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Philosophy Cafe - Cafe Philosophique Message Board › Meeting notes

Meeting notes

Jeff G
Ulrich
Oakland, CA
Post #: 172
Library: "The Lottery in Babylon" by Jorge Luis Borges
7:15 pm, August 13, 2013


Expecting a small group, I got there a little before, thinking one table would suffice. But the front area was full, and the back tables are small, so we ended up "under the palms." We chatted as people got situated, getting fully underway by 7:30. As usual, we were about half regulars, with just one first-timer.

We did more formal introductions, with me coaxing people to say more either about themselves or what drew them to this particular meeting. We traded biographical tidbits we'd learned about the author, our prior experiences with Borges. Generally, people seemed to admit being mystified. I touched on what I thought "magical realism" was, as well as how the text was selected. I didn't plan out an agenda, as I wanted to play it by ear, and that seemed to work well, as we segued smoothly among topics. There might have been "twists" I could have put in the "rules of order" that would have made us interact more dramatically with the lottery idea, but this being the first Library meeting, it was necessary to see what "vanilla" was, before "flavoring" it!

I did mention I was interested, though not tied to, doing somewhat of a "close reading," and this was picked up on by the group. We spent some time on the first paragraph, even reading it aloud, which perhaps was superfluous because it turned out everyone had the text with them. Still I think it "synchronized" us, (1) by sharing the same entry point into the text, and (2) by setting a precedent of relating one's comments to the actual text. Looking at that first paragraph now, I think it would have been neat to have had someone volunteer to paraphrase or extract the gist of it, leading a mini-discussion.

We continued discussing specific selections from the text, roughly in the order in which they occur. We covered most of the ground in the notes I published a couple days before the meeting, without having to read them off, which was nice. Participation was perhaps more even than I expected, and cordial throughout.

We took a 5-minute break about 8:15, during which I marked the "sacrifices" question for further consideration. But we didn't return to that, because, in addition to covering more topics in the notes (which were themselves based on my fairly close reading), we addressed the "conspiracy theory" question in detail. This led us to the topic of secrecy, which I contrasted to a long-ago, infamous theme of ours (Privacy). From there, I was attracted to an opposition that was raised, of power vs. mystery, which reminded me of the Other, and the fiction of relationship.

Fiction of Relationship
was the online course for which I originally wrote the notes. That course has taped lectures, but also taped roundtable discussions between the professor and selected students from Brown University. Our meeting felt a little bit like one of those roundtables, which is nothing to sniff at. It will be interesting to see how other Libraries turn out with different kinds of texts–say a story that everyone thinks they know what it means, but they don't agree!

We finished about 9:10, taking about 15 minutes to disperse. That's right in line with the other Intensives, as two hours would be an awful lot of concentration.
Jeff G
Ulrich
Oakland, CA
Post #: 176
Salon: Humor 7:15 pm, August 27, 2013

I arrived about 40 minutes early because eighteen people had RSVP'd. Where would they sit if, improbably, they all showed up? Several did respond to my comment to arrive early, so by starting time we had a quorum, though much less than everybody. So we coalesced to the one big table and got started. We lost two newcomers right away because they found it difficult to hear in the cafe (seemed about average noise to me), and one called away on business, but people were showing up throughout my introductory comments and the introductions. We were a little crowded at two tables, but attendance fluctuated constantly throughout, which was rather unusual, mostly diminishing, so crowding wasn't a problem. We lost a couple latecomers when they found they couldn't hear over a nearby table's loud conversation (I heard it too, but they left at some point). Equal proportions of veterans, first-timers, and occasionals this time, and a better gender balance. Of course I have some conjectures about all this shuffling, which I'll save for concluding remarks.

My introductory comments touched on the various classifications of theories of humor, and what I hoped to get out of the meeting–that might have been a question to ask for the intro round. Instead, people exhibited a joke or something that had struck them as funny during the day. Perhaps it would have been good to have done the activity I tried at the end of the meeting, which was to have people comment on a supplied prop; my call for props was not answered. The exercise I had wanted to do was Everybody Knows, but that is difficult with a large group. Perhaps predictably, strangers relating humorous stories did not produce a warm vibe, but it got us all to talk. People showed that they were interested in humor as it related to their own social relations, more than what "funny" was.

