It's called Aninote. "Aninotes are musical animations that are customized to display the name of the recipient in the animation. Customized Aninotes will allow additional content to be modified for the recipient. Another important feature of an Aninote is that the web address for the Aninote (e.g. http://Robert.Blake.YouAreMyFriend.com) contains a summary of the overall message contained in the Aninote."
A far more important feature is how much fun these are, and how wonderfully silly you can be to let yourself believe, upon receiving one, even for a moment, that it's really all about you.
"Aninote.com was created, and is maintained by Robert 'Gunny' Blake from Toronto Ontario Canada. Robert, an Information Security Specialist by profession, created Aninote.com during his free time, and continues to support it as a hobby."
In case you missed it, Bill Donahue, in his February 1999 column in MetropolisMag, first reported on the sport of Skunneling - a brand of extreme sport then very much in vogue in Ventura (California). I was as impressed by the sport as by Donahue's reporting. He wrote:
(Greg) Small reaches a weedy culvert and hops in. Then, as a large dog hails him, barking and bashing against a high cyclone fence, he sinks into the ground. He disappears within a tubular storm drain, lies down feet-first on a makeshift long skateboard, and starts to roll. The sound of his wheels roars in the pipe, and ahead of him, way beyond the puny range of his headlamp, there is human noise--the haunting, echoey laughter and shouts of a friend careening along at 20 miles per hour.
Ah, skunneling! The very word--a mutation of "skateboarding in tunnels" and a phonic cousin of the slur "scum"-- captures the ancient punk heritage of America's newest way to shatter your collarbone. Skunneling, which has been flourishing in Ventura for the past couple years, is one more pastime invented by scrappy malcontents determined to milk joy out of concrete.
In case you didn't quite understand how anyone can skateboard in a storm drain, this source elucidates:
"It's a form of either laying with your back on the skateboard and pushing with your feet or by lying down on the board and using your hands to pull yourself through the drains."
Kevin Kelly's blog Street Use is "a solo effort to record the way in which people actually use technology versus how engineers imagined it would be used." Kelly might be familiar to the wiser children of the 60's and 70's because of his involvement with the Whole Earth Catalog. He "launched (and co-edited) the new Whole Earth Catalogs: The Essential Whole Earth Catalog, The Whole Earth Ecolog, the Fringes of Reason, and Signal: a Whole Earth Catalog of Communication Tools."
But, despite his many projects and works of wonders, it is his Street Use blog which hits closest to our shared home, we who engage in repurposing the world for play.
Return with me now to the game of Chapay, as so faithfully and lovingly described heretofore. From thence, shuffle forward to a flash game, serendipitously, and yet mysteriously known as "Shuffle."
Perhaps I should say no more, relying, rather, on your own personal musings, as you muse about the perhaps not-so-subtle connections between this obviously amusing amusement and the perhaps more mysterious joys of its lineage. Clearly, the similarities are beyond coincidence. Even more clearly, a game with beauty is a joy forever.
Many are the theories that embrace the various phenomena known by some under the general rubric of Shoe Tossing. Yet, from the various manifestations of shoefiti to the remarkably collective testimony of the shoe tree, no single explanation has emerged. Is it an act of vandalism, of desecration, or perhaps some more hopeful sign of the human spirit emerging from its own trash heap?
Some, as the writer of the Roadside America article on shoe trees (op. cit.), see shoe tossing as a semi-noble artistic pursuit, starting "with one dreamer, tossing his or her footwear-of-old high into the sky, to catch on an out-of-reach branch. It usually ends there, unseen and neglected by others. But on rare occasions, that first pair of shoes triggers a shoe tossing cascade. Soon, teens are gathering up their old Adidas and Sauconys, families are driving out after church with Dad's Reeboks and grandma's Keds. The shoe tree blooms with polymer beauty. A work of art like this may last for generations, tracing our history by our sneakers . . . as long as the tree doesn't die."
As for me, I prefer the happier, less trodden shoe-tossing sport, known by the Fortunate Few as Shoeshoes.
I found this amazing shadow sculpture "(made from junk by Tim Noble and Sue Webster, Dirty White Trash [With Gulls], 1998 | six months’ worth of the artists' rubbish)" by following a link contributed by Instructables memberiamnotsancho while checking out this wonderful Instructables instructions, as it were, on how to make shadow sculptures out of junk.
All of which is to point to yet another amazing artistic exploration of junk, and junkly exploration of art, and manifestation of the transforming power of play.
