Primal Glee

If you like the whole psychology thing, there's an article I write that seemed to me particularly timely, once again. It's called: The Therapeutics of Primal Glee, and it's the text of today's FunCast.

Labels: ,

Case Mod - The Ultimate List

Case Mod - The Ultimate List, as so lovingly compiled by Neatorama, by means of its very length and variety adds significant legitimacy to what is essentially the Computer Age equivalent of junk art/play.

According to Wikipedia: "Case modding or Case modification is the modification of a computer chassis (often just referred to as the case). Modifying a computer in any non-standard way is considered a case mod. Many people, particularly hardware enthusiasts, use case mods to illustrate a computer's power, and for aesthetic purpose."

According to Bernie, case modding is a modern example of the transformational power of play. Taking something ready-made and purpose-driven, and just thinking about how you could make it into something that is uniquely yours is already a semi-revolutionary act. Doing it seriously, beautifully, creatively, playfully - you redefine the world.

Rethinking youth sports

I found my way to this article - Parks & Recreation: Rethinking youth sports - cooperative games - Research Update, authored by Georgianna Ramsey and Bryan Rank, and published in 1997.

"The movement from competitive games to cooperative games can be beneficial for many reasons. Cooperative games can increase self-esteem, decrease aggressive behaviors, and enhance positive socialization. There have been efforts to study the effects of cooperative games on young children (Chambers & Abrami, 1991; Milton, Cleveland, Bennett-Gates, 1995). One such study evaluated the effects of competitive and cooperative games on aggressive and cooperative behaviors in young children (Bay-Hintz, Peterson & Quiltich, 1994). To evaluate the differences in behavior between competitive and cooperative games, the participants played both types of games, during which behaviors were recorded. The results revealed that during cooperative games, cooperative behaviors increased and aggression decreased. Conversely, competitive games were accompanied and followed by a decrease in cooperative behaviors and an increase in aggression (Bay-Hintz et al). It appears how we play can influence how we behave."

Though I haven't found any webpages documenting how these findings have been put into practice, my guess is that a lot of people like myself are also very busy rethinking youth sports. And me, well I seem to think that the issue is really not between competitive and cooperative games, but rather the community, the playground culture within which these games take place. Like Brian-Sutton Smith, I think a lot of deeply healing fun goes on even in rough-and-tumble play. It's wonderful that people have found that aggression decreases in cooperative games. It's not the games, Horatio, but in the play wherein we catch the consciousness of the players.

You Can't Say You Can't Play

ElizabethVivian Gusson Paley worked as a kindergarten teacher and author of children's books. To read her book You Can't Say You Can't Play, is to be returned to the mind of a child, as understood by the heart of an artist. The author weaves a children's story into the account of an almost painfully democratic attempt to make children's play more inclusive.

Paley discovers the power of rules on children's play. She noted how children responded to being excluded from games - which, at the time, was a rule of play. She saw how profoundly negative, and how long-lasting the pain of rejection could be. And yet, it was almost taken for granted that, even in kindregarten, the unpopular aren't welcome, and that the kids who started the game could keep other kids out. Respecting children and their rules as deeply as her own, Paley authors a new rule, knowing that a rule that seems just and clear and sufficiently universal can actually change the way children play. The rule: "you can't say you can't play."

If you don't appreciate children's stories and being invited to listen in to the rush of interweaving streams of fantasy and actuality, and if you need research results and suggestions for next steps, you're reading the wrong book. For the rest of us, it is a journey through remarkably pure expressions of love and wisdom, fantasy and truth, growth and play - a journey that will teach us and touch us, and all those young lives we learn from and are touched by.

Labels: ,

Confab: a conversation-based blank-card game

To play Confab, you: "Get a load of blank cards; at least ten per person. Everyone then scribbles arbitrary conversational sentences ('Hello.' 'How are you?' 'Yes.' 'No.' 'You're very tall.') onto the cards, until they're all covered. Shuffle them all together, deal five to each person and leave a face-down draw pile."

And then, basically: "Taking turns, players must either play a card from their hand that follows conversationally from the previous card (or opens the conversation, if they're the first to play), or - if they can't go - draw a new card from the draw pile."

