Learning from Children - remembering fun

Another thing we learned as children is that nothing is more important than fun - not eating or sleeping, not getting well or doing work. Nothing.

The reason it's so easy to forget - from the time we go to school we're taught, patiently and repeatedly, that there are always other things to do first, before we can have fun. Things like: cleaning out desks, filling out worksheets, doing homework. And as we get older, there are just more and more of these things that have to be done before we can have fun - get a job, find a spouse, build a house. And then eventually there are so many of these things that we simply forget why we were doing them in the first place.

Until we get old enough to retire, and finally there's so little else to do, that just maybe, if we're lucky enough, something'll finally remind us: Everything's done. Now. Now we can have it. Yes now we can have fun.

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Note to a fellow elder

I wrote the following to a colleague, Bruce Williamson, who, like me, after 30 years of teaching people to play and play to people, finds himself oft-despairing about the apparent challenges of continuing on this path.

In this nut's shell - I think it's all packaging. Has nothing to do with who we aren't and everything to do with who we are. What we have, as elders, is a wisdom that's not available to youth, and consequently, not that easily recognizable as a thing worth caring about. Everyone wants to become more playful, to play more. Elders. Youngsters. And when they get to see what marvels of playfulness we "elders of play" have to offer (because some product we have made has somehow semi-magically found its way to them), they are delighted, excited, inspired.

I think this culture has different assumptions than the culture we grew up with. But the humanity hasn't changed. The need to play hasn't changed. So we have to, you and I, find other ways to do what we are, other ways to share that with people. Like maybe podcasting. Like maybe CDs. Performances. Theatre. Like maybe a different audience in a different guise.

I think we just have to play on, you and I, and not let go. Not ever.

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Catching Motes

Yesterday I learned that my nine-month-old grandson Zev (now living in Michigan) was sitting in a sunbeam trying to catch dust motes.

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Bernie DeKoven's Politically Correct Anti-Terrorist Device

Now that I have to go into an actual city every actual week, I find myself thinking more often about the strangely harsh realities of people in other cities, like in Baghdad. Which is why I am so tickled by my latest, and arguably silliest creation: BERNIE DEKOVEN'S POLITICALLY CORRECT ANTI-TERRORIST DEVICE

Yes, that's correct, politically-speaking, you, too, can now feel smug and secure as you descend into the turmoil and terror of everyday city life, simply by wearing your completely Official, Bernie DeKoven, More Than Reasonably Polite, Anti-Terrorist Device.

Save yourself, correctly, for only $1.75 plus shipping and stuff.

And, should you find yourself experiencing an even more altruistic bent, consider buying a hundred of 'em and sending them all to the next Mid-East Peace Talks.

Today's FunCast: Linkity

It's today's FunCast and it's all about the latest game to earn the coveted Major Fun Award - Linkity and the Games Tasting we had with the Major, Rick, Celia Pearce, Ricky H, and Tamara.

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Linkity

Linkity is a fast-action word / card game from Simply Fun that is most definitely FUN in a Major kind of way.

The deck consists of 81 cards. Each card has a single letter on it, along with a cartoon of a letter-shaped bugs. Why bugs? According to the manufacturer, there is "no particular reason - we just liked the bugs." Players are dealt hands of 7 cards. After the first card is played, players compete to put the next card down - while saying a word that starts with the letter on the card, and is related to whatever word the previous player used. Let's say Tamara starts with the letter "A" and say "Apple." Let's say Rick throws down his "S" card and says "Slice." And then Celia, throwing down her "G" card says, naturally, "Golf." See, the word "Golf," though having nothing to do with the original word "Apple," can be demonstrably linked to the word "Slice." Hence the name of the game: Linkity.

Each player (3-8) begins a round with seven cards. Players don't take turns, they simply go as soon as they can think of a contextually appropriate word that starts with a letter that appears on one of their cards (though you can only put one card down per turn) and has something to do with the word just said. And yes, of course, players can challenge each other (greatly adding to the intrigue and potential silliness of play). The first player to use all her cards wins the round. The rest are penalized one point for each card remaining in their hands. A full game requires three rounds and takes maybe a half-hour.

