Pleasin’ for the Season: The New York Times Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

It’s Christmas Eve already, and most of us ordinary salt-of-the-earth working people have been much too busy to find gifts for everyone on our list.  Fortunately, there’s hope:  The New York Times has spent the whole year alerting us to the best deals, steals and must-have items, so with the help of this curated guide, you’re sure to find something for everyone.  Just have your personal assistant print out this list, circle the items you think your loved ones will enjoy, and have your personal assistant run them over to those people’s houses by Christmas morning.  Enjoy spreading holiday cheer! (Read the 2011 gift guide here).

For women: Google Glass.

Why: Gone are the days when Google Glass was only for dorky dudes:  “‘To wear Glass is to show that you are engaged, you are current, you are open to new things,’” you are wearing a computer on your face.  Actually, come to think of it, those days are totally not gone at all.  But we must put them behind us, by getting stylish women to like Google Glass…for some reason.  The women of Google are working to do just that.   “If high fashion and high tech are worlds apart, the women of Google Glass are like explorers, trying to connect the two.”  Like explorers whose job is to connect two or more previously unconnected geographical regions, by building some sort of bridge or railway transportation.  Actually, the women of Google Glass are more like civic engineers. Also, are explorers still a thing?  When trying to describe women at the intersection of cutting-edge technology and haute couture, is the best point of comparison really some dude with a handlebar moustache running around eating whale blubber, shooting natives with rifles and naming large rocks after Queen Victoria?

Well, maybe so, because the wonders of technology have nothing to do with gender.  “‘I’ve been inert to seeing myself as a woman versus a man,'” comments one industrial designer. And “when a Tumblr blog titled White Men Wearing Google Glass…made the rounds on the Internet, the women of Google Glass collectively cringed. ‘It frustrates me because it’s not representative,’ Ms. Olsson said.” Clearly. There are many things in the universe that aren’t white men wearing Google Glass, and none of them are featured on White Men Wearing Google Glass.  The creators of that blog are basically lying by omission.  And don’t even get me started on

But women do have unique needs, and these techies aren’t inert to that. “They are conscious of bringing a woman’s perspective, as it were, to their work on Glass, whether it’s trying it on people with long hair…or thinking about the apps women would like to see ([e.g.] an app that delivers street-style photos and fashion news).”  A gift of Glass says you understand the universal womanly experience of liking clothes, and having hair.

Cost: $1500.

For artistsHigh-end workout attire.

Why:  “‘I see a workout as a form of expression, so why should you be wearing a uniform when you hit the gym?'”, asks Katie Warner Johnson, ex-ballerina and founder of the Carbon 38 clothing line.  Why, indeed?  Yet people who live for self-expression are still stuck with boring workout uniforms, scarcely daring to dream of something  better.   Katie Warner Johnson may be a dreamer, but she’s not the only one.  “Fashion publicist Robyn Berkley…couldn’t find anything she wanted to wear for two a half months to do her yoga teacher training in Bali.”  Berkley is a true follower of the yogic path.  The ultimate goal of yoga is the cessation of suffering through calming the fluctuations of the mind, and looking like a dumbass in last year’s Lululemon makes my mind fluctuate like fucking crazy.  Berkley’s solution: Live the Process, a line whose “pieces arrive in zippered rubber pouches lined with Japanese cotton and perfumed with Karma, the brand’s signature scent.”

It’s about time.  Just look at other areas of the fashion marketplace.  “‘It used to be so cheap to get jeans, and then it was $200 and now you can pay $400 or $500 for really amazing high quality.’”  This is a sign of how healthy the market is.  Customers have more choices, such as the choice to buy a $30 pair of jeans that was made in China and will immediately develop crotch holes, or alternately to buy a $500 pair of jeans the quality of which is amazing, in a totally abstract, conceptual way.  Having “$500” written on the tag causes the quality of jeans to be amazing, in much the same way that having “organic” printed on the label makes a bottle of water taste pure.  Also, $200 jeans are apparently now the baseline for people who want an ordinary, sturdy, dependable product, the way Levi’s were back in the 70’s.

“‘Why wouldn’t that consumer want to have a similar quality pant to work out in?'”  Why shouldn’t that customer get anything he or she wants, really?  I have a feeling that things are going to turn out juuuuuust fine for that customer.

Cost: $165 for a sports bra; $835 for pants-and-jacket ensemble.

