Löffelfußball und Poolnudelhockey

Löffelfußball und Poolnudelhockey, a.k.a. Junkyard Sports. Now available in Germany.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith


Rabbi of Playfulness

I met Zalman more than 30 years ago. We have been friends ever since that first meeting. Deep friends. Sharing with each other our most profound insights, and our equally profound laughter.

Of all the people I've known who have had a positive influence on religion - any religion - Reb Zalman has been one of very few who has been a voice for playfulness as much as a voice for spirituality. With Zalman, there really is no difference. His playfulness has helped thousands of people to reclaim their spirituality, renew their connection with religion, and redefine both. He has gone far beyond Judaism, making connections between spiritual disciplines of every religion he can touch. And his touch is as light as it is enlightening. He brings love and laughter to all those who hear him. When he leads people in prayer, he also leads them in dance and song and an ever-deepening joy.

It is not an easy path he has chosen for himself. Zalman is widely known as a champion of silliness. Religious people tend to take things very seriously. So, for many, he is seen as a threat. Virtually unsupported by the establishment, he has found his own support. His laughter draws followers. His faith sustains them. His playfulness heals them. Instead of denying the forces that have denied him, he affirms those very traditions, and goes at least one step further. He embraces the best in all traditions, he celebrates the deep fun of each, and the deeper delight that exists between them.

Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, Defender of the Playful.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith


A little PR never hurts....

Dear funster,

The next few posts are going to be a bit of a departure for this site.

I'm "getting the word out" about some of the things I've been working on for-frackin'-ever. Things have been coming together of late. Moving to Indianapolis helped me gain a new perspective on much of my work and life. Making new connections with family and neighbors have helped me make new connections between the various components of my virtual realities.

So I'm going to be posting some PR-like announcements about this and that from time to time. On the site, they'll be marked with a PR label, in case you were wondering.

I beg your indulgence and welcome your participation.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith


Beyond Concentration

It was the 80s, and I was working as a designer with what was then called the Children's Computer Workshop. I remember working briefly on an idea for building on the concentration game mechanics, featuring something that would only be possible on the computer. (That "only possible on the computer" was my computer game design mantra in those days.) And almost thirty years later the Presurfer writes something about a game called Soundory, and both behold and lo, an only-possible-on-the-computer concentration game - one where you have to match...guess what?

Hence not only proving my particular pudding, but also paving the way for further extrapolations of concentration-like computer-only games involving say matching faces that change expressions when you click on them, or laugh in different ways, or balls that squish and sound differently, or things that morph and bounce and make noise and squish - on a 12x12x12 grid maybe even.

via Presurfer

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith


The Singularity Fun Theory

This morning, I found this:

  • How much fun is there in the universe?
  • What is the relation of available fun to intelligence?
  • What kind of emotional architecture is necessary to have fun?
  • Will eternal life be boring?
  • Will we ever run out of fun?

To answer questions like these… requires Singularity Fun Theory.
  • Does it require an exponentially greater amount of intelligence (computation) to create a linear increase in fun?
  • Is self-awareness or self-modification incompatible with fun?
  • Is (ahem) “the uncontrollability of emotions part of their essential charm”?
  • Is “blissing out” your pleasure center the highest form of existence?
  • Is artificial danger (risk) necessary for a transhuman to have fun?
  • Do you have to yank out your own antisphexishness routines in order not to be bored by eternal life? (I.e., modify yourself so that you have “fun” in spending a thousand years carving table legs, a la “Permutation City”.)

To put a rest to these anxieties… requires Singularity Fun Theory.

I decided that the Singularity Fun Theory was one of those theories that would be just as much fun if I didn't try too hard to understand what it actually means, and, putting a rest to my anxieties, remained quietly thankful that there are people thinking as deeply about the future of fun as Dr. Eliezer S. Yudkowsky.

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The Estonian Bank of Happiness

According to this article, here's how things work at the Estonian Bank of Happiness:
"To become a client, an Estonian must register online, listing the useful things that he can do for others (eg, grocery shopping, walking a dog, fixing cars) and those that he would like done unto him (eg, having a suit darned or windows cleaned).

