Twittering Machines 2020 Holiday Gift Guide

We have much to be thankful for.

There’s also much to mourn. 2020 was a year unlike most others. It altered our daily lives, our routines, rendering them unrecognizable to even the most prescient. Yet, we have much to be thankful for if we’re reading, and writing, these words. So let’s celebrate each other’s well being and share in the joy that’s there to greet us with each sunrise. We simply need to rise to the occasion.

Miho Kajioka’s photobook So It Goes is a study in the art of seeing past time into the ever present. Originally published in 2019 and beautifully printed with transparent pages, the first limited edition is long sold out. the(M) éditions and Ibasho Gallery (for original prints) have released a new revised edition for 2020 so more people can fall under Kajioka’s quiet spell.

Whether historic or contemporary, there are endless riches to be found in Pueblo Pottery. Pictured is a large jar by Grace Chino, who was a member of the Acoma Pueblo Community, from the 1970s depicting a rain and butterfly pattern. It is, as you can see, a thing of timeless grace and beauty. I suggest shopping from a reputable dealer like Sante Fe’s King Galleries.

 

The Gretsch Jim Dandy 24″ Scale Flat Top Guitar, 2-Color Sunburst is a guitar to love. I like to imagine that one day we’ll all sit on the grass and strum our very own Jim Dandy’s in unison. A symphony in J.

I’m a fan of Miles Davis, Jean Moreau, Louis Malle, the 10″ record, and this recording which I had the good fortune to hear in its original pressing. Sam Records has reissued this fine record, that can be a fitting soundtrack to our times, remastered from the original master tapes, pressed by Pallas in Germany. I can’t think of a better groove to fall for. Available from Acoustic Sounds.

I don’t recall how I found Jennifer Soong’s debut poetry collection Near, At but it may have had something to do with need. I’ve gotten lost in its mysteries many times only to come out feeling quieter in mind and body. Let Soong’s words be your guide. Published by Futurepoem Books, available from Small Press Distribution.

Everyone needs a nice wool blanket. Or a throw, which I prefer for its more manageable size. Founded in 1865, Faribault Woolen Mill knows their way around wool and blankets (and throws) and they make these soft warm wonders in their  “new” mill, built in 1892.

Boots. I’ve been wearing work boots for the better part of 45 years. Timberland, Chippewa, Red Wing, Thorogood, and any number of cheaper alternatives, boots and me go everywhere together. As I approach my 6th decade, and after an enlightening boot conversation with my pal Alex Halberstadt, I decided to whittle down the litter of boots on my closet floor, sell ’em all off, and buy a pair of White’s Boots — Handsewn Stitchdown Construction boots I’ve been eyeing since 1853 when the company was founded. I went for the 350 Cruisers and the first time I put them on my feet wept with joy and my station wagon turned into a pumpkin.

Everyone should own an EL84-based amplifier at least once in their lifetime.  I have a thing for this little Luxman SQ-N150 Tube Integrated Amplifier ($2795) as it offers MM and MC phono inputs and a line level input for streaming. And it’s got meters and tone controls!

The Comte de Lautréamont’s Les Chants de Maldoror might seem surreal, but it predated that movement and was one of its major influences. André Breton, the father of surrealism called Maldoror, the expression of a total revelation which seems to exceed human possibility, while Antonin Artaud sensed, it smells of the unspeakable. Give Maldoror a read and you may awaken dreaming. There are a number of English translations and I’ve enjoyed the Guy Wernham and Alexis Lykiard versions.

The Twittering Machines Audiophile Tree Of Life Print is that rarest of rare species, combining visual art and audiophilia. Celebrate our oh-so-human hobby with art!

Along with work boots, I’ve been wearing flannel shirts since, well, just about birth. While I’m partial to the vintage USA-made versions by Five Brothers (found on eBay), if you want a $uper deluxe modern take on the classic, Japan’s Iron Heart beckons.

I’ve been living with and loving the Golden Ear BRX speakers and they strike as a perfect balance between great sound and great price ($1,598/pair). The perfect stocking stuffer for audiophiles with big shoes to fill.

https://hestra-media.imgix.net/productvariantimage/d2edf3fc8c97e8262d5b52caab3d22d63f90ea16ae0010791e6442b339e28c9b.png?auto=compress%2Cformat&dpr=2&fit=clip&h=800&q=20&w=800&s=898020f7ee7e139d9c425b3f06d6a56f

Warm hands, happy heart. If you do anything that involves the use of your hands, you want to protect them from the arctic cold that has become the norm, at least here in NJ where the summers have, in some sort of meta-weird new balance, become positively tropical. Sweden’s Hestra was founded in 1936 and the company made over 2 million pairs of gloves in 2019. Yes, they’re not cheap and you can pick up a pair of cheap gloves faster than you can say crappy but some things are worth the spend. Pictured are the Hestra John Gloves for those who need to touch their screen even when it’s cold.

