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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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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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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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


The Pass the Spoon Game revisited

Overheard on NPR:

The origins of "Pass the Spoon" are unknown to me. I only know that we continue playing it with a strange sense of daring, as if we are going to get caught, or become "the chosen one."

Pass the Spoon is a game played with the all of the Thanksgiving guests right after the gathered group has finished dinner (pre-dessert) and the food remaining on their plates has turned into scattered debris. The person to start the game is also the loser from the previous year. This person is given a fresh serving spoon upon which he places a piece of food from his ravaged plate. The spoon is passed to the person next to him or her and food is placed ever so carefully on the spoon. It continues to get passed in this manner. Food piles up on the spoon, creating a precarious load of disgusting gruel. This is the critical point of the game. Should a piece of food fall off the spoon on your turn, you must consume the remains of the spoon's content to the chanting and clapping of the savages with whom you just ate Thanksgiving dinner.

One eats the heaping mound of once tasty morsels with gagging disgust and wonders why this game exists. It is at that moment we all decide to forgo this tradition … until next Thanksgiving.

From Mary Weberg, Denver
So, I say to myself and yours: Surely we can make this game more fun for more people. Surely we can make a more universally thankworthy Thanksgiving ritual. There has to be a kind of gag that makes everyone laugh, and no one gag.

How about if we played this game with dessert instead? How about if we all had a spoon, and on our plates we each had a different dessert, or, better yet, a different ingredient. You have the pie, I have the cherries, she has the vanilla ice cream. And we all pass our spoons to the next person at the same time, and each person adds their ingredient and passes the spoon to the next, until someone yells "reverse" (or something of that ilk). And then we pass the spoons, trying everso hard to get the spoons back to their original owner without dropping anything. And then we see if we can get further next time. And when we think we absolutely can't go any further at all, we start over in the opposite direction. And then with the wrong hand, maybe. While singing, non-stop, mouths empty and full: "we gather together" or a round of "row, row, row your boat" or "over the river and through the woods" or perhaps engaging in the singing ritual of Estray Bonajour.

I guess it's all about what kind of fun we're trying to have. And whether it can be just as much fun when it's for everyone's profit instead of at someone's expense.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Learning to have fun - part three - what do you mean "fun"?

After you've explored your own "sense of play" and playfulness, it might be time for you to contemplate what exactly fun means to you, and you mean by it. A good way to start is by reading what other people say about it. And a good place to start that is this article: Of Fun and Flow.

Flow talks about really big fun - the kind of fun that transforms you, that you risk your very life and limb, or vice-versa, to experience. After you've read that, it will be helpful to balance your perception of all things fun by reading about the gentler, more subtle sorts of fun: what I call Minor Fun.

Sometime later - I'd suggest at least a week after you've contemplated the scale of fun, from major to minor and back - you might risk reading a collection of articles exploring further fun distinctions. The collection is called "54 Flavors of Fun" (there's actually 62 articles in that series, each focusing on yet another "flavor," several describing another minor multitude).

All of which is simply to help you start thinking about fun, because it has been my experience that the more often I think about it, the more often I notice myself having it.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Meaningful Fun

Both the Social Security people and my accountant are telling me that I'm officially unemployed, hopefully for the rest of my life. I've had less than half-a-year to understand what this all means for me and the world, and I'm beginning to get glimmers.

Today's glimmer is what I'm calling "meaningful fun." Where I used to be focusing on the idea of "profitable fun" (and the fun profits thereof), now I'm beginning to think about "meaningful fun." When I used to have as my mantra the goal of getting paid to play, now my mantra is talking to me about "acts of meaning" and "getting to do meaningful things playfully."

And it strikes me how much of the fun I've been having of late online has been that for me, especially here, in this blog, meaningful.  And, more recently, the fun I've been having at my local library volunteering once a week to play board games with bored teens. Playing with people 50 years younger than I am, playing the same game together, learning new games together with them. It gets deep, I tell you. We get to know each other deeply, safely, lovingly, playfully, meaningfully.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith


Bill Doran on being "loose"

When I first met him, he and his wife Linda had a pizza and sub store in northeast Philly. Later, he not only helped me conceive of, develop, realize the Games Preserve, he lived there. He and his family with me and my mine. And we built together and grew together. And what we grew, grew into the Games Preserve. For ten years.

Then my family and I moved away from the farm, sold it, literally, to the person who sold Bill and family that same farm. And then Bill and family eventually built a hugely successful (ask anyone in Mertztown, PA) restaurant called "Snuzzles." In the mean time, my family and I moved to the heart of Silicon actual Valley. And lo, it was the beginning of the 80s, and I was one with the very thin ranks of people who designed new play principles for computer games, designing games in 8K for Coleco and Atari and the PC. A world at least a way from the Games Preserve and Bill.

And one day, I think Rocky and I were on the front lawn of our Palo Alto house, Bill drives up, from, basically, nowhere, having crossed the bulk of our considerably bulky country, and he's just there, with us, suddenly part of our lives again, unannounced, for no reason, not even to to be a walk away from Stanford Uni-can-you-imagine-versity. But just to hang around.

And when ever I asked him if there was anything he wanted to do or see or talk about, he'd say:

"I'm loose."

"I'm loose." As in "Whatever." As in "I'm here, ready to play, or not, with you...to be with you playing whatever we play together." "Or not."

And (is it already more than two years since he died?) I'm thinking about that particular flavor of fun he brought to our lives, teaching us what it "tastes" like to be "loose."

In a way, in Bill's way, to "be loose" is to be in a state of something like perpetual play, it's the path itself, the playful one, the genuinely playful path that I have for so many years been teaching and learning.

"I'm loose," he'd say. As if he were saying: "I'm that taste of fun that you get from being free, at no one's beck or call other than whoever or whatever happens to beckon. I'm living that deeply freeing fun that comes with feeling free."

Bill taught me this. Was this. A flavor of fun called "Loose." The kind of fun that tastes like freedom.

