Neighborhood Games Night

Every New Year's Eve, for the last five years, our little neighborhood (usually around five families from one side of the block and a couple from the other) hosts a progressive dinner. We, being the most progressive and least dinner-worthy (we're vegetarians), host the pre-appetizer-warm-up games. For this year-end's games: I definitely plan to play Panther-Person-Porcupine, probably as a first game. It gets people together and focused. Safely silly. Physically, but not strenuously engaged, competitive, but, ultimately, not.

Usually there's only time for three games. For the middle game, I'll probably follow up with that famous Victorian Parlor game of Crambo, perhaps even a quietly hilarious game of Fifteen - both relatively quiet, but equally pointless sitting-in-a-circle game, or, should the spirit so lean, a rollicking game of Bunny or beyond. Given the actual time, we can always play two.

For a festive, and somewhat frabjous finale, I thought I'd try a modified Sound and Fury game in which, instead of taking turns saying and doing basically any old thing, we go around the circle, twice, maybe, each and collectively manifesting new "Happy New Year"'s greetings in as many ways as we can think of.

In case you're not around, may you have the chance to play something like these silly games with your own neighbors, in celebration of peace, love, and safety.


"The Way we Played" Pimple Balls, Awning Ball and Tire Ball in old North Philly

I was looking for stories of Halfball. I had learned that the official halfball was made out of half a pimple ball. But when I Googled for Pimple Ball I found mostly dog toys. I guess the human pimple ball has gone the way of halfball. Though, you should know that there's a site dedicated to halfball, and official halfball equipment - which means you can actually spend money to get official versions of what was, to most of the people who played halfball, the apotheosis of unofficialhoodness. Oh the endless ironies of the marketplace...

Howsomever, I did manage to find this delicious reminiscence called "The Way we Played," in which Stanley B. Kurtz describes some of the games he remembers playing when he was a kid in North Philadelphia. Here, I learned about Awning Ball, which launched my search for Pimple Ball and struck me as the paradigm of non-commerializable, quasi-legal kids games of yore and not-so-yore. I quote:

This game required two items - a store awning (preferably already lowered) and a pimpleball. On Seventh Street between Montgomery and Berks was an assortment of small stores. Most had awnings to protect them from the sun. We'd roam up and down the street casing the awnings before picking one with just the right angle. Shuster's Fruit Store was the best, but sooner or later the dirt-covered ball would plunk into the tomatoes or grapes, and Mr. Shuster would rush out and sweep us away with his broom - notwithstanding the presence of his son among the players. Dave had little influence with his father.

But until then, we played awningball. Either two boys played or two teams (two boys each) opposed each other. The goal: Keep the ball on the awning. If it hit the ground or rolled off either end, it was a point for the other player or team. We'd run back and forth hitting the ball with our palms - no fists allowed - forcing shoppers to detour off the sidewalk into the street or under the awning.

There was a certain art to the game -placing the ball where the other guy couldn't reach it, or tapping it lightly, barely landing it on the front edge of the awning. It was an intricate ballet of graceful arms, twisting bodies and fast feet, particularly when Mr. Shuster's broom showed up. Then it would be time to move on to the next awning.

Please don't think that I advocate such behavior. Well, all right, think it.

Also in the same story, Kurtz tells us about Tire Ball, which wasn't a ball at all, but a 4-6-or-so-inch piece of bicycle tire. According to the author, the tireball, though not actually ball-like at all, had some remarkably redeeming attributes: " Thrown end over end and hit by a bat (a broomstick smuggled from home with the broom end left on the closet floor for mom to scratch her head over), it sailed remarkable distances. A bit tougher to catch than the symmetrical pimpleball, it merely presented another challenge to overcome."

More testimony to the transforming power of play, and the transforming need to play, with whatever, wherever, with whomever, whenever possible.


Eat, dance, and be a daydream believer - hints for the Playful Woman

As I was rummaging through the Play Ethic site, I found this taste of womanly wisdom from Rebecca Abrams, author of The Playful Self:

How to play
Rebecca Abrams has argued that women in particular miss out on play time. She urges women to chat, eat, dance, and daydream more.

Chatting and singing
Women, she says, are conditioned not to hog conversations or make too much noise. But noise is exhilarating. Singing in the shower, loudly whistling in the street, and growling when picking up other people's clothes, are all forms of playful self-expression.

Our relationship with food is often tied up with self-esteem. Anorexia and bulimia are widespread. But food is social and sensual and, when there is no sense of guilt attached to it, is a great form of play.

Dance tends to get written out of our lives as we get older, Abrams observes, but it "combines the joy of making noise with the profound pleasure of uninhibited self-expression". The only requirement is that a person "gives herself permission to have a go".

Women are made self-conscious about sex by media preoccupation with it, fuelled with images of perfect women and perfect sex. There is still not parity between men's freedom to "play around" and women's, Abrams concludes. Having a playful sex life, especially in long-term relationships, starts with not taking sex so seriously.

We stop doing this as children, but it is central to play. Dressing up and using make-up is fantasising. Anything from sewing to playing the piano indulges our imaginations.

This image of the playful woman is of profound importance to how women see themselves, and how men see women. We are far from envisioning women as playful beings. Googling for Playful Women leads not to concepts of enlightenment and empowerment, but to pornography and fashion. Ms. Abrams has a message that is difficult to hear over the din of repression and innuendo - a message that I believe to be fundamental to our revisioning of self- and social-actualization.

Pat Kane explains "The Play Ethic"

My personally sacred son Elyon noted that someone at his university had printed out something from a website called "The Play Ethic" - the virtual home of Scottish social activist Pat Kane. Listening to his mighty brogue, his poetic and powerful appreciation for the potential of play, is positively inspiring.

He may be taking a different road, but he is a true fellow traveler. I lifted the following from his article Why Believe in Life When it Doesn't Believe in You:

...Those who clear space in their lives for activities that are pleasurable, voluntary and imaginative - that is, for play - have better memory, sharper reasoning, and more optimism about their future. As the dean of play studies, the University of Pennsylvania's Brian Sutton-Smith says, "the opposite of play isn't work. It's depression. To play is to act out and be wilful, exultant and committed, as if one is assured of one's prospects".

So to call yourself a "player", rather than a "worker", is to immediately widen your conception of who you are, and what you might be capable of doing. It is to dedicate yourself to realizing your full human potential; to take an essentially active, rather than passive stance towards your environment; and to be constantly guided in this by your sense of fulfillment, meaning and satisfaction.

The play ethic is what happens when the values of play become the foundation of a whole way of life. It turns us into more militant producers, and more discriminating consumers. It causes us to re-prioritise the affairs of our hearts, to upgrade the quality of our emotional and social relationships. It makes us more activist in our politics, but less traditional in their expression. And most of all, the play ethic forces us to think deeply about how we should pursue our pleasures - and how we reconcile that with our social duties.

