"You've been on my mind lately because I've been thinking about your concept of half-belief that you shared at the last NASAGA conference [see this]. I have been noticing how many contexts in which this concept is relevant. It's a big component in just about anything creative: art, amusement parks, literature, fiction, movies (it explains how we can become 'lost' in a book or film), and theater. (Locally the New England Youth Theater did a version of Shakespeare's Twelfth Night. The entire play, all the parts, were done by two teen-aged girls! It took place in their bedroom and, just the way kids play and make up games, they acted the whole show evolving into different characters as needed. So here you had the actors demonstrating the half belief that we as an audience engage in to enjoy a performance!)
"A couple of weeks ago, I was working with some nurses who support some medically fragile children in their family's home. The nurses were critical of the parenting in the home so I wanted them to look at some of their assumptions and get in touch wth some empathy for the family. I used Thiagi's Least Preferred Patient jolt. Three patients in a hospital noted for its geriatric work are described and people choose the one they'd least want to care for. It's set up so most people will choose one that turns out to be a cuddly infant.
"The surprise effect was lost on this group. One said, 'I always work the night shift so I wouldn't mind dealing with the patient that can't sleep (the baby). It'd give me something to do.' It seemed I'd chosen a jolt that was too close to the experience of these nurses for them to get into the half belief necessary to be caught off guard.
"So there's this tension or balance between having the 'game' be close enough to the person's experience to be relevant yet not so close as to be dismissed as ordinary and expected. I've seen this too in role plays where people begin discussing a real issue rather than practicing a role.
"You probably said all this in Atlanta, Bernie, so if I've forgotten the details, the general concept still lives on and informs me. It even explains why people support stupid politicians, wars, cults, and more: the need to believe in something that used to be meaningful."
The funny thing being that somehow we know that we don't "really" believe in these politicians, wars, cults. Not entirely. Not fully. At some level, we are not fooled. It's half-belief. And in trying to make half-belief whole, we end up fooling ourselves.
"We do end up fooling ourselves! And we can choose to fool ourselves negatively or positively. I can say, 'That rubber alligator is such a fake,' and have a miserable time on the Disney jungle ride. Or I can say, 'Yikes, look out for the monster!' and have an adventure. I can say, 'Jane tried to float a pretty lame idea at the meeting,' and turn things into a dull day. Or I can say, 'Jane is quite an innovator. I think her idea might have some merit,' and, when I make the half-belief whole, fool myself into having a terrific day. A friend of mine says the only thing you can control is your own attitude - I think this is how she does it! Have we also, now, explained how a self-fulfilling prophecy works?"
Getting the idea of Junkyard Sports to the masses, especially to the family masses, seems to be proceeding apace - a very slow pace, but proceeding nevertheless. The first big break was the article in Famly Fun Magazine. The next, and most recent, is in a publication called Kid Scoop.
It's an issue devoted to junk. And you can download your very own copy. Your very own, full-page, color copy, or, should you desire to print it out and distribute it to the many, your similarly very own, classroom-ready 6-page, black-and-white copy.
Kid Scoop, should you wonder, is distributed internationally, and appears in 350 newspapers around the world.
Despite rumors to the contrary, there are certain things about getting old that are, in fact and actuality, fun. Not a lot of things. But some very, almost smugly certain things about being older are undeniably fun.
Like, for example, getting to hang around, purposelessly. Almost just like you did when you were a kid.
And the older you get, the less "almost." If you're old enough, you can go to sleep whenever you feel like it, you can suddenly and for no reason start laughing - pretty much just like you did when you were a kid. If you're lucky, and with the right people (like maybe your grandchildren), you can get listened to, appreciated, laughed with, even.
So this is Old Fun. The fun that old people have when they discover that many of the freedoms of childhood are theirs again. And they know more now, so they understand the privilege of getting to play. Sometimes all by themselves. Sometimes with anybody.
Which just about completely explains why we get old in the first place.
"I love Flickr. The content is amazing and some of the photographers have ability that is other worldly. I was looking for some interesting pictures and I typed in “holding the sun” and below is a sampling of some of the great pictures that came up (sources for the photos are at the end of the posts). Enjoy!"
After you've looked at all the pictures and sent the link to everyone you think might not have seen it already, consider the following:
This is an example of yet another significantly unique taste of fun. Unique and complex, made out of at least two different fun tastes: the taste of fun you have trolling through something like Flickr and thinking up things to look for, like, for example, all the images that have anything to do with "holding the sun" - and then discovering such an amazing collection of images; combined with the taste of fun people had when they took those photos - when they created illusions together. Illusions that could hold the sun.
