CVIndependent

Thu12122019

Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

My regular readers (yes, some people tell me they are regular readers, without any prompting on my part—and yes, one of them is my mother; hi, Mom!) know I try to shy away from clichés in my column.

However, this month, I’m feeling the Christmas spirit, and I want to help those who are not as deep into craft beer find legitimately great gifts for the zythophile in their lives … so it’s time for a cliché: The Holiday Gift List.

I will limit this list to things I have experienced, either by myself or through friends, so I don’t lead anyone too far astray:

The Cap Zappa Beer Cap Launcher: I first saw this being used on a YouTube channel and immediately knew I needed to have one. It was surprisingly hard to track down a couple of years ago when I got mine, but now you can find many different kinds of fun, cap-shooting openers. My friend’s wife gave me a pistol-shaped version, which is now being employed at my taproom. They are simple but they bring a disproportionate amount of joy for the money.

Growlerwerks Carbonated Growlers: A growler, for the uninitiated, is a to-go container for beer on tap. I have a love/hate relationship with growlers—and by “love/hate,” I primarily mean “hate.” They’re not a great medium for beer—but they are a great way for a brewery taproom to make money. Even assuming the growlers are properly cleaned and carbon-dioxide-purged before being filled with beer, that beer really should be consumed the same day you open the growler. What if you just wanted a pint? Well, Growlerwerks provides the solution with the use of a replaceable carbon dioxide cartridge housed under the cap, with a dial above it to regulate the pressure. The upshot of all this: You’ll have a 64- or 128-ounce miniature keg sitting in your fridge with a spigot at the bottom. Plus, they look really sharp. I’ve never not seen one start a conversation at the taproom when they are brought in to be filled. For about $150-$200, you can seriously impress the beer-lover in your life.

The Rare Beer Club: I wish I could say that my experience with this club comes through my own subscription, but alas, this is a little too expensive for my budget. A friend of mine has a wife who was loving enough to get this for him, and I’ve benefited from rummaging through the built-up collection of bottles from the club. My verdict? It’s fantastic. Some of the beers are true rarities that I will probably never get my hands on again—some because they are incredibly hard to acquire, and others because they were one-offs, never to be brewed again. Like the Biere De Goord from Michigan’s Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales; it’s a saison-style ale with kale, pumpkin, pumpkin seeds, green tea and peppercorns. Does that sound weird? Yes. Did it taste good? Hell yes—and I’ve never had another beer like it. The best part is that, if you loved one of the beers you were sent that month (and that’s two, four or six bottles of each, depending on the subscription level) and absolutely need more, you can buy more. This is just the tip of the iceberg for customization, too. You can replace upcoming beers with ones you loved in the past, if available, or add more of any beer to the next shipment. As I write this, I’m pondering what I need to cut out of my life financially in order to accommodate one of these memberships. Beer is technically food, right?

Brewery memberships: Some breweries offer yearly memberships that include discounts, exclusives and beer allocations. The terms obviously vary from brewery to brewery, but the gist is that you sign up; pay the requisite fee; and reap the benefits. There are breweries that offer little more than special glassware for you to use while at the taproom, plus a discount. Others offer first cracks at the latest beer releases, discounts, member parties and more. The Bruery in Orange County is the first brewery I can remember doing this, more than a decade ago, and now that brewery offers many tiers of membership that can be paid for in myriad ways. The Bruery went through a lot of growing pains while ironing out flaws in the membership models—and other breweries have learned by example when it comes to making their clubs.

But let me repeat myself: Not all brewery memberships are created equal. I’ve even seen breweries sell memberships to people before opening their doors. This is as pure of an example of caveat emptor as you are going to find, and I wish you luck and success if you decide to do this. My recommendation is to partake in the clubs of established breweries; if possible, speak with current members of the club to gauge worthiness.

Now feel free to cut and paste this list into your letter to Santa … and let’s hope he brings me that Rare Beer Club membership rather than the coal I probably deserve.

Brett Newton is a certified cicerone (like a sommelier for beer) and homebrewer who has mostly lived in the Coachella Valley since 1988. He currently works at the Coachella Valley Brewing Co. taproom in Thousand Palms. He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Published in Beer

Dear Readers: I turn over a December edición of my column each year to new Chicano-Mexican books you should stuff into a tamale leaf and give to folks so they have something to unwrap.

While 2016 was a horrible year politically, the Santo Niño de Atocha saved it with a lot of amazing titles. Here we go!

