Deep talk makes us happier

According to Dr. Mathias Mehl from the University of Arizona, people who spend more of their day having deep discussions and less time engaging in small talk seem to be happier.

As reported in the New York Times Blog Dr Mehl found that "substantive conversation seemed to hold the key to happiness for two main reasons: both because human beings are driven to find and create meaning in their lives, and because we are social animals who want and need to connect with other people."

He is quoted as saying: "By engaging in meaningful conversations, we manage to impose meaning on an otherwise pretty chaotic world. And interpersonally, as you find this meaning, you bond with your interactive partner, and we know that interpersonal connection and integration is a core fundamental foundation of happiness.”

Deep. Fun.

article Roni Caryn Rabin

via Douglas Germann




from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Animals, play and morality

I have long been a happy follower of Marc Bekoff's explorations of animals at play. His compassionate, disciplined investigations of animal society have helped me understand the profundity of play and its power to transcend culture and species. Having an opportunity to meet him again at the TASP/IPUSA conference, I at last found a good excuse to resume our correspondence. He told me of an article he wrote with Jessica Pierce, "Moral in Truth and Claw," where he was able to make some clear and undeniable connections between play and morality. Here are a few:
"Although play is fun, it's also serious business. When animals play, they are constantly working to understand and follow the rules and to communicate their intentions to play fairly. They fine-tune their behavior on the run, carefully monitoring the behavior of their play partners and paying close attention to infractions of the agreed-upon rules. Four basic aspects of fair play in animals are: Ask first, be honest, follow the rules, and admit you're wrong. When the rules of play are violated, and when fairness breaks down, so does play....

"The social dynamics of play require that players agree to play and not to eat one another or fight or try to mate. When there's a violation of those expectations, others react to the lack of fairness. For example, young coyotes and wolves react negatively to unfair play by ending the encounter or avoiding those who ask them to play and then don't follow the rules. Cheaters have a harder time finding play partners....

"When children agree, often after considerable negotiation, on the rules of a game, they implicitly consent not to arbitrarily change the rules during the heat of the game. During play, children learn the give and take of successful reciprocal exchanges (you go first this time; I get to go first next time), the importance of verbal contracts (no one can cross the white line), and the social consequences of failing to play by the rules (you're a cheater). As adults we are also constantly negotiating with others about matters of give and take, we rely daily on verbal contracts with others, and most of us, most of the time, follow myriad socially constructed rules of fairness during our daily lives."
Deep, like I said. Fun, like I implied.




from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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A Coliberating Passover to You, Yours and Theirs

I find myself thinking about coliberation in connection to the Exodus and Passover. Maybe it's because I've been finding myself thinking of late. Maybe it's because tonight is "different from all other nights" - the night of the first Seder.

I began framing the idea of coliberation when I was playing a game of ping pong with my friend Bill. So you can understand why the ping pong - Passover connection might not have been immediately apparent to me.

Bill was so much better of a player than I that there was actually no reason for us to even try to play a "real" game. Playing for points was clearly pointless. So we decided instead just to see how long we could keep the ball from falling off the table. It was a perfect challenge for each of us. For Bill, just getting the ball to hit my paddle was an exercise worthy of his years of "pongish" mastery. And for me, it felt like I was really playing something very much like ping pong with something very similar to actual competence. After half the night of this, we managed to sustain an almost infinite volley, hitting the ball back and forth that we actually lost count. I remember how the ball seemed to get brighter, to take on its own life; how our playing seemed to take on an intimacy, an encompassing wholeness. ? ?Something happened to us during that game. There was some kind of shared transcendence that made us each feel just about as big, ME-wise and WE-wise, as we could get. Larger than life. Enlarged by each other's largesse. Beyond time.

Let me draw you a picture.

On one axis we have ME. On the other axis, WE.

The higher or farther out we go on each axis, the more fun it becomes to be a ME or WE. The closer in, the less.

When the WE and ME are in balance, there is what you might call an experience of "mutual empowerment," what I call "coliberation." This is indicated by a channel, diagonally equidistant between ME and WE. Here the fun things happen. And here, when we're really playing and really together, when collaboration is at its best, so are we. ? ?

