Time and tides are such that I find myself embarking upon something similar to a sabbatical - similar, but less formal, and of more questionable duration. Hence:
I will be absenting myself from virtual felicities for a while so that I might rediscover humanity in the fullness of worldly flesh and flatulence.
I've been spending more and more of my time online, it seems - posting in this blog almost daily, for almost 6 years now, almost 2000 posts - long enough to bring us into each other's lives, and make us seem somehow familiar, as if we know each other. So it's not easy for me to do anything that might strain that connection, might admit impediments, so to speak, to the marriage of minds as true as ours.
On the other hand, me-wise, I've been too much online, too much - posting to Junkyard Sports, Major Fun, this blog, writing articles in the Deep Fun site, reading other people's blogs, Googling, emailing, Twittering. So much that I seem to have to almost tear myself away, tear myself, away from the ever varied virtuality of it all, so that I can be with the people whose warm and loving hands can help me put my Humpty Dumpty self together again.
It's odd, how much of a challenge this is for me, to stop blogging and tweeting for even a week, after all this time. Our world is such that we must almost constantly remind each other that there is a possibility, a real possibility, that we can make things more fun. I, for one, have taken that as my personal mission. Fortunately for us all, I am not the only one. There's you, and then there are all those links to follow, to yet many more links, to others who share this mission. I've done what I could to connect us to them. We are not alone.
So, gentle reader, until we meet, play on, and take notes. Make fun happen wherever you can, with anyone whose life you touch. I'll be back, hopefully whole, with gifts, probably sooner than I think, to rejoin you, teletechnically, in the very merry merriment of it all.
It's that time again: new time. Time to be new. Time to renew. Time to wish each other the kind of newness that we knew as children, when most of the whole world was new, and we were held in the warmth of the love that surrounded us, and delight was everywhere - in the dances of dust motes, the sounds of snow, the fresh smells of cooking and clean clothes...
May all the newness you discover this new year renew you. May you be safe and surrounded by love. May the world bring you glee.
"Well, for me personally, and I think Janine as well, and I think these guys, but Janine and I had done a couple of interventions, if you will, before Ludica got together, and they centered strongly around the New Games Movement. And re-creating some of those outdoor, cooperative, community based...they call them 'tournaments,' but I would just call them 'play festivals,' right. And that really came about through a class that I had taught at USC...it was the first game studies class taught in the Critical Studies division of the film school. And we had read parts of the New Games Book, and parts of Bernie DeKoven's The Well Played Game, and were tremendously inspired by them. And decided, hey, let’s try it. And Janine thought that was great, and she volunteered to...she had, where she was working at that time had this open grassy area outside of the office, and the resources to have sort of an event like that. And just by happenstance we happened to meet Bernie DeKoven, and Bernie came and trained us on how to facilitate an event like that. Which, you would think would be really simple, but, it was hilarious because, Bernie came and said: 'OK, well how many of the games have you played?' And we said: 'Oh, well we’ve read all the rules. We’ve read all the rules,' and he said: 'You guys are just way too intellectual. Lets just go outside and play.' And so he took us outside, and he made us play these children’s games, these very simple games...But, in playing them with us, he taught us how difficult it is to get adults to play these silly games. And how there needs to be someone there to lead you through it, to create that sense of trust, and, so, we learned a tremendous amount from that, so I would say that, for me personally, has been a big inspiration.
Yes, I did say that. And yes, it was inspirational. For all of us who played and were touched by it.
826NYC "is a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping students, ages 6-18, develop their writing skills. We offer evening and weekend workshops and afterschool tutoring, and with the help of our talented team of volunteers, we're able to host class trips and offer teachers in-class support. We specialize in writing-based projects, including college essays, student publications, creative-writing assignments, and expository papers."
I prefer thinking of it as "Creative Scrabble." Because, as you can see from the list of "official cheats," you really aren't cheating, as long as you pay for it.
Here's what you can buy:
1. Trade out a letter—$25 2. Wheel of Fortune: buy a vowel—$50 3. Flip a letter over and make it blank—$100 4. Add 10 to any letter’s value—$150 5. Add Q, Z, or X to any word, anywhere—$200 6. Passport: play a word in any language—$250 7. Consult the dictionary for one turn—$300 8. Consult the Scrabble word list for one turn—$400 9. Reject another team’s word—$450 10. Invent a word (must have a definition)—$500
So, OK, OK? It's a fund-raising thing as much as it is a fun-raising idea. But it's an innovative kind of fun, significantly innovative. Buying cheats. Some cheats, apparently more significantly game-affecting kinds of cheats, cost more. Use each once, and once only, but whenever you want. And though there's no reflection in the final score, one must wonder what happens to the player who wins the game without using any of her cheats? Is that cheating?