Our conversation did not exactly wander, but it didn't display any urge to explore anything in particular, either. Participation was pretty even for a large core of people, but people on the ends (coming and going, as noted) were distracted by their portables. Though we never "took off", this lack of urgency allowed me to take rather good notes, so the concept map is pretty rich this time.

After an hour, I called a 10-minute break, during which most people never left the table, the conversation continuing about the same. I found some interesting connections between the clusters of ideas and drew them on the concept map. If nothing else, the break is good way to let the group lead itself, and a good topic had emerged so we segued into that by 9:30.

In the second half, I introduced more of the props I had (which were not selected according to any rubric this time): one time this was especially convenient because we had drifted off the theme. I led us back to some of the topics that I suspected might yield further fruit, but people didn't bite. Several expressed reluctance to unravel the mysteries of humor, and I agreed that knowing too much about can make it harder to be amused, but what else is a philosopher to do? There might have been a pattern in which some advanced an idea, it didn't get embraced, and the person disengaged. (But it happens to me all the time!) I was particularly pleased by having made a connection to the recent, amorphous Place theme.

By 9:15, with about six people hanging in, I invited closing comments on the saber-toothed staple remover. People seemed a bit tired, and since most hadn't taken the break, they had been sitting for two hours already. Still we got an interesting (but not funny) stapler story, and I found an interesting (but not funny) interpretation. We were done by 9:30, but I had some company until my 10:00 bus. (Nobody noticed my "Art Is Mean" button.)

Several summary, theme-specific conjectures have occurred to me so far, and I welcome constructive comments.
A. People may have attended in expectation of being entertained by jokes and stories. (Or maybe to entertain, though I didn't deny anyone their moment in the spotlight.) That the RSVP count was much higher than usual lends support to this; and indeed, we were not humorous–maybe even less than usual. (Maybe we didn't laugh enough at the humor was attempted to encourage more.) I've read several accounts of humor, not one of them funny in itself. And of those less interested in theories, many were interested in its connection to social discomfort.
B. Philosophers think of themselves as fix-it people–but no one thinks humor is "broken". In favor of this were lines of thinking that wanted to use humor to solve the problems of the world. It would seem to me, though, that the repair person should know his tools at least as well as what he is repairing.
C. Perhaps we revealed a preference for a certain mysticism, not wanting to pierce the veil–but why in this particular case? Have we found the one thing philosophers find sacred? I would count that as an achievement! More darkly, what if what we didn't want revealed was not the nature of humor, but our own selves?

To me, there's little question that there is something "special" about humor, and maybe conservatism makes us reluctant to open it up, for fear of not being able to recover our innocence. Or maybe worse–something dangerous. I found our exploration rather promising, for all its tentativeness, in its repeated brushes with personal connection and safety, truth and revelation, even animality and death. It may turn out that this first foray will pay off in helping to shape future discussions, or at least to regulate their comfort level. Thanks to all the intrepid thought explorers who helped map the territory.
Jeff G
Ulrich
Oakland, CA
Post #: 179
Workshop: Syria Debate Prep 7:15 pm, September 9, 2013

I arrived at 7 pm, got the big table and ordered dinner. People arrived pretty much on time, including five first timers, who constituted a slight majority. The cafe was a little bit loud, especially for the older folk, who need to sit near the center rather than the ends. Neither was my hearing so great, as I was suffering from earwax, which didn't exactly put me in a good mood, either. Neither did the lackluster responses to my RSVP question on what a "Workshop" is. But it got better!

About 7:25, I started introductions with myself, then inserted the mini-lecture about the Workshop format. People seemed to get the idea. Everybody introduced themselves with a bit more detail than usual, which was good. I might have asked which of the recommended news articles people had read. The unusual topic brought out people with connections to hotspots of recent decades. The last one to be introduced was Leuky.

Then we did a round of Everybody Knows, which was somewhat risky with so many newbies, but it went fine, perhaps because we didn't go in order. I appreciated that people paid attention to the aim of stimulating active listening.

I let others start us off, and laid back more than usual throughout. It quickly became a spirited discussion, though I was able to restart us when we occasionally wandered or got stuck. The first timers were not shy. Some people tended to recite a long list of events (reported or inferred) without making it clear what the point was (Leuky to the rescue). Still, give and take was evident, comments were carefully crafted, and the tone was cooperative always.