Mozlandia: Morrissey Fans in the Borderlands, Melissa Mora Hidalgo: I wrote the foreword to this academic-yet-street take on the eternal question: Why do Mexicans like Morrissey so much? Rather than offer tired ivory tower takes, Profe Melissa interviews fans, goes to Mancheste, and talks about her own worship of Steven Patrick. Fun, instructive, SAVAGE.

Food, Health, and Culture in Latino Los Angeles, Sarah Portnoy: Another academic who isn’t afraid of leaving her laptop to do actual research, the University of Southern California professor does everything from talk to celebrity chefs to eaters, farmers to tianguis folks to give insight into the breathtaking scene that is Latino L.A. food.

Give Me Life: Iconography and Identity in East LA Murals, Holly Barnet-Sanchez and Tim Drescher: The University of New Mexico Press consistently puts out chingón titles about the Mexican experience in the American Southwest, but this late release was 2016’s best: a hefty coffee table book documenting the beauty (see the pictures) and tragedy (many of the highlighted murals no longer exist) of public art in East Los Angeles.

The Mexican Flyboy, Alfredo Vea: I usually don’t care for fiction, but I couldn’t put down this fantastical University of Oklahoma Press release. Think Gabriel Garcia Márquez meets Octavia Butler meets Oscar Zeta Acosta.

Uprooting Community: Japanese Mexicans, World War II and the U.S.-Mexico Borderlands, Selfa A. Chew: I always love books that offer a chinga tu madre to gabacho perceptions of what a “Mexican” is, and this smart University of Arizona Press study does just that, examining the rich culture that emerged between Japanese and Mexicans in Southern California. True story: The man behind canned menudo was a Japanese-Mexican from Wilmington, Calif.! Wilmas, presente!

The Tacos of Texas: Homie Mando Rayo and his writing partner Jarod Neece devote more than 400 pages and 300 photos to Texan taco culture, and I’m giving it the highest compliment one can give food writing: After reading just two pages, I was pinche hungry.

Corridors of Migration: The Odyssey of Mexican Laborers, 1600-1933, Rodolfo F. Acuña: For my oldie-but-goodie pick, try this masterpiece by the godfather of Chicano studies. If you want to know why Mexicans ended up where they did in los Estados Unidos, Profe Acuña goes from the era of the conquistadors up to the times of The Grapes of Wrath to unspool a sobering, yet inspiring tale.

California Mission Landscapes: Race, Memory, and the Politics of Heritage, Elizabeth Kryder-Reid: Here in California, we’re taught in elementary school that missions set up by Catholic missionaries during the Spanish era were necessary to save the Indians; in college, we’re rightfully taught they were basically concentration camps. This University of Minnesota Press libro is of the latter school, but takes on the fascinating prism of gardens to tell its enrapturing narrative.

Barrio Writers, Sarah Rafael Garcia, editor: This annual anthology of pieces by high schoolers enrolled in a nonprofit writing workshop that spans from SanTana to Nacogdoches, Texas, is never a dull read, as authors contribute everything from poetry to first-person testimonials to essays on subjects ranging being undocumented to la vida loca to nerd shit. Buy for the palabras; contribute to el movimiento.

Ask the Mexican at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.; be his fan on Facebook; follow him on Twitter @gustavoarellano; or follow him on Instagram @gustavo_arellano!

Published in Ask a Mexican

Gentle cabrones: Behold, it’s my annual Mexican Christmas guide, in which I recommend the best Mexi-themed libros for you to give to your loved ones this Navidad instead of yet another tamale to unwrap.

Buy them at your local bookstore, or order online—but do buy!

#FuckCancer: The True Story of How Robert the Bold Kicked Cancer’s Ass: By day, Robert Flores is a butcher; in his spare time, Flores wrote a hilarious, gritty memoir about how he survived fourth-stage colon cancer. It’s perfect for the cancer survivor in your family, or anyone who appreciates Chicano DESMADRE. Buy it at roberttheboldstore.etsy.com.

Dreamland: The True Tale of America’s Opiate Epidemic: In one of the most chilling books published in recent years, my mentor-friend Sam Quinones tells a two-part story about how gabacho America got hooked on heroin—on one hand, from pharmaceuticals; on the other mano, via Mexicans from Nayarit. It’s more gripping and infuriating than any episode of The Wire.

The Chili Cookbook: A History of the One-Pot Classic, With Cook-off Worthy Recipes From Three-Bean to Four-Alarm and Con Carne to Vegetarian: A Texas-sized book name worthy of another mentor-friend of mine: Robb Walsh, the greatest chronicler of Tex-Mex cuisine ever. This is a great cookbook that reminds the Baylessistas that chili is the original regional Mexican dish in el Norte.

