The A.V. Club’s Economy-Stimulating Decadent Holiday Gift Guide
Financial crisis? What financial crisis? Now that recovery is here, so long as we all clap our hands, believe, and spend, spend, spend, The A.V. Club has decided to offer a selection of luxury goods for those with discerning tastes, deep pockets, and a desire to help bolster our economy in as few credit-card transactions as possible.
For those who 1) love lists 2) love pop culture and 3) want to be done with holiday shopping with one purchase
A case of Inventory books ($300, from store.theonion.com)
A case of The A.V. Club’s new book, Inventory: 16 Films Featuring Manic Pixie Dream Girls, 10 Great Songs Nearly Ruined By Saxophone, and 100 More Obsessively Specific Pop-Culture Lists, is a gift not just for the 20 recipients, but for the giver as well. First, it saves the buyer—you—a whole lot of shopping time. With just one click at The Onion’s online store, all your holiday gift-buying will be complete, leaving lots of time for lazing around on the couch playing videogames. (And if that isn’t a Christmas gift, what is?) Second, it will prove to all your friends and acquaintances that you have impeccable taste in pop culture—not too mainstream, a little cheeky, but lots of fun. Third, it allows you to do some of that charity work you’ve always talked about: The A.V. Club gives and gives all year, and by buying a case (or two) of our book, you can give something back to your favorite newsprint-producing friends. Fourth, anyone who actually purchases a case of the book will get a no-expenses-paid tour of The A.V. Club office in Chicago. (Purchasers must cover their own travel costs.) So: selfishness, pride, charity, and curiosity. Aren’t those things what the season is all about? (Book also available for purchase in quantities of 1 to 1,000,000.)
For the wealthy, die-hard Family Ties fan
“Telephonic appearance” by Dennis Haskins, a.k.a. Mr. Belding on Saved By The Bell ($300, from Hollywoodiscalling.com)
Personal appearances by celebrities used to be the kind of luxury only bored CEOs and the super-rich parents of bored kids currently taping episodes of My Super Sweet 16 could afford. But now, thanks to Hollywood Is Calling, anyone with $300 can have a “celebrity” “appear” at their event—and the ironic quotation marks are included at no extra cost! Why watch has-beens on VH1 or E! when you could have some of those very same has-beens like Lorenzo Lamas, Butch Patrick, Marc Price (Skippy from Family Ties), the Professor from Gilligan’s Island, the guy who played Vito on The Sopranos, Mr. Belding, and (sadly) many, many more appear telephonically before your very ears? What’s a celebrity telephonic appearance? Basically 20 minutes of a once-famous person talking to you via speakerphone. Just think how impressed your friends will be.
For the businessman who likes to play James Bond
Underwood Biometric Briefcase ($12,000, from pianki.com)
Lots of corporate suits like to pretend they’re hauling around uranium or state secrets in their overpriced leather briefcases, when really, the only risk if their dreary paperwork gets stolen is that the thieves will be bored to death if they read it. For those who really want to indulge their 007 fantasies, the Underwood Biometric Briefcase is the perfect gift: It converts the owner’s thumbprint into an electronic signal without which the briefcase cannot be opened. Exclusive retailer Pianki makes a big deal over the ultra-security of this $12,000 tote bag, but also mentions that you can program it to read the prints of as many as 90 people. If what you’re carrying can be accessed by almost a hundred other schmucks at your company, how valuable can it really be?
For the future billionaire mad scientist in all of us
Robonica Roboni-i Hoop Wheel Programmable Remote Controlled Robot Starter Pack ($249, from robotshop.us)
See, it isn’t just a rolling robot with “mood” programs you can customize. It’s also a gaming device. You know, gaming? Competing against others, with or without their own robot slaves, just for fun! Not at all for training an omnidirectional emotion-simulating robot army to take over your cul-de-sac, and eventually the world. No, you’d need some sort of technologically advanced personal computer for that, and this starter pack doesn’t even come with one. Not dangerous at all, no sir. Just pure, expensive fun for your little sociopa—er, scientist.