I like the word - "coliberation." It's cute, because it almost sounds like something beyond "collaboration." But "liberation" is only part of the truth. It's about freeing each other from whatever constraints we usually impose on each other, and ourselves.

The experience of coliberation becomes more powerful as each participant becomes more thoroughly engaged, more wholly involved, and as the group itself becomes more unified, more totally involved. Given the wholeness of the self and the group, we approach something beyond collaboration, beyond the game itself. Some coincidence of selves that undefines the limits of our capabilities. A coincidence having almost nothing to do with the game, and everything to do with the human spirit - shared moments of unusual clarity, vivid communication, spontaneous combustions of understanding.

And should we lose our way, should we forget that we are playing for the fun of playing together, we find ourselves, on one side, feeling alienated from each other, superior or inferior, not just in connection to the game, but in connection to everything. Or we feel alienated from ourselves, as if the game was the only thing that made life worth living, that made us worth being whoever we were being.?

?And then there's Passover, reminding us of when we 1) finally freed ourselves of slavery, and 2) we were free together, in our own community, under our own and only G-d.

So it seems to me, like it probably seemed to you, Israel, that the idea of coliberation is maybe a useful depiction of what Passover is all about - not just about our managing to free ourselves from slavery, but more about our being able to free each other.

(Look for this article in my column in the coming issue of the National Jewish Post and Opinion.)


from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Well-Played Game eBook - introductory discount until April 1st - no fooling!

You, too, can have a copy of the updated version of the Well-Played Game on your very own eReader, iPod, iPad, netbook or notebook - and, until April 1st (obviously) at a 40% discount!

Click on Smashwords.

Enter this code RT25Y

You'll thank me in the morning.


from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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The Playful Universe

"Perhaps the truth is something quite different. Instead of youth being the time for play, maybe it is play that keeps us youthful. Perhaps the boundless free flow of creative expression is what keeps us physically and mentally supple, as a child. When we attempt to control it, limit it, mortgage it to the acceptable and safe, then the bounds of that safety project themselves onto body and mind, subjecting both to a severely limited range of motion that hardens over time."
And
"Consider the possibility that childhood play is practice, yes—but practice for adult play, not adult work! For in fact, the same qualities that characterize childhood play apply equally to the most creative, productive activities of the adult. Childhood play is practice in the exploration of limits, the loosening of inhibitions to creativity, the creative dialogue with the environment, the reimagining of the world presented us. Play is not enslaved to a preset end, but allows the end to emerge spontaneously through the process itself. Play does not require willpower to stay focused and overcome our natural desires; it is natural desire manifest. When we play, we are willing to try things without guarantee of their eventual usefulness or value; yet paradoxically, it is precisely when we let go of such motivations that we produce the things of greatest use. "
And
"Another way to look at it is that we never stopped playing, but we have forgotten that we are playing."
And
"We are the universe's channel for play, an aspect of a universal playfulness expressed through our minds and bodies, employing our mental skills of reason and expression but originating beyond them."
"We are the universe's channel for play." Even it's not true, we could pretend it so.

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34 things to do at your PlayDay - and more

When we were at the TASP/IPUSA conference, I was approached by a wonderfully glowing woman, Dr. Joyce Hemphill, PhD., who, carrying copies of both The Well-Played Game and Junkyard Sports, immediately endeared herself to me.

Dr. Hemphill, who teaches a Play Class at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, Wisconsin, leads a PlayDay Initiative, which, according to the site, "is an initiative to bring free and unstructured play back into the center of children’s lives."

"Free and unstructured play," the site explains, "offers many benefits to a child’s physical, social and cognitive development and is being slowly removed from daily routines due to issues such as parents working several jobs, over-scheduled free time and the systematic reduction and elimination of recess in our nation’s schools. PlayDays, which can range from a matter of hours to an entire day (England), are beginning to gain popularity in the United States and Madison, Wisconsin is at the forefront of this movement."

Looking at the site, I discovered why my books were so valuable to her, as exemplified by this list of recommended PlayDay activities (and even more ideas in the library of photos of past events) - almost all of them in one way or another, using junk. "Junkyard Sports," Dr. Hemphill explained, "is a source of constant inspiration. The Well-Played Game helps us understand why."