"...The bank is hoping to create virtuous arcs, rather than circles, of unadulterated altruism all over Estonia, with the feeling of goodness serving as its own reward. The helper also receives tangible evidence of his kindness: a "banknote" - printable from the bank’s website = offered by the grateful recipient in lieu of money, inscribed on the back with the date and nature of the deed. The note can then be passed on to another good Samaritan. And there is no system of equations to codify how one deed compares with another; the system will be self-regulatory."
When one is referring to countries that exemplify happiness, one is generally not referring to Estonia. Perhaps one doesn't know that much about either.

via Alexander Kjerulf

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith


Playgrounds for All

Let's start with this, from a site called "Shane's Inspiration:

"'Shane's Inspiration' created the first Universally Accessible Playground in the Western United States and the largest in the nation: 'Shane's Inspiration.' Located in Griffith Park, 'Shane’s Inspiration' provides two acres of fully accessible, sensory-rich and physically challenging equipment.

"More importantly, this playground gives children with disabilities and children without the opportunity to play with and learn from each other, thus increasing awareness and acceptance."

Those are my italics. Because the idea of giving people of different abilities the opportunity to play and learn from each other (OK, I said "people," not only children) is, sadly, one that continues to strike most of us as revolutionary. And yet, for those of us who have had the fortune to experience such opportunities, it seems at least as important as the idea of universal education, at least as necessary, at least as vital to the revitalization of humanity.

Shane's Inspiration is one of many sources for inspiring us to reconsider how we build for play, and for whom. One of my favorites is in David Werner's Nothing About Us Without Us - a guide to "Developing Innovative Technologies For, By and With Disabled Persons" using little more than recycled materials, a sense of play, and inexhaustible compassion.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Come Out and Play - right this very now!

Day in the Park*
Start Time: Saturday June 13 at 12 PM
Location: Heckscher Fields in Central Park near 65th St & Central Park West entrance
Notes: family friendly, cerebral, theatrical
Wanna play hooky from the streets? Solve big puzzles and complete missions to win a day in the park.

Start Time: Saturday June 13 at 12-2 PM
Location: Festival HQ at the The Tank (354 W 45th St. between 8th/9th Aves)
Notes: cerebral, extreme, new-sport
A real-time game of spatial strategy that plays at the speed of sport.

F Be I, See I A*
Start Time: Saturday June 13 at 12:30 PM
Location: COaP Times Square HQ, Broadway Pedestrian Mall @ 45th St
Notes: hi-tech, cerebral
F Be I, See I A is Urban Capture The Flag without the sweat. Celebrating peer-to-peer communication in its purest form, players move carefully into the enemy team's territory as groups of under cover Field Agents connected to each other through two-way radios.

The Following*
Start Time: Saturday June 13 at 1 PM
Location: COaP Times Square HQ, Broadway Pedestrian Mall @ 45th St
Notes: hi-tech, cerebral, extreme
One gang following the other in a hunt for the secret base - which will outwit the other?

Outdoor Cham Ball*
Start Time: Saturday June 13 at 1-4 PM
Location: Heckscher Fields in Central Park near 65th St & Central Park West entrance
Notes: extreme, new-sport
Each game will last approximately 30 minutes. Multiple games will be played.

Start Time: Saturday June 13 at 3 PM
Location: COaP Times Square HQ, Broadway Pedestrian Mall @ 45th St
Notes: hi-tech, cerebral, theatrical, extreme
A GPS-driven cat-and-mouse game of ambushes, paranoia and scandalous photos.

Start Time: Saturday June 13 at 3-5 PM
Location: Heckscher Fields in Central Park near 65th St & Central Park West entrance
Notes: extreme, new-sport
Jamson is the backyard game of the future that will leave you wanting to play again and again.

Circle Rules Football
Start Time: Saturday June 13 at 4 PM
Location: Heckscher Fields in Central Park near 65th St & Central Park West entrance
Notes: theatrical, extreme, new-sport
Circle Rules Football is a new, action packed team sport played on a circular field with a giant yoga ball.