If that's not clear enough to result in mutual merriment, you'll find everything you need to know on the aforementioned webpage.

Found through Discordian Games!: "Discordian Games
Making Play Less Work Than Ever."

Why We Laugh

The text for today's FunCast can be found here.

What can't be found either place follows:

Marie Martin. That's the wonderful person who gave me the Gumleaf album. An amazing spirt, that Marie. Playful. Caring. Passionate.

Herb Patton's CD and booklet "How to Play the Gumleaf" can be found here.

Labels: ,

Fun is Good - (and how to make it so)

(I added the "and how to make it so" part. I'll explain why before the paragraph is over.)Fun is Good is the actual name of a Rodale Press book by Mike "Maverick Marketing Whiz" Veeck and veteran sports and business journalist Pete Williams, is, as you might guess, an exhortation. To fun and those who want to have it. Exhorting us to do just that, to have it. Now. How? By making it fun.

It's an important, empowering message for anyone who believes that work should be more fun. It tells them: you're right, it should. Therefore go, ye, and make it so.

In the business world, where many of us are still really not sure that it is OK to have fun, or even to look like you're having fun, or even to want it to be fun; fun is often a hard, hard sell. So when Veeck, with all his many successes in minor league baseball, makes it all kind of actually well GOOD to have fun, good even for business, we basically want to ignore him passionately or embrace him with equal passion.

Everyone, in every sphere of human endeavor and society we can imagine, can use a champion like Veeck, a coach who pushes you, pushes you, pushes you to make things fun, to have fun, to be fun, to believe in the bottom-line power of fun.

So we welcome Mr. Veeck, and anoint him with the title of "Defender of the Playful." Another voice for fun. A different voice. A voice that is making itself heard.

There are other games, other ways of playing, other ways to invite fun, and I am certain that as Mr. Veeck continues his explorations he'll have new and better news to bring us about the sheer goodness of fun, and the sheer devotion it takes to make work fun, and vice versa. In the mean time, and in the future, whether we partake or not, we are all a bit better off because of Mr. Veeck's vision and passion.


Humor and Play: Joyfully Overcome Relationship Hurdles

Humor and Play: Joyfully Overcome Relationship Hurdles is a new article appearing in a rather remarkable health information resource called "Help Guide." Rather remarkable, at least from my perspective because it also coincidentally just happens to include an article that I co-authored with Dr. Jeanne Segal "Playing Together for Fun."

The article itself is also of the rather remarkable ilk, opening with a quote from Major Fun, himself, and mine, too.

Now that you know what peaked my interest, let me go on to suggest what might peak yours with some semi-random samples:
"Love play is not a competitive game; it has to be fun, interesting and equally engaging for both partners. There can be no winners or losers in interactive play. Something isnít funny unless it is funny to both parties Ė and this includes teasing. Each person has to be excited and drawn into the experience. When this is the case, nothing is more stimulating. If, or when, the playful experience isnít mutual, the play isnít interactive and may detract from, rather than support, a love relationship..."

"Play gives us an opportunity to turn frustrations and negative experiences into opportunities for shared fun and intimacy. In the context of interactive play, we replace judgment and criticism with humor, and can say and do things that might be awkward or offensive in other contexts. In playful settings we hear things differently and can tolerate learning things about ourselves that we otherwise might find unpleasant or even painful. Play also gives us a positive way to address differences."

"Play is a powerful survival mechanism that supports our ability to surmount lifeís hardships and tragedies. Whole civilizations brought to their knees have survived over time by enlisting the force of humor and play to counteract their distress. Deeply experienced emotions can alternate rapidly. One moment we can be in the throes of grief and the next laughing at a ridiculous memory or comment. Such is the nature of primary emotion. Humor and play are respites from sadness and pain but, more than just time out, play also imbues us with the courage and strength to find new sources of meaning and hope."

