PHOTOS BY BOB EIGHMIE FOR THE MIAMI HERALD
Why do we give gifts during the holiday season?
We do it for a reason that is as timeless as humanity itself: women. Women have an overpowering biological need to mark pretty much every occasion, including sunset, by wrapping a gift and giving it to somebody, along with a card.
Why do women do this? We put that question to some leading psychologists, who responded: ''We think maybe they're insane.''
We would not go as far as leading psychologists. But it is a fact that as the holiday season approaches, women are overpowered by the biological urge to buy bulk quantities of gifts, often without any clear idea whom a specific gift is for.
Men do not do this. A man buys a gift only when he sees a clear and present need, such as he remembers that his wedding anniversary was last week. Otherwise, when a man is in a store, he is looking for practical items. If he happens to pass by, say, a little ceramic statuette of two little smiley-face turtles with ''BEST'' painted on one shell and ''FRIENDS'' painted on the other, he is not going to give it a second glance, because he can't imagine anybody having any use for such a thing except as an emergency substitute for a clay pigeon.
No, a man is going to keep right on walking past the friendship turtles. If he buys something for somebody -- his wife, for example -- it is going to be something he believes she actually needs, such as an extension cord. Maybe, if he is feeling especially romantic, he will get her the 20-footer.
Whereas many women (you know who you are) will buy the turtles, not because they know of anybody who needs friendship turtles, but because the turtles are, quote, ''cute.'' Then the woman will start shopping for a cute card to go with the turtles, or maybe several cards, since she's not sure which specific one of her numerous best friends will be getting them. While she's at it she might buy some cute little scented candles that would go with the turtles, and maybe a few other cute things. By the time she leaves the store, she will have as many as eight gifts for people who have yet to be identified. She may have totally forgotten why she went into the store in the first place (to get an extension cord).
Women start behaving this way early in the holiday season, by which I mean July. So when the actual holidays roll around, they have a massive stockpile of gifts to give out. Pretty much every random individual they come into contact with, including toll-booth attendants, gets one. Their immediate family will be inundated with gifts.
This means their husbands have absolutely no chance of keeping up. Their husbands, who are busy during the holiday season with other responsibilities such as watching the playoffs, have managed to get their wives an average total of one gift, which they wrapped hastily at the last minute, which is why they did not notice that the wrapping paper says ''Happy Birthday!'' Sometimes a husband, trying to make his gift output look larger, will wrap the batteries separately (I have done this).
But his effort will still look pathetic next to the gift avalanche produced by his wife. He will feel like a big holiday dope.
If you're a male, at this point you're nodding like a bobblehead on a jackhammer and saying to yourself, ''Is there a solution to this problem?''
There is, and it's right here in your hands: the annual Holiday Gift Guide. This is a list of items that are so unusual that if you give one to your wife, her reaction will be: ''Thank God he did not get me any more.'' And this effect is not limited to your wife: whomever you give a Holiday Gift Guide item to, that person will never want to exchange gifts with you again.
All of the items in the Gift Guide are real products that are being sold in exchange for actual money. We know this because we have purchased all of these items with what little money the newspaper industry has left. Then we subjected the items to our rigorous Quality Assurance Testing Laboratory Procedure, which consists of taking photographs of them without getting too close. This is why we are able to offer you this:
UNCONDITIONAL LIFETIME WARRANTY: If you purchase any of these gift items, and at any time during your lifetime you experience any kind of problem whatsoever with the item, simply place it in its original container and place it in a dumpster. We will take it from there.
But enough with the technicalities. Let’s move on to the 2008 Holiday Gift Guide:
Lottery Mate Multi-Purpose Scratch-Off Apparatus
$12.95 plus shipping and handling from WHARRO, LLC, P.O. Box 87278, Canton, Mich. 48187-0278, 877-720-4754, www.mylotterymate.com
If you're like most people who spend a lot of time playing state-lottery scratch-off games, you have the IQ of an artichoke. But also you have many times asked yourself, ``Gosh darn it, why can't I have a dedicated surface for scratching my lottery tickets, as well as a place to keep my lucky scratching coin, a storage area for my tickets AND a receptacle to catch these pesky scratch-off shavings?''
Well, the wait is over for you and any lottery players on your holiday gift list. The Lottery Mate is an all-in-one lottery-scratching apparatus made, according to the manufacturer, of ''the same durable plastic used for car and truck bumpers.'' If that doesn't say ''classy,'' then we don't know what does. So this year, give the gift that sends the clear message, ''I paid $12.95 for this gift.'' As the manufacturer states: ``Once you try it, you'll never scratch without it.''
