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Bernie DeKoven's FunLog

More fun, more often, for more people and other living things.

Planet Perplex

Planet Perplex offers a most amusingly amazing collection of optical illusory art. Some of which is not for kids. Which makes it all the more perplexing.

Check out, for example, their collection of folding puzzles, and, for further example, ambiguous people.

Sweet Nostalgia

Remember Necco Wafers - those chalky, crumbly sugar discs you probably almost died for? Well, thanks to FunDay Times Contest-Winner Josef Brandler, you have now been reconnected to the source.

Josef tells us of two such time-spanning candy connections: Hometown Favorites and Candy You Ate as a Kid. He writes: " I was talking about candy with my daughter during this halloween season and I told her we had great candies when I was a child growing up in the 60"s and 70's.I told her about turkish taffy, sugar daddies, candy buttons, wax lips, little bottles filled with colored syrups, necco wafers, licorice pipes, bubble gum cigars and cigarettes, sensen, tootsie pops, chuckles, and all of the candies I loved as a kid. After the discussion, I went on the Internet to find out if they still produced these candies and if I could purchase them.I found these two sites that specialize in favorite snacks and candies from the past, They not only have the items to purchase individually,but they also sell "decade gift packs "with a whole assortment of candy favorites from the 60's, 70's, 80's, and 90's. It was great to see the old time favorites and to share them with my daughter."

And now he shares them with us.

Thank you Josef. Candy, and in fact most forms of eating, are major sources of fun, and I, who have been blitehly focusing on things like games and sports and weird art forms, stand deliciously corrected.

Games in Black and White

Mike Petty creates "Black and White Games. They may be printed in black and white, but they most definitely look like fun. The game in the picture is a word game named "What's It To Ya?. The rules: "Five items are placed on the table - things like 'Hope,' 'Garbage Collectors,' and 'Underwear.' Now everyone has to rank them in order of importance. Players get points when they match the rankings of other players." Fun-sounding? Along with this $4.50 game you'll find a template for making your own cards on his website.

"Each Black & White Game I produce reflects my philosophy about games: Ideally they should be inexpensive, simple and fun. I love playing games, but for me, the fun comes from the competition, mental stimulation and the people that I'm playing with. I don't find I enjoy games more because they're printed in full color or because they come in fancy boxes. So, the games I sell as "Black & White Games" will never have expensive components. As it is right now, these games are printed on cardstock and each copy is made pretty much on demand... This method of publishing the games is inexpensive, but it also allows me to make additions, changes and expansions for games quickly."

It is difficult, and sadly all too-often downright depressing to be a lone game entrepreneur. Mike apparently has the energy and vision needed to transcend the limitations of the marketplace. More power to you Mike, and from you to all Playingkind.

Learning about Learning from Video Games

Academic correspondent, and close virtual friend Bryan Alexander directed my attention to four papers that were presented during the Tenth Annual Meeting of the Reed College Technology Advisory Council. Apparently, there are those wandering the halls of academe who not only like to play games, but understand and appreciate the depth of the art.

James Paul Gee of the University of Wisconsin-Madison is one such. He writes about "LEARNING ABOUT LEARNING FROM A VIDEO GAME: RISE OF NATIONS." His observations and conclusions touch the very joystick of my heart. I quote: "computer and video games have a great deal to teach us about how to facilitate learning, even in domains outside games. Good computer and video games are complex, challenging, and long; they can take 50 or more hours to finish. If a game cannot be learned well, then it will fail to sell well, and the company that makes is in danger of going broke. Shortening and dumbing games down is not an option, since most avid players don't want short or easy games. Thus, if only to sell well, good games have to incorporate good learning principles in virtue of which they get themselves well learned. Game designers build on each other's successes and, in a sort of Darwinian process, good games come to reflect yet better and better learning principles."

It's heady stuff. It has to be in order to be recognized by the community it needs to reach. But it's well worth the read, as are the other three papers in this collection - a taste of the promise of play and hope for the future of learning.

Animate yourself

This just in from Games Taster, and now Gameskeeper, Marc. It's an e-card.

It's a talking, animated e-card. It's a talking, animated e-card with whatever head you want to make talk.

Marc cautions: "The actual 'Bernie' will only be there for two weeks."

Go ahead. Make your day. And someone else's, too.

Eyeball Benders - the Art of Giving Hints

Eyeball Benders are a visual puzzle consisting of close-up photographs of semi-common household objects. They are exceptionally easy to create, yet oddly difficult to create well. Given a close enough close-up, the photo-reality really does remarkably little to help you identify the object in question. It is all too easy to make an Eyeball Bender that is all but impossible to solve. The Eyeball Bender shown here is one of the easier ones that I found on a site called "The 5-minute BOF Eyeball Bender Page."

