La Figa Holiday Gift Guide: Celebrate Krampus with Community-Focused and Socially Conscious-Themed Gifts

‘Tis the season. I have friends who make huge batches of fudge and give that out as gifts, and other friends who flavor and then bottle vinegars and oils. I have friends who can create coasters and potholders out of scrap fabric, knit lingerie, paint flower pots, découpage, draw, paint, bead, and generally out-arts-and-crafts me with one arm in a cast, which is why I shop very seriously with them, as well as looking for gifts that are socially responsible. (I don’t recommend hand knit bras, btw; they are itchy, lumpy, and offer no support, but um, it was the thought that counted).

Gifts should reflect the giver’s awareness of recipient, and carry a bit of the giver’s personality. Practical, thoughtful, and thought-provoking  are also important attributes. And because this is Firedoglake, a healthy dose of social consciousness never hurts.

Top of my list: FDL’s Free Bradley Manning t-shirt (there’s also an awesome sweatshirt). I ordered one for a friend as a Thanksgiving  gift, and he loved it, and I have one myself. The cotton is soft, the design is super cool, and you’re helping to support Manning’s trial coverage and activism.

Want to give a group gift, say for the whole family or your office? Occupy Sandy desperately needs Tyvek suits to protect those who are cleaning up mold damage in the wake of Superstorm Sandy. Or consider supplying Occupy with the FDL Occupy Supply items. You can tell your peeps that instead of laying out for whole bunch of made-in-China crud that will end up gathering dust or getting regifted, you’ve made sure that an Occupy group is warm and cared for with American-made gifts.  And since usually  your family gives you socks and scarves, why not pay that forward and give socks and warm blankets to Occupy! Besides, weren’t your stodgy aunts and cousins thrilled last year when you gave a toilet in their name via Oxfam?

A Firedoglake Just Say Now shirt is perfect for your “states’ rights” libertarian relative–and for the fundamentalist Christian too, because after all, Pat Roberson did come out in favor of the legalization of marijuana, saying:

I really believe we should treat marijuana the way we treat beverage alcohol. I’ve never used marijuana and I don’t intend to, but it’s just one of those things that I think: this war on drugs just hasn’t succeeded.

(And of course, Firedoglake memberships make great gifts as does a donation to Planned Parenthood. Or to your local library!)

This holiday season, along with their offerings like Lick It Softly (a blend of  peppermint and vanilla) and Krampus 2012 (red musk and black leather), niche perfumers Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab has special, limited edition blends to raise funds in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, with all proceeds going to the American Red Cross. Based on a guide to the seraglios of New York City published in 1870, The Gentleman’s Directory’s “Frank Burns” and “Miss Addie” are two distinct scents designed to recall a forgotten age of forbidden lust:

FRANK BURNS
As you pass down Houston street, faro banks abound, till we reach an unpretending red brick building No. 25, kept by Frank Burns, known as the “Judge and Jury”. This is a great resort for the sportsmen both of this and the other country. Everything here is conducted in a respectable and orderly manner.

Bay rum, polished oak, exquisite pipe and cigar tobaccos, and a splash of bourbon.

MISS ADDIE
The next house, No. 55, is kept by Miss Addie Blashfield, the dashing brunette, who has eight or ten boarders, both blondes and brunettes. These are a pretty lot of girls, of pleasing and engaging manners. It is regarded as a first class house, very quiet and orderly and is visited by some of our first citizens.

Red sandalwood, vanilla orchid, sweet clove, neroli, apple blossom, and a gentle hint of star anise.

Books are gifts that need to be given to yourself and to friends! And this year there are two very amazing and wonderful books that highlight LGBTQ, and make perfect gifts for LGBTQ and allies. Born This Way: Real Stories of Growing Up Gay by Paul Vitagliano (DJ Paul V.) features photos and short essays by everyday people about growing up LBGTQ, as well as exclusive new stories and photos from LGBTQ people in the public eye, including Rep. Barney Frank, Erasure’s Andy Bell, actor Patrick Bristow, radio host Frank DeCaro, columnist Michael Musto, singer Sia, blogger Perez Hilton, composer Marc Shaiman, and drag legends Jackie Beat and Coco Peru. Born This Way is sweet, funny, at times heartbreaking, and ultimately joyful and triumphant.

Actor/activist/author Michael Kearns’  The Truth is Bad Enough: What Every Became of the Happy Hustler? is an important social documentary/autobiography by the first openly gay actor in Hollywood (Kearns came out during the peak of his television career which included stints on Cheers, Murder She Wrote, and The Fall Guy). In 1991 he publicly disclosed his HIV+ status on Entertainment Tonight, and in 1994 he adopted his daughter Katherine, making him the first openly gay, publicly HIV-positive, single man to become a father. Kearns also co-founded  two AIDS organizations with partner James Carroll Pickett: Artists Confronting AIDS and STAGE (Southland Theatre Artists Goodwill Event), the longest running theatrical benefit in the world.  The Truth is Bad Enough takes the reader through the nascent days of Gay Pride, through the AIDS crisis and beyond, from Kearns’ first major media explosion (Kearns created Grant Tracy Saxon, the bisexual author of The Happy Hustler, a deliberate spoof of Xaviera Hollander’s The Happy Hooker), his childhood and relationships, though his work in theaters as a playwright, and actor, as an activist, and most importantly as a father.

Many of the films we’ve featured on Firedoglake Movie Night are available on DVD, and out of the over 190 films we’ve discussed, there’s bound to be something for everyone on your list!

