celebrate the USA with a bang!

With the 4th of July coming up, I got curious about the history of celebrating Independence Day with fireworks and other noisy displays. Did you know that the United States doesn't really have national holidays? It's up to state or local jurisdictions to determine their own official holiday schedules. Even though the Federal government sets holidays only for its own employees, most states observe the eleven Federal holidays. I guess that's why we call them "national holidays."

Of the eleven unofficial national holidays, Independence Day is the only holiday that celebrates the United States of America and from what I can tell, the very first celebration was a noisy one. On July 4, 1777 in Bristol, Rhode Island thirteen guns were fired, once in the morning and then again at night. Philadelphia also celebrated the first Independence Day with 13-gun salutes. Over the next couple of years, the tradition of firing guns and cannons was adopted nearly everywhere:

In 1778, General George Washington ordered a Fourth of July artillery salute, a salute was fired from a captured enemy cannon at Princeton, New Jersey, and guns and "sky rockets" were fired in Philadelphia.

In Boston in 1779, ships fired a "grand salute" from their cannons and in Philadelphia, an official dinner was followed by a display of fireworks.

In 1782 in Saratoga, New York, the "officers of the Regiment" of the Continental Army celebrate with toasts and a "volley of Musquets at the end of each."

In 1783 the governor of South Carolina gave a dinner at the State House. The guests drank 13 toasts, the last one accompanied by artillery guns firing 13 times.

Fireworks are cool, but to celebrate the 4th of July like they did in the early days, I think I'll buy a field cannon this year and fire it once for every state in the Union.

We have a super loud 25-inch field cannon with an automatic charger mechanism and flint ignitor. That means it handles rapid, multiple firing, which I'll need to pull off a "50-gun salute" with only one cannon. No need to worry about safety, the cannon operates on the same principle as a car's gas engine.

You just add powdered calcium carbide "ammo" and water in the chamber of the cannon, which forms acetylene gas. The auto flint firing mechanism creates a spark to ignite the gas and BOOM! This cannon even produces a realistic flash that makes it seem like a cannon ball has been fired.

I can't wait to see the look on my nephew's face when he sees this Thing on the 4th of July. If my sister will allow it, I'll even let him fire a few rounds. The cannon is made of metal with a heavy-duty cast iron chamber and wheels, so it's sturdy and safe, but we recommend adult supervision for kids under sixteen.

Happy Independence Day.

I'll see you next week,

saving gas

Gas prices are still on the rise. I looked at GasBuddy's web site today to get the averages across the nation. Per-gallon prices are between $3.759 (Missouri) and $4.779 (Alaska). Here in Florida, the average is $3.948. I've been staying home a lot these days and I know I'm not the only one. I'm doing my shopping online and spending a lot of time playing with toys for my computer. That's why I thought I'd show you some Things you can find on our web site that will give you something to do with all that extra time at home.

I'm probably dating myself by telling you this, but I have about a thousand records. Remember those? They were also called "albums." They were really big and made of vinyl that scratched, broke and melted easily. Some popular titles have been digitally remastered and re-issued on CD, but a lot of the older, more obscure stuff will probably never make it to the new digital medium. So I bought this Instant Music gadget. It plugs into your computer's USB port and you can use it to record from any analog source, like a turntable or cassette player. Then you just choose the format you want and convert your music into digital files that you can download to an MP3 player or burn to a CD. This Thing has kept me busy for hours!

Along the same lines, our Digital Picture Converter digitizes your old 35mm negatives and slides. You just put your slides and negatives a tray, position in scanner and press the "copy" button. Five seconds later, your old photo is a digital image that you can store on your computer. It even includes photo editing software. The scanner plugs into your computer's USB port for both power and photo transfer.

I got this Digital Microscope for my nephew, but I had so much fun "testing" it for him, I think I'm going to buy one for myself. It displays magnified images right on your computer screen. With 6x - 130x digital zoom, you can see a live image of everyday Things on your computer monitor. You can also store the images with the click of a shutter button.

If it's too expensive to go see your friends and family this summer, keep in touch with the Talking Email. It's really easy-to-use. You just plug the microphone into a USB port on your computer, press a button and start talking. When you're finished with your message, press the button again and then press send. The recipient gets your e-mail in their inbox just like a regular e-mail, but instead of reading it, they listen to it. And they don't need any special software or hardware to listen to the message.