And now, when I think of it, this idea of letting myself be "loose," when I feel myself feeling the fun of feeling it, Bill is still with me even though he isn't.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith


Restoring Fun

Winding my way along a tree-lined, dirt-and-gravel "art walk" that winds its artful way past the Hotel Legoland, across a creek, through trees and, here and there, a remarkable sculpture, I paused by an overflowing trash basket, and caught the following train of thought:

It was the second or third time that I took this particular walk and passed this particular trash. And this time, just as I got near the trash, I was thinking about fun, and the patent absurdity of my stated purpose - namely to "make the world more fun." And this time, I guess because I was thinking about fun and the world, I was reminded of signs I saw in an Jerusalem park that I also walked through - signs that said something like "if you didn't clean it up, you made it dirty."

It was funny, and so was I. Every time I passed that unsightly spill of cigarette boxes and knotted bags of dog poop, it made my walk just a little less fun. And this time, thinking about fun, remembering that sign, I actually stopped myself, picked up the trash, and restored a little bit of the fun of that small part of the world and my walk. It wasn't that I had made it unpleasant. But I certainly had left it unpleasant.

And then I continued my walk. And because I was present enough to take on the responsibility, I was more present all the way back to the hotel. A certain, very definite sense of fun was restored to me, and to the people who wouldn't notice, but would appreciate the art path a little more.

Restoring fun. Being a guy who likes the play of everything, I just gotta love the play of meaning that those words create. The fun is itself restoring. The fun is itself restored, as was my fun, as was my self, as was my world.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Fun's Fun, part two - More or Less

On the other hand, sometimes a thing that you do for fun isn't as much fun as it used to be, and some other times it's more fun than you remember it ever being before.

After several tours around the park near my son's house, discussing why it is that some things seem like more fun than others, we came to the conclusion that it has less to do with the fun of the thing in itself, but more with how much fun we're finding in it at the time.

We could at the time be finding a lot of fun in, for example, just walking together, father and son, in the relative peace and loving relationship in which we are finding each other, on this remarkably warm day in this lovely little park in Jerusalem, while there's no war in Gaza. On the other hand, we were finding at least as much fun talking about fun, in the conversation, in the intimacy of shared thought. It's not that the talk was in itself more fun than the walk. It's just that it was in the talk and in the walk that we were finding the fun.

The fun of the walk, on Csikszentmihalyi's chart, was something closer to what I've been calling minor fun. It's fun. It can be great fun. But talking, conversing, being in dialog, is higher on the flow channel. It can become far more complex, far more demanding, require far more of our minds and hearts. But, again, walking is not necessarily more fun than talking - when they're really fun, walking or talking, they're really fun - one just as really, as deeply, as totally as the other, separately or together. The same being true of mountain climbing and daydreaming, giving or getting a massage.

The thing about the kinds of fun you find in different positions in the flow channel is not that one is more fun than the other, but that each is the kind of fun you can get more or less of yourself and the world into - the kind of fun that can amuse you or challenge you to the very edge of all your vast abilities; the kind of fun that can lead you to regaining, or losing your very life.

Which, when you think about it, is something - depending on how much fun you are having, and what moment of the world you find yourself in - you could also say about talking and walking with your son in a park in Jerusalem.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Fun's Fun

My son and I were on one of our rare and most delicious walks through Jerusalem, when we got to talking about fun and flow and the connections and differences, not only between fun and flow, but also between the various kinds of fun, the degrees of flow. The more we walked and the further we walked, the clearer we were both able to get, at least about how I see the connections and degrees of it all.

Looking at a relatively simplistic image of flow as described in this article about the implications of flow on the nature of design, or a more recent, and more complex chart from an article about flow in the workplace, it's natural to conclude that among the various forms of flow, there are those which are "higher" and more fun, and those which are "lower," and not so much fun. Like, for example, watching TV, when it's fun, is not really as high or as good or as complete fun as skiing down a mountain, when it is fun.

Fact is, at least as I understand it, fun is fun. Fun is flow. And flow is flow, no matter how high or low it is in the channel. There are the apparently nobler kinds of flow, like those surgeons sometimes experience. And there are the oft-derided baser, more immediately accessible kinds, like those experienced by people who chew or smoke for fun. There are forms of flow that seem more like fun, like riding a roller coaster, and forms of fun that seem less like flow, like collecting stamps. But the whole point is that when chewing gum is fun, it's just as much fun as bungee jumping - when bungee jumping is fun. That's the big contribution of this whole idea of flow. Rock climbing or rock dancing, the joy, when it's joyful, is just as joyous, just as all-embracing, just as time- and mind-transcendent.

And what we were able to conclude in our most fun and flowful walk of ours was this: For me, flow is fun. And fun is fun. My playful path is not at all about having deeper fun, or looking for fun that's more major, or trying to identify the particular flavor of fun that is most profoundly and deliciously flow-like. It's about finding the kinds of fun that are fun for me, whatever they are - the kinds that are most reliably, most deeply, most thoroughly fun - and having them, living them, entirely, whenever I can, for however long they are fun for me. And most often, it appears to me that those kinds of fun tend to be the kinds of fun I can share with you, my son, and you, too, my cherished reader.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Talking about fun in Jerusalem, part one

This is not an easy time to talk about fun in Jerusalem, especially now, given Gaza. Nevertheless, like most Israelis, there's an implicit agreement - not to ignore the war, but to go on with life as usual, given what passes for usualness here.

So I've been meeting with a rather random collection of people who responded to my son's posts appearing in several local social networking sites about my Israeli sojourn. In these posts my son mentioned that I'd be in the area, without any particular agenda, ready to talk with anyone who was interested in fun.

Last week, I gave a brief presentation at what I was to discover was a remarkable Coworking environment called "PresenTense" - remarkable, not only because it was a genuine Coworking environment (a well-equipped facility in which high-tech nomads can get connected in as many ways as they see fit, online and off), but even more remarkable because it is the same organization that also publishes a magazine devoted to bringing together the stubbornly fragmented poles of the Israeli community. And even more remarkable because of my involvement with something alo called Coworking, and my ongoing commitment to building community through play. The connections were too many and too profound to ignore. We had a wonderfully challenging conversation about fun - spontaneous, responsive, surprisingly deep - talking about things like the psychology of flow, the connections between the play community and the work community, and how to deal, in a fun way, with a boy friend who won't help with the dishes.

