Area Family Disqualified from Family Feud for Feuding

By SOME KERNELS OF TRUTH Oct. 20, 2014

LONG BEACH, CA — The Garcia family from Long Beach, California has been disqualified from long-running game show Family Feud due to excessive in-fighting between relatives.

The disqualification occurred during an in-person audition for the show on Saturday, October 18 in Los Angeles. Members of the Garcia family say they were not given a fair chance.

“All that happened was a few of us disagreed over the answers we wanted to give to the question, and the show’s staff cut us off right away and thanked us for coming, but said we would not be appearing on the show. I demanded to know why the hell not, but they wouldn’t tell me,” said Ronald Garcia, 42.

Fellow auditioning relative Evelyn Garcia, 38, said she feels that the disqualification is likely due to her brother-in-law Robert. “I blame Bobby. We had to name a gift wives would love to receive from their husbands and when it was his turn, he said home appliances. My sister hates when he gives her stuff like that, and he knows it. So I told him off right then, hoping he could give a better answer instead, but he refused. That’s when I noticed the show’s staff looking at us with a weird look on their faces,” she said.

Robert Garcia, 39, disagrees, saying he was not at fault. “I told Evelyn to shut up, that she didn’t know what she was talking about and should mind her business with our marriage and my answer to the damn question. If anything, I blame our disqualification on my wife, who started crying when I said that, as usual,” he said.

A member of the show’s casting team, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the Garcia family’s fighting was too intense for the daytime show’s upbeat environment. “We’re looking for fun families who get along well with each other, and this family wasn’t that. They were just too heated and it distracted from the gameplay itself. They’d be a better match for an intervention type of show. I know our show is called Family Feud, but that’s supposed to refer to an entertaining battle between two families competing against each other on the show. We’re not looking to showcase actual feuding within families.”

The Garcia family plans to audition for other game shows in the near future, but on an individual basis.

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Note: This is another “fake” news story I was inspired to write after recently hearing a true story about a family not being picked for the show a few years back. So, then I ran with the idea and let my imagination have some fun with it; I’ve been getting a kick out of writing these! You can read others I’ve written, here, here, and here. :)

“One Lovely Blog” Award Nomination!

lovely-blog

I have been honored to be nominated for the “One Lovely Blog” award by margaretdj —  I thank her so much and sincerely recommend you check out her great blog!

This award recognizes blogs considered to be “lovely” by fellow bloggers and is focused on helping them attract more readers. There are a few simple rules to follow to accept this nomination:

  • Thank the person who nominated you for the award.
  • Add the One Lovely Blog logo to your post.
  • Share 7 facts/or things about yourself.
  • Nominate 15 bloggers you admire and inform nominees by commenting on their blog.

Having already done the first two, now I’ll share 7 facts about myself. Coming up with these was a bit tricky — here is what I think might be entertaining to read (I hope!):

  1. I love purple. Anything purple calls to me…and I was thrilled to find out in recent years that I’m not alone in my purple obsession. There are even stores and websites devoted to selling purple things exclusively. I found myself in such a store during a trip to San Antonio, Texas a few years back, and couldn’t believe it. I was like a kid set loose in a toy store; let’s just say my luggage was much more full on my return trip home!
  1. Having grown up in New York City, I love city life. A noisy city is more calming to me than an eerily quiet suburb. “Where are the car horns?” I’ll think as I try to fall asleep whenever I’m visiting a more rural area.
  1. I studied French and Spanish from my junior high years up through college. However, I still get frustrated with my struggles to break past basic-level communication in each language: While I can read both fairly decently, I understand spoken Spanish better than I do spoken French, and I struggle to write or speak either one myself. So I keep working on both…
  1. This is somewhat embarrassing for me to share, but I never learned to ride a bike. And since I don’t really need to, I still haven’t — plus I would dread being seen learning now as a fully-grown adult. I know I shouldn’t care about that, but nonetheless I would feel funny if people witnessed me learning like a six-year-old; most areas near me are not isolated enough for me to feel comfortable trying!
  1. I also can’t swim — but I love being on boats. I never got around to learning to swim, being a city kid and not having easy access to pools or official lessons during my childhood. It was just one of those things that never happened. Occasionally I think about maybe trying to learn now, but somehow I never get around to it. One day…!
  1. I love cats and dogs. I often wonder why so many people still feel inclined to pigeonhole people like me into one or the other?! I’m a cat person and a dog person; I have a cat now and would love to have a dog too, but my building doesn’t allow them. I once took a side job as a dog-walker years ago specifically to have some access to dogs, and even dog-sat for friends recently. If I could have one of each right now, I would!
  1. I love flying on airplanes. Minus travel hassles like lost luggage and long lines, of course. But aside from that, being in the air thrills me, and I try to get a window seat whenever possible; as other people sleep, read or watch TV, I tend to stare out the window most of the time. You’d think it was my first flight ever, but no. I’ve flown many times, yet each time I’m just as obsessed with how beautiful everything looks from the sky and have to admire it all for as long as possible. If you check out my Twitter page, you’ll see a photo I took from one of my flights at the top. I’m a shameless sky tourist every time I’m on a plane!

