Back when I was an atheist, Christmas was a confusing season indeed. The holiday, as I saw it, revolved entirely around two completely fictitious characters—one in a red suit, the other in swaddling clothes—but believing in the former got you branded as a certifiable nutjob or a hopeless idiot, while failing to believe in the latter meant you were at odds with 79 percent of the American people. Never mind that the two men have essentially the same job description (omnipresent superman who rewards the faithful and punishes sinners); never mind that both come equipped with entourages (disciples and elves); never mind that historical atrocities have been committed in the name of each (the Inquisition and the writing of “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer”). We are nonetheless told that the first is but a figment of our imagination, the second a quintessential Truth.
It’s a thorny philosophical question, and one I often found myself grappling with as Christmas approached. Then, late one evening, often on the 24th of the month, I would abruptly come out of my reverie, sit bolt upright in my armchair, spill Pinot Grigio all over my smoking jacket and the copy of Aristotle’s De Anima in my lap, and exclaim “Jesus Hanukkah Christ and his eight little reindeer! I haven’t bought so much as a Clapper for anyone on my list! Whatever am I to do?!” Often there was swooning.
Ah, foolish youth. Fortunately I have since developed a system for dealing with just such contingencies: hastily buying a bunch of stupid crap off the internet at the last possible moment. Indeed, I have found this works passably as a solution to all of life’s emergencies, including volcanic eruption and cardiac arrest.
Now that I am in my golden years, the time has come to share my accumulated wisdom with you in this, my fifth annual Holiday Survival Guide for Slackers. The following items are guaranteed, 100 percent for-real items you can actually buy off the webernet right this very moment. And, if you order now, you can even receive them before Christmas morning—assuming you select “Timeshift” as your shipping method and “Last Saturday” as your destination address.
When I was a wee lad, the toy I coveted above all others was the Star Wars X-Wing Fighter. Not only did the ship accommodate both the Luke Skywalker and the R2D2 action figures, but when you pressed a secret button on its aft, two bright-red, spring-propelled missiles would fire from its wingtips. This was truly the coolest item in the toy store—until some twerp induced a stroke in his great aunt by “accidentally” firing one of the missiles down her ear canal (“Great shot, kid. That was one in a million!”), thereby triggering a nationwide recall. WAY TO RUIN IT FOR EVERYONE, PETE BLAKESLEE OF AMIDON, NORTH DAKOTA!!! Of course, these were just tiny slivers of plastic; I can’t even imagine what’s going to happen when America’s youth get their filthy mitts on the The Rocket Fishingrod. “Blasts your lure over 30 feet,” boasts the website, leaving the subjunctive clause—“directly into the face of your sister”—unspoken. The first time an eight-year-old winds up with a hook ensnared in her uvula, they’ll probably revoke capitalism entirely. So buy now!
“Survival kit contents, check,” says Major Kong in the film Dr. Strangelove, as he pulls items from a metal box. “One .45-caliber automatic; two boxes of ammunition; four days’ concentrated emergency rations; one drug issue containing antibiotics, morphine, vitamin pills, pep pills, sleeping pills, tranquilizer pills; one miniature combination Russian phrase book and Bible; $100 in rubles; $100 in gold; nine packs of chewing gum; one issue of prophylactics; three lipsticks; three pair of nylon stockings. Shoot, a fella could have a pretty good weekend in Vegas with all that stuff.” Ah, but what if you’re shopping for second-cousin Jim Bob, a fella who calls a trailer in Sevierville, Tenn., home? This Christmas, pack him a survival kit worth its weight in grits with mullet shampoo, NASCAR cologne, and the Beer Belly. (While the necessity of the first two is self-evident, the genius of the beer belly—a polyurethane “bladder” that straps to your stomach, allowing you to sneak up to 80 ounces of hooch into your favorite sporting event—isn’t apparent until you visit the website and discover the company has a companion product for women that fits into a bra and has been christened “The Wine Rack.”) Honestly, what more could he possibly require beyond these three items? Certainly the “issue of prophylactics” will become unnecessary once the NASCAR cologne is in use.
Think your husband is cheating on you, but don’t want to go through the bother of hiring a private detective to track his movements? This year, give the gift of Polonium 210. Just secrete the radioactive isotope into the dummy wallet you give him for Christmas, wish him well as he departs for work the next day, turn on CNN, and watch as Wolf Blitzer recounts all of your hubby’s movements on “The Situation Room.” “The trail begins at this unassuming suburban house,” he’ll say, pointing to a Jeffy-like dotted-line superimposed over a Google map of your neighborhood. “It continues on to the home of that shameless harlot Megan Shooks, and terminates at the local Red Roof Inn…” Or, if you just want to cash in on the life insurance, you could follow the prescription on the United Nuclear website: “You would need about 15,000 of our Polonium 210 needle sources at a total cost of about $1 million—to have a toxic amount.” Good thing they accept PayPal!
