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Presents people might actually want, based on what we actually want

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Man in a can

Have we men ceded too much ground to our more delicate counterparts in the aroma department? Are today's fragrances too floral, threatening to domesticate our noses into the sensory equivalent of the common house cat? Heavens to Murgatroyd, sometimes you need a Feblast, not a Febreze, for a newborn man cave—or an odor that calls for a roundhouse kick to the face. Empower your buddies with Archer, a locally made air spray that offers "air superiority" over stank and feminine smells. It comes in three manly smelling varieties: European sports car, hunting lodge, and distillery. One spray and that clingy woman coming between you and your best bro will get the message. As a gift, Archer doesn't say "wash more" to a fetid friend or a rank relative so much as "be manlier." Years of watching men twice my size hurtling at each other over a football (now there's a marketable scent, Archer) have me thinking that's an easier pill to swallow. Asher Klein $14, sold at Haberdash and archermen.com.


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Insults on display

The boatloads of patriotic crafts out there plastered with the Chicago flag are all well and good, but sometimes one's love for the city is tempered by more complicated feelings. Slightly Insulting Chicago Posters, launched this summer by writer RC Jones and designers Jeni Brendemuehl and Lauren Schroer, gets it. They started their line of posters with Logan Square ("Come for the fun. Stay because you got shot.") and now offer more than 20 others, including Streeterville ("Proof that you don't have to move to the suburbs to find a cultureless neighborhood"), Bronzeville ("Your time is now! Just kidding, it was the first half of the 19th century"), Uptown ("Roaring Twenties charm meets psych ward with no walls"), Rogers Park ("Perfect if you like Epcot's diversity but hate how clean and safe it is at night"), Printers Row ("Your idea of a summer festival is a book fair. Nerds."), and even the suburbs ("Where the hopes, dreams, and aspirations of your twenties go to die"). There are also designs on their Tumblr (slightlyinsultingchicagoposters.tumblr.com) that aren't yet for sale but will be eventually. Julia Thiel $18, etsy.com/shop/SlightlyInsultingChi.


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Chicago via atomizer

One might think that a Chicago-based perfume's scent would be a blend of Blommer Chocolate factory, Garrett popcorn, and Chicago River. Fortunately that is not the case with Tru Blooms Chicago. While savoring its bouquet, I detected notes of spring water, smoke, charred oak, and just a hint of tannin. (Wait a sec, that was the bourbon I was drinking last night.) Tru Blooms describes the scent as "reminiscent of a day along the shores of Lake Michigan," and actual test subjects called it "light," "fresh," and "floral." Floral is right, as the perfume is distilled from roses, lavender, lilies, and violets grown in actual local gardens and urban farms all over the city (including on Park District land). Quantities are limited, of course. Jerome Ludwig $65 for 3.4 ounces, $38 for 1.7 ounces, available online and at locations listed on trubloomschicago.com.


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The gift of Blab

Everyone knows books make great gifts. Illustrated books make really great gifts. Illustrated books by San Francisco-based Last Gasp make super-duper gifts. So out of all the many illustrated books out there, including those from Last Gasp, why single out Blab World 2 as especially giftworthy? I do so because it's compiled by Chicago-based designer Monte Beauchamp. Beauchamp is no slouch in the design field, having received the 2012 Richard Gangel Art Director Award from the Society of Illustrators (keeping company with the likes of the 2011 recipient, New Yorker art director Francoise Mouly, no less). For the second annual Blab! anthology of visual art, Beauchamp has curated a wide array of comics art, illustrated stories, and artwork by an equally wide array of artists, and it's all printed in bold, resplendent colors per usual Last Gasp standards. Feature articles include a tribute to comics artist Will Eisner and a paean to the old Zap Comix. Jerome Ludwig $24.95; if it's not in your neighborhood bookshop, order it at lastgasp.com.


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Move over, bunny ears

Distort and wrench your fingers into a boring wolf, goose, or bunny no more. Owly Shadow Puppets outdo blase shadow-puppet theater by creating cartoonlike, often fantastical characters, as based on founder Andrea Everman's ink drawings. "Carefully designed to function as toys and art objects," the puppets are laser-cut from heavy mat board and occasionally built as a scene—like with the "Robot Moonscape" or "Owl Treescape." Other designs include a yeti, T. rex, and sea monster, some with multiple movable joints. Everman notes that because the puppets are attached to thin bamboo sticks and do have wires, they may not be appropriate for children under four years old to handle. As for adults, sitting alone in your darkened apartment and designing a shadow-puppet universe is a totally acceptable thing to do. Kevin Warwick $12-$35, etsy.com/shop/owlyshadowpuppets.


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Gimme your digits

Maybe there's something a little off about wearing what appears to be a severed finger around your neck, but Laura Prieto-Velasco, founder of Hunter Gatherer Jewelry, says the fingers from her "Nomad" jewelry series have been one of her most popular items. They do have a sort of morose, dark charm. Cast from Prieto-Velasco's own finger—she'll do personal casting if you're able to swing by her studio—the jewelry comes in natural bronze, white bronze, or yellow brass and is often made to order, though she always has a few on hand. In addition to the "basic" finger necklaces, she's also designed homages to both Goldfinger and Laura Palmer's character in Twin Peaks—the latter complete with a small "R" underneath the fingernail. Kevin Warwick $125, $225 for personal casting, huntergathererjewelry.com.

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