Laughter Games Workshop - Israel, cont'd

Last year in Israel, I had several opportunities to experience the energy and enthusiasm of Israeli "laughter leaders." It was a very powerful experience for all of us, laughter being so much needed in this country. (For more about what I learned and taught last year, see this.)

This year, in a session organized by Yehudit Kotler and Bat-Shachar Weinfeld, I led two more sessions for laughter leaders form all over Israel. It seemed even more successful this time, as I was more aware of what kinds of games they were looking for. (Here's the complete list of the games I had prepared - we managed to play about 20% of them.) This time, part of both sessions was captured on tape by Gidon Sheran (discs showing highlights of both sessions are available for $10 each).

The first of the three games he captured was A What. Playing it in Hebrew, the word for "what" is "mah" and the word for "who" is "me", providing more than ample cause for much bilingual chaos. And then, when we added the next object, for some reason it became "moo," which, though completely nonsensical, added just enough to the linguistic confusion to tip us over into sheer hilarity.

When we tried to play the next game, Estray Bonajour, since this was largely a Hebrew-speaking group, and a very silly one, instead of trying to sing what I was singing (an almost impossible task, since I was singing nonsense words), they all decided to create their own gibberish. The game turned out to be very similar to a game they already knew, which we played immediately after. This was a wonderful moment for all of us, as is any opportunity that comes along when the students can teach the teacher. (We made the balls out of plastic grocery bags - a ubiquitous resource in Israel - following the traditional bag ball construction method.)

The third came shortly after we had all learned how to do the Frog of Enlightenupment and decided to try playing the theater game Three-Headed Oracle. In case you don't know Hebrew, when the three wise frogs answered the questions, the first said "I", the second "think" and the third had to decide how to actually answer the question.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Beer Battleship - or how to always win at Battleship

Just because Beer Battleship is called "Beer Battleship," there's no mandate, either explicit or implied, that one must drink an alcoholic beverage in order to have fun. Or employ a smoke machine, for that matter. What it does mean is that you can play Battleship on a homemade board. With cups for "ships." And have a jolly good time sinking and getting sunk. I said "sunk."

There's a wonderful sense of playfulness and ingenuity here - which is perhaps one of the best things about drinking games. Which is why I find myself so often attracted to them, despite my teetolling proclivities.

A toast to Beer Battleship and those pioneering buckaroos what gifted us with the aforementioned.

Play, I say, on!

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith


Soccette and Cuju, too

Soccette is a combination of soccer and basketball - it's like basketball because there's a basket. It's like soccer because you can't use your hands. It's like neither because there's only one goal/basket.

It looks different. And, most important, it looks like fun.

Soccette was reportedly invented in Africa.

Cuju is yet another soccer-like sport, featuring yet another innovation - a volleyball net with a hole in the middle. Cuju was invented in China. "..a.rcheologists discovered a book in China on Cuju entitled, "Twenty-Five Articles on Cuju" which was written during the Western Han Dynasty (206 BC - AD 24). In this book, Cuju is explained as being played by two teams on a field with goals, and the matches were officiated by referees who followed prescribed rules. "

Both of these sports, new and old, are available from the same company, and both are genuine invitations to fun. As long as they remain "new" to the people who play them, they remain informal enough to be played just for the sake of playing. Once everything is figured out and all the rules are properly memorized and officials are appointed and equipment standardized and varsity teams created, perhaps they won't be as much fun. But, in the mean time, they are welcome additions to our continuously growing repertoire of alternatives to professional sports.


Junkyard Games

It pleases me significantly to announce, proclaim, and otherwise acknowledge the availability of Junkyard Games, an "innovation simulation" based on my variously named Found Object Tabletop Olympiad, a.k.a. The Junkyard Sports Tabletop Olympiad, et. al.

Many are the insights one could draw from a comparison of the game, and the simulation based on it. You might, for example, have already noted how the "Found Object" component inherent to the concept of Found Object Tabletop Olympiad has been replaced by a cunning collection of pre-found objects. Interesting. By including three identically cunning collections of intriguing objects, the Junkyard Games simulation controls for chance - what each team accomplishes has nothing to do with the objects it has in its collection, and everything to do with the collective creativity of its members.

