Spam Poetry

Its the girl who always loved you
its the one that got away
Its the moment that escapes you
when the predator is prey

its the way to finally take charge
its a question of your hate
its the easiest part of your new life
when you finally seize the day

When the one you want rejects you
When the pain is its own drug
when you can't take another moment
it is time for them to pay.

What you just read was a spam poem by Kristin Thomas. It is one of a collection of Kristin poetry.

Well, you know of my current passion for junk. And you can guess how pure my delight was when I discovered an artist who makes poetry solely out of the subject lines of the junk mail littering her daily inbox.

It is a small, clear victory for the human spirit at its best.

Laughter is the Viagra of the soul

Making Big Meetings Big Fun

From today's Dept. of It Doesn't Take Much, we learn how little it can take to "Turn Your Trade Show into a FUNvention." The article, from Ronald P. Culberson - "director of everything" at "FUNsulting," shows how a little imagination, and an even smaller investment, can transform a large conference or meeting into a memorable event. "Activities that evoke laughter and fun at conventions," Culberson writes, "are powerful ways to keep participants engaged and excited about being there."

My favorite example:

"According to Janet Delph of EXPERT Magazine, CNN Headline News anchor Bob Losure used a talk show format, instead of the typical speech, to interview top executives in a general session at the 2003 OfficeMax national convention. The 1,100 attendees rated it the best session ever."

Favorite, because the whole idea is so easy, on everybody. For Losure, this was a lot easier than preparing a speech, and a lot less threatening. The same is true of the executives he interviewed. In fact, they got to feel "extra special" because it was just like being on TV, almost. For the attendees, it was a welcome break from a long speech, informative, yet in a format that bordered on entertainment.

Here's a slightly more elaborate example:

"During the breaks between general sessions, one government agency showed photos taken at the conference and added funny captions. Two minutes before the start of each session, the music from Jeopardy would begin playing, and a timer would count down the time to the session. Before long the attendees were laughing at the photos and humming to the Jeopardy tune."

And then there's this:

"Lou Heckler, a speaker and coach from Gainesville, Florida, attended a convention at which the 'talk of the conference' was a buffet breakfast table backed up to a "stage" of risers. On the stage was a full bedroom scene - complete with a nightstand, lamps, chair, dresser, and bed with a real person in it. Participants assumed the person was a mannequin until they approached the buffet, and the person said, 'Good morning!'"


Rethinking the Playground

The Skillman Center for Children has a clear and singular mission: to enhance the economic and social well being of urban children and their families. After reading their Spring Newsletter, devoted to "Childhood Obesity and Play," I began to think that maybe it should be my mission too, this enhancement of the economic and social well being of urban children and their families. In fact, I went so far as to thinking that maybe it should be everyone's clear and single mission. Everyone's.

Though the 24-page Newsletter is loaded with frighteningly informed statistics and practical solutions, the section (beginning on page 10) really did it for me. It took the form of an article called "Moving from Monkey Bars to Mudpies: Rethinking the Playground." Which is an introduction to the concept of "Adventure Playgrounds." The author explains: "I learned about this kind of playground by accident through our neighborhood?s children?s community garden. The adults and older teens were intent on having a beautiful and perfect final product of a learning garden. But the kids had a different idea. They enjoyed constantly changing it. One day there would be a pond where the day before there was a planned flower bed. The garden was never neat and tidy. It looked like a giant mess of flowers, vegetables, fruit and piles of dirt. When we would get a load of dirt, the pile became things. At one point a pile had become a burial ground for a bee. The kids came up with the idea to have a funeral for 'brother bee,' and imitated their parents at funerals. They went around and all said things they would miss about the bee and 'fake cried.'"

We all have a lot of "fake crying" to do about some of the too real events of our days. I hope such playgrounds will have a place for all of us.