One of the participants, a man named Charlie Kalech, wrote a blog post, reflecting on our conversation. His post is wonderfully reflective, and sensitive, and I leave you with it, for the fun of it. I meet tomorrow with Charlie and a group of executives for further explorations of fun and work, via a game of Junkyard Olympics. More about that later.

P.S. - that game that Charlie played with his employees, I remember playing that before at NASAGA - it was really a remarkable experience. Do you happen to know where that game comes from?

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Compassionate Fun

So now we have a 55th flavor of fun:


There's something fun about compassion. With the fear and the distrust, the powerlessness and the anger, compassion, being compassionate, compassionate acts, seem everso much more deeply fun; tastes everso much more clearly, inherently, well, good.

It feels good to act like a good person.

Despite it all. It's fun to care.

Click this site for more.

For related fun, see also Kind Fun and Loving Fun.

via TED

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith


Complete Fun

With this post, I simultaneously complete, and, given the last-in-first-out nature of basic bloggery, introduce my collection of actually more than 54 Flavors of Fun. I do this by playing with two related, but clearly distinct tastes of fun: "completed fun" and "complete fun."

Let us begin with the taste of completed fun, insofar as this post is in itself a completion, and the taste of the fun of it all is still very fresh in one's mental mouth. The deliciousness of the fun of completing something comes completely from its aftertaste. When it is at its best, it tastes like something both well done and rare.

Which brings us to complete fun, the kind of fun that you have when everything is fun, when you are not only having fun, but being fun, with people who are fun, doing fun things in a fun place, having a fun time. It is complete fun. Well done. And rare. The most delicious of all possible delicacies.

Fortunately, the subtle complexities of this aftertaste I was describing has a way of making everything seem complete anyway. So, since this is both the first and last in my collection of fun flavors, it can taste like the whole thing was completely fun, every taste, every exploration of fun. Completely fun. Complete fun. Completed.

And if our little exploration of what fun would taste like (if it had a taste) worked, you may very well find yourself feasting on endlessly subtle varieties of fun, rolling them around with added appreciation on your newly educated conceptual tastebuds, discerning amongst the many works of fun, those prepared by masters, those straight from the garden, those well done, those exceeding rare.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith


Drinking Straw Construction Kit

The Drinking Straw Construction Kit provides a collection of rubbery plastic soda-straw connectors that can be used "to construct a variety of designs, including straws that allow you to drink from multiple glasses at the same time."

The idea of drinking from multiple glasses at the same time makes me think about what one might put in those multiple glasses - perhaps chocolate milk in one, seltzer in another, and cream soda in a third for a kind of chocolate/vanilla egg cream delight. Which makes me wonder how good, exactly, all this would taste, and whether using longer and shorter straws between the various glasses would impact the taste. Which, of course, leads us directly to the contemplation of yet one more flavor of fun - a flavor one might call the taste of "constructive fun."

This could easily lead us to a contemplation of the many kinds of construction toys, and their inherent deliciousness. They seem to have a meaty, almost steak-like taste. Steak-like because only dedicated chewing can release their flavor. Because they require an investment - it takes time to eat a steak. Because their pervasive smells allure you to exploring their possibilities in depth. Because often the best taste lies close to the bone.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Faux Fun

The problem with things like drugs, alcohol, sex, food, pornography, gambling, shopping, and related acts of consumption, from the fun perspective, is that they are, in fact, up to a point, exactly that - fun. And then they aren't as fun as they used to be. And then you do them anyway. You do and overdo. Dose and overdose. And then they kill you.

This is because they are each, in one way or another, artificially sweetened. Artificial. They look like fun. They feel like fun. But eventually they turn into its opposite. They take life away.

What we have here, especially vividly given these extreme cases, are examples of what I choose to call "faux fun."

Faux fun looks like fun, acts like fun, tastes like fun, even calls itself fun. It tastes good, very good, sometimes extraordinarily good, and then it sours, becomes rancid, bitter. It tastes like sweet fun, only to become sickeningly sweet.

The taste of faux fun feeds on you until there's nothing left. Eventually, it's not you at all, it's the alcohol, the drugs, the game, the machine, the insatiable need, the disgust. You can have faux fun seeing people in pain - schadenfreude - from making other people afraid, from hurting people. And it tastes just like fun. But it's not.

Faux fun also tastes like something bad for you, something you shouldn't be having. Real fun, the fun that faux fun is falsifying, tastes like life, like health, like you at your best, like a day at its finest, like love at its deepest.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith


The Fun of Tickling

This clip from a Brazilian TV show illustrates just about everything one needs to say about the fun of tickling and being tickled. It is no coincidence that the woman looks like she is being crucified, nor that someone looking very much like death is peering over her shoulder.

The people on the Brazilian game show are, fortunately, despite their vulnerability, well-prepared. They have an entire audience to remind them that this is all supposed to be fun. If they didn't, it would be much closer to what it looks like - sheer torture.

Of all the tastes of fun, tickling is perhaps the the most complex. It is delicious the way eating Fugu is delicious. Prepared correctly, it is sheer delicacy. Incorrectly prepared, it tastes something like death.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith


A Taste of Nonsense

Nonsense has a funny taste.

If one were to ask the posthumous Edward Lear to elucidate further, one might easily be led to conclude that nonsense tastes very much like a Crumbobblious cutlet, the making of which being most tickletakingly manifest in the following Learish recipe.


Procure some strips of beef, and having cut them into the smallest possible slices, proceed to cut them still smaller, eight or perhaps nine times.

When the whole is thus minced, brush it up hastily with a new clothes-brush, and stir round rapidly and capriciously with a salt-spoon or a soup ladle.

Place the whole in a saucepan, and remove it to a sunny place, -- say the roof of the house if free from sparrows or other birds, -- and leave it there for about a week.

At the end of that time add a little lavender, some oil of almonds, and a few herring-bones; and cover the whole with 4 gallons of clarified crumbobblious sauce, when it will be ready for use.

