"Putting Skinned Knees Back into Playtime"

There's been some happy buzz about arecent article in the New York Times in which Alex Williams writes about adults who are teaching children the bygone games of their youth - marbles, hopscotch, red rover, kickball. He writes: "They are spurred by concerns that a decline in traditional play robs the imagination and inhibits social interaction, by personal nostalgia, and by a desire to create a new bridge to connect generations ó a bridge across both sides of the Nintendo gap."

The article (you need to be a subscriber to read it on line, is called "Putting Skinnned Knees Back into Playtime." I guess this is in contrast to the callused thumbs of X-Boxers.

The article concludes with a story about one mother, Sara Boettrick, who tried to follow this new trend with her daughter. "Ms. Boettrich admitted that she hadnít seen the kids playing seven up, pickup sticks and jacks, and that she had since abandoned her attempts to spark a love of them in her daughter. She added, 'I think I had more fun than she did.'"

And I think therein lies the truth of this whole back-to-the-games-of-our-youth movement. We, as adults, want our children to learn the games of our childhood, because they are the games within which we can still find our youth. As for the youth of today, they are finding theirs in their games. And if it is truly our goal to help our children play, perhaps we should begin by asking them to teach us their games. Perhaps, if they let us play their games with them, we will better understand the fun of their youth, and better share with them the gifts of our maturity.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Twisted Pairs

Twisted Pairs is a party game, indeed it is. You need at least 4 players. But it is clearly of the more-the-merrier type.

No, it's not charades. I can see why you'd think it's like charades - you're trying to get people to guess something that you know (hopefully). And you're performing, more or less. Except it's not acting. It's spelling. I mean, what you're doing is spelling out a word or several words. Not with words, naturally. But with your bodies. Did I say "bodies"? As in more than one body? Indeed I did. As in two bodies. So, to make, for example, the letter "H," you and your partner might be standing facing each other, holding your arms down at your sides, but bending your elbows and holding hands, like the cross-bar of the "H" - know what I mean?

Which, of course, is the big question for everyone else - that is, do they know what letter you mean. Because as soon as someone does know that letter, or thinks she knows that letter, or thinks she wants everyone else to think she knows that letter, she simply says something like "got it." And then the two letter-makers go on to make the next letter. Got it? And on and on until someone guesses correctly, getting, so to speak, the point. As for those who didn't "get it," well, they're still very much in the game, guessing away at the next and the next letters, hoping to fill in the blanks, in retrospect. And when someone correctly yells out the entire phrase, then there's the race to be first to shout out the bonus answer and get a richly deserved for bonus point. And so can the spellers.

No, of course not, it's definitely not Twister, though you and your partner are twisting around each other's bodies in some bizarre, Twister-like ways. And it clearly has nothing to do with Trivial Pursuit either, unless the spinner happens to land on the Trivia Question. We'll talk about that later. But there's no Pursuit going on. Unless you count the pursuit of laughterness, which is just about what this game is all about.

The stuff of the game includes a box of cards. There are two sets of cards - one for questions relating to Pre-1990, the other, Post- (a thoughtful distinction for the younger player, as well as for those with short attention spans). Each card contains one of 5 different categories, 4 of which result in a word or phrase that the Spellers attempt to convey, bodily, letter-by-letter. The categories ("famous character," "famous quote," "song title," "song lyric") help the rest of the party figure out what the spellers are spelling. The fifth category is the Trivia Question. Here, the spellers are given only the question, and must rely on their collective wit to spell out the correct answer (written on the back of the card). And, should their wit be not well informed, well, at least it was fun watching them try.

All of which to say there are many levels of mental and physical calisthenics, combined with ongoingly merry mayhem resulting in an experience that is clearly Major FUN. Everyone involved, everyone thinking hard, everyone challenged at almost every level, and, surprisingly often, everyone laughing. Do you still need to know why we recommend this game with such enthusiasm? As the designers so pithily inquire: "do we have to spell it out for you?"

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith


Gwen Gordon

Last November I wrote about Gwen Gordon, and her remarkable article "Play, the Movement of Love." Today, I am pleased to share her new website with you.