For the incontinent linksman who’s also a public-urination enthusiast
Uroclub ($24.95, from uroclub.com)
Golf is supposedly a gentleman’s sport requiring the utmost precision and focus in carefully lining up each shot, but even the best among us is capable of succumbing to our basest needs and having to take a leak between holes. That’s where the Uroclub swoops in to solve a problem that hadn’t even occurred to most of us. Designed by Florida urologist Floyd Seskin, the Uroclub is essentially a portable urinal that looks like a 7-iron and can be discreetly tucked away into your golfing bag. Made of a “non-porous material,” the dishwasher-safe Uroclub is leak-free and also comes with a handy towel so “it appears you are just checking out your club” when in fact, you’re pissing into it. Only you and Uroclub know the truth!
For non-army types who desperately crave the feel of cold, hard, military-grade steel—even if only for one fleeting, magical moment
Drive-A-Tank ($300-$549, from driveatank.com)
Let this be the holiday season even your most trigger-shy loved ones cross “drive a mother-frakkin’ tank” off their bucket list. Drive-A-Tank, a Waseca, Minnesota-based operation, offers civilians a history of armored vehicles, a tour of the facility’s extensive tank collection, then instructions on how to operate the FV-433 Abbot and the FV432 APC models of tanks. (Surely those numbers mean something to someone.) Navigate the first tank from the open hatch, then go inside for the second one, navigating using a periscope—just like in the movies! $300 is enough for this much of the experience, but for a mere $249 more, you get to crush a car with the tank. Let that sink in. Crush a car… with a tank. Want more? Upgrade to two cars for $475—and that’s an order.
For the 2012 believer who’d rather not be on Earth when the Mayan calendar runs out
Three-night stay at Galactic Suites ($4.4 million, from galacticsuite.com)
If it meets its stated goal of being fully operational by 2012, Galactic Suites would be humanity’s first space hotel—and a perfect outpost for watching the apocalyptic prophecies of Internet crazies and Roland Emmerich unfold. Getting back down will be a bit tricky after everyone’s drowned and/or been swallowed by giant earthquakes, but for three wonderful days, the Omega Men and Women aboard Galactic Suites can enjoy sticking to Velcro walls, participating in science experiments, and figuring out how to use the yet-to-be-developed space toilets. Of course, this is the perfect way to dump your soon-to-be-found wealth down the gilded drain: Like the world-ending cataclysm “predicted” by the Mayans, there’s no solid evidence that Galactic Suites will become a reality in three years.
For those who do place faith in human beings and butterfly wings
“Super deluxe” fantasy portrait package ($300, from fantasticalphotography.com)
Okay, can we all agree that it sucks that humans don’t happen to have delicate, magical fairy wings? We can, right? That’s why Florida artist Tracy L. Cornett is willing to step in and compensate for what nature cruelly doesn’t permit. For $300, she’ll take your picture in costume in a park or against a “fantasy-themed background” and add “clients choice deluxe fantasy alteration(s)… This can include but is not limited to pointed ears, small horns, large horns, butterfly wings, moth wings, dragonfly wings, feathered wings, mermaid tale [sic], bat wings, goat legs and more.” (“More” includes glitter.) Granted, there are cheaper options, including a $150 out-of-state deal where you just send her a picture to modify, and the $100 “economy fantasy package,” which only includes one client’s choice fantasy alteration, but honestly, don’t your many fantasy-obsessed friends and family members deserve the very best? And just think how much better they’ll look when they’re mostly hidden under wings, horns, goat legs, pointy ears, and a fuckton of fairy dust.
For those about to rock
AC/DC Backtracks Deluxe Collectors Edition ($199, from acdcbacktracks.com)
AC/DC has notably refused to release a greatest-hits collection in its long, storied career—presumably because the Aussie rockers intend for their albums to be listened to as albums. But they clearly aren’t above some creative packaging, as the new AC/DC Backtracks deluxe set proves. The music, collected on two DVDs, three CDs, and an LP, gathers live tracks and rarities from throughout the band’s career, along with some memorabilia and a photo book. But the key item here is the box itself: Backtracks comes in a working guitar amplifier. So as soon as you get sick of listening to all of that music, you can plug in and join the band yourself. Whether this is the most ridiculous waste of tubes and circuits in history or the most righteous box set ever depends on your wallet’s point of view. For those slightly less about to rock, an amp-free version goes for a lot less cash. (And you don’t get the other crap, either, just the music.)