Pat clearly shares the vision that lies at the heart of DeepFUN, and gives voice to the kind of personal and social change that is inevitable for those who take the heart to heart.

As for his mention of Brian Sutton-Smith - Brian is one of the few people I know who appreciates play in its fullest, un-adult-erated, uncensored breadth. He was a frequent visitor to the Games Preserve and a long time friend. Further evidence that, as Pat says, we are playing in the same sandbox.

Cubeball. Boxball and the transforming power of play

According to second draft of the official rules of Cubeball, as delineated by the World Cubeball Association, all you need to play are:

one (1) superball, of a size agreed upon by both players;
one (1) item, preferably symmetrical, to be used as a target for the previously-mentioned superball;
one (1) barrier, approximately four (4) to six (6) feet in height, stretching the entire width of the playing area, and with sufficient width to support the target on the barrier's top edge (the separating wall between adjacent cubicles is often used as this barrier); and
two (2) wheeled chairs, as are normally found in modern offices.

There's more. Much more. These are, after all, the official rules.

Cubeball, as the authors unabashedly reveal: "occured because the product we were both working on at the time took an obscenely long time to build, and there was nothing to do but wait in the meantime. This waiting led to boredom, and boredom led to Cubeball." This is a rather powerful revelation, about the nature of play, the reason for games, and the power of a toy to transform the environment.

Witness Boxball, a game of tennis, sans tennis court, tennis raquet, and tennis ball. Born, no doubt, of boredom, and bouyed by the availability of a cheap, high-bouncing ball known as the "spaldeen." As the official Spaldeen site explains: "Made from the rejected inner core of a tennis ball in 1949, the original Spalding High-Bounce ball sparked the imaginations of dozens of playful inner city kids. For urban kids, the ball gave them a way to play outdoors without a grassy field. These kids would hit the streets for inventive games like hit-the-penny, box ball, and most famously, stickball." Dozens? According to my scant research, we're talking about a whole generation of kids.

There is a great deal to learn from these games and the spirit that led to their invention. There is great heart to be taken from the discovery that this spirit has in no way diminished.

More Frolicsomely Frustrating Family-Friendly Frivolity

In searching for a seasonally-appropriate gift of glee to share with the chosen many, I found this in the DeepFUN archives:

Dear Major Fun: "Opening presents is definitely fun. But, afterwards, there's always a let down for something else fun to do." -- Mary Maker

Dear Merrymaker: There's an old parlor game that should keep spirits high even after the main merriments are made. First you need a big candy bar or bag of goodies. Then you need a small array of cold-weather clothes (hat, gloves, coat, scarf) (the gloves are essential, you can add or delete other items of outer clothing depending on the collective delay-gratification factor of the players). Then you need plenty of wrapping paper and tape. Finally, a pair or more of dice.

Wrap the goody bag in as much paper and tape as you can find (and have the patience for). Put the clothes and the prize in a pile in the center of the living room, and arrange all the family and relatives in a circle around the pile. Give the dice to someone. When the game starts, the player rolls the dice. If the player doesn't roll doubles (two or more dice of the same number), the dice pass to the next player. If the player does roll doubles, the dice are still passed on to the next player, while the doubles-roller dives into the clothes pile, puts everything on (especially the gloves) and starts tearing open the package. Meanwhile, the dice are passed around the circle from person to person until someone else rolls doubles. At that time, the player who is raptly unwrapping the prize must stop, take off the extra clothes, take a place in the circle, and allow the new doubles-roller to continue the challenge while the rest of the players take turns rolling the dice. The round continues until someone manages to unwrap the present.

This game is fun, and frustration is definitely part of the fun. If the frustration is too daunting, add another die or two (so it takes longer for anyone to roll doubles) or decrease the number of clothes items in the clothes pile, or have two people (with two sets of clothes) work as unwrapping partners.

This game has been around a long time. Apparently, the way I learned the game (which is of course the best of all possible ways of playing it) is only one of many variations of a game called "Pass the Parcel." It's most often described as being played with "music like musical chairs." If you check out the Party Games Idea Resource Page, you'll find a listing for Pass the Parcel followed by two other variations, the last, the closest to the way I learned the game, whilst leading inexorably to a whole nother branch of family-friendly frivolity, e.g. Flour Mound.

The Varieties of the Balloon Hat Experience

You wouldn't think that making balloon hats could evolve into a spiritual path. Unless you happened to stumble across a website called "The Varieties of the Balloon Hat Experience." As the authors explain:

In 1996, Addi Somekh and Charlie Eckert began traveling to different places in the world to make balloon hats for people and take photos of them. The goal was to show people all over the world laughing and having fun, and to emphasize the fact that all human beings are born with the ability to experience joy. In total, they visited 34 countries and have over 10,000 pictures.

I am amazed at what a rich, luscious, thoughtful, inspiring, and profoundly gift this Balloon Hat Experience proves to be: the amazing gallery of Balloon Hatting around the world, the gallery of Threes - depicting stories of love and balloon-hatted glory in series of three images.

I found this on their What is Laughing page.

"In the Navajo tradition we have what we call Chi Dlo Dil, or a Laughing Party, for a newborn. The Laughing Party is the first laugh you hear from a child. It's usually around six weeks. It's the baby's first expression to the world, saying 'I'm ready to interact.'

...At the party everybody sits around the baby and has a big meal and plays with the baby. The person who makes the baby laugh first plays an important role in the child's life."

Nancy Evans, Shiprock, NM (Navajo Nation)

And this piece of poetic anthropology about the meaning of hats from Mary Holmes is Professor Emerita of Art at the University of California at Santa Cruz.

The head has always been a battlefield. We think of ourselves as livingin our head. Our most important acts aren't performed by our hands or our legs. We think and speak with our head. So the head becomes sacred. It has meaning. Which is why there came to be so much meaning attached to hair and headdresses, to what they look like. And it has enough meaning that it¹s worth fighting about ...I have great faith that hats will come back, because they have been important to humans for millennia. And the balloon hats give people, at least momentarily, a return of that experience of dressing the head. I think that's why it evokes that bubbly, giggly, happy response. People feel that at last they have the recognition they deserve.

I give you a Major FUN Award, o Balloon Hatters of the heart.

Labels: ,


BackRound (no, I didn't misspell it. It's not Background. It's BackRound) is another Major FUN Award-winning wordgame from the Coodju people.

Let's start with an example. If someone said "led-nack" to you, offering you the hint "don't burn out on this word," what would you answer. Why, obviously, "candle." Let's continue with another example. How about "top-eat," which, says the hint, "Blows its lid"? But of course, "teapot." Think you've got it? How about "ode-dees-cut?" Want a hint? "Formally speaking, you should have this."

A BackRound, the designers explain, is "a word pronounced backwards." Notice the emphasis. It's pretty much central to what makes this game so fascinatingly fun. Yeah, it's about backwards words. But not about the spelling. And all about the pronounciation.

