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Nerdmas: A Holiday Gift Guide

December 17, 2010

Unlike other gift guides, I’m not going to only cover items released in the last 2-3 months, but include older things, as well. Some of them aren’t even being manufactured anymore, and you’ll have to hunt in bargain bins for them. Why would I do that? Mainly because they’re the type of things I’d love under my Christmas tree. This is a very biased list. But, maybe it will spark an idea or two for you.

Vintage Cameras

Goodwill, Value Village, flea markets and antique shops; all will stock a few classic cameras. Vintage glass is ‘in’, thanks to websites like Lomography. Snapping up an older film camera for the shutterbug on your list will bring a smile to their face.


  • Vivitar Ultra Wide and Slim: this all-plastic gem sports a 22mm plastic lens that gives amazingly distorted shots.
  • A Holga or Diana: both of these can be bought online from lomography, and kick 120 ass.
  • Rangefinders: Canonets, Minolta Hi-Matics, Olympus XA and 35 SP; all come fairly cheap, and rock.
  • Pinhole: you can buy some truly wicked cameras online from Zero Pinhole and Pinhole Blender, as well as DIY kit cameras. Pinhole shots are completely different from all other glass lens cameras, and will become a welcome part of any photographer’s toolkit. You can also buy pinhole body caps for DSLR’s.
  • Kodak Brownies: both the older box cameras and the Hawkeyes are stylish, fun, and surprisingly versatile, given their age (I own a box Brownie that’s almost a hundred years old…it still works).

Shadow Catchers: Camera-less Photography, by Martin Barnes

This beautiful (and expensive) coffee-table book was just released, showcasing the work of five artists. Camera-less photography brings picture-taking back to it’s earliest roots, when chemical processes were first used with paper and glass to record the shadows of the real world. The five artists in the book combine the latest digital techniques with new and old emulsions to create stunning photographic art.

Pathfinder RPG

When Hasbro released Dungeons and Dragons 4th Edition, they broke completely with all previous versions of the game, orphaning gamers who had invested 10 years in the third edition. Paizo Publishing, using the Open Game License under which the core of the third edition D&D rules were open-sourced, revamped the rules and released Pathfinder.

D&D 3 on steroids is the best way to describe Pathfinder. Simplified combat, better crafting rules, more feats, and many other tweaks make this a solid RPG.

Anything by Terry Eagleton

Eagleton is a critic and philosopher with an acerbic wit and a ranging, inquisitive intelligence. His many books cover contemporary topics with biting sarcasm, balanced criticism, and are surprisingly jargon-free. You won’t go wrong with After Theory, On Evil, The Task of the Critic, or Reason, Faith, and Revolution.

Miles Davis — The Columbia Legacy Boxed Sets

Columbia has been issuing these lusciously-illustrated boxed sets for years…I think there are 7 now. Each covers a specific period of Miles history with Columbia, and contains out takes, alternative versions, and other buried treasures. They are not cheap, but any Miles fan will be your friend forever if you put one of these babies under their tree. Standouts are the Complete In a Silent Way and Complete Bitches Brew.

Hicksville, by Dylan Horrocks

Horrocks recently showed up at Toronto’s International Festival of Authors to promote the latest reprint of Hicksville, a book that is very dear to my heart. I won’t give away the plot or the ending, as both are unique and will leave you breathless. If you love comics, you’ll love Hicksville.

Plastic Cameras: Toying With Creativity, by Michelle Bates 2nd Edition

This is the 2nd edition of a now-classic book on low-fi photography. Bates continues to focus on the Holga, but covers many other cameras, along with shooting techniques, updated film choices, how to develop, and and extensive gallery of professional artists. The resources at the end are worth the price of admission alone.

Everywhere Being is Dancing, by Robert Bringhurst

A companion to The Tree of Meaning (another beautiful gift choice), this essay collection is classic Bringhurst: humane, subtle, intelligent, and gently humorous. A linguist, poet, translator, typographer, and brilliant iconoclast, Bringhurst is a true Canadian Renaissance.

The list could go on…

But no one has unlimited funds. I hope some of this touched off some ideas of your own.

And hey.

Merry Christmas.

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