Shop the Pain Away

Yet another 2017 gift guide

It’s been a year, and it’s not over yet. We have reached the grande finale, the time during which we take one last stab at bringing happiness to one another with material things. So, here are a few things that make me happy.

For the young at heart, who also hate Nazis

Tove Jansson’s cover illustration showing Europe trying to placate crybaby Hitler.

Maybe you grew up with the Moomins, a group of winsome, doughy Nordic characters and their humanish friends. I got to know them through the chapter books I’d borrow from the library when I was a kid. Their creator, Tove Jansson was a Swedish-speaking Finn who started drawing them during WWII to cheer herself up when she wasn’t drawing political cartoons. Her career started at the satirical magazine Garm when she was only 15, and the amount and variety of her work is astonishing. In addition to illustrations, cartoons, and children’s books, she wrote novels for adults and amazing short stories. I only discovered the latter recently when I picked up The Woman Who Borrowed Memories from a table at Dog Eared Books.

If you want to put a political spin on things, you can buy this poster to benefit Amnesty International (21,90 €).

Moomins were created to bring joy during one of the humanity’s darkest periods

There is also plenty of other adorable merch out there, like this Moomin Love mug ($23.99).Tove Jansson’s life partner and collaborator Ida Helmi Tuulikki Pietilä was an influential Finnish graphic designer. Spending some time with their work and life story is an antidote to the darkness.

For curious humans, who wonder why some of us are Nazis

Humans. We are so allegedly smart, yet so irrational, violent, and self-destructive. For anyone who is interesting in understanding why we do what we do, this is the book I’ve recommended to everyone this year. The author, Robert Sapolsky, is a professor of neurology and neurological sciences at Stanford. He is also a primatologist who spent 25 summers living with and observing baboons. Behave: The Biology of Humans at Our Best and Worst is not only enlightening, it is a really fun read.

(The book, like his TED talk, opens with a meditation on his lifelong violent fantasy of killing Hitler!)

This guy has got to be everyone’s favorite professor

For the Tina Belcher fan (or anyone else who wants a break from Nazis to just think about, or sit on, butts)

Behold the #BUTTS pin ($11.03) by pixelator extraordinaire Richard Stevens. What a great stocking stuffer/conversation starter or stopper! There are plenty of fun items in the Diesel Sweeties Store. You probably know someone who would enjoy the Fuck It sweatpants ($34.99).

From the guy who brought us a lot of quality killer robot content

Pair these pants with one of those preserved meat and cheese gift boxes and you have the ideal disaster preparedness kit. Every Christmas we’d get one of those boxes from Great Uncle Bob in St. Louis and I’d eat all the strawberry candies while wondering what the h*ck “summer sausage” was. I do like a shelf stable smoked cheese log to this day.

For the righteously angry who love good design

The cute skirt that tells everyone to fuck off!

Sonia Harris transmuted her righteous anger about the truly fucked up state of the world into a line of profane products that are as lovely as they are prohibited from being read aloud on Sesame Street. That pretty vine print on a pencil skirt ($40) has a special message for anyone whose eyes linger.

Plus she’s British so, in addition to the classics we Americans are familiar with, there’s a “sod off” throw pillow and a bollocks bandana. If Aunt Janet questions your taste, just remind her that people who swear are smarter.

This beautiful phone case secretly says “cunting hell”

John Hanawalt is also a terrific designer and writer who makes cool shit. You’ll find something for the whole family in his shop, like a beautiful shirt ($28) that helps set expectations correctly.

The most powerful base layer.
“When you mess with the unicorn, you get the horn.”

It can be a tough world for magical creatures, or for those of us who would like more layout options in a Medium post with a lot of images.

Give John your money. He’ll do something good with it, I promise.

For the woman who has worked up a mighty thirst protesting stupid shit we should be done with by now

We had the great honor of hosting a Kate Bingaman-Burt show in our gallery last year. She is a treat. Little bit of a maniac. Kate spent a week covering the space in giant foamcore diamonds and other assorted amazing objects. It was a beautiful time.

I mean, its no coconut, but still…

Much of her work is about consumption, like the consumption of some sweet, yet salty male tears in the form of an of-the-moment beverage stocked in every office fridge across this nation.

Support women and one woman’s art and get the print from Kate’s “Rejected Flavors” collection ($18.00).

For that swinging old world semi-nihilist

About a decade ago, a friend of mine introduced me to Magnifico, a sly sleazy Slovenian musician who mixes lounge, surf, soundtrack, funk, and Balkan music into an idiosyncratic stew. It’s everything I love, and probably a problematic fave. He is older and wiser now. His latest album Charlatan de Balkan ($9.99 on iTunes if you still buy music) is the perfect soundtrack to your last, best dinner party on earth.

The title of the lead track “Kuku Lele” is the Slavic expression for when everything goes to hell. I’ve had it on repeat for months.

Watch the video. It’s fun.

For cool parents who like books and physics

Kelli Anderson makes books do things. Following the amazing This Book is a Camera , she went big with This Book is a Planetarium.

For the fitness friend

I have a pair of Superfit Hero leggings. They are extremely comfortable and made well for every body.

For shippers

If you need a gift for someone who loves talking about infrastructure, season 2 of The Wire, or Empire Strikes Back, these 3D printed earrings are a good conversation starter .

For the sci-fi fan who hates big pharma and loves robots

Autonomous by Annalee Newitz is a really terrific new book. It will provoke thoughts about patents, capitalism, gender, and free will.

There are submarines, hackers, and cool haircuts.

No nazis.

For the self-styled introvert

I’ve never seen Adam Resurrected, the movie in which Jeff Goldblum plays a former circus performer who becomes the ringleader in an asylum for Holocaust survivors.

Way back in January, I saw Jeff Goldblum perform with his jazz combo the Mildred Snitzer Orchestra. His schtick is doing a meet and greet before the performance. So, even though I think “meeting” famous people is weird, I lined up to take a photo with the man himself. He did not disappoint. It’s as though he feels a professional obligation to give everyone the ideal Jeff Goldblum Photo Experience—hugging, purring, accepting weird fan art with extreme grace and good humor. I have never experienced such pure extroversion so up close and personal, and I don’t ever need to again.

It’s hip to be an introvert. So, if you want to mess with a hip introvert in your life, give them these Jeff Goldblum high tops ($64.95) and everyone on the street will stop to talk to them about their feet.

And finally, the obligatory semi-generic gift

Look, sometimes all you can do is buy an appliance off Amazon. The Technivorm Moccamaster ($254.96) is the best drip coffeemaker I’ve ever owned. It has one button. It brews pretty.

The coffee arrives hot and stays hot. The name sounds like an underground DJ in Berlin. Yeah, it’s expensive, but it will deliver a quality morning jolt and it will last.

When I was in Berlin last November, during the US election it was bracing to see how the Germans have held their dark history up to the light. The museums, statues, and memorials exist not to honor the perpetrators, but to remember, understand, and warn so that we can prevent a similar future.

My wish for 2018 is that we are able to confront and defeat hate and greed and replace our pernicious American myth-making with clear-eyed assessments that allow us to move forward towards a more just, inclusive, and prosperous future for everyone.

Happy Holidays!