The instructions in the simulation (developed by Ron Roberts) differ widely from those of the Found Object Olympiad. Again, they help the experience be much more carefully focused on the performance of the teams. Observers record all the ideas that are generated during the brainstorming sessions, and later all the redesigns that are inspired by the first run-through of each of the games. These observations prove instrumental in helping participants focus on the process of innovation (while the Found Object Olympiad game is focused pretty much on whatever strikes participants as being the most relevant to their particular interests. The detailed instructions for processing the experience that are part of the instructions in Junkyard Games further aid in focusing the experience towards the social dynamics and processes that accompany collaboration and effective innovation.

So what you have in Tabletop Olympiad is an open-ended game that is as funny as it is collaborative, that encourages creativity and playfulness, and creates an experience that can be applied to an understanding of many different social processes. And what you have in Junkyard Games is a subset - a focused, carefully managed experience designed to shed light on the unique dynamics of innovative teams. Each is instructive and fun. Each is a valuable, teambuilding experience. Each makes people laugh. Each is something in which I am proud to have had a part.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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A new documentary on children's games

A recent article in the Contra Costa Times reports on a new documentary that was featured featured at the Alameda Film Festival last weekend. The documentary is the work of Dutch school teacher/film maker Jules Oosterwegel, who spent 15-year documenting children's street games from around the world. The entire project reportedly shows of over 300 children's games, including "Vietnamese variations of blind man's buff, a Bolivian stone-tossing game much like jacks without the ball, and a Dutch clapping game familiar to youngsters the world over."

Osterwegel explains about his project: "You try to find out the real idea of why children play and how they play, and every place it's different. You have a lot of games that are universal, but the way children from the northern countries play is very different from children in tropical countries."

There should be much more about this project on the Internet, but I could only find a disappointingly few references to what seems to be, according to my particular passions, a very significant contribution to global fun. Hopefully, I'll have more to report on it soon.

Here, from the article, are descriptions of some of the games in the documentary:
From Vietnam:

Cuop Co

Needed: Four or more players, a red scarf and a piece of chalk with which to draw a circle in the center of the playground.

How to play: The object is to snag the red scarf from the circle without getting tagged. At a signal, the first pair of kids dashes in and tries to fake each other out, lunging and feinting until someone can grab the scarf and sprint back to their team without being tagged. Every few minutes another pair joins them, until someone successfully grabs the scarf and gets away.

From the Netherlands:


Needed: Four or more players, a bouncy ball and a wall.

How to play: In this variation on wall ball, everyone lines up behind each other, with feet placed slightly apart. The child closest to the wall sends a low throw so the ball shoots straight back toward the players, who must jump over it. If the ball hits you, you're out. If no one is hit, the second child in line moves to the front and starts the game again.

From Denmark

Tag Sat

Needed: Four players, an open field.

How to play: In this clever variation on tag, children play the role of target, tagger and bodyguards. The target and two bodyguards hold hands and spin around the field, as the tagger tries to capture his prey by running around them or reaching through their triangle.

From Zimbabwe:

Filling the Bottle

Needed: Two teams of three players, a soda bottle, a ball and a sandy play area.

How to play: The bottle is placed in the center of the play area and sand is heaped up around it to hold it steady. In this dodge ball-like game, one team races to fill the bottle with sand, while ducking and attempting to avoid -- or catch --the ball that is thrown at them. If a bottle-filler is hit, he's out, but if he catches it, he may throw it in any direction. The team wins a point each time the bottle is completely filled.

