The Eleventh Annual Holiday Gift Guide, by Larry Eder

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Back by popular demand, a potpourri of products that should make someone in your life happy!

The 11th Annual Holiday Gift Guide, by Larry Eder

Gentle readers,

It being the time of the year when snow, ice rain, and other weapons of unhappy weather gods visit Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin, that I, Larry Eder, humbly offer, for the eleventh year in a row, I might add, a guide to Holiday gifts for the hard to buy for, a special someone, or perhaps, a peculiar person in one's a) office, b) university, c) commune, d) current unfortunate incarceration.

I do this with the best of intentions. Most of the gifts have been used by me in some form or fashion, or, in truth, it just isn't that fun, now is it? Being somewhat of an experientialist, I encourage one to think carefully before providing one of my suggested gifts to someone in your life, as they may think that you truly care for them.

Last night, at my current watering hole, the Black Hawk Tavern, I did bring up the concept of Christmas gifts. An astute observer noted, " Cash is King." While I do understand, like everyone else, that a nice envelope full of dead presidents would warm any heart, except perhaps the current governor of Illinois (note; political joke).

Miss Manners found giving cash a bit crude. She did suggest checks, and in this day and age, I do suggest gift cards in my list, so without further ado, lets get started, shall we?

a. Gift cards

Under the gift card list, remember, legally, gift card never run out if they are not used, but keep the receipt and make sure you have it in case a problem arises.

Favorite gift cards:
a. Barnes & Noble-good for browsing for books, records, old movies

b. Peets Coffee-the black tar heroin of coffee, darkly roasted, powerful, one time
I drank an entire pot, stayed up for two days, edited an issue, cleaned the house and started my on going soft porn, running novel, Deep Foot, which I have not yet finished.

c. Trader Joes--when one wants to eat well, but rent just rendered one's paycheck obsolete, one can find great things at Trader Joes. For example, they have great
frozen packages of pasta, wonderful marinated Lamb, three buck Chuck (seriously,
decent wine for dinner, at $3 a bottle). Always, always, check the wine shelves for nice French table du vin, just red table win, about $5 that rocks. Olive oil, cheese,
the best canned corn in the world and real Lentil soup.


b. Movies

1. The Bourne Series, three movies featuring great chase scenes, lots of action, great visits to France, India, Russia, and all of the secret agent stuff one could stomach.

2. Pan's Labyrinth-Academy award winner last year, written, directed and produced by three tremendous Hispanic movie makers. Based on life in post -spanish civil war Spain, and Ophelia, a young women whose step father is a the Fascist leader trying to rid the area of dissenters. Ophelia survives through her dream life, which she uses for survival, it is surreal, gripping and beautiful.

3. Mostly Martha-one of my favorites, remade in US as No Reservations, the original is wonderful. A swiss chef, who has no life but her cooking, is thrust into
caring for her neice, and falls in love with her eccentric Italian sous chef. Nice Saturday night movie.

4. Juno-my favorite movie of the year. Juno is sixteen and pregnant, and has to bell her father and step mother, who behave pretty humanly. Juno decides to give up the baby to a dink ( double income no kids) couple, who are not what they seem. Warm, believable, wonderfully acted and the relationship between Juno and her boyfriend is very touching.

5. Venus--Maurice and Ian are two over the hill actors. While they still work, they are struggling. Their sanity is based on the sameness of their days. Jessica, the great niece of Ian enters their lives and live is changed. Maurice, played by Peter OToole, wants to help Jessica learn from his wayward life, some times it works, most times it does not. But, Jessica learns to respect and understand herself and
the uniqueness of others in this engrossing film.

6. Run for your life--story about the late Fred Lebow. Great photos, wonderful interviews, the late guiding light of the ING New York from 1970 to 1994, and his
death. Touching, revealing about his friends and what makes such a wonderfully complex man such as the race director originally from Transvaal.