I first came to know about Eyeball Benders when I was a contributing editor for Games Magazine, o so many years ago. The only trace I could find of this on the web is the 1994 edition of Games Magazine Presents Eyeball Benders. The apparent scarcity of Games Magazine's Eyeball Benders may in fact explain why there is a comparitive plethora of the same to be found on the web. I even found a quiz called "Animal, Vegetable, Mineral" that's based on the eyeball-bender concept.

One of my favorites, and most instructively exasperating, is theImage.com CloseUp Gallery. Favorites, because the interface allows two levels of clues (extreme close-up, and somewhat less extreme). Most instructively exasperating because even with the clues, many of the objects are close to impossible to identify.

The art of giving hints is a fine one. It takes us many years to understand all the nuances. I devoted many pages of my Well-Played Game to exploring that very nuance. The art of creating a "good" puzzle is very much dependent on the understanding of creating good hints. As you attempt to solve these eyeball benders, you will learn a great deal about the art of puzzle making. In some cases, perhaps a bit more than you want.

Speaking of hints, did you guess the Eyeball Bender in this article? Did you think for a moment that it was a picture of a bunch of vitamins? Or did you know right away it was a collection of game pieces? Did you know what game? Did you think maybe Monopoly? Or did you know right away that it was one of those games whose name has four letters? A synonym for "taking a chance."

75 Years of Bubble Gum

Fun Correspondent Jim Sims writes:

Happy birthday, bubble gum! 75 years ago, a mom-and-pop store on Schenectady Street in Philadelphia, PA sold out Walter Diemer's first five-pound batch of Dubble Bubble, the world's first commercial bubble gum, in a few hours. Three quarters of a century have seen people perfect their bubble blowing skills; the Guinness World Record for largest bubble blown is 23" and over a million children aged 12 and under took part in Dubble Bubble's fourth annual National Bubble Blowing Contest this summer.

Chewing bubble gum isn't the sort of deep fun we spend hours or weeks we prepare for; it is one of the most common examples of ordinary fun I quote in Major Fun's article "Lowering the Fun Threshold". "You can raise the amount of joy in your life considerably by considering the ordinary fun, the 'Minor Fun,' and making it central to your day-to-day routine. If you can spice up a dull job with some ordinary fun by blowing a bubble or two in the background, so much the happier."

Yet bubble gum is not quite so dumb. One of the joys of play is that it can teach us to cope with the setbacks in life with a smile. If you care to try for deeper fun by raising the stakes, spend time trying to blow the biggest bubble you can, the biggest bubble you dare. You may not find it convenient to enjoy the sort of messy play which might result in a custard pie in the face, but blowing bubbles is enjoyably ever-so-slightly out of control. You never know just when the bubble will burst, or exactly what sort of mess you'll have to clear up when it does!

Want more to chew on?

See this article in the Indianapolis Star

And here's one that answers the eternal question why bubble gum is pink

And this gumly art video exploring concepts relating to Kussmaul Breathing ("air hunger") through bubble blowing

And of course this video of the Guinness World Record for the largest bubble blown

Whilst here we have documentation of Dubble Bubble's 4th Annual National Bubble Blowing Contest, and an article descrubbling a preliminary round for the aforementioned contest.

For the all-but-professional blower, here are some tips from those who have demonstrated professional prowess.

Pictures? See this and this.

And for historical reference, this past Blog o'Fun article within which (scroll down) a Bubble Gum game is poppingly described.

The T.W.I.N.K.I.E.S. Project

The T.W.I.N.K.I.E.S. Project (Tests With Inorganic Noxious Kakes In Extreme Situations) is perhaps one of the best illustrated examples of the connection between the scientific mind and the art of pure silliness.

Apparently, this site was the result of "a series of experiments conducted during finals week, 1995, at Rice University." Which also demonstrates rather conclusively how productive a little applied silliness can be during periods of great academic stress. This observation, along with a bunch of burnt, soaked, pureed, shocked, crushed and microwaved Twinkies, is probably the most important of their findings.

Speaking of which, here's a summary of what they discovered:


  • Twinkies don't burn well unless doused in alcohol. Then they make good fires.

  • Twinkies in water expand to near twice their size and look really gross.

  • When they are pureed Twinkies can be compressed much. Really mostly air.

  • Do Twinkies conduct? Run lots of current through them. Very resistive.

  • Dropped off of sixth floor Twinkies are not injured much. Just a small fissure.

  • Microwaved Twinkies emit a great deal of smoke and smell very bad.

Anagramania indeed

Anagramania is probably the only board game designed for people who like to play with anagrams. What kind of people are these? you ask. Probably the very same people who like to play with words.

What is an anagram? you also ask. With the kind assistance of the Anagramaniacs, I exemplify:

"You'll find this arm joint a few inches below the shoulder."

