A Jenga imbalance?

Seeking further examples of Jenga metaphors has taken me to some interesting, some strange and some downright scary sites. I tell you, I’ve discovered some mighty weird ways people use Jenga – both literally and metaphorically.

But I was genuinely intrigued about the novel Jenga metaphor I came across today used in an exchange following an article about the film Krakatoa:East of Java on a blog entitled ‘ Six Mental Illness Myths Hollywood Wants You To Believeby ShawnStruck

…….first comment…..
‘I am not a clinician, but I am a psychologist, and while some of the comments in this article are worthwhile, there’s a lot wrong with it. Simply put, psychology is not a game of Jenga, wherein one crucial block can bring down the entire tower of mental illness. No one factor made the person snap, and shoving one thing back into place won’t make them whole. If it did, this mental illness stuff would be easy.

……..In reply…….
I suppose the analogy here is supposed to imply that mental illness is not like Jenga (rather than psychology). However, the common practice of labeling people ‘imbalanced’ seems at least somewhat grounded in observation. One factor can, in fact, make a person snap. That’s not to say that there aren’t a number of slowly developing and complex underpinnings to any mental illness, but precipitating events are a very real phenomenon.

Jenga creator talks strategy


Q. Some players use the “tap method” to move the blocks out of place while players like the “slow slide and pull” trick. Which do you suggest?

A. I use both techniques, depending on the circumstances. I also resort to the ‘squeeze and shift’ move when things get desperate. If the central block has been removed from a layer, it is possible to squeeze the remaining two outer blocks together, thus shifting the tower so that the layers above are now balancing on just one of the blocks, leaving one block free to remove. (Hard to explain, easier to demonstrate)

Extract from an email Q & A exchange with Chris Illuminati  (I never did get around to asking him if this is his real name or just a nom de keyboard?) about Jenga strategy, which gave rise to an article in phillyburbs.com (click for full article, and more Jenga tips)

Jenga, the generalist

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A large part of Jenga’s success can be attributed to the fact that Jenga is, to borrow a concept from the natural world, a generalist. Being a generalist -as, for example, are the plants that gardeners accuse of being weeds – Jenga has managed to colonize, as weeds do, a wide range of different territories simultaneously . Children like to play it, so it’s available in toy stores. Teachers like to use it as a teaching aid, so it’s available through educational suppliers. It is a popular adult drinking game, so you find it in pubs. Language is no barrier and neither is age, hence it can be perennially popular without acquiring craze status and is thus less likely to drop in and out of fashion as many other toys have done, such as the yo-yo and the hula hoop.
The flip side to such general success is that Jenga spawned a number of copies of knockoffs, some of which, like weeds themselves, rushed in to take advantage of the cleared space and perfect growing conditions Jenga created. Keeping the ground free of these imitations remains a challenge and, at the risk of taking this analogy a step too far, the most effective method of suppressing them has been to treat them like weeds and try to fill any gap in the market with an original Jenga game (or genuine Jenga line extension) as a gardener fills every space in a bed with desirable plants, leaving no room for weeds to take hold.

-A brief excerpt from chapter 12 of ‘About Jenga’

Diary Date

T.G.I.T.  Jenga Tourney Tonight!  on Twitpic

On Tuesday October 6th I’ll be playing Jenga into the wee hours @ Bar 675 in The Meat Packers’ District of New York City!

Sitting at my desk in my office (a converted 16th century cart barn) on our farm in the middle of the Oxfordshire countryside, surrounded by meadows full of sheep,  hares, deer and pheasants (NB:- that’s a ph not a p) – I’m finding it a little tricky this morning to absorb the idea that we’re off to New York, New York in just three days. And that we’ll be away in the States for a month – on a book tour that starts in NYC, which includes a stop off in DC, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Denver, LA, San Fransisco, and which ends in Phoenix.  Oh, and possibly involves a side trip to Orlando, too.

I’ll be attending a mind bogglingly diverse collection of events, which range from playing Jenga in bars – the aforementioned Bar 675 NYC on Oct 6th and the Rock & Roll Hotel DC on Oct 8th – to a book signing event at Chevaliers, in LA on Oct 18th to be hosted by the chairman of BritWeek  – to speaking at the Haas School of Business in Berkeley on Oct 22nd.

But then, I’ve always felt that diversity is what makes life thrilling.

Good design is not a matter of taste

Good design, like good art is not a matter of taste  – according to the sculptor Anish Kapoor.

Writing in the tastefully produced magazine of The National Trust, Kapoor takes a subtle dig at the Trust’s predominantly middle-class membership by suggesting that it is time the British ‘powers that be’ (i.e. Prince Charles & his ilk?) developed the aesthetic equipment to be able to know the difference. And, that until they do, design in this country – architecture in particular – will continue to be judged good or bad in terms that are based on the most banal questions of taste.

Kapoor suggests that our inability to view contemporary design in terms of style and with an open mind to how it relates to life now, not to life as it was in the past, is due to a surprising lack of confidence we British have in our own culture.

I think Anish Kapoor is right, but I don’t know when or how as a nation we grew so timorous as to fear our identity cannot withstand, let alone rejoice in, the so-called shock of the new. The cultural history, which defines us and which we so venerate, is rich. But it is rich precisely because our ancestors were innovative and daring artists, architects and engineers – designing to meet the needs of their time, as we should design to meet the needs of today; with an eye on the future.