Gift guide: supporting the long tail

by Eszter Hargittai on December 14, 2006

In the spirit of supporting the long tail, I thought I’d link to a few nifty items you likely won’t find in stores, but that are just as worthy as many of the items that are backed by big marketing budgets.

I found the booklet “Why Mommy is a Democrat” one day by clicking on a sponsored link in GMail (the line just above the message area). I liked the idea of communicating a message of this sort to little kids so I ordered a copy. I like the way the author and illustrator approached the topic. The idea of self-publishing something of this sort is also interesting. I purposefully use the word booklet instead of book despite the information on the site. The “book” feels more like a booklet. That doesn’t detract from its value. I mention it in the interest of realistic expectations. Cost: $10 including shipping in North America (with some possible savings for bulk orders).

On a different note, I highly recommend the California Soups and Salads 2006-07 Academic Calendar by Susan Beach. It covers September, 2006-December, 2007. Each month comes with a very inviting photo of a wonderful soup or salad dish plus its recipe on the side. Susan is our resident chef here at the Center and is an amazing cook. This could be a great gift for a myriad of people. Cost: $10 including shipping.

Moving on, I found the jams and jellies maker McKenzie’s Own at a summer fair last year and thought their products were divine. I bought two spreads: Mom’s Horseradish Spread and the White Chocolate Raspberry Spread. Both were great. Cost: $6.50 each plus $6.00 shipping.

I only have experience with online ordering regarding the first product, the others I bought in person. Full disclosure: I have no financial interest in promoting these products, I bought them and liked them, that’s all there is to it. I do know Susan personally though.

The site Etsy hosts lots of independent sellers although some of the products there tend to be on the expensive side. Lulu lets people self-publish books, calendar, etc. Of course, one can also find independents on ebay and on various corners of the Web. But what are those corners? Do share your favorites, I’m always curious to find the hidden gems.

This is second in the Gift guide series. Next week: giving through donations.


by John Holbo on December 14, 2006

Homecoming is, for me, always an invitation to unnatural acts – specifically, reading the Wall Street Journal editorial page. (Hey. Dad’s a subscriber.) For example, this Bret Stephens piece (Dec. 12), “Honor Killing” [maybe a web link, but I’m not seeing it]:

Alexis de Tocqueville observed that in America morals count for a lot while honor counts for relatively little. Reading the lamentable report of the Iraq Study Group, it shows.

The operative word in the ISG report is “should,” which is what grammarians call a defective verb. The report easily contains more than a 100 shoulds, varying tonally from hectoring to plaintive to nitpicking …

By contrast the word “honor” appears just once: “We also honour the many Iraqis who have sacrificed on behalf of their country,” writes ISG co-chairman James Baker and Lee Hamilton, who also put in a kind word for our Coalition allies.

But honor isn’t simply a sentimental verb. It is a decisive principle of action in all foreign policy, never more so than in the honor-obsessed Middle East. It is not about good intentions, wisdom or virtue, but about appearances and perception. “Honor acts solely for the public eye,” wrote Tocqueville. In practice, it means standing by one’s friends and defying one’s enemies, whatever the price. During the 1973 Yom Kippur War Richard Nixon ordered the military resupply of Israel in its hour of need not because he was sympathetic to Jews – he wasn’t – but because he understood that the U.S. could not be seen to let a client down. Nine months later, he was accorded a ticker-tape parade through the streets of Cairo.

Then Stephens accuses the authors of the report of failing ‘the test of honor’ by conceding, with their first sentence, that “the situation in Iraq is grave and deteriorating.” Then it actually gets worse. (And, obviously, we could back up and point out that there are problems with reducing honor to ‘help your friends, hurt your enemies’. This confusion, I’ll wager, has more than a little to do with the man’s bizarre allergy to ‘should’, in a document that is supposed to recommend a course of action.) But let’s go back to the Tocqueville quote. It’s actually interesting to read how the quoted passage continues: [click to continue…]