As a dad, I can tell you that what your dad really wants is just a little goddamn peace and quiet so he can read a goddamn book/watch the game/just, like, sit for five minutes without you and your sister doing whatever the hell it is you're doing that's probably going to kill at least one and maybe both of you, for Christ's sake. He's not going to get that this year, obviously, so the dads on staff got together and came up with a few things that might make acceptable substitutes for the seriously just five minutes to relax that really is all he wants, but is apparently just too much to ask for.
The cheapest-ass Kindle
This is the $79 Kindle. The one with ads. The one that can't surf the web for shit. All you can really do with this Kindle is browse for e-books (it's not even that great for book recs because they'll just recommend the same best sellers to you over and over, creating a permanent 1% strata of bestselling books) and then read them. But it's relatively inexpensive and light, and I'd rather read a book on this thing than in pretty much any other format. Proper tablets will murder your eyes. Dead-tree books are heavy, and it's awkward when I've got a big-ass one parked on my sternum when I'm reading in bed. This little shit Kindle has made me a better reader, and I don't even have to put it away during takeoff anymore. Sure, Amazon is currently in the process of dooming the entire publishing industry, and soon they'll Spotify everything so that a million-copy bestseller earns you three cents, but still: I LIKE READIN' WITH BUTTONS.
A brushed-chrome immersion blender
In concept, the immersion blender doesn't sound all that exciting. "It's, like, a blender on a stick? And you can blend stuff with it?" But put one in the hand of a dad, guide him to a simmering pot of soup, and watch him come to life. Immersion-blending is great Dad Fun! It's juuuuust weapon-y enough—a lightsaber for dads!—to satisfy his inner 9-year-old; more importantly, it renders disorderly things (lumpy soups, sauces, gravies, etc.) tidy and orderly and smooth, giving ol' Dad a power over sweet potatoes that he will never again have over his own fart-scented slag-heap of a life. And it's the gift that keeps giving, in the enjoyment you get from watching Dad come up with ever more far-fetched and transparent excuses for using his immersion blender: to stir his drinks, to scramble his eggs, to trip his nose hair oh God Dad no wait stop—
A punching bag on a stick
The best Christmas gift my kids ever got is something I can punch. I was kinda leery when Santa (via Grandma) delivered the Pure Fitness Punch & Play to them in 2011, but now I'm sold. It's the only thing found under the tree that year that's still in use, by them and me. Stuffed animals and trucks lose their appeal; punching never gets old, it turns out. The Punch & Play is amazingly well built given the price; this thing takes punches better than Rocky Balboa, and just won't go down. The Punch & Play doesn't take up any more space than a floor lamp and is easy to move around, so we keep it in a prominent place, and it gets hit pretty often. Let the kids think this is for them, but know it's there for you, too. Sure, there are virtual options that can enhance hand-to-eye coordination and provide cathartic release. But when you step on, say, a Lego in your bare feet and just wanna hit something, a Wii just won't do.
A pair of good headphones
Since you're not going to give your dad the seriously just five minutes to unwind that is literally all he wants, you can at least give him the next-best thing, which is a way to drown out all the horrible racket around him that is the last thing he wants to hear with some good dad rock. What you want are Sony studio monitors, which are totally indestructible, have a slightly old-fashioned style that would make them look at home in a room full of analog computers and spectrometers and such, and, most importantly, sound amazing—much, much better than the more expensive ones the youngs use as fashion accessories because they grew up listening to all their tinny goddamn MP3s and so don't even know anything about what music is supposed to really sound like. Without going into dreary detail, these were designed as headphones for people who are working with sound, so they're clear, and whatever records you listen to through them will sound basically like the people who made them wanted them to. This is good; your dad will slip these on, cue up his dad rock, and drift away to a time when he was young and cool, before you came along and ruined everything with your inability to just calm down for five minutes, which isn't too much to ask for, you'd think.
Sturgill Simpson, Metamodern Sounds in Country Music
What do dads do? Keep their kids clothed, fed, and reasonably well-behaved. What do dads enjoy doing? Complaining about how much better everything was back when they were kids. Music especially; country music especially. For the pissy traditionalist in your life—which is to say, your father—this is the 2014 country record for you, in that it sounds like it came out in the '70s, despite including a cover of a fluke pop hit from the '80s. (It's a surprise.) Get it on vinyl, because duh.
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