Sunday, August 31, 2008

Project: Projectile

The only thing better than owning your own
catapult is being able to say, “I made this myself,” and meaning it. Now you can build a variety of archaic weapons, enabling you to get ready (which, as you remember, Jesus wants). Gird your loins, guard your lawn, guide your launch, and you’ll have gored your landlord (or anyone else who’s getting a little too close, or cross, for your comfort).

Didn’t work? Don’t get upset—make your own trebuchet, which is often much more accurate than a catapult, for obvious design/engineering reasons that you’d be able to see if you had a more technically agile mind. This weapon can toss an object up to twenty feet, and is capable of smashing walls as well, giving it a double-pronged approach that makes it almost impossible to overcome.

So you start out with the catapult and trebuchet in your encroachment for rapprochement (because you’re really a lover, not a fighter, but that doesn’t mean you’re not intent upon winning).

Then, once you’re in a little closer, pull out the ballista, which you also made. It specializes in rock-hurling with accuracy, but not much distance. But by this point, the battle’s past its decisive point, and you’re undoubtedly triumphant.

Your secret weapon—how you got close enough to use the ballista—was that you’d also built your own
siege tower. These were used for protection of people and weapons. You line up all your guys and your weapons behind what resembles a medieval-themed take-out window, then commence the attack. With careful aim, you can shoot your trebuchet or catapult through the window as you start out, get out the ballista when you’re closer, climb your hidden ladder (sold and built separately) and be o’er the ramparts before dawn’s early light, gallantly streaming.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

I'm a driver/Memory Lane #3

Something about a rainy Saturday afternoon always takes me back to childhood. (Or possibly it was that spritz of Happy Childhood Memories breath spray I took a little while ago.) I’m missing some of the vehicular toys of my youth, such as the Car-Plane. You could sit quietly in the back seat and learn to be a pilot, making the plane climb, dip and dive, looking at both the plane’s action and your ultra-modern remote control. See how the plane yearns to join those in the sky? Kind of a lot of symbolism for a kid’s boy box. I’m glad I saw it differently back then.

And it really was perfectly safe, as long as you were inside the car, and the windows were rolled up, as shown. Maybe not so safe for pedestrians or if you let it fly in the window, as I often did.

Here’s a close-up. Yeah, that’s what a remote control used to look like, and it was attached to the object it controlled—a heavy-handed version of remoteness, but it felt very jet-age and cool at the time. Interesting that we had remote controls for toys way before anyone thought about using them for TVs.

Another way to have fun in the car (or at home, as the box so aptly reminds us) was with this just like real Kiddee Drivette car seat with driver training wheel. The strange, Baby Huey-esque outfits were sold separately, but were not optional. This was all right for back-seat play, but I always got really embarrassed when other kids saw me sitting tall in my oversized baby-seat and huge dress, turning the corners along with Mom. But the idea has stuck around, as anyone who’s seen the Simpson’s opening sequence can attest. We should still insist that kids wear hideous clothing while learning how to drive. What’s sauce for the goose!

Here’s the car-related childhood toy that breaks my heart. Why did we ever let it go by the wayside? I want to bring this one back, immediately:

Oh, Buddy L, where are you now, with your quarter-a-gallon gas, including all taxes? I’d give just about anything to encounter you again. I love you, Buddy L! If you can't make it here, at least give me an address and I’ll visit. Double pinky swear.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Let's go!

Talk about life-altering. These guys thought of just about everything. For way too many years I’ve been making do with a plastic t.p. dispenser that does absolutely nothing for me, except sometimes hurl the toilet paper to the floor and then refuse to re-engage in its little unit. Well, those days are over!

Toilet paper? (always at the top of the list/too important to overlook) √
Source of music? (a superb touch) √
Clock? (time’s a-wastin’) √
Flower holder? (perfect for leather roses) (or feather roses) √
Alarm button? (hey, you never know what’s going to happen) √

They forgot a cup holder, but I plan to push my alarm button when that need arises, and summon someone to hold my cup. Other than a switch that pre-heats the seat, an automatic flusher and a page-turner for whatever reading material you’ve brought along, I think they’ve covered all the bases. Mine's on rush order.