Wordigo really took us by surprise. We see a word-board game and we think: "maybe fun for the guy playing, but agony for the people who are waiting their turns." So we conclude "Word-board game = not really Major FUN material." Then we notice the different boards and four complete sets of tiles. This leads us to conclude that maybe all four of us can play simultaneously. No turn-waiting. Immediate gratification, verbally-playfully speaking. Except that there are six of us. So we play in three teams.

And the game just takes off. Sure, we are confused a little by the different boards in the set, and the funny arrows on the tiles, but we start anyway, racing against each other and the timer, using and drawing tiles and discarding, trying to fill our boards up with words. And then, when the time is reluctantly up, we figure out the scoring, which really gets interesting, strategic-implication-wise. The next round (we hardly ever play more than one round during a "game tasting," but this game was just too darn delicious), we are much more score-conscious so we get strategic and discover we really don't have enough time anyway. We also decide to start with the second board, only to discover that it is actually more challenging than the first.

The game comes with four sets of letter tiles with pouches, four sets of four different game boards (two boards with a different design on each side), the first and probably only seven-minute sand timer in the world, and a score pad. The tiles look remarkably similar to those letter-with-number tiles you see in scoring letter games, but they have arrows on the vowels. The boards are similar to kids' crossword puzzles, but without the clues.

The game can be played simultaneously with up to four players or with teams, which we think is even more fun. And you can even invite the kids to play or compensate for those with different verbal skills. The boards are of varying levels of difficulty. Those who want to can use the easier boards or start with more tiles or maybe recycle their discarded tiles.

Wordigo is the only word game I know of that allows you to use a dictionary while you're playing. Of course, looking something up in a dictionary while the sand is inexorably streaming your time away is perhaps not such a useful option. Unless you're playing in pairs. Which we just happened to be. And even then, we were all too wrapped in the rapture of it all to use anything other than our rapidly muddling minds.

For those of us who enjoyextended moments of time-free deliberation, the game is still entertaining without timers. Players just continue until all the boards have been filled.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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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.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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The Need for Fun

Roger Greenaway is a treasured friend and long-time Bernie-and-fun advocate whose Active Reviewing site is a treasured resource for people interested in "Active Learning" (may their numbers increase and prosper). He's also a member of the Playful Path (formerly known as "Deep Fun") discussion group.

Today, he sent us a link to psychologist William Glasser's Five Needs. Glasser is the founder of Choice Theory, Reality Therapy and Lead-Management. His Five Needs are an extension of Abraham Maslow's famous Hierarchy of Needs illustrated here.

I know, I know. It's a very long, and oddly fun-lacking introduction, but these are each important resources for me, and explain why this comparatively little story is getting such big play here.

Glasser goes beyond Maslow's position that self-actualization is the ultimate need to conjecture that perhaps, after we've taken care of such things as the need for Survival, Love and belonging, Power or recognition, and Freedom, we can attend to the ultimate need. And you know what need that is. FUN.

Heed the need.

Edible Art and the Aesthetics of Fun

Art you can eat. What could be more Zen-like in its delicious ephemerality? Brought to us by the Institute of Official Cheer, the Dayalets collection of food art images was created as an advertising campaign for these vitamins, still available from Abbott Labs. Whatever the motivation (The Institute of Official Cheer attributes darker purposes), the result is a collection of images that are perhaps not appetite-inducing, unless your appetite is for fun.

There's something cleary inspiring about corn-cob lips, spaghetti hair and a bread-slice shirt. The artist has gone to such great lengths to make the images look "real" that we find ourselves needing to deconstruct the image, to puzzle out how each aspect was created. So we get invited into the fun of it, and as we delve more deeply, we become ever more appreciative of the art of it.

The same can be said of many of my favorite fun things - puzzles, toys, games, arts. Fanciful works of play, created with such skill and conviction that you almost believe them to be not really what they are.