See, the letters in the word in bold can be rearranged to spell another word, which is an answer, so to speak, to the clue. The word in question: elbow.

The above is classified by the aforementioned as a "junior anagram." Let us try an advanced:

"I expect to find trickery in each cry that is made."

Not advanced enough? Here's an anagram for experts: " He tried once to understand the clue, but it was too abstruse. (9) " The (9) lets you know how many letters are in the word or words to be rearranged. The lack of boldness to indicate which word or words you are looking to rearrange is what makes this anagram so expertworthy. Give up? You'll find the anagram, and others, along with their answers, here.

The Anagramania game comes with 24 different sets of anagram puzzles. Each set contains 20 anagrams. There are enough sets for up to six players. Perhaps one of the more ingenious aspects of the mechanics of the game is the use of ballot-like envelopes to house each sheet of anagrams. During each round of play, players pull the clue sheet from the envelope so they reveal only the next anagram, while the remaining anagrams stay hidden.

Perhaps even more ingenious is the game itself. The timer doesn't start until one player announces that he or she can solve the anagram. The rest of the players then have one minute to find the solution. This works brilliantly to keep everyone in play.

For those of you seeking immediate anagramatic, though significantly less gamelike, satisfaction, check out the I Rearrangement Service (a.k.a. Internet Anagram Server).

About Laughter

Here, from the Nonverbal Dictionary of Gestures, Signs, & Body Language Cues, are a few pithy insights about laughter:

". . . it is scarcely possible to point out any difference between the tear-stained face of a person after a paroxysm of excessive laughter and after a bitter crying-fit" (Darwin 1872:207). 2. Laughing strengthens bonds of comradeship (Van Hooff 1967:59). 3. Laughter is more social than humorous (Van Hooff 1967:59). 4. Our laugh resembles the great ape's relaxed open-mouth face (esp., its "rhythmic, low-pitched staccato vocalizations and . . . boisterous body movements" (Van Hooff 1967:60). 5. "For example, they [deaf-and-blind-born children] smile and laugh as we do when they are happy and emit the correct sounds when they do so" (Eibl-Eibesfeldt 1971:12). 6. People in good spirits may laugh 100-to-400 times a day (Fry 1983). 7. Human laughter "seldom exceeds 7 seconds" (Ruch 1993). 8. Laughter may be vocal or voiceless, may include all vowel and many consonant possibilities; it frequently begins with an initial "h" sound, most usually as "he-he," grading into "ha-ha" (Ruch 1993). "

And a few more: "Chemically, according to some researchers, laughter provides relief from stress by releasing pain-killing, euphoria-producing endorphins, enkephalins, dopamine, noradrenaline, and adrenaline. Socially, laughter binds us as friendly allies united against outsiders, and against forces beyond our control. Psychologically, the comic laugh (in response, e.g., to funny jokes, puns, and satire) is a recent development perhaps linked to the evolution of speech."

Apparently, the physiological and emotional benefits of laughter are so profound that it's good for us to laugh, even when we don't think anything's particularly funny. Hence, the World Laughter Tour.

High Tech Hide and Seek

They call it "Geocaching, and it's probably one of the most successful, technology-enabled sports of this millenium, making use of both global positioning devices and the Internet. It's also a good glimpse at how new and unknowable the results of the Human-Technology-Fun (H-T-F) connection can be.

"The basic idea," explain the authors of the geocaching website, "is to have individuals and organizations set up caches all over the world and share the locations of these caches on the internet. GPS users can then use the location coordinates to find the caches. Once found, a cache may provide the visitor with a wide variety of rewards. All the visitor is asked to do is if they get something they should try to leave something for the cache. "

According to this brief history of geocaching: "When the GPS signal degradation called Select Availabilty (SA) was removed by the Clinton Administration May 1st, 2000 ( statement ), it opened up the possibility of games like this one. On May 3rd, a container of goodies was hidden by a someone outside of Portland, Oregon - in celebration of the removing of Selective Availability. By May 6th the cache was visited twice, and logged in the logbook once. Mike Teague was the first to find the container, and built his personal web page to document these containers and their locations that were posted to the sci.geo.satellite-nav newsgroup...As of today, there are 76496 active caches in 190 countries."

Shipwrecked

Shipwrecked is an intense, challenging bidding game with enough strategic ramifications to occupy every corner of your so-called mind. You bid for cards. The cards have funny pictures on them. They also have three different values. Each card is worth a certain amount of points (the accumulation of which is the point of the game), pays a certain amount of "gemstones" every turn (which you need if you win the bid), and has a certain value (in case you run out of gemstones and have to sell the card back to the bank).