Gwen is a remarkable spirit, who has brought her profoundly play vision to as many people as she can touch, and there are many, all over the world. You can read and witness more of he work here. Download her videos, her essays, her stories. You will be inspired. And maybe even a little bit transformed. There is so much there. I leave you with a small taste, from her essay "Laughter for No Reason," in which I am anonymously present, hence, deeply drawn to:
"I notice that whenever I lose my sense of humor, itís a sure sign that Iíve lost my perspective. As a friend of mine likes to say, 'the truth shall make you laugh!' No matter how difficult and heavy the facts might be, facing them makes us lighter. The truth makes us laugh because, after all, it sets us free and when weíre free, weíre free to laugh. With every joyful breath, we assert our freedom, reminding us that even ordinary life rests inside a bigger enchanted game, a larger truth in which all things hold meaning."

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith


Adventures in Junk

Adventure Playgrounds! How could it have taken me so long? The epitome, the apotheosis, the sine qua of junkly pursuits: a playground made entirely of junk. So junky that no one cares what it looks like - just what it plays like. So informal that even kids could build their own playground apparata, should they be so moved.

What you see in the photo is part of one of the few remaining Adventure Playgrounds - this one, in the Berkeley Marina. Why so few? Because they're unsightly. And there just dangerous enough to make kids want to play there again and again and again.

There's a page on the site of theNew York City Department of Parks and Recreation that has a very clear, brief, historical analysis of the Adventure Playground movement:
"Adventure Playground emerged from movements in 1960s Europe that worked to reclaim derelict urban spaces, many caused by the devastation of World War II. Filled with trash and debris, the sites were considered unfit even for parking cars and were therefore abandoned by developers. However, children had no qualms about these forbidden sites, often playing happily in rubble heaps. They seemed to prefer the informality of dirt and scraps to formal jungle gyms. Eventually parents and park designers realized that these non-traditional materials inspired creative, thoughtful play. The adults and children worked together to construct the kinds of play spaces the children wanted."
Here, in the States, the main argument against Adventure Playgrounds is safety. It is that very same concern that is slowly but methodically closing all kinds of playgrounds, all across the United States. I found, in perhaps my favorite Adventure Playground site, this insightful perspective on the "safety issue":
"Conventional playgrounds are safe only if children use them in the way adults intend them to i.e. if children do not climb where they are not supposed to, stay behind railings, and don't climb on top of certain structures. Children do not necessarily abide by these rules and often get injured at conventional playgrounds.

"The safety record of adventure playgrounds in excellent,"states Joe Frost, a professor of education. The Mountain Park adventure playground in Houston, Texas recorded few injuries. Only .014 percent of the 15,000 people attending the park during its first 4 months of operation sustained injuries and these were mostly skinned knees, scrapes, and hammered thumbs."
When you compare these so-called dangers with the benefits, to kids, to community, you have to start wondering about what price we're paying for all this safety. O, sure, the playgrounds themselves may not be pretty. But the play that goes on there, the inventiveness, creativity, the sheer wonder of shared fantasy - is a thing of great and lasting beauty.

Funspotting by Noise

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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50 Ways to Use Your (Pool) Noodle

There's something inherently funny about saying the words "Pool Noodle." Go ahead. Give it a try. Say: pool noodle, pool noodle, pool noodle. See what I mean? Even thinking about a pool noodle, a noodle in a pool, a pool full of pool noodles is kind of fun. And playing with a pool noodle, in a pool, of course, sitting on one, lying on one, lying on several...fun, all fun.

Well, what Chris Cavert and Sam Sikes tell you what you can do with pool noodles, on the land, even, is every bit as fun, and even more inventive than that. They've written two noodle books, as a matter of fact: 50 Ways to Use Your Noodle and 50 More Ways to Use Your Noodle.

Now, before I go any further, I want to warn you. Page through these books, and you're going to want to invest heavily in pool noodles. At about $3/noodle, we're not talking junk. Though you could purchase Tubular Polyethylene Foam Pipe Insulation, Pre-Slit, 3/8" Wall Thickness, For Use On 1/2" Copper Pipe Or 1/4" Iron Pipe, for maybe $3 for 4 3-foot sections. Which is more junk-like, but not much cheaper. Not only are you going to want to buy many, many pool noodles (at least one for each player), but you're going to want to (dare I mention this? yes, yes, I must) cut some of your noodles into 3-foot "Midaronis," 3-inch "Minironis," and 1-1/4-inch "Meatballs."