And now, the best for last — here are the 15 bloggers I admire, and why:

  1. Get Fuzzy! – This blog is written by Craig Blower, who’s been battling stage IV lung cancer since 2012. His blog is so well done — first of all, it’s informative. For example, he shares lots of details about lung cancer, such as this fact, written on his “Why This Blog” link: “it’s important to get the word out that lots of lung cancer victims are non-smokers.” Plus he skillfully balances sharing the realities and emotions of his experience with lots of humor. I think everyone should read it, whether you have a connection to cancer or not.
  2. Touched by the Page – Although this blog is described as “a blog about books,” which is great, it’s also so much more than that. Yes, there are a variety of insightful book reviews like this recent one (written carefully so as to avoid major spoilers, a real plus!) — but Fien, the writer behind the blog, also writes about personal issues such as her mother’s lung cancer battle with such heartfelt honesty and grace. Definitely check it out.
  3. What The Eff? – I am lucky enough to know this blogger in “real life” and I find her to be as dynamic as her blog, which features a wide range of topics ranging from shrewd movie reviews and TV show critiques to tasty recipes and much more. Well worth a read!
  4. Words I Wheel By – This blog is written by Emily Ladau, who writes that her blog is committed to “exploring disability in society and my experiences living with a disability.” The blog does such a great job at writing on such an important topic in a way that informs and motivates the reader. In addition to Emily’s well-written pieces, her blog also features articles by other writers and links to news sources focusing on disability issues — a wealth of resources can be found here.
  5. Chitra’s Healthy Kitchen – I love this blog’s “recipes for healthy living,” since they’re also tasty and aesthetically-pleasing, complete with easy-to-follow instructions and high-quality pictures.
  6. Jay Dee in Japan – This is one of many blogs written by Jay Dee Archer, a Canadian man who moved to Japan in 2005 and plans to stay for the foreseeable future. This blog is another favorite of mine since I love reading about life in other parts of the world and am particularly drawn to Japan. You can also find links to his other blogs here.
  7. People, Places, and Perspectives – Alexis, the writer behind this blog, publishes a wide range of inspirational, positive posts including lovely haiku poems and stream-of-consciousness pieces. Her writing is very engaging and warm, which likely has to do with her view of blogging as a way to, as she writes on her “About” page, “learn from and be inspired by my fellow dreamers.”
  8. Joeyfully Stated –I really enjoy the writing style and humor of this blog, which is described as “narratives of a neurotic and other nonsense.” It features an entertaining approach to a wide range of topics ranging from introversion to true (yogurt) love.
  9. My Life at the Big D (Dillard’s) – I get a kick out of this blogger’s true-life accounts from her job at Dillard’s department stores, complete with funny stories not just about the store’s customers but its employees as well. You don’t have to work in retail to relate to the incidents described, like in this post which touches on staff members who are supposed to be on vacation but are constantly in touch and assigning work to employees…
  10. Silver Threading – This blogger writes about her “journey into retirement.” I admire how she went back to college a few years ago, and I enjoy her accounts from her personal life, complete with great photos like these of her “neighbors!”
  11. Joatmon14 – This blog is written by Mark Eaves; I like his mix of posts ranging from funny family stories to introspective pieces about life. His reason for writing is also something I feel many of us can appreciate and relate to — as he says on his “About” page, “at the age of 49, I am trying to find my voice. Maybe starting a little late, but better late than never.” So true!
  12. Good Lifestyler – I appreciate this blog’s diverse range of topics covered: recent posts have dealt with how alcohol affects our emotions as well as the importance of letting go of the past.
  13. Top of JC’s Mind – I value this blog a lot. Its writer, Joanne Corey, can address painful/poignant topics, share honest assessments of herself and recount interesting accounts and photos from her daily life — all equally well. I admire her versatility and enjoy seeing what she’ll post next.
  14. irenedesign2011 – This blog is devoted to the “creative jewelling” done by its writer, Irene. I am impressed by her dedication to blogging in English even though it isn’t her first language — how I wish I could get to that level with the languages I’ve studied! — as well as her craftsmanship: to get an idea of her work, take a look at this post about a recent piece of jewelry she made. Lovely, isn’t it?
  15. Taste of Japan – Again, my interest in Japan led me to this blog, and I enjoyed it the minute I found it. It features a very attractive layout, as well as in-depth cultural information and a wide range of eye-catching photo galleries like this one.
  • And an honorary mention goes to LindaGHill’s blog — the only reason she’s not on the official list above is because she was already nominated for this award this year. But I couldn’t leave her off my list in some way; Linda writes such great posts, ranging from poetry to pieces on parenting and so much more. I recently enjoyed this amusing one which was both funny and thought-provoking! She also does so much to connect bloggers with one another. A perfect example of this is her Stream of Consciousness Saturday posts, in which she shares a writing prompt for bloggers to use in a free-flowing post, with minimal editing beyond typos and whatnot. She also does One-Liner Wednesday posts, in which bloggers share funny or inspirational sentences — they can be original creations or quotes from other sources, as long as they’re one line. One of her guidelines for both series is checking out everyone else’s posts for that week, which helps new bloggers gain some exposure and creates a great community among bloggers. For all that, I had to include her even though she was already nominated once this year!

