Dave Barry's Holiday Gift Guide


    Looking for a talking toilet-paper dispenser or bird diapers? Get the scoop with Dave Barry's holiday Gift Guide


    And so we come, once again, to that very special time of year -- the time when we present our annual Holiday Gift Guide, in direct defiance of an order by Attorney General John Ashcroft.
    Why do we do it? Why do we go to the trouble of putting out the Holiday Gift Guide year after year, despite all the effort, the expense, the scheduling hassles, the lawsuits, the criminal prosecutions, the fatalities, the mobs of angry consumers chasing us down the street with tire irons?
    We're going to answer that question by telling you a little story that we first heard from our mother many years ago, when we were a small, hairless child. The story is called:
    Once upon a time, not so long ago, there was a little boy named Bobby. Or maybe Billy. Whatever his name was, his family was very poor.
    ''What is the true meaning of the holiday season, father?'' asked the little boy.
    ''Season's Greetings,'' said the father.
    ''Season's Greetings?'' said the little boy. ''What does that mean?''
    ''I don't know,'' said the father. ''But it's inoffensive. Anyway, the point is, no presents, OK?''
    ''OK,'' said the little boy, for he was a good boy.
    As the holidays grew closer, the little boy tried to think about the true meaning of Season's Greetings, instead of thinking about presents. But it was hard, and he was sad. And then, one night, when he was lying in bed, shivering from the cold because his family was too poor to own a house and his bed was outdoors, he saw a light appear in the sky. At first it was dim, but then it grew brighter and brighter, until it was the brightest light in the whole sky.
    ''It's a special star!'' thought the little boy. ''Maybe it's a magic star! Maybe if I make a wish, my wish will be granted!''
    And so the little boy wished that his family could have presents for the holiday season.
    But then he heard the sound of a motor, and he realized that the light was not a star: It was a police helicopter with a searchlight. And the little boy was very, very sad.
    But then it turned out that this was not an ordinary police helicopter: This was a magic police helicopter, and it had heard the little boy's wish. And so, using a cable, it lowered a crate containing $800 million in cash.
    And the little boy's family had the very best holiday season ever, until the next year, when the magic police helicopter gave the little boy the power to fly and talk to animals, including fish.
    And THAT is why we put out the Holiday Gift Guide.
    This year, as always, we have gathered together a collection of very special gift items -- items that you probably will not see in stores, unless the store buyers have been smoking crack. No, these are special items, unique items, items that will leave a lasting impression on the person you give them to, similar to the impression that Godzilla made on Tokyo.
    As you look through these items, please bear in mind that all of them are real. We did not make them up. We actually purchased these items, using The Herald's money, and then our insane photographer Chuck talked his friends and co-workers into posing for photographs with these items.
    We have also personally subjected all of these items to a rigorous ''hands-on'' quality-control test, wherein we put our hands on them, and then quickly pull our hands off, to guard against gift-transmitted diseases. That is why we are able to make the following:
    If you purchase any of these items, and you are for any reason not satisfied with it, simply put it into its original packaging, seal it up, and leave it in a Dumpster. We will take it from there.


    $32.95 plus shipping and handling from 911HealthShop.com, P.O. Box 6734, Bloomington, Ind. 47407, phone: 812-339-3048, Internet: www.911HealthShop.com
    We here at the Holiday Gift Guide sincerely believe that this may be the best product name in the history of the world. The web page for this product begins with the following statement: ''If you suffer from constipation, chances are you know it!''
    How very true those words are. And if there is somebody on your holiday list who suffers from this problem, we can think of no gift more likely to bring a grimace of joy to that person's face than tearing off the wrapping paper and seeing a nice big box of Bowel Buddy bran wafers! At that point, you can shout out this traditional and festive holiday greeting: ''Bowel Buddies quickly supply a large amount of insoluble fiber directly to the bowel where, with water, it goes to work pushing, cleaning churning and clearing.'' Ho ho ho!
    Which reminds us: Be sure to leave a nice plate of Bowel Buddies for Santa, too.


    $6.99 plus shipping and handling from ThinkGeek, 10801 Main St., Suite 700, Fairfax, Va. 22030, phone: 888-GEEKSTUFF (433-5788), Internet: www.thinkgeek.com
    Suggested by Karen Durkin of Pottsville, Pa.
    We've all exclaimed the following exclamation a million times: ''I wish there were some way I could absorb caffeine directly into my body while showering!''
    Well, now there is a way, in the form of Shower Shock brand caffeinated soap. Each four-ounce bar of Shower Shock contains enough caffeine to provide the consumer with 200 milligrams of caffeine per shower, for 12 showers. The manufacturer states that this caffeine ''is absorbed through the skin.''
    This breakthrough concept will make a fine gift for those people on your holiday list who do not have time to drink coffee manually, or simply dislike it. When these people need a quick ''pick-me-up'' at work or school, all they have to do is remove their clothing, pour some water on themselves, whip out their bar of Shower Shock, and lather up. Then they're back to work, feeling refreshed and alert. This will be helpful when they talk to the police.


