Monday, September 14, 2009
yo-yo #'s 61 & 62: diamond specials
how do you feel about your yo-yoing?
are you good at it? what does that mean? does being 'good' enable or entitle you to look down on yo-yoers who 'aren't good'? when you see someone who's just started yo-yoing or someone who's been plodding through the basics for years, do you make secret comparisons? do you, somewhere in the base of your brain, feel a little superior? when you finish top 5 at a contest, do you feel a little bad for the guy that got 23rd? and should the guys who finished top 4 look at you that way? to be a good yo-yo player, do other yo-yo players even have to think you're any good? who's the boss of your yo-yoing? who tells you where it should go? are you being honest?
awhile ago, mark mcbride made this post. mark's one of the guys i've always looked up to as a yo-yoer, and one of the few people for whom my respect has actually INCREASED as i've come to learn more about him. although it isn't a new, hot, trendy topic, i think about the ideas behind this post a lot. in some ways, i feel like it really captures the way i see yo-yoing, though it's projected from bride's lens, which is naturally different from my own.
these are diamond specials: good, simple, beautiful yo-yo's, the both of them. i bought the walnut one from collector/photographer shawn garcia, who knows a lot about wood yo-yo's and has been an inspiration. the blonde one was gifted to me outright by my friend izzy, who found it at an antique shop. a pristine relic from the tom kuhn san-fransico era. i play both of these yo-yo's often. because of the rhinestones, it would border on the sinful to flip them butterfly. out in the sunlight, they positively glow during spins, and when i play them i remember hearing tom kuhn describe the first yo-yo he won, a duncan jeweled which, as it reflected the sunset was "the most beautiful thing he'd ever seen".
... i really want to be a 'good yo-yoer'. i have since i bought my purple fireball from zany brainy 10+ years ago. but like vizzini trying to describe 'the man in black' as 'inconceivable', i don't necessarily think it means what you think it means. recently, i've blathered on a lot about the subjective. i've talked about how contests aren't really the best tools for identifying 'what's good'. i don't think i'm a terrible yo-yo player (though my contest results would certainly suggest it). as a judge, i know that most of the tricks i like best would score poorly even if i hit them cleanly (which i rarely do). some people really can walk the line. they can throw the tricks they love on stage, do ok (or better than ok), and be pretty content. i see other yo-yoers who kind of 'closet' their favorite tricks. instead, they practice tricks that feel less natural and less interesting so as to get good results, by which they go on to define a part of themselves. are they happy that way? dunno. maybe.
i think that some players will always associate success with complexity. a trick is 'good' if it's hard; if it makes the observer think 'never in a million years'. a yo-yoer is 'good' if he can do a whole mess of hard tricks. that's but not how i see it at all.
i'm a bass player, and i used to work really hard to be as progressive as possible. i listened to the most technically incredible bassists and scoffed rudely at the ones who didn't know theory or couldn't blister through apoplectic slap solos. i used to pity the ones who believed it their job to 'support' their guitarist(s). i'd heard people say "the song's the thing" a million times (and i'm not sure when it finally registered) but i don't look at it now as i once did. although in some ways, it was useful for me to learn all the technique and theory, i now recognize that the compulsion to do so reflected MY OWN weakness, and not that of 'lesser musicians'. technique was, and remains, a crutch (which is not a bad thing, if you need it). i had to move through technique and complexity to understand, and to get to my own music, but not everyone does. some musicians are born with the understanding that they can play the music inside of them, and that's enough. it can be sloppy and easy and composed of junk that no one but they and their moms would want to listen to. all that matters is that it's authentic to them. some yo-yo players understand that too. once you dissolve the wall between yourself and what you aim to create... no one can ever again call you 'good' or 'bad' at what you do with any authority.
i'm in the process of uploading a yo-yo video. i'm calling it "new adventures in 'lo-fi'", a play on an r.e.m. album. watching it, i'm sure there are plenty of tricks that people would say aren't 'lo-fi' at all, and that's natural. it's not a term that they (or i) get to define for anyone else. actually, i asked a lot of my friends at tn states to show me a 'lo-fi' trick, and almost everyone interpreted the idea differently. doc brought up the distinction between 'moves' and 'tricks', which are often mistaken for each other. some players asked if there was a time or string-hit limit, but to me, it's way more organic than that. it's more like there's an 'intent-limit'. it's about showing me one idea, one thing you love, as opposed to barfing out your last 3 meals and asking me to pick through it and see what's in there. think simple.
i've talked to my friends drew and mitch about comparing 'low-fi' yo-yoing with riding skateboards. drew revealed a fascinating truth to me; that a lot of my skater/yo-yo friends create tricks that base themselves around a similar rhythm. a skateboard trick is often composed of an 'entry' (usually an ollie), some central feature (maybe a grind, manual, or a gap), and then the 're-entry', or roll-away. it occurs to me that most of the tricks i like to see and create are similarly composed; simple tricks with an objective. tricks that have a beginning, middle, and end... based on one fundamental idea. i'm almost never inspired by 30-second combos with a hundred string hits. sure it's difficult, but to me, it's [usually] empty. it's "please for the love of god, look at ME!!!" instead of "hey, check THIS out."
understand, i'm not trying to say that i'm all about stagnation. i don't see 'low-fi' as sitting around, chewing the cud, doing the same tricks you've always done. if that's what it is to you, that's your prerogative, but i did that for years, and there's nothing there for me. i don't think there's anything 'right' about a punk-rocker saying 'whatever. i can play these 9 songs and that's all i need.' the classical virtuoso who feels superior due to the complexity and difficulty of his repertoire is equally deluded.
i think you've got to push... i think life IS pushing... but if you're letting someone BESIDES yourself decide which way you go, no matter how hard you do push, you're still imprisoned.
in yo-yoing, 'simple' has almost become a derogation, but simple tricks are all i really want to do. i guess playing a lot of wood yo-yo has led me to really appreciate the simple, and as anyone who's played the blues will tell you... simple rarely means 'easy'. i don't think you have to play wood (or even responsive) to know where i'm coming from, but maybe it's easier. i'm definitely beginning to feel that 'lo-fi' yo-yoing is about 'progressive simplicity'; about finding new ways to be simple (which can actually be a lot harder than 'finding new ways to be complicated'). it's about creating tricks that make the uninitiated say 'i could totally.' it's about having the courage to look at your yo-yoing and accept it, and to decide without pretense or comparison, where it SHOULD go next.
most of us will never be 'the best yo-yoer in the world' by any standard. it's easy to admit that to ourselves. what's difficult (and maybe a little scary) is to learn how to say sincerely... that you don't want to be.