I live in Seattle; my sister lives in Florida. Despite the distance between us, we are there for each other in times of need. Late last night, for instance, when I finally decided to start writing this list, and frantically emailed everyone in my address book to solicit suggestions, it was she who responded with a three-word reply (“Never been stupider!”) and a link to the Barbie Forever Doll With Tanner the Pooping Dog. The commercial on the website depicts Barbie feeding her dog a brown pellet, said-same pellet emerging from the mutt’s nether region moments later, and Barbie scooping up the excreta to deposit in a waste bin, all while the announcer crows, “You potty-trained Tanner, Barbie!” Wha—? Shitting on the ground constitutes “potty-trained” now? Man, potty-training my two-year-old son is going to be a lot easier than I’d reckoned. Barbie Forever (With Pooping Dog!) is the perfect gift for your overly idealistic daughter, a reminder that she’s less likely to wind up in a Dream House, a Cool Convertible, or the arms of a hot metrosexual like Ken, and more likely to wile away the best years of her life in suburban dog park, walking behind a mutt while wearing an inverted produce bag on her hand.
You own a Hummer—and not one of these faggoty “h1” matchbox cars, but the goddamned Alpha model. You own an 82-inch Plasma HDTV. Even your umbrella is six feet in diameter, forcing oncoming pedestrians to step into the street as you strut down the sidewalk on a rainy day. And yet… sometimes… when you are feeling introspective, or using a tape measure to evaluate the effectiveness of the Male Muscle Boosting System you purchased via email, you still feel inadequate. So this year, instead of giving your friends and family tiny, pansy-ass gift cards, why not give them all Gigantic Novelty Checks? What better way to say “Here’s 50 bucks, I’m extraordinarily well-endowed.” Maybe you could even write “Enormous Wang” in the memo field, for those recipients who aren’t so good with the metaphorical thinking.
I like the internet as much as the next guy, as it has allowed me to finally find an audience for my Knight Rider / Sandra Day O’Connor slash fiction. But even I have to admit that it is insufficiently distracting, sometimes allowing me to get 15 to 20 seconds of work done in a single stretch. If you know an overachiever with a similar complaint, why not get him the USB Humping Dog? Plug the adorable plastic puppy into the side of your laptop and he’ll enthusiastically thrust away, thereby reducing your already ADD-addled attention span to mere picoseconds. And it’s a dog! That’s humping! What could possibly be funnier? Aside from pretty much anything else, I mean.
“Season Shot is made of tightly packed seasoning bound by a fully biodegradable food product,” explains their website. “The seasoning is actually injected into the bird on impact … when the bird is cooked the seasoning pellets melt into the meat spreading the flavor to the entire bird.” God, can you imagine if someone had given this to our vice president last Christmas? The hilarity knob on that story would have been turned up to 11 if the septuagenarian had been shot in the face with paprika. Unless, of course, the guy had died as a result of the blast—then I doubt we’d have ever heard of the accident. Cheney would have been all, like, “I should probably call the authorities and report this incident. But it would be a shame to let that sumptuous honey-mustard flavoring go to waste, and I am feeling a bit peckish…”
Neuticles are testicular implants for pets that have been neutered. What, seriously? Come on, you’re pulling my leg. And yet the web page boasts of 225,000 Neuticles somehow sold. And there’s even a page of customer testimonials. “A dog is like a kid—consideration for his feelings,” writes Greg Samual of Fresno, Ca. Honestly, this product is so ridiculous I can’t go on—but if someone from Child Protective Services could check in on Greg Samual’s kids, I’d feel a lot better.
Breath Capture is a tiny vial you breathe into, seal, and give to your loved one. You then presumably spend 20 minutes explaining why this was the best present you could cough up when, just last week, you came home with a PlayStation 3 for yourself. Fortunately, the website has plenty of ad copy you can recite verbatim, as they too laboriously justify the existence of this patent-pending product. “Air in the form of human breath is no longer simply air,” they write. “Breath is present when we laugh and cry, whisper and shout, sing and sigh. And once captured, it can be a powerful reminder of blah blah blah …” Yeah, so, anyway: it’s a $10 test tube. You can even pay extra to have three letters engraved into the side of it; I’d suggest D, U, and M. At least there will be one milliliter less carbon dioxide in the atmosphere fucking up our climate after you use it.
But maybe your target recipient thinks Christmas is a bunch of hooey—which makes him a curmudgeonly skeptic who has yet to embrace the birth and life of Jesus Christ as a literal truth. I was once like him, as recently as two weeks ago. But then someone gave me a wonderful gift: Some Anonymous Internet Superstar singing “O Holy Night.” You must—and I cannot stress this enough—listen to it in its entirety:
I suggest burning the song onto a disc, standing on the recipient’s lawn at midnight on Christmas morning, and blasting it from a boombox held over your head, Say Anything-style. By the time the singer croaks out the final “divine,” I guarantee the recipient will have had a religious conversion. After all, when confronted by such unspeakable horrors, the human mind has no recourse but to retreat into madness. Happy Holidays!