• The Swagger is my favorite new toy

    The company that invented the Swagway hover-board came out with an electric scooter called The Swagger and I love it.  This zippy, carbon fiber toy weighs only 15 lbs, is easily carried and has a small form factor when collapsed.


    I work in a large, carpeted office and we use the Swagger to blow off steam after long meetings.   I've been riding around on it for a few weeks now and there is so much cool about this thing.


    • The Swagger is UL 2272 compliant, which means it'll never burst into flames!
    • The Swagger has a backlit digital display with an odometer, speedometer, 3 speeds and cruise control.  Why I'd need cruise control on this is beyond me but I'm glad it's there!
    • The factory set top speed of the Swagger is 15MPH and though is may not sound fast enough…it is. There's even a way to lower the top speed if you'd like.
    • The Swagger has a blindingly bright headlamp for night riding and the package as a whole looks and feels solid.
    • The manufacturer, claims that a 1.5 hour charge will take you between 10-15 miles. I'm actually experiencing 5-7 but I think it's because I'm normally riding in the top gear at full throttle.



    • The $399.00 price tag is pretty steep for an office toy.   But if you live in a flat area and your commute to work is short, you should check it out.
    • The Swagger doesn't go up hills very well.

    But to me the pros far outweigh the cons and I'll probably buy a second so that I can ride around with my wife.  Below is Swagtron's promo video and from the look of it, the odds of meeting young ladies who also ride Swaggers to work are 1 in 1!

    I like your odds male America!


  • Meet Elliott Terral, Director of Magic

    Every now and then I meet people who seem to possess superhuman powers.  Elliott Terral is one of those individuals and his official title is Director of Magic at a company called Art of Magic

    How cool is that?!

    After speaking with Elliott for a few minutes, I asked if he was a performing magician to which he didn't answer.  Instead, he began patting down his pockets for a deck of cards.  I beat him to the punch and handed him my very own deck of Erdnase 1902 Green Acorn Playing Cards.  One thing to know about this deck, is that you either own it because you're a genius with a deck of cards, or you're a poser. 

    And for the record, I am not a genius with a deck of cards.


    Elliott took my fancy cards and did the impossible.  He showed me a King of Hearts and slowly flexed it back and forth as the card changed from king to an ace and then back again.  His movements were slow and it was real magic to everyone that was with me.  If you'd like to see the effect performed by the guy who invented it you can watch it here. 

    And if you'd like to purchase the method, it's only $5.00 but you need to know it isn't a trick you can do just because you bought it.  There's a reason an "EXPERT LEVEL" descriptor is attached.  But the good news is that there are other effects and concepts on the website that are far more approachable and equally satisfying. 

    One of my favorites is The Great Rubber Band Escape trick that's taught by my talented friend Jordan Gold.  


    Visit the website and begin developing superpowers of your own.

    Besides having some of the best, current magical techniques and concepts, Art of Magic has hours and hours of free audio content to pour through.

    Elliott manages a very entertaining podcast for ARTOFMAGIC called Magical Thinking where he and famous magicians discuss how to approach magic, entertainment, and art in general.   Below is Elliot's interview with Homer Liwag, who is known for creating magic with and for David Copperfield.



  • The Toadman of Clawson, Michigan

    I'd like for you to meet one of my favorite people in the whole world.   He's a private guy and though he's okay with my writing this post, he'd rather I kept his identity a secret for now.  He calls himself The Toadman.   But I should warn you, what you are about to read isn't what you'd expect.   He doesn't lick toads for fun, eat amphibians or live under a bridge.  He simply loves toads more than anything in the world and what he does in his free time proves it.

    If you ever meet The Toadman, he'll seem just like anyone else in the Motor City.  He'll probably talk about Michigan State University, the Detroit Tigers and how great it is to live in his hometown of Clawson.  But what you won't get right out of the gate is what I call his "green side".  That's the side of him that's comfortable discussing his life-long passion.


    Since we were kids, The Toadman has been obsessed with frogs and toads.  The day I got my drivers license he talked me into traveling 20 miles north to a swampy area because "that's where they have the best ones".  I know it sounds strange, but just as a bird watcher is able to detect the presence of certain birds by how they chirp, The Toadman is able to do the same with toads.  It's uncanny really.

    Did I mention that for the past 2 decades he's lived with toads and sometimes sets up professional photo shoots with them?  Just look at the size of his favorite googly eyed friend, Toad Ramsey.  That portrait is ridiculously huge!


    Sadly, Toad Ramsey is no longer with us (God rest his frog soul).  He was named after a baseball player from the 1880's who became famous for inventing the knuckle curve ball.  It seemed that Thomas H. "Toad" Ramsey had severed the tendon in the index finger of his pitching hand and there was no way for it to apply pressure to the ball from that finger when thrown.  When other pitchers saw his throws curve the way they did, they deconstructed his grip and the technique lives on to this very day.  

    The Youngstown Vindicator described his pitches on January 6, 1923:

    "The ball would leave the hand and go on a straight line to the plate, then suddenly shoot down. Ramsey's curve was pronounced by experts to be the perfect demonstration of rotating a sphere."


