Shotgun Golf Shotgun Golf as described by Hunter S. Thompson to Bill Murray:
"Shotgun Golf was invented in the ominous summer of 2004 AD, right here at the Owl Farm in Woody Creek, Colo. The first game was played between me and Sheriff Bob Braudis, on the ancient Bomb & Shooting Range of the Woody Creek Rod & Gun Club. It was witnessed by many members and other invited guests, and filmed for historical purposes by Dr. Thompson on Super-Beta videotape.

The game consists of one golfer, one shooter and a field judge. The purpose of the game is to shoot your opponent's high-flying golf ball out of the air with a finely-tuned 12-gauge shotgun, thus preventing him (your opponent) from lofting a 9-iron approach shot onto a distant 'green' and making a 'hole in one.' Points are scored by blasting your opponent's shiny new Titleist out of the air and causing his shot to fail miserably. That earns you two points.

But if you miss and your enemy holes out, he (or she) wins two points when his ball hits and stays on the green.

And after that, you trade places and equipment, and move on to round 2."
For those of us seeking a less, shall we say, junkly challenge, there's of course Schmerltz Frisbee Golf, which would, similarly of course, be played with a, well, flying disc-like Frisbee-like thing (like a paper plate), and, as hitherto implied, a Schmerltz.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Whoonu? Good game. Good question. As in "who knew." Or, "who knew, out of a choice between goldfish, sand castles, climbing trees and fried chicken, you'd like climbing trees the best. Sure, sure, those people who don't know you from Adam wouldn't know such a thing. But even me, your best friend?"

You get 300 cards (a significant amount, but one can't help wonder if there are even more cards waiting to be expanded thereunto), six stacks of six chips, each stack worth one more point, and a small envelope in case you want to be extra certain that no one can see who thought what about you. So, on this turn, you're the one. Everybody else gets four cards. And sure, given that there are only four out of 300 cards, it's just as likely that there'll be something or nothing that you'll really like amongst the four. You remove the cards from the envelope of secrecy, contemplate them for a bit, and then place them, face-up on the table, in order of what you deem to be least to most favorite. Players then claim their cards, and you reward them with the corresponding chip - the highest scoring chip going to your favorite.

The game is just short enough to keep it light, just long enough to keep it involving. The game mechanic of the chips (when the chips are all used up, the round is over) makes the game that much easier to play.

And that's pretty much that. Simple, elegant, just enough luck to keep you from taking anything seriously, just enough to make you want to know as much about everybody as you can. For sure, you'll be learning a lot about each other. For also sure, you'll be laughing a lot, surprised a lot, feeling somehow closer to each other, having had just enough fun so that you don't really care who actually won - because just getting to play Whoonu together is already very much like winning.

Thanks to Kevin and delightful daughter Kelsey Eikenberry for introducing me to Whoonu. Feel free to thank me for introducing it to you.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Croqkick - putting the kick in croquet

Croqkick is one of my favorite games in this extensive collection of "Giant Games" from Lettuce Make Thyme. One of. There's also Giant Ludo to consider as well as, of course, a similarly giant game of Snakes and Ladders. The thing is, when games get giant, the fun gets bigger. Why? Because: 1) more of you is involved (body, mind, relationships), 2) you can't take the game seriously. Which means that despite your most competitive urges, the focus remains firmly on the sheer, unmitigated silliness of it all, and 3) you don't have to learn anything in order to play - because you already know the game writ small.

Croqkick is an obvious, and elegant example of all of the above. So, there are no mallets. So, as your P.E. teacher might say, the game helps develop soccer skills. And if you're in the UK or within cheap shipping distance, you can buy the game here, as well - "6 x giant metal hoops, 4 colored footballs, and a wooden winning post. All packed in a canvas carry bag."