For those who like baked goods to look like purses and vehicles to look like baked goods
Purse Cake ($230 at neimanmarcus.com) or Cupcake Car ($25,000 at neimanmarcus.com)
If you’re the kind of person who likes to spend way too much on things that make no sense, you should head to Neiman Marcus. For the binge-eating accessories-addict in your life, NM offers a $230 chocolate-and-caramel-toffee cake shaped like a purse. When you present it, you can joke about how the only purse worth $230 is one that will inevitably end up in the toilet. If that’s too practical, may we recommend the $25,000 cupcake car? It costs as much as a real car, but you look like an idiot (especially in your matching cupcake hat), and it goes 7 mph. It’s the gift that says “I had a ton of money to spend on you, but I wanted to make sure I bought the least practical thing in the world with it.”
For those who want to get in shape, but still keep it casual
Fitflops ($24.99-$140 at fitflop.com)
FitFlops are the shoes that magically tone those problem areas, thanks to “micro-wobbleboard technology” that presumably makes it harder to walk, thus engages more muscles. Thankfully, scientists have now discovered that the only thing standing between us and physical perfection was the right pair of shoes or boots. Of course, if it seems too good to be true, it probably is: to achieve optimum results, FitFlop wearers may actually need to stand up and walk around. That’s how they get you.
For the super-rich who also happen to be super-lazy
Halcyon Jets Gift Card ($5,000,000 at halcyonjets.com)
Gift cards are usually the present of last resort for lazy givers who neither know nor care enough about the recipients to get them something personal. That’s why the idea of giving someone a gift card for five mil worth of chartered flights on Halcyon, the ultra-luxury private jet carrier, is so appealing: It’s the gift of choice for people who want to show that when they don’t care, they really don’t care. When Halcyon introduced this better-not-lose-it item last Christmas, no one bit; if you want one, make sure you get it now, because the company is accused of corporate fraud and racketeering, and they may not be around to honor it come New Year’s. Walking around with an unused specimen of this baby in your wallet would mark you as a significantly greater chump than the guy who waits two weeks to return his Netflix selections.
For people who are sick of smoked salmon and spicy peanuts
Van’s Gifts “Cadeau Collection” Gift Basket ($75,000 at vansgifts.com)
Like gift cards, gift baskets are a preferred choice for lazy corporate gift-givers; there’s nothing like a wicker pail full of green tea and Honeybell tangelos to say “Thank you for the no-bid contract.” But recently, veteran gift-basket purveyors Van’s Gifts—normally the vendors of sensible, reasonably priced containers of holiday cheer—went absolutely apeshit and started offering the “Cadeau Collection,” which costs as much as some starter homes. Not really so much a gift basket as a gift steamer trunk, the Cadeau Collection features seven bottles of insanely overpriced wine, a platinum tin of Godiva truffles, an espresso machine, a Montblanc pen set, and trips for two to Paris and Napa Valley for wine tastings. As if all that wasn’t enough, you also get another year’s worth of additional baskets, as if the damn things have somehow learned to reproduce.
For the not-so-cheap date
The Macallan Fine And Rare Collection 1926 Whisky ($38,000 according to forbes.com) or Tequila Ley .925 ($225,000 at tequilasource.com)
If you like someone, you might want to give them a nice bottle of wine this Christmas. If you love them, you might want to go further and get them a bottle of pricey champagne or a fine single-malt Scotch. It’s hard to imagine what emotion is sufficient to justify purchasing a bottle of the Macallan 1926, a whisky from the distiller’s “Fine And Rare” collection that goes for just under 40 grand a bottle. Unfortunately, you’ll never know: The stuff is sold out, which means it can only be had one shot at a time. ($3,300 per, in case you were wondering.) But don’t let that stop you from dropping the savings of a lifetime on something that tastes pretty much exactly the same as what you can buy at any liquor store for 40 bucks: why not really go for it and drop a quarter of a million dollars on Tequila Ley’s .925, the most expensive bottle of liquor in history? Only 33 of the platinum-and-white-gold containers (oh, yeah, and the nasty stuff inside) were ever made, and from the looks of it, Dethklok bought most of them. If you buy one and still don’t get laid, you are officially the saddest person in the world.
