The holidays are here, and -- in the words of the heartwarming classic Andy Williams holiday tune we will hear so many times that by mid-December we will want to stuff figgy pudding into our ears -- "it's the most wonderful time of the year."
And it truly is, for many reasons. It's a time of good will, when people we barely know extend heartfelt season's greetings to us, often in the form of convenient envelopes with the words SEASON'S GREETINGS printed right on them that we can use to give these people their holiday tips.
It's also a festive time, when we attend holiday gathering after holiday gathering, eating and drinking and eating some more, our thighs rubbing together in joyful anticipation as we waddle, yet again, back to the cookie platter.
And it's a time of family togetherness, when we travel long distances to be with our loved ones, only to remember, 45 minutes into a scheduled six-day visit, why we have chosen to live so far from them.
Yes, there are many traditions that make the holidays special, but the most special of all is the tradition of buying things that nobody really needs and giving them to others in retaliation for the unnecessary things they give us. The challenge, in this hectic season, is always to find enough unnecessary things for all the people on our gift list.
That's where this Holiday Gift Guide comes in. We sincerely believe that you will not find a collection of products this useless anywhere else. These are all real products; we did not make them up.
You can actually buy them. We know this because we actually bought them, using the virtually unlimited financial resources of the newspaper industry.
We have thoroughly inspected all of these items for up to 15 seconds per item, which is why we are able to offer our Unlimited Holiday Gift Guide Quality Assurance Guarantee, which states, and we quote: If you purchase one of these items, and for any reason you are not 100 percent satisfied with it, simply write the details of your purchase down on a sheet of legal-sized paper and mail it to us, and you have our personal guarantee that within eight working days we will laugh until mucus flows copiously from our nostrils.
With that legal reassurance, let's take a look at the items that "made the cut" for this year's Holiday Gift Guide, starting with:
Wearable Hummingbird Feeder
$79.95 from heatstick.com, suggested by Janice Gelb of Melbourne, Australia
Imagine having a hummingbird hover right in front of your face. Specifically, in front of your eyeballs. It's darting around and thrusting with its long, pointy, needle-like beak. RIGHT NEXT TO YOUR EYEBALLS. WHICH YOU USE TO SEE.
Ha-ha! If that sounds like a fun and relaxing nature adventure for you or some lucky individual on your holiday gift list, then you definitely need to get this wearable hummingbird feeder. This is basically a face shield, kind of like what hockey goalies wear, with a hummingbird feeder tube that pokes out right between the eyes. You go to an area frequented by hummingbirds, put the mask on, sit there for a while and then suddenly, YIKES, you are eye-to-beak with an extremely close-range hummingbird.
"If you are serious about hummingbirds," states the product website, "this feeder will take your relationship with your hummingbirds to a whole new level."
This item could also be used as a mask for the person on your holiday gift list who commits armed robberies. ("Do what he says! He has a hummingbird!")
$11 to $14.99 (prices vary), plus shipping and handling from Amazon.com, suggested by Rick Jameson of Dublin, Ohio
It is a well-known medical fact that nothing relieves tension like squeezing a large mushroom. That is the medical basis for this product, which is a large rubber stress-relieving mushroom. It comes from Japan, so you know it's scientific. It can benefit the entire family, according to a Japanese website, (http://metro.co.uk/2014/10/14/putting-the-fun-into-fungi-firebox-coms-mushroom-stress-reliever-will-make-you-feel-weird-inside-4906186/), which states:
"To Fathers: Let's relieve stress by using the mushroom at night! To Mothers: Let's do an exercise to tighten the upper arm with your favorite mushroom at daytime! To Children: Let's touch it! Let's grasp it! Let's squash it!! Play with mushrooms whenever you want!"
Imagine the look of delight on the face of a young person unwrapping a present, expecting to find something boring and predictable, such as a new smartphone, and instead finding a handsome rubber mushroom the size of a mature squid.
"Go ahead and grasp it!" you say as tears of gratitude fall softly from the child's eyes. "Play with your mushroom whenever you want!"
