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The Oh Hell I Forgot So-and-So Xmas Shopping Guide

Okay, so. We’ve all been there. You’ve been at a party, or a function. Or you’ve opened your mail. And…oh shit. Somebody gave you a gift and you weren’t expecting it. Could be your cousin who you thought had been deported or a co-worker who you actually need to do your job so you can’t piss him or her off. Doesn’t matter, could be anybody. What do you do?

Well, you say “Oh, hell, I didn’t know you’d be here” (make sure you say “today” if you’re at work and, you know, they work there too) “and like a dummy I left your gift.” Or, “Your gift isn’t here yet. Yes haha that pesky postal service this time of year, right?”

So you can sidestep the awkwardness. But what to get them? That’s where we come in. Rather than do what everybody else does and give you a shopping guide before the holidays, we give you the Oh Shit I Forgot So-and-So Shopping Guide, so take a load off. Before you return to work next week, just set one of these items in motion. Trust us, there’s something for everybody.

Voco Clock

It’s no secret that we’re fans of Stephen Fry around here. And it’s no secret that we’re not big fans of sleep. But as we’ve mentioned before (when we first learned of the magic of Voco Clocks), Fry might be the one to try and talk us into falling asleep. As for waking you up? Well, I’ve tried out the clock. In fact, there’s two versions–one for “sir” and one for “madam”–and Mr. Fry will give you a soothing countdown into sleep as well as an array of messages to wake you up. To sample them, you really must visit their website. Nothing I could type here would give it justice.

But yes, to answer your next question, the clock will probably wake most people up. Me, I woke up just wondering if I had fallen asleep watching QI. Stranger things have happened. Hell, when the clocks arrived we amused ourselves for a good half hour running through all the messages. The voice comes through incredibly clear. And not too loud, because you might think there’s an intruder in the house or something. So if you know somebody who could use a fancy but reasonably priced alarm clock, or is a fan of Brit comedy (especially Mr. Fry, naturally), then Voco is the way to go. In fact, you get bonus points when you can say it’s all from the UK. Imports = plenty of points. I love these things. ($79.95; Available from their site.)

The Adventures of Young Indiana Jones, Vol. 1 DVD Cover Art
The Adventures of Young Indiana Jones, Vol. 2: The War Years DVD Cover Art

Well, as we’re preparing for Indy 4, it makes perfect sense to go with ginormous boxed sets of the television spinoff/prequel series. And they are huge. Volume One is twelve discs, Volume Two is nine discs, both out from Paramount. Now, as I’ve mentioned before, these aren’t in the original format that you might remember–they’ve been re-edited into TV movies (seven on the first set, eight on the second). And the framing bits with Old Indy are gone. (Probably because now old Indy can and will be played by Ford–sorry, Harrison!) But don’t worry, I’m convinced that you’ll get the unabridged original series in boxed sets probably in 2009 or so (with the uber mongo set of the four Indy movies coming out in late 2008…or something). But here’s the thing: you lose that stuff but you get scads of bonus documentaries designed to give the historical context to all of the various people Indy runs into during his adventures. (Vol. 1: $129.99, available from Amazon for $79.99, Vol. 2: $129.99, available from Amazon for $78.99)

Planet Earth: The Complete Series DVD cover art
Planet Earth: The Interactive DVD Game cover art

We’ve been big fans of Planet Earth since it first arrived. Because it’s like Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom on crack. As I’ve said previously, if the Best Buys and such of the world had this playing on their HD TVs, they’d sell a crapload more. Of both these DVD sets and the TVs. Because the video quality for this BBC Home Video release is absolutely incredible. In fact, the behind the scenes and making of documentaries are almost as cool as the footage of nature. They’re only ten minutes long for each episode, but I could almost watch an entire series about the making-of. But if you’ve read this site for a while, you know I’m just into that stuff. Nobody does nature programs like BBC, so I highly recommend this for anybody. And if that wasn’t enough, Imagination has worked with BBC to create a interactive DVD/board game out of Planet Earth. Watch footage from the series, answer questions, and pick up pieces of a puzzle. When the puzzle is complete, the game is won. I know, it sounds mildly educational, but don’t let that frighten you. (DVD: $79.98, available from Amazon for $54.99, Game: $29.99, available from Amazon for $29.95)

Dr. Katz Professional Therapist: The Complete Series DVD cover art
Little Britain Complete Collection DVD cover art

I think at one point I mentioned that that was pretty much it for Chappelle’s Show, that poor Comedy Central who went from having a hit show on their hands to a madman and a smoking crater couldn’t milk it for anything else. What was I thinking? Of course they’re going to put all two (and a half) seasons into a single box and sell it. So yes, if you know a fan of the show who hasn’t got the three original releases, they’ll appreciate this–but there’s nothing new in here. The one benefit it’s cheaper to get this set than to buy all three individual releases. So there’s that. ($49.99, available from Amazon for $42.99)

This next one is a bit different, because like with Chappelle, most shows release individual seasons (some are now splitting up seasons into different volumes, even) and then a ubermongo complete set after they’re all out. Instead, with Dr. Katz, they released seasons one and two and then bang, hit with this massive set. The one thing about massive sets is they have a bit of sticker shock involved–this one lists for $139 although you can certainly find it cheaper. So rather than do it in stages, fans are kind of stuck–and they might have already bought two seasons’ worth of content anyway. Regardless, apart from the thirteen discs, you also get three “lost” episodes, a live Dr. Katz performance, a “bio” of the good doctor, some animated shorts, a convo with Dave Attell, some follow-up calls, commentaries and more. Again, pricey, but the fan will want the whole thing. ($139.99, available from Amazon for $118.99)