For bibliophiles with no plans for the rest of their lives
The Penguin Classics Library Complete Collection ($8,047.98 at amazon.com)
In the cult film The Ninth Configuration, Jason Miller’s Lt. Reno (who is adapting Shakespeare’s plays for dogs) advises his commanding officer: “Read the classics, sir. It improves the entire respiratory system.” The book lovers on your list are sure to breathe a lot easier once they find this under the tree (and under the couch, and in the garage, and on any other flat surface in the house): Penguin Books, which has been publishing their handsome, skillfully chosen series of canon literature since 1946, now offers the entire Penguin Classics Library—1,082 volumes in all—as a gift set. Best of all, it’s being offered at an inviting holiday discount, down from its usual price of $13,500! Sure, it may seem daunting in terms of sheer bulk—it weighs 700 pounds, totals half a million pages, and stacks more than 800 feet high—but there isn’t a book geek alive who wouldn’t want to build their house around this collection. Add some IKEA gift certificates for about a hundred Billy bookcases, and you’re good to go.
For budding scholars, academics, the historically fascinated, and folks who just like to read
A New Literary History of America ($50 from amazon.com)
This thousand-pages-plus book edited by Greil Marcus and Werner Sollors may be the most unique attempt yet to tell the story of the United States. It features 220 pieces, arranged chronologically, about turning points and landmarks of U.S. history: Toby Lester on the 1507 first mention of “America” on a map, Susan Castillo on the 1692 Salem witch trials, John Picker on the writing of “The Star Spangled Banner” in 1814, Douglas Wolk on the creation of Superman in 1938, surprisingly and aptly, Ann Marlowe on Linda Lovelace’s tell-all memoir, and a series of silhouettes by artist Kara Walker on Obama’s 2008 election. It’s a feast for anyone who cares about history and national identity, not to mention a showcase for virtuoso writing: Carlo Rotella, David Thomson, Stephen Burt, Hua Hsu, Robert Polito, Walter Mosley, David Treuer, Luc Sante, and Ishmael Reed are just the tip of the book’s contributor list.
For the mid-century-modern fan who has it all
For The Record: The Life And Work Of Alex Steinweiss, Inventor Of The Album Cover ($500 from amazon.com)
The title is truth in advertising: Alex Steinweiss changed the packaging of recorded music from plain wrappers to jaunty, ultra-colorful, eye-popping drawings that interpreted the music’s contents with a wink. This volume contains 422 pages of superbly reproduced art from throughout Steinweiss’s career, from the ’40s to the ’60s, and if the limited printing of 1,500 isn’t luxe enough for your loved ones, you can spring for the “art edition”—100 copies, $1,000 list price.
For private dicks who are sex machines to all the chicks… if only in their minds
Various artists, Can You Dig It? The Music And Politics Of Black Action Films 1968-75 ($25.99 from amazon.com)
There have been scores of blaxploitation-era funk and soul compilations, but this double-CD is easily the one to beat. The packaging—a slick, illustrated 100-page booklet with a potted history of the era’s movies, and postcards of their lobby art—is treasure enough, but the music is the focus, for good reason. All the obvious classics are here, from Isaac Hayes’ “Theme From Shaft” and Curtis Mayfield’s “Freddie’s Dead” to Marvin Gaye’s “‘T’ Plays It Cool” and James Brown’s “Down And Out In New York City,” as well as score music from Galt MacDermot and Quincy Jones. And it’s all sequenced smartly, as per usual from the Soul Jazz label.
For those looking forward to their personal floaty-chair on the Buy-N-Large starliner Axiom
Razor E300S Seated Electric Scooter ($229 from razorama.com)
Remember those Razor scooters? Gosh, they were fun. Although when we think about it, they did have one major flaw—you had to push them with your feet to make them go. Well, the folks at Razor have fixed that. Offering what the product description calls “the thrill of powered transportation,” the electric version of the iconic scooter will go up to 15 miles per hour on a battery with an optimistic 45-minute charge life. And you don’t even have to stand up. Parents of the decadent future, it’s never too early to teach your kids that being propelled around by some sort of artificial power supply, preferably one sucking in the juice of that coal-fired electric plant over yonder, is way cooler than relying on suspiciously egalitarian muscle energy. Non-electric scooters are fine for the lower classes, but you’re better than that.