A People Powered Pub

Lest we forget the true spirit and purpose of collaborative physical activity, here, from the Netherlands, is the People Powered Pub. The site is in Dutch, so we of the non-Dutch-speaking persuasion might find it difficult to appreciate the full significance of the People Powered Pub. I've determined so far that it can handle up to 17 people, and an unlimited number of taggers-along. Given the unlikelihood of any collective inclination towards People Powered Pub racing, those who wish to accompany the Pub on its rounds, or perhaps to order a round of their own, should have little difficulty keeping up with this movable drinkfest.

It is yet another testimony to playfulness and creativity and the everpresent desire to combine what is good for you with what isn't.

And where, you most naturally find yourself inquiring, does one find yet more news of such innovations in human powered vehicle design? Why, at Unusual Human Powered Vehicles, a wonderfully comprehensive and oft-updated site created and maintained by the developer of the Ice Rower.

Ferry Halim - Defender of the Playful

The world of compter games, and, consequently, of computer game players, can get very harsh. Despite the endless possibilities of faster processor and more graphic glories and completely surrounding sound, most of our games are given over, as we are, to violence. Not that violence can't be fun. Not that there's anything wrong with violent games. Just that there are far too few respites. Ferry Halim is one of the few. A true respite.

Ferry Hallim demonstrates that all it takes to make something as interesting to play with as violence is a little applied whimsy.

Whimsy. Hallim is a master of it. His games are true diversions, invitations to worlds that simply don't take themselves very seriously. He is the creator of light-hearted games that are bouyant enough to lighten-up even the dark of desire and the heavy of heart - at least for a few minutes. Like the game Summer Walk, where you make three bird-like things hop into the good floating things, to the tune of the pleasant guitar. Or A Cupid's Day where you, as Cupid, shoot arrows into clouds.

Whimsy. What a powerful concept.

Ferry Hallim is the newest inductee to the Major FUN Hall of Fame.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Basari is a racing/bidding/bartering/strategy game for three, or better, four players. It is definitely one of your more complex games, involving, as it does: racing, bidding, bartering and strategizing. But it is not one of your more difficult games - and that's what makes it so noteworthy. That it's acutally possible for anyone over, say, ten to do all those things at more or less the same time. Not only possible, but fun.

The race is for score. In fact, the score board is a race track. The bidding and bartering is for jewels or points. You start with a showdown, all players choosing between one of three possible things they're interested in bidding and bartering for: position, points or jewels. If you're the only one choosing a particular action, well, then, you go right ahead and do it. If someone else has made the same choice, prepare to barter. You need jewels in order to barter. Which is precisely why you might not be the only one choosing jewels. Which makes it more of a gamble. Especially if three or more people also chose jewels.

On the other hand, it doesn't matter how many jewels you have if you don't win. Which is determined by how many points you have. Which is determined by your position on the inner race track. Which determines what everyone is bidding and bartering for.

OK. So it's going to take some time to learn the game. And no, it isn't like one of those elegant, perfect information, Japanese Go experiences. But it is fun. And often surprising. And not too challenging. And though you're competing, and though only one of you can win, there's just enough luck involved to keep you from taking it too seriously.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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My Father the Rabbi, Chess, Virtual Community, Constructive Kibitzing, and Teaching made me think of my father the Rabbi, 50 years ago, lying on his bed on a Shabbos afternoon, after having led his congregation with all his heart and soul and might, with a chess book on his tummy, along with a wonderfully miniature wooden chess set with pegged pieces and, of course, a holey board. If he only had had the technology to dream it into being, would have existed during his life time. It is a fantastic resource for anyone who appreciates the art of a master player, providing a compendium of master games to step through, and study and even, yes, kibitz on. For real. Integrally. As if kibitzing were an actual option. Actually part of the exchange. Which, of course it is, as it is part of this chat system and even Yahoo Games, for gosh sake.

Constructive Kibitzing

It was yesterday's article - the one about the Happy Pill game and the "Joy of Kibitzing" that got me to Google my way to a virtual world of kibitzing. Which is precisely what leads me to think about the negative side of kibitzing - which gets way too much press - and the positive side of kibitzing, which is finally getting the virtual acknowledgment it deserves.


