A colleague recently brought to my attention a story that appeared in The Times a few years ago about the late 1960s board game Group Therapy, in which players take turns drawing cards that ask intimate questions and psychological challenges. (Example: “You have been accused of over-intellectualizing your complexes. Respond – without being the victim of this criticism.”)
Story writer Juli Weiner insists that the game is great fun, that any awkwardness is ironically dispelled by the fact that everything about the game is awkward, and so nothing about it is awkward. is. There are only misfires, she explains, “when someone refuses to give themselves permission to be awkward – the psychological equivalent of being the only person in the sauna clinging to the napkin”.
This is my kind of good time. As a child, I loved the board game Scruples and “The Book of Questions”, social experiments disguised as board games. As an adult, I find corporate icebreakers mildly exciting – What’s your favorite cereal? What was your first job? – anything that gives people permission to bypass the chatter and talk about themselves.
I think of games because it’s too hot for picnics, for long walks and bike rides, for the usual summer pastimes. Group therapy and its ilk can be too emotionally heavy for a family game night, but, as many have found in the early months of the pandemic, it doesn’t take much to create fun hours.
When you’re more comfortable indoors than outdoors, when you’ve streamed all there is to stream, try a game of Charades or Celebrity, low-tech entertainment that only requires your intelligence and a few rules. Maybe a chatty board game like Scattergories or Taboo? Or go old school: Monopoly. One. A game of playing cards.
For solitary activities, The Times has a bunch of great games that I swear I’d recommend even if I didn’t work here. I have a thing for crossword puzzles (I’m part of the team that tests them before publication), but most people I know are addicted to spelling. The weekly news quiz, written by my colleagues at The Morning, is a nerdy delight. (And Internet sensation Wordle will soon be a board game.)
While it seems like everywhere you turn normal behavior is exhaustingly gamified (see: Waze, exercise trackers), there’s always fun finding games from scratch as the game progresses. inspiration arises. As any child who has ever dared to make the bed in less than three minutes can attest, a challenge makes things interesting.
What are your favorite games? Tell me about them.
THE WEEK IN CULTURE
📺 “The latest movie stars” (broadcast on HBO Max): While another Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward documentary could have focused on their acting careers and half-century marriage, this six-part series, directed by Ethan Hawke, adds a unique twist. At the height of the pandemic, Hawke gathered Hollywood friends (George Clooney, Laura Linney, Sam Rockwell, Zoe Kazan…) on Zoom to read decades-old interview transcripts for a scrapped Newman memoir. The resulting film is a fascinating look at fame, marriage and artistic legacy.
📚 “La Fille du Dr Moreau” (out now): Many of us have had this wonderful moment of discovering an author and wanting to follow him wherever he goes. That’s how I felt after reading the mysterious novel “Mexican Gothic” by writer Silvia Moreno-Garcia. Her imagination “is a marvel,” wrote Times horror columnist Danielle Trussoni. That holds true in his new book, a reimagining of HG Wells’ sci-fi classic.
🎧 “Rebirth” (Friday): Maybe you heard that Beyoncé has a new album on the way. This is his first solo studio album since 2016’s instant classic “Lemonade.” One track here is called “Plastic Off the Sofa,” which my grandma would never have approved of.
RECIPE OF THE WEEK
Heirloom Tomato Pie
In the midst of a heat wave, fire up the oven to cook anything – even the gorgeous Vallery Lomas heirloom tomato pie – could be an absolutely terrifying idea. But not if you have a large toaster oven, which can do the job without overheating your kitchen. So I made one this week with store-bought pesto and the first heirloom tomatoes of the season. I took a tip from the reviewers and salted the tomatoes as they drained. Not only does this season them from top to bottom, but it also helps draw out moisture, resulting in a firmer, easier-to-slice pie. Then I enjoyed it with a crunchy salad and a cold drink, all without ever breaking a sweat. Or, if cooking anything is out of the question, we’ve got plenty of no-cook recipes to get you through these next few fiery days.
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What you get for $1.8 million: An 1838 cottage in East Hampton, NY; a bungalow in Miami Shores, Florida; or a house in Richmond, Virginia.
The hunt: She had a budget of $700,000 and wanted to live in Brooklyn. Which house did she choose? Play our game.
Sit down: Conversation pits are back.
Working close to home: Apartment buildings offer co-working spaces as amenities.
Houston Astros vs. Seattle Mariners, MLB: The Mariners have not made the playoffs in 20 seasons, the longest drought in baseball. But this season is starting to be special. Prior to this week’s All-Star break, the Mariners had won 14 straight games. Then, in the Home Run Derby, their star rookie, Julio Rodríguez, smashed over 60 homers in the first two laps. Will he help break a streak almost as old as him? Today at 4 p.m. on FS1.