Friday, August 30, 2002
"Roadside America - your online guide to offbeat tourist attractions"
Friday, August 30, 2002
"Roadside America - your online guide to offbeat tourist attractions"
Heard it in the Playground
Heard it in the Playground "is a lively intergenerational project initiated and designed by music and arts organization Firebird. The project took children's experience and older people's memories of games and 'playing out' in playground and street as a starting point for creative work - storytelling through oral testimony, collecting and sharing games, singing, rhythm work, sound recording and photography."
"'When I was a girl I used to throw it right up and catch it! You must get it steady and straight.' (Mary, Le Grand Luce Court)"
Thursday, August 29, 2002
The Best Playdough Recipes Ever
Here are a couple pictures of Esalen, courtesy of Wonder Tom and his digital camera. This could be my favorite place in the world.
Here's where we stayed:
There are many buildings offering various degrees of accommodations. You take what you got. What we got was one of the best.
And here's the new baths, rebuilt after the old ones slid into the sea. They weren't open yet when we were there, but we got a tour. Really beautiful. Get naked. Soak in the hot springs and moonlight.
Glass Cobra - a Prui-like game of gathering, was yet one other theaterish game that Son-in-Law Tom introduced to me and us with great panache and success at Esalen. He learned of it in Augusto Boal's apparently much-beloved book Games for Actors and Non-Actors. Boal writes:
Everyone stands in a circle (or in two or more lines if the group is very large), with their hands on the shoulders of the person in front of them. With their eyes closed, they use their hands to investigate the back of the head, the neck and the shoulders of the person in front. This is the glass cobra in one piece.
Then, on an instruction from the joker, the cobra is broken into pieces and each person sets off around the room, sitll with their eyes closed. In Brazilian legend, this type of cobra, 'the glass cobra', shatters into a thousand pieces; but one day the pieces find each other again, these small fragments which are harmless on their own, but become dangerous the moment they get back together, because when they do they turn into the dangerous steel cobra.
The cobra in the legend is the people, obviously! In the game it is simply the participants who, after having moved around the space for a few minutes, on a signal from the joker must find their way back to the person who was in front of them before the cobra broke up. They must reconstitute the cobra(s). As in the legend, this can take time...
Despite its legendary significance, the game is great fun, leading to a lot of safe touching and lost-and-foundness.
I had never heard the game leader referred to as a "joker." I think I like it.
Wednesday, August 28, 2002
My friend Charles has been actively retired for many years. He sends me mysterious packets of notes and articles. I call him. The other day we were having a discussion about some of the many things he does for fun. His most recent project is finding every reference he can to the word "measurement."
He explained to me that he was looking in the encyclopedia (an actual, analog, hard-covered-with-pages encyclopedia) and happened across the word. In the article, the writer said that the concept of measurement is fundamental to all sciences. And that sent him off.
For me, this was another lesson in how a sense of play and curiousity can keep the mind alive. What is it for you?
"Drawing Together." Nice title, eh? Kind of like "drawing people together" while at the same time meaning "drawing things together." O, who loves language if not me?
As I was about to say, drawing something collaboratively, as in the more or less draw-something-collaboratively game of Redondo, is a famously funniferous activity. It just so happens that there's a virtual drawing-together tool on the DeepFUN website, a virtual collaborative whiteboard which is equally, though very differently funniferous.
It's free. It's well-designed. You need a java-capable browser and someone else in the virtual uinverse to draw together with.
In preparation for a "Games Night" I'll be hosting at a new Tea and Theater restaurant in Manhattan Beach, I was looking for another drawing game like Redondo. I found a game called Sketch Consequences. Here's my slightly modified description:
At the start of the game, each player will need a pen and ...a sheet... of paper...
How to play:
Each player begins by writing down a book title in the top box.
When this is done, everyone passes their sheet of paper to the player on their left. Then everyone draws a sketch of the title that appears on the sheet that they have just received. When this is done, they fold over the paper so that the title in concealed and only the sketch is visible.
Everyone passes their sheet of paper to the left again. Now you have to guess which book title is depicted by the sketch you have just received and write your guess in the text box.
Then fold over the paper so that the sketch is concealed and only the text is visible.
This continues until everyone reaches the bottom of the sheets. They are passed on once more and opened up so that the contents can provide lots of laughter all round!
If you find that people are taking too long over the sketches, introduce a time limit. Thirty seconds is good for adult groups but one minute is best if children are playing.
We suggest that you vary the type of titles used each round. It makes the game work better if you choose a title that everyone else is familiar with.
Round 1: BOOK TITLES
Round 2: MOVIES
Round 3: TV SHOWS
Round 4: SONGS
Beyond Boiticelli: Bratislava, Vermicelli, and Protozoa
Whilst describing Boiticelli (below), I failed to take note of several significant variations described by a playful few:
Like Botticelli, but played with geographical names (names of natural or political entities). The entity must be larger than a single structure. The longest game on record was "Temescal" (a neighborhood in Oakland, CA) by Richard Kraft.
This game was proposed by David Gedye.
Like Botticelli, but played with names of foods and beverages. Ingredients are OK.
Like Botticelli, but played with names of living things from any kingdom. Typically only the common names at the species level are used, but if the knowledge of the group permits you can use kingdom, phylum, class, order, family, or genus names, including Latin names.
Guesses can be speculative, and can be corrected by anyone. Dissemination of biological knowledge is encouraged.
This game was proposed by Richard Kraft.
Tuesday, August 27, 2002
More Victorian Parlor Games - Crambo and Boiticelli
Searching for a Victorian game called "Crambo," I came across this pleasant repository of Victorian games.
And here, should you be so interested, are the rules of Crambo as found within the abovementioned:
It" leaves the room, and the players chose a word. Let's say the word is "fickle." When "It" returns, one player must give "It" a hint by giving him/her a word that rhymes with fickle, i.e., "pickle."
Now it gets interesting.
"It" will ask one player whether the word is, say, tickle, NOT by asking straight out but by forming a question about the word in mind. "It" will ask, "is it something that someone does by holding one's fingers to another person's side and moving them about quickly?" The player who has had the question put to them must respond, "No, the word is not tickle."
This continues until "It" guesses the word, OR... if "It" is really good, he or she will create question for a word the player can't guess. Then the player winds up being "It."