The bidding process is really what the game is all about. Each of the 2-4 players has three different types of bid cards. You get three Pass cards (which mean just that), two Stop cards (which you can use to stop the bidding and force a showdown), and one Strike card which wins the bid only if it is the only one used during that round. There are a total of 6 bidding rounds per card, each round costing the winner one gemstone less.

Sound complex? Well, it did take us a while to figure out the rules. And it took us a much longer while to figure out what the rules really mean (you'll probably need to play it at least twice, at at least 20 minutes a game, before you have any sense of what it all means). But the learning process is fun, the game intriguing, and, despite the competitive pressure, the surprise of discovering who bid what leads more often to laughter than it does to despair.

The game play of Shipwrecked is similar to a classic card game known as "G.O.P.S." - the Game of Pure Strategy - with just enough humor, luck and variables thrown in to keep you engaged and laughing until you discover that someone has actually won. Most Major FUN Award-worthy.

Bounce Technologies

PowerSkip is the next stop in our exploration of the Human-Technology-Fun (H-T-F) connection. In order to understand the ramifications of it all, we once again find ourselves looking at a video of the thing in action.

Clearly, the PowerSkipper who is featured in the video is somewhat of an athlete. Which is the very thing that fills one with the implications of it all. With enough training, and padding, PowerSkipping athletes could redefine the very nature of just about any sport you can think of, except maybe golf. And bowling. And billiards. Think about what would happen if such devices were worn in a game of basketball, or even football and soccer. The heights. The spectacle. The grace and death-defyingness of it all.

PowerSkip is not the only technology for putting more bounce in your step. There are, for example, the significantly similar, but clearly different Bionic Boots and Poweriser, and the less bouncy, but perhaps more practically fun Kangoo Jumps - any of which fairly reeking with sports-transforming implications.

A Bicycle Built for Seven

The Conference Bike is probably one of the most inspirational, and perhaps funniest examples of the power of the Human-Technology-Fun (H-T-F) connection. I wrote about it over a year ago (Aug. 22, 2002), and am delighted to learn that it has proven successful enough to spawn the development of two new models.

I quote: "The ConferenceBike is pedalled by 7 riders sitting in a circle, elbow to elbow. One of them steers; the others are free to pedal or not as it glides effortlessly along. The ConferenceBike has a powerful and universial social effect: It induces laughter and lowers inhibitions. After a few minutes riding, total strangers start talking and laughing and end up exchanging phone numbers."

Inventor Eric Staller explains: "We live in an age of mobility and convenience. Our technology, our cars and laptops and cellphones, are insulating us more and more. The ConferenceBike is an antidote, a symbol and a tool for coming together; where the boardroom meets the gym, takes a ride in the park and says YES! to life."

Just for Fun

I had a long phone conversation with one of my remarkable friends yesterday, Doc Searls. Doc does a lot of remarking. Much of it as senior editor of the Linux Journal and as co-author of The Cluetrain Manifesto. We were talking about fun, and Doc, being the passionate visionary that he is, started making some very deep connections between fun and, of all things, Linux.

Three hours later, I get an email from him with a summary of our conversation that he's prepared for publication in today's edition of Suitwatch. There's some really remarkable stuff batted around in this piece. You'll have to actually read it to discover just how batted it all is. As usual, I prefer to jump to the conclusion:

"...my mind returned to something that could hardly be more fundamental to Linux itself, and that's the motivation for its creation in the first place. We also see it in the persistent engagement of its creator in the evolution of the operating system and in the community of engaged minds that constantly improve it.

That founding motivation is expressed in the title of Linus' own book about his life and Linux: Just for Fun."

RoboCup

RoboCup is our second stop in the exploration of the Human-Technology-Fun (H-T-F) connection. Like the PowerSkip, it gives us premonitions of a very different sports experience. Unlike PowerSkippers, the athletes are robots. The H- and -F parts of the H-T-F connection have to do with getting to design and control soccer-playing robots.

Though the organizers of the event have a different idea of the intended outcome, the fact is that the whole idea of robot soccer fairly reeks of fun. It most definitely points to the development of a new era in sports, as well as the emergence of a new class of athletes. And I don't mean the robots.

The RoboCup people explain: "RoboCup...is an international research and education initiative. It is an attempt to foster AI and intelligent robotics research by providing a standard problem where wide range of technologies can be integrated and examined, as well as being used for integrated project-oriented education...In order for a robot team to actually perform a soccer game, various technologies must be incorporated including: design principles of autonomous agents, multi-agent collaboration, strategy acquisition, real-time reasoning, robotics, and sensor-fusion. RoboCup is a task for a team of multiple fast-moving robots under a dynamic environment. RoboCup also offers a software platform for research on the software aspects of RoboCup."

Let us, however, not be fooled by all this high-tech ambition. RoboCup is one small step towards yet another giant leap for funkind.