Labels: , ,

Of Art and Fun, cont'd

I received an email from Mr. Smith, asking me if I thought his art would be of interest to my readers. I clicked, pointed, clicked again, and saw wonder after wonder of playful art and artful play and sometimes even both. I wrote back to Mr. Smith, asking him if he might say something to us about what he perceives as the art-fun connection. He responded:
"People often ask me how I get the ideas for creating my sculptures. The truth is I usually donít know what a sculpture will be until it is actually in the process of being built. I approach my work with a very wide expectation of what it may become, and I try to allow myself to let it go in the direction it wants to go.

"Most of it is trial and error, a kind of form follows function construction process. If an element is not working or just doesnít do what I had hoped, I will cut it off and try something else.

"I enjoy the raw creativity in this process. I am constantly observing the world around me seeing things that capture my attention. Sometimes I will try to incorporate these elements into my art somehow or it will spark an idea that leads to another idea and so on. My strongest pieces are usually the ones I had the most fun making. Art doesnít always have to be serious, political or even emotional. Sometimes it can just be fun.

"Sometimes when people look at my Kinetic or Rolling Ball Sculptures they will ask, 'What does it do?' I usually answer, 'Itís doing it.'"


The Romance of Sound and Senses

Ken Feit was a fool. He touched our lives briefly and profoundly, teaching me, for example, how to make my very own Hand Frog.

He died as we all eventually do, tragically, and too young. Those he touched are forever connected through his inspired madness. One, performer, story-teller and fellow Feit-follower Sam Yada Cannarozi, sent me a copy of an old work of Ken's, called "The Romance of Sound and Senses." As I read it, everywhere in it I could feel Ken's loving wonder, still present in my life.

Here's a taste:
dugacha chakut, dugacha chakut, dugacha chakut


alora fasoma

salugot fasinkel

dugacha chakut, dugacha chakut.......pooff!

"This is what this poem says to me. The first line tells me of a sculptor whoís beginning to work on a block of marble. Heís digging into it with his chisel and hammer, and pulling out pieces of marble...dugacha chakut, dugacha chakut, dugacha chakut...dug, dig, gotcha, got you marble, I got you, dug, dig, dugacha......cha, penetrating, kut, cutting and resisting with a blunted point....ttt....dugacha chakut. In the second line he blows the dust off his chisel....klinkeruff, the klinky metal....ufff of a blow and the dust flies off all over the floor with the chips. And then he stops and looks at his statue and imagines it complete, a masterpiece, so smooth and fine and brilliant....flora fasooma. But he opens his eyes again and sees it for what it is, very rude, incomplete....salugot fasinkel. The fasooma and the fasinkel is the difference between a dream and the real thing. The sculptor is a realist with a twinkle in his eye and he goes back to work....dugacha chakut, dugacha chakut....pooff!"

I made unauthorized PDF of the file, for you to read and give to every one. As soon as I fix my printer, I'm going to make a copy to read to my grandchildren. If you know of anyone who actually has the copyright for this work, please let us know about each other.

Here is the file.

For more about Ken, see: Joseph Martin's "Foolish Wisdom: Stories, Activities, and Reflections from Ken Feit, I.F. (Itinerant Fool)"

Labels: ,

FunCast: Fun, Work, and the ImagineCamô

Today's Funcast: Fun, Work, and the ImagineCamô, is beyond a light-hearted romp into the powers of the imagination. Not much beyond. But beyond enough to make one think that one could build whole new enterprises with little more than an ImagineCamô and assorted Imaginary Multimediaô



StreetWars: A 3 week long, 24/7, watergun assassination tournament.

OK, it's not my cup of tea, let alone my gun of water. It's Stuart Brand's concept of "Soft War" gone wet. (see this article for an excellent description of New Games in its heyday.) And though I prefer games where we practice peace rather than play war, play is play, and playing with war is something we need to do as long as there are people who take war seriously.
"StreetWars is a 3 week long, 24/7, watergun assassination tournament that has already taken place in New York City, Vancouver, Vienna, San Francisco and is now coming to Los Angeles (March 14-April 3).

At the start of the game you will receive a manila envelope containing the following:

* A picture of your intended target(s)
* The home address of your intended target(s)
* The work address of your intended target(s)
* The name of your intended target(s)
* Contact information of your intended target(s)

"Upon receipt of these items, your (or your team's) mission is to find and kill (by way of water gun, water balloon or super soaker) your target(s).