Since there are no turns, you really have to think fast, and often creatively in order to win. It's this creativity-under-pressure that adds both to the hilarity and intensity of the game, and adds to the temptation to try words that aren't quite exactly, well, linked. Which adds correspondingly to the party-like spirit of the whole game.

When playing for the first time, disregard the first round. This gives everyone a chance to get a good understanding of the slightly subtle concept that a word needs only to relate to the immediately preceding word. The game works best when players are of roughly equal ability. So, if there are kids around, let them play their own game. They deserve it.

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Learning about play from Children

There are two kinds of Childhood Truths, and one of them is eternally true, true as any other kind of truth, adult or divine.

It's that kind, the childhood kind that are true forever, that form the basis for Deep Fun.

It's the kind of truth that was taught to me, when I was a child, addressing my Inner Adult. Truths I promised to remember and defend with a maturity of purpose beyond my years.

I wrote a little article about it. About the a certain kind of truth we learn as children - I guess you'd call it a "youth truth" - that is eternally true. True beyond childhood. Beyond adulthood even. True unto death.

This is the first time I've said anything about my work having anything to do with children, publicly, at least. My life in games has focused heavily and fairly consistently on adults. Yea, the very formation of the Games Preserve and my involvement with organizations like the New Games Foundation and institutions like the Esalen Institute, have all been firmly rooted in play as something for adults to do together, with each other - something true, and meaningful, and empowering, and loving, and safe and often hilarious. And all that time, I've had to struggle against the notion that what I'm doing and asking other people to do is, well childish. From my perspective, Deep Fun has always been a profoundly adult experience.

But, the fact is, that what I've learned about play I learned mostly when I was a child, addressing my Inner Adult while my Outer Child was busy at play. Eternal truths of eternal youth, true beyond all the untruths and half truths of childhood. And as an adult who plays with other adults in most adult-like manners - professionally, even - it was one of the last things I wanted to admit, that all this is based on, rooted in, what I've been able to learn from children.

But today, when I looked at the Deep Fun site, and at Junkyard Sports and at Major Fun, the truth was unavoidable. All the truths about play and life that I teach as an adult, I learned as a child and learn still from children. And what I have best learned as an adult, is how to teach them to other adults.

"Learning from Children." It's what I've done, been doing. Learning from Children about play. And the people I've been touched most deeply by are those very people who also learn from children, from childhood. Which led me to one of the most giggly Googles I've ever experienced, to find suddenly how connected my work in play has been, to so many disciplines, and to people who write articles like these:
Learning From Children "Spend time with children. Learn more about laughter, spontaneity, curiosity, acceptance, resilience, trust, determination, and your imagination. They are here to teach us!"

Being Playful - learning from children - Check out this wonderful abstract: "This paper explores children's understanding as a resource and inspiration for interface design and beyond. From children we can understand innate intelligences and skills, including a sense of number and the nature of play. Play is possibly one of the origins of imagination, which in turn is essential for our own creative thought. Surprisingly few adults engage in creative play, but it is when adult-like rationality and child-like imagination meet that we can best produce effective and innovative solutions. Even writing a paper has aspects of playfulness, such as the puzzle of phrasing an abstract in exactly one hundred words... or so"

TEACHING THE WAY CHILDREN LEARN "Constructivist classrooms operate on the premise that learning in school need not, and should not, be different from the many rich natural forms of learning that students have experienced before they have ever entered the corridors of a school. "

Museums and the Web 2004 : Papers : Neal & Van Wormer, Making Learning Fun ... "When fun is overemphasized, children focus more on the gaming and little learning results. The optimal educational impact is achieved when learning becomes fun."