For ball fans who don’t mind watching the goddamn Yankees win over and over and over
The Official Major League Baseball World Series Film Collection ($179 at mlb.com)
In 1943, Major League Baseball and Spalding Sporting Goods commissioned a 20-minute newsreel recap of that year’s World Series, for distribution to our troops fighting overseas. For every Series since, MLB has thrown together an official highlight reel, and though these films aren’t as well-seen or well-remembered as NFL Films’ Super Bowl shorts, they’ve been around longer, and cover a wider swath of American history and American life. As the movies shift from black-and-white to color (and film to video), viewers can watch the complexion of the players gradually darken, and see the crowds in the stands loosen up from frocks and suits to T-shirts and rally caps. And though the camera angles improve, the game itself remains much the same, marked by hit-and-run plays, spectacular diving catches, and weak grounders that get misplayed into series-changing errors. (Damn it, Buckner!)
For those who want to pretend the New Depression is still headed our way
Tom Waits, Orphans vinyl box set ($115.99 at tower.com)
The news that the U.S. has narrowly avoided The Great Depression II: The Legend Of Curly’s Gold isn’t all good: We’re missing out on repeats of things from the 1930s, such as poignant, publicly funded photography and street-corner salespeople who specialize in apples and pencils. Given that he’s a millionaire who still acts like he lives in the back room of an abandoned speakeasy, no one understands how much we’re missing like Tom Waits. And to counter the feeling of economic recovery in the air, he’s foisting two sets of his signature gravelly howls and musty instrumentation on listeners this holiday season. The first is the fairly standard two-disc live set Glitter And Doom. (We say “fairly” because the second disc of the set contains nothing but Waits’ insane-yet-insightful stage patter.) The second set is a seven-LP, 180-gram vinyl reissue of his 2006 odd-and-ends collection Orphans: Brawlers, Bawlers & Bastards. Sharing its name with one of The Great Depression’s biggest exports, the new Orphans adds six more underheard “grand weepers and grim reapers” to the CD version’s 56, meaning there are six more opportunities for you to dress up in rags, down a bottle of bathtub gin, and hobble around your living room while the rest of the world picks itself up off the ground. Just don’t try playing the records at 78 rpm.
For those who want to make Sunday-after-midnight last all week
Adult Swim In A Box ($47.99 at amazon.com)
The randomness that Adult Swim’s distinctive cartoon lineup made into a trademark apparently extends to the Cartoon Network’s archival product line. The Adult Swim In A Box collection gathers what seems to be haphazardly chosen seasons collection of Adult Swim programming—Sealab 2021 season two, Moral Orel season 1, etc.—and drops it in a box. Sound like a cash grab? Maybe that’s why it says “Cash Grab” on the side of the box. Still, it’s kind of a bargain for those who want a bunch of Adult Swim stuff at once, and it collects a bunch of rarely seen pilots for shows that weren’t to be, like the baffling Perfect Hair Forever.
For those who need a reminder of how strange TV can be when it isn’t even trying to be that strange
Hogan’s Heroes: The Komplete Series, Kommandant’s Collection ($103.49 at amazon.com)
A sitcom about bumbling, perpetually outwitted, almost loveable Nazis sounds unthinkable today. So was Hogan’s Heroes a subversive, ahead-of-its-time black comedy? That’s probably a stretch, but a laugh-track-enhanced sitcom about how American know-how triumphed over incompetent fascists—many played by Jews, including Werner Klemperer, who fled the Nazi threat in real life—certainly has its bizarre charms. Whether it’s worth shelling out for a 28-disc, six-season collection packaged in a box that announces to all visitors that a really big Hogan’s Heroes fan lives in your house is a question for your heart.