    In 1888 the Toad Ramsey baseball card became available and my friend has built a little house for the one that he owns.  He explained that the card isn't especially valuable and though he did it to protect it from direct sunlight, it was also because toads are mostly nocturnal.


    As you can see, Toad Ramsey will live safe and sound forever under a gigantic portrait of himself. 


    We should all be so lucky.


    Earlier this year, The Toadman attempted to contact the spirit of Toad Ramsey through a Ouija board. What he found was that Mr. Ramsey doesn't like being called "Toad" at all. He'd rather be called by his given name, Tom.  


    I'm sure you're glad that's straightened out.

    In 2003, The Toadman's Fantasy baseball team (named The Clawson Toads) won the World Championship title besting more than 200,000 teams in the ESPN's Baseball Challenge.   That year everyone in town got a Clawson Toads baseball shirt to celebrate.


    The Toadman followed CNN trucks around town while wearing his shirt in hopes of getting some well deserved airtime.  And at 3:28 PM, on December, 12th 2003, my friend hit 4.5 seconds of pay dirt. 

    cnnThis footage became especially important when he found himself in a battle with editors of Wikipedia.  It seemed they didn't think the Clawson Toads were important enough to have their own article.  After 2 years of tireless battling,  The Toadman's wikipedia page was taken down and the sleepy city of Clawson, Michigan has never been the same.  

    But life goes on for The Toadman and he is currently working on his will that states, "Upon my death, I leave everything I own to the Clawson City school district as long as Clawson High School changes their  mascot from whatever it is to a toad".

    And that seems fair to me.


    Go Toads!




  • My sister made a Chewbacca piñata costume

    A few weeks ago my good friend John Park created a video demonstration of how to hack the famous Happy Chewbacca mask to trigger your very own audio files.  And when my sister Christina told me she was building a Chewbacca-Pinata costume for her son, I naturally shared John's video with her.

    What my sister ended up creating was the most awesome thing I've ever seen.

    But before sharing some pics and a video of the costume in action, I wanted to set the bar very, very low by showing images of other homemade Chewbacca costumes I found online.


    It's like looking in a Chewbacca mirror!





    Yes, you can purchase this one!



    And this is my favorite one of all. The caption under this photo read, "Look at Chewbacca's feet!".

    The truth is, that's all I'm looking at.

    So now that you're primed for awesomeness, here are some pics of the creative process and a video of the finished product.



    Christina started with an ordinary fleece jacket and started attaching strips of paper to it in layers.


    She kept working upwards and onto the store-bought Chewbacca mask.  And Ryan just kept standing there.


    Christina made Chewbacca-pantaloons by applying the same paper layering techniques onto a pair of sweatpants.

    Holy crap is that a fantastic Chewbacca-Piñata costume, but from what I can tell there is a fatal flaw.


    The costume is called a "Chewbacca Piñata" and piñatas are meant to be hit with a stick or a baseball bat. If I had my way, to avoid a run-ins with stick carrying bullies, the name would be changed to something simple, like for instance, "Chewbacca".

    Potato, piñata.


    If you'd like to make your own Chewbacca Piñata, follow this link but be warned, it's going to suck about 40 hours of your life away.


    May the force be with you.





  • The FEEL FLUX grants the sense of slowing down time

    I've been playing with my FEEL FLUX for weeks and its hit rate in the amazement department is 100%.

    Each time you drop the metal ball through the copper tube you'd expect it to zip out the other end but instead, it lazily creeps from one end to the other and dribbles out into your waiting hand.



    A "Silent Catch" is what happens when you toss the ball into the FF and it slowly glides down the sides without making contact with it.  I have to say that it's satisfying and magical every time I pull off the maneuver.

    As the ball glides down the tube, the magnetic field changes inside the metal wall and when this happens, a bit of voltage is created.   This reaction is not unlike a tiny, temporary battery and is called an electromotive force. The movement pattern of the voltage moves down with the ball and looks like this:




    What could be simpler?

    The tube's material is an electrical conductor and drives current around in circles as the ball descends. The scientists at my laboratory tell me that when this happens, a second magnetic field is created that opposes the downward motion of the magnetic ball. The ball wants to fall through the tube at 9.8 meters per second but the field wants to halt it and of course, gravity wins in the end. And here's the crazy part – the faster the initial downward motion, the more powerful the slowing force becomes.

    When I throw the ball as hard as I can into the mouth of the tube, the ball doesn't travel any faster than if I just dropped it in!

    The image below shows an experiment in which a magnetic field is created by using a liquid battery. As more current from the battery is thrown through the copper coils, a magnetic flux occurs that's not unlike my new toy.induction_experiment

    While I don't know where you can get an old timey liquid battery, I do know that you can get a brand new FF in machined copper here.

    And the best thing of all is that the FF will look good next to pretty much anything in your office or laboratory.



    Until very recently, I have pondered the answer to this question:

    If I'm in an elevator on the 49th floor of my building and my arch nemesis snips the thread that suspends it, will I experience less of an impact if I jump in the air just before the elevator smashes into the bear-trap at the bottom of the shaft?