As I didn't know what the philosophy experience level was, I didn't push for philosophical explanations too often. As a result, it was more like a political debate--though one in which most did not disclose a position. We got closest to philosophy in considering how important consistency of logic or frame was, whether truth in advertising mattered, and what it means to "send a message." The issue of definitions made an appearance, of course. Actually, I suspect shifting the frame between politics and philosophy would be risky, so I think we did enough. I did manage to take pretty good notes, which I expect to be helpful in preparing for the debate itself. We did have one prop deployed (yea!)

I didn't call a break this time, as no one seemed to need one. Instead, as we approached 9:00, I invited people to give me one-liners (those who could restrain themselves, that is) that I could take to the debate, and almost everyone supplied one. They turned out to all be questions, so I'm not sure we'll get our fee! But good ones nonetheless.

We had enough time left to try a word-at-a-time exercise, which had been my backup plan for getting a Product out of the Workshop. And the participants humored my suggestion enough to come up with two pithy sayings. We called it at 9:15 (I'm getting better at reading people's stamina), but the table emptied only gradually until 10 pm. There were some compliments from newcomers. Perhaps rather than being "intensive", this Workshop served more as a bridge to other forms of discourse.

Jeff G
Ulrich
Oakland, CA
Post #: 186
Arcade: First Philosophical Game Night 7:15 pm 9/24/2013

I was not in a sunny mood during the week leading up to our first game night--but plans are plans. Running late, I arrived third, right at the starting time; I commandeered the big table in hopes we would need it--anyway we all ordered dinner and would need room to eat and to play the game. What actually happened was we spent the first hour chatting, mostly on the subject of games in general, but also about the challenges we've encountered in running discussion groups (all of us run groups now). We also talked about where antipathy to games might come from. I was keenly aware of the fact that I was the only one of the four RSVPs who could be said to be "gung ho" about games as a productive means of interaction--that is, I was afraid what would happen once we tried to play. Also three people seemed dangerously sparse for play.

I wish I had written a concept map for this part of the evening. We touched on Wittgenstein, the mainly pejorative use of the words "play" and "game" in our culture, the nature of definitions, the "gamer" personality, and intersubjectivity, among other things. We got deeper into examples than some times--maybe that's a luxury of having a smaller group. It was a very interesting and intellectual discussion, although--and this seems somehow revealing to me--it had almost nothing to do with what happened later.

About half-way through this discussion we added the fourth RSVP, removing the excuse of critical mass for not playing. I started to "reason" through how to proceed, then abruptly jumped to "the only way to find out is to do it", which really should be one of our mottos. So we did the absolutely easiest possible thing: we used the Apples To Apples rules, as advertised, as unreconstructed as possible. This meant we needed nouns and adjectives. I seized upon a suggestion that one person write the adjectives, because it solved the problem of each of us writing nouns and adjectives that went together, prematched like Garanimals. The others wrote four noun cards each, which went into a pile, which was shuffled. I explained that when playing with family members we usually judged by consensus, but it was good that I was overruled, and we went by the book, with a rotating judgeship. (Actually I was overruled twice, because I had thought the winner of a round would be next judge of the next.)

I'm not going to give the play-by-play because that's a privilege that accrues to attendance. But like other times in Philosophy Cafe when we sort of marched ourselves onto the diving board (or pirate's plank), we rose to the occasion. The conventions of how we should present our case for why our noun fits the adjective best quickly emerged (often by imagining the reactions of those less-experienced in philosophical argument or just less familiar with the individuals in the group). The first thing was to let each player present a case "for" whatever noun card he chose to play. With more players, these speeches could be shorter, or people might pass because they decided their card was hopeless; however, because the adjectives (in this game) were of the existential/universal variety, there was always some connection that could be made. After these introductions, then players could take potshots at the other nouns, or, perhaps more effectively, attempt to subsume the other nouns into their own explanatory narrative (see below). The judge can ask pointed questions or raise concerns that may reveal the criteria he or she is using to pick the winner of the round. One reason I was immensely pleased with the judge as the sole and final arbiter of the round was that it focused us far more on what we were saying, contrasted to an unstructured conversation in which we may feel like we are talking to everybody-yet-nobody. (Essentially, the judge was the "designated listener".) A different kind of benefit was that it took the focus off of myself as facilitator: while it is a good idea to listen to other presentations, I didn't have to be "on stage" continuously. I found some room to let my mind wander through the various currents suggested, as others may want to give their mind a brief rest.