"You can hunt your target down any way you see fit; you can pose as a delivery person and jack them when they open the door, disguise yourself and take them out on the street, etc.

"If you are successful in your assassination attempt, the person you killed will give you their envelope and the person they were supposed to kill becomes your new target. This continues until you work yourself through all the players and retrieve the envelope with your (or your team's) picture(s) and name(s). Then you win. Cash¬?but first live in fear."
If fear is what you want to live in, semi-pretend, relatively inconsequential fear is probably the best fear of all. Be sure to read some of the participants' stories, such as these from the historic battle of Vancouver.


Dumpster Diamonds

Cores-Decorative "2" x 4" diameter kraft cores with a variety of glossy, colorful patterns, 7 per pound $2.00.

One of more than 30 pre-packaged collections of basement-priced junk. From Trash for Teaching - one of the few remaining such enterprises. I first encountered something like this in the early 70s at the Durham Child Development Center, where I worked with founders Don and Lore Rasmussen and director Peter Buttenweiser. It was a remarkable resource, where teachers could go, for free, and build furniture, bookshelves and games for their classroom. The availability of scrap material and collection centers, and a significant amount of government funding were key to the program's longevity. But the success of the program came from the people it drew - young, motivated teachers who believed in their calling, and the importance of their work.
"Trash for Teaching collects, stores and sorts enormous amounts of clean, cast-off materials from manufacturing processes. We work with school districts to develop guidelines utilizing these materials in conjunction with current standards-based curricula, and deliver the materials and guidelines directly to schools for teachers to introduce in classroom projects.

"These materials--or 'Dumpster Diamonds'--have inherent versatile qualities that stimulate children's imagination and encourage learning in any subject, from Math and Science, to Art, Music, Theatre and Literacy.

"Items like cores, spools, cones, giant tubes, fabric, plastic webbing, paper, wire, tiles, wood pieces and many more countless doodads quickly become coveted treasures with which children can explore and create. The use of these 'found' items, along with traditional learning materials, fosters creativity and reinforces creative problem solving. Due to their variety and abundance, these materials can be anything to any child, limited only by his or her own imagination, culture, and personal experience."
The idea was visionary 35 years ago. And it is even moreso today. Tie the easy availability of these inspired collections of scrap with concepts like Junkyard Sports, and we can celebrate yet one more hope for the future of childhood and all playkind.


Shiny Mudballs

It's a thing that kids do in Japan - make these amazing Shiny Mudballs - spending hour after hour forming and polishing their mudballs until they become spheres of reflective perfection. Elementary school kids, kindergarteners, pre-schoolers. So this guy, Professor Fumio Kayo of the Kyoto University of Education, decides to study this phenomenon. According to the article, the professor believes that learning about these Shiny Mudballs and the kids who make them will reveal the essence of child's play.

In the mean time, he has come up with the very thing you were most hoping for - a concise set of instructions for the making thereof. The article says:
"Through 200 failed experiments and an analysis using an electron microscope, Kayo was finally able to devise a method of making dorodango that could be followed by anyone, including children." And here, at last, the good professor's findings:
1. Pack some mud into your hand, and squeeze out the water while forming a sphere.
2. Add some dry dirt to the outside and continue to gently shape the mud into a sphere.
3. When the mass dries, pack it solid with your hands, and rub the surface until a smooth film begins to appear.
4. Rub your hands against the ground, patting and rubbing the fine, powdery dirt onto the sphere. Continue this for two hours.
5. Seal the ball in a plastic bag for three or four hours. Upon removing the sphere, repeat step 4, and then once again seal the sphere in a plastic bag.
6. Remove the ball from the bag, and if it is no longer wet, polish it with a cloth until it shines.
Practice, practice, practice, and soon, you will develop a vast respect for childhood, and Japanese children, and mud.

Thanks for the link go to the inimitable Roger Greenaway.


Planarity. It's a puzzle. It's a kinda minimal puzzle, graphics-wise. There's an art to that, you know, making a puzzle that requires so little from technology and so much from our minds. Kinda maximal, fascinating-wise.

