Balancing Act

Balancing Aliens never disappointed us. And we were already excited, just opening the box. And from there, it just got more and more exciting. Such an elegantly made instrument of fun, so finely tuned, so subtle, so strategic, so silly.

The kind of silly you have to watch very, very carefully, and think about alot. That you can expect to get when you have a round game board, with bowling pin shaped pieces, that sits on a big screw, that can be raised or lowered, for different skill-levels. A board that has two sides, each of which a totally different game, each just as obviously the only game possible.

I mean, you could play it with 7-year olds who could probably beat you. And the very steady-of-hand 80 year old. And those of the less-steady persuasion could direct others where to move and get just involved in the strategic implications of it all. And you could be each as strategic as you can possibly get, and still, anyone might win, might be drawn inexorably towards adding just one more alien, teetering on the very precipice of improbability. Until lured by both scoring and collective-admiration potential, you upset the delicate balance, and all fall down.

Though dexterity is a definite advantage, winning the game is all about intuiting its strategic and physical dynamics. Even if your hand is not steady enough, you can still direct some younger hand and feel fully engaged in play.

Balancing Aliens is a fun toy and a fun game. Major FUN. As in award-winning. It's a near perfect model for what a good family game should be like. Because it's based on physical as well as strategic properties, and because the strategic properties are so well expressed by the physical properties, the rules of each of the two balancing games are as apparent to kids as they are to grown-ups. Kids will play with kids. Grownups with grownups. Kids with grownups. Equals in skill and delight.


Socker on the Beach

Counting myself, Rocky (my wife), Michael Pliskin (my friend the photographer), the photographer from the Los Angeles Times, and four passers-by I collared into the games, there were a total of eight participants in yesterday's world premiere of Socker on the Beach. The reporter from the LA Times was almost there, but, from a distance of more than two feet, it was rather difficult to tell there was an event going on, and sadly, she missed it.

It wasn't, as we had "planned," a true game of Junkyard Beach Soccer. The only thing anybody (I) brought that was anywhere close to Official Junk was my extensive singleton sock collection. Despite the goodly press from local papers, and probably having something to do with it being a Wednesday at 2:22 p.m., no one had brought any junk for us to play with. Nevertheless, a truly auspicious world premiere it became.

We never actually played anything that you'd call soccer, either. But we did play with socks. We really did. Hence, the name "Socker on the Beach."

For me, personally, and I mean "personally," as a participant, there were three events that made the world premiere of Socker on the Beach truly monumental in scope:

1. First, there was playing with socks, the beach, and Rocky. If it weren't for her, I might've never noticed how the sand is really part of the "junk," and that you can dig holes in it for Socker Golf, and even dig trenches and lay tracks for a game of miniature golf-in-the-sand-with-socks. Nor would I have ever dreamed of playing See if You can Get the Sockball Stuck in the Volleyball Net and then See if You Can Use Other Sockballs to Knock it Through to the Other Side. Nor would I have had the chance to see, so vividly, after knowing her for 42 years, what a wonderful, fun, spontaneous, responsive, brilliantly creative player she is.

2. Second, there was playing with these strangers - two women and a pre-adolescent boy for whom English was clearly a second language. We were using sockball-stuffed knee socks as hockey sticks, sometimes swinging, sometimes whirling them around like propellers, trying to hit other sockballs into a sandpit.

3. Third. Playing with the wind. The game of Air Socks that we created, following the discovery that the wind was so constant and strong that if we kinda tossed a single sock into it, towards, the volleyball net, the sock would sometimes just get stuck, and, with sufficient skill and luck, it was possible to get a sock stuck very near the very top of the net. We played this with someone who was about to continue running with friends, whom we cajoled into joining us after our other friends left. (They did feel like friends, those people whose names I never learned, with whom I barely spoke, but played so innocently intimately.)


Sweet Art

In keeping with our recent rediscovery of the joys of edible fun, and our ongoing appreciation for the art-fun connection, allow me to introduce you to Amezaiku, the Japanese art of candy sculpture.

