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Published Sunday, November 28, 1999, in the Miami Herald


Your loved ones are sure to say 'you shouldn't have!'


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 consecutive 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. All of these gifts were big hits, except for the frankincense and the myrrh, which turn out, when you look them up in the dictionary, 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!"

But despite that early setback, the Holiday Gift Guide has grown over the centuries to become what it is today: The world's leading source of unusual gift ideas that sane people would never think of on their own.

Best of Dave Barry's Holiday Gift Guide
We are frequently asked: "How do you put out such a high-quality guide, year after year?" Believe us, it is not easy. A LOT of labor went into the Gift Guide that you are now holding in your hands. The process began seven months ago in the vast forests of the Pacific Northwest, where large hairy men, using powerful saws, cut down a group of majestic trees that had been growing since the very earliest episodes of Days of Our Lives. These trees were cut into logs and hauled to a mill, where they were fed into huge violent machines that ground them into wood pulp, which was then rolled, dried, cut into pieces and served to the public as airline snacks.

No! Sorry! The wood pulp was turned into paper, which was then shipped to your newspaper, which for some reason that we cannot begin to fathom chose to print this Holiday Gift Guide on it.

Yes, it's a big job, but we think you'll agree it's well worth it when you see the quality of the gift items that we have assembled for you, with the help of our busy staff of "elves." (We use actual elves, because they eat less than humans and are not protected by the labor laws. In fact, we have our own Elf Breeding Facility.)

As always, every item in the Holiday Gift Guide is real. These are all gifts that you can actually buy or make yourself. We know this, because WE bought or made them all and have thoroughly tested them by letting them sit around our office for weeks. That is why we are able to offer you the traditional:


If you purchase any of the items featured in this Gift Guide, and you are, for any reason whatsoever, such as sudden unexpected death, not 100 percent satisfied with the item, simply put the item into an ironclad box along with a threatening letter and send it to the Holiday Gift Guide Refund Office, c/o the White House, Washington, D.C., and we guarantee that within five working days boy will YOU be in trouble.

OK! Now that we have the "legal technicalities" out of the way, let's get to the 1999 Holiday Gift Guide! Our first item is one that is bound to be a real "life saver" for you parents out there who would like to "save a few bucks" this holiday season on gifts for your younger children:


With homemade Pokemon cards, your kid will be the school bully's favorite pal.
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 cute cartoon "monsters" whose images are featured on a wide variety of products, the hottest of which are trading cards. Walk into just about any store in America, and you'll hear a chorus of annoying 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 in the world. The trading is fierce: Certain rare cards are viewed as so valuable that kids are getting into fights over them at school. Lawsuits are being filed. It's only a matter of time before Al Gore proposes some kind of massive federal Pokemon program.

All of this spells trouble for you parents as we approach the holiday gift season. Your youngster is definitely going to want certain desirable Pokemon cards. But so is every OTHER youngster. Supplies are limited. There are going to be too many desperate parents battling for too few Pokemon cards. It's a recipe for disaster -- potentially far worse than the tragedy that struck last year when 141 adults died in a riot at a Toys R Us following a rumor (later proved false) that the store had received a shipment of one Furby.

So what's a parent to do? We here at the Holiday Gift Guide have come up with what we think is the perfect solution . . . You can make your OWN Pokemon cards! It's simple and easy! Here's all you do:

1. Ask your child what Pokemon card he or she would really like to have. Your child will probably name a card featuring a character such as "Charizard," which is very rare.

2. Get some shirt cardboard.

3. Cut out a rectangle the size of a Pokemon card.

4. Using a pen or marker, draw on the card a picture of what you think "Charizard" would look like. Also write the words "Official Pokemon Card" on the top, as shown in the photograph. (Note: We checked with the folks in our Legal Department about this, and they assured us that we do not have a Legal Department.)

5. Put the card in a big box, wrap it, and write "A VERY SPECIAL GIFT FOR A VERY SPECIAL POKEMON FAN" on the outside.

Imagine the look of surprise on your child's face when he or she opens the box and sees -- instead of some impersonal product manufactured by strangers -- a gift that was made by hand by a loving parent! Ha ha! This is bound to be a moment that both you and your child will remember always, no matter how many years you both spend in therapy.

