The joys of the holiday season are suddenly upon us, and, if you, too, have been taken off guard by the closeness of those dreaded gift-giving holidays, you might be turning to the plethora of online gift guides that many websites are compiling. I thought I would try my hand at a very short, concise gift guide this year. Unfortunately, I was having too much fun doing my research, and I missed Cyber Monday. Also, this list doesn't appear to be short or concise, but it's my hope that it might help clueless pop culture enthusiasts find something of interest. My guide is a bit messy, but it can be divided into one of two ways: recommendations for online stores and specific products OR the classic trio of standard go-tos (DVDs, CDs, and books) and everything else. I've decided to go with the latter as far as a dividing feature. You'll be able to read my DVD/CD/book selections before the fold, and, if you're interested in the rest of the cluttered guide, you can click on the title to access the full post. Onwards!
In my opinion, you almost can't go wrong with DVDs, CDs, and books for gifts. Of course, you have to know the taste of the person for which you're shopping, but if you happen to know favorite movies; television shows; and actors and comedians (musicians, writers, etc. etc.), as well as what the person may already have in their collection, you're bound to come up with something great. Movies, television, music, and books are perfect because they can be enjoyed again and again. Or, that's how I assuage my guilt of splurging on these sorts of goods once in a while. The best old television on DVD comes from Shout! Factory, so you might as well go straight to the source to browse. Notably, Shout! Factory is the place releasing the Mystery Science Theater 3000 DVDs. Hey now, they've got Garry Shandling, Mr. Ed, The Electric Company, and that's just the tip of the iceberg. Here are some direct links to tv on DVD (you'll be amazed!); animated shows; kids' shows; and b-movies. Any movie that is available can be purchased from Movies Unlimited (the only time that a store catalogue  would make a great gift)! Movie lovers should also head to TCM (powered by the aforementioned Movies Unlimited). Not only does TCM have the best selection of classic movies, but they have books, soundtracks, calendars, and other goodies (including apparel, posters, subscriptions to their 'Now Playing' magazine, and.. the ultimate: passes to the 2011 TCM Film Festival in Hollywood!). (Of course, double-check Amazon for best prices)
Give the gift of laughter! If you'd rather make 'em laugh without involving a television, you can't do better than the comedic stylings of Bob Newhart! All of his comedy albums are available on CD. Or, if you're spending Hanukkah in Santa Monica, add some Tom Lehrer to the festivities!
For those looking to fill up their book shelf, I'll give just a few essential titles. Amy Sedaris' new book, Simple Times: Crafts For Poor People (as well as her old book, I Like You: Hospitality Under The Influence) are modern classics that would look great next to James Lileks' Gallery Of Regrettable Food. Check out Atomic Books for other interesting ideas!
Music might be a tad more difficult without a wish list. I would recommend collections of television theme songs or the classic, Laverne & Shirley Sings. Rhino Records and Collectors' Choice Music offer the best in reissues and hits collections. Hollywood musical fans should have Somewhere Over The Rainbow: The Golden Age Of Hollywood Musicals, a reasonably priced, two-disc set of gems. If you're a fan of 1980s new wave, I can personally vouch for the greatness of Ideal Copy. I can list favorite Morrissey and Sparks albums, too, if requested!
On to some non-DVD/CD/book recommendations:
Etsy is always a great bet for vintage or unique hand-crafted items. Fred Flare has some nice things. Also, check your local thrift stores for the best gifts, but if you're looking to put together some nostalgic pop culture gifts, here's some cool items I've come across online:
Insta-Saturday Morning Super Stun Fun:
1. The newly released Sid & Marty Krofft's Saturday Morning Hits, a DVD collection of selected episodes of HR Pufnstuf, The Bugaloos, Sigmund and the Sea Monsters, Electra Woman and Dyna Girl, and Bigfoot and Wildboy.
2. A Pufnstuf movie mini-poster (while supplies last -- a steal at $4.00!)
3. A box of favorite sugary cereal (preferrably Quisp or Monster cereals)
4. A bright melamine breakfast bowl (Target seems to have really fun designs for inexpensive dinnerware)
5. A book of classic 70s or 80s toys or a DVD of vintage commercials (I got a dirt-cheap 4 disc set at Borders. Look in the budget section or near the checkouts).