This whole giant backyard game thing seems to be a European phenomenon. Lettuce Make Thyme is in Canada. One step closer for Amerikind.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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On Being Busy

I hope you have time to listen to today's FunCast. I know how busy you are, and I hate to intrude. But if you can find the time, you might find yourself amused, if not bemused, to hear me say things like:
Busyness is one of those primal problems ground into our very adult and grown-up identities by the way we used to play house and school and now get to do for real.

Remember when you were a kid playing you were not a kid? Remember when you first learned to look busy, and then learned again, and then over and over, since you were a kid growing up, in playground, classroom, office?

Remember how utterly convincingly busy you became?

Well that's the problem. Not time. Not deadlines. It's that we've all become too good at it.
Read the entire article here.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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A Master Class in Fun

Following the success of my presentations and class at USC, and the increasing recognition of the relevance of community-centered games (New Games, Funny Games, and the concept of The Fun Community) I am everso vastly delighted to announce my new offering - a three-day program designed to give New Media designers an opportunity to develop clear, and firmly-rooted understanding of the social and psychological dynamics of fun. It takes place on campus, during a weekend, hopefully not too close to exams, where students and faculty can devote about 6 hours a day to the pursuit of fun.

I call it a "Master Class in Fun." I elaborate as follows:
Ultimately, each participant must arrive at his or her own personal definition of fun. In navigating the New Media waters, they will be called upon to redefine fun, many times. But there are basic notions of fun, derived from anthropological, psychological, and historical sources, that are fundamental, if you forgive the expression

For the New Media designer, perhaps the most useful of all resources stems from the experiential and historical perspective that embodies the New Games Movement. I get to embody some of that history myself, given my past involvement with the Foundation and the work I did to develop the New Games Training program. The experience of New Games, of playing together in a play community where the focus is not on whether or not the players are good enough to play, but whether the game is good enough for the players, is a powerful framework for understanding the dynamics of the virtual play community, like those that form in chat rooms and email chess games, Second Life and EverQuest. The goal of the proposed Master Class in Fun is to do just that - first, to reexamine the New Games movement and methods, explore it's political and historical context relative to the Viet Nam protests, and then to apply these methods to the creation of meaningful play in virtual and real-world spaces given today's political climate.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith



Acronymble is most definitely a party game, and most assuredly a game that will make you laugh. Hence, most probably, Major Fun.

MAJOR. As in More Active Jollies Organized Ridiculously, or, perhaps Mighty Attractive Jauntiness Of Ribaldry, or even Mellifluent Acronym Judging Oscillates Randomly.

Players compete (more or less) to create phrases or sentences (you get an additional point of your acronym is a sentence) from a collection of randomly drawn tiles. The number of tiles is determined by the draw of a card from the Length Deck. And what you have to do with them is determined by the draw of a card from the Composition deck. There are four different kinds of cards in the Composition deck: one tells you to also use a nonsense word, another to use only words that start with the same letter, and another to select any word starting with the chosen letter, and make an acronym from it. And the fourth kind of card tells you to do what you would have done anyway without the card.

Everyone but one player (the master of ceremonies for that round, a.k.a. the "NYMWIT") votes for a favorite. Votes are tallied. Players move the corresponding number of spaces on the board, et, obviously, cetera.

How long you have to think is determined by the throw of a die, which tells you how much time to set on a tension-inducingly noisesome kitchen-type timer.
The rules are written with enough humor and playfulness to keep people from taking the rules too seriously - there are constant invitations to make up your own rules, suggestions like "If a player doesn't finish in time, don't disqualify them (maybe drum your fingers or whistle a bit)." Whistle and drum we did. Laugh a lot we also did. Major FUN was most definitely had.

originally posted in Major Fun

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SPwiki: The Streetplay Wiki

Last week, I wrote about the Camp wiki, extolling its promise as a much-needed, collaboratively developed repository of camp-worthy games and activities. The theory behind all this wikification is that, given a community of like-minded fun-seekers (or fun-minded like-seekers), it should be possible to develop an extensive, ever-growing repository of gamish knowledge, that only becomes more valuable as more people contribute.

