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General Discussion / thoughts about exec and stuff
Last post by stevenueve - May 18, 2023, 07:48 PM
Some questions:

  • What is execution?
  • What do we use to compare to determine good execution?
  • Is there always an ideal version of a combo? If so, how do we reconcile the fact that people might have a different vision of an ideal?
  • How narrow is the scope of the 'execution' criteria? Should one's aesthetic decisions be considered?
  • Should the difficulty be considered in determining how well something was executed?

Execution is a measure of accuracy, which inherently puts a limit. When we judge execution, we are putting every spinner on the same scale and measuring their accuracy towards a specific target. But what is that specific target? I think that when we talk about how having good tempo, low arm motion, and good rotations are signs of good execution, we're really talking about approaching an ideal, which a combo execution who perfectly consistent tempo, perfectly circular rotations, and no arm motion. Perhaps this is why when we talk about flaws in execution, we mention factors that subtract from the combo, as opposed to elements such as difficulty and originality, which derive most of their criticisms from elements that could've been added. Execution is a measure of accuracy towards a target ideal.

A very universal and base ideal seems to be consistent tempo, circular rotations, and low arm movement. I think this is quite justified. The first reason is that these conditions require skill to reach and are straightforward to measure. This makes them good criteria to judge as they are objective, but that doesn't answer why it's these factors specifically. Rather, we've answered why tempo needs to be constant, why rotations need to be circular, and why arm movement should be low, but the question at large remains why we picked these factors in the first place. I believe answering requires us to define 'pen spinning' in more strict terms. A good place to start would be to consider a world in which we removed these concepts from consideration.

What is tempo? I think a fundamental definition is the persistent movement of the pen itself. If you consider other forms of contact juggling, you'll notice that pen spinning is closer to balisong or begleri than say cardistry or kendama in the heavy emphasis of constant movement of the object. This is not to say that cardistry or kendama don't require movement, but rather there is not the same emphasis on keeping an object movement at all times no matter what. You are allowed to simply hold an object still akin to stalls in those two mentioned hobbies, but this is heavily frowned upon for a good reason: the constant motion of the pen is an essential part of the image of pen spinning. There are plenty of tricks that stop the pen in some suspension or hold, but these tricks have never been popular and most likely never will. Imagine a world where we didn't care about always moving the pen and most combos compensated for that loss of movement with stalls, holds, mafibo, or hand waving, where instead of consistency there's a lot of pausing and stopping. I think we would consider that fundamentally not pen spinning. It's why dropping the pen is so unacceptable—the pen god damn stopped.

Rotations are also quite easy to justify. Consider that the iconic way the pen spins is just one of many ways to manipulate the pen. Even if we required the pen to be moving constantly, there's no reason we couldn't substitute the spinning plane with exclusively rolls, seasicks, rotations along the line, and tipped charges, which have the potential to be high skill. The issue is that it just wouldn't be pen spinning.

Arm motion as a factor is a bit more interesting in that it more so speaks on the introverted nature of the hobby. I imagine that losing the emphasis on low arm motion would not result in people erratically moving their arm like they have a seizure, but rather it would transform the hobby into something akin to stand-up where the rest of the body is more involved. Given that stand-up is not popular or particularly enjoyed by most pen spinners, and that pen spinning has not divulged far from the 1p1h with close-up angles, I think another essential part of pen spinning is the near absolute focus on the hands and the motion of the pen. Keeping arm motion low is an extension of excluding all other elements and favoring minimalism to emphasize the hand and the pen.
Okay. So we've justified the existence of these ideals in that they are high skill and also define pen spinning in a fundamental way that if they were not considered the hobby wouldn't be considered pen spinning as we know it. But now we have the problem of reconciling with the fact that these ideals are merely such: they are not rules to be followed at all times. In fact, even when following these ideals quite strictly, we still give a lot of leeway to spinners that we consider as having good execution. There are tons of variances especially when it comes to tempo and arm motion, but it doesn't bother most people, and slight differences can come off as aesthetically appealing. However, when a spinner decides to dramatically change their execution away from the ideal to create an appeal elsewhere, how do determine what is variance as a result of an execution mistake from a meaningful and skillful adjustment?

