ISFA News, Volume 12, no. 1 (March, 2006)

Online Edition of String Figure Magazine successfully launched

String Figure Magazine (ISSN 1087-1527), published quarterly since March 1996, became an “e-zine” in March of 2006. Unlike the print edition, the new electronic edition is illustrated with full-color annotated photographs instead of black-and-white line drawings (traced photographs), and rather than being mailed to ISFA members, each new issue is being posted at a password-protected website that can be accessed anywhere, anytime.

About file formats

HTML files (web pages) are instantly viewable, but lack the formatting of the print edition. Furthermore, photos will often split across pages if you attempt to print the web pages. For best results, simply save the web pages on your hard drive (or burn them on a CD) and view them offline whenever you feel the urge.

PDF files preserve all the fonts and format of the print edition, and the photos withstand significant enlargement (up to 400%). However, you will need to download and install Adobe Reader (a free program) if you have not already done so. The pages will print well on a color inkjet printer, but because the photos are small you will probably still want to view the files on your computer screen where zooming is possible. Again, for best results, simply save the pdf files on your hard drive (or on a CD) and view them at your leisure.

The benefits of an online edition

As previously mentioned in our 2006 dues letter, the format switch (print to electronic) will offer numerous benefits: (1) a huge reduction in cost (last year we spent $3351 to print our Magazine, and another $1364 to mail it); (2) a huge reduction in labor (tracing takes 40 minutes per photo); (3) the ability to feature string figures that require a thin string (tracing limits us to figures made with a thick string); (4) the potential to reach a younger and wider audience (today’s kids simply don’t have the patience to wait three weeks for a printed copy to arrive in the mail); (5) the potential to include live-action video clips (motion is an integral part of making string figures!). Although most ISFA members have indicated that they would willingly accept an electronic edition in lieu of a printed copy, a small minority (primarily those lacking regular or reliable internet access) has opposed the switch. However, please appreciate that we are making every effort to accommodate all members. For example, toward the end of each year members will also receive a CD with digital copies of all four Magazine issues on it, which we will tuck inside our annual Bulletin to help reduce mailing expenses. Members who do not have a computer for viewing the CD are encouraged to visit a public library (where access is often free), an internet cafe (where access is provided for a small fee), or a computer-savvy acquaintance who doesn’t mind sharing. As a last resort, members can always take the CD to a photocopy shop and ask them to print a color hardcopy.

The technical obstacles of an online edition

In switching formats from print to electronic, the editors had to overcome several significant obstacles that may not be obvious to the casual reader. First of all, printed line drawings can be significantly reduced in size without loss of detail, whereas photographs displayed on a computer screen cannot (most modern printers can squeeze 1200 dots into an inch of space, whereas computer screens are limited to around 100 dots per inch). The only way to overcome this limitation is to make the photographs huge (as we have done in the HTML version), or provide the reader with a means of enlarging them (as we have done in the PDF version). Second, the polarity of string crossings (over versus under) is often difficult to discern in photographs (in drawings, the artist just incorporates a break in the line). To help overcome this obstacle, a rainbow string has been employed so that color contrast can be used to discern string crossings (most, but not all of them). Third, to reduce ink consumption (for those who wish to print a hard copy of the electronic version), a white background has been adopted. The editors welcome further suggestions as we continue to optimize the new format.

Non-English versions???

Because we no longer need to worry about the cost of printing and mailing our Magazine, it is conceivable that each issue could be made available in a variety of languages — currently the ISFA has members residing in 22 different countries! However, the realization of this lofty goal must remain in the hands of volunteer members (the editors can read simple text written in French, German, and Spanish, but writing is beyond our capabilities!). If you are fluent in any of these languages (or others), and would like to volunteer as a translator, don’t hesitate to contact us.

New Members

During the past six months the ISFA acquired 7 new members. So far, 147 members have renewed their memberships for 2006. If all members from 2005 renew, we will have 224 members living in 22 countries.

Our new members are: Tammy Cravit, Lompoc, California; Lorena Finnerty, Sunset Beach, North Carolina; Kathy Faltin, Arlington, Virginia; David S. Lewis, Arlington, Massachusetts; David Elkin-Ginnetti, New Haven, Connecticut, Deborah Thomas, Tallahassee, Florida; and Lynn Bacon-Trzcinski, Pike Road, Alabama. Welcome!

Fallen Angels

Each year we ask members to send us $25 to partially offset our printing and mailing costs (overseas members pay $35). For the balance we rely on the generosity of passionate and/or financially secure members. We like to acknowledge the generosity of those who send double the requested amount by dubbing them String Figure Angels. Archangels are members who contribute $100 or more.

Because of a glitch in our new accounting software, four members who contributed $100 or more in 2005 were mistakenly classified as Angels rather than Archangels. They are: David Eisenberg, Joseph Ornstein, Lois and Earl Stokes, and Kazuohiro Kawashima. Needless to say we are embarrassed by the oversight, and sincerely hope the donors will forgive us. Their overwhelming generosity is vital to our survival.