Seeing as how it combines accident, illusion and technology - how about: "magical fun?"
She explains how she remembered the hours she spent with Waldo books, searching endlessly for his image, and made the connection between her childhood pastime and the delight she takes looking through Google Earth.
It is a brilliant connection. Coles creates a remarkably effective translation of a familiar, well-loved, print-based activity into the endlessly complex realities of the virtual world, adding a new layer of fun to our global vision.
Simages is a publication of NASAGA - the North American Simulation and Gaming Association, the very same North American Simulation and Gaming Association that honored me with the Ifill-Raynolds award for "outstanding achievements in the field of fun."
I am honored to tell you that I have been honored again. I was interviewed by Brian Remer, and the result closely approximates something one might call "cogent," if one were prone to using words of that ilk.
The interview, which is one among many fine articles, appears on page 12.
See also the excellent article by Dave Blum "Healthy Competition, an Oxymoron?"
Rock-it-Ball is played with something like a soft tennis ball and plastic sticks with scoops on each end. It's a combination of something like wall ball and, well, dodge ball. Here's the brief:
"Rock-It-Ball is a very versatile sport which can be played in a number of different ways. Each different game can be adjusted to take into account the skill level of the players.
"Getting started is easy – place a tennis ball in either scoop. Throw the ball against a wall, allow it to bounce once and catch it in either scoop. Next, try catching the ball as it comes off the wall and before it bounces.
"Do it again, but now try using an over-arm shot, gently at first and then gradually increasing the power of your shots until you are confident with your throw and catch technique.
"Now you can start playing with a partner – using the Rock-It simply throw the ball to each other and catch it using the Rock-It. Then start adding points!! This is where it becomes really interesting. You score points by striking your opponent with the ball between shoulder and foot. You also score points by catching the ball in the catcher when your opponent fires the ball at you.
"Now team up and play in teams – you can play Combat-Rock-It, Combat-Rock-It-Xtreme, Team-Rock-It, Field Rock-It. Become a Rock-Iteer and download the game sheets free of charge.
"The more you play it the more you will be able to do – make up your own games and tell us about them. "
Fun. Running around, flinging foam balls at each other with your special, two-headed, Rock-It Racket. First dodgeballish sport I've heard of that lessens the pain while increasing the potential blood lust. "Make up your own games." Very fun.
There's something oddly fun about impossible things, not just because they are, as advertised, impossible, but also because of the skill it takes to make the impossible appear not just possible, but actual.
Photoshop has proven to be a powerful tool in the visualization of impossibilities. The Worth 1000 Photoshop competitions have led to the accumulation of remarkably vivid fantasies, graphically providing that wonderful taste of fun of the almost impossible kind.
I found another reference to something similar to the Me/We idea - the one I thought I had made up, and that recently someone in Al Gore's sphere also thought they made up, only differently.
In Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor's TED presentation, she talks about the "we inside of me." You can find this particular part of her talk at around 16.50 on the video. Here's the text:
So who are we? We are the life force power of the universe, with manual dexterity and two cognitive minds. And we have the power to choose, moment by moment, who and how we want to be in the world. Right here right now, I can step into the consciousness of my right hemisphere where we are -- I am -- the life force power of the universe, and the life force power of the 50 trillion beautiful molecular geniuses that make up my form. At one with all that is. Or I can choose to step into the consciousness of my left hemisphere. where I become a single individual, a solid, separate from the flow, separate from you. I am Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor, intellectual, neuroanatomist. These are the "we" inside of me.
My explorations of the idea of the We inside of Me, can be found here.
It's called Leet. So, play the video already. See those funny sticks - hollow, with a kind of scoopy end. They're pretty much key to the game. The sticks, and an understanding of Ultimate Frisbee, or maybe Lacrosse and Jai Alai, even, a little.
First, let me tell you about my favorite version, Street Leet. I quote:
Mark the four corners of two rectangular end zones that are equal in size and the desired distance apart (this is up you and obviously depends on the number of players, but anywhere between 20 - 50yds (18 – 46m) is recommended). Mark outer boundaries, agree on the length of the match, and you are ready to go!
A Quick Guide
Usually the game is played four-a-side.
The object of the game is to score more goals that your opponents during the game.
A goal is scored when a player within their opponents’ end zone catches a ball thrown by a team mate.