There's such a thing as "good" kibitzing. It's rare, and it's highly valued. Good kibitzing is an art. An art that is remarkably similar to the art of good teaching. Good kibitzing is as empowering as it is useful, as encouraging as it is informing. It helps the kibitzed-upon, enlarging perspectives and increasing alternatives. And it strengthens the kibitzing community.

Remarkably similar.

A Throat in your Frog

Well, looks like old Ze's done it again. This one's called "Frog." You'll need a microphone on your computer and the latest version of Flash.

So, go try it already.

Is it not like having some kind of virtual actual puppet?

I mean, is this not like a whole new fun thing?

My frog likes to sing.


Ricochet, Happy Pill - and the joy of kibitzing

I think it was maybe 1982. I was working for a company called Automated Simulations, which later became Epyx. One of the first games I designed for them was called "Ricochet." You can still find mention of it hither and yon on the Internet. It was successful enough to be made for every machine around: Commodore 64, Atari, TRS-80. It was a strategy game, with paddle-like pieces that could be moved like checkers, and changed orientation every time they were hit by a fusilade from one of the corner canons. What I liked about the game is exactly what I like about Happy Pill.

The principle is somewhat similar - you aim (well, there was no aiming in Ricochet - I said "somewhat" similar) and then fire off a shot, hoping that it will bounce off all the targets (the faces). Happy Pill is more of a puzzle than a game, but it is an intriguing puzzle, with increasingly complex dynamics. Once fired, the "pill" keeps on bouncing off the walls and the faces. The faces have four "states" - from smiling, to grinning, to looking wounded, to looking dead. Every time you hit a face, it changes state. If it hits a face too many times, the game is over. The strategic issues: where to place the pill, and in which direction to aim it.

It's a logic game, not an arcade game. There's just enough animation and interaction to keep the game from getting boring, and enough silliness in the game to keep it from being taken too seriously. Which lends itself wonderfully to kibitzing. Which, of course, is a great way to get students and family involved in some remarkably intelligent dialogue about things like frictionless physics and the emotional weight of "I told you so."

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Blogged by Future Hi

It is no small honor to find one's self blogged, especially when one is blogged for something one has written that one is actually pleased to have so done, and even more especially when one finds one's self blogged by a fellow blogger of vision and humor who actually understands what one has written, as evidenced in the following pithful introductio: "Fun is fantastic, joyful, and well.... FUN! Does fun have a survival advantage? I think it most definitely does. Even if it doesn't, it sure is fun anyway. So what do we have to loose? And if it does, we should all take our fun more seriously!

In deed we should, say I.

And what of this Future Hi weblog? What vision could be so clear as accurate as to have glimpsed mine. Author Paul Hughes explains: "Seeking to create a joyous, infinitely expanding future; Future Hi is a collaborative blog cruising the intersections of higher intelligence, accelerating technology, anthropological exodus, utopian dreams, trance, autonomy, imagination and logic."

Cruise on, dude!

Bag and Rag Soccer in Burundi

"we meet at our usual place and we do not have a ball to play football with; so off we go..

to the local rubbish pile to collect old plastic bags

you have to be careful where you walk, but...

soon we have enough

let's have a look what we got....

it looks good

you get some plastic together and...

you put it in a bag

and into another bag, I am sure you got the idea

meanwhile Paul has been to the place where they make dresses and...

via his mother, he got off cuts of material which he knots into long strips

because this we need to go around the plastic

it is a tricky job and you have to know what you are doing

but I have done it many times now and am really good at it

the last knot and than it is over to Paul

who will stitch little bits of cloth around the outside, while I do the second ball

all this takes time, I am sure you realise, but...

here it is.

just testing, and Paul says it is a good one

so here we go

can you spot the ball?

things are going well for our site

our goalkeeper is young but really good

and thanks to that new ball we won the match

oh, by the way, my name is Henri and I love football."