This week, it is with at least equally profound pleasure that I inform you that Streetplay, one of the few sites devoted to the inner-city street games of the 40s, 50s and 60s, has launched its very own Streetplay Wiki, a.k.a. SPwiki. Now, you, too can exhume and immortalize your rapidly fading memories of those ad hoc, informal, unofficial, homemade neighborhood games that you played on the streets and sidewalks and front steps and back yards of your childhood.

Read. Play. Join. Contribute.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Video game playing may fulfill innate human need

In her article Video game playing may fulfill innate human need, Anne Harding writes:
"Players' enjoyment of games depended on whether the games made them feel competent and independent, and, in the case of multiplayer games, connected to other players. Players who enjoyed their experience showed increases in well-being, self-esteem, and vitality after playing, while those whose needs weren't satisfied reported lowered vitality and mood."

My co-inspirer and fellow Funspotter Celia Pearce, adds: "One thing I like about this article is it's saying that most of the studies have been about the potential harms. It also begs the question: who is getting enjoyment out of what? I think some games are actually not that enjoyable for some people, as you know. I hated football when I was a kid!"

It is a great relief to stumble upon this oasis of positivity. My one disappointment is that this article, like so many that have been written in defense of "gaming," is so passionately focused on videogames that it fails to connect with the larger phenomenon of play, in all its manifestations. According to my exhaustive inner research, precisely the same findings related to the enjoyment of videogames is true of all play frames - bowling (speaking of frames), chess, solving puzzles, playing dress-up.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Oaqui Pong

Today's sending, apparently from the Oaqui (him, her or them)selves(f) - ostensibly about a game of Oaqui Pong, which, according to the Oaqui, is the progenitor of all games pongish, contains a curious comment. And I quote:
"Then, when we arrive at the idea of the Serve, well, Table Tennis, bound as it to its OneBalledness, begins as a game in which one player has to Serve to the other, trying, can you imagine, not only to get the ball over the net and hit the other side of the table, but to make the other player MISS! It's beyond odd, when you think about it, that a game would arise in which one player, in the name of SERVING, would try to make the other player lose! These are the consequences of UniBallistic thinking: SERVING each other by trying to make each other LOSE!

Which, of course, leads inevitably to the way they keep score. Here, Table Tennis, merely because of its MonoSpherical premise, makes the oddest of all leaps. Where as you, being sensitized to the Oaay of the Oaqui, would think BOTH players would LOSE a point every time the ball goes out of play, well, need I/we say more?"
I need, apparently, to say it again in today's FunCast, fortuitously titled: "Oaqui Pong."

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Virtual Busybox

Pianographique converts your very own computer keyboard into a virtual busybox. Virtual busybox. That's right, you heard it here. Or actually, you'll hear it here, and watch it, and compose remarkable things with it.

After Pianographique's shockwavily lovely and lively front page finishes downloading (you need Shockwave 8.5 - Intel-Mac-users, etc., if you have problems, be sure to check the link that reads "click here to download"), click on any of the pre-defined "graphic pianos" in the list that appears in the bottom half of the splash page, and get busy right away.

Or get even busier and make your own visual-graphic synthesizer (a.k.a. Virtual Busybox), assigning each letter key of your keyboard a sound and image from a significantly vast collection of the same.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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A Tale in the Desert

"A Tale in the Desert is rare among MMORPGs in that it lacks combat."

What? Lacks combat? A Mass Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game, without fighting? And people like it? And it's fun?

Apparently so.

Allow me to continue quoting from the venerated Wikipedia:

"The lack of levels was also a unique feature in past tales, but the most recent tale has seen the addition of a levels system. Players can kill their livestock, go on safari, and most of all engage into politics. The game focuses on building, research and community. Even more uniquely, players are able to have a lasting effect on the world; the game reaches an endpoint, after which a new Telling begins, which bears marks of the Telling before. Players can also create laws (including player bans) and make feature requests. Compared to other online games, there is also a closer to equal ratio of male to female players, and a high level of civility and generosity, as a result of the difference in focus."