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Experiments in Interactivity I

Stand by. My course with Tracy Fullerton at the USC School of Cinema/Television CTIN 534: Experiments in Interactivity I has a blogsite. The first class meets this Thursday. I go to lolly and gag with the fortunate few in the name of better games and more fun, of spontaneity and improvisation and a grade.

In the mean time, the blog awaits. Complete with syllabus. Hyperlinked.

Fun and Circuses


"Cirque du Soleil
began with a very simple dream. A group of young entertainers got together to amuse audiences, see the world, and have fun doing it. Every year, the audiences get bigger, we continue to discover new places and ideas and we're still having fun." - Founder's Message

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Of Play and Peace

Here's another contribution to our growing understanding of playfulness - a commentary by the evermore colleaguial Roger Greenaway. I quote it in its totality. Why post it in it's entirety again? The answer will be obvious momentarily:
"Today's playfulness message reminds me of something I was reading yesterday from the Praxis Peace Institute: '...peace requires an active and conscious co-creation process. It is not a passive state or a pause between wars; consequently, peace cannot take root in a passive environment.'

"The connection I make is that playfulness is not the absence of something like work, seriousness or depression (Brian Sutton-Smith's opposite of play) but is 'an active and conscious co-creation process.' Of course, the suppression of play can be equally conscious - in Roald Dahl's Matilda, the monstrous bullying teacher, Mrs. Trunchbull, says: 'Me a baby! How dare you! I was never a baby!'

"We have a culture in which the language of parents and teachers discourages play. I have been trying to do the opposite. One small step, as a teacher, was refusing to call 'recess', 'break' or 'interval' anything but 'playtime' - a word that most teenage children associate with primary school. At one of the first primary schools I visited as a student teacher all the teachers including (and especially) the headteacher would go out into the playground at playtime and play with the children. I thought this was the norm. Unfortunately it was just a wonderful exception!"

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"My inner playground was getting pretty interesting when I realized that gravity, scale, color and sound could be controlled by me in an instant"

Some new rides for your "personal playground" from friend and artist Bob Gregson:
"My inner playground was getting pretty interesting when I realized that gravity, scale, color and sound -- and whatever else -- could be controlled by me in an instant. I could play hide and seek with my tiny two selves on my shirt as I sat in the dentists chair (I hid in a crease and almost slipped off but was able to grab onto a button). Also, the walls and ceiling could be manipulated (I squeezed the hygenist into a corner -- the naughty Bob). Then I escaped out the window and enlarged myself -- with each foot placed on the top of a trailer truck going down the highway. Thank goodness they were going about the same speed! I also found myself in some silly spaces of my own invention -- or twirling mirrors to see who would be reflected when they stopped -- whoever might pop into my head (Ed Sullivan? Grandma Moses? Captain Crunch?...and why them?!)."


He goes on. Read it. Here.

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iTunes Users - Subscribe to the Funlog Podcast

Yup, if you use iTunes, you can now subscribe to Podcast Fridays with Bernie. Just click subscribe.

Fridays with Bernie - Duck Duck Goose

It's Friday with Bernie once again. Today's Podcast is about how a game called "Duck-Duck-Goose" changed my life. It's from a presentation I made last Sunday to the South Bay Unitarian Fellowship. I gave a few readings from "Recess for the Soul," and then basically shmoozed. It was a small, but wonderfully responsive gathering, and it was really fortuitous that I just happened to bring my new (stand by for pure geekery) Olympus WS-200s digital voice recorder with an ME-50s microphone.

The whole recording is a little over an hour. (One of the great things about a digital voice recorder with 128 megs of memory is that it can record, in stereo, for up to 4.5 hours using one AAA battery - without having to change tapes or anything!) It captured the experience I had with a wonderfully responsive and deep-thinking audience, with faithful fidelity, in stereo. If you want a copy, let me know. A $6 donation for burning and shipping will cover it nicely.