Californio Lancers: The 1st Battalion of Native Cavalry in the Far West, 1863–1866: The next time some Trump supporter says Mexicans don’t fight for this country, point them to this groundbreaking work. It’s a fascinating tale of Californios—the Mexicans conquered by the Estados Unidos during the Mexican-American War—serving the Union instead of the Confederates, in contrast to their pendejo Tejano cousins.

Corrido! The Living Ballad of Mexico’s Western Coast: The University of New Mexico Press returns with another stunning songbook, this one focusing on the musical traditions of Mexico’s Costa Chica and Costa Grande region. Dump your son jarocho CD already, and refry THIS.

Shameful Victory: The Los Angeles Dodgers, the Red Scare, and the Hidden History of Chavez Ravine: Everyone has a vague idea of how Los Angeles leaders kicked out a bunch of Mexicans to build Dodger Stadium. But this University of Arizona Press book tells the tale in all of its shameful details. A must for sports fans and yaktivists alike.

The Chicano Generation: Testimonios of the Movement: Mario T. Garcia is the most influential Chicano Studies scholar you’ve never heard of, and remains that rare academic who can actually write. For his latest University of California book, he provides in-depth conversations with unsung Los Angeles activists. Essential reading.

Images of the Mexican American in Fiction and Film: Your oldie-but-goodie pick for the year. The late Arthur G. Pettit documented how Americans have ruthlessly stereotyped Mexis since the 1830s with tropes that still exist today (e.g. the spicy señorita, the clown). The fact that depictions of Mexis in Hollywood and the media have only gotten worse since this libro’s printing in 1980 shows what an unsung masterpiece it is.

Los Lobos: Dream in Blue: Leave it to the University of Texas Press—perhaps the best non-UC academic press in the country—to publish the first book on the Chicano rock gods. Now, if only I could get on their regular mailing list … HA!

¡Ask a Mexican!; Orange County: A Personal History; and Taco USA: How Mexican Food Conquered America: Because DUH!

Ask the Mexican at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.; be his fan on Facebook; follow him on Twitter @gustavoarellano; or follow him on Instagram @gustavo_arellano!

Published in Ask a Mexican

Consider using your garden for your gift-giving ideas. Plants that you may already have around your yard will make great gifts!

Beyond that: If you are the creative type (and aren’t all gardeners?), you can give gifts that truly come from your heart as well from your garden.

Herb-Infused Vinegar

With the movement toward slow-food and sustainable gardening, making herb-infused vinegar is a wonderful idea that your friends will appreciate, in part because you made it from your own herbs. Below is a simple recipe on how you can accomplish this quickly and easily.

Some herbs that work well include:

  • Basil
  • Bay
  • Cilantro
  • Dill
  • Fennel
  • Garlic
  • Lemon Balm
  • Marjoram
  • Rosemary
  • Sage
  • Savory
  • Tarragon
  • Thyme

You can also use edible flowers such as the winter flowers of calendula and nasturtium. Consider adding dried chilies or peppercorns.

Materials:

  • Bottles or jars
  • Lids or corks
  • Vinegar (many recipes use apple-cider vinegar or white-wine vinegar; experiment to see what flavor you enjoy)
  • Your choice of fresh herbs
  • Labels
  • Ribbon, raffia, other decor

Steps:

  • Sterilize your bottles or jars by placing them in a large pot (without the lids) and covering them with water. Bring the water to boiling and boil for 15 minutes. Leave in the water (after turning the heat off) for up to an hour before using. Use when cool to touch. Do not put cold liquids into hot jars. Add the lids to the warm water to clean before using.
  • Pick your herbs early in the morning and dry them thoroughly, making sure both sides of the leaves are dry.
  • Gently crush the leaves with your hands.
  • Stuff the leaves of your chosen mixture of herbs into the sterilized bottles to a third full.
  • Bring vinegar to a boil.
  • Fill the bottles or jars covering the herbs up to a half-inch from the top of the bottle. Cover with its lid or cork.
  • Allow to cool.
  • When cool, place in the refrigerator for one to two weeks. Check by smell after one week to see if you have a fragrance that you think you would enjoy. If it the herbs’ scent is not strong enough, leave in for another week.
  • Once you reach the preferred flavor or scent, strain the vinegar out of the bottle; remove the herbs, and put the vinegar back in. A glass measuring cup with a pour spout works well to accomplish this.
  • Decorate the bottles as you like, and add a ribbon, a label and gift card.
  • The vinegar will last a couple months if stored in the refrigerator.