BONUS HOLIDAY GIFT TIP FOR PARENTS: If you're planning to give your teenager any clothing items this year, you can make those items more fashionable and "hep" by writing the words "Tommy Hilfiger" on them with a marking pen.

OK! We've taken care of the gifts for the members of the "younger set." Now let's take a look at the exciting gift ideas we're suggesting for the grown-ups on your list.


You'll never rat out your friends to the heat with your Personal Cooling System.
$49 plus shipping and handling from The Sharper Image, PO Box 7031, San Francisco, Calif. 94120, phone 1-800-344-4444, Internet:

Suggested by
Jeanne Zornes
of Wenatchee, Wash.

We can all agree that there is nothing in the entire world worse than having to leave an air-conditioned building on a sweltering hot summer day. So just imagine what it would be like if you could step out onto the sidewalk wearing an actual air conditioner around your neck!

It would be very unpleasant, because air conditioners weigh hundreds of pounds. It would be like having Gov. Jesse Ventura clinging to your upper body. You'd stagger a few steps and collapse. Eventually you'd be eaten by sidewalk ants.

So instead of an actual air conditioner, you should consider this Personal Cooling System. This is a small device that looks sort of like the thing that Robocop wears over his eyes, except that you wear it around the back of your neck. It 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.

But hey, it's better than nothing. That's why we think this would be the ideal gift for everybody on your holiday list who needs personal temperature relief. We're thinking of, for example, a fashion model who works under hot runway lights, or a career criminal who frequently undergoes police interrogation. A pair of these devices would also be great "his 'n' her" gifts for a bride and groom who want to remain cool and comfortable while exchanging their wedding vows.

In short, this is the perfect gift for anybody who has a neck and is not afraid to make the bold fashion statement: "I'm wearing an odd-looking whirring device."


If Mozart had power tools, there's no telling how great his music might have been.
$14.98 plus shipping and handling from Gourd Music, PO Box 585, Felton, Calif. 95018, phone 1-831-425-4939, fax 1-831-459-7450, Internet: (Also available from, Internet:

Suggested by Ken Gallant
of Viola, Idaho

Here are two gift ideas that are bound to make the music lover on your holiday gift list bend over and emit fluids of joy. These two CDs feature music performed on hand and power tools by Woody Phillips, a musician and woodworker.

On Tool Box Christmas, Woody uses hammers, saws, drills, pipes, 50-gallon drums, ratchets, anvils, nailers and other items found in the workshop to perform such Christmas favorites as Jingle Bells, Joy to the World and Good King Wenceslas. This CD also features Deck the Halls, which we imagine Woody could probably play while building an actual deck.

On Toolbox Classics, Woody performs the works of various great dead composers including Wagner, Mozart, Bach and Beethoven. Tragically, power tools had not been invented when these men were alive, so they were never able to hear the kind of thing that Woody has done to their music. But perhaps they are listening now, up in Heaven. Perhaps this is why our weather has been so extreme.


The Security Bear is guaranteed to terrify and/or devour all intruders.
$214.99 plus shipping and handling from Cabela's, One Cabela Dr., Sidney, Neb. 69160, phone 1-800-237-4444, fax 1-800-496-6329, Internet:

Here's an important fact for everybody who is 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 gift concept, which is a five-foot replica of a bear made from natural, realistic foam. It was designed to be a target for hunters to practice shooting at, so they'll be prepared if they ever, while sneaking around the woods, encounter a real foam bear.

But we here at the Gift Guide think that a better use for this product is as a security device. It's lightweight, and it comes in three easy-to-assemble pieces, making it a breeze to carry around. Imagine that you're walking through a bad neighborhood, and you realize that some criminal elements are stalking you with mayhem on their minds. Cool as a cucumber, you show them this security device, and then you laugh as their confidence turns to shouts of alarm ("Scram! He or she has a three-piece bear!")

The security bear can also ride in your car, allowing you to use restricted car-pool lanes. In fact, you can drive any old way you want, because the police are extremely reluctant to pull over a vehicle containing a bear.

Or, when you're out for the evening, you can leave the security bear in your living room, providing a deterrent against intruders who would break into your home and taste your porridge, which according to FBI statistics has become a major problem.

