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By Joel Klebanoff

Let the Gift-Giving Begin

This rant was originally published shortly before Christmas, 2005.

The next couple of weeks will see the arrival of Christmas, Hanukah, and the holidays of a few other religions that I'm not nearly as familiar with as I should be in this age of political correctness. No doubt, some of you haven't yet been able to buy gifts for everyone on your list, and if you get a chance to glance at a calendar, you will soon be overcome by extreme panic.  Being of an irreligious persuasion that doesn’t induce me to feel obliged to do much holiday shopping, I likely have considerably more free hours than you have right now. So, as a public service, I've sacrificed some of my time in order to hunt for a few unique presents that you can put under your tree, menorah, or whatever. Yeah, yeah, I know, doing this for you without any thought of a reward proves what an incredibly munificent, altruistic human being I am. You can thank me later.

Where does one go to find unique gifts? Where else but eBay? Here's what I found.

If your list includes any incredibly annoying boors who think the ring tones that came with their cell phones are not maddening enough to adequately irritate the people around them, this might be the present for them. Someone is offering a CD filled with cell phone ring tones for just $1.99 plus a shipping charge of $8.95. Unfortunately, the eBay listing did not offer any audio samples, so I can't verify that the tones will be sufficiently irksome for the recipients of this gift, but the eBay listing displayed a whole host of pictures of near-naked, voluptuous women who didn't seem to have anything whatsoever to do with what was being sold, so the ring tones have to be good.

Here's the perfect present for anyone totally lacking even the vaguest hint of good taste: The Boob Tube Universal Remote. The opening bid for this item was $9.95 when I checked it out, or you can buy it outside of the auction for just $14.95. What is it? As the name suggests, it's a universal remote control for all of your home audio/video equipment. How does it differ from other universal remotes? The not-so-subtle "Boob Tube" in the name is a clue. The remote is shaped like an amply endowed female torso. Don't worry. It comes bikini-clad. Most of the more frequently used controls are immediately accessible, but to get at some of the others you have to lift up the bikini top or pull down the bottom. Decorum and MC Press do not allow me to describe these controls in more detail. I don't know about you, but for me, nothing embodies the spirit of Christmas like a remote control in the shape of a large-breasted, anatomically correct female torso. Then again, I've never celebrated the holiday myself, so it's possible that I've misunderstood what it's all about.

For the people on your list who enjoy non-electronic games, here's something that looks like a lot of fun: a Water Squirt Arm Wrestler. It comes with two arm wrests and two squirt balls. The eBay listing doesn't include much descriptive text, but it appears from the picture that when you overpower your opponent in an arm wrestle, the gadget squirts him or her with water. According to the listing, "The winner will be bone dry while the loser will be a real drip - literally!" "A real drip" — isn't that a clever turn of phrase? Or not. How could you turn this one down? The U.K.-based vendor lists the product for ₤16.99 or approximately $29.25 U.S. and will ship it to anywhere in Europe, the U.S., or Canada. Since I'm suggesting this as a Christmas or Hanukah present, which are winter holidays in the northern hemisphere, I have just one piece of advice. This warning comes from me, someone who lives in Canada, not from the eBay seller. If you live in a cold climate, you might not want to play this game during the winter anywhere other than your own home. If you lose and then leave, you may freeze before you make it off the front porch. Your hosts might find that having you as a statue on their veranda makes for a great neighborhood conversation piece, but you'll probably get a tad hungry before being freed by the spring thaw.

For the gamers on your list who might be looking for devices that are a little more high tech than the arm wrestling water game, how about some Laser Shock Guns, which carried a starting bid of ₤24.50 or about $42.17 U.S. when I looked at it? The eBay listing claims that it's a "Christmas Gift to Shock the Family!" This product comes with two guns and two chest plates. Each player straps on a chest plate and picks up a gun. If there's a direct hit on your chest plate you receive a shock through the handle of your gun. You can adjust the power setting to (I'll quote directly because the political correctness squad would come down on me if I said this myself) "high for hardmen [sic] and low for wimps or little girls!!" (Why are there always so many exclamation marks in these ads? Never mind. It was a rhetorical question.) Oh, when they say "little girls," don't read that too literally. It's not intended for children under 14. And the listing says you should read the warning panel before use, although it doesn't provide the text from that warning in the listing. Maybe I'm just one of the wimps they're talking about, but I'd kind of like to read those warnings before I even buy the product, not just before I use it. But, if you're less cautious than I am (or you don't particularly like the people you're buying the gift for), go for it. I should also mention that the listing says, "This item is not a toy." Excuse me? Not a toy? So they're saying that those duels that you can challenge your friends or enemies to aren't supposed to be games, but real duels? I think I'll pass. This one goes against my pacifistic nature, but it's up to you.