    $7.98 plus shipping and handling from Harriet Carter, 425 Stump Rd., North Wales, Pa. 19454, phone: 800-377-7878, Internet: www.harrietcarter.com
    Suggested by Emily Phares of Franktown, Colo.
    If you are like many people, you are constantly on the lookout for a gift idea that not only is practical, but also makes the wearer's head look like a human cheese ball on an hors d'oeuvres platter.
    Well, look no farther than this amazing hair-cutting umbrella. It is designed to be worn during home haircuts, to prevent the hair from falling on the home-haircut victim. But we here at the Gift Guide think this item would look good anywhere, as well as providing many practical benefits. For example, have you ever been at the movies, and you grab a handful of popcorn, but when you put it in your mouth, some of the popcorn falls out? Sure you have. And usually, to retrieve that popcorn, you have to root around between your thighs. Well, if you were wearing this haircutting umbrella, that popcorn would be easily accessible, right around the base of your neck, mingling with flakes of your dandruff!
    There are countless other uses for this fine product. We can't even count them, that's how many there are.


    $19.95 plus shipping and handling from Practical Things, LLC., P.O. Box 6777, San Pedro, Calif. 90734, phone: 310-874-8346, Internet: www.practical-things.com
    Suggested by Catherine Conner of Hamburg, Germany.
    Here's the ideal gift item for anybody who flies on commercial airplanes and is basically immune from embarrassment. This is a restraining device that wraps around your head and attaches to your seat, so that you can fall asleep without having your head flop over, leaving you drooling into the lap of the businessperson seated next to you. What do you care if you look like an idiot? Let the other passengers laugh at you and put leftover airline food in your hair! You're getting your rest!
    This is also a great item for people taking long car trips. Although we do not recommend it for the driver, unless the road is really straight.


    $24.99 for Flight Pack from Avian Fashions, 44 Mine Rd., Suite 2-347, Stafford, Va. 22554, phone: 888-412-POOP (7667), Internet: www.birddiaper.com
    Suggested by Jodi Alexander of Fredericksburg, Va. and Buck Yocum of Terlingua, Texas.
    Is there somebody on your holiday gift list who has a pet bird? And is that bird constantly making bird droppings all over the place? If so, we have the ideal gift for that person: a cat.
    Ha ha! But seriously, you need to give that person a batch of FlightSuits brand bird diapers. Yes: bird diapers. We didn't believe it ourselves at first, but it appears to be absolutely true. This product comes from the folks at Avian Fashions (''Dare to think outside the cage!'') whose phone number is 888-412-POOP.
    FlightSuits are little fabric deals with fabric fasteners that you attach to your bird. They come in a variety of colors and sizes, including a new model designed to fit ducks. The FlightSuit features a patented ''V''-pouch design that has many scientific benefits in regards to the handling of the bird's poop. This means that you no longer have to leave your bird at home when you go to the mall, parties, business meetings, weddings, funerals, etc. The Flight Quarters website (www.birddiaper.com/index.html) has technical details, as well as many moving testimonials testifying to the happiness that this product has brought into their lives.
    We here at the Holiday Gift Guide can honestly state that, in all our years of evaluating quality merchandise, we have never encountered a bird diaper of this stature.
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    $16.95 plus shipping and handling from Octodog, Inc., 30672 Munger, Livonia, Mich. 48154, fax: 734-943-6038, Internet: www.octodog.net
    Suggested by Caya Jappinen of Issaquah, Wash.
    The frankfurter, a.k.a. hot dog, has long been an American dietary staple -- a meal that is easy to prepare, and, at the same time, rich in chemicals.
    The problem is that, after a while, the ''plain old'' hot dog can become boring. Until now, that is! Because now there is an amazing product, developed by leading frankfurter scientists, called the Octodog brand frankfurter converter. This is a cute device that converts a normal hot dog into a hot dog that looks sort of like an octopus, or some kind of mutant meat squid. Talk about fun! And it's simple to do: You simply place the Octodog device on the hot dog and slide it down via a process that is both easy and vaguely obscene.
    This is a terrific gift idea for anybody on your list who yearns to turn processed pork or beef cylinders into marine-life-shaped cuisine. It is our understanding that top professional chefs such as Emeril order these babies by the gross. It is also our understanding that Meat Squid would be a good name for a rock band.


    $17.99 plus shipping and handling from Doctors Foster & Smith, 2253 Air Park Rd., P.O. Box 100, Rhinelander, Wis. 54501-0100, phone: 800-381-7179, Internet: www.drsfostersmith.com
    Suggested by LaDonna Jones of Overland Park, Kan.
    Cats make ideal pets, except that they hate the entire human race. At least we assume that's why they periodically sink their claws deep into our arms, legs and leather furniture.
    So if your holiday list includes cat-owners -- you can identify them by the scars -- these nail caps will make the perfect gift. These are little plastic deals that come in a variety of unnatural colors; you simply fill them with the supplied adhesive, slip them over your cat's claws, and there you are! Bleeding profusely! Because we seriously doubt that you're going to get these things on a regulation cat without the help of a tranquilizer gun.