Cut it into the shape of ordinary cutlets, and serve it up in a clean tablecloth or dinner-napkin.

Nonsense has an often somewhat harsh and salty aftertaste, less like sweet, more like sweat. Hence, it must be artfully prepared to be at all palatable. As Hesse wrote in one of his books: "My story is not a pleasant one, it is neither sweet nor harmonious, as invented stories are; it has the taste of nonsense and chaos, of madness and dreams, like the lives of all the men who stop deceiving themselves."

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith


The Eye Candy Machine

Speaking of the flavors of fun, one of the sweetest that has come to our virtual world is often conceptually packaged as "Eye Candy."

Of the various manifestations of the endlessly alluring varieties of eye candy, the kaleidoscope predates, and yet somehow anticipates the visual confections of the virtual world.

This is an image I made with the aid of a site called "make your own kaleidoscope." It was all I needed to be reminded of the dessert-like pleasures of visual delight.

Like kaleidoscopes a lot? Perhaps, as the Make Your Own Kaleidoscope people suggest, you should consider joining the Brewster Kaleidoscope Society, Sir David Brewster being the actual inventor of the optically delicious kaleidoscope. Should you desire to commune with some kaleidoscopic artists, the society has an impressive list (with email addresses) of said same. Amongst the impressive resources therein, you will find a detailed history of the kaleidoscope, and an overview of some of the different types of kaleidoscope.

Want to make a non-virtual kaleidoscope? Here's how.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Professional Fun

Professional fun tastes a little bit like candy-coated beef jerky. When you first bite into it, it's sweet. I mean, swwwwwweet! And crunchy. Gritty, even. And once you're at the jerky part, it's tough enough to chew on for a very long time. Enough to keep you, as advertised, occupied. Occupied, in fact, with a certain full, meaty, droolworthy flavor.

Getting paid to play. That's what it's all about, isn't it. And that's what they get - all those actors and musicians and athletes and surgeons - paid to play. Paid to have fun - well, a certain kind of fun. Professional fun. Responsible, focused, skilled, well-trained fun.

See also my article on Playing and Getting Paid, my FunCast on the aforementioned, and my collection of articles on the Fun/Work connections.

Every one of us who has experienced fun professionally, whether playfully or dangerously, knows exactly what professional fun tastes like: Candy coated beef jerky.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Serious and Silly Fun

There is a difference between serious fun and silly fun. They each have a different taste. Where Silly fun is sweet, Serious fun is sour. Where silly fun is chewy, serious is brittle.

But combine them, and you get something genuinely exquisite, like this story of how Serious and Silly tried to play hide and seek and wound up finding god:

Of all the players on my inner playground, Serious and Silly are the best known. They've played together for years. They understand each other intimately. They can play the most complicated games you can imagine. And, from time to time, they can really play beautifully together. There's one particular game that they can never play particularly well. Yet they play it almost all the time, and seem to really enjoy it. It's a variation of hide-and-seek and peek-a-boo and achieving enlightenment.

Typically, Silly suggests the game. Serious always wants to be Seeker. This, actually, is a good arrangement. Serious is an expert at keeping rules and being fair and defining what's off limits. Silly, on the other hand, is remarkably good at being the Hider.

Next they decide on Home Base. The inner playground is full of potential home bases and hiding places, from Toe to Tongue, Throat to Lung. Silly usually picks the Nose.

Silly will play Hider, and Serious, as we already predicted, will play Seeker. Serious focuses all attention on being the breather, the nostril, the sensor of the air. And then begins to count (backwards, by primes, from 97). Silly is supposed to be hiding by the time Serious reaches zero. Despite years of practice, Serious just can't ignore Silly for the whole count. So, as usual, Serious has to start over again several times before Silly is really ready to hide.

Finally, Serious completes the count. At last, the moment of truth. Serious, in a blink of the inner eye, reaches the unavoidable conclusion that Silly is definitely hiding. At this point, the game almost always breaks down. It's just too much for both of them. For Silly, hiding is fun, but only for a little while. And for Serious, just the thought of being all alone, leaving Home, without Silly...it's almost too frightening. Even Serious doesn't want to have to be that serious.

Fortunately, both Serious and Silly have had a lifetime to play. All it takes to get Silly out of hiding is someone to say "Allee Allee Oxen Free." I don't know why they keep on playing Hide and Seek. Tag is a much better game for both of them. They'd never have to be apart. And, together, they could even find other players to play with.

I tried to ask them once, when I thought they were between games. And they started running after me, yelling "You're IT."


from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Sheer Fun

Sheer fun tastes like cotton candy - so light you're almost not sure you're tasting anything, so sweet, and sweeter still towards the end.

Sheer fun. Sheer joy. Sheer glee. Sweet. And then sweeter.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith


Tape Cassette Skeleton - symbolic fun

Brian Dettmer made a skeleton out of cassette tape cassettes. If you want to know how, all you have to do is look at the pictures. If you want to know why, well, there you go.

The kind of fun embodied by Brian Dettmer's Tape Cassette Skeleton has a very strong, but complex taste. The skeleton thing gives it that musty, dank, fear-like flavor. The tape cassettes add a minty, breath-freshening, born-again aftertaste. The re-use of tape cassettes to build a skeleton gives new life to the cassettes, while using them to create an image of death brings a hint of humor to the whole thing.

A significantly symbolic fun that proves to be, all in all, quite savor-worthy.

via in4mador.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Safe, Rebellious Fun

Here we can actually taste yet another flavor of fun - the taste that comes from transforming the mundane into an expression of what? Art? The Persistence of Spirit? The Power of Whimsy? A Bunch of Different Ways to Tie Your Sneakers?

On the other foot, it's the 4th of July. Independence Day here in the United S's of A. Is there perhaps a fortuitous and unanticipated connection between a day of such vasty significance and an accomplishment of such artful triviality as shoe-tying?

This fun, the shoe-tying kind, has a flavor shared by everything you can think of that celebrates the unnecessary. Celebrating the unnecessary is also a celebration of our ability to free ourselves from necessity. And thinking that we can free ourselves from necessity leads to an almost intoxicating fun, like a fine wine, dry, yet defiant, like the taste you get decorating your house just before it goes into foreclosure.

