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Poetry from Junk Mail

Its the girl who always loved you
its the one that got away
Its the moment that escapes you
when the predator is prey

its the way to finally take charge
its a question of your hate
its the easiest part of your new life
when you finally seize the day

When the one you want rejects you
When the pain is its own drug
when you can't take another moment
it is time for them to pay.

What you just read was a spam poem by Kristin Thomas. It is one of a collection of Kristin poetry.

Well, you know of my current passion for junk. And you can guess how pure my delight was when I discovered an artist who makes poetry solely out of the subject lines of the junk mail littering her daily inbox.

It is a small, clear victory for the human spirit at its best.

Re-use, recycle, rejoice

Trash Sculpture - how about this as the culminating activity Community Pride Week: have everybody make sculptures out of the trash we collected Some idea, eh. Some kind of crazy California thing. Even though it's in Washington State. I mean, it takes a certain amount of guts to suggest something like this. Something this, well, playful. Apparently, somebody at the Mt. Adams Chamber of Congress was responsible for this. Somehow, some Champion of Fun was able to transform the work of cleaning up into a celebration of creativity and humor.

Then there's Recyclabots - the works of mixed-media artists Opie and Linda O'Brien. Clearly, these are also the work of Heroes of the Playful. They are also heroic in a way, in a fun way - making something out of junk, something funny-looking, something fun - and calling it "art." It takes a certain heroism, from fun champions whose vision is clear enough and sense of play strong enough that they can use what many of us have been tempted to call "trash" to create objects whose main aesthetic is fun, and yet can carry a message like: re-use, recycle, rejoice.


Bonving is the Swedish game of shoe tossing, invented, apparently, by members of the Swedish music group Eggstone. The goal of the game? I quote: "To throw a classic men's shoe size 9 or 10 into the opponent team's field. Your rival team will then try to catch your throw in their garbage cans. If you as server, succeed to land the shoe on their square, you will award 1 point. If the opponent team catches your shoe, they will get the point."

To discover that such sports are being created and played is music to this writer's conceptual ears. It's the spirit of Junkyard Sports epitomized. Using found objects like shoes and garbage cans, the sport, at least until official shoe size and garbage can properties are determined, is an invitation to playfulness as much as it is an invitation to play.

Socker on the Beach

Counting myself, Rocky (my wife), Michael Pliskin (my friend the photographer), the photographer from the Los Angeles Times, and four passers-by I collared into the games, there were a total of eight participants in yesterday's world premiere of Socker on the Beach. The reporter from the LA Times was almost there, but, from a distance of more than two feet, it was rather difficult to tell there was an event going on, and sadly, she missed it.

It wasn't, as we had "planned," a true game of Junkyard Beach Soccer. The only thing anybody (I) brought that was anywhere close to Official Junk was my extensive singleton sock collection. Despite the goodly press from local papers, and probably having something to do with it being a Wednesday at 2:22 p.m., no one had brought any junk for us to play with. Nevertheless, a truly auspicious world premiere it became.

We never actually played anything that you'd call soccer, either. But we did play with socks. We really did. Hence, the name "Socker on the Beach."

For me, personally, and I mean "personally," as a participant, there were three events that made the world premiere of Socker on the Beach truly monumental in scope:

1. First, there was playing with socks, the beach, and Rocky. If it weren't for her, I might've never noticed how the sand is really part of the "junk," and that you can dig holes in it for Socker Golf, and even dig trenches and lay tracks for a game of miniature golf-in-the-sand-with-socks. Nor would I have ever dreamed of playing See if You can Get the Sockball Stuck in the Volleyball Net and then See if You Can Use Other Sockballs to Knock it Through to the Other Side. Nor would I have had the chance to see, so vividly, after knowing her for 42 years, what a wonderful, fun, spontaneous, responsive, brilliantly creative player she is.

2. Second, there was playing with these strangers - two women and a pre-adolescent boy for whom English was clearly a second language. We were using sockball-stuffed knee socks as hockey sticks, sometimes swinging, sometimes whirling them around like propellers, trying to hit other sockballs into a sandpit.

3. Third. Playing with the wind. The game of Air Socks that we created, following the discovery that the wind was so constant and strong that if we kinda tossed a single sock into it, towards, the volleyball net, the sock would sometimes just get stuck, and, with sufficient skill and luck, it was possible to get a sock stuck very near the very top of the net. We played this with someone who was about to continue running with friends, whom we cajoled into joining us after our other friends left. (They did feel like friends, those people whose names I never learned, with whom I barely spoke, but played so innocently intimately.)