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Columns - a game of strategic stacking

Columns is another beautifully crafted game "PIN" from Out-of-the-Box's Masterpiece collection. The two-player "stacking game" involves building on a matrix of 3x4 wooden pins. Each player has a collection of wooden pieces: "L"-shaped, rectangular and square "blockers" and disk-shaped "roundels." There are 12 roundels, and they are the only pieces that can score, and they only score when they are placed on top of a column. Columns are built in five layers. A roundel can not be placed on top of an opponent's blocker.

Rule-wise, that's pretty much it. Well, you also can't put two of the same kind of blockers on top of each other. And you can't leave any gaps. Other than that, the game is one of careful anticipation as you try to build a foundation that will be topped by your roundels and not your opponent's.

At first, it's almost impossible to understand the implications of the different kinds of pieces. You place something in the matrix. You build. You are surprised. As you play repeatedly you get a growing appreciation for the strategic value of each different piece. If you are evenly matched, the subtleties continue to reveal themselves game after game. And you still get surprised.

For people who like 3-D puzzles and games of strategy, Major FUN, in deed.

Playfulness

Even when we are "at play" we seldom play playfully. Baseball, bridge, bowling. Games, yes. Play, rarely.

One of the challenges that seems to confront me on at least a daily basis is explaining to myself and the public at large what exactly it is that I'm doing here, and perhaps even why. You would think that after almost 40 years of doing pretty much the same thing I would have found the key turn of phrase that would have once and all unlocked this consistent mystery.

I'm not actually complaining. I'm certain that the concerns I face have been faced by many of the brightest and shiniest of faces - those belonging to the stubborn few who have insisted on inventing their own darn selves, walking their own silly paths, seeing with their own unique visions.

The odd thing is that I've had the answer at least several times. That it, in fact, probably hasn't at all been the search for the answer that has proven to be such a monumental challenge, but rather my apparent inability to remember the question.

And so it with a profound and thorough sigh that I find myself returning to the idea of "playfulness" and to once again addressing the consistently escalating need we all share for learning and relearning the art of play.

It is no wonder I forget. I watch television. I read the newspaper. I spend time with adults and children who spend most of their days in institutions that methodically drain away the capacity for joy, where laughter is, to say the least, suspect. I, with you, live in a culture whose very roots invalidate playfulness.

But now that I've again remembered, perhaps I can help create for us a small shared reality wherein we can, as necessary, remind each other: to play playfully, to work playfully, to live playfully. Whenever, wherever, however possible.

It has been, after all, after these 40 years, whether I remember or not, my mission, my purpose, my one consistent reason.

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Fun is important!

The article "Play's the Thing," begins with one of my favorite quotes from one of my favorite, oldest, and most enlighteningly cantankerous of colleagues, Brian Sutton-Smith. "The opposite of play is not work," he says, "it's depression." This, alone, made me want to read the entire page.

It turns out that this is a most refreshingly scholarly collection of contributions by some of our most gifted thinkers on the nature of play. There's a collection of articles about the educational benefits of computer games, and a mind-opening gathering of playful pith relating to the functions and benefits of play, which includes a profound, and somewhat painful quote by biologist Mark Bekoff: "Kids are discouraged from playing because they've got to go to school...They have all these things to do after school that adults think of as play--but Little League isn't play, in many ways." The article goes on to explain: "Organised sports are too structured to emulate spontaneous play, and there's often so much pressure involved that after-school activities aren't even fun. With schooling beginning earlier and becoming increasingly exam-oriented, play is likely to get even less of a look-in. 'We have basically become a playless society; says Bekoff. Who knows what the result of that will be.'"

The article goes on to include studies about the nature and benefits of laughter, and concludes with pointers to more resources about play. It is only one of many resources available on a site called "The Educational Cyber Playground," which also includes the ambitiously delicious, add-your-own-song, "National Children's Folksong Repository." All of which helps to validate my currentmost oversimplification: "Fun is important." And don't let anything make you forget it!

