Gifts for the season
by Ari Armstrong
The following article originally appeared at Boulder Weekly on December 21, 2006.
Ah, Christmas, the season to celebrate capitalism. The electric lights, the feasts, the enjoyment of wealth, the gifts, the shopping. If you still need to pick up some last-minute gifts, I have a few ideas. You can also check the archives for Dec. 15 of last year for tips.
For the Republican on your list, you can't go wrong with a copy of Ryan Sager's The Elephant in the Room. Sager clearly cares about the future of the Republican Party, and that's what leads him to criticize it so severely. He writes in his closing pages, "The current leadership of the Republican Party has betrayed the spirit of the conservative revolution of 1964, 1980, and 1994." Sager thinks libertarians and social conservatives can continue to build a strong movement together, "but only if it's a party with reverence for the ideal of limited government." Democrats should read the book, too, if they want to learn how to keep winning in the Interior West.
Some, though, are even less enthusiastic about the religious right than Sager is. Such friends might enjoy Essays on Ayn Rand's The Fountainhead, released just this month. While Sager accepts the values of religion as a balance to freedom, The Fountainhead is all about finding value in one's own life and happiness. The essays discuss the novel from historical and literary perspectives. A set of the novel and Essays would make a fine gift.
Andrew Bernstein, who contributed to the Essays volume, also wrote an article for The Objective Standard titled, "The Tragedy of Theology: How Religion Caused and Extended the Dark Ages." The journal offers lengthy articles ranging from politics to education to art. A gift subscription to the journal (see TheObjectiveStandard.com) may not be for everyone, but that Special Someone will appreciate the fresh and thoughtful commentary that challenges both right and left.
But man cannot live by words alone. You can buy perhaps the world's best fruit cakes from my childhood home of Palisade by calling Slice O' Life Bakery at 970-464-0577. OK, everybody makes fun of fruit cakes. But these are not those sorts of cakes. These are really, truly excellent fruit cakes. As John Travolta might say, this is the Cadillac of fruit cakes. Slice O' Life fruit cakes are to fruit cakes what Face is to a cappella music: They rise to greatness. (And see FaceVocalBand.com for the new album!)
Once my brother and cousins drove through Mexico in their beat-up Land Cruiser. They took a whole bunch of these fruit cakes with them (as my cousins used to work at the bakery). These were ambassador fruit cakes, distributed as gifts along the trip. I'm not sure these kids would have made it back home without the cakes. When Tancredo's Great Wall is torn down in some future decade, I wouldn't be surprised if people celebrate by sharing Palisade fruit cakes. Did I mention that my brother met his future wife in Mexico? So if you want love and international harmony, you know what you need to order.
Come summer, my brother will be rafting in Alaska (AlaskaAdventureTrips.com). What better Christmas present than a promise to take your loved one on a rafting and fishing expedition in the Alaskan wilderness?
Closer to home, I still like the idea of giving a Costco membership, especially to your socialist friends. The store has loads of cool stuff (and regular food samples). I picked up a DuraPro wind-up flashlight and radio -- great for the car or emergencies. I also purchased a Sony DVDirect burner that Costco sells for $220. This is a great machine. Unlike another burner I tried, the Sony model is simple to use. Now I can burn discs from old VHS and Hi8 home videos (great if you want to share family memories). With freeware, I can then turn them into mp4 files. The burner also accepts photographs from memory cards.
I can feel some of you rolling your eyes. Isn't Christmas about more than just stuff? Of course. Capitalism is about the voluntary production of material wealth that makes our lives longer, healthier and more enjoyable, and that's part of the merriment of Christmas. But the season is fundamentally about celebrating our relationships with family, friends and even strangers we meet through the market.
And even capitalists sometimes long for the simpler things in life. For example, I've taken to Mason jars. These are simple, inexpensive glass jars available widely (including at many thrift stores) and useful for about anything related to food or storage. They look great on the counter filled with pasta, popcorn, and the like. I recommend the pint and quart sizes with wide mouths. For Christmas, you can fill them with homemade jam, dried fruit, candy, candles or whatever (Google "gifts in a jar" for more).
You might also spread the holiday cheer to our four-legged friends. Our cat Taely died earlier this year. Some weeks later, we went to the Cat Care Society (CatCareSociety.org), located in Lakewood, and adopted Cali. See also BoulderHumane.org.
Just remember the true meaning of Christmas (see Luke 2:1): Jesus was born in a barn and placed in a livestock feeding trough because of taxes.