo-yos here. I wind up on this page every now and then and it makes me smile.