Holiday Gift Guide – December 2007

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Photo: Emily Adam

A Gift for a Thirty-Something Ken Jennings Wannabe
The 80s Game with Martha Quinn
Price: $19.99
The problem with trivia games is how all-encompassing they are. You may know a great deal about Ecuador, but that will do you no good if the question is about Rod Stewart. The scope is just too broad. This is why an 80s trivia game makes so much sense. You don’t have to know everything; you only have to know everything in a ten year time span. An electronic version of original MTV VJ Martha Quinn leads you through questions about music, film, sports and culture. And though accessing this chunk of knowledge may be next to impossible for the younger generation, it is perfect for those in their early thirties who really want to feel smart. They may not be able to finish college or hold a steady job, but I’ll be damned if they can’t name every single James Bond film starring Roger Moore. Say ‘em with me: For Your Eyes Only, Octopussy, The Living Daylights . . . –James Bennett

Five out of Five Flocks of Seagulls

A Gift for Your Home Teacher’s Wife
The Affirmawrap Fleece Blanket
Price: $29.99
Sometimes, the cold winter months call for more than just the standard blanket—especially if the source of your frigid feelings is not the draft from the window, but the negativity surrounding you. The people at Affirmagy understand this. They know that while any fleece coverlet can warm your feet, it takes a special swatch of fabric to warm your heart. Printed with positive slogans like “I am calm and centered” and “I am a magnet for ease and grace,” the Affirmawrap will flood your life with positivity and will surround you with warm, synthetic fibers. When I was feeling particularly blue this season, I bundled myself up and watched a movie on Lifetime. And though the TV movie was about spousal abuse, I couldn’t help but feel good about life. The Affirmawrap is the perfect gift for the woman behind the man who brings the word of God into your home every month. —James Bennett

Five out of Five First Presidency Messages

A Gift for The Lazy Fat Ass Ex-Skateboarder in Your Life
The Beer Belly
Home Wet Bar
Price: $39.95
What may be hands down the best gift idea this holiday season could very well get its recipient into some trouble, and that’s exactly why I like it. The Beer Belly is an 80 oz. camelback with an insulated neoprene sling that allows it to be worn under your shirt on your stomach, looking like a convincingly real beer belly. Made mostly for party animals and alcoholics, it allows you to become a human keg and sneak your favorite beverage (hot or cold) into places where booze is either not allowed or really overpriced. Try rolling to movies, concerts, sporting events, family reunions, class, or church and getting hammered without anybody even noticing. Although it probably violates open container laws and a few other liquor laws, who cares? The thing looks so realistic that getting it into any event is a breeze and cops might actually respect you more, seeing as you have a fat gut, just like them. My favorite part is that this actually reverses the effect alcohol has on people. Usually the drunker you get the less attractive you become, but with this baby, you start the night sober and out of shape, and end the night drunk and looking like a veritable Jenny Craig success story. –Sully

Four out of Five Cheers!

A Gift for Your Friend With Stub Steak Fingers
Fender Stratocaster 1:3 Scale Replica
GMP Replicas
Price: $49.95
As awkward as it is for someone with stubby fingers to shake hands with standard-digited folks like you and me, this is not the most troubling situation in which they may find themselves—worse still is when the carnie-handed attempt to play guitar. Since the dawn of stringed instruments, the stub-fingered among us have had to settle for the violin, all the while thinking of how much better it would be to plow through the first few bars of “Eruption” on a blue-lit stage. Finally, a guitar for people whose fingers are a third the size of everyone else. There’s just one problem: you can’t really play it. It is a meticulously crafted model, but it is all form and no function. It will not help the digitally challenged achieve rock god status. It will only remind them of the strat-shredding career that is nowhere near their fingertips. Pretty, but useless. –James Bennett

One out of Five Yngwie Malmsteens

A Gift for Your Ex-Step Mom
Fling-A-String Kitty Toy
Moody Pet
Price: $16.99
If your ex-step mom is anything like mine, she used to be hot but after too many prescription drugs her organs are rendered useless and have thus affected her delicate exterior (meaning she now looks like Skeletor). Anyway, she probably has a cat, so this is the perfect re-gift for her. I tested the fling-a-string on my cat, Jet Pack. He’s very particular about his toys, he usually only likes things that are pink (personally, I think my cat is gay, but I respect his sexual orientation). Jet Pack loved the fling-a-string! Unfortunately, I don’t have enough batteries to keep the fling-a-string going as much as he’d like, so we haven’t been getting along as well lately. –Mike Brown