Adrift Atlantean*
Start Time: Saturday June 13 at 4 PM
Location: Brooklyn Waterfront (see registration page for info)
Notes: family friendly, cerebral, theatrical, extreme
A wayward Atlantean must return home, but hasn't the courage - only you can help!

Picky Sticky Pollen*
Start Time: Saturday June 13 at 5 PM
Location: Heckscher Fields in Central Park near 65th St & Central Park West entrance
Notes: family friendly, cerebral, theatrical, active, blown up video game
Be part of a hive! Competing hives direct crazed worker bees as they scurry to pick up pollen in this colorful lawn game.

CryptoZoo Playing Workshop*
Start Time: Saturday June 13 at 5 PM
Location: COaP Times Square HQ, Broadway Pedestrian Mall @ 45th St
Notes: family-friendly, theatrical, extreme, new sport
A secret world of strange and fast-moving creatures

Diva Dutch
Start Time: Saturday June 13 at 7-9 PM
Location: South of COaP Times Square HQ, Broadway Pedestrian Mall @ 44th St
Notes: family friendly, theatrical, extreme
The New-And-Improved-For-2009 Diva Dutch operates like a regular schoolyard game of jump rope/fashion show/hip hop freestyle/dozens.

Pitfall! Live at the Tank
Start Time: Saturday June 13 at 7-9 PM
Location: Festival HQ at the The Tank (354 W 45th St. between 8th/9th Aves)
Notes: theatrical, extreme, blown up video game
Play a real life version of the classic Atari game Pitfall.

Player Party
Start Time: Saturday June 13 at 8 PM - midnight
Location: Festival HQ at the The Tank (354 W 45th St. between 8th/9th Aves)
The Come Out & Play player party will feature more games, a comedy performance, a DJ, a raffle for awesome prizes, and beer. Help support Come Out & Play with a $5 donation.

Groove Moove*
Start Time: Saturday June 13 at 8 PM
Location: COaP Times Square HQ, Broadway Pedestrian Mall @ 45th St
Notes: social experiment, theatrical
A NYC dance off

The Great Whale Hunt*
Start Time: Saturday June 13 at 8 PM
Location: Festival HQ at the The Tank (354 W 45th St. between 8th/9th Aves)
Notes: hi-tech, cerebral, extreme
An all-night puzzle hunt.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith


Play it Forward - a guest post by the Eccentric Scholar

Does the march of progress allow space for somersaults? In other words, can we PLAY toward a better condition? In each of the following quotations, the word WORK has been playfully changed to PLAY.

"We need to PLAY toward developing peace in all of our thoughts, words, and actions."
—William B. Gudykunst, Bridging Differences, 2003

"We need to PLAY toward a world where healthy anger is the norm and destructive anger the exception."
—Jane Middelton-Moz, Boiling Point: The High Cost of Unhealthy Anger to Individuals and Society?, 1999

"In order to have clarity, we need to PLAY toward seeing the world as accurately as possible."
—Judith V. Jordan, Linda M. Hartling, & Maureen Walker, The Complexity of Connection, 2004

"We need to PLAY toward prevention of overwhelming stress situations that all too frequently result in mental hospitalization."
—Robert Lefferts, Getting a Grant, 1978

"We need to PLAY toward ... a collective sense of meaning and significance."
—Chris Hackler, Health Care for an Aging Population, 1994

"We need to PLAY toward trusting that whatever happens is 'good.'"
—Dzigar Kongtrul, Light Comes Through, 2008

"By accepting the fact that all will not be pleasant at work and that we need to PLAY toward satisfaction and fun in our job, we can more readily dismiss unpleasant happenings."
—Jennie Wilting, People, Patients, and Nurses, 1980

"We need to PLAY toward a society that has social policies that reflect humanitarian values."
—Emelicia Mizio & Anita J. Delaney, Training for Service Delivery to Minority Clients, 1981

"We need organizational makeovers and we need to PLAY toward the change more rapidly than we have thought in the past."
—Lloyd C. Williams, Business Decisions, Human Choices, 1996

