Liquid Art

Stir together: playfulness, art, science and technology.

The result:

- dances of light and delight.

Click your way to this amazing collection of Liquid Art and Droplet Photography. Be amazed. Be very amazed.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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When Junk Art Meets Junk Food

There are times, rare, precious times, when the gods of art and whimsy can be made to dance together exceptionally well.

"McDonalds as Sculpture Materials" is one such.

found by Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Pachisi & Ludo

When I introduce students to the art of game design, I seem to always start with a relatively intense focus on "game-modding" - taking a classic game of some very familiar kind and modifying it, somehow, into something that is new, different, something inviting a different kind of game experience. This site about the sister games of Pachisi & Ludo gives us a near perfect starting point.

Here you will find the history of Pachisi as well as of more than 6 related games, and lists with images of commercial and other computer implementations - enough to inspire you to new heights of Ludo-craft, as well as to give you a much stronger understanding of an entire genre of game structures.

Also, it's a lot of fun.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Adventures in Hopscotch

Anu Visel's research into "The Traditional and the Recent in Modern Schoolchildren's Games" in Estonian Folklore" is the very kind of treasure of play scholarship that inspired me to write the Interplay Games Catalog for the School District of Philadelphia, because it presents concrete, scholarly descriptions of games that actual kids actually play. Take for example this wonderful image of a girl playing some kind of hopscotch. But what kind of hopscotch looks like that?

Number Beds.

"It probably arrived in Estonia in mid- or late 1960s," writes Visel, "and in 1972-73 Number Beds was a well-known game (RKM II 306). The figure represents a square or a rectangle that is divided into 9, 12 or 24 compartments. Often an additional square ('foot') is joined to the middle square of the front or back row. The numbering system varies, but usually the neighbouring beds are not marked by successive numbers. Here hopping is the only activity: the player is to traverse the figure precisely in the order of the numbers.15 Only the manner of hopping varies: 1) feet together, 2) on the right foot, 3) on the left foot, 4) backwards. Depending on how inventive the players happen to be the game may be prolonged and diversified further (e.g. the figure may have to be traversed in the opposite order, or blindfolded etc.). Every class consists of as many rounds as there are squares. For "one" all beds have to be taken, for "two" all except the first, etc. Rest beds or "rest homes" may also be involved, sometimes even lending their name puhkekodud to the whole game."

"Jumping games," Visel observes, "are one of the games group that has changed the most during the last 60 years. Jumping games have, in most cases, been adopted from other nations. Such games have come to life quite lately and they represent the quickly changing international town folklore. In Estonia, too, they are mostly girls' games. Though it seems that Hopscotch was popular already in the 1930s, it must have been a relatively new game at that time. During the post-war years popularity of the game grew, some new hopscotch schemes appeared, favourite games changed, jumping sessions or classes became more detailed. It has been overdominated by twist (Elastic Skipping) - though girls knew several kinds of Hopscotch in 1992, they hardly ever used them. Totally new local developments (One Leg, Two Legs; Class: Strawberry, etc.) can be found only in some periphery (e.g. Kihnu Island). Compared to the earlier period the number of Hopscotch played without stones and elements (or boxes) in the schemes and the usage of a private bed (or "home") had increased."

Yet another new adventure in Hopscotch, another way to play, another principle of play to apply to another group of games, to create yet more games, to give kids yet more options, yet more ways to invite each other into play in evermore rapidly changing times.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Underpants Tug-of-War - Could Pantyhose be Far Behind?

Yes, my friends, it's true. It's what you've been waiting for for so many years that you forgot you were waiting. It's: Underpants Tug-of-War, at last!

Apparently (until some well-versed translator can explain otherwise), you get two pairs of panties (and/or underpants), joined by a single string (or perhaps elastic something). You and your partner place these panties on your respective heads, and proceed as illustrated.

My guess is that you lose your panties, you lose the game.

Oh, the fun, the silliness, the sheer, suggestive ribaldry of it all.

I, however, when I put together the words "game" and "panties," find myself having fond memories of yet another game, which I would explain, except that it's not relevant, other than its pantyhose-on-the-headness, as illustrated herein, , which, in turn, makes me think that one could everso easily make one's own Panty-tug-of-war-like game out of a pair of pantyhose, or perhaps two.