OK, by now you get a good sense of the tone of the whole thing: fun, funny, creative, inventive. So you're ready for at least one game. Like, for example, Balloon Volleyball, played with Midaronis. Do I need to explain this any more? Everyone with their own Midaroni. Trying to hit a large balloon over a volleyball net. Do you need me to tell you what fun this can be? Or how about the baseball-like "Bustin Burgers" game - where one player sails pool noodle Meatballs to the Midaroni-swinging batter?

You might not expect the more creative activities, like the semi-self-explanatory "Noodle Doodles." And in all likelihood, you wouldn't have begun to anticipate the group team-building, problem-solving aspect of the whole thing, with exercises like seeing how many Meatballs or Minironis two people can hold between them. And yes, in the 50 More Ways book you'll even find pool noodle games you can play in the - can you believe it - pool.

Together, the Noodle books are a treasure of creative, playful, problem-solving fun that should prove an invaluable resource to any youth leader, team builder, or provocateur of playfulness.

RE: Noodle Economics

Chris comments: "we found that the foam pipe insulation is okay for some of the noodle book activities, however, it doesn't have the rigidity for most games. Also, you lose the "visual" pull the colors have. Even though you might pay $3.50 (or so) for a noodle, you'll cut the long ones in half - thus cutting your cost in half. And, as long as the participants don't pick on or chew the noodles they last a very long time - the return on investment is great. Bonus: if you buy in the fall they are really cheap - stores donít like to warehouse them because they take up so much space (some stores give them away to educational programs just to get rid of them before the winter months)."

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Must we compete?

Yesterday's post about cooperative sports reminded me about something I've wanted to share with you - a question I've wanted to ask you.

When I was writing a review of quite a sweet little children's game - a race-around the track kind of game - I found myself, near the end of the review, describing, in detail, how to play the game without really competing. I wrote:
My grandkids happened to have a problem with competition. So, we played with only two baby frogs: the "Happy Frog" and the "Sad Frog." One of us would throw the dice, and then all of us would select the eye. We pooled our collective memory. If we guessed correctly, we'd move the Happy frog to the next lily. If we were wrong, the Sad frog would advance. No one "owned" either of the frogs. We were like gods, cheering for the Happy frog when the Happy frog won. Cheering for the Sad frog when she got to move. Sure, sure, we wanted to Happy frog to win. But, in the end, it turned out that the Sad frog won. Which, of course, made her Happy. And us, too.
When I discussed this with the PR person at the game company, and with a family member, I found myself on the wrong end of a surprisingly passionate defense of competition. The gist of the argument (for they both said almost the same thing, as if they had been reading from the same script) being that children need to learn how to compete, how to win and how to lose, because such was the world, and such the path to survival and success. So passionate were these arguments that I wound up having to beg to differ, and I mean beg.

I guess it's because I've followed a different path - a path not of competition, but of differentiation. Rather than predicating my success on being "better than" I've found something close to success by being "other than." Being myself, basically, exploring what it is that makes me unique, and uniquely connected to my world, this one, the one we share.

Recently, I starting writing about collaboration again, online, virtual collaboration, posting articles on a site called "Coworking." And it seems to me that I've found, in this very virtual community, a very large network of people who also are less interested in competing than they are in finding ways to do that which they are uniquely able to do. Creating and following their own paths, looking, not for people they can be better than, but for people with whom they can work together, to create something - a service, product, opinion - that is as true and as different and as valued they value their truths, their differences, their selves.

It could be that my focus on collaboration is as narrow as other people's focus on competition, and that there's a wiser path somewhere that is a synthesis between the two. But, until that time, I thought it might be useful to ask the question: must we compete? Are we failing our kids by not helping them learn how to be better competitors? Do we do our kids injustice by not teaching them how to keep score? Do we help them by teaching them how to get better at losing?

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith


Cooperative Sports

According to the website, Cooperative Sports are: "New ways of 'playing' our favorite ball games with a gentle twist, resulting in lots of healthy action and exercise, and a big dose of fun and friendship (like how sand lot games and practice used to/can be). Competition is eliminated (we really donít have to compete in order to excel or to have fun), and the games have been modified, emphasizing: participation, success, action, safety, fun, re-creation, friendship, challenge, diversity, player driven, in the moment, no competition." What the author calls "The 12 Key Elements of 'True Play.'"

