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Sit On Your Butt, Tongue in Cheek

Shopping with irony in catalogs and on the 'net

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It's Christmas time at last. We've survived the election. Thanksgiving has come and gone. And the Christmas decorations the stores put out in August are starting to get dusty.

And, of course, you're not ready. We know. You got sidetracked. Not to mention there's that pesky job where they actually want you to come to the office and do things before they'll make that direct deposit into your bank account. Yeah, we know, running away to Canada looks pretty good right now. But it's way cold up there even if they do have good health benefits. We're here to help you find a way to get some holiday cheer that doesn't come out of a bottle. We've been combing catalogs and the Internet just for you, to find the more outrageous and goofy stuff available for the loved ones in your life.

This year, marketing nostalgia to boomers has reached an all-time high (pun intended). Which always causes us to wonder because there's a saying about the 60s, that if you remember those days, you weren't really there. Of course, most boomers are trying to hide those facts from their teenaged children.

One of the oddest nostalgia items we found, offered by Betty's Attic, was an autographed Ruth Buzzi plaque. "Who?" you ask. Right. Ruth Buzzi was on Rowan & Martin's Laugh In. You do remember Laugh In? Good. Ruth Buzzi's most famous character was Gladys Ormphby, the frumpy woman who would whack Arte Johnson over the head with her big purse. The plaque features a regular photo of Buzzi, a photo of her in character and a close up of the purse. Uh-uh. It's $75.

Betty's Attic also features a ton of other nostalgia items including a limited edition Lone Ranger Cookie Jar for $85; a four-DVD set of 20 half-hour episodes of The Cisco Kid, for $55; Grandpa and Eddie bobbers from The Munsters, $17 for the set; and a talking Lucy doll who does the Vitameatavegamin bit, for $50. For your $50, you also get a DVD of that famous I Love Lucy episode. (www.bettysattic.com or 800-294-4068)

Fiber optics are everywhere this year. Now, we truly like our little fiber optic Christmas tree -- Christmas decor is by nature a bit over the top. But as a regular part of your living room? We don't think so. Take, for example, the fiber optic Dolphins in the Bits And Pieces catalog. This would give Queer Eye's Thom Filicia nightmares for weeks! It's a 13-and-a-quarter-inch tall light show with two "dolphins" leaping from fiber optic waves. The colors change from "reds and yellows to cool blues, purples and greens before your eyes," and costs a mere $29.99. You can also get a regular fish, a hummingbird, and a butterfly. The fiber optic flowers are a little better. The poinsettia (also $29.99) actually isn't bad, but the cactus looks like a pointy, stubby and dangerous nightlight. (www.bitsand pieces.com or 800-544-7297)

For boomers who used to read the comic strips, here's a flashback to Dick Tracy. Leave it to Hammacher Schlemmer to offer wristwatch televisions. Check it out: "The specially designed micro tuner and headphone antenna (must be connected to wristwatch TV for reception) pulls in stations. Digital display shows time and date, and Thin Film Transistor technology displays a crisp 280 x 220 resolution picture on its 1-1/2 inch color monitor. Volume and channel buttons are on the side; time, channel and volume appear in the top LCD. Receives both UHF and VHF channels. Fully charged, the watch provides one hour of viewing; or, extend viewing up to three hours with the battery powered (four AA batteries not included) docking station. Docking station also plugs into AC for unlimited viewing and to recharge the watch (2 1/2-3 hour charge time)." What a treat -- now you can watch TV while you're running after gangsters. And it's yours for only $199.95. (www.hammacher.com or 800-321-1484)

As usual, our pals at Archie McPhee have outdone themselves - Archie's catalog is action figure and Tiki heaven, not to mention your source for interesting lunch boxes and rubber chickens. Our action figure fave this year is Bigfoot. He's $12.95 and here's what his blurb says: "They're big, they're hairy, and they're notoriously elusive! This 7-1/4" (19.1 cm) tall, hard plastic Bigfoot Action Figure has stamps on the bottom of its feet and comes with a stamp pad so you can leave mysterious footprints on letters, walls and skin. Intricate articulation allows it to be posed just like frame 352 of the famous film footage." Action figure stamp pad! Ingenious!

Our other two favorite action figures that we just gotta mention are Cleopatra and Edgar Allan Poe (both $8.95). Here's her info: "Cleopatra was strong, beautiful and ruled Egypt for more than 20 years. She comes with a scepter, a removable headdress and fully articulated arms and wrists that allow her to be posed in that classic Egyptian stance. If you don't like this action figure, you're just in denial. Which in this case is a river in Egypt." The Poe action figure "captures the father of the modern horror story in stark black and white with a hauntingly pale complexion and a removable plastic raven. Pose him on your bookshelf next to your volumes of his poetry and prose." Other great figures available include Annie Oakley, Sherlock Holmes, Blackbeard and Moses.

Archie also offers a Jesus Playing Hoops Statue, which ought to be very popular in North Carolina, since basketball is a religion here. For $24.95 you get the 7-inch statue where "Jesus busts out the sky hook, an almost unstoppable move, especially when playing basketball against a couple of little kids." Amen. (www.archiemcphee.com or 425-349-3009)

One catalog goes the extra mile in appealing to both boomers and subsequent Next Generations. But only if you got the coin. The Noble Collection features products and collectibles inspired by the films of The Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter. On the Potter side, you can get both Harry's and Hermione's magic wands (each $29.50); Gryffindor and Slytherin House Rings ($95 for sterling sliver with crystals or $295 for 10K gold with diamonds); and a "Final Challenge" chess set ($295).

Our favorite of the Lord of the Rings offerings is a replica of The Ring itself. Get the gold-plated version for $129, solid gold for $495, or sterling silver for $69. The rings have been laser-etched (oooh!) with Elvish script, presumably saying, "One ring to bind them all," etc. Among the other nice jewelry and various swords, there's also, believe it or not, a set of Gollum bookends. These are just plain creepy. Why anyone would want them on the bookcase looking down at her everyday is beyond me, my precious. And they are precious at $195. Shudder. (www.noblecollection.com or 800-866-2538)

And of course, Christmas just wouldn't be Christmas without the King. The Lighter Side features a number of Elvis items, including the Elvis Virtual Television ($54.98). To wit: "Light up screen features brilliant, full-color images of Elvis in a scrolling montage of scenes from his most memorable stage and screen performances. This "virtual TV' has a beautiful acrylic screen and is housed in durable ABS plastic." Our first thought was does it also come with a "virtual gun"?

Previously, we've brought you info on great Christmas ornaments like the Kneeling Santa and Santa in a helicopter, but this year's find is what we're calling Hula-Hoop Santa (although the blurb never uses the term "Hula Hoop" -- guess they couldn't get the rights). Here are the details: "A sure winner this season, our whimsical sound-activated Santa moves his hips from side to side as he rotates the hoop around his waist to a playful original song entitled "Rockin' Santa.' You'll love the way he changes the direction of his hip movement mid-song to rotate the hoop in the opposite direction!" Whoo-hoo! How can you resist this at only $12.98? (www.lighterside.com or 800-232-0963)

OK. Hope our little virtual shopping trek has inspired you. Get that plastic warmed up and start spending. And may all your cards remain magnetized.

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