I don't know about you, but I'm saving gas by shopping online. These days, there aren't many Things you can't find on the Internet.

Time to go back to my records and old pictures. See you next week,



what is a novelty?

X-ray gogs, the Whoopee Cushion and the Joy Buzzer are some of my favorite Things. We've been selling novelty items for over 90 years, both through our catalogs and through advertisements. When I was a kid, we used to take out full page ads in comic books to show off our best novelties. We even advertised in the very first Superman comic book. I was looking at some of those old ads the other day and that got me wondering...what makes an item a novelty?Dictionary.com1 says a novelty is "an article of trade whose value is chiefly decorative, comic, or the like and whose appeal is often transitory." Okay, that fits pretty well. But I think Wikipedia2 gets closer to the mark, "Novelty items are generally devices that do not fit into another category such as gadgets, by virtue of being impractical, but this distinction is often blurred."

By virtue of being impractical. I like that. Not all Things have to be useful. Sometimes Things can be just plain fun. With that in mind, I thought I'd show you some of my favorite classic novelties and some new spins on old ideas.X-ray Gogs have been around for years. Maybe you even remember the old comic book ads that show a man wearing the gogs and seeming to see through his own hand. Of course, the gogs don't really x-ray anything, but the effect is pretty good. (I can't tell you how they work. You'll have to look that up yourself.) I remember wearing them as a kid, mostly to rile the girls who weren't exactly sure that the specs couldn't see through their clothes.

In the 1930s Alfred Johnson Smith wrote one of the best lines ever written when describing the Whoopee Cushion. He said it, "gives forth noises better imagined than described." (We still use his description.) Today, technology has given us funnier and funnier ways to "give forth" such noises. The Remote Control Fart Machine is one of our bestsellers, for example. Plus we have farting bears, farting gnomes and even a farting keychain for the prankster on-the-go.

Shocking Things have always been popular, too. Invented in 1928, the wind-up Joy Buzzer is still one of my favorite Things. But shocking people has also been enhanced by technology. The Shocking Pen and Shocking Lighter are two of our top pranks. We even have a Shocking MP3 Player.

Not everything has been changed by technology though, some of our staple novelties, like fart powder, fart candy and fake poo haven't changed much over the years and they still cost less than a dollar.

Maybe the value of a novelty is "chiefly comic" and maybe they are "impractical", but they're still Things I couldn't possibly live without.

See you next week,

things for life's little emergencies

As May comes to a close, Floridians start thinking about the approaching hurricane season. It's a fact of life here, so you have to be prepared. But life's emergencies can happen anywhere, so I've compiled a list of Things to help you prepare for the unexpected.

An Emergency Radio is a must for every storm season emergency kit. This one monitors all 7 NOAA weather channels plus AM/FM frequencies. It even has an LED flashlight and the capability to charge your cell phone. It works with a solar-powered rechargeable Ni-MH battery, hand crank or an AC adapter. The worst thing about storms around here is losing power--and air conditioning--when it's 90-plus degrees outside. Our battery operated Portable Fan can help you stay cool until the storm passes. And don't forget the flashlights. Our LED Flashlights are shock proof, highly water-resistant, and virtually indestructible. Around here people joke that the mosquito is the Florida state bird, but if you've ever been outside at dusk, you know that the bugs in Florida are no joke. This portable Mosquito Shield emits a scent that mosquitoes, no-see-ums and other biting bugs hate. Now you can enjoy the great outdoors without getting eaten alive.This Mighty Putty is the just the Thing for leaks and other small home repair emergencies. It seals leaks and fills cracks instantly. You can fix almost anything with it. It's strong enough to support up to 350 pounds and works on almost any surface. Just mold it to any shape, knead the putty to activate the epoxy, apply it to the leak or crack and let it dry.

For auto emergencies, we have the
Porta-Jump™ that recharges your car's battery in about ten minutes using power from your car's cigarette lighter socket. It comes fully charged and recharges as you drive. And it's small enough to keep in your glove compartment so you don't have to worry about losing trunk space. And this Liquid Transfer Pump is a handy Thing for when you run out of gas. It can siphon over a gallon per minute so it's perfect for pumping gas from a can to your car or boat. It also works great for emptying aquariums.Stay healthy with this UV Scanner that destroys 99.9% of all bacteria and viruses like E-coli, hepatitis, and the flu. It's the same technology hospitals use so you know it's is safe. You just pass it over the surface you want to disinfect. If you do come down with something, look up your symptoms in the famous Merck Home Manual. It's one of the most widely used medical references in the world for understanding symptoms, causes and treatments. The home edition gives you access to the same reference that doctors use, but in language anyone can understand.

