Meditation on one of those Macintosh computers with that little light on it that kinda breathes on and off and on while the computer sleeps

1). put the computer to sleep.

1. a). after you've read this message

2). look at that little breathing light, and see if you can breathe with it.

3). close your eyes.

3. a.) not yet

4). distract yoursself

4. a.). count or something

5). open your eyes and see if you and the little light are still breathing together.

6). go to step 2).

Instant Audience - an Introduction to Soundboarding

Next time you're on a phone call with a friend, or relative, or telemarketer, try augmenting the experience of communication with your online, Instant Audience. Highlight moments of shared significance with a chorus of "ooohs" or "wows," applause or laughter. It will redefine the very nature of teledialogue.

Instant Audience is one of a growing cybercopia of what have become known to the virtual few as "Soundboards." So known is this Soundboard phenomenon that there is at least one site, eponymously yclept "Soundboards.com," devoted entirely to the aforementioned. Many of the Soundboards in this collection are compilations of sound bytes from the cinema. See, for your typically outrageous example of Soundboarding, the Mel Brooks ibid. It will make you laugh.

Soundboards abound on the Internet because soundboarding is an invitation to a rather unique, and easily produced form of play. For more Soundboards, you might consider braving the fun and pop-up proliferating "eBaumsworld."

And yes, I am home, online, happily enMacintoshed, at last (applause, ooh and wow sounds).


Bernie DeKoven, Funsmith

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Blogging at Ten Cents a Minute, the $400 Yoyo, and related contemplations

This is Duncan's" Cold Fusion Yo-Yo, made of aircraft-grade aluminum and featuring a ball-bearing axle, is one of the longest spinning yo-yos in the world. Holder of previous World Records for spin time, the Cold Fusion is capable of spin times over 10 minutes! The Cold Fusion uses a special, high-speed ball bearing, and features Brake Pads for smooth, reliable response." It costs $100.

According to The Science News, a $400 yo-yo is on it's way to your local pocket. Well, perhaps not yours. And most definitely not mine. Though I admit that were my pocket just a little deeper - by a factor of let's say 100 - that yo-yo would be dangling from my finger even as I write.

All this disturbing contemplation about the need for money blends quite nicely into my related crisis, now that I'm not going to have a computer for a week more, at least: having to pay ten cents a minute to write this weblog. It kind of repositions the entire experience. Now that it's so clear how much I have to pay for this opportunity to bring a bit more fun to your world, I find myself wondering just how much it's worth to me, and, for that matter, to you.

Seeing how depressing this is getting, I decide that it is clearly not a productive contemplation.

Maybe I'll use a friend's computer next time.

Skipping for fun and fitness

I have 2 minutes and am running out of cash on this excitingly available Internet Cafe kiosk. So go to Iskip and draw your own pithy conclusions.

Yours, sans Mac.

Junk Bands

Junk Bands. Not Jug Bands. Though, on the other hand, Jug Bands are Junk Bands.

But I was thinking in particular of Junk Bands like the National Junk Band, at least one whose songs will bring a smile to the mental lips of any fan of Monty Python.

What I was in particular thinking when I was thinking about Junk Bands was: they use junk to make music, and they look like they're having fun doing it. And it seemed to me that the deep playfulness displayed by these Bands is a genuinely actual act of Sung Heroism (as opposed to the unsung kind).

Consequently, on behalf of Major Fun, I hereby and -with welcome them, players of Junk and Jugs and Washboards, too, each "Defenders of the Playful," musical Junkmasters all.

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Stomp

When it comes to having fun with junk, it's hard to think of a more inspired group of performers than Stomp.

Here are some notes from the show's creators:

"Ideas come from anywhere. A lot of it is using manual props because they obviously lend themselves to rhythm and drumming like a broom or hitting a dustbin or hammers - they are quite obvious things. Other ideas are more surreal, like walking on oil drums - just drawing little pictures and wouldn't it be great to have great platform shoes and people walking around on them. The ultimate STOMP. And in small things where you want to introduce visuals as well as sound like Zippo lighters, which is trying to do something which is quiet and it makes you listen and you tune in to it. But they are all everyday objects that you can use, anybody can find and anyone can have a go at."

"You can make music out of absolutely anything, whether it's, you know, tapping an old Coke can, or picking up pebbles on a beach. It's what you want to do it."

"If there is a message (which everyone seems to expect from theatre), it is that you can make something out of nothing. Using junk , household and industrial objects, by its very nature, challenges the issue of waste and challenges the notion of culture as being highbrow or detached (ie, you don't have to buy a cello or a drum kit to make music)."

Nor do you have to buy a stadium to play baseball.

Play on!