Which reminds me of a game called "Boiticelli" that we played in college. I found the game described in a rather enlightened collection of car games described as follows:
One player thinks of a famous person and says the first letter of the last name. The other players try to guess the person by "defining" people with that initial. If the first player can think of someone X matching the definition, he says "no, I'm not X". If he can't, then the guesser says who they're defining, and is entitled to ask a yes or no question.
A: I'm thinking of a person starting with "P".
B: Are you a Greek philosopher?
A: No, I'm not Plato.
B: Are you a French composer?
A: (pause) I give up.
B: Poulenc. Yes or no: are you living?
(two hours later)
B: Are you a somewhat depressing female poet?
A: Yes!! I'm Sylvia Plath.
Some fine points:
Definitions can be as obscure as you like.
You can guess people who don't conform to the information already obtained via yes/no questions.
The "famous person" should be someone all the guessers are reasonably certain to have heard of. The usual penalty for violating this rule is ejection from the car at high speed.
The use of domain-specific guesses (e.g. sports figures) is discouraged, but is OK if you're desperate.
Guesses of the form "Are you another X?" are not allowed. Each guess must supply additional information.
Any response that matches a definition is valid. It doesn't have to be the person the guesser was thinking of.
If you think that a particular guess is right, don't say "yes, I'm ___". Make the guesser say who they're thinking of. Half the time it will be someone else.
High-risk/high-yield yes/no questions of the form "are you a living American male?" are valid.
Yes/no questions can be "banked".
Fictional names can optionally be allowed; players must agree on this beforehand.
Any number can play Botticelli. The longest game on record (spanning the state of Montana, with me guessing and Matt Ginsberg answering) was "Casper Milquetoast".
House Rules UNO
In case you were wondering about my abiding interest in UNO variations... When I was working at Mattel I had an opportunity to influence the development of UNO House Rules. Though we didn't go as far as I had hoped, UNO House Rules is a commercial embodiment of the very kind of play I find myself so passionately advocating.
My recommended approach - let the dealer (winner/loser) decide the variation. It makes the game into an opportunity to build community and restore fun, so to speak.
The Art of Interactive Silliness
Son-in-law and intergenerational theater advocate Tom was pretty much insistent on our playing the game "Yes, and..." during our week at Esalen. The game, which I found on a website called "Sheer Idiocy," goes like this:
Number of actors: 2 Not usually a performance game, can get a relationship or setting, but usually start with nothing.
How it works: After the first line, every line of this scene must start with "yes, and". This is an exercise in accepting offers, you should never deny anything in improv and always try to further the scene. By saying yes, and you are forced to accept what the other person said and move on from that point. One rule is that you can't ask questions. Also, never say "yes, and" and then turn around and deny it later in the line.
Tips: Always come up with something new in each line, don't just repeat what the last person said or comment on how you feel about it. "Yes, and I saw you do that and I didn't like it" is not as good as "Yes, and that was my mother you actually ran over. The funeral was yesterday."
Apparently, it's not just a game, but a philosophy, and, for improvisational theater, and life itself, a fundamental one, at that. A philosophy of listening and inclusion spelled out in a book called "Truth in Comedy: The Manual of Improvisation"
So central is this concept to the art of improvisation that a website for improvisational actors is called "YESand.com"
Is the idea of "yes, and..." so profound? Yes, and it's as profound for the rest of us as it is for amateur and professional improvisationalists. Yes, and the key is that it always begins where the other person left off. Yes, and that's the key to the heart of any relationship.
Monday, August 26, 2002
The Conference Bike
"The Conference Bike is a tricycle built for 7 people sitting in a circle. One person steers while everyone is free to pedal or not, as the bike moves effortlessly along."
Once again, my hope for the future of group silliness is restored. This one comes with a pricetag of significant heft, but what price fun? Especially when you imagine you and your colleagues "taking a meeting" as you pedal down the avenues of Amsterdam.
thanks to the fun-finding fanaticism of Shikencho
Bomb and Shield
Bomb and Shield proved to be one of the most successful of the theater games that Tom introduced to our Esalen crowd. I found it on the web, but decided to describe it as taught to us by Tom:
People start milling around, not touching each other, just walking hither and yon, or yon and hither, whichever comes first. The instruction is: "go to the biggest empty space you can find" - which, of course, changes as soon as someone "fills" it.
Next, people are asked to select someone to be their personal "bomb." Don't tell that person. Don't even look at that person. But keep as far away as possible.
This tends to increase speed and a general sense of humorous mayhem.
Then people are asked to select someone else to be their personal "shield" - moving about the area so as to keep the shield between them and their chosen bomb. This tends to make people move even faster.
Finally, people are told that the bombs will explode in ten seconds. We count backwards from ten, and mill madly in imaginary desperation. The bombs explode. We die gloriously.
It is to laugh.
Restoring Fun at Esalen
Thought I'd take this chance to share a story with you - about a shift in focus that resulted from a remarkable week of "Restoring Fun" at Esalen.
There were 19 of us. 17 seminarians, myself, and the remarkably playworthy Tom Weidenbach, father of Lily, husband of my only daughter Shael. Sad to say for Esalen, this was the largest group there - 9-11 continues to take its toll, even on the most healing of places. The people who came came for fun. So they were an already enlightened group - aware of the importance of fun in their lives, aware that there was more to learn about having and sharing more of it. For them, just the title of the workshop, "Restoring Fun," was enough to make them want to spend a whole week doing it - that, and the fact that we were at one of the most beautiful retreat centers in the world.
We played games. Lots, and lots of games. It's almost all we did. Well, we did talk a bit about fun and flow, but it was easily 90% fun. And despite my repeated gentle attempts to invite people to explore meditation games and the deeper, spiritual aspects of fun, it was the fun of it all, the silliness, the pointlessness that proved the most powerful, the most transformative, the most profoundly restoring.
We also played several theater games - something I hadn't done in 30 years - thanks to the most amazingly playful Tom, who, even though this was the first time he was exposed to my work, became, by session end, a genuine coleader.
The group, by the way, was wonderfully varied. Tom, at 29, was the youngest. The oldest were in their 70s. There was a doctor and a mayor and a dental hygienist. And everyone was beautiful.