Pantyhose-Tug-of-War. A new, playworthy, and clearly Junkyard-type Sport. And you read about it here.

via Neatorama

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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A game of benevolent assassination

"Cruel 2 B Kind," they say,"is a game of benevolent assassination."
"At the beginning of the game, you are assigned three secret weapons. To onlookers, they will seem like random acts of kindness. But to other players, the seemingly benevolent gestures are deadly maneuvers that will bring them to their knees.

"Some players will be slain by a serenade. Others will be killed by a compliment. You and your partner might be taken down by an innocent group cheer.

"You will be given no information about your targets. No names, no photos, nothing but the guarantee that they will remain within the outdoor game boundaries during the designated playing time. Anyone you encounter could be your target. The only way to find out is to attack them with your secret weapon.

"Watch out: The hunter is also the hunted. Other players have been assigned the same secret weapons, and they're coming to get you. Anything out of the ordinary you do to assassinate YOUR targets may reveal your own secret identity to the other players who want you dead.

"As targets are successfully assassinated, the dead players join forces with their killers to continue stalking the surviving players. The teams grow bigger and bigger until two final mobs of benevolent assassins descend upon each other for a spectacular, climactic kill."
Ah, yes, death, and then transfiguration. Hence, fun.

via Boing Boing, etc.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Torus Games

Here's something else to be thankful for. Torus Games is the latest of Jeff Week's wonderfully playworthy, genuinely educational, free, downloadable Geometry Games (both Mac- and PC-compatible).

Jeff explains: "Eight familiar games introduce children ages 10 and up to the mind-stretching possibility of a “multiconnected universe”. Games include: tic-tac-toe, mazes, crossword puzzles, word search puzzles, jigsaw puzzles, chess, pool and apples. While playing the games, kids develop an intuitive visual understanding of a model universe that is finite yet has no boundary. Players who master the games on the torus may move on to try them on the more challenging Klein bottle. Even though the games were designed with kids in mind, adults interested in topology, geometry and cosmology have also found them enjoyable and enlightening."

It is a gift, supported by the National Science Foundation and people who seem to care about kids and learning and believe in the educational value of play.

Let us give thanks. Let us play.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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"Two robotic arms attached to a large and vintage-looking machine are making the same movements again and again. They plunge into aluminium bowls containing a soapy mixture and emerge from it with a huge bubble forming a kind of delicate and fragile screen which contrasts with the industrial look of the mechanism itself.

"On the soap bubbles, appear images of living babies, people or animals. Some of them seem to struggle. Others just float around. Until the bubble pops a few seconds after its creation. The cycle is repeated: the machine spews out bubbles, which, like the organisms in the images, will survive for mere seconds. As Curator José-Carlos Mariátegui mentioned during the press conference, the bursting of the bubbles evokes the frustrating attempts experienced by creators, be they artists, inventors or scientists."

Ah, the every joyous evocations of frustration. Who can resist?


via We Make Money, Not Art

by way of Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Go Figure

The Institute for Figuring "is an educational organization dedicated to enhancing the public understanding of figures and figuring techniques. From the physics of snowflakes and the hyperbolic geometry of sea slugs, to the mathematics of paper folding and graphical models of the human mind, the Institute takes as its purview a complex ecology of figuring."

For an example of the ecology of figuring in all its complexity, see the Crochet Coral Reef, currently on display at the Andy Warhol Museum

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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from the World Play Toy List

"These funny clowns are made at the spectacular Foz do Iguacu (Iguassu Falls), which sits at the point where Brazil meets Argentina and Paraguay. Here, there are always beautiful, lush green plants growing everywhere, so no wonder the kids there have incorporated grass into their toys! Meet the Grass Head Clown, which is often decorated with the colors of the rainbow, the same colors created from the mist of Iguassu Falls which falls along 350-foot cliffs of river. The child who made this particular toy used all recycled materials: a pair of her mother's old' stockings, a piece of scrap ribbon, sawdust she found lying around her father's wood shop, and a small handful of grass seeds. As a result of assembling all this "junk" together, she has a toy that's fun for any boy or girl to make and play with . . . especially if they like to cut hair! These toys have become so popular in Iguassu Falls that some of the children make them and sell them to tourists who come to see their town. So they are not only toys, but they are also a way for the children to make a little money of their own.

