Friday, October 30, 2009

yo-yo #'s 68 & 69: pearl/blue hummingbird genuines

i was kinda conflicted about which blog to put this in... i guess such is the dilemma for one who maintains two separate 'yo-yo metaphysics' blogs.

i recieved a truly enormous package of old wood yo-yo's the other day. it's almost an anticlimax, because as soon as you open something like that, you think "well, i guess i have enough yo-yo's for forever now." funny the way we fool ourselves into believing stuff like that for a minute or two. the box was mostly full of old hummingbirds, which was the company run by brad countryman BEFORE he ran bc yo-yo's (which of course, was the company he ran BEFORE switching to run tom kuhn yo-yo's). when my friend kevin asked what kind of yo-yo's i'd like, i said "matched sets", since i've been enjoying a lot of [really] simple wood 2-handed lately. he went "batshit-crazy" and put more absolutely gorgeous sets of tricksters, bc's, and old genuines in the box than i know how to shake a stick at, and i'll be working my way through them for a LONG time.

i started with this set, because... well, look at em. they're BEAUTIFUL.

the hummingbird genuine was not a regular production release. it was pretty limited even in its heyday (the 80's), and since the liquidation of the arcade, ny hummingbird factory, is downright tough to find. this pearlescent white with blue stripe version just has a gorgeous, classic appeal. and they play wonderfully, even for someone with mediocre looping ability like myself. playing older yo-yo's makes me want to do older tricks. i don't know a lot of older tricks, really. i wish i did. i tend to do the same ones that i love over and over.

i had a brief "conversation" with one of my "friends". i use the quotes to emphasize that said dialog did NOT actually take place in person, NOR have i ever actually met the other participant. i'd like to though. we were talking about yo-yo tricks; how they're learned and how they're taught. it really got me thinking ("a dangerous pastime - i KNOW"... beauty & the beast fans? no? ok.). basically, someone was asking for an in-depth tutorial for a trick called "chinese cradle", a weird little decades-old picture trick, and the question was... should they get it?

this particular trick came out of the duncan demonstrator crew of the 1950's. dale oliver tells me that it predates him, and that originally, it was called "chinese puzzle". the cradle part was added on later. ironically, i first saw it done by dale on a tiny, scratchy internet video. since the trick is pretty small and complicated, it was completely impossible to discern what he was doing in the vid, or even what the finished product should look like. maybe that contributed to its intrigue and mystique.

years later, i asked steve brown to teach it to me in virginia, and once he had dug the thing out of the attic of his memory, he obliged. he said something about it having been a "special" trick which, in years past, wasn't taught casually to just anyone. i think i was almost more fascinated by this fact than by the trick itself. this was the first time i had ever heard of a trick that had been "exclusive" in any respect besides its own inherent difficulty to perform. evidently, in the years of the traveling demonstrators, certain tricks were identified as "calling cards". as such, they were more preciously guarded, much like a magician guards his secrets. it kind of makes sense in the context of the giant fad-eras of the 50's and 60's. it just wouldn't do for a demonstrator to pull up at toy store "x" and throw a bunch of tricks that everybody already knew. a degree of exclusivity would have been essential.

nowadays, there are more tricks; more directions from which to amaze an audience. the technology has rendered much of the past's yo-yoing 'antiquated', but the sheer volume of a modern demonstrator's repertoire should be more than enough to flabbergast any audience. 50 years ago, the number of individual 'tricks' out there was comparatively limited. there are infinite ways to loop, infinite ways to stylistically alter 'rock the baby'... but any yo-yo performer of the modern era or the golden age would agree that you HAVE to have the ability to show em something truly crazy - something they've never seen.

anyway, the question i was left with was "SHOULD there be a quality online tutorial for a trick like 'chinese cradle'?" and the answer i've gravitated to is "no."

i don't think that tricks should be withheld by anyone on the basis of who is "worthy", but i DO think there should be some tricks that AREN'T accessible via the internet. we live in an era of instant gratification. if you want something, and you've got internet and paypal - BLAM! "bad credit? no credit? NO PROBLEM! CONGRATS! YOU'RE PRE-APPROVED!!!" as a society, we've started to feel entitled to things like food and shelter. and while, i agree, it's good to have these things available to people... we need to recognize that NONE of them are things that "just happen" to us. i think that we should work for things, or at least viscerally recognize the work that goes into them, regardless of whether it's our own. if you want to eat a cheeseburger, i think you should be willing to slaughter a cow yourself. period. i don't think it's necessary to kill one every time you order a #12 from McD's (ew), but knowing what it means to kill something, prepare it, and eat it - how messy it is, how wasteful, all the emotions involved - it helps you to truly value what you take from the world. it helps you to be thankful. if you want to live in a house, i think you should be willing to help build one - to learn about the different skills and efforts that have to come together to enable your "dream kitchen". it goes without saying that we can't DO all this stuff. the functions of our society are so refined and technical that no lay-person will be capable of coming to understand all of the arts. still, it's the attitude - the work ethic - that matters. lunch, indoor plumbing, quality health care... whether you should be entitled to these things or not, they don't just happen to you. they're born of effort - always. what are you working for? and where does your work go?

