Sunday, September 20, 2009

yo-yo #63: F***ing Awesome No Jive

since my last post, i've been on a real bass kick. it's nice when you get old (or at least when i do), having so many 'micro-obsessions' between which to bounce. as it occurred to me recently, i haven't NOT played yo-yo over a 24 hour period in something like 4 years. it's not that i'm obsessed; i just don't really think about it. yo-yoing's fun and interesting to me, so i do it. i do it while waiting on line, or sitting on the toilet, or pushing the stroller around the neighborhood. when and if i run into a period whereupon i'm no longer stoked... i just won't yo-yo. there's NO point to pushing yourself in that vein. what could be more counterproductive than WILLING yourself to 'have fun'? it's one thing for yo-yoing to be about 'striving' to improve, but i think you have to have a fluid enough spirit to allow yourself a break when you're moved to do so. in fact, no need to even think of it as 'a break'. yo-yo's are small and convenient, and you can come back to them whenever. don't worry, you'll still be a yo-yoer, and there's always a new and amazing direction in which to fall hopelessly.

i've also been playing this yo-yo a lot this week. it's one of a clutch that seth peterson gave me at worlds. i actually gave it to HIM at ecc last year after an epic fixed axle session outside tyler's house with spencer berry ('yo-yo heaven'?). seth said he needed to pick up a no jive, and i had this one on me - a white painted butterfly one with the 'ii devil-girl' graphic on one side. when he returned it to me unbidden this august, i had forgotten he had it. as i turned it over in my hands, i still didn't realize it was the same yo-yo, since he had flipped it imperial and affixed a 'f***ing awesome' decal to both sides. immediately my thoughts raced back to my youth in new orleans. my cousin jack had come to visit (we were probably around 7 years old), and he had brought me a shiny blue sticker with the word 'awesome' emblazoned in silver robo/techno-lettering. it was pretty cheesy, and even at age 7, i was 'too cool' to be very impressed. it occurs to me, looking back, that i could have done a better job of receiving that gift, which my cousin clearly felt was aptly described by its text. looking back, that sticker (along with my cousin's reverence for it) WAS awesome. this yo-yo is just like that, except 'f***ing', too.

i'm not big on obscenities, really. i try to use them 'when appropriate'(?). like i don't kick up a big fuss if i drop an f-bomb, but neither do i think it's generally the best way to express myself. sometimes though (like when i stub the shit out of my toe or the canes blow a 5-on-3 power play), it totally is. it doesn't bother me, so long as they're said with intent. if you're angry or ignorant, and 'f***' is all you can manage, then yeah, i think that's a little pathetic. if you own it, and you mean it, however, i see no real evil in it. some people get really tied up about naughty words, but every human, myself included, possesses the capacity for far darker transgressions, which if stifled and ignored are all the more likely to leak to the surface of our lives.

the yo-yo plays fine, like any imperial no jive. some people have recently said that they think it's neat that i 'have the guts' to play yo-yo's like this. are you kidding? yo-yo's like this are the best thing in the world, and i'm so glad they're still out there. if you don't have a wooden, fixed axle, imperial shape that PLAYS in your arsenal, get one now, while they're just endangered and not extinct. if it's what you want, then it doesn't take any courage at all to play yo-yo's like this (they don't even hurt too bad when they whack you). i'm not trying to be an iconoclast; i genuinely prefer it to the ultra-wide, unresponsive, metal-of-the-month. it's hard, but if you allow yourself the courtesy of defining your own standards, it's really JUST fun. people seem more comfortable in thinking that yo-yoing is like some middle-school math program, and that when you get 'off the gifted track' you're screwed. but everybody's really on their own track, blazing their own trail. you might think you're learning all of johnnie's tricks, but you can't step into the same river twice. every trick you do is yours, so make damn sure it's the trick you WANT to do, and not the one you 'think you ought'.