Again, what?!? Lasting effect on the world? Player-created laws? Closer to equal ratio of male to female? High level of civility and generosity?

Is there, then, a reason for hope? Is it, therefore, actually likely that there will be more games like this - games that foster communities of players who actually care about each other, and the world they are creating together?

Let us bow our heads, and play.

Funspotting by Noise

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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The Camp Wiki

The Camp Wiki is a resource for anyone who cares about groups - from camp counselors to business trainers. Right now, it is far from encyclopedic. There aren't nearly enough games described. But the games that are described are of proven play value, and many are as innovative as they are fun. For example, this very small sample of Big Games has only two games on it - Giant Billiards and Giant Scrabble (Boggle). Both they are both invitations to a great deal of fun, there's just enough about them to inspire the creation of more such games (did I ever tell you about Giant Foosball?), and, being a Wiki, and free, it's also enough to invite contributions from anyone who cares about groups and growth and fun. It's a fragile resource, dependent on its members for expertise and self-censorship. One that we should nourish and protect.

Funspotting by Dr. Roger Greenaway

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Good and Sturdy Art from Shari Elf

Shari Elf describes her "Junk Art" as being created from "95% trash, made from stuff I find on the ground, at yard sales and thrift stores, broken stuff and stuff my friends send me."

What she doesn't need to tell us is that her art is refreshingly childlike and welcoming. No pretensions or aspirations to finding her place in the art world. Just simple fun that comes from the heart.

You look at it, and you think "I could do this, too." And you'd be right. And that's the whole point.

Shari's art is an invitation, directly to your own, personal, childlike, artlike skills.

Visit with her a while, and be inspired.

Funspotting by Everlasting Blort

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Meaningful fun, Major fun, and Deep Fun, too.

I was reading an article called "Happiness 101." So I found myself thinking about doing "meaningful" things. Things like being engaged in meaningful work and doing meaningful deeds and having meaningful relationships and making meaningful nises such as those contained in today's FunCast.

Thinking about all this meaning because the article described a connection between meaningfulness and happiness. And, after significant intro- and extrospection, I came to a natural conclusion: meaningful stuff is fun. Saying, doing, thinking, acting, working, learning almost anything actually meaningful, is always fun. Really fun. Deep fun.

Almost anything meaningful is fun. Even if you're cutting potatoes in a food kitchen for the poor, it's fun. It's a feel-good fun that comes not from what you're doing but who you're doing it with and for.

But when the thing you're doing is itself fun, like, for example, batting a balloon around, and you're having fun batting the balloon with the people you're batting around with, and they're having fun, with you, with each other, and they are people who need to have this kind of fun almost desperately - children, the hospitalized, the institutionalized, the people of countries at war, the less-abled, less-skilled, less-lucky - well, that's a unique kind of fun, a life-fulfilling fun that really needs it's own name.

For the time being, I'm suggesting calling this specific kind of fun, and equally specific kind of meaningfulness, "Major fun."

"But," you everso rightfully exclaim, "Major Fun is a whole nother thing - an award, see, given to, if I'm not mistaken, 'games that make people laugh.'," you right-as-rainedly observe.

"Precisely," I respond, quoting myself, "When a game makes you laugh, whether you're playing alone and laughing or playing with others and laughing with them, it's not just a game, it's an event. And at the moment of the event, the fun you're having is as meaningful as breathing. Deep Fun. Meaningful fun. Major fun. If you know what I mean."

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Visual Acoustics

I don't know if you caught this article. It's been a few years since it was posted. But it talks about art and play and how the Internet is bringing us more and more opportunities to do those very things at the intersection of art and fun. Which, had you continued to search for more examples of the said same, would have eventually lead you to a site called Visual Acoustics, to which I hereby most happily invite you. Play. Watch. Listen.

"Layers of different brushes can be built up, resulting in a stunning performance of improvised musical vision." Just by mousing around, here and there, skitter scatter, for no particular reason at all.

