Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Day 28: My First Yo-Yo

There was no yo-yo boom in my childhood. In fact it seems that yo-yoing skipped the 80's completely. As a result I never really picked one up until I after my 21st birthday.

I was still living in Tennessee at the time, but I decided to fly out to Seattle for my 21st birthday. I had made contact with some label reps at K Records and Kill Rock Stars in Olympia, WA, so I booked a two week flight and headed out west.

As a long time fan of World's Fair expo sites, my first stop in Seattle was of course the Space Needle. The Space Needle was built for the 1962 Worlds Fair. This was my first trip to the Space Needle and I needed a trinket for my World's Fair collection.

I had narrowed down the choices to either getting a Snow Dome or a yo-yo. I decided on the yo-yo because it was $.50 cheaper... I often wonder about how different my life would have been had sprung for the snow dome instead.

Throughout the next few weeks I played with my new yo-yo while walking around Seattle and Olympia. I wouldn't say that I had gotten good with it by the time I returned to Tennessee, but I had two weeks more practice than most of my friends. After arriving back in Nashville I stopped by a local mall to get a bite from the food court. It was early in the morning and most of the shops were just opening. On my way to get a taco I saw a guy opening up a new kiosk called Yo Momma's. His store was full of yo-yos, so I pulled out my green wooden souvenir and show him some of the tricks I was working on during my excursion to the Northwest.

He hired me on the spot and I started working the very next day. A month later I became manager of that kiosk and we opened 3 more in the city. Pretty soon we had opened 8 locations and I was a regional manager. Of course the whole time I was training employees and watching the stores, I got to play a whole bunch.

So, for the first weeks of my yo-yoing life, this souvenir from Seattle was the only piece in my collection. Then I moved up to Bumblebees and Vipers and Bumblebee GTs and Renegades and Hitmen etc....


Stay in touch with an RSS feed

Today is the last day of the 28 Days of Yo blogging project, but that obviously doesn't mean it will be the last thing I ever post so if you'd like to keep up to date on my blogging, I suggest you subscribe to the RSS feed.

An RSS feed is a way to see whenever a site use has updated or not. In order to use the feed though you'll need an RSS aggregator. I use Newsgator, it works similar to web based email but for keeping track of sites. To get started with a subscription, just sign in to your RSS aggregator, then go to add feeds and add this url:

RSS really simplifies my web surfing and it's becoming a standard tool on most sites. In fact many blog and web 2.0 sites have automatic RSS generators that the site owners might not even know about. Many sites feature RSS "subscribe now" buttons that you simply have to click to add to your aggregator. Here are a few more feed urls to add.

You can even use RSS feeds to maintain a search on services like eBay, Craigslist, and Amazon. For example:

Of course if you are using Firefox you can subscribe to a live bookmark feed too, but I don't thing live bookmarks are nearly as usefull as a web based aggregator.

Blah blah blah, hey just think... if you subscribe to my feed... you'll be notified every time I write on my blog... about getting you to subscribe to my feed... so that you can be notified... every time I write about subscribing to my blog. It keeps going on and on my friends.

If you know any other rss feed urls, post 'em below.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Day 27: Modified Bolts

The Bolt
yo-yo is a fun yo-yo to mod. Whether it's a basicsilicone mod or work on the lathe, Bolts are a cheap base for mods.

In the picture above I have three of my favorite mods.

On the left is Dave Poyzer's modified Bolt. It's made with weight rings from a Yomega Hyper Warp Wing. The pogs are clear with printing on them and a second layer underneath the clear pogs with more printing. This yo-yo placed third at the modding contest at the World Yo-Yo Contest.

In the middle is another of Poyzer's fine creations. This Bolt has been lathed to fit weight rings chopped off of the Zombie by Small Minds. Both of Poyzer's mods feature IRS (interchangable response) rings, which is like a starburst insert for o-ring yo-yos.

The Bolt on the right is similar to the Doctor'd Bolts I sell on my site, but my buddy Nick tweaked it a little more on the inside with shmoove rings. This Bolt is one of my two top yo-yos in my arsenal. Check out the pictures on the bottom for close ups.


