Every year at this time, it's de rigueur for magazines and newspapers, and yes, columnists, to compile their lists of "must have" gifts. There are several reasons for this, not the least of which is that, journalistically speaking, it's low hanging fruit. After all, if you're looking to fill column inches with crowd pleasing material, why not appeal to greed, desire, selfishness and envy, the emotions that make the world go round.
For the careful writer, it means surveying all the new product offerings of the past year, critically reading reviews, checking satisfaction scores and doing all other manner of due diligence. However, if you're me, that's way too much trouble. And so you wait until all the publications do all the legwork and print their year end lists, and then cherry pick from there. Throw in a quick look at a Target circular, check what's trending on EBay and voila! Before your editor can say "deadline" you have "The Ten Things You Hope You Find Under The Tree/Bush/Wreath/Candleholder/Microwave."
There's just one problem this year: there's nothing I want.
That's not to say there aren't all manner of shiny and interesting things out there. It's just that it all seems to be more of the same. Either my tastes have gotten more discriminating (not likely) or my wallet has gotten tighter (more likely) or the "wow" factor ain't so wow any more (most likely), but I find myself looking at this year's offerings with a certain amount interest but not an equal amount of yearning. It's kind of like "Skyfall," the latest James Bond offering. It's not that there's anything wrong with it. It's just that when 007 started, he was the only game in town. Now, between the "Mission: Impossible" and "Bourne" franchises, plus innumerable other hard charging and spectacular films from "Star Wars" to "Lord of the Rings" to the Batman flicks, you have to do more to make an impression. A gun that reads your fingerprints? A construction crane ripping up a train? An underground subway crash? Ho Hum. Is that all you got? I'm going for popcorn.
Wasn't that long ago that Best Buy made us all drool with images of flat screen TV's. Or Apple showed us what a smartphone could be. Or Cabbage Patch made dolls that caused parents to have fist fights in the aisles. Now, even the cars with giant bows on them all look the same. Remember when Neiman Marcus had their special holiday catalog, and had one, iconic gift that knocked your socks off, something like a trained and monogrammed tarantula? Now, the top gift listed is a pair of his and her watches (admittedly gold and diamond) with animated faces and a trip to the factory that made them. Yawn.
Take Wired magazine. Every year they round up some of the most interesting gift possibilities out there, describing them as "jaw-dropping new gadgets, tools and toys to give and get this holiday season." Usually it's a treasure trove of stuff, at least some of which seems highly covetable. And so this year I made it a point to go to their special New York City store in Soho, and see the list in the flesh.
I wandered around, looking at the supposedly must-haves. There's a Leica camera that only takes black and white photos. Interesting, but for $8000? Going more downscale, a Wawabot water bottle is BPA-free, but other than a do-it-yourself design on the face, much like other bottles and more expensive starting at $25. And does anyone really need another Furby, Hasboro's little tribble-esque doll that speaks in Furbish and now has LCD animated eyes? Sure, this one has its own interactive iPhone App. But these days so do house plants.
Yes, I liked the Nerf Hail-Fire Blaster that fires up to 144 foam slugs before requiring a reload. The Obsessive Chef cutting board engraved with a grid and angles so my dicing will be perfect appeals to my sense of order. And for cheekiness I liked Finn Magee's picture of a desk light that lights up like a real light. They have a picture of a clock too. And yes, it tells time.
But all in, I'm OK without. I'll happily settle for some peanut butter cups. Or maybe a dozen donuts would be a fun treat. As for durable goods, however, I think I'm good. There is, however, one thing I'd like to get from Santa: no bills.
Marc Wollin of Bedford has enough stuff. His column appears regularly in The Record-Review, The Scarsdale Inquirer and online at http://www.glancingaskance.blogspot.com/.