This year’s Christmas ‘basics’

Published 8:35 pm Tuesday, December 22, 2009

I always wait until the last minute to figure out Christmas gifts, and I’m usually in need of someone more creative than myself to spark a good idea come the last few days before Dec. 25.

U.S. News and World Report cataloged the top 10 gifts for this Christmas season. Yahoo put the article under a section headlined “Back to Basics,” along with other holiday-related news stories.

This December’s basics include interactive hamsters that are more interactive than real (smelly) hamsters, as well as the third-generation iPod Touch and sheepskin boots.

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The most basic must-have in the top 10 is something that will eventually — because we have to say this type of thing about all new technology — spell the end of paper-and-ink books.

E-book readers, such as the Amazon Kindle and the Barnes and Noble Nook, are expensive at first glance. The Nook, at $259, is sold out at Barnes and Noble through Feb. 1.

There are good, even “basic” uses for the handheld device, which weighs less than a pound and can store up to 1,500 books at a time. For the right person, say a student who would otherwise have to buy a lot of books each semester, or someone who spends lots of time reading while traveling, it would even be smart financially over time.

Australian sheepskin boots worth around $200 are needed to get back to basics. We know that because, U.S. News and World Report said, “Kate Hudson and Oprah Winfrey began donning them” earlier this decade. But, this decade is almost over, so isn’t it time to move beyond sheepskin boots to something more expensive that will last an even shorter amount of time before we need to throw them out and buy brand-new ones?

Most of the rest of the list is made up of toys. I don’t have a Wii; a first-, second or third-generation iPod Touch; or Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2 — but I’d at least heard of them. I hadn’t heard of a Zhu Zhu Pet.

I have a real dog and real cats and, while I’m nowhere near being a vegan, I generally think any pet short of a wild tiger (as opposed to a domesticated tiger) or a 30-foot-long python is great.

Zhu Zhu Pets have a “loving mode” and an “exploring mode.” In loving mode, they make squeaking noises. In exploring mode, “they zoom across the floor.”

Whoever came up with Zhu Zhu Pets is probably going to deposit a check with eight or nine zeroes on it Dec. 26. But the fundamental flaw here is that part of the usefulness of having a cat, dog or maybe even a hamster, is having it love and explore, not from a mode, but because there’s actually a connection between person and pet.

No matter how many Zhu Zhu Pets are given this year, they’ll never be able to replace the real thing.