For those who started reading less than a year ago, last year's intro still applies (and some of the list is the same, too):
"This gift guide is a little different. I like Design with a capital D mostly when it's on the Internet or in a magazine, not my house. I know nothing about technology. I violently disapprove of whole categories of products--such as scented soap--most of the time. I can't guarantee that you'll be able to find these gifts--some of them are...metonymic, let's say."
1. 70s Music
It's time to really embrace this stuff, if you haven't already. Artists like Dan Fogelberg, Steven Bishop, Bill Withers, and Donald Fagen are too easily taken for granted. Let's move them to the top of the stack, or the playlist, or whatever it is you currently work with.
2. My Santa Statue
Someone gave me this as a hostess gift at the first Christmas party we had in our new house--nine years ago! It came from a particularly delicious store, so I was excited when I saw the box at the end of the night. When I opened it, I was disappointed. I needed another Christmas knickknack like a hole in the head. But the next year I got the idea to put him on the newel post. One of the children knocked him off and broke his arm, and it's the old story--I cried, and discovered how much he meant to me. Now he is firmly attached with fun-tac, and he makes me happy every time I use the stairs. Don't be afraid to give someone something they won't immediately go crazy over. And don't be so sure you don't like the thing you just got.
3. My Mystery Grandmother Photo
This is someone's Scandinavian great-great-grandmother. It could be mine, but I know for a fact it isn't. Anyway, this picture is a fantastic piece of cultural history, and I see something new every time I look at it. I had it scanned at Kinko's and so far I've made a big framed print which hangs over my desk, and also had it put on the cover of a notebook at Snapfish, which came out great. Perhaps there is a photo kicking around your place with untapped potential.
4. The Latke Who Couldn't Stop Screaming: A Christmas Story
It's still funny a year later, and on sale. Michael Chabon's Maps and Legends is also on sale, and also excellent.
5. St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur
Ambrosia in a beautiful bottle. Just watch your consumption; this goes down really easy. Remember peach schnapps? Easier.
6. German Chicken Games
We love to play a game called "Hick Hack In Gackelwack," now available in an English language edition as "Pick Picnic." Another, dominos-and-dice, chicken game is "Pickomino," which we know as "Heckmeck am Bratwurmeck." Like Candyland, Chutes and Ladders, and Hi-Ho Cherry-O!, these games can be played with the very young; but unlike those games, these games do not make you want to stab yourself in the eye with a fork.
7. Arrested Development: The Complete Series
Please believe me; it is so funny. Last year I said the world would be a better place if everyone read The Fountain Overflows. I could make the same claim about watching AD. It's very good. Really.
8. This Pin
I'm not sure what the message of this one is. Keep reaching out? Appreciate your Peter Gabriel t-shirt? Despite what I said above, good design is paramount to a successful gift?
9. Ballet Shoes
A new BBC version of the beloved Noel Streatfeild book, featuring Emma Watson of Harry Potter fame. I am one of those annoying people who points out all the ways in which a movie is not faithful to a book, and this is one of the least objectionable adaptations I have ever seen, especially given the compression to 84 minutes. At the bottom of this post are some spoilerish exceptions* for any Shoes purists more pathological than I.
10. Spiked T-Shirts
Not-so-little-R asked for the "Humanity Is Underrated" shirt, and he's getting it, dear boy. Spiked Online is edited by self-identified Marxist Mick Hume. Last time I checked I was very much not a Marxist, but Spiked displays some thinking so clear that it rises above ideology. To wit: this article about a national anti-bullying campaign that says, "Hang on, wasn't it the state itself that was recently bullying children for being overweight?"
*SPOILER: Theo Dane is kind of trashy and sometimes seems to be hitting on Sylvia, not to mention engaging in a love triangle with Sylvia and Mr. Simpson, who has become a widower and marries Sylvia at the end of the movie.