Hark . . . do you hear that sound? It's the radio, playing "Frosty the Snowman!" For the eighth or ninth time today! And that thud in the yard? Why, that's Dad, falling off the ladder while attempting to hang fake icicles from the roof. And if you listen really, really hard, you can hear, softly in the distance, the sounds of shoppers trading punches over parking spots at the mall. No doubt about it: The holidays are here! This is not your ordinary gift guide, the kind that features gifts that somebody might actually want or use. The gifts in this guide were selected because they meet a very strict criterion, which is that when we saw the item advertised, we said to ourselves: "Are they serious?" The idea is, if you give one of these items to somebody on your list, that person will be much less likely to want to exchange gifts with you in the future. Every item in the Holiday Gift Guide is a real product that is actually for sale. We have purchased all of these items and subjected them to our rigorous field-testing procedure, which consists of giving them to Raul the photographer and sending him out into the field to take funny pictures of them. After that, we don't know what happens to them, and we frankly don't care.
MUSICAL FUNKY TOILET
$12.95 plus shipping and handling from Spilsbury, 3650 Milwaukee St. (P.O. Box 8922), Madison, Wis. 53708-8922, 800-772-1760 or 800-285-8619, www.spilsbury.com. -- Suggested by Sue Doughtie of Buffalo.
Ordinarily we do not include "gag" gifts in the Holiday Gift Guide, because most of them are, frankly, stupid. But every now and then we come across one that is different -- one that makes us sit up and remark: "Wow! This one is really stupid!" Such is the case with the Musical Funky Toilet, which is a miniature toilet powered by three AA batteries that are not included, which may actually be a good thing, because when you put them in and open the toilet lid, the toilet contents -- yes, the toilet has contents, with little eyeballs -- perform a funky musical dance.
MEDICAL ADVISORY: All kidding aside, if you ever do happen to notice that your toilet contents have eyeballs, the surgeon general recommends that you "cut way down on the martinis."
$24.95 plus shipping and handling from the KISS Museum, 3140-B Tilghman St., No. 305, Allentown, Pa. 18104, fax: 610-351-5348, www.kissmuseum.com (click on "Dolls" link). -- Suggested by Lee Michalak of Medford, Ore.
Every once in a while, two entirely different things come together to form something new and wonderful. Peanut butter and jelly. Abbott and Costello. Ham and eggs. Peanut butter and Costello. The list goes on and on.
This gift concept is another example of this phenomenon. What probably happened was this: Some marketing people were sitting around a conference table, trying to "brainstorm" an idea for a product, and they got into an argument. On one side was a guy saying, "We need to put out a product that would appeal to fans of the legendary rock band Kiss." On the other side was a guy saying, "No! We need to put out a product that can be used as a bath toy!" And then, just when it looked as though they had reached a stalemate, a light bulb went on over their heads, and they decided to ingest powerful narcotics.
The result is the Kiss Celebriducks, a set of four rubber ducks shaped vaguely like the members of Kiss. They go with pretty much any bathroom decor, and make a fun and educational toy for anybody except children younger than 21.
"SWITCH BLADES OF ITALY"
$39.99 plus shipping and handling from Collector Bookstore, 913-651-0600, www.collectorbookstore.com. -- Suggested by Dan Fuller of New Philadelphia, Ohio.
Every year without fail, except those years when we forget, we include a literary selection in the Holiday Gift Guide. This year's selection is "Switch Blades of Italy," a book that is guaranteed to be of great interest to anybody who is interested in the topic of Italian switchblades.
If you're a guy, and you're looking for a romantic gift for that "special lady" on your list, this book is definitely it. Imagine the look on her face when she takes off the wrapping! You'll want to stand back, in case she's using scissors.
"SONGS TO MAKE DOGS HAPPY!"
$13.99 plus shipping and handling from Amazon, www.amazon.com. -- Suggested by Brenda Bain of Memphis and Drew Harchick of Pittsburgh.
This is a CD of songs for dogs. According to the advertisement on the Internet -- and if we cannot trust advertisements on the Internet, what can we trust? -- this CD is "the first qualitatively and quantitatively researched musical CD, based upon 200 canine participants' decisions as to what they would like to hear in songs!"
You read that correctly: This musical CD has been researched qualitatively and quantitatively. Just try to find another selection of songs for dogs that can make that claim.
We here at the gift guide are not, personally, a dog, but we did listen to several of the songs on this CD, including "Squeaky Deaky," in which a man sings about a squeaky toy, which can be heard squeaking rhythmically.
But this is not about us. This is about what musical gift to give to that special dog on your holiday list. We recommend Ray Charles.
$129.95 plus shipping and handling from Hammacher Schlemmer, 147 E. 57th St., New York, N.Y. 10022, 800-321-1484, www.hammacher.com. -- Suggested by Virginia Hullen of Hialeah, Fla.