We talked a lot about fun. We kept journals and made lists of things we did for fun. We talked about Csikszentmihalyi, of course, and the Fun Community, obviously. But the rest of the time, and, like I said, that's about 90% of the 26 hours we spent together, we played and played and played and were transformed. Despite the lack of apparent profundity, by the end of the session there was such an intense feeling of community, of caring, of loving, of a respite, of a restoration of the soul and body and the willingness to play and invite others to share in the fun - that everything I could have possibly hoped to accomplish with my meditation games and my discussions and examinations and deep reflections paled in comparison to what we were able to manifest together.
And what happened to me in all this was a bit of my own enlightenupment (yes, we did evoke the Frog thereof). I rediscovered the power of fun. And, consequently, rededicated myself and website to the just plain fun of it all.
So, if you happen to look at the homepage, you won't see any mention of Meditation Games. And if you happen to click on the "retreats" item in the menu, you won't see any mention of all the many kinds of retreats. What you'll see instead are the words "from 3 hours to 6 days of genuine, caring, open, freeing, empowering FUN" which apparently is what I'm all about, at last, once again.
All of which is to share with you a story of my renewed dedication to fun, and to invite you to your own.
Sunday, August 25, 2002
So here I am, with a master's degree in theater, and it takes Esalen and the genius of my son-in-law Tom to remind me about what started me out in games in the first place! And here just so happens to be a remarkable collection of these very same games, cross-categorized, even.
For example, from the Warm-Up category, the infamous game of Bunny.
"Extremely silly game, to pump up the energy. Get everyone in a circle. One player becomes the body of a bunny - this is done by holding both arms in front of your chest, elbows touching your rib cage, and letting hands hang. Her 2 neighbors become the 'ears' of the bunny, by waving a hand next to the middle player's ears. All 3 say 'bunny bunny bunny' together, until the middle player 'throws' a 'bunny' to another player in the circle. This player becomes the bunny body, and his neighbors get to do the ears.
"Play this game at a high speed. Mumbling 'bunny bunny' en masse gives a nice energy boost.
"Play in slow motion. Hilarious! Alternatively, you can really invent any object or create or replace the bunny, as long as you invent a sound along with it. Try a car, with 2 wheels and a set of wind screen wipers, going 'vroom vroom', a cow, with an udder and 2 horns, going 'moo moo', a washing machine, with 2 players building a 'box' with both arms, and the middle player waving her arms in a circle in front of her. All go 'rumble rumble', an elephant, with 2 big ears and a trunk, making an elephant sound (if you don't know what an elephant sounds like, just invent a sound).
"See also Bippety Bop . See also Killer Bunny."
We played yet another variation of this game at Esalen last week in which we had not only an elephant, but also a biplane (person in the middle makes goggles out of her fingers, people on either side make wings) and The Spirit of 76 (you know: flag, fife, drum)
Some of the games are very theater - they require an audience or focus heavily on acting skills, but there are more than enough games here to make this a significant find for any Fun Community.
Saturday, August 24, 2002
The Official Crazy Uno Rules
In addition to Jan's description of Crazy UNO comes this "Official" version from a correspondent of hers:
1). “Slap” If you have the exact same card that was last played, you may play it at any time, regardless of whose turn it is.
2). If a seven (7) is played, the player must trade their hand with an opponent of his/her choice with only one exception…
3). If a seven (7) is slapped, the player who slapped has three choices:
a). Trade his/her hand with an opponent of choice.
b). Have two opponents trade their hands.
c). Do nothing.
4). If a zero (0) is played, players must pass their hand in the direction of play.
5). “Nullification” If a reverse is slapped, it nullifies the original reverse thus preserving the direction of play.
6). If a one (1) is played, you must pass one card to an opponent of your choice.
7). Dealing: The youngest player deals the first hand. Seven cards to each player dealt one at a time starting with the player to the dealer’s left with the fourth card being dealt face up. The dealer then flips the top card to begin play. This card is the “flipped card.”
8). Player names: Each player must pick their game name (other than their real name) before play begins. During play, all players must refer to all other players by their game name. Failure to do so will result in one penalty card being drawn from the stockpile.
9). “Slap out da gate bonus” If the “flipped card is slapped by any player other than the player whose turn it is, the hand is over. The player who slapped receives the –20 points for going out and all other players add up their hands as usual.
10). “Draw four out the gate” If a player legally plays a draw four on the flipped card, that player receives a bonus of –50 at the end of the hand.
11). “Rule 10 exception” If the flipped card IS a draw four, there is no bonus awarded, only the “slap out da gate bonus.” (See rule 9).
12). If a player leaves a game for any reason, they receive a DNF (did not finish) for their score and are not allowed to re-enter the game.
13). No substitutions permitted under any circumstances.
14). If a player wishes to join a game in progress, their score begins at one (1) plus the current last place player’s score.
15). If a player slaps his/her own card, it remains that player’s turn.
16). If you cannot play when it is your turn you pick one card from the stockpile and either pass or play. NOTE: you may choose to pass at any time regardless of whether or not you can play.
17). The current dealer has the right to move the game to an alternate location before he/she deals.
Card Point Value
Seven (7) -7
Zero (0) 100
Face cards (Skip, Reverse, Draw Two) 20
Numbered Cards (1-6,8-9) Face Value
Black Cards (Wild and Draw Four) 50
Going Out -20
Draw Four Out Da Gate -50
19). Marathon Hand: Players must predetermine when the marathon is to be played by marking a star several lines below the start of the game; OR when a players score reaches 500 points. The marathon hand ends the game. Point values are doubled. There is NO trading of player’s hands. The dealer deals 3 cards to every player, then 2 cards excluding the player with the highest score, then 3 cards excluding the player with the 2nd highest score, then 2 cards…until the player with the lowest (winning) score receives 2 or 3 cards to end the deal.
courtesy of Jason
Friday, August 16, 2002
Bernie has left the building
Away at Esalen for the week.
Newton at Play
"I do not know what I may appear to the world; but to myself I seem to have been only like a boy playing on the sea-shore, and diverting myself in now and then finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me."
"Playfulness" according to Roget: "The state of being full of high-spirited fun: friskiness, frolicsomeness, sportiveness, waggishness. See WORK".
May you wag and frisk in sporty frolic.
Playfulness and Creativity
Here's an excerpt from Persona, a site devoted to self-hypnosis.
"In order to create, play must be an indispensable ingredient in your life; that is, often you will need to play with materials, concepts, perspectives, and to direct yourself away from those things that are real-to fantasize. Carl Jung has said, 'Without playing with fantasy, no creative work has yet come into being.'