Many examples are given, including cooperative versions of softball, kickball, soccer, hockey, basketball, volleyball, tennis, etc. Whether you agree with the premise or not, you have to be touched by the promise - alternative versions of competitive sports that emphasize fun and friendship. The author, Dick Bozung, is passionate and creative enough to make you want to at least try to play a different way, and that's an achievement worthy of or collective notice, and applause.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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eXtreme Croquet

eXtreme Croquet is still croquet, except it's played in very uncroquet-like environments, with special mallets (strong enough to reach the eXtremities of the course), special wickets (large, strong, and the center wickets have both a high and low tier), and recommended balls (wood except in the winter, where plastic is preferred). Suggested eXtreme environments include: fields, parks, woods, and, eXtremest of all, drainage basins.
"The first true example of eXtreme croquet appeared in the 1920's, when Herbert Swope, publisher of the New York World, built a new course on his Sands Point, Long Island estate. The course was so large that players had to shout to one another. It had sand traps, bunkers, rough, and Long Island Sound waiting in the distance.

"In the United States, eXtreme croquet took a step forward in the late 1970's with the development of "Guerilla Croquet", invented by collegiate champion Hans Peterson and his partners at Croquet Magazine, Bob Alman and Michael Orgill. Another entry into the eXtreme category came from Nevada's Black Rock Desert, where trucks with oversize tires smash six-foot balls through giant hoops.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith


Stone Skipping

(voice hushed)"Welcome once again to the World Stone Skimming Championships, to be held once again this year at Easdale Island, Argyll, Scotland, September 23. Stone Skimming, or, as you Yanks have it, Stone Skipping. And, yes, and ah, the excitement is palpable, is it not, the anticipation fairly overwhelming. Each competitor, don't you see, is allowed 5 skims using specially selected Easdale slate skimming stones. For a skim to qualify the stone must bounce at least three times - it is then judged on the distance achieved before it sinks, last year's winner having achieved a remarkable 63 meters, in deed."

In deed. And in fact. Stone skipping or skimming is what one must call an archetypal Junkyard Sport, at least until someone invents plastic stones, or some such. And it is very much alive and significantly well, both hither and yon.

According to this article from the New Scientist, when not competing for distance, the Stone Skimming record is 38 bounces. Whilst according to the North American Stone Skipping Association, the record is actually 40. Well, doesn't that beat all?

via Strange Games

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Plastic Bags in New York City

Plastic Bags in New York City is one of several art projects by Richard The. Before you read further, take a couple minutes to watch the movie. Note, especially, that the only people who pay attention to this wonderfully junk-enabled wonder are those who are naturally given to such wondering.

The artist comments:
"The main idea was to use the Marilyn-Monroe-Effect: Above the subway track there are grids on the street. Once a train runs through a very strong flow of air is blown up.

"The chosen objects to get lifted by this wind were plastic bags. The subway line, which connects very different parts of the city, was supposed to be visualized by several plastic bags, each from on of these districts (i.e. green line: spanish harlem, upper east side, chinatown etc.)

"Thus the subway line, which can not be seen on the street, would be made visible, but also the different (sub)cultures and communities which exist in these neighbourhoods."

Via We Make Money Not Art

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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1000 ways to waste working time

In answer to the question, how, oh how can I waste some more time while at work, here's 1000 ways to waste working time, which I, given me, would re-title: "1000 ways to refresh the soul and rekindle the spirit while at work."

Let me exemplify, numerically speaking, by selecting the first ten:
  1. Approach someone at work you don't know and say hello
  2. Add up a series of numbers your social security number, your date of birth, your telephone number, to see if the total is divisible by seven
  3. Add up your debts
  4. Annoy a friend
  5. Argue with a colleague about who is the best football quarterback ever
  6. Arm wrestle with a colleague
  7. Arrange a protest march for a cause you believe in
  8. Arrange a seating plan for the office
  9. Arrange to meet a friend in the washroom to chat
  10. Arrange unpaid bills by date order
Which leaves you with 990 more still to read. In fact, not to be overly meta, but there are at least 1001 ways to rekindle the spirit while at work herein illustrated, the additional one being the reading of the list. And, should you need yet further inspiration, you perhaps could even do more spirit rekindling, seeing if you can come up with working time wasters not already on the list.

via In4mador

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Ultimate Pizza Party

There's a certain genius of the spirit - in my lexicon, I call it "playfulness" - that turns things upside down, redefines the social order, transforms our fundamental understandings of the game.