if you want to learn a yo-yo trick, i think you should learn it. and if it isn't on youtube or kwos or sector_y or yoyoexpert... you should get out of your house and seek it out. maybe that means harassing someone at your local club or maybe it means traveling around the world. maybe it will involve some waiting, during which you get to experience "not knowing" it. in the end, when you do learn it... it'll be worth EXACTLY what it took to obtain it. lately, i think some things should be harder to obtain.

i allude to the martial arts all the time. in budo, we have something called kuden, which are, in effect, glorified secrets - secrets of training or secret applications of technique that have developed within different schools over millennia. the defining characteristic of these secrets is that they're only ever taught to people who are worth a damn - who have proven their loyalty to the school and the system. just like demonstrators withholding this or that trick from potential competitors, if you teach the wrong sword technique to the wrong person... it could be employed against you. it's not all paranoia either. having a technique that belongs to someone only if they make a legitimate contribution might inspire that person to contribute... whereas making said trick available on the internet primarily inspires acquisition (which leads to the compulsive need for MORE acquisition). it might seem like a trivial distinction, but you'll remember from my last post - ain't nothing trivial to me. there's something valuable in learning a trick from a human being, with no intermediary 1's and 0's.

should every trick be common knowledge (or at least commonly and easily accessible)? should one's ability be the only factor that mitigates the dissemination of information. i don't believe in withholding things arbitrarily. i don't think it's valuable to say "nah. i'm not teaching you THIS trick cause you're not in The Cool Guy Club." that's not it. at the same time, "chinese cradle" is an old trick, and it belongs to way more than just me. steve taught it to me, and he learned it from dale. if either of those guys would prefer that i carefully consider those the manner by which i share such a trick... i'd be inclined to respect that (and honestly, even if they don't give a crap... maybe i should). dale told me that he, for one, doesn't really believe in "trick exclusivity"; that if someone asks him, his response is "i learned this trick from a champion, and it's my responsibility to teach someone else." i agree, but at the same time, i'd rather teach someone who DOES ask, as opposed to someone who just happens upon it whilst searching for "darth vader". fortunately, it's a self-governing principle, seeing as the number of people who really want to learn "chinese cradle" (or really any old trick i can imagine) would probably number around a dozen or so, at most. i'm certainly not going to be met with throngs of kids asking for help with it, nor would i look sideways at someone who asked, in effort to size them up or gauge their commitment to our "sacred art". pretending at exclusivity in such a teeny niche community is pretty stupid. seeking knowledge out is enough all the accreditation you should require ... but if you want it, be willing to really seek it. there's not enough seeking in yo-yoing; not enough patience. maybe that's true of modern humanity in general.

the trick itself is perfectly irrelevant. this is not about "chinese cradle" at all, so much as it's about learning to feel less entitled. in our world, which every day, seems to become more digital, there's some real value in learning a trick from a master; in seeking one out, in looking into his eyes, and in valuing the lifetime of work that's gone into the trick he teaches you. i've learned a lot from online tutorials, and i'm certainly not trying to diminish the efforts of guys like gabe, whose sector_y (as i've previously stated) represent one of the main reasons i'm any kind of yo-yoer at all. that said, i care about yo-yoing. though i've been exploring it for what feels like a long time now, i kind of want it to withhold some secrets. rather than just picking what i want from a silver cyber-platter, i want to have to work to uncover some of its gems. rather than be told the secrets that i've yet to understand, i want (in time) to deserve to know.


Glenn Godsey said...

Cool! I have come to agree that Chinese Cradle should not be loosely scattered around the internet. I'm glad to be called a "friend", and I do think we will meet if I'm still in shape to travel next summer.

I wonder how those pearl Hummingbirds would carve?

kinopah said...

oh i see! you just ASSUME i was talking about you, huh? ... jk. you stay away from mah hummin' birds!!!

let me know which contests you plan to hit!