Monday, June 25, 2007

Day 26: The Twin Twirler

The Twin Twirler, made by Kusan in the 50's and 60's, was a yo-yo top combo. From what I've heard, the Twin Twirler was only sold in Chattanooga, TN (with the exception of the Kusan World Yo-Yo Contest in NYC)... Of course I found that out about a month after moving from Chattanooga to ST. Louis. I wish I would have known that I should have looked for Twin Twirlers while I was living there.

In this picture of a pack of Twin Twirler string (via Dave's Yo-Yo Museum) you can see the two ways the Twin Twirler was intended to be played; as a top or a yo-yo.

Bob Baab was a Kusan demonstrator in the 60's. During a phone conversation with Bob in November of 2000, he described how he and fellow Kusan demonstrator Dale Oliver used to demonstrate the Twin Twirler. Bob said that they would wind up their yo-yo using the same offstring winding technique we use now, then they would throw their yo-yos sideways (parallel to the ground) and they would spin freely on the ground like a top.

Bob went on to describe a method of getting the yo-yo back on the string and wound back up to the hand by sliding the yo-yo string into the gap, wrapping it around axle, and pulling. Baab was pretty much describing the beginnings of offstring yo-yoing. Throughout the years, Dale continued this offstring winding technique, but he started throwing the yo-yo from a forward pass and catching it on the string. It would take about 30 years though before Jon Gates would find a method of making an offstring yo-yo return to the hand.


Sunday, June 24, 2007

Day 25: Screw Ball Mini

The Screw Ball Mini was made by Tomy in 1998. It was one of the first transaxle miniature yo-yos and was only available in Japan. The Screw Ball didn't have ball bearings, but the plastic sleeve worked great. In fact, I believe the Screw Ball played better than most of the ball bearing minis that came out 3 years later.

Hironori Mii (offstring world champion and founder of Team Off-String) once told me that in order to achieve the highest level of Team Off-String, a player had to do all of the team's offstring trick list on a Screw Ball. That is hardcore, but of course the guys from T.O.S. were freakin' hardcore as well.


Saturday, June 23, 2007

Day 24: Alan Gray's Yo-Yo Top

As early as 2000, I was working on designs for a yo-yo/top combo, but it wasn't until 2004 that I was actually able to get one of my favorite designs made. I asked my friend, and expert top and yo-yo crafter, Alan Gray to make a yo-yo with a yo-yo with a whole for for a shaft to run through. This is the yo-yo he made.

The yo-yo is built from a BC wooden yo-yo, with a ball bearing added. Through the hub of the yo-yo, Alan made a hole that runs through the axle. Through the hole, there is a shaft with elongated top tips. On either side of the hole, there are ball bearings that the shaft sits on.

So, there is a ball bearing in the center of the yo-yo, and two bearings on either side of the hub for the top tips to sit on. The yo-yo plays decent, it has a little wobble, but it's not bad for a wooden yo-yo.


Friday, June 22, 2007

Day 23: The Patriot

After the release of Duncan's popular Freehand yo-yo, YoYoJam felt they needed a wide bodied yo-yo in the $15 range. They used their Dragon Jam as the basis, but pulled the edges out further to give it that wide/smooth design. I begged Dale to make the yo-yo with friction stickers, but Dale just wouldn't go for it.

The design of the yo-yo began in October of 2001 and the yo-yo was released in September. I don't recall ever hearing this new wide bodied YYJ referred to as anything other than a modified Dragonjam, so I assume that calling it "The Patriot" was a reference to the terrorist attacks earlier than month.

Around this time, everyone had little flags on their car and there was a certain universal patriotism in the air, so it wasn't really a surprise to find out that YoYoJam had decided to call their new yo-yo The Patriot... but I was a little surprised when I first got mine and saw that the pog art was of Uncle Sam riding what appeared to be a missile (but it could be a firecracker) with an American flag. The whole thing seemed a bit too over the top. It looked like a bad biker tattoo, minus the bald eagle carrying lightning bolts with it's wings wide spread and symmetrical.

Luckily, I wasn't the only person who thought the pogs looked horrible, so the next batch of Patriots came with engraving on the inside of the pogs of an American Flag. This lasted for a month and then they started making a simpler foil pog with a much simpler Patriot logo and no imagery.