Earth Balloons

"Big Boys Balloons...a service to fellow balloon fetishists and balloon lovers as a source for big, unusual, and hard to find balloons" such as the 36", $4.00 Earth Balloon as illustrated, and the smaller, cheaper, and less-round $.75 16" earth print globe balloon.

And what a service it is, especially to those of us who still have unfulfilled hankerings for the 6-foot diameter, canvas covered Earth Ball that became the veritable icon of the New Games Foundation, of blessed memory.

Unlike the Earth Ball of the 70s, Earth Balloons are more politically correct - they are more balloon-like in their fragility, and will burst when abused.

Kite Powered Sports

Correspondent Chris Saeger sent me a link to a hearteningly playful site for kids called "Howtoons." Both he and I were attracted to the spirit of the site - giving kids a collection of semi-scientific projects that include such delights as the Shockwave Air Cannon and Crutchskates. Most of the activities are of the kind you simply wouldn't find in science class - a bit, well, shall we say "on the edge." Which makes them especially attractive to kids. And to most of us mislabeled adults. On the other hand, the site is just a little too kid-focused to make it classically Funloggable.

On the other hand, there was a link on the site that took me to Zeroprestige, a site most deliciously devoted to "the design iteration of kitesurfing and kitepowered sports." And it is therein I choose to rest today's case.

Junk Craft

This is an image of a "disco ball" made from Christmas lights and clear plastic Dixie cups. It should answer any remaining questions you might have about why I'm directing your collective attention to Craftster, a virtual community of unsung artisans who seem to take endless delight in crafting semi-useful objects out of, well, junk.

There is something heroic about their efforts. Take, for a relatively random example, the discussion about "what the heck can I do with" Old CDs / AOL CDs / AOL CD Cases. It has long been a burning question amongst those of us who hate to throw away those amazingly holographically rainbowishly shiny products of high technology, almost as much as they hate receiving them in the mail. Here's one of several hundred answers to the CD conundrum: "there are a ton of things you can do with old cds. you can make a 'beaded' curtain. by drilling holes in the top and bottom and connecting them by wire, string, whatever you fancy. or you can break them into pieces and glue them on a ball or something, for a version of the disco ball. or, i sometimes just set them on a table and burn my candles on them. that way i don't have to buy and holder, but the wax doesn't ruin my table! just have fun!"

"Just have fun!" I couldn't've said it better myself.

The virtual community created by Leah Kramer "who is a lifelong crafty gal and self-proclaimed craft addict" is equally remarkable. Because it attracts people with no claims to artisthood, whose quiet passion to re-use and re-cycle is couched in the most modest of enterprises, it is nothing short of an ideal fun community. She writes: "By day Leah is a programmer at an educational software company and by night she maintains, fills orders at her retail website, and tries to keep up with all the crafty urges that cloud her brain. Leah resides in the Boston area. She thinks that writing about herself in the third person is really weird. Not that she would know of course."

Employing Fun

"In 2002 Easy Jet advertised in the national press for a new position as ‘Head of Fun’. Whilst people naturally smile at such a job, the underlying logic behind such roles is simple and compelling, aiming to boost the productivity of the workforce and reduce the costs of high staff turnover. Fun workers will not be employed to turn the office into a party venue. Instead, they will focus on how to make work more enjoyable and as a result more productive. Clearly many aspects of many jobs can be unpleasant and that is just the way work is, but fun workers will be let loose to discover ways of improving these tasks. More generally, fun workers will aim to identify interesting ways of making all aspects of our working lives more enjoyable, whilst at the same time improving the bottom-line performance of the organisation."

Found in an article called "The rise and fall of 21st century jobs," yet another airline company acknowledging the value of fun. This is very good news for the Defenders of the Playful, and those of our collective ilk.

Ilk on.

