Foreword by Mike Westfall: April 2014 — Hi! Welcome to the first in a series of super old articles, republished here so they have a home again in a new (old (lol)) section called Progressive Boink Classic.
We begin with Bill's inaugural SkyMall feature, because he was the one who mentioned in his last podcast (Episode 82) that he wished he could link to his old articles — and to show I can actually do something I said I'd do for once. Happy Easter, Bill!
I was lucky to be a regular contributor for Progressive Boink for about 4 pretty great years. I probably won't ever get back to a point in my life when I can be again, but I've kept copies of the old website. So, if Bill or any other staff members or readers want to see or refer to any really old post, I — or they — can republish it here, where it belongs.
I'm a busy man. You could call me a jet-setter. As a fellow on the go, I tend to spend a lot of time on airplanes, soaring from town to town in style. I'm also the type of gentleman who would rather pass the time on the ‘plane engaging my mind and my senses in some manner, much akin to sharpening a knife to keep it from dulling. After I have completed reading (cover-to-cover) an airport newsstand-purchased copy of Blender or Maxim or FHM or Stuff or Details or Men's Fitness or Out, much of my in-flight reading involves perusing the unfathomable wares offered by SkyMall.
Ah, SkyMall, the catalog for travelers. Having accumulated a large array of the worn magazines, I am led to believe that only two types of people actually buy things from this catalog:
- A specific type of wealthy person that doesn't have good taste at all
- Weary travelers too jet-lagged and lonely to know better
The second type, I imagine, often winds up six weeks later in their TV-illuminated living room in their underwear, weeping softly as they clutch in their hands a clock radio shaped like a robot face.
My experiences with SkyMall have compelled me to share them with you, our viewers. This will be an ongoing series, as there really is just so much completely unnecessary and overpriced insanity filling the pages of this carny-ass mag. We'll start off with their wide selection of gimmicks for "Outdoor Living."
"Safely store a house key near your door, or a file drawer key right on the cabinet, or a car key behind the bumper. Better than hiding a key under the doormat."
Is it? Is it really? You heard it here first, friends! With Stor-A-Key, you need never worry about getting robbed, for it is a certainty. To be fair, that flimsy plastic sleeve does have a three-digit combination tumbler, for PEACE OF MIND~
The picture example, however, clearly demonstrates how in this situation, you would have to fiddle with the combination, remove the lid and the key, unlock the padlock, then remove TWO items from the latch before entering. Apparently Stor-A-Key is placing their bets on saps who won't look at this and go, "Saaayyyyy, that's a clever – oh wait, I own a keyring."
Keyrings are free in many places!
Secure Mail Vault, $269.99
"Innovative Secure Mail Vault locks your mail in one solid locked mailbox, to help you avoid identity theft."
it what now
"There are people out there who want to 'be' you, for purely evil reasons. 'Identity theft' is one of the fastest-growing crimes in America, and you want no part of the incredible hassle that it can cause."
Oh man, I heard about this "identity theft." My aunt's friend got identity thieved and long story short, he's living on the streets sucking people off to feed his crippling Oxycontin addiction. Shit, I better get one of those mailboxes, pronto!
Note how the outgoing mail is just hanging out there for all to see. Fuck outgoing mail, is what I say. Those un-American assholes deserve everything they've got coming to them.
Home Plate Doormat, $19.99
lol i get it
Man that shit is classy as hell. Amuse your neighbors by "sliding into home" every time you return from work or the grocery store. Mind that threshold!
Award-Winning Mosquito Trap, $129.95
Hey, I've heard of this thing! It's that award-winning mosquito trap! Actually, I've never heard of this before because my subscription to Mosquito Trap Monthly Review ran out JUST before the annual awards issue. Isn't that always the way!
Basically the gist is that you drop $130 dollars so that you can straight-up torture mosquitoes of all ages:
"Once insects enter the funnel at the upper part of the trap, they are suctioned and immobilized into the trap's retaining cage by a quiet fan where they remain until they die of dehydration."
You know, most advertising for things of this nature kind of shies away from the actual ins and outs of the manner in which the creatures perish. Not this company! They make sure the insects' abject agony is a selling point of the device. I legit hate mosquitoes and that description makes me a little sad. "Hrm, they die of dehydration, you say! I'll order a gross!"
The Meerkat Gang Sculpture, $85.00
Mt. Rushmore Garden Statue, $39.95
SkyMall specializes in a wide array of truly awful lawn and yard sculptures, and these are no exception. The added bonus to owning both of these items is you can pretend the meerkats are planning some nefarious deeds. Check out Washington, leery of the meerkats' intentions. Look out, George, I think Lincoln is a spy!
How far has our mighty country fallen that a high-quality recreation of our greatest national monument (yeah I said it, fuck off Lincoln Memorial) is nearly fifty dollars less than a gaggle of shifty-looking rodents?
Waterproof Headset for iPod, $79.50
"Used by Olympic gold medalist Natalie Coughlin, this waterproof headset is compatible with second-generation Shuffle and allows for full operation of the iPod's control pad while you swim."
