Send virtually anything to virtually anyone, virtually for free

If you happened to find yourself in such a position, and you wished to express, materially, in a virtual-sort of way, your personal appreciation for my ongoing existence, you might very well wish to send me a gift of some sort - especially if it didn't cost you anything. The question remains, however, what to get me. I've narrowed it down to: Pottery Classes, a Digital Camcorder, and a dress-up outfit. As an added incentive, if you happen to choose the one I really, really, really wanted most in the world, given only those three choices, you'd get three thumbs-up points and so would I! So, see, I really do want you to guess the one I really want, because then we both gets thumbs-up points. So the game is about giving each other things, things that'd be nice to be able to give each other, virtual, no-cash-value gifts that nonetheless are genuine acts of thoughtfulness.

This is GiftTRAP Live, Virtual GiftTRAP, yes, the Major FUN award-winning GiftTRAP of that very same name. Only, it's online now, and it's all grown-up into a game for online social networks, if you know what I mean.

On the one hand, it's a kind of an eCard, so to speak, a nice virtual thing you can send people. Way more personal than a joke. Just as much fun. On the other hand, it's a great way to start that "what do you really want for your birthday, or holidays" conversation. So it's like Web 2.0, see, interpenetrating virtual and actual space. Now that you know that I'd actually prefer the dress-up outfit, you know where to shop for me. And you can shop online, even. And it's like one of those Mass Multiplayer Online Games you sometimes read about, like Second Life, only the life on GiftTRAP's stage is kinder and gentler and more fun.

It behooves me to admit to a personal interest in this project. It was a comment I made back to the Nick from GiftTRAP that kicked off this whole project, and I've been lucky enough to kibitz on various iterations of this game as its evolved.

Which is why I get to be the first to blog about it going live.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Great Networked Balls!

Remember this piece about Audience Controlled Games - of which I was and am most fervently endorsing - ? Well, here's a vimeo of Zygote - the Interactive Ball which is, audience-fun wise, a totally and welcomely different approach to audience games. Which I shall label "Audience Games" from now on hither.

"ZYGOTE," some zygotian explains, "is a lightweight inflated ball, illuminated from within, that responds to pressure applied to its surface. Interacting with the ball is simple: punch it, bounce it, squeeze it, or tap it and the ball's internal LEDs react instantaneously. Dozens of balls released to an energetic audience at a major music concert, transform the environment into a multi-sensorial, interactive playground, actively engaging the crowd in a shared experience. Each ball also can act as both an input and an output device by being networked to a central computer. This allows for more complex interaction, as the crowd can modify the graphics on a screen, make the balls light up in unison, or even affect the music."

Great networked balls!

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith


Adult Recess

What do you know about this "Adult Recess" thing? And, if you forgive me for asking how often do you get it?

And when you do get it, do you think it's what this article in Natural Awakenings Magazine means when the events planner says she gave herself a very adult recess, once a week, at least, for the last eight years:
"I’ve made a weekly date with myself to do what feeds my soul. I start with a fun-to-do list that changes as I change. As I add things and cross things off, it punches through the inertia of 'Someday I’ll do that when…' It feels good when I look at how much I’ve done. And I can always repeat special treats. There’s no set time. I just fit it in each week.

"Nothing I do depends on another person’s schedule or preferences. This is guilt-free soul food and mind candy that inspires and makes every day more productive. One afternoon I splashed around acting silly at the water park. One week I recorded my favorite television show and gave myself a manicure and pedicure while I watched all five episodes. I like to make appointments with friends on the other side of the world simply for the joy of conversing. On an Alaska tour I visited the Anchorage library to look up things just for fun, not because I could use them at work. My latest craze is sudoku number puzzles."
Or do you mean the kind of adult recess that this article describes as taking place for 15 minutes every working day when " workers at Masel in Bristol, PA., (are) engaged in outside water-balloon tosses and basketball...indoor remote-control-car races, electric-slide dances in the lunchroom, and games of Simon Says."?