Visual Acoustics. For faster, more immediate amusement, select one the presets on the right.

Funspotting by Bill Harris

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith


Bernie in the field of fun

I don't mean to brag. I didn't mean to brag when I first told you that I was given the Ifill-Raynolds Award for "outstanding achievement in the field of fun." But, see, I was only told I received the award, I mean, I received the award, but I didn't get it, I mean I didn't get something tangible, except for the plastic stencil I told you about. I guess I mean I didn't get something tangibly award-looking until now. And I'm embarrassed to say that now, now that I have this shiny, engraved, ready-to-hang award, I find myself allowing myself to believe that I really received this award. Really.

Which makes me muse on the whole trophies and awards thing, and how I've worked so hard to create games that are played just for the sheer fun of it all, trophy-less, awardless, scoreless games.

Because I believe that people need to play more than they need to win.

And, frankly, the older I get, the less fun it is to win, and the more fun just to be able to play, just to be able.

Maybe I've forgotten to mention how deeply, satisfyingly, meaningly, majorly kinds of fun I'm having with this award thing, with having it in my hands like this. This elaborately rendered, shiny plaque, this engraved affirmation, from many of my own peers, of my very own, life-long work.

And because I have already found the place to hang this award, I get a kind of fun just looking at it. A meaningful kind of fun. Already more meaningful. Already more fun.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith


Working with Wonder

Read this:
REJUVENILE (made) a brief appearance this (Monday) morning in the first hour of ABC's "Good Morning America" in a story about play at the workplace. News flash: work is boring. A few office monkeys are fighting back with inter-department playground slides, break room foos-ball tables and other goofy innovations. Cue remark from yours truly on the importance of play and fun in the workplace and how these changes reflect the larger rejuvenile phenom.

One remark is unlikely to make the cut -- too often, the merry chattering bosses who institute "playful" reforms are putting window dressing on salt mines. There is little more infuriating than having a Wacky Fun Day hosted by an employer who skimps on health insurnace or restricts family leave. I don't think there's any doubt a genuinely playful attitude toward work can benefit both worker and the bottom line, but it's not about climbing walls or bobbleheads. It's about doing our work with the same wonder and imagination and sense of fun that too many workers ditch in the name of professionalism.
Christopher Noxon, you, too, have earned the full panoply of rights and privileges due to a "Defender of the Playful"

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Moschen: The mathematics of juggling, the art of play

Michael Moschen is another artist who, like Greg Kennedy, has been able to elevate juggling into the realm of high play. He is also one of the few artist/performers to have made the connection between juggling and mathematics.

According to his bio, he is
"deeply involved in understanding and sharing the physical and mathematical principles that underlie his work, and is a sought-after public speaker. He presented the Keynote Address for the National Conference of Teachers of Mathematics in 1996, and in 1998 for the Association of New York Teachers of Mathematics. He has lectured on innovation and creativity at such prestigious institutions as Carnegie Mellon, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Lincoln Center Education Program."
A playfully profound performer, who, as you can so plainly see here, is fun, very much fun.

Michael Moschen is hereby officially entitled to all appreciations and honorifics due to a "Defender of the Playful."

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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On Being Wrong

I have a thought. One, it seems, in retrospect, given the Newness of it all, yearwise, somehow appropriate. I begin like this:
"Having done something stupid and embarrassing again and Ill tell you it was so stupid and so embarrassing that I really dont want to talk about it, at all, ever I found myself really punishing myself for having done what I did. And after about half hour of surprisingly brutal internal rhetoric, it became obvious to me that what I needed more than anything else was some kind of recess. I just had to take myself away from all this. It was something we all needed."
And I somehow manage to conclude like this:
"So Wrong, just when he was supposed to offer the strongest opposition, simply let the rope go. And Silly was yanked so hard by the combined strength of Serious and Right that he landed on top of them both, causing all of them to fall into a pile. And just as Serious and Right were about to express the equivalent of moral indignation, Wrong completely doubled over in laughter. Doubled over so completely that there were, for a brief moment, two Wrongs, which, with an unseen flash, made another Right. And suddenly, there were no Wrongs at all. Just two Rights, either of whom, by all rights, could have felt deeply wronged by all this silliness, but didnt. In stead, both Rights also doubled over in laughter. Which turned out to be exactly the right thing to do, because neither Silly nor Serious could be found. And everything was all right again. For everyone. For, especially, me, alright, all right."
I call it "Meditation on Being Wrong." And, if I am right, it is the subject of today's FunCast.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Asphip - Spinning Top Boomerang Bowling

