Friday, November 26, 2010

Special Black Friday Post: The Joys of SkyMall

By the time you're reading this, the chance to capitalize on those elusive Black Friday sales has already gone. Assuming that you haven't been trampled to death in the mad dash of consumerism, you might still be wondering what you're going to get your loved ones for the holidays. Christmas is less than a month away, after all.

Thankfully, while flying to my parents' house for Thanksgiving, I had plenty of time to peruse possible gifts. If you'll be flying over the holidays, there's a good chance that you'll be doing the same thing. I'm referring, of course, to SkyMall, that publication stuffed in the back of every seat on the plane. It's guaranteed to be better written and more interesting than the in-flight magazine, and there's plenty of possible gifts that you won't find anywhere else. 

With nothing else to do on the flight north, I took it upon myself to construct the official Charge Shot!!! SkyMall gift guide for the holidays. Sure, you could get your loved one a Kindle for cheap, but why select such a cliched, thoughtless gift when a real sextant is available for only a few dollars more?

The World's Largest Crossword Puzzle ($29.95)

What better way for your loved one to show how erudite and sophisticated they are then to hang a seven foot tall crossword puzzle on the wall? With 28,000 clues, you'll have to solve 77 a day to complete it by the end of the year. According to the reviews, the paper stock isn't that great, and the puzzle actually comes in six pieces that you have to put together yourself. But a crossword puzzle with "some assembly required" is a novelty in and of itself, and even if you never finish the damn thing, the array of black and white squares makes for a soothing, hypnotic wall hanging. 

No Blind Spot Rearview Mirror ($59.95)

Every rearview mirror has blind spots, as you've likely been so dutifully taught in driver's ed class. SkyMall aims to solve this problem by making a mirror so ridiculously huge that it promises a 180-degree field of vision, effectively eliminating any blind spots. Nevermind that this gaudy mirror doesn't allow you to use your sun visors. Or that it's so big that you end up seeing a reflection of your own face. Or that there's no darkness setting. Or that it apparently distorts the view behind you like a fun house trick. Or that it apparently might not fit on your car's current mirror at all. Your loved one will appreciate your concern for their safety, which is all that really matters. 

An Acre of Ocean ($19.98)

Theoretically, this is not a bad price for an acre of land, especially when you consider you're promised all rights to minerals beneath the ocean surface, as well as free right of passage through your square of ocean. The company claims that this land was originally claimed by a "Hollywood TV/Film producer" before the passage of something called the "Law of the Seas," which apparently ended the practice of Hollywood moguls arbitrarily claiming land thousands of miles away. The land is sold by the Johnson Smith Company, a mail order corporation famous for whoopee cushions, so it's unclear how legally binding this deed actually is. But the possibilities of owning an acre of land free from any government are endless - start a pirate radio station! Print your own currency! Make yourself a king! Issue edicts and collect tariffs! Start a tax-free corporation!

Video Recording Sunglasses ($199.95)
Teddy Bear Hidden Camera ($599.95)
Spy Camera Finder ($89.95)

SkyMall customers seem to live in some sort of Hobbesian dystopia where all citizens are constantly engaged in perpetual spy warfare. The amount of hidden cameras and "magic ears" that the catalog offers is nothing short of astonishing. I like to think that Frequent-Flying businessmen take the time on their flights to stock up on these gadgets, and utilize them in a larger game of corporate espionage. After all, this is a world in which a "Motion Detection Spy Pen" might offer the edge that leads to that next big promotion. 

These are three of the best spy gadgets that I found. The camera on the "hidden camera" sunglasses is not quite so hidden at all, and the shades are so hideously ugly that no self-respecting spy would be caught dead in them. Still, if you need to secretly record a meeting on, say, the beach, these might come in handy. Slightly more expensive is the teddy bear camera, but the price is certainly worth it if you're worried that your children are up to no good in their nursery. Even better...give it to your enemy's children as a Christmas gift!

The catalog also offers a $90 "spy camera finder." It's unclear how exactly this works, but apparently something called "optical augmentation" will reveal any hidden cameras. So, if you're worried that your corporate rivals are spying on you as you read this, the spy camera finder will help you determine which Wile E. Coyote-type device the camera is hidden in this time. 

Hypnotic Illimicube ($99.95)

This costs a hundred dollars, and I can't for the life of me figure out what it does. Nominally, it's a box filled with LED lights that create different color combinations. But, unlike other SkyMall products, this one offers no New-Age medical advice about "ancient Eastern healing powers," nor does it have any hidden cameras. It doesn't even promise to "impress friends" or make a great "conservation piece." Out of all the products in SkyMall's impressive catalog, this one is perhaps the most mysterious. What is it for? 

I can only assume that the "Illumicube," like the pyramids and ziggaruts of old, carries some of the secrets of the universe within its fluctuating hues. A hundred dollars might seem like a lot to spend on a useless box of colors, but when the Apocalypse comes in 2012, you won't be laughing. Surely there must be some Eternal Truth hidden within the electronic palette. Buy the Illumicube, take a deep breath, and lose yourself in it's hypnotically shifting color scheme. See if you can break the code before it's too late. The fate of the world may very well hang in the balance.