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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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


Sign post

Jeroen Beekmans writes: "To inform the world about their (free) Ovi Maps mobile navigation software, Nokia built a house-sized, interactive signpost in the form of a dynamically rotating electronic LED screen, and hung it next to London’s Thames river, 50 meters up in the rainy sky. The gigantic structure allows passers-by to send in a location via text or email and then automatically rotates to the given direction and displays the submitted description (which are called ‘Good Things’ by Nokia, but why?) and the distance to it."

In a manner of thinking, this "sign post" is a related phenomenon, pointing you, in a computer-augmented kind of way, to something I think is worthy of your notice. Nokia's Signpost allows erstwhile anonymous individuals are invited to broadcast their appreciation for particular city sites and services in a way, similar to blogging, that evokes both personal empowerment and public playfulness. The anonymity, accessibility and giant public display all oddly heighten the sense of personal authority - "I can show the world what I like." They also provide an opportunity for a kind of altruism. Unless you're pointing at something you own, you are given the opportunity to advocate places you like - a personal appreciation to share with the world at large and small.

Nokia comments:

"Based on the simplest form of giving someone directions (pointing) it lets you share the places you love, or tells you about the places others love. When the signpost is live it constantly turns and shows the distance and direction to new Good Things. Submit your favorite cafe, an upcoming concert or a rare record store and the signpost will [apparently] automatically turn in the right direction and the giant LED screen will light up.”

via Popup City

Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Grocery Store Musical

Defenders of the Playful award-winning Improv Everywhere take their "musical mission" to the dangerously intimate and mundane environment of the local supermarket, producing the world's first Grocery Store Musical.

Be sure to see their
webpage. Get a little closer to the experience in this interview with a few of the innocent bystanders.

The real magic here is in how open and responsive most of the shoppers were, how willing they were to abandon their shopping lists and embrace the extraordinary. There was real shared delight here, as if they were all in on the joke, even though they had nothing to do with it and couldn't really understand it. "When we did Food Court Musical," the blog reports, "we had a pretty good idea of where our audience would be– sitting at the tables. This was more unpredictable. We had all of this choreography planned, but we had no idea if people would make way for us. The area got increasingly crowded as the day went on, which made it all the more fun. Often people found themselves right in the middle of the show."

May we each find ourselves there, at least once in our life times, suddenly, and without reason, right in the middle of such a silly, joyful show. And when we do, as the song so poignantly recommends, "let's squish our fruit together."

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Junkyard Sports Found Object Tabletop Olympics

Ask me what game - of all the wacky and sometimes profound works of play art that I've created in my 40-plus years of wacky and profound play art creation - I played with the top creative people at LEGO.

No. It was Found Object Tabletop Olympics.

Earlier this year, at the LEGO Design Conference, it and I reached some kind of apotheosis. It had a lot to do with our reaching the right audience at the right time. One of the participants, Lucius Margulis, took copious photos of the event. Here is his post, and below, a compilation of his photos and clips.

Found Object Tabletop Olympics event is based on the approach to play and creativity I described in Junkyard Sports. But it is the first Junkyard Sport I designed where the materials (junk) are truly "found objects" - totally random, collected from whatever the participants happen to have with them at the time, or can find in the room.

It was a big step for me, letting go of deciding exactly what junk people will get to play with. I had built the book and the concept around the art of assembling just the right collection of materials that would help get people to play and think together. And then discovering that without any special junk it was just as much fun and just as profound - and much, much easier to produce. I'm not saying that it's better - assembling a collection of the "right" materials is an art in itself - just that it works, that it's still fun, still meaningful. A different kind of meaning, though, because the "junk" comes from what people have, and what they are willing to share, and what the people who provide the room leave around.

So the whole thing takes on an extra meaning - letting people find their own junk helps them discover the wealth of what's around them, at their fingertips and in their very pockets. Helps them discover the wealth of resources they have to play with, and the people, too.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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PARK(ing) Day

Last weekend was Rosh Hashana for some, the end of Ramadan for others, and, for the fortunate few, PARK(ing) Day. According to the folk at parkingday.org:

PARK(ing) Day began in 2005 when Rebar, a San Francisco art collective, converted a single metered parking space into a temporary public park in an area of San Francisco that is underserved by public open space.

Back then the project was named simply PARK(ing), and was devised as a creative exploration of how urban public space is allocated and used. For example, up to 70% of San Francisco's downtown outdoor space is dedicated to the vehicle, while only a fraction of that space is allocated to the public realm. Paying the meter of a parking space enables one to lease precious urban real estate on a short-term basis. What is the range of possible activities for this short-term lease?

Since 2005, the project has grown into PARK(ing) Day, an annual worldwide phenomenon, created independently by groups of artists, activists and citizens.

There were PARK(ing) day eventlets here and there around the world.

The organizers think about PARK(ing) Day as art. Others might think of it as a world-wide pervasive game. I, personally, think of it as fun.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Junkyard Golf Course and Community Buildng and Potluck - renewed

You could think of it as a Memorial Day gift. Or better as a gift to your family, and maybe your friends' familes, and maybe even your neighborhood.

It's the revised version of amazing, all-encompassing, inventive, creative, inclusive Junkyard Golf Course and Community Building Event with Potluck.

Click on the link below and celebrate each other!

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith


The Fun Olympics

Obama's hackle-raising reference to the Special Olympics raised several of my own personal hackles, actually, about the Olympics in general, Special or not-so. I rushed to my computer and Googled for the kind of alternative that I'd like to see taking place, an even more special kind of Olympics, and clicked my way over to the Fun Olympics, and I sighed with something like belief relief, saying to myself, as I often do, that there is hope for the healing power of silliness. That despite all the brouhaha, the haha lives on.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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The Fun of Teaching and Learning

With a little help from friends and bloggers, I'll be launching a new series of programs about the Fun of Teaching and Learning. The programs will include presentations and workshops that focus on the psychology, sociology, and dynamics of fun in learning and teaching.

As advertised, they will be about the fun of teaching as much as the fun of learning, and I hope to offer them at every level of education.

Some of the concepts and experiences I'll be including in the program:

For me, being in a position to make education more fun has been a lifelong goal. I figure that's a far more sustainable goal. I'll be offering the program for modest, negotiable fees, wherever I can.