Cats and small dogs make wonderful pets, but they are not so great at walking. They mostly want to lie around and have things brought to them. That's why this pet stroller is such a terrific idea. Instead of forcing your pet to perform the tiresome chore of walking on its own personal feet, you put it inside the stroller and push it where it needs to go.
This stroller is also a good way to walk pets that otherwise might be housebound, such as squid.
ANIMATED STRESS TURTLE
$18 plus shipping and handling from Handsome Rewards, 19465 Brennan Ave., Perris, Calif. 92599, 951-943-2023. NOTE: We just found out that this item has been discontinued. But trust us, you wouldn't have wanted it anyway. -- Suggested by Luke Francisco of Crystal River, Fla.
Remember a few years ago when there was a big fad involving a fake trophy bass, mounted on a plaque, that would suddenly swing its head out toward you and start lip-syncing a song like "Take Me to the River"?
Well, guess what?
We now have an even lower point. It's called the Animated Stress Turtle, and it crawls across your desk and sings "You gotta slow down." It's a perfect gift for busy executives. If you're having a stressful day at the office, all you have to do is activate your stress turtle, and before you know it, one of your co-workers will smash it with a chair to make it stop. You might even be fired! That will definitely cut down on your work-related stress.
$12.99-$19.99 plus shipping and handling, from Merrifield Garden Center, 8132 Lee Highway (P.O. Box 848), Merrifield, Va. 22116, 877-560-6222, www.merrifieldgardencenter.com. -- Suggested by someone who would prefer to remain anonymous because he or she received one of these as a gift.
Trees are nice, as far as they go. But the problem with trees, as the late Ronald Reagan once said when he was alive, is that if you've seen one, you've seen them all. Or possibly it was not the late Ronald Reagan who said that. But whoever it was, he or she had a point. That's why we're so excited about Forest Faces. Each Forest Face is a set of facial features that you attach to a tree, thus transforming it from a boring, stiff, lifeless lump of wood like Al Gore into a tree with a vibrant personality, like the ones that threw apples at Dorothy in "The Wizard of Oz."
PAJAMAS FOR DOGS
$18.99-$24.99 plus shipping and handling from Care-A-Lot Pet Supply, 1617 Diamond Springs Rd., Virginia Beach, Va. 23455, 800-343-7680, www.carealotpets.com. -- Suggested by Martin Tracey of Miami.
For years now, thoughtful dog owners have been putting sweaters and coats on their dogs for outdoor wear. But what about indoor wear? What about bedtime wear? It is a sad but true fact that every night, all over this so-called caring nation, literally millions of dogs go to bed naked. For these unfortunate animals, there is no more thoughtful gift that we can think of this holiday season than a pair of these quality dog pajamas, which come in a variety of "fun" prints. We guarantee that when you put these pj's on your dog, it's going to give you a very special look -- a look that says, "Some night, when you least expect it, I will rip out your throat."
$9.85 plus shipping and handling from PetVetDirect, 888-738-8383, www.petvetdirect.com. -- Suggested by Julie Luther of Madison, Wis.
It's a problem every dog owner faces: What do you do when your dog deposits a massive steaming pile of dog emissions on the sidewalk?
The right thing to do -- and, in most municipalities, the legally required thing to do -- is to look around in a furtive manner, then sprint away.
No! Sorry! The right thing to do is clean up after your dog. And here's a product designed to help. Poop-Freeze, according to the manufacturer, is "a specially formulated aerosol freeze spray that, upon contact, forms a frosty film on dog poop (or cat poop) to harden the surface for easy pick-up." Easy . . . and fun! In fact, if you have an especially productive dog, you could celebrate the holidays by making your own special version of Frosty the Snowman!
Okay, just forget that we said that.
$12.95 plus shipping and handling from Sprayonmud Limited, York House, 20 Shoplatch, Shrewsbury, Shropshire, SY1 1HN, United Kingdom, www.sprayonmud.com; U.S. orders: sprayonmud.us/index.html. -- Suggested by Betty Salwak of Indianapolis and Mike Leone of Helena, Mont.
Millions of Americans own SUVs that have rugged "off-road" capabilities, as illustrated in TV commercials wherein these vehicles climb mountains, ford rivers, run down and kill wildebeests, etc. Unfortunately, most of these SUV-owning Americans live in the suburbs, which means that if they ever actually did drive off the road, they would be on somebody's lawn.
What these people need is Spray-on Mud, which comes in a convenient can. Now, when you return home from an outing with your car all muddied up, your neighbors will think you were driving through rugged back country, even though you were actually parked at Mattress Outlet World.
SCROLLING LED BELT BUCKLE
$29.99 plus shipping and handling from Brain Buster Enterprises LLC, 349 Broadway, ninth floor, New York, N.Y. 10013; available online only at www.scrollingbuckle.com. -- Suggested by Bryce Donovan of Charleston, S.C.