Cactus Pups

Look around at your succulents and cacti to see if you have volunteers (i.e. plants you didn’t intentionally plant) that have sprung up, or perhaps some off-shoots or “pups” coming up next to the main plant. Each of these can be separated or dug up and placed into an attractive pot to give to a friend as thank-you, thinking-of-you or holiday gift.

You can also propagate succulents such as pencil cacti, euphorbias and many other plants to create new plants. Be sure to let the branch or stem that you have removed from the main plant callous over in the shade before planting it in its new home. Use cactus soil, and add rock or recycled glass to “dress” the top of the soil making an attractive gift.

Floral Bouquet

As a quick, spontaneous gift: If you have a supply of small vases on hand, you can go out to your garden in the morning and pick some flowers and greenery to put in a vase of fresh water to take to a party or on a friendly visit. It doesn’t even need a special occasion to warrant something so simple but hugely appreciated by the recipient. Don't be afraid to add branches from a shrub or even a stem of bougainvillea flowers. It is a good idea to remove any thorns, though!

Shameless Self-Promotion

Last but certainly not least, think of giving my newly published book, Getting Potted in the Desert. Any desert dweller with even a couple pots will appreciate this monthly how-to guide for their desert garden.

Marylee Pangman is the founder and former owner of The Contained Gardener in Tucson, Ariz. She has become known as the desert’s potted garden expert. Marylee’s book, Getting Potted in the Desert, has just been released. Buy it online at potteddesert.com. Email her with comments and questions at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Follow the Potted Desert at facebook.com/potteddesert.

Published in Potted Desert Garden

Here’s my list of some of the better DVD/Blu-Ray gift options for 2014.

A warning: If you give one of these as a gift, and the person who gets it has actually read this article, he or she will know you cheated and aren’t at all original in your gift giving. But that’s OK … we all have our shortcomings.

The prices listed here are from Amazon.com as of the time of this writing (and for some reason, Amazon.com prices change ALL THE TIME, so consider yourself warned).


BLOCKBUSTER GOODNESS

Guardians of the Galaxy (Blu-ray) $19.99: One of the year’s better blockbusters is out on Blu-ray just in time for stocking-stuffing. Giving this one also provides a nice excuse for you to make somebody a mix tape.

Godzilla (Blu-ray) $14.99: At the beginning of the year, I said this was the film I most anxiously anticipated, and that if it were a bad movie, I would spiral into severe depression. As things turned out, I enjoyed it immensely, and I have a distinct spring in my step. The Blu-ray is cool, with some fun mock documentary stuff about Godzilla and behind-the-scenes items.

Edge of Tomorrow (Blu-Ray) $24.99: This was a blockbuster wannabe that fell a little flat at the box office. Tom Cruise’s character gets caught in a death loop and must die thousands of times—and the film is amazing. Give this one to that science-fiction-loving person who refused to plunk down the dough at the IMAX theater. They will love it, for sure.


FOR THOSE WHO ESCHEW CABLE AND MISS COOL STUFF ON TV

Twin Peaks: The Entire Mystery (Blu-ray) $83.81: Far and away, this is the best Blu-ray of the year. If somebody you know loves Peaks, get them this. When they open it, just throw your hands up like you scored a touchdown and start dancing.

One of the greatest TV shows ever made gets a spectacular treatment, full of archived features. You also get Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me and the movie’s long-rumored deleted scenes. Yes, the movie would’ve been a little more fun had director David Lynch kept some of these in.

The show is coming back for season three in 2016, so this works as a nice primer for more things to come.

Family Ties: The Complete Series (DVD) $55.29: Alas, this classic series will probably never have a date with Blu-ray, meaning you will never see Justine Bateman’s Mallory Keaton in HD glory.

Batman: The Complete Series (Blu-ray) $174.96: Adam West and Burt Ward finally get their due on Blu-ray. I would suggest boycotting this, because the two fools skipped out on Reno Comic Con this year, but that would be unprofessional. If you feel like springing for another $400, get them the cool collectible dolls available over at sideshowtoys.com. There are some people on your list worth $700, right?

Fargo: The Complete First Season (Blu-ray): $29.96: I had my doubts about this one, but the Coen brothers movie’s TV-show offshoot, which stars Billy Bob Thornton, proved to be a worthwhile endeavor. The Blu-ray comes with audio commentaries, deleted scenes and making-of docs.


CULT GREATNESS

UHF (Blu-ray) $18.38: Shout Factory has grown into one of the cooler purveyors of cult-cinema home-viewing. “Weird Al” Yankovic’s one and only foray into being a movie headliner was great satire in its day, and it’s still funny. Michael Richards kicked ass as Stanley the Janitor, and the “We don’t need no stinkin’ badgers!” moment still kills me. You get a Weird Al commentary, his 2014 Comic Con panel, deleted scenes and more.