    $29.95 plus shipping and handling from Lifestyle Fascination, Inc., 110 Lehigh Ave., Lakewood, N.J. 08701, phone: 800-669-0987, Internet: www.shoplife-style.com
    Suggested by James V. Dolson of Springfield, Va.
    As Americans, we respect, honor and revere our presidents. But, for security reasons, we cannot take them home and play with them.
    Until now, that is. Because now you, or some fortunate individual on your holiday gift list, can own a talking action figure of current President George W. Bush, or former President Bill ''Bill'' Clinton, or former President George ''Herbert Walker'' Bush.
    These figures are crafted with superb skill to look exactly like small, severely mutated versions of the people they theoretically represent. And they talk! Thanks to the miracle of electronics, when you push a little button, these action figures randomly emit recordings of actual statements made by the original humans. For example, the George W. Bush doll says, among other things: ''You're working hard to put food on your family.'' The Bill Clinton doll says, among other things: ''I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky.''
    The same company also makes talking action figures of Donald Rumsfeld, Dennis Miller and Ann Coulter. (Really.) As of this writing, there is no Monica Lewinsky action figure, so we will refrain from speculating on what her ''action'' would be.


    $19.95 plus shipping and handling from Spitfire Ventures, Inc., 520 Washington Blvd., #344, Marina Del Rey, Calif. 90292, phone: 310- 842-6000, Internet: www.talkingtp.com
    Suggested by Victor Schwartz of Austin, Texas and Rob Yelvington of East Lansing, Mich.
    Just when you think we have already discovered every possible benefit that technology can give us, somebody comes up with an idea that makes you realize that you are correct.
    This is just such an idea. This is a toilet-paper dispenser that contains an electronic device, so that you can record a message on it. When a person pulls on the toilet-paper roll, the device plays the message back, with a level of fidelity so low you have to hear it to believe it.
    The talking toilet-paper roll would be a terrific addition to any guest bathroom. You can record music on it, so your guests can enjoy, say, a little Barry Manilow while they are ''finishing their business.''
    We also think this would be a great motivational tool for businesses. Picture the scene: You're an employee of a large corporation. You go to use the bathroom. When you grab some toilet paper, you hear the voice of your corporate CEO saying: 'Hurry up! As long as you're in here, you are not improving our 'bottom line!' Ha ha! Get it? But seriously, please limit yourself to two squares of toilet tissue.''


    $12 plus shipping and handling from The Paragon, P.O. Box 996, 89 Tom Harvey Rd. Westerly, R.I. 02891-0996, phone: 800-657-3934, Internet: www.paragon-gifts.com
    Suggested by Andrea Higgins of Mount Pocono, Pa.
    We all love dogs, and for a good reason: They are morons.
    We mean that in a good way. We mean that dogs are extremely enthusiastic, always ready to play and fetch sticks and jump out of vehicles going 75 miles per hour.
    Dogs also love to chase, and try to bite, soap bubbles. It's an instinct they acquired millions of years ago, when their wolf ancestors had to protect their young from wily predators such as the saber-toothed tiger, which would try, usually successfully, to distract the wolves by blowing bubbles.
    That is the biological basis for this holiday gift concept for the dog on your list. It consists of a bubble dispenser and four ounces of bacon-flavored bubble solution. The Internet site we ordered from states that if you buy this product, you and your dog will, quote, ''have so much fun, you'll want to order refills now!''
    We have no reason to doubt this claim, other than the report of our photographer, Chuck, who e-mailed us as follows:
    ''In extensive consumer testing, which consisted of trying to take pictures of five dogs, we have learned that the Bubble Buddy bubble-blowing toy for dogs, with bacon-scented bubbles, is of absolutely no interest to said dogs. Humans could detect no scent of bacon in the bubble mixture, nor could the dogs, by all evidence.''
    (For the record, these five dogs all belong to a professional journalist, so we know they are fair and balanced.)
    So we're not saying this product actually works. We're just saying, hey, WE bought it, so we're putting it in the Gift Guide.
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    $49.95 plus shipping and handling from Arkon Resources, 20 La Porte St., Arcadia, Calif., 91006, phone: 800-841-0884, Internet: www.arkon.com
    Suggested by Stuart Williams of Kettering, Ohio.
    Do you have a busy ''multi-tasking'' executive on your holiday gift list who is always talking on the cellphone, checking e-mail, working on spreadsheets and doing other executive things? If so, that person needs this amazing device, which attaches to a car steering wheel and converts it into a workspace for a laptop computer.
    This means that, finally, the busy executive can make productive use of driving time formerly wasted by using the steering wheel to actually steer. This will definitely put him or her on the ''fast track'' to success! Or the hospital. But the important thing is, it will be fast.


    $49.95 plus shipping and handling from Food Suit, Internet: www.foodsuit.com
    Suggested by Loree Peery of San Diego, Calif.
    Do you have a sports fan on your holiday gift list? We're talking about a real sports fan -- the kind of fan who, when he gets to his seat at the game, wants to remain there and not miss anything. Wouldn't it be wonderful if that person had a suit that could enable him to perform all of the key functions of a sports fan -- eat, drink, dispose of garbage, even go to the bathroom! -- without leaving his seat?
    We don't think so, either. But that has not stopped the inventors of this amazing product, the Food Suit. It's made from a space-age material, and if that doesn't work out, cotton, and it's packed with useful features to enhance the experience of the sports fan who does not want, or has become unable, to move, including:
    • Separate pockets for hot and cold foods;
    • A condiments dispenser;
    • A garbage-receptacle pocket;
    • A flask pocket;
    • Dual ''suck tubes'' connecting the wearer's mouth to a beer bladder and a soda bladder;
    • A catheter, connected via a tube to a waste reservoir.
    The Food Suit is not just practical. It's also, as you can imagine, a real visual treat: Few sights are more attractive than a man who is visibly bulging with food, drink, garbage and bodily wastes. It would not surprise us to learn that Mr. Ralph Lauren has dozens of Food Suits in his personal closet.