Kick the Can - a Game with Junk

As I continue conceptualizing the future of Junkyard Sports, and all that is implied thereby, I find myself harkening back to the roots thereof. Today's back-harkening takes me to the game of Kick the Can, as so evocatively rendered by the virtual version herein illustrated.

One simply cannot play Kick the Can without a can. Though any can can be used, the canny player selects a large, easily kickable can, such as a coffee can. Since an empty coffee can is far more kickable, the game, in its small but vivid manner, encourages recycling. Thus, it can only be classified as junk-based. Which fixes it firmly as an indubitable precursor to the concept and spirit of Junkyard Sports.

Kick the Can, as a few minutes of virtual play will so vividly remind you, is an immensely gratifying game for anyone who likes to play with paranoia. It's no imagined thing: as long as you are IT, everyone is in deed against you. And though you have the Power to Immobilize, there's always that one player whom you haven't yet caught, who kicks the very foundations out from under your hard-won accomplishments, and frees the frozen.

Kick the Can is worthy of much contemplation, and not just for its junkiness. It captures a reality that we are destined to live over and over again in our short lives, whether we're trying to get everything ready for a meeting or the whole family into the car.

You can download the complete rules from the pre-eminent source of all things junkyard sport-like, Streetplay.com, or read the rules of this and some the related variations here, courtesy of Games Kids Play.


Craftster is an open discussion board where members exchange ideas on how to use junk to create craftly wonders like: Starburst candy wrapper bracelets, Sock Bunnies, and solid perfume cases out of birth control dispensers. Even if you don't like making things, you gotta love Craftster. We're not talking Martha Stewart here. We're talking about a community of people who are having fun sharing ideas and insights about transforming trash into treasure. Take a look, for yet another example, at the discussion about transforming old CDs, AOL CDs, and CD cases. Here are just a few of the ideas generated by the virtual Craftster community: mobiles, 3D stars, drawer pulls, coasters, paint testers, fish sculptures, flowers, disco ball, lamps, art quilts. There's also a discussion about the glories and dangers of putting them in the microwave.

The Craftster community is probably one of the best examples of a Fun Community on the web. Its participants are playful, creative, and remarkably supportive of each other's ideas, interests, and concerns. There's a lot of heart here. You can see it in the discussions about what to make for people who are serving in Iraq, people who are grieving or looking for a new job. And in its small way, it's play in service of the planet - focusing people's creativity and inventiveness on recycling, reusing, and reconstructing this very planet.


Calvinball, as many would claim, is both pre- and post-cursor to Junkyard Sports. I exemplify:

In this episode (one of only ten I was able to find on the remarkable collection of C&H strips found on Calvin and Hobbes at Martijn's) we see the following: "Calvin and Hobbes are playing Calvinball. Calvin stole Hobbes' flag. Hobbes hit him with the Calvin ball. He has to sing the 'I'm very sorry' song. Calvin protests he was in the 'no song' zone. Hobbes corrects him, as he had touched the 'opposite pole,' so now the 'no song zone' is a 'song zone.' Calvin complains that Hobbes didn't declare it. Hobbes says he declared it oppositely by not declaring it. Calvin starts singing, and Hobbes joins in. When they're finished, Calvin says he gets free passage to wicket five. Hobbes tells him they did that last time. Calvin makes up a new rule to jump until someone finds the bonus box. As they jump away, Calvin says the only permanent rule in Calvinball is that you can't play it the same way twice. Hobbes says the score is 'Q to 12'."

The most obvious connection scholars will one day make between Calivinball and Junkyard Sports is, of course, the Permanent Rule, which both of them more or less share, except for the fact that in Junkyard Sports you are allowed to try playing a game the same way twice. A perhaps more definitely subtle connection can be found in the relationship between the players. If one of them were really trying to win, the game would fall apart, immediately and completely. If you remember playing with kids who don't quite understand this subtlety, you'll know immediately what I mean. True, kids'll change a game, at every possible opportunity, but usually only as long as they can change it to their immediate advantage. Whereas C&H, like the true Junkmasters they are, change the game to keep it fun. For everyone.

Junk Music

"Yes, he's a drummer. Yes, there's a beat. Yes, it's quite a beat. Yes, it's different. And yes, that describes The Junkman (percussionist Donald Knaack) and his Junk Music. That's because The Junkman composes-for and performs-on junk, found objects, and materials that others have discarded - all recycled materials."