Head Spa Massager
$49.95 plus shipping and handling from Edmund Scientific, 60 Pearce Ave., Tonawanda, N.Y. 14150, 800-728-6999; www.scientificsonline.com
Suggested by Lorrie Gunde of Catonsville, Md.
Are you stressed out and ''uptight?'' Do you often feel tense? Would you like to enjoy the kind of physical relaxation and peace of mind that result from looking like the biggest dork on the planet?
If so, you -- or the lucky individuals on your holiday gift list -- need the Head Spa Massager. According to the manufacturer, when you put this on your head, ''it's like thousands of tiny fingers simultaneously massaging your scalp.'' That's right: not just a few dozen tiny fingers, but thousands of tiny fingers. Simultaneously.
The manufacturer suggests that you wear the Head Spa Massager ''on your morning commute in traffic'' or ''at your desk at work.'' We have no doubt this would make a strong impression on co-workers and the public.
POTENTIAL CUSTOMER: I'm here to see Mr. Johnson about making a large purchase.
RECEPTIONIST: That's him over there.
POTENTIAL CUSTOMER: Never mind.
You might be surprised to learn that the Head Spa Massager is mandatory headgear at all meetings of the Federal Reserve Board.
Talking Fly Swatter
$14.99 plus shipping and handling from Amazon.com, www.amazon.com
Suggested by John DeGroff of Warsaw, Ind.
Here's a situation you've probably found yourself in numerous times: You have killed an insect with a fly swatter, and you naturally wish to mark the occasion by triumphantly mocking the dead insect with a clever and cutting remark. If you're using an ordinary fly swatter, you have to make the remark yourself, manually. But not if you're using the talking fly swatter! This ingenious product harnesses the power of electronics to emit various hilarious insults, including -- prepare to be amused -- ''Die, sucker!''; ''Flight canceled!''; and ''Hasta la vista, baby!'' Ha ha! Take THAT, dead insect!
The only problem we see is that if you miss the insect, the talking fly swatter will still emit the triumphant mocking remark, in which case you're going to look like a moron. But that's a risk we are willing to take.
Razorba 'War Hammer' Back Razor
$69.95 plus shipping and handling from Razorba/Swamiware LLC, Ann Arbor, Mich., 888-755-6386; www.razorba.com
Suggested by Gail Orsillo of Lynnwood, Wash.
Here, at long last, is a gift that communicates the heartfelt holiday message: ``From the back, with your shirt off, you look like a yeti.''
The War Hammer is a plastic handle designed to hold a razor so that a man can shave his own back hair. This product comes with detailed instructions for use, as well as this Safety Note: ``Wear thick pants, shorts, or a thick towel and eye protection when using this product.''
No, we don't know why you would need thick pants, and we don't want to know. All we know is that these days bodily hair is ''out,'' which is unfortunate since many men tend to sprout hair from everywhere except their heads. They are regular hair farms. If you're a lady who's involved with such an individual, he will surely be thrilled to receive a War Hammer from you this holiday season, along with a romantic note along the lines of, ``This grooming aid will make you less repellent to me.''
Disaster Preparedness Activity Books
Free from FEMA Distribution Center, P.O. Box 2012, 8231 Stayton Dr., Jessup, Md. 20794-2012, 800-480-2520, www.fema.gov
Suggested by Jon Harris of Christiansburg, Va.
The holiday season is all about fun for kids, and if there's anything that will put a twinkle in a youngster's eye, it's a disaster-preparedness activity book from the American Red Cross and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). There are several titles available, including Ready . . . Set . . . Prepare!
Granted, this is kind of like saying ''Ready . . . Set . . . Get Ready!'' But that is not the point. The point is that this is a fun book featuring the Disaster Crew, a group of ethnically diverse characters representing various disasters, including Snowy Singh, Rising Waters, ''Quake'' Johnson, Blaze Martinez, Tommy Twister, Stormy Knight and Johnny Hurricane. They explain the various kinds of disasters and present various entertaining activities such as the ''Tornado Warning Scramble.'' These activities will surely provide hours of holiday fun for the whole family:
YOU: Look! If we unscramble ''nelfun,'' we get ''funnel,'' a tornado-related word!
YOUR CHILD: I asked for a Sony PlayStation.