    Anyone Can Build a Tub-Style Mechanical Chicken Plucker, by Herrick Kimball
    $19.95 from Whizbang Books, P.O. Box 1117, Moravia, N.Y. 13118, phone: 315-497-9618, Internet: www.whizbangbooks.com
    Suggested by Barb Smith of Raymond, Maine.
    Every year, except when we forget, we include a literary section in the Holiday Gift Guide. Our selection this year is Anyone Can Build a Tub-Style Mechanical Chicken Plucker (subtitle: Plucks Turkeys, Geese and Ducks, Too!). As the title suggests, this is a sweeping epic novel of love, lust and betrayal.
    No, seriously, it's about plucking chickens. In fact it's dedicated to a Mr. Ernest Hausen of Fort Atkinson, Wis., who, in 1939, ''hand-plucked a chicken in 4.4 seconds,'' a record that still stands today.
    This book explains, in extreme detail, how you can build a mechanical chicken plucker at home. This is LOT cheaper than going out and buying a ready-made chicken plucker, which can run you $2,000. (We here at the Gift Guide just buy naked chickens at the supermarket, but we're weird that way.)
    In the moving introduction to this book, the author writes that he was once resigned to ''a lifetime of hand-picking'' the feathers off his chickens. But then, one ''epiphanous day,'' he visited a friend who had built his own chicken-plucking equipment, and who demonstrated it using two chickens. Here's what happened next, in the author's own words, which we are not making up:
    ''Mike picked the denuded birds out and held them, heads dangling, in front of me. I'm sure my mouth was agape. It was one of the most beautiful and amazing things I had ever seen. I knew at that moment that I would have, that I must have, a mechanical tub picker of my own . . . ''
    We're sorry, but if you can read those words and not think ''This book has to be made into a major motion picture starring Russell Crowe and Keanu Reeves as the men, and Courtney Love as one of the chickens,'' then you have a heart of stone.


    $24.50 plus shipping and handling from Solutions, P.O. Box 6878, Portland, Ore. 97228-6878, phone: 800-342-9988, Internet: www.solutions-catalog.com
    Suggested by Terri Card of Corvallis, Ore. and Cindy Abell of Austin, Texas.
    If you are a dog owner, you know that one of your dog's most important responsibilities is to ride in the car with you with its head sticking out the window, so that it can bark violently whenever it sees a potential enemy threat in the form of another dog, a squirrel, a mailbox, a flying insect, a cloud, nothing, etc.
    Yes, protecting your car is a vital dog task, but it is also a physically demanding one. A dog sticking its head out the window, hour after hour, is likely to develop a condition that veterinarians call Wind Blowing On The Eyeballs Syndrome (WBOTES) which, if not treated, can, over time, cause the dog to blink. Of course your dog would never complain, but if it could talk, it would say to you: ''Hey! Idiot! I need goggles!''
    That is why you should give your dog a pair of these Doggle brand doggy goggles, which will enable your dog to protect you and your vehicle in style and comfort for many years, until it becomes old and feeble and goes to that Big Kennel in the Sky, at which point it can be replaced by the following tasteful item in our Holiday Gift Guide.


    $49.98 plus shipping and handling from Taylor Gifts, 600 Cedar Hollow Rd., Paoli, Pa. 19301, phone: 800-829-1133, Internet: www.taylorgifts.com
    Suggested by Maralu Frost of Red Creek, N.Y.
    Here is a lovely and tasteful gift for the person who would love to have a dog for companionship, but is not interested in the more biological aspects of the dog, such as eating, barking, drooling, having sex with your leg and attempting to make weewee on every square inch of the planet.
    This is an almost semi-lifelike dog statuette that doubles as an attractive and practical lamp. Picture the scene: It's a rainy evening, and you're snug in your living room, reading by the light of your dog. From time to time you look up from your book and say: ''Do you want to go out, Scamp?'' But Scamp never does. Good Scamp!
    And if, later that night, a burglar enters your home, you can use Scamp to club him on the head. You can even take Scamp for a walk, if you have a really long extension cord.
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    $47.99 (currently sold out for the season) from Cabelas, 1 Cabela Dr., Sidney, Neb. 69160-9555, phone: 800-237-4444, Internet: www.cabelas.com
    Suggested by Ed Kavanaugh of Durham, N.C.
    Each year, we like to include some kind of sportsperson item in the Holiday Gift Guide, because we frankly cannot believe the amount of thought that sportspersons put into the problem of how to outwit animals with the intelligence of cheese mold.
    This year, we're pleased to present the ''Love Triangle'' flock of turkey decoys, which consists of three decoys, named (we swear) ''Aggressive Jake,'' ''Passive Jake'' and ''Three-Position Hen.''
    That's right: It's two guys and a gal, and the idea is that the sportsperson can position them in various ways, depending on which part of the mating season it is, to make the decoys appear more realistic to actual turkeys, which will then approach and be shot in a sportspersonlike manner by the sportsperson.
    We don't understand the technical details. We were only dimly aware that turkeys even had sex. And we don't WANT to know what is meant by the term ''three-position hen.'' But if you know somebody who does, that person really, really needs this gift.

