The Sledgehammer – Version 2.0

December 24, 2011

The 2011 Sledgehammer Last-Minute Christmas Gift Guide: Good Things Don’t Come to Those Who Wait

Filed under: Holidays — Tags: , — Brian Lutz @ 12:38 am

Well, you waited until the last minute to do your Christmas shopping again, didn’t you?  Most people would learn their lesson on that one after the first five or six times they ruined Christmas with their novelty shaped waffle irons and dubiously colored sweaters, but year after year, some people continue to convince themselves that if they do their Christmas shopping in a blind panic at 2pm on Christmas Eve enough times, eventually it’ll all work out.  Here’s a hint for you:  It doesn’t.  As we’ve all learned from sad and repeated experience, waiting for the last minute generally results in a lot of sitting around in traffic just trying to get to the stores in the first place (and over the past couple of weeks I’ve witnessed quite a few fun little traffic jams pointed in the direction of Bellevue Square, which makes me really glad I don’t have to sit around in any of them,) lots of waiting for parking spots when you get there, and lots of wading through crowds of people who just happened to make the same mistakes.  In short, you really should have done all this weeks ago.

But in spite of your predicament, I’m here to help…  Sort of.  Once again, it’s time for the sort-of-annual Sledgehammer Last-Minute Christmas gift guide, chock full of gift-giving ideas that you should most likely consider not having if you can possibly help it.  As usual, you’re responsible for whatever consequences arise  if for some reason you happen to actually give any of the items on this list as a gift. If you try to blame me I’ll just deny everything.  You’ve been properly warned.  That said, you’ll find the complete list after the jump. 

Previous Gift Guides and Other Holiday Posts:

If for some reason you haven’t done any of your Holiday decorating by now, you’re going to have a hard time catching up.  Maybe if you had been paying attention you could have caught some of the good stuff back during the 3 or 4 days back in September it was around in the stores.  Then again, if you’re lucky you might still be able to find a tree or two on the shelves that isn’t made entirely out of purple tinsel, and there might even be an indoor/outdoor reindeer or two to be found.  I suppose I’ve always been under the impression that reindeer were pretty much supposed to be an exclusively outdoor thing, but admittedly I haven’t exactly been keeping up with the latest trends in decorating with antler-bearing mammals, so I could be wrong on that one.

Of course, you can’t decorate for Christmas without a snowglobe or two.  For the most part, snowglobes tend to be relatively small, but for those people who want to buy in bulk, your local warehouse club might just carry one of these giant economy sized snow globes.  The photo doesn’t exactly do this thing justice, it’s easily the biggest snowglobe I’ve ever seen that wasn’t actually one of those giant inflatable novelty snowglobes, and it comes permanently affixed to a pedestal base, which doesn’t exactly lend itself to people shaking it to make the snow fall inside (there’s some sort of pump inside that’s supposed to be used instead, but most people aren’t ever going to figure that out just by looking at it.)  You’ll definitely want to keep this one out of the reach of children, and should probably just keep it away from most of the adults too.

Then again, perhaps you’re looking for something just a bit more generic.  For that, we’ve got Bear in Tree Trunk, which consists of a bear (or a semi-reasonable facsimile thereof) in a tree trunk, and nothing else.  The name says it all, so they don’t even bother trying to describe it.  If you’re looking for a good simple no-nonsense bear in a tree trunk, make it this one.

Once you’ve got your decorations (such as they are) sorted out, it’s time to set the mood.  And what better way to do that than with a nice cozy Blu-Ray disc of a camera pointed at a fireplace?  Sure, the whole concept of making videos of fireplaces and selling them is nothing new, but just think, for the first time ever you can watch someone else’s fireplace in stunning 1080p high definition!  When the neighbors down the block have their Christmas party and they’re just simply streaming their fireplace videos off of Netflix, it just won’t feel the same.  This Cozy Cracklin’ Fireplace Blu-Ray disc will let you bask in the pre-recorded yet incredibly lifelike glow of a  nice cozy fireplace whenever you want!  (Please note: Warmth sold separately.)

And if you need to get into the Christmas spirit, why not put on one of these vaguely timeless Christmas classics?  Sure, everyone usually goes for the more popular Christmas specials, but why pass up the opportunity to recall timeless memories of a Flash-animated remake of an old Sixties cartoon that lasted all of two seasons, A Straight-to-video CG-animated cash-in on a vaguely successful feature film, and few scattered episodes of a couple of shows with small cult followings, you have to jump on that opportunity.