The World of Rankin/Bass
1. The Enchanted World of Rankin/Bass by Rick Goldschmidt
2. Snow Miser 7" action figure (or 12" plush with shiver effect)
3. The Year Without A Santa Claus deluxe DVD
4. Mad Monster Party DVD
1. Lunchbox: Inside & Out: From Comic Books to Cult TV & Beyond by Jack Mingo and Erin Berrett
2. A vintage lunchbox from the thrift store (or a new one like this tin Empire Strikes Back)
3. Authentic Stay Puft Caffeinated Gourmet Marshmallows (Ghostbusters)
1. A colorful vintage Kool Aid Man tote bag
2. This Jolly Green GIANT set of vintage Green Giant collectibles (or original new-in-box Sprout telephone or cute handmade Sprout necklace)
3. A pair of vintage Charlie Tuna watches (although, I think Charlie Tuna would make a great cat toy, but I can't find any made -- or even a pattern to make your own)
4. A handmade Mr. Peanut light switch cover or a switchplate and outlet set
5. A Hamburger Helper radio
6. A set of Quisp action figures
7. A metal Mr. Owl for Tootsie Roll Pops lunch box filled with Tootsie Rolls and Pops
8. A useful Twinkie The Kid snack container
9. And don't forget Tasty Kakes! A Plush Kirbee Krimpet (throw in a Tasty Kake variety pack
The ASPCA often warns against giving pets to unsuspecting recipients. But, surely, they wouldn't have a problem with Sea Monkeys?! Sea Monkeys make great pets for a whole hour of fun! Even the Star Wars franchise has gotten in on the Sea Monkey craze! Who knew these little guys hailed from Naboo? Not you? Not me, too! Just make sure you don't use any chemical cleaners and/or anti-dust aerosols around their home. I speak from experience. The great Sea Monkey genocide of 2005 came as a horrible surprise for us all. Another great pet is the Nauga. They're a little easier to hug (you can't squash them quite as easily) than the Sea Monkeys. They're looking for a loving home, and you can adopt a real live Nauga right now!
TOYS AND GAMES
1. Target exclusive: Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back vintage collection 9 pack of figures. This gave me shivers when I saw it in the circular. Honestly, I think it's a great deal at $50.00. Check online or in the store for availability. It has a Lando!
2. Tetris is the greatest video game of all time. But, sometimes you can't play Tetris. Ease your Tetris withdrawl with Tetris soaps; etched glasses; and tote bags.
1. Every well-stocked kitchen needs a Jell-O mold. If you're looking to add a little structure to your wiggly salad, order a Jel-Ring Mold Tupperware from my friend, Karen. And tell her Curly Wurly sent you!
2. Spam singles pouches (from your local grocery store) makes a cheap but satisfying present.
3. Snoopy Sno Cone Machine is a classic.
Here's a selection of hi-tech gizmos to back up yesterday's pop culture into the next century. I don't own any of these products, but I'm hoping that they're a selection of invaluable aides for personal archivists looking to preserve, conserve, and convert media into more stable or tech-friendly formats. I didn't know that all of these converters existed until recently, and it's good to know that all your old media can be updated to modern formats. Make sure to thoroughly research (and do price comparisons!) all technological gizmos before buying! Make sure to compare similar products and models for the features that you want.
1. Crosley Turntable
2. ION Turntable Digital Converter [Amazon search] - These are two turntables that should be able to play records and record them to digital media. Some are full systems that will also record cassettes to digital media. Digital media includes hard-format CD-Rs and computer-based formats like mp3s, so that music can be enjoyed on the computer or put on your iGizmo. Either way, this is a great idea for backing up your vinyl and cassette collection.
3. Similarly, ION VCR Digital Converter [Amazon search] will back up your VHS tapes to digital media for DVD conversion or easy upload to YouTube.
4. Crosley Slide & Negative Scanner [Amazon search] - This gizmo should make backing up your photo memories easier than ever.
On a side-note, I'm considering designing my own 2011 calendar with select vintage advertising images from my collection. I'm going to work on this idea, and, if it looks promising, I'll make it available through my blogs. If not, you'll never hear me speak of it again!
[Note: I have no personal affiliation with any of the websites to which I've linked. Direct links to company websites may be seen as recommendations of reputable companies, while product links are not. I cannot vouch for the quality and integrity of those companies. Those are simply cool sample items I've stumbled across online. Always remember to comparison shop for the best deals!]