A rebellious fun, yet unobjectionable. Rebellious, yet safe. Not like the rebelliousness we're celebrating today. Not like the fun of starting a new country, but a fun that tastes very much like that country-starting kind. Minor fun, granted, but sometimes lovely, sometimes essential.

Like the quietly delicious fun of making your signature extra fancy when you sign a Declaration of Independence.

Via Ultimate Insight

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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The Taste of Accomplishment for No Reason

Crafteress Ulla-Maaria Engeström is the author of the Crafter Manifesto, which can be found on her site as well as in the archives of my favorite DIY publication, Make. In her "draft manifesto," she lists 12 cogent observations about the various joys of crafting. The last is "At the bottom, crafting is a form of play."

I know the taste of this crafty fun. It tastes like accomplishment. Accomplishment for no particular reason. Ultimately, despite appearances of utility, accomplishment for its own sake. Not like prize-winning or child-bearing accomplishment. More like something deep fried, if you know what I mean. Often delicious. Ultimately as necessary as pop corn.

via Bill Harris

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Sneaky Fun

Were you to click this link, this entire, interactively graphic Deep Fun site would look impressively like a Microsoft Word document. And, should worse come to even worse, and you have ample reason to suspect that the person looking over your shoulder is in fact your boss, simply click on the "Boss Key" as herein illustrated, the site itself would appear to disappear entirely, and be replaced by a Word document about how to increase your job efficiency and avoid procrastination.

The fact that someone would go to the trouble to program such a thing, however tongue-in-cheekily, bears evidence of a certain kind of fun that one might call "sneaky." It is the fun that has a definitely sweet flavor of "being clever," yet possesing more than a hint of bitterness, don't you think?

via Elyon DeKoven

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Balloon Art as Political Statement

This is an actual work of play. As much, at least, as it is a work of art, exhibited, actually, at the städtische galerie, in nordhorn, some time in 2007.

Especially given the artistic statement, a statement that doesn't conclude until at least this.

Balloon art, performance art, funwise, it has a taste that is predominantly artlike, yet suffused with an aroma of playfulness, whilst exhibiting an aftertaste reminiscent of swords-into-plowshare-making fun.

via Elyon DeKoven

Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Of Fun and Empathy

Behold this remark-worthy animation designed by Joaquin Baldwin (UCLA Animation Workshop).

My remarks: There's a certain flavor, shall we say, of fun that comes from the synergy of artistry and technology. A certain flavor of awe-inspiring. Then, there's the flavor of fun that comes from watching this particularly artistic narrative. It is a flavor of being absorbed, utterly, combined with the bitterly beautiful flavor of self-sacrifice. This flavor seems to be most appreciated when the self that is being sacrificed is not your own, and even more delicious when the bitter beauty is completely pretend.

Via Boing Boing

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith


If it's June 6-8, and you're in New York, Come Out and Play

If it's June 6-8, then it's the Summer Come Out and Play festival in New York City, where there will be played, for example, amongst the remarkable range of games that sound new and fun and delightfully pointless, you will find:

The Mother of All Picnic Games:A most Human Card gameThe fascinating conjecture of a lost sport of the Olympiads having something to do with running around naked, in a maze, blindfolded.Both/and:And, especially, from our favorite Aesthleticians, a play performance, as it were, of:
Did I mention that "Public Fun" has a definite taste that tastes different from all other kind of fun. And when it's really fun, it tastes potentially what this kind of event might taste like - just about as fun as fun can taste.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Fun. Laughter. And other Miracles.

"Sometimes I get religious about the whole thing, sometimes I think of fun and laughter as a spiritual experience. Our lives have become increasingly fragile, our world increasingly harsh. It is a miracle that we can laugh at all. And that's the whole point."

Miraculous fun.

From notes on the Daily Game by Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Ironic Fun

The title of the collection of images is Extraordinary Art from Metal - another remarkable collection from the remarkably collectible people at Dark Roasted Blend. Of this particular collection, the Dark Roasted Blenders comment: "Todesfee has collected in this set whimsical sculptures made from not so funny material: scrap military metal, left from the Yom Kippur War (Mount Bental was the site of large-scale tank battles in 1973)."

Thus, we uncover yet another fun flavor, one which I find myself impelled to name "ironic fun." Scrap iron, don't you know, from tanks and stuff of military horror, transformed into a funny, junky sculpture of two cartoon-like figures, trying to shake hands, and yet, because of their very ironically iron-like nature, doomed to fail.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Knock Down Ginger

Here's a good collection of street games from the UK. There's nothing fancy about the website. The games are submitted by the people who played them.

This is where I found a game called Knock Down Ginger. I personally never thought of it as a game. To me, it much more closely resembles a prank. I quote:
"Knock Down Ginger and it's alternative named variations has been played since there were front doors to play it on. Usually carried out in the hours of darkness, the aim is to ring a doorbell or knock loudly on a door, as though very urgent, and run away as fast as possible.

To make this game even more exciting you can play variations such as after knocking you hide as close to the door as possible, in shrubs or behind a tree, behind the owners gate or just around the corner.

The test comes when you try a second time on the same door, giving the owner a few moments to settle down in front of their TV, the quicker you do this the more exciting it can be."
Variations, yet. Alternate rules, even. As for example, this one, posted by David from Essex: "And the perpetual motion version where you tie two knockers together and knock on the first door, when they close their door the other knocker knocks ad infinitum."

It has all the flow-inducing properties of a good game. For the players, that is. There's a definite sense of challenge/risk. You can apparently make it more or less challenging/risky as you see fit.

This is a good example of a particular flavor of fun that leaves a certain bitter aftertaste - certainly for the victims, but also, despite the hysterical peals of laughter, for the perpetrators as well. Moderately mean fun, perhaps. Slightly irresponsible fun? Lacking-in-compassion fun? Fun that tastes like the joke's-on-somebody-else.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Angry Fun

I was talking with my friend Baz. Baz is someone whom you might call a "doom-watcher." He is a close follower of the news. An especially close follower of bad news. Especially the kind of bad news that presages the end of the world. Hence, the epithet. The point is, he is brilliant at all this (he listens to BBC alot). He has an amazing command of language, speaks with great force and passion, and, behind it all, a certain grim humor. You get a sense that he is enjoying all this - the foretelling, the tintinnabulation of the tocsin of change, the promises of plague and pestilence, tribulations and terror.

