Do you, perchance, blow teapot?

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

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

Ah, I say, ha!


The evolution of Evolution

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

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith


Bear, Hunter, Princess

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

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

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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A game fit for a prince

Apparently, even the Prince Philip played Lap Game.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Parlour Games for Modern Families - a guide to shared hilarity

Every new book of parlor games is a cause for celebration. If it's clearly written, well organized, and has, among its collection of time-tested invitations to silliness, a few brave new games, yet even more celebration is called for. The publication of Parlour Games for Modern Families is something for your whole family, and everyone your family knows, to party about. Seriously. Well, not too seriously.

Before I continue, I must admit that I am personally implicated in this book. Somewhere in the book (page 7), there's a quote from me. Somewhere else (page 91), there's a whole interview with me. Which, from my perspective, makes the book that much more celebration-worthy. However, don't let me bias you. With surprising objectivity, I can tell you that this book is something you will treasure - a resource that will lead you and everyone you know to whole-hearted, side-splitting family and community fun.

Written by Myfanwy Jones and Spiri Tsintziras, Parlour Games for Modern Families includes a wide enough range and variety of games to bring everyone you know into play, many times over. There are paper-and-pencil games, dramatic games, card games, active games, word games, story games, dice games, marble games, and on, and also on. Since it is most likely that the person who reads the book will be the same one who will be organizing the play party, every game includes an overview detailing the appropriate ages, the recommended number of players, anything you will need to play the game, and about how long the game will take to play. Most of the games include variations and ways to adapt the game to younger and older audiences.

Written and published in Oztralia, the book talks lovingly and playfully to anyone who can read English and understands the value of sharing silly times. Just like you.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Clap You and Higher Five

Clap You

Clap You is based on a spectator activity similar to the act of clapping, or applauding, in which approval is signified by bringing hands together forcibly and repeatedly in such a way as to produce a maximally resonating sound.

Only you can't clap your own hands.

you can't clap both hands with the same person.

Similar rules can be found in the related game, Higher Five.

Higher Five

Get together in groups of three. In a matter of minutes, create a new version of High Five suitable for three people.

Higher Five, not unlike Clap You, is a non-spectator activity signifying collective approval by the bringing together of hands in rapid and soundful affirmation.

However, unlike the Clap You activity, Higher Five is based on the proverbial High Five, which is the same as a normal applau (applause, singular) except that it is performed with the arms extended overhead...hence, "High."

And, unlike High Five, the Higher Five is performed with both hands, and two different people, simultaneously.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith


Fun in the Hospice

The Frog of Enlightenup-mentYour local funsmith is happy (and I do mean happy) to answer any questions you have about making things more fun. Take for example this one, in which a fun-follower asks how to make it more fun to visit someone in a hospice.

People who are beyond healing are most definitely not beyond fun, or a good laugh with someone they love. I don't know if games can help people face death. But they can definitely help them affirm life. And perhaps that is the best we can do for them.

I'm not planning to take the "Tibetan Book of the Dead" approach into the hospice with me. Though I admit guided fantasies can be powerful tools for helping people embrace the inevitable. And I'm sure that for some building a shared fantasy about death and the afterlife would be a rich source of very deep fun. Especially if it weren't taken seriously. In fact, how about making it a shared process, you know, each of you take turns adding a sentence.

I can tell you this about me. I think, if I were dying, and still had the energy, I'd prefer the life-celebrating silliness of it all. I'd want to play just those kinds of games with you, the one's I call Pointless.  If I wanted to play with fantasy, maybe we could play with something like the Frog of Enlighten-upment . If I wanted to get morose, I'd try It Could be Worse, but I'd more likely play something openendedly insignificant, like Plenty Questions, or a good game of Redondo, each of which is fun enough and loving enough to lead the living and dying wherever they want to go together.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Sequitur is word association game. The kind of game you'd play anywhere with anybody any time you'd all feel like playing. One of those perfect "waiting" games you'd play at a restaurant while waiting for your food or in a line while waiting to get in or in a car while waiting to arrive.

I quote liberally:
"Any number of people can play, and there is no time limit either for the length of a turn nor the length of the overall game. Players can determine any limits for each game when they begin. They can even pursue other activities in the meanwhile, with the game played in the background...

"One player begins by stating a word or phrase.

"The next player then adds another word or phrase that is somehow associated with or suggested by the previous entry...

