Some gifts have broad appeal: For instance, almost anyone would appreciate being given a big-screen television. But some gifts only suit certain types, and some very specific types are extremely hard to shop for. Fortunately, The A.V. Club knows these types, and knows just what you should get them. (Note: All prices are approximate suggested retail; shop around and/or get lucky, and you'll likely find many of these items cheaper. Except for Vincent Gallo's carnal services, which are obviously a bargain at any price.)
For Fretful Looking People Forever Sitting On The Edge Of Chairs In Wallpaper-Covered Rooms
Theories Of Everything: Selected, Collected, And Health-Inspected Cartoons By Roz Chast, 1978-2006 ($45)
New Yorker cartoonist Roz Chast operates in the space where the absurd meets the anxious. Her standout cartoons for The New Yorker and other publications find the odd truths just beneath the surface of the everyday. She's too easy to take for granted in periodical pages, but this mammoth collection—alternating panel gags with extended autobiographical pieces chronicling, for instance, trips to stores selling abandoned airline luggage—is a reminder of her consistent, wryly acidic skills.
Find it at: General-interest bookstores
For the Guy Who Cleans His Sneakers With A Toothbrush
Where'd You Get Those?: New York City's Sneaker Culture: 1960-1987, by Bobbito Garcia ($35)
DJ, label head, rapper, writer, television personality, and all-around renaissance man Bobbito Garcia has produced a sneaker-head's wet dream in Where'd You Get Those? Garcia's book tells the story of New York's sneaker culture through the B-boys, basketball players, and hipsters who lived it. But the real draw is the giddy abundance of lovingly reproduced photos and ads of several generations of sneakers; it's guaranteed to make shoe collectors drool. Where'd You Get Those? is mostly about shoes, but it's also a loving document of the energy and electricity of graffiti-scarred New York street culture in a pre-Giuliani era.
Find it at: General-interest bookstores
For People Who Don't Have The Patience To Collect A Classic Television Show One Season At a Time
Get Smart: The Complete Collection box set ($199)
Just how exhaustive is Time-Life's Get Smart DVD set? It compiles every last episode of the spy spoof Mel Brooks and Buck Henry created. It comes in a phone-booth collector's box. All the episodes feature introductions from Barbara Feldon. Just about the only things missing are the little-loved 1980 Get Smart reunion movie The Nude Bomb, 1989's even-less-loved, depressingly titled Get Smart Again, and the unofficial animated knockoff Inspector Gadget. Buy the set before the upcoming film version (starring Steve Carell and Anne Hathaway) taints your memory of the show forever. Get Smart: The Complete Collection is like last year's ginormous 1st & Ten complete-series box set, except that it isn't total crap.
Find it at: wouldyoubelieve.com/dvd.html
For The Unsaveable Soul Who Doesn't Believe In Christmas Anyway
A Selection Of DVDs From Fall Thru Entertainment ($20 each)
Along with the Bank Of America viral video (you know, the guy singing U2's "One" with new, corporate-friendly lyrics) and the aborted O.J. Simpson book, here's another sign that America has truly hit cultural rock-bottom. This series of DVDs, including such titles as Ghetto Fights Vol. 3, Bar Brawls Uncensored, and Hood Life 2, features exactly what it promises: real people, from gangstas to jocks (though mostly gangstas), beating the shit out of each other. The fisticuffs range in tone from light and ridiculous to scary—there's a hearty difference between girls clawing aimlessly at each other and brawny dudes landing solid blows to the face. It's voyeuristic fun for a few painful minutes, but you won't feel like celebrating in the morning.
Find it at: ghettofights.com, many DVD stores
For The Hardcore Film Buff With A Spare Grand Laying Around
Essential Art House: 50 Years Of Janus Films ($850)
Bargain-hunter alert: Buying the original Criterion editions of the 50 movies comprising this massive box set would set you back around $1,500. Buy them in bulk, and it's just over half that. Granted, these discs are devoid of the extras included on the Criterions, but the set does include a handsome hardbound book that explores the history of one of the most important arthouse distributors ever, as well as the history of arthouse cinema in general And what a lineup! Antonioni, Hitchcock, Kurosawa, Lean, Powell, Renoir, Tati, Eisenstein, Ozu, Truffaut, Polanski, Lang, Fellini, De Sica, Buñuel, Fellini, and more. Janus and Criterion are calling it "a film school in a box," and while it's an incomplete education, it'd make for a hell of a first semester. (And a cheaper one than most colleges offer.)