I could most definitely use your assistance in word-spreadage.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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The Fluxus Olympiad

Last May, the 24-26, to be exact, sports artist Tom Russotti, inventor of Whiffle Hurling, at the Tate, as in museum. Allow me to quote from the description:
"Football on stilts, the flipper race, invisible hurdling... just some of the sports that took place at Tate's very own Flux Olympiad, part of a three-day festival of art and performance at Tate Modern. The Olympiad was first conceived by founding Fluxus artist George Maciunas in the 1960s, though never realised until now. The aim of the Fluxus group was to instill artistic values into every part of life, and they went about it with a good dose of Dadaistic humour. TateShots asked artist, sportsman and Fluxus expert Tom Russotti to commentate on the day's activities and tell us about the history of the event"
Tom is already proving to be a potent force in the playful arts. This clip will help you understand why.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Horny Toad Invent-a-Sport Contest

A Handheld Skating and Snowboarding Sail, for example, would most definitely exemplify the kinds of new invented sports for which the Horny Toad Invent-a-Sport Contest was conceived.

The site features an inspirational collection of games to get you started. You'll probably notice that almost all of the images are of adults engaged in deep explorations of wackiness. See, for example, Crazy Croquet with its cinder block wickets, Richieball (see the official Richieball site for the full rules,) and the highly evolved, Box Ball-like game of Smack Ball.

The contest has already begun. The entry deadline is August 10.

The world is waiting for you.

via Hugh McNally (ex genius)

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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The First Annual Vienna Beach Eco-Fest

If it's June 28th, and you're somewhere near Venice Beach, CA, then come on down to the Venice Eco-Fest 2008, where you will find:

• Over 100 exciting Eco-Exhibitors with important planet preservation tips
• Sun-powered Sound Stage - All day music, dance, poetry (see schedule below)
• Kid’s Explor-o-rama with exotic animals, and interactive stories, music and FUN for all ages
• Graffiti Artists at work using eco-friendly paints on the world famous Venice art wall
• Food Court with delicious vegetarian delights
• E-Salvage Recycling Truck in Ross Parking Lot for LARGE e-waste
Bring your used: Computers & Monitors, Laptops, TVs, Stereos, DVD & VCR Players, Scanners,
Fax Machines, all kinds of Electronic Accessories, computer and cell phone batteries, etc.
• E-Salvage Recycle Bin on the Beach for SMALL e-waste
**Bring your used: Cell Phones & Accessories, Cell Phone Batteries, Laptop Battery only
• Filtered Water Stations - BYO reusable water bottle!
• Million Trees Campaign Tree Give-away
• Green Outposts for recycling/waste/and compost
• PLUS-- Free Bike Valet on the handball court!
If only they had thought about including a JunkFest, it woulda been perfect.

Via Dr. Toy

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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The Lost Sport

By deep study of the Codex of the Lost Ring, we hope to gather insight into the mystery and vasty significance of the The Lost Sport of Olympia. We seek further guidance from Ariadne, who says of herself: "I woke up in a Labyrinth of Feb. 12. They call me Ariadne." Ariadne, should you consult the Wikipedia deeply enough, also refers to: "Ariadne's thread, named for the legend of Ariadne, is the term used to describe the solving of a problem with multiple apparent means of proceeding - such as a physical maze, a logic puzzle, or an ethical dilemma - through an exhaustive application of logic to all available routes." Ah. Ariadne's thread.

The mystery deepens and at the same time widens. What actually is the Lost Sport? Where is Olympia? Who lost it in the first place?

Perhaps we can deepen our understanding by reading an article titled: 'The Lost Ring' ARG players discover 'lost' Canadian sport.

ARG, don't you know, stands for Alternate Reality Game. Ah, so we are not speaking of an actual Lost Sport of Olympia, but something of a fantasy, something perhaps made up?

Perhaps in deed. But, reality-wise, the reality to which the alternate reality is an alternate, what we actually have is a quite fun game, which, as my colleague, covisionary and general friend Celia Pearce is quick to point out, is very much in the spirit of New Games of yore and ours. See, for example, this.

Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Junk Robot Burial Army

robots made of junkRobots. Robots made from junk, like these, from Lockwasher.

I was first introduced to the wonders of junk robots by the artist Liz Mamorsky when I was developing the prototype for card gameThing-a-ma-Bots.

My fascination with the play value of junk in general, and this junk art form, in particular, has just taken one more small step for Berniekind.

Speaking of giant leaps for mankind, I am now imagining a Terracotta Army, you know, like all those statues of soldiers in formation they found in China? - only made of junk art robots. Huh? How's that for something you'd go to a museum to see (and be proud as heck to see) your very own home-made junk robot join the ranks of?

via Neatorama

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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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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If it's May 19-26, it's National Backyard Games Week

Patch Products is once again sponsoring National Backyard Games week, bless their fun-making hearts.

In his Herald Tribune article Come Out and Play, Gerry Galipault catalogs some of the games scheduled for National Backyard Games week:
"Physical Education Hall of Shame (They may try to ban them at school, but there’s no law against them at home: Dodge Ball, Duck-Duck-Goose, Line Soccer, Messy Backyard, Musical Chairs, Simon Says, Spud, Steal the Bacon and Tag. Just watch out for bruised egos.) Office Olympics (Who says you can’t have games at work? Be more like Dunder Mifflin.)

"Old standbys (Capture the Flag, Crack the Whip, Family Flag Football, Frisbee Golf, Hide and Seek, Horseshoes, Hula-Hoop Contest, Jail Break, Kick the Can, Limbo, Marco Polo, Mother May I, Red Light-Green Light, Scavenger Hunt, Stoplight, What Time Is It, Mr. Fox?)

"Suitcase Relay (Pack a suitcase with all kinds of clothes. Participants unpack the suitcase, put on all of the items and run across to a line of waiting teammates. The first team to complete the relay wins.)

"Other relay games (Baby Care Relay, Backseat Driver, Ball Relay, Balloon Head Race, Banana Olympics, Beanbag Bowling, Big Foot, Blanket Carry, Bucket Brigade, Chimp Race, Cup Stack Relay Knock Down, Dizzy Basketball. Water Balloon Volleyball (Throw and catch water balloons over a volleyball net using a sheet or blanket.)