The Patriot later became the basis for the Bolt and the Kickside. Why they changed the name to the Kickside is beyond me, it's just a Patriot with o-rings.

In the bottom pic you can see my Midwest Regional special edition Patriot with a logo designed by TitiFreak. Just a reminder, this year's MWR is this weekend at the Mall of America. Wish I could be there!



FYI, I have been extremely busy over the last two days working on this project. I've obviously had to take a break from the 28 Days project, but I will begin blogging again tomorrow (Friday).

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Day 22: Enyo Spinfaktor HG

This yo-yo was given to me by Al (Jun Aramaki) at the 2005 California State Yo-Yo Contest. This YoYoJam Spinfaktor HG, is made of enyo plastic and was made exclusively for the Japan National Yo-Yo Contest.

It's a hybrid yo-yo (starbursts and an o-ring), but with some shims and a cleaned bearing it plays as well as it looks.

During California States, Al did one of his awesome triple a freestyles which we unfortunately had to end early due to explicit language. He was using some Beastie Boys song that I had not previously heard... and had more cussing than any other Beastie Boys song I had ever heard. As a matter of fact, sometimes the music would even cut out write at when the swearing would get heavy.

The funny thing was that Al had no idea... unless he was just trying to see how much he could get away with by pretending he didn't speak enough English to know that the song was inappropriate. For the rest of his stay we referred to him as Jun "F Word" Aramaki.


Monday, June 18, 2007

Day 21: The Mongu Freehand

Ever since Whip (Brazilian artist and member of the Duncan Crew) brought his first Mongus to the World Yo-Yo Contest, I've been Mongu-lomaniac. I bought the last available Mongu doll that weekend and coincidentally got my first tattoo which was based on art by Whip's brother TitiFreak.

A year later, Duncan released the Mongu Freehand Zero. Even though I'm deathly allergic to friction stickers, I bought one and kept it in the package next to my doll. Every time I saw it, I yearned to be able to feel it's smooth brown plastic pressed against my palm, but knowing that the sonically welded packaging was the only thing protecting me from those evil friction stickers.

Finally, I got the idea to send my Mongu Freehand Zero to my friend Nick (Feral Parrot) for some quick modifications. A week later, he brought me my Modded Mongu, complete with recessed silicone and shmoove rings (like those found in The End yo-yo). The mod is great, definitely the favorite Duncan in my collection.


Sunday, June 17, 2007

Day 20: The Turbo Bumble Bee GT

Back in the days when I still had the yo-yo store in St. Louis, we all loved the Bumble Bee GT. It was a favorite of all the staff, and one of our top sellers.

I remember one day I was working the store when I noticed a young boy walking towards the booth carrying one of our product bags in his left hand. He was sheepishly approaching the store with his mom right behind him, she was nudging him on.

"Hey buddy, what's going on?" I asked.

"Uh, I need to make a return." He whispered.

"No problem man." I responded "What's the problem?"

He reached into his bag and said "This yo-yo melts to easy." He pulled out a Bumble Bee GT that was still in it's package, but one side had been totally melted. Strings of melted plastic mixed together like oil paints on an artist's pallet.

"What happened to it?"

"A lamp feel on it last night, when I found it this morning it was all melted."

"Wow. You know what? There is no way I'm going to give you a refund for that... but I will buy it from you for ten dollars."

He took me up on the offer, so I emptied up one of our glass display cases and I placed the melted Bee GT inside. Thus the "Broken ProYo Museum" was born. Throughout the next few weeks people would bring in their old broken Playmaxx yo-yos and we added them to the case. ProYo IIs, Vid-E-Yos, Bumble Bees, and even a Cold Fusion all made their way into the case.


Saturday, June 16, 2007

Day 19: The Sunset Trajectory NXG

My week of writing about looping yo-yos is at it's end, but there are plenty of other looping yo-yos I may still squeeze in later.

I haven't been writing about many yo-yos that are still currently available, but I couldn't talk about looping without bringing up the Sunset Trajectory NXG.