To get a better sense of the range of the Junkman's accomplishments, listen to the Junk Music Player, watch some of his Junk Music videos, and then take a long look at this amazing collection of junkly Playstations - "sound sculptures" or assemblages of junk, created by the Junkman so that people can have a temporary or permanent invitation for "passers-by to pick up a stick and create a musical community on the spot with other interested persons - a Junkjam."

The site is a minor marvel in itself - rich with joy-bringing images and inspiring sounds. The talents and success of the Junk Man are perhaps enviable, but what is even more enviable is the depth and genuineness of his love. He says of his work with children and families: "The great thing about a Junkjam and children is that I can take any group of kids and in five minutes, they can be involved in a three-voice rhythmic groove that immerses them into the power of creating music in a group environment - some call it a groove. It is this raw power that truly ascends the soul, captivates and inspires the individual with the magical powers of music."

Play on, Junkman!

Bag and Rag Soccer in Burundi

"we meet at our usual place and we do not have a ball to play football with; so off we go..

to the local rubbish pile to collect old plastic bags

you have to be careful where you walk, but...

soon we have enough

let's have a look what we got....

it looks good

you get some plastic together and...

you put it in a bag

and into another bag, I am sure you got the idea

meanwhile Paul has been to the place where they make dresses and...

via his mother, he got off cuts of material which he knots into long strips

because this we need to go around the plastic

it is a tricky job and you have to know what you are doing

but I have done it many times now and am really good at it

the last knot and than it is over to Paul

who will stitch little bits of cloth around the outside, while I do the second ball

all this takes time, I am sure you realise, but...

here it is.

just testing, and Paul says it is a good one

so here we go

can you spot the ball?

things are going well for our site

our goalkeeper is young but really good

and thanks to that new ball we won the match

oh, by the way, my name is Henri and I love football."

Of Crafts and Junk

This is an image of a "disco ball" made from Christmas lights and clear plastic Dixie cups. It should answer any remaining questions you might have about why I'm directing your collective attention to Craftster, a virtual community of unsung artisans who seem to take endless delight in crafting semi-useful objects out of, well, junk.

There is something heroic about their efforts. Take, for a relatively random example, the discussion about "what the heck can I do with" Old CDs / AOL CDs / AOL CD Cases. It has long been a burning question amongst those of us who hate to throw away those amazingly holographically rainbowishly shiny products of high technology, almost as much as they hate receiving them in the mail. Here's one of several hundred answers to the CD conundrum: "there are a ton of things you can do with old cds. you can make a 'beaded' curtain. by drilling holes in the top and bottom and connecting them by wire, string, whatever you fancy. or you can break them into pieces and glue them on a ball or something, for a version of the disco ball. or, i sometimes just set them on a table and burn my candles on them. that way i don't have to buy and holder, but the wax doesn't ruin my table! just have fun!"

"Just have fun!" I couldn't've said it better myself.

The virtual community created by Leah Kramer "who is a lifelong crafty gal and self-proclaimed craft addict" is equally remarkable. Because it attracts people with no claims to artisthood, whose quiet passion to re-use and re-cycle is couched in the most modest of enterprises, it is nothing short of an ideal fun community. She writes: "By day Leah is a programmer at an educational software company and by night she maintains Craftster.org, fills orders at her retail website Craftastic.com, and tries to keep up with all the crafty urges that cloud her brain. Leah resides in the Boston area. She thinks that writing about herself in the third person is really weird. Not that she would know of course."

Of Art and Junk

You're looking at a clock made out of old game pieces by Petaluma, California artist Poe Dismuke. I found it on an old (1997) website called "Hello Again" - "an exhibition of innovative and often surprising products created from recycled and reused materials." Though there are only seven examples shown, each offers unique testimony to the transformative power of play.

The more deeply I get into this whole Junkyard Sports adventure, the more delighted I get about the many connections between junk and, well, fun. Artists who make use of recycled materials must first of all make a creative leap, seeing beyond the original purposes and functions of their material, transcending the essential junkiness of it all, to give it new purpose and meaning. A leap like that requires the inspirational madness of a true player, of someone moved more by fun than by function.

This is only the tip of the junkly iceberg - and a vast iceberg it is. As visionaries show us how to transform junk into objects of art, kids all over the world are showing us how to convert it into objects of play. Clearly, for those of us who can find inspiration in a junk heap, there's a world of fun to be had.

This is a Flickr badge showing photos in a set called Junkyard Sports. Make your own badge here.

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