It's time for holiday shopping yet again, but this year, things are different. The economy may tank, climate change may be destroying the planet, and it may be too late to save America from her fate as a Third World country, but there's new hope in the air, and it's Christmastime, damn it, so we're going to party like it's 1999. We're also going to assist you in finding the perfect gift for these troubled yet hopeful times.
For geeks who understand that without Jim Henson, a black president would be impossible
Fraggle Rock: The Complete Series Collection ($140)
Jim Henson is dead, but we can still stand on the shoulders of his Muppets and see the promised land. Henson always injected ideas of social justice and general fairness into his shows, and nowhere more directly than on his '80s show Fraggle Rock. Right off the bat, the Fraggles learned about living in harmony with other races: In the series' second episode, a Fraggle is happily enslaved (!), remarking that "sometimes slavery feels like freedom." He eventually learned his lesson—as did the millions of kids who grew up extra-liberal having watched the show.
Available at: DVD sellers everywhere
For let-down creationists who continue to insist that dinosaurs and man walked the earth together
T-Rex Dinosaur Trophy Sculpture ($90)
This gem from the beloved-by-millions SkyMall catalog offers incontrovertible proof that man not only lived with dinosaurs on our 4,000-year-old planet, but also hunted them. (For further proof of the former, see Land Of The Lost.) When liberal friends visit, offering their "scientific" evidence that the planet is closer to 4.5 billion years old, simply show them this piece.
Available at: Skymall.com
For those whose newfound optimism extends into thinking they can just eat bacon products all the time without consequences
J&D;'s Ultimate Bacon Lover's Gift Pack ($39.99)
Even those who aren't instantly enamored of Bacon Salt's taste have to respect the gusto of J&D;'s, which is putting bacon where it belongs—at the forefront of every meal. This holiday pack includes a bunch of new Bacon Salt flavors (applewood, cheddar, mesquite, jalapeno, and maple) and a jar of the company's new product, Baconnaise. That's right, J&D;'s has mixed the fatty goodness of mayonnaise with the taste of bacon.
Available at: Baconsalt.com
For the interstellar optimist
Star Trek Original Series Communicator ($29.99), Star Trek Pez Dispensers Set ($19.99), Captain Kirk's Chair ($2,700)
As America enters a new era of hope and ambition, it's fitting that interest in Gene Roddenberry's humanistic Star Trek would rise again. Sure, that interest could vanish at warp speed if J.J. Abrams screws up the big-screen remake, but old-school fans can appreciate the small flood of merchandise appearing in the build-up to its January release. Apart from the harmonious pairing of chocolate in peanut butter, no candy better expresses Roddenberry's optimistic view of the future than Pez, whose conversation-starting dispensers practically demand that their treats be shared. And what better way to drive that message home than a set of dispensers featuring likenesses of the original Trek cast? Need toys more than candy? While cell-phone technology took the wonder out of Captain Kirk's communicator, a new "action replica" from Art Asylum restores some of the shine, thanks to cool series sound effects and a rotating array that's more psychedelically hypnotic than any iPhone app. Finally, the truly devoted (and deep-pocketed) can sail into the brighter future set to begin in 2009 in a full-size replica of Kirk's chair, now available in all its blocky glory. Unsure whether it's worth almost three grand? Consider this: It swivels. And it features sound effects and recorded phrases like "Position report, Spock!" Sometimes ushering in a new era of galactic peace means having some photon torpedoes at your fingertips.
Available at: Candy and toy stores nationwide; chair will reportedly be available at diamondselecttoys.com
For those once again ready to do the nasty after years of getting shafted
Vulva Original perfume (19.90 Euros) / Sex Panther cologne ($29.99)
One of these products is a joke based on a throwaway gag in a movie; the other might make you gag because it's so absolutely real. According to its website, Vulva Original is "not a perfume. It is a beguiling vaginal scent which is purely a smelling substance for your own pleasure." It goes on to suggest that Vulva—guess the scent!—should be applied to the back of the hand. Okay, more quotes: "the irresistible smell that exudes from a sensuous vagina." Sex Panther, on the other hand, was inspired by the movie Anchorman. Its tagline is funny: "60% of the time, it works every time." Which is more appropriate for your mom or dad?