YOU: And look! If we unscramble ''ydwni,'' we get . . . Hey! Come back here!
Gun-Shaped Egg Fryer
$7.95 plus shipping and handling from Amazon.com, www.amazon.com
Suggested by LaDawn Haws of Chico, Calif.
Sometimes we look at a product, and we think: ''I would never have thought of that product in a million years without the aid of powerful narcotics.'' This is such a product. It's a mold, made of stainless steel, that enables you to fry an egg in the shape of a pistol!
Why would you want to fry an egg in the shape of a pistol? We can think of hundreds of possible reasons. One is, you are insane. Or, an insane person is holding a real gun against your temple and ordering you to fry an egg shaped like a gun. Or, you simply want to make sure that nobody ever asks you to cook breakfast again. The list just goes on and on.
$59.99 plus shipping and handling from Target, 800-591-3869, www.target.com
Suggested by Annie Eitman of Moorpark, Calif.
Meal time is usually very sad for dogs, because they are confined to the floor, like some kind of domestic animal or something, while the humans get to sit up at the table, where the food is.
But now there's a solution, thanks to this highchair designed especially for pets. Now, dogs can sit at the table, just like people, except that most people outside of possibly Nick Nolte refrain from licking their private parts during meals. Think how festive meals will be with your dog sitting right there next to you, barking with happiness, scratching, flatulating and drooling into your lasagna.
We believe that this highchair would also work for cats, hamsters, turtles, small goats and reasonably tame snakes. We're also confident that if you take this product along when you go out, you and your pet will receive a warm welcome at fine restaurants. (``It's OK! He's housetrained, and he has his own chair!'')
Zombie Yard Sculpture
$89.95 plus shipping and handling from Design Toscano, 1400 Morse Ave., Elk Grove Village, Ill. 60007, 800-525-5141, www.designtoscano.com
Suggested by Derrik Filippo
This is the gift for people who are tired of old boring traditional yard ornaments depicting gentle woodland creatures such as deer. This sculpture depicts a highly realistic zombie who is climbing out of the earth to chow down on human flesh. Putting this sculpture in your front yard is an excellent way to let visitors know that you are either a really fun person or a psychopath.
The beauty of the zombie yard sculpture is that it's portable, so you can easily move it to any location that you feel needs to have an emerging zombie. A children's playground or a restaurant salad bar are two examples that come immediately to mind. You could also have a LOT of fun at a funeral.
Firm Grip' Brand Butt Glue
$17.99 plus shipping and handling from The Queen's Choice, 2059 Listravia Ave., Morgantown, W. Va. 26505, 304-296-3294, www.queenschoice.com
Suggested by Matt Filar of Arcata, Calif.
If you have ever competed in the swimsuit-competition portion of a beauty pageant, then you know how annoying it can be when a sector of your swimsuit disappears into a bodily crevice, which is a mandatory 10-point deduction. For years, the only way to prevent this problem was a painful procedure involving staples.
But now there is a better way: ''Firm Grip'' spray-on buttocks adhesive. This is the same professional-grade buttocks adhesive used by all of your top beauty-pageant contestants, as well as 65 percent of the players in the National Football League. (Trust us: You do NOT want to know.)
$69.99 plus shipping and handling from Mommysentials, LLC, P.O. Box 2507, Woodinville, Wash. 98072-2507, 877-878-2796, www.mommysentials.com
Suggested by Kathleen Neary of Kensington, Md.
Say you're carrying a baby and you need to use a public restroom stall. What do you do with the baby? Obviously you can't leave the baby outside the stall, because there's no telling what kind of sicko pervert or U.S. senator might be hanging around. But if you take the baby into the stall, what do you do with him or her?
The answer is, you suspend your baby from the stall wall, using this clever device. While you're doing your business, your baby hangs there on the wall like a cute li'l mini-paratrooper, looking happy as a clam, if he or she is anything like the professional baby used in the promotional photos for this item.
We assume you could also use this product to suspend your baby from fences, cubicle dividers, art galleries, volleyball nets -- anywhere you need to suspend a baby.
Hug Me Pillow
$29.99 plus shipping and handling from Overstock, www.overstock.com
Suggested by Laura Seay of Austin, Texas
This is the perfect gift to give when you want to send the heartfelt message: ``You pathetic loser.''
This is a pillow shaped like a human arm, complete with hand, attached to what looks like half of a human chest, so the whole thing looks like something rescue workers might find after a really bad gas explosion.
