As a gloriously over-the-top year of culture and entertainment draws to a close, you owe it to your friends and family to share some 2010 treats. Vulture has rounded up gifts for everyone on your list, from the gadget junkies to Sondheim fanatics to wannabe Mad Men.
The new Wi-Fi-only Kindle ($139, more expensive versions have a 3G connection) is the perfect gift for voracious readers. Start them off with the Kindle version of Freedom
, Franzen’s second literary juggernaut of the millennium and a landmark moment for e-books: About 35 percent of the book’s sales have come in an electronic format, a record for such a high-profile launch.
Freedom by Jonathan Franzen
UPDATE: This is a picture from an alternate reality where Kindles have color screens. In this universe, they are black and white.
What’s better than a touch screen for cutting and scratching? This $19.99 iPad app lets you mix songs from your iTunes library, calculate beats per minute, and cue songs through your headphones. It also supports AirPlay, so you can wirelessly stream music to a stereo — no cables to tie you down in the D.J. booth at the next house party.
Djay for iPad
, The Queen
, and this infamous New York
photo shoot, Helen Mirren starred as no-nonsense Detective Chief Inspector Jane Tennison of Scotland Yard, where her dubious male colleagues are sometimes less helpful than the suspects she relentlessly pursues.
Prime Suspect: The Complete Collection
Radio Raheem, meet Steve Jobs: This boombox takes ten D batteries and has a spring-loaded iPhone door where the cassette used to go. The only color available is gold, of course.
Lasonic iPhone/iPod Boombox
Here at Vulture, we’ve been so anxious for the show’s return that we’ve hosted the cast’s in-between-season photo diaries
. One more way to bide the time? Fake amnesia and watch season two like it’s the first time all over again!
Parks & Recreation: Season Two
Skip the obvious Christmas boxed set (Springsteen’s mammoth Darkness on the Edge of Town
reissue) for this indie geek essential: the complete recordings of these Scottish legends from the eighties, whose work runs from scrappy post-punk (“Blueboy”) to fey, funky pop (“Rip It Up”).
Coals to Newcastle
Ben Greenman’s hilarious and somehow touching book recasts Chekhov stories with characters like “former friends Nicole and Paris” and “talk-show host Dave.” Give it to the hipster cousin who never got much use out of that literature degree and spends all of her discretionary time reading Vulture instead.
Celebrity Chekhov: Stories by Anton Chekhov
David Milch’s Shakespearean Western revived the genre’s tired stock characters (the righteous sheriff, the villainous pimp) and gave profane soliloquies to a talented cast who have since gone on to colonize just about every great TV show since. Collected for the first time in a single boxed set, The Complete Series
has extras including an interview with Milch and an audition reel for antihero Al Swearengen.
Deadwood: The Complete Series
If fashion has taught us anything, it’s that the future is just the past, reconfigured. That’s beginning to be the case for gadgets, too. The Boxee Box
puts the TV you’ve been watching on the Internet back on the TV (by using the Internet) — a circuitous route, but one that saves you from commercials and opens up a trove of web content. It’s a little set-top box that that ports all sorts of video in over Wi-Fi. Netflix streaming is there, as is MLB.tv, Hulu Plus, and Pandora. In a shrewd move, the remote comes with a keyboard on its backside, so you don’t have to deal with navigating an onscreen keyboard.
Price: $199 (If you’re not sure whether it’s worth paying for in full, download the software
to your computer for free and get a feel for how it works.)
Remember, when God closes a door, he opens a dress: The autobiography written by Mad Men
’s Roger Sterling is now a real book with timeless one-liners on “Clients,” “Women,” “Drinking,” and so on. Series creator Matt Weiner wrote the preface. Perfect for everyone who has ever yearned to unleash a Sterling bon mot after seven vodka martinis.
Sterling’s Gold: Wit and Wisdom of an Ad Man
How can these six-inch-long, three-quarters-of-a-pound speakers emit such loud, clear sound? And without cables? It helps that they’re created by industrial-design superstar Yves Behar and manufactured by a company, Jawbone, known for its diminutive but powerful Bluetooth earpieces. The speakers, called the Jambox
($199 at Odin
) can wirelessly receive audio signals and phone conversations from laptops, smartphones, and other Bluetooth-enabled gadgets. All that techno wizardry comes in four equally handsome styles.
Got a friend who can’t stop quoting Sondheim’s recent book, Finishing the Hat
? Blow their mind with this sixties TV musical, a coveted bootleg for Sondheim fans, that has been restored, remastered, and released for the first time on DVD. It tells the tale of Charles, played by a post-Psycho
Anthony Perkins, who decides to live in a New York City department store and discovers a community of hermits who pretend to be mannequins.
Stephen Sondheim’s Evening Primrose
This is not a recording: It’s a five-movement music composition that is encoded onto a single microchip and housed in a CD case. Plug your headphones into the jack, and a hypnotic series of blips and beeps actually plays itself. You could just download the MP3
, but it’s not nearly as fun.
For those obsessed with ambient music and electronics, or who like a trippy background drone while they do yoga or wash the dishes, there’s a new version of a much-loved toy: FM3’s third-generation Buddha Machine, which lulls a room with four different loops of sound. Test out the sounds by downloading sample files
from the group’s website, or alternatively, buy the iPhone app
When watching a 22-episode season of television feels like too much of a commitment, turn to the British, who regularly deliver TV in more modest portion sizes.
Slings & Arrows
The Singing Detective
UPDATE: Our mistake — Slings & Arrows
is Canadian, not British. Damn our American insularity! Anyway, it doesn’t make the DVD any less giftworthy.
A mere $20 gets you an elegant little gadget that lets you mount your iPhone 4 to a standard camera tripod. Created using Kickstarter
, where more than 5,000 backers pledged some $137,000 to get the project off the ground.
The Impossible Project, a group of former Polaroid employees, stepped up when the company went out of business and began to invent new film materials for the classic instant cameras. The camera is a hack, too: A Chinese-made camera known for its lo-fi aesthetic, combined with the back of a Polaroid camera to accept instant film.
The Impossible Project
Couldn’t get your loved ones tickets to the critically acclaimed Gatz
, the six-hour stage adaptation of The Great Gatsby
? Get them a Gatsby
poster from Postertext, a company that paints scenes from classic books (Ulysses
, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland
) using the text of the books themselves. “So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”