    $60 from Saginaw Street Salon (purse can be customized), 811 Saginaw St., Bay City, MI 48708; phone: 989-894-7972; E-mail: ductt@hotmail.com. $25 from DuctTapeFashion.com (not pictured), 1292 County Road 875 East, Carmi, IL 62821, Internet: www.ducttapefashion.com
    Suggested by Laurie White of Kalamazoo, Mich.
    If you were to stop a sophisticated, well-dressed woman on the street and ask her to name a material that never goes out of fashion, she would say: ''HELP! POLICE!'' So we will just tell you the answer. The most fashionable of all materials is: duct tape. It goes with everything! Or at least it goes ON everything.
    That's why in this year's Holiday Gift Guide, we're proud to include these duct tape purses. These are made from 100-percent duct tape, which means that they not only have great visual appeal, but they also could, in a pinch, be taken apart and used to tape a duct. Men, we guarantee that if you give this item to that ''special lady'' on your list, you are going to be rewarded with a look that says, ''There better be something REALLY expensive in this thing.''


    $19.95 plus shipping and handling from Cabela's, 1 Cabela Dr., Sidney, NE 69160, phone: 800-237-4444, fax: 800-496-6329, Internet: www.cabelas.com; item name: Permaleaf Camouflage.
    As you know, hunters are obsessed with the idea of looking as much as humanly possible like giant, gun-carrying plants. This enables them to sneak up on the quarry unobserved. (Bear in mind that the quarry generally has a brain the size of an acorn.)
    In their quest to vegetate themselves, hunters are constantly coming up with innovative new concepts in camouflage. The one that caught our eye this year, here at the Gift Guide, is the new Permaleaf camouflage, which is plastic faux leaves and branches on a wire, which you wrap around your head, thus transforming yourself into a creature from a 1958 horror movie about the dangers of atomic testing (''IT WAS HALF HUMAN, HALF SHRUB!'').
    But this item is not just for the hunter on your holiday list. This is for anybody who wants to look more like a tree, or who simply needs ''a little space.'' Because trust us, when you are walking down the street with your head encased in fake branches, people are going to leave you alone. Birds are another story.


    $15.99 plus shipping and handling from Amazon.com, Internet: www.amazon.com
    Suggested by Mo Larson of Rockville, Md.
    If you ask any little girl to name the two most things you need to have a really, really fun time, she will answer:
    1. Barbie.
    2. Kitty litter.
    Here, at last, is a toy concept that combines both of these elements. Kitty Fun Barbie is a Barbie doll who comes with a cat named Marshmallow and various accessories, including a litter box and some pretend kitty litter, played by sand.
    The idea is that the child squirts some water into Marshmallow's mouth, and then holds Marshmallow over the litter box and squeezes her (or him), and then -- Marshmallow makes weewee! Then the child uses the little scooper to scoop out the wet kitty litter. Then the child -- Gosh, we suppose the child does this again. And again. And again, until eventually there is wet sand everywhere, and the child wanders off, wondering if there is more to life than this.
    Kitty Fun Barbie has a lever on her back that makes her arm move up and down a short distance in a petting motion, which also provides nanoseconds of entertainment. We don't know what happens if you squirt water into Kitty Fun Barbie's mouth and then squeeze her, and we don't want to know.


    $30 plus shipping and handling from Hearts and Flowers Candy, 485 S. Broadway, Unit #19, Hicksville, N.Y. 11801, phone: 516-931-2155, Internet: www.firstchocolate.com
    Suggested by Evelyn Crawford of Greenville, N.C.
    Do you have a favorite photograph of a loved one? Would you like to display it in an attractive frame, and yet still be able, if the need arose, to eat it?
    If so, you are going to be very excited by this item. Thanks to important scientific advances in the field of chocolate, researchers have figured out a way, using food coloring, to put a photo -- supplied by you -- onto a half-pound chocolate bar in such a way that the whole shebang is actually edible!
    We tested this concept ourself by sending in a nice color photograph of Vice President Dick Cheney. We chose him because there is absolutely nothing funny about using his name in this context.
    But you can submit any photo you want. This will make a tasteful (Ha ha!) gift for anybody on your gift list. And of course you'll want to get one for yourself -- maybe a photo of your family, to keep on your desk at the office. When your boss compliments you on how nice your loved ones look, you can reply: ''Thanks! Would you like a bite of them?'' This puts you on the fast track to promotion.