I collect coffee mugs, what don’t I collect?, and Ive been lusting after this set, 10am is When You Come To Me, by artist Louise Bourgeois. Available from Third Draw Down.

If you’re looking for a boot with a bit more history and refined country gentleman flair, Tricker’s Stow Country Boot is calling from England’s Tricker’s, a company that’s been making footwear since 1829. That’s older than Keith Richards’ great-grandfather.

A pad. Who doesn’t need a good pad for writing, drawing, or remembering. I’m quite taken with the Ampad Computation Book for its thick 20lb. quad-ruled and numbered sheets.

I know. But we all clip our nails and if you’re tired of using cheap blunt clippers that bend as much as cut, treat yourself to some Seki Edge Stainless Steel Clippers from Japan. The Samurai way to clip. Available online in lots of places (like Amazon).

PJ Harvey’s first two records, Dry and Rid of Me, are among the best one-two punches in recorded music history. 2020 saw them both reissued on vinyl. And you thought 2020 sucked. Available everywhere they sell great records.

Tantra Song: Tantric Painting From Rajasthan by Frank André Jamme is the one art book to have when you may not be having more than one.

Illuminate your world with a Noguchi Akari Light Sculpture. Works much better than a lamp.

Polish your brains with The Collected Dialogues of Plato. Guaranteed to improve your discourse.

At $549, the Bluesound Node 2i is one of hifi’s great bargains. Whether you need a streaming DAC or just a streamer (we all need to stream — I stream, you stream, we all stream for…), the Node 2i comes highly recommended (by me).

Say cheese! Beemster’s Classic Aged Gouda (18 months) is a delectable cheesy treat. It bursts with flavors that grow in intensity and complexity as they age in your mouth. Good cheese makes one wonder — how were they able remove everything good about cheese when they came up with the American version? Beemster’s Classic Aged Gouda is available everywhere they sell fine cheese.

Alex Halberstadt’s Young Heroes of the Soviet Union is so much more than a memoir, acting as a universal treatise on memory, personal history, and living with both. From the NY Times review of Young Heroes by Jennifer Szalai:

Halberstadt wanted to talk about the past; his father didn’t. “There is no more to be gained from sifting through the past than through cigarette ashes,” his father said. This memoir suggests otherwise. But Halberstadt also understands the appeal of forgetfulness, when a historical burden is so suffocating that it can feel impossible to move on. “We lived in terrible times,” his step-grandmother told him. “All that is left now is to be kind to each other.”

Whether listening to music, looking at art, playing guitar, snuggling under a blanket, admiring our new boots, writing in our new notepad illuminated by an Akari Light Sculpture, eating cheese, reading, writing, or arithmetic-ing, we sometimes sit. I recognize the fact that not everyone wants a red Eames lounge chair (sigh) and there’s nothing like a recliner to tilt our troubles away. Target sells this one for a cool 220 clams.

Do your streaming music a favor — filter out noise that can travel along with your music on your network cables. The GigaFOILv4-INLINE Ethernet Filter from DJM Electronics does this trick.

Baby, its getting cold outside and Dickies Diamond Quilted Nylon Jacket, in black or blue, works on its own or layered under an overcoat, OK a big roomy overcoat, for those especially frigid days and nights.

When you think of whiskey, you think of Utah, right? Park City, Utah’s High West makes a fine range of ’em and their least expensive American Prairie Bourbon is among my favorites.

If you need a place to put all of your portable stuff, I’m partial to the made in France bags from Bleu de Chauffe.

CharityWatch: Top Rated Charities

char·i·ty
/ˈCHerədē/
noun
noun: charity; plural noun: charities

1. an organization set up to provide help and raise money for those in need.
2. the voluntary giving of help, typically in the form of money, to those in need.

Being charitable will make you and the world better. I recommend picking a charity from the CharityWatch list because:

Groups included on the CharityWatch Top-Rated list generally spend 75% or more of their budgets on programs, spend $25 or less to raise $100 in public support, do not hold excessive assets in reserve, have met CharityWatch’s governance benchmarks, and receive “open-book” status for disclosure of basic financial information and documents to CharityWatch. Please see the Criteria section of the website for more information on the rating criteria and methodology that CharityWatch adheres to.