"Other water games (Beach Ball Balance Race, Beach Ball Bumper Pool, Dolphin Relay, Fill the Bottle, Greased Watermelon Polo, Hole In The Bucket, Jump Rope Water Splash, Over/Under Game, Poison Pool Toss, Shaving Cream Shoot Off, Sponge Toss Contest, The Shark & The Mermaids, Trash Target, Tugboat Relay Race."
I, on the other hand, would rather see a National DIY Games Week, where families invent and teach other families completely new games to play. But that's me. And, though the games are mostly competitive, they're so many of them that most playful purposes should in deed be satisfied.

via Yehuda

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Sphere Play

You know those beautiful crystal-looking balls you see jugglers play with - the kind they roll on the backs of their hands and arms and stuff? Ever wonder where you can get them? Well, wonder no more, or make your own wonders. Try Out Toys not only sells these beautiful acrylic spheres, in many spectacularly different colors (and several sizes, even), and metal spheres, and wooden ones, too; they also promote play, for play's sake.

Here's a bit of what they have to say:
"We believe in promoting the importance of positive play. You could say that our mission is to offer the highest quality toys and entertainment, but really it's way more involved than that. We've developed what we call a philosophy of play.

"There are lots of ways to play, so we'd like to tell you about our approach. Play is an art. The kind of play we promote is interactive, creative, artistic and builds important physical and social skills."
They even organize something they call a "Play 4 All" - a celebration of "skilled play." In addition to their surprising variety of spheres, they also offer a virtual toybox of skill-inviting playworthy stuff.

They perform, they teach, they clearly love the stuff they're doing and the stuff they're selling.

Fun stuff. Good stuff, all.

via Alexander Kjerulf

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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My Fairfield Adventure - cont'd

I did mention my Fairfield adventure a few posts ago. It began with a radio interview with Monica Hadley on the similarly remarkable radio station KRUU - an all-volunteer FM station, as open source as it is possible for sources to be opened, operating at a mere 100 watts, and yet having something very close to a global following.

This was the first of many marvels I got to witness during my stay. I think Fairfield has more vegetarian restaurants, per capita, than probably India. And a friendlier, more engaged and supportive community than probably anywhere I've ever visited. (You can read more about Fairfield on Wikipedia).

Friday evening, as part of the monthly Art Walk, I got to introduce two new games: Socks and Boxes, and Extreme Pick Up Sticks. Both games were semi-instant variations, created in response to a change in weather from clear and mild, to windy and threatening. Socks and Boxes: build a city out of large cardboard cartons, water bottles and styrofoam packing blocks - make many balls out of many socks - and then use the sock balls to knock the whole thing down. Extreme Pick Up Sticks: take very long (12-foot), and potentially dangerously hefty cardboard tubes from the inner core of carpet rolls, paint them in manifold patterns, stand them up in a large circle (at least 12 feet wide), let them drop towards the center, and then try to pick them up, one at a time, without disturbing any other sticks. Or play tug of war with them. Or jump over them. Or see if you can use them as baseball bats.

Then I did something like a reading/performance of Recess for the Soul at a typically remarkable Fairfield institution called Revelations - a restaurant, used book store, wifi hotspot and town gathering center. The audience was remarkably receptive, responsive, down-right enthusiastic. There was much laughter and something close to complete Grokkage.

Saturday I led a workshop based on some of the concepts in The Well-Played Game. We played, of course, Bernie Found Nirvana (did I tell you that Fairfield is the home of the Maharishi University of Management?). And after a few more games and discussions, we played two different rounds of Junkyard Sports Tabletop Olympics. Very different rounds. The first with a core group of around 30 people. The second with that group and another 20 or so people (with kids, even).

The vast majority of the responsibility for the success of these events rests squarely on the shoulders of Steve Cooperman, who put everything together, and on the amazing spirit of the townsfolk. Fairfield, Iowa. A most remarkable community. A most remarkable experience for your personal Funsmith.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith


Games for Health

Games for Health is having its Fourth Annual Conference in Baltimore, May 8-9.

Games for Health, a project of the Serious Games Initiative, asks four questions:
  • Can games improve the provision, and quality, of healthcare?
  • What existing and emerging game technologies (such as multi-user, virtual environments) might be particularly useful when applied to healthcare issues?
  • How can we expand the application of computer-based game technologies to face key challenges in the healthcare sector?
  • How do we identify and proactively deal with any social, ethical, and/or legal issues that might arise through the application of game-based tools to healthcare issues?
I have a fifth: Can games make healing fun?

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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Exploring the Wisdom of Games

Once I learned to see the connections between theater and children's games, I began to understand the wisdom contained in their playful dramas.

Once I started sharing this wisdom with adults, it became the thing I liked to do best - more, even, than designing games or reviewing games or writing about games and fun and stuff. I first discovered this when I was leading a workshop for teachers at the Durham Child Development Center in Philadelphia, and rediscovered my joy in ths at the Games Preserve and at the Esalen Institute.

I play with grown-ups, especially playful grown-ups. We play a kids' game together. I talk a little about the theater of the game - the play and interplay of roles. And then everyone talks about the "drama" of the game, as if the game were really some kind of theater piece - especially about the drama they experienced, personally. Not so much about their own, personal drama, but about about the drama of the game itself, about relationships, about the way of things in gameland.

I like what happens as we play and talk, play and talk - some kind of healing, playful, loving wisdom starts manifesting itself. Because we are grown-ups playing these games. Because of the growing honesty and openness and depth of sharing we are capable of, just the act of playing each game reveals to us a depth, a drama more profound, more personal, a truth more mutual, more freeing.

"I have learned to see children's games as scripts," I write, "for a kind of children's cultural theater. I see them as collective dreams in which certain themes are being toyed with - investigated and manipulated for the sake of sheer catharsis or some future reintegration into a world view. They are reconstructions of relationships - simulations - (myths) - which are guided by individual players, instituted by the groups in which they are played or abstracted by the traditions of generations of children."