The nouns that we wrote (not knowing what the adjectives would be) showed a nice variety, covering abstractions and concrete objects. I also have a tiny deck of Charades prompts that we didn't need this time. One of our adjectives was rather tricky, and I had to look up the definition, but I daresay that now we all are much more likely to remember what "intensional" (with an 's') means! That round took a rather long time; in fact, we completed only three rounds by 9:30, our official ending time. But a fifth player had arrived during the third round, so we played the fourth, 15-minute round with him, which confirmed that it was easily learned by watching. The kinds of adjectives may prove to be key to how the game plays, but it may just as well depend mainly on the personalities of the players. It will be a pleasure to find out.
This was surely the most entertaining meeting we've had in a long while, with a lot of laughter. The role of chance seems to be important in freeing ourselves from having to be "the best" or "our best": the noun you played might not be one you wrote, and the adjectives were unknown when the nouns were picked, not to mention selected at random by the judge for that round. It's okay to fail: we laugh off our frustration and regroup to fight the next round. It is that "permission to fail" that may be the secret ingredient we've needed to lure participants out of their comfort zones...after all, isn't that why people leave their homes and televisions on a weeknight for the controlled chaos of interacting with other people?
It was suggested that this game could fit into the Salon format. It did seem to do a good job of loosening us up, which is the point of the warm-ups, though a bit more set-up is involved and it seems to take more time. Probably we could do one round (or multiple "lightning" rounds, which would be like "speed chess" I guess) at the top of the Salon, with an adjective chosen to match the theme--if we used the Charade cards, that would avoid the card-generation phase completely, and foil attempts to generate matching nouns as well (though the shuffling does that too). It would seem a waste not to use this fun game more often, though I may invoke Game Night more regularly, as it requires no preparation on my part, and the potential variations, on this game alone, are endless. A good thing about having the game up front would be that, besides disposing us to have a good discussion there would more opportunity to reflect on the game itself, about what it reveals about philosophy in general or about a particular theme.

We all were out of there before 10. Basically I had wanted a proof of concept--"Mission Accomplished"! (And mood much improved, I went out to listen to some happy jazz.)
Jeff G
Ulrich
Oakland, CA
Post #: 187

Postscript: I had intended to relate a scene I had witnessed on the bus just prior to the meeting. A girl, maybe 11-12 years old, asked her father "Why don't we buy a house?" The father launched into an explanation that buying a house was a part of a "narrative" that is particularly strong in our society. Preadolescents and narratives, I thought: heady stuff. Then he proceeded to talk about downpayments and interest rates and freedom and, ultimately, recognizing one's means and not taking unreasonable risks. The next time the girl spoke, it something about Pop-ups (the frozen treat). Somehow I think the little girl was perceived by the father to have the judge's role in our game, and he the defender of the card he had been dealt. Seems like there's an interesting variation of our game in there somewhere....
Jeff G
Ulrich
Oakland, CA
Post #: 188
Study: Show & Tell 7:15 pm, October 8, 2013

I arrived second at 7:05. As we had only four book presenters signed up, once the third arrived and we had introduced outselves, we started at 7:25. The first book was a biography of Spinoza (the seventeeth-century philosopher), which we discussed for 20 minutes, with me eliciting information with questions. At that point, the fourth presenter arrived, and we took a break to get refreshments and get acquainted. By 8:00 we resumed with a discussion of Alice in Wonderland, again with me asking some questions, though it was hard to get into detail because nobody had looked at the book recently. By 8:15 I had changed my mind about what book to present myself (like the others I had not prepared a presentation per se), but I took the liberty to interject a quick look at the author I had planned to present, J. M. Coetzee, and a scene from his most famous novel, Disgrace, (though the book I had intended to present was Summertime), just because the scene of Spinoza's trial reminded me a lot of how the main character in Disgrace handles his own trial.