Eraserhead (Blu-ray) $26.49: What can bring on the holiday cheer quicker than an embalmed cow fetus crying for its mommy? Nothing whatsoever, I say! Gift this one along with the aforementioned Twin Peaks box set to give that special someone a joyous David Lynch geekgasm. It’s a Criterion Collection release, so that means it costs a little more than the average Blu-ray—but it’s totally worth it.

Snowpiercer (Blu-ray) $9.99: This came out this year, and it’s an instant cult classic. Yes, it’s an apocalypse film, but there’s lots of snow in it, so that qualifies it as a holiday movie, sort of. Even though this one is about the survival of the planet and contains some gross stuff, it’s no scarier than that freaking creepy The Polar Express animated movie.

Monty Python Live (Mostly): One Down, Five to Go (Blu-ray) $18.74: The alleged last Python show ever was a little sloppy, but everybody still alive in the troupe is like 139 years old now, so we’ll cut them some slack. The five remaining Pythons were fun during this stretch of live performances in London, with big musical numbers and a surprisingly nimble Terry Gilliam, who jumped 10 feet off the ground during the Spanish Inquisition sketch.

Frank (Blu-ray) $12.99: Here’s another movie from 2014 that next to nobody saw, although it’s already garnered that instant-cult-classic badge. Michael Fassbender wears a big mask on his head the whole time, and the result is one of the year’s funniest movies. Give this to the music-lover who idolizes Syd Barrett.


GIVE THE GIFT OF GARBAGE TO SOMEONE YOU DESPISE

Blended (Blu-ray) $22.99: Remember when we used to gather ’round the TV in the living room around holiday time, ready for a good laugh? We’d have the fireplace going, and we’d pop in the latest Adam Sandler flick for chuckles. We’d roast candy canes, and smoke marshmallows, safe in the knowledge that Sandler would provide a couple of good gut-busters. Those days are so gone. Long gone. This movie is a crime against movies, people, dogs and various insects. Give it to somebody you can’t stand, and then run out of the house as soon as they unwrap it.


THE BOX SET I WANT THE MOST

Halloween: The Complete Collection (Blu-ray) $79.99: Hey, I’m not shy. This is probably my only chance to let folks know what I really want under the Christmas tree (over at their place, because I don’t have a Christmas tree). This puppy comes with all of the Halloween movies—even the ones Rob Zombie did—and a big load of extras. So … now you know. Would somebody buy this for me, please?

Published in DVDs/Home Viewing

The time has come again to review some of the most-promising CD boxed sets hitting the shelves.

The cynics among us decry the act of repackaging old music in pretty new boxes, while music buffs drool over rarities, outtakes and remastered classic albums. That said, here is simply a sampling of the best new boxed sets on the market. Whatever your tastes, you're likely to find something out there.

Get ready, get set and shop for the best deals. While some of these collections have hefty price tags, if you search for the right deals online, you might discover some ridiculously low sale prices. Most of the prices shown are taken from Amazon.com as of our press deadline.

Let's dispense with the prosaic intro—and get to the goodies.


Blur

Blur 21

VIRGIN; 18 CDs, 3 DVDs; $175.70

If you're surprised that this '90s Britpop band has enough material for 18 CDs, you're not alone. But just in time for the 21st anniversary of the release of their debut, Leisure, here it is: all seven studio albums, as well as more than five hours of previously unreleased material, three DVDs and a collectible book. There's even a limited-edition, 7-inch vinyl single with a song that the band recorded under its original name, Seymour. It's actually too much to list. Bandleader Damon Albarn has gone on to form such interesting groups as Gorillaz; Mali Music; The Good, the Bad and the Queen; and, most recently, Rocketjuice and the Moon. But here, you can hear his not-too-shabby beginnings.


Johnny Cash

The Complete Columbia Album Collection

LEGACY; 63 CDs; $255.99

This massive boxed set includes the Man in Black's complete recorded output for Columbia Records, from 1958's The Fabulous Johnny Cash, which featured his first No. 1 single, "Don't Take Your Guns to Town," to Highwayman 2 (released in 1990), his second collaboration with Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson and Kris Kristofferson. Naturally, there's a big ol' color booklet with meticulous documentation and liner notes, but the emphasis here is on Cash's music: from country and Western, gospel, blues and rockabilly, to folk and traditional ballads. Also included are two new singles compilations: the 28-song album Johnny Cash With His Hot and Blue Guitar, and the 55-track The Singles, Plus. Cash may have recorded some weaker material at certain points in his career, but as a body of work, this is the latest Holy Grail in recorded music.