Needless to say, I was conceptually dancing the Dance o' Glee.



from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Hey, Dude!

Cory Doctorow write: "Here's video of some subway buskers in NYC's Times Square station getting the entire station to help them sing the finale to 'Hey Jude.' That's some heartwarming stuff right there."

Yup. This is the very stuff of fun. The soul-reviving embodiment of a Fun Community in action.

via Boing Boing

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Water Music

These people are having fun...beautifully.



Yet another exotic flavor of fun, via Meara Oreilly and Boing Boing




from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Estray Bonajour is Escravos de Jo

This just in:

Estray Bonajour:



Is actually



Escravos de Jó"

See this for the full story.



from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Turtle Racing at your local bar and zoo

Wikipedia informs us that Turtle Racing that is "a popular event in the Central United States which is usually held at county fairs or picnics in which turtles are placed in the center of a circle by children and are allowed to walk around until one of them crosses out of the circle."

The neat ones at Neatorama recently posted an article about the aforementioned semi-sport having purportedly become "a trend in metropolitan bars like Bucky’s Grill and Pub in Indianapolis." As a newly converted semi-Hoosier, I was especially intrigued to learn that such goings on actually go in locally, at Bucky's Bar and Grill.

My subsequent Internet searches, however, led me inexorably to this video, which was taken, not at Bucky's, but at Brennans Pub in Marina Del Rey, CA, nigh onto my former Redondo Beach stomping grounds (I sigh for the stomps of yesteryear). An illustrative, and preternaturally exciting video, nonetheless.

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Some children's games from China



Our new collection of some children's games from China.

One of my favorites:


Nestle a Person

Players are divided into groups of two, which are scattered on the playground. Make sure there is a distance between the groups. Players in each group stand in a line. One group volunteers to be the runner and the chaser. The game begins with the chaser trying to catch the runner. Both the runner and the chaser must run along outside of the play groups. The runner can join one of the groups at any time, either in the front or at the back. Once the runner has joined one of the groups, the person at the other end of the group must start to run as the new runner, and the chaser continues to try to catch the runner. Once the runner is caught before joining one of the groups, the runner and the chaser switch roles.


Courtesy of Dr. Tong Liu , PhD, Professor of Early Childhood Education, Hebei University, China; Post doctoral fellow of Yale Child Study Center, U.S.A

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Mini Weapons of Mass Destruction - a new resource for cubicle warfare

If I could travel back in time and give my early adolescent self a gift of potentiation and portends of power, it would be a copy of John Austin's Mini Weapons of Mass Destruction. If I were my father, on the other hand, I'd take that book away from me in a most timely and uncompromising manner, hide it in a place where only I could find it, and read it from cover to cover.

On yet another hand, my going on 8-, going on 21-year old granddaughter loves this book.

Mini Weapons of Mass Destruction contains 241 pages of detailed, painstakingly illustrated instructions for making (and here I read from the table of contents) launchers and bows, slingshots, darts, catapults, combustion shooters (combustion shooters!), minibombs and claymore mines, and, finally, concealing books and targets.

Did I mention combustion shooters? Like the famous match rocket which you can make out of paper or wooden matches, with nothing more than aluminum foil, a needle or pin, a medium binder clip (Austin loves those binder clips), a toothpick and a large paper clip? O, there are warnings. "Eye protection and a safe firing range are musts" declares the ever-pragmatic Austin. "Match rocketry is not an exact science," he cautions, "misfires and modifications will be needed to find the perfect balance." Match rockets! How inexorably cool is that?

There are two things that make Mini Weapons of Mass Destruction such a fun read: 1) every "weapon" is made out of common household objects, and 2) the instructions are exceptionally clear and well-illustrated. OK. There are three things: 3) the sheer ingenuity of the designs. It's the very kind of book MacGuyver might have read during his training course. For fun. Of course.