    Adam Savage of Mythbusters says that according to the laws of physics, if my nemesis did his job correctly, that it'd be traveling at around 82 kilometers per hour by the time it hit the ground.   Even if I could time my jump perfectly, it'd make only a sleight difference in impact speed and I'd still be a gnarled, bloody mess.

    Ahh, but what if instead of riding in an elevator, I rode down a long copper tube while comfortably sitting in a Feel Flux magnetic ball? I think we all know the answer to that question.  Cushy landing city.

    But if you do find yourself in a "regular elevator" and things go awry, keep your wits about you and remember these lessons from my favorite Lonely Planet video:

    Hopefully it'll never come to that, but my physicist parents taught me that it's better to be safe than sorry. 

    Then again, they also taught me this questionable physicist joke:

    Q: What did the male magnet say to the female magnet?
    A: From your backside, I thought you were repulsive. However, after seeing you from the front, I find you rather attractive.

    Please don't let my parent's horrible joke stop you from checking out one of the most amazing magnetic toys I've ever owned.

    Support the FREE FLUX!


  • KettlePizza creates pizza making geniuses

    My wife and I held a pizza pie cook-off last weekend where we supplied the flour, dough and basic toppings.  We asked our guests to bring exotic items to personalize their creations and there was even a trophy on the line for the chef who made the best impression on our judge. 


    What my friends didn't know was that they were actually play-testing my favorite new Weber BBQ attachment – The KETTLEPIZZA.



    The KETTLEPIZZA is basically a metal sleeve that fits between the top and bottom of your existing kettle grill that forces heat to come up from the backside, over the top of the pizza and out the front opening.  In the past week I've learned that cooking authentic Neapolitan pizza isn't as tough as I thought it'd be and getting the grill over 700° was the key to making it happen.

    To be honest, I had 3 rough starts with KETTLEPIZZA and spent about a week fine tuning my tools before getting things dialed in for the party.  Below are a few tips that will help you succeed on your first try:


    Tip #1 

    Visit Kettlepizza.com and pick their Weber grill accessory kit called The Serious Eats KettlePizza Special Edition Kit. I know that $399.95 seems pricey but believe me, since it comes with the cold rolled baking steel you'll be equipped for success from the get-go.  The cheaper kit that I picked up didn't have the baking steel and I had to purchase it separately which caused my first two attempts to be flops.


    The baking steel helps maintain super-high temperatures above your pizza that will help create a crisp bubbly crust.  Rather than the heat rising and being lost, the steel stores and radiates the heat for a long, long time. 


    Tip #2

    My first attempt with the grill was disappointing because I thought I could simply add more charcoal for more heat.  But because it's impossible to achieve 700° on a Weber grill with charcoal alone, you'll need to add hardwood chunks to the coals once they're heated. 


    Tip #3

    I used lighter fluid in my first run and it created a funky tasting pizza disaster.  When initially heating up your charcoal, you'll want to use a device like the Rapidfire Chimney Starter as this will eliminate the need of fluid. Your fires will start faster, they'll smell better and your pizza dough will taste better.



    Tip #4

    Since you'll be working in an extremely hot environment, I recommend picking up some heat resistant gloves. You'll feel like a superhero with these as you effortlessly reach into the hot zones and move things around.


    My glove of choice is called The Heat Guardian and I can say from experience that they really work.



    Everyone who interacted with the grill felt empowered and had a great time.  And since each pie took only 3-4 minutes to bake, we were able to cook 15 in about 2 hours. 

    Below are some of the standout works of pizza art.

    Condender #1

    Here, Perre Dicarlo poses with his pepperoni, thyme, mozzarella and olive oil pizza before throwing it into the kettle.





    Contender #2

    Harriet Grant proudly poses with with her tomato, mozzarella, pesto and basil pizza.





    Contender #3

    Here is Patrick Morgan working magic on his mozzarella, shredded parmigiano, pan fried pancetta, chili powder and balsamic vinegar pizza.





    Contender #4

    Joe "The Judge" Raymond analyzes Jason Siadek's tomato, habanero, garlic and olive oil pizza. 




    Contender #5

    Thomas Knudson patiently waits his turn before baking his garlic, sheep feta, carnitas, artichoke and mushroom pizza.





    Contender #6

    Alex and Diana Lieu prepare their mushroom, tomato, olive oil, mozzarella, butter crust and parmigiano pizza.





    Contender #7

    John Edgar Park cleverly uses his pocket flashlight as he lovingly tends to his hand crushed tomato sauce, buffalo mozzarella, sea salt and olive oil pizza. 





    Contender #8

    Ali Gonzalez poses naturally with his pepperoni, shredded parmigiano, feta cheese, and buffalo mozzarella pizza.




    Joe "the judge" Raymond goes over his final notes before making his final decision.



    And John Edgar Park wins the day and takes home the worthless grand prize.


    And so:


    • If you already have a Weber grill, this is an absolute no-brainer
    • The setup is simple and it is easy to use
    • Everyone that sees it in person thinks it's beautiful and wants one
    • You can use the baking steel to cook regular BBQ items while you bake pizzas
    • I felt safe even though it's fire season and we'd gotten the kettle up to over 800° 


    • The fact that you have to purchase one of the higher end models in order to get the baking steel makes it a bit on the expensive side.