Now that you've developed a taste for the delights of "sweet art," a brief visit to Home Sweet Home will take you to the perhaps less exotic, but clearly artlike collection of gingerbread creations. Don't overlook this self-transcendent sugar bowl made out of sugar.

As a final treat on this brief, but sweet journey, be sure to visit this tasteful collection of links called the "Science of Candy." Coming from the always remarkable Exploratorium, this compilation of links will lead you to many a treat for both mind and mouth.

Bernie DeKoven, Funsmith

Labels: ,

Joyful Competition

"Junkyard Sports" is on its way to everywhere. There is a - currently parked. It's an all-but-registered trademark. And it's the title for a a book that will be published this August. But it wasn't really until yesterday, when I finally put a few clips of it online, that I felt the idea of Junkyard Sports was finally "packaged," finally made available to basically the world.

It just so happened that Marah, one of the players in the DeepFUN 2003 Winter seminar at the Esalen Institute, had a digital video camera. And it almost equally just so happened that we were planning to play Junkyard Sports that very afternoon. We had this beautiful, large "Dance Dome" for our play space. Using whatever we could find, and my sockball collection, we divided into two teams, created two different sports, and spent the rest of the session playing.

Given the collective ingenuity and creativity, both of the newly devised Junkyard Sports proved unique and fun and very much worth playing. But it wasn't only the new sports, but also the way they were played, that captured the real meaning I want us to be able to give to the term Junkyard Sports. And there it is, in the last clip, the one called "We're Number ?" - a moment of vivid, clear, self-evident, joyful competition - the very esssence of Junkyard Sports - for you and the rest of the world to see.

Bernie DeKoven, Funsmith



It's called "Spit." It's also called "Speed," which is actually more descriptive of a major prerequisite for playing this game of double solitaire. But I think Spit captures the experience a little better. Not that anyone actually spits. But there are times when you find yourself somewhere between drool and slobber as you try to balance strategy with speed. Given the mind-and-card-bending delight of the frolicsome fray, the game is frequently, and mistakenly relegated to children. It is this egregious error in judgment that led to my renewed interest in the game. This, and the discovery of a most satisfyingly competitive online version that one can play, for virtually free.

I needs must point out that Spit/Speed has been the inspiration for more than one family-frenzy-worthy card game. Like, for example, the Major FUN Award-winning Qwitch. Qwitch goes beyond Spit, as it were, with its own unique deck of cards bearing both letters and numbers, and the canny use of a special die that changes the criteria for the order in which cards get played.

If you find Spit and Speed insufficiently amusing, you might consider the more sedate, semi-strategic, turn-taking game of Spite and Malice. Very adaptable. Spawning many significant variations. Playable by a minor multitude. Spit-like in concept. But not Spit.

Labels: ,

Ze Frank: Prolific Player

Ze Frank receives the Major FUN Award for being perhaps one of the most prolifically playful presences on the web.

There are so many examples of his work that he is sharing, virtually for free, that it is difficult to select any as truly exemplary. Let's begin with this rather straightforward collection of virtual matchstick puzzles. Why? Because it's what you'd expect from a collection of virtual matchstick puzzles: clear, challenging, easy to use, fun to solve. Not particularly playful, but respectful of play and the needs of players. Now let's try just one more game-like experience. It's a Memory Game. All right, it's Concentration. But notice how each image is animated? Now it's truly a virtual game, not just translating a card game into the electronic medium, but transforming it.

Now take a look at Ze's Animated Snowflake. Not a game at all, but a unique bit of interactive delight. Technologically sophisticated. Easy to understand. Lovely to behold.

And here's one more, well, maybe two more examples of yet another gift of Ze's playfulness. It's called "Blow." It's an invitation. People are asked to send in a picture of themselves, blowing. Ze adds their picture to a growing blowing collage. It's, well, silly. It's also an invitation to fun and sharing and community. And here's one more: My Cat Annie. It's a statement, is what it is, of the further reaches of Ze's playfulness. And, for those of us who wonder whether this world can be made more fun, it's a reason for hope.

