dear lazyweb: gift advice?

my very cool mother is turning 80. she is a culture vulture intellectual who loves the arts, literature, european travel, all that stuff. i want to get something memorable and appropriate. suggestions?

in lieu of suggestions you can leave “your mom” jokes if you want.

21 thoughts on “dear lazyweb: gift advice?

  1. Well, if she’s that cool, perhaps a subscription to McSweeney’s, although that seems rather mild for an eightieth birthday.
    Failing that, I would consider (depending on your budget), a work of art. At the baseline, at least get her a book of Georgia O’Keeffe prints. 🙂


  2. Holy moly! I would love to help, but I never had a muddah in any useful sense of the word, let alone a cultured one.
    Does she have a gang she would be happy to share something with, like a platinum mah-jong set? Teak tea set carved by tiny lemurs? I dunno, I guess I’m thinking nice present plus mom-style hipster points.
    I hope you find something cool! Let us know!


  3. does she want stuff or an experience
    this is critical–i know my grandmother (81) doesn’t like getting *things* anymore, other than beautiful useful things (cashmere wraps, a silk scarf). she prefers experiences, like tickets to things she enjoys (any show in las vegas, as she is no cultural maven, lol)


      1. Re: does she want stuff or an experience
        Fourth’d – my older family members for the most part doesn’t want “stuff” anymore, they want experiences and memories.


  4. Or, if not Switzerland, how about a weekend trip with you to a city with real art: a hotel overnight, a play or dance performance, a couple of museums, a nice meal?
    Also, since becoming a nominal mom (although I prefer “parent”), my brain has erased all “Your mama so…” jokes. Interesting!


  5. my grandmother is a lot like your mother (culture junkie, artistically inclined, nearly blacklisted during the 50s), and aside from items i’d handknit for her, my grandmother loved to receive (a) cashmere items (cashmere socks are great; a cashmere robe is a complete luxury!), (b) high quality alcohol, (c) classical/jazz mixtapes (awesome), and (d) meals at nice restaurants.
    my grandmother didn’t have much of a sweet tooth, but if your mother does, i’m sure that some high quality, sought-after sweets would be a hit.
    so, i say you take her out to dinner, suck up the corkage fee and bring a nice bottle of hooch, and then present her with some cashmere item while simultaneously trying to shoot truffles into her mouth while blasting dizzy in the background. WHOOOO BIRTHDAY!


  6. hmmmmmmmmmm.
    Rosetta Stone in a language she’d be interested in learning?
    Terry Belanger had a bunch of artists do character sketches of him for his xmas cards last year and it was awesome.
    Gather your favorite family photos and scan them and make them into a nice hardbound book. Write some of your favorite memories to include.
    Personalized letterpress stationary.
    Let us know what you choose!


  7. I’m going to throw my hat in with the ‘travel’ people and add a twist – Take her on a fairly long european trip and record the whole thing for posterity on video (tastefully, not AMERICANTOURISTSY’ALL style)


  8. Gift advice
    With no consideration to scale or cost:
    * Codex Seraphinianus. Maybe a not huge-and-heavy edition. The edition I have is actually kinda large and
    actually kinda heavy.
    * a metal thing from <a href=
    >, one of the mini-metal,
    non-sharp-edges ones–
    <a href=
    <a href=
    >bam!… you have to feel it to believe it.
    You don’t want to put it down. You don’t want to stop
    staring at it. Speaking of which:
    * a copy of the “FINALLY they put it all in one
    book” Borges <a href=
    >Collected [and complete] Fictions
    * a kalimba: <a href=
    > has them, tuned properly, for and by actual musicians, as opposed to tourist kalimbas that just go plink plink. I think they’re pentatonic, not sure.
    * a tangram set: <a href=
    >this thing is a book plus a plain-jane wood tangram
    set. Tangrams are good fun for trying to work against a pattern, or just idly making shapes on your own. Spatial perception brain-exercising stuff.
    And later, you can get her a nicer tangram set anywhere in the $50 – $50,000 range.
    * a piece of Southwest jewelry. The Zunis are
    the best jewelers on the planet, and they sometimes make
    stuff that doesn’t scream “I’M FROM SANTA FE!” but instead whispers
    “this is from hyperspace”. A particular Zuni bracelet, a crazy one-off, is
    on my short mental list of “one that got away”.
    I think the Zuni jeweler store (run by the Pueblo) might have a shop in Beverly Hills or Venice Beach or something– at least as of a decade ago when I saw that as one of the place-names on the side of one of their fancy fancy bags.
    * As to Southwest pottery: my aesthetic leans toward occasionally Navajo, but then really jumps right at Acoma Pueblo and Jemez Pueblo stuff. You’ll know the good stuff when you see it. That’s just my recommendation. Also: size, quality, price (and price-where) are often independent variables.
    My favorite piece in my house is a sort of discus-shaped thing, a “seed pot”, maybe four inches across and one inch high, with just two lizards immaculately painted on it, no design. But I’ve also gone nuts and bought big complicated-patterned pots, before and since.
    * Hopi black-on-black pottery– if they still make that stuff. Maybe it’s all a jillion-dollar museum pieces.
    * Pottery from Mata Ortiz, which is like Acoma/Jemez,
    but on peyote. Not just the potter being on mescaline, you being on mescaline.
    But sometimes too much mescaline. A lot too much.
    * I would say to get a good sandpainting, but I once
    scoured all of Albuquerque’s shops and, at that moment, found two that
    were at all worth even considering– buried in mountains
    of crap.
    I have a beautiful sandpainting,
    but I Knew A Guy.  But maybe now all the good stuff
    is out and about and online.
    Getting more minimal:
    * a Tibetan “singing bowl”. Fun fact: you don’t have to WHAM on those to get a forever-resonating effect. You can make a little tap and enjoy just the quiet forever resonances.
    * a single, aesthetically immaculate, Depression glass teacup & saucer, or mug, which can be her “Well, I don’t know why I use it every morning, I just do” cup. I would be partial to cobalt blue, as having a stronger presence than the other stuff, but it’s an open issue.
    (Why a single one? a set is vulgar and showy. A single is Just For You, and is <em
    >quantitative minimalism.)
    Super-bonus if it’s clear uranium glass, the fancy kind that actually glows– not by radioactivity, but by absorbing ambient UV and dropping its energy into the visible spectrum, right around the color green. (The actual radioactivity you get in holding and drinking
    from such a thing is lab-gear measurable, but is– supposedly–
    orders of magnitude less than normal background radiation–
    at any given moment, not just “well, over the course of a day…”. But, ya know, fact check that.)


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