Employing Fun

"In 2002 Easy Jet advertised in the national press for a new position as ‘Head of Fun’. Whilst people naturally smile at such a job, the underlying logic behind such roles is simple and compelling, aiming to boost the productivity of the workforce and reduce the costs of high staff turnover. Fun workers will not be employed to turn the office into a party venue. Instead, they will focus on how to make work more enjoyable and as a result more productive. Clearly many aspects of many jobs can be unpleasant and that is just the way work is, but fun workers will be let loose to discover ways of improving these tasks. More generally, fun workers will aim to identify interesting ways of making all aspects of our working lives more enjoyable, whilst at the same time improving the bottom-line performance of the organisation." From the article "The Rise and Fall of 21st Century Jobs"

This is encouraging news in a time where news of this ilk is especially welcome. Ilk on!


Craftster is an open discussion board where members exchange ideas on how to use junk to create craftly wonders like: Starburst candy wrapper bracelets, Sock Bunnies, and solid perfume cases out of birth control dispensers. Even if you don't like making things, you gotta love Craftster. We're not talking Martha Stewart here. We're talking about a community of people who are having fun sharing ideas and insights about transforming trash into treasure. Take a look, for yet another example, at the discussion about transforming old CDs, AOL CDs, and CD cases. Here are just a few of the ideas generated by the virtual Craftster community: mobiles, 3D stars, drawer pulls, coasters, paint testers, fish sculptures, flowers, disco ball, lamps, art quilts. There's also a discussion about the glories and dangers of putting them in the microwave.

The Craftster community is probably one of the best examples of a Fun Community on the web. Its participants are playful, creative, and remarkably supportive of each other's ideas, interests, and concerns. There's a lot of heart here. You can see it in the discussions about what to make for people who are serving in Iraq, people who are grieving or looking for a new job. And in its small way, it's play in service of the planet - focusing people's creativity and inventiveness on recycling, reusing, and reconstructing this very planet.

Rock Paper Scissors Spock Lizard

In answer to the never-asked-often-enough question: "is there anything beyond Rock-Scissors-Paper?", software professional and player-at-large Samuel John Kass says: "but of course." Hence, it is with something like significant joy that I herewith announce the arrival of: Rock, Scissors, Paper, Spock, Lizard. Kass explains:

"This game was invented because it seems like when you know someone well enough, 75-80% of any Rock-Paper-Scissors games you play with that person end up in a tie. Well, here is a slight variation that reduces that probability." It goes like this:

Scissors cuts Paper
Paper covers Rock
Rock crushes Lizard
Lizard poisons Spock
Spock smashes Scissors
Scissors decapitates Lizard
Lizard eats Paper
Paper disproves Spock
Spock vaporizes Rock
and Rock, as we all know and often wonder about, breaks Scissors.

(found in the ever-amazing grow-a-Brain Toys and Games Archive.

Junk, Art, and Fun

You're looking at a clock made out of old game pieces by Petaluma, California artist Poe Dismuke. I found it on an old (1997) website called "Hello Again" - "an exhibition of innovative and often surprising products created from recycled and reused materials." Though there are only seven examples shown, each offers unique testimony to the transformative power of play.

The more deeply I get into this whole Junkyard Sports adventure, the more delighted I get about the many connections between junk and, well, fun. Artists who make use of recycled materials must first of all make a creative leap, seeing beyond the original purposes and functions of their material, transcending the essential junkiness of it all, to give it new purpose and meaning. A leap like that requires the inspirational madness of a true player, of someone moved more by fun than by function.

This is only the tip of the junkly iceberg - and a vast iceberg it is. As visionaries show us how to transform junk into objects of art, kids all over the world are showing us how to convert it into objects of play. Clearly, for those of us who can find inspiration in a junk heap, there's a world of fun to be had.

Old Games for New

One of the most reliable inspirations for the creation of new games are old ones - usually, the older, the better. Old games don't need play testing. Nor do you have to worry about copyright infringement.

I guess organizations like the Cooperman Company, who recreate and market old games, toys, musical instruments, and other accessories of yore, could be considered another kind of recycling effort - bringing the past into the present.