Yes, the security bear is your "best defense" against crime and a fine gift for everybody on your holiday list who fears for his or her safety. It is our understanding that Mr. Donald Trump never sleeps with fewer than two of these bears.


On South Beach or in the duck blind, you'll always be in fashion in your Yukon camo hat.
$19.99-$22.99 plus shipping and handling from Herter's, PO Box 426, Greenville N.C., 27835-0426, phone 1-800-654-3825, fax 1-800-515-6791, Internet:

Here is the ultimate gift for the person on your list who wants to wear "the latest" in fashionable headwear -- the kind of headwear that combines the tasteful, always-in-style beauty of camouflage with the elegance of large ear flaps. These hats were designed by a leading European fashion designer whose name we are not permitted to reveal here for legal reasons relating to the fact that he or she does not technically exist. But we can tell you that this hat is this season's "must-have" clothing item in the fashion centers of Paris, Rome, New York and the Yukon. Top international fashion models are so crazy for this hat that once they put it on, they refuse to take it off for any purpose whatsoever except lice control. Our advice is, if you're thinking of giving these hats as gifts, buy them NOW, before they're all snatched up by Cher.


How does Brain Gum work? As easy as 2+2=5!
$60 plus shipping and handling from Self Care Catalog, 104 Challenger Dr., Portland, Tenn. 37148-1716, phone 1-800-345-3371, fax 1-800-345-4021, Internet:

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 emergency room, because when you smacked yourself, you were holding a hammer?

If that sounds like you, or somebody on your holiday list, then do we ever have the gift concept for you! This truly incredible product is chewing gum that can actually raise your IQ. How is such a thing possible? Here is a direct quote from the promotional materials: "True to its name, Brain Gum improves cognitive functions by restoring a healthy level of PhosphatidylSerine in the brain."

Did you get that? A healthy level of PhosphatidylSerine! We don't know about you, but when we see a word that big, we KNOW it must be highly scientific. We have not personally chewed this gum for fear that it will yank out roughly $372,500 worth of dental work. But we are certain that it lives up to the manufacturer's claims, including the claim that "Brain Gum helps in recognizing names and faces." So this product would definitely come in handy for those situations where you meet a person whom you definitely are supposed to know, but you can't quite remember his or her name:


YOU: Hi . . . ummm.. (You pop some Brain Gum into your mouth and start chewing) . . . Bob.

OTHER PERSON: I'm not Bob! I'm your wife!

YOU: Sorry . . . (Chewing harder) . . . Betty.


YOU: (Chewing violently) That's correct!


Dave Barry's Bumper Dumper is the perfect accessory to his Lexus SUV.
$59.95 plus shipping and handling from Jungle Inc., 12896 Bradley Ave., Unit D, Sylmar, Calif. 91342, phone 1-818-364-8242, fax 1-818-364-8241, Internet:

Suggested by
many alert readers

Ask any leading historian to name the two greatest inventions in human history, and he or she will instantly answer:

1. The trailer hitch.

2. The toilet seat.

And there is no doubt that these two fine inventions have served humanity well in their own separate ways. But it was only recently that someone had the very special genius required to see the beauty of combining these two concepts to create this amazing but true product -- a toilet seat that attaches to your trailer hitch.

"Just plug the Bumper Dumper into your hitch receiver and the comfort of home is there when nature calls," states the manufacturer. "Take it hunting, fishing, camping, boating, vacation, on the job, in the field, anywhere you may need to go."

We have a slight quibble with the word "anywhere." The Bumper Bumper does not offer a large amount of privacy. It would not be advisable to use this product while you were, say, stuck in traffic, unless you were really desperate. Even then, you'd want to make sure that the driver of the vehicle was fully cognizant of the fact that the Bumper Dumper was occupied, because otherwise, if traffic cleared and the driver hit the accelerator, the Bumper Dumper occupant could find himself or herself whizzing over the ground (if you will pardon the expression) at an unsafe rate of speed. Perhaps the government should require seatbelts on this item, just in case.

