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:

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.

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: Candidates Get Jiggy

The debates are tomorrow! (I’ll be at the opera, seeing Don Giovanni with the sublime milliner Satanica Batcakes sharing the balcony box with me. But I’m TiVoing them). Expect lots of goofy videos post-debates, but here are a few culled from the intertubes showing the huge affect elections have on pop culture including, of course, celebrity reminders to get out the vote.

Chuck Norris’ call to GOTV is especially interesting because he is making a direct reference to the Dark Ages, and calling for conservative Christians to vote in order to prevent

a thousand years of darkness.

the during the so-called “Dark Ages,” lasting from the Fall of Rome usually given as 476 and depending on your historical bent and knowledge, lasting through to 1000 or to the 14th Century. But how dark were they? Well dark because we don’t have that much knowledge about them. Christianity was expanding.  And of course it was the age of Muslim expansion as well. So wait, is Chuck Norris claiming that if Christians don’t vote, Christianity will expand? Or that Islam will expand? Or that we will have “darkness” because the internets will crash and thus all of future generations’ knowledge about LOLcats will be destroyed much like  the dark ages are considered dark because we don’t have a lot of information about them?

Just vote, okay?

PETA-philes Scream at Kids, Insult Los Angeles Circus-Goers

Last night the Ringling Bros Barnum & Bailey Circus opened at Staples Center in Los Angeles, and I went as the guest of the very lovely and talented milliner Satanica Batcakes.  We were dressed in glamorous finery and feathers, as befits an opening night, and were prepared to revel in the joy of the circus.

But I wasn’t prepared for the hate-filled circus outside the Staples Center: Hundreds of anti-circus protestors,including dozens of kids who looked confused about why they were holding signs, demonstrating on the sidewalks against Ringling Bros alleged mistreatment of elephants. The LAPD was on hand too to make sure things didn’t get too ugly as families led their stunned children past the screaming PETA-philes waving posters and chanting. As I walked through the barriers set up to keep the protestors out of the Staples forecourt where clowns juggled and made balloon animals, several women screamed in my face–and in the faces of children, holding on to their parents’ hands:

They beat elephants! Don’t go to the circus! You’re supporting animal cruelty!

In November, 2011 

an agreement was reached where Feld Entertainment, Inc., doing business as Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus (Feld), will pay a $270,000 fine for allegedly violating the Animal Welfare Act (AWA).

According to a USDA press release, Feld also agreed to “develop and implement annual AWA compliance training for all employees who work with and handle animals, including trainers, handlers, attendants and veterinarians starting March 31, 2012, and to establish an AWA compliance position on its staff by February 28, 2012.”…

CEO Kenneth Feld said in a statement, “We look forward to working with the USDA in a cooperative and transparent manner that meets our shared goal of ensuring that our animals are healthy and receive the highest quality care.”

Ringling Bros, though Feld Entertainment. runs the Ringling Bros Center for Elephant Conservation, established in 1995 and located in Florida. The center has received praise for its care of Asian elephants and its breeding program. it is also a retirement facility for circus elephants.

Last night’s angry exhibition by animal rights’ groups was really hostile and felt kinda like visiting a women’s clinic with and anti-choice crew outside. Except there were children involved. Kids getting targeted and yelled at.

This tour has Johnathan Lee Iverson as ringmaster. Iverson was  the first African American and the youngest ringmaster Ringling Bros history. Man, he can sing! The theme was Dragons, which was little forced–dragon concepts culturally appropriated from north, east, south and west were thrown into the mix with faint plot about gaining courage, strength, wisdom and heart via the various acts which represents the directions and the virtues. It was thrilling to see the Shaolin monks do their mind over matter show, and the women who performed acrobatics using their hair was really mind boggling. I loved the performing horses, ponies, mini-donkeys, goats, llamas, dogs and kitties–domestic house cats performing tricks! Seriously, so amazing! And totally cute!

The elephants  performed for less than ten minutes and from our seats in the eighth row center, they  looked very healthy. No prods, sticks or whips were used. But the giant cat act, a combo of tigers and lions, made me uncomfortable. All the big, wild cats seemed annoyed/pissed off/cranky with the exception of the placid male lion who just look bored. Satanica told me that their snarls and swats were all rehearsed. Still, I just didn’t like it. I would have rather seen more dogs and ponies! And house cats!

By the time the show was over, PETA and their pals had packed up their shout-a-thon, replaced by a bacon-wrapped hotdog vendor.

Considering that the widespread, wholesale use of antibiotics in factory farmed chickens is leading to super strong E. coli–and contributing to hard-to-shake bladder infection in women, PETA might want to adjust their targets and  tactics. Rather than screaming at parents and children about circuses, maybe PETA should stand  outside chicken restaurants with signs proclaiming:

Eating chicken can give you bladder infections.

I didn’t shoot this video, and I do think, despite the angles being weird, it shows that the protestors were um, a bit rude.

Feeling Horny? Westboro Baptist Church Protest Dio Memorial

Sunday thousands of music fans descended on Forest Lawn Sunday to pay tribute to legendary popular musician Ronnie James Dio in a tasteful memorial service which featured the singer/songwriter’s opuses set to guitar and flute and broadcast in wide screen to the overflow crowds seated peacefully on the lawn outside the appropriately named Liberty Hall.

Dio, a major cultural innovator, also popularized the the use of a specific hand gesture and brought it to signify a vast array of meanings.

Along with the thousands of fans, who cut a wide swath through Southern California’s many cultures, three members of the Westboro Baptist Church came–not to praise Dio, but to mock him. They were met by 30 counter protesters carrying signs parodying the notoriously fame-hungry Phelps. Not to mention the metal horde.

Society milliner Satanica Batcakes attended with celebrity corseteer Sue Nice and director Julien Nitzberg. Says Mme Batcakes:

It was heavy metal parking lot. The overflow were seated on the lawn watching the screens. Dio’s son, his best friend from high school, and his long time crew members spoke of his love animals and of metal especially modern pop metal.  His best friend threw a great devil’s horn and there were all the little kids in the crowd who threw great horns too.

She referred to the Phelps as

zombies not worth arguing with

while Julien had a different take:

They were really nice and gladly posed for pictures. The are genius, the best performance artists. This is a major piece, the finale of which may not be revealed for maybe ten years. The Phelps hold  a mirror up Pat Robertson and other right wing conservatives, saying what those people can’t, but are really thinking.

However, aside a paucity of merchandising–the Jews Killed Jesus tee-shirts were not for sale–the noted creator of stage and screen felt the Phelps had long term potential. Perhaps they will become the aristocrats of religious street theater.

In addition to the musical arrangements

As a Dio fan, I don’t think acoustic guitar and flute are a good idea

Nitzberg was saddened by one crucial omission form the afternoon’s program.

Sadly the Reverend Al Sharpton was not there to preach.

But the LAPD was.

(photos Satanica Batcakes and Sue Nice)