This product modernizes the concept; the toilet paper dispenser allows one to plug in an iPod and listen to music through four moisture-free speakers—this is just because there’s a lot of moisture in the bathroom, not any kind of commentary about your aiming skills. I’m not going to attach mine to the wall—not with all the other places I’d like to take some toilet paper & a few tunes. I’m thinking camping trips, long commutes, sleepovers, parties at other peoples’ houses—because don’t we all prefer our own brand of toilet paper and our own good taste in music?

There’s technology put to good use and technology put to bad use, and I think we can all agree that both of these products are performing technological feats of the highest order. Bravo!

But wait! While we’re traipsing through the toilet paper accessories aisle, let’s not forget the talking toilet paper holder. You can record six seconds of anything you like, and a motion detector within the roll holder (another fabulous modern detecting device) lets it know when to start playing your message. Change your message often to keep 'em guessing. Today my toilet paper appears to say, “What did you eat?” After that's worn out its welcome, I’m thinking of recording a few of Jack Handey’s Deep Thoughts, and there’s this six-second scream thing I can’t wait to try. I love it when someone calls me and says, “Hey, whatcha doing?” and I get to answer, “Recording messages on my toilet paper dispenser.” Talk about evocative.

Thursday, August 28, 2008


Fruit Stickles Tropical Flavored Skewers allow you to add tropical flavor to anything you opt to stick them into, presumably fruit, although we beg you not to limit yourself in any way. Tropical combines well with many other flavors, such as natural, ocean, and “not cat box.” Made of natural ingredients and tocopherols, they contain no calories, but loads of flavor. Also wood, one assumes. Mostly wood.

Their companion, Seasoned Skewers, flavors meat from the inside out, and is available in irresistible combinations such as Honey Bourbon and Mexican Fiesta. Marinating meat is like giving it a cold, flavorful bath, but nothing adds flavor the way puncturing, piercing, pricking, perforating and penetrating all the way to the core does. These skewers are 100% natural, largely because they’re made of wood with some spice on it.

Coming soon, before the end of the year, there will also be flavored sticks for your coffee, tea and cocktails, called Minglirs.

I like to think of all of them as oversized flavored toothpicks, allowing me to combine the sensory pleasures of food consumption with the dental benefits of tooth-picking (and wood gnawing). And since they’re all natural and fat-free, there’s no guilt involved. In the morning, I’m a stickler for Fruit Stickles (with pickles). Later in the day, there’s nothing truer than a Seasoned Skewer to make me a chewer (with a small shot of Dewar’s). And before bedtime, make me a tingler by handing me a Minglir (and maybe some Pringles). You are what you eat, and I’m feeling good with all this wood.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Make my day

You’re now capable of combining two, count ‘em, two, of life’s most sublime pleasures, namely watching television and shooting guns, with the gun remote control—do we not all wish we’d thought of this? A lot of you are protesting, “I did, a long time ago!” Next time, don’t let the dreamslayers in your life keep you down when you get an idea they find unconventional or unseemly. Then you’ll be the one laughing all the way to the bank with your chunky royalty checks, and they can keep their opinions about what’s stupid to themselves. End of life lesson.

Imagine the joy of aiming at the TV and shooting to get rid of Vince, the strangest spokesperson ever, as he hawks his ShamWows, or that sportscaster who’s talking about your team losing, or the next
Kinoki or Ped Egg ad. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg, because we all know there’s a whole lot more coming out of your television set that you’d like to shoot. And then some.

After a while you’ll have that aim thing down to something resembling a science, so we’ll throw in a sheriff’s badge—you’ll have earned it. Have a rootin’ tootin’ TV-shootin’ good time, officer!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Slitherin' succotash

With just 2 AA batteries and this fantastic lifelike plastic you can protect your worldly goods as well as Brinks or ADT, and for a fraction of the price. Your family, friends and enemies will be lulled by its quiet lack of motion and comforting color scheme, but if they get too close, its eyes glow red, it hisses, tries to bite, and rattles its tail. Wait ‘til you hear the screams! Perfect for deterring a pesky younger sibling who won’t stay out of your room, or that snoopy spouse who’s bound and determined to find out why you keep the door locked every once in a while, or that mean teacher who’s clearly had it in for you since day one, even if it does result in a trip to the principal’s office. A little retaliation of the serpentine variety goes a long way and is rarely forgotten by the avenged.