The image accompanying this article is of a set of clay marbles. The Coopermans caution the naive buyer about the nature of these marbles: "they are not perfectly round nor are they perfectly consistent in size." Which, oddly enough, adds to, rather than diminishes their play value. Not so oddly, actually. When you think about it. And about marbles. Especially if you take into account that there must be A Million Ways to Play Marbles, At Least.

I spent much of the day yesterday at the Western Toy and Hobby Show, and I saw at least three examples of the wisdom of conceptual recycling - traditional games, repackaged, and slightly updated, to bring a new gift of fun to the marketplace.

Though Cooperman's purpose is somewhat more pedagogically grounded - giving kids a chance to experience the past through artifacts - the play value of their re-creations remains wonderfully intact.

Eine Kleine Junk Music

"Yes, he's a drummer. Yes, there's a beat. Yes, it's quite a beat. Yes, it's different. And yes, that describes The Junkman (percussionist Donald Knaack) and his Junk Music. That's because The Junkman composes-for and performs-on junk, found objects, and materials that others have discarded - all recycled materials."

To get a better sense of the range of the Junkman's accomplishments, listen to the Junk Music Player, watch some of his Junk Music videos, and then take a long look at this amazing collection of junkly Playstations - "sound sculptures" or assemblages of junk, created by the Junkman so that people can have a temporary or permanent invitation for "passers-by to pick up a stick and create a musical community on the spot with other interested persons - a Junkjam."

The site is a minor marvel in itself - rich with joy-bringing images and inspiring sounds. The talents and success of the Junk Man are perhaps enviable, but what is even more enviable is the depth and genuineness of his love. He says of his work with children and families: "The great thing about a Junkjam and children is that I can take any group of kids and in five minutes, they can be involved in a three-voice rhythmic groove that immerses them into the power of creating music in a group environment - some call it a groove. It is this raw power that truly ascends the soul, captivates and inspires the individual with the magical powers of music."

Play on, Junkman!

You, too, could win an Anagrammy

The film industry has its awards. The TV and Music industries theirs. But what award, you might ask, graces the conceptual fireplace mantles of the playfully literate? Why, mais certainment, it's the Anagrammy!

Here are a few exemplaries from the January 2004 awards:

1st place:
Adrian Hickford with:
International Airports =
Airline transportation.

Topical Category:
Meyran Kraus with:
Images from the NASA Spirit rover =
Impart great visions of Mars here.

Other Names Category:
Allan Morley with:
The Leaning Tower of Pisa =
A spire of note, with angle.

As you can plainly read, just from these few examples, though anagramming appears to be little more than another frivolous frippery, the art of creating a really good anagram is in many was as profound as any other art, which is, of course, what makes it really fun. For a few good insights into the sheer complexity of it all, see the hallmarks of a good anagram.

Should you wish an electronic assist into the anagrammatic joys awaiting you, here's a great list of online anagramming tools. One of my favorites: I Rearrangement Servant.


Calvinball, as many would claim, is both pre- and post-cursor to Junkyard Sports. I exemplify:

In this episode (one of only ten I was able to find on the remarkable collection of C&H strips found on Calvin and Hobbes at Martijn's) we see the following: "Calvin and Hobbes are playing Calvinball. Calvin stole Hobbes' flag. Hobbes hit him with the Calvin ball. He has to sing the 'I'm very sorry' song. Calvin protests he was in the 'no song' zone. Hobbes corrects him, as he had touched the 'opposite pole,' so now the 'no song zone' is a 'song zone.' Calvin complains that Hobbes didn't declare it. Hobbes says he declared it oppositely by not declaring it. Calvin starts singing, and Hobbes joins in. When they're finished, Calvin says he gets free passage to wicket five. Hobbes tells him they did that last time. Calvin makes up a new rule to jump until someone finds the bonus box. As they jump away, Calvin says the only permanent rule in Calvinball is that you can't play it the same way twice. Hobbes says the score is 'Q to 12'."

