Category: Play

Calvinball: Playing by the Rules

Bartel lays out the “unofficial official rules” for Calvinball, a game characterized by mayhem and nonsense. Those of you familiar with Bill Watterson’s comic strip Calvin and Hobbes will recognize that Calvinball is a free-for-all where the rules change on the whim of the player who has the upper hand.

The interesting thing about games is that you need rules for the play to be enjoyable. But the rules should have some flexibility – consider how a golf handicap makes it possible for players with different levels of skill to play together.

We’ve played a modified version of Calvinball with our youthgroup. It’s a lot of fun to play once in a while. To keep the game engaging we played it like this: the game starts off with the same rules as half-court basketball. At any time the player in possession of the ball my change one rule. Typically the game morphs into something like soccer or dodgeball.

The rules layed out on bartel.org imply that anyone within a Zone can call a rule-change at any time. The zones can be changed but there must remain zones on the field in order to play.

It’s a fun and worthy way to kill an afternoon. But be prepared to play a classic game of stickball if your group isn’t energized by a game with ultimate flexibility.

Worst Practical Joke EV-er

You gotta be careful about pranks because they can so easily backfire. For instance, some time ago I was out and about and found a five dollar bill on the ground (see above.) I tucked the bill into a book I was holding and forgot about it. Recently I found the book – and the fiver – so I tucked the cash into my wallet, feeling so much the richer.

The other day my daughter asked me if she could have some cash to buy firewood for a beach bonfire with her friends. Remembering my great find I took the five bucks out of my wallet and handed it to her. When she went to put the money in her wallet she unfolded the bill and discovered that she was suddenly FIVE BUCKS SHORT! Hardy-har-har! She was in a hurry and didn’t find the joke very funny in the moment, but I cracked up because it turned out that the joke was on me. I wasn’t as generous as I had thought I was.

But here’s what was not so funny about the joke. When we turned the bill over and looked at the back we discovered that it was a Gospel tract. “Disapointed? Jesus won’t let you down.”

Wow. I really can’t image a scenario where the message on the back builds hope. Handing these fake bills out to homeless people is just plain mean-spirited. Dropping them on the floor of the Mall is a little better, but still – the feeling of having your hopes crash to the floor is so unlike the promise of salvation that the whole thing just feels like sick humor. It would be better to attach the tract to a real five-spot. At least ┬áreal money would send the recipient’s hopes in the right direction.

Bottom line: short bill = funny gag. Short bill + Gospel message = Thanks for playing. Try again later.

Dorodango – Mud Pies for Older Kids

Dorodango, a mud pie polished to perfection

There is something uniquely Japanese about taking a handful of mud and patiently refining it until it takes on the gemlike quality of a fine ceramic.

Dorodango, or shiny mud balls, have been preoccupying Japanese youth for about a decade, after nearly becoming a lost art.

These marbley marvels take more perseverance than talent to make. Bruce Gardener details the steps, which can be summed up as:

1. Mix fine dirt with water to make a doughy ball.

2. Squeeze and shake the ball to remove moisture and air pockets.

3. Add a layer of fine, dry dirt and gently shape the ball into a spherical shape.

4. Remove excess moisture by placing the dorodango in a plastic bag for a few hours.

5. With very fine, dry dust shape the outer capsule of the ball until perfectly smooth.

6. Polish with soft cloth.

Fumio Kayo has even more detailed instructions including a short video clip on his very busy website.

Photo – Bruce Gardener