For people with jobs: Nanny cooking class.

Why: Many people want their kids “to adopt a more refined and global palate, whether it’s a gluten-free kale salad or falafel made from organic chickpeas.”  But they simply haven’t the time to cook the chickpeas, or buy the gluten-free kale, or even teach the servants who care for their children how to do those things.  It’s a mess.  The true culprit is their lifestyles, which involve receiving money in exchange for performing services at a place of employment.   For instance, “as working parents, [Stephanie Johnson] and her husband, Dan Yashiv, 42, a music producer, do not have time to prepare such fare.” Fortunately for all concerned, there’s marc&mark, a new nanny-consulting service.  The Mar(c)(k)s, Leandro and Boquist, teach nannies to prepare “healthful, organic meals,” based on parents’ visions of their childrens’ ideal diets.  How the Yashiv-Johnsons, as working parents, find the time to communicate their thoughts on shade-grown artisanally harvested kale to Leandro and Boquist is a mystery.   Perhaps they hired a nanny consultant mediator to transmit messages back and forth.

Whatever the case, they were highly motivated to make a change, since “Their nanny, from Wisconsin, does not always know the difference between quinoa and couscous.” The fact that she can sometimes tell the difference is a promising sign. It indicates she is teachable.  It must be the curly little tails on quinoa that tip her off.  (Special message to my readers in Wisconsin: I see you there, drinking brandy old-fashioneds and eating cheese curds, rolling your eyes at these people.  For shame.)  “’Some of these nannies already do the cooking in the family, but they’re throwing chicken fingers in the oven, or worse, the microwave — they’re doing the bare minimum,’ Mr. Leandro said.   Sad, but that’s the mentality some servants have — an attitude of “I’ll just do the bare minimum, such as not acting like a professional chef because I’m literally not a professional chef, also why is there a microwave in this house if no one’s ever allowed to use it?”  That’s the reason you’re a job haver instead of a job creator.  I mean, it’s not, but still.

Cost: $2500 (nanny not included).

For tycoons: High-end matchmaking service for tycoons.

Why:  When a lonely entrepreneur is looking for that special Thought Leader to share his life with, OKCupid just won’t do.  Now, there’s Kelleher International, a “high-end matchmaking service that is targeting Silicon Valley with particular vigor.”  Kelleher “curates” such events as “a multiday, intellectually rigorous singles mixer to be held…on Necker Island, Richard Branson’s 74-acre Caribbean paradise.”  You might suppose that a lot of hanky-panky was already going on among “philanthropically minded, well-heeled singles who are…tramping around the knowledge enrichment circuit,” and you’d be right.  “At events like TED conferences, and the Aspen Ideas Festival…some participants seek to nourish not just their minds, but their hearts as well.”  But they had been doing so in a spontaneous, un-monetized fashion.   Thank God someone fixed that.

Cost: $15,000 for one year of matches; $150,000 for access to the CEO Club.

For cooks: Fabulous faucets.

Why: Today’s kitchens are the centerpiece of your home, and as a result, “choosing the fixtures takes so much time and effort.”  It’s exhausting!  Besides, ordinary home chefs make all sorts of mistakes, such as “rush[ing] to choose the best-looking one,” or assuming that faucets “necessarily have to be a statement piece.”  That’s why it’s best to call in a professional, like decorator Edith Robinson. For instance, did you know that a spray function is “‘helpful for washing out the sink'”?  But just because faucets don’t have to be statement pieces, doesn’t mean that they never can be.  “At the Davis & Warshow showroom…she was immediately taken with the many-jointed Kohler Karbon. ‘It reminds me of a toy,’ she said, twisting it into different shapes. ‘If you have kids, they’d love to play with it.’”  Is this what my kids have been reduced to?  I have a professional communicator whose job it is to share my concerns with the chef who tutors my nanny, and I told her to have him let her know to tell them, “You kids! Stop playing with the goddamn faucet!”

Cost: $408 to $3,153.

For underweight fashionistas:  Green juice.