During the game, once a player has possession of the ball they must come to an immediate stop.
A player in control of the ball may make movements to help them pass or shoot, but must otherwise remain on the spot.
No player may hold the ball for more than five seconds.
If the ball is loose on the ground, players may use their hands to return the ball to their stick.
Any fouls result in a free-throw to the non-offending team from where the foul took place.
As for tournament Leet:
"...Played with a stick and a ball, Leet™ can be played just about anywhere you like: on the beach, in a park, or on almost any traditional sports surface! At the professional level however, the sport is played in the unique, transparent Leet™ arena where two circular goals are raised 5.63yds (5.15m) above the arena floor....Leet™ is played four-a-side, with each team trying to surge past their opponents’ defenses in an effort to score more goals than their competitors."
I like this new sport of Leet. I like the energy, the effort, the belief that has forged this into what it is now. Even if it started out as an idea for a reality show called "The Winning Team." The reality looks better than the show.
In his article Islamism and the Politics of Fun, Asef Bayat writes: "Drawing mainly on the experience of Muslim states, notably postrevolution Iran, I explore why Islamists are so distinctly apprehensive of the expression of 'fun' — a preoccupation most people in the world seem to take for granted....Fun may be expressed by individuals or collectives, in private or public, and take traditional or commoditized forms. Fashion, for instance, represents a collective, commoditized, and systematic expression of fun, yet one that is constantly in flux because it deems to respond to the carefree and shifting spirit of fun. Fun appeals to almost all social groups (the rich and poor, old and young, modern and traditional, men and women), yet youths are the prime practitioners of fun and the main target of anti-fun politics, because youth habitus is characterized by a greater tendency for experimentation, adventurism, idealism, drive for autonomy, mobility, and change. Perhaps that is why fun is often conflated with and identified by 'youth culture.' ...But the differential habitus of these social groups tends to orient them more or less to different fun practices and therefore subject them to different degrees of prohibitions and regulations that can be subsumed under the rhetoric of 'anti-fun.' For instance, whereas the elderly poor can afford simple, traditional, and contained diversions, the globalized and affluent youth tend to embrace more spontaneous, erotically charged, and commodified pleasures. This might help explain why globalizing youngsters more than others cause fear and fury among Islamist anti-fun adversaries, especially when much of what these youths practice is informed by Western technologies of fun and is framed in terms of 'Western cultural import.'"
Perhaps Anti-Fun should be considered yet one more flavor of fun. Similar to the taste of paying taxes or experiencing one's own mortality. A tad bitter, don't you think?
Another one of those just right kind of casual intensities available to the fun-seeking computer-user, similar to that of the Filler. Available, did I say? Perhaps a better word would be "essential" - because such games bring a needed balance to our everso serious quest for sanity, challenging our intellect while celebrating the joy of having one.
Thus unfolded yet another gift of the Internet - a further connection to a story, and the people, that touched the core of my faith in play.
I must admit that, now that I had become better informed, I found myself feeling slightly disappointed in the way this moment of senior enlightenupment seems to be manifesting itself. The playground had the look of one of those exercise trails. It was clearly designed to appeal to the "use it or lose it" school of mortality - not to the sense of fun, fantasy, freedom that characterizes children's playgrounds. And it was for "seniors only." (I find myself most attracted to the intergenerational approach, as in Intergenerational Playgrounds and this wonderful story of Intergenerational Kickball, and even the kind of play that's being enabled by the infamous Wii).
Nevertheless, it is something to be glad about, this Senior Playground idea. And it leaves one wondering: why don't we see things like this everywhere?
It's a game called Filler. It's a simple game. With deceptively minimal graphics and space elevator music. The rules, as illustrated: "Big ball=good, bouncy ball=bad."
Not a shoot-em-up. A fill-em-up, actually. One big ball at a time. Put it anywhere, except where it'll hit a bad bouncy ball. And if you hold the button down, the ball'll get bigger. And that's it. Gamers call these kinds of games "fillers." Easy to understand, inviting to play, fascinating, fun, challenging. Filler maybe the archetype of all filler games.
"Please Explain: Games of Make Believe: We look into how children play games of make believe, and whether kids’ imaginations have changed along with trends in technology and education. Dr. Susan Linn is Associate Director of the Media Center of the Judge Baker Children's Center, Instructor in Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, and the author of most recently Dr. Elizabeth Goodenough teaches at the University of Michigan Residence College and is the author of most recently Under Fire: Childhood in the Shadow of War."
