Dad's had a tough year, but does the bad economy mean you save this Father's Day or splurge to help him take the edge off?
Some gift ideas ranging from free to higher end to satisfy a world of interests, which isn't to say he won't be darn happy with a handmade card, breakfast in bed or a kid-picked tie.
FOR ARTSY DAD
No time for Dad to saunter through an art gallery or museum at his own, enjoyable pace? Try an exhibition catalog or large-format art book — http://www.gagosian.com/publications/ or http://tinyurl.com/53k35y. Amazon.com and your nearest chain bookstore stock lots of art and art history books that are often discounted, from the posters of Lichtenstein to the landscapes of Courbet.
Or buy him actual art of a sort he'd never expect. A company called DNA 11 — http://www.dna11.com — will make contemporary "portraits" out of his genetic material, or that of the kids. Mini-portraits start at $169. The company can also create business cards with DNA art on the flipside. Their motto? "From Life Comes Art."
iPhone apps are the new black — try iBonsai, where he can create beautiful miniature tree brush paintings in the Japanese style.
FOR SPORTY DAD
Industrial designer Thomas Meyerhoffer has redefined surfing's longboard with a contoured shape intended to maximize speed, turning and paddling. Meyerhoffer, an avid surfer, promises the board is a nice ride for both beginners and hard-cores. Check out http://tinyurl.com/dlb4re for specs, video and consumer reviews. Prices range from $645 to $895, depending on size.
Surfing not his thing? What about golf? Dads with healthy egos can show off these cutesy, handmade driver covers — http://tigercandyarts.com/sodrco1.html — from Tigercandy Arts. The "Socketts" are made from colorful cotton socks into lions, foxes and other animals. And they double as puppets! In the $40 to $55 range per item.
Does he have a jersey or cap from his favorite team, highlight reels on DVD, game tickets? All available on the Web sites of sports leagues and teams, including the National Football League at http://www.nflshop.com/home/index.jsp and http://tinyurl.com/lpxsfr for Major League Baseball.
An iPhone app for the active dad: the MotionX GPS v5 — http://gps.motionx.com — allows him to track his performance while driving, biking, running, hiking, walking, geocaching and sailing.
FOR FOODIE DAD
Nothing sayss Father's Day quite like food and drink, so throw him a tasting party.
The Oliver Ranch Co. — http://www.oliverranch.com/ — will send you a sampler of artisan beef from four ranch or ranch groups around the country. The Discover Beef Experience taster's pack of four, 6-to 8-ounce filet mignons costs $84.95. The idea is for each guest to nibble a slice or two of each choice.
If he's not into meat, try a goat cheese tasting — http://www.mainegoatcheese.com/ — straight from the farm. Seal Cove Farm in Lamoine, Maine, offers chevres stuffed with blueberries or cranberries. There's a $60 Farm Assortment of four, 5-ounce chevres. Vermont Butter & Cheese Co. — http://tinyurl.com/q5lw6a — in Websterville, Vt., has a Cheese Lover's Selection of award winners packaged in a wooden crate for $50.
Pair the beef with a cabernet sauvignon, Bordeaux, merlot or shiraz. Pair the cheese with a sauvignon blanc, pinot noir or cabernet franc. Too complicated? Try a special bottle of wine alone as a gift. See http://www.wineloverspage.com/foodwine/ for help.
FOR iPHONE DAD
At 35,000 and counting, there's bound to be a dad app at http://www.apple.com/iphone/appstore he hasn't found. Not an iPhone guy? No worries. Apps are available for other smartphones, too, though iPhone rules right now in variety, quality and sheer volume.
— iJobs delivers millions of job listings directly to your phone from all over the Web. Sort by distance from your location or ZIP code. Filter by category.
— Stick Wars allows you to tap, flick and shake your way to victory to protect your kingdom against an invading stick figure army.
— 6500 + Cool Facts provides tidbits like this: A single cup of gasoline, when ignited, has the same explosive power of five sticks of dynamite. Sometimes he just needs to zone out.
— Pogo Sketch stylus — http://tenonedesign.com/sketch.php — for dads with chunky fingers or for use with winter gloves. $14.95.
— Mophie Juice Pack — http://www.mophie.com/products/juice-pack — an external battery pack that fits over the iPhone like a case to double the battery life. $99.95.
— Jawbone Prime Bluetooth Headset — http://us.jawbone.com/store/products.aspx — well-rated noise elimination, digital wind reduction. Its claim to fame is accuracy in separating speech from ambient noise. Nice eye candy colors available. $129.99.
— Incase has a selection of bags and cases for iPhone, iPods and MacBooks. Here's a sports armband — http://tinyurl.com/d63jco — in neoprene with heavy Velcro adjustment for the iPhone and iTouch. $34.95.
FOR GAME DAD
Got a Wii?
Look for the MotionPlus accessory that attaches to the Wii wireless controller for a better feel. $20.
If he — and the kids for that matter — can wait until July 26, Nintendo is scheduled to launch Wii Sports Resort, a collection of games that take place on a tropical island and include sword play, water scooter racing and Disc Dog, where you toss a disc to a cute, Mii-like dog. $49.99 and comes with one MotionPlus. And there's always Wii Fit if you can coax him on.
For non-Wii fun from TDC Games in Itasca, Ill., Dad and the kids can team up to Make-Your-Own-Opoly board game — http://www.tdcgames.com/MYO.htm — using a PC and a printer. $26.95.
Poker-geek Dad might like the iPhone Poker Guide Pocket Directory Database — http://tinyurl.com/qx3dqw — with history, how-to for various games and World Series of Poker winners and rules.
Flick Fishing — http://www.freeverse.com/games/game/?id4567 — for the iPhone requires careful reeling to avoid snapping your line. Choose one of nine baits and participate in tournaments. Also Flick bowling and Flick NBA basketball.
FOR SHUTTERBUG DAD
No two human beings can agree on which camera or camcorder features are top priority and for how much, so you're ahead of the game if he's steered you in his general direction. If he hasn't, how about:
— Canon PowerShot G10 — http://tinyurl.com/54sdp6 — has 14.7 megapixels and a 28mm wide-angle lens with improved face and motion detection. $499.99. Some question whether the amateur enthusiast needs that much pixel power.
If he wants his first single lens reflex:
— Nikon D40 — http://tinyurl.com/2x23gg — has 6.3 megapixels and a superfast shutter with simple controls. $499.95. It's been out awhile but still good for the newbie SLR user.
There are plenty of point-and-shoots for a lot less, including the Nikon Coolpix, Sony Cyber-shot and Kodak EasyShare.
With video built into so many cameras these days, it may be a rare dad who wants to cuddle up with a high-defintion camcorder. If you've got one:
— Canon VIXIA HG20 — http://tinyurl.com/5c7ahr — has a 60GB hard disk drive and room for nearly 23 hours of video. $899.
— Sony HDR-CX12 HD — http://tinyurl.com/p2tlwr — is ultra-compact and records up to 1 hour 25 minutes of video loaded to the supplied 4GB memory stick. $899.99.
Other high-def camcorders at lower price points abound, so shop around. If he's a man who just wants to have fun on the cheap:
— Flip Video MinoHD — http://www.theflip.com/store/MinoHD.aspx — shoots in 1280-by-720 video resolution and holds up to 60 minutes, with pop-up USB adaptor. Pocket-size and simple. $229.99.
FOR DVD DAD
Granted the Netflix, iTunes, DVR, Hulu, YouTube and satellite movie, music and TV options are endless, but consider a juicy DVD big box he would never consider for himself.
— "In Treatment." Season 1.
— "24." Season 7.
— "Battlestar Galactica." Final Season. The complete series also available in one box on Blu-ray.
— "True Blood." Season 1. Also on Blu-ray.
— Stanley Kubrick Collection: "2001: A Space Odyssey," ''Dr. Strangelove," ''A Clockwork Orange," ''The Shining," ''Lolita," ''Barry Lyndon," ''Full Metal Jacket," ''Eyes Wide Shut."
— The Martin Scorsese Film Collection: "New York, New York," ''Raging Bull Special Edition," ''The Last Waltz," ''Boxcar Bertha."
— Dirty Harry Ultimate Collector's Edition: "Dirty Harry," ''Magnum Force," ''The Enforcer," ''Sudden Impact," ''The Dead Pool" on Blu-ray. There's also the Martin Scorsese Collection: "After Hours," ''Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore," ''Goodfellas," ''Mean Streets," ''Who's That Knocking At My Door?"
— Star Trek: Original Motion Picture Collection: "The Motion Picture," ''The Wrath of Kahn," ''The Search for Spock," ''The Voyage Home," ''The Final Frontier" on Blu-ray.
— James Bond Ultimate Collector's Set. 21 Bond films from "Dr. No" to "Casino Royale" and 21 discs of bonus features. It's worth noting that this box lists at $209.98.
FOR BOOKISH DAD
There's lots available for the Kindle, including freebies, so if he's got one you can snatch it and load him up as a surprise. If he doesn't have one, here's the lowdown:
The Kindle 2 — http://tinyurl.com/lfnzw7 — is the latest generation of the wireless Amazon.com reading device. It's flat as a pancake and costs $359. The next generation, the Kindle DX, is due out this summer and has a bigger screen at 9.7 inches high, available for pre-order and costs $489.
If lighting is an issue and he doesn't have a Kindle, or his heart set on one, you can buy him the PRS-700 version — http://tinyurl.com/lqb9tc — of the Sony Reader Digital Book with a built-in LED light. $349.99.
Or you can just buy the guy a book:
— "House of Cards," by William D. Cohan. The undoing of Bear Stearns.
— "Home Game: An Accidental Guide to Fatherhood," by Michael Lewis. Starkly funny fatherhood from Slate essayist.
— "The Case for Civility," by Os Guinness. Evangelical on the culture wars.
— "The Yankee Years," by Joe Torre and Tom Verducci. Definitive look at the dynasty years.
— "The Long Fall," by Walter Mosely. New detective in New York City.
— "My Remarkable Journey," by Larry King. The personal and public talk show host.
— "J.R.R. Tolkien: The Legend of Sigurd & Gudrun," edited by son Christopher Tolkien. Previously unpublished narrative poetry in the Norse tradition.