"Play and freedom to design"

"aedo-to is a design community. it facilitates the meeting between industry and designers"

The most recent edition of their publication, "Virtual Design - from face to interface" features only one live link - and that, very fortunately, is to an article called: "Play and freedom to design" by Augusto Grillo. I quote:
It is play that sparks creativity, creating contexts in which freedom, gratuitousness and passion produce their fecundating action.

Play fascinates and absorbs to the point of making us infinitely repeat our attempts to improve our performance, to create new paths, new ways to arrive, in our case, to the ‘right’ product, the most suitable solutions.

It is in this sense that play can enrich the design process, and that the concept of playfulness in design may justify more exhaustive study in this research area.

We may conclude that ‘play’, so necessary in that it precedes and gives rise to the creative act, like beauty, will save the world.

Yup. Couldn't have said it better. Play could, indeed, save the world. Until that time, may it make our new year newer, and happier.

Playing Together for Fun: Creative Play and Lifelong Games

There's an online resource called "Helpguide" that provides "expert, non-commercial information on mental health and lifelong wellness." They invited me to help them develop an article about fun and games and play and health and stuff. Their expertise in mental health and wellness helped put my understanding of fun into a powerful, relevant, and even more accessible context. And the result is a wonderfully broad resource - so inclusive that it makes one believe that it is really OK to play.

The article defines play and makes the play/flow connection. It spells out the real, lifelong benefits of play, and how it impacts the development of social skills, personal strengths, learning, health, the sense of connection, the ability to persevere, the path to joy and happiness. It tells you why it is important to play everywhere, at home, and even at work. It spells out the laughter/health connections - yes, it is really OK to laugh. It describes how play makes us more intelligent, and fosters emotional development. And then I get to talk about some of my favorite "pointless games."

I've spent a lot of my career trying to help adults give each other, and themselves, permission to play. This article, and the collaboration that produced it, may very well prove to be the ultimate play permit. You might want to send a copy to your boss.

I'm Sorry, I haven't Got a Clue - the Compendium

It's called "I'm Sorry, I Haven't Got a Clue." It's also called "the antidote to panel games." Yes, it's very UK, as it were, so to speak, filled with obscure localisms and terribly dry humor. It's a bit of an improv, don't you know, and somewhat of a test of wit. And here is a virtual compendium of said same. For example:

cow, lake, bomb
A variation on the ancient playground game of Paper, Scissors, Stone where two players hold out a hand in one of three shapes; the premise being that paper wraps stone, stone blunts scissors, and scissors cuts paper. This is a grown up version of the game that follows the same principles as the original game but is specially adapted for the wireless. Each team is furnished with several sound effects including a cow, a lake, and a bomb. After the chairman counts to three, each team plays in one of the effects and he announces the winner. The rules are fairly self explanatory - obviously cow drinks lake, lake extinguishes bomb, and bomb blows up cow.

musical shakespeare

The Chairman asks the panellists to sing the words of various popular Shakespearean passages to certain well known contemporary tunes of his choosing. The panellists are accompanied on the piano...

tag wrestling

Each team is given a punch line of a story. One team starts telling a story with the aim of finishing with their punch line. When the Chairman blows his horn the other team picks up the story and adapts it towards their punch line. This continues until one team manages to deliver their punch line.

word for word
One team member starts by uttering a word drawn from a selection limited only by his imagination. His team mate should then say a word completely unconnected with the one before. The opposing team may challenge if they notice a connection.

To get an even better idea of what this silliness is all about, listen here.

Debauchery Ball

Debaucheryball, similar in certain highly suggestive ways to Rocky DeKoven's much-vaunted "Shoreshoes," and no doubt born of similar influence to that which gave rise to "Subversive Golf," and a direct descendant of Urban Golf, Debaucheryball is Shoreshoes played with bocce balls. Or, as some might call it, "Free Form Ad Hoc Bocce."

The perhaps most significant contribution of D-Ball to the lexicon of game wackification and further Calvinballism could perhaps be seen as the "Fair Rule" concept.
When a team scores three times in a row (three consecutive turns) that team is allowed to make up a new rule. A new (fair) rule is defined as one that affects each player exactly the same, or one that all the players agree is fair. The purpose is to make the game more complicated and more challenging, or simply more annoying.

Any standard fair rule is fair, regardless of what some loser who you barely know but your friend brought thinks. There are some rules which come up in debaucheryball again and again, and history says, “Live with it.” Some societies, the more advanced of the primitive societies, start their games with several fair rules and go from there.