    In the end, this is one badass product and it was well worth the time I put into fine-tuning the system.  And even though I've eaten more than a dozen pizzas in this past week alone, I can't wait to use it again.




  • FORMcard is a million tools in one

    These may look like simple pieces of plastic but I've found them to be the most interesting tools in my box.   They're made from melt-able, bio-plastic that you can use to create new tools or patch up broken items around your home.  In fact, I almost want to break something so that I can use FORMcard again. 


    How many times have you needed a protective shield for your X-ACTO blade or a handle to hold a loose screwdriver bit?   With FORMcard you can quickly mold whatever you need.



    There is currently a two month back order on FORMcard but I think it's worth the wait. There are so many uses for this and you can pick it up at INDIEGOGO


  • Eero makes extending WiFi range easy, but at a hefty price

    My home was built in 1927, and its Spanish plaster walls have deflected every attempt I've made at setting up a dead-zone free Wi-Fi network.   I've tried range extenders, moving large items around and I've even had my service provider attempt to tweak my setup.  When I first saw the eero Wi-Fi System, I was enticed by their promise of a quick setup and no dead-zones.   


    Wi-Fi waves are just radio waves, and the farther you get from the access point, the weaker they become. There's no way for one router to get a signal through the walls, furniture and household appliances to every part of your home which is why I need a multi device setup.

    I contacted eero inc. and spoke directly with CEO, Nick Weaver and what he said was obvious and true:

    "We keep adding more connected devices to our networks and streaming more content — WiFi is now a core utility for our homes and yet we still don't have fast, reliable WiFi in every room."

    Nick told me about his passion for building something that will change the world and I was sold. I've been using the system for about 2 weeks and I can tell you that the setup was simple and I can now manage the network from my phone.  As I added more eeros to my network, they automatically connected with each other to create a mesh network.


    My home is about 1400 square feet upstairs and 1200 downstairs and though my package has 3 eero devices, I really would have been fine with 2. There are absolutely no dead-zones in my house and as a matter of fact, I now get a full wireless signal in both my front and back yards.



    • Quick setup
    • No drop-zones
    • Can monitor your network status from anywhere


    • A bit pricey at $349.00 for a 2-pack and $499.00 for the 3-pack


    But when you consider the price for new wireless equipment to set up your home the eero makes perfect sense because the cost difference is marginal.

    LinkSys router – $150.00

    LinkSys modem – $80.00

    LinkSys extender – $100.00


    To me, it all comes down to coverage. If your situation is similar to the frustrating one I described earlier or if you have to purchase a new system anyway, the eero is a no-brainer and should be on your Christmas list.





  • Underhill Solid Cologne inspires adventure and investigation

    I respect companies that aren't afraid to take chances – especially ones that could make them go broke. 

    Misc Goods Co. is an online boutique that puts a little something extra into everything they produce and their Underhill Cologne is a great example of that. 

    Personally, I don't wear cologne but I could see myself carrying this container around just so I could talk about it. Just to be clear, I wouldn't talk about the Ox horn and cherry wood that it's made of or the cool magnets that hold it together. I'd talk about the story it's trying desperately not to tell.


    I've known the designer for a while and I can say with great certainty that if he ever wrote a book, he would write the majority of it in invisible ink.

    Tyler Deeb comes up with and produces all of the products found on his classy website. He created his Underhill cologne because he was inspired by his favorite book – of which he'd rather I not write.


    Underhill Solid Cologne is inspired by the smells of traveling in nature. A mix of 14 ingredients, the scent is deep and complex with aromas of wild herbs such as Rosemary and Athelas, along with leather, pipe tobacco, several wood species, open air and a sweet scent of freshly poured (or spilled) ale.



    If it was my company that spent so much time and effort to create a product so rich in meaning, I'd probably shout it from the rooftops.  Tyler on the other hand would rather you figure the rest out for yourself, if you'd care to.

    That, as Tyler would say, would be your own journey to take.




  • Scot Nery's Boobie Trap is out of his mind

    LA is chock full of beautiful theaters, but the one to be at on Wednesday nights is the famous Fais Do-Do Ballroom. It's not because of the rich history that oozes from its architectural pores – it's because that's where Scot Nery will be. And when you go to his show, don't be surprised if he greets you at the door and offers you a piece of cake. After all, you're stepping into an entertaining party of his design.  


    When the show begins, Scot explains the 3 rules that each of his performers must live by:


    • While on stage, anything goes but the act must not be longer than 4 minutes
    • At the 3 minute mark, a yellow warning light will be triggered as a reminder to wrap things up
    • If 4 minutes are exceeded, Scot will literally run onto the stage and boot the performer as the house band plays the Boobie Trap theme-song


    Every show that Scot puts on is completely different from the last and his emceeing style is ridiculously energetic as he introduces the evening's 14+ acts.


    At times Scot may feel that the energy isn't quite up to his standards and he'll take matters into his own hands by tumbling, contorting his body, doing one-handed pushups and lovingly pelting the audience with heavily salted snack treats.