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Fridays with Bernie

Herrrrrre's Bernie: August 12, 2005

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Loot - an elegantly strategic card game

Loot turns out to be a surprisingly elegant, fast-paced, and quite strategic card game for 2-5 players (or up to 8 players in playing in teams). Designed by the deservedly successful and astonishingly prolific designer of board and card games, Reiner Knizia, Loot is a competition between pirate captains, trying to capture the most valuable merchant ships.

There are three kinds of cards in the deck of 78: 25, innocent-looking merchant ships carrying various amounts of gold; 48, menacing, skull-and-crossbone-wielding pirate ships; four totally outrageous pirates, and one equally outrageous-looking Admiral pirate. Each player begins the game with six cards. On your turn, you may play a merchant ship and hope that it doesn't get attacked during that round (because, if it doesn't, all the gold it is carrying is yours!). You may also play a pirate ship, in the hopes that your pirate ship (and any other pirate ships of the same color played in subsequent rounds) have the highest total value. You may even play a pirate or admiral card, if you really, really want a particular merchant ship.

Because the rounds can continue as long as other pirates are fighting over a merchant ship, it is very easy, and tempting, to continue a battle, just for the pure piratical joys of it all. Which, of course, is an invitation to an early and conceptually wet grave. Especially if the ship you're fighting over isn't worth it. Yes, yes, there's luck, but there are also the strategic delights of luring other players into battle until they all but exhaust their resources.

It's one of the few card games I know that recommend team play, in essence, sharing two hands while conspiring against other similarly two-handed teams. This can add some delicious moments of shared gloating, and helps to ameliorate the agony of defeat at the hands of the luckier.

All in all, Major FUN.

Junkyard Bowling as an Artistic Arithmo-Political Statement

The world premiere of Junkyard Bowling took place Thursday, August 4, in a hallway at the LA Convention Center, during the SIGGRAPH 2005 Conference. The Junkyard Sports event, produced by the Ludica (a game design cooperative) Game Atelier, also included a similarly sweetly significant game of Junkyard Golf. The significance? That we were playing with junk (posters, bags, paper cups, a Rubik's Cube and other miscellaneous exhibitor bric-a-brac) at probably one of the highest of high technology events. It wasn't so much that we were trying to make a particular point, but rather a counterpoint.

Junkyard Bowling was created collaboratively by whoever happened to be in the hallway at the time. The design, manufacture, and layout of the "pins" turned out to be a work of art in its own right. In searching for an object heavy enough to knock our pins over, we came upon a Rubik's Cube of all but perfect heft. Then someone noticed that the cube looked very much like a die, as in one of a pair of dice. Then someone put numbers on the die. And the rest is history. Junkyard Bowling. Played with a die. Your score, the number of pins you knock down, multiplied by the number on the die when it finally comes to rest. And oh, the unanticipated glee of it all. The arithmetic delight of scoring a potential 54 for a single throw (we were playing nine-pin bowling), the subtle properties of the rolling cube bouncing off the wall and into the remaining pins, and, best of all, the unparalleled joy of being part of a collaboratively and spontaneously contrived work of play, made out of junk, in the hallway of the LA Convention Center, during a conference dedicated to heightening high technology!

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Of Play, Sisterhood, and the HEXA-DODECA-FLEXAGON

In her article "Flexagon Fever," Ela Schwartz pretty much explains all you need to know about the nature and allure of the flexagon. She writes:
"What is a flexagon, you ask? At first glance it looks innocuous enough, like a folded hexagon or square, a child's fortune teller or cootie catcher, or a piece of origami. But look closely and you'll see hidden layers lurking between the front and back. When you fold or pinch corners together, the flexagon 'flexes,' meaning a formerly hidden layer will come to light as the top layer folds underneath."
In a subsequent sister, Ela's sister, Ann Schwartz, writes about her discovery of the HEXA-DODECA-FLEXAGON, which, she explains,
"...flexes into totally new shapes in its flattened positions. One is a hexagon in which the triangles are arranged in a nonradial fashion. The other is what can be described as a triangle-shaped propeller: a large triangle with smaller triangles arranged around it. The hexa-dodeca flexagon also naturally combines triangles from its basic faces to produce a number of hybrid faces, all this with proper flexing, no twisting or pulling. And the flexagon has what I call 'rogue' triangles, a pair of triangles that swing along 1 hinge; the triangles are not attached to the flexagon on all 3 sides. Oddly enough, even when these triangles are not lying in what one would consider the right position, the hexa-dodeca still flexes smoothly."
For those of us who share fascination in the ever unfolding mysteries of fun, Ela and Ann's delight is infectiously validating, no matter how many sides or shapes their toys of wonder embrace.