Find it at: deepdiscountdvd.com (where it's around $250 below list)
For People Who Think The Funny Pages Have Gone Downhill Since The '30s
The Complete Dick Tracy Vol. 1: 1931-1933 ($20)
Popeye Vol. 1: "I Yam What I Yam" ($20)
Continuing the happy trend of repackaging old comic strips with the kind of loving care once shown to museum exhibitions, IDW Publishing and Fantagraphics respectively offer the first two years of Chester Gould's Dick Tracy and the first two years of Popeye-centered strips from E.C. Segar's Thimble Theater. The feel of '30s comics takes some getting used to—the jokes are drier, the action rowdier—but Gould and Segar were master cartoonists, who drew weird little men with blank expressions and singular quirks. Once readers get a handle on the characters, these stories zip by so quick that it's hard to imagine how anyone 70 years ago could have stood reading only one a day.
Find it at: Online at Amazon or Barnes & Noble, or in your better local comics shops
For People Who Are Sick Of Getting Toblerones In Their Stockings
Fancy Target Candy ($2 and up)
Because nothing improves the taste of chocolate more than pretension, Target's house brand Choxie offers an array of bars, drops, cups, and squares that mix fine chocolate—dark and milk, brittle and creamy—blended with gingerbread cookies, candy canes, espresso beans, and fluffy peanut butter. The price is a little high, but the flavor is crazy good, especially in the spiced caramels and spiced toffees, which taste like they've been gently held over a steaming mug of mulled cider. It'll make your Noël Joyeux.
Find it at: Target
For People Who Need To Understand Why It's Such A Big Deal That Everybody At The Village Voice Is Getting Fired
The Village Voice Film Guide: 50 Years Of Movies From Classics To Cult Hits ($17)
In his last hurrah as The Village Voice's venerable film editor, Dennis Lim compiled this anthology of 150 movie reviews, cutting across 50 years and the whole body of world cinema, as originally covered by America's once-preeminent alt-weekly. The Village Voice was largely responsible for making deep thinking about popular art—previously available exclusively in academic journals—lively and accessible for newspaper readers. And though the Voice writers' politics often got in the way of their aesthetic sense, the work of critical lions like J. Hoberman, Andrew Sarris, Jonas Mekas, and Georgia Brown showed an enthusiasm for the medium in all its generic guises, and an unwillingness to settle for schlock. Maybe this book will inspire the next generation of critics. Or even better, the next generation of alt-weekly editors.
Find it at: Bookstores everywhere
For People Who Like Old Toys And Low-Level Electric Shocks
Hot Wheels Sizzlers Mad Scatter Set ($10)
Perhaps realizing that parents do most of the toy-buying in the household, toy-makers have lately been bringing back some of their classic designs, looking to appeal to Mom and Dad's nostalgic side. Hot Wheels joins the fray with the return of Sizzlers, those electricity-conducting racers that used to zoom around linoleum-tiled kitchens and get lost under refrigerators decades ago. The "Mad Scatter Set" comes with a fist-sized battery that can be clipped to a child's belt, ready to dispense a charge to a tiny car at a moment's notice. (Or at least 90 seconds' notice, which is how long it takes to fill up.) Once goosed, the vehicle zips away on a frenzied ride that typically lasts about two seconds, until it crashes into someone's foot. Forget Who Killed The Electric Car? Worry about whether the electric car will kill you.
Find it at: Target.com, toy stores
For That Clash Fan Who Refuses To Download Albums Because Downloads Have No Liner Notes
The Clash, The Singles ($80)
The downloading age has produced a generation that thinks nothing of album packaging and artwork—they don't understand that albums should be something you hold and touch, man! However, the new Clash box set, which collects all 19 of the band's UK singles (and bonus tracks), is all about packaging. Each single comes in its own sleeve, using its original artwork. The black CDs with grooved tops even look like miniature 7-inch albums. (For full authenticity, opt for the vinyl box set.) Also included is a booklet with commentary on each song from notable fans (director Danny Boyle, Blur's Damon Albarn, novelist Irvine Welsh, and others). As a means of hearing The Clash's many great songs, The Singles is preposterously cumbersome, but ease-of-use isn't the point. This collection is aimed squarely at old-schoolers who miss great album packaging and miss their turntables—it's cooler to look at than listen to.
Find it at: Music stores, Amazon
For People With Seasonal Affective Disorder Who Need To Be Distracted For The Next Three Months
The Kids In The Hall Megaset ($240)
Need something to while away those long winter nights? The Kids In The Hall Megaset collects all 101 episodes of the beloved sketch-comedy show on 20 discs, along with bonus interviews, 10 "best of" compilations of fan-favorite sketches, live-performance and archival footage, a poster gallery, a slide show, and of course, commentary from ensemble members. Just pop the DVDs in the player, and by the time you're done, spring will have arrived. During the show's run from 1988 to 1994, The Kids In The Hall was arguably the most consistently funny sketch-comedy show on television—even besting Saturday Night Live, the bread and butter of KITH producer Lorne Michaels. And because The Kids In The Hall mostly avoided topical humor, its sketches remain funny more than a decade later. Thirty Helens agree.