But that is a mere quibble. This is THE gift item for the sportsperson on your holiday gift list, as well as the automotive enthusiast. It is only a matter of time before every well-equipped Jaguar, Porsche and Mercedes has one of these attractive units jutting out the rear as a proud symbol of class and refinement. It is our understanding that Queen Elizabeth II would not consider leaving the palace without this item firmly attached to her Rolls.

So this year, give the gift that reeks of class. At least that's what we assume that smell is.


No Martha Stewart wannabe should be without 2,000-foot rolls of toilet paper.
$87.45 (6 rolls) plus shipping and handling from Rest Room World, PO Box 1333, Pleasantville, N.J. 08232, phone 1-800-257-8557, fax 1-609-641-7766.

Suggested by
Mitch Mitchum
of Astoria, Ore.
and Jody Nye

of Wauconda, Ill.

Does your holiday gift list include a "Martha Stewart type" of individual -- the kind of individual who is fond of hosting elegant parties in a beautiful, tasteful designer home where every tiny detail has to be "just right?" If so, then this is the perfect gift for that individual: An industrial-size roll of toilet paper, packing TWO THOUSAND FEET of two-ply tissue.

When a hostess places one of these big babies next to the guest commode, she can be totally confident that her guests will never "run short." When a guest asks to be excused during dinner, the hostess can tell that guest, in a proud and confident voice: "If you're going to the powder room, feel free to use all the toilet paper you want, because there's nearly half a mile of it!"

This toilet paper is also totally Y2K compliant and makes an excellent gift for the survivalists on your holiday list. The U.S. Department of Agriculture states that a family of four can make a single one of these jumbo rolls last for three years, provided that they eat a diet consisting exclusively of low-fat kibble.


Why is crime down? Could it be the escape-proof Run-n-Chute?
$54.95 plus shipping and handling from Strength Systems, Inc., PO Box 73190, Metairie, La. 70033-3190, phone 1-800-451-JUMP (5867), Internet:

Suggested by
Pam Spencer
of Klamath Falls, Ore.

This item is a small parachute that is designed to be attached via 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 Run-n-Chute manufacturer, will "improve your speed, acceleration and endurance." But we think the Run-n-Chute would also make an excellent gift idea for:

Law-enforcement personnel, who could attach it to criminals, to make them easier to pursue if they escape.

Parents, who could attach it to small children, to slow them down in case they run off, or fall out of an airplane.

The Secret Service, which could attach it to the president and deploy it via remote control in the event of a sudden lunge toward an intern.


Turn your inner child into your personal servant with the Astral Projector.
$24.95 plus shipping and handling from Pacific Spirit/Whole Life Products, 1334 Pacific Ave., Forest Grove, Ore. 97116, phone 1-800-634-9057, fax 1-503-357-1669, Internet:

Suggested by
Dan and Cheryl Edmonds
of Deland, Fla.

This kit consists of a tape and a book that teach you how to travel to the "numerous dimensions of the Astral Plane." (For the benefit of those of you who are not spiritually minded, we should explain that the "Astral Plane" is this plane that is astral in nature and has numerous dimensions.)

According to the promotional literature, "This incredible kit will show you the secrets and step-by-step procedures for safely and easily leaving your body temporarily while exploring the dimensions beyond."

We have not tried this kit personally, but we're sure it does everything that it promises, because why else would it cost $24.95? We think it's a great idea: There are plenty of situations in which it would be very handy to be able to leave your body temporarily. During prostate examinations, for example. Or how about when you're at work, attending yet another incredibly boring and pointless meeting? Wouldn't it be cool if you could leave your body there, apparently listening with great interest to your droning idiot boss, while you went out and caught a movie?

Or let's say you face this agonizing dilemma: You're watching an important football game on TV, AND your team is facing a critical third-down situation, AND you need a new beer. With astral projection, your body can continue to watch the game, while your spiritual essence goes for the brewski! And while it's up, it could grab a bag of chips.

And that is just scratching the surface of what can be done with astral projection, as we see from the following actual simulated conversation between a police officer and a motorist:

OFFICER: Sir, your vehicle was traveling at 117 miles an hour when it entered the elementary-school playground.

MOTORIST: Actually, officer, I wasn't driving. Through astral projection, I was exploring the dimensions beyond.

OFFICER: My mistake, then. Sorry to trouble you!

MOTORIST: No trouble. You're just doing your job.