I like to do this best. Teach people to see this. The artistry, the clarity, the wisdom of games.

And frankly, I'm hoping that by telling you about it, I'll get to do this more.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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The fun fed

I have been in touch with the people who've been organizing, running and developing "the Fun Fed" since before they opened their doors in 2005. According to their new website, "The Fun Fed was created with the aim of offering opportunities to adults on the lookout for more joy, upliftment and laughter. We do this by running games, singing, dancing and clowning sessions up to four times a month."

This is a good and much needed thing, this Fun Fed. To catch a bit of the goodness, click your way to their collection of games. See, for example, Stick Swap - a game of exemplary silliness, and purposefulness. I better let them explain:
"Our sessions offer physical activity, laughter, joy, creative opportunities, stress relief, a space to meet new people and the chance to let your hair down and your selves go.

"Most importantly, they offer you a natural high and a feel-good factor without the morning after!

"A question people ask us all the time is 'What kind of people come to your sessions?' – which is so hard to answer. The sessions are aimed at anyone and everyone who would like to be play games and have fun. They are not 'therapy' although of course having fun always makes you feel better, think clearer and smile more. In terms of the demographics, about half of any session is likely to be 28-38 with the other half spread throughout the other ages groups. And people come from all walk of life. The other week we had a session with 20 people, here’s what they did: Student, Coach, Managing Director, Massage Therapist, Recreation consultant, Marketing, Media Buyer, IT Consultant, Fundraiser, Photographer and Unemployed – and we had a fantastic time."
The Fun Fed - yet another gift to all playkind.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Tabletop Sailboarding

As inventor of the Junkyard Sports TableTop Olympics and in my capacity as Bernie DeKoven, Junkmaster, I hereby award the creators of Tabletop Sailboarding permanent position in the Junkyard Sports Hall of Games .

California Parks and Recreation SocietyIt was at the CPRS 2008, Long Beach conference . And I was facilitating a bit of Tabletop Olympics amongst 5 tables of people who run parks and games all throughout California.

Many most remarkable Tabletop Olympics moments were shared. Many, many events of noteworthy notability and truly silly competitiveness. But there was this one table (I really like to learn your names if you were a tablemate) that happened to have, amongst its various shared personal treasures, some significant conference swag. Namely: a couple battery-operated hand-held fans, and some Lego pieces, and a fingerboard. And they put their stuff together to create a well, Tabletop Sailboard, I guess is what you'd call something made out of the fingerboard, a couple Lego pieces, a toothpick and a scrap of paper. And their Olympic Event was a hand-held-fan-powered Tabletop Sailboard event that proved to be at least as funny as it was demanding of Olympic-like concentration and skill.

Fingerboard SailingBehold, therefore you beholder, the Tabletop Sailboard, as fuzzily photographed on the right. Whilst beholding below the slightly less fuzzy image of a Tabletop Sailor in action.
man blowing fingerboard sailboard with handheld fan
Now and forevermore embedded in the virtual bedrock of Tabletop Olympics History.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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The Laughing Party

"In the Navajo tradition we have what we call Chi Dlo Dil, or a Laughing Party, for a newborn.

"The Laughing Party is the first laugh you hear from a child. It's usually around six weeks. It's the baby's first expression to the world, saying 'I'm ready to interact.'

"Before that, the baby is still in the soft world and you aren't supposed to put anything hard and fixed on the body, or they may take on those qualities. But after the laughing party, you can give the baby jewelry or bracelets or other decorations.

"At the party everybody sits around the baby and has a big meal and plays with the baby. The person who makes the baby laugh first plays an important role in the child's life." - Nancy Evans, Shiprock, NM (Navajo Nation)

From What is Laughing found on the increasingly remarkable site of the Balloon Hat Experience

For more about the Navaho Laughing Party, see this.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Walking as Art - A Mis-Guide to Anywhere

Phil Smith writes:
"We know you've covered our previous work on your website so we thought we'd send you some info about our new publication and, if you're in London at the time, we'd like to invite you to the launch of 'A Mis-Guide To Anywhere', a playful handbook for exploring cities. The book will be launched at the ICA, The Mall, London, on the 8th April, 6pm till 8pm, following an afternoon of walks, each based on a page from 'A Mis-guide To Anywhere' and each 'led' by one of us.

"Numbers for the launch are strictly limited so let us know if you want to come so we can put you on the guest list.

"If you would like to come on one of the mis-guided walks in the afternoon then let us know or contact the ICA direct (places are limited). The walks will each last about 90 minutes and will set off from the ICA: 12.30pm 'The problem of shopping' (Cathy), 12.45pm 'Out of place' (Stephen), 1pm 'Scales' (Simon), 1.15pm 'Masses' (Phil).
"Walking?" I respond, querulously. Phil elucidates:
We have been three years in making the new book, including walks in Shanghai, rural Zambia, Copenhagen, Barcelona, Manchester, Paris, the island of Herm… 'A Mis-Guide To Anywhere' is our new guide to seeking out places of change in the city, the Anywhere that anyone can find. When we published 'An Exeter Mis-Guide' three years ago we were very surprised that it attracted an international readership - it's now taught in numerous theatre, fine art and geography departments in universities around the world. The fact that a guidebook designed for use in a small provincial English city could be used in cities like Bangalore, Melbourne and Washington, inspired the making of 'A Mis-Guide To Anywhere'.

"If you can't join us in London we will be having a local launch in Exeter as part of the Exeter tEXt Festival on Saturday May 13th, 12.30pm at the Phoenix.

"This is a quick stitched together note to let you have some information about various walk-orientated performances, events and objects.

"First of all the show I have written based on my Easter 2007 walk following the route of acorn-planting Charles Hurst a hundred years before will be performed by New Perspectives from mid-February and the tour schedule is here.

Dee Heddon's new book on 'Autobiography and Performance' is now out from Palgrave and has a section on Place and Self which includes material on 'the art of walking' including Crab Walks.

John Davies has published an instant book on his walk alongside and around the M62 at the end of last year called 'Walking The M62' and you can get that as a hard copy or a download.