The animated striking snake—it really is striking, no?—communicates without saying a word, and we could all learn a lesson from its example. You’d warm up to it if it would let you.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Give yourself the finger

Another of those “man, I wish I’d thought of this” gifts, the Up Yours finger-shaped nose hair trimmer. Or, similarly

The Finger nose hair trimmer. What can we say? Sometimes more than one person has the same great idea at the same time. I kind of prefer this one because its finger is more realistic and does not appear to be wearing nail polish, but maybe some men prefer the idea of a female finger up their nose. And in their ears. And…well, let’s just say you’ve probably got some unwanted hair going on in other places as well, places where you’d also prefer a light female touch.

They’ve cheated a bit with the in-use photos, don’t you think? Because you know you’re going to need to jam that finger much farther into both orifices, not only to get the job done properly, but just to see how you look with a fake finger up your nose.

And don’t it make your brown eyes blue? I thought this was the same guy in both photos, but I guess I was fooled. It’s just the happy, well-groomed face of this product’s typical user.

A final helpful hint: this thing really can do double duty if you use it in the car.

It's for you

Ever feel like time’s going by much too quickly? One minute you were feeling rather modern with your Selectric typewriter and a copy machine that didn’t require cranking or the use of purple ink; the next, everyone had computers and cell phones and Segways, and now they have so many new gadgets and gew-gaws that life’s just not the same any more. What’s this I hear about some kind of digital television transition and how it’s going to ruin my old Zenith? Doesn’t anyone see how close to technology’s slippery slope we’re getting? Could just one small feature of modern life remain un-modern, please? Some of us can’t do the transition thing this quickly.

Well, the folks who make this product have heard my pleas, appreciated the ‘please,’ and set out to appease. Now you can re-create youthful hours spent happily chatting on your real, solid (now vintage) telephone, trapped in the kitchen, slowly trying to uncoil the cord and/or winding yourself up in it, with the Please Hold Vintage Cell Phone Handset. You know you always feel like your big manly hands are overwhelming your tiny delicate cell phone, even if you’re a woman. Also, the mouth-to-ear distance is all wrong on a cell phone unless you’re a bit of a pinhead. Relish a return to human scale and an experience that feels more personal, if only because plastic is a better conductor of the smell of stale saliva than whatever it is cell phones are made of. If you jiggle the cord, you can even get that old static sound. Call me!

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Do you believe in magic?

Natural Magic products claim to absorb and eliminate odors, and all you have to do is un-lid the container for the natural magic to begin. The gel absorbs odors and “converts them to non-toxic compounds,” which is not quite as scientific as it sounds. I hadn’t known these odors were toxic. Am I in danger when my house smells like old dog? I thought I was just grossed out. Can anything with an ocean scent cover the smell of fish cooking? I should know in a few hours.

There’s also a natural magic odor air-magnet, which is a solid gel, as opposed to the gelid gel used in the odor absorbing gels. An air magnet seems more capable of dealing with odor elimination than a simple absorbing gel, does it not? Anything capable of molecular bonding has a real edge in the field of odor elimination.

There’s a special product just for the smell of a used litter box. Oh, it may claim to eliminate other household odors, but this one’s focused pretty narrowly, and often gives other odors a free pass because it doesn’t find them nearly as repellent. It has a fresh clean scent, but no one can say exactly what that scent resembles, other than "not cat box." Scent-naming can be the most difficult part of manufacturing and marketing products such as these. The original odor absorbing gel, above, comes in a scent called natural. That’s what I always tell people my favorite smell is, after ocean.