There are 80 cards, each with 4 different puzzles (which makes for, count'em, 320 total). You need at least two people, so one can be the Reader. You can play with more. Many, many more. You can divide them into teams. You can play every-one-for-him/her-self. Scoring is easy. You solve it, you get the card. You have the most cards at the end of the game, you win.

Then there's the not-actually-obligatory timer, which you can use to add more tension, when more tension is needed. Which, in our case, given our collective obstinance, wasn't.

And there's even a cloth carry-this-game-everywhere bag, which, once you play it, you're more than likely to do.

Should you need further snish-kurt-sni, you'll find them clearly posted on their ties-behw.



Remember "Geography" - the game you probably played in the car or waiting at the restaurant with your family? You know the one. Someone says the name of a geographical location. Texas. Then the next player has to name another geographical location, starting with the last letter of the previous. Saskatchewan. Then the next: Nebraska. Et, basically, cetera. Remember how surprisingly long that game could last? And how genuinely challenging it could get? And how much fun it could be? Well, that should answer any questions you have about why Respond is so much fun. Because, basically, Respond begins where Geography leaves off.

First, there's the deck of category cards. We're not just talking Geography anymore. We're talking Vegetables, and Boys Names, and Bugs; Colors and Flowers, and Musical Instruments. Which might remind you of that game Categories. Remember? "Gonna Get (clap, clap) names of (clap clap) Candy..." Except you play with the Geography rule. And the categories change every turn. So now you have to be prepared to switch from context to context while figuring out what word starts with the last letter of the word before. Baseball. Larry. Umm. What bug starts with a "Y"? Oh. Yellowjacket.

Speaking of yellow, there are also these yellow-bordered "Lightning" category cards. When you play one, anybody, regardless of whose turn it is, can go next, if they answer correctly. Which adds a remarkably deep strategic pinch, because if you're not fast enough, you get skipped over. And if you are very fast, you can play a second card from your own hand before the timer runs out.

Speaking of which, there's a 20-second electronic timer that quietly blinks at you until you there are only five seconds left. And sedately beeps at you until you run out of time. And then blares a most conclusive siren in your personal face. Hitting it resets it. Not answering before the timer goes off means you have to draw an additional card. Which is not good, seeing as the goal of the game is to be the first player to run out of cards.

Respond is deliciously challenging. It can be played by kids old enough to read. It can be played by almost any number of people. Being based on games that almost everyone knows makes it that much easier to learn.

Everything works elegantly. The cards keep the game exciting. There's no need to keep score. It's easy to learn. Quick to play. If you lose the rules, you can find them online. Even batteries are included.

Labels: ,


Who'd think that a spelling game could be interesting enough, fun enough, exciting enough, to make into a party? Well, Matt and Derry, two, young, entrepreneuring game designers, certainly did. Enough to build a whole game company around. And, after playing it for five minutes, I was as convinced as they were.

Coodju is the kind of game the Major FUN Award was invented for. It's innovative, unique, easy to learn, fast, challenging, funny fun - and it's all done with spelling! You (at least 4 of you over-twelve-years-old types) play more or less in teams. Your partner has a card with five words on it. She reads them to you one-at-a-time. All you have to do to win the card is spell the words correctly. Of course, depending on the roll of the die, you might have to spell the words backwards, or inside out, or spell every other letter, or only the vowels or consonants. And depending on the roll of the other die, you might have twice as much time, or get twice or three times as many points, or take away points from the other guys.

You can almost feel those braincells burning as you try to spell a word "outside-in." P-Y-A-T-R is obviously PARTY. But what, one might ask, is H-S-A-S-P-E-P-N-I?

We liked everything about this game. We liked the challenge. We liked the scoring. We liked the dice. We liked the portable, two-compartment card tray that made it so easy for the Reader to keep track of which cards have been used. We liked the box that had the rules printed right on it. We didn't especially like the scoring pad or sand timer. We appreciated having them. And what, after all, is especially to like about scoring pads and sand timers?

And we especially liked knowing that there was a Coodju Lite - a different package with words that seven-year-olds could spell, a spinner instead of dice, and no scorepad. Coodju Lite is an elegant adaptation of Coodju, reduced in complexity to appeal to the age-impaired, but not reduced in play value. In fact, we found that because the cards in Coodju lite were a different color, we could combine games so the whole family could play together. The designers even included a cloth bag, knowing that kids would cherish the game enough to want to take it everywhere.

As to the "we" - last Sunday's Game Tasting group included myself, my wife, Rocky; the amazing Ivory (a beloved, game-addicted regular), and the co-inventorsm them-very-selves. It just so happened that they lived a couple beaches north of us, and, despite my misgivings about undue influence, they turned out to be wonderful, fun people, who appreciated games as much as we did, and we delighted in their delight as much as ours. It was a rare opportunity, and fortunate in deed that they had such genuinely BERNIE-worthy games to share with us.

That inside-out word, for those of you who are still seeking: HAPPINESS.


Jan and John's variations of Sequence

1. Make sequences visual.
Put a dot of white-out or nail polish on one side of each token. When playing, place dot-side down until you have a sequence of five. Then flip all tokens in the sequence, making your sequences easily visible.

2. Don't stop at 2!
Play until all the tokens are used up. Then count up your sequences - whoever has the most wins.

3. Handicap
For regular players, develop a handicap to level the playing field. That is, if you always win by an average of 3 sequences, then your handicap is 3. She has to win by more than 3 to win the game

4. Jokers are wild!
Use the jokers as wild cards that can replace any of your opponent's tokens (except one that is flipped over, signifying a sequence).
Nice players won't replace an opponent's token if it is in a sequence, even if their opponent hasn't seen it and hasn't "declared" the sequence by flipping over tokens to dot side up. Competitive players may seize the opportunity! Variation: you may replace your own token, not just your opponent's.

5. Playing intensely!
Don't separate the tokens in the beginning. Instead, place them in a hat or convenient deep-welled container.
At the beginning of each turn, reach into the hat and select a token. That's the token you must play that turn (it may be your token, it may be your opponent's).
Not for beginners! This gets strategic and tense! Especially at the end.

6. Play to lose.
Winner is the one who gets the fewest sequences. (We haven't tried this one yet)

What other variations have you invented? I'd love to hear about them.

a Sequence addict


Despite my declared prediliction for "games that make people laugh," every now and then I come across a "serious" game that is so unique, so playable, and so readily invites adaptation and variation, that I just can't let it go by without giving it a Major FUN Award- a game like Sequence.

Sequence is based on the Japanese game of Go-Moku - a kind of tic-tac-toe in which it takes five-in-a-row in order to win. Go-Moku is a classic strategy game, and you'll find a great deal about it on the Internet. This site discusses strategy and interesting variations of the game. There's a site devoted to Go-Moku and it's variations including the classic games of Renju and Pente. Here's the International Internet Go-Moku Foundation. And, for your immediate gratification, here's an online version.