So that’s my list of blogs I find to be lovely and also deserving of the “One Lovely Blog” award! Although at first choosing 15 sounded like a lot, once I got started and listed all the blogs I follow and enjoy, it was actually hard to choose only 15! It helped that some blogs I like have elected to be no-awards blogs — if that hadn’t been the case, I’d have had an even harder time choosing just 15! Anyway, hope you find a few new favorites in this list. :)

Local Resident Insists on Commenting on Neighbors’ Comings and Goings

By SOME KERNELS OF TRUTH Oct. 7, 2014

BROOKLYN, NY — Park Slope residents in one rental complex have filed a complaint with their landlord about neighbor Mary Farnsworth. According to the complaint, Farnsworth “repeatedly engages in nosy behavior with everyone in the building, invading our privacy at every turn.”

Complex residents state that Farnsworth began prying into their personal lives soon after she moved in three years ago.

“The first time I met her, I got on the elevator with her on my way home from the supermarket. Right away I saw this lady eyeing my bags and looking at me, like she was eager to talk. I was tired, though, so I avoided eye contact,” said Gloria Perry. “But it didn’t work. She asked me, ‘Oh, you were getting groceries?’ in this nosy way. I felt like saying back, ‘No, I just enjoy carrying food around in bags,’ but thought better of it and just said yes. She’s always been like that, and it’s annoying,” Perry recalled.

Other tenants agree, saying they’ve faced similar inquiries. “It’s weird she has to comment on the most mundane things and point out the obvious. Like the other day, she saw me heading to the laundry room with my laundry basket full of clothing, yet she actually asked me if I was going to do my wash. I mean, really, what’s the point of an inane question like that?” said neighbor Lucy Chu, adding that she often tries to avoid Farnsworth whenever possible. “I avoid going anywhere I hear her or see her, if I can,” said Chu.

One neighbor, Steve Ferrer, said Farnsworth has even gone so far as to give him unsolicited advice. “The other day in the lobby she saw me coming in with a pizza from the place down the block. She said I should go to the one three blocks over instead; she said she likes the pizza there better. I told her I’d had their food and didn’t like it as much, but she just kept saying, ‘Go there, you’ll love it.’ It was like she wasn’t even hearing me,” said Ferrer.

There was no response from building management as to what can be done about the complaint against Farnsworth.

Fellow resident Thomas Jeffries said he is worried nothing will change. “I mean, I agree with the complaint, but really, what can they do? She’s not breaking any policies or laws. So when you have an annoying neighbor like that, you’re pretty much on your own,” he said with a sigh.