Thanks, Natalie Coughlin! I've always hoped someone could find a way to make me more awkward, self-conscious and distracted while I swim!
Imagine! For a scant eighty dollars, I can have a plastic brick strapped around the back of my head making me look like a fucking goon while I feebly breaststroke from end to end. Oh, I hate this Bryan Adams track! Allow me to GROPE AROUND BLINDLY BEHIND MY SKULL MID-STROKE TO CORRECT THIS
"Included google clips fit all standard swim googles."
jesus those guys are everywhere now
2-in-1 Swimming Pool Game Set, $149.99
wait so what is the other game
wtf that isn't how you play basketball try facing the hoop you chumps
"I'm drivin' the paint, mom! Check out m'patented 'hook-shot'!"
Joe Cool Hammered Tin, $34.97
Ah, summer. A nice relaxing day by the pool. And nothing says "relaxing day by the pool" than America's favorite squiggly-lined dog, Snoopy, in his famous "Joe Cool" persona (Snoopy in sunglasses)! You can see that Snoopy is ready for a bitchin' pool party, since he brought his surfboard, Star Trek: The Next Generation Season One costume and two inches of snow!
upon further reflection none of this makes sense
Outdoor Log Set, $189.00
"Now you can enjoy an outdoor fire without smelling like one by converting your existing outdoor fire pit or fireplace to a gel burning fire. With our outdoor log set, you'll never worry about hauling wood, smoke, soot or ashes again. Burns up to 4 cans of gel fuel. Comes complete with decorative lava rock and snuffer."
I've read this description like fourteen times and I still have no idea what this is all about. Do you hate hauling logs and smelling like fire? Pay us $200 for these logs and smell like gel! I guarantee you there is no way whatever this is will generate a third of the heat of an actual fire, and if it does then it will almost assuredly give you enormous cancer.
Outdoor Misting System, $22.98
Sure, this is how it always starts: a nice, quiet holiday with your family at your Italian villa. It's all sun and roses until the gas is released, and suddenly you're waking up in a blazer and being pestered by the new Number Two.
Floating Table-tennis Set, $69.99
As though ping-pong weren't frustrating or challenging enough, now you get to play it while you're waist-deep in water and holding a novelty lolly.
"Whoopsie-dunkles, I missed again."
/wades to filter
Pool Alarm with Wristband, $219.95
"A TURTLE IS SAFE IN WATER, A CHILD IS NOT!"
the fuck does that have to do with anything
"Even with the most vigilant supervision a child can disappear in seconds and not be missed until it's too late."
what that has to be some kind of faulty logic
"The Turtle Wristband locks on the child's wrist (a special key is required to remove it)"
"… and instantly detects immersion in water and sounds a shrill alarm at the Base Station located in the house or within 100 feet of the pool, spa or backyard pond."
Well this seems perfectly reasonable. I mean, what kid playing by the pool would ever be IMMERSED IN WATER? Specifically a child that is under the most vigilant supervision? Haha why would you need to place the Base Station in the house if you are vigilantly supervising your child? You are a terrible parent, live with it and save yourself the $220.
"Keep extra wristbands on hand for guests or to protect the family dog."
The copywriter is specifically attempting to pitch this device to the worst person imaginable.
"Pool Alarm makes a perfect gift to protect the ones you love."
On second thought, perhaps the copywriter is just honing their craft in preparation for their pitch to become a Saturday Night Live writer. "And I've got this other character, Pool Alarm Guy! He's an insufferable shit who makes everyone wear a pool alarm at his house and then neglects them outright! Hilarious!"
Solar Powered Address Light, $45.99
"Your address may be visible from the street during daylight hours, but how well can it be seen at night?"
Pretty well, thanks. I have a porch light.
"By mounting the Solar-Powered Address Lights, you'll ensure that delivery people, visitors, and emergency personnel will be able to locate your house easily after dark."
The numbers turn off at dawn, so basically you've got a blank screen stuck in your cedar chips all the livelong day, and at night you're displaying your address for the whole world to use as a landmark. "Yeah, I'm parked outside the house with the big glowing numbers out front."
Use in conjunction with the vault mailbox for maximum irony.
POOL SHOT, $325.00 – $595.00
Shit yeah, now THAT is how you play basketball.
Girlfriend: "You're really into competing!"
Boyfriend: "Step the fuck back, woman, here come the elbows."
Pictured here is the POOL SHOT Standard. This is not to be confused with the Commercial POOL SHOT.
Or the Mini POOL SHOT.
What I mean to say is the Commercial POOL SHOT.
And the Mini POOL SHOT
nope same fuckin thing. Apparently the addition of an adjustable height is worth an additional TWO HUNDRED AND SEVENTY GOD DAMN DOLLARS. Hey, you know what else can adjust the height? A FUCKING BRICK.
In conclusion, SkyMall really wants you to play basketball in the pool.