"We need to PLAY toward protecting Mother Earth and all living beings."
—Jane Middelton-Moz, Welcoming Our Children to a New Millennium, 1999

"We need to PLAY toward our survival as a species."
—Bill G. Gooch, Lois Carrier, & John Huck, Strategies for Success, 1983

"PLAY is intrinsically satisfying, ie fulfilling; PLAY means survival; and PLAY provides a level of social connectedness to the larger community."
—Samuel M. Natale & Brian M. Rothschild, Values, Work, Education, 1995

Are the altered quotations above still true? Law professor Mary Brandt Jensen reminds us that in the language of copyright law, to "perform" a work is to "recite, render, play, dance, or act it." Perhaps more of our work can be performed with a playful spirit, so as to transform our sense of duty into genuine enthusiasm.

from Craig Conley, www.OneLetterWords.com/weblog

via Bernie DeKoven, funsmith


The Big Bilibo - better than the box it came in

Bilibo is a toy. A large, colorful toy. With no moving parts, unless you count the children who play with it. Like any toy, it is designed for a certain kind of child with equally certain kinds of parents - creative, imaginative, active children, whose parents understand and support unstructured, unpredictable, non-directed play.

The Bilibo is the mother of the Bilibo Game Box - the very Bilibo Game Box glowingly reviewed here just last month. For children between the ages of 18 mos and 8 years, the Bilibo is something to sit in or on, to rock or twirl or scoot in, to stand on, to wear. It is a water toy and a sand toy and a family room toy. It is a toy for storing other toys in.

Just what this toy means to kids depends on the adult as much as the child. The way you play with your child, the expectations you have, the limits you impose, the other toys you have out for play... all impact the way your child experiences the Bilibo, and you experience your child. Alex Hochstrasser, the inventor of what has become the Bilibo system, comments: "...most children have fun with Bilibo anyways, because that's how they play. They learn much more when they explore and discover things by themselves...I wanted to create a toy that was not gender or age specific but rather grows with the kids and, depending on age and interests, can be used in ever new ways. The closest I had as a role model was probably the card board box."

But it is also true that if adults are present, they influence the child's play, overtly or covertly. Parents need to be careful of their expectations. Even the most gifted children might not immediately take to the Bilibo. They need time with it. Time to explore or not. To kick it around, sit on it, or ignore it. Its presence in their play environment, like the presence of an empty cardboard box, will, in time beckon to them.

The best influence you can have, especially with a toy like Bilibo, is in your willingness to let the child discover and define the toy for herself. For example, from the persepective of a physical therapist who has obviously allowed the child undirected access to the toy, it becomes a multi-purpose tool. The therapist writes:
"I thought I would tell you how much one child I work with enjoys the Bilibo toy. He is 5 and totally blind. He spins quite fast around in it on a hard surface floor. He is able to catch himself with his arms what ever direction he tips over which is helping him with upper body development and balance skills.

"It also cradles small/multi involved children with low tone, very nicely encouraging them in bringing their hands to midline. When a large enough child is in there (and I am supporting the Bilibo not to roll about), rather than arms/hands flopping about at the sides, the arms end up more in the middle of the body, to hold a toy. Of course with experience many of these kids like a bit of gentle rocking to and fro as well."
Alex adds: " the stimulation of the child's vestibular system by spinning and balancing in the shells would be an interesting area where Bilibo shines. (The vestibular and proprioceptive systems play a key role in the development of the brain and reading and writing skills in particular.)"

If you already have the Bilibo Game Box, the big Bilibo makes an ideal expansion component, and vice versa. It's almost a given that children will weave family fantasies around the relationship between the big Bilibo and mini-Bilibos. Then there are the profound discoveries to be made about mini-Bilibo-spinning inside a big-spinning-Bilibo, spinning, perhaps, in a different direction. And what about the Bilibo Pixel? Does it roll and bounce and do even more fun things when it's inside a big, spinning Bilibo?

And if you can afford more than one (child or Bilibo), there's yet other orders of magnitude of games and fantasies, probability and physics, social and biodynamics to explore.