Four out of Five Oxykittens

A Gift for Your Anti-War Dog
George the Lame Duck Dog Toy
Moody Pet
Price: $9.99
There is no better way to show off your political dissent than by giving your favorite furry friend a miniature of the president to chew on. When I first gave this toy to my dog Rosie, she was apprehensive, but has grown to love the soft, plush half-duck/half George W. I thought that it would be ripped to shreds and strewn across the backyard in a matter of days, but the thing has survived. And honestly, nothing brings a smile to my face like watching my dog throw the quasi-president up in the air, catch it in her mouth and shake the hell out of him. –Jeanette Moses

Five out of Five Shakes of Dog Tails

A Gift for Your Pot Dealer
Grow-A-Head Dolls
Price: $9.99
You already know that your pot dealer likes things that grow. You already know that your pot dealer likes things that are green. And if your pot dealer is anything like my pot dealer she really likes dolls. Combine all three and you’ve got the perfect re-gift for your favorite tax free enterprise representative. I tried to actually grow the grow-a-heads and they didn’t grow so well. Total shwag heads if you ask me. But the reindeer one is exceptionally cute bald, so whatever. –Mike Brown

Three Out of Five Seeds

A Gift for The Kid You Had With That Rocker Chick
Heavy Metal Fun Time Activity Book
ECW Press
Price: $9.99
The hardest part about having your Aerosmith-obsessed ex-girlfriend raise your illegitimate son is not the tragic haircut she’s bound to make him get—it’s the sad fact that the revolving door of new men in her life will shower your boy with all sorts of expensive gifts while trying to get into her pants. This will make almost anything you give him seem cheap and insincere. That is, until now! With the Heavy Metal activity book, junior will be able to color Black Sabbath and do a Pantera dot-to-dot. His cognitive skills will further develop while he searches for which two of the six Van Halen logos are exactly identical. He will spend hours working on an Ad-Lib based on Dio’s song “Holy Diver.” He will better understand the importance of Metal, and will begin to look to you for guidance, understanding that you are a far better man than any of the half dozen guys who “slept-over” within the last month. Better still, your ex-old lady will realize how much better of a catch you are than the dude with the Theater of Pain tattoo. Metal solves everything. —James Bennett

Five out of Five Flying Vs

A Gift for Your Spiteful Starbucks Customer
Keurig Platinum B70 Coffee Maker
Price: $195.99
The process is simple: your coffee grounds are pre-measured and pre-ground and then packaged into a convenient little sealed plastic cup, which is then grouped in a box with a whole host of other nicely packaged single-serving cups. After you’ve selected your blend (“Green Mountains Dark Magic,” in my case) you just put the unopened grounds cup into the brewer, close the lid, select the mug size you desire and press brew. A few minutes later you have your very own cup of coffee, you also have a little plastic cup that needs to be thrown away, not recycled (apparently the cup is not made of a recyclable material). At almost $200, I can think of quite a few less wasteful ways to brew a single-serving coffee. I prefer a French press, which only costs about $35 and the only waste it produces are composte-ready used grounds and the bag your coffee came in, rather than a whole package full of cups. A French press also brews a much better tasting cup of coffee than the mediocre and slightly stale cup the Keurig gave me. So, if convenience is what you want, then it is a great machine, otherwise stop by your local coffee shop or kitchen supply store and pick up a French press or get advice on another brewer. –Joe Evans, Owner, nobrow coffee and tea

One out of Five Rainy Days in Seattle

A Gift for Your Crafty Scrap-Booking Childless Aunt
Price: $9.99
The Mini Bowdabra claims to make beautiful bows quickly and easily––bows for hair, candles, scrapbooks, invitations etc. Sadly, the Mini-Bowdabra (a piece of cheap plastic that pinches the ribbon to hold it in place) does little more than create the loops of the bow. The hardest part of making a beautiful bow (the tie off) isn’t accomplished in any sort of fabulous way by using the mini Bowdabra. I found myself making neat looking loops with the Bowdabra, but once I went in for the tie off my “fabulous bow” would fall apart almost instantly. I’d rather stick to hot glue and sewing pins when creating bows. –Jeanette Moses