Why: “Supposedly, [juice] can be good for you. There are vitamins and such.”  Also, it’s cool to drink: “Fasting fashionistas are up to their eyeballs in the stuff.”  Are we, as a society, still treating the notion that people in the fashion industry chronically starve themselves as a charming quirk on par with “they cross their legs weird“?    How edgily politically incorrect of us.  “Pat McGrath, the makeup artist, swears by Aloe Water from Juice Press, extolling its virtues in Vanity Fair.”  However, there are pitfalls.  For instance, “’It has become normal practice for everyone to start juicing three days before show time,’ said Roopal Patel, a fashion consultant. ‘That really messes up your system. The parties start and you go from green juice to Champagne in five minutes.'”  The green juice industry is just like my kidneys and liver, in that it doesn’t understand the drawbacks of “detoxing to retox.”  You can’t just go through life, ingesting trace amounts of harmful substances and then periodically excreting them via your body’s waste products.  I mean, you definitely can, but when you finally hit that champagne and coke party, you are going to get totally wasted.
“Did you know…that mustard greens are not ideal for liquid consumption?”  Yes.
Most ominously, “Some of these juices have more than 400 calories in a serving….’You are going to juice your way into the next jeans size up.’”  For this reason, I would only recommend an all-juice diet for someone who could really stand to gain a few pounds.
Cost: $10.99 for a Juice Press Juice, $500 for a Vitamix.

For fat dog owners: Doggie Weight Watchers.

Why: Extra poundage is bad for dogs, just like for humans.  Contemporary canines are spoiled: “’Dogs today have butlers and maids,’ [Cesar] Millan said.” Not literally, yet, but they’re pampered by their humans:  “They don’t hunt for their food anymore, but they should work for food.'”  Now your dog can work for the right to consume the sustenance it needs to live, just like you do!   And just like you, Waffles or Brutus can earn the psychological sense of being entitled to food by subjecting him- or herself to punitively arduous workout routines in a counterintuitively opulent spa environment.  “At the Morris Animal Inn…the pools and treadmills are part of a 25,000-square-foot building surrounded by nature trails. Staff members in khakis and polo shirts lead dogs through exercises and reward them with yogurt vegetable parfaits.” Here you can let your dog showcase her totally nonexistent commitment to weight loss by taking part in “New Year’s Resolution Camp,” and be assured that she’ll be offered the same fare “[that] you might eat if you were on a diet: vegetables like carrots, broccoli, asparagus and green peas.”

Cost: $1,250 a month for 24-hour care and training.

For grimy urbanites: Luxury tubs.

Why: “’Especially in cold, wet climates, there’s a history of cultures using heated water to heat themselves,'” says designer Stephan Jaklitsch. And with good reason.  Warm water helps your body become almost as warm as it is, through transmitting heat energy from its molecules to yours (it’s a science thing), so why not showcase it with a stylish tub?  “In many bathrooms, the tub seems like an afterthought, a soulless scoop of white-enameled cast-iron or acrylic.”  You’d think most apartment dwellers weren’t even selecting their own fixtures.  Pathetic.  “Stephan Jaklitsch thinks that’s a missed opportunity,” and the world may be starting to heed his cry.

“’Even though New York apartments are very small,’ he said, ‘there’s this whole trend toward free-standing bathtubs.’”  When design experts claim to descry a trend, it’s kind of like when someone who’s been staring at a malfunctioning TV set for twelve hours tells you they can see a face in the static.  There might actually be one, but they should still put on some pants and get out of the house.

“‘It’s a classic New York tub…I could see it in a historic town house.'” Of course New York has a distinctive tub format.  They’ll never admit to having approximately the same distribution of tub appearance as Dallas and Lubbock.  New York probably also has its own style of cruise ship, Jello mold and thatched roof.  New York City, never change.