You are probably not aware of the nascent filmic extravaganza called "Going Nuts," a stop-motion film in which "a prestigious fairytale illustrator is hired by the psychiatric hospital director. His job there will be to decorate the hospital walls with his drawings to improve the place’s atmosphere. It seems like an easy task but things get complicated when the sketcher discovers a dark corridor from where chilling screams come out." And now informed by the clarity of the preceding synopsis, you may still be taken by surprise by the discovery that the illustrator is, himself, a nut. And he's not the only one. In fact, all the characters in the film are nuts. Peanuts.
Yes, you heard me correctly. Peanuts. Hence the title.
Hence, also, the topic of today's post - a most visually snack-worthy contest, whose results are herein featured, inviting the masses to submit their own, hand-drawn, peanut characters.
Another taste of whimsy, and art, and a junklike, commercially-sponsored rejuvenation of the spirit of play.
One of the hopefully unintended consequences of the whole sports industry - from physical education and soccer camp to Sports Networks to shoe commercials - is the message that we have the wrong stuff. We have the wrong kinds of bodies, the wrong kind of equipment, the wrong kinds of clothes. In sum, what we have and who we are isn't good enough.
In a way it's a valuable message - one that challenges us to improve ourselves, physically and materially. And for those of us who are motivated by that challenge, it proves to be a remarkably successful path to self improvement.
Unfortunately, those people are in the minority.
For the vast majority of us, the message is: you're not good enough. You don't have the right stuff. You're not made of the right stuff. And you never will be.
And for these people, the only path is consumption. Watch others play sports, eat granola bars and trail mix, drink sports drinks from sports bottles, wear athletic socks and shoes and t-shirts, eat vitamins and subscribe to health publications. Junkyard Sports, Junk Art, Junk Music - these are celebrations of the wrong stuff - of all the fun we can have, the art we can create, the joy we can share with the wrong stuff. With the stuff that is thrown out, rejected. With torn socks and pantyhose and plastic shopping bags, water botles and newspaper and bubblewrap, we can make games of deep and lasting fun, we can make art that makes us laugh, music that makes us dance. We can play we can dance, we can create, all of us together, fat and skinny, English and Hispanic, seniors and juniors, able and labeled.
Clive Thompson of Wired writes about an MFA grad student at Rutgers, Tom Russotti, who invented a game he eventually called "Whiffle Hurling" - apparently a version of the Irish game of hurling played with whiffle bats and ball.
In addition to the apparent playworthiness of this game, what struck me was Thompson's perspective on the whole thing, as a games columnist for Wired. He writes:
"After all, we live in a golden age of play. The video-game industry is bristling with innovation: You've got haptic controllers on the Wii, titles like Eye of Judgment merging card-games with computers, and the increasingly strange economic activity in online worlds. Our culture is clearly hungry for new forms of play.
"Yet how many new major physical sports have you played in recent years? Zero, I'll bet. The pantheon of major team-sports -- football, basketball, baseball, soccer, hockey -- hasn't significantly altered in decades.
"So Russotti decided to expand the field a bit. By creating a new sport, he decided, he could level the playing field between athletes. When you join a pickup game of basketball or football, it's always slightly marred by the fact that some of the players will be totally experienced -- making it slightly more dull for the less-expert folks. A new sport wouldn't have that problem."
We, of course, are aware that people are continually inventing new sports as reported so faithfully in the Junkyard Sports News. But Tompson, typical of so many of those who have come to define games as things that happen on a computer, saw Russotti's accomplishment as groundbreaking. Well, for Thompson, and Russotti, it is true enough, groundbreaking enough. And perhaps the same will be true for those computer game players who read this article. I hope so. I hope they pay special attention to Russotti's comment:
"Essentially, were figuring out how to play. And this is, counter intuitively, a big part of what makes a new game so great: You get to explore the intriguing and unpredictable ways that the rules interact."
Yup. That's what it's all about, the fun of new game and sports and Web 2.0 even. Not just the newness, but more the getting to invent them together.
Game Cafe is one of the very few game stores that actually invite people to come and play. I wrote them to find out more. Naturally. When I read their response, my first reaction was "finally." At last, a game store that understands, respects, and provides for play. My second reaction - I have to share this with the known universe. Here's what they sent me (shared with permission).
"Game Cafe is a retail game store started, owned and run by my husband and myself.
"We are all about fun and have worked hard to create a comfortable and inviting environment that is family oriented. We are located on the Historic Independence Square in Independence, MO, and have been open for just over a year now.