Alyson Hallett, who has an ongoing project – the migration habits of stones – in which she carries stones around the world – has a new volume of mostly landscape poetry out ‘The Stone Library’ – I loved it and recommend it. You can get it here, or at all good libraries.

walkwalkwalk, based in London, are building up a network around 'walking as art' and are holding regular meetings.

See also some of the lectures and workshops offered by Propeller including lectures on 'Rain' and 'The Look of Things' and a workshop on 'Performing Landscapes.'

Finally, MPA are holding a four day 'Territories Re-Imagined' festival of psychogeography in Manchester in June, details .

Checking out walkwalkwalk, I learn:
"Walk walk walk: an archaeology of the familiar and the forgotten is a participatory live art event, with a walk at its core. The project begins with an exploration of urban routine. Starting from the routes we take to and from work and home, part time jobs and friends houses, we established a methodology for the systematic exploration of the areas in and around Bethnal Green, Spitalfields and Whitechapel. Stepping outside, or aside from the absorption of the day to day in order to examine the places that we pass through and the narrative of pathways afresh.

"Drawing on precedents and ideas ranging from the never performed Dada walks in the 'terrains vagues' of 1920s Paris, to Iain Sinclair’s investigation of Rodinsky’s London walks in the late 1990s, we began to re-explore our walks through and across the east end. Creating a new routine: meeting at the same time and place each week to walk and work we have exhaustively researched this locale. Walking individually, then walking one anothers’ routes has shown us each new spaces, sights and places that alone we might never have encountered.

"Collecting and collating artefacts and anecdotes from our research walks has been the starting point for the ‘archaeology’ of the subtitle. Objects, images and descriptions from the route speak of the real physicality of the city fringe – the places where it extends out into the edge and vice-versa. The walk we have created will take you to the cut off spaces trapped between railway and road, down alleyways that block the less-than-determined from pursuing a route through, past ‘fine art’ graffiti, a Hawksmoor church, numerous taxi garages and abandoned pubs in a continuously evolving cityscape."
I mean, who knew? Walking as art? I mean like a Dada kind of thing even?

So yeah, and most definitely, check out A Mis-Guide To Anywhere. It'll re-open your world.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Junkfest - Final Report

Click this
I wish you could have been there. It was, in its small way, an historic event of significant proportion. The artists (the Junkyard Symphony and car artist Steve Classic Jasik ) provided everything you could hope for - representing the spirit of play, creativity, and repurposing with great passion, warmth and humor.
bernie leaning on 2way car
(your local Junkmaster, posing proudly in front of Classic Jasik's 2-Way Car )
The games were significant fun - inviting creativity, inclusion and playfulness, exactly as you might hope.
sock golf
Flying Golf
giant pick up sticks
giant pick-up sticks
volleyball with a trash bag
Giant Pick-Up Sticks and 4-way Trashbag, two-level Volleyball - all presented a genuine invitation to play, each offering a different level of physical and social activity.
Recreation leaders from across Redondo Beach participated in a two-hour training and intense cardboard construction. We had a great write-up in the Daily Breeze . Even the local cable channel came out to help document this landmark event in the celebration of the spirit of fun.
Senior Services led the junk swap and much junk got swapped..
Maybe 50 people attended. OK, so it wasn't what you'd call a huge success. On the other hand, given the goings on in the rest of the world, it was a genuinely remarkable celebration.
Holding up box of "Cheer"
(photo by Peter)

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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A game of benevolent assassination

"Cruel 2 B Kind," they say,"is a game of benevolent assassination."
"At the beginning of the game, you are assigned three secret weapons. To onlookers, they will seem like random acts of kindness. But to other players, the seemingly benevolent gestures are deadly maneuvers that will bring them to their knees.

"Some players will be slain by a serenade. Others will be killed by a compliment. You and your partner might be taken down by an innocent group cheer.

"You will be given no information about your targets. No names, no photos, nothing but the guarantee that they will remain within the outdoor game boundaries during the designated playing time. Anyone you encounter could be your target. The only way to find out is to attack them with your secret weapon.

"Watch out: The hunter is also the hunted. Other players have been assigned the same secret weapons, and they're coming to get you. Anything out of the ordinary you do to assassinate YOUR targets may reveal your own secret identity to the other players who want you dead.

"As targets are successfully assassinated, the dead players join forces with their killers to continue stalking the surviving players. The teams grow bigger and bigger until two final mobs of benevolent assassins descend upon each other for a spectacular, climactic kill."
Ah, yes, death, and then transfiguration. Hence, fun.

via Boing Boing, etc.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Junkfest Report

girl playing on junk music instruments

I wish you could have been there. It was, in its small way, an historic event of significant proportion. The artists (the Junkyard Symphony and car artist Steve Classic Jasik ) provided everything you could hope for - representing the spirit of play, creativity, and repurposing with great passion, warmth and humor.

bernie leaning on 2way car
(your local Junkmaster, posing proudly in front of Classic Jasik's 2-Way Car - here's a clip of the car in action)

The games were significant fun - inviting creativity, inclusion and playfulness, exactly as you might hope.

sock golf
Flying Golf

giant pick up sticks
volleyball with a trash bag
Giant Pick-Up Sticks and 4-way Trashbag, two-level Volleyball - all presented a genuine invitation to play, each offering a different level of physical and social activity.

Recreation leaders from across Redondo Beach participated in a two-hour training and intense cardboard construction.

We had a great write-up in the Daily Breeze. Even the local cable channel came out to help document this landmark event in the celebration of the spirit of fun.

Senior Services led the junk swap and much junk got swapped.

Maybe 50 people attended. OK, so it wasn't what you'd call a huge success. On the other hand, given the goings on in the rest of the world, it was a genuinely remarkable celebration.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Cardboard Tube Fighting League

The Cardboard Tube Fighting League, despite appearances and adult-like anticipations, is a highly disciplined, well, maybe not highly, but at least somewhat disciplined play fight.