* * *

Note: This is not a real news story; it’s another fake news story I came up with, although it was inspired by real events…if you like fake (and hopefully funny) news stories like this one, you can read a few others I’ve written, here and here. :)

Commuters Complain about Curious Cabdriver

By SOME KERNELS OF TRUTH Sept. 27, 2014

BRONX, NY — Multiple Bronx residents are banding together to protest the intrusiveness of an overly curious cabdriver who works for 123 Livery Service on Burnside Avenue.

“I called them for a taxi a couple of weeks ago and as soon as I got in, the driver wouldn’t stop asking me questions,” said Morris Heights resident Susie Atkinson. “I could tell he was harmless and just trying to make conversation, but it was still annoying. He asked if the address I was going to was where I worked, what I did for a living, stuff like that. It was non-stop,” Atkinson said.

Another local resident, Gordon Martin, said he has gotten the same cabdriver using 123 Livery Service and was subjected to a similar barrage of personal questions. “I called for a ride home from a friend’s place one night and he didn’t stop talking the whole way,” Martin recalled. “I didn’t think much of it until he started asking if I lived in the area and was heading home and if so, how much was my rent there? I found that way weird. He was polite and just seemed genuinely interested but I didn’t feel like telling him that, so I lied. I told him I was staying with a friend and had no idea,” said Martin.

Other 123 Livery Service customers report that the driver, known so far only as “George,” also enjoys asking riders about their musical tastes, ethnicity, and opinions on the Cross Bronx Expressway’s traffic problems. In addition, he has been known to ask passengers who ride in pairs or groups if they are related to one another.

“What he’ll ask is really random, but he always throws in some personal questions. It’s like he doesn’t know where the line is or when to stop talking,” said one passenger who refused to be identified for fear of retaliation. “It’s not that I think he’s dangerous or anything, but I do need to use the car service a lot and don’t want to be told no cars are available when I call, or be kept waiting. They do that if you piss them off, you know,” explained the passenger.

A petition is currently circulating within the neighborhood asking that Driver George refrain from asking his passengers so many questions. Customers plan to turn the petition over to 123 Livery Service once they’ve collected 100 signatures.

Management for 123 Livery Service could not be reached for comment.

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NoteThis article is another fake news article I decided to write after I enjoyed writing this piece. I was inspired to write this one after taking yet another cab with an overly inquisitive driver — so I guess you could say it’s based on a true story since this has happened to me, and many other people I know, quite a lot over the years. :)

Local Parent Faces Backlash for Notifying Young Son of Upcoming Divorce Via Text

By SOME KERNELS OF TRUTH Sept. 23, 2014

POMONA, NY — Area resident Linda Wilson is facing criticism for notifying her 8-year-old son Michael of her upcoming divorce from his father via a text message.

“When I read that text, I couldn’t believe it. Her son was right there on the message! That’s just so wrong,” said Maria Cooper, a close friend of Wilson’s who received the message. “I wrote about it on Facebook and before I knew it, everyone was agreeing with me and telling her the same thing,” Cooper said.

Despite the criticism she received, Wilson says she sees nothing wrong with the message she sent on Saturday, September 13 to close friends and family.

“There were so many people I had to tell, it just made sense to do it with a group message. And I didn’t feel right leaving my son out of that,” Wilson told reporters. “Maybe if he’d been home I would have told him directly, but he was at his friend’s house. I had no choice,” she said, adding that she worded the text very carefully. “You can see for yourself; heck, you can put it in the paper for all I care! I did nothing wrong,” Wilson said, granting permission for the text to be reprinted in its entirety.

The message read: “I have some news 4 u all. Me & Joseph — of course that’s ‘Dad’ 2 u, Mikey! — aren’t going 2 stay married. We’re getting a divorce as soon as possible. Sorry 2 text this. I wanted u all 2 know as soon as we decided, but it’s hard 4 us to talk about right now. Writing it is easier. Thanks 4 understanding. Luv u all!”

Wilson says her son was dropped off at her home about an hour later by his friend Aaron’s mother. “The minute she got to the house with him, she lit into me. It was totally uncalled for,” Wilson recalled. “She said Michael had been so upset when he read my text that he couldn’t talk at first. She asked to see what had upset him and he handed her his phone. She said I shouldn’t have done that, but who is she to say that? My son deserved to be part of the message I was sending, plus he loves texting,” Wilson said.

“Besides, I said right there in the text that this was hard for me to talk about! He should understand that,” Wilson added.