Cost: $5672.80 to $31,500.
For chicken farmers: High-end scraps.
Why: Too many adherents of the backyard-chicken trend think it’s acceptable to just let your chickens forage in an actual backyard, eating “chicken food,” i.e. grass and bugs.  WRONG.  If you do that, your chickens will taste like grass and bugs.  If you want animal meat to taste good to humans, you have to feed the animals human food.  This contradicts millennia of lived experience, but it’s an article of faith with top-tier Manhattan chefs, so you make the call.  Today’s gourmet chickens are “pecking away at vegetable peelings and day-old bread from some of Manhattan’s most elegant restaurants, like Per Se, Daniel, Gramercy Tavern, the Modern and David Burke Townhouse.”  They’re doing so with help from D’Artagnan, a company that takes donated scraps, feeds them to chickens at an Amish farm upstate, then sells the chickens right back to the restaurants who provided the scraps in the first place.  (Or something–I don’t fully understand this advanced-capitalist parody of the circle of life.)
These chefs are asking questions like: “Can scraps from acclaimed restaurants, where the best ingredients are used, create the table-to-farm-to-table chicken of the future — and the past?”  Their temporal logic may be shaky, but the science is sound; this is an evidence-based approach, grounded in empirical insights like “‘Listen, if the chickens ate ginger and lemon, you would have a gingery, lemony chicken, I think.'”  On this farm, chickens eat fare like massaged kale salad with porcini remoulade and tiny little nine-grain baguettes. Just kidding, but they do eat “pans of bread soaked in fresh milk, and white buckets full of leafy trimmings that would make a tremendous tossed salad.”  I didn’t even know it was possible to obtain “scraps” of a liquid.
“‘It’s kind of like a weird competition,’ the chef David Burke said. ‘It’s like, “My chicken eats better than yours.”‘”  Will you shut up, David?  You’re supposed to be providing farm-to-table-to-farm-to-table-to-farm cuisine, not self-awareness.
Cost: Unclear, but research and startup costs totaled $250,000, so you can imagine.

For spiritual seekers: Facial facelifts.

Why: Traditional facelifts are expensive and invasive.  Traditional facials don’t do enough to lift the face.  And if you try to combine the two, you might as well be picking out faucets!  Luckily, a recent article in the Style section offers the scoop on a great new alternative, while also presenting the reader with a series of perplexing koans that disrupt his or her ordinary thought processes in order to prompt sudden insights about the nature of reality itself.  “‘No one in New York can come back and forth for different treatments when you can do them all in one day and still find it result-oriented.'”  I know I can’t.  Facial facelifts are combinations of non-surgical procedures like Botox tailored to an individual client’s needs, providing results that some say mimics an actual facelift, with the added benefit that you can’t discuss them without endlessly repeating the wonderfully vacuous phrase “facial facelift.”  “‘The facial is no longer just a facial.'” In today’s economic climate, I expect a facial to be more than, and different from, “just” a facial, while retaining its inherent facial-ness.  “‘Facials that are face-lift-like are what our first cell phones were.'” Stop trying to make me attain enlightenment! I still have four more gifts to get through!

Cost: $2,500 to $10,000.

For cellulite haters: Indoor cycling class.

Why: “Boutique indoor cycling” is all the rage nowadays.  For instance, there’s “Wet Your Wheels” in New York’s Aqua studio.  “Have you ever ridden a bike while submerged in water?”  Don’t ask questions you already know the answer to, Style section.  Wet Your Wheels is “a trendy European workout that purports to address cellulite [and has] landed with a kersplash in a pool at a TriBeCa studio.”  When something “purport[s] to address” cellulite, the only question left to ask is whether there’s any existing biological mechanism by which it could conceivably do so whether the cost of the class is less than a dollar a minute!

Cost: $40 for a 45 minute-class.

For people who are curious about other cultures: Invitation to a stranger’s wedding.

Why: Exotic lands like India are full of “rich cultural windows” that you might never get to poke your nose into, just because you’ve never met the people who live behind them.  Now, you  can peer through those panes by attending the wedding of an Indian couple whom you’ll also never get to meet. A tour agency called Micato Safaris arranges for Western travellers to get invites to upscale Indian nuptuals.  And the exotic east has some truly amazing rituals.  “The colors, jewelry, striking outfits and sheer number of people were astounding.”  Sounds fab.  “If the idea of wedding crashing reeks of colonialism to you, keep in mind that many Indians are especially warm and welcoming to visitors.”  That is certainly a… sequitor. “Many travelers leave these weddings feeling more connected to Indian culture.”  Of course, those are the same people who still feel connected to gay culture because they went to a bachelorette party at The Manhole in 1993.

“[Indian weddings] are lavish three- to five-day ceremonies, long known to include elephants, tigers, over-the-top Bollywood dance troupes and firework displays.” Man, I’d love to go to India, but I’m scared of getting vaccinated for malaria.  I wish there were some other way to experience a culture where people spend vast sums of money on over-the-top luxuries.  I just flipped through the Style section, the Travel section, the Home section, T Magazine and the Real Estate page, but I can’t think of any ideas.  Does Canada have any weird traditions?

Cost: $1,412 to $7,590 for a package that includes wedding access.