Note that this product is not meant to be eaten unless you are really desperate.
Hotness Mask Gym Hoodie
$22.47 to $31.45 (prices vary), plus shipping and handling from Amazon.com.
Here's the perfect item for the man on your holiday gift list who wishes to make a bold fashion statement, specifically: "I do not own a mirror." This is the only workout garment we are aware of that has a hood AND a mask, for when you're at the gym and you need to hide your face for some reason, such as you are ashamed, or you're a ninja, or you plan to rob the juice bar.
This garment also features, quote, "Showcasing Lowcut Armholes." Seriously, these are among the biggest armholes we have ever seen, on a garment. You could drive a UPS truck through them. Men, if you often get complaints from women that your armpits are not adequately showcased, this garment will definitely solve that problem.
This is the Official Hooded and Masked Gymnasium Garment of the United States Senate.
Snakes Toilet Topper
$3.45 to $8.99 (prices vary), plus shipping and handling from Amazon.com, suggested by Rich Klinzman of Middleburg, Fla.
If you follow international news, you are aware that one of the biggest problems facing the world today is toilet snakes. Here are some horrifying recent news headlines that we are not making up:
Large Snake Clogged Office Toilet In San Diego
Man Finds Snake In Toilet On Bathroom Break From Hell
Python Hiding In Toilet Bites Woman
4-Foot-Long Snake Crawls Out Of Man's Toilet
Python Found In Hotel Toilet In Nebraska
Budweiser Introduces Strawberry Beer
Technically, that last one is not about toilet snakes; we included it because it's horrifying. But our point is, there is a worldwide epidemic of toilet snakes, and if you have a "practical joker" on your holiday gift list, then this is the perfect gift for that person.
This is a highly realistic decal that goes on a toilet lid and makes it appear as though two large snakes are emerging from the commode bowl. You can just imagine the effect this would have on a person entering a darkened bathroom and turning on the light. Ha-ha! Talk about hilarity! Even the paramedics will be amused.
(Casual Outfitters), $18.50 to $26.99 (prices vary), plus shipping and handling from Amazon.com, suggested by Keith Dorset of Manassas, Va.
Muscle Man Chest Plate
$12.93, plus shipping and handling from Amazon.com.
You've heard it a thousand times: "I want to wear a kilt, but I don't want anybody to SEE me wearing it." Well, here's the perfect solution: A camouflage kilt, which has a pattern that enables the wearer to blend invisibly into the background, provided that the background consists of other people wearing camouflage kilts. If William Wallace, the Scottish hero portrayed by Mel Gibson in "Braveheart," had worn this kilt instead of a loud, highly visible plaid, he would probably still be alive today.
For a masculine accessory to complete this outfit we recommend the Muscle Man Chest Plate. This item, which is made from realistic foam, features "ripped" abs, as well as dual nipples in the standard horizontal alignment. It could easily be mistaken for a real human chest by a vision-impaired person standing 17,000 yards away at night. Combined with the camouflage kilt, this chest plate creates a fashion ensemble that sends the unmistakable message: "Call security NOW."
Nicolas Cage Pillowcase
$8.73 to $10.61 (prices vary), plus shipping and handling from Amazon.com.
Everyone agrees that Nicolas Cage is the greatest actor of all time. He has done amazing work in such memorable movies as (Editor: Please insert names of some Nicolas Cage movies here). If you love "Nic" -- and who doesn't? -- what could be better than waking up every morning with his eyeballs bulging out at you from just inches away?
Nothing, that's what. And that's why the perfect gift for virtually everybody on your holiday list is a Nicolas Cage pillowcase. These pillowcases are made from 100 percent fabric of some kind, and each one features a large color photo of Nic. We chose one with him posing bare-chested against a leopard print and gazing at the camera with the seductive, sensitive expression of a man who is thinking he really could use a full-body wax. But there are 17 other equally visual images to choose from.
This year, give the Hollywood-themed gift that can be used as both home decor and a tourniquet: Give the Nicolas Cage pillowcase.