Basing any game on Go-Moku is a fortuitous choice. It is an easy game to understand, even for a seven-year-old. And is strategically deep enough to attract adult play. An even more fortuitous decision is to introduce an element of luck. Suddenly, this game of pure strategy is as much about chance as it is about skill. Which levels the playing field even further, making it an ideal game for a very wide age range. It's a difficult line to straddle, the line between chance and strategy. Sequence not only crosses that line, but arrives at a uniquely playable game.

The Sequence board is a 10x10 grid. A playing card, with the exception of jacks, is depicted on each square in the grid. Jacks are wild. Also included are two decks of cards and three sets of playing pieces. Two to three players or teams can play. Cards are dealt, the squares available for play being determined by the cards that player is holding. Two-eyed Jacks are wild, allowing the player to add a piece anywhere on the board. One-eyed Jacks are called "anti-wild," and are used to remove any piece (the famous "screw-you factor"). The wildness of the Jacks is a prefect touch, adding an extra layer of luck, strategy and interaction.

Given these elements, it is easy to see how readily we can generate new variations and modifications. In addition to the classic Go-Moku variations, we also have cards to play with - cards that can be used to level the playing field (winners have to start the next game with fewer cards), cards that can be declared wild - with all sorts of wild possibilities (reposition one or more of your or your opponent's pieces, reverse direction of play, exchange colors...).

Sequence is an ideal family game. Even for a very large family. The board is well-made, the pieces sturdy, the cards easy to shuffle and hold. And the game is deep enough to withstand hours of play, variation, exploration and invention.


Kabaddi, Dho-Dho-Dho: New Games Revealed

There's a game they play in India, a sport, really, called "Kabaddi." Here's a description:

The kabaddi playing area is 12.50m x 10m, divided by a line into two halves. The side winning the toss sends a 'raider', who enters the opponents' court chanting, 'kabaddi-kabaddi'. The raider's aim is to touch any or all players on the opposing side, and return to his court in one breath. The person, whom the raider touches, will then be out. The aim of the opposing team, will be to hold the raider, and stop him from returning to his own court, until he takes another breath. If the raider cannot return to his court in the same breath while chanting 'kabaddi', he will be declared out. Each team alternates in sending a player into the opponents' court. If a player goes out of the boundary line during the course of the play, or if any part of his body touches the ground outside the boundary, he will be out, except during a struggle.

Which, to the vast multitude of New Games aficionados, sounds suspiciously like the game we knew as "Dho-Dho-Dho" (warning before clicking - this is a Tripod, multiple-pop-up-launching site). The description of Dho-Dho-Dho:

A playing field is marked off. The field is not large (about the size of a large gym mat). The center of this field has a line down it. The players are in two teams, each team on one side of the line. One team chooses a player to make a foray into the other teams territory. The object is for that player to tag as many of the other team as he can, but he must return to his own team's area in the space of one breath. While on his foray he must say "dho-dho-dho-dho" continuously. The team into whose area he has gone will attempt to retain him in their area. If he is not back into his area before he runs out of breath, he joins the team who held him. He may only be restrained by being grasped above the waist. (Being held down bodily is encouraged.) He may not be touched until he has tagged a player. If he makes it back into his own area, all those he tagged become members of his team. The teams may alternate turns of sending out a player on a foray, or they send him out at their discretion.

Proving, once again, my central thesis - New Games were never that new. What was (and still is) new about them is a central subtlety. Note how, in the description of Dho-Dho-Dho, the tagged players become members of the attacking team. Note similarly how in the original game of Kabaddi, the tagged players are out. Here, in deed, the pivotal nuance is revealed. What made, and keeps New Games new is the practice of inclusion. A practice that we, as a society, have apparently yet to learn.

Fun, Flow, Juggling, Community, and CoLiberation

I'm about to wax theoretical. Consider this a warning.

You can blame the following theoretical waxiness on juggler, thinker, friend and New Gamester Todd Strong

Almost every presentation I give about fun involves Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi's concept of Flow. And I've been making these presentations for maybe thirty years. Cskiszentmihalyi defines flow as "being completely involved in an activity for its own sake. The ego falls away. Time flies. Every action, movement, and thought follows inevitably from the previous one, like playing jazz. Your whole being is involved, and you're using your skills to the utmost." Sounds like fun, no?

Todd has apparently found a similarly powerful connection in the relationship between Juggling and Flow. He writes: "Many jugglers talk about the therapeutic, almost meditative state they experience while juggling. It is not uncommon for people keep three bean bags in their desk at work and take juggling breaks. After juggling, they notice they are refreshed and alert, better able to get the work done."

But what made me so especially interested in Todd's insights into juggling and flow was when I read the following. He writes: "While it is possible to enter into flow as a solitary experience, many people report that they attain flow more easily and frequently when they are in social settings...The camaraderie of being around other jugglers who are enjoying themselves may be enough stimulus to move someone from the boredom zone into the flow channel. At the same time, the enthusiasm and support of friends, family or co-workers may prevent someone else's anxiety from becoming too great to keep them out of the flow channel. Perhaps this is why juggling festivals have become so popular. It is easier to get into a flow state when juggling around other enthusiasts."

Todd is the only other person I know of to write about the social dimensions of flow. I first wrote about it (before I knew I was writing about flow) in my article about the Fun Community, where I describe a particularly pivotal experience - the one that led me to writing The Well-Played Game.

Excuse me while I quote myself:

"My good friend Bill was and is so much better of a player than I that there was actually no reason for us to try to play a 'real' game. Playing for points was clearly pointless. So, we decided to just see how long we could keep a volley going. It was a perfect challenge for each of us. For Bill, just getting the ball to hit my paddle was an exercise worthy of his years of longish mastery. After half the night of this, we managed to sustain an almost infinite volley. We actually lost count."

A few years ago, I started calling this experience "CoLiberation". I think this fun-flow, community-CoLiberation connection might prove to be a very powerful one. For Todd, it is one more reason that juggling is such a powerful, joy-producing experience. For me, it is the reason I invent, teach and play games.

Subecrubet Lubangubaugubes

Today's sweeping generalization: we learn just about everything, especially everything that is really complex, by playing.

Take, for example, language. What do we do as soon as we master our abilities to speak our native languages? We invent our own languages! Our special, secret languages. Like, say, Pig Latin.

Ask almost anyone, and they'll tell you: "Igpay Atinlay isway obablypray ethay estbay ownknay ecretsay ofway allway ecretsay anguageslay." (which is their way of saying "Pig Latin is probably the best known secret of all secret languages" - as rendered by the indispensable English to Pig Latin Translator).

