Monday, December 14, 2015

A Last-Minute Gift Guide For The Guy Who Doesn't Want a Gift

Last I checked—which was very, very recently—I’m a guy.

And we guys are not easy to buy stuff for; I understand this. We’re weird and quirky individuals. We’ll say thanks so much for the thoughtful gift, then secretly exchange the bow tie and sweater vest for a machete.

So I’m here to help. My aim is to assuage your uncertainty, to hedge your apprehension that you've chosen the right gift for Captain Dontworryaboutme. My guess is that he's like me—an average middle-aged dude who needs nothing and wants nothing… unless it’s cool. And since you’ve still got a solid week-and-a-half to procure a gift that doesn’t suck for your finicky fellow, here are my top ten token tips this Gringletide season:

10) Hockey tickets—Even though your hometown may be absent an NHL team, that doesn’t mean good hockey isn’t played in your area. Here in the PNW, we’ve a couple of junior hockey teams, the Everett Silvertips and Seattle Thunderbirds. Tickets range from $16 to $40 for the opportunity to watch highly-skilled teenagers sling each other around like spatulas of Crisco. Good times, seriously.

9) 1960s Animé cartoons—Before you judge, check out some of the old Speed Racer or Gigantor episodes. Fast moving and a smidge mistranslated, your beau will squeal like a pig as he hoists this out of his stocking ($23 for the first eleven episodes). 

8) Personal grooming devices—You and I both know that your chap could use a little Bastille Day for that old growth around the nose and ears. Nothing will capture his imagination like the sound of the nasal trimmer hitting paydirt. It may sound like a cross between a weed whacker and the Magic Bullet, but you’ll be able to eat tapioca out of those nostrils when he’s done ($33 at Nordstrom).

7) Lunchboxes—They’re back! Did they ever go away?

When I was in grade school, a lot of kids had this Charlie Brown model. Why not drop a subtle hint to see which pail your best bloke had as a schoolboy? He’ll love you for it, even though the price isn’t peanuts (Around $65 on eBay).

6) A pack of floats—I’ve done this a couple of times and it’s fantastic. Suspended in a light- and sound-controlled environment that reduces sensory stimulation, your guy will float in a super-saturated solution of epsom salt and water. The liquid is heated to skin temperature and after about fifteen minutes, he'll lose track of where the water ends and his body begins. 

Not suitable for the claustrophobic, it's amazingly relaxing and I’ve come out feeling better and for longer than after a conventional massage (Nearly always available on Groupon, around $40 per hour-long session). 

5) National Lampoon’s Vacation Boxset—All four original films are included on this DVD for only $30! Give him Chevy Chase at his comedy apex, bring back Clark, Audrey, Rusty and of course, Cousin Eddie. The shitter will runneth over, and so will your man’s cup.

4) Risk—Appeal to your guy’s inner nerd with the famous board game of world domination. For only $30, you’ll have a million rainy Saturdays-worth of fun while learning how your lifemate handles both megalomania and tactical impotence. Or maybe you already know.

3) A gift card to… nowhere. Seriously, don’t buy him a gift card, even to Hooters.

2) "Feel the Bern” products—Bernie Sanders, opting to forego super pac funding, still rivals Hillary Clinton in dollars raised thanks to small contributions from over 750,000 private donors. 

Why not dish out $15 for a coffee mug or $25 for a t-shirt to make your dude look a little smarter than he actually is!

1)  Any type of artwork, done by you—How often have I heard a friend say, “I’m not an artist. I can barely draw a stick figure.”? And my reply is, who says you have to draw a stick figure? Everyone’s an artist; I truly believe that. Sketch something out, paint a nice abstract scene, take a beautiful photograph—then frame that shit up because everything looks better in a frame. Trust me, he’ll love both it and you for putting yourself out there.

I know your man's been hard to buy for in the past, but keep in mind: he’s still a guy. While his interests may seem to vary immensely, when you really break things down he’s really only interested in four or five distinguishable topics and one of them is quite fleeting.

Good luck and happy shopping!

Sunday, December 6, 2015

It's Time to Get Real About Guns.

Time to play the familiar loop ...again:

A shooter unleashes his (and now her) demented angst upon a school, a shopping mall, a workplace.

We're not shocked; that emotion has been slowly phased out of the routine, vaporizing years ago, so we move on to horrified. From that point, our behaviors branch out a bit—some are sad, some are grateful that tragedy hasn't yet knocked on their own doors, and others, others are angry and ready to blame.

We blame the president or NRA, the liberals or conservatives, even the cultural demise of the American family. Rhetoric spins around in a sideways number eight, always moving but never veering off its predictable track.

You may agree with what I'm about to propose. Perhaps you'll dissent yet agree in principle. Or, maybe you'll think I'm just another bleeding heart progressive whose head's been in the sand so long it's formed a cement block around my senses. In fact, it's what I anticipate the reaction will be among my conservative friends and family members.

That's fine, I just wanted to get this down in words, because as macabre and dramatic as it sounds, tomorrow could be the day it happens—maybe at the grocery store, on the bus, at the office or during a high school band concert.

And as scary as the threat of terrorism is, of ideological thugs entering America with bad intentions, that's not my biggest fear. The lion's share of my trepidation is the home-grown variety. Since the Columbine killings ushered us into a new age of indigenously-sparked carnage, 388 Americans have died in mass shootings at the hands of fellow Americans.

