Every year we are faced with the awkward task of assembling a random list of gifts. Look, we're not going to tell you what to get for your nearest and dearest—if you can't figure out what to give to the people you love, the following list is not for you. HOWEVER... This is a list for all the people you don't really know but somehow end up having to gift: the office secret Santa, the in-law who's hosting you for a night, your sister's new boyfriend (you don't want him to feel left out), the new town sheriff, President Barack Obama... the list is endless.
Ring Bottle Opener
$7, Exit 9
Everybody we know is an alcoholic, so we assume the same is true of everyone we don't know. Which makes the ring bottle opener the perfect gift for anybody: it's a ring that opens bottles!
$9.95, MOMA Design Store
Ok, so maybe everybody (outside of media offices) isn't a problem drinker, but everybody has a drunk on their list—and who carelessly puts down drinks and forgets which is theirs more often than them? Luckily, Eric Janssen designed these small, colorful, non-toxic foam rings so you can mark your glass. Just because they're blind drunk doesn't mean they're color-blind.
Wine Glass Lampshades
$15, MOMA Design Store
Oh, that drunk in your life entered AA? Be supportive with these mini-lampshades. Sized to fit any wine glass, they (and a votive candle) turn an artifact of alcoholism into a medium of romantic mood lighting, setting the perfect atmosphere for sharing a fall-off-the-wagon glass of red wine.
Gin & Titonic Ice Cubes Tray $9, The Conran Shop
It seems like every company makes ice cube trays in all manner of cute and funny shapes these days, but this is our tentative favorite, if only for the name. The tray produces four ocean liner ice cubes, and four icebergs. Tragedy + Time=Comedy.
A bottle-in-a-glass for people too old to be drinking out of bottles. (Babies drink out of bottles, you odious Bud sucklers.) It looks like someone cut off the bottom of a beer bottle and stuck it in glass upside down. Which is, uh, neat?
Hip Flask and Playing Cards $25, Picnic at Ascot
...in one simulated-suede, attaches-to-your-belt-buckle case. "And a woman's liiiiiiies/Makes a life like mine..."
Banana Bunker $12, MOMA Design Store
These phallic, plastic containers protect your bananas from bruising as you transport them from point A to point B(anana).
Thumb Operated Pump Mill
$19.95, Sur La Table
The difference between fresh- and pre-ground pepper is akin to that between farmer's market produce and syrup-soaked fruit salad in a can. So who wouldn't appreciate this pocket-grinder? Roughly the size of a USB drive, it lets you grind your own peppercorns wherever you go.
Knee Mug $16, Uncommon Goods
We can balance water glasses on our heads—and we do, all the time—but the less talented will appreciate these mugs that, with a little ceramic pared off the bottom, are designed to fit snugly onto your knee or lap. We also call them "Tragic Accident Just Waiting to Happen."
Gravity Pen $24, MOMA Design Store
Magic is expensive—but totally worth it when it means no more clicking like a jerk for your giftee. This pen—only the price of 125 blue-ink BICs—has a point that clicks into place by itself when you hold it upside down. And it goes back in when you return it to its upright position!
Fan Pen $12, MOMA Design Store
Who doesn't want to be able to write and cool off their coffee with just a flick of the wrist (and no blowing like some no-account balloon inflater)? The Fan Pen, which looks like a lanky doofus in a pinwheel hat, features a small fan on the top that won't chop off any fingers. Plus, as this is a recession, the necessary AAA battery is already included.
J-Me Tape Dispenser
It looks like a cassette tape but—get this—it dispenses scotch tape! Will whomever you give it to ever be able to stop laughing at the heteronymic hilarity?
GIZMOS, GADGETS & WHATSITS
$24.95, Hammacher Schlemmer
Who doesn't have cold feet in the winter? People with heated socks, that's who! Ten to twelve hours of battery-warmed legs, and all it requires is a handful of D batteries. Who can think of the environment at a time like winter? (And winter is totally the environment's fault anyway.)
