Sand Castle

One by one, the simple amusements of my youth are being co-opted by geeks and refined into punishing sciences.

Only purists, for example, still build sand castles with shovels and hand packing. The vanguard have recruited all the tools of modern engineering, including building forms and heavy machinery.

Guinness started recording the world’s longest sand sculptures in 1987, and that spawned even greater creativity — and competitiveness. In 1998 Dave Henderson built a 33-foot castle at the New York State Fairgrounds that weighed 412 tons. Not to be outdone, other artists started turning out likenesses of Einstein, life-size pickup trucks, and a rather creditable Eeyore.

Today, at a championship competition, you might find works inspired by Picasso and dream imagery.

Where will it end? With a giant bucket and enough water, we could build a giant ziggurat in the Sahara. And there’s no danger from high tide …