Calls to Wilson’s soon-to-be ex-husband were not returned as of press time. Son Michael also declined to comment.

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Note: This is not a real article, as you probably guessed! I wrote it after a friend and I were texting about how parents should and should not break the news to their kids about a divorce. Towards the end of our exchange, I joked that one way parents surely should NOT do so is via a text. We found this ludicrous idea funny and thought it could make a great article for the Onion, similar to pieces like this recent one. My friend said I should write this up and pitch it to them, but they don’t accept freelance submissions. But you know what? There’s no reason I can’t write some spoof articles for my blog; they don’t own the concept of fake, humorous news, AMIRITE?! :) So, hope you enjoyed this!

Recognizing The King of Queens on its 16th Anniversary!

KoQ publicity photo from official website

The King of Queens starred (from right to left) Kevin James, Leah Remini and Jerry Stiller. It debuted in 1998 and ran for 9 seasons, ending in 2007.

Today is the 16th anniversary of the debut of TV show The King of Queens! It debuted on September 21st, 1998, according to the show’s IMDB entry. As a big fan of the show, I just had to make note of it!

For those of you unfamiliar with the show’s basic premise, it focused on character Doug Heffernan, a driver for a delivery company called IPS, which is understood to be alluding to UPS. Doug lives in Queens, New York with his wife Carrie and her father Arthur.  They’re a working-class family reminiscent of a modern-day Honeymooners — except with a father-in-law always present.

I’ve always loved the show and have thought it didn’t get the kind of recognition and acclaim it deserved — and still deserves, in my opinion. I mean, it was popular enough, running for 9 seasons on network TV. But I don’t think I’ve ever seen it mentioned in best-shows lists and TV retrospectives the way shows like Seinfeld and Friends are. Yet I believe it’s right up there in terms of quality; in fact, I like it better than both of those shows.

The dialogue on the show was very realistic, the acting was very natural (especially after the show hit its stride towards the end of season one) and the premises were odd enough to be funny, yet normal enough so viewers could relate.

Take, for instance, this episode in which Doug and Carrie have finally paid off their credit card debt (image and text below courtesy of the show’s official Twitter account):

To celebrate this accomplishment, Doug and Carrie decide that each of them will indulge in a treat for themselves.

Soon after, Doug buys himself a whimsical item — a cheap harmonica. Carrie, on the other hand, comes home with a pricey leather jacket.

Doug flips out, saying their treats were supposed to be reasonable; purchases like hers will only get them back in the hole.

Carrie goes to return the jacket and then realizes she could have waited until the end of the return period, enjoying the jacket for as long as possible before returning it to get her money back — essentially “borrowing” it for free. This discovery leads her into a downward spiral in which she begins buying lots of designer clothing, wearing it, then returning it. It eventually gets out of hand, with her temporary clothing empire filling up an entire room of the house and necessitating the need for a complicated return schedule based on each store’s policies.

To me, that kind of plotline strikes the right balance between being amusingly unique, yet surprisingly understandable — it’s entertaining without requiring a major suspension of disbelief since it’s not too over-the-top.

Then there was the episode where Carrie’s out of town and Doug can’t sleep without her, which sounds sweet, but it turns out he’s not necessarily missing his wife being by his side in bed — he just needs somebody there to be able to sleep.

So what does he do? He manages to entice Carrie’s father to move upstairs to sleep in bed with him (sounds overly creepy if you haven’t seen the show, but it’s actually really funny in an absurd way — if anything, the underlying creepiness is what makes it amusing!):

What I liked most about that part of the episode, when they’re shown waking up together, is how they start laughing. It works for the scene, since it can come off like the characters are so happy with their odd, new arrangement, but I also think the actors were truly laughing during filming — it seemed like their natural reaction to the scene was coming out and wasn’t scripted. I love when real moments like that happen and aren’t cut out!

Another favorite episode of mine, and one which I think is great example of the show’s natural, relatable humor and plotlines, involves an episode called “The Hungry Man.” In this episode, Doug is getting ready to head out to work when his wife Carrie asks him to join her at a work dinner she’s just gotten a call about; the dinner is at her boss’ apartment that night.

At first Doug says no since he’s working a double shift at his job and won’t be off in time, but then decides to surprise her by skipping lunch and working through it in order to make it to the dinner. However, he hadn’t had a chance to eat breakfast that morning, so by the time he gets to her event, he’s starved — only to find out it’s not a dinner after all. Turns out Carrie had found out that day at work it would just be drinks.

