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Culture

Goofy gadgets galore at CES

After seeing one too many WAP-enabled, satellite-ready MP3 player/personal digital assistant/cell phones, we find items we never would have imagined we couldn't live without.

LAS VEGAS--You basically have two choices when covering a trade show as bloated as the Consumer Electronics Show currently occupying Las Vegas.

You can stick to the main trails of the convention floor and see endless variations on the same half-dozen technology themes. Or you can do some bushwhacking and discover the booths of the digital frontier, where third-tier manufacturers from faraway lands promote items few of the big-name manufacturers ever would have thought of making.

After seeing one too many WAP-enabled, satellite-ready MP3 player/personal digital assistant/cell phone combinations, we decided to head out for the boonies, where we found a number of items we never would have imagined we couldn't live without.

Consider:

•  From King Tai Holdings of Hong Kong comes the Dr. Fresh Pet Hair Brush, a seemingly ordinary hair brush that produces "millions of negatively charged ions, leaving hair healthy and strong."

•  It's a pack of cigarettes. No, it's an electric shaver. It's an electric shaver that looks just like a pack of cigarettes. The R-785 shaver, from Joas Electronics of Korea, comes in your choice of Marlboro, Dunhill or Virginia Slims.

•  The Pocket Check Point, imported by Marathon Technolgies of Rogers, Ark., crams a police-approved blood-alcohol detector into a package about the size of your thumb. Marathon president Jim Freeman expects the item, which will sell for around $15, will be popular with cautious parents and liability-conscious bartenders. "You have the customer blow into it, and once they hit the limit, no more drinks," he said.

•  From a Taiwan manufacturer whose name we couldn't pry loose comes the TV Remote Control Watch and the 5-Full Azan Talking Alarm Clock, a miniature representation of a mosque packaged with full instructions in Farsi and promising a 105-year calendar.

•  Never again guess whether the baby food is at the right temperature with the Spoon Thermometer, a digital thermometer embedded in a colorful plastic eating utensil. ATM Holdings of Hong Kong promotes it as a safe and hygenic alternative to sticking your finger into the bowl.

•  Destroying documents goes from mere paranoia to stylish fun with the fashionable leopard-skin shredder from Aurora.

•  TV Allowance, from Miami-based Mindmaster, is for parents who want to limit their kids' time in front of the boob tube. Plug it in between a TV set and an electrical outlet, and it shuts off the set after the tots have reached your predetermined limit of "Dawson's Creek" or "Tony Hawk Pro Skater."