Make a Clock Kit $14.95, Star Magic
No gifts are more appreciated than those that make the receiver put in a bit of labor: in this case, it'll be to build a clock! All the gears are brightly colored, and the face transparent, so once your gift-recipient has finished, he or she can show off to all of their friends the complicated assembly that went into building their ugly clock.
Candle Stick Flashlight $20, Mxyplyzyk
It looks like a candlestick, so it's classy, but it's really a flashlight, so you can actually use it for something besides murdering Mr. Boddy.
Robosharpener $10, Daily 235
Sharpen your pencil inside this robot, and it winds him up and makes him walk. Anyone would love this for two reasons: one, it would encourage them to use more pencils (which everyone wishes they did), and, two, it is a walking robot.
Cooper-Hewitt Design Museum, $25
These tiny spherical magnets come in packs of 216 and will haunt your dreams. What do they do? Well, nothing, except cause a person to paw them obsessively, all day long, trying to make shapes and failing, relieving stress with each squeeze. Buckyballs: we hate you and we love you. Paradox!
Fake Winning Lottery Tickets $1.79 for 5, stupid.com
Take revenge on the people who stuck a losing lottery ticket in your Christmas card by giving them a winner—a fake one! Nothing beats building up someone's hopes and dreams only to crush them. That'll teach them just to give us the dollar next time.
Mini Knife Light Tool Logic, $24.99, Designer Gifts
Every woman should carry a knife in case of a nighttime assault. But in that obscure moonlight, who can stab straight? Thanks to Tool Logic, now she can grip her blade and shine a light while keeping a free hand, thanks to this 2 oz. contraption that includes an emergency whistle, as well. Now she'll know whether she shanked the creep in the stomach or sternum. Fits in her purse!
Chopsticks-To-Go $11.50, Exit 9
Let's face it: we, and everyone we know, are destroying the planet with all the waste we produce. So this holiday season, why not give everyone long-lasting versions of disposable items? Starting with chopsticks. Imagine how many trees are chopped down everyday for the craven, gluttonous scarfing of California rolls alone. These chopsticks, designed by Kikkerland, are made of stainless steel, and fold up to four inches inside a plastic case that clips to your pocket.
Biodegradable Golf Tees $5.99 for 50, Grass Roots
As if we didn't hate golf courses enough for occupying space that could be public parkland, it turns out that golfers' tees are just tossed away and don't biodegrade for, like, ever. So for the tycoon in your life (boss, father-in-law), buy a pack of these corn tees to shove their profligate polluting in their ugly aristocratic faces.
Slide Pocket Ashtray $19, The Conran Shop
By some estimates, billions of cigarette butts are littered every day across the globe, dumping onto the planet toxic filters that take decades to biodegrade. So, for the smoker in your life, give this nickel ashtray that fits in their pocket: only 2 ½ inches long, 1 ½ inches wide. Then they can dump their butts in a garbage can and let the landfills sort it out.
Eco-Pad Paperless Pad
Co-workers wasting too much paper jotting down their inane thoughts? This Magic Notepad lets them write something down and then wipe it away instead of throwing it away. That saves trees. Write it down.
New York Coffee Cup $14, Exit 9
Who can have their morning Joe (the caffeinated beverage, not the TV show) unless it comes in a blue cup with Grecian fonts and trim? The iconic paper cup has been rendered ceramic, so your gift-receiver can have the classic streets of New Yawk experience at home—without killing a tree or chartering a jet to JFK.
I Am Not a Paper Cup $18, Exit 9
Or, for those who wouldn't want to be caught dead looking so self-consciously New York-y, Decor Craft has fashioned this generic-looking coffee cup out of plain porcelain, with a silicone lid. It would also allow your recipient to help with the environment without looking like a self-righteous thermos-jerk. (You think you're so great just because you get up early enough to make your own coffee, thermos jerks?)