For those who like their films by great Japanese directors served up in brick form
AK 100: 25 Films By Akira Kurosawa ($284.99 at amazon.com)
Todd Barry has a pretty good joke about an imaginary customer looking at a box set: “God, I’ve never owned anything by the Oak Ridge Boys. I think it’s time I owned everything by the Oak Ridge Boys.” The AK 100 box set doesn’t contain everything directed by Akira Kurosawa, but it does contain a lot. And unlike, say, an Oak Ridge Boys box set, there’s little chance of buyer’s remorse when the contents include masterpieces like The Seven Samurai, Ikiru, Yojimbo, Throne Of Blood, and Kagemusha, as well as lesser-known films like I Live In Fear and many more. And for the truly hardcore, there are several early films never before released on DVD. Only quibble: Criterion has gone with extras-free editions, but as a Kurosawa gateway—and an exquisitely packaged one—this is tough to beat.
For those who can’t quite afford an old video store filled with faded VHS tapes
Portable Grindhouse: The Lost Art Of The VHS Box, Vol. 1 ($13.49 at amazon.com)
For movie fans of a certain age, it’s hard not to feel some affection for the VHS era, even if it would be stupid to want to return to it. A hit of uncut nostalgia, Portable Grindhouse collects in book form some memorably low-rent slipcases—front and back—that capture the full spectrum of the video-store art experience, from the poorly reproduced posters of films like Ilsa, She-Wolf Of The SS to blurry stills with slapped-on titles to original covers so bizarre, they could double as folk art. And, unlike in the old days, there’s no late fee for holding onto these mini-masterpieces for more than three days.
For those who want to hear what Frank sounded like on the top of the heap
Sinatra: New York ($61.99 at amazon.com)
A sequel to Sinatra: Las Vegas, this four-CD/one-DVD set captures the special magic that happened when Sinatra played New York. It covers a span from the ’50s reunion with Tommy Dorsey to a short, late-career set in 1990. Two shows from 1974 might be too many, but they also capture some timeless topical banter—one was recorded the night Hank Aaron broke the home-run record, news Sinatra’s audience greets with applause—and they feature wrenching renditions of “Send In The Clowns” and “There Used To Be A Ballpark.” True, they also include two versions of Sinatra’s less-than-brilliant interpretation of “Bad Bad Leroy Brown,” but that has its dated charms too.
For the well-heeled celebrity stalker
Tonner 15-inch “Turn Me” Bella Swan Doll ($139.99 amazon.com exclusive)
You think you’re going to make your tween vampire-romantic happy with that $34.95 Bella Barbie doll? One, it doesn’t look like Bella, it looks like Barbie. Two, it could be purchased with leftover lemonade-stand money. For the discriminating Twilight fanatic, there’s no substitute for a really expensive Bella doll, like this one “sculpted in the likeness of Kristen Stewart” with “rooted saran hair.” Her clothes are fully authorized movie costume reproductions, too, complete with a black cast on her left leg, and—a key point for nurturing your little creepy obsessive—they come off “for cleaning.” (Yep, cleaning. That’s why we take them off. To clean them.) Right down to the black metal stand that “hugs her waistline” to keep her perfectly posed, no expense has been spared to craft a doll for fondling while writing multi-purpose love notes/suicidal diary entries/death threats.
For those who want to purchase fine books by our friends and contributors
The Big Rewind by Nathan Rabin ($16.50 at amazon.com)
An Off Year by Claire Zulkey ($12.23 at amazon.com)
Our Front Pages by The Onion ($24.51; comes with a free poster when you buy it through store.theonion.com)
Done distributing your copies of Inventory from that case you purchased back at the beginning of this article? Well we have some more books for you. How about A.V. Club head writer Nathan Rabin’s poignant, funny memoir of a troubled childhood (and slightly less troubled adulthood)? It’s good! Or if you like your teen angst in the form of fiction, try Claire Zulkey’s young-adult novel. Or how about Our Front Pages, the latest from The A.V. Club’s sister publication, The Onion? It features 21 years of the headlines that shaped our world, from “Clinton Takes Leave Of Office To Stand In Line For Star Wars: Episode I” to “Obama’s Hillbilly Half-Brother Threatening To Derail Campaign.” You owe it to yourself, but more importantly, you owe it to all of us.