And then there’s Little Britain, from the twisted minds of David Walliams and Matt Lucas (with equally daft narration from Doctor Who‘s Tom Baker, who have no problem with taking bits of British life and skewering them in the most perverse ways. They are funny, funny people and half the time I’m not even sure why I’m laughing. It’s either the show’s that good or I’m just suffering from a neurosis. Or it could be both. This set is pretty hefty all things considered, with all the episodes from the three series of the show, all of them with commentary, a docu, their Comic Relief appearance, plus the specials and the live show. Bear in mind that if you have an Anglophile on your list, this will be perfect for them, but sadly, some people on this side of the pond may be a bit lost. Well, most lost than normal, anyway. ($99.98, available from Amazon for $74.99

Walt Disney Treasures: The Adventures of Oswald the Lucky Rabbit DVD cover art
Walt Disney Treasures: The Chronological Donald, Vol. 3 DVD cover art
Walt Disney Treasures: Disneyland Secrets, Stories & Magic DVD cover art

I know you’re probably sick of hearing me beat this drum perpetually, but I simply can’t help it: the Walt Disney Treasures line rocks. I remember how distraught I was when it was thought to be dead at one point, but here we are with yet another wave, right at the bottom of the year. The first up is The Adventures of Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, who you can basically think of as Proto-Mickey Mouse. This is from 1927-1928 and this set contains the thirteen surviving shorts, and six of them come with commentaries. There’s also the remnants of an additional missing short, an art gallery, and then a feature-length docu on Ub Iwerks. There’s also some bonus shorts, including three of the classic Alice comedies (two of which have never been on DVD before), plus a couple of Mickey Mouse shorts and then “The Skeleton Dance.” For the Disney completist on your list, this is a no-brainer. ($32.99, available from Amazon for $22.99)

Next we’ve got Volume 3 of The Chronological Donald, having all thirty shorts from 1947 to 1950. This includes the Cinemascope cartoons shown in their original widescreen format for the first time on DVD, so that’s cool. It also has some of the shorts “From the Vault” that are presented with an intro/warning by Leonard Maltin as to why these shorts might be considered rather politically incorrect today–kudos to Disney for including these. There’s also a historical featurette, a 3-D sculpting featurette, a fairly large gallery on each disc, and more. Fans of Donald would want this most definitely as the shorts look better than they ever have and the bonus bits are decent. ($32.99, available from Amazon for $22.99)

Then lastly for Wave 7, there’s the Disneyland Secrets, Stories & Magic release. There’s a sizable main docu that covers the history of Disneyland from its creation to the present day, which comes with a commentary by Maltin and Imagineer Tony Baxter. There’s a 40-minute film from 1956 about the park, three episodes from the television anthology series from the 1960s: a show regarding The Golden Horseshoe Revue (a show from the park), another about Disney’s involvement with the 1964-5 World’s Fair, and a show featuring the park from 1966. And last but not least, there’s time lapse footage of the construction of the park–very cool stuff–with some commentary on it as well. Again, any of these would make a fan of animation or Disney quite happy. And they’re limited edition, so don’t screw around and miss them–either for yourself or those on your late list. ($32.99, available from Amazon for $22.99)

John Coltrane: Interplay music cover art

So, John Coltrane. Since we are all cultured individuals, we either love jazz or know somebody who does. And it’s hard for me to think of loving Jazz and not digging the hell out of John Coltrane. Here, on this five CD set, it’s Prestige sessions from the late 1950s when Coltrane was serving as a session musician. As has been pointed out (rather vehemently) on the Amazon page for this item, if you or someone you love already has the 16-CD uber mongo edition of the complete Prestige recordings then you already have these tracks. However, I missed that sixteen year old release which is now out of print and can’t seem to drop the two hundred plus dollars it would take to pick it up. So whine me a river. Anyway, Coltrane stands out in these tracks and to help you figure out what’s what and who’s who, the liner notes are fairly extensive in taking you through everything. Again, the jazz fiend in your midst wants this. ($59.98, available from Amazon for $53.99)

Illuminatus! Part I: The Eye in the Pyramid audiobook cover art

And last but certainly not least: it’s no secret that we’re huge fans of the immortal Robert Anton Wilson. There’s a reason why he won our first ever Lifetime Achievement Award. And the book that first turned me on to his work was The Illuminatus! Trilogy. It’s the biggest mindgrope in the history of minds being groped and if you can hang through it (because it really will pummel your mind in the truest sense of “Thank you, sir, may I have another?”) you will be richly rewarded. And speaking of rich rewards, that’s what you get for listening to Ken Campbell and Chris Fairbank rock the house with this thirteen-hour performance of the first book in the Trilogy. Available as an MP3 download from Deepleaf Audio, it’s hard to imagine that it’s really just two people doing all the voices for the entire book, but they do it all right. And sound like they’re having a blast doing so. That blast is infectious. If you’ve never been able to plow through the book because it makes your psyche hurt, then I say give this a try. If you’re like me and you love the book and like to have your brain beaten with brickbats, then this audiobook will shed a whole new light on things–it’s like reading the book for the first time all over again. For $29.95, it’s a steal. Find it and buy it here.