2007 Politics Gift Guide
Creative Shopping Suggestions From the 'Chronicle' News Staff
Tales of the Really White Vigilanteby Michael Schliefke (Schliefkevision, $15)
"I've always been conscious of the fact artists are the first ones in and the first ones out," says Michael Schliefke, referring to the process of gentrification: First come the artists, drawn to ghettos and barrios by the cheap rents; then a coffee shop or bar; ultimately, condos capitalize on the cool, pricing out what drew them there in the first place – not to mention the original inhabitants. It may sound like heady stuff for a comic book, but Schliefke has amassed this jumble of ethical, financial, ethnic, and artistic considerations into the personal, political, and hilarious Tales of the Really White Vigilante.
Looking to "take a break from painting and write something," in February, Schliefke found himself at an Eastside party with a disturbingly high hipster quotient. "I looked around and the idea just hit me in a flash: Wouldn't it be funny if I just showed up in a Mexican wrestling mask and started yelling at them?" And on a bike-ride home that inebriated evening, the Really White Vigilante was born.
From its breathless prologue on, the comic takes the reader along a sightseeing tour of real Austin places and politicians, condensing the new-boom growth wars into a handful of panels. "I almost wanted to make it a valentine of sorts to East Austin and document that time we're in right now. I wanted to capture East Austin before it became ugly, new, modern urban living, and draw some of those old places before they go away."
Against this rapidly redeveloping backdrop, Schliefke considers the gentrification of his neighborhood through his own stories and experiences. "I'm pretty self-deprecating," Schliefke says. "I figured if I was gonna throw punches I wasn't gonna pull any." So while castigating the Eastside's new high-end condos and scenester watering holes, he also questions his complicity; the Vigilante's idea of fighting gentrification entails smirking anti-gentrification stencil art – a rebuke to the omnipresent "Yuppies Off the East Side" graffito. Furthering the satire are faux advertisements by collaborator Corey Goering, hawking the Hipster International Program and Che Guevara ring tones. – Wells Dunbar
Subscription to In Fact Daily or Quorum Reportwww.infactdaily.com, www.quorumreport.com
For the public affairs gadfly or Lege junkie, try a subscription to these online newsletters covering Austin and Capitol politics, respectively. Usually bought by those with a serious need to follow the action, In Fact Daily ($399 for elected officials and government employees, $1,099 for "professionals") offers reporting on seemingly every single board and commission meeting held in the Austin area, and Quorum Report ($275) provides constantly updated info on the wheeling and dealing that goes on under the pink dome. – Lee Nichols
The Hillary Nutcracker$24.99, www.stupid.com
The photo says it all: a classy holiday decoration with a practical purpose. Buy it and other sure-to-impress gifts at www.stupid.com. – Cheryl Smith
Your loved one's FBI file
Do you have an impossible-to-shop-for subversive on your gift list? Maybe your wild war-protesting Aunt Mavis, or your Uncle Mort, who's still searching for a second shooter on the Grassy Knoll? We've got the perfect gift: a (redacted) copy of your loved one's very own FBI file! OK, so they might not have one, but hey, finding out is free. To get started, log on to www.getmyfbifile.com. The site provides templates for federal Freedom of Information Act request letters that you can send to the FBI, or any number of other three-letter-agencies – like the Central Intelligence Agency or National Security Agency. You may not get the results in time for this holiday season – we all know how the feds like to stall! – but if you send it in now, you'll get a great jump on the 2020 holiday season. (If Aunt Mavis or Uncle Mort might not make it that long, you can still order up their files for their kids to enjoy by logging on to GetGrandpasFBIFile.com.) Shop ahead and avoid the rush! – Jordan Smith
2007 Capitol Ornament$18, Capitol Gift Shop, www.texascapitolgiftshop.com
Keeping the Capitol sparkling is an expensive process, so to help pay for it, the Capitol Preservation Project has released the latest in the annual series of ornaments based on the state house architecture. This time it's replicas of the ornate wood and glass doors, as painstakingly restored in the 1990s. Unlike the originals, these are 21/2 inches by 3 inches, and finished in gold. Proceeds go for repairs, restoration, and education programs, meaning the real things will stay on their hinges long after these miniature replicas have been packed away for next year. For Legislature fans, or people with really big trees, there's a 20% discount for orders of 25 or more, plus the last nine year's designs are available. – Richard Whittaker
The Lovely Mistresses of George W. Bush$16.95, www.thingstolookat.com/calendar
Here's one way to guarantee that the last year of the worst presidency in modern history goes down a little easier: this saucy 13-month calendar counting down to Jan. 20, 2009, W.'s final day in office. Along the way, we meet the burlesque babes benefiting from Bush's reign of terror and tax-cuts – slices of government cheesecake like Miss April millionaire Ivana Raze, Big Pharma nurse Robin DeSyck, and December chanteuse Miss Tara Fied ("Turn-ons: Dust masks. Duct tape. Plastic sheeting. And ... you!") – professionally and sexily lensed by photographer Burke Heffner. A portion of the calendar proceeds go to government watchdog groups. – W.D.
Truth and Consequences: Special Comments on the Bush Administration's War on American Valuesby Keith Olbermann (Random House, $24.95)
Journalism and commentary have become so blurred that it's all spun noise. But when MSNBC host Keith Olbermann announces that tonight's broadcast ends with a special comment, it's must-see TV. Sadly, a Dec. 26 publication date for this book means no stocking-stuffing, but it's a legitimate excuse for your gift being late. This collection represents the bluntest, most forthright and unflinching dissection of an administration that has taken smear tactics to a new low. Even without his passionate delivery to camera, these words are the white fury of a journalist who is mad as hell and won't take it any more. – R.W.
Mug of the Downtown Austin skyline, minus the Capitol and Frost Bank Tower ($9.95)
Think locally, shop globally, and forget about the state of Texas. This lovely made-in-China coffee mug, available at the Brodie Oaks Starbucks, is perfect for anyone who wishes the Lege would just go away, not to mention anyone longing for Austin's skyscraper-free days. Warning: mug's glazing could contain lead. – C.S.