The Wolf Files' Offbeat Holiday Gift Guide

The Ultimate Pogo Stick, Tony Hawk's HelmetCam and the ButtKicker


Dec. 16, 2005 —  Let's forget the highly politicized issue of whether to greet others with "Happy Holidays" or "Have a Merry Christmas-Hanukkah-Kwanzaa-New-Year's-Boxing-Day-and-Festivus." Let's get to the more important issues: What do you want? And what do you need to buy?

If you're looking to please those hard-to-please grouches, here once again is The Wolf Files' annual list of holiday gifts:

1. Ultimate Pogo: The Flybar 1200 is not your father's pogo stick. Designed by skateboard star Andy Macdonald, the 12 rubber thrusters allow riders to take five-foot bounces through the air — and hopefully not land on their butts.

Of course, there are lower settings, so that your little daredevil won't put a dent in your ceiling — or his skull. On sale at $250, the Flybar has become one of's biggest holiday hits.

2. Extreme Camcorders: What's the point of bouncing off walls on your new pogo stick, skateboard or dirt bike if you can't videotape your hot-dogging exploits? The $99 Tony Hawk HelmetCam — a lightweight digital camera that attaches to your helmet — makes up to 40 minutes of incredible sports video.

Available at Digital Blue, the HelmetCam weighs less than a half-pound and runs on two AAA batteries. If you don't bike or board, strap the HelmetCam to your dog and when the pooch runs around, you'll understand why a dog's life is completely under-rated.

3. iPod Fashion: Contemporary women now recall the good old days when visible panty lines were all they had to hide. The latest fashion faux pas is having unsightly wires sticking out of your ear.

Even headbands have gone high-tech. Designer Steffi Thomas is introducing the Swapset — the first headband with built-in channels for cell phones, iPods and MP3 players, with prices starting at $25.

Another alternative is Oakley's Thump-2 sunglasses equipped with an MP-3 player that holds up to 1 GB of memory. That's hours of music with full UV protection at prices starting under $300.

But the perfect gift for the person who always forgets to charge his electronics is Reware's Juice Bag — a $200 backpack equipped with flexible solar panels that can power almost any 12-volt device in two to four hours, using just a car charger adapter and the power of the sun.

The Juice Bag, one of Ideal Bite's top holiday picks, hit the market in June. Users say you don't need tropical sun for a good charge. This eco-friendly backpack works all over the country, and in all seasons, though moving to Las Vegas in July can't hurt.

4. The SleepTracker Watch: Ever wonder why you're groggy some mornings, no matter how many hours of shut-eye you get? Often, your alarm rings while you're in that sweet state of heavy sleep. The SleepTracker — a $150 watch with motion sensors — is designed to end those rude awakenings by waiting until you're in a lighter state of sleep before it rings.

At night, you just program SleepTracker with an acceptable window of time in which it needs to wake you up, and it'll wait for the best moment to give you a nudge. SleepTracker is not a medical device, but Time magazine named it one of the "Coolest Inventions of 2005."

If you and your spouse both wear a SleepTracker, you can compare sleep logs and test your compatibility. Are you waking each other up? Does your midnight snoring keep your partner awake? This is the watch that might tell you it's time for a divorce.

5. The Piano Video Game: Once your kids get hooked on Grand Theft Auto, is there any hope they'll play the grand piano? While many computer programs teach music, Piano Wizard Premier turns anything from Bach to Billy Joel into a video game in which you'll be guiding a rocket ship with a color-coated keyboard, while picking out a tune and learning chord progressions. Any song in MIDI format can be imported into this $150 system (keyboard included). You may find your Pac-Man is a budding Piano Man.

6. The ButtKicker (and Sore Butt Reliever): Teenagers are apparently not too old to get a little rattle for Christmas. One of the hottest holiday gifts is "The ButtKicker" — a $150 video game accessory that clamps to your chair and allows you to feel the noise when you play your favorite game, thanks to the power of a 100-watt amplifier and low-frequency transducer, so powerful it actually shakes you. Play an action shooting game like "Counter-Strike" and you might even feel like you're actually getting some exercise.

If your high-powered pogo stick and butt-kicking video games has left you aching, you may want to check out the uZap — a $200 message belt that straps on to your arms, legs or back. This portable masseur, now available at, can give you a rubdown just about anywhere.

7. Mosquito-Repellent Apparel: Your favorite sportsman probably has a collection of shirts that attract more flies than women. Finally, we have sportswear that promises to have the opposite effect. L.L. Bean, Orvis and Oxford Golf are now offering BUZZ OFF — the first insect repellent garments registered with the Environmental Protection Agency.

BUZZ OFF shirts, hats and pants and other items come with Permethrin — a man-made version of a repellent found in chrysanthemums — bonded into the material. The active ingredient will stay in a $40 polo shirt even through 25 washings, allowing outdoorsmen a good chance of catching something other than Lyme disease.

8: The Ear Drier: It can be so painful to watch someone you love step out of a pool banging on the side of his tilted head as if there's a loose part rattling in his brain. Clearly, water trapped in your ear canal is no laughing matter, and that's why Sahara offers the latest in personal grooming — DryEar — a $100 electronic device that tackles the dreaded condition we call swimmer's ear.

9. The Washable Computer Keyboard: If you're a germ-phobe, you've probably heard of the University of Arizona study that found the typical desktop has 400 times more bacteria than the average toilet. One reason: Most computer keyboards can't be cleaned, yet so many office workers eat lunch at their desks.

You don't need to be a neat freak to appreciate the Unotron Washable Keyboard, a $62 device that just dares you to spill coffee over it each day when you arrive at work. Unotron's spill-seal technology makes it the only keyboard that you can take into the shower, and the company now offers an equally squeaky clean mouse.

10: The Speaker Phone Mouse Pad: Tired of interruptions? Maximo's Mouse Pad Speaker Phone allows you to screen callers and speak on the phone as you cruise the Internet. This $29 mouse pad, available at J.C. Penney, comes with a built-in keypad, caller ID display, and speakerphone. You should just hope that three months from now, the person you give this to will still take your calls.

11: The Chocolate Fountain: We all know what happened to Agustus Gloop in "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory." Still, think of the fondue fun you can have in your own home, dunking strawberries into the cascading torrent created by Rival's $60 Chocolate Fountain, available at Kohl's. Just beware the Oompa Loompas.

12: Personalized Diaper Bags and Wall Murals: Don't you know someone whose face deserves to be on a diaper bag? In the age of digital photography, companies will help you put your image on almost anything. will turn treasured photos into anything, with prints on a silk scarf starting at $120.

You can also take a stab at fine art. The designers at will enhance your favorite photos to resemble oil paintings, watercolor collages or even Andy Warhol-style pop art concoctions. The finished work is printed on gallery-quality canvas and framed at prices that start at $50 for a framed 12-by-12-inch portrait.

If you really want to make a big impression, PhotoFiddle can even turn your family photo into a huge 24-foot-wide, six-foot-high wall mural. That'll cost $2,200, but if you get the urge this holiday to blow up your entire family, this is your best bet.

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