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The Multilympics

Just yesterday, almost simultaneously, the Athens 2004 Paralympics were indeed ended, and I, also, reached a conclusion.

You have all those Olympic athletes and you have all those Paralympic athletes. But you don't have any games where both kinds of athletes can compete together. The wheelchair athletes do their wheelchair athlete things. The running and jumping athletes do theirs. Couldn't they be doing their things together? Couldn't there be some kind of Olympically-proportioned sport where teams of differently-abled athletes compete with each other?

Well, I respond rhetorically, of course they should. And could. If they played in the Junkyard Sports Multilympics.

In a way, you could legitimately say that there's no such thing as the Junkyard Sports Multilympics, or any other kind of Multilympics at all. But you'd have to admit that there could be. So, ah, so easily.

Like, for example, a junkyardly kind of basketball where each team has two wheelchair athletes, or three, or one even. And only the wheel-chaired athlete can score. You could probably play football that way. Soccer even. That'd be fun. That'd be challenging for each according to her ability. Meaningfully challenging. For the whole team. For the entire family. Of man.

Giant Fuzzy Dice

"Bob and Carole Phillips, who sew and stuff dice by the cartload in their rural Burlington home, find them not only lovable but lucrative. To their surprise, the Phillips' have become the nation's largest...and possibly only...manufacturer of giant fuzzy dice. But few people are aware Walworth County is the Giant Fuzzy Dice Capital of the World because Bob and Carole like to keep a low profile. And it isn't hard to keep things quiet when your house is stuffed with foam rubber."

Giant Fuzzy Dice. I am not sure how sturdy they are, so I don't know if you could exactly play soccer with them. Yet the simple act of kicking a giant pair of fuzzy dice around a playing field can lead a sufficiently playful group of soccer players to new heights of junkyardly accomplishment. Like, for example, when you make a goal, your score is what's on the face of the die. Or do you play with two dice at the same time?

Even if you can't kick them, you could certainly bat them around, volleyball-like. Even if you only had the living room to play in. There's something transforming about giant fuzzy dice, something that begs the creation of games, that invites the imagination, ignites the senses of humor and play, becomes the very stuff of a junkyard sport.

Junk, Illustrated

This is a picture of someone's desk. Someone who calls her- or himself "Comatose." Click on the picture and you will not only see a large image. But you will see it annotated (run your cursor over the rectangles). If you click on this, you will be treated to a slide show of images that have been "tagged" as "junk." Ever since I used the term "junk" (well, actually "junkyard" - but it's really not about the yard), I've been looking for a more accurate way to capture the true spirit of junk. So you can understand why I'm so excited, and grateful to the brilliantly playful Ianus Keller for showing this site to me.

There's even another reason. It's called "Flickr. It's where I found my new pictorial definition of junk, and a gateway to what you might call an online photo storage/management/sharing community. With Flickr (currently in Beta, and free), you can keep your photos completely to yourself. You can share them with a select few. Or you can share them with everyone. You can add comments. You can add tags. You can upload photos from your camera phone. Up to 10 Megs-per-month's-worth of throughput. You can join and publish to groups. You can publish your photos via newsfeed.

It takes a while to understand what all this is and does and means. And even if you play with Flickr for months, you won't get the whole picture, as it were, until you take a look at Flickr's developers, a group called, oddly enough, "Ludicorp" whose stated mission is the creation of "Groupware for Play." Ah ha!

There's more. There's too much more. I must myself go, therefore and join the virtual frolic.

Junkyard Sports Intergenerational

According to AARP, I've been a Senior Citizen long enough to believe it. Which might explain my increasing fascination with the connection between being as old as I am, and my going around teaching the world how to play Junkyard Sports.

I wrote the following message explaining that connection for those of my age group who might be still curious:
As seniors, one of the most valued gifts that we have to offer the world is our laughter and playfulness. It is the gift upon which most human growth and happiness is founded and grandparenthood is built.

Sadly, too few know how deep our playfulness can be, and how lingering our laughter.

Junkyard Sports brings playfulness back into play – no matter with what or whom we’re playing. It is based on a way we played when we were children, in cities, on streets and sandlots, unsupervised, left to our own devices. We invented stickball and stoopball and hundreds of games we never even named. We played with what and whomever we could find, wherever we were. We didn’t need official equipment. We didn’t need $150 shoes or $300 T-shirts. We didn’t have bats, so we played with broomsticks. We didn’t have gloves so we played with a rubber ball. And the sewer lid was home plate.