At 8:20 I moved onto Bruno Latour's Reassembling the Social. Originally I avoided it because I had spent so much time the past few weeks poring over it that I knew I would overtalk, and that is exactly what happened. But I couldn't resist because we had a sociologist among us. I did resist opening up my notes, which meant I only gave a flavor of various parts of the book. Actually I talked about the first half for maybe 10 minutes, then we had some discussion which reminded of something in the second part and prompted another 5 minute presentation, which had us making connections to the other books, which segued into another few minutes about the book's conclusion, which pertained to politics. So it was interactive in that way, clocking in at 25 minutes.

At 8:45 we launched into the only prepared presentation, on Wittgenstein's Philosophical Investigations. There was even a handout that we could take home. This time it wasn't just me asking questions, trying to focus us on how Wittgenstein's thought might be important for our group. As the presenter had his own idea of how to make use of it (relating him to Darwin and Lakoff, for example), I did somewhat interrogate him on that, which I hope was not out of line. This part was interactive as well, but in a different way.

I saved a few minutes at the end for closing thoughts. Technically, Last Words are not responded to, but it didn't quite work that way. We ended right on time, though I thought we'd have ended early due to only four books. I kept these notes brief this time because the main issue here was the paucity of takers: I had thought that there would be more people in the group who had a burning desire to lead a mini-discussion on their favorite works.

In retrospect, it seems not announcing the book titles in advance was a bad call. We already know that people like having a theme set out in advance of a Salon: I guess the prospect of hearing about four random books might not strike people as a good bet. (In the current age of internet-dominated marketing, you cannot withhold anything from the consumer--sometimes the product even has to be given away on the mere hope that the consumer will pay!) The past Studies did, of course, state the book to be studied. There is also a supply-side aspect to committing to a book in advance: somehow I imagine we would have found the will to put together 5 minutes of considered thoughts on our selections, had we not the option of changing our minds. In my case, for example, afterward I realized I ought to have focused on a couple of the more accessible nuggets in Latour's book, rather than emphasizing its overall layout.

This variation on the Study format is of course a convenient way to have a meeting that lets everyone contribute in a definite way, and it's easy for me. Perhaps I'll create another floating meeting and we'll have people sign up publicly until there is sufficient interest to schedule it. I liked how the independent selections all had some of the "flavor" of Philosophy Cafe's somewhat interpretive approach, which made it easy to draw connections or parallels between them. Also it may be that a Show & Tell meeting would be a place to get one's feet wet prior to committing to offering a Study dedicated to one work.
Jeff G
Ulrich
Oakland, CA
Post #: 189
Salon: Red Lines, Slippery Slopes, and the Conditions of Life 7:15 p.m., October 21, 2013
The first two of us arrived at 7:05 and within 20 minutes we had everybody seated with their refreshments. I believe I neglected to do proper introductions, probably because we were four veterans and one newcomer. As I finished my dinner, I asked people to fill out "noun" cards for our Apples To Apples variation (which needs a name of its own!). I provided three "adjective" cards that were actually our three themes, briefly describing the game but not in depth, as it was mostly a way to get us started on each theme.

I shuffled and we were ready to go by 7:30. It turned out to be a misdeal, which can be a great way to develop a consciousness of a game. We laid down our choices against "Red Lines", after the example of Obama's red line of chemical weapon usage in Syria. Predictably, most of us had to "stretch" to connect, with varying results, sometimes humorous (but no one simply gave up). Then the first judge made the wonderful move of propounding a theory of the red line and asking if anyone wanted to update their "case": I did, and maybe one other. I liked that turn because it motivated us to really listen to what the theory was, in order to sway the judge.

I didn't take notes, probably because with our small group I didn't want to split my attention with a pad of paper. We seemed to strike a balance between sticking to a topic and achieving enough noise/variation to keep it interesting: in this case, the variation (at least in my eyes) came from the random noun cards we had put down, which remained on the table the whole time. That was an unexpected benefit in my view, because it seemed a bit fairer to employ examples that were present and available to all, rather than to divert the group into considering an example one constructed to favor one's point. People didn't have to confine themselves to their own noun card after the initial "defenses", which lent more coherence to the discussion. In a way, the cards served as stabilizing props, despite the fact that they were just words--perhaps our investment had to do with their representing our small "stakes" in the game. We took a strong interest in the overt properties of the metaphor: its choice of color and geometry.

