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