    While on stage, he's like a big happy kid who's doing exactly what he's always wanted to do and his show is as if the Little Rascal's grew up, stayed together and became hilarious adults. By the end of the evening you'll be entertained by jugglers, magicians, comedians, trapeze artists, ventriloquists and more – and yet it'll seem to go by in a flash.


    If you find yourself in LA and have an open Wednesday night on your hands, do yourself a favor and check out Scot Nery's Boobie Trap. It'll be an experience that you won't soon forget.  



    'Scot Nery's Boobie Trap'

    Where: Fais Do-Do Ballroom,  5253 W Adams Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90016

    When: Doors open at 7 p.m. Show starts at 8 p.m. Wednesdays

    Tickets: $20 online, $25 at the door

    Info: www.boobietrapshow.com

    Running time: 1 hour, 15 minutes



  • Get yourself thrown out of this show, if you can

    This is not a review of the finest theater visit I've ever had, but more of a recap of my emotional journey through it. During my two-day connection with the illusionist Derek DelGuadio's show I felt surges of amazement, fear, pride and relief – and I guarantee that my experience was different from the other attendees.


    In this show, an audience member's experience is as personal as they want to make it – and mine was very much so.

    As I watched, there were moments when I wished I had a time machine to go over what had just happened – and in a strange way my wish came true. You see, at one point of the show I was kicked out of the theater while the rest of the audience saw the finale that I could only imagine.

    I was escorted out the side hatch and asked to come back the next day with a documented recollection of what happened so far – and a theory of how I thought things would play out after I was removed.  To be honest, at this point I felt pressure because of what was ahead of me – I now had homework.

    On my way home, I took a detour through the streets of Hollywood while looking for a certain golden brick but came up empty handed. When I settled into my den, I began writing in the journal that DelGuadio gave me and didn't stop until my story was recorded.

    journal_If what I'm describing here seems strange to you, it's simply because you haven't yet seen In & Of Itself – and you really should. Once you do, you'll want to witness it again and again, because there's so much personal storyline that you'll miss the first time around.


    And when you do see it, do yourself a favor and try to get thrown out when the time is right. I'm convinced that you'll have a better experience for having done so but be warned; it can only be done on your first viewing – it just wouldn't make sense otherwise.

    The Honest Creator

    Derek DelGuadio is a writer, magician, performance artist as well as the sole star of the show. His resume is ridiculous and I really don't understand how he's been on the Earth for only 31 years.


    In & Of Itself is a meaningful experience that stays with you long after you've walked (or been kicked) out of the theater. The maze of story threads that he weaves are truly personal to Derek but by the end of the show it will all relate to you – and what's more is that you'll most likely leave wiser than you arrived.

    His story is unveiled through a series of intertwining chapters with artistic and thoughtful magic pieces throughout. But this is not a magic show – it's an unforgettable experience that has magical elements to support it.

    During the chapter in which Derek flawlessly handles a deck of playing cards, he invites you to detect how the impossible is being accomplished as he tells you how he's doing it.  Over and over again, he slowly peels cards from the deck dealing seconds, bottoms and using a technique that Dai Vernon himself traveled across the country to learn.


    All of this is done with the calmness of Buddha as he shares his story of how he learned the very thing he invites you to poke holes in – but in the end, he is bulletproof.

    Though the through line is the same from night to night, there are key points that morph with every performance due to participation of random members of the crowd. At one point of every show, Derek invites one lucky person to publicly guess the finale but in the end, it just makes the true reveal more impactful.

    Derek, with his creative partners Frank Oz, Michael Weber, Glenn Kaino and Mark Mothersbaugh have created the 7-layer bean dip of finales that gets more and more satisfying as the next phase engages. Penn Jillette sat in front of me at last night's showing and though his business is magic and he has seen thousands of performers – his smile never left his face. For him and everyone else, it was the perfect combination of seasoned manipulations and compelling story.

    "Derek has created the best magic show I've ever seen and that might be damning with faint praise. It's Marcel Duchamp and Andy Kaufman if they could do perfect bottom deals."

    -Penn Jillette

    Being Mr. Yesterday

    Looking back, I'm so glad that I was kicked out on Thursday night. It allowed me to return on Friday to witness some of the show I had already seen in a different way.  But to be honest, I was scared to death about joining Derek on stage knowing that I'd have to share my journal entry with him and the crowd. Derek later confided in me that I nailed the meaning of the ending and because it was now documented in the journal, it was more real than ever before.  I felt pride and relief as I made my way back to my seat – but even more so after our conversation.

    The finale could have went in so many directions but the journey it took us on was the right one – with an end point that will stay with us for a long, long time.

    Here are a few things that I knew before last night's show:

    1) It is difficult to write a compelling story from the heart.

    2) It is difficult to flawlessly perform magical effects and card manipulations.

    3) It is difficult to stand alone and capture an audience's undivided attention for 60+ minutes.

    4) It is difficult to make good on your promises.

    Here is what I learned after last night's show:

    1) In & Of Itself is a gift from what just may be the most honest man alive.

    See this show as soon as you can – and once you have I'd love to discuss it with you.

    In the meantime, I'll be looking for the golden brick while you're looking for the elephant.