Doggy Don't Sign, $13.95
Classy and refined, this precision-crafted Tiffany lawn accoutrement will inform finicky canines of your desire to avoid having your lawn defiled by their basest biological functions.
"One glance at this whimsical yard sign instantly conveys your serious request to dog owners walking their pet."
Yeah because God knows when I want to convey a "serious request" I fabricate a depiction of a dog taking a visibly satisfying dumpski. I have bad news for you, homeowner: if a dog owner is the type of person to let their dog drop a deuce on someone's lawn, no amount of whimsical signs is going to deter them.
Lazy Man Lights, $79.99
what is this some sort of death star emulator
uh still not getting it
"What if you could end the yearly hassle of putting up holiday lights? What if you could put up lights once, and then customize the colors year-round for all different holidays?"
uh what if FUCK YES
"These Lazy Man's Lights are LED, so you will never have to replace a bulb, or have half a string go out on you in the middle of your in-law's visit!"
lol do they know me or what
Wow, LED, huh? Guess that means "L.E.D." stands for "magic" because if that doesn't sound like a hustle I don't know what does. The last time I heard a sales pitch this good, I bought the Hulk Hogan Ultimate Grill, and that thing stabbed my cousin to death. True story.
Noodle Organizer, $39.99
Holy shit, an organizer for all that unruly and tangled pasta would be incredible for my paralyzing obsessive-compulsive disorder! Finally being able to eat Italian food again! Father Coletti would be so proud!
"If you've got a few of those fun 'noodle' floats, you know it's hard to keep them neat and organized in minimal space."
dyawwwww biscuits and gravy
"Rather than just leave them laying around to get in your way, stand them up inside this Noodle Organizer. Standing vertically helps them dry out faster, stay clean, and take up just 1 sq. ft. of space."
I don't know what kind of square feet they're using to measure because 1) that is clearly taking up space in three dimensions and 2) no fucking way.
Noodle Pool Chair, $14.99
Who in the world would ever buy something like this? It looks uncomfortable, impractical, and it only supports up to 200 pounds. There goes my lifelong fantasy of having the most awkward sex imaginable.
Pineapple Fountain, $159.99
Elegant, tasteful, cultured. These are words your friends and neighbors will not be using to describe this abomination.
"Our pineapple crowned outdoor fountain provides a grand look without the worry of maintenance or cracking in extreme weather conditions. Finely crafted to resemble aged stone, it's actually durable polyresin."
OH IS IT!! My, that is "grand." Too bad SkyMall doesn't offer something more highbrow, like maybe one where the pineapple twirls. I imagine the type of person who would by this fountain is the same type of person who owns at least one very noisy clock. Actually, I can't imagine anyone who would ever buy this. Is this company has sold in excess of ten Pineapple Fountains I will shit my hat.
Reading Garden Fairy - $79.95
Haha what a worthless statue. Are your garden gnomes too engaging? Is our Mount Rushmore lawn ornament too vigilant? Here's a God damn fairy laying down reading a book. It's not even a sexy fairy or anything, like when a Suicide Girl is "reading a book," it's just a lazy ass fairy too shiftless to even bother posing for her own statue.
"What is she reading? The Encyclopedia of Fairies? Or perhaps Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream?
Whatever it is, she's thoroughly engrossed, just as you are when you read a good book."
YOU DON'T FUCKING KNOW ME, SKYMALL
Waspinator - $19.99
"Hang up the Waspinator and wasps disappear: it's really that easy to take the worry out of picnicking, camping or relaxing outdoors."
I'm not quite sure in which region of the United States this is a serious issue, but if anyone would alert me so that I could never, ever go there, it would be greatly appreciated. The phrase "wasp season" has thankfully never come up and I'd like to keep that streak going.
"Your personal, portable wasp repeller imitates an enemy nest to scare away the wasps that could ruin your good time. It doesn't kill or trap bugs, and it uses no poisons or chemicals, so it's environmentally friendly, weatherproof, and safe around humans and pets."
Let's see it in action!
Heavens, that is atrocious. Good job to all the fabulous folks at the Waspinator Corporation. Couldn't have uglied that up any? I guess if it's supposed to resemble a wasp's nest it succeeds, but couldn't you have developed something else? Perhaps a cylinder that makes them die of dehydration? Maybe some sort of tiny guillotine?
Women's Gardening Boots, $12.97
Because Crocs are just too fashionable, here's the iconoclast's solution: Turn heads at the next Farmer's Market or Tractor Swap or Mulching Mixer. "Sayyyyy, who's that gorgeous dame in the rubber shoes?" It's you, sister. It's you.
Tree Memorial Plaque, $59.99
Want to show that departed loved one how much they meant to you? Order this tacky memorial stone with faux-brass plate to make sure your back yard is always a haven of deepest regret. Bonus points if you order a bunch of them and place them around your town in front of high-traffic trees. They'll stay there forever because what dickbag would take something like that down? A tacky gift for a tacky person, show that dead guy's ghost that you're like school on Saturday.