During our dialogue (him ranting, me listening), he turned to his computer, fired up YouTube, and clicked on part one of a two-part Keith Olbermann editorial on President Bush. It was a perfect complement to our percussive discussion. Olbermann's anger was undisguised, his attacks on the president fearless and undiluted, his language studied and often verging on poetic, and in back of it all, it was, forgive me, immensely entertaining.

There was something fun about it - the passion, the aesthetics of a truly well-written diatribe, the thoroughness of the argument, the clarity of the supporting evidence, the sheer bravery of Mr. Olbermann's outspoken outspeaking. Along with the heaviness, the seriousness, the truth of it all, came the fun of it all. Olbermann was having fun. He was in flow. He was both brilliant and entertaining.

This led me to the discovery of yet another flavor of fun - it's the taste of fun that comes from righteous indignation, artfully rendered. Bitter, definitely. Sweet, though, sweet to listen to, to be able to agree with so thoroughly, as if the words were coming from our own anger, and it was elevating us, somehow, into some kind of joy.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith


Grown-Up Fun

Several years ago, when I was teaching at Esalen, a woman named Magdalena Cabrera came into my life. Last Sunday, Magdalena invited me to help her and a significant passel of her wonderful friends celebrate her birthday. I led a two-hour version of my 5-day program. And, because of her, and her friends, and the park and the finally perfect Palo Alto weather, we created something profoundly playful, lovingly fun.

In one of our discussions, we talked about the politics of fun - namely about how we so often feel that we don't deserve to have fun, that we are doing something wrong, something immoral, given the harsh realities of harsh reality. Magdalena was reminded of something she wrote me in response to a rather profound insight from my rather profound brother-in-law. It captures much of that feeling:
I too feel unable to enter into Fun when so much feels wrong and sad and overwhelming in the world today, everyday. I forget your teaching, so to speak, that Fun IS part of the solution and not just a form of denial, an escape, a narcissistic indulgence at the expense of others who are not as fortunate as I am...Just thoughts, which bring me back to the mindfulness practice that DeepFun is for me. It is the practice of Minor Fun all the time, despite the trying external circumstances on this beautiful and fragile earth I love and despite the woe I see. And as I practice this path, I want to change my paradigm and begin to really believe that having fun, living fun, teaching fun, being fun, can transform this world, that it is part of the solution to the distress. IF not the world at large, it may have the power to transform MY little world, my circle of influence, I hope. And that is a step in the right direction.
We continued that dialogue, Magdalena, myself, and Bruce Williamson, long after everyone had left. Two things we noted: 1) starting anything with fun is probably the best way to prepare for everything else that isn't, and 2) given the world and being a grown-up in it, having fun is inescapably a political act.

O, as they say, MG! I think we might have found the difference between the fun we have as children, and the fun we have as adults:
Kids play because they have to. It's how they learn the world, how they grow, how they cope. Grown-ups play because they choose to. It's how they change the world. It's how they endure.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Slapsie Redux

Montague Blister's Strange Games weblog describes an amusing variation of Slapsie (a.k.a. Red Hands), called "My Mother Says."

Whilst we're contemplating the playworthy implications of this particular variation, it is worthy of our collective note to collectively note that there are even more profound (and potentially painful) versions of the game, such as shown in this video.

Even I, I must admit, have found myself embellishing on Slapsie lore, thinking perhaps to introduce slightly kinder, potentially gentle nuances, as in 3-person Slapsie and Hand Wave.

Should you at this moment find yourself without someone else's hands to slap, you can access a virtually painless, if somewhat less engaging version of this game online.

Slapsie-related fun has its own peculiar taste: intensely, shall we say, focusing fun, with just a touch of ouchy.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Pangea Day

Walleyball is a one of the films produced as part of the Pangea Day celebration. It is a demonstration of how the power of play can transform a border fence into a volleyball net - a dividing line into a connection. Which, of course, is the whole purpose of the event.

Fun-flavor-wise, it's kind of a dark chocolate thing - sweet, with more than a hint of bitterness.

via Digital Maverick

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Fascinating Fun: Spinning tops and things in a bowl

Take, for example, top spinning. In particular example, take the video of spinning tops and things in a bowl. Watch the whole thing. Get a good taste for the fun of it. The fascination of it.

That taste of fascinating fun, of something almost magic in how it makes you watch it, almost magic in how it beckons you to fall into its everchanging beauty. That taste of fun when we get fascinated by making something fascinating happen. How sheerly delicious!

Fascination. The fun that is peculiar to that moment of being fascinated. So much to be fascinated by. So many ways to taste this kind of fun. On watching a baby's eyelid. On listening to a dragonfly's stillness. Tracing the shine of a spider web. Observing a cloud spin dreams. So much to be fascinated with. So much fascinating fun to be had.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith


Mewe-making fun

Yet another take on the me/we-meme - the WEME Illiterate T-Shirt. Similar in theme, if not in message, to this. And, while you're at it, see also this:

Let's see, what fun flavor might this be? Symbolic fun? Meme-making fun? Or is that Mewe-making?

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith


Old Fun

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.

So we can taste yet another flavor of fun.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith


Fun with the Sun - Magical Fun

Teen/Nerd writes:
"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?"

via the Presurfer

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Almost Impossible 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.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith


Fun and Anti-Fun

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?

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Best Game Ever - Fantastic Fun

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.

via Metafilter

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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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.

Profoundly mysterious fun.


from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith



My last post was my 2008th. Two thousand eight blog posts. And it's 2008, don't you know, third day in April or not.

