Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Well. That was illuminating.

It's remarkable, really, how little I've thrown over the past year.

But much like the point of this little endeavor, the idea of making every string count...I've made every throw count. I think I used a total of 7 strings during Worlds. Seven. In years past, that wouldn't have gotten me from check-in to my room. I used to be obsessive about changing strings the moment they lost their bounce. I was the guy who could burn a hundred strings a day and think nothing of it.

Now? Now I'll switch yo-yos rather than change strings, in the hopes that the next time I pick that one up the string doesn't seem "so bad" to me.

I don't know how many strings I've used off this cone, but I do know that the idea of going back to pre-tied string seems kinda weird to me. The cone just feels more natural to me now. Although I really do need a cone of Type 8 cotton so that I can use my Loop 900s. The Type 10 works fine on Loop 720s but my newly beloved 900s got the shortest honeymoon ever when I realized that string off this cone doesn't work at all.

It's been an interesting year. A busy year, for sure. A difficult year? Oh, you have no idea. But it's always been interesting.

I originally had some kind of romantic notion that I was going to post weekly updates and videos and blah blah but such things fall by the wayside quickly when life gets hectic. It's weird some point I get really in to reading Ed and Jacob's progress and began viewing the project as a spectator. My own daily life had so little yo-yo content that I barely considered myself a participant in Cones To Balls. I was the guy who had the cones...that seemed to be the only role I was able to fulfill with any regularity.

I'm sticking with my cone, though. Feels right. Feels natural.

Feels good.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

One Day

It has been unusually hard to keep this blog up-to-date.

I refuse to believe it's because I'm too busy. "If you want something done, give it to a busy person." -BM I will concede that I have been less than
enthusiastic about putting something new on the blog.

I suppose part of the reason is that I cannot play yo-yo and play computer at the same time.

Another factor is that "making every throw count" can't happen if I'm trying to translate the transcending feeling into words on the Internet. Siddhartha's conversation with Buddha (Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse) was really vague, but it revolved around ones "divine revelation" is never the same as the experience of another, and the method of arrival to said experience is even more varied than the experience itself.

Sometimes I'm just playing yo-yo, totally zoned out, and completely happy. Others, I'm consumed by new elements or composition or compilations. Others, I'm frustrated.

But I have changed a bad habit: I only throw a yo-yo when I have an idea of what I want to do. I don't throw blindly and make it up. I see a mental image of the trick or just call out a trick name (ala Street Fighter), and do it the best I can, with any extra criteria or stipulations I set forth.

It's hard. Sometimes I have to put the yo-yo down until I know what I want to do. But I just want to play with toys! (2A is as close to "mindless" as I get. If you read back, 2A is far from mindless with this thick string)

The yo-yo I have been playing most recently is my white Velocity without shuttles. It just has really deeply-recessed pads. I think it's about 45 grams, but it's most all rim-weight. It plays as well as some of my metal yo-yos. I even like the color ;)

But my year will up in a few days, just like Ed's. I'm not going to stop playing this string: I have gotten too used to it. That and I'm out of other string because I gave most of it away. I still have half of a cone, and that gives me about another year to find a good enough replacement. The toilet paper roll effect will kick in, and I will conserve my string more as it makes its way to the ball.

But I'm very happy with what this project has done for me. I wish I could reciprocate a fraction of it, but I don't know the right words or ways to bring up the feelings.

This isn't goodbye: I will make more posts when I think of something both tangible and meaningful. Talk soon

Monday, September 20, 2010

One Year

thursday will be one year. in 3 days will have fulfilled my 'obligation', both to the cone and to the project. that said, it feels decidedly unlike an 'arrival' (maybe that would be different had i actually updated this blog with any substantial consistency). i'm just on the path, and i'm gonna do my best to stay in the middle of it.

i love playing yo-yo. i love it even more with this string. when i started this journey a year ago, i thought that it would be a challenge, and in some respects it has been... but not in the way that i assumed. i thought i would grow to detest the ritual of winding and cutting and twisting, and that i would get sick of the thick, unwieldy material (and no lie, it can feel like razor-wire on humid summer days). but no... by and large, this project has been a dream, and without a doubt, i will be continuing to use the cone (AND the 'backup' i have for whenever this one has finally tapped out) until i'm positively empty... at which point i'll probably seek for another source.

there is nothing like being in touch with what you're doing. as i've said several times, it's SO easy to yank a string off a skein and go that the process contributes nothing to your yo-yoing. i'm sure some would argue that putting a string on the yo-yo 'need not' contribute to one's play, but it does for me. the 'real' trick begins before the throw down and continues after the yo-yo whacks the flesh of your palm. much like a pianist might say that the meaning is found in the rests and not the notes, there is much more to yo-yoing than the sum of the individual maneuvers that you perform. this process has demanded that i take a minute before i throw. sometimes i have to twist a new string, but more often as i'm creating the slipknot and feel the thick texture of the cotton or the quality of the square-knot i've tied, i just take a moment to silently recognize what i'm about to do. 'cones to balls' has brought a reflective consistency upon which i've begun to rely, and i cannot imagine how incomplete my play would feel devoid of this momentary appreciation for the apparently trivial process of string-twisting.