"The way our store is set up is that the front area is our retail board and card game section. We sell unique games for ages 3 through adult. There are many types, from light-hearted family games, group/party games, 2-player games, kids games, educational games, strategy games, puzzle games, collectible card and miniatures games and more. We have a large Chess/Checkers table in front that is free to anyone who wants to use it.
The middle of our store is a cafe area with snacks (candy, chips, ice cream, small microwaveable pizzas and sandwiches, etc) and drinks (soda fountain and bottled). It is also a place to play tabletop games. We have a game menu were you can select a board or card game from our growing game library to play in-store for $1 per person. We have games for kids, families, adult groups, couples, etc. We also host many game tournaments and leagues in this area. Tuesday nights is new game night where I teach a board or card game to the group that comes that night. (This particular group is designed for older teens and adults and is free) There is no charge to use our table/play area in general.
"The back area of our store holds our computers and video games hooked up to wall mounted flat-screen T.V's. We have PC games, are connected to the Internet, and have XBOX 360's, a Game Cube, and a Nintendo Wii. To play in this area, there is an hourly fee. We have many game titles to choose from and allow people to bring their own game titles to use if they choose.
"We also have a game room in the back that can be rented out for group games or for birthday parties and such. We have a basement that is in the process of being finished and will become a hall to host large scale gaming events, and be available to rent out for groups or even receptions."
The game is wonderfully easy to understand. All you have to do is watch it for a minute or two. When two or more people play it, it becomes a test of teamwork worthy of ballroom dancers. It's funny. It doesn't really make people look embarrassingly silly. It seems reasonably safe. And it invites real skill. The challenge itself is as mental as it is physical - trying to anticipate how to position your body so it will fit through the moving shape. And it makes for great viewing. Worthy of all the attention it is receiving on the net. Worthy, even, of yours.
Going to their site is an experience of art, inventiveness and humor - wonderfully refreshing, inspiringly positive. Which at least partially explains why Patrick has composed a calendar called Folk Art for Schools to help raise funds for the local school system.
I found this quote in an article from the San Francisco Chronicle. In it, Amiot gives us a glimpse of the almost spiritual joy with which he transforms the world: "I'm a junk specialist...I try to buy as little as I can. Nothing beats the flea market. It's my church and my temple. People throw stuff away that I consider valuable. I can do so many things with it. They chuck it in the garbage one day. I transform it, and then they want it in their front yard."
Because the roots of Junkyard Sports are as firmly embedded in junk as they are in sports, I've found myself exploring the web, searching for the kinds of Junk Art (yes there are kinds) that seem to be most closely related in spirit to Junkyard Sports.
Pepto the Clown, depicted here, is exemplary of that kind of Junk Art. It is from the work of Ben Hawkins, a.k.a. Whimsical Rubbish. Whimsical Rubbish. Rubbish, perhaps, but whimsical - the kind of whimsy that is both the art and heart of Junkyard Sports.
Searching for more such junkish whimsy, I wandered through the back roads of Youtube, eventually finding myself strolling down ForestFlorence Avenue, Sebastopol. From there, I was transported to a place called GarbagePatch - a rural Iowa farm pond near the Neil Smith Wildlife Refuge in Prairie City, Iowa. Upon concluding my visit to the garbage garden, I clicked over to the densely amazing Cathedral of Junk in Austin, finally ending my journey in Australia, where I watched this Documentary on Steve Oatway, Sculptor.
Having exhausted myself in the visual vicissitudes of video voyaging, I found refuge in the Flickry vaults of our collective conscious. There, among the myriad, I discovered many obviously whimsical manifestations of Junk Art, similar in spirit and depth to the aforementioned collection of Whimsical Rubbish, at a place called "Trashion Nation."
Home now, I can share with you these mementos of my virtual travels, perhaps to reintroduce you to the whimsical wisdom that at one time inspired you to create your own art, permitted you to invent your own sports. It is right there. Everywhere. Play on, fellow traveler.
Ann P. Smith "spends her days making little robotic like figurines from broken electronics and machine parts." Little robotic like figurines that, apparently, gallop, and growl.
From the playful perspective, Smith's art is a near heroic achievement - a transmutation of the broken and useless into intricate expressions of life. It is a graphic expression of the same spirit that makes Junkyard Sports so deeply fun. There's something about it that redefines us. Something that frees us to see the world, and each other, anew.
Booby Trap is what you'd call a "classic kids' game." It's been around since the 60's (originally a Parker Brothers game), and has been recently re-released by Fundex. For kids old enough to appreciate the patience, dexterity, observation skills, and luck necessary to win, Booby Trap is a study in fascination.