The Hug Me pillow appears to be marketed mainly for women. The idea is that, if a woman is feeling lonely, she can wrap the Hug Me pillow arm around herself and feel as though she is being cuddled by a loving and caring companion who is just like a real human except that he has no head and is missing numerous key body parts. We think this is a fine invention, and look forward to improved models that, in addition to hugging you, can snore and occasionally emit bursts of flatulence. Then there would be no need for men at all.
Wearable Sleeping Bag
89 plus shipping and handling from Barmans Ltd., Saxon Way Industrial Estate, Melbourn, Hertfordshire, SG8 6DN, UK, 0870-428-0958, www.drinkstuff.com
Suggested by Claire Martin of Denver, Colo.
It is a medical fact that most people do not get enough sleep. Why? Work, that's why. Incredibly, even in the 21st century, very few employers outside of the brothel industry and certain government agencies provide beds for their employees, which means workers must spend the day sitting in chairs, awake, using up precious energy reserves that they need for evenings and weekends.
What can we do about this? The answer is so simple it's hard to believe it took so long for somebody to figure it out: We can wear sleeping bags to work. Specifically we can wear the Lippi Selk wearable sleeping bag, which combines the comfort of a regular sleeping bag with a level of chic fashion elegance normally associated only with the Michelin Man. When you put this baby on, your bed is any place you happen to be -- on a conference table, under your cubicle -- even, for catnaps, in the elevator. And just think how great it would be to wear a sleeping bag on a plane! Especially if you're a pilot.
This is also a great outfit for dull formal gatherings, which is why the Lippi Selk is the only wearable sleeping bag officially endorsed by both Queen Elizabeth II and her ancestor Queen Elizabeth I.
$49.95 plus shipping and handling from Matco, 866-999-4876, www.uroclub.org
Suggested by Steve Wallace of Colorado Springs, Colo.
Where do golfers go to the bathroom?
For years, we assumed that they used those little holes that you see scattered around golf courses. But it turns out that the holes have another purpose; namely, the golfer is supposed to hit the ball into them, although this rarely happens.
In fact, there are very few places on a golf course to go to the bathroom. This can be a real problem, because many golfers follow a strict hydration regimen under which they may consume as many as eight beers while they're still in the parking lot. This can lead to a lot of pressure out on the course. When you see top golf professionals frowning with intense concentration during tournaments, they're not necessarily thinking about where to hit the little ball. Sometimes they're thinking, ``I wish I had worn darker golf pants so I could wet myself unnoticed.''
Well, golfers can rest easy now, thanks to the amazing UroClub. This is a fake golf club with a hollow shaft and an opening at the top. It comes with a towel that drapes over it, so the golfer appears to be toweling off the club when he is actually relieving himself into it.
Notice we say ''he.'' Unfortunately, the UroClub is not designed for the female golfer. We think somebody should invent a comparable product for women. We have an idea: Take a life-size mannequin, conceal a portable toilet inside it, dress it in shorts and a T-shirt, and voilà: The UroCaddy!
Gassy Gus Flatulence Game
$26.22 plus shipping and handling from Amazon.com, www.amazon.com
Suggested by Dorothy Stein of Miami
Here's a fun game that will provide hours of entertainment for the whole family, provided that nobody in the family has an IQ higher than 40.
''Gassy Gus'' is a game that comes with a little man named -- get ready -- ''Gassy Gus.'' Players use ''food cards'' to force their opponents to pump Gassy Gus' head up and down. Each pump inflates his belly a little more, until finally Gassy Gus ''blasts gas.'' Oh no!
In other words, it is exactlylike chess, except that instead of strategy there is flatulence. So in that sense it is actually more like the United States Congress.
And a special Thank You to:
Ted Alderman, Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale, Eliane Baily, Alisa Bert, Debra Brindley, Scott Cihak, John Paul d’Ayral, Isabelle d’Ayral, Vanessa d’Ayral, Nicole DiMauro, Spencer Epes, David Eyley, Nancy Foster, Ilene Gerson, Kristy Haffer, Bob Harksel, Peter Harris. Matt Hughes, Gino Jensen, Lexford McNisch, Eva Ribeiro, Brian Sedgeley. Felice Shekar, Brooks Sickles, Kari Sickles, Liz Sickles, Robert Sickles, Judi Smith, Mary Lynn Swartz, Tower Deli, Westside Regional Medical Center, Zach Williams, Arlene Wites, Camila Zapata