The Tag Institute

The Tag Institute "meets every Wednesday evening at 7:00 PM at the J.C. Nichols Fountain on the Country Club Plaza in Kansas City, MO." Their central questions: "Do you want to be more like a kid again, only without the teasing and staring? Do you have a desire to run around while other people watch?"

These are profound enough questions. The idea that we can be like kids again is in itself a crucial observation about the recuperative powers of the spirit. The notion that we can be more than that - kids without the teasing and staring - is as liberating as the game of tag itself.

It should be enough to let you know that these people are serious about their games of tag, that they see through the significance of adults playing tag, to find the freeing fun of it all. Their collection of tag games is not only further evidence of their touching dedication to the game, but also a useful resource.

The game of Tag is one of those fundamental, universal experiences that we share with most humans and all canines. Even I have both waned and waxed philosophic on the profundity of it all. See "On Being It," and perhaps even my exposé of the hidden truths of tag games like "Lemonade" and Hot Bread and Butter.

The Tag Institute is an important, affirming find, that I owe to Christopher Noxon, yet another important, affirming find.

Simlutaneous Sock-and-Pantyhose Horseshoes

It was yesterday, April 18. In the afternoon. In El Retiro park. In Redondo Beach. In California. The South Bay Fun Club's first ever Junkyard Sports event. Where the new, official, Junkyard Sports Banner was formally unfurled, and the game of Simultaneous Sock and Pantyhose Horseshoes was invented.

Pictured here, clearly is not the game of Simultaneous Sock and Pantyhose Horseshoes - the revealing of which was an event in itself. But rather Bernie in the act of launching the sport that becake Simultaneous Sock and Pantyhose Horseshoes.

The game was played thusly: Two teams of four players each stood at opposite ends of the Simultaneous Sock and Pantyhose Horseshoe Field, immediately behind small, open cardboard boxs, placed, o, let's say, 10 meters apart. These boxes were easily large enough to serve as a target for a Sock and Pantyhose Horseshoe, the aforementioned horseshoe being constructed by placing four tightly-balled socks into the toe of a pantyhose leg which was cut from the pantyhose leg somewhere near the thigh area, if you excuse the expression.

One team had the Sock and Pantyhose Horseshoes made from two pairs of black pantyhose, the other from white.

And then, at a mutually agreed-upon scream, both teams threw their Sock and Pantyhose Horseshoes trying to get them to land in or near the above-indicated cardboard box.

And merry mayhem ensued.

Note: playing this with hard things, like iron horseshoes and maybe even frisbees, is not recommended.

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A little help from a friend

It is always a delight to find onself a bloggee, and a special delight when the blogger is a respected colleague. And such is the case as noted play activist Pat Kane writes about my little thought-piece on Consuming and Producing fun. It's more than an honor. It speaks of a solidarity, a sharing of vision and purpose, and perhaps even more reason to hope.

Victorian Parlor Games

Planning a party or a team building or a family picnic? Looking for a few good games that are basically, well, fun - you know, fun of the funny kind? Games that are so, well, silly, that winning has little to do with anything? Well then, search no more. Behold and beclick: they're Victorian Parlor Games.

Here, for example, game number 8, the ever popular:

Crambo

"It" leaves the room, and the players chose a word. Let's say the word is "fickle." When "It" returns, one player must give "It" a hint by giving him/her a word that rhymes with fickle, i.e., "pickle."

Now it gets interesting.

"It" will ask one player whether the word is, say, tickle, NOT by asking straight out but by forming a question about the word in mind. "It" will ask, "is it something that someone does by holding one's fingers to another person's side and moving them about quickly?" The player who has had the question put to them must respond, "No, the word is not tickle."

This continues until "It" guesses the word, OR... if "It" is really good, he or she will create question for a word the player can't guess. Then the player winds up being "It."


The site itself is in a bit of disrepair, having served it's purposes in promoting the predictably eponymous book. However, it's there. It's free. And it's a genuine source for more merry mayhem.

Toys in the Playground

Sacred son and Ph.D. candidate Elyon writes: "I was wondering if you have blogged about toys in the playground. One of my neighbors left a bunch of toys in the playground a number of months ago. Most are still there. Some toys have disappeared (or broken?), and some new ones have appeared. It's sort of an unspoken neighborhood co-op. I have heard of at least one other playground where this has happened. Do you know of this behavior?"

I answer: "Actually, no." Elyon is living in Holland in something like a row house in a neighborhood of row house neighborhoods. Each of these neighborhoodlets surrounds a parklet. And each parklet includes a playgroundlet. So the kids who live there rightly regard the playground as theirs - shared, perhaps, but also protected and, to a very real degree, private. So when they leave their toys they have good reason to believe that they will find them again when they come back to play again. My guess is that we'd find similar behavior in any semi-closed community.

