holiday gift guide

The 2011 Vulture Holiday Gift Guide

What do you get for the entertainment obsessive in your life this holiday season? Don’t panic: Vulture has turned the Internet upside down, shaken it, and sifted through to find twenty suggestions perfect for the discerning pop culturati, whether they’re an aficionado of zombies, graphic novels, Bill Murray, music (either classic or cutting-edge), or beyond. So click through, start shopping, and be prepared to be roundly acclaimed the savviest gift-giver since the Magi. And all without getting a bad haircut.

We’re glad that we didn’t have one of these when we were in eighth grade, or we never would have made it to ninth. Place your iPad — loaded with the Atari’s Greatest Hits apps — onto the Arcade’s base and you’re ready to go. A sturdy joystick and four large mashable buttons: This is how games like Centipede or Missile Command should be played.   Atari Arcade, $59.99
You are an FNL fan. You never gave up trying to explain to friends and family the sublime brilliance of the series. They never listened, ratings stayed low, and after five seasons you lost your favorite show. Here’s your chance for some payback. Give this nineteen-disc collection — loaded with commentary tracks, behind-the-scenes footage, and other bonus features — to the most tolerable of mouth-breathing philistines who ignored your insistent pleas. Let them get sucked into the weekly dramas that went down in Dillon, Texas. And when they are finally done watching the final episode and can’t stop crying, loudly remind them of their passive complicity in the cancellation of one of the best network TV shows of all-time. Clear eyes, full hearts, big losers.   Friday Night Lights, $74.99
With The Walking Dead on break until February, you can keep your friends in an undead state of mind with this selection of zombie-themed tchotchkes: a bag of small marauding zombies done toy-army-man style, a zombie garden gnome (perfect for scaring off door-to-door fund-raisers), a frightening toilet-seat cover (perfect for scaring off bathroom-to-bathroom fund-raisers), and a decal for the back of your car that is an undead twist on the nuclear family. All the good times of a zombie invasion, without all the dreary searching for Sophia.   Bag o’Zombies, $6.99 Zombie-Hand Peel’N Place Toilet Topper, $3.89 Zombie Garden Gnome,$49 Zombie Family Decal,$18
When you want to learn about a pop-culture era, no tutorial is as addictive and easily devourable as an oral history, and these two books are riveting, gossipy, and impossible to put down until the last quote has been read. Everybody Loves Our Town is an evocative chronicle of the forces and personalities that shaped the sound called “grunge.” Mark Yarm shares the thoughts and recollections of some 250 personalities — from artists (including members of Nirvana, Soundgarden, and Pearl Jam) to roadies — who witnessed the birth and slow death of this once-dominant rock genre. And veteran music journalists Craig Marks and Rob Tannenbaum interviewed more than 400 subjects for I Want My MTV; their stories make for a wildly entertaining history of the music channel’s so-called Golden Age of 1981 to 1992: Finally, one destination for anecdotes about Martha Quinn, Bonnie Tyler calling someone a “pre-vert,” and the substances consumed during a Van Halen video shoot.   Everybody Loves Our Town, $16.50 I Want My MTV, $19.57
Looking to inject some excitement into your upcoming holiday party? Imagine the eggnog-fueled shrieks of delight when your favorite feline gets behind this claw-friendly turntable/scratching pad and puts Keyboard Cat to shame. We already know the first track on the set list: “Cat Scratch Fever (the Meow Mix)” by Kit’n Play featuring MC Skat Kat.   Cat D.J. Scratching Deck, $40
Want to give somebody the gift of being able to make small talk with any type of music geek? These three albums are destined to appear on best-of-2011 lists and represent three very different genres. Wolves in the Throne Room is state-of-the-art metal (“black metal” to be precise); it’s loud, dense, and, to a certain kind of ear, utterly hypnotic. On the other side of the musical spectrum, no one can create uptempo laments like Welsh indie-popsters Los Campesinos!: Hello Sadness, their fourth album, is their most melodic effort to date. Finally, Strange Mercy offers a beguiling study in contrasts — an exploration of sometimes unsettling themes and sounds wrapped around the lovely chanteuse phrasings of singer-songwriter Annie Clark.   Wolves in the Throne Room, $10.60 Hello Sadness, $11.16 Strange Mercy, $9.99
It is fitting that in the Year of the Zombie, Polaroid — almost buried by the rise of the digital camera — has seemingly risen from the realm of the corporate dead to unveil a new camera. After composing your shot using its bright 2.7-inch color LCD screen, the Z340 will churn out bright 3x4-inch smudge-proof prints (with or without a selection of borders, including the classic Polaroid look) — ready for desktops, wallets, and refrigerator doors.   Polaroid Z340, $299
Diehard LOTR fans were more worked up than a bunch of stampeding mumakil over the first unimpressive Blu-ray offering of Peter Jackson’s three-part epic, which was simply a bare-bones presentation of the theatrical cuts. Finally Hobbiticians are getting the version they were waiting for: the extended cuts, which add nearly two hours of footage, and, collected together for the first time, all the bonus content found on the previous DVD sets. And unlike with the other recent Blu-ray series collections (Star Wars: The Complete Saga and Jurassic Park Ultimate Trilogy), someone would actually want to watch all the films in the LOTR set.   Lord of the Rings, $56.99 (for now, but sure to change)
Because nothing impresses potential employers/mates/in-laws more than informal clothing that proclaims your love of (and great taste in) movies and TV.   Bob Loblaw Lannister Friday the 12th All $19.95