I exemplify by citing the admirably explicated rules:
  1. First Rule of CTFL: Don’t break your tube. In a duel, the last person with an unbroken tube is declared the winner. In the event that both participants break their tubes at the same time, the game is a draw, and both duelists are considered losers.
  2. No stabbing. Lunges involving tubes are never allowed under an circumstances. Participants who exhibit this behavior, will be ejected from the entire event.
  3. Try not to work the face. Hitting people in the face is heavily frowned upon and can force your ejection from the event.
  4. Once your tube is broken you must stop fighting.
  5. To participate you must be using an official CTFL tube, which will be provided at the event, and have signed a release waiver.
  6. You may not block your opponents tube with your arms hands or legs.
  7. Your tube must always be held near the bottom. Holding your tube in the middle at any time is illegal.
See this for more photos, videos and stuff.

via Laughing Squid

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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World's first Junkyard Sports® Tabletop Olympics

Junkyard Olympics HighdiveIt was 2007. October 11. The morning of. Let's say mid-morning. In Atlanta. At the North American Simulation and Gaming Association conference. During my workshop, during which I had planned to spend 90 minutes exploring the various learning ramifications of what I somewhat blithely referred to as: The Junkyard Sports Paradigm.

Because it was NASAGA , and because the people who had registered for my workshop had listened to my keynote and were still planning to come, I found myself inspired enough to want to try something brand new - something I had thought about for many a month, but hadn't as yet actually tried.

And thus was held the world's first Junkyard Sports® Tabletop Olympics.

We had three groups of about 5 players each. Each group was seated around a banquet-worthy round table (officially called a "round").

Their assignment: using whatever you can find in your pocket or purse or elsewhere, create a miniature, tabletop, Olympic-like event.

What you are seeing in this photo is one such event - the High Dive Ski-Jump. The Jumper/Diver (a.k.a. "quarter") is being coached by participant Dave Matte to roll between the two blockish objects (hence kept on edge, so to speak), down the notebook-like ramp, hopefully to land in the glass of water. Yes, some points were awarded for hitting the glass or chair, even. A second team-member, the Jumper/Diver retriever, stood off camera, waiting to catch the rolling quarter before it reached the floor, for that critical extra point.

High JumpThis was, as you have so intuitively grasped, but one of a minor Olympic myraid of tabletop events, such as, for example, the High Cup Jump, depicted here. Unfortunately, so enraptured were we with our collective cleverness and so deeply impressed by our finger-powered feats of athletic prowess, that we forgot to take any other pictures. And so, the memory fades. The world's first Olympic Croquet game, for example - played with many coins and paperclips and things, simultaneously, in the round - now, despite lingering echoes of all that laughter, partly remembered, partly imagined.

Yes, yes, I wax poetic. Because the Junkyard Sports Tabletop Olympics is everyrthing I had hoped it would be, more than I could possibly have dreamed it would become. An invitation to laughter and teamwork, to creativity and sharing, to surprise and appreciation. Regardless of position, age, gender, family, nationality. And all you need is whatever you have. Pocket junk. A table. People to play with.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Burning Man for the cool and distant

Laughing Squid has gone to admirable lengths to share a variety of virtual pathways to this year's Burning Man celebrations.

The Squid comments: "One thing that has evolved quite a bit over the years is the wi-fi cloud at Burning Man. This year we will see even more photos and video being uploaded from the Playa, as well as live video streaming, blog coverage and even updates via Twitter." Noteworthy for those of us who remain amazed by the ever-widening wonders of the web.

Some of these virtual pathways will lead to videos and images that are not safe for some kinds of work or parents, nevertheless I feel it incumbent upon me to point you, albeit indirectly, to this most celebrated of celebrations of play, art and freedom.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith


More Food Art

Food as art is a concept that should be at least as close to one's heart as it is to one's stomach.

I know, I know, I've written about this before. But I was recently reminded of the art/food/fun connection again when I got a response to a Craigslist ad I had written for "found object artists." I was looking for artists who wanted to show their work at the First Annual Redondo Beach JunkFest, and one of the responses I received was from a fellow named Bryan Au who thought that his work with raw foods would somehow prove JunkfFst-worthy. "Raw foods," I thought to myself, "how very much the opposite of junk food, and yet how perfectly this art fits into the whole JunkFest concept. I clicked. I read. I laughed. I loved.

For more food art, see also this and these and perhaps for desert some of this, followed by a bit of this.

Then there's Edible Robotics.

via Neatorama, etc.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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An American Game for the Fourth, July-wise

Playing WashersOne of the especially playworthy aspects of celebrating the Fourth of July is the patriotically-motivated urge to engage the entire family in family gamelike events. These family gamelike events are designed to complement the traditional "Before the Fireworks Family Picnic" and are characterized by activities of the horseshoe ilk. Of all the horseshoe-ilk games, the game of Washers is perhaps the most family-appropriate, and the most American. According to the International Association of Washer Players, "The history of the game is cloaked in mystery but lends itself to colorful conjecture. 'Betcha I can toss this here washer into that oil can over yonder,' someone might have wagered years ago. Most certainly humble roots fathered the game as participants used readily-available parts, a hallmark of the game that survives even today."

The association recommends "standard round metallic washers, 2.5" in diameter with a 1" center hole." In case you were wondering. In case you weren't, you can play Washers with just about anything round and flat, or perhaps not so round or not completely flat.

For those of us who seek immediate, commercially-available, official-looking, moderately-priced gratification, there's Bulls-Eye Washers from Fundex. You don't have to dig any special pits (as the IAWP states: "although not absolutely necessary to the game, pits add an aura of legitimacy, provide for easy maintenance of the soil, and aid in scoring measurements.")

The washers have that perfect heft and pleasantly graphic markings. And the boxes (one might call them "portable pits") are easy to cary and set up. They each contain the recommended 3-point-worthy PVC target, surrounded by a tastefully green carpeted secondary target area. I especially appreciate that the targets are so adjustable - you can put them any distance apart, so that you can play the game almost regardless of age or ability. Some kids find that standing almost on top of the box is more than enough of a challenge.

Wide is the variety and comparative delights of the game of Washers. At perhaps another commercially-available extreme, we have the game of Chuckers.

Chuckers washer tossing gameThe people who've developed Chuckers like to call it a "family tossing game."

By "tossing game" they mean a game that involves, well, tossing things, as does, for example, horseshoes, and a variety of bean bag and target games, and of course washers, which is strangely enough also called, "cornhole," and most relevantly perhaps that quoits game where you throw rings around pegs.

