Here's a fun 1-minute video of my newest product: the X-Ball®, a set of 30 X-shaped magnetic design pieces (available from Creative Whack Company). The X-Ball is a companion product to the award-winning Ball of Whacks. The X-Ball gets your creative juices flowing!
We've spent the past four days in Ephesus and Bodrum on the southwestern Turkish Aegean coast.
Here I am in Ephesus putting the Ball of Whacks in its rightful "classical" position atop a pedestal. [Yes, I can be a goofy tourist.]
Alas, there was no mention of the ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus in the Ephesus Museum (he lived in Ephesus circa 550-480 BC). But Heraclitus probably looked like the guy on the right (with his girlfriend on the left).
At the Temple of Apollo in Didyma. Medusa, who turned others to stone when they gazed at her, is herself set in stone. She is quite impressive in person (about 1.5 meters high).
Inside the Oracular Area of the Temple of Apollo (Didyma). Wendy and stretch out in front of an altar decorated with a pair of griffins. [The griffin is a legendary creature with the body of a lion and the head and wings of an eagle. In antiquity, the griffin was a symbol of divine power -- in this case Apollo.]
We recently received the following delightful letter from Monica Ciurej, MSW, who is a school social worker. She writes about using it with her ADHD students.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
I am a school social worker and have used the Ball of Whacks to demonstrate the ability to re-organize, calm, increase self-esteem and cope with difficulties.
In teaching re-organization to students with ADHD, I've found the Ball of Whacks to be a good teaching tool. You break the ball down, and then you put it together one piece at a time, just as you would complete one problem at a time on a worksheet. And before you know it it's put together or done.
Secondly, I use the ball to distract kids from anger, crying, and agitation. Even if they "break" it they can put it back together. Applied to their emotions, they see how one blow-up can be fixed and life gets put back together and we keep on "rolling" on.
Students are encouraged to try making different objects and shapes with the Balls pieces. After they've successfully made a new shape, their self-esteem improves.
Lastly, the Ball of Whacks is great at teaching coping strategies for kids who might be anxious or nervous. This helps keep their hands busy and is quiet enough for the classroom environment and is not disruptive.
When the students feel like things are "broken," the Ball of Whacks is a great visual of how we can fix things with a little support (magnets) and keep making mistakes and start over.
It's also a great ice-breaker for kids I'm meeting for the first time.
Monica Ciurej, MSW
Thank you, Monica. Good luck to you and your students!
In one of my businesses, I deal with China on an almost daily basis. I'm referring, of course, to the Ball of Whacks which is manufactured in China (but "Designed in California!" as Apple would put it).
I just spent the past week negotiating the BOW prices for 2008. They're higher than I thought they'd be. There are a variety of factors:
Higher plastic costs
Higher labor costs (due in part from the Chinese government)
Higher magnet costs (commodity prices continue to soar)
Weakness of the dollar
I plan to keep the retail price the same as it has been since 2006, but the cost increase does squeeze our margins.
I share this information with you, because many of our everyday products are imported from China. At some point, businesses will have to pass along these costs to the consumer (especially when their margins are narrow). I wonder what this bodes on the inflation front.
Speaking of Chinese imports, shown above is a cartogram that displays World Container Shipping. Each country is sized according the number of containers that are shipped either in or out of that country.
I wonder what impact rising Chinese prices will have on the world economy. What do you think?
Over the years, people have used my various products (books, card decks, software, tools) to stimulate their creativity and/or amuse themselves.
Yesterday I discovered the following video made by "Bill from Richmond" last April. Bill is a recovering stroke victim and the video is a "letter" of sorts to his grandchildren. The production value isn't high, but I think Bill's enthusiasm and openness to life come through clearly.
The four-minute video was made in Bill's home studio. It starts slowly, but "Bill" grows on you. He explains why "Grandpa isn't senile." About halfway through, Bill provides his grandchildren with a simple tip to a fuller life. You can tell he's having a great time. (Check out the cool stuff Bill has in his lab.)
Needless to say, this video made my day! As Bill says, "Play with it!"
Last June, QVC (the $9 billion a year television retailer) approached us about doing a one-time sale of our amazing Ball of Whacks. We said, "Why not?" and produced a special order for them of 4,000 yellow Balls of Whacks.