For kids (or parents) who don't yet have a Bilibo, there's an ample collection of inspirational clips on YouTube. On the other had, once your kids start playing with their Bilibo collection, they'll have all the inspiration you need. If you're good, maybe they'll let you play, too.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith


Abie, see the fishes?

You know this one?

ABCD Fishes
LMNO Fishes

Doug Germann sent me this one:

CM Ducks?
MRNO Ducks!
OSAR--CM Wings?
LIB, MR Ducks!

Know any more?

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith


Learning by Dying

I received one of those emails today - the kind I get maybe once a year, maybe once a lifetime. To remind me why he was writing, he referred me to a blog post he'd written almost 5 years ago. It was called "Learning by Dying."

He wrote: "I still wish to thank you for everything you did for me in those early days. I really believe that the things we did had a tremendous impact on how I traveled through the grieving process and beyond. Thanks again."

I am touched and gratified beyond words.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith


Improv Everywhere - Defenders of the Playful

If you've been watching any of the many well-documented, pervasive play antics of Improv Everywhere, you'll understand why they are being presented with the coveted title of Defender of the Playful. You may even, given such spectacular displays of in-your-face playfulness as in the Frozen Grand Central and Food Court Musical events, wonder why it took us so long to acknowledge their contribution to playfulness anywhere. Clearly, they are breaking boundaries, bringing play where no play has dared to go. And their MP3 Experiments are as least as fun and surprising and play-engendering for the participants as they are enticingly puzzling for their unsuspecting audiences.

But for me, it wasn't until their most recent mission, the Surprise Wedding Reception, that Improv Everywhere demonstrated the kind of playfulness that the award was created for. Take a look at one of their most celebrated, and closely related events, called "The Best Game Ever." This, too, was a surprise, and it most definitely led to the delight of everyone involved, players and performers. But unlike The Best Game Ever, the couple who served as the focus of the Surprise Wedding Reception were not so much surprised as they were invited to play. Though the host wasn't above the minor subterfuge of passing himself as a representative of the Mayor's Office, and describing the event as a "free wedding reception," this enlightened willingness to include everyone, the receivers as well as the givers of the performance, led to something that seemed to me much more inclusive, and, because of that, much more of an accomplishment for all playkind.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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The Cross-Court Rotation Variation

Though I have written many articles about volleyball, devoted an entire funcast and even a full chapter of Junkyard Sports to volleyball, I have yet to find anywhere outside of my own writings any mention of the perhaps most profound and, dare I say revolutionary contribution to the very nature of volleyball - the Cross-Court Rotation Variation. Not even in the Wikipedia article "Volleyball Variations," or the obversely titled Thinkquest article "Variations of Volleyball," have my Googling eyes sighted anything approaching actual citing.

Perhaps a diagram is necessary. Perhaps two diagrams.

Here, from Wikipedia, the traditional method of rotating:

While in the Cross-Court Rotation Variation the Number One-positioned player in team A (herein illustrated as the Red Team) goes to the Number Six position in team B (the Green Team) while simultaneously the Number One-positioned player in team B moves to the Number Six position in team A, all other players moving down-position according to the traditional rotation rule.

Perhaps the merits of the Cross-Court Rotation Variation are too numerous to enumerate. Perhaps the concept is too subtle or simple to catch the attention of the sport-minded many. But the truth remains: simply by letting players change sides as well as positions we can not only satisfy all the purposes of the official rotation rules, but we can also make the game a lot more fun for anyone who wants to play. Anyone.

But wait, a note of hope from my colleague Roger Greenaway:
"You will find a reference to this variation of volleyball which forms part of the history of Turntable (née Revolver) ending with a climactic reference to Junkyard Sports.

"As you will discover, the cross-court variation was invented (or reinvented) in Scotland around 1990 by a group of playful trainers inspired by Terry Orlick's creative interferences with the rules of competitive games.

"I am not trying to compete for ownership of this non-competitive variation, although I do claim to be the creator of Turntable where the 'cross-court' move enables participants to take part on all sides of a discussion."
Thank you, Roger. No, no competition for ownership is implied. Key is that this concept is out there, in use, and extending beyond volleyball, eve. Hope is restored.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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