"At the end of the series of turns, the players reconstruct the entire chain in reverse, as a collaborative group, not taking turns. All participants pitch in as needed, since all the conceptual shifts and associations are contained in their aggregate memories."
Sequitur is what I would call a Pointless Game, to which, of course, author and Puzzle Mistress Kate Jones, would profoundly disagree. She is one of my more profound friends.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith


A Modest Collection of Pointless Games

You've seen this.

You've might have seen this.

You could have come across this.

And even thought about arranging for one of these.

Now, at last, you can download this.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith


Playfulness and Pointlessness

I found this, by this man, here
"The intention of playing tennis to improve one's health is not playful in this sense, because it is motivated by the expectation of some future good. In contrast, persons who enjoy the sheer pleasure of competing with others, for instance, exhibit a genuinely playful attitude. Exercising may also help to upgrade our health, but this anticipated benefit is not here the principal reason for the action. Viewed from a biological viewpoint, it makes sense to ascribe functional advantages to physical exercise, but these advantages are not the agent's primary motivation. People who play do so mainly because they treasure the experience of intense immersion that it uniquely affords. When pursued in a purely playful spirit, the ludic experience of tension, uncertainty or release is its own justification, not a means to some subsequent end."
Right, I mean, on!

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Cup-Passing, Hand-Clapping, Knee-Tapping Fun

Without probing the origins of the Cup-Passing Hand-Clapping game, or attempting to fathom the apparently widespread dissemination of the aforementioned, let us rather merrily contemplate the game itself and the myraid wonders thereof. It is, after all, a collaborative game. It is played by teens, even. It is clearly pointless. And most obviously fun.

Here's a version that starts out slowly enough for those of us who are less conceptually coordinated to believe that this is a feat well within our reach. Then there's a far more sophisticated version, should you and your friends for some reason think you've actually mastered the "regular" version. On the other hand, if you find yourself with only one other person to play with, contemplate the potential hilarity embedded in this two person variation.

All of which is by way of introduction to the amazingly sophisticated world of cup passing games. There are those that are ostensibly for kids, and those clearly for all of us. There's Hakasot, a Hebrew cup passing game. There's Estray Bonajour, a cup passing game that can be played without cups, and is in a language that has passed beyond arcane. And there's this collection of what one might call "extreme cup passing" games.

Then there are the knee tapping games. All in all, maybe hundreds of such ilk, none of which is played competitively, none for score, each and all for the simple and wonderful fun of seeing how complicated we can make things for each other.

Surely there's a message in all this about the human condition. And even more surely, here's a way to have fun without anyone losing, anywhere, with styrofoam cups, or shoes, or nothing more than a shared sense of play.

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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About Pointlessness

"The Sound and the Fury," the game I wrote about in my previous post, is what one might call an archetypically pointless game, similar in archetypical pointlessness to the games in a collection I have named "More Games of Dubious Purpose," insofar as a secondary characteristic of pointlessness is in fact purposelessness, as I describe with pointed obscurity in The Well-Played Game.

What originally attracted me to the word "pointless" was, naturally, the play on words. "Pointlessness" not only describes the reason for playing the games (no point, no reason, actually, other than the sheer fun of it all), but also something about the nature of the games themselves. Pointless games are not played for points, or, if they are, the score doesn't matter.

There's no way to predict what will make a pointless game fun. It's too open-ended. Without score, without even a goal, pretty much anything goes. It's the players who make the game fun. The absolute pointlessness of the game does something to people. It gives them a chance to take responsibility for making the game fun. Sooner or later, somebody does something so unpredictably funny, that you just have to laugh.

Pointless Games tend to put people into silly situations. For no reason. In the Sound and Fury game, people can really do anything they feel like doing - make any kind of sound, any kind of motion - and everyone else not only accepts whatever is done, but they do it, too. And so people make the game funny. Because they can. Because it's more fun. They do things that are funny. They make funny noises. Everyone does them too. And everyone laughs. In Ha Ha Numbers (the game in the photo) you lie on someone's stomach while calling out someone else's number while trying not to forget to respond when someone calls your number. In Hand Land people find themselves lying in a strange position (on their backs, ear-to-ear), looking at a funny world of disembodied hands. And they start playing around. Acting out. Wiggling fingers, touching thumbs, making their hands talk to each other, making it fun. The very pointlessness of the games shifts the responsibility from the leaders to the players, from following the rules to the play itself.