Philip Workman performed one such act. It was his last. He was in death row at the time, convicted of killing a policeman. Before his execution, he was, as custom has it, asked what he wanted for his final meal. He said that he wanted a vegetarian pizza. And that he wanted that pizza delivered to any homeless person near the prison.

I hesitate to call it a "saintly act," because a man like Workman, a murderer, just isn't a likely candidate for canonization. It was the act of a condemned man, denying himself the one small solace of a last meal, so he could find perhaps greater comfort in one, final act of anonymous irreverence. A silly thing for him to do. So silly that it challenged the very nature of the institution, because prisons, you see, don't give to charity. And so, of course, his request was denied.

Pizza. Vegetarian pizza. Not even meat pizza. Nothing that required the death of anything. Something almost kosher, almost halal, if you know what I mean, something almost anybody would celebrate.

And the story goes on. Somehow, some people heard about Workman's final request. And decided to fulfill it themselves. And so 165 vegetarian pizzas were delivered to a rescue mission, and 17 vegetarian pizzas made their way to a teen center, and no one, except the donors, knew why. And a miracle was wrought that day. And it was a pizza party.

funspotting by Neatorama

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith


Sweet Swedes Sneezing Soundboard

There are times when silliness, creativity, technical mastery, and the love of children coincide. And among those times, there are moments of surprising delight. This is one of those moments.

It looks like one of those photos of a kindergarten class. One of your typical collections of runny-nose darlings. It is definitely that. It's also a musical instrument, allowing you to create a kind of music out of a collection of tunefully rhythmic rheums. Once you've composed your sweet suite for serendipitous sinuses, click the "play" button on the lower right of the screen to hear your composition.

It will warm the cockles of your virtual heart.

It will make you want to see what else you can make it do.

You will have fun.

funspotting by Grow-a-Brain

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Art, play and survival

"This took me about an hour or so constructed of paper, an eraser, packing tape and paperclips. I used a sprite bottle to take the green shot of the dragon."

From Artwork from the Workplace - a living, blogish testimony to the survival value of playfulness at work.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Computer Games with Humans

Strange Games Maven Montague Blister shares a story about a playground version of Space Invaders. I quote, interpolatively:
Line up a group of boys (and/or girls) against a wall, three or four rows deep. These players must shuffle from side to side (hopefully en masse) progressing forward one step only when they have shuffled a required sideways distance. The game player stands facing them from a distance of 15m (50 feet) or so with a collection of footballs (soccer, or better yet sponge balls). These he fires one at a time at the advancing hordes of invaders. Any player hit is killed (as explosively as possible) and the game continues until all aliens are killed or until one or more reaches (tags) the firer (and gets to be IT for the next round).
At any rate, it sets me thinking, this game does, about how many more games from the virtual world can find their way into the playgrounds of the world (assuming that there are playgrounds and that children are allowed time to play on them), and vice versa.

The vice versa part, actually, has been a pet fantasy of mine ever since I started designing computer games, back in '81. In fact, a game I developed for Children's Television Workshop, called "Light-Waves," was loosely based on a kids playground game called Streets and Alleys. In the playground game, kids stand in rows and columns with their arms joined. Two other kids play tag. And another kid tells the players to make "streets" or "alleys" - turning 90 degrees and rejoining hands. The idea is for the caller to try to help IT tag not-IT. In my computer version, the bars would turn 90 degrees every time a button was pushed. A light-blob would follow the bars. The object of the game was to guide the blob towards the goal in the center. Then a new array of bars would appear. It turned out to be a fascinating little game. One of my favorites, actually, since it all could be played with just one button. All of which makes me think that there is an actual plethora of children's games that would prove to be virtual fodder for the creative computer game designer, whilst wondering if that very same person could in fact be you.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Rukshuk, a.k.a. "The Game of Rock Balancing," is, as you might infer, a game about balancing rocks. Well, not actual rocks, but cunningly contrived, highly rocklike pieces, in 5 different colors. Highly rocklike - hefty, and irregularly shaped rocklike. There are long, flat white "bridge rocks" (each player gets two of these to be used as required). The collection of building rocks includes smaller white pieces, which only count for one point, but all have somewhat flat, and most accommodating surfaces. Thus one can easily imagine oneself building white rock towers and things. Whilst the blue rocks are only flattish on one side, so the idea of stacking one on top of another appears to be, shall we say, not such a good one. Then there are the green rocks (rated as "difficult"), and the highly irregular, 4-point-scoring red rocks (candidly rated "impossible") and of course the high-scoring, but extremely rare gold rocks. None of which is actually a rock.