For those for whom Pig Latin is too elementary, there's also Opish where you add op or ob immediately after each consonant phoneme. Opish is, as you might guess, but the tip of the secret languages proverbial iceberg. Take a look at this wonderful exchange of observations and reminiscences on the LINGUIST List 8.1570.

And of course there's the ever elusive Turkey Irish. Not to mention the vast and once well-guarded secrets of Double-Dutch, Eggy Peggy, Gree, Na and Skimono Jive. And, most recently, thanks to the kids' TV show Zoom, the Ubbi Dubbi language, now made available to all through this handy online translator.

According to this article by Kara VanDam, secret languages are a universal phenomenon, not limited to children. She gives the example of the Tut language that was developed by slaves to teach each other to read (what a testimony to the human mind and spirit, that people would actually create one language so they could teach each other to read another!).

Finally, there's Ron Hipschman's article The Secret Langauge that takes this contemplation of kids, play and language one step further, into mathematics and the complex and confounding realms of codes, ciphers, and cryptology.

Playing Cards

Qwitch is actually the fifth card game to get a Major FUN Award. However many more card games get the Major FUN Award, the one card game to which I will never be able to play sufficient homage is your basic, traditions, standard deck of playing cards. It is amazing how much play value can be found in so small a package. The Card Games Website, for example, lists approximately 566 different card games. Not including solitaire. Tom Warfield, author of the amazingly extensive and free collection of solitaire games called Pretty Good Solitaire, lists over 300.

Speaking of card games, and playing cards in general, the website of the International Playing-Card Society includes a thankfully brief, but concise History of Playing-Cards, according to which "earliest authentic references to playing-cards in Europe date from 1377" which might help to explain why there are so many card games.

from Devil's PicturebookNot to mention design. Well, all right, let's mention it. Here's a page with a good overview of the art of playing card design. As revealed by the Playing Card Review site, there are still efforts underway to redesign the deck. One example shown is this one called "The Devil's Picturebook" - a project of the Stichting Installatie Collectief, a collaboration between four artists in Holland.

Then there's the shape question, like this round deck of "Mars Cards" by NASA. I found these on Newt's Playing Card Superstore. Apparently, round cards have been in use for centuries. There's an Indian circular card set called Ganjifa with twelve suits of ten cards each.Andy's Playing Cards (hosted by Tripod, so you'll have to endure the pop-ups) has a good page on the history and symbology of this fascinating deck. Though I've not yet had a chance to play with a round deck, it's pretty evident that they'd be nice to hold, easy to arrange, and maybe especially fun to throw.



Qwitch, the "Quick Switch" game, is a card game where speed is just about everything. The task seems simple enough. All you have to do is be the first person to get rid of your cards. And to do that, all you need is the card that is, depending on the roll of a die, either the same, or one greater, or one lesser in rank than the card just played.

The challenge lies in the design of the cards. Each card has both a letter (A-G) and a number (1-8). You can use either letter or number to determine which card to play. The effect of having this choice is similar to that of a mental Indian Burn (forgive the politically incorrect metaphor - an Indian Burn is what we used to give each other on our way out of boyhood by holding an arm with two hands and twisting in the opposite directions). Since there are no turns, and everybody races to be the next to slap down an appropriate card, you frequently find yourself with less than a split second to make your split decision about which of your cards has the right which, letter or number.

The special die that is used to determine whether to go up or down in sequence, or just to match the letter or number of the previous card, is an ingenious bit of game designery. Since the set is finite, beginning with the A-1 and ending with the H-8 cards, the die can be the only thing that can keep the game going. Rolling it gives you just long enough to catch your mental breath and reorient yourself to the new rule. And it's quite a delight to discover that matching can be just as consuming a challenge as continuing the sequence.

Qwitch is not a game for the contemplative or easily frustrated. Since there's no time for compassion, it's all too easy for the deliberative player to be, as they say, left holding the cards. The designers do suggest a version for the younger or fainter of mind in which, rather than playing simultaneously, players politely take turns. Needless to say, that variation was ruled out by us adult-types after about five seconds of play. If you find one or several of your playpals to be of the more deliberative type, you might consider a "level the playingfield" strategy, allowing each player to determine how many cards he or she will start with - the faster players taking more to "win with honor."

Though simple, the rules are a bit difficult to follow. Perhaps because of the layout of the rule sheet (which, as in all Out-of-the-Box games, is printed on much-appreciated card stock). Perhaps because a lot of very simple games prove remarkably difficult to describe. It's a minor obstacle, and the game is well-worth whatever slight efforts are needed to get started.

Qwitch is a fascinating, fast-paced game, similar to the Major FUN Award-winning, Out-of-the-Box game Blink. For 3-5 players, ages 7-adult, Qwitch is an energizing, and deliciously challenging card game that can be played in less than five very intense minutes.

Spit (a.k.a. Speed) is probably the closest of the traditional card games to match the speed and excrutiating joy of Qwitch. It's basically a double solitaire in which two players compete to play cards onto the same "tableaux" piles. The Qwitch-like aspect of the game is that no turns are taken, both players playing simultaneously. This causes endless opportunities for agony as one player beats the other to the piles. Since only two players are involved, it's a little less chaotic. But then again, Spit is for kids.

Labels: ,

The Proof is in the Playing

Delightful daughter-in-law Julie came up with a new aphorism. She was talking to my delightful daughter about some of the delightful presents she sent to my delightful granddaughter, and learned that she, delightful granddaughter, was still playing with them. Which caused her (delightful daughter-in-law, delightful daughter and delightful granddaughter) all to exhibit more delight. This gives rise to an observation: the only real way to judge the appropriateness of a toy is by observing how the kid plays with it. Hence, the power and value of the aphorism: the proof is in the playing.

The Juggler/Magician connection

In response to my musings on the Juggler/Magician connection, Juggler Extraordinare Todd Strong shared an experience he had with the magician Ricky Jay. Todd writes:

Ricky Jay is a great magician. We invited him to perform at the International Jugglers' Association annual festival in 1983. Not only does he perform excellent magic, he comes close to straddling the line of non-magic object manipulatino with his card throwing.

I remember talking to him on the afternoon before the show. Please understand that jugglers like to juggle at the festivals. With 500 people on the gym floor, there maybe several thousand objects in the air at any given time. Ricky Jay explained to me how strange it was to see so many people practicing, and dropping, in front of each other. He went on to say that he could never imagine demonstrating any of his moves in public, until he is completely sure that he will succeed at them.

I think there's a key insight here about the distinction between magic and juggling.

Todd also shared article he wrote and invited me to share it with you. It doesn't address my "audience observation" (jugglers can have fun all by themselves, while magicians require an audience), it does shed some rather brilliant light on the relatedness of the two arts.

The illustration, which comes from one of the multitude of highly instructive animations Todd includes on his extensive site, is of Rick Rubenstein demonstrating his juggling move "Rubenstein's Revenge."