Find it at: Big-box retailers, DVD stores, Amazon
For That Friend Who's A Closet Voyeur
Found II: More Of The Best Lost, Tossed And Forgotten Items From Around The World ($14)
Mortified: Real Words. Real People. Real Pathetic. ($15)
My Secret: A PostSecret Book ($20)
Three books prove that real life is stranger—and often funnier—than fiction. Found II (based on the 'zine Found) collects interesting notes, lists, letters, photos, and more that people find lying around discarded. They're frequently hilarious, often moving, and always fascinating. Seriously, what's going on in people's lives when their grocery lists include "sugar free fucking syrup"? In Mortified, people submit their most cringe-inducing, teenage-angst-ridden letters, diary entries, poetry, song lyrics, awkward photos, and more, then comment on them. The book is based on a recurring live show in several cities, where brave souls read this stuff in front of strangers. Mortified the book is packed with teenage crushes (one girl repeatedly proclaims her love for Joey McIntyre of New Kids On The Block), Duran Duran fan fiction, and other stuff that's almost unbearably intimate—but completely funny. PostSecret can be funny, but when people write a secret on an artfully designed postcard, then mail it, the results are going to be dark. My Secret collects never-before-seen postcards from teenagers and college students. There's funny stuff ("I orgasm when I swim laps"), not-so-funny stuff ("I can only love her when she leaves me"), and others that lie between. ("Once I wrote a poem about you on a $1 bill in hopes that one day it would end up in your wallet.") All three books, kindred souls to each other, are completely engrossing and thoroughly entertaining.
Find it at: Assorted bookstores
For Aging Unmarried Goths Who Also Collect Japanese Toys
3 Faces Of Danzig Soft Vinyl Dolls ($75 each)
Finally, proof that the dark prince of punk, goth-punk, and classical goth has a sense of humor. This trio of expensive eight-inch figures—manufactured by respected Japanese toy house Medicom—cartoonishly reflects Danzig's journey from Misfits frontman to Samhain blood-bather to "Mother"-belting metal god. But which to purchase for the aging goth or desperate, trenchcoat-clad teenager in your life? Go with the shirtless, bloody Samhain version, whose devil lock make him look far more evil than the solo-era version's flowing mane—though that one does come with an upside-down cross necklace.
Find it at: Comic and specialty stores and websites, including the7thhouse.com
For Teenage Whores, Miss Worlds, Girls Who Want The Most Cake
Dirty Blonde: The Diaries Of Courtney Love ($35)
Expect nothing less than a muddle from a book by Courtney Love, who's built a life and career out of contradiction. As a young punk (and before that, a troubled kid), she desperately wanted fame and fortune, and she got it. So why collect random bits of old journals into a beautifully laid-out, almost unreadable hardcover? Why not? She doesn't choose to reveal anything particularly new in these scribblings, which date from her grade-school days to recent, post-drugs days. The world already knew she was obsessed with rockers and with getting famous, so embarrassing bits like "goals: achieve L.A. visibility. 125 toned pounds" aren't too surprising. As with going through the notes of an insane person—maybe exactly like that—there are nuggets of insight to be found, but don't expect Love to have done the hard work for you: She's simply splattered these pretty pages with her life's detritus, confident that it's important to someone, somewhere. At least to famous friends like Lindsay Lohan and Marc Jacobs. Yawn.
Find it at: Anywhere you find books
For Modern Computer Owners With More Free Ports Than Electrical Outlets
USBCELL AA batteries ($10)
People who buy every new space-age gadget that crops up in gift guides like these will generally find they're running out of electrical outlets where they can plug in their rechargeable cell phones, robot vacuum cleaners, and batteries. And recharging all those neat little portable items in the office often means crawling around under a desk to get to a power strip. The folks at Moxia Energy have a more dignified solution: AA rechargeable batteries that pop open to reveal a USB connector that plugs directly into a computer, laptop, or game-system port. Like all new technology, they're kinda pricey at the moment, but it's hard to fault them for convenience or sheer gee-whiz-neato factor. And more versions—a 9-volt and an AAA, in particular—are in the works.
Find it at: usbcell.com
For People Who Want A Watch That Isn't, By Any Practical Definition, A Timepiece
Nooka Zub 20 Watch ($125)
For a while, wristwatch technology was all about making it easier to tell time—lots of large, digital number displays, soft, glow-in-the-dark lighting, and comforting beeps. But eventually, consumers realized that they could get that same technology from their cell phones, but without having to remember to put on a dumb piece of jewelry in the morning. This shift forced wristwatch manufacturers to re-think their whole approach: "Instead of making it easier to tell time, we should make it more difficult," they thought, "That way people will believe they need wristwatches." And so the Nooka Zub 20 was born—a wristwatch that has a weird name, a flexible rubber band, and a face that looks like a calculator and that's "made of dots that represent the hours and a bar to tell you the minute plus a digital second window which toggles to show the date." Of course. Also, it's blue.