"Rules of Play"

Son Elyon notes with interest the publication of Rules of Play wherein authors Katie Salen and Eric Zimmerman "offer a unified model for looking at all kinds of games, from board games and sports to computer and video games....Building an aesthetics of interactive systems, Salen and Zimmerman define core concepts like 'play,' 'design,' and 'interactivity.' They look at games through a series of eighteen 'game design schemas,' or conceptual frameworks, including games as systems of emergence and information, as contexts for social play, as a storytelling medium, and as sites of cultural resistance...It is the first comprehensive attempt to establish a solid theoretical framework for the emerging discipline of game design."

Sound like fun?

Rowing Machine Biking

It's a bike. It's a rowing machine. It's the Rowingbike.

Yes, yes, we all know that a rowing machine provides more total body exercise than biking. But it's not just the exercise that makes the Rowingbike such an appealing innovation. It looks like fun. And that makes all the difference.

Apparently, it's the kind of fun that can really take you somewhere. Unlike some of the other exercisey human-powered vehicles we've looked at before (the Trikke and Kicksled), the Rowingbike looks like it can go the distance. And quite a distance. As in Tour de France distance. The Rowingbike is another glimpse at what we can come to expect from the best of the Human-Technology-Fun (H-T-F) connection. It's not just fun. And it's not just exercise. It's a vehicle for mind, body and spirit.

Yet more Tootage

Behold. On this very day of Blog du Jourhood, yet a further honor. A most honorable mention of moi-meme, and moi-meme's currentmost favorite game, on the significantly esteemed Doc Searls Weblog.

Yes, 'tis true, Doc is a long time friend of mine, and his mention of me could be everso easily construed as mildly nepotistic. On the other hand, his blog is as successful as it is because he only writes about what he believe in. Hence, my unabashed tootelage.

Go ahead, as Doc so succinctly advises, make fun of yourself.

Blog du Jour

Much of the blogging community is built by tooting the horn of those who toot yours. Hence, it is with both circumstance and pomp that I note that this very Blog o' Fun has been recently named "Blog du Jour" by the most respected and often silly Grow-a-Brain weblog.

I toot in your general direction.

Robotickle

Ever since my sacred son Elyon started working on his doctorate in computer-human interface, I've become increasingly interested in the relationship between humanity and its machines. Especially the part that has anything to do with making things more fun.

Since there are so many different explorations of the Human-Technology-Fun connection (H-T-F), I've decided to dedicate this week to just that.

Here, for example, is a short movie of a machine that should tickle one's fancy, at least. I found it on a rather understated, techno-art web page, called, in a doubly negatively positive way, "Not Not."

The author explains: "This small robot walks on the human body to generate a pleasant, tickling sensation. It has two motors and rubber feet for a good grip on the skin. When it encounters a slope that is too steep, it will steer until a safe level is found, and it will continue its way."

Should you be so moved to inquire further, here are the technical specifications.

I'm thinking this whole Human-Technology-Fun (H-T-F) connection is going to prove a topic most worthy of our collective consideration.

Dead Ants and Mondegreens

Did you know that Bob Dylan wrote a song with the lyrics: "The ants are my friends"?

Well, as a matter of fact, he didn't. In the actual Dylan song, the words are: "the answer my friend."

This, of course, is just one small example of an entire class of subconscious wordplay. It is called a "Mondegreen."

According to this well-informed wiki "Writer Sylvia Wright listened to a Scottish ballad called 'The Bonny Earl of Murray' which she thought included this line: 'They hae slay the Earl of Murray, and Lady Mondegreen.' Later she learned that instead of 'Lady Mondegreen' it was 'laid him on the green.' She then began to collect similar mishearings and in 1954 published an article about them, and coined the word 'Mondegreen.'"

Fortunately for the Mondegreedy, San Francisco columnist Jon Carroll has devoted at least the last eight years to documenting the mondegreening of the English-speaking world. Here are his top four mondegreens:

  • We believe that the most frequently submitted Mondegreen is still "Gladly, the cross-eyed bear" (known in the real world as that fine old hymn "Gladly The Cross I'd Bear").

  • A close second is "There's a bathroom on the right," a mishearing of "There's a bad moon on the rise" from the old Creedence Clearwater song "Bad Moon Rising."

  • Third place is still firmly held by "Excuse me while I kiss this guy," actually "Excuse me while I kiss the sky" from the Jimi Hendrix song "Purple Haze." Mr. Hendrix was himself aware that he had been Mondegreened, and would occasionally, in performance, actually kiss a guy after saying that line.

  • Fourth place is probably occupied by Round John Virgin, a Shakespearean figure occasionally found in "Silent Night." Also high on the charts is a Mondegreen from "Groovin'", a popular song of an earlier era. (Kids, "groovin'" was kind of like "chillin'" except the clothing fit more tightly). In that song, the Rascals were singing "You and me endlessly," but many people heard "You and me and Leslie"...

