Holiday Gift Guide | Shop Local | Chicago Reader

Holiday Gift Guide 

Poetic nature films, an architecturally significant getaway, avant porn, perfume that smells like modern design, and more

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Standard, a scent developed by Comme des Garçons with Finnish furniture house Artek, fits well into CdG's line of unconventional "anti-perfume" fragrances (tar, ink, sequoia, and dry cleaning are some of the weirder ones). With Artek the goal was to create something that smelled like a wooden chair; Standard starts out strong and woody, with pine, cedar, and, most distinctly, pencil shavings. In the dry-down the woodsiness turns peppery with myrrh/incense notes. For girls or garçons. $110 for 100 ml at Barneys New York, 25 E. Oak, 312-587-1700,


So by now you've seen The Road and are stocking your bunker for postapocalyptic survival, right? Bedol's water-powered alarm clock—a brightly colored, water-drop shaped, non-PVC plastic timepiece that runs on nothing but the ions in tap water—might be just the thing. No batteries or charging needed; just refill every 6-12 weeks and maybe add a little lemon juice in between. Available in blue, pink, green, and charcoal. $29 at the MCA Store, 220 E. Chicago, 312-280-2660,


Before Planet Earth, there was Jean Painlevé. Over the course of his career, he made 200-odd nature films, many of them underwater documentaries that leaned more toward art than education. Earlier this year Criterion issued a three-DVD collection of some of his most inspiring works, Science Is Fiction: 23 Films by Jean Painlevé. The short films cover scientific-sounding topics such as "The Love Life of the Octopus," but they're dreamy (he flirted with surrealism and worked with Buñuel) and soundtracked with hot jazz. This set features the films in their original form, the French TV series Jean Painlevé Through His Films, Yo La Tengo's eight-film score The Sounds of Science, and an essay by film scholar Scott MacDonald. $31.96 at; prices vary at other online and retail outlets.


Perhaps your partner's idea of preparing a romantic dinner together means pouring a second bowl of Cinnamon Toast Crunch? The Heat and Spice Cooking School in Old Town offers one-session intensive couples' courses in Thai, Mexican, and Indian cooking (and there's a vegetarian option for each). In three hours you'll prepare and eat four courses, including dessert. Class size is limited to two couples, and the price includes all materials. In summer there's a couples' grilling class too. $185 per couple at Heat and Spice, 925 W. Cullom, 773-742-2331,


It's hard to remember how people communicated before the Internet, but Luc Sante's latest photo book takes us back—way, way back, all the way back to the time when you would have a photograph made and then reproduced as a postcard to send to far-off family to show them how, say, the tornado upturned the general store. In Folk Photography: The American Real-Photo Postcard 1905-1930, Sante, a writer, critic, and photography historian, has pulled together a collection of such cards created between 1905 and 1930 by amateurs and small-town professionals. Among the subjects: parade bands, floods, roosters, and the first train to cross the Dakotas. $24.95 at Quimby's, 1854 W. North, 773-342-0910,; a limited-edition set with an archive-quality print of one of Sante's favorites and a four-page signed essay about it is $74.95 at


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