Monday, April 28, 2014

yo-yo #100(!) - Play Simply No Jive

100 yo-yo's! yay!
i'll grant you it's really a totally arbitrary milestone AND several of these posts have embedded two or even three yo-yo's at a time, but whatever... clearly, i'll accept any opportunity to feel psyched up about myself.

actually though, this IS a significant one for me. i began this blog with my first tom kuhn 3-in-1 no jive yo-yo, and though i've gone through so many other amazing pieces which have inhabited my collection, that really still is the most important one. it doesn't do anything special, it's a little beat and honestly, it's kind of hard to make it do "cool stuff". regardless, it happened to be the yo-yo i was throwing when i began to fall into my own style (whatever that is).

i really fell in love with the unembellished simplicity and modesty of the no jive from the first throw. and since then i've worked on and off to put my own stamp on it (both metaphorically and now, physically). i've tried to hit some hard stuff on it. i've tried to come up with some new moves that work BECAUSE of its limitations, rather than in spite of them. and i've accumulated a pretty staggering collection of no jive variations (my wife would probably call it pathological). this one makes 75.

for anyone who gets excited about yo-yoing, there will have been that one model which you just see as "classic". typically, it'll be one of the first models of which you were aware - maybe the imperial you first saw at toys r us or the dark magic you saw in the video which first got you hooked. regardless of its specifics, it becomes the central icon around which you build an understanding of what yo-yo's are and what they are for. that's how i feel about the no jive. though it wasn't the first i owned, i think of it as the penultimate "simple" yo-yo; the best thing we collectively came up with before yo-yo's (and yo-yoing) got complicated. mind you, i have no problem with complicated - some of my tricks are pretty complicated. but i've always had this need to stay tethered (so to speak) to the idea that yo-yo's are basically toys - meant for fun. rancid milk is genius in its obfuscating angular geometry, but so is shoot the moon in its carefree simplicity.

when i learned that i could go ahead with the idea to make a small run of personalized no jives, i really wanted it to be something that would fit with what i loved about the yo-yo from the start. in 2012 i did a video i called "play simply" to commemorate the end of my year of playing only the spyy "eh", the title of which was adapted from the patagonia slogan "live simply" (patagonia was cool with it and even threw the video up on their website). i used to have an aikido instructor who insisted that "simple doesn't mean easy". at the time, the distinction was lost on me, but now that i'm older i come back to it often.

alot of the hardest things i've ever done (with yo-yo's or without) have been fundamentally simple and clear. there isn't really too much technique involved in dropping into a bowl or overhead wave, playing through a lead sheet, or blasting through an attack with irimi-nage. with each of those, the key is to commit and be present. 360 flips are great, but i've met a lot of guys who have have them dialed and won't drop in on 8ft. similarly, would anyone argue that charlie parker's "ornithology" more meaningful than miles' "flamenco sketches" because it's got more notes? with love to bird (who could also play slow, i know), sometimes i wonder whether the function of complex technicality is to distract from the fact that we're conditioned not to see the value in the simple stuff. it shouldn't be surprising. our culture is imbued with the olympian mentality of "faster, higher, stronger" (by which we've really just come to mean "more"). and though that attitude has taken us to the moon and bought us many wonderful appliances, we've paid for it with, among other things, sunsets devoid of contrails and the time necessary to appreciate them.

this past xmas, my dad gave me a cool little gift - a wooden yo-yo from yosemite featuring an engraved image of the park icon "half-dome". yosemite has got to be my folks' favorite place under the sun, and the yo-yo was given to suggest it as a destination for an upcoming family trip. personally, i just really liked the natural scene on a wooden yo-yo, and a week or two later i had a vague idea of what i wanted on the no jive. i sketched out an embarrassingly bad concept on what was basically a napkin, and it was immediately clear that i did not have the skill-set necessary to bring this to life. so i did what anyone needing some sweet art for a yo-yo would do - i hit up my pal jason week!

after some back and forth, jason took my shoddily-conceived idea and made it legitimately special. he included nuances i would never have thought of, like taking an actual profile of me playing from my instagram and incorporating a palm tree as a nod to the traditional carvings of yo-yoing's past. he kept the semi-circle motif that calls to mind the original no jive logo and made the suns rays look less like a citrus cross-section and more like the old starburst mandalas. he took my crappy attempt at a breaking wave and made it look at once like a little a-frame i'd like to surf AND a tiny version of the hokusai wave on my arm. even the no jive lettering on the sand evokes the original classic font. tl;dr: jason week is amazing, and he took this from being a pipe dream of mine to being one of the raddest looking yo-yo's i've ever seen.

despite all i say on here, i do tend to overcomplicated things - thoughts, processes, motivations - to the end that i become very inefficient, confused, and forgetful. i get caught in cycles worrying about the silliest minutia while neglecting the fact that it's a beautiful day or forgetting to put on pants. i spent a lot of my early life trying really hard to be good at specific things, and placed virtuosity above what is fundamental. as i get older, i'm starting to feel at home with the basics, and their importance is more apparent. after playing mostly fixed axle for almost a decade, i think i'm starting to get a pretty decent throw. i'm starting to get a sense for what the yo-yo will and won't allow me to get away with. most importantly, i'm starting to understand my own thought processes while i'm playing.

since i first met it, throwing the no jive has helped keep me grounded. i can't hit anything on it without giving my full attention to the moment. i love that it comes from maple trees like i've got in my yard, and that it has exactly one moving part - it. it's nice and quiet, and i can throw at night without bothering anyone. yeah wood has its inconsistencies and that can give you a little vibe, but tuning it up like i do one of my ukes is part of my routine and part of the fun. plus, you know what else has some inconsistencies? me. you know what else has a little vibe? the frickin universe (see post below). embracing those qualities is way more fun than seeking desperately to escape them.

when i throw wood, i really try to kind of come back to myself - by which i guess i mean that i try to play for the same reasons as before i "learned to play". i try to go outside or on my porch and feel the yo-yo on the string and take joy from it. i try to let go of the distinction between me and the yo-yo. or the breeze. or the rain. maybe i do hard stuff or maybe i do easy stuff, but i try to keep my mindset clear, and though there's no fear of a concussion like there is at the top of a skate ramp, i try to commit and give myself to a moment in the same way. when you've been playing awhile and made connections with other players, it's hard not to tack something onto your playing; experiences you've had, tricks that have given you trouble, people you miss, times when you've felt profoundly successful or unsuccessful. i cherish yo-yoing, and the feelings and memories i associate with it, and though i don't seek to forget that stuff when i'm playing... i do try NOT to hang on to it, which, for me, is what the phrase "no jive" has come to mean.

thanks again for reading any of these blog entries over the last few years, and i hope you dig this particular yo-yo. if so, i have a few of them, and you can get one here:

1 comment:

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