When they were first introduced, gift cards were a revolutionary idea, freeing up buyers everywhere from the laborious process of actually thinking or caring about their recipients’ wants. Since then, these cards have snowballed into a $20 million industry, and three out of four shoppers say they plan to buy at least one this year. Yes, this is what Christmas has come to: People taking perfectly good money, converting it into a significantly less useful currency (i.e., one that can only be spent at Hancock Fabrics), and then unloading it onto others, in much the same way that Three Wise Men presented baby Jesus with gift cards from “The Precious Metal and Aromatic Gum Resin Warehouse and Emporium.”
It would be nice if we could someday cut out the middleman entirely. I envision a future where you just send your bank a list of family and acquaintances, and then, at midnight on Dec. 24, a cronjob triggers a suite of perl scripts that transfer $40 from your account to each person on your list. Just think of how relaxing Christmas morning will be when you no longer have to go through the tedium of opening presents or experiencing joy, and can instead log on to your credit union’s website to see how you made out. If your net worth increased overnight: score, you win! If you are $120 short, you get to spend the subsequent year suspiciously interrogating all your so-called friends, trying to deduce which three were the good-for-nothing skinflints that stiffed you.
I’m afraid that until the dawn of that brave new world, you’re still expected to give tangible tokens of your affection. And that’s bad news for you. Because although Christmas is upon us like a rottweiler on a toddler, you still haven’t bought a goddamned thing for anyone. I guess you could go the gift-card route like everyone else, but a three-by-one-inch rectangle of plastic just doesn’t say “I care” like frantically buying a bunch of shit off the internet at the last possible moment. And so The Morning News presents the fourth annual Holiday Survival Guide for Slackers, chock full of actual items you can order online and have delivered to your home in time for Christmas—assuming that the store has it in stock, you select overnight shipping, the freight company delivers on Saturday, and we’re talking Christmas 2006.
Your brother-in-law Kevin only likes two things—sporting events that contribute to global climate change, and carne guisado—so you’re in the market for a gift that combines the thrill of watching a guy drive counter-clockwise with the pulse-pounding excitement of stew. Well, Dale Earnhardt must be up there whisperin’ in God’s ear, because your prayers have been answered with the NASCAR Crock-Pot®. With a six-quart capacity and “3 convenient heat settings including keep warm,” this item with have you going from zero to gumbo in 28,800 seconds flat!
Sitting across the aisle from me on the bus this morning was a teenage girl jabbering incessantly on her cell phone about matters so inane that I don’t even know why we have words to describe them. And no sooner would she conclude one conversation than she would punch another string of ten digits into her phone to give Person C an update on what Person B said when she’d told her Person A’s evaluation of Person D’s haircut. Finally, after having presumably run through her entire contact list, she closed her phone and put it away, only for it to ring a few seconds later. She gave a loud sigh, fished the phone from her bag, held it to her ear, and, answered with an irritated “Hello?” After a moment she testily added, “I’m fine. It’s just—why did you have to call now? I’ve been talking on the phone for, like, an hour!” Oh wow, tough break there, sister. If only there was something you could do to prevent people from calling you, like maybe SHOVING THAT CELL PHONE UP YOUR—sorry! Hah-hah, just got a little emotional there! No, I think this is one of those technological problems that can only be solved through more technology. That’s why someone should buy you the Pretender Call Breaker. It will “give you a great excuse to get off the phone” with “four realistic sound effects,” such as Baby Crying, Dog Barking, Doorbell Ringing, and their patented “call waiting click.” Paying 60 bucks for a device whose greatest selling point is that it clicks seems kind of stupid, but at least it’s one infinity times less stupid than paying $300 for a device that serenades everyone on the bus with three seconds of “My Humps” every time Sandy McPeterson calls you.
The Flip Flap is from Japan, so it goes without saying that (a) it is adorable, and (b) I cannot, for the life of me, figure out what it’s supposed to be or do. Maybe, under the right circumstances, it turns into a giant manga robot? Or something? I honestly don’t know, but I suspect being cute and useless might be its entire modus operandiyou know, like Jessica Alba. Here is what I can tell you, based on the few English words that appear on the product page: A Piece Of Happiness, New, Battery Less, Solar Battery, No Water, 3-Movements. It also comes in six colors, and…can be used as a communication tool. What the hell? I’m going to go lie down.
