Welcome back to AVQ&A, where we throw out a question for discussion among the staff and readers. Consider this a prompt to compare notes on your interface with pop culture, to reveal your embarrassing tastes and experiences, and to ponder how our diverse lives all led us to convene here together. Got a question you’d like us and the readers to answer? Email us at email@example.com.
What do you want for Christmas?
Since I’m getting older, I’m veering more and more into “ooh, you know what I want? A nice iron” territory every holiday season. I either buy the stuff I want throughout the year or talk myself out of owning it because, hell, that’s just one more thing I have to dust. This year, though, there is one thing that I want but that I can’t bring myself to purchase: The deluxe double LP reissue of Gomez’s Bring It On. The record was originally released in 1998 and has long been one of my favorites. I can sing every song backwards and forwards, but since it was released in the CD-crazy late ’90s, LP copies have always been incredibly hard to find. Now, it’s getting this U.K.-only reissue, and while I would normally just pounce and purchase, it’s about $50 with shipping, and even for a record I really love, that’s a little too steep for me. If some kind loved one or relative would buy it for me, though, I would be eternally grateful.
I can’t stick with pop culture, because I can’t wait for anybody to buy me the pop-culture items that I really want. It’s an obsession, and what doesn’t show up as a promo, I tend to just bite the bullet and buy. So I’m going to say a year’s supply of Talbott Soho Earl Grey tea. That’s right, I drink tea—you got a problem with that? I have trouble buying this special treat for myself, not because it’s not worth it—it definitely is—but because it’s so proportionally more expensive than regular tea bags. For example: A box of 100 Lipton tea bags (“America’s favorite tea!”) costs $3.28 on Amazon right now. A box of 12 Talbott bags costs $13.50. For the sake of comparison, that’s less than four cents per bag versus $1.13 per bag. But to quote a despicable character: “When Bonnie goes shopping she buys shit. I buy the gourmet expensive stuff because when I drink it I want to taste it.” (There’s your pop-culture relation!) Still, I find it hard to buy for myself, so I’ll just wait for you to buy it for me, friends and relatives!
If someone would like to get me the new deluxe reissue of The Who’s Tommy for Christmas, I would be totally cool with that. Not only does it have the usual “remastered plus liner notes” bells and whistles, it comes with a bonus disc comprising a Who concert from Ottawa in 1969—in other words, right when The Who was starting to hit its peak as a live band, as well documented on Live At Leeds, Live At Hull, and Live At The Isle Of Wight Festival. In a recent Rolling Stone article, Roger Daltrey talked about how performing Tommy in concert back then opened him up as a vocalist, since he was singing Townshend material that possessed new levels of depth, melody, and meaning for him to interpret. I tend to agree. And, of course, the song “Christmas” appears on Tommy, so there’s that.
All I want for Christmas is more criticism. No, seriously: Two books just came out that I’m drooling over, Critical Mass, a collection of James Wolcott essays, and The Wes Anderson Collection by Matt Zoller Seitz. Even before I flipped through a copy at Barnes And Noble, I knew I wanted this monument to one of my favorite contemporary directors by one of my favorite contemporary critics. As I understand it, each of Anderson’s seven features so far gets an essay by Seitz and then a lengthy interview with Anderson. There’s also an introduction by Michael Chabon that I’m curious about. Based on my oh-so-brief communion with the book, it’s a marvel for the copious illustrations alone. Since I had to miss the Houston stop on the book tour, getting The Wes Anderson Collection for Christmas is the next best thing.
Because Brandon rudely grabbed that Wes Anderson book before my brain could remember it exists, I guess I’ll keep my request pretty pedestrian: I’m in the process of getting rid of cable—thanks to this deal—so I’m stocking up on gear to cut the cord. I’ve bought a Roku, but I’d also like to get an Apple TV for easier integration with iTunes and my various Apple products at home. (The aspect ratio never quite works when I run an HDMI cable out of my laptop, and the sound isn’t that great either.) So yeah, that’s a pretty boring, adult-sounding, fiscally responsible present. Welcome to your late 30s.