The English Beat

The Complete Beat

SHOUT! FACTORY; 5 CDs; $35.31

With songs such as "Mirror in the Bathroom," "I Confess," "Hands Off ... She's Mine" and "Twist and Crawl," memories of '80s two-tone ska will come flooding back. A total of 79 tracks are spread across these five discs. Included are remasters and expanded versions of the band's three studio albums, two extras discs full of 12-inch mixes and dubs, some Peel Sessions, and four cuts recorded live in Boston in November 1982.


Woody Guthrie

Woody at 100: The Woody Guthrie Centennial Collection

SMITHSONIAN/FOLKWAYS; 3 CDs; $63.98

Maybe you heard about this set from the flood of publicity that heralded its release last summer to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the folk legend's birth. This 57-song set documents the work of one of the most important and influential singer-songwriters of the last century (he died in 1967), touching just the tip of a 3,000-song iceberg. The beautifully bound, 154-page book features art essays. The music includes some of his earliest recordings, some rare radio shows, 21 previously unreleased performances and six never-before-heard original songs. Many kids learn "This Land Is Your Land" in school, but Guthrie was way more than that. Folk music—indeed, all music—would not have been what it is today without him.


Heart

Strange Euphoria

EPIC LEGACY; 4 CDs, 1 DVD; $34.99

Ann and Nancy Wilson, rock 'n' roll's best sister act—who released a brand-new album this year as well—may have experienced ups and downs throughout their 36-year career, but enjoying the highs always has been worth enduring the lows. This boxed set is way more than simply a repackaging of the hits: It's the first multi-label, career-spanning compendium for the band, jam-packed with album and demo versions of familiar hits (so you can compare and contrast), rarities, live tracks and outtakes. The DVD is a 55-minute live performance of the young band in 1976 (around the time I developed a crush on both sisters). There are tracks representing the pre-Heart group Ann Wilson and the Daybreaks, and the Wilsons' late-period side project, the Lovemongers. The fourth CD is an EP compiling Heart's uncanny Led Zeppelin covers.


Various Artists

Philadelphia International Records: The 40th Anniversary Box Set

HARMLESS; 10 CDs; $68.48

This soul compilation covers the glory days of the 1970s label, including nearly 800 minutes of pure, distilled R&B and funk by the likes of M.F.S.B., the O'Jays, Archie Bell and the Drells, Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes, the Three Degrees, Billy Paul, Instant Funk, Teddy Pendergrass, the Jacksons, Lou Rawls and many others. The package includes a 60-page booklet with sleeve notes and track details by archivist Ralph Tee. There's a reason why an entire genre has been called Philly soul, and the music here constitutes Exhibit A. Initial reviews say this boxed set tops previous similar collections for sheer volume.


Rage Against the Machine

Rage Against the Machine XX

LEGACY; 2 CDs, 2 DVDs, 1 LP; $95.49

Can any of us really imagine Paul Ryan getting into "Killing in the Name" or "Take the Power Back" from Rage's amazing, incendiary debut album? Released in 1992, this exclamatory album showed Rage to be among the pioneers in blending hip-hop, hard rock and protest music in one package, which, by the way, sounds as dynamic and innovative as it did 20 years ago. It has been preserved in all its "Fuck you, I won't do what you tell me" glory on this new set, which features a remastered edition of the original, commercial version of the album, a CD with the original demos for the album, two live DVDs, and an audiophile's wet dream of a 180-gram vinyl version of it. If your pocketbook can't handle the price tag, scaled-down versions are available.


Roxy Music

The Complete Studio Recordings 1972-1982

VIRGIN; 10 CDs; $84.37

In one of the best deals out there, you get all eight of the ground-breaking band's studio albums in their original form, from the thorny self-titled debut—an amalgam of art-, glam- and prog-rock—to the final work, the smooth cocktails-and-boudoir record Avalon. Also included are two discs of bonus tracks previously unavailable on CD. Audiophiles will want to know that these versions used flat transfers from the original analog master tapes rather than the 1999 digital re-masters. Sounding as much like the original LPs as possible, this set will allow you to imagine how shockingly new Roxy's music must have sounded in the context of pop music 40 years ago.