"We like to call the Grass-Head Clown the original Chia Pet!"

found on World Play Toys, by Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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90 Seconds of JunkFest

The following clip is purportedly to be aired locally (South Bay area, Southern California) on CNN Headline news on 12/3 and 12/4 throughout the day, 24 past the hour and 54 past the hour.

Click this

car hood saying "junk fest"

Comments invited.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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"Play is as necessary to civic health as dreaming is to mental health"

"Play is as necessary to civic health as dreaming is to mental health..." - observes author Grady Hendrix in the article "Feel the Sting of My Foam Sword - A must-see documentary about LARPing."

The quote concludes: "...but playing makes Americans suspicious."

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Driftwood Horses

Heather Jansch makes horses out of driftwood. Driftwood. Lovely, lovely junk from the sea. She explains:
"I was tired of following in other peoples footsteps. I had been working with copper wire and the sculptures were like Da Vinci’s line drawings but lacked the power I wanted. One day I while I was out my son could not find any kindling wood to light the wood-burner and had chopped up a piece of ivy that had grown round a fencing stake, he had left behind a short section that I immediately saw as a horse's torso of the right size to fit straight into the copper wire piece I was working on. The next question was where could I find more or similar shapes and the answer was of course driftwood."
Need I say more?

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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The Grow-a-Brain Depository of Unusual Games and Toys

The "Huge Grow-a-Brain Depository of Unusual Games" grows huger and more unusual, including such recent finds as Ze (Defender of the Playful) Frank's bizarre, and yet rather lovable Miniracers game.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Right there, under the banner:

The all-new, totally improved, sacred-son-suggested Official Junkyard Sports Slogan:

Do-It-Yourself Fun

Brill, don't you think? Descriptive, wouldn't you say, of the entire Junkyard Sports approach to the universe, is it not?

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith


Turn the world upside-down and the US looks like an anteater

"Upside down maps are always fascinating. The U.S. looks like an anteater."

from the J-Walk Weblog

(Upside-down world maps can be purchased at the Aussie Shop...really.)

via Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Of Gas and Whimsy

Friend in play Bruce Williamson writes:

"On my trip last June I walked by this propane tank just down the road from the friend's cabin where I was staying. It's always fun being surprised by someone's whimsy just when you are least expecting it!"

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Liz Hickok - Jell-O Artist

Liz Hickock works in Jell-O. She writes:
"When lit properly, the molded shapes that make up the city blur into a jewel-like mosaic of luminous color, volume, and light. However, I’ve discovered that the gelatinous material also evokes uncanny parallels with the geological qualities of the real San Francisco. While the translucent beauty of these compositions is what first attracts the viewer, their fragility quickly becomes a metaphor for the transitory nature of human artifacts."
So, see, it's not just fun, and it's not at all silly - it's art. Gotta love it.

via J-Walk Blog

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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The Persistence of Playfulness - a folk art tour of Kansas

"Kansas," did you know, "is a national leader in grassroots or self taught folk art."

Did you further know that self taught folk art is probably one of the best examples of what I sometimes, but not often call "the persistence of playfulness"?

For example, in Erie, Kansas one can find "the wonderful metal sculptures of the Dinosaur Not So National Park."

While in Lincoln County, Kansas are "J. R. Dickerman's fabulous Creature Creations form an 'Open Range Zoo' along Highway 18."

And in Lucas, Kansas, the "Garden of Isis by Mri Pila...5 rooms of art made from doll bodies, toys, kitchen utensils and other recycled materials."

A short scroll down the virtual lane of the Kansas Grassroots and Folk Art collection will explain all.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Kids invited to make movement fun

I received the following, and am passing it on to you, as is my wont:
Ruckus Nation is an 'online competition to get kids moving.' Ruckus Nation takes an innovative approach to combating the devastating effects of childhood obesity by challenging participants to imagine fun, engaging new products that will increase physical activity in young people. Since its launch September 18, 2007, Ruckus Nation has captured the attention of people across the United States and around the world.