Men, ask yourself this question: How does actor Brad Pitt manage to get hooked up with so many fine ladies? What does he have that you don't have? The answer is: A scrolling electronic belt buckle. Ask any woman on the planet Earth what is the first thing she notices in a man, and she will answer, "Why, his belt buckle, of course!" That is why Brad, and so many other guys who "score" with the babes, would not go anywhere, including the beach, without first strapping on this product. This is an amazing hunk of wearable technology that can be programmed to display a scrolling message of up to 256 characters, such as "CAN YOU IMAGINE WHAT KIND OF PATHETIC LOSER WOULD ACTUALLY WEAR THIS?"
BODYPERKS FAKE NIPPLES
$19.95 plus shipping and handling from Bodyperks Inc., P.O. Box 652, Wayzata, Minn. 55391, fax: 952-401-9054, www.bodyperks.com. -- Suggested by Debra Donham Barr of Onalaska, Tex.
Ladies, let's talk about your nipples. Men think about them a lot.
Unfortunately, there may be times when men are not thinking about your nipples, such as during a terrorist attack, or when you are wearing garments that do not permit nipple pokage. During such times, you need a way to get their attention back where it belongs. You need Bodyperks brand artificial nipples, which can poke out through just about anything, including body armor. So this is the perfect holiday gift for the gal who wants to really "stand out." We understand that Madonna buys these things by the gross.
SINKING TITANIC SHIP MODEL
$39.95 plus shipping and handling from Transportation Hobby Collectibles Online/Singular Selections E-Stores, PMB 66, 6470 Freetown Rd., Suite 200, Columbia, Md. 21044, 800-372-7299, www.thconline.com/index.html -- Suggested by Alan King of Bologna, Italy.
What is more fun for a youngster than playing with a toy ship in a bathtub or pool? We'll tell you what: playing with a toy ship that realistically simulates the sinking of an ocean liner resulting in more than a thousand deaths! And that's exactly what this amazing toy does. You touch a button and a big iceberg gash opens up in the hull, and . . . down she goes!
Ha-ha! We bet the lucky youngster who gets this gift will play with it for hours, and ultimately need therapy. This ship comes with a 52-page illustrated book about the Titanic. Tragically, it does not come with a tiny non-floating replica of Leonardo DiCaprio.
BACKPACK FOR DOGS
$18.95 plus shipping and handling from Clever Pet Products, 1601 Penfield Rd., Suite 750-400, Rochester, N.Y. 14625, www.cleverpetproducts.com.
If you have a dog, and you live in a populated area, you know you're supposed to pick up the dog's poop. This is only right. The problem is, you then have to carry the dog's poop. Until now, that is. Because now, thanks to this incredible invention, you can make the dog carry the poop, in a little rucksack strapped around the dog's neck.
Hey, it's the dog's poop, right? Why shouldn't the dog carry it? One reason, of course, is that the dog might want to kill you, so if you're going to be buying this product and the dog pajamas, we strongly recommend that you first talk to an estate planner.
ELECTRIC MARSHMALLOW TOASTER
$19.95 plus shipping and handling from Wishingfish.com Inc., 1014 Pico Blvd., Suite No. 3, Santa Monica, Calif. 90405; 877-785-3914, www.wishingfish.com.
Roasted marshmallows are a fun treat and an important nutritional source of sugar. The problem is the backbreaking labor involved.
You barely have enough strength to raise your Hershey bar to your lips. But not any more. Not when you have this automatic marshmallow roasting device, which harnesses the amazing power of AA batteries (not included) to drive an electric motor that actually turns your marshmallows for you. That's right, we said "marshmallows," plural, because this baby can rotate three marshmallows at a time. Also we are pretty sure it could be used to kill a bear, although this is not explicitly stated in the instructions.
$5.95 per flavor plus shipping and handling from David Burke's Flavor Spray Diet, P.O. Box 298, Cliffside Park, N.J. 07010, 718-793-SPRAY(7772), www.flavorspraydiet.com. -- Suggested by Claire Martin of Denver.
Why do we eat fattening foods? Because they taste good. That is why we never, ever, while watching football on a Sunday afternoon, say: "Let's call up Celery Hut and have a big bunch of celery delivered!" No, we want pizza, because pizza is dripping with fat. And that's the problem: If you want flavor, you have to eat food that makes you fat. Until now! Because now you can get Flavor Spray, which contains no calories, no carbohydrates and no fat, and comes in many flavors, including chocolate fudge, bacon, marshmallow and teriyaki.
With Flavor Spray, you can make anything taste good! You could have a meal consisting entirely of cardboard! (Not recommended.) You can even eat nothing at all, and simply spray flavor directly into your mouth. Raul the Official Gift Guide Photographer tried this, and, weeks later, his mouth still tastes like bacon.