Trickle-down economics has never made sense to you—you bust your hump 14 hours a day stocking shelves at your local Weasel World Pet Store, and a buncha billionaire politicians giving tax breaks and blowjobs to a buncha billionaire oil magnates is supposed to help you afford the cable bill? If only you could get some kind of visual demonstration of the fiscal principles involved. Well now you can! Save your next 450 paychecks and buy a Gold Plated Slinky! Just set the spring-bling on the top of the stairs and watch as it dramatically recreates the miracle of supply-side economics, rapidly “walking” down the figurative socioeconomic strata—at least until it gets all out of sync and pools up well short of the bottom, on a stair no doubt analogous to Weasel World’s regional director Ward Thomas, who just bought a new boat despite having never done a lick of work in his life. What an asshole, that Ward Thomas.
Would you like to teach a youngster the consequences of engaging in naughty behavior and help him master the alphabet at the same time? Then you certainly can’t go wrong with Naughty Spanking Stories from A to Z. I haven’t read it myself, but it sounds like the perfect gift for an underage child, emphasizing (I assume) the importance of both discipline and literacy. Why, I think I’ll pick up a few copies for the company holiday party and give them to my coworkers’ children. Although I’ll admit to being a little irked that none of them wrote me thank-you notes last year, and after I thoughtfully gave them all Hitachi Magic Wands to use in their Harry Potter playacting.
RU = DU/MB? If that equation resolves too true for the college student in your life, and he needs to get at least a D in math or risk losing his football scholarship, why not pick him up a Bikini Calculus DVD? After all, nothing focuses the male, heterosexual mind on Maclaurin’s theorem better than having the relevant formula superimposed on a couple of acres of human mammary glands. Featuring tutorials on calculus essentials, a caliber of acting prowess rarely found outside a Star Wars prequel, and every conceivable sexual innuendo on the word “logarithm,” buying Bikini Calculus for your favorite frat boy this Christmas is, like the recipient himself, pretty much a no-brainer.
Give the Ann Coulter Talking Action Figure to your neo-con colleague and he’ll be able to play White House, making Ann adopt whatever ridiculous, convoluted position he thinks up. “The articulated figure bears a striking resemblance to its namesake—even down to Ann’s striking green eyes, long blond hair and determined look,” boasts the website. Were it a human, the doll couldn’t reproduce, since it lacks genitals; I pray that this anatomical detail also “bears a striking resemblance” to the actual pundit as well.
Your friend Darren was one of the first people in the nation to own an iPod, proudly walking around with one as early as 2001. Of course when people found out he’d paid $300 for what appeared to be an effete paperweight they chalked him up as an iDiot, and the gewgaw’s rounded corners had them wondering if perhaps Darren had been one of those a second-graders required to use the blunt scissors. WELL WHO’S LAUGHING NOW, NAY-SAYER? Hint: not Darren. Now that everyone and their Manx owns an iPod, Darren has been desperately trying to stay cutting-edge by buying smaller iPods and video iPods and iPods with more gigabytes than Steve Jobs has had laughs over hipster America’s willingness to snap up anything emblazoned with the Apple logo. Fortunately, you can make Darren stand out from the crowd yet again with the gift of an iPod cowboy costume. With “fringed-suede chaps, checkerboard kerchief, full-length lasso, and brown suede hat,” this item from iAttire edges out Brokeback Mountain for the title of Gayest Cowboy-Themed Holiday Release.
The “Cuidado: Vómito de Gato” danger sign. Perfect for the me on your list, because I would totally love to have this. “BE SURE TO PUT CAT VOMIT IN THE SUBJECT LINE!” urges the website.
Earlier, I suggested you resist the siren song of gift cards. But if you don’t know the gift recipient well, a generic present might be in order. Take your nephew Colin, for example: You don’t know the first thing about this kid—unless the first thing is that he’s a surly little prick, in which case, yeah, you got that part down). The problem with Colin—aside from how he communicates exclusively by glowering—is that you don’t even know what broad categories of things he likes (if any), so you couldn’t even buy a gift card he’d use unless you managed to find a store that sold Sneering Indifference by the gross. So this year, why not surprise him with a $10 bill? When he, having been raised in a cashless society, simply doesn’t know what to make of it, explain that it’s the most radical gift card evar, one so Xtreme that it can be used to purchase anything, anywhere—even drugs on the corner of University Way and 50th! And after you explain that portrait on the front is of the guy who invented the Shocker and that e pluribus unum is Latin for “skate or die,” he’ll totally think you’re the most awesome old guy he’s even known. At least until he goes to University Way and 50th and finds out that his radical gift card will only score him half a gram of schwag. Weak, dude. Totally fuckin’ weak.