    – Mr. Yesterday (The Cryptographer)

    In & Of Itself

    Created & Performed by Derek DelGaudio
    Directed by Frank Oz



  • Crazy Aaron's Thinking Putty Is Awesome

    Vat19 has to be my favorite online toy company of all time. They carry some of the wackiest items I've ever seen and the truth is – I want them all.

    This week, I've been playing around with a few of their new items and I wanted to share.

    Firstly, check out Crazy Aaron's UV-Reactive Thinking Putty.


    This is a moldable putty that takes the shape of whatever container it sits in and changes color when exposed to ultraviolet light. When unexposed, the coloring effect fades away allowing you to write and draw on it over and over again. It really is one of the most magical things I've messed with in a long, long time.

    Like most putty, you can shape it, rip it and bounce it – but unlike any other putty, this one comes with a UV keychain (battery included).


    And then there's Crazy Aaron's Liquid Glass Thinking Putty.

    When you first open the canister you'll think it's empty – but it's not!  It's a tricky putty because because not only does it take the shape of whatever is holding it – it's transparent to boot.


    When you pry it out, you'll find it has the consistency of kneeded gum.


    When you wad it up, it becomes foggy and you'll think that you've broken the putty – even though that doesn't even make sense!


    If you let it sit for an hour or two, it'll flatten out and become transparent again.

    Now I'm not sure what creative project I'm going to apply this to yet – but here's a video of a guy who submerged himself in a tub of 500 lbs. of the stuff:

    If that doesn't make you want to get some for yourself, I don't know what will.

  • LUCY is a magical drawing tool based on the classic camera lucida

    The LUCY is a drawing tool I wish I had in art school. The device has been around for 500 years and though it uses no electricity, it's able to project images from your environment onto your drawing pad. The LUCY will make you feel like you have special abilities by letting you look at two things at once – and have them converge in the same spot for you to draw on top of.

    Sit 3-4 Image

    Essentially, the LUCY is an improved, simplified version of a camera lucida – below is a sketch and an explanation of how it works.


    First – the object you want to draw sits anywhere in your environment with the LUCY angled toward it. The image of the object passes through a one-way mirror and reflects into a second mirror and then back again onto the first mirror.

    When you look through the top of the device, you see not only straight through to the paper you're drawing on, but you'll also see the reflection of the object you want to draw.

    The brighter the environment around the object, the brighter the object will be on the paper. Then it's up to you to trace what you see.

    Here's a video that shows the LUCY in action.

    By helping you quickly block in shapes for layout and proportion, your final drawings will naturally be improved – how many times have you sketched only to find your subject's body parts cut off because you miscalculated your starting position?  

    If your answer is zero you should stop reading now – because you're kidding yourself. Even great artists fall into that trap from time to time.

    Here's a bit of art trivia I most certainly just made up: Sandro Botticelli was famous for having to paint his masterpiece The Birth of Venus a second time.


    Because he started with her head and painted her legs last before realizing too late that he had cut off her feet! Imagine the time he could have saved if he had a LUCY of his own.

    Again, I probably made that last part up – Moving right along.


    The LUCY takes away the guesswork in the most important phase of drawing but I know what you're thinking – "Isn't this a cheaters tool?" and to me the answer is simple. If master painters used the camera lucida to help them with the under drawings of their own paintings, how can we say it's cheating.

    As a teaching tool, the LUCY is amazing and I have to admire the effort that Les Cookson has put into it.  His simplified version of the camera lucida has come a long, long away from its predecessors.

    If you like ancient technologies that enhance your artistic talents, you should definitely check out their Kickstarter and become the first kid on your block to own something that took over 500 years to perfect!

  • Code Master is an ingenious programming board game that'll make you feel smarter

    I love playing clever puzzle games with friends and for years my go to company has been ThinkFun. They've just released a title with the claim of "teaching the basics of computer programming without a computer". The designer of Code Master is an ex NASA virtual reality simulations programmer named Mark Engelberg and I think he's hit his mark.

    Like most of ThinkFun's games, it comes with an ingenious, well-ramped set of levels that teaches new mechanics as you go. Even though the later levels are driving me batty, the "Huzzah!" moments encourage me to keep playing long after I should have gone to bed.


    You play the role of an adventurer who needs to collect gems on each level before escaping through a Portal. To aid you in your quest you'll need to "write a program" that moves your hero across the map.

    To write the program you'll need to order a random set of movement tokens that allows your avatar to travel on appropriately colored paths.


    For the level shown above, you're movement tokens are 1 red, 1 blue and 2 greens and must be placed in the following order to make it from start to finish.


    This particular level may seem simple but believe me – the game ramps to insane levels of difficulty!

    Early on you'll be introduced to special paths that only allow your Avatar to move in the direction the arrows are pointing and Loop paths that bring your Avatar back to his current position.

    In the intermediate levels, you'll meet up with conditions that teach how if-then statements work in coding. This is where the game gets hairy.

    I had a great time playing it with my 9 year old Nephew this past Christmas. As long as I was there to keep him on track he had a great time with it and felt like a mini-genius the entire time.

