Thursday, May 5, 2011

yo-yo #87: bpzl

anti-yo lives! after a brief hiatus (at least in relative terms), sonny and kiya are returning to the making of yo-yo's (and, evidently, to making them exciting). few companies are able to make yo-yoing seem dynamic in the way that anti-yo did with just 5 releases. their initial offering, the fluchs, had axle issues, which foreshadowed the community's acute awareness of any quality control hiccups which were to occur afterward. yet, in spite of wobble or slippage or plumbers' tape, anti-yo always maintained that strangely undefinable edge which helped build their legend. the folks who loved them always seemed to do so with every fiber of their being, and they had the same daring je-ne-sais-quois that made it cool to skate companies like consolidated in the 90's.

and, if the bapezilla reboot (bpzl) which sonny sent me a few weeks back is any indication, potential design and/or machining flaws are ancient history. this thing is undeniably pristine in its aesthetic and its spin, and i'm glad that our community is so amped about a company aiming to resurrect/improve upon their former glory.

the bpzl is an all-around great yo-yo. to me, it feels more like an old oxy than a bapezilla, having lost the sharpish corners of the original. it's rocking a nice step in the hub like an oxy, too, though it features the one drop axle/side-effect system. the whole package works great. mine is all black, and the blast is significantly softer than the old 'slippe-matte' finish. it feels a little heavy in the hand, but moves through dense layers quickly and fluidly. sonny reminds me that with the side-effect system, you can dramatically change the hub weight, and so the feel of the yo-yo overall. (i only have the default anti-yo hub-looking caps, which is what i'll be sticking with since i love the look.)

in other news, i've been playing a lot of shakuhachi music lately. a shakuhachi is basically just a 1.8 shaku hunk of root bamboo with some holes drilled into it. and while it's featured into some of the most ritualized court music of old japan, it's probably most often associated with the komuso. these itinerant monks would wander the countryside, wearing basket-hats to shroud their identities while playing contemplative flute music. since many of them were former samurai (made ronin by way of release from their lord), they were acutely aware of the need to defend themselves from opportunistic scoundrels, and it's said that the use of heavier root-end madake bamboo developed from its efficacy as a bludgeon.

one of the things i love about shakuhachi is that unlike so many instruments, its austere sound somehow feels as though it's 'meant' to be on its own. it's moving air and bamboo, both of which are prone to inconsistencies, which you can hear even in listening to the masters (the difference being found in the way they 'own' and respond to those inconsistencies - just like in yo-yoing). it's probably the most difficult instrument i've ever learned to make a sound from, because you have to perfectly divide the air over and under the mouthpiece, and the direction of air is different for every note. that said (also like yo-yoing), the aspects that make it difficult are precisely what make it rewarding and addictive.

lately, it's felt as if, as far as my throwing is concerned, the toys are winding down somewhat (to paraphrase les claypool). we all pass through crests and troughs of passion, and i'm certainly accustomed to throwing with less 'piss and vinegar' from time to time. fixating on making art when no need is apparent seems perverse, and the mentality that screams 'i've got to like this! i can't let the world pass me by!' seems misguided.

don't get me wrong - i still play all the time, and i want to keep improving as a yo-yo player... but none of the ways in which i want to improve are easily judged, externally. i want my yo-yoing to be more meaningful. i want to settle more deeply into each successive throw. i want my yo-yoing to be appropriate for its moment and situation. i want to understand how to keep kids enthralled in increments of 5 seconds, 1 month, a year, or forever. i delight in the discovery of strange holds which, like mysterious secret tunnels, may be known only to a few other intrepid explorers on the planet.

there's no clear way to judge these kinds of improvements, and no trophy even if you could prove success.

in terms of goal-attainment, i've done or received a lot of what i feel is reasonable to 'want' as a yo-yo player. some of that has been the result of my own effort, and some are things which just 'happened to me'. maybe my aspirations were small, but absent of a 'burning desire' to achieve x or y, my yo-yoing feels self-contained and relevant to my own needs. that's a good feeling, and one that i think every player, from the most casual to world champions, should get to know once in a while.

i feel more and more like one of those [heavily idealized] anonymous monks. i watch my friends and get inspired to throw, but not necessarily to break new ground in the way that they do. i just want to walk around and play. i'm excited about going to contests (a week from now i'll be on a plane to bac!), but the idea of competing in one seems more and more absurd. the tricks i'm enjoying seem to be continually compressed into simpler, more concise versions of themselves (i think i squeeze more glee from one slow, protracted eli hop or a well-executed flyaway dismount than i once would have found in a dozen blitzkrieg tricks). and the strange part about all of this is that it's not a lament. in some ways it feels like a kind of death, but i'm enjoying it.

i imagine we all go through times (whether we examine it or not) wherein it seems that every aspect of our lives is built around our passions. as i mentioned a few posts ago (and so probably almost a year), i'm a yo-yoer, from when i wake up to when i go to bed. however, i'm also a dad. and a husband. and a teacher. and an aikidoka, musician, surfer/skateramateurpoetchessenthusiastdisneyworldnutloverofsmallwoodlandcreatures... etc. everything bleeds together, and i'm realizing that what my life gives to my yo-yoing and what my yo-yoing gives to my life are really equal partners.

you can understand a person's motivations through the most [seemingly] trivial actions. how they sleep,walk; how they carry themselves... how they play. people yo-yo for all kinds of reasons. some people play to understand themselves. some people play to connect with others. some people play to be accepted (or exulted). some throw to belong to something and some throw to stand out; to associate or separate. some throw to realize their deepest desires, and some throw to forget them. regardless of your approach, i think on some level, your yo-yoing should serve your life and the world, and not the other way around.

i guess if this exercise in rambling incoherence has to have a point, it's that you need not panic about how 'into it' you are. try to be more conscious of all that your play does for you, and maybe less conscious of whether you're progressing along lines that were dictated to you somewhere along the road. the yo-yo is a forgiving little talisman, and if the spin of your enthusiasm is deteriorating into a wobble, you'll always be free (like anti-yo) to regenerate.

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