Or maybe this kind of recess like what my friend Christopher Noxon describes in Rejuvenile? The Capture the Flag and Kickball kind?

Or are we talking about the whole thing? The entire range of the Adult-perpetrated Recess-like, actual time spent doing only what you want to be doing experience?

How often do you get to take recess? Adult recess. Of any kind. Enough? Alot? Ever?


from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Pausch, Fun, and Death


Did you ever know professor Randy Pausch at CMU? Apparently, he did a lot of work with creating virtual reality systems/games. Pancreatic cancer will take his life in a few months, and he gave a "last lecture" at CMU. Here's the whole thing:

from Neatorama:

Fast-forward, if you wish, to 1:09:07, and listen for a couple of minutes.

Peace, Love & Fun,

I fast forward:

President Cohon to Pausch - "Please tell them about having fun."

Pausch - "It's kind like a fish trying to give a talk about the importance of water. I don't know how not to have fun. I'm dying, and I'm having fun. And I'm going to keep having fun every day I have left. Because there's no other way to play it."

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Wii for All

"Residents as old as 103 have ditched knitting and bridge after getting hooked on the console," writes Andrew Parker in the Sun Times (UK). He quotes 88 year-young Barrie Edgar: 'It’s great fun. We’ve only had it a few days but we can’t put it down.'"

And the director of the Sunrise Home: "It’s captured everyone’s imagination," she explains. Most residents are in their 80s and 90s. Things have got quite competitive."

The Wii. The International, Intergenerational Wii.

Oui? Whee!

via Boing Boing

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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ArtCar Fest - A Whole Nother Junkyard Sport

It's the The Art Car Fest! "The West Coast's Largest Gathering of Art Cars!" And you're looking at "Tom Kennedy's 'Ripper the Shark & Max the Fin Truck'" - Tom Kennedy being one of the artists whose presence will grace the First Annual Redondo Beach Junkfest.

The West Coast's Largest Gathering of Art Cars!, for goodness sake!

"The unique aspect of our medium," say the Fest-designers, "is that we bring art into the world every day as we drive our vehicles to work, to the store and on the highway." Very fun stuff, these art cars, transforming reality, like all good art.

ArtCars. Another kind of Junkyard Sport, it seems to me. A whole nother kind.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Learning to Play

Krista writes:
"I love this analogy Stuart Brown makes — after all his study of the science of play in intelligent social animals as well as human beings. At one end of the play spectrum in animals, there are labrador retrievers; at the other, there are wolves. Human beings act like labs in childhood and wolves in adulthood. But all we are learning about the human brain and body suggest that we are in fact hard-wired to learn and grow, by way of play and pleasure, across our life span.

"How to rediscover play if you've let it slide, I ask? Move your body, Stuart Brown says. Dig up your memories of what brought you pleasure as a child. Take cues from "the experts" — the children in your life today. Do what makes you happy, and what transports you beyond a sense of the clock, your schedule, that deadline — beyond time. And remember, he says, to the accomplished wolves and workaholic perfectionists among us, that while the idea of learning to play might be daunting, it's not rocket science. We know how to play, in good and deep and life-giving places inside us, just by virtue of being human."
See Krista's Journal and especially this.

via Presurfer

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Silly Power

Apparently, silliness can be put to some significant service. I quote extensively from this:
"'White Power!' the Nazi’s shouted, “White Flour?” the clowns yelled back running in circles throwing flour in the air and raising separate letters which spelt 'White Flour'.

"'White Power! the Nazi’s angrily shouted once more, 'White flowers?' the clowns cheers and threw white flowers in the air and danced about merrily.

"'White Power!' the Nazi’s tried once again in a doomed and somewhat funny attempt to clarify their message, “ohhhhhh!” the clowns yelled 'Tight Shower!' and held a solar shower in the air and all tried to crowd under to get clean as per the Klan’s directions.