I let that segment go for almost an hour, when I noticed that we had already shifted subtly into discussing "Slippery Slopes". I took on the judge role and the others played their nouns. The good aspects of the first segment continued, plus some differences emerged. One was that the interpersonal aspect that seemed inherent in red lines (a kind of contest of wills) faded a bit, as a slippery slope suggests topography, landscape. Another difference was that the originator of this theme took an active role, introducing the question of how we should regard arguments that rely on slippery slope characterizations. It seemed to me that we found some good ways to critique such arguments--that is, in figuring out what dependencies the metaphor has on the domain of the argument. But we certainly did not leave the red lines behind, maintaining a strong interest in referring back to the first segment: we had put away the first round of noun cards, but the adjective (theme) card remained in view. Again we were attentive to the details of the metaphor: the nature of slippage, the direction of slopes, and so on.

Flush with these successes (I wasn't even guiding the conversation that much), I launched us into the great unknown of "the Conditions of Life" (emphasizing that this was a phrase I made up) by 9:00. All of us played nouns and commented on all the possibilities, which seemed very appropriate as we had achieved a groove by then. Perhaps due to the novelty of the phrase, I thought all the nouns exemplified conditions of life rather well. Still more happy surprises ensued in this segment. The "stretch" required for one of the nouns (and note that most of us only had one card left to play by then) turned out to be so creative--and more important, affirmative--that everybody jumped on board, so to speak. I'm not even sure the original rationalization wasn't tongue-in-cheek, but it touched on some of our running themes. It was definitely a pleasant way to wrap up the discussion: to have taken on the ridiculous challenge of merging three themes, and to have arrived at something (assigned the name "conditions of life") that lifted our spirits. (As I alluded to at some point, the three themes didn't seem random to me, having recently been through the experience to putting my cat to sleep--yet happily, the group's result wasn't melancholy at all!)

We had a few minutes left to discuss other business and share our impressions of the meeting, ended on time, with a few more minutes of lingering. Catchphrases to add to our repertoire include "he sang his didn't he danced his did " and res ipsa loquitur--try to use them next time! ;-)
Jeff G
Ulrich
Oakland, CA
Post #: 192
Arcade in the Library: Nietzsche's "Maxims and Arrows" 7:15 pm, November 5, 2013

(I should have known I was headed for an unusual evening when, upon leaving my house, I saw that the house down the street was engulfed in flames.)

Three regulars arrived at 7:05, to find the cafe very busy--no room even for three people. Since most of us order food, we took a table in the restaurant. We had one more show, one no-show, and a brief, exciting appearance by an "extra". We took our time getting started, eating our food and exchanging news, intermittently discussing what our procedure would be. We wrote out four maxims on note cards, as I correctly anticipated we would want to read them over several times. Then we each wrote four "noun cards". I shuffled the maxims and nouns separately, dealt the nouns, and we were ready to begin.

We spent about 30 minutes each on three maxims, so ending about 9 pm, due to factors not having to do with the meeting. As planned, we discussed each maxim "freestyle" first for about half the time. Then we played a card and gave our "defense". I was the "judge" for the first round (because it was the maxim I chose that was drawn), and my first impression was that some of the drama of the game was taken away, relative to last time, because (a) I didn't see what the other players were going to try to defend, and (b) I was none too sure which card I myself was going to choose from my own "hand". The sense of a muddle was heightened by the busyness of the cafe (even the dining room was nearly full, and I was wondering at first how long we could stay after having eaten), and by the physical crowdedness of our small table: dishes, drinks, flatware, two piles of index cards, some printouts. Procedurally, the transition from informal discussion to playing our cards and defending them was unclear; however, it's possible that was due to the difficulty of grasping the maxims to the degree necessary to connect them with some confidence--real or faked--to the nouns.

A strength of the Apples To Apples game dynamic is that the "apples" are easily understood--it's the link between them that is uncertain and demands all our attention. But having substituted aphorisms--especially Nietzsche's paradoxical ones--for one end of the comparison, we were left with TWO parts unknown and one one part known (the noun). Not only was it rather challenging to make an argument, but I found it difficult to judge the ones I heard.