Asphip includes both the Asphip Looper and the Wandering Disks. Both are attempts to introduce objects with different physical properties into traditional ball sports.

Asphip Looper is something like giant tops - you know, those tops that you whip to keep spinning like the kind of tops you'd find a century or millennium ago, only they're special tops, that spin on their bottoms or, actually, tops. And instead of whips you use specially padded bats, and you play on something like a very large, one-sided shuffleboard. Just watch this video and will be both clear and vivid.

The Looper, of course, travels best on the specially smoothed surfaces of an Asphip Court. And, once you have an Asphip Court, you might as well also have a set of Wandering Disks and play a combination of shuffleboard and tic tac toe with pucks on wheels. Pucks on wheels!

It makes you think. What other wonderfully mechanical things do we have that we could have fun with, get involved with, get completely, physically engaged with, make sports out of? New kinds of balls and pucks with new properties that invite play. Not that easy. Not that small of an accomplishment, this Asphip thing. Something actually new. Something to get interested in, very, very interested in.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Apparently, Ringo is like volleyball, played with a ring. The inventor, Wlodzimier Stryzewski, was, at the time, captain of "the Polish pe fencing team for the Academic World Championships 1959 in Turin." He explains: "in my childhood I and a small friend played catch with a tyre which had come off a pram, which we would throw over the tops of horse-drawn carriages driven a long the main road of Sochaczew, my home town. Oh yes! The field can symbolize my body. The tyre is my sword. There shall be no time limit between the catching and the throwing, so I never know when my opponent will begin his attack and in which direction, as in any fighting game."

I read on: "First, you have to throw the ring from the spot where you caught it, second when throwing at least one foot must touch the ground. You may only leap when catching, never when throwing. Otherwise the defending party would have no chance at all and the entire game would be senseless. But why? He demanded. Because its my game and my rules I said."

Stryzewski has made it his game ever since, and has brought to it a vision and passion that borders on pure zeal.

"Ringo is a very simple game," he writes, "even though challenging, a fighting sport combining maximum effort of the soul and body with all the natural human movement: run, turnover, jump, catch, throw, bend. To be a Ringo champion you need forecast ability of the chess player, tactic and reflection of a fencer, with power of a boxer, flexibility of a ballet dancer, jumping ability of a volleyball player, speed of a sprinter, and precision of an archer, intellectual link with partners like a bridge player, space imagination as a pilot and endurance of a marathon runner. With a focus to make Ringo an Olympic sport America Ringo Association will be bringing closer the dream of the families around the world to participate in the Olympic games participating in the family category where parents with their children will play other families of the world in the spirit of friendship and peace."

Families. Cool.

from Junkyard Sports: The Blog

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Hemisphere Juggling

Well, it's not actually juggling hemispheres. It's more like juggling inside a hemisphere. And you're not actually inside the hemisphere - just the balls. And you're not throwing the balls in the air, but rolling them inside the hemisphere, so it sometimes doesn't seem like what you'd call juggling.

But whatever you'd call it, you watch this guy, and you see the art of it, his mastery, and even though it seems to sometimes kinda border on the, well, dumb, it's mastery, all right, and has the same power to amaze as any amazing act of whatever it is that people call juggling. And you don't get that way without playing. A lot.

Reminds me of the hours I spent rolling marbles around the inside of a cookie can lid. And the fascination. The fascination.

Funfinding by Milk and Cookies

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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