Here are some more details:
"Sign up on this website between now and January 19. Each team member pays a $50 entry fee. As soon as a team has signed up, anyone and everyone can come to this website and pledge their support for the team(s) of their choice. By donating money to the teams, the pledger buys the team certain cheats. It is therefore advantageous for team members to raise as much money as possible. During the tournament, teams will use their cheats against opposing teams."
Takes cheating to a whole new level, is what it does.
"I need to lighten up," Wade muses, "and remember that whatever happens will be tiny from the perspective of the universe. Regardless of the amount of suffering in the world, the beauty of the universe heals."
I go on to quote Wade quoting: "The Lifelong Activist by Hillary Rettig," says Wade, "-- a manual for self-actualization, community building, and political activism -- helped crystallize this awareness for me (Many thanks to Eva Paterson for recommending it!). To help me in my effort to be less serious and for your information, I take note of the following quotes from Rettig's book:
'Strive to step freely and lightly around your activism, to plunge into it and back out of it at will, and enjoy taking risks around it, knowing that some of those risks will inevitably lead to failure. Yes, there will be stress--an activist career is perhaps the most stressful around--but it is essential that you not only learn to handle that stress gracefully, but recognize that, at any given moment, you are making a choice as to how stressed you feel.'"
My point being, you, too, could be choosing, right now, to have fun, even.
"If we accept Equipotentiality as the basic worldview and principle explaining peer to peer dynamics, then Coliberation is the active ethical principle derived from it.
"It signifies both the shared transcendence of the group, and the practice of designing social processes so each of us can be the condition and enabler of the other participants reaching their highest potential."
Oh man! Is that cool or what? Somebody finally putting coliberation in context.
That someone is named Michel Bauwens, of the The Foundation for P2P Alternatives. Since I discovered his post on coliberation, he and I have been exchanging emails at a rather furious clip. The more we have corresponded, the more correspondence we seem to be finding - shared understandings in vision and practice, shared hope for shared promise.
One of the "products" of the Games Preserve (of blessed memory) was an official "Notice of Appreciation" card. Which led us inexorably to the official "Notice of Disappointment" card. A clever concept they were, especially in the days of sending things by post. Large cards, they were. Clearly notifying the recipient and the recipient's postal workers of their appreciation- or disappointment-worthy status, written in the form of a lightly-veiled meaningful Madlib which led me, inevitably, to share with you my personal delight and sense of shrewdness in my discovery of the Bureau of Communication and the Formal OBSERVANCE OF HOLIDAY notice.
It could have led with equal inexorability to the Official AIRING OF A GRIEVANCE notice, as well as several other official notice opportunities, but, being the kind of guy I am in the time I find myself, the holiday notice seemed most appropriate.
It is for fun. A certain kind of fun, emanating from that often, upon retrospect, genuine, actual, deep need to give for formal notice.
"This past week, in the absence of soccer practice, my young men have invented a new game. You will chuckle at the name. It's Chunky Baseball. It even has a theme song. I don't know why it got that name or what the rules are. When I've asked for an explanation, they just sort of sigh as if to say, 'Well, Mommy, it's really complicated and you just have to go out and play it to understand it.' So, I'll be content to remain in the dark about the intricacies of this new game. But what I love is that my boys, together with a neighbor, friends from church, a homeschool buddy, a cousin, and others, have spent every gorgeous fall afternoon this week OUTSIDE!!!! Being creative, exercising, having fun. They come in with bright eyes and rosy faces. We made a trip to the store to buy a bigger, brightly colored ball with which to play the game, since the small red rubber ball they'd been using kept getting lost in the thick stand of monkey grass that covers our neighbor's entire front yard.
"I have heard that this generation of kids doesn't know how to play games, doesn't get enough exercise, sits in front of the computer or the TV and lets their brains turn to mush. Maybe if there was a Chunky Baseball game going on down the street, those kids would forget about Halo or whatever else it is they play, say goodbye to their facebook buddies, and head outside. Maybe playing Chunky Baseball would revive their mushy brains and strengthen their atrophying muscles. Maybe they'd find out that being outside, creating a game is way more fun than staying inside playing simulated tennis on a Wii. I don't know. I'm just glad that around here real kids are playing real games in the real outdoors. It seems that there is no end to their creativity when it comes to games."