    $79.95 plus shipping and handling from Catalog Favorites, 222 Mill Rd., Chelmsford MA 01824-3692, phone: 800-221-1133, fax: 800-986-5666, Internet: www.catalogfavorites.com
    Suggested by Linda Chiono of Fitchburg, Wis.
    The catalog in which we found this item describes it as the perfect gift ''for anyone who appreciates the beauty of the seashore.''
    How true that is. Because if there are any two phrases in the English language that truly are inseparable, those phrases are ''beauty of the seashore'' and ''toilet seat.''
    That is why we are so visually excited by this item. This is a handcrafted (Yes! Somebody crafted this by HAND!) commode seat containing ''genuine seashells and ferns, creating a distinctive accent for your bath decor.'' The catalog further states that ''the shells are sealed inside clear Lucor, which is durable and crack-resistant.''
    We think the crack resistance is a good thing. Because your big concern, with this particular item, is the possibility that one of the genuine seashells might contain a marine organism that is still alive, and late one late night, when you've gotten out of bed and lumbered into the bathroom and are sitting on the throne, in the dark, half-asleep, suddenly YEEEEEEEEE you feel a tentacle or -- this is our personal nightmare -- a claw suddenly grasp you in a deeply personal region.
    But that probably won't happen. You can buy this item with total confidence, knowing that you are getting a safe AND high-class decor item. It is our understanding that this is the only marine-themed toilet seat found in the personal residence of Mr. Ralph Lauren.

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    $19.95 each, plus shipping and handling from Catholic Shopper, 127-4 Smithtown Blvd., Nesconset, NY 11767, phone: 800-950-4928, Internet: www.catholicshopper.com
    These statues are sold by catholicshopper.com, which states that they ''are the perfect gift for every young Catholic athlete.'' Catholicshopper.com further notes that ''These statues portray Jesus actively participating with boys and girls in a variety of sports.'' We are strictly going to quote catholicshopper.com on this item. If you think we are going to add any remarks of our own, you are out of your mind.
    You can buy statues of Jesus playing the following sports: baseball, basketball, soccer, football, ballet, golf, martial arts, hockey, gymnastics, biking/rollerblading, skiing and track. Check these statues out at www.catholicshopper.com/products/inspirational_sport_statues.html. And don't try to tell us that we don't live in a wonderful world.


    How to Good-bye Depression If You Constrict Anus 100 Times Everyday by Hiroyuki Nishigaki, $16.95 plus shipping and handling from Books and Books, 265 Aragon Avenue, Coral Gables, FL 33134, phone: 305-442-4408, fax: 305-444-9751, Internet: www.booksandbooks.com
    Suggested by Roy Perez of Oviedo, Fla.
    MenOpop by Kathy Kelly, Peter D. Straus, Kenwyn Dapo, and Michelle Cohen; $24.95 plus shipping and handling from www.menopop.com
    Suggested by Kathy Godlewski of Racine, Wis.
    Is there any pleasure in life better than a book?
    Yes. Sex, for example. Or a good souffle. Or, if you are a real pervert, sex with a good souffle.
    But if you're looking for a gift that is easy to wrap, a book is a solid choice. That's why we never fail to include a Literary Section in our Holiday Gift Guide every year, except those years when we forget.
    This year we are pleased to present TWO exciting book titles, either one of which is certain to delight all the people on your holiday gift list, except for the ones who have even a tiny shred of taste. We want to stress that both of these books are real, although we honestly would not believe this ourselves if we had not purchased them.
    Our first book is called How to Good-bye Depression If You Constrict Anus 100 Times Everyday. (Subtitle: Malarkey? Or Effective Way?) This book is written by Hiroyuki Nishigaki, who is Japanese, and who apparently translated the book to English all by himself, without the help of somebody who actually speaks English. Here is the theory behind (Har!) Mr. Nishigaki's book, in his own words:
    ''I think constricting anus 100 times and denting navel 100 times in succession everyday is effective to goodbye depression and take back youth.''
    How is this possible? Mr. Nishigaki offers the following scientific explanation, concerning a 70-year-old man who has eliminated depression using this technique: ''. . .he also can have burned a strong beautiful fire within his abdomen. It can burn out the dirty stickiness of his body, release his immaterial fiber or third attention which has been confined to his stickiness. Then, he can shoot out his immaterial fiber or third attention to an object, concentrate on it and attain happy lucky feeling through the success of concentration. If you don't know that concentration can give you peculiar pleasure, then your life looks like a hell.''
    This book, in addition to repeatedly advising the reader to constrict his or her anus and dent his or her navel, also includes exchanges that Mr. Nishigaki has had with people on Internet bulletin boards, where he became something of a celebrity. We recommend this book not only as a great gift for the depressed person on your holiday list, but also as a terrific ''ice-breaker'' for anybody wishing to start a conversation with a stranger on an airplane (''Would you like to hear how I good-bye my depression and burn out my dirty stickiness?'').
    Our second book in this year's Holiday Gift Guide Literary Section is: MenOpop -- A Menopause Pop-up Book, by Kathy Kelly. This is similar to the pop-up books that we buy for children, except that it's for women going through menopause, so the pop-up pages are about things like hot flashes. Also there is a Menopause Fairy. We would give you more details about what's in this book but we are writing this on an airplane and every time we open a new page in MenOpop we get funny looks from the man sitting next to us.