Switzerland’s String Figure Exhibit

During the summer of 2005 (May 8 - August 21) the Übersee Musuem in Bremen, Germany, under the guidance of ISFA member Lothar Walschik (a.k.a. ABOINUDI), successfully hosted the largest and most comprehensive string figure exhibit ever attempted. In November 2005 the exhibit moved to the Swiss Museum of Games on Lake Geneva, where it enthralled visitors for an additional five months. Both Lothar Walschik of Bremen and stringer-storyteller Sam Cannarozzi Yada of Parcieux, France, attended and/or performed at the exhibit. Sam's observations follow:

“Au Fil du Monde, Du Fil au Monde”
The International String Figure Exhibition comes to Switzerland

The very unique Swiss National Museum of Games will celebrate its 20th anniversary next year. It is a wonderfully hands-on museum located in western Switzerland not too far from Lausanne. It was the ideal place to host the first International String Figure Exhibition created last year by Bremen’s Overseas Museum and German string enthusiast Lothar Walschik of the ABOINUDI String Figure Group (see my article in the ISFA Newsletter, Sept. 2005, Vol. 11, No. 2, pp. 2-3).

Poster advertising the String Figure Exhibition
at the Swiss Museum of Games, November 25, 2005 — April 23, 2006

The Museum is located in a castle on the shores of Lake Geneva and has a permanent exhibition, stretching over three floors, of board games, card games, roulette wheels, and lottery wheels from around the world. Their collection, which includes pawns and playing pieces from many other games of skill, totals more than 4,500 objects, so the temporary string exhibition was in wonderful company! The space was a bit more confined here, as the Bremen Museum was a huge place, but all the essentials were present, including the cubicles that showcased string figures from five geographical zones (Africa, Australia, North America, the Arctic and Oceania). And this time I paused to watch videos of string figures being made at Thulé in northern Greenland and at Trobriand Islands, just off the coast of New Guinea (these were produced by the Scientific Film Institute (IWF) of Germany in the late 70s and early 80s) — a real treat to see string games played where they were created!

I was asked to give workshops and performances over the first weekend in February to Museum guides, storytellers and interested parents and teachers. Our Sunday performance was a sold-out affair. Ulrich Schädler, Museum Director (himself an authority on Roman dice games) and Laetitia Aeberli, cultural attachée, were wonderful hosts along with the rest of the Museum staff. The exhibition has already attracted double the usual number of visitors, and local as well as international visitors seem enthralled with it. The Museum also has a very interesting “Books and Games” store.

Unfortunately there seems to be no other museum ready to receive this extraordinary collection after its run in Switzerland, but rumors have it that Luxembourg might be willing to invite Lothar Walschick to celebrate International Cultural Year in 2007. It would be a real shame if the exhibition ended up in dusty boxes somewhere — by nature, it is meant to be “played in” by visitors.

So if ever you are in the neighborhood visit the Swiss Museum of Games, even though the String Figure Exhibition is now officially over. The Musuem offers you a wonderful experience and the Swiss chocolate is great!

— presented by Sam Cannarozzi
(a regular contributor to ISFA publications and a student,
collector and performer of string figures since 1981)

BSFA now available on CD

From 1978 to 1993, articles written by members of the ISFA appeared in Bulletin of String Figures Association (BSFA), published by Nippon Ayatori Kyokai (the Japanese String Figure Association). The series was co-edited by Dr. Hiroshi Noguchi, Tokyo, and Reverend Philip Noble, Prestwick, Scotland. When it ended, the 1318-page series consisted of 19 numbered issues plus a two-volume supplement. Only 100 copies of each issue were printed, most being distributed to association members. In 1994 a new series was founded under the editorship of Mark Sherman. The new series, Bulletin of the International String Figure Association, was (and is) published by ISFA Press, Pasadena, California.

Since 1994, ISFA Press has been offering unbound photocopies of the former series. To help reduce the cost of copying and mailing the hefty set, a reduced master copy was made (two pages per side, two sides per sheet), which we were able to photocopy and mail for $56. A microfilm version was also made, but was rarely requested.

After years of wishful thinking, we are finally able to offer the entire former series in PDF format on a single CD for a mere $19.95. The files, courtesy of David V. Feldman of Lee, New Hampshire, were prepared by scanning the above-mentioned master. The text and drawings are all highly legible and withstand significant enlargement. But alas, the photographs that appeared in some issues are a mess, having been photocopied three times. Potential buyers should also be aware that no editing was undertaken: a small but significant number of typos, spelling errors, and erroneous instructions remain uncorrected.

For several years now John Kean of New Zealand and a dedicated team of proofreaders has been working on a fully revised and corrected edition, but this is an enormous undertaking that continues to challenge everyone involved. Unlike the digitized version we are currently offering, the revised edition will feature searchable text and scans of the original photographs, most of which were recently located by Dr. Noguchi and others. Can’t decide whether to buy now or buy later? Don’t fret — anyone who purchases a copy of the unedited version on CD will automatically receive the edited version once it becomes available.

If you have recently joined the ISFA and have never seen or read any of the old Bulletins, you are in for a pleasant surprise — the material is wonderful! To view a complete table of contents on the web, go to

'Pentagram' — one of many splendid geometrical string figures
created by Yukio Shishido (from BSFA no. 8, 1982)

Last updated February 16, 2007
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