    The lone con – The only thing with the game I'd like changed is the material of the Avatar and Portal's bases. These pieces are gigantic and the fact that they have to occupy the same space at times makes it impossible to keep track of what lies beneath them.


    If ThinkFun does another run of this game and the bases are redesigned to be transparent, the game will be perfect.

    The many pros – Code Master is a clever and beautifully designed game that will make anyone feel smarter for having played it.

    Like many puzzle games, you have the safety net of an answer booklet to bail you out when the going gets too tough. 

    There is no doubt in my mind that Code Master will inspire a new breed of game programmers and I hope that my Nephew will be one of them.

  • The Amazing 4 Corners Project

    My favorite professor, the one who influenced me personally the most, was Michigan-born artist David Barr. He created iconic public sculptures and conceptual art that can be found throughout the world. If you've ever been to Detroit, you've seen his work without knowing it.  


  • This Zoetrope will have you mesmerized

    From a very young age, the illusion of motion fascinated me.

    I would spend hours and hours destroying the books in my parents' library by creating crude, hand-drawn flipbooks in the margins. Pictured below is a rare 1890s sketch of my hands at work during the creative process.


    This sort of activity helped set the stage for what would be a career-long pursuit.  I tinkered with countless pieces of art that would make up just a moment of entertainment for anyone willing to take notice.

    We're all enticed by beautiful patterns, pleasing repetitions and a concisely-delivered story. Here are a few tales that are told in just 12 frames apiece. My favorite is the 3rd horizontal strip from the top. It's the one of the man happily dancing in place, while passing his severed head to his clone, who does the same ad infinitum.

    It is, as all of these are, simply beautiful!


    And that brings me to the Zoeflix, which hits the nerve of what I love in so many ways.


    1) It's beautiful to look at and hold

    2) It's made of wood and not plastic

    3) It moves and operates by my own force

    4) It's an artistic platform where I can make my very own 12 frame animations

    5) It has a great history

    The Zoeflix is essentially a Zoetrope device that, when spun, produces an illusion called the phi phenomenon. This is the optical illusion of perceiving a series of still images as a continuous motion when viewed in rapid succession.

    The Zoetrope has had many names over the years and I'm going to explore a few of them here. Firstly, the word zoetrope has Greek roots with the words zoe, "life" and tropos "turning". Because of this, it became known as the "Wheel of Life".


    The faster you spin the device, the smoother the illusion becomes—and the name "Wheel of Life" is perfect for obvious reasons.

    But the Zoetrope was first called a daedatelum by its inventor, George Horner, in 1834. The name was a reference to Daedalus, the most amazing sculptor/inventor in Greek mythology. He famously carved figurines so lifelike that people thought they could and would move.

    In the same way that Daedalus was thought to bring life to the inanimate, so did George Horner with his invention. Back then, the device was known as "The wheel of the Devil".  


    His invention didn't become widely known until after his death, when a man named William F. Lincoln promoted the device in America as the Zoetrope.  Changing the name was a smart move since any campaign around selling a product with the devil as its mascot might be seen as off putting.


    But then again, who could forget the famous Underwood Deviled Ham campaign of 1953? I Certainly can't!

    You may remember from your Greek Myth class that Daedalus caused the death of his only son. Daedalus lived in Crete and was the lone man who knew the layout of the labyrinth he created to contain the Minotaur for King Minos.


    Because of this special knowledge, he was shut up in a tower with his son, Icarus, so that the secret would not be revealed.

    To liberate themselves, Daedalus fashioned a set of wings with feathers, string and wax and learned to fly.   Upon their escape, Icarus flew too close to the sun, which made the wax on his wings melt. As a result he fell into and drowned in the sea.


    Daedalus became horrified at this and cursed his own inventiveness. Athena took pity on the now devastated Daedalus and visited him.   As his reward for killing his only son, she gave him real wings so that he could fly like a god… which was nice. I guess she felt that he needed a constant reminder of what he'd done.

    With that, it's very clear what my first Zoeflix animation will be! It'll be of Daedelus forever hovering in the air while gently flapping his wings – the reason will be our little secret.


    I'm convinced that anyone who touches this device will fall in love with it, and unlike an old View-Master where only one person at a time can partake in the magic, a Zoeflix animation can be viewed from 360 degrees.


    The $49.00 package comes with 14 different animation sheets and a beautiful light fixture on the bottom of the lid that makes viewing in the dark even better.

    The folks at the Ancient Magic Art Tools website have a $14.99 option for those who want a cheaper option.

  • The Monarchs, a card deck

    Growing up, I used to fill my shelves with things I collected in my travels. As my radius of movement was only about 5 miles, what I amassed was pretty lame. Nowadays, thanks to Internet retail, I never have to leave my home and every day is like Christmas.

    You may not realize it, but we're living during the collectable playing card revolution. 10 years ago, I wouldn't have thought about being on a mailing list for collector's decks, but that all changed when I discovered the green Monarchs from Theory11.


    It's pretty fancy, and it'd better be. It has to live up to the claim of being "The deck that's fit for a King". The box features gold foil on an embossed, durable card stock (gathered from sustainable forests), and feels very substantial.


    The design is uncluttered, with striking intertwining serpents.