A good taste, this. A bit like coincidental fun, with just an aftertaste of dubious accomplishment.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith


Public Fun, Cont'd - Improv Everywhere

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?

thanks to Marc Gilutin

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith


Bar Tricks - the Fun of Fooling Drunks

No doubt, you already saw this small collection of Bar Tricks. I was wondering if it might have caught your conceptual eye enough to make you want to look for more such. Perhaps you clicked your way to Bartender Magic or that inspiring collection of Easy Bar Tricks and the surprisingly large gathering of bar trick videos from Metacafe.

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!

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith


Six Reasons Not to Have Fun

On the occassion of his 35th birthday, Jay Michaelson, chief editor of Zeek A Jewish Journal of Thought and Culture, shares with us a rather deep meditation on 6 reasons not to have fun - just in case:
"As I approach my 35th birthday, I wonder if I'm having too much fun....Granted, what I call 'fun' is not what most people do. Here I use the term in a broad and intentionally self-deprecating way, to refer to anything my heart deeply wants, from meditation retreats to writing a novel...I think that, when push comes to shove, I have made these choices because I deeply wanted to make them. Sure, these deep yearnings are different from simply wanting to get some kicks. But they are still about 'fun,' I think: about the juiciness of life itself, about experience, about enjoying life, in the deepest sense.

"...Why are we supposed to grow up and stop having fun, anyway? First, at least for me, there is what Anthony Kronman called the 'firestorm of regret.' I am now at the age where peers of mine are not just rich tax attorneys, but also influential politicians, respected professors, and writers and editors at publications (even) more well-known than Zeek...These pangs of regret occur because of an underlying anti-fun value: that one should make something of oneself. This is a particular, Western value that is not shared by all civilizations. Probably the most obvious counterexample is the Rastafarian (or pop-Rasta) value of spending an entire life delighting in the pleasures of Jah -- working, to be sure, to better social justice, but never losing sight of the gifts of creation, which are here to be enjoyed.

"A third reason to stop having fun, along with regret and the value of achievement, has to do with dignity and maturity. It's just undignified, isn't it, to be the balding guy on the dance floor.

"A fourth reason to stop having so much fun is, of course, that life isn't always fun.
Pleasure, even in its deepest form, is only one of the important aspects of life. In a long-term relationship, for example, pleasure waxes and wanes, but if the pursuit of immediate sensual pleasure (affairs -- fun!) is placed above commitment (less fun), the end result will likely be sorrow. Or in terms of health: the burger is fun, but heart surgery is not....

"Fifth, if life is only pursued for the delights of the self -- even highly refined delights like reading post-structuralist theory or creating art -- it becomes a dead end. It's too easy to keep searching for the next thrill; this is how people become addicted to drugs, like an acquaintance of mine who died, at age 38, because of his years-long crystal meth addiction. At first it's fun; then it's less fun; then you need to do it to have any fun at all. So, too, with spirituality. The first meditation retreat is such a high! You think you'll never come back down. But then you do, and you start searching for the next high: samadhi becomes a narcotic.

"Finally, I think we're meant to stop having fun, at some point, because of a sense of deeper responsibilities, most importantly to family and community. Of course, since I've defined 'fun' to include anything that provides a sense of joy in life, family is fun too. But I think it's distinguishable, in that the intention of the family man or woman may be less 'I am doing this to taste the joys and sorrows of life' than 'I am doing this because it is my role, or my duty, or my responsibility.' Likewise for career; it may be fun, but it's mainly responsibility."

Of course, Michaelson's six reasons not to have fun: "...regret, achievement, maturity, truthfulness to life, avoiding the dead-end, and taking responsibility" are, at the same time, of course, six very good courses to take, actually, to bring more fun into your life: try letting go of regret, the need to achieve, the illusion of maturity, the belief that you could be anything other than true to life, try letting go of dead ends, taste responsible fun.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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The fun that tastes as good as it tastes when you figure something out

There's a taste of that fun you get when you're doing puzzles - solving them, completing them, breaking them back into pieces, putting them back together again, putting them away - a complex, varied, many-textured taste.

The computer has proven to be a highly nurturing environment for the flowering of experiences that taste like that. Puzzles built on puzzles, fantasy, logic, art, music all put together to serve us that particular kind of puzzle-solving fun, over and over again.

neutral provides a good demonstration of the state of that particular delicious art of puzzle-solving, for those who can taste the fun of it.

from Metafilter

by way of Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Word Making-Up Fun - An Introduction to the LexiFUNnicon

And then there's that flavor of fun you get when you're making up new words, when fun becomes, shall we say, defining.

The LexiFUNnicon is a particularly good sample of this taste of fun, because, as in every taste of fun we have so far defined, we are having fun with fun itself. For example, the following LexiFUNnicon entries:
  • biofunology - the study of the biological origins of fun
  • cofunnication - shared fun
  • defunnication - taking the fun out of something or one or many
  • delightenment - a temporary experience of permanent delight
  • entercation - beyond infotainment, not so much making learning fun as making fun educational
I find myself particularly intrigued, for example, by the notion of, as one might put it, exploring the experience of cofunnication, in far more, shall we say, depth.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Cacaphonic Fun: The Really Terrible Orchestra

In an article in the New York Times, Alexander McCall Smith describes what can only be called The Really Terrible Orchestra. He begins: "WHY should real musicians — the ones who can actually play their instruments — have all the fun?" A profound question that set this particular funsmith's heart conceptually aflutter. He continues: "Some years ago, a group of frustrated people in Scotland decided that the pleasure of playing in an orchestra should not be limited to those who are good enough to do so, but should be available to the rankest of amateurs. So we founded the Really Terrible Orchestra, an inclusive orchestra for those who really want to play, but who cannot do so very well. Or cannot do so at all, in some cases."

Similar in spirit to Adam Sandler's Opera Man, The Really Terrible Orchestra completely avoids the question of "good music" by providing its audiences with very human performers who are having a great deal of fun making music that isn't really that terrible.

Smith concludes: "There is now no stopping us. We have become no better, but we plow on regardless. This is music as therapy, and many of us feel the better for trying. We remain really terrible, but what fun it is. It does not matter, in our view, that we sound irretrievably out of tune. It does not matter that on more than one occasion members of the orchestra have actually been discovered to be playing different pieces of music, by different composers, at the same time. I, for one, am not ashamed of those difficulties with C-sharp. We persist. After all, we are the Really Terrible Orchestra, and we shall go on and on. Amateurs arise — make a noise."