This is a way of playing that most children of this generation have not experienced. For most of them, play has been co-opted by supervised sport, and sport co-opted by media and commercialization. For most of them, games and sports are less about fun than about proving their self-worth. And in sports, only one-in-a-million succeeds.

Of our many gifts to them, this gift, this increasingly rare spirit of playfulness, of play and invention and making do, of sports for the fun of it, can prove as empowering as it is healing.

So let's see what we can do to help make sports fun again - for all ages and abilities, wherever there are people who want to play; let's foster innovative sports-based programs and events that emphasize fun, creativity, adaptability and inclusiveness.

Playing Junkyard Sports with people of different ages and different skills invariably leads to a sport that can also be played by cross-age and cross-ability groups. What this means for us seniors is that we get to play, too.

Now available at Amazon.com

Gamestaster Marc was Googling for Junkyard Sports. And guess what actually sponsored link came up? Yes indeed, the book itself on the proverbial Amazon dot, no less, com. And such a bargain!

What struck me as particularly noteworthy is that you can purchase the "Collectible" Junkyard Sports from someone called Splatz_Normal for only $59.00

Collectible? $59.00? What're thay talkin' about?

Food for Fun

"A chess set made of apples?" you exclaim with bemused credulity? "What a testimony," you continue, "to the consummate art of the playful mind." "And yet," I cannot help but comment, "an achievement of clearly bemusing significance."

Speaking of which, how about these chesspiece cookie cutters (only one of many contemplation-worthy things of silliness found at the Odd Objects Gallery)? As I am often heard to say, if you're going to be eating your way to victory, you might as well be eating cookies.

On the other hand, when it comes to gameful employment of this clearly comestible concept, it is with the invention of Shotglass Chess that the entire notion of piece-ingestibility achieves both perceptual and conceptual validation. I quote heavily:
Whenever you capture an opponent's piece you have to drink it. The most valuable pieces have greater capacity so the advantage of being ahead in the game is offset by increased inebriation and a rapid deterioration in performance!...What drinks are suitable? The options are almost limitless as long as both colors are easily distinguishable. Red wine against white wine ensures a relatively calm game. Orange juice and apple juice are more suitable for morning matches and any clash involving Absinthe should really be left to the Grandmasters.

RULES of Shot Glass Chess

1. Select your favorite alcoholic beverage and pour it into your opponent's 16 glasses. The following quantities are our recommendations, discovered after extensive research and development: Pawn: 0.5 parts Bishop: 1 part Knight: 1 part Rook: 2 parts Queen: 3 parts King: 2 parts
2. Begin the game of chess as normal. Whenever a player makes a capture he must drink the contents of that piece.
3. Illegal moves are permissible as long as neither player notices.
4. The losing player must drink his own king as the final ignominy of defeat.

Thanks for the inspiration, Caterina.

Fantasy Junkyard Sports, Exquisite Corpse and The After Hours Shopping Mall Golf Club

It's an idea I've been playing with long enough. I was hoping maybe I could play it with you.

The idea: Fantasy Junkyard Sports.

My interpretation: you know those fantasy sports and leagues and deals where you pick your ideal team based out of all the players in all the teams currently playing the sport you're fantasizing about...? So, I figure, maybe Fantasy Junkyard Sports doesn't have to be anything like that at all. Maybe they should be more like games of Exquisite Corpse where an image (graphic or verbal or both) is built, one part at a time - the idea being that when part B is added, you don't necessarily know what part A actually looks like. I wrote about a related game called "Redondo." The web abounds with links to exquisitely corpse-like games - all being somehow wonderfully junkyardly in their essence.

So how about this for the start of a Fantasy Junkyard Sports fantasy:

Let's call it: The After Hours Shopping Mall Golf Club.

OK. So. I'll start.

"It was 3 a.m. at the Lasthope Mall. Eighty people, ranging in age from 17-62, carrying PVC pipe and tennis balls, have assembled inside the mall, mingling meanderingly in front of the shuttered GAP store."

Your turn.