Find it at: Urbanoutfitters.com
For Fans Of Smart, Politically Informed Science Fiction Who Also Like To Play With Cute Little Toys
Battlestar Galactica die-cast vehicles ($5)
Do you love SCI FI's Battlestar Galactica, but wish you could tuck its dark echoes of real-life politics in your pocket? Well, wish no more, thanks to Hasbro's new line of Galactica-inspired titanium series die-cast vehicles. From Cylon raiders to the Galactica herself, they're all here. They're recommended for ages 4 and up, but is anyone ever too young to start learning the harsh sacrifices and soul-crushing compromises of intergalactic statesmanship?
Find them at: Toy stores, Hasbro.com
For Candelabra Fans Who Also Enjoy Folding Things
Ghost Candelabra ($65)
Let's face it: everyone wants a candelabra—they can turn even the simplest dinner into an elegant affair, they look really cool during blackouts, and they're great for re-enacting scenes from The Age Of Innocence. But the problem is their size. Where do you put the heavy gold candelabra when you're finished denying your love for Daniel Day-Lewis once more? Leave it to the design wizards at the MoMA Store to create a solution to a problem that didn't really exist in the first place. This Ghost Candelabra is made out of clear Lucite, and, unlike those clunky, bulky, totally visible candelabras of yore, it folds flat for easy storage—making your dream of traveling with your own personal, ornate candleholder that much closer to reality.
Find it at: Momastore.org
For Everyone Who Thought Casino Royale Would Have Been Better With Elaborate Ski Chases, Women Covered In Gold Paint, Or George Lazenby
James Bond Ultimate Editions: Volumes 1-4 ($90 each)
It always seemed like the only real problem with MGM's previous James Bond DVDs was their bad habit of going out of print seemingly weeks after being released. But the new Ultimate Edition incarnation one-ups the previous editions, piling on the extras that nicely trace the series' evolution from Sean Connery's era-defining '60s appearances to the sorely underrated On Her Majesty's Secret Service through the cheeky, derivative, but generally worthwhile Roger Moore years to the present. The biggest value-add: Sir Roger Moore provides commentary for all his movies. Who knew that Desmond "Q" Llewellyn hated to wear shorts? Moore, that's who.
Find them at: DVD stores, well-stocked bookstores
For The Mac-Hating MP3 Newbie
Microsoft Zune ($249)
Forget about the whole beaming-music gimmick. Who really wants to wirelessly transfer (for just three plays or three days) songs to their friends—assuming their friends actually own Microsoft's much-maligned new music player? Instead, focus on the good: The Zune is lightweight, compact, has a great-looking video screen, features a handy FM tuner, and its software interface—while it's no iTunes—is pretty intuitive. Will it conquer Apple in the MP3-player game? Unlikely. But it does provide fodder for Mac-hating types sick of iPods' weak batteries and tendency to eat music libraries after a year or two. And Microsoft thumbs its nose at old-school Appleheads, anyway: The Zune isn't compatible with Macs. Hardcore techheads may scoff, but the Zune is a fine entry point.
Find it at: Amazon, major electronics retailers
For Those Who Still Can't Afford Vincent Gallo's Semen
An evening or weekend with Vincent Gallo ($50,000 and up)
Last year, we highlighted the "miscellaneous merchandise" section of Vincent Gallo's website, where the director of The Brown Bunny and Buffalo '66 was offering various personal items, including a Chris Squire 8-track (still available for a mere $200!) and his own semen, available for artificial insemination to any would-be moms of, er, an acceptable skin color. The sperm offer (and its hefty $1 million price tag) still stands, but now Gallo is also offering himself as an escort who will "fulfill the wish, dream, or fantasy of any naturally born female" who can handle the $50,000-a-day-plus-expenses fee. He's a little more racially sensitive this time around: "Heavy set, older, red heads and even black chicks can have me if they can pay the bill." And while he won't escort men ("No way Jose"), "female couples of the lesbian persuasion can enjoy a Vincent Gallo evening together for $100,000. $200,000 buys the lesbos a weekend. A weekend that will have them second-guessing." Gallo doesn't actually promise said evening or weekend will amount to a discount chance at acquiring some of that pricey sperm, but he does demand an STD scan, "bathing and grooming prior to our encounter," and "detailed photos of potential clients," and he suggests that clients would be wise to "test themselves with an unusually thick and large prosthetic prior to meeting me." No word yet on whether he's willing to prorate a small segment of an evening—assuming a 48-hour weekend, he's charging about $35 a minute. Not a bad deal for the impoverished but motivated groupie.
Find it at: vgmerchandise.com