Back by popular demand (which means I liked it, and a couple of other people did, too) is the “Clueless Consumer,” my annual stroll through some of the weirdest and, in some cases, most terrifying items that are topping the wish lists of the young and old this year.

If, as your kids, grandkids or adult family members are opening their presents in the next couple days, you find yourself scratching your head and wondering, “What the heck is that, anyway?” (or maybe just, “Why??”), rest easy and read on. The answer probably awaits.



Star Wars Bladebuilder Jedi Master Lightsaber
Ages 4 and up
Price: $49.99

This is a set of toys that looks suspiciously like hose splitters, connectors and other home garden irrigation equipment (hmm…) except that it’s more expensive and less useful. Actually, it’s a “build your own lightsaber” kit, which purports to contain the components necessary to create over 100 different combinations to fit your budding Jedi Knight/MacGyver’s needs.

But, think about it: Do we really want to be conditioning our kids to swap lightsaber blades in and out like they are some kind of harmless plaything? Why, if they ever find themselves up against a Sith Lord, their first instinct will be to grasp his weapon with both hands.

They’ll wind up like poor Luke Skywalker at the end of “The Empire Strikes Back,” and those cybernetic hands ain’t cheap. Thanks a lot, Hasbro.

Little Live Pets Clever Keet
Ages 5 and up
Price: $44.99

Every Christmas, toy manufacturers come out with some new kind of electrified, animatronic beastie hoping to create a craze. A few years ago, it was those little hamster things with wheels, quickly followed by versions that wore plastic battle armor and “knew” kung fu.

Back in my day, it was Furby, these weird, Gizmo-looking owl/rabbit creatures that combined the joy of having an imaginary friend with the fun of not being able to understand a word it said.

This year, it’s Clever Keet, an interactive bird toy that does various birdlike things. I don’t know — maybe it’s just me, but ever since I started living on a farm, I find it difficult to imagine having fun pretending to feed and take care of an animal.

It’s the same feeling I get watching my daughter “mother” her baby dolls. Just you wait, kid. Parenting is no game. You’ll see.

Meccano MeccaNoid G15
Ages 10-14
Price: $99.99

This one just makes me uncomfortable. Trying to create robot slaves is exactly what has caused the machines to turn on us in every dystopian science fiction movie ever made, and Arnold Schwarzenegger is not always going to be around to protect us.


FitBit Charge HR Wireless Activity Wristband
Price: $149.95 ($20 on Craigslist after everyone has abandoned their New Year’s resolutions halfway through January)

Wristband-mounted fitness trackers are all the rage this year, and FitBit is one of the most popular. If you, like me, had no idea that such things existed, think about the most irritating and pointless things about getting a physical in a doctor’s office, and then imagine all of those things being done to you constantly via a device that is attached to your arm. As far as I can tell, that’s what having a FitBit is like.

I’m married to an RN, so more personal health information is the last thing I want. I don’t need some computer to tell me how bad I am at fitness and exercise, thank you very much. That’s what the Tyler-shaped depression in my couch is for.

Samsung Gear Virtual Reality Headset
Price: $99.99

For that hard-to-shop-for loved one who prefers to look at things that appear ultra-realistic and three-dimensional, but would rather not just go outside and see those same things in real life.

Oh, and who also has a Galaxy S6 phone.


Kikkerland BQ01 Portable BBQ Suitcase
Price: $75.99

I consider myself a fairly decent explainer of things, but there’s nothing I can add to the description of this item beyond just telling you what it’s called. It’s a suitcase that is also a barbecue; that’s simply what it is.

I always think it’s fun to imagine where ideas like this come from. I would guess this one emerged out of a failed Hollywood focus group that was trying to recast super-spy James Bond as a more family-friendly, domesticated chap, but still with the requisite gadgetry. In their version, 007’s watch probably hid Kleenexes and Hello Kitty Band-Aids instead of laser beams and wire garrotes.

Price: Varies

I browsed a lot of women’s Christmas lists for this column, and every single one of them had at least one cookbook. That’s right, even in our supposedly enlightened and liberated day and age. For comparison’s sake, I also reviewed a lot of men’s gift lists, and none of them had cookbooks — unless you count the instruction manual that comes with the barbecue suitcase.

This one baffles me more than the Clever Keet. If you’re looking to put your woman in her place, why not save some money and just give her a note that says “Cook my dinner”?

Here’s a better idea: Buy yourself the dang cookbook and make some meals for her, for a change.

Or, hey — steal your kid’s MeccaNoid and force it to cook for both of you.

Cross-posted with the Woodburn Independent.

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