MAD DOG: 'Tis Better to Give

There comes a time during the holiday season when we have to look past the glittery tinsel, the sparkling lights, and the 1,456,975th bad rendition of "The Little Drummer Boy" and remind ourselves what Christmas is all about: gifts. Giving and receiving, and there's no question which we like more in spite of what Mom and Dad kept drumming into our heads, though come to think of it that pounding sound might have been that godforsaken kid starting up again. ("Ba-rum-pa-pum-pum yourself you little twerp!")

Since you have your hands full with parties, your mouth full of microwaved cheese puffs, and your head full of cotton from the egg nog the neighbors gave you that was spiked with No. 2 jet fuel, I'll try to make your life a little easier. Don't buy me anything. Send money. But since not everyone on your Christmas list will be that easy to shop for, I've put together a few gift suggestions, each one perfect for the person who wishes they had everything.

A Senate Seat. Yes, for a measly $60 million you can buy your loved one a vacant seat in Congress just like New Jersey Democrat Jon Corzine did. And at only $37.15 per vote he got quite a bargain. Sure you could buy 46 million Pez dispensers, 2 million One-Touch Car Finish Kits (as seen on TV!), or 60 winners from "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire" with that money, but none of those let you say phrases like "the esteemed gentleman from North Carolina", "I had a foreign affair when I went to Europe during my senior year in high school", and "Can I borrow your minority whip for the Jewish Defense League's S&M ball tonight?" with a straight face. Remember: the smaller the state the fewer the voters, hence the cheaper the seat, so hurry before all the good deals are taken! (This offer void in Wyoming because it's just not right to be able to buy a seat in Congress for $520.10.)

Shakespeare's Pipes. While these would make wonderful gifts for any budding bard, they're perfect for the teenager on your list. Or will be if Frances Thackeray, the head of paleontology at the Transvaal Museum in Pretoria, South Africa is correct. He's the guy who's having the police department test Shakespeare's clay pipes to see if they contain any traces of cannabis. Cannabis, for those who aren't sure exactly what it was Bill Clinton didn't inhale, is marijuana. Pot. Reefer. The Chronic. Okay, you get the idea. Thackeray's convinced that the secret to Shakespeare's creativity was drug-induced visions. Other scholars are convinced Thackeray has a similar problem. There are only a couple of pipes, each with limited residue, so order now!

A Full-Size Reproduction of the Titanic. If you don't have room for this in your backyard--and you should be damned embarrassed if you don't--you may still be able to surprise a loved one with this thoughtful gift. At least you will if the group which has proposed building an exact reproduction of the Titanic as a floating 568-room hotel on San Francisco's waterfront gets their way. And why not? Who wouldn't sleep well knowing they're on a duplicate of a ship which sunk, taking over 1,500 people with it and--wouldn't you know it?-- Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet weren't among them? If this is successful it will be joined by a Hindenburg balloon ride, a Chernobyl glow-in-the-dark funhouse, and the Hurricane Hugo Tilt-a-Whirl. So if the Titanic itself is too rich for your blood, just wait. DisasterLand USA will be open soon!

The Handy Truster. This is a newly-released, and strangely named, hand-held lie detector from South Korea which its developers claim is 82 percent reliable. Since it indicated they were telling the truth when they said that, it means there's an 82 percent chance that it's 82 percent reliable. In other words, it could only be 67.24 percent reliable. Buy it now before they dig themselves into a deeper hole, like swearing they're sincere about normalizing relations with North Korea.

A Presidential Candidate. who isn't a big brat. This would make a great present for any American if you can find one. Not an American, they're easy to find. They're the ones wearing earplugs so they can't hear the rest of the world laughing. If you find the candidate, let me know!

The Mir Space Shuttle. After 14 years and 1,400 near fatal accidents (motto: "Still safer than the English railway system"), they're going to let the Mir crash into the Pacific Ocean. If you want it you're going to have to act quick since the end is scheduled for February. Unlike a couple of years ago when Russian cosmonauts appeared on QVC to auction off three space suits just like the ones they wore when they almost died aboard the shuttle, this time they're tossing the Mir away like a used politician after the Russian mafia is done with him. It would make a great playhouse for the kids, a wonderful camper which will be the envy of the 3 million other people camping at Yosemite with you, or a great bargaining point during your next divorce negotiation ("I'll take the house and car, you get the Mir."). There's only one, so hurry!

A Trip to China. so you can have coffee at the Starbucks in Beijing's historic Forbidden City, which was once the exclusive home of China's emperors. Imagine sitting back and relaxing with a Lao-tzu Latte™, an icy cold Forbidden Frappaccino™, or a sandwich with plenty of Mao. And while you're in China you'll be able to take in a showing of "Life and Death Choice", the movie that was a centerpiece of the Communist Party's anti-corruption drive but somehow ended up being pirated all over the country. You can buy illegal copies in most state-run movie theaters. Nothing, it turns out, is forbidden in China these days except human rights.

A Cab Driver's Brain. While not usually at the top of most people's wish list, this would still put a smile on anyone's face Christmas morning, especially if they have a bad sense of direction and had trouble finding the living room. A study at University College of London University (motto: "Did we mention we're a university?") found that London cabbies have a larger rear portion of the hippocampus than the average person. (This, incidentally, makes for a great taunt when you're in London: "Your father has a big rear hippocampus!" But do be careful, many cab drivers are also football hooligans and Guinness fans, two things that oddly go hand in hand.) It turns out the hippocampus, the part of the brain associated with spatial relations, gets bigger when you use your navigation skills. Unfortunately this happens at the expense of the back of the hippocampus, but that's okay since scientists have no clue what it's for. Your happy gift recipient won't know either, but that's fine since they'll be so busy singing along with the 1,456,976th bad rendition of "The Little Drummer Boy" that they won't even notice.


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