ONCE AGAIN WE ARE proud to present our annual Holiday Gift Guide -- the gift guide that has been helping holiday shoppers find just the right gift for the past 2,000 years.
That is correct: This is the same gift guide that was consulted by the original Three Kings, who, following our recommendations, went to Bethlehem bearing gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. These gifts were big hits, except for the frankincense and the myrrh, which turn out to be gum resins. This is not really what people are looking for in a gift. People rarely say: "You know what I really hope to receive this holiday season? Gum resins!"
As always, every item is real. These are gifts you can actually buy or make. Here we go:
1. Do-it-yourself Pokemon cards
Pokemon is, of course, the name of the latest craze for youngsters. Pokemon -- the name comes from the Japanese phrase meaning "huge profits through nagging" -- is based on a cast of cartoon monsters featured on products, the hottest of which are trading cards. Walk into just about any store in America, and you'll hear voices whining, "Please can I have some Pokemon trading cards. C'mon, please please please please please if you don't give me some Pokemon cards now I'm gonna lie on the floor and scream!!"
And those are the parents. They're desperate for these cards, because their kids want them more than anything. We here at the Holiday Gift Guide have come up with the perfect solution: Make your own Pokemon cards! Here's all you do:
* Ask your child what Pokemon card he or she would like. Your child will name a card featuring a character such as Charizard, which is very rare.
* Get some cardboard. Cut out a rectangle the size of a Pokemon card.
* Draw on the card a picture of what you think Charizard would look like. Also write the words "Official Pokemon Card" on the top. (Note: We checked with our Legal Department about this, and they assured us we do not have a Legal Department.)
* Put the card in a box, wrap it, and write "A VERY SPECIAL GIFT FOR A VERY SPECIAL POKEMON FAN" on the outside. Imagine the look on your child's face when he or she opens the box and sees -- instead of some product manufactured by strangers -- a gift made by a loving parent! Ha ha!
2. Personal cooling system
$49 plus shipping and handling from the Sharper Image, P.O. Box 7031, San Francisco, Calif. 94120; phone 800-344-4444; Internet: www. sharperimage.com.
(Suggested by Jeanne Zornes of Wenatchee, Wis.)
We can all agree that there is nothing worse than having to leave an air-conditioned building on a sweltering summer day. Just imagine if you could step out onto the sidewalk wearing an actual air conditioner around your neck! But it would be unpleasant, because air conditioners weigh hundreds of pounds.
So instead of an air conditioner, consider the Personal Cooling System. This device uses a few ounces of water and a small battery-powered fan, yet -- amazingly -- it will cool your entire body! This is assuming that your entire body is the size of a bratwurst. If you're a normal human, this device will cool a small portion of your neck.
3. Trail boss Western-style cowperson hard hat
$25 plus shipping and handling from Forestry Suppliers Inc., P.O. Box 8397, Jackson, Miss. 39284-8397; phone 800-647-5368, fax 800-543-4203; Internet: www.forestry-suppliers.com.
(Suggested by Joe Galvin of Murrysville, Pa.)
This is the ultimate gift idea if you are thinking about giving somebody a hard hat. It is made of genuine high-impact plastic, yet styled to look like the hats worn by "rip-tootin' cowpokers."
Just imagine what would happen if the lucky construction worker on your list showed up at the job site wearing this hat! We are sure the other construction workers would shout "Yippee-yi-o," among other remarks.
$54.95 plus shipping and handling from Strength Systems Inc., P.O. Box 73190, Metairie, La. 70033-3190; phone 800-451-JUMP (5867); Internet: www.strength-systems. com.
(Suggested by Pam Spencer of Klamath Falls, Ore.)
This item is a small parachute designed to be attached by a belt to a runner. This is a precaution in case the runner ever falls out of an airplane.
No, I am kidding. The real reason is to provide wind resistance, which, according to the manufacturer, will "improve your speed, acceleration and endurance."
5. Astral projection kit
This is $24.95 plus shipping and handling from Pacific Spirit/Whole Life Products, 1334 Pacific Ave., Forest Grove, Ore. 97116; phone 800-634-9057, fax 503-357-1669; Internet: www.mystictrader.com.