Labels: ,

Playing with Paper

Funday Times reader Erin Dean would like us to visit the world of paper toys. Erin recommends that we begin our journey with a visit to a site most logically and self-evidently called "Paper Toys," and a great starting point it is. With over 80 printoutable plans for creating different paper toys, ranging from vehicles and buildings to party hats and gift boxes, Paper Toys is a gift to anyone who enjoys constructive play. All you need do is print, cut, color, fold and glue.

The paper trail leads to evermore complex and impressive opportunities to play. If you'd rather not do your own coloring, a visit to Print-n-Play Toys has a small, but impressively colorful collection of playworthy printoutable paper things, including a wonderfully official-looking game of Paper Soccer. Not that I'd want to discourage you from exploring the joys of coloring your own paper toys, but for the inkjet-setter, Print-n-Play Toys provides a wonderfully playworthy way to demonstrate the power of your technology.

All these paper-based joys will almost inexorably lead you to the amazing world of Paper Machines, as already amazed at in a previous issue of the Funday Times. But before you get too animated, consider the sturdier joys of Corrugated Cardboard Toys. You'll be bordering on hobby here, extending yourself way beyond desktop devices to things like jig-saws, sand paper, rubber bands and rods. Which is, of course, the whole point.

Intergenerational Fun

It's my personal contention, as if contentious is something I could personally be, that an exploration of Intergenerational Fun can be far more productive than that restricted to Intergenerational Games.

I have, nevertheless, compiled a rather stunning collection of Intergenerational Games to which I herewith link. What I find especially stunning about this collection is that the games are each and all fun - the kind of fun that a grandchild and grandparent uniquely share and can create uniquely for each other. Uniquely. Fun.

Yet I still find myself needing to point out that it's really not the games at all. Or only insofar as the games are invitations for grandparents and grandchildren to become partners in fun, wherever they want to go with it, wherever it takes them, playing a game, singing a song, taking a walk, maybe a nap, even.

10 Days in the USA, or 15 maybe

The astute reader will all but immediately note that 10 Days in the USA is highly likely to be found Major FUN Award-worthy, given it's obvious similarity to the already Major FUN Awarded 10 Days in Africa.

What is of such noteworthy note, however, about the 10 Days in Africa and 10 Days in the USA similarity is that 10 Days in the USA is not actually identical to 10 Days in Africa. Of course, you may nod in your uninformed glibness, it is not actually identical to 10 Days in Africa. It's in the USA! But that, you see, is not the only difference. True, there are significant enough strategic differences necessitated by the immediately apparent differences in political geographies. But that is not all. There is, for example, the rule pertaining to Hawaii and Alaska and the color of the airports therein.

So noteworthy are the differences between these two sister games, that, for the first time in the history of the Major FUN Award, we find our royal selves recommending to those who have the therewithall: go ye and purchase either or both, 10 Days in Africa and 10 Days in the USA, because each is just different enough for each to be, separately, and together, found trans-globally Major FUN Award-worthy.

As to the 15 Day in Either Africa or USA variation, that, actually, applies to both, when only two people are playing, and gets our "Why Didn't We Think of That Ourselves" award.

This just in from an unamed source, purported to be the president and lead games designer of Out of the Box Publishing, distributors of the 10 Days series: "10 Days in Europe, 10 Days in Asia, and 10 Days in the Middle East are all in the works, and each will have unique features. Hint: a mode of water transportation."

Who can count the strategically geographic joys awaiting us?

Labels: ,

Sky Toys

Rhino Toys, makers of the Major Funly Oball, have introduced the world at large to two new play-saving devices: The Skyblaster (on the left) and SkyO. After hours of fun testing, both in and out of the Fun Testing Lab, both were found to be Majorly Fun, and both herewith granted the esteemed Major FUN Award.

Let us begin with the perhaps subtler significance of the SkyO. It's a ring-shaped tossing thing, similar, in concept and function, to that which has been called the Flying Disc, and, of course, the Frisbee® of registered trademark fame. Only SkyO is easy to throw, and easy to catch. And this is a big, big gift to all of the sensitive of hand or weak of throwing arm. Which means it is a greater boon to the rest of us who like to throw and catch things that hover, because thanks to SkyO, there are so many games that so many more of us can play.