So, in a way, if you know any one of these games, you'll know how to play Chuckers. In another way, because it combines different aspects of traditional games to result in a completely different, and, arguably, a far more majorly fun game - because it's a family game.

By "family" they mean a game that can be played by just about anybody - especially if you're kinda loose about the rules. Which you can be, easily. Because the game is almost self-explanatory. Because the game is so well made.

And because the game is as much luck as it is skill. Very interesting - how combining luck and skill, in just the right manner, so that you really half believe that you can master the thing, learn the right control, the precision positioning of finger and ring and foot and eye, while at the same time, you half know that it's really luck, not skill - sheer luck that your ring thing landed around the farthest peg or into the farthest target or wound up leaning on a peg, giving you exactly 21 points! Just enough luck so that anyone, regardless of skill, can win. Even you.

The rings you toss are made of rubber and steel. They've got, what you'd call, "significant heft." The things you toss them into are even more significantly hefty. Thick, sturdy, and yes, what you could only call "industrial strength" plastic. They are connected by a rope which is exactly as long as the recommended distance between the two targets. It's a game you can leave out for a while, at a family party, in a playground, a park, a classroom...

All of which is to say that, in addition to commercially-available inspirations, there are perhaps a minor infinity of washer-like games, that can be made out of a similarly minor infinity of materials - sand dollars and sand pits, old CDs and shoeboxes, dead golf balls and toilet paper tubes.... To we of the make-your-own-washer-game perspective, the entire modern world is an invitation to play. (see also Shoeshoes )

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ActionQuest: ATL - Atlanta Big Game Merges Activism with Play

homeless camp
On the Mad Housers Quest, players, accompanied by trained volunteers, will search through wooded areas, along train tracks and underneath bridges looking for homeless settlements and campsites such as this one.
(Courtesy: Salma Abdulrahman/Mad Housers)

This looks like an important event for all playkind. If you can't be there in the flesh, at least you can share the spirit:
Georgia Tech's Emergent Game Group headed up by Celia Pearce, in collaboration with the Design Studio for Social Intervention will present ActionQuest: ATL, an activist Big Game being produced in conjunction with the US Social Forum, taking place in Atlanta June 27-July 1. Built on the premise that "Play is a renewable resource," ActionQuest: ATL takes players around Atlanta for a hands-on experience of what it might be like to realize the USSF's vision that "another world is possible." Players discover and uncover past successes in local activism, and perform activist actions to help make the world a better place in both the present and the future. In the process, they will be delighted and rewarded by this encounter with "serious fun" that dynamically fuses real-world activism with socially engaging cooperative play.

ActionQuest: ATL runs daily from noon to 8PM, June 28-July 1, 2007. Players can register online or in-person at one of two base camps at the Little Five Points Community Center (1083 Austin Ave. N.E. 30307) or Renaissance Park (Piedmont & Pine). Details can be found here and here. For more information or to volunteer as a Game Master, send e-mail
Celia sent me this to share with you. She is a remarkable woman who has dedicated her powerful intellect to bringing more fun into the world. I tend to endorse everything she does, because she brings so much passion and understanding to it. She is also a friend, and advocate, who has written a wonderfully insightful review of my book, The Well-Played Game (which, of course, makes her a wonderfully insightful friend).

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith


A Celebration of Junk - a proposal

Last November, Philip Ella Juico wrote published an article called "Sports for All" in the Philippine Star. The article was the result of several exchanges we had over the previous months, about bringing sports to the far reaches of the Philippines. Dr. Juico was very active with the major sports organizations in the Philippines, and, because he had access to some of the major players, he thought about organizing a tour in which they would run demonstration games in the nation's villages. This led to many fascinating conversations, a wonderful meeting, and, ultimately, my crafting the following proposal:

A Celebration of Junk is a festival of play - an event that affirms the human capacity to play.

A Festival of Play - a public gathering that combines spectacle with empowerment, that provides a platform for the display of both athletic and artistic achievement, while providing an invitation to equal participation by all members of the community - all genders, ages, abilities - to everyone who wants to play.

A Festival of Play - celebrating genius in body, mind and spirit; genius in sports, in individual and team performance, in individual and collective art and invention, in music and dance.


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Audience-controlled Games

This was going to be a story about, purportedly, the world's largest Etch-a-Sketch, which, according to this story was "was unveiled at the 33rd SIGGRAPH International Computer Graphics and Interactive Techniques Conference and Exhibition in Boston." (click on this image to get the whole picture, as it were, so to speak.)

Me, I wasn't that excited, really, about the world's largest Etch-a-Sketch. I mean, it's attention-grabbing, all right, and it did make me wonder about how it actually works, or how any individual audience member experiences any real control. But, then again, I never experienced that much real control, even when I was using my regular old personal laptop Etch-a-Sketch.

What I was excited about was that an entire audience could play, together, using what looks like plastic lollipops on Popsicle sticks. Wireless lollipops, even.

Turns out that a company called Cinematrix has developed a system that can sense individual input. Granted, input is binary, limited to which side of the stick you show, but with enough ingenuity, you can do a lot with nothing more than binary input. Especially if there's a way for the technology to pick up each individual response - not just determine the average, but take into account each participant's input.

They have a small passel of games, for those who are interested in game passel-gathering. And, yes, they have a significant enough repertoire of polling capabilities to warm the cockles of even a board of director's hearts. Audience-pleasing fun, team-building for the masses, participatory art for the many. All-in-all, a technology most worthy of our collective applause.

Funspotting by Elyon DeKoven

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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A little less than a year ago, I wrote about a game of Urban Capture the Flag, hosted by a group called "Newmindspace." And though I find myself sorely tempted to write about the upcoming, Feb. 24th event called "Pillow Fight NYC," I find myself moved to talk about a more sobering event, called "Nightlights." Because of the beauty of the vision, and the sad wisdom contained in this little blurb:
300 LED's were stolen at the beginning of Night Lights.
We are shocked and disappointed that while we were creating this event, a small handful of people prevented the installation from even happening. (These LED's were eventually to be used for fundraising after the evening was over.) We lost over $500.
It is precisely this kind of wisdom, for all its sobering significance, that makes Newmindspace such a valuable resource for anyone contemplating the production of a public event, especially if they are doing so for the sake of art, play and community - because Newmindspace has learned what it is like, playing with the public, in all of its beauty and ugliness, and because they continue to bring us to play, nevertheless.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Bar Crawling as a Gateway Event

Funspotter Noise E. Piranha and I were chatting as follows:
Noise: Last night, at Santarchy, my nephew, dressed as Old St Nick, proposed to his girlfriend, dressed as an elf.