While there is no limit to the number of fair rules allowed, more than three can become somewhat confusing. It’s a good idea, when creating a fourth rule, to make sure it negates an existing rule.

Though, arguably, one could make a case for the even vastier implications of the Unfair Rule
When a team scores four times in a row (scores again after just making a rule), that team is allowed to make an unfair rule.

An unfair rule is defined as one that affects only one person—not an entire team. The idea is to single out and pick on one person, you know, to build their character and sportsmanship or make them look like a complete tool. This is a great way of getting back at the guy who drew all over you with magic marker the last time you passed out at a party.

Unfair rules can be a lot of fun, but they can get out of hand. Be prepared for a war if you pick on someone too hard. The unfair rules listed elsewhere are only suggestions.

There is no limit to the number of unfair rules.


Found Sounds

Aaron Ximm's "One Minute Vacations"..."are unedited recordings of somewhere, somewhen. Sixty seconds of something else. Sixty seconds to be someone else." He explains: "The project began as I grappled with what it meant to be a tourist in another culture. It continues as I grapple with what it means to be a tourist in my own."

He's been collecting what are called "field recordings" since 1998. "While traveling in Vietnam, I recorded musicians, trains, moving water, crickets, monks, markets, metalwork, tired animals, and drunken tourists. The earliest work on this site is the result of my discovery of ways of working with that sound as sole medium."

Found sounds. Amazing how we kind of disregard the sounds our environments make when we experience them, and yet never really discard them. Listening to a found sound is remembering. Or at least imagining that we do.

Being a collector of found sounds is a junkly pursuit par excellence. The bigger the collection, the more choices, the more choices, the more fun. The very act of capturing the sound is at least as moving for the sound finder as it is for the found sound listener. It is to hear in the ambiance of every day noise the constant invitation to play.

He suggests you use your headphones. I concur.

Extreme Recycling

This guitar, and its case are made completely out of matches and matchbooks. The guitar, and its case, are fully functional and play-with-able.

The artist of matches explained: "I sorted out and hand-picked from the piles of matchsticks - only those with even-sided square burnt ends. Then every one of them had to be individually cut down to variable measured lengths, so that I could interlock the blackened, burnt match-heads to form decorative patterns."

The author of this article, his son, adds: "My father was an ordinary man with an extraordinary talent. When you see and realise the extent of human imagination, effort and endeavour, the perception is one of an unrivalled piece of craftsmanship, ingenuity and improvisation. I consider it a great honour and a privilege to look after and cherish his collection. A lasting legacy, the like of which will probably never be seen again. These works of art are not match-less but, however, they are matchless."

I have decided to call this "extreme recycling." A Junkyard Xgame for craftspeople who do it all for fun. What do you think?


When I'm helping people develop their own Junkyard Sports event, I find myself, from time to time, having to seek alternatives to the traditional socks, pantyhose, waterbottle, grocery bag collection process. I encounter a certain, well, squeamishness. And whether on not it's justifiable, the fact is that for some people, the idea of re-using stuff from a local recycling center is laden with germy implications and auras of potential nastiness. This is where organizations like the Scroungers Center for Reusable Art Parts become an invaluable resource, and positive inspiration for new levels of junkly joy. They explain:
SCRAP is a creative reuse center, store and workshop space founded in 1976 in San Francisco, California. Donations of re-usable materials such as textiles, paper, jewelry findings, wood, buttons and plastics are collected from businesses, institutions and individuals and distributed to art and educational groups.

By breathing new life into old objects, SCRAP reduces the amount of waste going to crowded landfills. By offering low cost art and re-use workshops and providing schools and organizations with badly needed art supplies, SCRAP stimulates creativity and environmental awareness.

Manufacturers save money on their disposal costs and receive tax benefits. Artists transform SCRAP materials into sculptures, paintings, and other masterpieces. Children and adults learn how to "REDUCE, RE-USE AND RECYCLE." Anyone can contribute by donating clean, reusable materials that might otherwise be thrown away.
A couple decades ago, such scrap centers were in almost every major metropolitan area, serving artists, educators, fashion designers, and the cool and groovy. Sadly, as education became more occupied with testing than learning, economy than ecology, there are only a few, highly exemplary organizations like SCRAP. On the other hand, knowing that at least one has survived for more than 25 years, is more than reassuring. It's a promise of a resource for generations of Junkmasters, just like you.