"Part of the reason children are so innately creative in their actions and their speech is that they engage frequently in fantasy. if you are a painter or sculptor, play with your materials. If you are a writer, play with dialogue, become your characters, assign Aunt Martha's speech habits to seven-year-old Jason. If you're a dancer, try dancing the way your name feels, the way a fire siren looks in the air, the way an orange sounds. State the experiment to yourself, then try it out."
Searching for Playfulness (cont'd) - Pavarotti Rehearses
Today's Internet search for "playfulness" led me to this story:
"The boys and I had finished our portion of the practice and we were sitting through the rehearsals of the soprano, baritone and Mr. Pavarotti. We were sitting quietly with the three lined up in front of us and Mr. Muti in front of them. The soprano begins her singing, beautiful, high, lots of vibrato. A few minutes pass by, changes are made, and the singing continues. Boredom begins to set in with us as we had already been there for several hours. Mr. Pavarotti notices this and turns around on his stool to face us. After a minute, he proceeds to mimic the soprano. Subtlety at first, drawing a few giggles from us. Mr. Muti scolds him in English and continues. The soprano continues, and Mr. Pavarotti begins to make more fun of her by standing up and waving his arms around dramatically, mouthing the words as the soprano sings them. Finally in a flurry of Italian that I couldn’t understand, Mr. Muti chides Mr. Pavarotti and throws his baton at him. Mr. Pavarotti ducks it and sits back on his stool. Humbled, but with a HUGE smile on his face. The boy who caught the baton got to keep it."
Though we didn't see how (or if) the soprano joined the fun, and we can only hope that Muti was being playful, it does successfully document how a little well-timed playfulness can keep others in play, way past boredom.
Thursday, August 15, 2002
The game of Hipbone is one of the only games I know of that has is both successfully patterned after Herman Hesse's "Glass Bead Game" and fun. The rules are:
"Two players play a game by each naming an idea in turn to one of the ten positions on the board. Ideas can be placed in any unoccupied position on the board.
"Ideas can take the form of text, sound, or image: a quote, an equation, a musical theme, a video clip, or a photo or graphic are all acceptable. Essentially, a move can be made out of anything in the three worlds... so long as it can be named.
"Players score by claiming links between the idea in their own move and the ideas already in play in those positions on the board connected to it by the lines of the board in question. A link can be any form of association - similarity, opposition, cause-and-effect, metaphor. Fanciful links may be made and enjoyed - or hotly contested.
"The idea placed in the first move cannot score, since there is no other idea on the board for it to link with. The idea placed in the second move cannot score either, to keep the playing field even. Thus each player gets to make five moves on a ten position board, of which only four are scoring moves."
Here's a sample.
Fluxx is a card game. It has rules. It has cards that change the rules.
It has goals, too. It has cards that change the goals.
Don't have it. Haven't played it. But knowing that things like Fluxx are out there is good for my rule-and-goal-changing heart.
Interactive Mathematics Miscellany and Puzzles
This kind of stuff makes me understand why so many mathematicians have such a good grasp of the value of fun.
"This survey clearly demonstrates that play and academics are on a collision course and play is losing,"
Following up on Roger Greenaway's obsservation that "play is all boxed up," I learned that the trend for increased play-deprivation seems to be well established. Here's yet another study I found, from 1999.
Dr. Michael Cohen, president of Applied Research & Consulting, explains: "While parents believe in the importance of play they make decisions that sacrifice play in the hopes of academic success for their children. As a result parents may be denying their children the opportunity to achieve balance and happiness in years to come."
Eldrbarry's Active Games: INDOOR and MISCELLANEOUS List
Always on the lookout for resources in my ever-growing search for Pointless Games, I am gratified to find the old and improved Eldrbarry's Active Games: INDOOR and MISCELLANEOUS List
Puzzles as Art
Trevor the Games Man
Here's another "it's about time" direction for this weblog - honoring the few good spirits out there who are bringing good, clean, real fun into public places.
Allow me to introduce you to Trevor the Games Man - "New Games Leader and Cooperative Play Specialist, professional Stiltwalker, and award-winning entertainer. He has performed at over 2,750 events, entertaining over 400,000 people of all ages and abilities since 1973. He now does over 250 appearances each year."
Resources for Social Change By and With Young People
Wednesday, August 14, 2002
this, from Jan Nickerson
Crazy UNO Rules
1. Someone else gives you a crazy uno name before you start playing. Generally people choose names that are amusing in some way. My family chooses insulting names such as Cat Litter since they find this amusing.
2. Once you all have been given your Uno name, noone may call you by your real name. If they do they have to pick up 2 cards. This includes between games and on breaks.
3. If someone starts to use a real name like yours, but catches themselves before the whole name is said, there is no penalty. i.e., Ja...,(Jan) Da... (Dad), Jam...(Jamie), Jen...(Jenna) and Mar...(Mary Jane). This includes not using any pet names you have for them or achronyms you commonly use like I use MJ for Mary Jane. Jenna says Dad not John.
4. You CAN jump in at any time when you have a card that exactly matches the card facing up being played. This means you can jump in when it is someone elses turn and play a Green 8, a Reverse Red, or a Wild Card Draw 4, etc. anytime you have a match regardless if it is your turn. If this happen when someone plays a matching Wild Card Draw 4, the person after them draws 8 cards unless they have another Wild Card Draw 4. Then they play that (out of turn) and the person next to them draws 12 cards. It gets Crazy when people keep playing matching Skips and Reverses thus changing whose turn it is a lot.
5. You may NOT play a Wild Card Draw 4 if it is your turn unless you are out of the color suit you are supposed to play. THE exception to this is that you can match a Wild Card Draw 4 and put another one on top it anytime you please.
Warning: This game is not for people who always play nice.
I could only find one mention of Crazy Uno on the Web: this from a discussion board.
Goodbye Steady Ed
What We Do For Fun
I've found that one of the most important questions I can ask people is "what do you do for fun." It's important to me, because it widens my understanding of what fun is all about and my vocabulary of fun things that I can do. It's important to the respondents because it brings many disparate, often unconsciously chosen experiences together, giving them a corrected, and often more empowering view of their lives. And it's important to the rest of us, because it helps us know ourselves.
This is the best written and most detailed response I've received to date. Consider it an invitation to send me yours.