Who doesn’t love coffee? Okay, maybe a few people. This year along with Dean’s Beans, a pioneer in Fair Trade, organic coffee (all his beans are certified organic, Fair Trade, and kosher!) who can create custom roasts for everyone on your holiday lists, there’s a new java supplier on my list: Trystero Coffee, a nano-roaster in Atwater Village, right by the Los Angeles River. Bean maestro Greg small-batch roasts heirloom, direct trade varietals on Thursdays, then delivers them around town on a bicycle (though Trystero does ship priority mail fo rhtose of you out of cycling range). It’s a family business–just Greg and Nicole, and they rock. Plus Trystero’s name and logo is from one of my favorite books, The Crying of Lot 49 by Thomas Pynchon.

There are now almost a hundred small wineries in the U.S. creating organic, sustainable and/or biodynamic wines. Some like Rubicon (Inglenook) owned by Francis Ford Coppola, are not, shall we say, inexpensive (his run about $250 a bottle!), but with some searching, you can find bottles in the $20 range, like Bonny Doon and Snoqualmie Valley.

Some times a special girls (or guy) needs a glamor gift, and that’s where Batcakes Couture comes in. Using ethically sourced feathers, Madame Batcakes creates fascinators,  boutonnieres, cuffs and headbands, as well as handmade crystal devil horns and lacy cat ears, plus amazing hats. And showgirl head dresses!  I gotta love and support a single mom who works 18 hours days and, having no insurance, paid for her son’s critical medical care herself (an extra $20,000 she had to glue together using just her skills as a hat maker).

I’ll bet many of you know a local artist or crafts person who makes some amazing items; or look for them via Facebook and at farmers or flea markets. By shopping local artisans, you help your community. Just make sure your local “artist” isn’t reselling stuff made elsewhere and claiming it as their own; you want to support their art/craft, not their ability to source “handmade” items from abroad and double the price–one problem found frequently on Etsy. Though Etsy CEO Chad Dickerson claims the craft site is trying to stem that problem, not much seems to have been done, despite Etsy community continually flagging blatant junk resellers.

Shop sensibly, locally, thoughtfully. And remember this is the time of year when many social groups and small organizations and charities get together to hold sales where you can find cool vintage goods and some great handmade items. Just maybe not the knit bra. Seriously.

Late Night FDL: Wayne Martin Belger’s HIV+ Photoshoot

 

So I was in a bit of a quandary: A few months ago I wrote about a photographer, Wayne Martin Belger, whose work really moved me. In the course of my writing about him, we became pals since we are both LA natives, punk rock changed our lives, and we both practice “Afro-Caribbean Orthodox Christianity,” more commonly known as African Diasporic religions: Santeria, Voudon/Voodoo, Hoodoo, Espiritismo.

When Belger said he wanted to come to LA and shoot for his series on HIV+ people, I offered to help find models. I also volunteered to organize four other shoots for him of rabbis, priests and imams with another camera. (I’d told him, “I’ll do anything to help you, except book your girlfriend’s travel–that’s up to you!” and so I wrote and sent out press releases, confirmed models, set up craft service at the shoot, etc.) It kind of put me in a weird place, because I felt that since I was working with him I couldn’t really write about him. But then I saw this video from Sunday’s shoot with HIV positive models, and nearly cried. And I wanted to share it with you.

As a model wrangler, I’d contacted a dear friend who works with the Los Angeles County HIV Drug and Alcohol Task Force and Transgender Outreach. She’d put the word out and some really wonderful people contacted us and agreed to pose, including vivacious and charming 73 year-old Thelma James who is on the LA County Commission for HIV and her friend, the very lovely Sandrine Lewis, whose son Will came along, gamely humping gear upstairs and helping Belger to load film. Thelma arranged for super-fox David L. Kelly, who had modeled on an AIDS Healthcare Foundation billboard, to pose for Belger. The goal was to show that HIV/AIDS isn’t a Cute Guy disease. In fact the Los Angeles County Commission on HIV/AIDS states:

Communities of color and women–constituting more than half of the LA County population–continue to be the special populations most disproportionately impacted by HIV/AIDS. Currently, AIDS is the leading cause of death among African American men and the second leading cause of death among African American women between the ages of 25 and 44. In Los Angeles County, for the first time this past year, numerically, Latinos/as with HIV/AIDS now outnumber every other population locally.

I also called on friends of mine who were out about their HIV status, and they all said yes: We had a physical trainer/activist, an artist/activist, a writer/editor/activist, a scholar/activist, and an actor/activist. (Do you see a theme here?)

And then I screwed up my courage and asked Harriet, a profoundly beautiful friend of mine, if she would like to participate. She said yes, and that her daughter Isabella who is also HIV+ wanted to do the shoot, too. Isabella, who set a goal for herself to shoot 90 videos in 90 days, made this mini-documentary/montage of her experience.

The shoot was amazingly moving, so many emotions. Sam Page, the physical trainer who I’d met during the El Coyote/Prop 8 community meeting, began to cry. He wrote later:

I had to stand still for about two minutes for each shot (he took four) because of the exposure time of the lens. While standing there, I stared into the wood floor — and somehow, made out the reflection of my mom’s face looking back at me. Tears began to stream as I thought about all of those who have died—and how important these images will be in telling our stories about the stigma that still exists between the HIV negative and the HIV positive gays. It was truly one of the most moving experiences of my life, when time literally stood still, and I cried, seemingly on cue.

The strength and beauty and love of life each of these models expressed during their time with us was beyond inspirational, as was their commitment to spreading the word that HIV can happen to anyone no matter what their age, race, socio-economic class, education, sexual orientation or any other demographic.


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