With a simple modification, the Trajectory NXG is absolutely my favorite yo-yo for two handed tricks.

I know that the Raider will still be the Double A standard for a long time, but I just can't get into a looping yo-yo that isn't gap adjustable. Of all the adjustable looping yo-yos, I think the Trajectory has the best feel to it. To modify it, I simply added flowable silicone. If you aren't familiar with how this is done, please check out "How to mod a Doc Pop Bolt".

The gap for the silicone is much smaller than most YoYoJams, so it takes a little more work, but the end result is totally worth it. It seems somewhat contradictory that adding a flush layer of silicone would work for a looping yo-yo, but I like it so much I'm-a probably grab another pair.


Friday, June 15, 2007

Day 18: Jason Tracy's Cosmic Otter

In 1999, I moved to O'Fallon, IL (just a few miles from St. Louis) to open a yo-yo store in a local mall. What followed was one of the worst years of my life. Not to be overly dramatic, but it really just sucked. I lived out of my car, a Chevy Cavalier, for the first month and a half, and spent every day working my kiosk from 9am till 9 pm (except on Sundays 10am-6pm). I regretted moving from Chattanooga (my favorite little city in nation), especially when St. Louis's long hot summer kicked in.

The humidity was so hot, that when I opened the door of my house to leave for work every morning, it felt like I was opening the door to an oven. The heat would press against me and I'd brace myself for another long day standing at a mall kiosk.

At least there was a Krispy Kreme across the street from my house.

One day I heard about the upcoming Van's Warped Tour. I found out that many yo-yo companies would have pros there and there would be a performance stage set up and everything, so I bought a ticket... I think it was $60 bucks (or something crazy expensive), but I was able to find someone to work for me that day so I decided to splurge and attend.

It was another hot day, but I was really excited about seeing the pros, it was looking like it would the best thing to happen all year. When I pulled up to the event though, I was shocked to find out that there was only one parking lot and it was $25 to park. I had never been to an outdoor arena before, so I didn't know this was really common. I literally had no money that day. Not in my bank account, not in my wallet, nothing. I had even spent the last of the change I could find on gas. So I had to pull away and find a parking spot at some apartments about a mile or two away and walked to the arena.

It turns out the land all around the arena (except for the parking lot) was swampland. I had no idea that they had swamp land in the Midwest, but soon I was knee deep in it. Finally I made it to the front gate and saw one of the kids from my yo-yo club sadly sitting against the wall by the ticket booth. They wouldn't let him in with his yo-yo bag... a problem I soon came up against too.

"I'm sorry, those could be weapons. You'll have to leave them in your car." The door person said. I replied, "But Tommy was dropped off by his mom an hour ago and my car is parked a few miles away." He gave me a look like I was full of bull, so I pointed to my muddy shoes as proof of my journey. "Look that's not my problem, leave 'em outside then." he said. We asked to see his boss, so he had us wait in an in between holding area for her. She ended up saying the same thing he did, and would not let us in with our bags full of yo-yos. She too suggested that we just leave them outside. I told her we were special performers and she could find someone from the yo-yo stage to verify that, so she left supposedly to look for the yo-yoers inside the event.

After sitting in that space for about an hour, I spotted a gap were there were no guards, so Tommy and I made a dash into the arena. Three hours after I had left my car we were finally in the Vans Warped Tour and on our way to see the pros. I was thinking about the expression "nothing good comes easily" and was starting to get pumped up again about being there.

This was the year following the big yo-yo boom, so all the companies had crazy money to spend on promotions. When a chance to exhibit and travel with the Warped tour came along, Duncan, Yomega, BC Yo-Yos, Henrys, ProYo and Fiend Magazine all jumped on it, making the Fiend North America Tour of 1999 the largest multi sponsored event in yo-yo history. The pros on hand were Steve Brown, Chris Neff, Mark McBride, Jason Tracy, Julius Szakolczai, Nick VanDerSchie, and Lester the duck.