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Complaints Choirs

All around the world, people are complaining. And they're doing it beautifully. Thanks to the orchestrated Finnish humor of Tellervo Kalleinen and Oliver Kochta-Kalleinen, the Complaints Choir phenomenon is sweeping the known universe.
"As complaining is a universal phenomenon the project could be organised in any city around the world. Kalleinen and Kochta-Kalleinen offered the concept to different events where they were invited as artists – but it was only after Springhill Institute in Birmingham got excited about the idea that the First Complaints Choir became a reality...Kalleinen and Kochta-Kalleinen have facilitated Complaints Choir workshops in Helsinki, St. Petersburg, Hamburg-Wilhelmsburg, Chicago, Singapore and Copenhagen. They have documented all the performances and they are presenting the videos as a powerful video installation in art exhibitions as well as in this web site. Since the succes of the Brimingham Complaints Choir on YouTube they have been receiving numerous letters where people describe how exactly in Hong Kong, Philadelphia, Gothenburg, or Buenos Aires people complain perhaps more than anywhere else in the world and therefore need an own complaints choir. The limited capacity of Kalleinen & Kochta-Kalleinen to fulfil the apparent big need for complaints choirs worldwide have led them to open this web site and encourage people to form their own complaints choir."
There is magic, here. Humor. Yet another flavor of fun, even. Transforming the endless need to complain - sometimes for profoundly legitimate reasons, sometimes for the sheer sake of complaining - into an art form. Something transcending. Something healing. Something significantly silly. Something coming to a theater near you.

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Opera Everywhere

When Improv Everywhere started doing its Spontaneous Musicals, they probably didn't know that the result would be something of the "meme" ilk. Today's evidence comes to us from the Presurfer, who brings us to the Art Nouveau Mercado Central, "said to be Europe's largest covered indoor market in Valencia, Spain," where "Members of Valencia's opera house, Palau de les Arts, disguised as shopkeepers were selling products at various stalls. Suddenly Verdi's La Traviata started playing over the loudspeakers, and watch what happened."

Stay with it to the end. It might very well bring something tear-like to your eyes.

This stuff brings a deep happiness with it. Being a witness to the amazing vocal power of opera singers, the transformation of a shopping experience to one of shared surprise and delight, the playfulness of the singers who, despite being so far from the protection of the footlights and formality of the stage, found themselves intimately welcome, and adored - well, it restores one's own sense of the potential and power of playfulness, yes, no?

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith


Do you, perchance, blow teapot?

Has it been four months already? Since the Geeks Are Sexy Teapot Blowing Contest? My, how attention spans shrink. I had anticipated this event with such ardor and so impatient had I become to share it with you that I immediately posted it to Delicious, and promptly distracted myself with things of greater immediacy, but far less import and/or significance. O, both alack and alas.

So, herein, I rectify. Beginning with astute observation number one, courtesy of Catscan93: "trick is to keep the lid on and blow through the little hole on the top of the lid,? everyone I've seen try tries to plug the whole pot with their mouth, but that just sprays it everywhere"

Ah, I say, ha!


"True Mastery NOT possible without FUN!

"I know we avoid the word fun," writes Brent Schlenker in his post True Mastery is NOT possible without FUN, "but let's get real."
Most children will stop an activity WELL before they achieve this level of mastery. Most kids at some point will bang things together and show an interest in making noise and yet have no desire to sit at a drum set. But you can tell by watching this kid that he truly enjoyed every moment of his time on the drums. Heck, most adults just don't even try new things. An adult's "expert" mind rationalizes the time commitment of gaining a new desired skill, and they decide no, without even giving it a chance.

So, why shouldn't we consider FUN a critical part of the learning process?

If the learning experience is not purely joyful and fun, then the pain associated with the learning process forces the child to quit and the adult to not even start. But let's also remember that does NOT mean the learning must come easily. No, in fact, the joy comes from overcoming a difficult complex challenge. The joy of learning comes from the DOING...over, and over, and over, until you get it right. During the over, and over, and over part you are certainly frustrated at times and even angry, but it IS still joyful because you are hopeful that knowing soon you will have overcome the challenge and success is right around the corner. And THAT feeling ROCKS!

Via David Cicia

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Pat Kane's TEDxOrenda presentation, London Olympia, 13 Jan 2010

Play theorist Pat Kane's TEDxORENDA presentation is now online.