Maybe you noticed, with that razor-sharp steel-trap of a mind, that most of these natural magic products promise to absorb and eliminate odors, but not for any specified amount of time. With Odor Blaster Super Deodorizer spray (curiously enough, available only with no scent) you can permanently eliminate unwelcome odors—we don’t care if they’re pleasant or unpleasant, just get them the hell out of here, pronto. This is a great product. Non-scented smells even better than natural, ocean and "not cat box." Suddenly you just smell…nothing. That’s some pretty great natural magic!

Saturday, August 23, 2008

L is for lips

Chapped lip season is right around the corner, and I recommend Lookin’ Good for Jesus lip balm, available in virtuous vanilla. Notice that the product advocates three tenets very near and dear to Jesus’ heart: “Be worthy,” “Be noticed,” and “Get ready.” What do you mean, you haven’t heard any of those? You’re not familiar with Jesus’ “be noticed” campaign? They’re paraphrasing, okay? Those might not’ve been his exact words, but they’re close enough. So maybe he didn’t say “get ready.” He might’ve said “be prepared.” (or was that the Boy Scouts?) In any case, if it’s good enough for lookin’ good for Jesus, it’s good enough for your lips.

As you undoubtedly observed, these not-particularly-wholesome women are trying to look good for Jesus wearing rather heavy eye make-up. He’s not interested and turns his gaze heavenward (or he could be wondering how that little hole appeared above his head). Jesus doesn’t want you to wear a lot of face paint and tart it up; he just wants a little vanilla flavor on your soft lips. And who wouldn’t want to look good for this Jesus? He’s certainly lookin’ mighty good for us.

Brett bucks

The Brett Favre touchdown record photo mint is the perfect gift, because it’s money. It comes with two 24-karat gold coins; a Green Bay Packers coin and a Lambeau Field coin. This is a limited edition set, issued by the NFL, and it’s fully accredited, matriculated, authenticated, and ratified as real U.S. money. However, no actual value has been assigned to the coins, so you can spend them extra-craftily. What store would dare refuse to accept anything with the NFL seal on it as legal tender? A friend of mine bought a new computer with just his Lambeau Field coin.

Brett’s extreme popularity has quickly led to his becoming cold hard cash in more than one format. This is the Brett Favre JFK Half Dollar, issued in 2007. You might’ve thought there had to be a picture of JFK on a coin for it to sport his famous initials, but you were wrong. It’s just that the BF Half Dollar didn’t quite have the same amount of consumer appeal. Watch out, because this coin is highly spendable, particularly at casinos.

Yes, of course, there are also Brett Favre quarters, although they don’t fit in most vending machines. Not sure what the tie-in is between Brett and U.S. statehood quarters, but that’s okay. Wisconsin is now willing to share Brett with the rest of the country, and we’re all grateful.

Brett hasn’t limited himself to coins. When the store clerk says, “Are you sure this is real?” display amazed incredulity, then inform this person that Brett’s meant to be spent, producing your certificate of authenticity. Studies show that many people find Brett more attractive than George Washington, and find spending his dollars to be exceptionally enjoyable. I’ve been leaning heavily on an ATM card as my primary means of parting with assets, but I think I’ll really have fun making the changeover to Favre units of currency.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Deep Pockets

When I said I thought the Mr. T in your Pocket product could use some companions, I had no idea how wrong I was. Turns out the guy has a lot of friends. Your pockets could be emitting different voices every day of the week. Better yet, carry at least two with you at all times and let them converse.

It’s kind of a tough crowd, though, so don’t expect polite conversation with Scarface in your pocket. “Every dog has its day,” and “Me, I always tell the truth, even when I lie,” are two of its statements. Mr. T responds, “Shut up, fool,” because he can get away with it.

You know Rocky would be comfortable palling around with Scarface and Mr. T. One of his six phrases is, “I am not as dumb as you think I am,” and that alone is worth the price of several in your pocket toys. He also declares, “All I wanna do is go the distance,” and usually about then Mr. T tells him, “Quit your jibba jabba.”

Notice that Rocky’s phrases eat thunder and crap lightning. None of the other pocket toys makes this claim, but the next time there’s a big storm, I’m going to make sure Rocky’s nearby.