For people driven to alcoholism and agoraphobia by the past eight years
Guinness Home Pub ($250,000)
For those who love the experience of a perfectly poured Guinness in an authentic Irish pub, but don't ever want to leave the house, why not the Guinness Home Pub? The people at RiRa Pubs will design a fully functional, traditional Irish pub and build it in your home in 2009. It will be crafted from historic Irish architectural elements and authentic Guinness artifacts, and it includes Guinness stout for a whole year.
Available at: Neimanmarcus.com
For those so confident in the economy's rebound, they're willing to spend $17 for a 50-cent piece
The Barack Obama Presidential Commemorative Coin ($10 plus $7 shipping)
"Commemorate the most historic presidential election of our time!" Sign us up! This set not only includes a Kennedy half-dollar painted to commemorate Obama's election, it places said coin in a "crystal clear acrylic coin capsule," and the whole thing is in a "handsome gift box." There's even a reproduction of the prez-elect's signature, so you can make your own legislation.
Available at: Franklinmint.com
For liberals who want compelling evidence for drug legalization or conservatives who like to see cops "do what needs to be done"
The Wire: The Complete Series DVD box set ($250)
Chances are, you've encountered people who go on and on about how you just have to see The Wire, about how it's the best TV show ever made, and how it will BLOW. YOUR. MIND. with its preternatural awesomeness. Well, they're correct. Even if you haven't given in yet—oh, you will in time—you can make your Omar Little superfan's year with this collection of the show's five seasons on 23 DVDs—60 hours of content. The set also includes the three web-only prequels that show some characters' lives before the series launches, as well as a never-before-seen gag reel. Sadly, it isn't yet available on Blu-Ray, but any fan of the show will be psyched to have all the seasons together. And The Wire also acts as a good pick-me-up in these trying economic times: No matter how bad it gets, at least you don't live in Baltimore.
Available at: DVD sellers everywhere
For social conservatives who can only dull the pain of the new era with lots of booze, warmed by their own bodies
The Beerbelly ($35) or The Winerack ($30)
Sporting events and beer are the new bread and circuses—but at stadium/arena prices, who can afford enough watery beer to temporarily forget about job security and the mortgage? Fortunately, the underemployed now have a new option for smuggling alcohol into controlled events: The Beerbelly, a neoprene sling containing a pouch with attached drinking tube. It holds "more than a six pack of your favorite beverage"; when filled and worn under the clothes, it looks like the fat, sagging belly you'll wind up with if you keep drinking Beerbellies full of beer at every home game. And for flat-chested ladies who don't want to look fat and/or pregnant, there's the Winerack, a padded bra that fills the same purpose—and helps fill out a T-shirt. In both cases, there's an attached tube for drinking your strap-on liquor, and for blowing air into the hidden bladders so you leave the game still fat and/or busty rather than deflated. The company producing these products, Cooler Fun, has a range of other fun products for the alcohol-obsessed, including a hot/cold pack called the "Pleasure Extender" and a $600 "Cooler Scooter" that doubles as a cooler and a vehicle, for when your car gets repossessed after your latest DUI. As a bonus, you can wear the Beerbelly while watching games at home, which means going even longer without budging from the couch; it holds three times as much as a passé old beer hat. Next up, for the really drunk and desperate: The beer-filled full-body inflatable sumo suit.
Available at: Thebeerbelly.com
For hunters who manage to survive the forthcoming Second Amendment purges
Minaska Outdoors "Bandit" MP3 Duck Call ($469)
Not everyone is thrilled at the election of Comrade Obama. Gun enthusiasts, in particular, are buying in quantity, fearful that our new president will soon outlaw firearms. But we're still optimistic! Maybe he'll only send Republican gun owners to reeducation camps, leaving you free to buy the Minaska Bandit mp3-powered duck call for the Democratic duck hunters on your shopping list. Yes, for only $70 more than a top-of-the-line iPod, you can lure waterfowl to the kill in high-quality 320 kbps digital sound! And in case you aren't satisfied with its pre-programmed sounds (including "Kitten Distress," "Psycho Rabbit," "Death Screams," and "Agitated Bore"), its flash memory is expandable to 16 gig, for ducks who are inexplicably drawn to the sounds of The Decemberists.