Please, please share this with those people who want to teach kids how to play. Use it to remind them that kids already know how to play - physically, socially, intellectually. The only things they need from us, pretty much, are: 1) to be given the space to play in, and 2) the time to be left alone, and maybe 3) something fun to play with.
Socetball and Water Baseball - more lessons in the art of Junkyard Sports
I googled across an old Atari forum where people were having a discussion about "made up" games. Here's one example:
"We made one called socetball where you take a soccer ball and a lowered basketball hoop. You kick get one minute to kick the ball, and hit the backboard for one point and make it in for two. You do this with two people and play for two rounds. In the first one will kick and another will get the ball. And in the next round the person who kicked will get the ball and vice versa. Whoever has the most points at the end of the two rounds wins. It was a very fun game but we don't play it a lot anymore."
I liked especially the last line: "It was a very fun game but we don't play it alot anymore" - because it reveals yet one more characteristic of Junkyard Sports. You invent. You play it a few times until the game gets very fun. And then you let it go and invent the next one. That's part of the freedom and the message. The obligation is not to the game, but to the fun of making it fun.
And then there's Water Handball:
"i made up 1 wih a friend at a swimming pool its called water handball...l u use a nerf sort of ball that is round and as small as a baseball or softball and u play as if u wer playing baseball but wen u pitch u must skip the ball acroos the water... there is no bat u must use ur hand to hit the ball...then u must swim base to base..u play 2 outs and u can either peg the runner (throw the ball at the runner and if u hit them off the base they're out) or u can tag the runner...u play 2 outs and first 1 to 21 wins....u can also make an imaginary home run fence...it is also a great 1 vs 1 game.."
"...skip the ball across the water." You can't be having a conversation about how to play baseball in a swimming pool and wind-up with something like ball-skipping. That's one of the fundamental truths of Junkyard Sports-making. The gameworthy delights of things like pitching-by-ball-skipping are not derived by speculation or explored by theorizing. Only by playing.
"From the outset of last year, my roommate (who I also totally dominate in all physical competition) hung his hats on tacks from the storage loft over the windows. I followed his lead, and pretty soon we had a full mantle of dangling headwear. We also had a small foam ball, and, after a few weeks, a whole set of rules printed and hanging on the wall. One person knelt near the door and threw the ball at the hats. Hitting a hat was one point, knocking it down was three, and there were all sorts of other modifiers for caught balls, multiple knocked-down hats, and even defensive rules for the other players. We also invented a game (more of a free-for-all, actually) that involved clearing all furniture out of the living room, turning the lights off, gathering pretty much every ball we had in the room, and throwing them at or tackling anyone else who was playing. This game could get a little violent, and was made doubly scary in my room where, again, one of my roommates was significantly more of a 'physical specimen' than the rest of us. That said, it was great fun and I’d recommend it to anyone so dedicated to indoor recreation."
Optical illusions are what you might call "visual puns." They tickle the same funny bone - confusing us in a most delicious way. They are, however, far more difficult to create, and require something on the order of the visual equivalent of the humor of Gilbert and Sullivan and the drafting skill of an M. C. Escher.
Dark Roasted Blend has recently released the third in its wonderfully comprehensive series on optical illusions, demonstrating, and demonstrating again the wealth of the connections between art and play.
In September of 1936, a man named "Red Jones," whose claim to fame was manifest in the variously lovely musical instruments he made and played - out of pipe tools and fittings - managed to attract the attention of no less a publication than Modern Mechanics.
Jonathan Fields has some valuable insights to share with us on "How to Make Exercise More Fun Than Sex." Well, all right, not necessarily more fun than sex, but, on the other hand, you have to admit that, exercise-wise, aerobically-speaking, if you had to choose between making love for 20 minutes or jumping on a treadmill...
"If you want to love exercise again, you need to break out of your exercise box. Shift your mindset away from the futility of the pure 'physical efficiency' model of exercise and back to the mind-engaging ambrosia of play.
Indeed, the demand for 'play' or 'activity-based' exercise has begun to fuel a recent explosion in alternative forms of movement among adults that actually engage the mind, cultivate passion and inspire joy—activities like martial arts, power yoga, dancing, team sports, boxing, badminton and rock climbing.