But it does remind me of Jay Beckwith's remarkable Finger Parks. Jay's Finger Parks are playground installations, meant for the more public playgrounds that are built by civic parks commissions. Though kids should not be encouraged to leave their toys behind when they're finished playing, Finger Parks are a brilliant acknowledgment of how kids use toys as vehicles for building community

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Consuming Fun

I find myself for some inexplicable reason once again musing on fun: the nature and nurture thereof. Musing on, I am similarly drawn towards my experiences at the Esalen Institute, specifically towards the transformation that occurs in the five days of frolic and contemplation.

Oddly enough, I wind up thinking about America. Specifically, about our great gift to the world. Even more specifically, about how pervasively successful we've been in packaging and merchandising fun. Movies and TV, sports and fast food. OK. It's not just America. It's also all the other Westernized (Americanized) cultures. So successful that we have all become, almost to an extreme, consumers of fun. Fun, being our most profitable product, has become something we buy - for ourselves, for each other, for our children. And though much of the fun stuff we buy is fun in deed, there's a down side to all this fun. A very down side.

What happens to people in their 5 days at Esalen is this: they rediscover their abilities to create fun, for themselves, for each other. In doing so, they become producers, as much as consumers of fun. Pretty much like they were when they were kids. Only better now that they have all those grown-up fun-producing powers.

This may not seem like a big insight. But it is the first time I've been able to verbalize why the experience at Esalen is so powerfully empowering. As consumers of fun, we become dependent on the vast, impersonal market forces that create it for us. As producers of our own fun, we become free.

Calvinball Cont'd

"So, as far as I can tell, it began with a modified baseball field - not a diamond, because it had nine bases, more or less.  Owain deemed himself batter, and me the pitcher.  Gwynneth decided that a bench in the middle was a jail, and a water bottle the magic implement which, if contacted, sent you to jail.  Owain realized that touching the ball froze you.  Ball and bottle counteract each other, defreezing or freeing you, respectively.  Naturally, a huge, rideable plastic car had to be involved, so there was much pulling and riding, shrieking and freezing as the thing careened across the not-exactly-a-baseball-diamond.  When everyone ended up in jail, we improvised a baseball game on top of the bench."

Bryan Alexander

(see also)

The Life of Games

Kadon Enterprises, makers of some rather extraordinary geometric tiling puzzles (you can get a good taste of their conceptual deliciousness in their online Puzzle Parlor), is also the publisher of a surprisingly well-informed, clearly-written and entertaining e-journal called The Life of Games.

There have only been three issues so far, the last one written almost 4 years ago. And yes, encouraging them to produce more, and more often, is my not-too-hidden agenda in writing so glowingly about this little spark of puzzle edification. In the current issue, I was conceptually drawn, and intellectually quartered, by an article about a puzzle called Archimedes Stomachion - a tiling puzzle made of "14 tiles forming a 12x12 unit square, where each tile's area is a whole number." Then there's an article about "Lemma, a rule-making meta-game," which is a remarkably vivid revelation of the fundamental playfulness that underlines this company's passion and products.

I'd wax even more poetic, if it weren't for my computer, which is crashing with astounding frequency and diabolic unpredictability. I'm thinking, at least until I get a replacement (could be 2 weeks), my blogging efforts will become equally unpredictable, and probably far more reflective. I'm not sure what I'll be reflecting. I suppose it depends on what kinds of coffee they have at the local Internet Cafe.

Unexplained Periods of Silence

Oh, the agony of it all. Computer problems. On my relatively new eMac even. Inexplicable problems that have led to such sundry solutions as: replacing the logic board and display unit, and, most recently, erasing the hard drive.

I am between crashes at the moment, and thought I owed you an explanation.

I do not know when I'll be back. In the interim, something to chew on: food games. I've been working on a new aspect of Junkyard Sports which includes something akin to a junkyard-style eating experience. In the interim, the aforementioned might amuse you enough to join me in this tasteful contemplation.

Toy Therapy, Part II

Let us for a moment hearken back to our "discussion," virtually speaking, of "Toy Therapy for the Meeting Room." Now, let us hearken forward to the discovery of yet a second source, a source that provides us not only more of the same, but more of the different, as well. The Trainers Warehouse.

Here, should we be hoping to mine in the same vein, we have "Toys for Learners" - a significantly large collection of fidgety digity toys that help keep tensions down, or at least shared. Worthy of perusal for one's more personal toy needs. Whilst here, in the aforehinted significantly new vein, we find this collection of your basic games and accessories. Anyone who ever led a group knows the value of having something to make noise with - sometimes, you just need to get their attention. On the other hand, everyone who ever attended a meeting can attest to a similarly practical use of noise making devices.

Trainers Warehouse is primarily a resource for, um, trainers. But for we of the Playful Purpose, it is a path to fun and potential havoc of many invaluably different kinds. Such as that which one might create with, for example, game show buzzers.

