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Case Mods: playing with junk in the 21st Century

Case Mod - The Ultimate List, as so lovingly compiled by Neatorama, by means of its very length and variety adds significant legitimacy to what is essentially the Computer Age equivalent of junk art/play.

According to Wikipedia: "Case modding or Case modification is the modification of a computer chassis (often just referred to as the case). Modifying a computer in any non-standard way is considered a case mod. Many people, particularly hardware enthusiasts, use case mods to illustrate a computer's power, and for aesthetic purpose."

According to Bernie, case modding is a modern example of the transformational power of play. Taking something ready-made and purpose-driven, and just thinking about how you could make it into something that is uniquely yours is already a semi-revolutionary act. Doing it seriously, beautifully, creatively, playfully - you redefine the world.

Art and Junk and Fun

I received an email from Mr. Smith, asking me if I thought his art would be of interest to my readers. I clicked, pointed, clicked again, and saw wonder after wonder of playful art and artful play and sometimes even both. I wrote back to Mr. Smith, asking him if he might say something to us about what he perceives as the art-fun connection. He responded:
"People often ask me how I get the ideas for creating my sculptures. The truth is I usually don’t know what a sculpture will be until it is actually in the process of being built. I approach my work with a very wide expectation of what it may become, and I try to allow myself to let it go in the direction it wants to go.

"Most of it is trial and error, a kind of form follows function construction process. If an element is not working or just doesn’t do what I had hoped, I will cut it off and try something else.

"I enjoy the raw creativity in this process. I am constantly observing the world around me seeing things that capture my attention. Sometimes I will try to incorporate these elements into my art somehow or it will spark an idea that leads to another idea and so on. My strongest pieces are usually the ones I had the most fun making. Art doesn’t always have to be serious, political or even emotional. Sometimes it can just be fun.

"Sometimes when people look at my Kinetic or Rolling Ball Sculptures they will ask, 'What does it do?' I usually answer, 'It’s doing it.'"

The Water Pinata

Kim Carmack, executive director of Camp New Hope in Lake Mattoon, IL, hereby and -with lays universal and eternal claim to the invention of The Water Pinata, as illusrated here.

Kim writes:

"I work and play at a camp that specializes in fun for people who have disabilities. I believe that last summer our program coordinator, right here at Camp New Hope, invented the very first... Water Pinata.

"We take garbage bags, fill them with water, and hang them from the ceiling of the pavilion. Then we take turns getting blindfolded and hitting them with brooms.

"Since I first heard of your work, I have considered you the definitive authority on fun. If you could tell me that our camp is probably the place where the water pinata was invented, that would be really fun.
Alas, I can not attest to the primacy of Ms. Carmack's discovery of the Water Pinata. I have found mention of it here, here, and here. And so it goes with inventiveness. Sometimes we invent the already invented, or vice versa. Which makes it no less an invention!

I, Major Fun, therefore, in my role of Junkmaster and as an apparently recognized authority on fun, do therefore and hereby present Ms Carmack and her campers a coveted spot in the Junkyard Sports Hall of Fame as inventors of the Water Pinata. They may not be the only inventors. But inventors they truly are.

Trash for Teaching, Trash for Fun

Cores-Decorative "2" x 4" diameter kraft cores with a variety of glossy, colorful patterns, 7 per pound $2.00.

One of more than 30 pre-packaged collections of basement-priced junk. From Trash for Teaching - one of the few remaining such enterprises. I first encountered something like this in the early 70s at the Durham Child Development Center, where I worked with founders Don and Lore Rasmussen and director Peter Buttenweiser. It was a remarkable resource, where teachers could go, for free, and build furniture, bookshelves and games for their classroom. The availability of scrap material and collection centers, and a significant amount of government funding were key to the program's longevity. But the success of the program came from the people it drew - young, motivated teachers who believed in their calling, and the importance of their work.
"Trash for Teaching collects, stores and sorts enormous amounts of clean, cast-off materials from manufacturing processes. We work with school districts to develop guidelines utilizing these materials in conjunction with current standards-based curricula, and deliver the materials and guidelines directly to schools for teachers to introduce in classroom projects.

"These materials--or 'Dumpster Diamonds'--have inherent versatile qualities that stimulate children's imagination and encourage learning in any subject, from Math and Science, to Art, Music, Theatre and Literacy.

"Items like cores, spools, cones, giant tubes, fabric, plastic webbing, paper, wire, tiles, wood pieces and many more countless doodads quickly become coveted treasures with which children can explore and create. The use of these 'found' items, along with traditional learning materials, fosters creativity and reinforces creative problem solving. Due to their variety and abundance, these materials can be anything to any child, limited only by his or her own imagination, culture, and personal experience."
The idea was visionary 35 years ago. And it is even moreso today. Tie the easy availability of these inspired collections of scrap with concepts like Junkyard Sports, and we can celebrate yet one more hope for the future of childhood and all playkind.

Junkyard Minigolf at Soar Tech

My son the research scientist at Soar Technology writes:

I led our HCI (Human/Computer Interface) sector in a round of junkyard minigolf at lunch today.

The cool rule on that course was the 'stopping rule.'

The ball was a super-ball. It had a tendency to bounce, and the walls weren't high enough. So you were allowed to put your finger on it while it was still rolling to stop it and then flick it from there.

The other course was on the floor. We used two 'balls' - the rubber brains my company uses for marketing. They don't roll well at all. Our clubs were whiteboard markers and a whiteboard eraser, clicked together and taped (the tape was a baaaad idea). We had an obstacle on the floor, and a ramp, and a thing you had to hit, and somethings you had to go between.

The cool rule there was that, rather than trying to get it in the hole in the fewest hits, the goal was the shortest time. We had two people going at once - a race (sort of like curling, but not at all). One of the most fun parts of that was when your club broke. It got a little too hectic, but there was a lot of laughing.

A difference between the two groups that was particularly cool was the way the team worked together. On the table, in the small, they basically had to take turns changing the course and changing rules. In contrast, on the floor, in the larger, we iterated over a lot of possible holes, balls, courses, rules, etc.

(btw, our first attempt was one of us on an office chair as the ball, the other person pushed the chair, thus being the golfer and the golfclub at the same time)

It was a lot of fun!

Dung Guli

Dung Guli: A Bangladeshi Child’s Game, is, in truth and fact, a Junkyard Sport if ever there was one. It reminds me a bit of the 18th century game of Tip Cat, and of the still-played game of Hit the Bat. I quote:
"Dung Guli is a typical game played by rural children in Bangladesh. It’s like a combination of golf and softball. Two people play the game...

Materials Needed

18-inch long wooden stick (called the dung) Egg-size piece of wood (called the guli)

Determining Batter and Pitcher

1. Make a one-inch shallow dent in the ground and place the guli in it.

2. Player One uses the dung to flick the guli out of the dent (as if playing golf).

3. Player One puts down the dung over the dent in the ground.

4. Player Two picks up the guli. Standing at the point where the guli landed on the ground, Player Two throws the guli at the dung, attempting to hit it.

5. If Player Two hits it, he or she now flicks the guli out of the dent as in steps 2 and 3, and Player One takes a turn throwing the guli at the dung. This continues until one player misses hitting the dung with the guli. The player who misses first becomes the Batter, and the other person is the Pitcher."

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