This turns out to be a very difficult question. The obvious answer of considering intent actually opens up a can of worms. For example, consider the pinkybak finisher. What is commonly considered a classic execution error is catching the pen on the wrong side of the COG such that most of the pen is sticking away from the hand, but it isn't impossible that someone might simply prefer such, even if 99/100 spinners don't, and did so intentionally as a finisher. In fact, the bust is a great example of a finisher where it is valid to hold the pen on either side of the COG. One conclusion is that it's justified if it's intended, but to do so would be ruinous as it could justify anything. First, we can't know intent for certain, so we'll only be able to go off of what the spinner says, which appears to be an execution error is actually intended (e.g. "time stop"). Second, because it is possible to accidentally execute a combo better than expected, relying on intent could penalize what is otherwise perfect execution. Another more interesting conclusion is that it's justified only if it makes sense within the combo, but this begs the question of how something makes 'sense'. Another perhaps not even incompatible position is that the pinkybak finisher is not acceptable because there are certain things that are not allowed, which of course begs the question of what makes something allowed?

I don't think I can provide a definitive answer, but I'll give a couple thoughts. There seems to be a lot of utility in separating the criteria of 'execution' from that you may call 'aesthetics', 'effect', or 'visuals' because it feels like the former is subtractive while the latter is additive when it comes to judging. It seems like when you judge execution, you parse the combo through your mind and imagine an ideal version with no mistakes and subtract points depending on how much the original differed from the ideal. Visuals as a criteria is like difficulty or originality in that it's something the spinner justifies by what they add to the combo. It doesn't make sense to mix execution with visuals, even though they do affect each other in an important way. I think what happens is that the visuals morph what the judge sees as an ideal based on their past experiences seeing pen spinning, and they judge the combo on what could've been the best version of the combo with the elements applied. What affects one's judgement of what is the 'best version'? I don't know for certain, but it really feels like something the community collectively agrees on which grows as people's expectations change. I think the answer to what is and isn't considered an execution error lies at the heart of what people at large consider to be acceptable, which changes and develops over time.

Now, I don't know for certain whether my conception of what is and isn't acceptable is definitive even though most people who seem to disagree reap the seeds of their opinion in their god awful spinning, but I think we should actively be trying to shift the perception of execution towards a specific direction. Personally, I'm a really big fan of discovery, and as someone who focuses extensively on aesthetics and refinement, I think we ought to focus less on execution. For one, new discoveries tend to be very difficult, and it doesn't seem rational to apply the same execution standard of judging double charge with most of the cutting edge technical spinning material, in which a decade of practice on the same combo would not yield the same result as a typical VP freestyle. We've also seen how an overemphasis on execution has limited people's acceptance of new visuals, with Saltient being an excellent example of an undoubtedly visuals based spinner who was rejected for their preferences. This is not to say we should throw out execution as an important criteria, but rather it's just one criteria. Just as some people prefer not to focus on difficulty, originality, or aesthetics, it should be fine not to focus hard on execution. The only thing that should matter is whether a spinner could actually justify their shortcomings with skillful elements elsewhere.

Too tired to write more.
Member Introductions / ProBloodBag
Last post by ProBloodBag - Feb 12, 2023, 08:51 PM
I've been the ultimate lurker.
Been spinning for about 9-10 years, I think 10.
I've had 0 community interaction, not even a comment on a youtube video, until sometime in fall 2022.
Unfortunately I do not spin like a 10 year spinner, wish I had a mod when I started.
Still don't own a legit mod tho, only personals.  8)
Somehow just ended up in fen one day. Am here.
Member Introductions / Re: ZeGentleman
Last post by ZG - Nov 12, 2022, 02:06 PM
Quote from: V 0 1 D on Oct 24, 2022, 05:20 PMLearn charge then.
It'd be too much work smh
General Discussion / Re: creating contrast with sil...
Last post by Convg - Oct 31, 2022, 12:25 PM
Very cool
General Discussion / Re: creating contrast with sil...
Last post by acronoss - Oct 31, 2022, 01:56 AM
Interesting read, thanks for post
General Discussion / creating contrast with silhoue...
Last post by stevenueve - Oct 31, 2022, 01:33 AM
stuff is impactful when it contrasts the things around it, whether temporally or spatially. a horn is louder after silence, and a white dot is blinding on a black canvas. pen spinning is no different.

much of my understanding on aesthetics can be boiled down to understanding contrast and how to transform specific material to have contrast with other material. this can be achieved in many ways, with the most basic means being to simply take the descriptors of one trick and inverting them on the next trick (eg palm up -> palm down; fingers straight -> fingers curled; changing directions; etc). however, this doesn't really give us a good understanding of how to use contrast to its fullest potential to reach the goal we're trying to achieve, which is to create combos with visually appealing structure in which there is meaningful buildup and payoff. it isn't enough to have contrast on the small scale between tricks.