Paul Simon

Graceland 25th Anniversary Edition

SONY LEGACY; 1 CD, 1 DVD; $16.08

The unprecedented meeting of Simon's ageless pop and the sounds of South African musicians such as Ladysmith Black Mambazo (not to forget a guest appearance by Tucson homegirl Linda Ronstadt) yielded this Grammy-winning 1986 album. Here is a remastered version of the album, which includes such unforgettable hits as "The Boy in the Bubble," "You Can Call Me Al," "Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes" and the title track. Also included is a DVD of the documentary Under African Skies, directed by Joe Berlinger, about the making-of and the controversy surrounding the album. You can also buy assorted, more-elaborate editions with more CDs, more DVDs, more booklets and vinyl. This one's a deal, though.


A.R. Kane

Complete Singles Collection

ONE LITTLE INDIAN; 2 CDs; $19.15

This great, now-overlooked shoegaze duo from the late 1980s and early ’90s released only three proper studio albums, but lots of EPs and 12-inch singles fill out their impressive body of work, the depth and breadth of which is demonstrated in this two-disc, 33-track package.

Alex Ayuli and Rudi Tambala comprised A.R. Kane, and their engaging experiments in dream pop, drone rock, jazz funk, avant-garde, electronica, dance music and sonic collages earned them comparisons to such acts as the Jesus and Mary Chain, My Bloody Valentine and most of the roster at 4AD Records.

Much of A.R. Kane’s attraction derived from their balance of the sacred and profane, the tender and the brutal. Genuinely creepy songs such as “Butterfly Collector,” “Lollita,” “Haunting” and “Baby Milk Snatcher” also are genuinely beautiful, filled with hammering drum machines, feedback loops, dub bass, distorted vocals and gouaches of shimmering white noise.

Even on more heavy-handed tracks, such as “Sado-Masochism is a Must” and “Sperm Travels Like Juggernaut,” the lack of subtlety is mitigated by playful irony. Casual listeners might question the need for multiple versions of some tunes, but when alternate takes and dance remixes are included, each is substantially different from the original version.

These tunes offer glimpses of the soft, white underbelly of desire and need, the most hidden places of the psyche. But listening to A.R. Kane also is deliciously disorienting—it might make you might feel as if you’re in the midst of The Matrix, streams of musical code cascading around you, simultaneously logical and incomprehensible. Did you take the red pill or the blue pill?

Published in Reviews

It's the holidays, a time for giving people movies, because you love movies, and you want them to love movies, too.

You are bullish and pushy by nature, and this needs to stop.

This guide assembles some of the best releases from the past year. Let it assist you in the art of handing over a film to a friend to cherish and enjoy, rather than having him use it as a coaster or squirrel-decapitator.

And if you have a friend who would indeed ferociously fling a Blu-ray at a squirrel with the intent of taking the poor thing's head off ... perhaps you should reconsider this friendship.

The prices listed are for Blu-ray, unless otherwise noted. These were <Amazon.com prices at press time, and they change frequently. There are bargains all over right now, so shop carefully.

SPIELBERG!!!

Oh ... the Spielberg fans had a good Blu-ray year. Oh, yes, they did. If I have a movie-lover on my list, and that movie-lover isn't one of those lousy snobs who think Spielberg is a hack, I'll just buy him two or three of these selections, and call it a day.

Jaws (Blu-ray)

Universal, $19.96

The greatest movie of all time is on Blu-ray, and it's a winner. The transfer will bring tears to the eyes of those who were fortunate enough to see the film on the big screen in its heyday. It has some great documentaries on it, including The Shark Is Still Working.

Indiana Jones: The Complete Adventures (Blu-ray)

Paramount, $64.96

This has all of the Indiana Jones movies on Blu-ray for the first time in one affordable package. It's a perfect gift for that friend you sort of like, but not so much that you would fork over more than $100 for them. Not recommended for Secret Santa office parties. Way too extravagant.

E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial: Anniversary Edition (Blu-ray)

Universal, $19.96

This is the old-school version of the movie, without the damned walkie-talkies replacing the shotguns.

AMAZING DIRECTORS, AMAZING PACKAGES!

Tarantino XX 8-Film Collection (Blu-ray)

Lionsgate/Miramax, $89.98

This contains all of the films directed by Tarantino these past 20 years, plus True Romance, which he wrote. For less than $100, you can give that Tarantino fan every movie he has made, or piss off the Tarantino-hater for that same amount. You can't lose!

Alfred Hitchcock: The Masterpiece Collection (Limited Edition) (Blu-ray)

Universal, $207.99

This has 15 discs loaded with 15 Hitchcock movies and special features. You get Psycho, The Birds, Vertigo, North by Northwest and many others. This was my holiday present to myself.