Unlike Kyle, I’m still young and vital and would like something absolutely unnecessary. So, if anyone has a cool $7,000 to throw around, please buy me this vintage arcade skeeball gamefrom Restoration Hardware. Originally, I wanted to place it in my kitchen, but the constant noise of my glee (and the game) might annoy the neighbors, so I’m willing to keep it in the office for all to use. In fact, if everyone (anyone reading this) wants to stuff my stocking with Restoration Hardware gift certificates, this could become a reality. And if you donate to the cause, you’re more than welcome to stop by the office for a game. Just be prepared to be dominated.
Though my default answer has been a fancy teakettle to go with my Chemex, if we’re going to gussy it up I’ll follow Becca’s lead and ask for this Chicago Blackhawks dome-top hockey game. Hockey is the only sport I actively follow—in fact, I once paid tribute to it with my hockey-themed thrash metal band Cross Ice Pass To The Seventh Level Of Hell—and given the sport’s recent surge in popularity, the cost of going to see a game live is becoming something that’s impossible for me to justify. However, if some kind soul wanted to give the gift that keeps on giving (usually shouted puns about Jonathan Toews), I wouldn’t complain.
Perhaps it’s because several branches of my family tree are tied to the auto industry, but the Adamses have never been ones for planned obsolescence. We hang on to our outmoded technology for much longer than seems reasonable—ours was an all-cassette household until I received a CD player as a birthday present… in 1995. (First CDs: Jock Jams Vol. 1, Jock Rock Vols. 1 and 2, and Music From The Motion Picture The Mask. Clearly, I was excited about the compact disc’s “Skip” function.) So, in addition to taking a “wait and see” approach to MP3s, flat-screen TVs, and smartphones, I’ve also been a Luddite in the transition from DVD to Blu-ray, an increasingly difficult stance to take for someone whose also stubbornly refuses to let his favorite films and TV shows disappear into the cloud. So I’m asking for a Blu-ray player this year—no 3-D or streaming capabilities necessary, just a utilitarian model that’ll let me watch the copy of Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Movie that’s been sitting awkwardly next to my MST3K tapes for the past couple of months. Because if I wanted to get truly fancy with my wish list, I’d ask for one of those hilarious, odd-couple Blu-ray/VHS combos that Panasonic doesn’t appear to manufacture anymore.
Reading Henry Bushkin’s recent memoir about Johnny Carson—Bushkin was Carson’s lawyer and close confidant for the better part of two decades—has renewed my interest in the iconic late-night host. Unfortunately, the show’s video offerings are a patchwork mess of clips, best-of DVDs, and “complete episode” collections whose episodes are, in fact, something less than complete. But I think I’ll be well-served by the second volume of the Tonight Show Vault Series, a collection in which, according to Carson Entertainment, episodes of The Tonight Show Starring Carson are “brought to you in as much entirety as possible.” I want all of the “entirety” that I can get, because the conversational bent of Carson’s Tonight Show meant that certain jokes or trains of thought would emerge and evolve over the course of a night, and isolated clips can’t capture the way Johnny masterfully developed those overarching rhythms. What I’d really love for Christmas is a complete digitized database of every Carson Tonight Show still in existence, but I don’t expect that anytime soon (although the official Carson YouTube channel recently started posting full episodes, which is fantastic).
Like Marah, my wish list tends to lean toward snazzy vinyl re-releases or box sets that are well out of my price range, especially this one, this one, that new Clash box set, and whatever Numero Group put out this year. But if I absolutely have to narrow my list down to one item I cannot justify buying for myself, I’d pick the Lego Architecture version of Frank Lloyd Wright’s masterpiece Fallingwater. It’s a pop-culture item that hits several nerdy sweet spots for me—toys, design, architecture, puzzles—and I actually wouldn’t feel silly displaying the completed product someplace in my apartment. Because I’m a grown-up who still thinks Legos are fantastic.