OK, maybe none of the above gifts interest you, but here's a very romantic present you can buy for your sweetheart: a Disney Mickey Colorful Flash LEDLight R147. It's a nightlight shaped like Mickey Mouse. What? You don't think that's very romantic? Well, it must be because it says it's romantic right in the eBay listing. There's no way the vendor would lie about something like that. Actually, what the listing says is, "Frequently alterative multi-color neon light make you car room very romantic." If you have the seller of this item on your gift list, you might consider giving him or her a gift certificate for English as a Second Language lessons. But grammar and the fact that neon is not a synonym for LED aside, I agree with the romantic part. I can't see what could possibly be more romantic than a Mickey Mouse light. Then again, maybe that's why I'm such a lonely guy. If you're thinking of buying a few of these as nightlights for your children's rooms, you'd better make them sleep out in the car because the light is designed to plug into a vehicle's cigarette lighter, not a household outlet.

Why not buy the voyeurs on your list the world's smallest monocular telescope for just $15.00 Australian dollars (about $11.07 U.S.). The vendor will ship it anywhere in the world. I can't vouch for the fact that it's the world's smallest, but the picture accompanying the listing shows it sitting comfortably in the palm of someone's hand. With this gift, your voyeur friends will be able to practice their hobby while minimizing the risk of getting caught at it. What makes this a particularly wonderful present is that there's just way too much privacy in the world.

If those voyeurs aren't going to be satisfied with just a visual experience or you're afraid they might think you're chintzy if you spend only $11.07 on them, why not add the HCTV Super Ear? This "Amazing listening device!" will allow your gift recipient to "hear people from far away!!!!" This product has to be truly astounding because the listing included five exclamation marks in a single line, not to mention a whole bunch of others scattered throughout the text. This incredible gift item can be yours for just $9.99. You'd better hurry because when I looked there were only 48 left, although there were a few other vendors offering similar products on eBay. Why do I think this would make a wonderful gift? Ditto on the "there's just way to much privacy in the world" thing. (It's been brought to my attention that my sarcasm isn't always obvious. You just read some.)

Do you have any paranoid parents on you list? Consider giving them a wireless, pinhole nanny camera. The vendor I looked at had 100 of them available at $54.95. You know it's a real deal because, according to the seller, the suggested retail price is $199.99. The parents you give this to can hide it anywhere and record what their babysitter does while they're away. And they might be able to make a little money out of your gift. If their babysitter decides to engage in some particularly heavy necking with her boyfriend after the kids have gone off to sleep, the resulting video should fetch a good price on the Internet. What else makes this product a wonderful gift? Well, don't forget that "too much privacy" thing. (Also don't forget that sarcasm thing.)

If you need to buy a gift for someone who is self-conscious about the thinness of her lips, here's one for you. There's a vendor on eBay who wants to sell you a lip plumping serum. I'm certain this stuff works because the seller claims to have come up with the idea for the serum when she realized that the skin on her lips is very similar to the skin on penises and breasts. (Sorry for that mental image. I'm just reporting what I read on eBay.) So, she mixed together highly concentrated extracts of the ingredients of the enlargement potions that were promoted in spam she received. According to the rather long description in the listing, just seven seconds after she applied the new serum, her lips began to pulsate as if they had been stung by a hive of bees. She reports that she quickly had plump, full lips, and the effect didn't begin to fade for two and a half hours. Despite what you are probably thinking, no, I'm not making this up. The best part is you can buy this serum on eBay for just $9.99. As the listing says, "Why pay the retail price of $75 per bottle?" Excuse me? The retail price? Just exactly which retail store can I buy this in?

One last gift suggestion and this one is suitable for everyone on your list: a ghost meter. A number of vendors are selling versions of this product on eBay. The one I looked at listed it at $19.95. The user of this gift will be alerted to the presence of a ghost by light, sound, and a needle indicator. This particular ghost meter even offers both low and ultra-high frequencies so you can "find all supernatural activity faster!" But wait! There's more! According to the listing, "This meter improves Ouija board performance by a factor of 10!" And again, no, I'm not making this stuff up. The listing didn't mention it, but I offer one more piece of advice. Before you give this as a gift, you might want to check it out yourself. If the light flashes every time you look at it, instead of a ghost meter, the company that sells this product might have accidentally shipped you its sucker meter instead.

Well that's it for my gift guidance for this year. I know you're going to be busy surfing over to eBay to nab all of this great stuff before the holidays, so I'll understand if you don't get around to thanking me until January.

This article originally appeared as part of a weekly series of "Tech Tirades" in MC TNT from MC Press Online. The first year's worth of Tech Tirades does not appear here. Instead, you can find them in BYTE-ing Satire.

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