7. Talk To Her, All About My Mother, Volver-movies by Spanish movie deity Pedro Almoldovar. Almodovar is one of the great directors who have come out of Spain since the death of Franco. A country awash in very robust political feelings, Almoldovar writes his screenplays, and the music is written by one of his brothers. His movies are a whose who of Spanish actors-Penelope Cruz comes to mind. Always political, always pushing sexual taboos, Almoldovar's movies also show a man who loves the medium and has been influenced by the great ones, especially Charles Chaplin (see Talk to Her).

8. Allegro non Tropo-this is a satire on Disney movies in general, and Fantasia in particular. Described by some as Fantasia under the influence of some controlled substance (you pick), the cartoons are lyrical and sensual, and the music is fantastic. The vingettes with the symphony are some of the most fun in the movie.

9. A Good Year--Russell Crowe in this totally under rated year. Based on the novel, A good year, by Peter Maher. Crowe plays an amoral London fund manager who inherits a French Chateau. Madeline Coutillard plays the love of his life, who he forgot about in his amoral adult life. Fun to watch, especially if you are considering a life change or just need a good break from the office. Character development is excellent.


Music

1. Estrellas del Caos, by Desorden Publica, it is Venezualan SKA, 2/3 time and it moves! Found it while I was in New Orleans, you can get it from www.mambitorecords.com. Heard it while hanging in a Voodoo store. Has that SKA thing going, but add the spanish, a bit of creole and some amazing production values (sampling Joe Strummer, among others), and one has a most entertaining evening. My suggestion, find a great dive mercado or Mexican restaurant, order a burrito for take out, mix a mojito and you are set.

2. Temptations-Music from Californication--the sound track for season one of Californication, the greatest TV show on Showtime, EVER. This is the story of David Duchovny, who plays a NY writer, who writes a novel, God Hates US All, and it is turned into a movie, which stars Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes. Big HIt. Then, David looses his ability to write, and his lady love, who is also the mother of his child, a very bright, post punk twelve year old. Well, the music is everything from Bob Dylan's Mohammed's Radio, to Steve Earle. Just great songs with this very interesting zeitgeist. On Itunes.

3. G Love-The Best of G Love-Mr. Love and his band, Special Sauce, is hipster, sampler, Philly sound, with a bit of Boston thrown in. Much like if Joe Cocker, and
Grand Master Flash had a love child. Lyrics that resonate, killer beat. Put on G. Love, have a dirty Martini, put a Dirk Bogarde movie in the background and listen to the tunes...you will be floored.

4. Steely Dan-Katy Lied-if this album, CD is not in your collection, do not tell anyone, just go get it. Originally released in 1974, Donald Fagen and Walter Becker's sublime lyrics, cover every type of sexual pecadillio, however they do
it with the best guitar rifts (Rick Derringer, Becker), base lines (Jeff Skunk Baxter)
and back up vocals (Michael McDonald), that friendships and lots of banned substances could buy at the time. This band changed my life. After listening to
Katy Lied during my sophomore year of high school, after cross country practice, I figured out that I was not as screwed up as I thought. My favorite songs-oh, there are so many, but Katy Lied, Doctor Wu-one of the best saxophone solos ever,
Any World that I am Welcome to, and of course, Rose Darling, with lyrics-such as
" Rose Darling, come to me, Snake Mary has gone to bed, and all of our screaming sounds of love can not stop her in her flight nor wake her weary head!" At seventeen that was mind boggling. I always wonder why my favorite Catholic church banned Black Sabbath album but said little about Steely Dan.

5. Pete Yorn-Songs for the Morning After, Nightcrawler,-Pete Yorn is the troubadour for our era, his lyrics resonate about long lost love, short lost love, or the banality of situations that we put ourselves in for love. My son Adam got me into Pete Yorn when we were driving back and forth, from school to office, to home, too many miles. We memorized Songs for the morning after. Yorn's shows are amazing. We were able to see him play a set in a record store in Madison three years ago, one of my favorite musical memories.

6. Tower of Power-Essentials-from I Tunes, has What is Hip?, You're still a Young Man, So Very Hard to Go. Totally remastered. I saw Tower of Power in 1977 with Blood, Sweat and Tears in Oakland, CA and the highlight of the evening were the two bands jamming. One of my best concert experiences ever. The brass sound is amazing and the lead singer, can take you back thirty years!

