Many years ago, my rather creative social group had not yet started having children, and we were laden with free time and energy. We threw costume parties for almost any occasion — and made our own high-quality costumes to wear to them. We got together to make crafts. We temporarily turned our houses into galleries and had art openings. We began a society which promoted the wearing of elaborate hats to tea — and we made our own hats, and then wore them to tea. We did all kinds of cool stuff.
Now, a lot of us still do some of that cool stuff, even though our lives are busier, more hectic, and (in some cases) filled with small people demanding to be the centers of our private universes. This is fair. I mean, if the craft and sewing room is going to be converted into a nursery (as mine was), the kids might as well get some of the emotional real estate that comes with it. But now we do that cool, creative stuff less often. One might argue we appreciate it more.
One such entertaining party we had all those years ago was a Chindogu party. The idea came from our friends Scott and Paula Billups, who came across this concept of the chindogu and introduced it to our social group. At this party, we all had to invent and construct chindogu.
Now what is this chindogu you speak of? you might be asking. Turns out, there’s a website to explain it, but here’s a quick definition, taken from said website:
“A tool that doesn’t quite improve our lives but is fun to look at because it’s really weird. ‘Dogu’ is the Japanese word for tool and ‘chin’ might be best translated as ‘really weird.’ If this helps you to better understand what the term chindogu means, then this text was useful. If not…whatever, you got to exercise your eyes.”
On this website you will also find examples of chindogu, such as the Backscratcher T-shirt, the Portable Zebra Crossing, and the Butterstick. You will also find the very important 10 Chindogu Tenets, which explain the important qualities of what a chindogu is and means.
Paula introduced the idea of the chindogu to us in the invitation to her and Scott’s party with a fabulous example of her own: knitted lug nut cozies. Yes, functional, but honestly, do you need to keep your lug nuts warm?
At the party, the chindogu I brought was a contraption that could help someone with really long hair create hairstyles that required more than two hands. It was made of thin wooden dowels and cutely shaped clips, which you could pin to the front of your shirt and which would stretch out around you to hold tufts of hair as you manipulated your tresses into something elaborate and cool. I don’t remember what I called it. I remember I used it once, at and for the party. I remember I tried to send it home with a friend who had even longer hair than mine. My guess is that the thing ended up being kindling after not too much longer. That’s okay.
So here’s my challenge to you: Come up with a chindogu idea! You do not actually have to construct your invention, though you do need to explain it well enough that we understand it. You have until 11:59 p.m. central time next Sunday night, August 5th; that’s a little over a week. Please go to the website noted above and look at the rules and other examples; it won’t take you more than five minutes. Post your chindogu idea into the comments section of this blog post.
After the contest ends, there will be a vote, and the most popular chindogu idea will win a signed copy of Barefoot on Marble: Twenty Poems, 1995-2001, by yours truly. Enjoy! And may the best unuseless item inventor win.