to resolve issue, i will demonstrate how to use silhouettes to create contrast between entire sections of combos, rather than one trick to another. there are many other ways to achieve the same goal, but this is one of the more obvious ones which will hopefully help you dip your toes into the more abstract topics in aesthetics.

to start, here are various hand positions


id say the first four positions are intense while the last four are subdued. the former are dynamic and powerful, while the latter lacks memorability and action. here are the silhouettes of positions. the arm is shown in grey as it contributes to the silhouette whilst drawing less attention than the hands

though it may not be obvious at first, the silhouettes of the subdued positions are closer to resembling a circle, and the opposite for the intense positions. in design, circles and similar shapes are used to create soft and friendly forms, while triangles and other jagged shapes are used to express power and tension. with this explanation, it makes sense why this

is more subdued than this

which is more subdued than this

though i think everyone can agree that these images are of increasing intensity, it's also understandable to think that picture #2 contradicts what i've said about subdued positions closer resembling a circle, as after all, are the fingers in that image not super sprayed out? similar to picture #3? i think that there is no contradiction if you consider how a person perceives these positions in motion. people don't perceive every sensual detail with equal weight, as larger and higher contrasting information take overwhelming priority. this is why one of the most common and important pieces of advice beginners receive in any artform is to forget about the details and focus on the big picture.

thus, by reevaluating picture #2 and considering the low contrast caused by the relatively small gap in between the fingers and the resulting repetitive graphic, albeit odd, it would make more sense to represent picture #2 as this

than to represent picture #3 as this

with consideration of silhouettes, it's simple to create entire sections of a combo that contrast another section by having one be composed of majority subdued, circular positions, while the other takes on sharper, more jagged forms, so long as you work backwards by first imagining the silhouette, whether circular or jagged, then creating links that fit afterwards.

here's a brief freestyle from me demonstrating how to create a subdued visual despite having an intense and fast style.

notice how i bend my wrist specifically to cover up sharp protrusions from the silhouette, dampening the effect of my tense fingers.
here's another freestyle where i demonstrate contrast between two sections.

as you can see, there's a lot of leeway as to how a spinner can have their style appear without having to fundamentally change their aesthetic priorities.

understanding contrast and the various abstract forms it can take is essential to improving in aesthetics, but it is not the only thing that matters. contrast by itself cannot create buildup in a combo that foreshadows and leads to a satisfying conclusion, as having sections of a combo be different visually at all is only the first step. what it is is an obvious visual element that can be accurately and precisely pinpointed, and the really important theme i want people to get from this is that aesthetics is made up of general rules that can be actively sought out. it is not the cryptic and subjective mystery that less skilled spinners make it out to be, it's just that its rules are derived from a type of experience that grinding pen spinning naturally doesn't create, and that they're more so guidelines that can be interpreted within a certain margin. despite being less concrete than mathematical formulas, having a hard grasp of these ideas and putting them to words, however abstract they may be, makes sense of what almost every spinner is doing and suddenly very highly regarded spinners like noel, fukrou, drowsy, goat, mesi, etc. start making a lot of sense with the patterns they all share.

i think the current understanding of aesthetics as "refinement" and grinding a limited number of links to perfection is actually extremely backwards thinking and offensive to progress. not only does predefining the goal and not supplying the tools for experimentation and exploration limit the possibilities of visuals, but having such a limited amount of material also makes it impossible to discover the principles behind why these select links are so appealing in the first place, because finding the general rule is only possible when you have multiple examples to compare to each other. i think the reason i was able to progress so much was because my background in tech spinning allowed me to try out many different things with ease and gave me the mindset to explore. it was through trial and error and picking up tiny revelations with every mistake that i able to progress and internalize these principles of aesthetics. it's super understandable why so many people find the current form of aesthetics spinning attractive, because through so much limitation you've removed the ability to make mistakes and the negative feelings that result. unfortunately, that also means you don't learn much either.
Fen Hell / Re: Fen Spinner is not a cult
Last post by stevenueve - Oct 30, 2022, 03:22 PM
bro bro bro just give me three days and ill be off this shit cold turkey
Pen Modifications / Re: Show Off Your Pens (SOYP)
Last post by nonamefen - Oct 29, 2022, 09:29 PM
Yelo spinners

Member Introductions / Re: ZeGentleman
Last post by Convg - Oct 25, 2022, 04:46 PM
Quote from: V 0 1 D on Oct 24, 2022, 05:20 PMLearn charge then.
dont listen to this loser he runs a cult thats officially endorsed by penstock
Member Introductions / Re: ZeGentleman
Last post by stevenueve - Oct 25, 2022, 12:50 AM