TELEVISION: RETRO AND NEW

Steve Martin: The Television Stuff (DVD)

Shout! Factory, $34.93

This gathers many of Steve's TV specials from the early days, along with music videos and more-recent awards-show appearances. This is bliss for any Steve Martin fan. It also includes new interviews, with the man addressing each special and appearance. This is one of my favorite DVDs of the year.

Get a Life: The Complete Series (DVD)

Shout! Factory, $30.49

The great Chris Elliott TV show features him as a grown-up paperboy living in his dad's house and putting huge toy submarines in his bathtub. This show was really weird and always funny.

Louie: Season 2 (Blu-ray)

20th Century Fox, $21.99

Louis C.K.'s creation is the best thing on television, and the second season was as good as the first. The third season has aired, but doesn't have a DVD or Blu-ray version yet (although you can watch it on iTunes). Give the gift of laughing so hard that socks go through one's nose.

Metalocalypse: Season 4 (Blu-ray)

Cartoon Network, $21.83

You don't have to be a fan of death metal to like this hilarious animated series (although the music is actually quite good). One of the year's greatest special features has Dethklok's lead singer reading Shakespeare's A Comedy of Errors for 90 minutes or so. This continues the Metalocalypse home video tradition of Nathan sharing the Bard.

SUPERHEROES

Marvel's The Avengers (Blu-ray)

Walt Disney, $24.96

The Dark Knight Rises (Blu-ray)

Warner, $18.99

The Amazing Spider-Man (Blu-ray)

Sony, $18.96

For my money, The Avengers offered the best superhero ride this year, with The Dark Knight Rises coming in a distant but solid second. The Amazing Spider-Man was stupid, but I'm in the minority on that one, so I'm sure lots of folks would appreciate seeing it under the tree.

THE BEATLES!!!

Yellow Submarine (Blu-ray)

Capitol, $22.78

Magical Mystery Tour (Blu-ray)

Capitol, $24.99

George Harrison: Living in the Material World (Blu-ray)

UMe, $17.99

Chances are, you have a Beatles-lover on your list who would find great value in the titles listed above. Chances are, you also have a Beatles-hater on your list. If, deep down, you actually hate that person, give her these discs, and enjoy her "WTF?" face. Beatles-haters suck, so make them really angry.

<h/2>SHIPS DON'T SINK

Titanic (Blu-ray)

Paramount, $21.49

A Night to Remember (Blu-ray)

Criterion, $17.81

Here are two awesome films about the same thing, coming to Blu-ray for the first time. One has Leonardo DiCaprio getting really cold in glorious color, while the other has a bunch of English actors going down with the ship. Both are pieces of incredible moviemaking, and worthy of your average stocking.

THE SINGLE COOLEST BLU-RAY THIS YEAR

Little Shop of Horrors: Director's Cut (Blu-ray)

Warner, $17.99

For the real collector, this Blu-ray has the best special feature of any disc this year: You get the original ending of this twisted musical, in color—a huge change. Instead of Rick Moranis triumphing over his evil plant, he is devoured by Audrey II, who then proceeds to eat New York City and hump the Brooklyn Bridge.

GREAT NEW MOVIES THEY PROBABLY HAVEN'T SEEN

Safety Not Guaranteed (Blu-ray)

Sony, $24.99

Ruby Sparks (Blu-ray)

20th Century Fox, $11.93

These two gems didn't light up the box office, but they have the capacity of lighting up the various holiday things people put gifts under or around. Lovers of independent, intelligent cinema will see two of the year's best performances by actresses (Zoe Kazan in Ruby and Aubrey Plaza in Safety).

COMPLETE THEIR ALIEN COLLECTION

Prometheus (Blu-ray 3-D/Blu-ray)

20th Century Fox, $29.49

Ridley Scott's return to his Alien universe was a stunner, and the Blu-ray is packed. Make sure to get 3-D Blu-ray, even if you don't have 3-D capacity yet. That's because there are many more bonus features on this disc, and they don't require the glasses.

A REMINDER THAT LIAM NEESON ACTUALLY MADE A GOOD MOVIE THIS YEAR

The Grey (Blu-ray)

Open Road, $26.99

This one came out early in the year, and I'm afraid the great Liam Neeson performance will get ignored come awards time. Oh well ... it does have lots of snow, which is sort of holiday-like. It also has lots of wolves eating people, which might put a damper on somebody's holiday joy. Give this one to the person who doesn't mind seeing people getting eaten by wolves while drinking his eggnog.

WES ANDERSON RULES

Moonrise Kingdom (Blu-ray)

Universal, $19.99

While the Blu-ray itself doesn't have nearly enough supplements, the movie is one of the year's best, and is currently at the top of my list. It's gift-worthy.

Published in DVDs/Home Viewing