Thursday, December 2, 2010

The sky's the limit

I've spent a lot of time on airplanes lately, although really I shouldn't say that yet as I still have another four flights this month to undergo. Whenever you fly out of JFK your flight is inevitably delayed for an hour or so after you're already on the plane. As discomforting as it is to hear, once you're strapped in with your tiny allotment of leg room, that you're now 50th in line for take-off, it does give you more time to do one thing: peruse the Skymall catalog. For some reason, this is something I only do while the plane is on the ground. I guess it's because I find it difficult to read during the actual take off, and I don't want to get too involved in a book. Coming back from Texas this weekend though, I ended up getting through the entire catalog because we were an hour on the ground due to a "mechanical error" that turned out to be the toilet in the back lavatory not flushing.

The Skymall catalog is just brimming with innovative products whose sole market seems to be people whose mental acuity is compromised by breathing recycled oxygen in a pressurized airplane cabin. From the standpoint of an inventor, it seems that you would think of a need that requires filling, create a product to fill it, and then sit back and wait for capitalism to do the rest. The problem with so many of the products in Skymall is that I can't figure out what need they're hoping to satisfy.

Exhibit A: The Marshmallow Shooter
According to Skymall: "This clever pump-action device shoots sweet, edible miniature marshmallows over 30', and--unlike other marshmallow blasters--it comes with an LED sight that projects a safe beam of red light to help locate a target for accuracy." Which leads me to two questions: 1) There are other marshmallow blasters? and 2) They don't have LED sighting?? If that's the case, I doubt I'd have much accuracy at all projecting marshmallows up to 30 feet. And then what would be the point.

Exhibit B: Electronic Feng Shui Compass
Let's assume for a minute that you are someone who cares passionately about the ancient Chinese system of aesthetics known as Feng Shui. Are you seriously going to put the state of your positive chi in the hands of a little machine that can't possibly comprehend your goals and intentions? I don't think anything truly spiritual comes with a USB charger attachment.

Exhibit C (my personal favorite): The Litter KwitterIf this really works, Skymall really should stop marketing their (literally) 20 different options for fancy litter boxes with computers in them so that you can own a cat and never actually shovel its feces. They also have litter boxes that double as end tables and cost far more than my entire IKEA living room set.

Apologies to any readers who own and love these products. Actually, if you do for some reason own one, I'd be very curious to know if it works. Can you really shoot a marshmallow up to 30 feet? And do you find it's more satisfying then just throwing one? Do you now have to get in line behind your cat at the bathroom? Has your bedroom never felt more spiritually balanced? Inquiring minds (well at least one) want to know.


  1. I've never felt the need to throw, or shoot, marshmallows. But after this post, I'm beginning to reevaluate my life decisions...

  2. I always read the Skymall magazines because there's always something new that amazes me. I don't think I'll ever be able to figure out why on earth (or in the air, I guess...) these things were created and why we waste paper printing out these catalogues. Maybe we should start a blog called "The most ridiculous thing you've seen in a Skymall magazine." :)

  3. I love looking at the utterly useless stuff in there too! But I would have to say I think that Bed Bath and Beyond is also in the running for most useless stuff for the "must have gifts" flyer they send around each Christmas. I read the most recent one and found 100 percent of the stuff was completely free of actual usefulness. Here are some examples, although I didn't want to look up and see if they still sell the at-home-egg-mcmuffin-maker which is basically a tiny hot plate.

    To spare you the plebian task of putting toothpaste on your toothbrush:

    And then there is this (there are like 10 versions), the kind of gift the husband gives his wife so he can avoid actually doing the household tasks that might free up her time to ever use it:

  4. Barbora -- That sounds like a solid, and most sustainable, blog than any we've previously done!

    Carolyn -- Those are pretty great! I think I've seen the bathtub caddy somewhere before (possibly SkyMall?). I remember thinking on those rare occasions when I do take long baths, the water gets tepid long before my hand gets tired of holding up a book (or the edge of the bathtub gets tired of holding up a wine glass). Then again, maybe it's just my reading selection is too light. I wouldn't take, say, Crime and Punishment in the bath.

  5. I actually knew a girl in high school whose parents bought a version of the Litter Kwitter from a pet store and successfully toilet trained their cat with it! Unfortunately, they allowed the cat to go outdoors, and it got run over within the year. :(

    I love reading Skymall, too, though I only have occasion to fly once or twice a year. The magazine crossword puzzles are also refreshingly easy.