One Button Games

The mighty Milk and Cookies blog had an entry about a game called "Kax." It reminded me, fondly, of many conversations I had, many years ago, with Dr. David Thornburg, about "one-button games." Dave and I were fascinated by the challenge of creating a computer game that would be playable by children with limited mobility. A one-button game, in theory, could be played competitively by a child with a mouth straw against a fully-abled adult.

LightwavesAt the time, I was being interviewed for a position as game design consultant for Children's Computer Workshop, a short-lived division of Children's Television Workshop. I was so intrigued by our conversation that the first game I proposed was my own version of a one-button game called "Lightwaves," (later purchased by CBS Software).

(Another aside - I needed to build a prototype. Looking for a good, fast programmer to help me, I found someone named Dave Winer. Yup, the same Dave Winer who is currently the "father of podcasting." All of which is maybe some kind of testimonial to the power of an idea that's built on compassion, and the serendipity of living near people who shared in the compassion, the curiosity, and the Silicon Valley.)

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Playground Football

It's called "Playground Football," though we Statesiders would probably call it "Playground Soccer." We might also find it a bit, shall we say, arcane in its use of UK-specific playground language, and rather cheekily written, tongue-in-wise. But it is nevertheless something of a classic, and gives us an insight into the spirit of Junkyard Sports in its native manifestation.

"The object," writes Christopher Brookmyre, "is to force the ball between two large, unkempt piles of jackets, in lieu of goalposts. These piles may grow or shrink throughout the match, depending on the number of participants and the prevailing weather. As the number of players increases, so shall the piles. Each jacket added to the pile by a new addition to a side should be placed on the inside, nearest the goalkeeper, thus reducing the target area. It is also important that the sleeve of one of the jackets should jut out across the goalmouth, as it will often be claimed that the ball went 'over the post' and it can henceforth be asserted that the outstretched sleeve denotes the innermost part of the pile and thus the inside of the post. The on-going reduction of the size of the goal is the responsibility of any respectable defence and should be undertaken conscientiously with resourcefulness and imagination."

Mr. Brookmyre goes on, and on. "There are no pitch markings," he explains, a "pitch" being what we might call a "field" or "play area." "Instead," he continues, "physical objects denote the boundaries, ranging from the most common - walls and buildings - to roads or burns. Corners and throw-ins are redundant where bylines or touchlines are denoted by a two-storey building or a six-foot granite wall. Instead, a scrum should be instigated to decide possession. This should begin with the ball trapped between the brickwork and two opposing players, and should escalate to include as many team members as can get there before the now egg-shaped ball finally emerges, drunkenly and often with a dismembered foot and shin attached. At this point, goalkeepers should look out for the player who takes possession of the escaped ball and begins bearing down on goal, as most of those involved in the scrum will be unaware that the ball is no longer amidst their feet. The goalkeeper should also try not to be distracted by the inevitable fighting that has by this point broken out."

This wonderful little piece reminds us of the inventiveness, as well as the peculiar "rough-and-tumble" delights of playground play, at least as it was, and might still be played, on grounds other than those in the US Schools. For us, it is a perhaps an especially nostalgic reminder, for we have "progressively" outlawed both the tumble and the rough from our playgrounds, and, in the name of a national obsession called "No Child Left Behind," are industriously exploring ways of eliminating both the play and the grounds.