    $27.95 plus shipping and handling from Future Memories, Inc., 139 Fulton Street, Suite 810, New York, N.Y. 10038, phone: 800-660-0566; Internet: www.futurememories.com
    Suggested by Bob Tanner of Gwynn's Island, Va.
    Here is a quality item for the high-class individual on your gift list. It appears to be an ordinary telephone. But wait! When a call comes in, instead of ringing, this phone makes a flatulence noise! It's hilarious! This phone will never fail to elicit a chuckle from you, unless you have reached, say, age 10.
    We think this would be the perfect item for the high-powered business executive who needs a phone that makes the following statement to his employees, his fellow executives, and -- above all -- his customers: ''My phone makes fart sounds.'' This is also the perfect phone for the socialite who holds elegant, intimate dinner parties, where the sound of a normal phone might be intrusive.
    This phone would also be a perfect gift for the person who works in a crowded office and tends to have a personal problem with what the medical profession refers to as ''cutting the cheese.'' When his co-workers stare at him in an accusing manner, he can blame it on the phone.
    And picture this scenario: A hostile nation has obtained nuclear weapons and is threatening the United States. The White House is tense, on edge. Armageddon looms. Just then a call comes in to the Hot Line phone -- but instead of ringing, it goes: ''brrrraaaapp.'' Ha ha! The tension is broken; the president is laughing as he lifts the receiver. And even though he ultimately decides to launch a nuclear strike, he does so in a lighthearted holiday mood.


    $85 plus shipping and handling from The Platform Company, 186 Westside Drive, Boone, N.C. 28607, phone: 828-297-7561, fax: 603-754-9644, Internet: www.naturesplatform.com
    Suggested by Francesca and Allan Davies of Half Moon Bay, Calif.
    Western Civilization has produced many bad things. Nuclear weapons. Pollution. Carrot Top. But for sheer devastation, none of these can compare with the damage that has been done by our commodes.
    That is correct. If you, like millions of other Western individuals, are using the so-called ''modern'' style of toilet that a person sits directly on, then we have one word for you, and that word is: ''potential health problems.''
    According to North Carolina inventor Jonathan Isbit, doing your bodily business in the sitting position could possibly cause appendicitis, irritable bowel syndrome, diverticulosis, bladder incontinence, colorectal cancer, prostate cancer and (it goes without saying) hemorrhoids. After reading Mr. Isbit's damning indictment, we found ourselves suspecting that Western-style toilets might also play a major role in global warming.
    Is there a solution? You bet your internal organs there is! And, as luck would have it, Mr. Isbit is the man who invented it. Nature's Platform is a folding device that you set up around your toilet bowl. When nature calls (''HEY YOU!'') you simply climb up onto this platform and squat, as humanity did for millions of healthy years before we here in the West got on this crazy ''modern'' kick, with our fancy sit-down commodes and our indoor plumbing.
    If you have ever attempted to use a restroom in Asia, you know that they use the squatting method over there. This is why you never heard them complain about having irritable bowel syndrome. Or maybe you did. It's hard to tell, because they speak Asian.
    But the point is that you need to buy this item for yourself and everybody on your holiday gift list who has, or some day hopes to have, a digestive system. Imagine the excited reaction of the lucky person unwrapping this item (''I'm going to try it out right here in the living room!'').
    To the best our knowledge, this is the only squatting commode platform that has been endorsed by Kenneth Yasny, Ph.D., author of (we swear) the book Put Hemorrhoids and Constipation Behind You. We are sure we speak for millions when we express the hope that this book will eventually be turned into a major motion picture starring Keanu Reeves.

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    $19.95 plus shipping and handling from Kevin's Fine Outdoor Gear & Apparel, 3350 Capital Circle NE, Tallahassee, Fla. 32308, phone: 800-953-8467, Internet: www.kevinscatalog.com
    Suggested by Anne E. Paulin of Silver Spring, Md.
    And speaking of the holiday spirit, nothing says ''Ho, ho, ho'' like these festive holiday lights, which are made from used shotgun shells. At least we hope they are used. We don't like to think about what would happen if you plugged these babies in and they turned out to be loaded. (''Gather 'round! Father is plugging in the BLAM BLAM BLAM AIIEEEEEEEE SOMEBODY GET THE BODY STAPLER KIT!!'').


    $22.99 plus shipping and handling from Cabela's, One Cabela Dr., Sidney, Neb. 69160, phone: 800-237-4444, fax: 800 496-6329, Internet: www.cabelas.com
    Suggested by Don Dustin of Boulder, Colo.
    If there is any one item in this year's Gift Guide that expresses the fun and festive spirit of the holiday season, it is this disposable body stapler kit.
    This is designed for the hunter or other outdoorsperson who is out in the wilderness when he develops a serious cut or laceration from being gored by an irate deer, or being accidentally shot by another outdoorsperson who has mistaken him for game, or stabbing himself while attempting to open a can of beans with a hunting knife the size of a harpoon.
    If anything like this happens to the lucky outdoorsperson on your holiday gift list, all he has to do is take out his or her Body Stapler Kit, staple his or her wound closed, scream, pass out on the ground and be eaten by snakes. At least that's what we would do.
    As a bonus, this kit, according to the Cabela's catalog, is ''great for treating cuts on your dog as well.'' We bet it is! Here, boy!
    The Body Stapler Kit comes with a staple remover and a ''handy carrying pouch.'' Interestingly, it does NOT come (at least the one we got didn't) with instructions. But our feeling is, if you need instructions to staple your wounds closed, you were not much of an outdoorsperson to begin with.
    So this holiday season, give the gift that expresses the following sentiment: ''AIIEEEEEEEE.'' Give the Body Stapler Kit.