"Jugglers and magicians can be thought of as two sides of the same coin. Armed with the "Oxford English Dictionary," one can see the common ancestry of these art forms, and perhaps conjecture on how they diverged.

"Several hundred years ago, the term 'juggling' was frequently used to refer to what we, today, mean by magic. `The word 'juggle' comes from the Latin 'joculare,' which meant to jest. The word 'joke' is also derived from the same root 'jocus,' to jest. Even today a jocular fellow is someone who is disposed to joking or jesting.

"Historically, a joculare was an entertainer. We can speculate that, perhaps more specifically, a joculare was an entertainer who used her or his hands as an important part of the performance. This could have meant either juggling, as in tossing multiple objects around, as well as the manipulation of coins, cups and other magic paraphernalia. The language has evolved and become more specific. Today the word 'juggler' refers to someone who uses his or her hands to manipulate objects in an overt fashion for everyone to see and appreciate. The magician's goal is to manipulate objects in a covert fashion so the action is not noticed.

"The word 'manipulate' is interesting. One older meaning is to grip or clasp with the hands. One finds the Latin root word for hand, 'main' buried within. Since hands seem to be such an important aspect of both magic and juggling it might be worthwhile to investigate the implications. These ideas are offered in the chance that something might click with an artist who is creating a new act or help a performer better understand how to best present her or his act to an audience.

"Hands do work. People use their hands to build things. A potter works bare handed to change a lump of clay into a bowl or, for beginners, an ashtray. A carpenter increases the strength of his or her hands with tools to build a house. A general expectation is that a tangible, physical thing is created or modified as the result of the work of the hands. Hands can also work to destroy something that already exists, so perhaps it is better to think of the hands as altering things.

"Both jugglers and magicians, in a sense, shatter this common expectation, although in completely different ways. The magician, barely moving her or his hands at all, can still make a dove, coin, or other object appear out of nothing. For the average person, to create anything is a laborious process. The magician's hands seem to be governed by a different reality. That is true magic.

"Jugglers surprise people in a different way. A juggler's hands move for all to see, but nothing is created. There were three balls at the start of the routine and there are three balls at the end of the routine. After all of this highly visible activity, nothing is changed. At some level this is very unnerving to our expectations."

Of Juggling and Magic

In response to the Dice Stacking / Todd Strong story (below) much-loved correspondent Jan Nickerson writes:

Are you a fan of Ricky Jay, too?

I went to Cornell with him. He used to blow our minds at fraternity parties when he would throw a deck of cards against a window and the one card that would stick in the window pane would be the card we had selected. Unbelievable!

And in so writing, Jan makes the connection between juggling and magic.

I'm thinking that magic might be even more theatrical than juggling, less a "pure play" thing, a thing that almost requires an audience. But it is a thing of fun, clearly and entirely - a thing from time to time of genuinely deep fun. As they say, there might be more here than meets the eye.

Which also makes mention-worthy, again thanks to Jan's mention to me, Michael Gelb and his program "Lessons from the Art of Juggling: How to Achieve Your Full Potential in Business, Learning, and Life"

Oh, the heights we reach when reaching for fun!

Dice Stacking

As long as we're considering juggling as play, we might as well take a moment or two to get acquainted with Todd Strong, an actual friend of mine from, o, say TWENTY-FIVE years ago, during the glory days of the New Games Foundation.

When Todd first showed me Dice Stacking, I just simply couldn't believe it was possible. Then I tried. And I was sure it wasn't possible. Then I tried again. And I did it!

Todd has developed a remarkable website called Perceptual Motion. His website includes instructions and animated illustrations of Ball Juggling, Cigar Box juggling, Club Juggling, Club Swinging, Devil Sticks, Diabolo, Hat Manipulation, Lasso, Miscellaneous Juggling, Poi Swinging, Ring Juggling, Staff juggling, and Tennis Ball and Can.

He explains his passion better than I can. Stand by for another lengthy quote:

Hi. My name is Todd Strong and Perceptual Motion is the name of my business. I really like the name. For me it refers to things that move in a way that may not be obvious at first, but that make sense once one understands the physics involved. More than just comprehension, these toys and games also involve a certain amount of skill and practice before one masters them. Mostly, Perceptual Motion is an opportunity for me to share the joy I find in playing with relatively obscure toys and games that involve skill and challenge.

Perceptual Motion started in 1981 when I began making and selling devil sticks and diabolos at the Pike Place Market in Seattle. At the time, a juggler might have known what a devil stick or diabolo was, but many people in North America had never seen either one before. It was fascinating to watch people's reactions to my demonstrations and suggestion that they, too, might enjoy playing with such a toy.

Todd is one of those jugglers who has managed to develop a fine balance between play and performance. It's clear that he has fun with all his juggling stuff, and his fun is the magic that makes us all want to learn from him.

The Museum of Juggling

The Museum of Juggling's Ethnography Collection provides an historical perspective on what is apparently a very ancient pasttime. I was especially interested to learn about Otedama, a Japanese juggling game that began as a children's game, remarkably like jacks, only played with beanbags. It helped me make the connection between juggling as a game and juggling as a performance. Even though my background is in theater, and I understand games as a form of theater, I have been consistently intrigued by performances that aren't directed towards an audience, but rather performed for the sake of the performers (players). There's something seeming more intimate and more genuine about the things we do for fun, for ourselves or with each other. Apparently, juggling, like pretend-play, is one of those things we can do with or without an audience, alone or with each other, as a fun thing or as an art form.

The "World Laughter Tour" Award

Last May, the DeepFUN website was among the Fortunate Few to be recognized by the World Laughter Tour as an organization that works to:

Promote laughter and humor for their many redeeming values
Make people aware of the importance of humor and laughter at home, work, school, and in the healing processes
Show how laughter can make the world a better, more peaceful place
Provide resources for promoting laughter and humor.

This was, and remains a significant honor for Ours Truly. Though my focus is slightly different (fun does not always include laughter, and vice versa), it's definitely the right association. The World Laughter Tour follows the teachings of Laughter Yoga, a movement started by Dr. Madan Kataria, based on the discovery that even when there's nothing to laugh about, we can still make ourselves, and each other, laugh. And in so doing, heal the world.

The growing list of fellow recipients from all over the world is in itself inspiring, and an excellent resource for those of us who know the value of a good joke when we see one.

Modifying Games for the Blind

In his article, Modifying Games for the Blind, Eddie Timanus writes:

I love a line Captain Kirk delivered on the original Star Trek episode entitled "Shore Leave." The more complex the mind, the more it requires the simplicity of play.

Perhaps my Alaska-sized ego took vindication from that. Since I love to play, I obviously have a very complex mind, right? Well, it's certainly good to lose a game now and then to keep one's ego in check.

I've always enjoyed games of all sorts - TV game shows, sporting events, card and board games, and, in my adult life, casino action. I never let a little thing like being blind stand in my way of having a good time. I quickly discovered that playing games was one of my favorite ways to have fun. The world of board games is by no means closed to blind or visually impaired persons. Many games can be made completely accessible with some tactile adaptations.

