Can't go wrong.
Whether you are embracing the Nietzschean Movement or are just a prolific Duck-Facer, more likely than not, you are a selfish jerk. Hopefully you're not always a selfish jerk, or at least you're striving, desperately and regularly, to be the kind of compassionate, generous, creative person that makes the world a better place. If that's not you, and you're just always a selfish jerk, you should either go away or stop being that way. Or maybe become a legitimate super villain and give us all something to rail against. Or try your hand at Show Business.
Jesus, an original gift-giver.
Full disclosure: This is not a list of shit to buy. Buying shit is fun. Shit that you buy, like movies, dinners, goldfish and answers to standardized tests, can bring fulfillment. By all means, buy. But you may find, Mr. McDuck, that your purchase does not inherently come with satisfaction. If you want a list of goods and services in exchange for your earned/borrowed/stolen cash, we got that. Our delightfully thoughtful parent company, Drafthouse, sells lots of good stuff.
Along with macrame and cunnilingus, gift-giving is an art. It is an expression of gratitude, a way of telling someone that they are important to you, and hopefully, an event that transcends the actual object being bestowed. What is often lost on us, as we toss Copernicus aside, is that the act is about sharing, even as we give something away. We should constantly be striving to connect, to communicate with our recipient, whether it's by giving them something they need, something that improves their life, or enriches our relationship with them. Of course, cardinal sin numero uno is giving something to someone that you want, like buying your dad that Fleshlight you've been eyeing or trying to convince your lover that the Beta Black Lotus card from Magic: The Gathering will somehow bring them joy as they watchyour melee tournament. There aren't any hard and fast rules with this sort of thing, other than honestly asking yourself how much they'll enjoy whatever you get them.
Keep your grubby hands off my Power Nine. Shit, if it's signed, it's unplayable in tournament.
Assuming that you're here because you like good things, especially art, like movies and books and music and stuff that make you smarter, that's always an excellent starting point for your own generosity. Your favorite flicks, comics and episodes are surefire options for gifts, except when they're not. Take for example, Chan-Wook Park's modern-day hat-trick on retribution, The Vengeance Trilogy. Now, as a true believer in American Existential Cinema, I can pontificate ad infinitum on how they connect to The Western, to Peckinpah, Hellman and Hopper. But my grandma doesn't care. Just because you like something doesn't mean they will. Even as an anti-social, inept nerd, we probably inherently know this. But with great power comes great responsibility, said Voltaire to Uncle Ben. Make your encyclopedic geekery work for you. Grannie might not get whatever esoteric Stargate spinoff you're into, but she may've watched Dr. Who in the '60s and be completely unaware that it's still on, available on home video and really fucking good. You know that, so make it work for you, and more importantly, Grannie. Your dad loves Woody Allen. Maybe he needs to get turned on to Louis C.K. Mom is really into German Shizer Films. Introduce her to more German Shizer Films because that shit runs in the family. Rim shot. Double pun. The goal is to riff, to try and find the throughline between what they like and what you can offer.
People generally also like things that they can use, like narcotics and housewares. You may be asking yourself what size someone is or whether they're allergic to carrots. Don't bother. Go with what you already know. If they've got a penchant for something specific, embrace it. This is about them, not you. Usefulness aside, we also want to be sure that we avoid obligation. Don't give someone a gift that they'll be forced to use even if they don't want it. For instance, if someone loves coffee, they probably already have a great setup at home, and your idea of improving on it would actually be a burden. It's probably best to get them some java accoutrement or beans themselves. Just not tea, because tea is not coffee and it's for The British, the cowardly and The British.
You can buy Michael Caine tea.
Much can be made of the "experiential gift," time spent over an actual object. It's safe to say that an afternoon teaching someone the act of alchemy is much more valuable than a bunch of gold… Hint hint for my Christmas gift… A friend of mine recently told me that when he goes home for the holidays, a week or so, he makes a point of giving his nieces and nephews "events" that can be spent during his trip. He's taken the kids to Medieval Times and the like. One of the most interesting aspects with this kind of gift is how well it holds up over time. It doesn't break and barring a major catastrophic fugue state, can't be lost. By taking someone out to dinner, a concert, a special important moment, you give them something so entirely unique, no custom Nudie Suit or engraved baby rattle could come close. The crazy thing about memories is that they're never the same. Every time we "remember" something, we're actually creating a new version of it. You know that infamous gift that keeps on giving? Yo, doggg.
But really, this year all the cool kids are getting hobos and/or show business professionals. Wieners not included.
Of course, cost is a concern to most of us. Being a working actor in the top three percentile of earners, I made approximately $12,000 this year, before taxes. Due to my choice in career, I have extensive financial obligations to ex-wives, various foreign nations I've insulted and of course, a raging paint-sniffing habit. That doesn't leave a lot to spend on gifts. In my family, we have a concept that helps to determine exactly what's affordable, referred to as The Theory of Quantum Value, not to be confused with Wilco's brilliant "Unified Theory of Everything" or seminal work by Mr. Dean Stockwell. The Theory dictates that if "the best" of something is within reach financially, its quantum value is exceeded by its price. In addition, the affordability of a purchase in a range is limited by your knowledge of it to begin with. Let's look at chocolate as an example. If the lowest-end candy bar is 75¢ in a convenience store and the finest confectionary available is $15, then the "quantum value" of that top-shelf chocolate is extremely high. While $15 is a lot (comparatively) for candy, it is not out of the range for the average consumer, assuming that you don't eat a ton of candy. If you do, you should stop, because it's a treat and treats are only special when they're rare. Luckily, we live in a world where determining quantum value is very easy, with lots of reviews and comparative shopping available online. When purchasing gifts, consider whether you're practicing The Theory or simply trying to make do. The later usually results in shitty gifts.
Excellent gifting ideas.
This Author believes strongly in the power of the collaborative gift, even those that seem a tad simplistic. Once, I gave a loved one a pan. For cooking. On Valentine's Day. Now, as a devout feminist, it's a short throw to how blatantly inappropriate such a gift could be. However, with the exception of The Melts (Patty and Tuna), and perhaps a Reuben, sandwiches are rarely made in a pan. Chauvinism aside, I purchased a beautiful cast-iron pan as a way of suggesting that we cook together, that we enrich our relationship through teamwork and the ever-so-romantic experience of creating yummy dishes. Another excellent example of caring through sharing is the nearly lost art of The Mix. Cut me open and you won't have to count the rings to see my age, rather the spools of magnetic tape that made up years of pressing Play/Pause to cue up tunes on a dual cassette deck. These days, some of us still enjoy the Compact Disc for a mix, but sources like iTunes and Spotify make it cloudy and instant. I recently made a mix CD for my six-year-old niece, Honey. Both her folks are musicians, and she's recently taken up drumming. She spends an hour or two in the car a day, to and from school, running errands, and that's prime time to enjoy some tunes. Not only is her mix a gift that will hopefully get a lot of use, but it's a way of sharing my influences with her, albeit avoiding Wu-Tang, The Misfits and Richard Pryor for the moment. I'll save those for her seventh birthday.