He begins his presentation with this poetic piece of quotably playful pith: "Play means to take reality lightly."
" Why do we need to take reality lightly?" he asks, rhetorically (rhetoric being another of Pat's playful passions), "Because play is a necessary and vital principle of possiblity in the human condition. A solid body of evolutionary research has told us for at least half a century now that we need to play to develop properly, as complex mammalian organisms. (I'm sure any early years teacher in the room will know this to be true). And here's where the taking reality lightly bit comes in: play – and that's all forms of play, not just rule-bound games – helps us to rehearse the business of living with other subtle, semiotic, richly emotional and social creatures. In a way, play is virtual reality. "
I always love to listen to Pat riff on play. It's like listening to his music. Here's another:
" I think play is also about a box of generic Lego bricks, as well as the rule-book of a game. That is, play should also be about the mental and physical freedom to combine simple elements according to your whim, your insight and the exponential fantasies of your pals. There's no point in our neotenic energies being powerfully amplified in the mainstream of our lives, for these energies to be immediately corralled back into a slightly more lurid version of our already over-administered, over-instrumentalised lives. I propose a rebranding: let's call it World of Workcraft."
World of Workcraft indeed. Lovely. Deep. Melodic, even.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith


A moment from a well-considered life

My friend Magdalena Cabrera (see this) sent me a story about her year. In that story, she wrote the following (reprinted with permission):

I continue to work with Hand in Hand Parenting, educating others to teach the classes that transform and support so many children and parents, helping them maintain emotionally connected lives. Work at Leaping Lizards continues to reward me with hugs, much laughter and play, and many small hands to hold my own. Every year I have more new wee ones with whom to share love. We romp in the woods, splash in the puddles, catch as many interesting small creatures as we can and learn about life together. They learn how to say please and thank you, take turns, respect themselves, each other and all life and I learn, again and again, how the path always reveals itself, how to be in the present moment, how to breathe and pause when I am feeling like hurrying, how to truly see the beauty in what is and remember that life is fleeting. These lessons were present as well during my six day backpacking trip in the high Sierra Nevada Mountains this past August. Thirty miles and many feet of repeated elevation gain and loss on the John Muir Trail starting at Toulomne Meadows in Yosemite and ending at Mammoth Mountain in the Ansel Adams Wilderness was one of the highlights of my life. When carrying 45 pounds of food and gear and ascending from 9000 feet to 1100 feet over granite and then back down again, one learns the essential Truths of life. I felt so small next to those majestic peaks and at the same time so part of it all. What I felt one morning while drinking my coffee and gazing at the peaks can be summed up by this quote from Victor Hugo: “Love; the reduction of the universe to a single being. The expansion of a single being into God.” I might edit that last part and replace the name “God” with “the Great Mystery.” I hope Mr. Hugo would understand. I couldn’t be more grateful.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Does anybody know the name of this game?

I have the good fortune to be connected to a surprising collection of wonderful people. One of them, Jan Nickerson, wrote me about a game that her daughter's friend learned in Peru - and they love it so much that they've been playing it "at breakfast, lunch and dinner!"

The Unknown Rummy Game

Object of the Game. Each player tries to get rid of all of his cards by laying down sets of three or more matched cards (e.g. 3 K’s) or sequences of three or more cards in the same suit (e.g. 3, 4, and 5 of Hearts). The player to earn the most points during the 9 deal-game wins.

Number of Players Two to five players or more

The Pack 2 packs, each with 2-3 jokers (true of Congress card packs)

Five or more players may use a triple pack. All the cards are shuffled together.

Card Values Jokers and 2s are wild and count as 25 points. Aces are 15 points, 8-K are ten points each; 1-7 are five points each.

Rank of Cards Aces are high or low, so may "turn the corner" at the king of the same suit (e.g. K, Ace, 2) enabling players to regard it as the start of low numbers (Ace, 2, 3, 4 etc)

Chips: Each player receives 8 chips. A chip buys the top card discarded in the discard pile, AND the next two cards in the stock.

The Shuffle and Cut. The dealer shuffles, may have another player help shuffle before packs are combined. The player to the dealer's right cuts.