I bought this
Language Translator for my sister when she went to Europe and she loves it. It can help you ask for directions or locate a doctor in English, French, Spanish, German, Italian or Dutch. The database contains 5,000 words and it comes preprogrammed with common phrases and questions. It does exchange rate conversions and you can even use it as a calculator.

My dad always taught me to hope for the best, but prepare for the worst. Hopefully, you'll never need any of these Things, but just in case...

See you next week,

where else in the world would you find these things?

Our buyers never cease to amaze me. They always manage to find some of the most strange, interesting and funny Things in the world.

This Washington Error Dollar is one of the most controversial minting errors ever because it was the first coin of the new presidential series and it was put into circulation without the lettering "In God We Trust." It was also missing the date and mint mark. It's unknown how many are out there, but you can get one before they're gone.

We also like to look for the the biggest Things in the world. This
jigsaw puzzle contains 24,000 pieces. The picture, entitled "Life," is so detailed it's hard to believe anyone could piece it together. It comes in four sections of 6,000 pieces each, so you can put each section together and then assemble it from there. But if you're a master puzzler, challenge yourself by mixing all 24,000 pieces together before putting it together. This might not be the biggest laser pointer, but it's the brightest. The Green Beam Laser Pointer is about 50 times brighter than any red beam pointer and has a nighttime range of about 10,000 feet. The beam itself can be seen on clear nights and the dot is visible on low clouds.

For jokesters, we have the
World's Largest Underpants and the World's Largest Bra. You could fit an entire party into these "size 100" shorts. The bra has to be seen to be believed. Over three feet wide, it's made with yards and yards of material and a truly staggering amount of foam padding. Both make great gag gifts for anyone with a sense of humor. And our Giant Bubble Kit makes the biggest bubbles in the world. You can make bubbles 6 feet tall and 4 feet wide, a bubble within a bubble, a chain of bubbles, and even donut bubbles with this amazing kit.We also like strange and mysterious Things like the Life On Mars DVD. Based on recently released NASA/JPL photos taken by the Mars Global Surveyor, it shows artificial structures like monuments, gigantic glass tube systems and "T" shaped craters on the Red Planet and other proof that life once existed on Mars. The Mystery Top is a truly amazing combination of Magic, Mystery, & Science. It spins for days on end at 2500 RPM with no apparent energy source. Explanations range from perpetual motion to psychic power and anti-gravity--it baffles people at science fairs and conventions. Another Thing that defies explanation is this Saint Joseph Statue that's supposed to help you sell your house. We don't know if or how it works, but a lot of people who asked St. Joseph for help say they sold their homes faster and and at a higher price.

Finally, how would you like to own an
Acre Of Pacific Ocean floor? Now you can. The "property" is Located in the Pacific Ocean midway between California and the Hawaiian Islands. With the deed, you can lay claim to the land and any minerals under it, plus right of free passage in the water above it.

No wonder I spend so much time poking through our warehouse...I don't know anywhere else you can find so many fun, amazing and mysterious Things in one place.

See you next week,


as seen on tv

Being a pop culture junkie, I watch a lot of TV. Where would I be without reruns and retro commercials? But television is also a great place to find cool new Things. You can click here to see our entire stock of As Seen On TV Things, but here are a few of my personal favorites.

Protect your eyes with the Eagle Eyes® Sunglasses that were developed by NASA. They block all harmful blue, violet and ultraviolet light. You can actually see better with these glasses whether it's sunny, smoggy, hazy, or even overcast. They're polarized, so they're great for water sports and they weigh almost nothing.

I love new exercise gadgets, especially since I get bored with working out. The Ab Scissor machine is perfect for me. It's easy to use, the workout doesn't take a lot of time and you don't have to worry about pulleys and weight stacks. Plus, you can't do it wrong because the machine puts your body in the right position to work your stomach muscles. There are lots of Things from TV to help your health, like these Verseo Detox Pads, which contain an ancient herbal remedy that is said to draw toxins out of your body just by putting them on your feet at night. I admit I was skeptical, but I tried them out and I can say this: when you wake up, you'll be shocked at what the pads draw out of your body while you sleep.