As for Skyblaster, the whistling, rubber-tipped dart that you launch with a self-contained rubber band, it is a direct path to many a flight of fancy. Almost soft enough to catch, with everso subtly bendable, path-guiding fins, and so easy to fly so far. However, let this be a lesson to you: use the finger. I tell you this despite the remarkably clear instuctions embossed on the underside of the dart head, because I tried to use my thumb as the launcher, over and over again. Using the finger, you can send SkyO soaring to remarkable heights, even if you are short.

I haven't yet made up any games for the Skyblaster, though I'm thinking a SkyO would make a wonderful Skyblaster target....


The Playful Mind Embraces All

Does this cute little plush thingy look familiar to you? Then you must have peeked. Through a microscope. At a rhinovirus.

Welcome to Giant Microbes, to my knowledge, the world's only source for plush germs.

And I mean, these germs are cute!

And as I was thinking about how I'd like maybe a bunch of Ebolas of my own, along with those really funny-looking Trichophyton Mentagrophytes, I realized I had encountered yet another manifestation of the power of play. Adorable, huggable, infectious, noxious germs. Disgusting, yes. Yet equally lovable. Giant. Furry. Plush. Microbes.

Let this be a lesson to us all. The playful mind embraces all.

This lesson comes to me from my friend Bryan, whose playful mind you should also get to know.

Bar Code and Beyond

Bar Code Art. Who knew? Who even thought? Scott Blake did. "I am 27 years old and originally from Tampa, Florida. I currently live in Omaha, Nebraska. I am a very frivolous artist and my work has been in fantastic art galleries."

"Frivolous Artist." I almost love that term. Especially as exemplified by Scott's impressive site.

After you've had a chance to visit Scott's most amazing Bar Code Portrait Gallery, take a look at his Bar Code Clock. It's a great extension of his explorations into Bar Codery, and a fun clock to behold - and anything that makes time fun is something to cherish.

Then, so you can wind up feeling as informed as you are entertained, click on over to Bar Code Science.

Thanks for the pointer, Ultimate Insult

The Homo Ludens Laboratory

It's called "The Homo Ludens Laboratory. I find myself having to quote, at length (in a slightly Americanized version as recommended by my official correspondent:

Ever been told to stop having fun and start studying? What about being told off for having fun instead of working? Does having fun really mean the opposite of being industrious and diligent? Do people really believe fun cannot have a place alongside study and work? Fun can be found everywhere--your everyday life, work and surrounding environment. The new pink arrow shown above is a "fun pointer" and asks the loosely translated question: "Are we having fun yet?

  • "As you stretch while waking << Are we having fun yet?

  • Waiting for the bus to work << Are we having fun yet?

  • The teacher walks into class << Are we having fun yet?

  • Punching in your time card at work << Are we having fun yet?

  • In front of your PC at work << Are we having fun yet?

  • Rushing to make an appointment << Are we having fun yet?

  • Deciding with difficulty what to eat << Are we having fun yet?

  • The moment before you buy that beer after a hard day's work << Are we having fun yet?

  • In your dreams << Are we having fun yet?

What kind of business organization does that sound like to you?

A company called, perhaps, "NAMCO?" As in the makers of, for example, Pac Man?

Homo Ludens? The dense and yet formative philsophy of Johann Huizinga in which humanity is distinguished from other species not because of our ability to think, but because of our ability to play?

Might you conclude, therefore, that you are not really having as much fun yet as you will be having later? Might you therefore even further speculate that an organization such as this, daring to embrace such a profunditty, would have even more profound fun in store? And not just in the video game store, but throughout the company, itself? Wherein work would actually be genuinely fun?

Let us everso totally hope you are right.