Transporting Art

They're called "Art Cars," and they're right. Junkly transformations of the mass-produced into genuinely moving testimonials to the idiosyncratic.

I was immediately drawn to the gothic power of the Carthedral, looking something like what would happen if a hearse driven by Darth Vader smashed into the Watts Towers, to be worthy of the significant note given by Rebecca Caldwell, its artist/fabricator. The Cathedral, she explains: "...is a gothic cathedral built on a 1971 Cadillac hearse and modified with '59 Cadillac tailfins, a VW bug and sculpted with fiberglass over metal armatures."

Anyhow, if you're in the area, you'll be glad to know that "The West Coast's Largest Gathering of Art Cars!" will be held from September 16-19, 2004. If you see an Art Car named Big Boy, please pet it for me.

Rule Sheets from Streetplay

One of the many reasons for the growing connection between Junkyard Sports and Streetplay is their collection of Streetplay Rulesheets - one-page, clearly written, attractively formatted, ready-to-print, complete descriptions of how to play the games kids played on the streets, with anyone and everyone who wanted to play, as long as they could get away with it. Games exactly like:

Box Baseball
Hit the Stick
Kick the Can
Off the Wall

These games are the very stuff of junkyard sports. Like the "demonstration games" described in the book, each of these games is close enough to the spirit of reinvention that, in the hands of even an amateur junkmaster, they become the foundation for thousands of new sports.

Hopscotch, for example. Hopscotch baseball, to be more precise. Or hopscotch volleyball, if you'd prefer. Ad Hoc hopscotch, played on whatever can be construed as a hopscotchable environment: hallway carpets, tile floors, restaurant tables. Mini-hopscotch, of course, when you get to playing on restaurant tables, where you have to keep both fingers on both sugar packs at the same time.

Reviving the Spirit of the Game

My friend in fun Dan (Stork) Roddick was instrumental in framing the "Spirit of the Game" concept that helped make Ultimate Frisbee into the unique sport that it still struggles to be:

"Ultimate has traditionally relied upon a spirit of sportsmanship which places the responsibility for fair play on the player himself. Highly competitive play is encouraged, but never at the expense of the bond of mutual respect between players, adherence to the agreed-upon rules of the game, or the basic joy of play."

Junkyard Sports is very much about the same thing - reviving the spirit of the game - but it's even more about reviving the spirit of fun, creativity, and celebration that was experienced by the people who invented the game. here's an article I recently wrote. It starts like this:
Sports, at their best, are healing experiences. I have a friend, Ron Jones, who plays basketball with handicapped children and adults. I have another friend who plays ice hockey with a group of teenagers from the hood. They can tell you all about the healing power of one really good game.

Now, we compare and contrast:

The World Series. Where really good games are what it's all about. What do you think is the ratio of players to spectators?

No, I'm really asking. What do you think? You have two teams, and umpires and coaches and that's about it. Thirty players. And maybe thirty million spectators.

There it is, right in front of your commercial-weary eyes - baseball, at its best, in all its glory - and your shot at being a player is about a million to one.

Cup Stacking - professional and amateur

There are, of course, official stacking cups, which have an anatomy specifically designed for Speed Stacking: holes in the bottom or top (depending on what part of the cup you think of as the bottom), special shoulder ribs, reinforced lips, textured high-grip surface...that sort of thing.

When it comes right down to it, the sport of cup stacking can be Olympic in its competitiveness and demand for performance. I "quote:" "Cup stacking is an exciting individual and team sport where participants stack and unstack 12 specially designed plastic cups (Speed Stacks) in pre-determined sequences. Individually, stackers race against the clock for fastest or best times. Stackers also compete on a relay team racing against another team in head-to-head competition. With practice, a person can stack at lightning speed that has to be seen to be believed!"

To me, the exciting thing about the sport of cup stacking is that it is so easy to junkify. Yes, there are Speed Stacks and special non-slip Stack Mats for practice or performance, an official clock and even mini-Speed Stacks. But you could, if you had to, use any cups, really. Paper. Styrofoam. Plastic. Ceramic even. And you could try to do it with four hands (two ambidextrous people simultaneously), for example, or seven, and try to beat your record rather than try to beat each other. You could probably even learn to do it with your eyes closed.


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