i've heard a hundred times over that polyester string is superior. a visit to yields this gem, which i think accurately reflects the community's mindset: "Good Yo-Yo string is essential if you want to get the most out of your yo-yo. Luckily we have come a far way from the basic cotton strings your grandfathers had."

i respectfully object to this sentiment on a number of levels. for one, i don't believe that the 'quality' of our grandfathers' play was implicitly inferior to ours. obviously, any number of today's tricks would be virtually impossible, given their materials (or actually impossible - believe me, i've tried rancid milk on wood axle A LOT) . however, with alarming casualty, yo-yoers throw out the suggestion that our play is somehow 'worth more' than that of our predecessors. i think that's a load of crap, and don't believe for a second that the quality of our play is dictated by our materials. as always, it's a product one's of diligence, joy, and commitment to the craft. there's no common denominator to compare, but are we really to believe that the complexity which we've created is more fulfilling and powerful than what barney akers did with his modest tools? in another 40 years, yoyofactory's 'motorized' yo-yo prototype may have completely rewritten the scope of 'what's possible'. but to assume that this development would somehow devalue our efforts in the present would be as depressing as it would be fallacious. good yo-yoing is yo-yoing that complements its moment; that makes it a little brighter, a little more interesting or carefree.

a good yo-yo is a yo-yo that you're inspired to pick up and play, no matter what it's made of or what's inside it. ditto with string. i'm not an eco-obsessed, organic-produce-buying nutri-dad... but i like the idea that the soft, fibrous material along which my fingers slide was once alive - was once effectively a flower. yo-yoing is the practice of creation; of living, growing, evolving. the resonance of a wooden yo-yo humming against a cotton string fills me with an explosive appreciation for that fact. polyester is just dead to me... so to speak.

i don't mean to be preachy, and i don't care what you play. i like to really think about my yo-yoing; to evaluate not only my tricks and technique but my approach and mindset as well. this project has given me an impetus for questioning and for deconstructing myself, and that, to me, is the real 'marrow' of yo-yoing, and growing more attuned to it has been more valuable than any breakout or tutorial could be.

as far as regrets, it's easy to say that i should have spent more time updating this blog. it was a commitment, one in which (in some respects) i've failed... but the real commitment has been in the practice of twisting string; in seeing the 'life' of a string from its source as cotton thread, through its days spent in [mainly] joyful play, and finally its demise, laid to rest among its peers within the ball.

to heft the ball now feels surreal. the once-white threads now clasp the beautiful filth of a year (or 362 days anyway), one like all years, full of laughter and pain. while throwing one of these strings i was agonizing over the details of my return to teaching (which is going splendidly thanks). while solving the chinese calculus that setting this stuff up for loopers has been, i've concurrently watched my son learn to talk, climb, and pee in the potty and listened as my daughter has transitioned from barely coherent knock-knocks to hilarious, biting sarcasm. secured within the ball are strings i've thrown during 3 trips to disney world (we like disney world)... strings thrown by world and national champions and at the home of john higby... strings i've used to entertain 5-year-olds who could not possibly care what distinguishes rancid milk from pure 143... strings i've thrown in one-stoplight appalachian mountain towns and knee-deep in the atlantic ocean... strings i've thrown in anger and impatience and strings i've thrown with momentary grace and serenity to which i have little right.

though i cannot fully explain why, i know that i'm a better yo-yoer and a better person for having participated in this, and it feels good to have seen it through (even if i do like the string enough to keep with it). my thanks to my conical brothers, steve and j-def, and to anyone who ever read any of this stuff and thought for a second about their own yo-yoing and all that it means.

it means a great deal.

Monday, September 6, 2010

"Happy Birthday G5"

This is the first real yo-yo trick video that I have done with only 5A. This is also one of the only ones I did not add music to. That decision was due to indecision, and the fact that I don't know how to go about getting music rights.

I feel like I am playing with my yo-yo, like along side it, how you would play with a friend. Not just using a certain toy to play in general.

Spin energy transfer was brought to you by Cones to Balls string :)

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

White Yo-yos

I have this thing for white yo-yos. They are just so pretty.

I have had more memorable yo-yos that where white than any other color. Some that come to mind are my Velocity, a bearing-ized Butterfly (until I broke it), and one of the espionage 401k's (sup Ed?). I don't know what it is, but I like white yo-yos.

Now I have a Nimbus that is white.


Maybe not a very good paint job...

