I’ve always enjoyed Conan O’Brien’s “Clueless Gamer” video game reviews. The following is a column I wrote for the local paper inspired by O’Brien’s bit, but in the context of Christmas shopping. The links to each item are included, for the most part, not to promote the products, but to prove to you that they actually exist.

I am a clueless consumer. If there is a new trend in holiday shopping this year, I am guaranteed to find out about it sometime after Valentine’s Day.

Until very recently, I thought a “pillow pet” was a particularly abhorrent strain of bed bug, and, even though I lived through the ’90s, I am still not 100-percent clear on what a Furby is. (If it’s a rabbit, then why does it have a beak? If it’s an owl, where are its wings, and what is with the ears?)

Perhaps you feel the same way, and are just as lost as I am. And that’s OK. This is the holiday season, after all, a time of joy and good cheer, of hot cider and crackling fires, of sharing one’s home with friends and family, and of bravely attempting to wade through a massive, ritualistic exchange of gifts for vaguely defined cultural and quasi-religious reasons.

It’s now December, which means the holiday season is officially and inescapably upon us, bearing down like a right jolly old pack of mutant werewolf zombies wielding garroting ribbons and sharpened candy canes. And clueless or not, we have to get our acts together.

But never fear. For I have access to the Internet, and I will cheerfully guide you through what all the experts predict will be this year’s hottest gift items.


Age: 3 and up

Item: Disney Frozen Snow Glow Elsa Doll

Price: $35-$40

This is a blonde, baby-like doll that is vaguely reminiscent of Elsa, the ice-generating supervillain and queen regnant from the Disney animated film “Frozen.”

The doll sings, says 15 different phrases, and has eyes that light up, all of which — the toy experts assure me — is cute, rather than terrifying. Comes complete with a “little buddy” named Olaf, which is, evidently, some sort of anthropomorphic beaver made out of snow.

Age: 5 and up

Item: Zoomer Dino

Price: $80

This is an interactive model of a Tyrannosaurus Rex, except instead of feet it has caster wheels, sort of like an office chair. Its product description touts its “real dinosaur movements and sounds.” It even burps and farts! Because, obviously, when a manufacturer designs a toy on the premise of a roller skate-mounted dinosaur, you know realism is a top priority. I believe the wheel design was based on a groundbreaking new study by a team of paleontologists at Virginia Tech.


Item: Smarter iKettle Wifi Electric Kettle

Price: $150

This is a kettle (a metal pot designed for the sole purpose of boiling water) that is electrically powered and can be controlled remotely via an app downloaded on your mobile device. It even has a wake-up timer, “welcome home” setting and other features. As near as I can tell, you still have to — at some point — actually get up off of the couch to retrieve the water that this marvelous device has heated (though maybe you can get your kid to train his or her Zoomer Dino to fetch it for you). I believe the only thing more useless than the product itself is the fact that it also comes in different colors.

Item: Pebble Steel Smart Watch

Price: $200

When I was in school, we used to make fun of the kids who wore those bulky calculator watches. I’ve always been of the firm opinion that the only appropriate purpose of a watch is to tell time, unless you’re James Bond, in which case your watch may also hide a secret compartment that holds a poison antidote, or fires a laser that can cut through handcuffs. Guess the joke’s on me.

Item: Adidas miCoach Smart Ball

Price: $200

This is a smart ball. A. Smart. Ball. … It’s basically a soccer ball … with a charger and a plug. And it costs $200.



Item: Shaving thing

Price: Varies

The common thread in all of the gift lists for men is that they contain an inordinate number of shaving things. They might be a top-of-the-line electric shaving thing, like Sharper Image’s 19-Setting Beard Trimmer (retail $100), or an old-school, straight-razor kind of shaving thing, like Sephora’s The Art of Shaving brush and cream set (somehow more expensive, at $120), but odds are, any list you find will have at least one shaving thing on it. I find this even more baffling than Zoomer Dino. Apparently, the fervent, secret desire of men other than myself is to own a fancy shaving thing that costs more than $5.

Either that, or the human race is only just now awakening to the fact that men grow hair on their faces, and are, thus, in dire need of a means of trimming said hair.


Item: Picnic Backpack (No. 2 on this list)

Price: $80

Because nothing says “I love you” like making your special lady carry your food on her back.

Cross-posted with the Woodburn Independent.

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