For people who only have one apartment: Another apartment in the same building.

Why: How many times has this happened to you:  You’re at home, trying to work on your novel, when suddenly you’re distracted by a visual, auditory or olfactory stimulus entering your perceptive field.  The day is ruined.  This problem bedevils many creatives who have the misfortune to live near sources of light particles, sonic waves, or basically space-time phenomena of any sort.  For instance, Freddie Gershon, the chief executive of a licensing agency, whatever that is, had “‘reached a point in my life where I want to write,'” and even “‘[has] a book in mind.'”  What a pro!  But there was a problem.  When Gershon tried working at home, “‘I’d hear the phones….Or I’d get distracted by the view of the river.’”  I hear ya.  He solved the problem by buying a 1,000-square-foot apartment on another floor of his building, bringing his total square footage up to 7,500, but it’s not about the square footage — it’s about dreams.  Other proponents of the non-contiguous apartment trend agree.  “This is space meant to serve a discrete function, to help fulfill a specific fantasy: writing the Great American Novel, for example, or sculpturing a masterpiece — activities that, given all the usual interruptions, would be impossible to engage in at home.”  A home is no place to engage in activities.    However, I do worry that these people’s nascent creativity may be crushed by the continued existence of sensory phenomena. There are more than just five senses, and you can’t block them all out with curtains.  If Gershon doesn’t finish is book, we’ll know whom to blame: proprioception.

Cost: $1,022,500 to buy; $36,000 to rent for one year (median figures for New York apartments, but you can probably haggle).

For people who have homes or apartments (any amount): Golden nails.

Why: Anyone can be a style maven when it comes to things that someone else might see, like a doorknob or a soap dispenser.  It’s transforming every element of your life, no matter how obscure, into a display of your aesthetic prowess that really separates the curators from the dabblers.  With that in mind, why ever use anything that you can buy at a regular store?  Anna Karlin, a designer who admits that “‘when I cook…it’s all about how good it looks,'” agrees.  While shopping for brass accessories, “she was impressed with the Equilateral Nails from Winsome Brave, a stylish twist on a standard hardware-store item. ‘It’s awesome attention to detail,’ she said of the triangular profile and head. ‘If you’re going to use a nail’ — to hang a picture, or for any other reason — ‘use those nails.’” Maybe no one will ever know…but you will.

Cost: $80 for a set of four.


For the less well-off: the Magnises card.

Why:  Everyone wants to be rich.  But not everyone has the drive and talent to make it superficially seem in some respects like they already are.  Take Billy McFarland, a 21-year-old internet startup owner.  He recounts that “’I was at dinner at La Esquina with friends, and we were all talking about how much we wanted [an American Express] black card.’”  But the card is for high rollers only:  “‘Some of us are probably 30 years away from having the spending power.'”  What confidence.  These people are 30 years away from a black card the way I am 30 years from having sex with Nick Cave on top of a pile of Christian Louboutin ankle boots:  Anything’s possible, I guess, but don’t jinx yourself.

Anyhow, McFarland wasn’t content with his humble lot.  “’So, that night, I did a ton of research on how to add a magnetic strip to a metal card without demagnetizing it and ruining data…I got ahold of a place in China that could embed the magnetic strip onto the metal, and I had one made.’”  This guy must feel the way the inventor of the first knockoff handbag felt.  “The breakthrough came when we realized the logo was just made up of ordinary shapes.  If you look closely at the insignia, you may be able to make out a sans serif letter C. Our team’s key technological innovation was the discovery that the other half of the logo was comprised of an identical letter C that had simply been reversed, as in a mirror image.  Once we cracked the code, we were able to manufacture these logos in unlimited quantities. We now look forward to being able to supply the entire developing world with an affordable source of Chanel.”

McFarland’s “aspirational” creation is now available to the general public as Magnises (Latin for “magnum-sized penises”).  “‘People don’t even believe it’s a real credit card,” because it’s not, but ownership does have some perks, like an invitation to a nightlife photographer’s birthday party.  If one of your friends is down on their luck, pretending to be one of the world’s most wealthy and powerful people could be just the push they need to turn things around.

Cost: $450.

Total: $64,038.79 to $1,228,948, but fretting about cost isn’t very “très Brooklyn” of you

Suggested New Year’s resolution for the New York Times: Stop publishing “letters” that are actually just comments people posted in the comments section.


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