Junkyard Soccer - On the Beach, With Found Objects, Bubblewrap, Duct Tape and Socks @ Redondo Beach

Junkyard Soccer - On the Beach, With Found Objects, Bubblewrap, Duct Tape and Socks @ Redondo Beach. It's kindofa flashmobbish thingy. We'll meet on the beach Wednesday afternoon, Jan 28, at 2:22 p.m. People are asked to bring clean socks and panty hose, duct tape, bubblewrap, clean sheets, pillow cases. In short - anything that we can use to make uniforms, nets, volleyballs and stuff out of. I'll be bringing my sock collection and a borrowed video camera. I've no idea who or how many will show up - though someone from the LA Times will purportedly be there. Then we'll make up a soccer-like game that we can play with whatever and whomever we've collected. And then, until 3:33, we'll play for posterity. And each other. Of course.

It'll be the first time I've tried this as a format for Junkyard Sports. Much like unto a world premiere. It's one of those high-fun-potential things.

You come, too.


On first glance, it could be easily mistaken for that highly popular word/board game, SCRA*LE. And, in truth, the similarities are close enough to make any SCRA*LE player to feel right at home. Of course, it's the differences that make it interesting - differences that are different enough to make it a completely new, and disturbingly compelling game.

Here is one play, illustrating the various possibilities inherent in a single turn of WildWords. You will note the SCRA*LE-like board. On closer inspection, you will note that despite the apparent SCRA*LE-likeness, there are differences - like the squares that say "Lose 20 on Play." Omigosh, you mean there are squares you don't want to cover? And the surprisingly many squares that say "Turn to Wild."

Which brings me to what may be the most clearly unSCRA*LE-like concept of "Wild" you'll ever encounter. A wild tile, indicated either by the * or by it's turned-overness, can be any string of consecutive letters. Not just any one letter. But any one or many letters. This change is radical. It's what makes WildWords into a unique word/board game. Uniquely profound. Uniquely challenging. Uniquely fun.

Then there's the whole thing about challenging another player - you know, when you think someone's spelling a word that isn't in the dictionary. That has also been most discerningly enwilded. First of all, with the possibility of a single wild tile standing for maybe seven letters, it's a lot harder to know whether or not there's a challengable word. Which makes it all the more inviting to bluff. Which makes it all the more necessary to challenge. But in WildWords, when one player challenges another, all the other players (SCRA*BLElikely, WildWords can be played by 2-4 players), must also agree or disagree. In either event, if they are wrong, they each lose 20 points. Harsh. In a beautiful kind of way.

Also, I gotta tell you, the tile holders are probably the best tile holders ever to hold a game tile. Smooth. Cool. Hefty. With wood-protectors, even. And the easy-to-read tiles are all packaged in a plastic bag inside a drawstring bag. With six extra tiles, just in case.

In sum, WildWords is the newest to receive the coveted Major FUN Award.


Singles and Plurals

It started like this:

I was making heavy and conceptually profitable use of Csikszentmihalyi's concept of Flow. I needed another model. Csikszentmihalyi's focuses on the individual experience of being "in the zone." I needed something that would illustrate the collective experience, of being in the zone together. Ultimately, I came up with the idea of "CoLiberation." It wasn't a perfect word: at least half determined by the fun of finding a word that sounds like "collaboration" only goes beyond. But maybe it's very silliness made it work. Anyhow, it became "my" word, and I use it whenever I get the chance.

Next, to illustrate the concept of CoLiberation, I came up with yet another design that was influenced at least as much by the pun as it was by its descriptive powers. It's silly because it should really be Me/Us, grammatically speaking. If grammar is what one ever speaks. But it worked and gradually it became so central to my, um, centrality, that I used it everywhere I could. My sacred son and daughter-in-law even made me a cut-out me/we for my birthday. I even made these very expensive, full color, folding me/we business cards....

Recently, prompted by one of my favorite mentors, Joyce Searls, who shall remain unnamed, I developed a program designed just for singles. I was having problems with the word "singles" though. It seemed somehow awkward to me. Too restrictive. Disparaging, even. So I came up with the idea of Singles and Plurals: you know, the idea being that no one is really ever actually single; that we all function within a plurality, and within that plurality we are loved and supported and made complete.

And in trying to explain this concept to a group of singles, I used my Me/We card. Singles/Plurals. And it was perfect. As if that was exactly what I had designed the card to express.