Advocating benign neglect
In the UK there is a growing movement to reverse ''overprotection'' of children and to advocate ''benign neglect''. A great source of many articles on this theme can be found in Sp!ked. See especially:
Play On by Jenny Cunningham
Children, Parents and the Risk Society by Rachael Dixey
When 'bullying' is just learning how to get along by Nadene Ghouri, Times Educational Supplement - about the charity 'Families for Freedom' (not the same as the USA group of the same name)
Excerpt from Paranoid Parenting by Frank Furedi. Allen Lane, 2001
When children grow out safe playgrounds in which so many kinds of play are banned, they may be unlucky enough to find that there is a street curfew in their neighbourhood. Whether it's protection of children or protection from children, the answer seems to be to reduce opportunities for play.
Fair Play's Curfew Watch
Even without curfews, ''parents are now being told effectively keep their darlings under house arrest''. A Stranger Danger by June McKerrow from the Mental Health Foundation, SIRC - Media Watch
And if children are taken to the great outdoors will they be free to play? The Safe Outdoors by Simon Knight: ''Outdoor education is increasingly being held back by an obsession with avoiding risk.''
And when they are older still and go on a company training course, they may find that trainers avoid any exercises that involve blindfolds, balls or touch - because of the memories or difficulties that such challenges might produce. See the current discussion of "trust activities'" (there can be a 7 day delay before messages appear in the list archives).
Play is being outlawed in so many ways that play or advocating play is a becoming revolutionary act. The risk of disapproval far exceeds the risk of harm. Play is all boxed up.
Tuesday, August 13, 2002
Of humor and tragedy
Allen Klein enlightens us up with his stories of humor in tragic circumstances:
"Even while fleeing from the attack on the World Trade Center, a small bit of humor helped some people triumph over tragedy.
"A group of office workers, who were running down flight after flight of steps, didn't know if they had the strength to make it to the bottom. They stopped at the eleventh floor and couldn't go on. Then one woman suggested that they pretend it was New Year's Eve. En masse they began a countdown with each flight of stairs and shouted out '. . .10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1.'
"Encouraged by this bit of levity, they all made it to the street and to safety."
Beyond Calvin Ball
I've been meditating on the implications of trying to make 1KBWC into a family game. The author of 1KBWC attributes the evolution of the game to a combination of influences, namely, the games of Cripple Mr. Onion and Calvin Ball. He explains:
"1KBWC (as the Oxford, UK players call it) is not without antecedents. Much of the year leading up to the game's creation, many of those café regulars and I played monstrous, multiple deck games of Hearts and Uno, setting the stage for free-form rules modification and probably laying the groundwork for much of the ad hominem, profane, and otherwise juvenile slant of many (read, most) of the cards.
"Some years before that, several friends and I had played a game called 'Cripple Mister Onion' (name comes from a short reference in one of Terry Pratchett's Discworld novels), which involved the total dissassembly of five or six different card and board games, and the dynamic synthesis of a new game from the assorted cards, pieces and boards. That game included pieces from Clue, Waterworks, Set, Uno, and Pit, and during the gameplay, the Conservatory card from Clue was forever rechristened the Kierkegaard Card. This was the true origin of the Blank White Cards aesthetic, and freeform gameplay.
"Another potential antecedent is the perpetual games of 'Calvinball' played in Bill Watterson's defunct comic strip, 'Calvin and Hobbes'. The average game of Calvinball was played much like rugby meets BWC, with radical rule shifts and redefinitions of game structure, play, and goals.
"In the end, though, I think BWC's real appeal may lie in its similarity to the way in which many of us initially conceive our thoughts: fast, sketchy, often black and white; full of lewd desires and snappy retorts. The card structure provides four walls beyond which one generally does not color, but within which anything goes. So, I think, would we all like to live our lives."
Hence my conclusion that, with some minor modifications, 1KWBC would make a perfect family game. My guess is that the youngest kids would almost always win.
Search Engine Games
Ever since I invented/discovered the game of Browser Golf, I've had an interest in games that play with the Internet itself. Today, I found myself browsing in the pastures of "Search Engine Games" thanks to a passing mention of something similar on Memepool. This is the kind of left-brain-based fun that engages the right brain in a ticklishly mysterious manner.
Monday, August 12, 2002
Children losing out at playtime
In the article "Children losing out at playtime" we learn that, as in the States, UK chlidren's "...play in school is being stifled by 'overly cautious' staff. It (the research) found that children are increasingly 'bored' with playtime. In one case, children at a primary school were prevented from picking flowers to make a daisy chain because of the fear of germs."
Activities that are banned from the playground "...include the use of skateboards and bicycles, playing tag and running games, using climbing frames and other playground equipment and playing with yo-yos and conkers, (and doing) handstands."
The same silliness is going on in US playgrounds, only we're apparently not concerned or organized enough to take public notice.
Allentown, October 14
I'll be keynoting at JustCommunity's third annual conference in Allentown, PA, on October 14. The title of my presentation: "Creating the Fun Community: When Did Having Fun Get So Hard?”
The theme of this presentation will be based on my Fun Community concept. If you're planning to be in the area, this might be a good place to be.
Restoring Fun at Esalen
In case you were wondering, here's the Esalen Institute catalog listing for the Restoring Fun session coming up next week (Aug. 18-23rd):
"When events in our personal lives, or in the world, leave us shocked or afraid or traumatized," writes Bernie DeKoven, "fun is usually the last thing we think about. In this five-day journey, fun is the first thing we'll be thinking about. The sense of fun. The spirit of fun. Fun and self. Fun and community.
"Join us in an in-depth exploration of the fun side of healing and the healing side of fun. Practice 'Deep Fun,' a conscious fun that helps you become more aware of the fun you're having when you're having fun with other people. By playing games too funny to take seriously, you learn how to take seriously the healing powers of fun.
"Since you'll be laughing, you'll be healing yourself. Since you'll be laughing with other people, you'll be helping to heal those around you, and they, by their laughter, will be helping to heal you. Since you'll be talking about the depths of fun with other people, you'll be teaching each other how to give this gift of healing fun back to your families, your communities, and your world."
Adds Bernie: "In the pursuit of fun, some of us might get a little more physical or intimate or silly than others might want to be. This is why we always hold 'Quitting Practice' first. Playing is always optional. That's the whole point!"
This class is recommended for people in the helping professions, as professionals or as loving amateurs.
Super Monkey Ball Mini
One of my very favorite games when I was a kid (chronologically, 50 years ago), was the Hand Labyrinth.
