I'm Beginning to Shop a Lot Like Christmas

Christmas is going to be different this year. It won't just be that the outside of every house will be decorated in red, white, and blue bulbs. Or that you have to take the time to explain to the kids that Santa's beard is white because he's old, not because it's covered in anthrax. Neither will it be because the American flag will be sitting on top of the tree where those boring old angels and lighted stars used to hang out. No, the main reason it will be different is that when you splurge on gifts this year you won't have to feel guilty. In fact, you'll feel downright good knowing that you're not only bringing a smile to people's faces, you'll also be helping the economy get back on its feet and doing your part to win the war on terrorism. It warms your heart more than the heartburn you get from egg nog, doesn't it?

The problem, though, will be what to buy. That's assuming, of course, that you're not one of those people who finished their Christmas shopping on July 17th because they started it the day after Christmas last year, yet are still at the mall at 7 AM every morning so they can get a jump on next year. Can't Attorney General John Ashcroft lock them up too?

The first suggestion is for anyone on your list who's full of hot, uh, air. Consider buying them Under-Ease (www.under-tec.com), the air-tight underwear for the flatulent that has a specially designed hole in the back and a replaceable filter. Hey, even NASA couldn't have dreamed this one up.

The unique design forces expelled gas out through the hole where the activated charcoal in the filter deodorizes it, suddenly filling the room with minty freshness. Just kidding. Actually it will be clean country scent. Or more likely I Can't Believe It's Not Rotten Eggs™.

Buck Weimer, the inventor, was awarded a 2001 Ig Nobel prize for these. That puts him in the company of such past winners as the self-perfuming business suit (which could become extinct should Under-Ease catch on), the world's most expensive coffee (made from coffee beans which an Indonesian palm civet eats, then excretes), and a Japanese study which tried to determine whether earthquakes are caused by catfish wiggling their tails. Unfortunately I'm not kidding about any of these.

Once you've given everyone their Under-Ease and Christmas dinner is no longer a live re-creation of the campfire scene in Blazing Saddles, it's time to turn your thoughts to how your guests will get home. Especially since thanks to your thoughtfulness jet propulsion is no longer an option. That's why they'll all appreciate the Segway.

A Segway, in case you've been too busy waiting for the Temptation Island Christmas Special to run again so you can remember to tape it this time, is the incredibly over-hyped electric scooter-like thing which insults your intelligence by insinuating you'd be unable to pronounce "segue." They gave it this name because they're convinced it will move the world to the next level. It might, but only after Internet-connected toasters, popcorn poppers, and fondue pots do it first. In other words, in someone's dreams.

In all honesty, an electric-powered personal vehicle which can't tip over does seem like a pretty cool invention. Of course at $8,000 for a commercial version and an estimated $3,000 for the personal one it had better be. While it's going to be a hard sell here, it might work overseas where they're more open to trendy things. Like in Japan, for instance. The same place where you can buy a gift certificate for that special someone for the hot new restaurant, The Lockup.

This is a theme restaurant in Osaka which recreates the lovely dining experience of a prison. Yes, you sit behind bars, are waited on by "guards," and can even book a private cell in case you want to spend some quality alone time with that prisoner at Table 4 who has taken to calling you his bitch.

They say the restaurant is supposed to "add a little terror to your meal." Right, as if a Denny's Grand Slam Breakfast, Bertha at the Waffle House, and a tofu dog on whole wheat bun with soy ketchup and imitation caffeine-free mustard don't inflict enough already.

Speaking of terrors, don't forget the children this Christmas. And what better gift can there be than a brand new Barbie? This year, just like every other year since a caveman carved the first one out of stone and watched his wife became anorexic, Mattel has released a slew of new versions to choose from. There's Bewitched Barbie, I Love Lucy Barbie, and even Coca-Cola Cheerleader Barbie, which I'm pretty sure was the nickname of someone I met once in the AOL Kinky Teens chat room. But why would you want to get one of those when you can give the "I Left My Heart in San Francisco" Barbie?

This limited edition is available at See's Candy stores (and online at www.sees.com). It's not dressed as a beatnik, hippie, or former dot-comer working the counter at a 7-11 as you might think. No, this Barbie's decked out in a fur-trimmed gold satin jacket, black skirt, gloves, hose, and a handbag. You know, the exact same outfit three women in San Francisco might wear on any given night to a costume party but wouldn't be caught dead wearing on the street.

Now suppose you have a child to buy a gift for who doesn't want a doll that looks like Tony Bennett in drag? Get a pet! An electronic pet. One that doesn't need to be walked, fed, or taken to the vet because it swallowed the remote for the fourth time this year.

Luckily Sony has come to the rescue with their new Aibo model ERS-220. Doesn't that name just make you feel all warm and fuzzy? It's an "entertainment robot" which looks kind of like a dog made of tin cans. It has four legs, a head, a retractable headlight, 21 colored lights which "express feelings," a built-in digital camera, and it obeys 75 voice commands. Hopefully "stop using the stereo as a litter box" is one of them. It only costs $1,500 and that includes a cardboard box which the kids will enjoy playing with for months after their Aibo takes up residence in a drawer.

Perhaps you want a pet that's a little more realistic. If that's the case, while you're in Osaka waiting to get into The Lockup--something most people wait to get out of, you can run down the street and pick up a Necoro (www.necoro.com/newsrelease/index.html). It's kind of like a fur-covered Aibo except it responds to human emotions, learns its owner's voice, recognizes its name, and makes 48 different cat sounds when you step on its tail. Sure it doesn't walk, the batteries only last for 90 minutes, and you have to go to Japan to get one, but what do you want for $1,482?

Now that you have all your Christmas gifts taken care of you can turn your attention to more important matters. You know, like whether wearing mistletoe on your belt buckle is too obvious, what the hell a figgie pudding is, and whether you should really tape over Titus so you can have that Temptation Island Christmas Special. Have a great holiday!

More Mad Dog can be found online at: www.maddogproductions.com. His compilation of humorous travel columns, "If It's Such a Small World Then Why Have I Been Sitting on This Airplane For Twelve Hours?" is available from Xlibris Corporation.
Email: md@maddogproductions.com

ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Imagine you've forgotten once again the difference between a gorilla and a chimpanzee, so you do a quick Google image search of “gorilla." But instead of finding images of adorable animals, photos of a Black couple pop up.

Is this just a glitch in the algorithm? Or, is Google an ad company, not an information company, that's replicating the discrimination of the world it operates in? How can this discrimination be addressed and who is accountable for it?

“These platforms are encoded with racism," says UCLA professor and best-selling author of Algorithms of Oppression, Dr. Safiya Noble. “The logic is racist and sexist because it would allow for these kinds of false, misleading, kinds of results to come to the fore…There are unfortunately thousands of examples now of harm that comes from algorithmic discrimination."

On At Liberty this week, Dr. Noble joined us to discuss what she calls “algorithmic oppression," and what needs to be done to end this kind of bias and dismantle systemic racism in software, predictive analytics, search platforms, surveillance systems, and other technologies.

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