An assortment 63 pieces (three different discs, each of a different width and color, each with a peg handle in the middle) is literally squeezed in the playing frame so that they are as tightly packed as possible. The squeezing is achieved by attaching a rubber band to a "tension bar" on one side of the frame. The goal of the game, then, becomes to remove as many of the discs as you can without disturbing the tension bar.
The larger pieces are, of course, worth the most points, and are, equally of course, the most difficult to remove. And yet, oddly enough, if you are very observant, or lucky, you might easily pick one that, despite appearances to the contrary, lifts out with the greatest of ease and heart-lightening joy. Of course, after someone's judgment or luck proves to be less than successful, and the bar moves, and other pieces get sprongged off the board, the tension, for the next player, is considerably, so to speak, released.
There is a rule which can be very difficult for younger children to observe - the one about having to move whatever you touch. The desire to test before plucking frequently overwhelms the need to play strictly by the rules. Those who are old enough to appreciate the sagacity of the touch-it-pluck-it rule will derive immense satisfaction, and the sometimes shockingly violent evidence, of the efficacy of their observational powers, and will be moved more quickly to laughter than to tears in either event.
This restored release of Booby Trap also includes a variation which allows for a shorter game. Six narrow boards are included, one for each of the up to six players. Each board shows a different sequence of pieces that must be selected. It's a good challenge, and, depending on what happens before your turn, and what size piece is next on your board, often surprisingly more than adequate.
Can't Stop is the Majorest FUN of one of the MajorFUNnest game designers I ever had the honor to know. The late Sid Sackson was a passionate, modest, and remarkably accessible game inventor and collector. His expertise, his appreciation for an elegant design, his love of play is everywhere evident in this most accessible of his games. And, thanks to Face 2 Face Games, you, too, may soon find yourself delightfully unable to stop.
Can't Stop is a dice game in which players try to be the first to claim 4 of the 11 rows (corresponding to all the combinations of two dice) on the Can't Stop board. You have 4 dice. You throw all of them, and then combine them into pairs - however you want. So, if you throw, for example, a 3, 4, 5, and 6, you can move one space forward in the 7 and 11 columns, or one space forward in the 8 and 10 columns, or two spaces forward in the 9 column - thus giving you just enough decision-making power to make you feel responsible for whatever fate awaits.
Can't Stop is perhaps the ultimate fate-tempting games. Because, you see, your turn doesn't end with one throw. Oh, no. You can throw and throw again. Until, don't you know, you don't have a legal move. If you only had stopped right before that, you could have progressed significantly up the board, coming everso closer to claiming a row of your own. But you didn't stop, did you. Oh, you could have. You should have. But, no. O'ertaken, once again, by the sheer bravado of your unassailable hopefulness.
You have three white pieces to move, and a bunch of markers to plant. You throw the dice and move one or two of the pieces. You feel somewhat sanguine about your next throw, knowing that you'll have at least one more piece to move regardless. Of course, any column already claimed by another player can't be used. Which is good (because any move that you can't make is not counted as a possible move) and not so good (because you have fewer opportunities to win).
If you have the good sense to stop at the right time, you remove the white pieces, and use your markers to indicate your progress along those columns. If you have the bad luck not to stop in time, all the white pieces are given to the next player, whatever progress you might have made on your turn is obliterated, and the game goes on.
The game always seems winnable, until it isn't. As more and more columns are claimed, the temptation not to stop becomes evermore profound. And the likelihood that you should've when you could've evermore self-evident.
Can't Stop can be played by 2-4 players. Or by that many teams. For anyone old enough to play checkers and appreciate the value of profound chagrin.
Surely you remember that which was at one time called Line Flyer? And more than likely you now know it equally as well as Line Rider. But how aware are you of the fact that there is now a Line Rider Beta 2? And what about the significantly amusing and intriguingly different Freerider, arrow-key controlled game-like version, I ask you?
Oh, I could go on. I could mention, for added example, the Lineboarder, snowboarding-like variation. But, then again, perhaps I've said enough.
One of the especially playworthy aspects of celebrating the Fourth of July is the patriotically-motivated urge to engage the entire family in family gamelike events. These family gamelike events are designed to complement the traditional "Before the Fireworks Family Picnic" and are characterized by activities of the horseshoe ilk. Of all the horseshoe-ilk games, the game of Washers is perhaps the most family-appropriate, and the most American. According to the International Association of Washer Players, "The history of the game is cloaked in mystery but lends itself to colorful conjecture. 'Betcha I can toss this here washer into that oil can over yonder,' someone might have wagered years ago. Most certainly humble roots fathered the game as participants used readily-available parts, a hallmark of the game that survives even today."