This was one of those moments for me. As if someone had taken a conceptual needle and thread and sewn together 20 years of my thinking and then turned it inside out. All the pieces brought together seamlessly. As if, all along, this is what I meant. Or was supposed to mean.

Dogs Don't Bite When a Growl Will Do

Today's reading is from Matt and Luke's Dogs Don't Bite When a Growl Will Do: What Your Dog Can Teach You About Living a Happy Life: "What's important to them [dogs] is that there is fun happening, and that they are having as much fun as we are. They are happy to sacrifice their dignity so that everyone can have a good time. If dogs were comedians, then taking a pie in the face would be their best routine. 'Anything for fun' is their motto."

This is a taste of the sweet wisdom of dogs, as collected and interpreted by Matt Weinstein and Luke Barber. Matt, I am tail-waggingly happy to say, is a long time friend of mine. He and I started Playfair, which evolved into a kind of gift of play for new college students. "With today's concerns of retention," the Playfair site explains, "multi-cultural awareness, and non-alcoholic programming, Playfair is more than just a non-threatening way for your new students to meet each other – Playfair is a powerful program for campus unity and school spirit." Luke Barber is a professor of philosophy and occasional correespondent in the Deep Fun community board.

Together, they have written a book that makes you love your dog, and your life, all over again.

Today's parting reading, Matt and Luke, lesson 39: "Dogs don't make a distinction between work and play. Everything is fun to them, an d every situation is a new one, full of infinite possibilities for joy and connection. We humans surely would be more successful in our jobs if we approached our work with the enthusiasm, dedication, sensitivity, and the wonderful attitude towards life in general of a good working dog."

Stringing Along

Remember Cats Cradle? No, you literate devil you, not Kurt Vonnegut's Cats Cradle. Cats Cradle the game - the two-player version of the activity more properly known as String Figures. As in those described in the Arctic String Figure Project - The Diamond Jenness Figures as found on the website of the International String Figure Association, publishers of String Figure Magazine.

As one might readily surmise from the above cited sites, String Figures, and the collecting thereof, is an activity that spans ages, cultures, and several significantly academic disciplines - most notably, mathematics and anthropology.

Before one gets too scientific about this whole stringy phenomenon, one should consider visiting this refreshingly simple collection of animated instructions for three different string figures. Enthused as one might become from the clarity therein, one might then brave a visit to the WWW Collection of Favorite String Figures wherein one will find a veritably vast collection of the aforesaid, with detailed instructions, accompanied by official String Figure Notation. Armed with this knowledge, one might find oneself prepared to string along with Martin Probert's The Survival, Origin and Mathematics of String Figures, wherein one can dangle one's virtual fingers in "a detailed inventory of over 1200 string figure artefacts in more than 20 museums worldwide, papers on 'The British Museum A. C. Haddon String Figures', 'The Origin of String Figures' and 'String Figures and Knot Theory', and sixteen of the author's 21st-century string figures."

Did I mention that the making of String Figures is also a performance art? Well, the Native Americans do it, and so does Brian Cox - The Incredible String Man.

Ducks, Drakes, and Stone Skipping

Did you know that the world record for Stone Skipping is 36 skips? Well, neither did I. In fact, I didn't even think it was something I wanted to know until correspondent Dan (Stork) Roddick told me I did.

Oddly enough, the happy pastime we sometimes know as Stone Skipping wasn't always known as such, but, according to the Official WEB Site of the Mackinac Island Stone Skipping & Gerplunking Club, by the much more mysterious moniker of "Ducks and Drakes." I quote from their equally official History of the Event:

"1583 J. Higins tr. Junius' Nomenciator (N.), A kind of sport or play with an oister shell or stone throwne into the water, and making circles yer it sinke, etc. It is called a ducke and a drake, and a halfe-penie cake. c 1626 Dick of Devon. i, ii, in Bullen 0. Pl. II. 14 The poorest ship-boy Might on the Thames make duckes and drakes with pieces Of eight fetchd out of Spayne. 1730 Swift Vind. Carteret Wks. 1755 V. II. 188 Scipio and Lelius . . often played at duck and drake with smooth stones on a river. 1829 Nat. Philos., Hydrostatics i. 2 (U.K.S.) The common play of making ducks and drakes, that is, throwing a.flat stone in a direction nearly horizontal against a surface of water, and thus making it rebound, proves the water to be elastic. 1842 P. Parley's Ann. III. 15 A shot made a duck- and-drake in the water. b. attrib., as duck-and-drake fashion, sort."

