The PFG Gift Guide (Extended Cut)

Because there’s always more to discover when out trolling the internets.

You! Do you have a slightly arty, hip-hop loving booknerd and gamer in your life that you need to find gifts for?

No? Yeah, probably not, it’s a specific sort of demographic.

Whatever! I like cool stuff, you like cool stuff, you know people who like cool stuff. Behind the jump, a selection of items for the cool people in your life.

KAWS by Monica Ramirez Montaqut
Only recently did a significant living space downsizing combine with a severe bout of buyer’s remorse to all but push me out of the designer toy hobby.  As quality fell and prices rose, it became harder and harder to justify the IKEA glass cases jammed with plastic rabbits and other bricabrac. But there are still some artists whose work I’ll always have a soft spot for (Joe Ledbetter, Sam Flores, Tim Biskup, Amanda Visell).  But chief among them is KAWS.

The man born Brian Donnelly has developed from a graf artist, to a culture jammer, and now to a toy designer and fine artist in his own right, complete with his own Rizzoli-published retrospective on his career and everything he’s put the double X’s on.  When I first started learning about this art movement and culture, KAWS was kind of a ghost, ephemeral.  His pieces were always the prizes of anyone’s collection, and are still limited and expensive enough that they denote a certain level of exclusivity. I resigned myself to the fact that I would never own anything from him long ago, so the fact that I can have this book for a fraction of the cost makes this a mandatory purchase.

Pac-Man Championship Edition DX
Would you believe that the best gaming experience I’ve had this year has been a retooling of probably the most famous video game in history?

I’d heard the hype, I’d seen the press fall over itself to throw perfect scores at this game, yet I remained skeptical. I mean, it’s fucking Pac-Man! We’re not reinventing the wheel here, people, how much could they improve on it?

A lot.  PMCEDX is a beautifully elegant example of how a few delicate tweaks can improve an already perfect formula.  The song remains the same: you race Pac-Man through a maze, eating dots as you go, dodging ghosts, eye on the high score. However, by adding a time limit, ratcheting up the speed, allowing you to string together ghost combos of 30 or 50 or 100 and giving you bombs that let you get a limited number of chances to escape when trapped, the folks at Namco have totally reinvented their flagship franchise into the gaming equivalent of crack dipped in crystal meth.  It feels so good to finally surpass your personal best, or trump your friends’ high scores, and is so heartbreaking to come back the next day to find out how far you’ve fallen, while you were at work that day.

For $10 on XBox Live, why would you not want to bring that happiness to someone you love? Why do you hate fun so much?

Garfield x The Hundreds
Disney x Undefeated

You know what happens when you give up on the vinyl knickknacks? You move to clothes.  To my delighted surprise, there’s been a sharp uptick this year in intellectual property holders loosening the grip on the creations they own, and discovering the benefits of collaboration, exemplified in these streetwear collections.

The Hundreds taps our grade school memories of waking up early to watch Garfield and Friends on Saturday morning, celebrating the impact of the world’s laziest cat, Undefeated opts for the classic Disney sports shorts of the ’30s and ’40s. I find the UNDFTD shirts to be a little more mature, but there’s something so fun about the Hundreds line, a true collabo with Garfield creator Jim Davis, a continuation of the appreciation started with Garfield Minus Garfield.

Don’t forget, you’ll need a dope lid to go with any of these. I suggest the Sam Flores ‘Whispers’ fitted from New Era for Upper Playground.  Covet, covet covet.

The Emergency Novel Writing Kit by 826 National
You’d never know it to look at it, but this is supposed to be a blog about writing. Specifically mine, but also the craft in general. I’ve been failing on that front, lately. Quite a lot.  Maybe I need this! Maybe someone you know could use it, too! Complete with everything from instant coffee, to unchewed pencils to a handy flowchart to know when you’re finished, this set ensures both ‘Aha! Moments’ and ‘Delusions of Grandeur,’ both of which are essential to the aspiring writer. All proceeds go to the heroes of the 826 Project, whom I would like to again plead to open a Toronto chapter.

A subscription to The Believer
‘McSweeney’s or The Believer?’ is the ‘Beatles or Stones?’ of the literature-loving hipster set.  McSweeney’s is a literary journal that features a consistently mind-blowing if impractical design aesthetic [peep the ‘Sunday Newspaper‘ of Issue 33, or the ‘Box Head‘ of the current edition] and featuring short stories, comics, and the occasional essay from people you love like Daniel Handler, Dave Eggers, Roddy Doyle and Michael Chabon [the new issue has an annotated excerpt of Chabon’s unfinished sophomore behemoth that later sparked the idea for Grady Tripp’s dilemma in ‘Wonder Boys’. Coooovvveettttt!].

Conversely, The Believer is the picture of consistency.  Every month you get book reviews; long essays on literature, culture or politics; interviews with authors, filmmakers or musicians; and columns by Greil Marcus and Nick Hornby. Hell, even the covers have never changed in seven years, with their four portraits by Charles Burns.  And that’s why The Believer gets the endorsement over it’s artier older brother.  McSweeney’s is always interesting, but I have a number of them on my shelf starting at around issue 23, and I’ve barely read them.  As products, they can be daunting, and I’m old.  I can appreciate the creative ingenuity that goes into designing something that requires a slide rule and a sundial to read a short story, but I don’t have that kind of energy. I have high scores on Pac-Man to beat. The Believer is perfect for dipping in and out of, read Hornby’s column or the book reviews for a quick fix, or grab a tea and settle in for one of the essays on subjects as varied as GI Joe’s contributions to military perceptions after Vietnam, to fantasy author Robert Jordan and the efforts to complete his unfinished, 15 book ‘Wheel of Time’ story.  The articles may not always appeal to your primary sets of interest, most of the time they won’t.  But that’s what makes them good.  I’ve never read a single Robert Jordan story in my life, likely never will, but the article on his life and career, how his fans viewed his canon before his death and how new writer Brandon Sanderson is finishing it is fascinating.

You know, looking at all of these, there seems to be an underlying theme throughout, an attempt to recast the trifles of youth and a more sophisticated context.  Which probably probes at my underlying reluctance to grow up and my ever increasing anxiety tied to my own mortality. Huh.

Happy Holidays!

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One comment

  1. Joyeux Noel mon ami! Why do I torture myself with reading your blog when it leaves me feeling less cultured, intelligent and interesting… and I live in France damn it….. stop your clever writing and making everything engaging and interesting, and let me go back to listening to Depeche Mode on my 90’s style turntable 😉

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