Saturday, September 29, 2007

Pen Spinning 102: The Thumbaround Harmonic


Pen Spinning (or Pen Twirling as we called it) was something many of the guys in debate team did while I was in High School in Texas. Or more accurately, we stuck to what seems to be now called the Thumbaround. (We had no such nomenclature for our useless habit.) Eventually, I would discover people could do all sorts of pen tricks, particularly my Asian friends.

It took lots of practice during Physics, Chemistry, and Debate classes, as well as the noise of countless pencils flinging across the room, hitting the floor, but I finally managed to do Thumbarounds. My colleagues and I on the Debate team would travel to other schools for competitions, and in between sets we'd watch people doing Thumbarounds. Me and one guy hypothesized that it might be possible, but highly unlikely, that one could do it in reverse. But we decided it was probably impossible to to go back and forth quickly.

Until one night. I was sitting with a table of debaters from another school. Suddenly, there it was! Forward, backward, forward, backward, around and around until he lost control and dropped it. A-ha! It was possible.

So back I went. I practiced and practiced until finally... I got it. Now, decades later, people where I work are impressed. Some of them can do the fancy Korean-style finger flips, but nobody can do the elusive Thumbaround Harmonic.

This is not to be confused with the Thumbaround Reverse (which I cannot do, though it's probably easier). That's where you start at standard position, then immediately spin the pen backwards. The Harmonic, done properly is NOT Thumbarounds followed by Reverses over and over -- that's too controlled, with catches in between. No, as described in this video, the fingering is very subtle squeezing such that the pen is kept in constant non-stop motion, no catches.

YouTube is a veritable training ground for Pen Spinning, so get out there* and study Pennastics.

* Has anyone noticed I keep ending blog posts with that phrase? Your homework is to count how many times and leave a comment. Seriously, I do not want to become a formulaic writer, like Cary did on the show Sex and the City.

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posted by Brian at 10:07 PM

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