How did Fred Rogers get caught up in this crowd? This is so not his milieu. He sounds vaguely modern when he tells people, “I think I’ll make a snappy new day.” But he won’t do anything of the sort. Soon it’s back to “Please won’t you be my neighbor?” and “I like you just the way you are.” Mr. T’s response is almost invariably, “Don’t make me mad,” followed by that inimitable Mr. T growling sound.

Another rather unexpected member of the club is Dirty Dancing in your pocket. Its name probably delivers more fun than the product itself. Phrases include, “Butt out, Baby,” for which you’ll undoubtedly find many uses. Less serviceable is, “Spaghetti arms! Would you gimme some tension, please?” Usually at this point Mr. T breaks out his trademark “I pity the fool” line.

South Park in your pocket tries to fit in, but isn’t sure whose side to be on. “I’m not fat, I’m big boned,” it protests, in Cartman’s voice, and “Drugs are bad, mmkay?”, in Mr. Mackey’s. Let us not forget who captured Mr. Mackey on his drug-laced trip to India: The A Team! Hmm, I sense some Hollywood inter-connectedness going on here. Six degrees of Mr. T, or something. “Don’t gimme no backtalk, sucka,” Mr. T says, clearly in control at all times.

Also available in your pocket: Dr. Who, Reservoir Dogs, Triumph the Insult Comic Dog, Stewie from “Family Guy,” and Catherine Tate. As long as they keep hitting all the highlights like this, the concept works for me.

Welcome to our world, won't you come on in

We’ve been trying to decide on a new doormat format. I wanted to stray from the stale traditional mats that either say nothing at all or offer up only a simple welcome; I wanted something fresh, something new. But we couldn’t agree on the mat’s personality. Did we really want to appear to be warmly encouraging visitors, or couldn’t this become a beautiful opportunity to keep the world at bay? (No surprise here: I was the one occupying the latter category.)

So this mat kind of appealed to me, with its literary reference and truth-telling. It doesn’t quite say “come on in!” but it’s not too off-putting. I thought it hit a proper middle-of-the-road tone of neutrality.

Whereas my so-called better half prefers the outright enthusiasm and come-hither siren song of this mat. I said if that was going on the front porch, I’d put this one beside it:

Or this one:

Then he found, and fell in love with, this doormat. To him it seemed the very epitome of a welcoming image. I told him I thought it might scare the neighbors and that I didn’t want to step over it every time I came home.

I counter-offered this mat:

I thought it seemed welcoming enough; at least the sentiment is there, despite its lack of strength. I also appreciate the honesty.

To which his response was to get a little funky with it:

I just gave him the look. “What?” he asked. Instead of explaining, I offered up what seemed to me like a sincere effort at compromise, a mat with a sense of humor:

But he said that was really funny only if the person at the door was a female wearing a dress or skirt, and how often does that happen chez nous? Very, very seldom.

His idea of humor was something a little more helpful:

No way,” I said. I don’t like being told I’m here, what can I say?

By this time we’d wasted hours, but we finally found a compromise.

The doormat of denial. It looks great, too. Coordinates very nicely with the house colors.

But I secretly bought this one when he wasn’t looking, and I’m going to put it on the back porch:

Maybe if I tell him “feck” means shoes in Finnish…think he’ll buy it?

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Mr. Fix-It

This might be the most practical do-it-yourself gift a man could ever receive. It’s a known and well-documented fact that men hold onto their underwear for an ungodly amount of time, often considering them suitably broken in only after the entire crotch has split open. I retrieve underwear from the dryer that’s not much more than an elastic circle with scraps of fragmented cotton hanging limply in the areas that haven’t completely eroded. Some look like they’ve been dipped in battery acid. If I try to throw them away, they’re miraculously in the laundry again the next week.