One out of Five Rousing Ribbons

A Gift for The Neptunes Hopeful
MPC 500
Price: $699
Has someone you know changed life-long career goals of college and Veterinary school to becoming a music producer? Want to help them achieve their Scott Storch aspirations? If so, forget about that $99 FL Studio software. Billboard’s Top 200 songs are really bought from anyway, not produced on some incredibly versatile and affordable computer program. The real ticket to music industry success is fashion (just look at Kanye), and the MPC 500 is just expensive enough to engender the ire of all the other all-over-print hoody aficionados for its sleek black status symbol. The unit’s LCD display is ridiculously small and it doesn’t even come with a USB cable, but those things are only important if they actually plan on using it, rather than just pretending to pound out that loud snare sample at the show. And the envy need not be confined to music appropriate venues only! In situations where the possession of an entire music production system may be perceived by some as unnecessary and vain (such as that crucial first date), just tell them to put the unit’s 35 Megabyte memory card on that Han Cholo chain to let the romantic interest know they’re well on their way to diddling away more money they don’t have on overpriced, limited-edition Nikes. –Makena Walsh

Three out of Five Delighted Rappers

A Gift for Your Traveling Hubby
Noise-Canceling Headphones
Price: $27.65
“Its so noisy in this airplane!” “Shut-up you stupid people in the coffee shop! I want to listen to the new Norah Jones while I type on my Mac and I don’t want to hear your stupid conversation about Wes Anderson or leg warmers!” If you have ever been in either of these situations, it is obvious that you need some type of device that will completely shut out what is going on in the world around you. What you need are some noise canceling headphones! TDK makes a pretty good pair; the sound quality is decent and they are comfortable to wear for extended periods of time. The only thing that is a bit deterring is the somewhat large control panel halfway down the cord. I decided to wear them for an entire day and I found that I was slowly evaporating into a world of drugs, sex and evil dance music. Say no to real life! –Art Glassett

Four out of Five Jazz Standards

A Gift for Your Digital Pirate
PC to TV Converter
Price: $99.99
Paying top dollar for premium cable channels to watch your favorite shows or purchasing the DVD a season or two after it’s over is soooo 2000. What is cheaper and quicker is downloading them onto your computer to view later, but if you are like me, your average PC pirate, you don’t have that great of a set-up to watch your ill-begotten gains on your computer. Countless times I have tried to watch stuff on my computer and wished I could see it on my TV screen. Gigaware’s PC to TV converter offers a nifty solution: instead of plugging in a separate converter box that also needs an AC adaptor, this PC to TV converter runs off the USB port (and is mac compatible as well!) The only drawback amid the countless cables and overly simplistic instructions is that occasionally, like a TV antenna, it needs adjusting and if you are going to use it for movies or shows with subtitles, they better be in a big font or else it will be a bit fuzzy and unreadable. While it does what it’s designed to do, it isn’t optimal for high-def conversion. Bummer. If you are interested in anything better than composite component images then this quick fix converter is not for you. Novelty ahoy! –Erik Lopez

Three out of Five Billion Dollars of Lost Writer’s Wages

The Gift for Your Guitar Hero
Pocket POD Guitar Multi-Effects Processor
Line 6
Price: $130
I have to admit up front that I am not a huge fan of amp modelers for various reasons, but this little Pocket Pod is pretty amazing. It’s really tiny and packed with a bunch of great features including some cool sounding guitar presets, some standard and not-so-standard effects and the ability to create your own presets with a simple, intuitive interface. There is even the option to connect via USB and create your own sounds using a program called Vyzex. When you’re done creating your sounds, you can go online and share them with other users. A quick browse through the online library showed plenty of shitty metal presets (Dokken anyone?) and there was even a couple for Fugazi. Out of sheer curiosity I did put this to the test to see if it would stand up to the real deal. After a bit of tweaking, I got something fairly close to what sounded like my Fender Hot Rod Deville, but I wouldn’t suggest hocking your stack just yet. If you just need to practice your arpeggios and want to feel like you’re doing it through a cranked amp, this could be your ticket. –Matt Mateus