Where have all the players gone

Dr. Olga Jarrett, president of The Association for the Study of Play, has a lot of important things to say about the state of child's play. You'll find them summarized in this article. In the mean time, let me give you a sample:
Many of the schools in at least 10 states have abolished recess, causing children to spend many six hour days without exercise or down time. Even kindergarten is affected. A recent survey of Georgia schools suggests that 25% of the kindergarten children do not get daily recess. They are indoors all day. Children without recess miss an opportunity to chase each other, make up their own games, decide what is fair and who is “it” and hone their physical skills and imagination on playground equipment. The pressure to increase test scores has caused many school systems to opt for "uninterrupted instructional time."

And another:
Children whose parents have the time and money to involve them in lessons, organizations, and sports often lead very structured lives, as they spend after school hours, Saturdays, and summers in one program after another. They don’t have much time for free play. On the other hand, latchkey children generally don’t have much opportunity to play either. They are expected to stay at home and not have friends over to play.

It is to provoke thought. And hopefully, action. Thank you, Dr. Jarrett.

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Jerome Blockman and the Broom and Shoe Golf Club

Thanks to the collective creativity of the Santa Monica Boys and Girls Club, we may have arrived at the ultimate expression of the junkyard golf club. Behold, Jerome Blockman and the Broom and Shoe Golf Club. Contemplate the club-like properties of the used athletic shoe combined with the power and polish of the well-used broom. Imagine the control you can get when you connect toe first, or the power of the side-of-the-shoe club impact. Could it get, you may be called upon to wonder, any better than this?

This photo came from the world's first Junkmaster Training for a Boys and Girls Club, anywhere. Jerome was one of about 30 staff members who spent the morning playing and inventing Junkyard Golf, and the afternoon, Junkyard Basketball. Many junkly apotheoses were achieved, one of which included office chairs and ping pong paddles. For me, it was one more of those always welcome doubt-removing experiences. For the participants, a day of fun, creativity and inspiration. And the thing about it is that it won't stop there. They'll be doing this with their kids. And, hopefully, those kids will be doing it with other kids in their playground and neighborhood and back yards. And maybe their world will get a little more fun, after all.



Sashay is yet another of those beautifully crafted wooden games from the Masterpiece collection, available through Out of the Box games. It's a chess-like strategy game, with a bit of Go, a hint of Stratego, and a touch of Battleship. In addition to the strategic intricacies of the game, there's just enough opportunity for cunning and guile and sheer dumb luck to make the game as fun as it is deep.

There are two kinds of pieces. The "Dancers of Disguise" move vertically or horizontally, like the rook in chess. The "Masters of Masquerade" move like bishops, only they can change directions many times in one move, sashaying, as it were, across the board. They can also swap positions with an adjacent piece. Pieces are captured by being surrounded.

Each of the Dancers of Disguise has a hole in its side - just deep enough to accommodate a tiny wooden rod. At the beginning of the game, players set up a special board to prevent each other from seeing which Dancer is carrying the tiny rod. Pieces are set up in whatever manner players choose, and then, the Battleship-like dividing board is removed.

All you have to do to win is to get your Dancer to carry its rod to the other end of the board.

There are a couple of niggles one needs to be aware of. You have to remember to position your dancers so that the holes are facing away from your opponent. In the heat of the game, this may take more discipline than one is willing to exercise. And those tiny rods are so very easy to lose (luckily, the manufacturer includes spares - even more luckily, you can use a piece of aluminum foil or even a toothpick when you run out).

There is ample, and often quite delicious opportunity to get psychological on your opponent by advancing a rodless dancer or two, while keeping the rodded one shielded from play. On the other hand, the more shielded the Dancer, the easier it is to surround it and remove it from play.

All in all, the movement of the pieces is so interesting, the method of capture so subtle, and the opportunity for subterfuge so compelling that any niggle remains safely niggled for the duration.

Giant Pick-Up Sticks

28 years later, and I finally have a photo of giant pick up sticks. Courtesy of Marie Martin, who writes "I thought you might like to see another wave (or blow) of your influence....
The Festival of the Wind is a bi-annual event in Esperance. Esperance is on the southern coast of Western Australia and has a vibrant volunteer community. There are about 13,000 people in the town and involvement in over 550 volunteer organisations at federal, state and local levels. Anna and I did work with Esperance Volunteer Resource Centre in 2002/2003 to create a video for 'bridging the gap to volunteering' - helping people become volunteers in rural and remote locations. The Festival of the Wind involves artists, environmentalists and scientists in an event that focuses on one of the strengths (or irritations) of Esperance - it is windy for about 300 days each year! When my family was camping there some years ago we went from the camping ground into town (20 miles) for dinner because the meat kept blowing off the barbeque!"