7. Smokey Robinson-I am sorry, Smokey is still proof of the existence of a higher being-Tears of A Clown, Tracks of My Tears, are essentials if one is to understand and appreciate American music. Get Introducing Smokey Robinson & the Miracles...preferably in vinyl..

8. Glen Campbell, Wichita Lineman, Galveston-Campbell was a session guitarist, playing for Jimi Hendrix, among others. Galveston is a an anti war song if there ever was one, but with a country twang.

Books

1. Sneaker wars-translated into English in 2008, this story is the history of the Dassler families, and the story of adidas and PUMA. Fast paced, well researched and written, a must for all family business students and anyone fascinated with the footwear business.

2. Carp Fishing on Valium-Graham Parker, a great Britiish rock n roller, Parker would tell stories up between gigs. These are some of the favorites, including a wonderfully clever way to stopping a husband from snoring, performed, without
painkiller, by a loving wife.

3. Bowerman & the Men of Nike-Kenny Moore. This must have been a cathartic experience for Moore, the book is good, but about a hundred pages too long. Moore is to commmended for his fascinating portrayal of Bill Bowerman, a man of much complication, whose tragic childhood and screwed up teen age years gave him excuses to crawl in a box and mumble to himself. Instead, he found a way to deal with his demons, and change the face of the modern footwear business.

4. Clowns of God, Morris West-I have read this book, once a year for the past 28 years. I am just into it again. Consider this, a world where the money markets are crazy, the middle East is in turmoil and terrorism is a fact of life. Take a relgious leader, the Cardinal of Rome, or the Pope. Stressed out, he goes on retreat, and has a vision of the end times. He is forced to abdicate and take his vision to the public. Politically fascinating, the writer is adept at describing world religions, and taking grand sweeping political changes and making sense. Most fascinating is West's ability to understand the modern rationalization of end justifying the means. The title, Clowns of God, comes from the idiom used in French for children born with Downs Syndrome. This book gives me comfort in a complicated world and I encourage you to read it, you will most likely find it in a used bookstore, as it was last published about 1983.

Wines

First of all, I do not drink white wine, so lets just forget that one.

The goal here is good wine, with reasonable prices!


a. Las Rocas, tempranillo from Spain, good fruity wine, great to sit around
for a couple of years, and it is less than $8 in most places!

b. Coppolla Wines-nice table wines, a fine Chianti, Cabernet Sauvingon, Merlot,
fun for a evening dinner, or when you want nice wines with a big group and
not go broke!

c. B&G, the least expensive, and best of bunch. Made in Southern France, near where my brother in law, Gervais was raised. We drink this for relaxed meals.


Doing good things......

So, there are a few things that might help you get something for the hard to get. I will end with a few things that I use with my family. For my Dad, we give each other a day fishing for rock cod off the Santa Cruz pier. For my Mom, we go to lunch or for a couple of walks, for a couple of hours, where we solve the world's problems but also catch up.

In this day and age, with our lives controlling us and not the other way around, the gift of time, and doing something together, shows more love and consideration than a huge gift.

At the end of this, I always thank you for reading the blog, or before the blog, my newsletter.

I wanted to thank my brother, Brian, who convinced me to spend an hour a day blogging, and he does the technical work. It has become something we share, and I find the writing therapeutic.

Congrats to Stan & Marilu, my parents, who celebrated their 51rst wedding anniversary in November. Mom, who read to me from very early on, and Dad can tell stories about old friends, fishing trips, characters from his youth that have enthralled me since I was a child. I was lucky enough to grow up in a household that gave us the feeling that we could do anything we put our mind to. I can walk into my parents house, and that sense of optimism carries me until my next visit.


In honor of you, our readers, I make a donation to a food pantry and also to a family who has had a rough time this year. Instead of a subscription to the blog, I ask that you help someone who needs help by a donation of your time, money or something you do well.

I wish you all a Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, or Happy Kwansa. Most of all, I wish you good times with your family and friends.


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