Available at: Gamecalls.net
For conservatives full of hot, smelly air following the Democratic victory
Subtle Butt Disposable Gas Neutralizers by Garment Guard ($10 for 5)
Garment Guard has hope to offer even those left with a nasty case of irritable bowels after the Grand Old Party's near-collapse. The Subtle Butt Disposable Gas Neutralizer is a 3.25-inch fabric square that adheres to the inside of one's undies (fold or trim to fit a thong). After applying it to "exactly where you think it goes," the directions advise you to "let 'er rip," as the activated carbon and antimicrobials therein should absorb any trace of ass-stench from your broken wind. Based in Southern California's conservative bastion of Orange County, Garment Guard also offers something called "Skid Out," for getting rid of "real-life bloopers" on fabric.
Available at: Garmentguard.com
For campers with deep pockets, in both the literal and metaphorical sense
Giant Swiss Army Knife ($999)
Ah, the Swiss Army Knife: Since the late 19th century, it's been the camper's best friend, an all-in-one device featuring such handy little tools as a blade, a can opener, a screwdriver, and maybe a few whimsical touches, like a magnifying glass, nail-clippers, or a toothpick. And since it's Swiss, it's militarily neutral, too. But who needs a compact implement that fits in your pocket when you can have a three-pound, 85-tool behemoth that's three-quarters of a foot long and can hang off your belt loop, thumping out a bruise on your inner thigh? A Guinness World Record holder for "the most multifunctional penknife"—take that, regular Swiss Army Knife!—this thousand-dollar beauty complements the standard screwdriver with a workshop's bounty in tools. It also includes such unexpected items as a laser pointer, a bike-chain rivet-setter, a mineral crystal magnifier, and a golf-club-face cleaner. Best of luck finding them all.
Available at: Thinkgeek.com
For those ready to have their world turned upside-down
Teeter Hang-Ups ($359.95)
At first, $300 seems like a lot to spend on an "inversion table" that looks like a cheap poolside lounge chair tipped vertically and with added ankle restraints. But Teeter Hang-Ups make inversions easy, and as anyone who has ever hung upside down on monkey bars can tell you, inversions are fun. Roger Teeter (seriously, he claims that's his real name), the inventor of Teeter Hang-Ups, claims his product can alleviate everything from back pain to circulation problems, but he doesn't mention the effect that hanging upside down can have on mood. There's a reason why "inversion therapy" is a treatment for depression: having all your blood rush to your head is a good time. And it's probably cheaper than Paxil.
Available at: Teeterhangups.com
For those looking for a good excuse to kill the idle rich and feast on their bodies
His & Hers Life-Size Replica in LEGO Bricks ($60,000)
If you feel like a life-sized sculpture of you and your mate isn't a unique enough gift, why not have it made out of Legos? It'll prove that you're aren't just narcissistic and overprivileged, but "whimsical" as well. Simply send in a photo of yourself and your partner plus measurements, and artist Nathan Sawaya will make it happen.
Available at: Neimanmarcus.com
For the girl who doesn't just talk to her dolls, but also takes fashion advice from them
Lagerfeld Teddy Bear ($1,500)
Your current teddy bears are fat and their clothes are jejune. Get them out of your sight and replace them with the Karl Lagerfeld version, which comes dressed exactly like the designer, with aviator sunglasses, an Italian wool jacket, lacquered jeans from the K Karl Lagerfeld collection, tailor-made boots, and black silk tie with Swarovski® crystal tie tack. And his little smile is kinda cute, too.
Available at: Neimanmarcus.com
For easily led souls who need to be warned of the dangers of AN-gel DUST-ah
The Dolemite Collection: Bigger And Badder ($70)
Sadly, hip-hop godfather and King Of The Party Records Rudy Ray Moore died before he could witness Obama's election. But he's undoubtedly smiling down from heaven and admonishing the living to purchase The Dolemite Collection, an absolutely essential collection of blaxploitation DVDs from Moore's '70s golden age that includes such low-budget cult classics as Dolemite, The Human Tornado, Petey Wheatstraw: The Devil's Son-In-Law, and The Avenging Disco Godfather. Just as Obama battled bigots to become the most powerful man on Earth, Moore had to overcome an army of insecure, rat-soup-eating, no-business-having motherfuckers who doubted the veracity of his statements, leading to his timeless catchphrase, "I ain't lyin'!" Neither are we when we insist that no home is complete without Moore's funky, off-brand soul cinema.