The Deal. Each game consists of nine deals, the turn to deal passing from player to player to the left. Cards are dealt clockwise face down, one at a time, beginning on the dealer's left. Each player receives eleven cards. The remainder of the pack is placed face down in the center as the stock, and the top card is paced face up to begin the discard pile next to the stock. If the top card is a 2, buy it in the stock and replace it with the next top card.

The Play. Any player may call out they want to buy the top card in the discard pile. Whoever calls out first wins that card plus the 2 top cards in the stack. The cost is one chip.

The player to the left of the dealer then “goes” by drawing a card from the stock, laying down a meld if he can (see Basic Contracts), playing on his own and on opponents’ previously played cards (Only IF the player has already melded), including substituting cards for wild cards), and then discarding. Each player must discard at the end of their turn, and may not discard a wild card (including a 2).

The player to the left now executes his turn. Play continues until the first person “goes out” having laid down all his cards and discarding his last card.

Basic Contracts.

· First Deal: One set of three or more matched cards (e.g. 3, 3, 3) which a player must lay down face up in front of him – during his turn - before he lays down further sets or sequences.

· Second Deal: Two sets of three or more matched cards (e.g. 3, 3, 3; 5, 5, 5)

· Third Deal: Three sets of three or more matched cards (e.g. 3, 3, 3; 7, 7, 7; K K K)

· Fourth Deal: One set of four matched cards (e.g. Q, Q, Q, Q)

· Fifth Deal: Two sets of four matched cards (e.g. 9, 9, 9, 9; K, K, K, K)

· Sixth Deal: One set of five matched cards. (e.g. 7, 7 , 7, 7, 7)

· Seventh Deal: Two sets of five matched cards. (e.g. 5, 5, 5, 5, 5; 3, 3, 3, 3, 3)

· Eighth Deal: Six matched cards. (e.g. Q, Q, Q, Q, Q, Q)

· Ninth Deal: Seven cards of same suit in sequence. (e.g. Q K A 2 3 4 5 of Clubs)

Wild Cards. Jokers and 2’s are wild. 2’s may be wild or used as 2’s. A wild card may be used to stand as any card in a matched set or a sequence, but two wild cards may never be next to each other. When a wild card has been laid down, any other player in his turn may replace the wild card from his opponent’s played cards by substituting the card it represents, in order to use that wild card during that turn to play. There must be more “real” cards than wild cards in each set or sequence. For example, I may have # # J, or # # # J (but not # # J J) or # # # J J (but not # # J J J).

Wild cards taken must be used that turn.

· When a wild card has been laid down as part of a sequence, any card not already in that sequence may be added to the sequence and the wild card is moved to either end. For example: If Joker 7 6 are shown, you can add a 5 and remove the joker.

· If joker, 7, 6 are shown, you may also replace the joker with the 8 of that suit.

· OR you may add the 9 of that suit, leaving the joker holding the 8 spot in the sequence.

· You can, of course, also substitute a card for the joker in a set. In K K Joker, you may play another K and pick up the Joker to use in another set or sequence.

· You may choose any specific card for your substitution; it doesn’t have to be a joker. For example, in 8H, 8H, 8D, 8C, I may replace the 8D with an 8 of any suit. I might do this when I need the 8D for a sequence

· You may substitute cards for jokers in more than one set or sequence from any or all players within a turn, in order to generate more of the cards you need for a set or sequence.

Scoring. In each deal, play ends when any player gets rid of his last card. Each other player is then charged the value of each card in his hand. The player having the lowest total score at the end of the ninth deal is the winner.