See the ball-like points? You can click on any of them and drag them to a new position. See those lines connected to the ball-like points? When you move the point they're connected to, they stretch. The puzzle: Move the balls. Stretch the lines. Until no line crosses any other.

Easy to understand. Easy to play with. And yet, remarkably challenging. Kind of the perfect formula for a good puzzle.

Caution, like all good puzzles, it can get very challenging, very rapidly. The first puzzle is way easier than the 9th. In fact, you can solve it in just one move. Can't you?

Suggested by my sacred and only son, husband of my similarly sacred and only daughter-in-law, play facilitator for four of my actual grandchildren.

FunCast: My Business Card

Bernie's Business CardToday's FunCast is, in fact, as advertised, about my business card. Honestly.


Intergenerational Kickball

Funscout Kris Bordessa sent me this link from today's West Hawaii Today. If you're not already a member, you have to join (name, email address). I'm not really much of a joiner, but if Kris, author of Team Challenges (you can listen to my interview here), tells me to look at something, it's gotta be worth the price of membership. So I click. And I look. And look! It's about Intergenerational Kickball!

And I read more. And I'm so moved. And so encouraged. Almost to the level of thinking "my job here on your planet is done," if you know what I mean. Not to prejudice you. Here. Read this. And you tell me.
"'You can tell we don't have any rules here,' joked mother and game coordinator Lani Bowman. 'We had one of the dad's come who's a baseball coach and he couldn't handle it.'

"Actually, there were quite a few rules that were announced as the game went on. First, and most important for the mature players in the game, was no beaning anyone over 40. But feel free to wallop anyone else with the ball as they run wildly past.

"Everyone gets to kick twice before the sides switch and you can start running when the pitcher releases the ball. Plus, someone has to run for 85-year-old Auntie Rose after she kicks.

"These are the types of things childhood memories are made of -- cool and clear Sunday afternoons with kids and "grown-up" kids screaming, running, laughing and getting dirty with little structure attached. For the group of 10 participating in this intergenerational kickball game at Kamehameha Park in Kohala this Sunday afternoon, the only thing they needed to worry about was the occasional rock in their shoe....

"'I love to mingle with the children,' said Rose Ramos, who at 85 was the veteran player of the group. 'The children are having fun so to be a part of it is fun.'"
Intergenerational Kickball. Organized for the fun of it. And because people were looking for "a way for the keiki [kids] in the area to interact with their elders and each other to build a stronger sense of community in an area that struggles with poverty, broken homes and drugs."

And they sure found a good one!

(see also my collection of Intergenerational Games.)

Labels: , ,

Synchronized Fish

Synchronized Fish. Click, watch, be amazed, be very amazed. Then read the rest of this.

OK. Let's suppose this guy really did train these fish to do those things when he did his. And, yes, it is an astonishing feat of...what? Silliness? Wackiness? Patience? Uselessness? How about "playfulness?" Genuine, deep, disciplined playfulness, the fish and the fish-master meeting in play, training each other to move this way with the fins, that way with the fingers.


Junkyard Minigolf

My son the research scientist at Soar Technology writes:

I led our HCI (Human/Computer Interface) sector in a round of junkyard minigolf at lunch today.

The cool rule on that course was the 'stopping rule.'

The ball was a super-ball. It had a tendency to bounce, and the walls weren't high enough. So you were allowed to put your finger on it while it was still rolling to stop it and then flick it from there.

The other course was on the floor. We used two 'balls' - the rubber brains my company uses for marketing. They don't roll well at all. Our clubs were whiteboard markers and a whiteboard eraser, clicked together and taped (the tape was a baaaad idea). We had an obstacle on the floor, and a ramp, and a thing you had to hit, and somethings you had to go between.

The cool rule there was that, rather than trying to get it in the hole in the fewest hits, the goal was the shortest time. We had two people going at once - a race (sort of like curling, but not at all). One of the most fun parts of that was when your club broke. It got a little too hectic, but there was a lot of laughing.

A difference between the two groups that was particularly cool was the way the team worked together. On the table, in the small, they basically had to take turns changing the course and changing rules. In contrast, on the floor, in the larger, we iterated over a lot of possible holes, balls, courses, rules, etc.