"At this point several of the Nazi’s and Klan members began clutching their hearts as if they were about to have a heart attack. Their beady eyes bulged, and the veins in their tiny narrow foreheads beat in rage. One last time they screamed “White Power!”

"The clown women thought they finally understood what the Klan was trying to say. 'Ohhhhh…' the women clowns said.'Now we understand…', 'WIFE POWER!' they lifted the letters up in the air, grabbed the nearest male clowns and lifted them in their arms and ran about merrily chanting 'WIFE POWER! WIFE POWER! WIFE POWER!'

"It was at this point that several observers reported seeing several Klan members heads exploding in rage and they stopped trying to explain to the clowns what they wanted.

"Apparently the clowns fundamentally misunderstood the nature of the rally, they believed it was a clown rally and came in force to support their pointy hated brethren. To their dismay, despite their best jokes and stunts and pratfalls the Nazis and Klan refused to laugh, and indeed became enraged at the clowns misunderstanding and constant attempts to interpret the clowns instruction."
Infuriatingly funny, don't you think? Powerfully silly, nicht ja?

via Noise

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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"Are We Having Fun Yet?"

Before you click to read this article, the one called "Are We Having Fun Yet," - the one written by Matt Labash of The Weekly Standard - you should know that the subtitle is: "The infantilization of corporate America."

Basically, Labash pans the whole idea of fun-at-work. At least "the 'coercive fun,' the forced-march through the land of clenched-teeth joviality that so often takes place under the dreaded guise of 'team -building.'" His arguments are literate and powerful, and one finds oneself having to agree with the lad, especially about the coercive thing, fun-wise.

Labash is obviously having his own sort of fun, at fun's expense, of course. He writes: "If you thought there were only 301 Ways to Have Fun at Work, as suggested by the smash book that's been translated into 10 languages, then you're shortchanging yourself, because technically, there are 602 ways, according to the follow-up, 301 More Ways to Have Fun at Work. Using examples culled from real companies in real office parks throughout America, the authors suggest using fun as 'an organizational strategy--a strategic weapon to achieve extraordinary results' by training your people to learn the 'fun-damentals' so as 'to create fun-atics' (most funsultants appear to be paid by the pun)."

However, just in case you think he's simply having fun being funny about fun (he really is a very clever sort), try this: "Like a diseased appendix bursting and spreading infectious bacteria throughout the abdomen, fun is insinuating itself everywhere, into even the un-hippest workplaces."

I am not sure that such pun-pounding punches to the comedic kidneys of consulting corporate kidders are really necessary. I'm thinking that the people that are managing to bring fun into the corridors and carrels of the workplace are more like Emergency Services, bringing oxygen to an institution that is gasping for breath, an oppressive, fear-driven institution, mistakingly called "work."

Take us, for example, you, in particular. What are you doing reading this long article from someone who calls himself a "funsmith?" You are "having fun, yet," aren't you? You're doing something that interests you, that makes you feel intelligent, that makes you think. You're thinking, and maybe learning something, and maybe thinking about all the other links there are to visit. So much to learn. So many connections to make. So much real work to do. So much like real work should be. So much fun.

via Bill Harris

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Burning Man and the Musical Playground

This installation by Tom Witzlius exemplifies why I think Burning Man is such a significant event for devotees of the arts/fun connection. For me, taking something like a temple bell and turning it into something like a side-to-side swing set embodies the connection between fun and spirit. Of course, I wouldn't want to visit a playground full of these things without earplugs, but, on the other hand, it makes me wonder why, with so few exceptions (like this musical see saw) and something very much like this), there are so few, um, exceptions.

But, be that here or there or not, the many images from Burning Man help us make more and merrier connections between art and fun and community and the sheer, silly magnificence of it all.