So far, over 750 teams of contestants have registered for Ruckus Nation:
  • Representing 49 U.S. states and the District of Columbia
  • Hailing from 52 countries in Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe, and North and South America
  • Ranging in age from 9 to 76 years old
Members of the public are invited to help select competition winners by registering to be Ruckus Nation judges at. Those interested in submitting an idea and competing in Ruckus Nation have until the November 20 submission date to register at the site. Competition winners will share in more than $300,000 in cash and prizes, including a grand prize of more than $75,000.

The competition is sponsored by the nonprofit HopeLab and cosponsored by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Ultimately, HopeLab will develop, test and distribute effective products based on the best ideas from Ruckus Nation. HopeLab previously produced Re-Mission, a breakthrough video game for young people with cancer that has been scientifically proven to improve health outcomes of patients.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith


Online Catalog at Play

The Hema department store has created what might arguably be the most playfully frame-breaking vision of an online catalog absolutely ever, so far. Click, watch, and, in a most Rubenesquely Goldebergish manner, be amused.

More about the store here

via metafilter

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Junkfest Report

girl playing on junk music instruments

I wish you could have been there. It was, in its small way, an historic event of significant proportion. The artists (the Junkyard Symphony and car artist Steve Classic Jasik ) provided everything you could hope for - representing the spirit of play, creativity, and repurposing with great passion, warmth and humor.

bernie leaning on 2way car
(your local Junkmaster, posing proudly in front of Classic Jasik's 2-Way Car - here's a clip of the car in action)

The games were significant fun - inviting creativity, inclusion and playfulness, exactly as you might hope.

sock golf
Flying Golf

giant pick up sticks
volleyball with a trash bag
Giant Pick-Up Sticks and 4-way Trashbag, two-level Volleyball - all presented a genuine invitation to play, each offering a different level of physical and social activity.

Recreation leaders from across Redondo Beach participated in a two-hour training and intense cardboard construction.

We had a great write-up in the Daily Breeze. Even the local cable channel came out to help document this landmark event in the celebration of the spirit of fun.

Senior Services led the junk swap and much junk got swapped.

Maybe 50 people attended. OK, so it wasn't what you'd call a huge success. On the other hand, given the goings on in the rest of the world, it was a genuinely remarkable celebration.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Found Sound: Dictionarioke

They call it "" They explain:
"Pronunciation: 'dik-sh&-"ner-A-O-ke dOt-Org
Definition: This site features parodies of popular songs using karaoke-style backing music with vocals provided by audio pronunciation samples from online dictionaries. All of these songs are available for download in MP3 format on our main index page."
My favorite: "Dr Seuss "Green Eggs and Ham."

It's kindofa junkyard thing - using what one such as I might be sorely tempted to call "found sound."

It is for fun.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Pieceless Puzzles

A Pieceless Puzzle looks very much like your standard jig-saw puzzle. A two-sided standard jig-saw puzzle. Made of some kind of rubbery, foamy stuff, the colorful puzzle is solved by fitting what you might think of as pieces together, just like a jig-saw puzzle. Except they're not really pieces, they're connected to each other, permanently, in one, continuous, many-branching, uh, piece.

Putting one together is a bit like weaving - you start somewhere, anywhere. Like all jig-saw puzzles you probably want to start at a corner or edge. Unlike any jig-saw puzzle, you simply follow the connection - as much as you can - in case the non-piece it's connected to will actually somehow fit into it. Sometimes it doesn't. Which is weird. Which is what makes the puzzle so much fun. Because you have to find another branch.

If you can, try to lay the puzzle flat. This is not as easy as it sounds. It means untangling and untwisting the whole strand. If you're trying one of the more complex puzzles from the "12 and up" series, the untangling, untwisting, flattening strategy can be challenging enough to be a puzzle in its own right.

All in all, we found the Pieceless concept to be a welcome innovation. The puzzles themselves are extremely satisfying to solve. They tend to take a lot less time than a corresponding uh "pieced" puzzle, but the time they do take is a good one - absorbing, visually, tactilely, conceptually pleasing.

And, yes, sure, it's really wonderful that you don't have to worry about losing any pieces. One giant leap for all puzzlekind.

from Major Fun