Saturday, October 8, 2011

yo-yo #'s 92 & 93: spyy garagecraft woodies

when i look at my life honestly, all of the most memorable and significant periods - the times when i truly grew and changed as an individual - were when i had it comparatively rough. understand, i never 'actually' had anything rough. i've never been abe lincoln carving out an austere, frontier existence while self-edumacatin' in a cabin. my home has never been torn apart by war or famine or disease (knock on wood).

regardless of one's background though, we all 'have it rough' sometimes. within the context of one's life, you can only compare against your own experiences, and it seems only natural that the times in which we are most hard-pressed are often the ones from which we take the most valuable lessons. there's obviously a tipping-point: if one's challenges are so great or so many that you can't progress at all, it's a different matter. in general though, we need a bit of newton's 3rd law in our lives, lest we spin our wheels (so to speak) in stagnant, boring complacency.

this summer, i took a welcome retreat from nc's 3-digit early july, touching down in calgary, ab to judge the canadian national contest. though the experience was filled to bursting with memorable anecdotes, i might have taken the most joy from the hour or so spent carving and sanding these yo-yo's out of strips of oak in steve's garage. when steve (the proprietor of spyy) married his wife, suzanne, he was already into yo-yo's. as such, crafty dude that he is, it seemed fitting that he should put together some nice DIY yo-yo's as gifts for the guests. i had the pleasure of throwing one of these ink-stamped beauties, too. i'm not sure what kind of wood it was (pine maybe?), but it weighed in around 40g. it was like playing a yo-yo made from gaseous helium.

steve, gary longoria, and i just kind of fell into a pattern with his press and power tools, and at the end of an hour or so, had somehow etched a quintet of slick-looking wood butterflies from his oaken stock. (i love that, depending upon how gary operated the press, they each have distinct scorch-marks along their profiles.)

we were able to cajole the yo-yo's into playing well enough. the narrower of these two has a fairly deep gouge which gives it a bit of a rattle. we later shot lasers at them, etching subtle logos and messages into the wood, and inducing a wonderful scent which i'm sure still pervades steve's basement. the wider butterfly (etched 'supersonic' on one side) ended up perfectly smooth - rare in a wide[ish] gapped butterfly woody. i spent at least 20 minutes hand-sanding it, and the unfinished oak feels softer than teflon.

it wasn't until much later that it occurred to me that it's actually TOO soft.

since these are glued together, we basically had to set the gap using a popsicle stick tool and then pray we got it right. the gap isn't too wide, but the profile of the yo-yo and the smoothness of the inner wall are such that virtually no string will hold a decent bind (much less a tug), and unless the tension is positive to the point of kinking, i can pull the string right through the gap from a full wind - not what i look for in a wooden yo-yo. it's still fun, but i get pissy if i can't set a wooden yo-yo up to do decent moons, and this guy is just too slick & loose.

a few weeks ago, i tried an experimental surgery that had never occurred to me. dead duncan stickers can work wonders in a no jive if the gap's too large, so i surgically cut a line down the radius of one and used tweezers to set it [ever so carefully] around the yo-yo's gap. alas, i was not born to be a surgeon, and the slightest movement of my hand established a 1mm gap in the sticker, causing, in turn, an irregular whir.

beyond that tolerable side-effect? perfection. tight binds, crisp loops, late fly-aways into smooth string-stalls. it's incredible what a little friction can do.

the metaphor holds true for our lives as well. when we're just coasting along, everything going our way, life rarely feels as meaningful as when we're pushing against it to a degree. we need that push-back; it gives us context for our lives - a frame of reference. everybody's different, but i think we all share this universal need; not for hardship so much as something to lean on - something to feel sliding against us as we spin. having that metaphorical traction is what enables us to move.

in yo-yoing, we call it 'response', but i rarely consider how apt the term is. my kids at school want massive gaps so they can get away with any kind of sloppy throw or flailing laceration. they're honest at that age, too. they'll tell you they don't want response because it makes whips hurt. but in our lives, if we're out of control, we SHOULD get that response. we SHOULD get a knuckle-whack, or a speeding ticket, or a dear john letter. when we screw up, our lives should snap back and make us untangle and wind back up before trying again. that cause and effect helps clean us up and give us a handle on where we went wrong.

we live in an era of minimal response. we want it to be easy, but we aren't always wired for easy to seem meaningful. we can design yo-yo's to make tricks more blissful and forgiving, but applying a perfect takeshi recess mod to your life can be a bit trickier. in a world where, more and more, people seek to distance themselves from negative consequences, the idea of inserting some augmented response - of holding oneself to a higher or tougher standard - can feel almost heretical. but it's not always a matter of being hard-headed or artificially going against the grain.

sometimes you just need that extra friction to feel right.

1 comment:

Louis said...

I started seriously yo-yoing in the era of the Proyo Turbo Bumble Bee. The SuperYo Renegade. The yo-yos weren't that wide, and there was a certain pride in pulling off complex string tricks on thin yo-yos with thin gaps. As the yo-yos got wider and became less responsive, there were cries of heresy. That the yo-yos were getting too easy. That the kids aren't learning discipline.

But I think that's wrong. The challenge, the push back, depends not just on the equipment but also what you're trying to do with it. Wider gaps make for easier landings, but it makes it harder to land the yo-yo between two strings. Modern yo-yos open up tricks that, as far as I can tell, simply aren't possible on a fixed axle yo-yo. I don't think that the challenges of newer tricks instill a different kind of character in a person. Hard work is hard work, whether you're trying to do skin the gerbil on a fixed axle or playing jump rope while doing a side-style trick with a bearing yo-yo.

It's like the Internet. The Internet makes it easier to answer questions. I wouldn't have been able to be a software engineer after getting a physics degree w/out having it. I wouldn't have been able to find the info I needed fast enough. But exactly because Google is available, the bar has been raised for what I'm expected to learn and execute. Maybe in the 1990s my challenge would be to learn 5 new technologies in a month. Now my challenge is to learn 10 new technologies and write 3 times as much code. It's easier to learn them, and I have example code to copy and paste from. But I think the difficulty level is about the same.