OFFICER: Not really! Right now, I'm catching a movie!

We're sure that you can think of many more benefits that can be obtained through this amazing spiritual process. So this year, give the gift that says to your loved ones: "I wish you were somewhere else."


The versatile Swimming Tether is not just for exercise!
$249.00 plus shipping and handling from Super Swim-Pro, 10711 Deer Run Farms Rd., Ft. Myers, Fla. 33912, phone 1-800-848-1222, fax 1-941-275-0606, Internet:

Suggested by
Claire Martin
of Denver, Colo.

This device, designed to train people for swimming competition, consists of a flexible rod with a tether that attaches to a harness on the swimmer's body. This setup prevents you from moving forward while you're swimming, so that if you keep at it, day after day, you will eventually decide to take up a less tedious sport. That's certainly what we'd do.

But we happen to think this is an excellent gift idea anyway. Let's say you're a mother, and you go to the beach with a small child who is always running off. Imagine how handy it would be if you could attach this device! We mean attach it to your husband. That way, while you were following your child around, you'd have the security of knowing that your husband could not go more than a few feet in the direction of a hot bikini babe before being snapped back by the rod and tether ("Hey, there, darlin'! How about GAACK").

We also think this item would be a good acquisition for the Secret Service, for use during high levels of presidential hormone activity when the Run-n-Chute alone does not provide adequate restraining power.


A Cowperson Hardhat will keep you safe from flying arrows on the construction site.
$25 plus shipping and handling from Forestry Suppliers, Inc., PO Box 8397, Jackson, Miss. 39284-8397, phone 1-800-647-5368, fax 1-800-543-4203, Internet:

Suggested by
Joe Galvin
of Murrysville, Pa.

This is the ultimate gift idea if you are thinking about giving somebody a hard hat this holiday season, yet you are not happy with the boring styles that have dominated the hard-hat fashion industry for far too long. This is a hat made of genuine high-impact plastic, yet styled to look like exactly like the hats worn by such "rip-tootin' cowpokers" as "Hopalong" Cassidy, "Roy" Rogers, the "Lone" Ranger and former President Lyndon "Baines" Johnson.

Just imagine what would happen if the lucky construction worker on your list showed up at the job site wearing this hat, accessorized with a colorful neck bandanna, a fringed vest, a pair of steel-toed cowperson boots and perhaps a pair of "six-shooter" style holsters carrying manly power tools! We are sure the other construction workers would shout "Yippee-yi-o," among other remarks.

And if there are any actual ranch hands on your holiday gift list, imagine how excited THEY would be to receive a cowperson hat! In fact, if you ask us, it's a darned shame that plastic hard hats were not available to law enforcement personnel back in the days of the "Wild West." Imagine the advantage that a sheriff would have if he wore this hat during a saloon fight with an outlaw:

SHERIFF: I suppose you're going to break a chair over my head! Go on and try it!

OUTLAW: OK, then! (He hits the sheriff with the chair, which shatters harmlessly on the sheriff's hat.)

SHERIFF: Ha ha! I am unharmed!

OUTLAW: OK, then! (He shoots the sheriff.)

So perhaps this hat would not be such an advantage after all. But we still think this is a terrific gift idea. Remember: Nothing says "Western Wear" like genuine plastic.


The Solar Cooling Hat also serves as an ice bucket for impromptu celebrations.
$25.00 plus shipping and handling; no credit card orders. For ordering information, call 1-877-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 on hot days. The hat is silver on top to reflect the sun, but the real secret is that there's a place inside for water. You put the hat in your freezer until the water turns to ice; then you put the hat on your head and . . . voila! ("Voila" is French for "You are wearing a frozen hat.") The Birmingham News did a story about this invention, quoting Mrs. Gracia's grandson as saying that wearing the Cool Hat "`feels like cold rocks."

Sounds refreshing! And this hat won't just keep you cool: From a fashion standpoint, it is also more attractive, and far less messy, than strapping Popsicles directly to your head. We urge you to buy this item, if for no other reason than to encourage Mrs. Gracia, who sounds to us like a nice lady, and who could become a pioneer in the field of cooling garments. To the best of our knowledge, the field of frozen underwear is still wide open.