The Special Shelf: Gift Guide Edition

My, 2020 has certainly been a decade. Culturally, it seems perverse to undergo the annual rituals of the winter holidays, given the continued and unyielding stresses of the pandemic and the election. The traditional catharsis of these holidays comes from gatherings and collective warmth as a simple bulwark against seasonal affective disorder and the cumulative power of less daylight, loneliness, and colder temperatures. And it’s just not safe to have holiday parties, despite what your friends may tell you.

But there is another, somewhat less noble tradition, and it involves finding the right gift for those you care about. As a weirdo who specializes in physical media and cultural theory, may I offer you this gift guide for folks who might be part of your life.

For kids who enjoy striking imagery and art and are just starting to develop their senses of humor and verbal sophistication, Sharko and Hippo (from Mystery Science Theatre 3000: The Return head writer Elliott Kalan) is precious and silly, and will teach the youth about the value of wordplay and comedic structure.

For older kids, sullen teens, stoners, medievalists, and children of the ‘70s looking to reconnect with their trippy youth, The Rainbow Goblins by Ul De Rico (he was a concept artist for The Neverending Story) is a beautiful and creepy work that never gets old.

For comics fans and enthusiasts of historic gay stuff, the trade paperback of Lords of Empyre (by Chip Zdarsky and North American treasure Anthony Oliveira) is an epic from Marvel Comics that has intergalactic warfare, the highest of stakes, and the relationship between queer superheroes Wiccan and Hulkling as their relationship shakes the very cosmos! Also, it’s hysterically funny.

For Christmas queens, the Aunt you still talk to when the leaves start changing color, and anyone who delights in intense scholarship… Alonso Duralde’s Have Yourself A Movie Little Christmas is essential reading for anyone who trips out on the history of (and current industry built on) Christmas movies—this is the most useful Christmas movie guide ever written. Witty and knowledgeable, it’s a must-read for anyone biding their time until the Deck the Hallmark guys (along with Duralde) drop their book next year.

Anyone who spent time alive in the ‘80s has strong opinions about the  Friday The 13th film series. Whether you saw them as reactionary polemics reinforcing conservative Reaganist moral shorthand or as the equivalent of campfire tales for the S&L and early microchip era, these films cast a long cultural shadow. And now, Scream Factory has done an epic blu-ray boxset for all of the films in the series (including Part 3 in proper, polarized 3D and Part 9 in its remarkably grotesque unrated version), with such a surfeit of extras that you could spend months just delving into it. Parts 2 and 3 taught viewers about resourceful lesbian energy as the ideal way to survive a horror movie, Part 7 is the one where all sorts of gay shenanigans were happening behind the scenes, and Part 9 elides gender and gets into exploring kinks that there aren’t even names for. There’s something for everyone in the Friday the 13th film series, whether it’s Betsy Palmer’s unequalled sweater game in Part 1 or stuntman/actor/executive daddy Kane Hodder as killer Jason Voorhees in Parts 7-10.

Regardless of age, ideology, or sexual taxonomy, everybody loves Totoro, and some enterprising licensor came up with the idea for a Totoro advent calendar. You don’t even have to celebrate Christmas to get into this, because who doesn’t love Studio Ghibli’s fuzzy forest dweller? A new Totoro for every day in December seems like a delight for anyone, regardless of their thoughts on anime.

One other thing to consider when doing any holiday shopping: given the situation on the Supreme Court, it wouldn’t hurt to visit with a family lawyer and figure out what all paperwork you might need to get in order. Make sure that, regardless of what happens regarding Obergefell, you and your loved ones have got your situation figured out and notarized. There are too many ways that our families can be vulnerable to the traps and whims of awful people, so it doesn’t hurt to make a consultation part of your holiday plans.

Have as great a holiday season as you can, and buy local.


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SHOREHAM, VT (September 13, 2023) — WhistlePig Whiskey, the leaders in independent craft whiskey, and Alfa Romeo F1 Team Stake are waving the checkered flag on a legend-worthy release that’s taking whiskey to G-Force levels. The Limited Edition PiggyBack Legends Series: Alfa Romeo F1 Team Stake Barrel is a high Rye Whiskey selected by the Alfa Romeo F1 Team Stake drivers, with barrels trialed in their wind tunnel to ensure a thrilling taste in every sip.

The third iteration in WhistlePig’s Single Barrel PiggyBack Legends Series, the Alfa Romeo F1 Team Stake Barrel is bottled at 96.77 proof, a nod to Valtteri Bottas’ racing number, 77, and the precision of racing. Inspired by Zhou Guanyu, the first Chinese F1 driver, this Rye Whiskey is finished with lychee and oolong tea. Herbal and floral notes of the oolong tea complement the herbaceous notes of WhistlePig’s signature PiggyBack 100% Rye, rounded out with a juicy tropical fruit finish and a touch of spice.

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