We didn't know what would happen. Would we eat the order? Would there be a tepid response? Would their audience get it?
Here's what happened.
Last Friday evening, QVC had a six-hour pre-holiday promotion from 6 PM to Midnight. The Ball of Whacks went on the air at 8:14 PM.
Veteran QVC presenter Bob Bowersox opened the slot by saying, "Last night I took the the Ball of Whacks home with me and played with it for an hour. I got to tell you that it's better than Rubik's Cube." He then added, "It would take me the rest of his life to put a Rubik's cube together; the Ball of Whacks, however, is fun but not frustrating." The phones went crazy! Over the next several minutes they received 2,064 calls. The entire order (just under 4,000 units) sold out in 319 seconds! That's 5 minutes and 19 seconds, or almost 800 Balls a minute. What fun! What an adrenaline rush!
As you can imagine, I developed a brand new appreciation for QVC's marketing clout.
[To get your very own Ball of Whacks (in red, blue, or tri-color), go here!]
Do you think you could you go a day withoutproducts that areMade In China? How about a year? Alex at the Kango blog recently raised this question in connection with the publicity surrounding the recall of some Chinese manufactured products including toys, pet food, and apparel. I'll provide my personal answer at the end, but first a short background.
Historically, China has been a manufacturing powerhouse. This was
true in antiquity (from 3rd century BC to approximately 3rd century
AD), and again from roughly the 9th century into the 14th century.
During these eras, Chinese products found their way to all the corners
of the known world. Thus, what’s happening now with China’s current
manufacturing capability can be viewed as a “return to form,” rather
than something that’s without precedent.
Some groups have talked about boycotting Chinese goods, and/or buying only those made in the USA. I believe "that horse left the barn" a long time ago. It’s been some decades now that many western companies (and
their customers) made the decision to have their products made in
China. I think the typical consumer would rather pay less rather than
significantly more for a comparable product. Simple economics.
Indeed, even if you wanted to manufacture a plastic product in the
United States, you’d find that there’s only 40% of the molders here
that there were 25 years ago. And you’d have to pay a lot more to have it
As many of you know, I designed a product (the Ball of Whacks: info at http://creativewhack.com) that is manufactured in China. I am quite pleased with my manufacturer. I have personally inspected their manufacturing facilities and have written about it: Manufacturing in China.
The Wall Street Journal wrote an editorial (August 13, 2007) stating
that it is unfair to single out China for shoddy manufacturing. Poor
quality products can come from all countries. The key thing, the
Journal points out, for better products is to have better designed
products in the first place.
Could I go a day without “Made In China”? I personally wouldn’t want
to. Chinese products have enriched not only my life, but also the lives of many others as well. How about you?
When I was growing up, one of the scariest people in the world (to me and many others) was Nikita Khrushchev, the leader of the Soviet Union from 1955 to 1964. In 1962, he and JFK went eyeball-to-eyeball in the Cuban Missile Crisis and came close to starting World War III.
One of Khrushchev's most famous outbursts came in 1956 when he told a group of western diplomats: "We will bury you!" In the context of thermo-nuclear war, this outburst was chilling. But Khrushchev later said he meant that the Soviet Union and communism would outlast the West, and that "we would come to your funeral to put dirt on your grave."
Today we visited the Novodevichy Cemetery where a number of Russian and Soviet notables are buried. I saw the graves and monuments of such people as: Boris Yelstin, composer Dmitri Shostakovich, cellist Mstislav Rostropovich, former first lady Raisa Gorbachev, foreign minister Andrei Gromyko, Olympic champion high jumper Valery Brumel, and playwright Anton Chekhov.
I also visited Khrushchev's grave (he died in 1971), and took great pleasure in placing the Ball of Whacks next to the monument head. For as much as he scared me when I was a kid, I thought I'd have a little fun now!
Actually, as I've read more and more about Soviet history, Khrushchev comes off as one of the "good guys," at least in the context of what came before him (Stalin) and after (Brezhnev). He pushed for market reforms in agriculture, and also had the courage to denounce one of the worst tyrants and murderers of the twentieth century (Stalin).