Just one thing? I kind of want a Blu-ray player. And this $1500 plasma TV, which, according to a few different sites, is the best TV out there right now. I want to watch The Little Mermaid on both of these devices, so a copy of that would also be awesome. But as long as we’re not fueling my 25-year-old fantasy of being a mermaid princess, I’ll go for these Digital Soaps: Geeky, soda-pop scented little soaps in the shapes of things like NES controllers, Pokéballs, Portal companion cubes, Gameboy cartridges, and even the Tetris tetrinos. They are too cute to use, but they’re also relatively inexpensive, and everyone who washed their hands in my house would have to contemplate the utter awesomeness of my fully functional Death Star ball of soap.
Are we talking realistic here? Because if we’re not, my continued hope is that someone much richer than anyone I know swoops in and buys me the complete Criterion collection in the best possible viewing formats, so I can spend my vacation gorging on great film. But if we must be realistic (and I don’t see why we should be), then I’m still hoping to receive The Hat Box, a two-book set that collects the complete lyrics of Stephen Sondheim and includes several interesting essays and thoughts from the great composer and lyricist about his long career. And if not that then maybe a pony.
Well, so long as we’re dreaming, I’ll take a shiny new Playstation 4, please. And some games to play on it—that stabbing game with pirates looks pretty sweet. I’m sure I’ll buy one for myself eventually, but right now, the foolishness of purchasing a new game console on launch day (when there’s precious little to play on it, and no immediate proof that anything great will develop in the future; sure, it’s Sony, so I doubt it’s going to tank completely, but who knows), combined with my general not-having-enough-money-ness and reluctance to buy anything that’s more expensive than a single month’s rent, is holding me back. But it’s still very shiny looking, and I wouldn’t mind finding it under the tree on Christmas morning. (Actually, if somebody would also get me a Christmas tree, that would be great, too.)
I'll go with what promises to be the home-video set of the season for followers of esoteric world cinema—you like the way I phrased that, as if the competition in this category is really fierce?—i.e., Martin Scorsese’s World Cinema Project, a six-DVD/3-Blu-Ray set from the Criterion Collection. (It comes out December 10.) The first in what one hopes will be an ongoing project, it includes six features from Mexico, Senegal, Turkey, and Morocco, only one of which—the South Korean director Kim Ki-Young’s sexually charged 1960 melodrama The Housekeeper—have I ever even heard of before, let alone seen. I’ve been a good boy this year, so I’ll go ahead and clear some coffee-table space to make room for that, and I’ll just remind Santa that I also have a birthday coming up in December, and that 45th-anniversary reissue of White Light/White Heat doesn’t look so shabby, either.
My house has a rather absurd collection of various instruments, none of which I play well, and my dream for the past few years has been to get a drum kit. Recently, my fiancée was extraordinarily generous and bought (and built!) one for me. This means I’ve moved on to the next random instrument I wish to own: a Suzuki Omnichord. I’ve been a fan ever since I watched David Bowie playing one during The Concert For New York City. It’s a ridiculous instrument, but can make all sorts of strange and interesting noises (and is oh-so portable!). Plus, as someone who already owns a Stylophone, it would pretty much fit in with my collection.
The past couple of years have seen an increased number of labels offering sets which feature everything an artist ever recorded for them, which has proven to be a really great way to dive headlong into the back catalog of an act that you’ve always wanted to investigate but have just been putting it off. If I was really greedy, I’d go after that new Bob Dylan set, but the truth of the matter is that the one I want most of all is Harry Nilsson’s RCA Albums Collection. The only thing I’ve ever bought by Nilsson is his greatest-hits collection, and I really love it, but for one reason or another, I’ve just never gotten around to exploring his back catalog. I’m sure there are a few bum notes in the midst of his time on RCA, but there have been so many raves about his albums from so many people whose tastes in music I respect that I feel like I’d come to love even the lesser records in the bunch. (Plus, as a Monkees fan, I’m also excited at the thought of getting to hear and enjoy the demos that he did for them, which are included.)