But I like it.

Oh, uh... about that purple string there...
Yeah, the gap was closed even more and made rough by painting it. Ummm... yeah, I can't explain that away. You caught me. Using the fat Cone string on this narrow gap is intolerable.

I'll make it up, promise.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Wait a bit...

It's August the 8th... (more than a month since the last post, sorry)

I started this project in October. That's only two months~ish away...

i has a sad

A year is almost up? I know Worlds snuck up on me this summer, but have I really spent that much time playing all-cotton strings?

I was thinking about trying some more thin-gapped yo-yos once this cone ran out, but I'm not ready for it yet.

Ed is a lifer, so he doesn't have this same mindset (even though his year is up in only one month). Steve probably has better things to do and another three cones in his attic or packed away somewhere. I have been using strings faster than either of my companions, and I still have another two years or so (judging by the diameter, not the diminishing circumference). But this is still the home stretch, and we are about to be "done"? This is the same feeling that I got graduating from high school.

I don't know if I will actually change anything after the year is up. Maybe get some more slick 8, if anybody carries it still. I have absentmindedly broken the 15-strings-at-a-time rule by having one on all of my yo-yos at once. I like the process, and don't want to make a bundle of strings ahead of time to take them out of a bundle. It would feel like cheating.

...have I made every throw count?

I don't think so. I have played more holistically, but in retrospect, I could have done more. I let distractions grip me, and have narry a new "real" video made (but one in the works). I have a month to catch up, and another month to dwell on it. I will keep updates coming.

WORLDS, shaving, and the future...

the great dilemma of our time: do i bring the cone and ball down? just the cone? should i just pretwist a few strings?

i'm not competing (i mean besides ladder, fixed axle, and pink slip... and maybe in some 'eating dares'), so i don't have a great need for my string to be at its 'highest level of performance'. honestly, the way this stuff lasts, i could probably swing worlds with one string. it would be kind of cool though to reunite the cones (and/or balls - lol). steve's coming, and i assume he'll bring his. no worlds for you this year, j-def? that's where you were at when last we talked.

i've always wanted to roll up to worlds with essentially one yo-yo and minimal clothing/toiletries. my first time down, i brought this mammoth box full of yo-yo's, and it was just this ridiculous anchor for the whole weekend. since that experience, i kind of dare myself to underpack in the extreme for contests. this is at odds with the general truth that i'm a man who likes access to his 'peripherals'.

in other news, special thanks go out to that mos def of deffenbaughs for turning me on (back) to 720s for 2a. i hadn't tried a pair since switching to type 10, which laughs cruelly at most looping yo-yo's. these however, work splendidly, and after near on 10 months of spitting, hissing, and biting, i finally have 2 pairs of 2-handers that do what i want them to do (the others being a set of clean machines for which i finally solved the gap equation). i have to say, i also miss the kind of 'suicide-consistency' that only polyester provides. i'm the first to admit that with good technique, you can nail suicides on virtually any yo-yo with virtually any string. but while poly will give you some string-tension 'fudge-room', if you're not close-to-neutral, type 10 cotton gives you basically no window at all.

i'm still undecided on what my string plans will be come october. ain't no way i'll run out of this stuff by then. i've definitely evolved toward the mindset that yo-yo string is SUPPOSED to be white (call me an antiquated string-racist if you must). the practical perspective is that white goes with all my clothes AND is nicely visible. i've never cared for that ultra-white poly string though (i find it too thin), so i'm virtually assured at this point to stick with white cotton. i miss the plug-n-play ease of type 8 with wood and loopers, but i think pulling a string off a skein will feel distinctly alien now, and i'm afraid the string will seem limp and insubstantial by comparison.

to go back to 'peripherals' for a minute, i started shaving with an old-timey safety razor a few weeks back. since buying it, i shave every morning. before, it had become something that i would do only after reaching a level of scuzziness that could no longer be politely ignored by society. however, i've finally embraced the ritual after abandoning the series of 'nice' modern, multi-bladed razors that are designed to make shaving 'easy'. my safety razor was designed circa 1930, and i can remember watching my grandfather use one exactly like it. it's heavy and shiny and it will carve your neck like an easter ham if you handle it sans attention. i WANT to be the kind of person who maintains attention. i think the prospect of needing to maintain attention while shaving is, ITSELF what has driven me to shave daily since buying this device. i WANT to care about little rituals and give my mind up to tiny details and not just sloppily rake a 5-Blade Mach 5 Turbo-Power across my face until all the hair is gone. i WANT to be someone who appreciates and accepts the consequences should my attention break down.

and, it occurs to me, that's also why i like this string. and why, i expect, when my year is up, i'll be sticking with it. BECAUSE of its inherent difficulties (and not despite them), i'm a more attentive, focused player. and that's worth hanging on to.

see you at worlds!