How do you doodle?

When we were kids, we could draw. Now that we're adults, the best most of us can do is doodle. Doodling is art that has no other pretentions than fun. Some of us save our doodles. Most we throw away.

We get in a certain mindset when we doodle. Playful. Open. Not really paying attention. Not really taking anything seriously. Kind of what you might call "mindless."

Which brings me to this quite delightfully interactive doodle called "Dreems" a brilliantly playful reminder of the art and mind of the doodler. As you click on various portions of the doodle, that part changes. Even though it's changed, it is still somehow part of the larger drawing. No matter what you click on, no matter what you change, you wind up with a new doodle, and a silly one, too. It's unlike any other interactive doodler I've seen. The artist explains why:

"...there are (right now) 25 tops, 25 middles and 25 bottoms. i have them numbered (more or less arbitrarily) 1-25. if you click on the right half of any image you will go to the image with the next highest sequential number, if you click on the left half you will go one lower (eg: if you click the left half of image number two you will see image number one, and if you click the right half you will see image number three. and so forth). clicking the last image on either extreme of the series (numbers 1 or 25) will simply send you around to the other end of the series (numbers 25 or 1). think of it like the a viewmaster. it doesn't matter where you start, if you keep clicking you will get back there eventually. each time you come to the page you will get a random set of images. it is highly unlikely (15625 to 1) that you will ever get the same starting set."

Then there's this less whimsical, but equally mindless and artful virtual library of interactive doodle-like experiences - a kindhearted, stress-busting service of, um, Stressbusting.

As they are wont to say here in the Greater LA-area: "doodle on, dood!"

Rejection Rejection

Business writer John Kador, who happens to be the author of some very serious business books, also happens to have a very healthy sense of humor.

Years and years ago, when I was trying to get my poetry published, I one day found that I had been collecting my rejection slips. Actually, it was a rather interesting collection. I had printed rejections, hand-written rejections, unsigned rejections. I had rejections on post cards and note paper and formal business stationary. I had terse rejections and apologetic rejections and detailed, in-depth rejections. So, I decided to hang them all up as a kind of office decoration. I later called ot my "wailing wall." It kind of helped. It's tough getting one of those rejection slips. Especially when you're young and think it all has something to do with you or your talent. It wasn't until I printed my own rejection slips that I finally found a deeper semblance of solace. I had a printer do them for me. On card stock.

Mr. Kador has written a rejection rejection of his own. In it, he rejects the letters he gets from businesses who fail to recognize the merits of his resume. Here's a sample:

"I have received rejections from an unusually large number of exceptionally well qualified organizations. With such a varied and promising spectrum of rejections from which to select, it is impossible for me to consider them all. After careful deliberation, then, and because a number of firms have found me more unsuitable, I regret to inform you that I am unable to accept your rejection."

Once again we see the power of playfulness applied. Bless you, Mr. Kador. May all your rejections be unacceptable.

Golf Fan Drives Ball

Ever alert for evidence of intelligent playfulness on the web, I find this virtual-mini-golf-on-a-blanket-with-a fan-like game. And I rejoice.

Created by a person who goes by the name "Andreas," the game is as silly as it is brilliant. It's not easy to blow a ball across a bunched-up blanket. Especially when the ball falls off the edges so easily. And the light that the fan casts - yes, it's a light-casting, air-blowing fan - is a brilliant touch of player-support technology.

Andreas offers us a collection of remarkably dissimilar, yet clearly playful virtual toys. Even the interface to Andreas' generous list is playfully enticing, not just another pretty interface, but an interface that works, that makes things easier, clearer, more beautiful, and definitely more fun. This is characteristic of almost all the experiences Andreas has for you to play with.

The art of fun, especially in the virtual world, has a great deal to do with interface. The ideal interface is one that facilitates as much as it entertains, that makes things easier to understand as well as more accessible to play with, that makes the player feel at ease, competent, invited. Andreas gives us a chance to feel what that's like.

DeepFUN Site Update

Thanks to the prompting of the significant Joyce Searls (equally significant other of beloved buddy and playful pundit Doc Searls) and the artistry of webmistress Julie Wolpers, the DeepFUN website has achieved this new level of graphic splendor and fun-like focus which you are currently beholding.

Also of note: note, when you go to Doc Searls site, and you read the left hand column, you will undoubtedly find an ad for thepollgame, named Funnest in the Five Funnest Family and Friends Games Family.

Mouse on!

Airport Soccer

I found this 1998 Nike ad in a remarkable resource for wacky videos called "BryceWilson.net." It's a game of Airport Soccer as it might be played by champion soccer players while waiting for their delayed flight.