It comes to us via frequent fun-finder Noise and can be found on his website here.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Dancing Around the World

Matt doesn't dance very well. But that most definitely hasn't stopped him from dancing. Not in Antarctica or Argentina or Australia or even Belgium or Belize or Bolivia and certainly not in Cambodia or Canada or Chile or the Czech Republic or Denmark or Ecuador or Egypt or France or Germany or Greece or Guatemala and equally not in Hungary or Iceland or India or Italy or Japan or Jordan or Kenya or Lebanon as well as not in Malaysia or Mali or Mexico or Micronesia or Morocco or Myanmar or Namibia or New Zealand or Norway or Palau or Peru or Poland or Portugal or Seychelles or Singapore or South Africa or Spain or Sweden or Tanzania or Thailand or The Netherlands or Turkey or Uganda or the United Kingdom or the USA or, for that matter, Vietnam.

Matt "is not rich. Matt also doesn't have some magical secret for traveling cheaply. He does it pretty much the same way everybody else does. Matt thinks Americans need to travel abroad more. Matt was a very poor student and never went to college. When he got older, he was pleased to discover that no one actually cares. Matt doesn't want to imply that college is bad or anything. He's just saying is all. There's other ways to fill your head."

Like with fun, country-spanning, culture-transcending, world-uniting fun.

via Noise and Bernie DeKoven, funsmith


The Politics of Laziness

Once again, my friend and co-inspirer Doc Searls has come up with a botheringly thought-worthy post, in a somewhat delayed meditation on Labor Day. He calls it "Leveraging Laziness. " He cites yet another post, "America’s Labor Day, The Right to Be Lazy, the Photocopy Shops of Istanbul, and the Democratization of Knowledge, " by another provokingly thought-worthy fellow named Stephen Lewis, who, in turn, muses on the 1883 essay by Paul Lafargue, called "The Right to be Lazy."

Doc quotes Lewis musing on Lafargue: "Forget about fighting for the right to work, Lafargue argues (while Lewis muses), one should struggle for the right to be lazy! Marx’s famed Communist Manifesto begins with the warning that the specter of class-based violence is haunting Europe, but the opening paragraph of Lafargue’s The Right to Be Lazy warns us against a more insidious danger from within, our own supposed industriousness..."

I love the web.

via Doc Searls

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith


Big Rig Jig

This, in case you were wondering, is called the "Big Rig Jig," It was created by "Brooklyn artist Mike Ross and crew of artists at American Steel in Oakland. Big Rig Jig was one of the art installations funded by Burning Man this year as part of 'The Green Man' theme."

Here's the artists' statement: "Our source objects are fundamental to the world’s oil distribution infrastructure, and are pertinent examples of our culture’s unmatched production of carbon dioxide. By altering these symbolically rich objects, the sculpture is a celebration of humankind’s raw power on earth, a visual metaphor for non-sustainability, and a contemplation of our unique ability to recognize and change our most destructive actions."

Here's mine: It takes a practiced and playful eye to imagine how two old trucks could become a monumental two-headed snake. Yes, yes, it is a monument that plays with power and fear and waste. But, most of all, a monument to the power of fun to transform and embrace even the rawest edges of our world.

via Laughing Squid

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Shoe art

Sensory Impact editor Adnan Arif writes: "This multimedia art installation titled 'Human Nature' by Federico Uribe (see "Installations") ... (gives) a new lease of life to discarded shoes, Uribe has reconstructed a forest environment and animals including rabbits, gorillas, cheetahs, and swans. Created completely from Puma shoes and laces, these 'animals' are a spectacle in themselves as well as triggers contemplation of our environment."

And I comment, as I am wont to do: Puma sneakers. One can't help wondering if it's perhaps beyond coincidence. Puma sneakers. Being used to create (other) animals. In fact, I think image #10 might be a Puma-puma, gorily eating some other hapless sole.

It is delight upon delight, this art, this beauty, this achievement, this masterfully re-purposed silliness.

(don't miss his collection of "torsos" made of things like clothespins, screws, pencils, pennies....)

via Neatorama via Sensory Impact

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Improvisational Sports

I found my mouse pointing me to this video on the Internet.

