Gifts That Make Me Smile


8ballI contend that any product that makes me smile comes from creative right thinkers. Take, for example, the Magic 8 Ball. For over 60 years now, people have been turning this oversized cue ball upside down, asking it a question, and entrusting their future to it by slowly turning it over to reveal on a tiny triangle an answer they willingly believe.

The original Magic 8 Ball that debuted in 1950 was a creative way to try putting a dent in the business of mystics with crystal balls, but the Magic 8 Ball has suffered a few business dents of its own from other creative knock-offs.affirmation There is, for example, the Affirmation Ball that features cheerful messages like “Have you lost weight?” and “Nice outfit!” But there is also a perverse side of me drawn to the Sarcastic Ball (“Yeah, right.”) and the Dr. Freud therapy ball (“You’re in denial,” “Talk about your mother”).

Personally, I am much more likely to recommend that you support your favorite charities in December than purchase any specific product, but when you are stressed by the holidays, taking a laughter break with a funny catalog is a wonderful relaxant.

I first started focusing on the catalog amusement factor about 30 years ago when thanks to humorist Dave Barry, I learned about the Archie McPhee catalog (, which features all three of the above variations on the Magic 8 Ball.  According to Wikipedia, the name comes from owner Mark Pahlow’s wife’s great-uncle, although whether he was a cut-up or just had an interesting name is not clarified. What IS clear is that the Archie McPhee catalog offers bizarre stuff.

There are categories, such as ornaments, masks, and inflatables, and there are themes such as bacon (65 items from body wash to gumballs) and mustaches (31 items from a giant refrigerator magnet to ice cube trays), including a bacon-scented mustache. Here is a sampling of some bandageof the other items available for purchase:

  • Tree ornaments: glow jellyfish, unicorn in lederhosen, and a rubber chicken in Santa suit
  • Full head masks: horse, pigeon, pug dog, squirrel
  • Bandages: with images of Abraham Lincoln, Shakespeare with accompanying  insults, macaroni and cheese, crime scene tape, and lips (for kissing the boo-boo)
  • Inflatables: a toupee, unicorn horn, fruit cake, and a Van Gogh painting
  • Sandwich bags: disguises (Groucho mask, etc.) crime scene tape, and lips (for sandwiches made with love)
  • Miscellaneous: a yodeling pickle and underpants for squirrels

Human ingenuity makes me laugh.

P.S. I am also pleased when charities have a sense of humor. Heifer International ( and Oxfam ( both offer opportunities to give animals to needy families, so consider going “hog wild” and giving:

·         ~  A cow to your udderly original uncle

     ~  A sheep to your aunt for her shear kindness     

           ~  A llama to someone you llove          

           ~  A rabbit to someone for whom you hope happiness multiplies

           ~   And a Christmas goose to anyone at all

P. S. S. I DO recommend books as holiday gifts, and one that is especially suited to this post is the marvelous coffee table book by Tim Walsh called Timeless Toys – Classic Toys and the Playmakers Who Created Them. (To learn more or order it from Amazon, click here.)

P.S.S.  You might also enjoy these novelty catalogs, but be forewarned: some feature rude wares:

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