“Why didn’t you tell me?” Doug asks her in frustration — and hunger.

“I didn’t know you were coming!” Carrie says, and rightly so.

I love this episode because you can see both sides of the situation, like how Carrie can’t be blamed for not telling him there was no dinner — last she knew, he had to work! Yet you can’t help feeling bad for Doug who was trying to do the right thing but is clearly suffering for it. Plus it’s a great representation of one of those days when everything goes wrong!

Here’s a photo from the episode which shows Doug rummaging through Carrie’s boss’ apartment looking for something, anything, to eat during the event — and having very little luck:

Ultimately, if you haven’t seen the show (and I’m always surprised by how many people have never watched it despite it having been on TV for so long in its original run and now in reruns), I recommend you see a few episodes in full to see what I mean about the fun dynamic between the actors and the realness of it all. I feel like the writing and acting didn’t try too hard for the laughs in a forced way, unlike so many other sitcoms that do. Instead, they were earned on the merits of the good writing and excellent delivery.

Also, the storylines weren’t based on lowest-common-denominator humor unlike many other recent shows like How I Met Your Mother and Two and a Half Men; I know those shows have been popular, so I apologize if I offend those of you who may have liked them, but they just never worked for me what with their sexist jokes and slimy characters.

Oh, and some random trivia:

The King of Queens featured actress Mary Lynn Rajskub in a minor part from a September 2002 episode in which she plays a woman working at Carrie’s office. Here’s a picture — which, incidentally, shows her perfecting the scowl face she became especially well-known for in her role as Chloe O’Brian on 24.

actress Mary Lynn Rajskub on The King of Queens Sept 2002

Bryan Cranston of Breaking Bad fame also made a few appearances on The King of Queens, too. He played an annoying neighbor who lived next door to Doug and Carrie — here’s a photo from a May 2000 episode in which his character, Tim, attempted to sucker Doug into a ponzi scheme selling water filters and their licenses:

actor Bryan Cranston on The King of Queens May 2000

To find out when The King of Queens airs in syndication in your area, visit the show’s official website at  http://www.thekingofqueens.com. You can also purchase the complete DVD or Blu-ray collection here.

Entertaining History: Nintendo & Hanafuda

So a few years back I’d picked up a cheap copy of Nintendo’s 2006 Clubhouse Games for the Nintendo DS, a couple of years after it had come out.

Clubhouse Games

Now, at first glance, this game just seemed like a somewhat run-of-the-mill multi-game release featuring a wide range of classic games like Solitaire, Checkers, Backgammon, Dominoes and a variety of others — conveniently all in one cartridge. It was the kind of game I liked to have for when I went on trips like work conferences and was bored in transit.

But it turned out to be much more than that, for me at least. Besides the fact that it has been the best multi-game release I’ve played due to its variety, in-depth instructions and excellent gameplay, it also introduced me to a game I’d never played before. One I eventually fell in love with.

I’m talking about Koi-Koi.

Koi-Koi, according to this Nintendo’s game rules, “is a version of the Japanese card game Hanafuda.” The rules go on to state that “Nintendo got its start manufacturing Hanafuda cards in the late 1800s.” As for gameplay, the basic goal in Koi-Koi is to “create pairs of the same suit using the cards in your hand and the shared cards.” Kind of like what you do in Texas Hold ‘Em poker, using a combination of cards dealt to you as well as the community cards.

But I have to admit that I wasn’t too keen on learning Koi-Koi at first, even though I found it interesting that Nintendo had started so long ago as a manufacturer of these cards instead of in the 1980s with video games as I’d assumed.

No, my instinct had been to use this Nintendo release to play games I already knew and liked, even though I did find the Hanafuda cards pretty and unique. Here’s what a few of the cards look like, to give you an idea; this picture comes from an Amazon listing for one of Nintendo’s Hanafuda decks of cards (which they still make):

Nintendo hanafuda cards

Luckily, Clubhouse Games had a “stamp” play mode that required a player to play each game at least 3 times before you could access the next game; so if you wanted to play Backgammon, you had to have cleared previous games like Checkers and Chinese Checkers first. Although I didn’t have to play this mode (I could have stuck with “free play” which lets you choose whatever you want right away), I tend to want to make use of all included features on any game I buy — at the very least, I like to give it a shot. Plus doing so unlocks other benefits, like new designs and music.