Want more? Visit John's site. Learn a little about him. Print out a few targets. Get instructions for building more. Meditate on the nuances of "implements of spitball warfare."



from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Kites in the rubble

Lawrence Downs of the New York Times describes how children in Haiti make out of sticks and scrap plastic:
"The Haitian boy’s kite starts with thin sticks — woody reeds or straight twigs scraped smooth with a razor blade and cut to equal length, about eight inches. These are lashed in the middle to make stars of six or eight points, sometimes more. Thin plastic, ideally the wispy kind from dry-cleaning bags, is stretched over the frame and secured with thread. Rag strips are knotted for the tail, then tied with thread to two of the star’s lower points: a Y with a long, long stem. More thread is tied to the kite’s taut chest, the rest spooled on a can or bottle."
Downs notes the extreme hardships of survival, and then drifts, like the kites he describes, into poetry:
"One way to resist is to fly. The kite makers dance through the camps with rubbery exuberance, trailed by younger children, all lost in the moment, the most important in the world. Kites battle kites, their makers yanking their lines to cut each other’s, as the kites whirl and spin. When one kite wins, the jubilation is explosive. It’s one of the few signs of joy you see in Haiti, entirely handmade."


photo by Lawrence Downes

via Boing Boing


from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Laughter Games Workshop at the American Laughter Yoga Conference

It is official. The two days following the Fifth Annual All America Laughter Games Yoga conference in Albuquerque - August 30 and 31 - will be devoted to an intensive Laughter Games Workshop. Here's the write-up:
"Join funsmith Bernie DeKoven for this special 2 days intensive, highly instructional, ultra-pragmatic and profoundly fun laughter training where you will explore and expand your own sense of fun to enrich and bring a new level of vitality to your own life and that of the people you work with. This event is open to and beneficial for all, and even more so for Laughter Yoga professionals who wish to take their practice to the next level. "
See also: Games that make people laugh - a workshop in the playfulness as a life skill




from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Baseball in the streets and hallways, basketball in the bathroom, golf in the gutter, and dinner table Olympics

Interested in reading a PDF file of the keynote presentation I'm giving today at the 36th Annual International Conference of The Association for the Study of Play (TASP) and the 25th Anniversary Conference of The American Association for the Child’s Right to Play (IPA/USA)? Hmmm?

Here it more or less is: Baseball in the streets and hallways, basketball in the bathroom, golf in the gutter, and dinner table Olympics


from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Urban Iditarod 2010 - San Francisco

"In the Alaskan Iditarod, more than sixty dog sled teams race across the frozen tundra from Anchorage to Nome. In our urban version, teams of dogs? lead by a musher will pull their sleds (shopping carts) through some of San Francisco's most touristed areas. These teams of barking humans must negotiate through the unrelenting and unforgiving dangers of San Francisco's urban frontier. As an incentive to run, dogs and mushers alike will have several "rest stops" to replenish lost fluids and discuss tales of mayhem. The course is over three miles, so dogs and mushers alike need to be ready and able to run their tails off." (Laughing Squid)



Play, performance, creativity, meaningless competition. What more could one ask?


via Laughing Squid


from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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If you're happy, or didn't know that you are...

It's an advertisement. You probably won't understand the words or be especially interested in what is being advertised. It probably won't make you happy. But, in all likelihood, it will make you laugh, which is clearly the next best thing.




from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Irish Road Bowling

According to Wikipedia, "Irish road bowling (Irish: Ból an bhóthair) is an ancient sport." Yet I can't help find it reminiscent, in concept if not in spirit, to, of course, Urban Golf, and in a similar vein: Free Form Frisbee Golf, Ice Golfing, eXtreme Croquet and ilk of like similarity.

Not sure if it's an improvement. But it is clearly a predecessor.



via MetaFilter

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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The Department of Fun Studies

Let's imagine a Department of Fun Studies. As long as we're imagining it, let's imagine that it's in a well-established university of significant academic standing and accredited stuffiness. Now let's imagine their course offering.

Of course, so to speak, there'd be extensive programs for design students - especially for those who are planning a career in game or toy or theme park design. And programs for people who design for the Internet, because fun is basically what's keeping it going. And for architecture students - after all, if people are in them by choice, buildings need to be as fun as they are functional. And landscape architects, because they plan play spaces and pleasure places. And shopping mall designers, and even hospital designers - because studies have shown the value of looking at a hospital as a healing environment.