Me: fantastic! did she accept?

Noise: she did. when santa proposes in front of 40 other santas, an elf dare not say no. here's a less-than-perfect photo. a landmark event, santa proposing to one of his elves. mrs. claus wasnt too happy about it

Me: bar crawling seems to be a great platform for many games - I think Urban Golf has that as its central premise (here, oddly enough, is a computer game version of Urban Golf, in which one, apparently, brings one's own)

Noise: i'm not a big fan of bar crawls in general... i only like the cacophony ones because we focus more on the crawl and less on the bar. i think we actually spent more time doing stuff in public than hanging out in bars.

Me: but the bar part is the excuse that keeps the party going

Noise: indeed it is... and the excuse to get many people involved who might otherwise consider it "too strange" i see the bar crawls as "gateway" events to get people comfortable with the idea of finding nontraditional ways to have fun and see how much fun they really can have.
Me, half-hour later, in retro- and intro-spect: the more you drink, the harder it is to see how much fun "you can really have." Because the drunker you get, the less connected you are to the "real you." In fact, for many of us, that's precisely why we get drunk - so we can get away from ourselves for a while. Most games do that for us, too - let us loosen the connection to our "real," mature, grown-up, selves.

Loosen, but not lose. That's the key difference. Loosen the connection, but not lose it. Loosen so we become larger than the selves we have come to think of as real.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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CowParade "is the world’s largest public art event. From Chicago and New York in 1999 and 2000 to Kansas City and Houston in 2001 and London in 2002, CowParade continues to evolve, not just in size, but in creativity and quality of art. While the cow sculptures remain the same, each city’s artists are challenged by the art from past events, inspired by the cultural influences of their respective cities, and moved by their own interpretation of the cow as an art object. CowParade is not meant to be high art, however. It is first and foremost a public art exhibit that is accessible to everyone."

You've probably seen a CowParade in the heart of your very own city. But did you know that
"The collection of painted cows is thought and dedicated to open opportunities to all artists in each city, and along the years, it has turned into a real competition among the best and most brilliant artists around the world.

Painters (some recognized, others only beginners) designers, architects or even fine art students all are invited to participate in this open call of artists, sending your submission and design on paper to Maravillarte* | Art Management Services.

The cow Designs on paper will be selected by a group of local art experts that form the Selection Committee. These selected designs will make up the Official Cow Parade Portfolio.

Out of the Official Portfolio, sponsors of individual cows will choose artists and their designs, to turn them into real size fiberglass cows."
Well, did you?

This message brought to you by Funscout Kris Bordessa.


Art Attacks and other Playful Happenings

Tom Condon, of the Hartford Courant, writes:
"...the really inspired anarchy of the time [1970s] came from...Sidewalk Inc. Founded by Tim Keating, Ann Kieffer and Bob Gregson, Sidewalk quickly became known for what Gregson called 'art attacks,' improvised outdoor performances of every kind.

"A van would pull up in front of a building and two dancers in evening clothes would jump out and begin a waltz or rumba. A dozen participants would do sidewalk sculptures with folding chairs. A skywriter would write something over downtown. A ballet dancer would leap out of a clump of bushes and perform. A bridge of balloons would appear over a downtown street. Artists performed skits in fountains. There was other wild stuff, such as Carl Andre's Stone Field Sculpture, aka the rocks. I love it/them."
Yes, it's the same Bob Gregson who did the illustrations for Junkyard Sports. The same Bob Gregson I met when I was teaching at Trinity College in Hartford. The same Gregson who is now the Creative Director of the Connecticut Commission on Culture & Tourism. Yes, that Gregson. Bob Gregson of BobGregson.com. My friend and fellow play perpetrator for 30 actual years, who wrote me: "Today, I continue to raise havoc by sending people under tables and having them jump on trampolines as part of my work."

We have much to thank this man for. And much more to learn from him.

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Capture the Flag - city rules

Capture the Flag, Game One, Kensington Market, July 26, 2005, Toronto, Canada. Game one of three, so far as I can tell from the newmindspace site. A site, if I may say so, worth seeing. A generous site, describing not only how to play Capture the Flag in the middle of a city, but also how to have a subway party, for example, or, yes, a giant pillow fight, and even a city-wide Easter Egg fortune cookie poetry event.

But I like Capture the Flag the best. Because, I guess, I like the game, the poetry of it, the metaphor - the whole "jail" thing, with the guarding and desperation and heroism and laughter. And I especially appreciate how they adapted the rules, how they've incorporated not only the city into their vision, but also the "affordances" of city life - maps, cellphones, access to public and private transportation. And I like even more than that thinking about all sheer, silly drama of it all unfolding against a cityscape, waking everyone in a half-mile radius, hobo and executive, shopper and tourist, to the possibility of fun.

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Seuss Mob

Last month I read about a group of people in Baltimore who were going to get together on Saturday, March 4th (two days after Dr. Seuss' birthday), dress up in Seuss-themed costumes, and read "Green Eggs and Ham" at random street corners. At first I thought about driving to Baltimore to join them, but then I decided, why not try to do the same thing in Pittsburgh, where I live?

So I did. And we did. Not a lot of us, mind you, but enough to put smiles on peoples faces and bring a little sunshine to an otherwise cold and cloudy day. "Seuss Mob" it was called.

People smiled and cheered as they walked by. Honked and waved from passing vehicles. Families stopped to listen to us finish the story, and lots of people snapped pictures with their camera phones.

It felt great to be able to bring unexpected smiles and laughter to everyone, and even more so to the random people who joined us. I think this event proved that you don't have to have a large group to share the spirit of cacophony--and a little bit of happiness--with the world. A few dedicated people can get the job done!


from Noise E. Piranha

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