Then there are the 25 challenge cards, each depicting rock constructs of various difficulty and geographic significance. The Pinnacle formation, for example, is purportedly found on the Galapagos Islands, whereas the Pigeon Rock configuration is somewhere near the city of Beirut.

Players each draw seven rocks from the rock bag, thereby randomizing the scoring potential and challenge, since you really can't tell what color rock you'll be getting until you actually get it. Got it? A Rukshuk card and the sand timer are then turned over to reveal the challenge for the round and to start the rocky contest. Players can build and rebuild their rock construct, attempting to place whatever higher scoring color rocks they have in their indicated multiple-point positions, or not. Once all the sand has fallen, all construction ceases, and the scores are calculated accordingly.

Rukshuk is a surprisingly well-balanced game, if you excuse the expression. It can be played as a solitaire, or with as many as fivc players. The pieces, the fantasy, the challenge cards all work together to make the game intensely involving, even for the nimble-fingered few, wirh just enough chance and strategic depth to entice the less-than-dexterous many.

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The Junkyard Sports Community

If you happened to travel to a month or two into the future, and, for some reason known only to you, found yourself at a newsstand, perusing the then current copy of Family Fun magazine, you would probably remark to yourself, saying: "why, isn't that Bernie's picture? and aren't those Junkyard Sports they're talking about? and isn't this a lovely, informative, nay, even stimulating article?"

"Ah," you might further say to yourself in future retrospect, "that explains why Bernie and webmistress Julie Wolpers were working so feverishly on the Junkyard Sports website. Why, of course," you continue surmisingly, "that's precisely why what was once known only as the Junkyard Sports site has become the 'Junkyard Sports Community' - so accessible, so filled with information and invitations to online community participation. Because, don't you see, all those Family Funsters, becoming so profoundly enthused by that very lovely, very well-illustrated article, will be veritably driven to satisfy their deservedly desperate need for resources and opportunities to bring Junkyard Sports to the day-to-day lives of their fun-seeking families, to their neighborhoods, schools, and places of work and play."

And, lo, once again, you would prove to have been uncannily insightful. And even lo-er, there's no reason for you to have to wait for the future to come to pass, because the Junkyard Sports Community is both here and now, in the truly gifted, virtual present of it all.

Go ye, therefore to the Junkyard Sports Community website. Peruse. Participate. The future is but a click away.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

Chapay, world's largest pick up sticks, and more

Chapay is a Russian game similar to shuffleboard played on a checkerboard.

I quote:
"The goal of the game is to sweep all opponent's checkers from the chessboard by flicking your own checkers.
Players make flicks by the turn. Red Army (what a surprise!) starts the game.
If you destroyed at least one opponent's checker without losing any of yours, you get an extra flick.
When all opponent's checkers are destroyed, winning army moves one line forward,
if the army wins without loss, it moves two lines forward.
The army which reaches the opposite side of the chessboard wins the game."
I found this game, in case you wondered, while searching for the world's largest game of Giant Pick Up Sticks. I learned that there was a game of "Monster Mikado" staged by Werner Holz where 41 eight-meter-long tree trunks were used instead of sticks and weighed around 3.5 tons. There happened to be a link on that page to the Wikipedia collection of Games of Physical Skill. And there, under "C," was Chapayev, Coconut shy, Cornhole (game), and Crud (game). For some reason only known to the gods of Internet randomness, I picked Chapayev.

And I was gladdened thereby, for it is just the kind of game, built on the combination of two other games, that reminds me and you so much of how Junkyard Sports are made. Inspiring, in its way, making you wonder about combining say shuffleboard with perhaps chinese checkers or football.

And a good game it is. One deserving of passionate Russian intensity. And you can even play it online.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith


Lonpos 303

Lonpos 303. Lonpos, because that's the name of the inventor. 303 because that's how many different puzzles there are. Puzzles of two different varieties: the rectangular, 2-dimensional variety, and the 3-D pyramid puzzles. There are 12 pieces, each made of a cluster of small balls, each a different color and shape. The shapes are pentomino-like in their variety (different configurations of clusters of 3, 4 and 5 units), so their mathematical properties are noteworthy - notably to mathematicians. All the pieces fit snugly in the case, which also most neatly serves to house the instruction booklets.