When first introduced in 2009, Joey Roth’s ceramic speakers were universally hailed by the tech cognoscenti for their eye-catching design and ear-pleasing fidelity. Two years and a few tweaks later, he’s debuting Version 2, which utilizes a new driver and a redesigned diaphragm that should wring every last bit of sonic detail from your favorite tunes.   Ceramic Speakers, $495
Illustrator Derek Eads has captured Bill Murray in sixteen of what-just-might-be-his-best-ever roles. Sure, the poster — printed on acid-free paper with a two-inch border for framing — is a little heavy on the Wes Anderson movies, but it includes Kingpin and Quick Change, so we’re happy.   “Murrays”, $16 to $49, in four sizes
Things we’ve used this year to keep our place in books we’re reading include strips of paper torn from the Times, a folded pink Kleenex, and a plastic knife that came delivered with a burrito. That was before we discovered these Post-it-style bookmarks (also available in yellow), which certainly look a lot more inviting than a piece of serrated plastic.   Leaf-It Bookmarks, $19 + $9 S&H for a set of three pads of bookmarks
Amazon’s spiffy Fire is a significant evolutionary step in the development of the Kindle: No longer an e-reader with a few apps tossed in, it’s now a full-blown media player, capable of letting you watch TV and movies, browse the web, and play your favorite games, all for a fraction of the cost of an iPad. And yes, you can still use it to read. We like Stephen King’s latest — a crackerjack time-travel story (Frank Rich approved!) about one ordinary man’s quest to change history. At 893 pages, you’ll be saving a lot of trees and your back.   Kindle Fire, $199 11/22/63 e-book, $14.99
For the past two decades, the folks at Lomography have offered photographers and creative types low-cost/high-cool alternatives to their more expensive (and fragile) cameras. Their newest product, the LomoKino, is a hand-cranked movie camera that turns a 36-exposure roll of 35mm film into 144 frames of old-timey cinematic magic. (The curious can check out footage — submitted by satisfied users — here.)   LomoKino, $79
These three well-received drawn volumes — an illustrated manifesto and a pair of graphic novels — will leave readers smarter, wiser, and more than a bit spooked out. Part history, part meditation, The Influencing Machine — written by NPR media critic Brooke Gladstone and illustrated, in witty comic-strip style, by Josh Neufeld — offers an engaging but sobering look at our increasingly hazardous media landscape. In Green River Killer, the true-life story of the search for and interrogation of the murderer who terrorized the Seattle area for nearly two decades is told by Jeff Jensen, the son of the lead detective: He makes it both a compelling procedural and a fine tribute to a hero father. And Feynman is a richly drawn portrait of Richard Feynman, the legendary bongo-playing prankster and part-time safecracker who happened to win a Nobel Prize in physics.   The Influencing Machine, $16.29 Green River Killer, $16.99 Feynman, $17.23
“See” a favorite sound — a baby nephew’s laugh, a snippet from a favorite song, the jet-engine snore of your bed partner — transformed into a striking piece of art. Submit a recording of said sound sample and the artists at Vapor Sky will create a waveform that can be presented on stretched-canvas wall hangings in a variety of colors and sizes.   Waveform Wall Hanging, $199 and up Photo: Setsiri Silapasuwanchai/MR.LIGHTMAN
If the Muppets have taught us anything, it’s that great joy comes from looking back. So why not put on some headphones and slip into auditory reveries of the past? Upon disbanding, R.E.M. released a 40-track, career-spanning compilation (with three new tunes), and unlike previous collections, Part Lies, Part Truth includes songs from their work for both I.R.S. (their first label) and Warner Bros. Also: Your Past Comes Back to Haunt You is a long-overdue presentation of the early work of John Fahey, an influential and criminally underappreciated guitarist whose admirers included Sonic Youth. And with five CDs, two vinyl albums, and two seven-inch singles, the Beach Boys’ The Smile Sessions Box Set is a no-stone-unturned collection of the bits and pieces that became what Rolling Stone called “the most famous unfinished album in rock & roll history.”   R.E.M., $14.99 John Fahey, $69.40 The Beach Boys, $139.99
What better way to celebrate the holidays by putting flame to the head(s) of Jack Skellington, the self-absorbed hero of arguably the best Christmas-Halloween movie ever made.   Nightmare Before Christmas Votive Candles, $19 for a set of 12
Packaged in a handsome metal box are three eleven-inch dolls — fully poseable! — each with their own stands, white jumpsuits, goggles, work boots, and safety vests. (Who knew these rebels were OSHA compliant?) Tossed in for good measure is the two-disc deluxe version of their Sounds of Science. Yes, at $750 it’s a bit pricey for a meta-gift, but proceeds from all sales are split between two charities that benefit kids with cancer.   Beastie Boys Action Figures, $750 Photo: (C) Rob Naples
This season on Community, biology professor and recently released convict Professor Kane (Michael K. Williams) slipped into a melancholy soliloquy about his difficulty adjusting to a new world of toys. “What happened with Legos? They used to be simple.” he asked his class. “Something happened out here while I was inside. Harry Potter Legos, Star Wars Legos? Complicated kits, tiny little blocks? I’m not saying it’s bad, I just want to know what happened.” Makes you think, doesn’t it? When did we as a nation — nay, a planet — start taking two-, three-, and four-nubbed rectangular blocks for granted? They are the very building blocks of creativity! So give someone you love this nuts-and-bolts Ultimate Building Set. Free them from those ultraspecific Geonosian Starfighter instructions and allow them to live! To live!   Legos, $26.97
The 2011 Vulture Holiday Gift Guide