Eddie is clearly a devoted board game player. His article explains how cards, checkers, and even complex board games like Risk can all be "Eddiefied" - and in doing so gives us all a new look at our community of players.

Shove Ha'penny

A shuffleboard-like game, Shove Ha'penny has apparently been around the taverns of England since the fifteenth century. It's called Shove Ha'penny because it's played with a Half-Penny coin. The object of the game is to slide the coin so that it rests between the lines. To win, you have to have get a coin in each "bed" - the sections between the lines. You also score extra if you get three to five of your coins in a single bed.

Every game I learn about teaches me a new way of playing a game I already know. That's why I'm so interested in games from other countries and other eras. Now I know how to design a desktop shuffleboard game, how to develop a different scoring system for shuffleboard, and how to create a shuffleboard-like version of Shove Ha'penny.

My apparent knowledge of this relatively obscure game can be traced directly to the Pub Games section of the Online Guide to Traditional Games.

You can actually purchase pub games, and other traditional games, from the Masters Games collection, where you can also get more complete versions of the rules.

Planet Earth Playscapes

This is an image from the Soundscape Project, one of an inspiring collection of Planet Earth Playscapes from Rusty Keeper. I decided to feature this particular play element because it is so often overlooked in the design of children's play environments. The designers explain:

We use sound in 3 general ways:

1) As an ambient “backdrop” to the play yard, with sounds creating aural moods with wind chimes, and listening dishes to focus your attention.

2) Sound as a “by product” of play with bells, chimes and rattles hidden in trees, shrubs, structures and tires where the children already play.

3) Sound as the “goal” of play. For this, various sound sculptures were installed including jumbo standing chimes, a huge thunder drum children can pound on with softball mallets, and a large wooden marimba and tongue drums.

This is another of Keeler's playscape designs. Designed for infant and toddlers:

Details of the play environment include a small bubbling water feature, "secret" paths between tall edible plants, carved wooden sculptures, a "mini orchard" with dwarf apple trees, gentle grassy hills, and raised planters full of flowers, vegetables and herbs.

Children can drive tricycles through a large tunnel, dig in a giant sand area, and race down slides embedded in the side of a hill.

Also in the design are various sound elements including large, tuned chimes played with mallets, a booming "Thunder Drum" for children to pound on, and a variety of twinkling windchimes hung in trees.

It is exemplary of a clearly r/evolutionary trend in playground design, one that brings with it a sense of fun and beauty, of respect for life and play, of opportunities for imagination and exploration, physical and sensual involvement, light and delight.


Play Link - the Free Play Network

This is the first time since I started this weblog that three (well, with this, actually four) stories came from the same resource - the Free Play Network. As stated on their site: "the Free Play Network aims to promote free play principles and practice and to provide support for local play service providers." I am so thoroughly heartened by this resource and its goals that I apparently can't stop writing about it. I also find it most definitely disheartening when I think how rare such efforts are. May these efforts prove successful. May their success be an incentive to playworkers everywhere. May there be playworkers everywhere. And may they be very well paid.

Sorrow Swing - play is not always fun

The PlayLink publication, Making Sense, playwork in practice, is a remarkably sensitive guide to facilitating children's play in public spaces. I know of no equivalent publication, and am profoundly indebted to its authors and sponsors for making such a useful, compassionate, well-informed document available to us, online, for free.

Here's a taste of the depth and wisdom of this guide, from a section called "Sorrow Swing."

Robbie and Becky clung tightly to each other and the rope that supported the tyre swing they were sitting on, slowly swaying backwards and forwards, slowly turning round and around. Their father had recently died.

A playworker stood a discreet distance away, close enough to suggest the offer of support if required, far enough away to respect their need for solitude.

Occasionally children would approach the worker, complaining that Robbie and Becky's turn on the swing was over. She would simply say that they needed more time. Each time the two came to the playground they made their way over to the swing and sat there, drifting backwards and forwards, alone with their thoughts. The other children had begun to respect the swing as being their space when they wanted it, although the worker continued to maintain her strategic position just in case.

After a few days Robbie and Becky approached the worker and asked if they could do some painting. She led them into the building and their gentle re-introduction to regular playground life had begun.

playwork focus

1. Play has a tremendous therapeutic value

a) Regrettably people very often face great trauma early in their lives. The playgrounds often become places of security for children in their changing world and for some, the workers become significant adults in their lives.

b) Play therapy has long been used with children that have suffered trauma. Very often, though, children create their own ways of solving their problems.

c) Play is not always fun.

Playground games from around the world

For those of us who wonder whether children still know how to play together, this collection of playground games from around the world is enough to warm the collective cockles. In case we are left with any doubts about the veracity of this collection, the games are photographed, described, and, in some cases, carefully annotated. As advertised, it's a "growing" collection, which makes it all the more valuable in restoring our faith in the inventiveness, playfulness, and social development of our children.

This game is from Holland, and called "Conquer New Land." The instructions follow:





Helle Nebelong on designing playspaces for children

In her keynote speech to the Designs on Play conference, Helle Nebelong hits some very profound notes. Here are a few:

As I've grown up I've realised that children's world of imagination is far from the adults. They sometimes speak languages, we don't understand. We approach children with our grownup ideas, and even though one hopes to incorporate the desires of the children, one is sometimes left to wonder if it isn't subsequently the adults own presumptions on what the children want, that is used in building play areas....

When we renovate public playgrounds and ask the local residents what they want for their play area the answer today is equipment from nature. I think this is a reaction to decades of use of standardised and unimaginative playground equipment. When using materials from nature, themes are introduced, but it is the children, with their own imagination, who give colour to their play and bring things to life....

I am convinced that standardised playgrounds are dangerous, just in another way: When the distance between all the rungs in a climbing net or a ladder is exactly the same, the child has no need to concentrate on where he puts his feet. Standardisation is dangerous because play becomes simplified....

Echoes of New Games in Germany (as translated by Google)

It still heartens me to search for living remnants of New Games on the web. I Googled my way to this site, which, unfortunately for my language skills, was in German. Fortunately, Google provided me with a translation which, though still in Beta, left me with a challenge that is probably as much fun as playing the games. The site's called, ironically enough, List that new games. Here's a sample of what could prove to be, once properly understood, an even newer New Game:

E isenbahn


Aid: None
Time: 10min
Formation: Circle
Group size: starting from 8 (20 is optimal)


Player inside let drive in the circle a steam locomotive around.

Powerfully the cheeks up and copies a steam locomotive begins, blows the FR. It continues to give the driving locomotive to its left neighbour, by bending themselves to it. The second SpielerIn passes the locomotive on in the same way to its neighbour.