Three out of Five Ratt’s

A Gift for Your L33T H4X0R
Siber Systems, Inc.
Price: $20
If you have three emails accounts, a university login account, bank on the web, purchase stuff through Amazon, etc. you can easily amass anywhere from five to twenty passwords or more. Usually it’s much easier to condense all these passwords into one or two for all the websites you have to visit, trading in security for convenience. But, living in a post-9/11 world, convenience MUST be discarded in favor of security. 20 dollars is a small price to pay for good sleep and the ability to foil terrorism in all its forms, Roboform2GO is essentially a USB jump drive with 256 MB that stores all your passwords, will make secure passwords for you, store files, etc and all you need to do is remember one master password. And if you have a spare jump drive lying around, you can download the program onto it instead of buying their branded drive! It’s pretty easy to use – plug it in, go to a website that needs a password that you use and voila … no hassle log-in. Unfortunately, its not Mac compatible and if you like working with Macs – like I do, you are screwed and screwed royally. Another thing to think about – if you don’t use other computers much for surfing websites that you need passwords for, then this product is virtually a moot point. Recommended for those who don’t have a dedicated computer or two that they use on a regular basis. –Erik Lopez

Four out of Five Flying Windows

A Gift for Your Circuit-Bending Boyfriend
The Tremolessence
The Reverberator
The Sunny Day Delay
The Frazz Dazzler
Dr. Scientist
Price: $150-$260
Dr. Scientist was cool enough to send four pedals: The Tremolessence, The Reverberator, The Sunny Day Delay and The Frazz Dazzler. These four pedals should be packaged together as a “starter” kit, fulfilling the four basic food groups of sound manipulation with a sense of class and style that surpasses the typical mass-manufactured pedal. Each one was developed with a sense of “what can we do to make this just a little bit unique?” while still being useful. The Tremolessence does your basic tremolos, but it goes a bit further, letting you select the shape (triangle or square), and it also hasrate (with fast and slow switch), massive amounts of depth and a light that matches the tempo so you can set it before kicking it in. On the Dr. Scientist website they list the Reverberator as being both “red” and “radical”. While the one they sent me is not red, it is pretty radical. The Reverberator gives you 8 different digital reverbs to choose from: 2 Halls, 3 Rooms and 3 Plates. All the preset verbs sound warm and real, especially with the mix knob dialed in just right.The Sunny Day Delay could easily replace my Memory Man. It does all the good stuff that an analog-type delay should. From single to endless repeats and a rate knob that allows for some serious tweaking. The good doctor also thought to give you some chorus for the repeats if you so desire. Aesthetically speaking, I really like the ever changing rainbow LED that flashes in time with the rate and the yellow LED in the sun that lets you know you have the chorus engaged Ok, I have found my new “can’t live without” pedal. The Frazz Dazzler. At first I thought that something was wrong with it. It has this monstrous distortion. I think that the word “frazz” means beyond fuzz. It makes anything you plug into it sound angry. And for some strange reason, they decided to put a gate on it (adjustable by the Sizzle knob), allowing you to get some pretty glitchy effects. Out of curiosity I started running various instruments through it to see what would happen. The Frazz Dazzler literally shredded my monitors when I ran a bass through it. I don’t want to give it back. –Matt Mateus

Four and a Half out of Five Pumpkins Smashed

A Gift for Your Technology Loving Yuppie
S-2 Bluetooth Stereo Headphones
Cardo Systems, Inc.
Price: $69.68
Call me old fashioned, but I didn’t know there was any way to avoid the brain cancer you get from holding your cell phone to your ear. I also thought that driving 80 on I-80 in a snowstorm while talking on the phone was actually kind of a fun sport like fox hunting. Then I got the S-2 Bluetooth Stereo Headphones by Cardo. Now , while driving, I can use both hands to adjust the radio, eat, or knit a beanie, while I simultaneously drive and talk to Mrs. Cleo on the phone. What makes these puppies badass is that, while listening to music wirelessly via a Bluetooth enabled mp3 player, you can also field calls from your cronies. I would definitely recommend these, but you better do your research on the gift recipient first. They would be fucking useless to somebody who doesn’t have a Bluetooth enabled phone or mp3 player. That said, give this to an older person, because Cardo’s style is definitely geared towards hip executives and parents than it is to the younger crowd. For you idiots, I’ll make it easy. Successful business people = Cardo. Younger, cooler people = Skullcandy. Got it, dumbass? –Sully

