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Don't despair when shopping for guy gifts

How did your Father's Day gift go over this year?

Me? Well, my dad is impossible. Sure, he pretends to like the stuff you give him, but then it just disappears and you never hear anything about it again.

Still, he insists he's easy to shop for. He says he just likes "simple, little things." So you ask for examples and he starts naming obscure 19th century wood-carving tools and out-of-print books about duck decoys.

It reminds me of a scene from the hysterical ABC series "Modern Family." Dad Phil Dunphy (played by Ty Burrell) is complaining about his wife, Claire's, poor gift-giving skills. He starts naming all the simple, little things that would have easily made much better gifts than the "free hug coupons" she gave him. He rattles them off to the camera as if they should be obvious.

"Things I want: robot dog. Night-vision goggles. Bug vacuum. GPS watch. Speakers that look like rocks. I love my wife but she [stinks] at giving gifts. I'm sorry for the pay channel language but ... oh, yogurt maker! I can't not think of things I want."

I'm now convinced (after a recent flight where my husband gleefully pointed out one bizarre contraption after another) that the only place to shop for the men in my life is the Hammacher Schlemmer catalog.

I used to leaf through it just to get a good laugh at all the wacky wares and extreme luxury gadgets advertised in its pages. But after roughly 30 years of disappointing Father's Days, I'm seriously considering placing a few orders. Here are some I've circled for next year.

*The Telekinetic Obstacle Course ($79.95) It comes with a headband and earlobe clips that measure your brain wave activity, allowing you to move a foam ball through a tabletop obstacle course with your mind. Perhaps it will help dad subconsciously influence future gift-purchasing decisions.

*The Instant Pre-Decorated Christmas Tree ($349.95, marked down from $699.95. Bargain alert!) I love how the catalog description promises to get you out of ever having to engage in traditional tree decorating with your family ever again:

"Unlike typical trees that require tedious set up and styling, this 7.5-inch, prelit tree instantly assumes the form of a Christmas tree that looks professionally decorated and shaped."

I'm sure my dad would have killed for one of these when we were little kids. We probably would have had fewer broken ornaments, and I certainly would have learned fewer swear words.

*The Fish Finding Watch ($139.95). Yep. It's one of those sonar sensor devices that scans the water and locates where all the fish are when you go fishing. Except usually, they're attached to a boat. This one, you wear on your wrist. And it tells time!

*The Better Peephole ($129.95). Instead of the fish-eyed lens look you get when looking through your door's traditional peephole, this electronic device gives you a full-color video image of who is standing on the other side. That way, after reading this column, my dad will be able to better decide whether he wants to answer the door when I visit.

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