The association recommends "standard round metallic washers, 2.5" in diameter with a 1" center hole." In case you were wondering. In case you weren't, you can play Washers with just about anything round and flat, or perhaps not so round or not completely flat.
For those of us who seek immediate, commercially-available, official-looking, moderately-priced gratification, there's Bulls-Eye Washers from Fundex. You don't have to dig any special pits (as the IAWP states: "although not absolutely necessary to the game, pits add an aura of legitimacy, provide for easy maintenance of the soil, and aid in scoring measurements.")
The washers have that perfect heft and pleasantly graphic markings. And the boxes (one might call them "portable pits") are easy to cary and set up. They each contain the recommended 3-point-worthy PVC target, surrounded by a tastefully green carpeted secondary target area. I especially appreciate that the targets are so adjustable - you can put them any distance apart, so that you can play the game almost regardless of age or ability. Some kids find that standing almost on top of the box is more than enough of a challenge.
Wide is the variety and comparative delights of the game of Washers. At perhaps another commercially-available extreme, we have the game of Chuckers.
The people who've developed Chuckers like to call it a "family tossing game."
By "tossing game" they mean a game that involves, well, tossing things, as does, for example, horseshoes, and a variety of bean bag and target games, and of course washers, which is strangely enough also called, "cornhole," and most relevantly perhaps that quoits game where you throw rings around pegs.
So, in a way, if you know any one of these games, you'll know how to play Chuckers. In another way, because it combines different aspects of traditional games to result in a completely different, and, arguably, a far more majorly fun game - because it's a family game.
By "family" they mean a game that can be played by just about anybody - especially if you're kinda loose about the rules. Which you can be, easily. Because the game is almost self-explanatory. Because the game is so well made.
And because the game is as much luck as it is skill. Very interesting - how combining luck and skill, in just the right manner, so that you really half believe that you can master the thing, learn the right control, the precision positioning of finger and ring and foot and eye, while at the same time, you half know that it's really luck, not skill - sheer luck that your ring thing landed around the farthest peg or into the farthest target or wound up leaning on a peg, giving you exactly 21 points! Just enough luck so that anyone, regardless of skill, can win. Even you.
The rings you toss are made of rubber and steel. They've got, what you'd call, "significant heft." The things you toss them into are even more significantly hefty. Thick, sturdy, and yes, what you could only call "industrial strength" plastic. They are connected by a rope which is exactly as long as the recommended distance between the two targets. It's a game you can leave out for a while, at a family party, in a playground, a park, a classroom...
All of which is to say that, in addition to commercially-available inspirations, there are perhaps a minor infinity of washer-like games, that can be made out of a similarly minor infinity of materials - sand dollars and sand pits, old CDs and shoeboxes, dead golf balls and toilet paper tubes.... To we of the make-your-own-washer-game perspective, the entire modern world is an invitation to play. (see also Shoeshoes )
Using watch parts to create miniature motorcycles becomes, in the hands of José Geraldo Reis Pfau, a form of high play.
As you look at the many examples of his art, you can see the exacting playfulness of each of his creations - the power of a vision that can transform watch batteries into headlights, wrist watches into wheels, parts of watch bands into seats, watch gears into engines. These tiny marvels, some scarcely larger than a couple of paper clips, demonstrate the discipline and skill that are requisite complements of true playfulness. The same kind of skill and discipline that we see in miniature when we watch children transform blocks of wood into towers of the imagination.
The Q Drum - it rolls, you can pull it, kids get the same kind of fun from it that they'd get from a good pull toy, and it can contain 50 liters of deliciously sloshing water.
So in places where women spend half their day just getting water from the well to their village, carrying it in heavy jugs and drums and barrels, here's a simple innovation - a donut-shaped barrel that can be pulled on a rope.
OK, so maybe it's not as fun as pulling a wagon, but it certainly is a lot more fun than having to carry the water, and since it's easy enough for kids to do, it's a lot more fun for them than having to watch their mothers suffer. It's fun to help. Fun to be valuable to the survival of your own village. Fun to walk around with a giant, sloshing pull-toy.
And it's simpler than a pull-toy, more durable. And the inspiration that made this possible, it was like the inspiration that you get from an act of deep playfulness, where you finally arrive at something new, something simple, something that transforms reality, something that changes the world. For good.