$7.98 to $12.69 (prices vary), plus shipping and handling from Amazon.com (search for Floating Birthday Candle).
The holiday season is a time when we consume festive beverages. But what makes a beverage festive? Sprinkling cinnamon on top is a start, but if you want serious festivity, you can't beat an open flame. That's the idea behind this item, which is a candle that floats in drinks. This transforms an ordinary beverage, as if by magic, into a beverage with a lit candle in it.
"PERFECT IN BEERS, ALES AND SOFT DRINKS," states the package, which also carries the thoughtful warning: "Keep away from things that catch fire."
"But wait," you say. "Doesn't human hair catch fire? And what about clothing?"
Ha-ha! Don't be such a holiday buzzkill. We are certain that these candles will be used in a responsible manner by people putting them in their beer and ale.
Be advised that this product received the coveted "one-star" ranking on Amazon from a verified purchaser, who left this review: "Did not float -- sank right to the bottom of the beer."
Cat Stay & Wash
$9.95 to $13.99 (prices vary), plus shipping and handling from Amazon.com.
Here at the Holiday Gift Guide, we are always on the lookout for products that will make cats hate humanity even more than they already do. So we were very excited to discover this Cat Stay & Wash device, which is a harness connected to a suction cup. You simply put the harness on the cat (allow six hours) then attach the suction cup to the bathtub, and then it will be "easy" to wash your cat, according to the manufacturer, who apparently tested this product on cats from another galaxy.
Puff 'n' Fluff Dog Dryer
$44.99, plus shipping and handling from Amazon.com (At the time of publication, this item is out of stock.)
What do you do when your dog gets wet? For far too many Americans, the answer is, quote, "nothing." These Americans simply let the dog dry out, which is the same primitive method that people used to dry their dogs when dinosaurs roamed the earth.
Wake up, dog owners! It's the 21st century, the age of "high-tech" inventions such as the Internet, the mobile phone and the Puff-n-Fluff Dog Dryer. This is an enclosure that you wrap around your dog. You then connect the enclosure via a hose to a hair dryer, turn the dryer on, and, voila, the dog becomes terrified and poops in its enclosure.
No, seriously, the dog theoretically at some point becomes dry. You know this is a quality product, because, according to the manufacturer, it has been seen on TV.
Poo-Pourri Before-You-Go Toilet Spray
$9.99 to $14.99 (price may vary), plus shipping and handling from Amazon.com
Here's a thoughtful way to send somebody on your gift list the thoughtful holiday message: "I am tired of encountering your bathroom odors." The idea is, you spray Poo-Pourri into the commode bowl before using it. According to the manufacturer, the "scientifically tested" Poo-Pourri formula "creates a protective barrier on the water's surface" that "is designed to trap unpleasant bathroom odors beneath the surface and keep them out of the air."
If that doesn't sound scientific, we don't know what does. Poo-Pourri comes in dozens of scents, including (we are not making these scents up) Hush Flush, Doody Free, Toot Fairy, Deja Poo, Crap Shooter, Secret Santa, Heavy Doody and, of course, Vanilla Mint.
It is our understanding that the Kardashian family buys this product by the truckload.
Belly Bump Ball
$59.95, plus shipping and handling from fatbraintoys.com.
You know those people who stand too close to you? You hate them, right? And yet, because of our outmoded "justice" system, you cannot legally hit them with a hammer.
But now there's something you CAN do to make them keep their distance: You can wear a Belly Bump Ball. This is a large inflatable plastic ball with holes for your head and arms. When you put it on, you instantly create a perimeter around yourself that sends the unmistakable message: "Keep back! I have a large personal radius!"
The Belly Bump Ball is perfect for cocktail parties, sporting events, subways, buses, airplanes, elevators -- any place where you might encounter other humans. According to the manufacturer, this product can also be used for the amusement of children, but we frankly think that would be silly.
Dave Barry, a humor columnist for the Miami Herald, can be written c/o Miami Herald, One Herald Plaza, Miami, FL 33132.----