Leverage is everything when you're trying to lift heavy Things. I should know—my sister thinks the main reason I exist is to lift and move Things around her house. I tried out these Forklift Straps last week when she wanted me to move some file cabinets. They really do make lifting and moving a lot easier and I didn't strain my back for a change! Of course, since I moved the cabinets, she wanted me to move her pictures and a couple of shelves, too. I tried out these Hercules Hooks because she has some pretty big picture frames and a shelf that is so heavy it was almost falling off the wall. I'm impressed with how strong they are, especially since you install them without hammers or drills. But I didn't do all the work. She helped out—she installed a Handyswitch™ all by herself. It gives you a light switch anywhere you want it without rewiring.

For fixing Things, try out our Mighty Putty epoxy. It seals leaks, fills cracks and works on almost any surface. You just mold it to the shape you need and then activate it. You can even sand and paint it when you finish your repair. For cleaning up, you have to try the reusable ZorbEEZ™ cloths. The amount of liquid they can absorb is really amazing. Like paper towels, they're made for household spills, but when was the last time you were able to dry your dog with a paper towel? For the car, we have this Simoniz Fix It™ Scratch Repair. I tried it on my car, which is white, and my dad's truck, which is blue. It's easy to use and it really works.

Finally, we found these little household helpers. The One Touch Can Opener opens any can, cutting the lid off from the side so there are no sharp edges. You just put it in place and press a button. And with the One Touch Jar Opener you can finally open jars without a struggle. The outer jaws clamp onto the jar while the inner jaws grab the lid and twist it loose. What's really cool is they both work automatically. Look, Ma! No hands!

See you next week,


things to keep you safe

I've talked a lot about security in these blogs, but it's a fact of life that we can never be too careful these days. That's why our buyers are always on the lookout for Things to make you safer.

Check out our Camera Sunglasses…the latest in surveillance technology. The glasses have a pinhole camera that captures high resolution color snapshots. With the remote or the button on the frames, you can take pictures of your surroundings as you walk or drive. You can also listen to your favorite MP3 music with the earbuds and you can even control volume and track selections. The sunglasses are polarized and lightweight so they're great for everyday use or for outdoor activities like fishing. If I ever manage to catch a fish, I'll take a snapshot and post it here.

To help ensure your home and family are safe while you're away, hide this Mini Wireless Camera almost anywhere. It's perfect for monitoring children, caregivers, entrances, store rooms—anywhere you want to keep track of what's going on when you can't be there. It comes with a receiver that hooks up to a TV or to a DVR or VCR so you can watch what's happening in real time or play back recordings later. If you don't want to hook a camera up to your TV, our Wireless Camera and Monitor comes with everything you need and it's really easy to set up. The camera transmits picture up to 300 feet without wires so you can put it in any room. What's cool about this Thing is you can connect up to four cameras to a single monitor to watch what's going on in different areas of your home or office at the same time.

This new Stealth Camera is my favorite. I set one up in my living room and nobody even knew it was a camera because there are no pinholes or no cords--it's a plain black box that just blends into the background. You can set it to record video or set up the motion detector to take snapshots when something in the room moves. You can also use the remote control to manually start continuous recording. To play it back, you just connect it to your TV or insert SD card into your computer. It's never been easier to keep an “eye” on your home or office.

For staying safe at home, our indoor/outdoor Motion Activated LED Security Light automatically comes on when it detects movement. What's cool about it is the LED light bulbs. They never need replacing, so you don't have to worry about them being burned out when you need them. I have four of them outside my house and they really come in handy, not just for protection, but also when I forget to turn on my porch light. I just walk up to the door and the light comes on, making it easier and safer for me to get inside fast.

I bought the Electronic Watchdog for my aunt when she was thinking of getting a dog for protection. It gives you all the advantages of a watchdog without the hassle of taking care of a pet. Plus, it can “see” through walls and doors. When an intruder is 15 ft. away, it barks intermittently and then barks louder and more frequently if the intruder draws closer. It also has a built-in siren so you can set it to bark and then sound an alarm. My aunt loves it.

To protect yourself in public, this Street Safe DVD by Paul Vunak, who taught the U.S. Navy SEALS his system of hand-to-hand combat, is a fast easy way to learn real-world self-defense. Paul teaches you how to deal with attackers twice your size. Even if you've never been in a real fight before in your life, you can use his techniques with confidence after just a few hours of instruction.

Until next week, stay safe.