(Suggested by Dan and Cheryl Edmonds of Deland, Fla.)
This kit consists of a tape and a book that teach you "the secrets and step-by-step procedures for safely and easily leaving your body temporarily while exploring the dimensions beyond." We think it's a great idea because there are plenty of situations in which it would be handy to leave your body temporarily. During prostate examinations, for example.
6. Security Bear
This is $214.99 plus shipping and handling from Cabela's, 1 Cabela Drive, Sidney, Neb. 69160; phone 800-237-4444, fax 800-496-6329; Internet: www.cabelas.com.
Here's an important fact for everybody concerned about crime: According to FBI statistics, not one person in the United States has ever been assaulted while under the protection of a bear.
That's why we're so excited about this concept -- a 5-foot replica of a bear made from natural, realistic foam. It was designed to be a practice target for hunters.
But we think a better use for this is as a security device. It's lightweight and comes in three easy-to-assemble pieces, making it a breeze to carry. Imagine walking through a bad neighborhood and realizing some criminal element is stalking you. Show this device and then laugh as their confidence turns to alarm ("Scram! He or she has a three-piece bear!")
7. Jumbo roll of toilet paper
This is $87.45 (6 rolls) plus shipping and handling from Rest Room World, P.O. Box 1333, Pleasantville, N.J. 08232; phone 800-257-8557, fax 609-641-7766.
(Suggested by Mitch Mitchum of Astoria, Ore., and Jody Nye of Wauconda, Ill.)
Does your gift list include a Martha Stewart -- the kind of person who has elegant parties where every detail is just right? If so, here is the perfect gift: An industrial-size roll of toilet paper, packing two thousand feet of two-ply tissue.
This paper is also Y2K compliant and makes an excellent gift for survivalists.
8. Brain Gum
This is $60 plus shipping and handling from Self Care Catalog, 104 Challenger Drive, Portland, Tenn. 37148-1716; phone 800-345-3371, fax 800-345-4021; Internet: www.selfcare.com.
(Suggested by Deborah Jones of Lexington, Ky.)
How many times have you smacked yourself in the forehead and said: "Dang it! I wish I was smarter!" And then you have to be taken to the hospital, because when you smacked yourself, you were holding a hammer?
If that sounds like you, or somebody on your list, we have the gift for you! Chewing gum that can actually raise your IQ. How is this possible? Here is a quote from the promotional materials: "Brain Gum improves cognitive functions by restoring a healthy level of PhosphatidylSerine in the brain."
We don't know about you, but when we see a word that big, we know it must be highly scientific.
9. Solar Cool Hat
This is $25 plus shipping and handling; no credit card orders. For ordering information, call 877-COOLHAT (266-5428).
(Suggested by David Satterfield of Miami, Fla.)
This hat, invented by Doris Gracia, a grandmother from Moody, Ala., is an ingenious way to keep cool. The hat is silver on top to reflect the sun, with a place inside for water. Put the hat in your freezer until the water turns to ice; then put the hat on your head and -- voila! The Birmingham News did a story about this invention, quoting Gracia's grandson as saying that wearing the Cool Hat "feels like cold rocks."
10. Toolbox Christmas and Toolbox Classics
These are $14.98 plus shipping and handling from Gourd Music, P.O. Box 585, Felton, Calif. 95018; phone 831-425-4939, fax 831-459-7450; Internet: www.gourd.com. (Also available from Amazon. com, Internet: www.amazon. com)
(Suggested by Ken Gallant of Viola, Idaho)
These two CDs feature music performed on hand and power tools by Woody Phillips, a musician and woodworker.
On "Toolbox Christmas," Woody uses hammers, drills, 50-gallon drums and other items to perform such favorites as "Jingle Bells" and "Joy to the World."
On "Toolbox Classics," Woody performs the works of such composers as Mozart, Bach and Beethoven. Tragically, power tools had not been invented when these men were alive, so they were never able to hear Woody. Perhaps they are listening now, up in heaven. Perhaps this is why our weather has been so extreme.