being a one-trick pony sucks. musashi said 'touch upon all of the arts: to learn the sword, study the shamisen'. i think it's really important to have multiple expressive outlets, because doing so prevents your becoming 'burnt out' with any one of them. one of the things i was delighted to notice this week is that playing a lot of bass made me WANT to yo-yo. and yo-yoing frequently makes me WANT to doodle silly pictures or practice sword kata. and so on. inside, all of our arts are connected, and they all serve and refresh each other. many of the unhappiest people i've met are the ones that are hyper-focused on one objective. if all of your energy is directed toward one activity or goal, two things happen 1.) you restrict yourself. you can't say everything you want to say via any one medium, i don't care what kind of virtuoso you are. finding another way to express yourself, even one that you really suck at (especially one you really suck at) helps you to approach yourself from a new perspective. 2.) if all of your eggs are in one basket, then when you drop it, you'll feel you have failed, UTTERLY. the person who commits himself thoroughly to yoyoing WILL at some point come to detest it. and when he does, he'll feel that all his time was wasted and all of his expression rendered moot.

a friend of mine asked me if, when i play bass or yo-yo, the expression 'flows through me' in the same way. i don't know... i guess i don't look at it like that. i don't really see myself as a conduit for some vague, expanse of artistic energy. i don't really see the art as something that's inside me needing to 'escape' like air from a baloon. i think that art is just what happens when you give yourself to a moment. sometimes it has a really strict form, like a song you're trying to play or a trick you're trying to hit. other times it's more spontaneous and flexible; an exercise in allowing your brain to leap between ideas and bridge gaps that may never even have occurred to you previously. art's what you're doing, if you're doing it fully and presently. in either case, i think the main thing isn't to think 'ok... i need to put some of MYSELF into this here ART.' if anything, i think it's about getting your 'self' the hell out of the way. maybe it is the same process, but it feels somehow obscene to pick it apart.

composition is another story, and i definitely try to create yo-yo tricks in the same way that i try to write songs. a yo-yo trick, in my mind, has to have a beginning, middle, and end. it also has to have a POINT. maybe the point is 'rambling and incoherent', but the form offered by a central idea is the defining essence of any trick, and any song. even john cage's most whimsically random-sounding compositions are based on underlying structure, even if the structure is 'twelve radios blaring' or 'birds outside' or '4 minutes of silence'. i like to make short yo-yo tricks that focus on one simple idea (playing a lot of wood yo-yo's like this has probably kept me from much longer endeavors). i used to love the idea of 'sonata form' in yo-yoing, but continued recapitulation can really make a trick overlong and boring. i'd LOVE to see someone do a 'sonata form' video or ap freestyle though... hmm... my main issues with correlating my trick making to music are the restrictions of my own abilities. when i used to compose a lot, i liked to apply my ideas in layers that resolved weirdly, and the idea of harmony in yo-yo is really, really tough. if all i wanted was a pretty melody, that would be simple... but who wants to listen to mozart all day?

music and yo-yoing share an obvious aesthetic similarity in that as soon as an idea escapes your fingertips, it's gone. you play a note or hit a string, and it's in the past (and trying to linger on it interrupts everything). it's as ephemeral as the sound exploding in the air of the room or the hold resolving to trapeze. and try as you might, you can't get any of the notes, or any of the tricks back. you're making noise or doing your trick in THIS moment, and that's all... and the immediacy of that concept is to me, the quintessence of both media. when you're yo-yoing, even if you're hiding in a room full of toys, babes and bling, which con you into the luxuriant belief that you've GOT stuff to which you might assign a part of your self... The Trick is the ONLY thing you have in the world. so whether i'm playing my bass or my yo-yo or with my star wars guys (ok maybe not with my star wars guys... except i guess kinda... but no)... or writing this blog... i just want to do so fully. what moment, aside from this one now, will ever be real to you? this one's all we've got.

and mostly this one is enough...

in fact, it's f***ing awesome.


Steve Brown said...

Nice bass. ;)

Box going off in the mail to you today....

drew said...

jesus. nail on the head.