If it manages the group, "drives" the locomotive around with an even speed in the circle to leave, the FR let the course continue and explain the next phase of the play. Where rails are, there are also railroad overpasses with barriers. All player inside support their elbows up, and stretch the index fingers on the right of and left from the face highly. Those are the barriers. Every time a course comes, the barriers must be lowered, always, if it past is, must it against high go. This becomes expedient-proves with the noise of the bell begleitet:"DingDingDingDingDing....".

It is completely clear that the barriers must be down before the course come one must thus somewhat in former times thereby begin, about if the course is straight to the right with the second neighbour. Even if runs, the FR let the course continue and ring the next round: everywhere where barriers are, are also roads, and where roads are, cars drive....

Now each time, if the barriers down are, a car brakes before it. The car drives off again, if the course driven and the barriers are again high past. The loud-pictorial sequence with each SpielerIn is now thus: "Iiiiiik (Bremsenquiet), thing thing thing thing thing... (barrier), TschuffTschuff TschuffTschuffTschuffTschuff (steam locomotive), thing thing thing thing thing... (Schranke), Brrroooooom (starting car)"
It understands itself automatically that one must use now still in former times, before the course is there cars and needs barriers, everything its time.

Tip: With very many player inside it is quite possible to let in the opposite direction an express train drive. However it should be already 20 player inside, otherwise one gets the barriers no longer too.
Otherwise no borders are set to creativity. Still tunnel, upward gradient distances can be inserted and and and.

Problems: There are a little as ridiculous plays as this. If one is safe that the group does not have a slope to the Bloedsinn, one should let it rather be.

I think the key to the success of this game is to remember to keep "powerfully the cheeks up."

Games, Puzzles, Sports, Play Activities

In this collection of Games, Puzzles, Sports, Play Activities from the Therapeutic Recreation website, we hear from recreational therapists about their innovative and frequently unsupported efforts to bring fun to the rest of us. It's an inspiring collection, and, though the games may not strike you as being of monumental play value, they each tell an important, and most instructive story about the meaning and art of fun.

Here's a sample from Quiet Small Group Games:

"Carnival" Coin Toss Game
Submitted by Carol A. Johnson who is caring for her mother with Alzheimer's.

I "invented" a game where we toss coins (or whatever) into a large bowl/pot on the floor. She can toss them from her wheelchair and I adjust the distance of the bowl according to her strength for the day (sometimes good sometimes not). She takes the pennies (if this doesn't work try something with a little more weight) and I take the dimes (100 each)-[we built up to this amount] and we take turns trying to toss them in the pot. Like a carnival toss game.

This game used to end when we were out of coins. Then a friend of mine told me that her disabled son likes to "sort things". So I tried that out and sure enough it was true. So now, she will sort the pennies and dimes while I get to do something else and then she will count the ones that were in the pot to see who "won". I don't know how long she will continue to be able to do all of this activity but we both enjoy it and it is "therapy" for me as well. The down side is until they get good at it you'll have to sweep up the coins that don't make it into the pot or put a sheet under the pot to pick up the ones that missed.

[I just had a thought... for a man you might want to use "nuts and bolts" or "washers and gaskets" from the hardware store. They would be cheap, about the right weight and he might enjoy sorting them (i.e. it would be "functional.) Let me know if it works out.

"Whoever Laughs...Lasts"

Dr. John Jones has compiled one of the most comprehensive lists of the benefits of laughter. Consider the following as an emergency resource for those unfortunate times when we have to explain why:

A temporary increase in heart rate, improvement in blood circulation, breathing, and muscle tone. These sound like hoped-for results of physical exercise.

Lowered blood pressure and pulse rate. These benefits help prevent and cope with hypertension.

Increased nourishment of tissues. Healthy blood “feeds” the body better. This can also assist in preventing the formulation of undesirable clotting.

Pain reduction. This is often accompanied by less dependency on medication and shortened recuperation time from illness and surgical procedures. Laughter can also lessen emotional pain.

Stress reduction. Reducing the emission of the hormone cortisol, which weakens the immune system, probably causes this.

Muscle relaxation. This can ease tension and even break the spasm-pain cycle of rheumatism and neuralgia.

Increased ventilation and blood oxygen level. This can help people with emphysema and other respiratory illnesses. Laughter can help in clearing mucus plugs.

Stimulation of the immune system. One researcher found that watching a humorous video caused an increase in interferon-gamma both during and after the laughter experience.

Sharpened mental functions. Jokes require attention. Word-plays can keep the mind busy. Humor can stimulate the release of adrenalin and electrical activity within the brain.

Increased creativity. Laughter makes it easier to work hard comfortably.

Improved ability to organize information. The quality of work in teams can rise sharply if something puts members into a “good mood.”

Decreased isolation. Laughing together is a bonding experience. It is contagious, a socially transmitted disease of the best kind. It helps break down barriers among people because of its universality. Laughter may even reduce hostility and conflict. A New York Times article termed laughs as “rhythmic bursts of social glue.”

Decrease in anxiety. It is difficult, if not impossible, to laugh and be afraid at the same time. Humor can lessen the tension of frightening situations and put them into a different perspective.

Increased ability to cope. Being able to laugh with gusto can help people get through tough times, to cope with the loss of good health, to overcome grief, and to get on with their lives.

Induction of playfulness. Laughter can rejuvenate through helping people “regress” into a spirit of fun and adventure

Children's Folklore - the Games Collection

Children's Folklore claims to be the "First multicultural and multilingual anthology published on the web by children, parents and teachers from around the world. This project is the networking result of 108 schools from 61 countries. Read descriptions of games traditionally played by children around the world, their rhymes and customs as well."

The games are indexed by country, written by whomever wishes to contribute, not edited, sometimes not in English, but the project gives powerful testimony to the universality of play and games.

The collectors explain:

"The traditional games, often accompanied by formulas or counting out rhymes, are orally transmitted from child to child, varying from culture to culture; children express their joy to play simulating the social life typical to adults as they wish to imitate them.

"Music, poetry and game follow childhood, the earliest age of the man. The children's folklore maintains elements, even since mankind's childhood. It preceded the appearance of spoken languages and musical language. The game is a way to communicate and the cultural exchanges make children closer one from another. Children's folklore is a syncretistic phenomenon because it combines the rhymes, the tune, the gesture, the movement and the playing act. It has collective character and it contains universal elements, commonly used by the children around the world.

"We are looking forward to receiving short description of any game or custom, counting out rhymes, artworks or photographs."

Recreation Activity Index

Looking for something else to do? To get a feel for what's available to you in the real world, take a look at this nigh-unto overwhelming Recreation Activity Index from the Americal Associaton for Leisure and Recreation. Be amazed at what we can do for fun.

In case you were wondering, "The American Association for Leisure and Recreation serves recreation professionals -- practitioners, educators, and students -- who advance the profession and enhance the quality of life of all Americans through creative and meaningful leisure and recreation experiences."