When we found the yo-yo pros though, we soon realized that we weren't the only ones effected by the heat and humidity. The energy at the yo-yo stage was low. At this point on the tour, I believe that folks were starting to wear on each others nerves, people were getting tired of travelling, string burns and aches were starting to develop, etc. So there was very little actual yo-yoing going on or near the yo-yo stage. Instead, the pros just seemed to grab the mic and find different ways to get girls to lift up their shirts in exchange for stickers. Julius, who is always a pro, was the only guy I can remember getting on stage and yo-yoing the whole time we were there. We did get to meet all of the pros though, and I recall Mark showing us how he made his extra long string, but most of the folks didn't seem all that talkative. So after all of the crap we went through, Tommy and I just ended up yo-yoing with each other instead of with any of the pros.

Plenty of stickers were given out, and at some point Jason Tracy came over to us and gave us some of his beautiful Cosmic Otter yo-yos. The Cosmic Otters came in a few colors, my favorite is the "dreamsicle" one pictured above and below.

After an hour or two, Tommy said it was time for his mom to pick him up, so we said goodbye to some of the pros and I walked out with him. Unfortunately, after all the troubles of getting to the pros, the whole thing ended up being a total bust, I couldn't have felt any sadder. While walking out the front gate I bumped into one of the pros that we didn't see inside the event. His name was "The Lao". The Lao worked for Infinite Illusions in Florida. He did yo-yo a little, but throwing tops was really his thing. The Lao and I totally hit it off, immediately feeding off each other and making up new tricks or variations of both yo-yo and top tricks. We hung out for at least an hour, it was great. The best part of the whole Warped Tour for me, happened outside the same gate that wouldn't let us in with our yo-yos earlier. Man, if I would have known that I could have saved $60 bucks and had enough money to eat.

As I look now at my orange and white Cosmic Otter, it always brings back memories of one of the lowest points in my life. The crappy day, living in a city I hated, being flat broke with all of my money tied up in my store, eventually losing all that money because the store couldn't even break even the year after the boom, etc. It's weird to look at a yo-yo and be filled with this feeling of regret. It's as if when I look at it, I'm looking into a crystal ball and seeing myself saying "Sure I'll move to St. Louis, it sounds like a fun opportunity."

Joe Mitchell has some awesome photos from the Philly stop here.


Thursday, June 14, 2007

Day 17: The Pink Duncan ProYo

Shortly after Duncan's acquisition of the Playmaxx line in late 2001, new versions of old Playmaxx yo-yos were hitting store shelves nation wide.

This wasn't the first time that Playmaxx made it into stores like Walgreens, Target, and Walmart. During the big boom, these stores had racks full of ProYos, Playmaxx's wooden axled beginner yo-yo, but now the ProYo was back in stores.

It looked weird to see the ProYo in the Duncan section of my nearest convenience store. Seeing the Duncan pogs and same vacuum sealed packaging that is used for the Duncan Imperial, I couldn't help but the two men most associated with the two companies... Steve Brown and Tom Van Dan Elzen. An odder couple could not be found.

Earlier today I saw a post on about modding a Duncan ProYo. While reading it, I suddenly remembered that when Duncan released their first batch of ProYos in 2002, a mistake was made. All the pink ProYos were actually pink Bumble Bees (Playmaxx's higher end ball bearing yo-yo). So for just $2, you were actually getting a $15 ball bearing yo-yo.


Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Day 16: The Super Tournament Repro

If you walk around town and yo-yo, you've probably been stopped by someone and told about "the good old days" of yo-yoing. We all hear the same old stories about how the "Yo-Yo Man" would come to town and do a show in front of the corner store. Afterwards the demonstrator would carve his name onto yo-yos for the kids in attendance, often adding images like a palm tree on an island to supposedly represent the Philippines (most of the early demonstrators were Filipino).

So it's no surprise that when Duncan released their wooden yo-yo reproductions 9 years ago, Steve Brown and Chris Neff re-instituted the tradition of yo-yo carving Duncan pros.

Neff gave me a carved Duncan Super Tournament during his first tour for Duncan. At the time, he basically lived out of a camper van for months at a time. It's funny that while the early demonstrators were carving images of far away oceanic scenes, Chris was carving his camper van.

The blue "Doc Pop" Super Tournament was a gift from the awesome Tom Cunningham (aka oldyoyoguy). Awe inspiring, isn't it?