I’m a video game geek, yes. But then, you might already know that.

Anyway, once I got to the Koi-Koi phase of “stamp” mode, I “played” it by randomly clicking cards just to hurry along the process until I could lose three times (you only have to play, not win) and be able to progress past it. As I did so, I found myself growing to like the cards and their artistic beauty the more I saw them, since each game of Koi-Koi lasts twelve hands. But still not eager to learn an unfamiliar game at the time, I kept clicking away until I was able to move past Koi-Koi and eventually complete all of “stamp” mode.

But next up was “mission” mode, where a player has to reach a few particular milestones in each game to proceed; in Hanafuda, one goal was to earn 150 points. Clearly, randomly clicking wasn’t going to work now since I actually had to win. Since I didn’t want to give up so close to beating all components of Clubhouse Games, that meant actually reading the rules in full and understanding the nuances of the gameplay and the scoring. At least now I was familiar with what the cards looked like.

As I did so, I found myself marveling at pretty much everything about Hanafuda, down to its name — which, by the way, charmingly means “flower cards.” I loved the organization and design of the cards; there are 12 sets of 4 cards each which represent every month of the year. Kind of like how Western cards have suits; well, in Hanafuda, the depictions of each month makes for the equivalent of a suit.

Images for each month vary but all share a common theme that ties in with what happens in nature during that time of year. For instance, since cherry blossoms bloom in March, the March cards all feature images with cherry blossoms. (See why they’re called flower cards?) Here’s an example of one of the March cards, from a physical deck I later purchased:

March cherry blossom scroll card

I don’t know what the scroll says, but you don’t need to in order to play.

I was inspired to find out more about these cards and discovered sites like Hanafuda.com with great info on the variations of gameplay, helpful tips and even a Flash-based version of the game you can play online for free. (Check it out if you’d like to play a practice game or two; although I prefer the gameplay in Nintendo’s Clubhouse Games, this one is decent.)

Incidentally, if you’d like to see what each month’s theme is, check out this link from that Hanafuda.com website. And here on the Hanafuda site you can see a side-by-side comparison between each month’s theme and a picture of its source of inspiration from nature, since at first glance it can be hard to recognize what each scene is representing from the cards alone.

I didn’t stop there. Now I was really curious about how Nintendo had started out making these cards in the 1800s. Since I love reading about how major businesses got started, especially ones I personally like, I decided to read up on Nintendo.

I came across Playing to Wiin: Nintendo and the Video Game Industry’s Greatest Comeback, by Daniel Sloan, published by Wiley in 2011.

Playing to Wiin

This was a very interesting read throughout, and I loved the information I found out about Hanafuda cards through this book, such as this trivia:

“Fusajiro Yamauchi…launched ‘Nintendo Koppai’ in September 1889 as a hanafuda card business. Fusajiro saw Kyoto’s gamblers as well as its landed elite, students, and laborers as yearning for the turn of a friendly, well-made card. The city had been home to Japan’s emperors from the 8th century into the 19th, but like the entire nation it had endured a ban on card gambling for about 250 years. The new Meiji Era government, as a sign of its progressive agenda, decided to allow card games using pictures instead of numbers — one of many changes under a new Constitution that included weightier moves such as national elections and the end of serfdom. With the end of the card-playing prohibition, Fusajiro had a ready market for his ‘flower cards,’ which stunned players with their beauty.”    

As time passed and I was reading the book, my interest in Hanafuda kept growing, and before I knew it, I was officially hooked. I began playing Koi-Koi on Clubhouse Games on a regular basis, now eschewing most of the other games on the cartridge in favor of it. I played as I ate breakfast; I played in bed before falling asleep.

I was addicted.

Soon I decided I wanted my own “real life” deck, and went with this one made by Nintendo and sold on Amazon; this is where the cherry blossom card pictured above came from.

I also read Game Over: How Nintendo Conquered the World, by David Sheff, published by Vintage in 2011.

Game Over

According to Sheff:

“In the absence of horse or dog racing or sports pools, the yakuza, Japan’s equivalent of the Mafia, operated high-stakes games of hanafuda in casino-like parlors.”

I got a kick out of the cards’ somewhat less-than-respectable beginnings; quite a contrast with their pretty, innocent look! Which I suppose was the whole point, in a way. Who would ever suspect these cards of being associated with anything illegal?