Cacophonic fun. But of course. Related, but not to be confused with, Musical fun.

I, myself, am somewhat of a virtuoso on the Cacophone...since I was in elementary school band, and discovered that if I played quietly enough, I could pretty much play anything.

via Alexander Kjerulf

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Orbitwheel: Invented Fun

Orbitwheels - yet another small step for playkind, especially for the kind of players who like to skateboard, and can appreciate the heightened maneuverability, the vast array of potential tricks, the back-pack-fitting portability, and, of course, the opportunity to be the bull of the skating herd.

I found out about the Orbitwheel from one of my more reliable online sources, and someone whom I can actually call a friend - the Presurfer. Following his lead, I Googled around until I found myself at a site called The Inventist, where one can also purchase, for example, the significantly cool-looking AquaSkipper that allows you to bounce your way across the water- that's right, bounce; the Stepster, demonstrating how much more you get when you "combine a bicycle, a scooter and a Stairmaster;" and even the Leantisserie - the "world’s first free-standing rotisserie inside an oven."

All of which leads us to the fun flavor of the day: Invented Fun. The flavor of fun you taste when you make something up, something new. Anything new, really. Even, or especially, a free-standing rotisserie. But it is a fun flavor that is exceptionally delicious when the thing you are making up is some new way to have fun.

Invented fun.

Hence, for example, Junkyard Sports.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Personalized Fun

There's a certain flavor of fun that can be tasted only when making something for someone else - someone in particular. I call this "personalized fun."

And so we find ourselves at Festisite, a modest collection of well-made tools for making fun things, each with an intuitive-enough interface to ease our entry into a world of computer-assisted personalized momento-making.

I have taken very few pains to represent a small segment of my first project in the image accompanying this article - my face on a dollar bill. Which, of course, could be your face, on a Philipine peso, or a Malaysian Ringgit, or even a Ukranian Griven.

I had fun making it, partially because it was very easy, partially because it is always amusing to find one's face depicted on the local currency (in my case, also somewhat ironic), but mostly because I had a great deal of fun just thinking about all the people for whom I could be making fake, personalized dollar bills.

Festisite is a treasury of essential tools for making fun, personalized things. I must admit, I found myself having even more personalized fun with something called the Party Printer. Especially with that which led me directly to the speedy creation of a most amusingly novel sentence maze and also a most graphically splendiferous rebus.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Remembered Fun - nintendo8.com - classic Nintendo 8-bit games online!

Remembered Fun is the taste of fun you get when you are playing something you used to have fun playing. It's a complex, many-layered taste, this particular flavor of fun, because the fun you are having tastes different than the fun you originally had, when it was all new, and that's fun, and at the same time, it's remarkably delicious, using our sophisticated online access to play these comparatively casual, naive little games that we once thought to be the ultimate and most profound statements of the art. nintendo8.com serves up a delightfully varied buffet of Remembered Video Fun.

Go, therefore, play. Remember, replay, rediscover, rejoice.

via Im4mador

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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"...just another kind of fun."

It is something of a testimony to something to discover I have friends like these, who think of me so lovingly as to send me something like this:


Thought of you as I just finished reading Alan Alda's memoir, Never Have Your Dog Stuffed And Other Things I've Learned. (Highly recommended for anyone with a theater background!) The back story on this quote is that in October of 2003, he was in Chile working on an episode of Scientific American Frontiers. Filming at a remote mountaintop observatory he came within probably an hour or two of dying from an obstructed bowel but through a wonderful series of events involving both grace and luck was successfully operated on and is still thriving.

[page 218] Chapter 21. Golden Time.

"On a movie set, after the crew has worked twelve straight hours, they go into overtime pay in which every hour is worth two. It's called golden time. After Chile, I was on golden time. It was clear to me that everything I did was something I couldn't have done if I'd checked out in La Serena. Now, at last, there was no pressure to succeed. There was nothing I needed to prove to anyone. There was only the chance to have another day and to have some kind of fun with it; trivial fun or deep fun, they were both good. I still wanted to get better at what I knew how to do, but that was just another kind of fun."


"There was only the chance to have another day," says Alan Alda, "and to have some kind of fun with it; trivial fun or deep fun, they were both good. I still wanted to get better at what I knew how to do, but that was just another kind of fun."

What a wonderful connection. What wisdom. What a good friend Bruce is to have remembered me with this. What fun. What a fun way to embrace all 54 flavors of fun.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Improvisational Fun - The Imaginary Text Adventure

Here is what one might call a relatively perfect example of a central, oft-overlooked, and yet genuinely delicious flavor of fun: Improvisational Fun. Follow this imaginary text adventure as improvised by "Double Fine's Tim Schafer, designer of Full Throttle, Grim Fandango, Psychonauts and upcoming god of gwar epic, Brütal Legend. Prior to the release of those games, he worked on The Secret of Monkey Island, Monkey Island 2 and Maniac Mansion: Day of the Tentacle, as described in the Joystick article Return to Quest Quiz - Tim Schafer."
You peer into the glowing red eyes of the mechanical bear, curious about the purpose such a dangerous contraption could possibly serve. You briefly wonder if there are any robot trout nearby.


You see a rusted mailbox marked "T. Girtlebee." Behind it lies a quaint cottage surrounded by (seemingly non-hostile) garden gnomes. Several puffs of smoke escape the home's crooked chimney. You smell bacon.

>open mail box

The mailbox contains ... mail. You don't know why you were expecting anything different.

>examine mail

"You may already have won* ONE MILLION DOLLARS!"

*an opportunity to be eligible to win a chance at winning the possibility of winning.

>examine sealed manila envelope

You open the envelope and reach deep inside. Like, really deep. It seems the interior of the envelope, err, envelops a magical and infinite amount of space. You could pull anything out of this thing, you reckon.
Try playing it on your next car trip, or with the person behind you in line, or online.

Improvisational Fun. One of my favorite flavors.

via Metafilter

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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