Which is not to say we didn't have good discussions about the maxims themselves, nor even that trying to connect them to the nouns didn't illuminate points we might otherwise have missed. We also laughed quite a bit, even if we weren't always too sure why. And by discussing more than one maxim, a pattern started to emerge (did Nietzsche and Oscar Wilde go to the same workshop on paradox?) Some interesting ways of getting oneself started were displayed (necessity is the mother of invention, you know): the noun reminds one of a story, the noun connects to work of art, start with the noun, start with the maxim, substitute the noun for one of the entities in the maxim, and more.

One pattern that led only to prolonged hesitation was evident: trying to figure out whether your idea of how to start is going to "work" before starting! Especially when the connections are difficult as they were with the maxims, one must not expect to see more than one step ahead. In fact, this caveat can be applied also to the selecting of a noun to play, which led to a suggestion to have only one card in one's hand: once we commit ourselves to a choice, options suddenly appear for how to embrace the card, whereas previously we fixated on the several unpalatable options of which card to embrace. I'm reluctant, though, to take away the perceived power of choosing, even it would be doing some people a favor--perhaps we could have an explicit option to accept an (even more) "random" card, which would constitute a signal to the other players "not to expect too much" while freeing the player's mind to concentrate on the one dealt to him. Plus it would raise consciousness about the sometimes self-defeating nature of choice.
There was, as well, a suggestion to use a maxim as a theme. If we were to apply the "Mash-up" game format to it, then, based on the above consideration of how many unknowns a player can manage, the maxim itself would have to be unimposing, and I would call it instead a "proverb". This would be worth a try.

Another possibility opened up by this week's variation is that the Mash-up might sit comfortably alongside freeform conversation. People who have tried "mashing" seem to recognize that it can lead them to thoughts worth thinking, new ideas worth pondering; plus, they like the feeling of accomplishment when they do mash. Still, fear is the initial reaction. To be determined is how crucial the discipline of a game, of explicit stakes, is in eliciting the courage to try. So the challenge is to untether the meeting from the game, without setting the game adrift and unsupported. Ideally, those who like to "play" could do so, publicly and concurrently with others who don't, and incidentally advertising the value of playing through this externalized creative process.

The evolution continues, while taking care to look only one step ahead. Comments welcome.
A former member
Post #: 19
I continue to be impressed by the sheer quantity of detailed (but perceptive and interesting!) thoughts you have about each of these meetups. I feel cognitively and experientially impoverished in comparison. But here goes: constrained choice good. Incentivizes creativity. Forces one to see eternity (or was it infinity?) in a grain of sand.
Jeff G
Ulrich
Oakland, CA
Post #: 193
DISCUSSION OF MEETING PLANS TO BE LOCATED IN THESE NOTES HENCEFORTH

Members may have noticed that, in meeting announcements, I provide a lot of detail about exactly what devices I am planning to use, what goals I have for it, etc. It helps me to "think aloud" while crafting the announcement, but it may not be helpful to meeting participants. They may not care about "process", or they may not follow my train of thought, and it must be admitted, the actual meeting often proceeds quite differently. Also it's possible that it deters some people from attending, perhaps because they think they ought to digest everything in the announcement. Therefore, from now on I will streamline the announcements as much as possible, keeping them to their customary task of attracting people to the meeting. (Of course, process innovations
are attractive to me, but I'm already guaranteed to attend! ;-)

So if you are concerned or interested in what may
happen, versus what we will talk about, in the next meeting, you should check these Meeting Notes in the days leading up to the meeting. The "pre-meeting" notes will often be specific to the upcoming meeting (like the post-meeting notes), but there may also be discussion of elements common to all meetings (e.g., props, games, warm-ups, and general considerations). They should be easily distinguishable from the post-meeting notes because they will be in italics. We could also use this forum to discuss these methodological aspects. By not including these ideas in the announcements, they can be left more open, to be fleshed out over time and/or by multiple people. While it still won't be necessary for everybody to know the why/what/how of the meeting, it wouldn't hurt to have more people plugged in to the 'meta-conversation': if you like process, please subscribe to the Meeting Notes discussion!

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