And now, 420 years later, we learn in this article, only recently posted in the venerable Manchester Guardian, citing an article only recently posted in Nature that, according to Christophe Clanet of the University of Marseille, it was discovered that "an angle of about 20 between the stone and the water's surface is optimal with respect to the throwing conditions and yields the maximum possible number of bounces." Of course. An angle of about 20. One should have known. Or, one should have downloaded this paper on the physics of stone skipping, and known even more (or not).

All of which is yet further evidence of the depth and breadth of what we are heir to, we who seek only a little more fun.


Games Firefighters Play

They call it "Waterball" (click on the image to see it in its liquid glory). Apparently, a ball is attached to an overhead cable, so that it can slide back and forth. Teams, in a kind of waterhose-powered "push-of-war," compete to get the ball to other end of the cable. A simple enough idea for a game. Fun. Spectacular, even.

The contribution of a game like Waterball to our lexicon of playfulness can't really be appreciated until it's compared to other efforts to bring a little much-deserved fun to our community heroes.

Waterball is both fun and exacting, requiring the kinds of skills that are crucial to effective firefighting, yet putting them in a context that is clearly an opportunity for delight. As such, it's a paradigm for the design of any truly effective training game. May it be appreciated and much imitated.

Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

Labels: ,

On being blogged by one of my favorite bloggers

Should you scroll down to the December 31st entries on this Googly cached page of the Presurfer's weblog, you will find a most honorable mention of this very Blog o'Fun.

The Presurfer is in deed and fact one of my favoritest and most reliable sources in my search for the wacky and profound. His free will offering of appreciation is for me a validation of this whole blogging phenomenon.

For the last year, many of the postings in this blog have also appeared in The Funday Times. Because the Funday Times goes out to a very mixed population, many of whom are children, I've been forced to be very careful about any links that I add to my stories. Even a weblog like Presurfer's has, from time to time, stories that are, well, not, as they say, "child safe." This has led me to adopt an unfortunate, and self-limiting practice of not acknowledging the sources for some of my stories. Frankly, I've been too lazy to write two different versions of my stories - one for this weblog, and the other for publication in the Funday Times. Presurfer's kind words have helped me see how damaging this practice is, for my own spirit, and for that of the whole blogging community.

I stand happily corrected.

World Record Telephone Game?

Reportedly this guy, comedian Mac King, invited a crowd of people to a game of "Whisper Down the Lane" yesterday in an attempt to establish a new Guinness World Record. An event of this proportion, while raising certain doubts about the collective maturity of Los Vegas entertainment aficionados, gives a certain sense of hope to those of us who believe in the spirit of fun and the power of play.

The article explicates: "The current record is 564, but Mac's hoping 800 people turn out Tuesday at Harrah's Carnaval Court to whisper their way into the record books. Mac King is thinking the whole thing will take a little over an hour."

It is with a certain somber certainty that I surmise that this record can only be established if in deed the last person in the chain of whisperers is able to repeat the very words whispered by the first. Though true to the spirit of world records, it has always been my experience that the fun of the game is in discovering how wrong the last person is.

In fact, when I play a similar game, I personally revel in the dissimilarities twixt the twain. My favorite variation: I ask the myriads to meander and mill, with, in fact, their eyes closed. I then instruct them, whilst they are milling, to whisper something to anyone they happen to bump gently in to. Then, to recommence general millage, whispering what they thought the last person said to the next person they encounter. If you ever happen to hear anything remotely similar to what you thought you heard before, you experience what can only be called a minor miracle. This version has no point at all. Which, of course, is precisely that: the real and only point of it all.


