Don’t let the 65 degree weather fool you – it’s holiday time! It is always a good idea to let those folks who have been extra nice know that their efforts have been appreciated.
With less than two weeks of Shopmas to go, your gift list is probably down to those difficult to shop for folks. Choosing just the right memento for that favorite trader, fund manager or analyst is never easy, but we are here to solve your problems.
Some of you might wonder how this squares with my tendency to push back against the excesses of our consumerist society. This list of gifts, along with the occasional snarky aside, is driven by combination of philosophical digressions a respect for outstanding craftsmanship. Make of that hybrid what you will; besides its fun.
As in our prior gift lists, all of these items have been hand selected by yours truly, free from influence of the PR flacks and other media trolls who haunt my inbox. No compensation is accepted for these recommendations; any revenue generated via Amazon is donated to charity. (I will make an exception to this rule for the manufacturers of high performance automobiles).
On to the list!
This year saw the passing of Oliver Sachs; I fell in love with his keen intellect and his lovely prose so many years ago with The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat: And Other Clinical Tales ($9); I have not gotten to his autobiography yet, On the Move: A Life, published earlier this year. I expect it to be as delightful as his prior writings.
Rise of the Robots: Technology and the Threat of a Jobless Future ($20) was selected by both the FT / McKinsey as their “Business Book of the Year.” The book makes the case that automation is a unique historical disruption, a “fundamental shift from most tasks being performed by humans to one where most tasks are done by machines.” Its next up in my queue.
The counterpoint to Rise of the Robots is The Library: A World ($50) a fascinating look into the history of library buildings across time and space. It makes one wonder what the future holds for not only these once magnificent repository of knowledge, but all libraries.
Speaking of robots, 2015 will go down as the year drones became ubiquitous. Last year, I recommended the Phantom 2 ($899). But before you drop big bucks on a drone (and promptly crash it), let me suggest learning to fly one properly on a cheaper model. The Syma X5SC Explorers 2 quad copter can work well as a trainer, with swappable rotors and other parts that you are likely to break in a crack up. Keep crashing it unto you feel your flying skills are good enough for the $1000 units.
Alternatively, you can get the Lily Tracking drone ($819). Slip the provided tracker into a pocket, and it follows you, shooting HD video for 20 minutes until its batteries drain (it auto lands before they hit empty). Shock proof, water-resistant, see the accompanying videos are pretty astounding (Note LILY won’t be shipping until August 2016) .
For the Star Wars fan on your list, the obvious gift is the Sphero BB-8 App-Enabled Droid ($150). It is an amazing piece app controlled of technology, operating in ways you may not have thought possible. (If your dog likes these sorts of things, it will become an expensive paperweight quickly). For the more casual fan, consider this Star Wars Han Solo in Carbonite Beach Towel ($20).
My most listened to album this year has been the new Ben Folds, So There. His most recent work with yMusic — a NYC 7-piece classical chamber music ensemble that does lovely collaborations – is a brilliant return to form of his earlier pop music genius.
At home, I really like my Sonos wireless system for causal background music. Its great for things like your iTunes library or Pandora. But the newest shiny thing in audio is the Phantom by French company Devialet ($2000-2300). The reviews have been utterly stellar (See Wired or Robb Report). I have yet to hear them, but it is my mission in 2016 to do so.
Also on my naughty or nice list is the Sennheiser HD 800 Over-Ear Circum-Aural Dynamic Headphone ($1200). If you want to hear music the way producers in the control room do when cutting albums, there are your cans.
For the wine love on your list, I find the Coravin Model Two ($350) intriguing. You can tap into any bottle of wine and pour a glass, at any time, without pulling the cork. A thin needle enters the cork, and non-reactive argon replaces the wine. This eliminates the excuse of not opening a nice bottle because you only want a glass and don’t want to waste a good vintage bottle. Available from the manufacturer or Amazon, at $350.
I am intriguing by this Rube Goldberg looking device, the Yama Glass 25 Cup Cold Drip Maker Bamboo Straight Frame. At $500, that better be some fantastic cold brewed coffee. Consider a Starbucks gift card ($25-100) as a reasonable alternative.
For the trader who is making your P&L look better, I suggest Van Cleef & Arpels’ Complication Poétique Midnight Planétarium ($245,000). It uses its entire dial to displaying the position of the planets and sun. It literally shows six planets rotating a tiny version of the sun in real time. This means Mercury will circle the sun on your watch face in 88 days, just like the real planet does. Venus is 224, Earth takes a year, and Saturn will circumnavigate your dial in 29 and a half years. Puts the whole solar system – and the concept of time – into sharper perspective.
For the alpha-generator on your list, Ferrari is going to have to take a back seat, to the most interesting design of the year: the all new Ford GT ($400,000). It uses a fuel-efficient turbocharged V-6 to generate 600 horsepower, which stocks to the track courtesy of one of the most spectacular aerodynamic shapes ever to come out of Dearborn Michigan, or anywhere else for that matter. It is gorgeous, as well.
That’s our list for 2015. Enjoy the holidays!