The flight is clearly one of fancy. Playing around the checkout counter is one thing. But playing on the airfield itself...? I suppose if you're a group of champion-soccer-playing airport employees with a death wish, it might be something you might want to consider.

No, no, it is nothing I would recommend, nor would I even hint at the apparent funnitvity of the concept. On the other hand, it is quite possible that a form of airport-appropriate soccer could in deed be played. Clearly a nearly empty concourse could become a most satisfyingly surrogate soccer-field. Obviously, the least dangerous of all airport soccer games would take place in an abandoned airport. Depending on which parts, and how much of the airport gets used, the game can become immensely challenging and fascinating. The ticket counters, baggage claim, the whole baggage handling system, and, but of course, the hangars, and the runways - each offer an environment that could prove conducive to soccer-like games unlike any other soccer-like games. In fact, given enough people, and soccer balls, we could probably create a soccer event that would prove far more compelling, imaginative, and fun than anything Nike has yet imagined. A soccer game for 10,000, perhaps, with a thousand soccer balls, maybe those soft soccer balls, with everyone wearing one of those padded sumo-wrestler suits so people can get really crazy, smashing and rolling each other across maybe 100 acres of empty airport....

TRASHLOG

Nico Van Hurn is collecting a new piece of trash each day, scanning and then and posting them on the web. He calls it his "Trashlog." I quote: "The TRASHLOG-project was started on 5 May 2002. The end of the project is not yet definitely established. The project consists of a half an hour daily walk looking for a piece of trash lying in the street. I don't need to dig in waste baskets, there is enough trash to find in the street. The trash may be of paper, plastic or metal, but it may never be bigger than 10 x 15 cm and it must be as flat as possible. From the founded items I choose one item to be scanned and this item will be on view on internet."

It's kind of a wacky, pointless, funlike thing to do. A game this guy invented, with probably scrupulously-kept rules: how long to walk, when, how to know what kind of trash is "right." And yet the result of the game is a living, constantly expanding photographic journey that one could ever so easily confuse with art. And it's obviously fun.

The TRASHLOG is a significant achievement. Light of heart and hand, TRASHLOG invites us to become more aware of our world, and perhaps a bit more conscientious about its care. It is public art and public play.

For more on the art of transforming trash into art, see Trashopia and Artgarbage.com.

Klein Bottle Hats, Moebius Scarves

It is markedly reassuring to learn that there are people in this very world of ours who are inventive enough to be rewarded for their playfulness. Case in point, Cliff Stoll, creator and merchandiser of the Klein Bottle Hat and Matching Moebius Scarf and the Drinking Mug Klein Bottle.

A Klein Bottle is a three-dimensional Moebius Strip, which, according to Wolfram Research, is "a closed nonorientable surface of Euler characteristic 0 (Dodson and Parker 1997, p. 125) that has no inside or outside. It can be constructed by gluing both pairs of opposite edges of a rectangle together giving one pair a half-twist, but can be physically realized only in four dimensions, since it must pass through itself without the presence of a hole. Its topology is equivalent to a pair of cross-caps with coinciding boundaries (Francis and Weeks 1999). It can be cut in half along its length to make two Moebius strips (Dodson and Parker 1997, p. 88), but can also be cut into a single Moebius strip. "

Once we realize that the Klein Bottle is in fact not realizable given the threeness of our dimensionality, we can but only laugh in bewilderment at Mr. Stoll's Klein Bottle products.

A Moebius Strip, on the other hand is in fact quite realizable in three-dimensional space, even though, topologically speaking, it is a one-dimensional object. It's all a bit of a mathematical guffaw, though, because it is, reality speaking, not really one-dimensional at all, at all. And when you cut in in half you get something different than when you cut it in three.

Think Twice

Kinda like draw poker with dice, or Yahtzee - you roll a bunch of dice (six plus two - I'll talk about the two later), decide which you want to re-roll, and have a total of three turns to get the best possible score. The six dice are also like Yahtzee, because they're dice, but a bit unlike, because they're six and not five of them. But it's the two extra dice that make Think Twice a dice game unlike any other.

One of the extra dice is a Category Die. This determines what you're rolling for. You know, like in, forgive me, Yahtzee, how you have this sheet of categories - four of a kind, three of a kind, full house, etc.? In Think Twice the Category Die determines the, um, category. There are six categories: low, even, odd, same, different and high. And you can choose to re-roll the Category Die as well. The other extra die multiplies your score. It can double or triple your score. It can also turn it to zero. Since the objective of the game is to be the first player to score 1000, there is ample incentive for risky behavior.

Initially, scoring the game seems quite complex (Low, for example, means that the scoring dice must all be below four. The face value of the dice is added, along with ten more points, and then doubled.) It is all very consistent and logical, however, and you'll probably pick it up in less than ten minutes.