Then again, most people are going to prefer to stick to the classics that are actually, you know, classic.  That doesn’t mean you can’t mess that one up too.  From the murky depths of the Wal-Mart shovelware bin comes these Wii “Adaptations” of two of the more popular Christmas specials, providing none of the adventure and excitement of the originals, for a sizeable fraction of the cost of the actual DVDs.  I couldn’t find much info on the Santa Claus one, but the Rudolph game earned a particularly dismal 1.5 rating on a scale of 1 to 10 from IGN.

Speaking of Wii, there are few things that can compare to plastic video game accessories for sheer uselessness when it comes to gift giving.  After seeing years of pointless Wiimote attachments and cheap plastic iThingies coming down the pipe I had assumed that this particular vein of crud had been pretty well played out, but this faux gold-plated Wiimote accessory kit just puts the whole thing completely over the edge.  Fortunately (or otherwise,) the Wii’s successor should be coming out sometime next year, giving the accessory makers plenty of time to come up with an entirely new batch of useless plastic.  I’d say I’m looking forward to it, but I’m pretty sure I’d be lying.


On the other hand, there are a few games out there this Christmas season that don’t completely suck (in particular, feel free to blame Skyrim for the relative dearth of updates on the Blog this month,) but one trend I’ve noticed becoming increasingly pervasive over the past couple of years is the proliferation of humongous “cram it full of crud” collector’s editions of big game releases.  It used to be that a collector’s edition of a game would cost an extra $10-20 and include an extra disc or two with things like art books and soundtracks, and possibly some added in-game content.  Nowadays, it seems that especially for games that are expected to be big sellers, they have to put out some sort of “ultimate” edition, and it invariably has to include a statue of some sort.  Aside from the fact that the vast majority of semi-responsible adults who might fall into the target audience for these types of games  tend to have spouses that disapprove of displaying statues of video game characters on the coffee table, there’s also the fact that these things are huge.  When you start having to look at a video game and deciding whether or not you have room for it in your apartment, chances are that something’s gone awry here.

Those of you who have spent the last couple of years not living under a rock are most likely well acquainted with Angry Birds by now.  What started as a fun little timewaster on the iPhone and iPad somehow turned into an unexpected runaway success, with sales well into the tens of millions across a number of different platforms and devices.  Naturally, the appropriate response to this unplanned success is to merchandise the living daylights out of the stuff, and before you know it you’ve got whole entire shelves full of Angry Birds merchandise in just about every store you can think of.  When you think about it, the whole thing seems to be kind of like the Beanie Baby craze that I had absolutely nothing to do with back in the day, and certainly didn’t make me go overboard and spend way too much money on what ended up being huge piles of cute-yet-monetarily-worthless beanbags back in the day.  Nope, definitely didn’t get mixed up in that one.

You start to get the sense that the whole thing is getting a tad overexposed when you start seeing huge shelves full of the merchandise in stores that normally wouldn’t even be selling plush toys in the first place, but it’s when you start seeing stuff like this $99 Angry Birds speaker dock that you begin to get the sneaking suspicion that the whole thing is headed at an ever-increasing rate of speed toward the mother of all shark-jumpings.  And then you start to worry that when the bottom drops out, it’s going to end up taking half the economy of Finland down the tubes with it, which is going to make a big mess out of pretty much everything.  I can hardly wait to see the headlines in the Wall Street Journal about the Angry Birds Bailout.  Just remind me to cash out my 401K before that happens, OK?

Elsewhere in the toy department, we’ve got Pillow Pals, another one of these things that seems to be all over the place in spite of the suspicious lack of an unaccountably popular mobile app to overexpose them to an unsuspecting public.  In a nutshell, they’re stuffed animals that, through the strategic application of a couple of Velcro strips, turn into pillows (and vice versa.)  Apparently they’ve diversified beyond animals into automobiles, as this Lightning McQueen Pillow Pal indicates.  A Thomas the Tank Engine Pillow Pal was also found nearby with six “wheels,” which looks just plain odd among the various generic and not-so-generic animals found elsewhere on the shelves.

If your kids happen to be anything like the gaggle of young boys found at a typical Lutz family gathering these days, there’s a good chance that they’re going to end up singing stuff at some point, and quite possibly singing it rather loudly and rather off-key.  If you happen to have this problem in your house, why not Auto-tune ’em?  Sure they’ll still be loud and occasionally obnoxious, but at least this way they’ll be on key (sort of.) 

