Saturday, October 10, 2009

yo-yo # 65: tulipwood eric wolff masterpiece

awhile back, for no good reason at all, i put together an incomplete list of tricks i'd learned. it was fairly substantial, and mostly composed of ridiculously simple stuff culled from now-outmoded (if not defunct) sites.

for years, the only site i learned from was 'ken's world on a string'. hallmarked by simple text and illustrations, kwos is one of the few instructional tools left over from its era, and i still find myself going back to it to check this or that, or to remember old, beloved tricks that i once treasured.

years after i stopped visiting kwos, i stumbled upon the mark hayward/harper reed collaboration, ''. this may have been the first organized video catalog that i encountered, full of treasures filmed at contests in the early 2000's. i still remember some great, 8-second 5a trick-tutorials by steve filmed in a dark parking lot and performed with laser-cut precision. trying to learn them, i'd have to watch the clip over and over dozens of times. the real cache, though, for me, was the list of picture tricks. performed by dale oliver, bill deboisblanc, dale myrberg, cappy, john bot, and others... it's a trove. and i don't throw that word around (although... who does?). the videos are ridiculously hard to see, but bits can be deciphered.

going through the list i had composed, i ran into a trick from said collection that i had TOTALLY forgotten. buried in the list is a phenomenal trick by bill deblah entiteled 'flower'. upon seeing it in type, i flashed immediately back to a day in 2005, when i sat in my empty classroom until dusk trying to get it wired. i never really did, and abandoned it in frustration. however, when i looked the trick up yesterday, i understood it immediately. i picked up this yo-yo, a gorgeous eric wolff-turned tulipwood butterfly, which i scored last year at nc states, and had it first try. funny how the mind changes. with yo-yoing, it's not like you develop crazy abs or cauliflower ears, or any outward sign that you're 'developing'. but the more you yo-yo, the easier it is to make connections. you really feel how you've grown when you re-approach a concept that seemed difficult or impossible years ago.

anyway, i think it's a cool trick; it feels 'cutesy' and old-fashioned. it got me thinking about the way we create and retain tricks. obviously, they aren't something that you can hold. they aren't objects that can be manipulated whenever, or stored away. and yet, we tend to treat them as possessions; as if we 'pay' for them through the process of learning them, and after we can do them, they become 'acquisitions'. i wasn't thinking about it in such explicit terms when i composed that list years ago, but that's the attitude from which it surely sprang. these here are the tricks that 'belong to me'.

the sticky point is that when you acquire something, it becomes your responsibility; such is the nature of acquisition. if you buy an old pick-up trick, it's yours - you CAN do what you want with it. but if you let it sit stagnant in your front lawn while weeds and shrubs grow through it until it becomes a rusty, dilapidated eyesore, then your negligence has expanded to affect the landscape and community. everything you own, everything you have is, implicitly a BURDEN upon you. some burdens are heavier than others, and the more you've got, the more you're responsible for. we can try to get around it with slippery ideologies and/or ignorance, but it's pretty straight-forward. you've committed to bringing certain things into the fold of your life; into the realm of your 'control'. whether that's a car, a bonsai tree, or a work of art like this yo-yo - or even something intangible, like knowledge or a certain trick, then doing so makes you responsible. whether you mean to or not, the things you HAVE are things to which you tie a piece of yourself. as such, none of the things we acquire should be perceived as trivial.

if, whether tacitly or explicitly you decide, 'i know this yo-yo trick - it's mine,' then caring for it becomes a kind of duty (like changing your cat's litter box, only less gross). how do you care for a yo-yo trick? the same way you care for any artistic element: by doing it right. if you've learned kamikaze, then you should do it correctly, using the elements paul uncovered. if you mean to do something different with it, then you're changing the trick. that's ok, but don't do so casually, just because you have trouble with 'magic drop' or something. when you teach it, teach it right. you're passing it on. you're proliferating a piece of yo-yoing's living tapestry. don't muck it up.

awhile back, jon rob made a good analogy, comparing yo-yo tricks to undiscovered land. the tricks are all there, waiting to be found. you may uncover them, present them, or learn them... but they don't really belong to you, alone. no one can really steal 'your' tricks, and the tricks you learn aren't really 'yours' either (that said, there's nothing cool or interesting about doing a derivative freestyle that people will have seen before). you may have exposed the thing, but once it's out in the open, it kind of belongs to everyone, and everyone who learns it must share the duty.

it's the same with any art. it's not really a question of whether or not i CAN copy picasso's bull sketches... it's more a question of 'what would be the point?' artistically, the moment those pictures have made the journey from picasso's hand to the page, they no longer belong to him. 'intellectual property' lawsuits notwithstanding, the moment an idea or emotion is expressed, it's no longer really within our jurisdiction or control. picasso discovered some incredible ways of drawing a bull. now everyone can do it. but... why would they? spencer berry discovered the movements that compose 'breath'. now everyone can do it (i mean, kind of). but... why would they?

cause it's nice to make pretty pictures? cause 'breath' is a fun yo-yo trick?

why DO we do any tricks that have already been discovered? obviously, in the beginning we have no choice. we perceive yo-yoing to simply be a collection of tricks that we have to learn. by now, i really shouldn't be so perplexed when i happen upon the question 'do you guys make up your own tricks?'... i mean... after a few years, what else is there to do? realistically though, what we'd call 'new' aren't even our own tricks; when viewed close up, the 1a tricks we do are composed of the same underpasses, pops, and landings that have been popular for the past decade. a 'new trick' may be composed of less than 1% innovative material. and when viewed from afar, the tricks we do melt into the landscape of the freestyle or session. a doctor cannot understand the human body without understanding cells. a yo-yoer cannot understand the nature of yo-yoing without a sense for 'tricks'... and yet, just as with the body... it's the WHOLE that really matters.

and that whole must always belong to everyone. no one (not yuuki or shinji or the eternal spirit of pedro flores) is big enough to throw the whole thing.

each of our string hits represents a brushstroke in the painting of our trick, each trick a brush stroke in the painting of our combo, each combo a brushstroke in the painting of our session, and each session a brushstroke in the painting of our life. however we wish to divide it, however we try to stake it off and claim it, yo-yoing is really just one trick, and that's what we have to take care of. though we may reveal this or that fraction thereof... no particle will ever be the exclusive province of any one of us. all of it belongs to all of us, and as such, taking care of it becomes our collective responsibility. nobody gets into yo-yoing for the responsibility. some people see it as a 'bad word', and would certainly rather not associate things like that with yo-yoing. but that's what caring about something boils down to... and if you want to take anything from yo-yoing (or give anything to it)... there's really no escaping the burden.

do it right. have pride. represent.

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