Wolf Files: Unusual Holiday Gifts

Strange Holiday Gifts

By Buck Wolf

Dec. 9  — 'Tis the season for families to join together to explain the meaning of light-up lingerie, battery-operated corkscrews, and other unbelievable holiday gifts.

Elders naturally wonder if a generation raised on electronic spin-the-bottle will ever function normally under the mistletoe.

Perhaps our children will kiss only under computer-generated, dolphin-safe, free-range mistletoe. Time will tell.

For now, we can just look at a vision of tomorrow reflected in products on sale today — fingerprint-scanner door locks, mink slippers, home defibrillators and Breathalyzer pens.

What new gadgets, gizmos and fads will be waiting for you under the tree? And what will you leave for your loved ones? Here's what caught my eye:

1. For Modern Lovers: Electronic Spin-the-Bottle

When Grandma and Grandpa played teenage kissing games, they didn't need two D batteries to find it electrifying, just the pitter-patter of their beating hearts.

Today's kids can spice up their first kiss with sound effects and a light show, thanks to Electronic Spin-the-Bottle ($24.95) from University Games.

Forget that old bottle of Coke, which didn't spin well anyway. With Electronic Spin-the-Bottle, a beaming light from the bottle cap leaves no doubt as to who must do the kissing. This gizmo can also be configured for another pastime for hormone-raging teens — Truth-or-Dare.

Time doesn't change everything. Parents must still wonder what happens when boys and girls get too frisky. Perhaps they'll experience the virtual reality of a cold shower — or a flashing light that reads: "Game Over!"

2. For the Forgetful Secret Agent: Fingerprint Door Locks

Who needs to fumble for keys? Once you install a fingerprint security scanner on your front door, getting locked outside will be Mission: Impossible — provided you don't somehow manage to misplace your hands.

The convenience of James Bond technology is now yours with the T.S. Biometrics Finger Print Lock ($1,069) available on

Simply place your finger on the sensor. The manufacturer claims it's so accurate that the likelihood of it opening to a non-authorized fingerprint is 1 in 1,000,000, much better odds than with a key.

The device can recognize up to 25 different fingerprints. It's not even phased by you having a shallow cut or burn on your finger.

Cloak-and-dagger technology has real-life applications. If you find your husband is a no-good two-timing double agent, you can downgrade his security by deleting his fingerprint. Perhaps you can program your door lock to inform him, "This marriage will self-destruct in five seconds."

3. For ‘Mush’ Fun: Urban Dog Sledding

It's the same story every winter. The slopes are crowded. Lift tickets are pricey. Besides, no one wants to go skiing with you — except your dog.

No problem. Just strap a harness and toe line on your pooch, and you're ready to start skijorning — that's Norwegian for "ski driving" — a sport where you can really see Spot run.

Don't think you're too fat or your dog is too wimpy to enjoy this Nordic fad. If your mutt weighs 35 pounds, he can probably pull you on a flat surface on cross-country skis at 10 mph. Soon, the two of you will be having "mush" fun.

For less than $100, you can see if your dog is born to run the Iditarod. even offers skijorning equipment with a quick-release safety harness, so you can heed the call of the not-so-wild.

4. For Weight Watchers: The Confession Booth Bathroom Scale

Dieters, admit to your gluttonous chocolate-covered sins. You threw virtue out the window like a half-eaten chocolate Santa, and now you must pay for your fatty indulgences — on a confessional booth scale ($99) from Art de Toilette.

Step right up on this scale for salvation and the gods of dieting will make you pay. Suggested penance for sinners includes "30 Minutes on the Stairmaster" and "No Dessert for Two Days!"

If you're getting this gift for a serious dieter, here's another little gadget: the LifeWise Body Fat Analyzer ($19.95) from Radio Shack.

Insert your finger in this handheld device and it sends an electrical impulse through your body that will display your percentage of body fat.

For full-blown holiday depression, just keep your finger in the LifeWise analyzer until New Year's Day and watch your obesity level grow before your very eyes.

5. For Writing While Intoxicated: The Breathalyzer Pen

Too much eggnog? You don't want to get behind the wheel. If you're a friend who won't let a friend drive drunk, maybe you ought to splurge on a $30 Alcohol Tester Pen from

Just remember, when you get pulled over, don't say, "I swear, officer, my pen says I'm not drunk."

6. For High-Tech Nagging: The Key Ring Digital Reminder

You probably don't mean to henpeck your husband, but what options do you have, given his ever-shrinking attention span? Not only is he bound to forget to pick up the kids and the dry cleaning, he's just as likely to forget his cell phone.

In fact, you can't count on your husband taking much more than his car keys. That's why this Christmas he might need the Totes Voice Recording Key Ring ($21.99) — a micro recorder that lets you reach out and nag someone.

Each morning, you just leave a 20-second message to help him plan his day and your voice will ring out in his car, thanks to an automatic playback button that can be set on a timer, according to how often you think he needs to be nudged. Just don't let him remove the batteries from this handy nag-o-matic.

7. For the Shock of a Lifetime: A Home Defibrillator

How's this for giving Dad a jump-start: The HeartStart Home Defibrillator — the first defibrillator designed for the home — allows you to rescue loved ones from cardiac arrest with a lifesaving electric jolt.

You might worry that zapping a family member would cause that person to light up like a Christmas tree. In the past, emergency workers required special training to operate a defibrillator. But now, the HeartStart's sensors automatically detect what sort of jolt — if any — is needed.

And if your loved one is in cardiac arrest, every second is vital. The HeartStart is not cheap, but if you save your dad's life just once, the $1,995 home defibrillator more than pays for itself … and you get to play doctor.

8. For Starry Nights: Light-Up Lingerie

Imagine a nightgown filling your bedroom with a ribbon of neon blue and shocking pink light. What about boxer shorts that flash like a Las Vegas casino marquee? You've entered the world of light-up lingerie, designer apparel laced with spaghetti-thin optic tubing from

Manhattan designer Christopher Hardwick uses 9-volt battery packs to electrify everything from bras to cowboy hats, with prices for many items beginning at $150. He's designed outfits for Bette Midler and the Pet Shop Boys.

Now Hardwick is charging $1,000 for a wedding dress that will give an even bigger charge to the groom — provided he doesn't offend his betrothed with a tacky rendition of "You Light Up My Life."

9. For Pampering Piggies: Mink Slippers

Maybe you'll never pamper your wife with a $5,000 mink coat. But for just $200, you can slip her tootsies into the most expensive footwear that she'll never wear out of the house.

Mink-lined slippers from might seem a little impractical. But if you've promised your wife a mink, this is your best low-cost alternative — and your animal rights friends will never find out.

10. For Tightly Wound Couch Potatoes: The Wind-Up TV Remote Control

Talk about a modern nightmare: What would you do if the world's supply of AA-batteries abruptly disappeared? How would we sit on the couch, channel surf, and operate our DVD, VCR and TiVo appliances? The human race would be finished, and the Earth would soon be run by a society of super-intelligent apes.

Thankfully, you'll never have to worry about the TV remote running out of juice, as long as you have the Greenkie Wind-Up Universal Remote ($43) — a spring-powered remote control that can be programmed for all your TV appliances.

I understand the shock and anger any couch potato rightly feels if he's asked to do any sort of labor — even a few twists of the wrist. But when you compare the energy that must be exerted when you need to run to the store for batteries, you'll want to entertain the quaint comforts of wind-up channel surfing.

Consider it a little exercise to burn off that holiday bloat, a time when everyone needs to wind down.

Buck Wolf is entertainment producer at The Wolf Files is published Tuesdays. If you want to receive weekly notice when a new column is published, join the e-mail list.