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Listen to more of Recess for the Soul for Free

You can now purchase Recess for the Soul on CDBaby - a very cool site independently devoted to independent producers of independent CDs. Dependently so. Furtherplus, you'll find a significant array (nine) of tracks therein, which are available immediately and without charge, in bandwidth both low and high, for your immediate enlightenment.

You can also now purchase the same above and aforementioned Recess for the Soul on the everpopular Amazon.com.

It is all good. Very good, in fact.

Play on!

Walk the Dogs

Walk the Dogs is probably one of the most beautiful, most playable, and most original family game (8 and up) on the market. How's that for an enthusiastic review?

The game consists of 63 plastic dogs (colorful, carefully detailed, and highly covetable by anyone older than 3) and a deck of cards. The dogs, as this thoroughly instructional video shows, are arranged in a spiral on the center of the table. The cards are cleverly illustrated to indicate how many dogs a player can take from either the front, the back, or both ends of the spiral. Players then take turns, hoping to collect dogs of the same breed. Collected dogs must be placed in back or front of the player's own doggy line. This complicates things just enough, because in order to win, you have to get five dogs of the same breed in a row.

There are also special cards that, true to the spirit of any good competitive game, can be used to increase your chances of winning, or decrease someone else's. One of my first game design mentors, Julie Cooper of the Ideal Toy Company, used to call this the "screw you factor." At least, that's the gist of what he called it.

At $32.00, the game is pricey, but you get a lot of dogs, and, far more importantly, a lot of play value. The one, uh, bone I had to pick was that the Doggy Bag (cute, huh?), though made of a thickly feltish cloth, is a little too small to hold all the dogs, or be put back in the box when full (slated for change when the current supply is exhausted).

In all likelihood, this is not the only game from this company (SimplyFun) to be getting a coveted Major FUN award. The company itself is uniquely notable, Major FUN-wise. Launched in January, 2005, SimplyFun is "a direct selling party plan company offering games and other entertainment play products... (whose)... products are sold in the comfort of your own home, exclusively through a SimplyFun Independent Consultant." SimplyFascinating.

I Like Drawing™

The name of the site is "I Like Drawing™." And, no, it has nothing to do with sports. But junkyard-wise, it's, like, the essence of it all.

Artist Art Stevenson writes: "I walked the streets one day and as I looked around my mind started to change and an idea was created. From this day on I would see rubbish differently....

"You can take a horse to water but can you take to it into an exhibition? Well now you don't have to worry, just let it wonder down the road and look at my Rubbish Drawings.

"So I've been getting up in the very early hours and with my pens I have been to the outside world and been on an adventure drawing on rubbish...I feel like the urban fox keeping its distance from others in the early hours, you might see something crouching down by a bush but don't be scared it's only me. I am quite nice really and will not harm you but I may draw on your rubbish if that's ok."

Most OK, Mr. Stevenson. An enlighteningly light touch of lightheartedness. Playful. Inviting. Junkly.

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Beach Wheelchair

Walking along the beach, seeing all those people at play, the kids, the old people, the flat-bellied beauties, you don't really think about how unfriendly the beach can be. Not if you're walking. But if you're on a wheel chair, you do, you most definitely do. Because rolling a wheelchair across the sand is like impossible. Unless you happen to own an electric Beach Cruzr® with special balloon tires, like the one invented by Hank Weseman.

Hank's invented several different kinds of all-terrain wheelchairs and boat dollies and beach carts. All based on these special balloon tires and Hank's refusal to be limited by the accident he had when driving in the National Jet Boat Association's professional drag boat racing event - an accident that damaged his brain stem and put him in a coma for a week and on life support for a month.

Thing is, these are very cool toys. For the people that have to have them, they're a blessing, of course. And for people on the beach, they're a vehicle to extend the community a little further, to share the sand and surf and sun with more of the human garden. And for any of us who like to think about fun and imagine the kinds of games and sports we could play on these things, all up and down the beach, all the way into the surf, even, well, Hank's Beach Wheelchairs and carts and dollies are just about just as much a gift as they are to those who really need them.