Tuesday, April 14, 2009
" You may become happily enlightened by playing with this excellent performer or just by contemplating its overlapping design."
that's from the product description on the tom kuhn site. how cheesy can you get, right? that's like... spraying easy-cheese (IS that cheese?) between two kraft singles and eating it with a brie fondue. i have this vision of some dude just zoning out and staring at the yo-yo and then yelling "EUREKA!" or something.
in all honesty though, i pretty much do that with this yo-yo. ok, i don't just stare at it and go into a cross-eyed trance or anything, but i do find myself just throwing sleepers with it. or a few loops. or milking a trapeze for the WHOLE spin and just watching it slide around on the string.
i think... that 'slide', that feeling of the yo-yo balanced on the string and swaying from side to side like a treetop in the breeze or something... that represents my whole reason for playing yo-yo. and being able to really, viscerally feel that with no complex mechanical barrier... is probably the whole reason i play wood. simplicity is addictive, i'm finding out. you know, i could give up every trick. every one. but that feeling... you can pry it from my cold, dead, stringburnt hands.
for obvious reasons, i only play this one in imperial. i can't "do as much" with it like that. can't hit spirit bomb (or maybe even cold fusion), but i haven't actually tried to either, and i'm not inclined to. a yo-yo like this kind of asks you to blend with it; to content yourself with its natural limitations. there's a time for pushing envelopes and a time for feeling the world-as-it-is.
get off the pedestal you've so desperately endeavored to occupy; it's a relief to "come down". don't worry about being important. you'll never be important. but you're already something much more; essential. if you yo-yo, then you're a caretaker of yo-yoing. you decide where it goes. and while it may seem necessary to ever strive forward, sharing your fire like some yo-yo prometheus... you also need to understand where you are right now... and what that fire really is... at its center. it's right there. don't just 'burn shit' with it. let it warm you.
i don't throw this yo-yo to "be awesome". i throw this one just to be... and that's... awesome.
Thursday, April 9, 2009
"what is the fundamental truth of yo-yoing?"
i was assailed by that question today on a yo-yo board. sounds like "what's the sound of one hand clapping", right? it's actually a good question, i guess (at least more interesting than "should i get a dm or a m1?" or "where is the ywet?") and it was asked honestly enough. i know i get all "zen" on this blog (like in every effing post), but something about questions like that actually rub me the wrong way. sort of like if someone says to me "let me tell you about how much i love jesus." ... i have nothing against jesus, but when that kind of thing gets said, it almost invariably implies that i'm about to get "talked to"; as if i'm only there as a wall, off of which bouncy-balls of truth may be thrown. how do i play into your love of jesus? or truth? or yo-yoing (i'm asking sincerely)? it just feels too explicit; trust me to understand the mystery for myself, dude.
the thing is that the asking of the question "what is the fundamental truth?" implies that there IS one. any question implies the presence of an answer. here's an empty cup: please pour your secret-something-special into it. no... you know... i don't think i want to. not cause i don't like you, but i respect you enough to let you come to it on your own.
this yo-yo represents a longtime collaboration between the legendary "dr. yo", tom kuhn, and the equally legendary comedy duo, "the smothers brothers". when i first saw it, i thought it was ugly as all get out. i was bewildered (and still am a bit) as to why it had any serious collectors' value.
tom smothers was (and remains) an avid yo-yoer, and he incorporated the toy into the act throughout the 1970's. people over 50 frequently associate the toy first and foremost with smothers, and i've been asked a number of times by passers-by or folks waiting for coffee both whether i know him personally, and (even better) whether "i think i could beat him". i mean, what the hell? anyway, on television-when-it-was-still-called-television (and on any number of youtube vids), he can be seen doing simple tricks with a frivolously loose (almost inebriated) style, while his brother dick narrates. the performance of the tricks themselves (usually a few of the "10 basics") is secondary to the message/joke, that tom is able to enter "the state of yo", a kind of mystical, meditative trance wherein he is totally and viscerally connected to the yo-yo's energy, and so, is privy to secret levels of understanding.
although this is all done in pseudo-jest, in the post-psychedelic era of the smothers' success, the grain of truth is evident. tom is silly and ridiculous, but the audience is clearly meant to question whether playing with a little toy CAN enhance one's sense of the moment, of the world, or of "the truth". the early 80's trick-tutorial video with tom and dick accompanied by "legit" yo-yoer (and paddleballer, as it happens), daniel volk, continues to imply that playing yo-yo is somehow "meaningful". volk's really good, and you should watch that, irrespective of "the state of yo".
years later, neil feser's "the book of yo" (with introduction by smothers and forward by kuhn) surfaced as a much more sincere, in-depth description of the "state of yo". therein, feser alludes to "primary sources" by the ancient chinese master "yo tzu" to illuminate "the way" through yo-yoing. it's unbelievably self-indulgent, and frequently borders on the absurd, but there's actually a lot of good, substantial stuff in there, too. it's very difficult to read through it without running into something that causes you to question some aspect of your yo-yoing. feser makes allusions to the martial arts and ancient chinese allegories that are cute, if nothing else. all of the "yo tzu" stuff is "prose-poetry", with explanatory (and, imo, even more creative) mini-essays by feser interspersed throughout. if you enjoyed "the tao of pooh", you'll eat this right up (if you can find it).
to digress for a second... i'm gratified that there are people who read (and apparently enjoy) this blog. i can't imagine that i'd read one like it... i mean... some guy droning on about his life and his yo-yo's? you can keep it. part of me likes the idea that some people read it, but, no offense... you're not why i write it. i've said it several times, but i don't write this to convey any particle of "the truth" (as i see it) to anyone but myself. so there. you want REAL truth, go explore yourself. blog about it if you want. i might even read it (though i might not, if it reads like this tripe).
anyway, if you ARE reading this, it stands to reason that you must be a really serious yo-yo player. i mean really, i can't believe it's remotely interesting for the uninitiated. so if you're a yo-yo player... why the hell are you doing it? why are you yo-yoing?
before you jump down to the comment box to tell me all about it though, please understand that i don't actually give a crap. at all. even a small one. if you can answer that question, with words or without, then you know all about "the fundamental truth". and like snowflakes or casseroles, you'll never see two interpretations thereof that are fully alike. your truth is meaningless to me (again, no offense), and in fact, it may seem esoteric, egocentric, petty and obscene to anyone besides you.
i get it, you get it, and there isn't anything to say about it: "when you are deluded and full of doubt, even a thousand books of scripture are not enough. when you have realized understanding, even one word is too much."
the thing is, there is no "illuminating answer" that i or anyone could possibly provide to that question. the fundamental truth of yo-yoing is nothing more or less than the play itself, and that's the only place you're ever, ever going to find it. no blog will take you there. no book will explain it. no old youtube video of tom smothers, yuuki spencer, or nemo concepcion will ever show it to you. and yet, "the mystery" isn't mysterious in the least, and it's always available! go throw yo-yo, and do it sincerely (the real trick)... and you already understand.
Monday, April 6, 2009
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.