January 19, 2019

A List of Decent Enough Gifts for Your Friends and Family

“No one is immune to products with shiny packaging, newfangled features, and high list prices—even when you’re paid to be a skeptical reviewer of these things. At my last job, I welcomed a constant parade of lotions and socks and blow dryers into my apartment. The goods with fancy logos and trendy colors were the ones that made me thrill at my work. They felt nice to unwrap. They felt glamorous to take selfies with.

Nice things are nice. At least, at first.

Some nice things turn out to be duds. A $200 bright yellow hair dryer that I reviewed was slower and heavier than the ones you could find at a drugstore. After consulting several dentists, I learned that a luxury light-up teeth whitener works as well as Crest White Strips. There was a brand-name leather briefcase that my colleagues liked, but I found it was too skinny to tote around my personal essentials, like gym clothes and a bottle of wine. A pair of dog boots that cost as much as shoes for a small human being had trouble staying on my petite beagle’s feet for more than 10 steps.

More often, nice things can prove exactly as useful as their cheaper counterparts: the high-end treadmill made with the same parts as the version sold at Walmart, the sunscreen bottled and sold like a rare and fancy potion with identical active ingredients to much of the stuff available at the drugstore in bulk.

There is simply an upper limit to how well a thing can work, which is why you’re reading this, our list of holiday gift ideas that are good—and more importantly, Good Enough. All products are subject to the basic laws of physics, the hard truths of biology. No cream can reverse aging, but some have heftier marketing budgets. No dog boots will make my dog enjoy wearing dog boots. After a certain point, a vacuum can only suck marginally better. There is often simply less distance between most products than you would expect—or rather, have been carefully led to believe there is through years and years of marketing.”

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JJ Editor's Picks

"Not even what one might think of as the most basic tenet of any religion, a belief in the existence of God, is a prerequisite: Agnosticism is a key principle of at least one major school of Hindu philosophy."

"The presidency of any particular incumbent is relatively short... but the precedential consequences of impeaching a president without complying with the specific provisions of the Constitution “as it was written” are enduring."

"After news that a judge allegedly provided sexual favors to Bar Association president Efi Nave in exchange for her appointment, several politicians said in their responses that the Judicial Selection Committee needed to be the “Holy of Holies.”"

"Two new documentaries take on Billy McFarland and his disastrous music festival... the secret villain of this story all along: the subtle menace of social media marketing."

"Eating out, ordering in. Throw in a bagel here, a coffee there, and it all adds up. "It's definitely a challenge for people my age to save on food.""

"Popular music is shrinking. From 2013 to 2018, the average song on the Billboard Hot 100 fell from 3 minutes and 50 seconds to about 3 minutes and 30 seconds. "

"Here in the good old U.S. of A, the third annual Women's March planned for Jan. 19 is in serious trouble, thanks to irreconcilable political disagreements."

"Nature, however, with its endless cycles of death and rebirth, fascinated her. Walking in the woods, she developed a method that has become the hallmark of her poetry, taking notice simply of whatever happens to present itself."

"Modern parents haven’t stopped playing favorites; they’ve just stopped doing it openly. Though few parents today will admit they have a favorite child, studies indicate that about two-thirds of parents do."

"The first science-based diet that tackles both the poor food eaten by billions of people and averts global environmental catastrophe has been devised."

"Sphen and Magic looked like they would make great, diligent, careful egg-warming parents. They made the biggest nest, and they sat on it constantly."

"How YMHAs, followed by synagogue-centers, and finally JCCs have tried—in different ways—to balance Judaism and Jewishness, by bringing Jews together in intellectual, spiritual, and physical pursuits"