The evolution of Evolution

I was recently contacted by Dale Le Fevre, a colleague of mine from the days of the New Games Foundation and proprietor of Dale Le Fevre's New Games, who, in turn, was recently contacted by Rabbi Rachel Brown of B'nai Jacob Congregation, who was trying to remember how to play a game that involved eggs, chickens, dinosaurs and rock/paper/scissors. She wrote:
"I remember playing this game, but I cannot remember the specifics. I think everyone started out the same, and you went around greeting people and making some sort of predetermined sound or movement, and if you did the same sound, something happened, and if you made different ones, something else happened (one person would go on to a "higher" form, the other would remain). It was really funny when people started singing "Stop! In the name of love.."
Dale wrote me, and I, of course, took up the challenge with alacrity and stuff. My exhaustive research led me to the Ultimate Camp Resource, which described a game they called "Evolution," played as follows:
Have the group in a circle. Everyone starts out as an egg and places their hands above their head and together so that they look like an egg. When you say go each person will find another egg. Once they found that person they will then farkle (Rock, Paper , Scissors). The loser stays an egg and the winner becomes a chicken, placing their arms as wings and making chicken noises. The chicken then looks for another chicken while the egg looks for another egg. When you win as a chicken you become a dinosaur, placing your hands out and roaring like a dinosaur. If you lose as a chicken you drop back down to an egg. Dinosaurs then find other dinosaurs, where they will play to become the ultimate people. Ultimate people put their hands over their heads like superman and look for others like them. If you lose as a dinosaur you go back to being a chicken, looking for other chickens. If the Ultimate person loses to another Ultimate person they go back to a dinosaur, and if they win they stay as ultimate people.
I wrote her back with my find. She expressed gratitude mixed with some minor disappointment, because she remembered the delight of everyone singing "Stop in the Name of Love" at the end of the game. I responded:
There could be different games for the evolution - rock scissors paper, or Bear, Hunter, Princess, even; then maybe odds and evens, maybe start out with thumb wrestling. Or how about a team version of Rock/Scissors - like Panther, Person, Porcupine? When you lose, you join the other side. We could call it "co-evolution." O, so much to play with.
Later on, I discovered that Evolution was also a popular theater game. But, of course.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith


Of play and games

by The Abcedarian

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Play, playfully rendered

This says play to me, no yes? Play, and love also too. What a lovely connection!

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Bear, Hunter, Princess

Surely you all remember Panther, Person, Porcupine? Well, today I am pleased to share with you the game of Bear, Hunter, Princess as reported by the Strange Gamester himself, Montague Blister. Not that Bear, Hunter, Princess is a team game (as is Panther, Person, Porcupine), but rather that it's an alternate, whole-body version of your basic, two-player game of Rock-Scissors Paper, as also is Panther, Person, Porcupine.

Though I personally consider Panther, Person, Porcupine to be, quantumly-speaking, a much more significant leap into playful gamery, I nonetheless celebrate the existence of Bear, Hunter, Princess, as well as the directly corresponding, Fed-Ex-popularized Bear, Hunter, Ninja.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Designing for fun

Yesterday, I gave a lecture at the Shenkar College of Engineering and Design in Tel Aviv. It was a lot of fun, talking about fun.

The lecture was at the invitation of Yoav Ziv of the Industrial Design department, who, coincidentally, was the designer of the Major Fun Keeper Award-winning Ring-o Flamingo.

After the lecture, we had a little time for some questions. One of the questions I was asked was about how to make educational games more fun. I explained that the problem with educational games is that they are designed to compensate for a system that has already taken the fun out of learning, and then to hope that educational games will somehow magically put the fun back. Talk to any experienced mathematician or writer or scientist and they will tell you about the joy that they find in their work. To make a good educational game, you have to go to the discipline before education got hold of it, find the fun that keeps people engaged in it, and make that accessible to kids. Unfortunately in all likelihood educators will not think it sufficiently educational, but for the kids who get to play the games, the experience could very well help them discover the fun that is central to the exploration of science, art, mathematics, language.

Another was about changing culture, specifically the experience of living in Israel - the lack of humor, of fun, in every day life. I responded by talking about New Games, how, when we wanted to bring a change, we didn't try to change the game that was being played, but rather started a new game with some of the people who weren't playing. People walking in crowded, noisy streets, driving in crowded traffic, having no escape except in going to a store or restaurant where spending money suddenly becomes the major focus, really have no other games to play. I explained that we can proliferate alternatives. Like Bob Gregson did with his Thursday is a Work of Art program.