This renewed mindset is also inspiring a return of many distraction-based exercises, like the treadmill and stationary bike, back to their mind-engaging roots. More people are walking, cycling and running outside and on trails where the mind becomes much more involved, challenged and focused on the activity and the ever-evolving environment."
Once again, see, it's about fun. It's all about fun.
Dr. Barry Sinervo, professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of California, Santa Cruz, has observed a three-way mating cycle in a species of North American lizard and a distant relative, the European common lizard, separated by 175 million years of evolution, making Rock-Paper-Scissors maybe the oldest game in the world.
"Some of the male lizards," writes James Ryerson in last week's New York Times Magazine, "(call their type 'rock'), use force, invading the territory of fellow males to mate with females. Others ('paper') favor deception, waiting until females are unguarded and sneaking in. Still others ('scissors') work by cooperation, joining together to protect one another’s females.
"I think it’s a philosophical point," Sinervo comments. "You have 'take by force,' deception and cooperation. Each beats one but not the other. It’s the way the very fabric of social systems is structured."
Rock-Paper-Scissors - the very fabric of social systems. Who knew?
"At a departmental meeting," writes John Naughton, "one of my colleagues wanted to illustrate a point about the complexity of social networking. Everyone present was given five pieces of coloured string and then told to give one end of each to five people they knew well. You can imagine the result. Good fun; and instructive."
There are far too many games for young kids in which someone has to lose so someone else gets to win. Sure, it's a basic truth of life and all, but many young children really have difficulty with losing. And playing a zero-sum game isn't a very good way to help them learn how to cope with losing and/or winning.
GiftTrap, the very party game that Games Magazine selected party game of the year. Creative Commons. The very people that have figured out a way to legalize free, within limits, sharing. Which is kind of like what GiftTrap is all about - the giving freely within limits kind of giving.
Penny Football - you know, that soccer-like, footballish game you play with three coins - the game you probably played in the cafeteria - the one where you have to slide or push or flick one coin between the other two?
Nowadays you can even play it online, if immediate satisfaction is what you desire.
It's actually the same game that's called Three-Coin Hockey, a game that's similar in out-of-pocket coinitude to Shove Ha'Penny Football, for which you'll also need a comb or two and the ability to understand many, many rules.
But not, of course, to be confused with Penny Rugby - which, as you well know, is played with only one coin and many, many rules.
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.
(your local Junkmaster, posing proudly in front of Classic Jasik's 2-Way Car )
The games were significant fun - inviting creativity, inclusion and playfulness, exactly as you might hope.
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.
"It appears that spending time relaxing is the secret to a happy life. Cost-free pleasures are the ones that make the difference — even when you can afford anything that you want."
This common sense, obvious, and, (given the commercial pressures of our modern economy) remarkably difficult to believe observation comes to us courtesy of genuinely scientific research from the fortunate few at the University of Nottingham.
"The research [by Dr Richard Tunney of the University’s School of Psychology] found that happy people — whether lottery jackpot winners or not — liked long baths, going swimming, playing games and enjoying their hobby. Those who described themselves as less happy didn’t choose the cost-free indulgences. They rewarded themselves with CDs, cheap DVDs and inexpensive meals out instead."
Which reminds me how my father, the Rabbi, would spend his Sabbath afternoons, lying in the tub, balancing a chess set on his tummy, afloat in the well-earned wonders of Shabbos peace.
In a New York Times article titled "The Dance of Evolution, or How Art Got Its Start"(login required), we read about the theories of "Ellen Dissanayake, an independent scholar affiliated with the University of Washington, Seattle," who "suggests that many of the basic phonemes of art, the stylistic conventions and tonal patterns, the mental clay, staples and pauses with which even the loftiest creative works are constructed, can be traced back to the most primal of collusions — the intimate interplay between mother and child."
"The tightly choreographed rituals that bond mother and child," comments the author of the article, Natalie Angier, "look a lot like the techniques and constructs at the heart of much of our art."
Dissanayake explains: "These operations of ritualization, these affiliative signals between mother and infant, are aesthetic operations, too... And aesthetic operations are what artists do. Knowingly or not, when you are choreographing a dance or composing a piece of music, you are formalizing, exaggerating, repeating, manipulating expectation and dynamically varying your theme."
Yup, comments the author of this blog post, and yup again. Art, shmart. It's all about fun - fun of the loving kind.