Giant Pick-Up Sticks in the wind. Next time, they should try it with flags on top of each stick! Kinda like, um, Spellikans.

For more on this game, and Spellikans, see this


Odd Music

There are probably more connections between junkyard sports and the arts than there are between junkyard sports and, um, sports. The same drive to transform the "useless" into the playworthy, the same spirit that transforms plastic bags and scrap into a soccer ball, the same need to engage, explore, express - can be found in junk sculpture, junk jewelry, junk fashion, and especially, wonderfully, in junk music.

You know, of course, about the junk-playing, dancing art of Stomp, and maybe you even know about the Taiko-like celebrations of junk-made instruments, creativity and choreography of Scrap Arts Music, but for a taste of what junk-inspired musical innovation leads to, take a long look at Odd Music. Spend maybe 15 minutes, or hours, exploring their gallery of traditional and invented instruments. Yes, the art and craft, the discipline, the hundreds of hours that went into the creation of each instrument - these all may seem a far cry from the slapdash improvisations that lead to the creation of things like the Junkyard Golf Club. But the spirit, the need to break from the constraints of the "official," the taking up of the freedom to innovate, even within the confines of the most traditional of forms, the ingenuity that inspires us to make our own, out of whatever, simply because we want to play - these are all, most gloriously, the same.

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The Junkyard Sports Hall of Fame Wants YOU

Have you happened to click your way to the new and everso stimulating Junkyard Sport Hall of Fame? And if so, have you not been vastly entertained and informed by the stories and images therein depicting, for example, golf of both the Ice and Urban kind ? Have you consequently or subsequently wondered if your junkyard sport story and pictures and clips deserve their place in the virtual sun? Have you created perhaps a new and more accurate Junkyard Golf club? Have you made a Junkyard Golf hole using perhaps some hitherto unreported collection of junk? Have you possibly invented something similar to Junkyard Croquet or even Junkyard Horseshoes?

Well, then, The Junkyard Sports Hall of Fame wants you! Well, not necessarily you - but your Junkyard Sport. Pictures. Stories. Clips. Whatever. Well, not exactly whatever.

Poison Pot Proves Playworthy

Poison Pot is one of those sweet little 2-3-player strategy games with just the right balance between the kind of strategic depth that makes you want to play again and again, with the sheer, dumb luck you also need to keep you from taking it too personally when you lose.

In this well-made wooden game a turn consists of moving a piece that is already on the board, and then adding a new piece. Pieces come in three colors. Since the unplayed pieces are turned so that the color is on the bottom, you never know what color you'll be playing until you play it. A piece can be moved in any of six directions on the hexagonal board. The object is to position as many of your color pieces so that they are adjacent to each other.

There is another piece, the Poison Pot. The Poison in the Poison Pot, though not lethal, is just noxious enough to make any adjacent cluster worthless. Since the Poison Pot can be moved, a lot of the beginning strategy is aimed at trying to make sure the Poison Pot doesn't get moved near one of your clusters. Of course, as the board gets filled, strategies change (which helps keep the game so interesting). You might find yourself trying to break up your largest (and highest scoring) cluster, just to avoid poisonous proximity to the pot of pointlessness.

Though the game is definitely easy enough for an eight-year-old to play, with enough luck to make the eight-year-old want to keep playing, the strategic depth might be better appreciated by someone a bit older.

All in all, this game is just the kind of strategy game that the Major FUN Award was created for.

Hot Dog Art

This, as a matter of fact, is an elephant. It was made out of hot dogs. Why make elephants out of hot dogs? You might as well ask: "why make a bird or a butterfly or a duck, in fact, out of hot dogs."

Why? Because you can. And because Nippon Meat Packers, Inc., is there to show you how. Step-by-as-a-matter-of-fact-step.

And one can only thank them for their carefully illustrated instructions. Especially if one doesn't read Japanese. And perhaps even more especially than that if one is considering putting on a JunkFest. For when it comes to exploring the joys of junk food, what a victory for the spirit and the stomach of man awaits those who can make an art, as well as a meal out of it.

Not surprisingly, this whole delicious concept of edible art is often mistakenly more considered child's play than as an adult worthy pursuit. Hence, we are quite maturely justified in turning to Disney's Family Fun website for further inspiration.Hot