How to Best Honor Thy Father?
It's getting grim for dad this Father's Day. Have you noticed that June is now being branded as for "dads and grads?" Poor guy. Seems his primacy as a holiday honoree is slipping.
Too bad. Father's Day should be the day of grace for gadgets.
Profit-hungry mainline gadget companies would like you to think the family holidays are all about electronics. Motorola (MOT) , Verizon Wireless and Cingular, among others, broke new marketing ground this year by shamelessly pumping Valentine's Day and Mother's Day gadgets.
So far this year, there has been an avalanche of horrifying puce cell phones, matching Bluetooth headsets and pink DVD players -- all of which seem to be selling.
"Our pink Motorola Razr phone is one of the hottest-selling items we have," Verizon Wireless spokesman David Samberg says, adding, "Women seem to love these phones."
Poor men. Poor dad.
Although big-box retailers such as
are trying to discount their way to success this weekend with last-minute Father's Day sales, it feels like too little, too late.
Be real. Who's going to buy a $5,000 plasma-screen TV for Father's Day?
The trick to celebrating the holiday is not getting dad what he needs; it's getting dad what he doesn't know he needs.
The right gift is an elegant mix of quality and function that offers an experience he'd never think to want: a superb listen, a refreshing ride down a hill, a favorite film seen anew. That's Father's Day.
Still stumped? Here are four terrific ideas for this Father's Day. They'll work. Really.
Listen Up: Tivoli Henry Kloss Model One Radio
The stylish and sleek Model One, designed in 2000, has broadcast so much good sound to so many.
The unit couldn't be simpler: one speaker, one similarly sized tuning knob, two small buttons for power and volume. The Model One renders AM-FM radio as it was meant to be heard -- in marvelous mono. It has excellent fidelity. The tuner never drifts. And if you choose, you can run an antenna to your roof and get Viacom's WFAN New York out in Cincinnati. Knock yourself out.
You can also pimp out the Model One, if your dad must have satellite radio, stereo sound, subwoofers, alarms or a CD player. Tivoli makes excellent riffs on all these technologies. But why mess with genius?
Watch It: The Slingbox
If your dad likes TV, then here's the ideal gift. The Slingbox is the darling of the gadget world right now for good reason: this takes a home TV feed, sends it out over the Web, and brings it back to dad, wherever he is. Don't try to explain the wonder of Internet protocol video running on multicast topologies to him -- just tell him it's magic, and that he can tune in his TV feed from any PC or Internet-connected device in the universe.
Be warned, the picture can be a disgrace. The Slingbox transmits already sloppy cable TV out over the wild open Web, so picture quality will vary greatly by connection. Yet, there is no denying the Slingbox's power. Dads will derive great comfort knowing that no matter where they are, SportsCenter is on 36 and the Golf Channel is on 57. Who cares about jittery video?
On the Big Screen: Sony BDP-S1 Blu-ray Disc Player
If your father loves movies, preorder the BDP-S1 Blu-ray player from Sony. He'll love you forever.
Blu-ray players, set to hit the market in August, will offer unparalleled movie and sound quality for home cinema. Blu-ray discs use blue lasers (not red) to fit more data in less disc space. And they run faster.
The BDP-S1 turns seen-'em-a-million-times movies like
Lawrence Of Arabia
into fresh cinematic masterpieces.
It's a shame that Sony didn't build in a hard drive or other recording capability into the S1. And there will be kinks to be worked out; Sony is touting all sorts of interactive features that will almost certainly need time to get squared away. But this disc player is still a worthy prize.
Cycle for Life: Independent Fabrication Bicycle
(starts around $2,000)
Dad's full of excuses for why he can't get off the sofa.
As high as oil prices are, they're still not high enough to stop him from driving to the train station every day. His cholesterol is not bad enough to get him to the gym. His motivation is low. The dog is asleep on his feet. Enough!
Here's something to get your father off his ever-widening duff and at last away from the TV remote: a bicycle from Independent Fabrications.
Independent Fabrication bikes are handmade and custom-built for your dad's height, inseam, arm length, upper-body size, and foot size.
Custom-built frames are more comfortable, last longer and go faster than off-the-rack models.
This employee-owned company boasts some of the best steel workers, titanium welders and carbon-fiber fabricators in the world. Paint, finishing, fittings -- it's all painstakingly made.
And the prices aren't ridiculous. Staying basic with a steel Crown Jewel road frame finished with decent Shimano Integra components, you're spending about $2,000. Not bad for state of the art.
For the father who really does have everything, then try the model I got my hands on, the IF XS. It's an engineering and construction marvel: Handcut and handwelded titanium lugs fitted to carbon tubes, finished off with best-of-breed Campagnolo Record parts, Mavic wheels and, love it for what it is, an 18-carat gold emblem.
And all this for just $10,000.
Imagine how happy he'll be this Father's Day.
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Jonathan Blum is an independent technology writer and analyst living in Westchester, NY. He has written for The Associated Press and Popular Science and appeared on FoxNews and The WB.