If games happen to be on the menu for Christmas Day, you can always rely on all the old standbys like Monopoly, Scrabble, Twister and Clue to be reliably entertaining and/or argument inducing, but there’s one thing that seems to be lacking with these classic games:  edibility.  Thankfully, that problem’s now been solved by creating versions of the games with chocolate pieces.  Well actually it’s a bit less complicated than that, mostly these seem to be boxes of chocolate with a few rules vaguely resembling the represented games thrown in.  Replay value is, predictably, rather low, as the rules call for consumption of the pieces in the course of play.  In real-world situations, I’d expect that most games will be called on account of devouring.

Next, we move on to the ever-present Holiday standbys of the boxed gift items, always a reliable source of relatively inexpensive items of dubious quality.  If you happen to have a golfer on your Christmas list this year, you’d think that they would be interested in something that might be used in the course of playing golf, but what they really want is this golfer’s Rubic (No trademarks were harmed in the production of this item) cube that shows how much they enjoy golf.  Or at least it would if not for the fact that it’s going to end up scrambled five minutes after it comes out of the box, most likely never to return to original form.

Next, we have this matching set of four finger lights, perfect for those times when your parents won’t let you throw a lightswitch rave in the living room.

And if you happen to have someone on your list who would never be caught dead without an emergency cold one on their person, there’s this handy beverage holster, which touts its ability to ensure that you’re never caught drinkless.  Granted, it’s not exactly the type of thing you’d want to use in a Concealed Carry situation, but I think you’re supposed to have some sort of a special permit for those situations anyway.

Aside from a few overmonied socialite types with a dozen servants apiece, pretty much everyone on your list is going to eventually have need for a few basic tools to do stuff around the house.  Sure, it’s pretty easy to find a basic toolkit that’ll cover 90% of the basic household jobs , but where is a self-conscious fashionista supposed to find a hammer that matches her outfit?  Right here.  Just make sure nobody sees you using this thing after Labor Day, OK?  Your life would be SO over.

Oh, and if you don’t want to spend the big bucks ($30 and up) for that T-Pain microphone up above, here’s a cheaper alternative.  In fact, you should get one for each of the kids.  After all, the gift of Migraines is really what the holidays are all about, right?

Of course, sometimes there’s that special someone in your life, and you may find yourself in a situation where you need to spend more than $10 and ten minutes worth of thought on a gift, so we need to consider a few higher-end alternatives.  If you’ve got a nerd on the list, this Lego Star Wars Super Star Destroyer would fill the bill quite nicely, assuming you can handle the $400 price tag and are gifting it to someone who can manage to assemble all 3,152 pieces without getting too distracted or losing any of them.

Then again, if that special someone just happens to be obnoxiously rich (or wants to appear to be obnoxiously rich,) there’s these Prada flip-flops, practically a steal at $129 for a pair (which, if I recall correctly, is marked down from an original price of $200.)  Which is actually pretty cheap…  for Prada anyway. 

Then again, if someone wants to appear obnoxiously wealthy (or just plain obnoxious, for that matter) there’s always the approach of just taking something and covering it in random glittering things, kind of like what was done to these throw pillows.  Practically a steal at $80 a pop, discounted to $40 at the time I took this, but most manufacturers’ suggested retail prices tend to be all but fictitious anyway, so I’m guessing the “sale” price is much closer to reality.  Not recommended for anyone easily distracted by- Ooh, shiny!

On the other hand, if your significant other is getting to be significant enough, there’s a good chance she’s going to start wanting some jewelry, and that’s going to start getting expensive in a hurry.  I’m assuming they just accidentally forgot to include the decimal point in that one, right?  I sure hope so, otherwise next Christmas could get just a tad expensive…

And finally, just in case you can’t come up with anything else, whatever you do, make sure you skip this one.  The fact that a “gift” set just happens to contain deodorant should send up pretty much every single warning flag in the book, but just think for a second of what kind of message you’re sending to the recipient of this one.  Quite frankly, I think you’d get yourself in less trouble buying a gift out of the vacuum cleaner aisle.

Anyways, once again I would like to wish all of my readers a Merry Christmas and (assuming you manage to survive your last-minute shopping misadventures) a Happy New Year, and remind you to always save the receipt.

1 Comment »

  1. I would only consider buying the cozy crackling fireplace in HD if the crackling sound is served to me in 5.1 Dolby surround.

    Also, on the “beauty” gift set, I always thought that a better gift was the “Beaty secrets for dummies” book. I thought it really drove home the point of “not only do I think you’re ugly, but I also think you’re dumb”. (sadly, the book DOES actually exist)

    Comment by Vincent — December 27, 2011 @ 10:52 am

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