And certainly teachers would need to study fun, because they're dealing with kids, and kids tend not to do things unless they are fun, or they are forced to do them. And things that kids are forced to do tend not to stay with them for very long. Curriculum designers, naturally. Parents, too, could use an extended study in fun, for their kids, of course, but for the whole family, themselves, included. And retired people, because when you are old enough fun becomes once again ever so clearly what life is for.

It seems to me that students of the political sciences, government and law enforcement would also want to have a solid background in fun. See, the things people do for fun are not always so wonderful. There's the oddly named "practical joke." There's gambling, drinking, doing drugs, fighting, even killing for fun. There are "powerful" people who exercise their power by abusing the people they have power over, and who, for the most part, are also having great fun doing it. Not "good" fun. Not the kind of fun to which we have so assiduously, whole-heartedly and whole-bodidly have devoted our lives. But fun, nevertheless. And hence of significant enough political relevance to merit a course or several, or lifetime study.

So the idea of a Department of Fun Studies is something to be taken seriously for a variety of highly academically relevant reasons. At its best, it's the secret to a good life. It is the prime motivator - what we do whenever we are allowed to do, or do secretly when we're not. What we do whenever we're not forced to do something else. At it's darkest, it's the cause of so much pain and suffering - what makes us keep hurting ourselves and each other, even when it doesn't pay.

And, now that we're imagining all this, let's imagine that you'd like to submit a course proposal of your own. Here. On this blog. As a comment to this post. For the fun of it.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Pointless Games Central

Pointless Games are games in which you either don't keep score (hence "pointless") or are so much fun to play that winning is besides the point.

I have written about this particular kind of game ever since I discovered the words to describe it. I devoted a webpage to it, wrote about in a Knol, and compiled it into a PDF.

Though webpage, Knol, and PDF are all game-and-glee-filled and of significant value for anyone who wants to bring a little more fun into the world.

Hence, this post.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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The Cardboard Box inducted in the National Toy Hall of Fame

In 2005, the National Toy Hall of Fame inducted the cardboard box.
“I think every adult has had that disillusioning experience of picking what they think is a wonderful toy for a child, and then finding the kid playing with the box,” said chief curator Christopher Bensch. “It’s that empty box full of possibilities that the kids can sense and the adults don’t always see.”
The same, of course, can be said of your local household trash can.



via the profoundly astounding Craig Conley and Futility Closet

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Go for the bronze!

According to this article:
"Research by three U.S. academics, who analyzed heat-of-the-moment reactions, medal-stand temperament and interviews of Olympians, shows that bronze-medal winners, on average, are happier with their finishes than silver medalists. Take silver, and you tend to fixate on the near miss. Score bronze, and you are thankful you were not shut out altogether."
Why? you might ask.
"When you come in second," said Thomas Gilovich, chairman of Cornell's psychology department and one of the study's co-authors, "it's the most natural thing in the world to look upward. 'I got the silver and that's what it is, but what is it not? It's not the gold.'"
Therefore?

Winning, apparently, isn't the only thing.


via Neatorama

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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"Journeys on the Playful Path" - to be presented at the 5th Annual, All America 2010 Laughter Yoga Conference

Laughter Yoga, according to this definition from The American School of Laughter Yoga, is:
"...a deceptively simple yet very powerful and potentially even life-changing form of exercise that anybody can do, anytime, anywhere. Its core premise is that your body can and knows how to laugh, regardless of what your mind has to say. In short: Laughter Yoga is a body-mind approach to laughter, not something mind-body. The distinction is very important. Here you do not need to have a sense of humor, know jokes or even be happy. Laughter Yoga invites you to 'fake it' until it becomes real."
(You can read more about my adventures in Laughter Yoga here).

If you plan to be in Albuquerque, New Mexico, August 25-31, 2010, and you are a practitioner or leader of Hasya (a.k.a. Laughter) Yoga, maybe we'll get to see each other. You'll most definitely get a chance to meet me. I'll be your Sunday keynote. I'll also be your Monday and Tuesday special, intensive, all-inclusive, highly instructional, ultra-pragmatic, profoundly fun, after-conference seminar leader. More about that, later.



from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith


from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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