Which probably explains something about the origins of my interest in Pointless Games. The play itself. The theater. The improvisation. Masters degree, don't you know, in Theater, as a matter of fact. Villanova. 1968.

It was during the workshop I gave for the Laughter Leaders in Israel, some 15 years after I first started using the term "pointless," that I began to realize just how deeply the very pointlessness of pointless games can reach - all the way into bomb shelters, all the way into the actual dark night of the veritable soul. What could be more pointless than having to wait out something like a permanent war? More pointless than trying to get people to play when they are all so very far from fun?

Most of the people who call themselves Laughter Leaders have had training in Laughter Yoga. Laughter Yoga is a discipline, pursued for the sake of spiritual, physical and mental health. Like all forms of Yoga. In Laughter Yoga people laugh, not because they think things are funny, but because it's "good" for them. It's a wacky idea - laughing when you don't really feel like laughing. Which is probably why it works so well.

Many of the Laughter Leaders who found their way to my workshop had already discovered that Laughter Yoga was not enough. In places like the Middle East where there is so much to fear and so much more to be angry about, laughter is very hard to sustain. It takes too much effort to keep going. It's very hard to find a reason to laugh, even when it's just for the health of it.

Playing a game - especially a pointless game, when there is no reason, no score, no purpose - is somehow more appropriate, reflecting more accurately the wackiness of it all. It's better than boredom. Much more fun than wondering when and where the next bomb will fall.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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The Sound and the Fury, cont'd

It was about a year ago, again from Israel, that I wrote about my experiences playing a game called "Sound and Fury." This time, it was one of the last games we played, near the end of our stay, and one of the precious few we got to play with the whole family: Josh (who turned 2 in October), Zev (4), Reina (7), Maya (11), their parents (40), and us grands (66, 67).

Once again, the game was new for me - specifically the part about how much more deeply fun it was to play it with family - particularly with a relatively large family (relatively speaking), explicity with a family whose youngest member is still learning how to talk (albeit in two languages).

We did make up a new rule: If you wanted to pass (just in case you couldn't think of something silly enough to do - the pressure, you know), you could just say something (we had suggested something like "smeegledeebop," but "pass" worked, too), and then everybody would just do anything they felt like (complete with noise and movement). Oddly fun.

Point is, as a family game Sound and Fury is very oddly fun: easy enough for a 2-year-old to understand, fun enough to keep us all involved (we must've played it for at least 15 minutes, maybe 10), pointless enough to keep anybody from caring about having anything other than what we already had together.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Talking about fun in Israel - conclusions

As the last days of this visit approach, I have yet one more experience to share with you, perhaps the one that touched me most deeply - a 9-hour workshop I conducted with Laughter Yoga teachers.

It was focused on what I call "Pointless Games." I had designed it at the invitation of Laughter Yoga and Gibberish trainer Alex Sternik, as something that would be of interest specifically to Laughter Leaders in Israel. I called it "Games that make people laugh - a workshop in the art of sustainable silliness."

The workshop was attended by only a few people - we had eight altogether. But these were an exceptional few - highly energetic, deeply playful, totally committed to making people laugh. Participants included several other laughter leaders (here's Bat-Shachar's website), game facilitators and trainers, a meditation facilitator, a belly dancer, a magician named Caliostro (who was "the primary magician" performing for the Israeli army in the 80s) , a gym teacher, and Shiri Ben-Dov, who leads games and works with an organization that conducts bachelor parties. Each brought their entire being into play - personally, professionally, spiritually.

It's been a long time since I've shared the concept of Pointless Games that I worked/played with people who understood the idea so deeply, so quickly - not just the games, but the immense value of playing without purpose, without score, without excuse - of playing for fun.

For me, this was the experience of Israel I most needed. For all the insecurity, the fear, the hatred, the violence, the worry, the passion, the crowding, the traffic, the sheer intensity of life here - even in the middle of a war - I found people here who welcomed the comparatively small gifts of funny games. I found Israelis who have affirmed with their very lives the wisdom of things like peace and laughter and the power of play, and who bring these very experiences to everyone they can reach - Jew, Arab, Israeli, Palestinian.

During this long/short stay I often felt, well, foolish, in thinking that I could help bring fun to Israel in a time of war. And here, near the end of my stay, I discover these people. True champions of baseless, purposeless laughter. Fun-bringing Israelis all.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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