(btw, our first attempt was one of us on an office chair as the ball, the other person pushed the chair, thus being the golfer and the golfclub at the same time)

It was a lot of fun!


Seuss Mob

Last month I read about a group of people in Baltimore who were going to get together on Saturday, March 4th (two days after Dr. Seuss' birthday), dress up in Seuss-themed costumes, and read "Green Eggs and Ham" at random street corners. At first I thought about driving to Baltimore to join them, but then I decided, why not try to do the same thing in Pittsburgh, where I live?

So I did. And we did. Not a lot of us, mind you, but enough to put smiles on peoples faces and bring a little sunshine to an otherwise cold and cloudy day. "Seuss Mob" it was called.

People smiled and cheered as they walked by. Honked and waved from passing vehicles. Families stopped to listen to us finish the story, and lots of people snapped pictures with their camera phones.

It felt great to be able to bring unexpected smiles and laughter to everyone, and even more so to the random people who joined us. I think this event proved that you don't have to have a large group to share the spirit of cacophony--and a little bit of happiness--with the world. A few dedicated people can get the job done!


from Noise E. Piranha

Labels: ,

The Cloud Appreciation Society

The Cloud Appreciation Society includes, amongst its several many wonders, a gallery of cloudular wonders, a discussion board, and a most delightfully insightful manifesto that begins like this:
"WE BELIEVE that clouds are unjustly maligned
and that life would be immeasurably poorer without them.

"We think that they are Natureís poetry,
and the most egalitarian of her displays, since
everyone can have a fantastic view of them.

"We pledge to fight 'blue-sky thinking' wherever we find it.
Life would be dull if we had to look up at
cloudless monotony day after day."
Blue-sky thinking and the insidious implications thereof. Who knew?

Turns out that this is the second part of what became the first part of my exploration of clouds and the nature of visual delight.

Labels: ,

The Sound and the Fury

Today's FunCast is about a "New Game" game called "The Sound and the Fury"

[For future reference, if you want to download all or any of my FunCasts, you can use My Odeo Channel.]


The Truth of Participation

From Kevin's Blog on Customer Service, quoting an article about:

The Next Sims:
"For the longest time, games have been considered almost a new form of movie, but that ignores the really interesting opportunities we have in games. Games are in a unique position to bring content consumers into the role of creators.

"In short, this game will engage participants in the creation of their own characters and worlds, and will allow players to eventually enter the worlds created by other players.

"Not only does this participation make sense from the perspective of the players...but from the designers as well - they are now co-creators of the game with the players.

"If the game keeps this universal truth of participation in mind, I believe it will be a runaway hit."
It's what I call "The Fun Community." Sometimes, I also call it "The Play Community," as is my wont. But it amazes me nevertheless, to see the principles I wrote about 28 years ago to describe the dynamics of games, play and community in the world of the flesh become as valuable, if not more, to the virtual world. I know, I know, it's why that very chapter of Well-Played Game, published, mind you, in 1978, was included in Salen and Zimmerman's Rules of Play, and it's what Tracy and Janine and Celia wrote about in their well-researched and visionary article called "Sustainable Play - Towards a New Games Movement for the Digital Age" in which they conclude: "we propose a reexamination of the New Games Movement and its methods as a means of constructing shared contexts for meaningful play in virtual and real-world spaces."

I know I shouldn't be. Natheless, I am both excessively proud, and immoderately amazed.


One Billion Mazes

Exactly One Billion Mazes to Solve "This site contains one billion mazes in high-quality printable PDF format. You may view, print and solve these mazes... and yes, there are exactly one billion mazes!"

Actually, according to my count, clicking on any one of the exact billion of these mouse-run-like classic mazes (amazing, really, to think we can navigate through one billion choices so easily) gets you two images - one image of the maze and the other of the maze solved - both in completely printoutable form. So it's like 2 billion mazes, half of which are already solved. If you want to look at it that way.

One Billion. Two billion. Your basic imagination-staggering number. And there it is for you to play with.

Stunning, and yet an intrinsically very silly achievement.

Thanks in4mador.