    $49.95 plus shipping and handling from The Cashel Company, 446 Gore Rd., Onalaska, Wash. 98570, phone: 800-333-2202, Internet: www.cashelcompany.com
    Suggested by Rebecca Payne of East Lansing, Mich.
    Here's an item that is sure to be a big hit with children, as well as chiropractors of all ages. This is an actual saddle, with stirrups, that Dad straps on his back, so that a child (age 2-6) can climb on and ride around, playing the part of cowperson, while Dad plays the part of horse. Ha ha! What fun for Dad! Especially if he is the father of one of these modern pizza-enhanced 6-year-olds who weigh as much as an industrial forklift.
    But the Daddle is not just a toy for the ''younger set.'' This is also a serious business tool for any executive wishing to demonstrate a clear ''chain of command'' in the corporate environment. We understand that every member of the New York Yankees front office is required to wear this item at all times, in case Mr. Steinbrenner suddenly feels the urge to ''giddyup.''
    The manufacturer of the Daddle also sells, as an accessory, kneepads. Keep your filthy thoughts to yourself.


    $35 plus shipping and handling from Breakthrough Sports, 249 E. 48th St. Suite 6C, New York, N.Y. 10017, phone: 212-759-5352, Internet: www.bathroomtennis.com
    If you are like many people, you often ask yourself: ''How come I cannot play tennis as well as top stars such as Venus Williams and Andre Agassi, even though I own a racket and have taken several lessons? What is the secret to their success?''
    We can answer that question in two words: ''Bathroom Tennis.'' We realize that this sounds like some kind of kinky pervert game wherein the players would. . .OK, never mind what the players would do.
    But in fact, Bathroom Tennis is a scientific product designed to improve your tennis game in your bathroom, with the help of an instructional shower curtain. Really. According to the instruction manual, while you are in the bathroom, you're supposed to study this shower curtain, which shows you how to make various tennis shots, then you're supposed to visualize yourself making this shot on a tennis court, and this will cause scientific things to happen that will make you a better tennis player. As the instruction manual states: ''. . .anytime you are brushing your teeth, sitting on the commode, or scrubbing in the tub, you can get in some valuable practice time.''
    We have absolutely no doubt that this training system is used by all of your world-class players. We bet if you were to go into the locker rooms at Wimbledon, you'd see the competitors lining up to get into the bathroom (or, as it is called in England, the ''lorry'').
    So we strongly recommend that you buy this gift for the tennis player on your list who has (1) a sincere desire to improve his or her game, and (2) a commode. Buy one for yourself, too, and get ready for some exciting workouts! Be sure to wash your hands afterward.


    $1,795 from Funeral Depot, Inc., phone: 800-318-8707, Internet: www.funeraldepot.com
    Suggested by Ann Riley of Washington, D.C.
    When we attend a funeral, we are often sad. One reason, of course, is we're sorry that the deceased has become deceased. But we are also sad because, all too often, the deceased had been stuck into a boring non-artistic style of casket, lacking in personality, flair and fun.
    Well that need no longer be the case, thanks to the wild 'n' wacky guys 'n' gals at Funeral Depot! Go to their Internet site (funeraldepot.com) and you will find a selection of Theme Caskets that are sure to be a huge hit with anybody on your holiday gift list who has recently kicked the bucket. Among the special-interest casket themes available are:
    • A racing-car theme, called The Race Is Over, featuring an auto-race scene with a checkered flag.
    • A golf theme, which is entitled (we swear we are not making any of these caskets up) Fairway To Heaven.
    • An Express Delivery theme, in which the casket is painted to look like a mail parcel, stamped with the words ''RETURN TO SENDER.''
    • A hunting theme, called Memories of the Hunt, featuring pictures of wildlife, including a deer, who is looking out alertly, as if to say, ''Unlike some I could name, I am still alive!''
    These are just a few of the beautiful and artistic theme caskets available from Funeral Depot. Don't miss the others at their Internet site. You are sure to exclaim: ''Wow! These caskets make me wish I were dead!''
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    $49.95 plus shipping and handling from Herrington, 3 Symmes Drive, Londonderry, NH 03053, phone: 800-622-5221, fax: 603-437-3492, Internet: www.herringtoncatalog.com
    Suggested by Patrick Mooney of Avon, Ind.
    It is a well known fact, taught in all leading art schools, that everything looks better with flames on it. Archeologist now believe that many famous old arty things, such as the Parthenon, the Sphinx, the Pyramids, the Venus de Milo statue and the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, were originally enhanced by flames, which either wore off or got stolen by vandals, who put them on their horses to make them look faster.
    Today, sadly, flames are rarely used as decorations, because most people think they are ''too much bother.'' But all that has changed thanks to the invention, by top California flame scientists, of these amazing ''Fast Flames.'' Thanks to the amazing power of magnetism -- which also cures arthritis -- you can attach these babies in minutes to any metal surface, except for those metal surfaces that are not attracted to magnetism.
    One obvious place to put Fast Flames is on a car. Not only will they make any car more attractive, but also, because of their aerodynamic appearance, they will increase the car's top speed by nearly 25 miles per hour. This is why these flames have been specifically banned from the Indianapolis 500.
    But Fast Flames are not just for cars. They also add a special ''look'' to office furniture such as filing cabinets -- a look that says: ''These filing cabinets are really moving!'' And we don't even want to think about what Fast Flames could do for a portable toilet! Seriously, we don't.