Sunday, December 7, 2008

Stupid products of 2008

Published December 7, 2008
St. George Spectrum & Daily News

Christmas is the season for giving, and for many people, that means it’s the season for buying. All over the country, people are filling carts and signing receipts, but according to government reports, not at a fast enough rate. Apparently, if you’re a “good” citizen, you’ll get out there and spend, spend, spend our economy back into the black (you’ll be in the red, but it’s for the greater good).

While you decide just how much a patriotic amount of debt you’re able to take on, I’m doing the homework regarding what you should buy. Actually, I’m here to let you know what not to buy this holiday season. The government may not like this, but I can’t let innocent people buy stupid things. It’s my duty as a human. We’ll call it The Mother Load’s Guide to the Most Useless Buys of 2008.

First up, we have Bible Illuminated: The Book. Book is kind of a misnomer, as this version of the bible has more of a magazine quality to it. Printed by a publisher in Sweden, this was the brainchild of a proudly non-religious Swedish ad exec who thought that the Good Book needed a younger, hipper feel. Alongside scripture, you’ll find glossy pictures of Angelina Jolie, Bono, and John Lennon, among others. I could go on and talk about the political interpretation of Revelations, but do I really need to? If you want your kids to read the Bible…dust off the one in the front room and have a go.

Hoping to further cash in on the wild popularity of the Guitar Hero video games (and in a possible attempt to dumb down the product for people who aren’t coordinated enough to play a fake guitar) the folks at Jada Toys have brought us Guitar Hero Air Guitar Rocker. Oh, how I wish I were joking. It’s a belt buckle/guitar pick sensor combo attached to a tiny “amplifier” that gives you points for being the best air guitarist in the room. Sure, at just under $30, it’s cheaper than actual guitar lessons, but free form air guitar is, well, free. If you want points, I’ll be happy to give them to you at no cost. I gave that guy in the intersection 1000 points just the other day.

Next up, Elmo Live, a walking, talking, falling, storytelling little robot Elmo. There are a couple of things wrong with this toy. First, it’s Elmo. Second, it’s live. The one redeeming quality it has is that it intentionally falls down from time to time. If you buy this for your child, I suggest a trip to the Grand Canyon…or Niagara Falls…or Mount Everest.

If your loved one likes to sing, you might be thinking of getting him or her the American Idol Talent Challenge DVD Game. This comes with a microphone with a very exciting echo effect, circa 1984, and allows its players to sing along with actual Idol contestants from past years and receive actual comments made by the judges. That’s right. Because nothing says, “I love you,” like letting your friends and family get heckled by an arrogant, talentless man before they embarrass themselves by trying to achieve their dreams or something.

Finally, and this one makes the joke for me, people, we have the Fisher Price Smart Cycle. Created as an attempt to curb the growing problem of childhood obesity, this exercise bike is preschool sized and plugs into your TV…the better to let your chubby children play video games while they ride. There are no words…except these: Might we possibly consider the influence video games have had on childhood obesity and NOT use them in the obesity cure? I know, I know. I’m talking crazy.

Call me a bit of a product Grinch, but I think there are better buys out there for you this holiday season. These products aren’t completely awful, but they’re not on par with exciting gifts like fruitcake and socks and underwear and genetically altered, killer houseplants. Now, if Elmo played air guitar while riding an exercise bike, reading the Bible, and getting heckled by Idol’s Simon Cowell, I might have something different to say.

I’d still suggest a trip to the Grand Canyon…just in case.