Friday, January 29, 2010
yo-yo #72: 66
i really didn't intend for this to happen.
a couple months ago, i jotted down some yo-yo rules, which turned into some more, and which a few people read. now i've got a yo-yo and a comic with my likeness on it, illustrating the lot of em in a quirky cartoon-folk-art style. crazy.
collaborating with john higby has been a whirlwind dream. i feel as i imagine a young streetball player would if he were approached by magic johnson and asked to play one-on-one. awed, maybe a little confused... but 'OF COURSE!' in this case, magic plays yo-yo, and though known for his showmanship and art all over the world, he liked my idea and wanted to run with it in his way.
about 5 weeks and many e-mails later, i received a huge parcel with several examples of the finished product, along with some of the original artwork created by john. to call this stuff priceless to me would be an obvious understatement. it's cartoon-yo-yo-ME! mind you, it doesn't make me feel more important - more as a tugboat would if tied to the back of a luxury cruise-liner. 'we're going to the caribbean? ... mmmok!'
i like proflys. i like them a great deal. compared with pretty much every 'popular' yo-yo out there, they aren't easy to work with at all. before the axle breaks in, they can be downright snagalicious. and even after they do, the teeny gap is a harsh mistress, punishing hubristic hands which would try to control her. what john does to clear yo-yo's is positively insane. i have one clear '66', but i'm really only keeping it that way to provide a controlled counterpoint, standing out in relief next to the paint explosion pervading its peers. my favorite (the one in the foreground of the first pic) looks like it's teeming with multi-colored bacteria. during spin (or still), it seems to pulsate with a fecundity that no splash-ano on the planet could match. another example calls to mind swirling galaxies from the old charles & ray eames video 'powers of ten'. it makes me feel tiny (and huge).
playing them is a joy, and a lesson in humility. a mature person will not see the two as mutually exclusive.
i'm used to playing wood axles now. i prefer it, not because 'it's so zen' or because 'it makes me feel fancy'. i just prefer it; i prefer the tricks i do and the way that i approach them. i play my flying v's a ton, but i'm always looking for ways to make them feel more like wood, which i realize seems a little counter-intuitive to most people. a thin bearing caked with thick lube does the job, as does breaking open said thin bearing and using the inner race as a fixed axle (props to steve buffel for that idea).
this past week, matt carter reappeared on yoyonation. under the alias 'scarecrow', matt was a fixture on the old skill toys board, and recognized for his aesthetic talents (it was he who designed the graphics for both the quatle and celtic no jives - remember those?). talking to him reminded me of another yo-yoer from the past, one who (unfortunately), i have yet to meet: mr. bill alton.
mr. alton wrote a great newsletter in the early 90's called 'the noble disk', and even a book called 'the care and operation of the noble disk'. the book is particularly great, and takes a novice reader through the nuances of yo-yo play from 'beginner to advanced'. what's awesome about it is the fact that it was published in 1996, so all of the standards are going on 14 years old. alton boasts about his 12 second no jive sleeper (14 with a proyo), and describes a time when the differences between looping and string tricks were not yet so delineated. yo-yoing was a simpler (and perhaps more difficult) thing back then, and though i certainly don't 'rue the boom' or wish to turn back the clock, i do think that our present yo-yo culture could stand to relearn some of the lessons of the past.
it seems as though every time i check a yo-yo board, i'm confronted with some variation of the question 'i just did _________, is that good?'
exponentially-expanded technology has enabled yo-yoing to become so vast and complicated that it's no longer easily divided. completing x, y, or z alone won't make you a master, or expert or whatever. yo-yoing makes you a yo-yoer, and that's plenty. one of the defining hallmarks of adolescents is the 'desire to arrive' at something (yeah i used to be one too), so i can't expect them to fully 'get' that concept... but i do hope our next generation will find the patience to appreciate their own rate of development for what it is. imagine playing yo-yo for years, with a 12-second sleeper being the clearest result of efforts. imagine the time before youtube and regular contests, whence you might go YEARS between seeing yo-yoers of your own skill. it's only been one generation, but somehow the kind of patience and persistence it takes to accommodate those obstacles would seem ludicrous to much of our community now.
however, the point remains today. in a world where everyone knows kamikaze, the ability to do hydrogen bomb is not 'valuable' on its own. what's valuable is the WORK you apply to your craft. in the end, the work is the result; the journey is the end. the old guard understood this because they had to. otherwise, why on earth would they have persisted? i don't think you have to play a no jive or profly to understand (maybe i do, but that's my problem). i think all you have to do is recognize that there's NO end. you will never 'arrive'. unfortunately, that truth is really difficult for some people to swallow.
you want to be good at yo-yoing? really commit to it, and you will be. you want to be GREAT? commit to it for a lifetime... and you might be.