Eight My Balls!
Easy answers that make sense

Remember those cheesy black eight-balls? They were all the rage when I was a kid. You asked a dumb question ("Will Scott Baio fall in love with me?") and shook them up; then they gave you an answer like, "sources point to yes" or, "answer is unclear"? Well, they've grown up, and I'm not sure you'd want to know 'em.

See also...
... by Thomas S. Roche
... in the Scope section
... from December 6, 1999

Case in point: the proliferation of boneheaded "magic eight balls" online -- there are, quite literally, hundreds of them. The interesting ones are few: Kurt Cobain's Magic Talking 8-Ball, the festive and hip BlueCross/BlueShield of Delaware Magic EightBall -- even, in the flash-in-the-pan department, the Mahir Magic Eightball, which gives surreal answers clipped from the kiss-happy Turk's now-famous Web page.

But who gives a shit about online eight-balls? What made the black plastic variety so deliciously satisfying when I was a kid is that I got to shake the living shit out of it, growl out my dumbass question ("Will Siouxsie Sioux ever answer my fan letters?" "Will R.U. Sirius ask me to be his running-mate in 2000?") and wait for enlightenment to be mine.

Well, signs look good! Even those classic black semispheres have been improved! The Sarcastic Ball, for instance, displays an attitude that would make Tina the Troubled Teen proud. It'll answer all your most heartfelt queries with a "Yeah, Right," a "Get a Clue," or a "Whatever." The great thing about the Sarcastic Ball is that it's snide no matter what you ask -- just like a real person! And you verbal-abuse fetishists out there should find it a big turn-on, the perfect accompaniment for your masturbation sessions. "I offer you my eternal submission and devotion, Mistress!" "Whatever." At $7.95, it's a lot cheaper than an hour with some pigtailed Gen-X dominatrix.

Not interactive enough? Then you need Sharper Image's Q Ball. Sharper Image, as you probably know, is a store for people who absolutely must have the very best example of every single product in the world, even -- or especially -- products they would never in a million years actually need or want. Products which are completely and totally useless are especially valued (and overpriced). And the Q Ball upholds that fine tradition -- they're even pushing the envelope a little with this one, I must say. When you ask a question and shake this puppy, you hear an assortment of random noises -- breaking glass, say, or a loud boing-boing-boing. After three shakes, the Q Ball then lights up and makes a bunch of whooshing sounds that let you know it's thinking. I always make whooshing noises when I think, too, so I understand.

Then comes the main event: Through the ancient, mystical, mysterious magic of AA batteries, the Q Ball answers your question -- verbally -- from an assortment of 140 random phrases. Among the choicest are the surfer dude's "I don't know, man," and the Godfather's "Fuhgeddaboudit!" At $39.95, The Q Ball is clearly the perfect gift for that person on your list who is incredibly important while holding no real significance to you -- say, your boss. Besides, you always wondered how they made those executive decisions, didn't you? Well, here's your chance to make your own little contribution to company policy. And they said you'd never amount to anything.

Thomas Roche's sources say "yes." Yeah, right.