There's always a handful of short-supply gift items that drive holiday shoppers nuts. This season, folks have been frenetic for the interactive Spin Master Hatchimals nurturing toys, the mini Nintendo NES Classic Edition game system, and the hard-to-find (gotta go to New York) Snapchat Spectacles, the first sunglasses with built-in digital cameras that "post" to Snapchat.
But fear not, procrastinators. Gizmo Guy has some fun alternatives, gifties available locally or just a two-day shipment away.
Instant (Print) Karma: Retro instant-print cameras have taken off this season, thanks in part to discounted prices from Fujifilm and the camera maker that licenses the Polaroid brand (but uses different technology).
The best deal is for the Fujifilm Instax Mini 8, price slashed to $59.95 (from $99.95) at area Jo-Ann crafts stores, Target, and Best Buy.
But do consider upping the ante to the top-rated (by the review site Techlicious) Fujifilm Instax Mini 70 ($100 at Urban Outfitters), as it offers more settings and features, including a lens-adjacent mirror for selfie framing. Demanding discipline, a 20-shot pack of 3.5-by-2.3-inch Instax Mini print matter costs $12.49 (around 62 cents per shot) at Amazon. The Instant ZINK (zero ink) prints produced in the rival Polaroid Snap ($99.99 at Best Buy and Walmart) aren't as sharp, but cost less – 42 cents each in a 20 sheet/$8.49 (Amazon) package.
DIY Projects: Slick Moto Z smartphones offer a plug-in LED video projector module that's cool and expensive. For the rest of us, the Luckies Smartphone Projector Kit likewise blows up pictures from a smartphone onto a wall or white screen, best viewed in a darkened room. User assembled, this cardboard box+lens device costs $32 at Bloomingdales and Sears.com.
Amar Bose kick-started a global audio empire as a teen in his Abington basement, fixing broken radios. Now your kids can catch the bug by assembling a BOSEbuild Speaker Cube, a Bluetooth speaker kit with easy plug-and-play assembly (no soldering required). It does need an Apple iPhone, iPad, or Touch for discovery and build assistance. Then it works with any Bluetooth-streaming sound source. $149 at https://build.bose.com/products/bosebuild-speaker-cube.
Games People Played: Searching in vain for a Nintendo Classic Edition (a tiny device packing 30 NES games for $60)? Two decent alternatives are readily available for less ($39.95 at Bed Bath & Beyond), even packing two wireless controllers. (The mini NES has just one short-wired controller.)
The Atari Flashback 7 Classic Game Console offers 101 built-in 8-bit games from the 2600 era, most notably Frogger, Space Invaders, and Centipede. The Sega Genesis Classic Game Console packs 80 better-finessed 16-bit games, including the three editions of Mortal Kombat and five Sonic the Hedgehog titles.
Also old and new again is Simon Air, Hasbro's electronic memory/dexterity challenger, now turned vertical and smarter with hand proximity sensors. $14.89 at Target.
Software Matters: A serious audio and video system (and its often "mature" owner) deserves software entertainment that demos the gear to best advantage. A brand-new celebration of Jethro Tull's great album -- Stand Up - The Elevated Edition ($26.39 at Amazon) -- and Rhino's newly boxed up Fleetwood Mac – Mirage ($73.39 at Amazon) both honor classic rock sets with new stereo remasterings plus first-ever Dolby/DTS surround-sound mixes that really open up the music. These multi-disc sets also offer concert recordings and studio leftovers, and the Mac attack includes a high-grade vinyl pressing, too.
A year's subscription to a streaming music service like Napster ( $100 at https://order.napster.com/checkout/gift?cmpid=gift_buy) or the global-music minded Deezer (my other fave) is a gift that keeps on giving. Get one going with holiday album requests like Karrin Allyson's yummy Yuletide Hideaway, Kasey Musgrave's twangy A Very Kasey Christmas, and Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings' It's a Holiday Soul Party.
3-D video devotees deserve the long-in-coming, beautifully finessed Star Wars: The Force Awakens 3D Collector's Edition ($29.99 at Best Buy).
Broadway babies will relish well-wrought, HD concert renderings of Sweeney Todd and Candide (both co-starring Patti LuPone) and a fully staged, West End London production of Gypsy, all on the new Shout Broadway imprint. Blu-ray video versions cost $20-$21 at Amazon.
4K Ultra High Definition TV adopters should appreciate some UHD-Blu-ray discs (about $30) honed especially well for the new medium. Like The Martian, Mad Max: Fury Road, Deadpool, Sicario, The Revenant, and the R-rated cartoon farce Sausage Party. Truthfully, the 30th anniversary 4K/2K double-disc edition of Jim Henson's Labyrinth doesn't look better in UHD, but has five rare songs and a star turn by David Bowie as its wizard of ooze. Nuff said?
Winter Wonders Land: Drop a Therma Cell Heat Pack in the Christmas stocking and your honey will be humming "Baby, it's warm outside." A two-pack of these rechargeable hand warmers costs $47.17 at Walmart.com.
A 1Voice Bluetooth Beanie nestles wireless speakers close by your ears -- $69 in multiple colors at http://www.1voicenyc.com/1-voice-beanie-2/.
Store-bought coffee poured into a thermally wrapped and capped, "Barista certified" Joco Reusable Glass Cup tastes better, stays warmer, and doesn't trash the environment. $23-$27 in 8-, 12-, and 16-ounce sizes at https://jococups.com/.