I was concerned, Defender of the Playful that I am, that perhaps the 3-D puzzles would be too, shall we say, challenging. After all, how do you effectively convey a 3-D puzzle in a 2-D booklet? So I tried those first. In fact, I tried the first one first. The illustration very clearly and painstakingly showed me how to place the first 11 pieces. All I had to do was figure out how to place the 12th. I must say that I was experiencing something akin to sensual delight as I built the puzzle - each piece fitting so satisfyingly snugly onto the board or onto other pieces. And, since there was only one piece left to place, and since it so clearly fit in only one possible position, I was able to experience the almost immediate reward of that final click, when everything falls together, and the full glory of pyramid-building manifests itself in multi-colored, opalescence.

Then I tried the next puzzle. Hmmm. A bit more difficult to figure out how to follow the instructions, to envision the proper piece when all you can see is the particular slice of it that appears on each level. And then the next. And another intriguing hmmm. And as I solved each puzzle, I felt I was being taught, carefully, playfully, invitingly, a bit more about the pentomatically puzzling properties of pyramid-building. And it wasn't really too difficult. I mean it could get difficult. There were many puzzles in the booklet o' puzzles. And they got progressively more and more, well, challenging. But I could select whatever challenge I was ready for. And I said unto myself, behold, this is fun. And I'm learning things. More than fun, actually. Major fun, even.

Lonpos 303 is very much like Lonpos 101, except Lonpos 101 only has 101 puzzles. And Lonpos 101 is very much like Kanoodle, which is similarly very much like Level Up. But there is only one Lonpos 303. And once you start playing with it, you'll be grateful for every one of the 202 additional challenges that await. After which you might want to contemplate the significance of knowing that there are actually 360,984 unique rectangle puzzles, and 2,582 similarly unique pyramids puzzles that you could potentially create with your 12 little Lonpos pieces.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith



Sprout is the winner of the Second CasualGamePlay Design Competition. This is news of some significance. First of all, there is some significant significance in knowing that there is an effort underway to acknowledge what a fellow named Jay calls "Casual Gaming." You gotta love that term: "Casual Gaming." So descriptive of the kind of gaming to which we who seek the light-hearted depths of fun find ourselves most inexorably drawn. Next, there is at least equally significant significance in learning that not only was there a CasualGamePlay Design Competition, but that also this is the second one already. And, significantly enough, that Sprout was the winner of the design award and the audience award.

But all significance aside, there's the game itself, Sprout, in all it's elegant, artfully simple, innovative, gentle, point-and-click-worthy glory. Drop a coconut. Plant another coconut tree, or perhaps an apple tree, or take your chances on floating a seed or two, and make your casual way across an imagined world, towards some real fun.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Visions of Coworking

This is a story of a collaboration about collaboration.

Gerrit Visser and I have been working together, fairly intensely, especially for the last few months. Gerrit is one of the foremost "cybrarians" (a term coined by Howard Rheingold) - a chronicler of collaborative technologies and initiatives. More than a decade ago, he and I began working together on a site called "CoWorking." I had conceived of CoWorking as an extension of my work with Technography. Technography relies on the skills of a computer-proficient facilitator. Coworking envisions collaboration in an environment where those skills are generalized - where every individual in the collaboration can take over the keyboard on behalf of the whole group.

Fortunately, this environment has materialized, in many ways. Virtual teams taking advantage of online meeting technologies, chat, phone, instant messaging, etc., have become masters of technology and social processes. Most recently, Chris Messina and Tara Hunt have been instrumental in launching the Coworking Movement - an international effort to provide physical environments that are conducive to the needs of the wireless coworker.

About three months ago, Gerrit invited me to add what he perceived as being a needed perspective to all this. He'd send me a link to some story he found on the web - something he thought would benefit from what I have come to understand as coworking. And I'd send him my heartfelt. And so began Coworking Visions.

Since then, our relationship as friends and coworkers has grown more and more empowering, deeper, more deeply satisfying. We are learning from each other at a startling pace. I've found myself with more and more to say - with things to say that I've wanted to say for years, and only now am finding a reason to say them. More importantly, I've found myself a coworker - a friend, a resource, someone I respect and rejoice with, someone who can bring the best out of me, all the way from Holland to here.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith