Truly Shocking Holiday Gifts

Toys That Zap Kids, DVD Goggles, Bathtub Aerobics and More


Dec. 7, 2004 — Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa or none of the above, there's one thing all Americans should believe in — the U.S. economy.

Retailers sure do appreciate when you spend money. 'Tis the season to max out your credit card. If you need some inspiration for gifts for those hard-to-please loved ones, here's some inspiration from The Wolf Files' Offbeat Holiday Gift Guide:

1. For a Person Who'd Bite Your Head Off: Your Face on a Christmas Cookie
Can't be home for the holidays? You could send fruitcake. Now, however, you can also send an edible image of yourself etched on a Christmas cookie. Cookie caricatures are an especially popular gift for U.S. troops abroad, who need a taste of home. charges $125 for the artwork and the first two dozen cookies. Each additional dozen is $36.

When you plump up over the holidays, you probably blame your mom. But if her face is on each of the three dozen cookies you've just eaten, she's absolutely trying to make you fat.

2. For Kids Who Need a Jolt: Shocking Games
Here's a simple life lesson for your kids: It hurts to lose. And that's very apparent when you let your kids play Lightning Reaction — a game for two to four players that tests reflexes and gives the losers a little electrical jolt.

Lightning Reaction — available at for $20 — is another game you wouldn't want to play with buzzer-happy "Jeopardy!" champ Ken Jennings. Each player holds onto a handle. A light in the center goes from red to green, and the last one to push his or her button gets shocked. Don't be a crybaby if you lose. The jolt comes from three AAA batteries.

Another shocking treat: Funtime Battle Drones. This $50 toy comes with two battling remote control tanks. Each time your opponent's tank scores a hit, an electrode in your joystick gives you a little zap. If all toys these days must be educational, the lesson here is obvious: War is hell.

3. For the Geek on the Go: DVD Goggles
What's the real purpose of high-tech appliances? To shut out the rest of the world, of course. You can plug in your iPod on the train to work, but you've still got to look at other commuters. Now, the future's so bright, you've got to wear DVD goggles.

Slip on the $600 Eyetop DVD system, and you've got a portable home theater on the bridge of your nose. When you wear the large tinted glasses, the rest of the train will merely think you're blind (increasing your chance of getting a seat) or a lesser-known member of the Blues Brothers.

Alternate gift: The Wireless Canary. If you're the type of geek who pulls out his laptop everywhere, hoping to glom on to a wireless signal and cruise the Web, the Canary Wireless Digital Hotspotter — a $50, credit card-sized device — will allow you to find all the open Wi-Fi signals. You can scout out all the spots around town where you and your laptop can find free Internet service. So what if you're leaning sideways against your neighbors' back door?

4. For the Obsessive Dieter: Bathtub Aerobics
Working out is now as easy as taking a bath. MTI Whirlpools' Jentle Tread hydrotherapy tub uses the passive resistance of gushing water to give you the ultimate low-impact workout. Wrap your hands around the tub's grab bars and move your arms, legs and body against the force of super-strong jets.

At $11,000, it's not the cheapest workout. But family membership at some gyms can cost several thousand dollars a year, and the Jentle Tread whirlpool removes the No. 1 excuse for not working out, "I didn't have time to get to the gym." Instead, you have a daily excuse for hour-long baths.

5. For Mr. Fix-It: Duct-Tape Fashion
Here's a gift that's sure to stick with you. It's no secret that when anything breaks, duct tape is a man's best friend. Now, the sticky stuff wrapped around your plumbing has been crafted into wallets, purses and sporty watches.'s $32 Chaparral handbag comes with a silver chain and expandable cloth liner, the perfect accessory for a little black dress. Billfolds start at $21 and water-resistant quartz watches with duct-tape wristbands go for $65. Just to prove duct tape really works on everything, check out this warranty:

"If your Ducti ever wears out or you're not totally stoked for any reason, we'll hook you up with a new one. Simply send your old Ducti back to us (no receipt required) and we'll send you a brand new one … Yes, this is for real!"

Ducti is hoping to appeal to the fashion needs of leather-loathing animal rights activists yet still cater to trailblazing fashionistas. Coming this spring: The duct-tape mini skirt. It's stain-resistant and never needs ironing!

6. For the Hypochondriac: The Thermometer Pen
Is there someone who warms your heart, yet always seems to have a cold? Unleash the obsessive compulsive inclinations of that special hypochondriac in your life with a clinical thermometer pen (also called a "healthy pen"), allowing him to take his temperature all day long.

With prices starting at $20, offers a wide variety of digital and analog thermometers, both for body temperature and room temperature. Pull off the bottom, stick a healthy pen in your mouth, and you'll know if you're running a temperature.

Pens with thermometers you stick somewhere else are not yet available, but to be on the safe side, you might think twice before you borrow a healthy pen from a stranger.

7. For the Dad Who's Always Changing Bulbs: Forever Lights
Guess who forgot to turn out the lights last night? If your dad is a light bulb martyr, always complaining about having to get on a ladder to change burned-out bulbs, his whining is about to end. has introduced a new light bulb that will burn for 50,000 hours. You can leave it on eight hours a day for 20 years and it will still be shining. The bulb is based on LED technology, making it similar to the sort of bulb found in traffic lights, but uses about the same amount of electricity as ordinary household lights. Popular Science magazine recently named the Enlux Floodlight as one of the top 10 tech innovations for 2004.

At $79 a bulb, the Enlux Floodlight isn't cheap. But look on the bright side: Turn it off once in a while and it has an excellent chance of outliving everyone in your family, even your kids. So when it finally burns out, it'll be someone else's problem.

8. For the Kid Who Never Calls Home: A Virtual Phone Number
The one question nobody wants to hear on a family holiday: "Why don't you call more often?" College kids are always good with coming up with excuses. The easiest: No money for long-distance calls.

Indeed, if you're going to school far away from home, phone bills can add up. But here's a way for parents to remove that excuse — get a broadband phone service and create what's known as a "virtual phone number" in whatever area code you want.

Let's say you live in New York (area code 212) and your kid goes to school in Miami (area code 305). You can set up your kid with a broadband telephone (that's a phone that connects via the Internet) and a 212 number. This way, you and your child can call each other all you want, without racking up long-distance bills.

Vonage offers broadband phone service with virtual numbers for less than $25 a month, and holiday gift certificates are available.

Indeed, in the age of the Internet, kids will have to come up with better excuses not to call home. Of course, they can always hit up mom and dad for a better computer and a better Internet service. Without those things, a broadband phone won't work.

Either way, the message home is the same: Send money.

9. For the Frustrated Golfer: A Glass Putter
Is dad throwing his golf clubs again? It's not your place to tell him to grow up. Here's something even better — a handmade glass golf club, a conversation piece that really works.

Pros such as Gary Murphy and Derek Snowdon have made glass putters very trendy, and they were approved by the United States Golf Association last year for tournament play. offers a club crafted from cobalt blue glass. The $198 putter is said to rank up there with traditional metal equipment, and can be custom-made to order for various lengths and for lefty players.

Your dad might be shattered if his game doesn't improve, but the club probably won't. It's highly durable, and it's just too beautiful to bash against the greens, no matter how easy a shot he's blown.

10: For a Snoring Spouse: A Sleep Posture Pillow
Snoring has pushed many marriages to the brink. Dr. Larry Cole of Tennessee says he has the answer — a pillow shaped like the number 9 that curls in just the right place to give your body the support it needs for better rest and less snoring.

The unusual curve of the Sleep Posture Pillow — available on the doctor's Web site for $40 — cradles your neck to reduce back pain.

If that doesn't work, there are other options. For women who've given up on putting up with a snoring man, a Japanese company has developed the "Boyfriend's Arm Pillow" — which consists of a headless torso and a stuffed arm that curls around the sleeper.

"I like to sleep holding someone's hand," Junko Suzuki, 34, told Reuters shortly after the pillow was released in Japan. "And this pillow makes me feel relaxed because I can hold the arm and feel something warm at my side."

Now available over the Internet from online stores like Della's Place (, we will soon see if the male species will be replaced by a $99 piece of foam rubber.

Buck Wolf is entertainment producer at The Wolf Files is published Tuesdays.