    I'm just fascinated with their foil-stamping dies—and envious of the designer's ability to make something so balanced, intricate and beautiful.


    When you open the box, the first thing you'll see is the Latin phrase – Cerca TrovaSeek and you shall find.

    It's the same messaging that's found in their Contraband deck, but don't hold it against them. I think it's good that these decks nod to each other, because they feel almost as if they're distant cousins.


    If you look closely on the backs of the cards you'll see another Latin phrase – Esto perpetuelet it be eternal. The phrase can be traced back to a man named Paolo Sarpi, who used it as his dying declaration in 1623. He was a Venetian philosopher who cared about the independent Venetian Republic above all else.


    Here's a rare portrait of Paolo Sarpi posing with a couple of cards from his Monarch deck. They really give him an air of regality, don't they?

    You wouldn't know it by looking at him, but Mr. Sarpi is a bit of a badass. Years before his death, for religious reasons, assassins stabbed him 15 times and left him for dead.  He lived on to be a champion for the Republic, which makes his dying words all the more powerful.

    And wait until you get a load of this! The Great Seal of The State of Idaho shares Paolo's dying phrase as well!

    idaho quarter

    If "Esto Perpetua" was good enough for Paolo and the Great State of Idaho, it has to be good enough for the Monarchs.

    The decks were designed by an artist named Curtis Jenkins. He runs a "One Stop Shop" design studio called The Neighborhood Studio and his website is fun to poke around in.   


    He won't tell you himself, but the Monarchs were featured in the movie Now You See Me – which is pretty darned badass!


    The day that Morgan Freeman holds anything I've designed is the day that I drop the mic and walk away into the sunset. Where do you go from there?


    I guess you could go and make your awesome deck in newer and bolder colors.

    Here's the design for their new red Monarchs deck.


    And wait—there's more!  The red and blue versions have gold foil just like the green ones, and the white decks have silver or gold.


    The face-cards in each deck seem to have much richer color schemes than others I've seen and while the number cards seem pretty standard, it doesn't bother me.

    rich stuff

    As a package, they're all pretty spectacular.


    I especially love the design of the Ace of Spades. Again, it's the same feel for each color but I think it looks extra-classy with the green boxes.


    If you like to manipulate cards or you're a collector, this seems like a no brainer to me. What other deck offers penny farthing bicycle Jokers for just $7.95 a pop?


    Take a minute and check out the Theory11 website . There are so many beautiful things to see.


    Even in black and white, the Monarchs are awesome!

  • The iHome Kineta K1 – an inventive bluetooth speaker

    I think we're all pretty spoiled these days when it comes to bluetooth streaming technology. I can remember waiting in line for one of the first portable, wireless speakers and being disappointed when I finally got it. The syncing was painful, the music cut in and out and the sound quality was iffy.

    Since then, I've been on the lookout for a newer, more portable solution but I had to change my expectations.  When the tech first came out, our hopes were far too great. We were all looking for a speaker that could fit in the palm of our hand and sound like a home theater system.  The iHome Kineta K1 is tiny and it sounds pretty good to boot. But, don't hold your breath thinking you're going to match the $2500.00 Kefs in your living room.

    I've been watching the K1 and I've seen them priced anywhere from $89.99 – 149.99.  At the lower price points it's a perfect speaker for me because of the way I handle my free time around the house.glamour2

    I have a very short attention span and constantly change locations like Billy from the Family Circus Sunday comics.


    What I love most about the K1 is that when it's set up and my phone is within 10 meters of it, they auto-sync.  My other wireless speakers have to be manually reconnected every day.

    Another great thing about the K1 is that after using it for a few weeks, I haven't had to charge it much – which is saying a lot because each aspect of my life is tied to charging my phone.  The folks at iHome say it has up to 12 hours of playtime when you combine the internal battery with the K-cell.


    What's a K-cell you ask? Good question!

    Cleverly integrated into the speaker, is a rechargeable, removable power bank called the K-cell. This device within a device can be used to power your phone when it's running out of juice.


    Better yet, it can even extend the life of the speakers when they're running low.  Let me repeat that last part – the speakers charge the K-cell and then the K-cell can charge the speakers later on!

    Because the K-cell pops out at your command, it's like a technological nesting doll. Imagine if they designed an even tinier portable speaker inside the K-cell and then a tinier battery inside that tiny speaker.  


    Sure external battery packs like the K-cell have been around for a while but they haven't been as convenient. I constantly misplace my loose battery packs after I use them because they don't have a special housing like the K1 provides.


    The interface is simple but the truth is you don't need to touch it once it's on.   The features are controlled by the device that streams the music and that's exactly what you want in a speaker system. Could you imagine having to interact with your home theater speakers every 15 minutes?  It would drive you insane.

    iHome seems to be the front runner of wireless bluetooth technology and right now my favorite one from the bunch is the Kineta K1.   



  • The Gravity Maze

    I buy an awful lot of toys under the guise of sharing them with my niece and nephew. The truth is, of course, that I'd get them even if I weren't an uncle. In particular, I love modular puzzle games that make you think in strange ways—and I'm especially fond of the award winning Gravity Maze.