#569: The 1,001 Chicago Afternoons Holiday Gift Guide

December 16th, 2015

Although Hanukkah is over, there is actually another gift-giving holiday in December.

Followers of the sect known as Christianity celebrate a special day called “Christ-mas” in which trees are slaughtered, cookies are left for fat, flying elvish deer-herders and Irishmen receive massive amounts of birds.

In case you want to purchase a gift for this regional folk festival, here are some ideas that will support a few of the people and organizations I’ve written about in the 150 stories that have appeared on this site so far in 2015.

A Tactile Magic Act

For the past 19 years, 25-year-old Jeanette Andrews has only had one job. Stage magician. And yes, the math checks.

On Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2016, Andrews debuts her new show at the Museum of Contemporary Art. “Thresholds” will be an immersive magic experience by a woman who considers slight of hand a fine art. The tricks aren’t just designed to fool the eye, but to fool all five senses.

“Thresholds” is free with museum admission ($12 for adults, $7 for students and seniors), but cheapskates delight: The museum is free to Illinois residents on Tuesdays. If your loved ones ask, I’ll tell them it was really, really expensive.

If you like the illustration that accompanied my profile of Andrews, artist Marine Tempels takes commissions.

Psalm One’s Newest Album

She wasn’t mentioned by name, but rapper and Englewood native Psalm One was one of the readers at the “Welcome to the Neighborhood” reading I organized with Rachel Hyman at the MCA in January.

Psalm One’s newest album “P.O.L.Y.” or “Psalm One Loves You” was released in September of this year and can be purchased on iTunes. Psalm One’s smart, breezy style and lyrics have made her one of the freshest voices in hip-hop, pop and soul, not just out of Chicago, not just recently. Period.

If you want to learn where Psalm One gets it from, pair the album with a copy of the coming-of-age memoirs “Old School Adventures from Englewood–South Side of Chicago” by her mother, journalist Elaine Hegwood Bowen.

A Cambodian Sorcerer Hunt

What do you do when you find out your girlfriend’s dad is a sorcerer? If you’re Uptown-based journalist Ryun Patterson, you use the experience as inspiration for an interactive multimedia exploration of the changing world of traditional Cambodian magic.

“Vanishing Act: A Glimpse into Cambodia’s World of Magic” is available on print and Kindle at Amazon and downloadable for iStuff on iTunes for a holiday special of $9.99, down from $14.99.

It’s full of photographs, interviews, videos, interactive maps and pages and pages of nuanced writing detailing how the Southeast Asian nation’s traditional folk healing and fortune-telling is disappearing in some ways, going digital in others. I got it for my dad for his birthday, so I can vouch.

Oh, and Patterson married the sorcerer’s daughter.

Kink Lectures

Formed when museums wouldn’t take a dying man’s gay erotic paintings and interested collectors only wanted to hide them away, the Leather Archives & Museum in Rogers Park has become a home to all things kink and fetish.

There’s a prurient interest to a museum filled with butt plugs, whips, masks and sexy books, but the museum is an intentionally open and free space dedicated to preserving art, craft and writing that celebrates a part of life some see as shameful, dirty, to be tossed away or hidden. Whether it’s your sexuality or not, it’s someone’s.

Although tickets or a membership to the museum could be a fun thing for Santa to leave under the tree, depending on your tree and your Santa, there are also a few upcoming events of note, including lectures on kink and fetish culture and, in February, the museum’s first overnight lock-in.

Superhero Circus

More of a pre-Christmas extravaganza, but this Friday take your loved ones to Acrobatica Infiniti’s last planned show at the Uptown Underground.

Acrobatica Infiniti is a nerd circus, a celebration of all things geek and acrobatic. People tumble as superfolk, juggle as Jedi or cavort as cartoons.

My profile of the group became part of a series of circus performer profiles, with looks at Captain Hammer and his groupie, Mister Terrific and the circus’ resident Catwoman/Dark Phoenix/Breakdancing Yoshi.

And in case you liked that illustration of Dark Phoenix in action, artist Emily Torem takes commissions too.

A Night at the Turtle Races

Bowmanville bar Big Joe’s 2 & 6 has turtle racing. Take your friends.

A Really Good Photographer

OK, I don’t know what you would hire a photographer for. That’s your lookout. But AJ Kane, who did the photography for the interactive exploration of a hidden tunnel running through the downtown, is for hire.

He’s a good guy. Check out his stuff.

Little Stubby

Not to be confused with WWI hero bull terrier mutt Sergeant Stubby, Little Stubby is the nogoodnik kid brother of corrupt Chicago cop Johnny Kelly, who was competing for a tap-dancing stripper’s affections with a guy who pretends to be a robot in a nightclub’s storefront window in the 1953 insane nonsense film “City That Never Sleeps.”

You can rent that insane nonsense (seriously, the City of Chicago itself takes human form to narrate in the voice of Francis the Talking Mule) at Odd Obsession, a Bucktown video store and mecca for all things obscure and cinematic. See about a gift certificate, buy some merch or just drop by the store to check out the exhibit of Ghanaian movie posters.

Dropping my bouncy, light and frankly hilarious tone (that “regional folk festival” line was frickin’ gold), I want to support people who bring me the strange and unique ways people across the planet have expressed themselves.

Hip-hop, magic, journalism, acrobatics, movies, kink, even turtle racing — all these people and groups are the real deal. This “Christ-mas,” go beyond shopping locally. Shop exceptionally. Support the unique and beautiful.

The worst that could happen is you’ll experience something you’ll never see again.

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Listen to a CTA street band’s holiday song

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