This online version of the Sega and Nintendo game masterfully captures the feel and fun of the Hand Labyrinth. I'm always delighted when I find a game that embraces some unique concept, and especially so when the it manages to transform a traditional game into something that is virtually unique and uniquely virtual.
(thanks for this find go to Milk and Cookies)
Remote Control Me
The site's called "Drive Me Insane." It takes you to Paul Mathis' office (which you can see via a web cam - a web cam which you can aim). And a control panel (through which you can turn his room lights and various electronic accoutrements on or off). Yes, yes, it's clearly an example of what one could do if one were fully wired, so to speak. A clear enough example to almost understand why one would want to do it. But what most impressed me about this demonstration is how fun it is to play around, invisibly, in someone else's office.I can also almost imagine how bordering-on-fun it must be for Paol to sit in his office and watch his world being played with by us ghosts.
He explains: "Every once in a while someone asks me why I'm doing this. Ok ok... EVERYONE asks me why I'm doing this. Do I find it fun? Am I bored? Got too much free time on my hands? No life? The answer, probably all of the above and then some."
(found via Bored.cc)
Works vs. Plays?
Subterranean Notes notes: "A propos of nothing: Why is it that dramatists create 'plays', while artists create 'works'?
Sunday, August 11, 2002
The Therapeutic Value of Violent Movies
Though talking about real, rather than imaginary violence, Frantz Fanon noted that violence "''is a cleansing force. It frees the native from his inferiority complex and from his despair and inaction; it makes him fearless and restores his self-respect.'' Me, I was just musing about the therapeutic affect of watching "Die Hard" and its ilk. But, at least on the inner playground, it did seem to free my natives from their sense of despair and inaction.
OK, it's a stretch. I admit. Something was doing a kind of violence to my body. And fantasies of violence did seem to appease my need to focus on my own misery. And I'd never before heard of anyone even suggesting that these kinds of entertainments had any positive affect on anything. They didn't make me laugh. They were not what funny fun. But fun, nevertheless. And apparently the only kind of fun that was blatant enough to keep Silly and Serious both engaged. And I've never heard of anyone talk about this before. And, frankly, I'm as surprised to find myself talking about it as you should be. We're not talking Norman Cousins here. We're not talking even about the therapeutic value of laughter. But of socially unreedemable, box-office-boffo vio- (can you believe it) -lence?
During the height and depth of a bad cold, I attempted a bit of Inner Funiatry, only to discover that I was too weak to play. I mean, you wouldn't think it would take any effort to conjure up a playful fantasy or two, but there I was, so taken by my sickness that the best I could do to distract myself was watch TV. And even more to my funless chagrin, it wasn't comedies that absorbed me, but violent action dramas of the least redeeming type. My guess (and it's only a guess, because I wasn't strong enough to commune with them) is that Serious was delighted to have something to take seriously other than my misery, and Silly was managing to find fun in the sheer entertainment value of it all.
Friday, August 09, 2002
Fun Things to Do on a Boring Day
There's a fun list of relatively harmless "Fun Things" to do on Grundage.
Here's a sample:
Have a staring contest with a baby.
Pay a nickel less on your apartment rent.
Have a contest to find out who can see the farthest.
Watch TV with the volume muted and speak for the characters.
File a restraining order against your pets. "Sparky, quit following me!"
For further explorations of the depth and shallowness of Grudage, see, for example, Dave's Random Thoughts wherein he asks such significant questions as:
"If you can cry with happiness, then why can't you laugh with sadness? "
(actually, I think you can.)
Thursday, August 08, 2002
"Playfulness is often one of the first things to disappear when people experience serious illness -not only for the person who is sick but for the family as well. Play can be important for the patient and the family in getting back into the flow of life. It is particularly difficult to reclaim playfulness when there is serious illness. When people observe someone who is seriously ill and is being playful they may say, 'You aren't taking your illness seriously enough'. It is extremely difficult for members of the family. The wife who goes out with friends for a playful evening when her husband is home ill may hear comments such as, 'How can you be out having a good time when your husband is home sick and dying?' Or, the parent who goes out for an evening when a child is dying may feel guilt, not realizing that for the parent to nurture the child, the parent must take care of himself or herself and do those things that replenish their spirit or else they become part of the problem instead of the solution. It is a very difficult and important area in serious illness both for the person who is ill and the family."
- O. Carl Simonton, MD
Play and Humor
"Playfulness" as a Tarot Card
Here's a "Playfulness" image from a Tarot deck.
Ten Best Things
In answer to the question, "what are the ten best things in your life at this moment?" here are some responses.
Searching for Playfulness
Still searching for a term that not only describes what I have to offer, but also embraces a perceived need, I re-evoked the term "Playfulness Training." I'm not sure how close that is, but I did discover, whilst Googling for "playfulness," this remarkably relevant article from the Naked Ape dude:
"How has evolution managed to give us such a powerful drive to explore the world in which we live? The answer is that we became 'neotenous' apes. A neotenous animal is one that retains its juvenile qualities into adult-hood. In one sense, it is an animal that never grows up. We are like that we never grow up. We retain the playfulness of childhood all through our lives. And playfulness is the quality that is essential for high levels of curiosity and inquisitiveness. Like children, we are always ready to try out something new, to develop it, tame it, control it and finally to use it to our advantage. So the secret of our high level of motivation is that the human being is the ape that never stopped playing. Of course,as we get older, the play gets more complicated. We call adult play by many names, such as science, art, sport, dance, architecture, costume, literature, and music. These are far more fulfilling activities than simple childhood games, but they exist because we are driven by the childhood motivation of wanting to explore new toys, play new games, create new patterns, or vary new rhythms.
"For those who work in the world of commerce, industry, politics or social organiza-tion there might seem to be less opportunity for creative playfulness, but this is deceptive. The business world is full of minor rebellions and innovations, where new methods are introduced, new social structures tested out, and new concepts applied. These may be less overt and flamboyant than in the world of the arts, but they are present nonetheless, and styles and fashions are forever being introduced to replace older traditions. As a result of our neoteny, we humans have an in-born, insatiable appetite for activity. We easily become bored if there is nothing new happening. We are addicted to change and to making that change occur. The greatest punishment for a human being is to be shut away in a small, bleak prison cell, where nothing ever changes and there are no challenges. Prisoners are well fed, kept warm and safe,and protected from the outside world, and yet they feel deeply punished by this experience."