Here's a quote from their discussion: "Nurturing creative play has become counter-cultural, because it's not lucrative. Children who play creatively don't need any of the things...that dominate the toy market."
I liked that counter-cultural label. I liked the explanation for it. But, despite the erudition of the authors and the clarity of their insights (play is important. kids need more of it.), I find myself only partially nodding in agreement (go ahead, try nodding partially. it's kind of fun.).
I think people who are so clearly alarmed by the way kids are playing now, with the impact of mass media and stuff, need to turn those alarms off for a while, and listen more carefully to the way kids are playing, right now, in the middle of all that technology and commercial pressure. It's hard to listen carefully enough. To look deeply enough. But kids are playing brilliantly with all the stuff they have to play with. Brilliantly.
Maybe they're not playing the way we'd like to see them play, maybe there are other things they could be playing, but until we are ready to acknowledge and support the new forms of play that our kids have created, until we are ready to play with them, the best we can do, I think, is stay out of the way.
As you know, my interest in Improv Everywhere has been high ever since I first heard about their playful public theatrics. Most recently, Improv Everywhere launched a new, shall we say, play, which very well might prove, as they themselves describe it, to be the Best Game Ever.
Start here, with a video of the event. Then read about it. Then ask yourself what it would be like if you had actually been there, been one of the parents, or better yet, one of the kids.
This Best Game Ever is right on the edge of art, theater, and social comment. It wouldn't succeed if not for the playfulness and sensitivity of the Improv Everywhere company - the people who conceived and staged the event. It could have proven insulting to both parents and players, it could have proven upsetting, been perceived as an act of ridicule. But apparently the event stopped short of being ridiculous, just at the point of being almost entirely believable. If not because of the believability of the actor-spectators, then because of the player's willingness to belive. If not by the actuality of the giant scoreboard, then most definitely by the blimp. Why don't we do this for all kids, everywhere - invest great effort and expense, yes, but, for the kids, and parents - to give them one random hour, of sheer, magical, transformational fun. Beyond game and sport. A theater of total participation.
Fantastic fun. The fun of fantasy fulfilled. Ah, delicious.
We begin our exploration of the practice of Aesthletics with an brief critique of one of their sport-arts, StraightJacket Baseball. In the words of Warren Fry, of the Brooklyn Rail "In this softball variant invented by Tom Russotti, founder of Aesthletics, the bases are actually members of the fielding team in arm restrictive garments. The player has a ten-yard circle within which to dodge opposing players trying to make it on base. Other than this, normal softball rules applied. It was decided, after a mid-game argument, that infielders couldn’t block runners as they tried to catch the base. Bases were allowed, however, to wear out opposing players by running in circles. Improvised strategies and sudden rule changes are part of the Aesthletic treatment of the sporting act—which stresses socio-creative dynamics over competitiveness and athletic virtuosity."
Though we may not have heard of Aaesthletics, StraitJacket Softball, and Bosch on Ice, we are more than passing familiar with that other example of Aesthletic socio-creativity, by that, I mean, of course, no less than the now classic sport of Whiffle Hurling.
And then there's Hoop Gardens, yet another manifestation of joyfully athletic irreverence from your local Aesthletician, something that appears to be a basketball game, played on the grass, with three basketball hoops, and, of course, two balls.
I would like, if I may, add my personal side note to all this:
Aesthletics is very much like a joke because the fun it is creating is funny. It is nonetheless to be taken quite seriously in deed, this intermingling of art and sport, this work of socio-creativity.
The Gore logo is of the word "WE." If you turn it upside down, you can see "EM" - which, as you perhaps almost immediately perceived, is "ME" spelled backwards.
Just to note a distinction. For Al Gore, and most people who are trying to address the public, WE is the real target. ME is only there because it is necessary - without it, there can't be a WE. I, on the other hand, have been using the Me-We connection to describe a relationship between two equal parties - individual and group. When you turn my Me/We logo upside down, it's still Me/We. The Me is never in a lesser position, never backwards.
This is the idea of Fun Community, which has become so central to my work, and play - the equal weight of Me and We, the equal value, importance, significance.
Thanks for finding that article, Lee. And telling me about it.
Mysteriously Profound Fun: The Sendings of the Oaqui
Then there's that unique taste of what I call "Mysteriously Profound Fun" like when something you're only pretending to be true suddenly seems truer than that.
