Holiday gift guide: Materialism vs. Altruism

Holiday gift guide: Materialism vs. Altruism

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It’s gift-giving season and once again most of us have nary a clue what to give the people in our lives for Chanukah, Christmas, Kwanza or Solstice.

And we’re too cowardly to give them cash or gift cards.

So this year, PGN’s 2010 Gift Guide is separating the seeds of holiday gift-buying inspiration into two camps: materialism (i.e., filling someone’s empty bottomless vacuum of a soul with an endless stream of material trinkets) and altruism (i.e., a more responsible filling of said vacuum with slightly more meaningful trinkets — or a noticeable absence of said trinkets). Now, gifts from either camp are great, but some of these tokens will make you a better person.

Either way, some of us really want the whole shebang to be over with quickly and painlessly — and that, dear readers, is the spirit of Christmas.

Let’s get to it, shall we?

The first thing we believe most of you out want to see poking out of your holiday stocking is the 35th-anniversary edition of “The Rocky Horror Picture Show.” This new edition of the longest-running cult classic midnight movie features newly restored high-definition visuals, enhanced audio and exclusive new content including “Rocky-oke: Sing It!,” a vintage callback track, photo galleries and deleted scenes. For a limited time, “The Rocky Horror Picture Show: 35th Anniversary” comes packaged with a collectible 24-page book featuring photography from Mick Rock, chief photographer on the film.

Fishnets, lipstick and shiny gold hot pants not included.

A number of other DVDs and CDs have caught our attention this season. The first season of “Glee” and “Modern Family” hit the shelves recently. If you (or your loved ones) haven’t caught the acclaimed hit TV shows featuring gay characters, now is the time to catch up.

Another acclaimed DVD available this season is “The Kids Are All Right,” from out director Lisa Cholodenko. The comedy-drama stars Julianne Moore and Annette Bening as a lesbian couple with two teenage children. The kids track down the bohemian, free-spirited sperm donor who fathered them both and they all spend the rest of the film navigating this new family dynamic. This is definitely a film worth owning.

If you need some stellar holiday music, look no further than Annie Lennox’s “A Christmas Cornucopia.” While this collection isn’t as new-wave as holiday songs Lennox has done in the past, it’s still Annie Lennox, so it is still excellent, note-perfect and at times quite haunting.

Another uplifting CD now in stores is the 45th anniversary special edition of the soundtrack to “The Sound of Music.” This new CD features versions of songs found in the film but not on the original soundtrack album, as well as a brand-new recording of “My Favorite Things” by Broadway star Lea Michele.

The holidays usually see a glut of greatest-hits releases and this year is no different. Abba is releasing yet another new version of “Abba Gold: Greatest Hits” with this edition featuring a DVD comprised of newly remastered versions of all the group’s videos. Also in store are new greatest-hits collections by Robbie Williams, Billy Joel, Nelly Furtado and comedian Dane Cook.

Speaking of greatest hits, if the recent release of “Burlesque” has rekindled a passion for films starring Cher, you might want to pick up “Cher: The Ultimate Film Collection” ($49.98) for someone you know. This new boxed set features six films starring the pop diva including “Good Times,” “Silkwood,” “Chastity,” “Moonstruck,” “Mermaids” and “Tea With Mussolini.”

You can’t sit at home watching movies and Abba videos without refreshments. Thankfully, Garces Trading Company (, 1111 Locust St.) is offering a selection of Food Lovers Gift Baskets this season. The gourmet bundles of goodness feature some of Chef Garces’ favorite items, offered in three different packages ranging from $75-$120.

The Paris basket ($75) features Dijon mustard, lentils, a sourdough boule, Pichouline olive oil and a decorative pourer, Artesano coffee, Rosette de Lyon pork sausage and Ossau Iraty cheese. The Rome basket ($90) features Servino pasta, balsamic vinegar, Lecino olive oil and two decorative pourers, Ciappine crackers, Rhodo honey, espresso, Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, prosciutto, house-made fig and cherry marmalade and a sourdough boule. The Barcelona basket ($120) features black truffle oil and a decorative pourer, Hojiblanco olive oil, piquillo peppers, sardines, figs, Valenciano breadsticks, Reserva coffee, Chorizo Artesano pork sausage and Manchego cheese.