- Desmond Morris
Wednesday, August 07, 2002
Fun Links from Humor Times
Looking for a good joke? Humor Times is a great place to start. And this collection of links a great place to continue.
Funny how little of my fun work is focused on jokes and cartoons and stuff of similar ilk. I guess I'm more into the people-to-people kind of humor, the humor that arises from our collective silliness and delight in each other. Maybe because we need so much more of that. But, in the name of fun, let us not forget the funnies.
New games from old
One of the easiest ways to come up with a new game is by combining elements of two or more traditional games. Pongling is a good illustration of the success of this strategy. Combining Breakout (the authors refer to it as Pong) with bowling (hence Pong-ling) results in a game that is different enough to be "new," and challenging enough to be fun.
In my role as "inner pediatrician" I often help the inner-child grow by teaching it to create its own games. Most of us, in our attempts play grown-up, test ourselves against "official" games. We lose faith in the games that we make up ourselves, and allow ourselves to be judged as players by how well we perform in the games that other people have created. After a while, we believe that we have neither the license nor the ability to create games. Which is why kinds of fun we had as children becomes more and more difficult to achieve. Because we are no longer the authors of our own play experiences.
(thanks, Milk and Cookies, for the link)
Due to popular demand (well, popular around here), the JAVA version of the Meeting Meter has been migrated from the old CoWorking site to DeepFUN. I guess because thinking about how much a meeting costs, second-by-second, is outrageous enough to be considered "fun." The actual software is also available, from me, for 15 bucks, American, sharewarilly speaking.
The animated definitions are what makes Techtionary a learning resource bordering on actual fun. I clicked on the "New" square, found "Dial-Stepper" and wound up watching a brief video from "Dial M for Murder" that shows the Dial-Stepper, uh, stepping. It's kind of a Learning Adventure, this Techtionary concept. You don't know exactly what you're going to get when you ask for a definition. And it's that mystery, that potential for surprise, that makes the whole thing as fun as it is informative. What I found particularly instructive in playing with this is that the balance between information and entertainment is in itself quite an art. If the information isn't comprehensive and comprehensible, the entertainment really isn't that entertaining.
Tuesday, August 06, 2002
Carroll Straus - Collaborative Lawyer
Carroll Straus practices Collaborative Law. "Collaborative law, she explains, "is a way of practicing law whereby the attorneys for both of the parties in a family dispute agree to assist them in resolving conflict or legal issues using cooperative strategies rather than adversarial techniques and litigation." I had never dreamed that such a vision existed, let alone was actually put into practice. Such a simple idea, and so profoundly r/evolutionary.
Carroll contacted me because of her interest in attending a DeepFUN Retreat. That alone told the story. How many lawyers do you know who'd want to to bring fun into their practice?
Check her site carefully. There are links to articles and organizations that are bridging the gap between law and healing. My often groundless faith in the humanization of either of these endeavors is on the verge of being restored.
Here is a site citing of dubious value that came from Stephanie, a most definitely valuable member of the DeepFUN community. She writes:
I've resisted sharing this site, because I've thought of it as 'my' site for years. OK, it's cause I forgot about it until recently when I was cleaning up my massive collection of fun and silly sites. One of the few silly sites that hasn't gone the way of the 404 after a year or 2.
This is crisp, simple and always makes me smile. I have no idea what they are selling, and it's beautiful in it's lack of a specific goal. You must have your speakers on.
Growing Down: Tools for Healing the Inner Child - Having Fun
As much as I don't like the term "inner child," I found this site a valuable resource for anyone who is ready to take fun, uh, seriously. Because I've encountered so many of these as I attempt to help people acknowledge the healing value of healthy fun, I especially appreciated this list of beliefs that are barriers to having fun.
I found this page while searching for "healing" and "joy" at the suggestion of "One Funny" - a member of the DeepFUN community who responded to my request for help in describing a healing dialogue.
Monday, August 05, 2002
Frog Messenger Bag
Bowing to close to overwhelming demand, I have added the Frog of Enlightenupment Messenger Bag to our Fall lineup. Will the sheer possibilities of it all never end?
The Frog Connection
I'm loving the butterfly thing. So many profound connections. Such a perfect icon for DeepFUN.
On the other hand, so to speak, as it were, even though it is difficult to talk to a buttefly, the Butterfly Circle (in which we form a circle and cross butterflies) can bring unspeakable fun. Monica, Richard and I explored the Butterfly Circle in depth during yesterday's Meditation Game session. We made "waves" (you know, like what sports fans do, only with our hands, thumbs linked, like butterflies)
Like I said, it was unspeakably fun, deeply fun, metamorphosically fun.
Sunday, August 04, 2002
Yesterday, I had the honor to present the Frog of Enlightenupment to the Secular Organization for Sobriety - a non-theistic support group for people who are trying to free themselves from addictive behaviors. Seems that Alcoholics Anonymous relies very heavily on a faith that many people simply don't have.
I only had 20 minutes, and the Frog proved simply too difficult for the masses to master. People laughed alot, but most gave up. I was forced to evoke the Butterfly of Benevolence, but, sadly, having an inner dialogue with talking wings proved also a stretch for the many.
I am consequently searching for a Beginner's Frog, and welcome all suggestions.
Turns out that San Francisco's citadel of science fun, the Exploratorium, has a great section on Frogs.
I especially enjoyed the section on frog folklore, and even more especially this one, that begins:
"The life cycle of frogs and toads involves at least one major transformation, from tadpole to adult. Many also shed their skins regularly as they grow, and some species eat the shed skin. These spectacular transformations may explain why many cultures see frogs and toads as symbolic of re-creation, or as keepers of the secrets of transformations."
Yes, in deed. Which is why that which once was a Bird was recently transformed to a Butterfly.
Also on this site, a sweet little gamelike activity that lets you hunt for, and listen to the noble amphibian.