I take, for today's case and point, the Sendings of the Oaqui. Oaqui (known alternate spellings include: "Whacqui" "Joaqui" "Huakee" :-) was something I thought I was just pretending into existence, and then found myself for gosh-sake channelling. I mean there was something smarter than me, wiser than me speaking, more serious than my intention, something that frequently seemed at least as wise as it was for fun. And that's a really delicious kind of fun. One worth savoring. The imaginary taste of something you can half-believe is real.
There was a minute or two in that increasingly amazing movie Mystic Ball (increasingly amazing just in the memory of what you've witnessed: the love, the play, the skill), when you get a glimpse of a few girls playing rope. Take a look. Click on the image if you want to see it bigger.
Looks like they're playing Double Dutch, right? Except, as Greg Hamilton, director of Mystic Ball notes: "The girl in the center (Su Su Hlaing's younger sister) is jumping 3 ropes - her rope she is turning and the two DD ropes. The girls are all kicking the ball lightly to keep it going up and down a few inches above the foot. There are six points of contact with the ball: top of the toes (the one they are using here), inside edge of foot, outside edge of foot, sole, heel, and knee. Chibya, or top of the toes - is the foundation of Chinlone playing and considered the most important technique. These girls are keeping the ball below knee height as they kick it to keep it up. It's very difficult to do in such a controlled and precise way. If they were just balancing the ball on their feet it would be much easier - they could actually take their eyes off their own ball to look at the girl in the center skipping. Whenever you are doing this type of chibya exercise, you have to watch every single kick - no looking away at all. Adjustments in aim and timing have to be made non-stop as long as the ball is up. As you can imagine, this kind of control takes years of practice for hours a day. They can also do some tricks in the center of the ropes - crossing their own rope, turning around, skipping backwards etc. This style of play is also something only women do, you may recall that Su Su says in the film that "men are not patient enough" to do the solo performance style."
OK. Now look at this picture from the same game? Things any clearer?
This is the kind of stuff that gives me chills, that makes me just about want to pray to the spirit of play, if you know what I mean, if there is such a thing. Double Dutch, from 4 corners, while balancing a ball on one foot. And, o, wait. Isn't the girl in the middle also jumping her own rope while she's jumping the two crossed ropes while keeping a ball balanced on her foot? How utterly accomplished is that? How fun, how lovely, how spiritual, how miraculous how the spirit of play has moved these girls to such profound and practiced depth!
Play. Do not doubt its powers. Even when no one wins, everyone wins.
I think you'll have to watch them in action (or in inaction) before you waste any more time reading about Improv Everywhere. You see what I mean? They get these people - they call them "agents," more than 100, and they get them to wander ....Well, you better read about it on the Improv Everywhere site.
After you've finished marveling your way to several many other Improv Everywhere "performances," you might, if you are a gameful person, think about those Big Games - large-scale, citywide events, often involving cell phones, cameras and crowds. Or, of course, of New Games. Interesting to contemplate the difference, actually, between New Games, Citywide and Improv Everywhere-type fun. Improv Everywhere games are played with spectators who aren't even watching. Not fellow fans. Bystanders, you might say, innocent bystanders.
Improv Everywhere. Artists, wouldn't you call them? Of a certain taste of a definite kind of truly public fun, don't you think, don't you know?
Bar tricks. There's a unique fun flavor if ever there was one. It's a kind of folk magic, I guess, where you need to be just drunk enough to think you can't be fooled, or foolish enough to think you can really fool anybody. Something casual, informal about how these tricks are performed for sometimes an audience of one.
And sometimes for the entire bar, by accomplished bar magicians, raising the bar, as bar-magician Doc Eason describes, to the level of public performance. "Every crowd is different," writes Eason, "as are their reactions... so the freshness of the crowd makes a difference... I absolutely love doing the card under glass... I don't think there is a stronger bar trick... I can make even the most jaded critic come around with that routine... oh, I will cut and paste the routine so I may not do the whole thing start to finish... but this gets their attention in a way that few other tricks do."
There's something fun about fooling drunks. Because for drunks, there's something fun about getting fooled. Especially when you're getting fooled by someone who is very good at what he is pretending to do, and even more especially when you know that you are too drunk to tell.
So even if you do get fooled, unless you were foolish enough to bet a lot of money, it doesn't really count. You were drunk. Your judgment was affected. You were not really taken in, not really fooled, not really gullible.
It's that taste of fun you get when you let yourself get fooled. It's like the taste of Half-Belief, only spicier.
Fooled Fun. Which reminds me: Happy April Fooled Day! All year around!