On the other hand, it does take a while to understand the strategic implications. Though a player may select any category, regardless of what category is showing on the Category Die, it just so happens that when all six dice are in the category showing on the Category Die, the score is doubled, twice. The decision whether to roll the category or scoring die again grows weightier with each roll.

Though it's clearly a game of luck, Think Twice gives you just enough of an illusion of control to make you want to keep playing and playing. Somehow, each roll manages to entice your engagement in yet another round of complex statistical analyses, while almost daring you to discover the value thereof.

Desk Toys for the Broadbanded

Oddly, it wasn't until I started playing with Newton's Penguins that I was able to begin to understand, and appreciate, the gift people like Ze Frank have given us.

I backtrack.

Newton's Penguins is a delightfully animated and Penguinified version of a classic executive desk toy known as "Newton's Cradle." It works so well, and is so faithful to the Newtonian implications of it all, that playing with it is almost as calming as playing with the, if you'll forgive the expression, "real" thing.

The more I played with Newton's Penguins, the more conscious I became of a bunch of other little, interactive playthings that I've been finding on the web - not games, not puzzles, not art pieces, but little virtual, desk toys.

From doodling toys like the kind Ze Frank makes to Dave Bessler's wonderful Pipe Cleaner Dancer, Internet artists are producing an increasingly innovative, artful and delightful collection of Virtual Desk Toys - each of which is yet another invitation to fun.

Speaking of which, the graphic for this story was produced with the aid of a tool that Ze Frank, who is as much a social as a virtual player, created as part of his "Letter Project."

Count and Capture Games: Mancala, etc.

Mancala is a strategy game that is deep enough to be worth studying, fun enough to be worth playing, different enough, old enough, and popular enough to transport you - not just to another country, but to another civilization.

According to 20th century Ethnographer Stewart Culin, "It's origins are rooted in ancient Egypt...The game spread from Egypt to many parts of Africa and then to the Middle East. As Muslim culture spread in the early AD centuries, it carried the game with it to India, Ceylon, Malaya, Indonesia, and the Philippines. It was carried from many Black African cultures during the period of the slave trade to the Caribbean area."

Given the time it has had to evolve, there are understandably many variations of Mancala. The Indonesian game of Congklak is an especially lovely incarnation of the game. For further delving, check out this comprehensive page of Mancala links

Since the only way you can realiy appreciate Mancala (and all its variants) is by playing it, you will be especially happy to learn that you are only a click away from an amusingly Mancala-like game called "Mancala Snails" as well as a take-more-seriously online, multi-player version of the aforementioned.

Blog o'Fun

Decided to change the name of the Blog again. Perhaps to better position it in the world. Perhaps only in my mind. Blog o'Fun. Kinda cute. Kinda says what all this is for.

Today's truth, as revealed by the Oaqui: happiness doesn't buy money.

Browsing Blind

This clever little interactive blackness gives us an impressively funny non-glimpse at how the blind experience the web. (Be sure your speakers are on.)

As we attempt to navigate across an empty screen, aided only by spoken instructions and descriptions as voiced by an unidentified and clearly unqualified source, the message becomes increasingly more vivid. By the time we've engaged the unseen foe in a titanically invisible laser battle, we get a hint that, for all the silliness of this web-enabled experience, there are ways to connect the blind to the Internet, and that the connection is a powerful and playworthy one for all of us connected ones.

Googling for " Interface for the blind" I came across some enticing academic papers, but nothing nearly as much fun as this well-designed, zero-graphic, interactive joke. On the other hand, the ideas more or less presented in these academic papers are, as I hitherto implied, enticing. Like Suzanne Vogel's "PDA-Based Navigation System for the Blind" and the very idea (which is all I could find) of a "3D Audio Interface for the Blind," as apparently presented at the 2003 International Conference on Auditory Display.

Footbag Golf

Footbag Golf, apparently, "...Is similar to ball golf or disc golf. Your 'driver' is a very hard, round, and heavy footbag. You boot it from the tee box towards the green. From there, you use a softer and softer bag as you get closer to the hole. Your putter would be a very soft footbag that doesn't roll. If you're outside the green (20 feet from the hole or 6m) you can roll your footbag into the base of the hole and it counts as being in. Once you're on the green your putt has to land in the hole to count."

It seems there's even a video about Footbag Golf, called "Kick the Habit." So, one can hardly doubt the authenticity of this sport, nor cease from being amazed at the sheer potential of it all, the skill of the footbag golfer, the art of the sneaker as putter.

There's something about the spirit of the footbag (a.k.a. "hackey sack") that has led to the creation of sports that call for some remarkably graceful exercises of physical agility - sports that span the spectrum from competitive to cooperative. See the Footbag WorldWide Information Service for an illustrated sampling of the many footbaggish splendors available to the agile many.

Junkyard Golf

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