Available at: DVD sellers everywhere
For the science-fiction fan nostalgic for yesterday's apocalypse
Planet Of The Apes 40th-Anniversary Collection Blu-Ray Set ($139.99)
Now that a bold new era of peace and harmony is just around the corner, we'll soon be able to view apocalyptic visions like the Planet Of The Apes series as cautionary relics from a time when humanity could, and almost did, destroy itself. And now the whole vicious Apes cycle—from Charlton Heston's original mind-blowing revelation on a far-future shore in Planet Of The Apes through the visions of a nuclear armageddon and civil unrest of the later films—is available in a set of crisply detailed, extras-outfitted DVDs. No one should breathe easily and assume that such threats will soon be safely in our past, since those who don't remember the past, etc., etc.
Available at: DVD sellers everywhere
For hip-hop heads still mourning Dilla
Madlib's The Dil Cosby Suite and The Dil Weathers Suite ($16 each)
With volumes five (The Dil Cosby Suite) and six (The Dil Weathers Suite), of his instrumental Beat Konducta series, mad scientist of sound Madlib returns from India to pay tribute to his friend, collaborator, and kindred spirit, the late great James Yancey, also known as J-Dilla or Jay Dee. Here, Madlib channels the Detroit producer and samples J-Dilla's inimitable rasp extensively as he leads listeners through dusty, blunted soundscapes where dead voices gather, united by a loopy, free-associative dream logic. If you're feeling ambitious, you could follow in the footsteps of noted Obama supporters like Busta Rhymes and Talib Kweli, who rapped over Dilla's Donuts instrumentals, and use these tracks as the backup music for your funky-fresh freestyles. On second thought, don't: even Obama would tell you your rap dreams are beyond hopeless.
Available at: Insound.com, other fine vinyl retailers.
For those who want their campfire to reflect the glorious ethnic diversity that is America
"Mystical Fire" Novelty Bonfire Treatment ($57.50)
With the first black president ready to take office, it can no longer be denied that America is a rainbow. So if you're a big fan of fire, but you're turned off by its boring old-boys'-club of yellow, red, and orange, toss Mystical Fire into the flames, and watch them change from red to blue to green to violet, thus allegedly providing "hours of entertainment for the whole family," who must finally have that ADD under control.
Available at: Mysticalfire.ca
For middle-class shoppers stumped about how to spend their tax cut
The Smart Shopper Grocery List Organizer ($100)
Of all the ways technology was going to improve our lives, eliminating the venerable paper-and-pen grocery list is the one we just can't seem to accomplish. For those dissatisfied with list organizers on their iPhones, here's a purpose-built device that recognizes your muttered "Depends, extra-large" and adds it to the all-caps list on its LCD screen. When you're done with your list, the Smart Shopper will print it out for you to take along, handily eliminating any environmental advantage to its use. Finally, a three-figure gift that combines the joy of talking to your bank's automated phone-tree system with the thrill of replacing the roll of paper in a cash register.
Available at: Smartshopperusa.com
For carnival enthusiasts excited about the opportunities for itinerant hucksters in the impending New Depression
Throwzini 6-Piece Knife Block Set ($100)
"In 1938, the Wheel of Death introduced a spinning target!" enthuses the sequitur-free product description for the Throwzini, a spinning wooden disk with a healthy-looking red figure splayed in the middle. Knife throwing can "live on in your kitchen," the box claims, although you shouldn't actually throw the five included knives into their protective magnetic sleeves. But hey, you sure can spin the hell out of that wheel! Watch that little red guy cope with the G-forces! The product name is actually Throwzini's Knife Block, a transparent attempt to fool unsuspecting shoppers into thinking that it's endorsed by Kevin McDonald's Throwdini from the "Stupid Holiday Charity Talent Show" episode of NewsRadio. "Every time I talk with my friend who received the Throwzini it is the first thing he brings up," reads one review that could have been penned by McDonald in a particularly bitter, passive-aggressive moment.
Available at: Thinkgeek.com and various online retailers
For socialists who finally feel safe now that one of their own is in the White House
Progressive International Microwavable S'mores Maker ($9)
The Progressive International looks like a little chocolate salt-shaker with Plastic-Man marshmallow arms that press your s'mores into a melting chocolate futon. And the brand name makes it clear that indoor microwave s'mores are a communist plot. But if you can't think of any other way to use up your post-apocalyptic stockpile of graham crackers, Hershey bars, and marshmallows in the absence of a campfire, this product will fill your need. "Just add water!" the simple directions state. Ahh… just like the Cub Scouts!