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Pastimes and Paradigms : Games we Play

Pastimes and Paradigms : Games we Play is an exploration of the "evolution of games since 1800." It comes to us from Cornell University, no less, specifically the Hirshland Exhibition Gallery of the Carl A Kroch Library of Cornell University.

The attempt to make this site "fun" is admirable. The designers make full use of high-bandwidth (hint, hint) capabilities to create a graphically intensive interface. The Monopoly Board on the splash page is as an invitation to play, as is even the Table of Contents:

  • A Plethora of Patimes
  • Paragon of Pastimes
  • Political Paradigms
  • Promoting Principles
  • Passages of People
  • Places to Play
  • Patterns of Pedagogy


But the games themselves, and the anthopological focus of games as mirrors of the culture and times that created them, are what makes this site such a treasure. The exhibitors explain:

"The exhibition includes a wide variety of antique and contemporary games, as well as rare books on rules, strategies, and recreation. Featured items include early nineteenth-century geographical board games; a Civil War game; suffrage games that garnered support in the battle for women's votes; a vintage Monopoly game (the subject of Cornell President Jeffrey Lehman's first book); gambling punchboards; and a selection of games inspired by television programming. Although they differ in design and presentation, they share a single message: the game is the medium."

Thanks for the find, Chris Saeger.

An Artist of Whimsy and Delight

The Bicker Booth "...is divided into two sections with a small window between. Two participants enter either side of the booth and come face to face. Each side has a Rolodex file with approximately 300 theatrical clichés inspired from soap operas and movies. For example, 'We'll never resolve this,' 'It's time you grow up' to 'I don't care anymore,' and I've had enough of your crap.' A dramatic sound track sets the theatrical tone to bicker." It was designed by Bob Gregson. The very same Bob Gregson who wrote The Outrageous Outdoor Games Book and The Incredible Indoor Games Book. And equally if not moreso the identically similar Gregson whose drawings grace the pages of the Junkyard Sports Website and whose artistically bickerable face appears in the Bicker Booth photo.

I met Bob in, what, 1975 maybe when I was teaching at Trinity College in Hartford. He was driving around in a truck full of play stuff, stopping in different neighborhoods to create instant play festivals. My kids introduced us. Naturally. He and I have remained friends and admirers and, in our unique ways, both dedicated to the art of fun.

He explains himself thus: "My roots can be traced to Conceptual Art, Happenings, Minimalism and the Fluxus movement. My work is a mixture of visual art, architecture, urban events and game design. The key is to invite a dialog and provide an intimate and safe experience ? no matter the size or scale of the project. My large-scale public projects connect communities in fresh ways by creating a framework for dynamic interchange. Because of the collaborative nature necessary to produce this work, I am also committed to making personal small-scale works to focus my point of view ? allowing me to appreciate the views of others. These personal efforts take the form of constructions, photography, artist's books, and conceptual models."

Bob has a great deal to give to all of us. His website is yet another gift.

FUN is not a 4-letter word

- Rocky DeKoven

Fooling and Pranking

What we have here, with this illustration from the evermore remarkable people at Grow-a-Brain is a rather faithful representation of someone in the act of "being foolish."

Whilst what we have here is a collection of pranks and pranking resources from the previously remarked upon Real Estate people, cunningly augmented by this collection of the Top 100 April Fool's Day Hoaxes of All Time.

On this first day of April, known as "Fools Day," a contemplation of the Fool-Prank relationship is nothing if not relevant. Hence, we begin with the always venerable Dictionary.com, to learn that word "fool" can be used to describe:

  1. One who is deficient in judgment, sense, or understanding.
  2. One who acts unwisely on a given occasion: I was a fool to have quit my job.
  3. One who has been tricked or made to appear ridiculous; a dupe: They made a fool of me by pretending I had won.
  4. Informal. A person with a talent or enthusiasm for a certain activity: a dancing fool; a fool for skiing.
  5. A member of a royal or noble household who provided entertainment, as with jokes or antics; a jester.
  6. One who subverts convention or orthodoxy or varies from social conformity in order to reveal spiritual or moral truth: a holy fool.
  7. A dessert made of stewed or puréed fruit mixed with cream or custard and served cold.
  8. Archaic. A mentally deficient person; an idiot.

One could even say that the more successful the prank, the more of the above definitions might be ascribed to the behavior manifested by the pranked-upon. (see photo).

In their best light, pranks can be seen as psychosocial tools, helping the pranked-upon release the Inner Fool, as it were. And yet, disturbingly, the prankster does not get to experience this longed-for release - with every prank only further repressing the fundamental foolishness of being.

It seems almost just, therefore, that the prankster has more fun than the prankee.