Editor's note: Tedium is publishing on an different schedule this week—Monday and Wednesday mornings rather than Tuesday and Thursday evenings—so as to get in your inbox before the holiday rush of out-of-office replies and connecting flights.
Today in Tedium: If you're reading this and still in need of gift ideas for your loved ones, it's already too late. (Did you know that Christmas is on Friday?!) You will find nothing good in your inbox or elsewhere that will save you at this point. Instead of trying to salvage you, we're publishing a gift guide full of ideas that will ensure that people never ask you for gift ideas ever again. These ten gifts will not make your friends respect you more. You will not get more Christmas cards next year if you buy these. (Though if you do buy them or something else using our links, full disclosure, we will receive a slight smidgen of affiliate revenue, so maybe you will be giving someone a gift—your good friends at Tedium.) But you're already reading, so you may as well just keep reading and maybe you might see something for a loved one you don't love that much. — Ernie @ Tedium
"Edward Rakehands" doesn't have nearly the same ring to it as Edward Scissorhands, so we can totally understand why Tim Burton decided not to have Johnny Depp's character wear rake claws, an unusual device we spotted back in November when we talked about the history of raking. Though that said, if you were planning on giving your closest friend an Edward Scissorhands costume, you probably should have done it in October, when such a gift wouldn't have been seen as psychotic.
This year was full of articles and commentaries about the demise of journalism, and Tedium didn't help matters with its own piece on the demise of newspapers about a week ago. Really, we think people should think about journalism very thoughtfully. We're hoping this innovative beer helmet, in honor of thinkfluencer @ProfJeffJarvis, will help you think carefully about the combination of pageviews, content, and currency.
As we pointed out back in September, making the bed is pretty stupid. It's one of the least life-fulfilling activities one can do, especially since you're going to immediately get into your bed and ruin the hard work you put in. So we don't recommend buying any bedding-related products for your relatives. We do, however, recommend getting them a smartphone claw. It's like a baby mobile for adults, if you think about it.
One of the darkest points of 2015 for me, personally, came on a fateful night when I decided it would be a really good idea to make homemade jalapeno poppers. It was actually kind of fun, but then my hands started burning like crazy, at which point I decided that jalapeno poppers were not worth the capsaicin exposure. But I can still help others who could be endangered by the risk of burning pepper oil, by recommending that they get a hold of a jalapeno corer and stand instead of trying to do this hard work by hand. For those who would rather see the world burn, we recommend ghost peppers instead.
We talk a lot about the long tail on Tedium, for obvious and clear reasons—that's kind of what we're obsessed with, the obscure, the failed history, the mysterious, the misguided arguments. Back in February, we spent a lot of time diving into some of the internet's earliest tall tales. One of the more interesting tales that didn't get into that piece was the story of Clifford Stoll, the astronomer and author who infamously criticized the internet's disruptive potential in his 1995 book Silicon Snake Oil. (This Newsweek piece by Stoll kinda gives you the gist of the argument.) Stoll was wrong on most counts, something proven by the fact that his book still can be bought on Amazon as a gift for your clueless cousins.
Close readers of Tedium might be aware that we write a lot about music, particularly unusual quirks involving mainstream artists, weird instruments, and basically any opportunity we can find to mention Lou Reed. If there was any one gift we'd recommend that nails down our ethos regarding music, it would definitely have to be the Stylophone. This device, an early synthesizer that is played with a stylus, is sort of what you might get if you locked Robert Moog in a room for two weeks and told him to make a competitor to the Palm Pilot. If you're looking for something a little more acoustic in tone, a kalimba might also do the trick.
The best prediction we made this year involved the metric system—specifically, the decision by Lincoln Chafee to promote it as part of his Democratic presidential bid. We argued that this was a sign that Chafee had killed his presidential hopes before he even had a chance. It took a little while for Chafee to face reality, but by October, our silent campaign to kill his chances succeeded. If your weird liberal uncle from Vermont still needs to be convinced that the Metric System is a pipe dream, we suggest John Bemelmans Marciano's book, Whatever Happened to the Metric System?, which will point out that in the end, the units don't really matter.
Some of the greatest fodder for Tedium issues this year has come in the form of obscure media formats, satellite dishes, weird television, and anything that highlighted something that you won't find on either Netflix or your 800-channel Comcast subscription. So with that in mind, we wanna give a final shout-out to the awesomeness of the shortwave radio, a key topic of discussion in our January piece about the loudest noises ever. Shortwave radios are fascinatingly nerdy windows into obscurity. And for those who don't want yet another device in their homes, The Conet Project is a great introduction into shortwave's most fascinating element—numbers stations.
The greatest disappointment of 2015 is perhaps the knowledge that noteworthy Cajun motor-mouth James Carville had an opportunity to do a court show, but was never able to convert this amazingness into a full series. Court shows made a great topic of discussion in this April issue of the newsletter, but it's a darn shame that Carville missed out on such a clear opportunity. If you have a good friend who's into court shows, buy them this People's Court board game of an '80s vintage. Everyone knows Judge Wapner was the best TV judge in history.
Finally, if you're going to buy your long-lost pal a physical DVD in the age of streaming, it has to be something particularly special—something of a '90s vintage, perhaps, something that they'd be unlikely to see on television by flipping through the streaming services, but something that features an actress that won an Oscar before being forced to create a contractually-obligated piece of art. That film, of course, is Theodore Rex, a movie that represents what you might get if you were to randomly combine the plots of Sister Act 2, Jurassic Park, and Demolition Man, translate them into another language, and put Whoopi Goldberg's signature on the contract for the final result.
There's a good chance you read this and wondered to yourself, "who in the heck would want these gifts?" There's a good chance that you may not find anyone in your circle of loved ones who wants any of these things.
But I would also put this in perspective. People have weird tastes. For example, a story took the coin-collecting world by storm over the weekend: There's a dime out there that was accidentally minted on a freaking nail, and that "coin" is probably worth a cool $10,000. There is probably some coin collector out there that is licking their chops in hopes of getting this coinail.
May your gifts this year be nearly as thoughtful.