Domino Vobiscum

There are times in one's life when one once again finds meaning in owning one's very own extremely large set of dominoes. Though those times may be few, when they arrive, one can only look with joy upon the vast collection of domino games available to one through the dedication of one Teun Spaans, virtual landlord of the Domino Plaza. There you'll find the rules for the common and the arcane - games like the "Draw Game - which is probably the only version of dominoes most of us knew about, to games like Chickenfoot," which we are given to understand is the absolute latest craze in domino games. Then there's a collection of domino card games (who knew), and domino solitaire games (well, if there are domino card games...), and more and more links to just about all things domino, including, as one might hope, Domino Toppling and, as one might have no idea of, the astounding art of Domino Stacking.

I being one of those who seek immediate, if virtual satisfaction, was especially happy to find the link to the interactive, play-against-the-computer, island-like joy of Jamaican Dominoes.

It turns out that the game of dominoes can be traced back to fourteenth century China. Should you wish to demonstrate further domino erudition, click on over to the history of dominoes.

The First Viennese Vegetable Orchestra

In answer to the never-often-enough-asked question: "what is a Cuke-o-phon?" I humbly submit for your listening pleasure the First, and probably only, Viennese Vegetable Orchestra. Listen, if you dare, to the almost entirely vegetablized version of the famous Radetzky March. Tell me that doesn't redefine for you the very meaning of vegetation.

"The first viennese vegetable orchestra consists exclusively of vegetable-based instruments, although where necessary, additional kitchen utensils such as knives or mixers are employed. This creates an autonomous and totally novel type of sound which cannot be achieved with conventional musical instruments. Marinated sound ideas and canned listening habits beg for expansion! This music is a playful departure from the conventional way of looking at vegetables as mere means to still an appetite. The instruments are subsequently made into a soup so that the audience can then enjoy them a second time..."

But wait. There's more. As so clearly evidenced by Transacoustic Research wherein we find an orchestra of "coffee machines, neon tubes and gameboys" and pehaps most haunting of all, the music of rubberglovebagpipes.

And the weirdest thing - some of this stuff actually sounds good.

O, what a world we make who seek to have more fun!

Squirrel Fishing

The name of the game is, apparently, Squirrel Fishing." And, should you be overcome by the vast horizons of fun opened to you and all the potential Squirrel Fishers in our virtual neighborhood, you can thank the astute surfing of Todd Neller, co-winner of the FunDay Times Astute Surfer Award.

"Squirrel Fishing: A new approach to rodent performance evaluation," was put together by Nikolas Gloy and Yasuhiro Endo, then (1997) of the Division of Engineering and Applied Sciences of Harvard University. Gloy and Endo explain: "The highest mark on the squirrel performance scale is achieved when a subject is willing to hold on to the peanut or string while it is being lifted off the ground. This state only lasts for a very short time and is very difficult to photograph. In the rare cases where this does succeed, the subject becomes freaked out by the experience and runs away."

Lest you think that Squirrel Fishing is merely an experiment, Todd is quick to point out this completely independlenty corroborating Squirrel Fishing site by a woman named Annie, who, as we click on, turns out to be one of Endo's chronies.

Be that as it may, it is with both gratitude and glee that we add Squirrel Fishing to our Tackle Box o'Fun.

Playing with Money

Sometimes the very best thing you can do with your money is play with it. It's a lot cheaper than spending it. And clearly one of the best ways to play with money is by folding it into crowd-pleasing shapes, like the bow-tie in the illustration.

It turns out that there is something of an art form called "Money Origami." Something of an art form, because clearly the place for displaying one's money-folding skills is neither gallery nor museum, but more often the dining room table or restaurant. It's one of those "impress your friends" kinds of art, and hence of inestimable value, regardless of denomination.

This site comes to us by way of FunDay Times Contest-Winner Shelley Pearce. For those of us who find Dollar Bill Origami a source of significant joy, Shelley also recommends a site called "Dollar Bill Origami by Bob Nienhuis." I plan to make a $200 Gift Box in Shelley's honor. And then spend it.