Gift baskets can be purchased in person or over the phone at (215) 574-1099. They must be ordered 48 hours in advance, and are only available for pick up at the restaurant.

The works of out comic artist Michael Broderick will be featured in a one-night-only sale Dec. 17 at AxD Gallery, 265 S. 10th St. One hundred selected works from Broderick’s portfolio will be on sale for $100 each. Visit for more information.

If you have a game enthusiast on your list, consider gifting the Scruble Cube ($24.95), a portable game that combines the features of popular word games and puzzles but with a unique twist: It’s part Rubik’s Cube, Scrabble and Boggle, requiring players to line up the letters around the cube into high-scoring words, providing ample opportunity to show friends and family how much of a well-read smarty-pants they can be.

Yeah, we know ... but this could come in handy if the power goes out and you can’t play Wii or Playstation. Visit for more information.

Outdoorsy types, grill enthusiasts and arsonists alike might enjoy the Looftlighter ($79.95), a brand-new fire starter from Sweden and (if you believe the hype) the cleanest, quickest, safest and easiest way to light your grills, smokers and fire pits. The gadget has a metal tube punctuated with holes to allow airflow surrounding an interior heating unit. Touch the tip of it to wood or coals for 15 seconds, withdraw it about 6 inches to allow warm air to blow onto the glowing embers and, within a minute, a crackling fire will appear.

Personally, we prefer the danger of lighter fluid and a book of matches, but we aren’t exactly the most responsible barbeque practitioners.

Visit or, or call (877) 566-3860 for more details.

Now, if you want your gift-giving to give something back, there are quite a few options that will make the world a better place in the process.

Lush Cosmetics, 1428 Walnut St., is giving back this holiday season by donating all proceeds from the sales of its Charity Pot hand and body lotions to handpicked, grassroots charities. The charities include environmental, animal and humanitarian organizations like Operation Splash, a New York City-based group that cleans shores and waterways, and PEARL, a group dedicated to advancing education and providing shelter for the underprivileged in Afghanistan. Charity Pot lotions are available in three varieties, the most deluxe being the My Fair Lady package ($59.95), a hatbox featuring a charity pot and some of Lush’s best beauty products.

Visit for more information.

The Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network recently launched the Safe Space Campaign, designed to promote visible support for LGBT students in American middle and high schools. The goal is to place a Safe Space Kit in every middle and high school in the United States. The kits cost $20 per school, but interested parties can donate however much they want, as well as choose which ZIP code or state will receive the kits.

The kits contain Safe Space stickers and posters, along with a guide for steps that individual school staff members can take to build support for vulnerable students and reduce antigay bullying and harassment in their school. To order a Safe Space Kit and for more information, visit

The Philadelphia Animal Welfare Society is offering gifts for people who donate to its efforts to save homeless, abandoned and unwanted animals. A $20 donation makes you eligible for a PAWS 2011 dog or cat calendar or a T-shirt. A donation of $250 or more makes you eligible for a PAWS fleece blanket, while $1,000 or more make you eligible for a 1GB iPod shuffle with an inscribed message from PAWS.

For a gift that fights AIDS, there’s the John Wind AIDS Jewelry Project. Wind is known for his modern-vintage handcrafted jewelry designs, which have been featured in Country Living, InStyle and Oprah Magazine. This season, he’s offering two limited-edition pieces, a keychain ($49) and a bracelet ($125), adorned with charms symbolizing the fight against AIDS. Fifty percent of the purchase price goes to support the essential services of local nonprofits ActionAIDS and Mazzoni Center.

The jewelry is available for purchase at

Happy shopping and try not to go into debt; it’s not good for you.

Larry Nichols can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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