Sure enough, an especially intriguing account of Hanafuda’s origins comes from the history section of the Hanafuda.com website — here’s a little more background on how the cards came into existence and were used for gambling:

“Hanafuda’s most obvious predecessor is actually the Portuguese Hombre deck, which was the first 48-card deck to appear in Japan. Portuguese traders and missionaries arrived in Japan in the 16th century, and were quick to invite the locals to participate in their card games. Prior to the arrival of the first European traders, the Japanese used playing cards almost exclusively for recreation, but the gambling card games preferred by the Portuguese visitors quickly gained popularity among the natives. The Japanese government saw the danger in this new hobby and quickly banned private gambling. Less than a century later, when Japan instituted its new isolationist policy, all foreign playing cards became illegal. As a result, Japanese card fans abandoned the Westernized designs of the Hombre deck in favor of their own homemade decks depicting Japanese characters and scenes. What they retained was the original 48-card design of the Hombre deck, and a penchant for gambling. Over time, the images became more uniform so a standardized set of rules could be developed, but as the government banned one deck after another for being gambling-oriented, card players had to become more clever in their deck designs. In this way, the original hanafuda deck was designed in the late 18th century. Its use of image association instead of an obvious point system made it more government-friendly.”

Aha! So the cards’ simple nature scenes really were designed to camouflage their true use! Clever indeed.

The book Introduction to Japanese Culture, by Daniel Sosnoski, published by Tuttle Publishing in 2013, also discusses the non-Japanese origin of hanafuda cards:

“A fact that surprises many of its devoted fans, however, is that hanafuda was not a Japanese invention at all…hanafuda was actually a Western import.”

Intro to Japanese Culture

Sosnoski states that “the ‘flower card’ game was first introduced to Japan in the late sixteenth century by Dutch traders at Nagaski,” and “underwent a number of changes and regional variations in the following centuries” — but ultimately, “it has become so much a part of the culture that most Japanese think of it as their own.”

In the book, Sosnoski also touches on the gambling side of Hanafuda cards as well; apparently the use of these cards for gambling continues even to the present day:

“Today hanafuda is like poker in most parts of the United States: recreational games are permitted, although betting, even in penny-ante games, is technically illegal. Of course there are those who cannot resist playing for big stakes. Every year the newspapers report at least half a dozen cases in which police raided a secret hanafuda parlor and arrested the players.”

When I first saw Hanafuda on Clubhouse Games, I never would have guessed that there was a gambling underworld associated with these beautiful cards — both in the past and today!

Yet in Things Japanese: Everyday Objects of Exceptional Beauty and Significance, published by Tuttle Publishing in 2014, author Nicholas Bornoff confirms “that hanafuda has always been prized by serious gamblers.”

Things Japanese

And back on the history link of Hanfuda.com, it’s reported that the word yakuza, the Japanese term associated with crime and gangsters, was first related to the Japanese word for a bad hand in a Hanafuda gambling game. In fact, the site says that “many yakuza tattoos have been inspired by images from the flower cards.”

Wow. I thought I was just playing a cute card game from Japan.

I had no idea I was such a badass.

All jokes aside, I love when seemingly simple forms of entertainment, or anything really, turn out to have an unexpected history behind them, so I figured I’d share this one with you.

By the way, you can play lots of different games with Hanafuda cards besides Koi-Koi. If you’d like to learn more about the cards and the various popular games you can play with them, I recommend the book Hanafuda: The Flower Card Game, which features thorough instructions as well as helpful illustrations for a variety of Hanafuda games. Written and published by Japan Publications, it was first released in the 1970s and has been reprinted over the years; the one I have is the 15th edition from November 2010 (below):

Hanafuda the Flower Card Game

Also, if you’d like to own a set for yourself but prefer cards with point values on them for ease in scoring, you may want to go with a Hawaiian deck. Hanafuda is popular in Hawaii, and cards there typically feature point values on the faces of each card. Here’s an example. On a related note, the game is also popular in Korea (where it’s referred to as Hwa-tu) and a Korean deck features a few extra cards.

I’d say trying Hanafuda for yourself is worth it, if you haven’t yet — and it’s the closest you’ll get to being one of the yakuza gambling in a casino parlor in 1880s Japan.

It’s like playing with a piece of history. And who said history can’t be fun?