Politics Gift Guide
Deck the halls – or get decked – with these last-minute suggestions from the News staff
A Curriculum for Adult Learning$18-30, your favorite bookstore
Dreading spending the holiday season with those relatives who get their worldview from Glenn Beck e-mails? Time to drop some book-learnin' on them. Start them with European history and economic theory (Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies, by Jared Diamond, W.W. Norton & Co., $24.95), then bring them up to speed on environmental science (Field Notes From a Catastrophe: Man, Nature, and Climate Change, by Elizabeth Kolbert, Bloomsbury, $22.95) and the latest contemporary evolutionary theory (The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution, by Richard Dawkins, Free Press, $30), and then explain how the British learned that invading Afghanistan is a bad idea (The Great Game: The Struggle for Empire in Central Asia, by Peter Hopkirk, Kodansha International, $18). It may not change their minds, but it might keep them quiet at the dinner table.
A Six-Pack of Beer, Bought On-Site at Your Favorite Texas BreweryPriceless
Oh, sorry: You can't have it. No matter how much money you have. In yet another stupid example of the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission's arbitrary rules, state law forbids breweries from selling their product on the premises, even though wineries are allowed to do so. And the Wholesale Beer Distributors of Texas are determined to keep it that way: They single-handedly killed bills that would have allowed such sales in the 2007 and 2009 legislative sessions. Oh, and FYI: They just endorsed Gov. Rick Perry for re-election. What can you do about it? One suggestion is go to Facebook and join Texas Microbrewery Advocates.
Santa Baby, It's Cold OutsideA million, give or take
If you're wondering where you and your baby should be keeping warm when the next big blizzard hits (remember last Friday's devastating flurries?), consider the predicament of those Downtown real estate marketeers. According to them – and ex-Mayor Will Wynn – there are only 400 condos available for sale Downtown for the next five years! Buy one (or two) for the holidays, while you still can! For example, this week's featured marvels are an 1,869-square-foot, two-bed, two-bath beauty at the Plaza on Republic Square lofts, complete with a private terrace with hot tub (at only $1.25 million, it's a steal!), and a 1,925-square-foot penthouse beauty over on Rainey Street – a lovely two bedroom with 2.5 bath with "breathtaking" views of Lady Bird Lake, a rooftop pool, and if you get lost or lonely, a 24-hour concierge. Knocked down to $995,000, you can't afford not to snap it up. On this scale, Christmas wrapping is a little dicey, but the concierge does it all. This and more at www.austintowers.net/at/downtown_condo_listings.html.
You Can Go for That (Can Do)$25.95, LBJ Museum Store
Like thinking about the happy days when there was a First Family from Texas – we mean, one that wasn't a complete embarrassment? Why not give the activist in your life a replica of the upbeat paperweight that Lady Bird Johnson kept on her White House office desk? One side is inscribed with "Can Do" (Lyndon B. Johnson's highest praise); the other has a Chinese idiom that translates to: "When someone acquires the discipline of learning, then doing the work comes easily." A reminder that Texas can produce real policymakers and environmentalists if it tries. The LBJ Museum Store: 2313 Red River, 232-2396, www.lbjstore.com.
A Park!The sky's the limit, Austin Parks Foundation
What to give the loved one who has everything? How about a gift to Austin's parks in his or her name? A $35 donation to the Austin Parks Foundation provides a cubic yard of mulch to nurture aging Barton Springs trees, $50 buys three shovels to plant new saplings, and $100 buys a weed wrench to remove invasive species. Or donate $500 to fund a new picnic table. Want to really make a splash? How about a parks legacy gift? For $10 million or so, you could lead the funding for a stellar reinvention of Waterloo Park programmed by Project for Public Spaces. Perhaps the city would be so tickled they'd name the park in your loved one's honor – think "Your Name Here" Waterloo Park. Or with a $10,000 gift, honor your loved one (and the kids and families of Austin) by helping to fund a "Your Name Here" splash fountain in Republic Park Downtown. Give at www.austinparks.org. The whole community will thank you!
Texas Tribune$50 ($25, college students)
Former Texas Monthly Editor/President Evan Smith certainly isn't the first to try nonprofit journalism in the Lone Star State (the Texas Observer beat him to that by a good 55 years), but he's the first to try it in such a high-dollar, high-profile way (think of it as a regional NPR) and in a strictly Web-only platform. Is it the future of journalism? Only if you help keep them afloat. Buy your loved one (or yourself) a membership at www.texastribune.org.
'Moat to Go' Moat Construction Kit$78,704, NIMBYCO
Landed gentry: Up in arms because a bar, affordable-housing development, or – heaven forbid – live music venue has the nerve to open on the outskirts of your neighborhood association? Well, NIMBYCO's "Moat to Go" package has everything you need to preserve the sepia-toned status of your historic neighborhood. Each made-to-order kit contains locally sourced rock and gravel, plus certificates for earth-movers and day laborers – everything you need to dig a moat around your special slice of Austin. Boost your property values and give those unwashed interlopers no choice but to get off your lawn! (First 20 purchases come with a free Boards and Commissions appointment.)