We had more than 100 people, and they were wonderfully, deeply engaged in my silly seriousness. So good to find my work so relevant.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Paper Art

Last Monday, I wrote about fun of the less-than-funny kind. So, when I learned about this collection of lovely, ever-so-painstakingly created works of Paper Art, I was delighted to have found another expression of that not-funny-fun that is so profoundly fun, anyway.

The image that accompanies this post is from Peter Callesen. Seeing the sculpture emerge from the sheet of paper helps us appreciate the mastery that he has achieved in producing his art. Such amazing detail. Such fidelity. And yet, in some way, such a deep sense of play.

The same can be said about all 100 examples of paper art in this delightfully astounding collection. The art. The mastery. The sheer fun of it all.

via Boing Boing

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Games for "Laughter Leaders"

Last year I had a wonderful time teaching games to Laughter Leaders in Israel. Laughter Leaders are generally practitioners of a discipline/practice called Laughter Yoga that "combines Unconditional Laughter with Yogic Breathing (Pranayama). Anyone can Laugh for No Reason, without relying on humor, jokes or comedy. Laughter is simulated as a body exercise in a group; with eye contact and childlike playfulness, it soon turns into real and contagious laughter. The concept of Laughter Yoga is based on a scientific fact that the body cannot differentiate between fake and real laughter. One gets the same physiological and psychological benefits."

I was invited to a Laughter Yoga session by a very laughing lady named Bat-Shachar and was delighted and enlightened. The "fake laughter" really works, especially when it's as infectious as Bat-Shachar's. She did play a lot of games - a lot. In keeping with the nature of yoga teachers, games are very leader-centric. The goal is to help people laugh, by any means possible. So a game really comes down to a series of instructions - do this funny thing, laugh, now do that. This allowed me to understand yet another assumption that guides my work, an assumption that isn't as common to game leaders as I had thought.

For me, the goal is to use as few instructions as possible, and to transfer the leadership to the players, also as fast as possible. I consider a game successful when I can walk away for a few minutes, come back, and discover that people are still playing it. Better still, when it turns out that they've changed the game somehow, somehow really made the game theirs. Given how intense Bat-Shachar's workshop was, and how actively engaged she was, I'm hoping she and her cronies discover the usefulness, and perhaps even the value of my approach to games - before they burn out entirely.

Today, I'll be teaching a selection of pointless games (and their significance) to a group of about 35 Laughter Leaders. I hope I'll be able to make my approach, as well as my games, somewhat more useful to them. If you're interested, you can find the list of games I'll be teaching here.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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fun of the not actually funny kind

After I had spoken with Yuval Saar, of the Israeli newspaper Haaretz for about an hour, we finally discovered that for Yuval, "fun" implied "funny." This made many of my comments about discovering the fun of work, the fun of art, the fun of creating, of marriage, of life - significantly less than relevant. So, in the 5 minutes we had left, I immersed myself in furious contemplation, searching for an instant metaphor which might encapsulate the concept for him.

It's like being on a roller coaster, I explained. You might laugh at first, but there are times in which your experience closely approximates sheer terror. You're not laughing. In fact, you're often screaming in fear. But if you hadn't been so scared, it wouldn't have been fun, at least not fun of the roller-coaster-riding kind.

So, what I learned from Yuval is that though a lot of my focus has been on fun of the less-than-funny kind, it's easy for me to forget that this is not what most people think of when they think of fun. I suppose that unfunny fun is yet another flavor of fun. But for me, the key is neither the not-funny fun nor the funny fun, but the understanding that, at some level, both are fun. And therein lies the playful path, etc.

You can try to read his article in Hebrew. Or, if you are desperate enough, you can try to wade through Google's English translation. Don't try to understand it. Better to just laugh along.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith


Playful Learning

It takes one full hand of coconut, 2 tablespoons of concentrated orange juice, 3 pieces of orange, 4 slices of apple, 5 cubes of cheese, 6 slices of banana, 7 pieces of melon, and 8 grapes, stirred 9 times, to make a Number Salad. (video here)

And it takes a lot of loving sensitivity to children and the way children learn, to parents and playfulness, to make a site you can call, with pride and integrity, Playful Learning.

If you're looking for a great way to start the new year, consider starting with this.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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