Practical Jokes as Play: The Spritz, the Sneak, and the Penguin

Practical Jokes as Play: The Spritz, the Sneak, and the Penguin

Here’s a story about the important lessons I learned about a peculiar form of play from Tommy, a mischievous high school pal of mine. Practical jokes and harmless pranks are blithe and funny, especially to the perpetrators and the onlookers. Such jokes and pranks fool, hoodwink, and ensnare their victims and play best when the…

Thank you Fibonacci for Playing with Numbers

Thank you Fibonacci for Playing with Numbers

What do play, The DaVinci Code, multiplying rabbits, double-entry bookkeeping, and Roman numerals have to do with discovering the secrets of the universe or at least have to do with finding an easier way to do arithmetic? In the whopper of an opening scene in Dan Brown’s alternate history page-turner The DaVinci Code, a creepy…

Of Rats and Men: Mammals at Play

Of Rats and Men: Mammals at Play

Have you ever thought about what rats have in common with comedy club audiences? No? I hadn’t either until I met neuroscientist Jaak Panksepp and some of his students. Professor Panksepp studies the origin of emotions by examining the nervous systems of rats at play, and that got me thinking about the legendary comedian Henny…

Playing a Maddening Game: Golf Under Pressure

Playing a Maddening Game: Golf Under Pressure

In high school I often worked as a caddy, hitchhiking to a golf course in the morning. (Oh, weren’t those the carefree days.) Flat rate for eighteen holes paid $1.75 for carrying a kangaroo bag with a fifth of scotch stashed in the pouch; if you carried double the rate jumped to $3.50. I used…