I am always on the lookout for good packaging, so imagine my total delight when I found an entire box of Wiffle Balls sitting on a bottom shelf in the toy section of our local supermarket. The packaging looks almost unchanged from earlier versions. And, as far as I’m concerned, they should keep it that way. Made in Connecticut since 1953, the Wiffle® Ball was invented by David N. Mullany. At the time, he was an unemployed semi-professional pitcher who saw his 12 year old son making a mess of his arm after throwing too many curve balls with a standard baseball. For more history and rules go here. And, thanks to my friend Nancy’s superior memory, here is a story that ran on NPR in September of last year.
The other day The Improvised Life posted this video created by artist Sipho Mabona. There must be an innate fascination with seeing something realtively complex “literally” unfold in reverse.
Ideas come from strange places. These odd little totems are called training dummies or retriever dummies. They are used in the training of hunting dogs. Typically they are made out of either canvas or rubber. One throws the dummy – maybe some animal or bird scent is impregnated or rubbed onto the thing – and then the good puppy goes and fetches the duffle-shaped decoy and gets a reward upon its safe return. Hopefully a biscuit and not just a pat on the head. Or at least that’s how I think it works. Now, I have said this before, I am not a hunter. And I definitely do not condone sport hunting. But I do believe I can still find an odd form of inspiration from these quirky objects. And they have indeed sparked a glimmer of a concept. Photos (except for the first two) are from here, here, here, here and here.
I read the obituaries in the NYT every day. And I know I’m not alone. I take heart when those, to whom tribute is paid, were at least over 90 when they died. And I find even deeper inspiration from those who were still working away at something they loved. One of the best obituaries I ever read was for a blacksmith by the name of Francis Whitaker. He worked almost right up to the end and, miraculously, grasped a hammer on his deathbed. Today’s obits required two full pages. Never good. Some names held meaning for me in a distant way. Others I had never heard of. Larry Stevenson is one of the latter. I learned that in the Southern California of the early 1960s, he went from lifeguard to successful and innovative skateboard designer in the most linear of careers. He began building surfboard-like skateboards, but by 1969 he introduced a new design that incorporated a “kicktail”: that singular modification to the standard surfboard shape that allowed skateboarders to embark on those crazy airborne tricks that demarcate the skateboarding style that we see today. To his credit, he patented both the single and double kicktail. RIP Mr. Stevenson. Photos courtesy of Lion City Skaters.
Wow, there really is a cult of Lego. It’s fascinating to see what images and ideas tap into our collective memory. Lego is definitely one of them. Image via brickfetish.com.
I just noticed a fabulous comment, on Swissmiss‘ posting of this image, which is worth repeating. Joanne K. says: “I did some work with Lego some time ago at HQ in Billund Denmark. Did you know that the bounce properties and sound the bricks make when dropped are also copy right protected?”
Sometimes I wonder how we get any work done at all. I have been searching sporadically for some early patent drawings of vacuum tubes (something to do with a tattoo for my spouse) and am on high alert for the beauty and elegance of those drawings. And then Flavorwire has the nerve to post a story about Stiknord, the tumblr blog curated by the Kolding School of Design in Denmark. The site celebrates a Northern aesthetic. And they do it really really well. Anyway, one thing led to another and, before I knew it, here I was. This 1958 patent drawing is for the earlier iteration of Lego toys that I grew up with…and loved. Except for when the flat plates got stuck together. Then I hated them. As a footnote, one of my early freelance gigs was to design a full Lego stadium and all its details (right down to the hot dog vendor and the hot dogs) for the Major League Baseball licensing division. And imagine this, it was during a pre-computer era. Eeek.
So, I had the crazy pleasure of meeting “yoyonub” (aka Miles Chandler) this past weekend. After a late Friday night meal at the home of some friends, this young guy pulls out a yoyo and just mesmerized us all with his command of a couple of small milled pieces of aluminum and a string. OMG. It was a spectacle that I didn’t want to end. The most I ever learned was to Walk the Dog. And I thought I was super cool. Anyway, when I got home that night, I ended up falling into the black hole of the yoyo subculture, and basically stayed up until 3 a.m. looking at every video I could find. Of him, and others. The one thing I can’t convey here is the soothing whir of the yoyo as it spins. I wanted to put Miles’ video up, but the profane soundtrack might offend those of a more pure nature. He was wielding a Popstar yoyo. Like the gentleman above. If you feel the itch to take up a new pursuit…buy one here. Mine is in the mail. And, since I now know that you are hooked, check out this video as well.