Here's the only explanation of I could find:
"Milwaukee kids pass a summer's day in what one of them calls 'The Ghetto Olympics' -- doing back flips and other gymnastics on mattresses stacked on the ground. They're joined by a man who was driving by and stopped to relive a bit of his childhood."
And I find myself watching and watching and thinking: "improvised sport," and "Hmmmm," and "isn't that what Junkyard Sports are/is? Improvisational sports?" and "Ghetto Olympics?!" and isn't it even more cool that we have yet another name for it? Improvisational Sports? Sports that you make up as you go along, so to speak, even though there's a, also to speak, 'script' with roles and rules and stuff."


The Best Homemade Mini Golf Course Ever

It is always gratifying to see evidence of the spirit of Junkyard Golf manifesting itself on the edges of the Internet.

Here, from YouTube, The Best Homemade Mini Golf Course Ever

Note how the designer keeps to the "assemblage" spirit of Junkyard Golf - not really securing anything to anything or ataching anything - just putting things together.

Not also the devotion, dedication, degree to which this whole silly thing is taken seriously.

  • Hole #1 - " up the hornby railway track , around the hotwheels bend & fired into the hole"
  • Hole #2 - " up and around the three loops and then fired into the hole"
  • Hole #3 - " up the hornby track down the videos and fired into the hole"
  • Hole #4 - " along the piano, some how. oh yeah, then fired in...
  • Hole #5 - " up the hornby track and fired up the tube and into the hole"
  • Hole #6 - " up and then down the hornby track, then fired into the tube and then in the hole"
  • Hole #7 - " up the hornby track and fired off the sofa into the hole"
  • Hole #8 - " up the tube and then fired back down the tube into then hole"
  • Hole #9 - " up the hornby track then fired against the tube, the tube falls over and the ball rolls along the piano into the hole"

see also: The Best Homemade Domino Golf Course Ever

via Junkyard Sports

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Labor Day, offices, and freedom

I received an email from my friend and coworker in the Netherlands - Gerrit Visser. Inspired by a confluence of circumstance - his thoughts about the possibilities for changing office culture, Labor Day, a long exchange we've been having about coworking, coliberation, and the like - I wrote the following:

It doesn't take long for us to figure out why we want to change office culture. Or even what we want to change about it. We sit at our desks, sickened by fear and mistrust, by pettiness and isolation. Well-reasoned fear and mistrust. We are asked to be loyal to organizations that repeatedly demonstrate their lack of loyalty to us. Systemic pettiness and isolation. Where we are divided into cubicles and carrels. Where we spend hours drinking the dregs of envy for those who get bigger windows and better parking spaces.

Here, in the States, it's Labor Day. As we battle our way across the freeways towards a spot on the beach, we devote at least some small part of our awareness to the memories of how bad it has been, this experience of labor, of working for a living. How violent and oppressive and corrupt it once was, this whole thing between bosses and those that are bossed. And we think ourselves fortunate, we workers, that today's violence, oppression and corruption is, for most of us, a far more subtle phenomenon - though equally as thorough.

It's that very subtlety and thoroughness that makes it so difficult for us to think about change. We have learned even to mistrust each other, to be afraid even of ourselves. So we don't know, really, how to make it better. So huge and vague is the culture of the office place, so profound and permeating that we are tempted to believe that we, ourselves, are not qualified enough to change anything.

Perhaps we aren't. Not as long as we are part of that culture. Not as long as we find ourselves inside. Which is why I place my faith in the outsiders - those who work outside the walls and halls of industry. In the people who are reinventing work, on maybe an hourly basis. The outsiders who work by phone and fax, computer and Internet, people who meet in coffee houses and kitchens, online, via computer. The outsiders who work together without bosses to tell them how to work.

Instead of changing office culture, they are creating an alternative. An alternative that is not driven by fear, but by commitment. Not by mistrust, but by a belief in themselves, in each other, in their ability, together, to find and create meaningful work. They are the ones who are changing the very definition of office culture, just as they are changing the very nature of work.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith