Each year we at GeekDad spend the month of June compiling Father’s Day gift ideas, and each year I make it a point to step out and assemble some suggestions for those of us who are, shall we say, difficult to shop for. From the exotic to the plain ol’ pedestrian, here are a handful of gifts for dads with eclectic tastes.
A New Way to Cookout
Of all the pervasive stereotypes of the modern American dad, surely the most popular concerns his love of cooking outdoors. Your pop probably already owns a grill, and he surely has his own unique spin on how to prepare burgers, hotdogs, steaks, chicken, brats, or their vegetarian-friendly analogues. A new product from Cuisinart easily lets him expand his repertoire and otherwise level up his barbecues with that family favorite pizza.
The Alfrescamore Portable Outdoor Pizza Oven is just that, a small(ish) but sturdy device that gives you brick oven-style pizza right there on your patio. At just south of 40 lbs., the Alfrescamore offers 15,000 BTUs of pizza-cooking power using only a single pound propane tank. It assembles in a snap and includes everything you need including a foldable pizza peel, a 13″ pizza stone, and an integrated smoker cup. There’s even a recipe guide to help you get started.
Review materials provided by: The Fulham Group
Not Your Ordinary Printer
I originally suggested this as a Mother’s Day gift idea, but I’m just as likely to recommend it to the crafty dads out there. The Cricut Explore Electronic Cutting Machine is a precision cutting monster that makes short work of more than 50 material types. Creating cardstock stencils, vinyl stickers, or fabric accents for your upcoming cosplay has never been easier.
It’s essentially a CNC machine for craft-hackers! You can cut leather or paper into precise shapes and sizes, and a secondary clamp makes it just as easy to write or score complimentary designs in a single step.
The Cricut Design Space interface is web-based and comes pre-loaded with lots of project idea–with additional fonts and images available for sale. Best of all, it supports custom designs via image upload.
Be sure to take special care when removing materials from the tacky surface of the Cricut’s cutting mat–lest you accidentally tear your brand new project. Also, I’ve found the cut sensor light on my unit to be a little finicky at times, but Cricut’s support (particularly the product FAQ) is thorough, to say the least, and can help a savvy user through most issues easily.
If you’re familiar with my podcast, you likely know that I adore hip hop. But, even more than rappers, I’ve always been amazed by beat-makers. There are few things more magical to me than watching someone sit down with an MPC and build a beat from the ground up.
Sadly, I’ve never had the skill or the gear to make a proper stab at electronic producing. Thankfully, IK Multimedia has come to provide some much need help–at least with the latter.
At under $150, their iRig PADS Portable MIDI Groove Controller is a musical monster you can take anywhere. Packed with both a Lightning cable as well as the standard USB, it boasts 16 velocity-sensitive, backlit rubber pads, a pair of MIDI knobs, and a slider–all programmable via the iOS, Mac, or PC platform of your choice.
It works perfectly with the Sampletank, Groovemaker 2, or DJ Rig apps on your iPhone/iPad, or the free iRig Pads Editor for your laptop. Its simple interface makes crafting and transferring scenes–up to 16 customizable MIDI maps–a breeze, and GarageBand instantly recognized the iRig PADS when plugged into my trusty MacBook Air.
Whether your dad’s a seasoned producer sequencing with a full-featured workstation like Ableton or just a bedroom DJ looking to step up his game, IK Multimedia’s PADS is an inexpensive, elegant solution–easy (and sturdy) enough for free-form music time with the kids, yet flexible enough for our own fully realized compositions.
Review materials provided by: IK Multimedia
Dress Up Dad’s Feet
I like smart socks. (And I cannot lie!) I also dig mystery-box-a-month services, and Atlanta-based Sock Fancy combines both into an elegant and–let’s be honest here-unexpected solution.
Admittedly, we are rapidly approaching summer, the one time a year when socks are optional. Still, in the words of Ned Stark, winter is coming. (Yes, I just equated quality socks with constant vigilance.)
Sock Fancy offers their delightful footwear packages for both men and women, and you can choose single-pair and two-pair monthly plans. Best of all, right now you can take 15% off with their special Father’s Day deal. Just use the code DAD15 at checkout.
Review materials provided by: Sock Fancy
Summertime TV Catch-Up
I imagine most folks are like me: they have their regular TV series that they follow, and then they have their backup summer series. Currently, most of the latter are coming to me compliments of TNT.
In anticipation of the season five premiere, I’ve recently been revisiting the latest Blu-ray release of Falling Skies. The fourth season of the DreamWorks-produced post-apocalyptic sci-fi epic sees the introduction of human ghettos and reeducation camps, not to mention the unlikely ascension of young (or make that not-so young) Lexi Glass-Mason.
With visual effects that are particularly impressive for a basic-cable drama and a strong cast that includes non-human character actor extraordinaire Doug Jones and ER alum/not-Wil-Wheaton Noah Wyle, it remains a personal favorite. Season four does see the return of the series’ standby denouement “But wait; now there are THESE aliens!,” but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t excited for the upcoming premiere.
The Blu-ray collection looks and sounds phenomenal, and the special features included within Falling Skies: The Complete Fourth Season are squarely aimed at rabid fans of this character-driven property. Interviews, a featurette about Wyle’s Tom Mason, and footage of the Comic-Con panel join the 12 regular episodes alongside prequels and inside-the-episode clips.
The premiere season of TNT’s The Last Ship has similarly just been released on Blu-ray, but, unlike Falling Skies, it’s far from character driven. From executive producer Michael Bay, this series is instead about action, about bombast, about enormous naval set pieces.
Sometimes the crew of Navy destroyer U.S.S. Nathan James, a floating oasis in a world torn about by a virulent plague, must fire spectacular artillery barrages at enemy vessels. Sometimes they must enter corpse-filled cruise ships or escape the Arctic on snowmobiles pursued by helicopters. Those scenes are where the show shines–at least initially.
Early on the cast is wooden, the dialog stilted, and the characters themselves fairly unsympathetic. But somehow, despite facing cookie-cutter villains of only the most stereotypical, mustache-twirling varieties–Russians, Islamic terrorists, and Central American drug lords–and settling scores with little more than American braggadocio and superior firepower, bright spots do break through.
Charles Parnell’s CMC Hugh Jeter, Christina Elmore’s Alisha Granderson (the ship’s Communications Officer), and John Pyper-Ferguson’s folksy private security contractor Tex offer some much-needed heart. And, in spite of itself, The Last Ship morphs from a steady stream of popcorn movie fare to a borderline think-piece about the perils of science communication, the role of the military mentality, and the difficult choices that accompany strong leadership.
Another dual-disc Blu-ray collection, The Last Ship: The Complete First Season also includes the full 10-episode arc and hours of bonus material like commentaries, interviews, and featurettes. If your dad digs his drama with a dash of sci-fi dystopia, both sets will help get him back into the story before the return of Falling Skies and The Last Ship later this month.
Review materials provided by: TNT