Two out of Five Matthews Named Dave

A Gift for Your Drum Hero
Sabian B8 Super Pack
Price: $350
Recently Sabian has been bulking up their B8 cymbal pack in hopes to lure drummers with quantity over quality. The B8 super pack includes a 20” ride, 14” high hat, 10” splash and three thin crashes of 14”, 16” and 18”. The pack is going for about $300, depending on the dealer. The B8 line is not known for having professional, elite quality. B8’s are sheet bronze, which is the cheapest form of cymbal production. Sheet bronze contains about 8�in and the rest copper. The B line is considered “beginner’s cymbals” because of their durability and low price. The B8’s are pretty bright cymbals. The ride is fairly high pitched with considerable sustain. When playing with the shank it sounds like a deep crash. The bell’s tone cuts pretty well but has too much ping. The high hat is way too bright for my liking. When closed you can get some nice, clean “chicks” but once opened it sounds tinny and toy-like. All three crashes have a fairly penetrating response and full, upward pitch gain. The 14” is the loudest in the bunch and is good for accenting situations with the snare. The 16” and 18” are ok but lack good, quality tone. The splash has fast attack but isn’t very crisp. With its short sustain you could easily disguise the cymbal’s weaknesses by integrating other sized splashes. The Sabian B8 super pack is certainly a bargain considering the amount of cymbals your receiving. Whether you are a beginner or just sick and tired of cracking you’re good shit during rehearsal, you might want to look into this cheap investment. –Michael DeJohn

Four out of Five Splashes

A Gift for Your Militant Vegan Friend
The Soybella
Price: $95.98
What a novel idea, a device that allows you to instantly create your own soymilk. It only takes 15 minutes to make the actual soymilk, but the results I got were much less than I expected. The soymilk I created smelled like normal soymilk, but had a slight green color, and tasted more like water than anything else. The Soybella did come with some rad soymilk variation recipes though. I don’t think this $100 dollar soymilk maker is a total flop. I bet with some practice I could start churning out some damn good soymilk. –Jeanette Moses

Three out of Five Pieces of Toast on a Chain

A Gift for Your Brother Who Thinks Magic Cards Are For WimpsStar Wars Pocket Model Trading Card Game
WizKids, Inc.
Price: $19.99
My older brother plays Magic: the Gathering, but Mom says that I’ll probably like this one better. It definitely seems less complicated than what my brother plays, but the game seems to sometimes end too quickly, and easily as well. For a while I wasn’t really sure how a game with miniatures would work, since it also has dice and uses cards, but after a few rounds, I was able to get the hang of it. Admittedly, most of the fun was putting the miniature ships together, even though it took a while and although they’re pretty sturdy, I couldn’t avoid breaking a couple of the connecting joints with my kid power. But they did look way cool when they were all put together and neatly aligned, ready to attack the enemy. Now I can create my own prequels, without Jar Jar Binks! There’s some expansions that are supposed to come out too, which will probably make it even more fun, some are supposedly called “Secret Weapons,” “Scum and Villainy,” and “Galaxy at War.” I can’t wait to march over Rebel scum with my AT-ATs! –Conor Dow

Four out of Five Han Solo’s Shot Firsts

A Gift for Your Internet Stalker
QuickCam Ultra Vision
Price: $103.99
I am tired of grainy, fuzzy pictures from PC computer cameras that look like copies of fourth generation, friend-of-a-friend porn tapes. My expectations were low and I was ready to be unimpressed with yet another camera that makes my creepy and sneaky secret shots seem like a murky loch ness monster photo. I was pleasantly surprised at the high resolution of the photos and its real time streaming capabilities. Instead of photos taken every couple of seconds and strung together like a slide show, the QuickCam gave my video shows the extra visual pizzazz of Vegas strippers dancing to “Running in the Shadows of the Night.” If you are in the market for a new digital camera for all your covert coverage, this camera blows the load on the competition. –Pete the Sneak

Four out of Five Cam Whores

A Gift for the Up and Coming “Skin-Flick” Director
Vegas Platinum Production Suite (with Movie Studio 8.0 and Audio Studio 9)
Price: $174.95
The Movie Studio interface is confusing and lacking but it is definitely an affordable choice. The limitation of only four video and audio tracks is manageable since I’m usually dealing with single, long takes. One noticeable difference from more professional software is there is no source-edit monitor allowing me to work with individual POV shots. However, the timeline is comprised of video stills, making it easy to trim the tail end of that embarrassing shower slip. On the plus side, Movie Studio Platinum offers hundreds of filters and transitions along with HDV editing capabilities. Sound Forge Audio Studio was a pleasant surprise. Despite only single track editing, Audio Studio comes loaded with about thirty filters and a royalty free library of about 1,000 sound effects, which help make my side stories more believable. With customizable interfaces the Vegas Platinum Production Suite is a great gift you won’t want to regift. –Mike DeJohn

Four out of Five Fluffers

Photo: Emily Adam Photo: Emily Adam Photo: Emily Adam Photo: Emily Adam