The most obvious connection scholars will one day make between Calivinball and Junkyard Sports is, of course, the Permanent Rule, which both of them more or less share, except for the fact that in Junkyard Sports you are allowed to try playing a game the same way twice. A perhaps more definitely subtle connection can be found in the relationship between the players. If one of them were really trying to win, the game would fall apart, immediately and completely. If you remember playing with kids who don't quite understand this subtlety, you'll know immediately what I mean. True, kids'll change a game, at every possible opportunity, but usually only as long as they can change it to their immediate advantage. Whereas C&H, like the true Junkmasters they are, change the game to keep it fun. For everyone.

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The Color Test

When you see BLUE, what do you see first: the color or the name of the color? It's a left-brain/right-brain kinda thing, don't you know. And one has this tendency to confuse the other, in a kind of deliciously tickly way. Which makes it remarkably fun to play with, even if the playground is more like a test than a game.

As you go about perfecting your skills in The Color Test, here's a couple of extra thoughts to confound your playful being: 1) being confused - as long as it's just the right amount of confusion - is a great source of fun, 2) even test taking can be fun (see, for example, Jeopardy as lovingly and elegantly made into into educational Power Point delights by the Hardin County Teachers).

This fits quite well with my "fun that is good for you" theme. Which, given how much bad press fun gets nowadays, is sadly not one of your more popular, thematically speaking. In fact, fun has received such remarkably and consistently bad press (my wife Rocky keeps saying "Fun is not a four-letter word") that it's almost a revelation to think that anything fun can be good for you. Which may, now that I think about it, be the whole point.



Remember my little story about Mondegreens? Well, it seems that this concept of "constructive misunderstanding" has evolved to a new level, called either and both "Animutation" and/or "Fanimutation."

According to Wikipedia: "The term animutation was popularized in early 2001 by Neil Cicierega, who coined the phrase at the age of 14 after spawning the genre via the creation of Japanese Pokerap, and more notably, Hyakugojyuuichi. Strangely, this became rather popular, and spawned a host of (in some cases, much better) imitators. The famous one is, of course, Irrational Exuberance, or Yatta!, but they all share the same basic features - misheard (often Japanese) lyrics, bizarre animations, and Colin Mochrie."

Neil was 15 at the time of his conceptual transubstantiation.

Now that you've got the drift, here's a collection of links to yet more fanimutated Flash flotsam.

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The Sense of Humor Project

" a new charity, running dynamic projects which tackle extreme social problems by applying excellent communications' solutions."

One of the focal points of this new charity will be The Sense of Humour Project, which, I quote at length: "will bring extra joy and pleasure into the lives of people with profound and multiple disabilities and of their carers. Many people with severe learning disabilities, especially those with additional handicaps, lead very grey lives, and of course enjoy a good laugh as much as anyone else does. Colleagues who have very specialist communications' skills (eg speech and language therapists) and who love creating happiness (eg comic actors) will find out and share the sorts of things people particularly enjoy."

How to they propose to do that? I quote again at length, from an example of how they might bring a little Brightness into the life of a boy named Karim:

  • listening to humorous tapes, including ones in Arabic from Morrocco where Karim's parents came from

  • trampolining or other slightly off-beat sports

  • go-karting and other excitingly non-mollycoddling leisure activities (very few mollies are likely to be coddled on this project)

  • reflexology or other physical experiences appropriate for adults (tickling of adults, for example, is unlikely to be encouraged by our project...)

  • being with animals, including handling weird reptiles

  • listening to the Osbournes swear at each other on TV

  • visiting the circus

  • being with other people who are laughing a lot, including kids who are messing about

There's something very bright about Bright. Bright in that it manifests a certain intelligence that is not found in the majority of institutions - the intellignence to perceive that something as trivial as fun could be of so great a value to those with profound and multiple disabilities. Bright because it holds a happy promise for everyone it touches.

Shine on!