Available at: Amazon.com and other online retailers
For red-staters entering the Conservative Protection Program
Six-Way Mustache ($1.24)
"Not As Great As I Thought It Would Be," proclaims one online review from a disappointed customer of this novelty 'stache. Turns out it sticks to your face not with spirit gum, like the old-timey spies used to do it, but with a little hidden plastic ring that clamps onto your septum. But what, you may ask, are the Six Ways? It mostly involves pointing the fake hair up or down at different exciting angles. Not as fun as a three-way, but less time-consuming.
Available at: Zowie Fun and other online retailers
For early adopters who still haven't scraped the Kerry/Edwards stickers off their Volvos
Goodnight, Bush, Kindle Edition ($8.79)
"Goodnight, old growth trees!" If the liberals are serious about hugging some deciduous, they'd better be reading this popular parody kiss-off to the Bush years on their Kindles. Of course, that means they won't get to see the images in color. And they'll have to pick up some reading glasses at the local fair-trade 24-hour pharmacy to see the pictures on the 6", grayscale Kindle display. But just because the original is a whopping coffee-table-esque 9"x7" and full-color doesn't mean it can't be "enjoyed" on a device best suited for The Wall Street Journal. Not that anyone who's buying Goodnight Bush is reading that fascist rag.
Available at: Amazon.com
For cowboys feeling forsaken by W's departure from the cast of male role models
The Dude Big Lebowski Key Clips Talking Keychain ($12)
All those brush-clearin' ranch hands are going to be moving to the city now, where their neighbors are gay-married and their local diner serves tiramisu. Time to get some Dude-trainin' up in here. Jeff Bridges' fish-out-of-water frontiersman/stoner/private eye knows what it's like to be a stranger in a strange land. You don't have to watch the whole movie (it's got tropes 'n' themes 'n' stuff) now that the Dude's six best lines, as scientifically determined by a keychain manufacturer, can be heard emanating from your pocket when you bump into furniture. It's an Iron John for the oughts in the soundbite form that the original Crawford dude made famous.
Available at: Amazon.com
For unemployed millworkers looking for a shot at stardom
Holy Headshot!: A Celebration Of America's Undiscovered Talent ($18.95)
Actors are ridiculous. Even actors think actors are ridiculous, which is why your friend who keeps sending you e-mails about his improv group's graduation performances will laugh wholeheartedly at this thorough collection of the strangest, most eye-catching, most sincere headshots and acting résumés.
Available at: Booksellers everywhere
For the fiscal conservative who can't afford to lose even a single banana
Banana Bunker ($5)
Words like "need" or "necessary" lose all meaning around Christmas, even when the economy is collapsing. For example, does anyone actually need a flexible plastic case to prevent their bananas from getting bruised? Of course not. But can they use it? If they carry bananas around, yes. And at $10 for two, Banana Bunkers are an economical, completely unnecessary gift. They're also a very cheap laugh, considering that a banana in a Banana Bunker looks like it's trapped inside a transparent plastic dildo.
Available at: Bananabunker.com
For those who can no longer afford to dine out, but who still crave the finer things
Peanut Butter & Co's The Big Six ($34)
Peanut Butter & Co could easily have called this six-pack of different varieties of their (delicious) all-natural peanut butter the Nostalgia Crate, or Box Of Everything Was Simple Then. Why? Peanut butter just makes people feel good. It's the simplest and least expensive comfort food. Tucked inside a bright blue-and-white striped carrying case that's so charming it's almost overkill, this assortment of flavors (including White Chocolate Wonderful, Dark Chocolate Dreams, and Cinnamon Raisin Swirl) is also fancy enough to be impressive, without crossing over into the pretentious foodie category.
Available at: Ilovepeanutbutter.com
For those who still have problems even in the Obama age, but don't want to harsh everyone's buzz
Breaking Bad News With Baby Animals postcard book ($10)
Everyone's riding on a fluffy cloud of hope and change right now, right? So how do you let them know that grandma just died, that the organ donation fell through, the hole in the ozone layer is unfixable, or that mom blew the college fund on coke? That's why there's the Breaking Bad News With Baby Animals postcard book, which helpfully softens the blow of these pre-printed bad-news messages ("You're the father," "It's syphilis," "You're not the father," "You're my least favorite child," etc.) via cute, fuzzy kittens, puppies, and bunnies. It's like a bringdown and a comfort all at the same time. It's also pretty funny, in a sick sort of way. But surely no one will need these postcards in our brave new world, because Obama is going to fix everything, right? Right?
Available at: Booksellers everywhere