I'm not including those paralyzed or disfigured, not those who were murdered in groups of two or even three. According to the New York Times, 388 is the tally of people whose last breaths were drawn in large-scale acts of violence committed overwhelmingly by US citizens with lawfully-owned weapons,

Although a few should not have been sold firearms despite failing background checks, a large proportion of wholesale killers hadn't broken a single law prior to visiting their collective slaughter upon our innocent brothers and sisters.

So what the hell can we do about this? I think most of us, liberal and conservative alike, believe that mental health screening is the key to keeping guns out of the hands of the psychopathic, but after that, our squads quickly diverge.

The Republican right, already consumed in a state of seething indignation over Obamacare and increased government "handouts," would hardly endorse further spending for a concept as abstract as preventative mental health care. Ronald Reagan, standard-bearer for all that is Right, enacted the Brady Bill while simultaneously slashing funding and casting millions of schizophrenic government dependents to lives of homelessness.

The cons may maintain that the private sector can handle this burden, that faith-based organizations can pick up the slack, but how's that been working out?

Those of the libertarian persuasion, already highly distrustful of an executive branch hell-bent on taking their guns, would just as soon allow the feds to pay a visit to a mentally ill family member as they would go to a concert where Jane Fonda opens for the Dixie Chicks.

In light of these belief systems, where does that leave us? Same place as usual—gun control. During Barack Obama's first term, 91% more background checks were performed than in George Bush's initial four years, and over 65 million Americans have purchased firearms during the Obama administration. I'd say we're pretty well stocked at this point, wouldn't you?

For those friends among us thinking that the Apocalypse may very well happen a week from Tuesday, I'm willing to bet they've got enough ammo to set them up until then and a thousand Tuesdays into the future.

So since you people already have yours and then some, how about we think outside the box a little? Why not impose a moratorium on gun sales, or at the very least on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines? Simultaneously, how about cracking down the illegal weapons trade while we're at it? Last I checked, it's not too easy to order yourself an RPG launcher, and there's a reason for that. It's time to treat guns like the weapons of mass destruction they really are.

Contrary to what you may believe after reading this, I'm not stupid. Guns are as American as cookie dough and Maxwell House, and we're a country built largely from the business end of a rifle. The Second Amendment secured the ability of a ragtag militia from rural Massachusetts to hide in the bushes and pick off all those redcoats dumb enough to march down the middle of the road. Later, the fastest and easiest way for a lawless West to be settled was through a lot of shooting and threatening to shoot.

But wake up. Times have changed, if you haven't noticed. How many freaking guns do you need, people? I guess in America, the answer is more.

Always more.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

How Well Do You Know Your Holiday Specials: A Quiz

Happy holidays! Although Yule season commercials have been on TV since a couple of days before Halloween (October 28, for Walmart—made a note of it), it hadn’t really felt a lot like Christmas until Sunday, when two things happened:

1. We put up our Christmas tree and all the trimmings around the house, and good news: this time, I didn’t sweat enough getting the tree into the stand to have to change my shirt.

2. The promo for Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer aired on CBS. It’s on tonight (Tuesday) at 8.

A rush of Christmas emotion overtook me as I watched those little, jerky characters marching around. I knew then and there that Noel was officially on. 

But good Lord, Bumble the abominable snow monster, as low-tech as he is, still scares the gizzard up my gullet. As a kid, I always found it convenient to grab a HoHo and linger in the kitchen until he was finally subdued through unbridled tooth extraction.

In my opinion, Rudolph, produced in 1964 with its innovative stop-motion animation, and Chuck Jones’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas, combining the genius of Warner Brothers and Dr. Seuss, are the Ali and Frazier of holiday TV specials.

But there are so many others. That’s why today, as we countdown to Rudolph’s 52nd network-television take-off, I’ve scrawled out little a quiz to see how well you know your boobtube Festivus fare. Best of luck in choosing the correct answer, because this one's no cakewalk.

Who claimed, “I want to be a dentist.”

a) Jeb Bush after looking at his latest poll numbers.
b) A four-year-old me, just before they put me under to get my tonsils out.
c) Hermey, the meek elf in Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. That is, until he went all medieval on Bumble with those pliers.
d) All of the above.

Answer: b—Bush would never put his hands in people's mouths, and I wanted to play for the Packers.

Who said, “All I have in my pockets are a short-circuited wand and a few last morsels of magic feed corn that make reindeer fly”?

a) Greg Brady, when Carol finds smokes in his letterman’s jacket.
b) The Winter Warlock in Santa Claus is Coming to Town, as Mrs. Claus desperately attempts to spring him from the North Pole supermax.
c) Beaver Cleaver, after a tough Saturday frog hunting.
d) Ben Carson, maintaining that Jesus listed these among his carpentry tools.

Answer: b— Greg  also had weed in there, The Beav never came home without at least a few polliwogs, and JC didn’t need that shit to do a nice mudroom remodel.

Who wondered, “What if Christmas doesn't come from a store?”?

a) Jeff Bezos.
b) The Grinch, just before his heart grew three sizes.
c) Donald Trump (“F&ck no! I told you, not if that shit’s made in China!").
d) All of the above.

Answer: d

Who said, “I’m cuuuuuute!”?
a) Me, yelling out the window when I cruise Alki Beach.
b) Rudolph, when Clarice’s words made him spring briefly into the air for the first time. As we know, those things can happen to a young reindeer. Perfectly normal.
c) Most dogs who’ve just eaten a shoe.
d) All of the above.

Answer: b and c—I don’t need to shout it out, right?

I hope you’ve fared well on the Christmas special quiz; I know it wasn’t easy. Sorry for not including some of the other great shows, like A Charlie Brown Christmas, Frosty the Snowman, A Christmas Story and so many more. Enjoy the season and watch a few of the old favorites!