So, since you guys aren’t willing to ditch these beloved companions, how about a little effort at maintenance? The kit comes with a manual, duct tape, white out (ewww), iron on patches, an elastic band, and some actual sewing accessories. “I like mine the way they are!” you’re thinking, but in all honesty, they’re in such bad shape that you’d better do at least a little bit of upkeep or it’ll all go downhill rather abruptly. One day you’ll either find yourself wearing nothing but the elastic band, or (I’ve actually seen this happen) you’ll be walking somewhere, doing nothing particularly rigorous, and those sad tatters of cotton will give up the ghost when you least expect it, fluttering down your pants leg and onto the floor, or worse, grabbing onto your ankles and taking a ride. Occasions like these tend to result in painful life-long nicknames and are impossible to live down. So think about it. At least grab a stapler, or something.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

That Funky Monkey

Got a monkey on your back? Don’t like to smoke alone? Maybe you just like to light fires around the house, whatever. Something made you buy this, and you’re glad of it. There’s something curiously endearing about this little guy. He comes with his own pack of incense cigs, so his smoke can diminish the effect of yours. He’s got a pleasant demeanor, he never complains, and his hat is very fetching.

Meanwhile, over on the other side of the room, his mother is going crazy.

She’s the Monkey Groan Ball. When you give her a little squeeze she emits the groaning sound made by an angry mother monkey who’s just caught sight of her only son lighting up. It’s not as if she didn’t warn him about the dangers of smoking. In fact, she set the perfect example and never even tried one. He’s clearly oblivious, though, and her groans only seem to make him smile more. Sometimes he’ll even chain smoke just to listen to her go on.

The detection continues

You know how sometimes you get that feeling someone’s watching you? You check the room several times, appear to be alone, try to settle back down, but can’t shake that uncomfortable sensation. Okay, now get real, because most of the time that’s just you being paranoid and thinking the world cares a lot more than it really does. In all probability, the vast majority of you don’t fascinate anyone even slightly, and the rest of you are semi-compelling for maybe a few weeks, then your thrilling level subsides. Only you care as much as you think everyone else does. So try to stop thinking anyone would take the time and effort to install a hidden camera in your house. Reality TV is bad enough, thanks. No one wants to watch.

On the other hand, some of you know a few of the wrong kind of people, or work for overly suspicious and/or perverted employers, or are not trusted by your partners. Life's full of wrong place, wrong time scenarios, many of them riddled with hidden cameras. We’ve all had that unpleasant sensation while trying on clothes, or in one of those dirty gas station bathrooms by the highway, right? Your inner sensors go off and you can’t help but start looking for where the hidden camera might be. Or maybe you’re relaxing at home, about to seduce the nanny, when the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end. And how many times have you almost had that coveted department store item in your pocket and then thought better of it because you couldn’t shake that sensation of being watched? Plenty, if you’re like most of your peers.

Sadly, hidden cameras are an unpleasant yet omnipresent aspect of modern life, and they’re sold in such an increasingly clever variety of shapes and sizes, it’s becoming a real nuisance trying to keep up. Almost as much of a nuisance as it is to stay within the letter of the law.

Now, finally, you don’t have to do either. Here’s another
detecting device – a wonderfully sleek, silvery and modern hidden camera detector. You’ll be absolutely certain that no one’s watching you unless it’s by pre-arranged agreement between consenting adults. It’s also fun to use. Make an appearance, reach for your trusty P3 hidden camera detector and sweep the room. If the blinking lights indicate a camera’s within range, you can get that look of intense concern on your face and leave. The hidden cameras will be inconsolably forlorn without you, but you knew that.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Toucan be a crowd

The latest in simulated vultures, this wild-eyed and sharp-beaked creature is a real multi-tasker. Glue it to a post in your back yard and it’ll keep birds away better than those fake owls. Perch it on your front porch and watch the number of solicitations decrease. And the next time a family member isn’t feeling well, display it in a prominent place. When it seems to get lonely, and it will, buy a companion. Black vultures are one of the few species who mate for life, and they’re miserable when single.

Here’s the perfect soulmate. The two make a lovely display or table centerpiece, and if they don’t turn out to be conversation starters, they’ll start a discussion of their own.
“I’m the hen-pecked one, sick of cowering beneath your dirty looks,” says the second vulture. “What dirty looks? I’m simply displaying disapproval, you old buzzard,” responds the first. Typical vulture culture; they do a little bit of sniping at each other, go out for a leisurely dinner, then come home and have hot make-up sex. Mating for life -- it's not for the faint-hearted.