Friday, August 02, 2002
All about Frogs
Here's a different take on frogs and enlightenment by Stephen Nachmanovich, author of Free Play: Improvisation in Life and Art
"The world becomes very simple if all you're looking for, all your epistemology encompasses, is flies or not-flies. Even your need to eat flies may suffer, because the frog can be easily tricked into swallowing other moving black objects which are not flies. Human beings may be just as easily deceived, and are on a regular basis. We greedily swallow so many things that are not nourishment. One antidote is meditation in its many forms - we can get some practice at going behind that programmed fly-concept to experience the nature of our own minds, then it is easier to actually walk in the redwood forest and try to learn about what's in front of us without a priori placing labels on it. Then later, indeed we do at some point want to communicate our experience with people and to communicate we use words, labels and concepts; and we can enjoy the delicious, variegated play of concepts that are given to us by our languages and all our wonderful academic traditions - but we can learn to use those in a provisional way, understanding that we're looking at a map of reality and not at reality itself."
Don't Disturb the Frog
The Frog Pose in Hatha Yoga:
Seems to me you could easily do the hand frog while doing the body frog. I just wonder why you'd want to.
Half a Word Game
Half a Word Game is another appropriately Halfbaked creation from the folks who frequent the Halfbakery. We used to call it: "No, no, you mean..."
Here's an excerpt from the author's illustration:
An example: P1: The word is "mother."
P2: That's when you speak in a low voice.
P1: No, that's "mutter."
P2: You mean like the ultimate extreme.
P1: No, that's "utter."
P2: Like the part of the cow from which you get milk.
P1: No, that's "udder."
P2: The opposite of "lower."
P1: No, that's "upper."
P2: It's getting late, and I'm hungry.
P1: You're talking about "supper."
We (the New Games crowd) played it like this:
P1: To mother is to speak in a low voice.
P2: No, no, you mean "mutter." Mutter is the ultimate extreme.
P1. No, no, you mean "utter." An utter is something you find on a cow.
We tended to get sillier as the game went along, improvising on the "no, no you mean" - "au contraire, mon frere," or "you are, in fact, incorrect in your interpretation of my definition. Perhaps you mis-heard. Perhaps you are mocking me....
Oddly enough, simply because the game is endless and there's no score, the author of the so-called "Half a word game" considers it incomplete. O, what mortals we fools be.
Genk - an almost-game for public play vaguely reminiscent of something you almost remember. The authors explain "The most important thing is to look like you're really concentrating. There are no rules, just start playing and watch as people around you try to understand what the hell you're doing. It's even funnier if you've got someone at the table who isn't in on the joke."
Another "joke's on you" game of questionable taste, but of undeniably brief play value.
For a similar, but far more enlightenedly open-ended restaurant game, might I perhaps recommend Found Object Scrabble. You will not only look like you're concentrating, you'll be concentrating with all your symbolo-litero conceptual might.
"...a good break after all this talk on terrorism"
Sometimes, given the right setting, even the most trivial and patently obnoxious forms of fun can take on an aura of almost painfully poignant profundity, as illustrated in this story from Patrick McDowell of the Associated Press:
"The skit opened with Powell chairing a meeting, looking completely at home as he took advice from staffers. 'Don't do it,' pleaded one. 'No rolling on the floor this time,' admonished another.
"Then, the American president appeared on a huge backdrop video screen with advice for his chief diplomat. 'Practice this time,' said President Bush.
"Powell and staff then rose and labored with gusto through the old 'South Pacific' standard 'Some Enchanted Evening' — with lyrics bent to the arcana of Southeast Asian foreign relations.
"'Once you reach consensus, never let it go," Powell sang in a serviceable baritone. 'Once you reach consensus, never let it G-O-O-O.'
"Loud applause followed. The diplomatic audience agreed — diplomatically, and on background — that Powell was 'really good.'
"Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov also found favor, making a trip five centuries into the future and returning as a robot, singing 'We Are the World.'
"Finally, all the ministers lined up to massacre an Abba tune, 'I Have a Dream.'
"''We will be together. It's not a fairy tale,' they sang. 'We will see the future. We will never fail.'
"Early reviews were positive.
"'Great fun,' declared Philippine special envoy Domingo Siazon.
"'The Americans were hilarious, the Russians innovative. Powell singing was good,' said Syed Hamid Albar, Malaysia's foreign minister. 'It was a good break after all this talk on terrorism.'"
Thursday, August 01, 2002
Bird of Benevolence Becomes Butterfly
I was in Good Stuff teaching the Frog to my medical insurance agent, Monica Walkers - which, I'm embarrassed to say, was the first time I Frogged in public. Once she had mastered the Frog, I, for a lark, decided to teach her the Bird of Benevolence (I was hoping to get into a little Cross-Birding), when Monica said "oh, you mean the Butterfly."
On closer inspection, I discovered that the Bird of Benevolence was, in fact, a Butterfly, which, like the Frog, is another being-in-transformation. The symbolism is just too profound to deny. I've replaced all occurrences of Bird with Butterfly. Hence, should you find yourself herein searching for the bird, you will, as of this post, need to look elsewhere.
Employers Use Fun to Fight Turnover
Greg Smith notes that: "A company experiencing high turnover has a serious financial problem. It costs anywhere from $4000-$15,000 to recruit, hire and train a new employee. One Atlanta company lost 420 of the 431 employees they hired this year. If it cost them $4000 per employee that equates to a $1.7 million loss." Consequently, if there's any way to make work more attractive (read "fun"), there are significant payoffs for the corporation.
In this article he gives us 21 case-study-like examples of initiatives for bringing more fun to work. Here's a particularly encouraging example: "The Extra Mile- United Services Automobile Association (USAA) provides blank "Thank You" note stationary for their workers called The Extra Mile. Employees are encouraged to say "Thank You" to each other for the help they receive at work. The most surprising thing happened on the first day USAA printed the notes . . . they ran out! The company couldn't keep up with the demand."
My take on the Fun & Work thing is that there is another strategy - one that involves the discovery and nurturing of the fun of work.
Ping Pong the Car Game
Searching for DeepFUN on Google (as I, alas, am too oft wont to do), I discovered that the astute authors of Feed the Spam Monkey had both the wisdom and perspicacity to cite our page on Verbal Ping Pong. I consequently feel it incumbent upon me to bring this very game to your collective attention herewith.
Some Fun Things to do with your Partner
Elyon noticed that my favorite source for blessings had become a dead link. Always sad when a link dies. There should be a blessing for that.
At any rate, Googling around for a replacement, I found this - a blessing that Katie Lowe, age 14, wrote for her dog:
"May you have lots of food
and a bone to chew on
And a bed filled with cedar chips
So you may always chase cats
in your dreams."
I tell you, there just aren't enough blessings in this world.
Blogmaster: Elyon DeKoven