Shopping for gifts shouldn’t suck. Getting gifts shouldn’t either. At Daily Arts, we’re here to help. We’ve compiled a list of the essential gifts this holiday season — both for your own wish list and as purchases for others — so no one has to waste time or money picking through useless junk at Wal-Mart. Because these are the things no college student should go without this holiday season.
“The Sopranos” The Complete Series
This behemoth — containing all 86 episodes of the critically acclaimed HBO series — weighs in at 10 pounds. The set is so massive Paulie Walnuts could’ve used it to finish off the Russian in “Pine Barrens.” Retailing at $400 (though you can find it much cheaper), it’s more expensive than a private room at the Bada Bing. Still, the die-hard “Sopranos” fan who gets off on minor production details — like the fact that Meadow Soprano’s Lexus, which she had so much trouble parking in the show’s infamous final scene, actually had an auto-park feature — will find the three days of special features and deleted scenes the only suitable tribute to a show defined by its layers and complexities.
“The Official High Times Pot Smoker’s Handbook”
Has your time at Michigan made you both a dedicated academic and a raging pothead? If so, this exhaustive guide to all things ganja will help you marry your passions together with over 200 pages of the stickiest grass literature around. Still new to the green? Learn how to deal with a dealer or smell-proof your dorm room. A veteran connoisseur? Try the recipe for “Cocoberry Ganja Goo Balls” or read up on the cultural and legal history of cannabis. Too high to read? Stare at the vivid photos of the dankest bud. The “Handbook” will be your second best friend — behind only your bong — in no time. For a resource so comprehensive, all it’s missing is an index. But really, who cares. Let’s roll another.
“Rock Band 2” for Xbox 360 and PS3
Best Buy, $59.99-$189.99
If “Rock Band” was last winter’s must-have music video game, then “Rock Band 2” is this winter’s must-have music platform. Though not a complete revamping of last year’s game, “Rock Band 2” is an expansion of the original in nearly every way. World tour, online and quick play have all been bolstered, and sturdier instruments make an already appealing package more attractive. But “2” truly shines in its depth of content. The game comes loaded with 84 new songs, but nearly all of the tracks from the original game can be ported over for $4.99, and over 300 more are available for download. “Guitar Hero: World Tour” might offer a flashier drum kit, but “Rock Band 2” turned EA’s video game into a legitimate music platform. If you’re going to pay for music, you might as well be able to play it.
“Best American Short Stories 2008”
Shaman Drum Bookshop, $14
Since 1915, the “Best American” series has been compiling the best in short stories. Yes, 1915. Gathering stories from Harper’s, The New Yorker and The Paris Review, the Best American series editors know short stories, and this year’s installment is no different. After a down year last year with Stephen King as editor, “BASS 2008” returns with editor Salman Rushdie and features stories from mainstays Alice Munro and T.C. Boyle, as well as the outstanding “Wizard of West Orange” by Steven Millhauser and beautifully rendered journey in “The King of Sentences” by Jonathan Lethem from The New Yorker. If you’re looking for other winning combinations from the BA series, check out their best nonfiction and “Non-Required Reading,” edited by Dave Eggers. There really isn’t a better collection of writing out there.
Fold-A-Way Cardio Stepper Exercise Machine
You glance out the window, still bleary-eyed, on Saturday morning, and a cold chill runs through your body just imagining that brutal walk to the gym. Don’t let the slush scare you: The arrival of winter doesn’t have to signal a hiatus from exercise with this Wall Street Journal-endorsed stair stepper from Brookstone. For college students especially, who are short on time and low on space, you can jump on this stair stepper without sacrificing your exam schedule and fold it up to store under the bed when you’re done. It tracks heartbeat, pace and counts total steps to keep your fitness routine in check this season.
“Frost/Nixon: The Original Watergate Interviews”
Thinking about seeing Ron Howard’s “Frost/Nixon” in the next month? Well, that’s fine. But why take a risk on a phony Hollywood adaptation when you could watch the real thing? Anderson Cooper? Larry King? Forget about it. David Frost was an artist. A hard, pushy and brilliant telejournalist, Frost never settled for the easy questions. Perhaps the most notorious, but seemingly unknown dialogue of the last century, the interview deserves epic treatment. On Dec. 2, Liberation Entertainment will release the first part in a series of DVDs showing the real interview. A greatest hits set with over 28 hours of footage, this is easily more stimulating than that “Mamma Mia!” special edition you were eyeballing.
“FIFA Soccer 09” for Xbox 360
Best Buy, $59.99
If there was ever any doubt who was king in the soccer video game world, let all doubters be smacked in the face by a Wayne Rooney strike: “FIFA Soccer 09” is the best soccer game ever made. “FIFA 09” makes the beautiful game come to life like never before. Playing it is easy; mastering it can take months. With new custom tactics and a redesigned “Be A Pro” mode, “FIFA 09” actually makes it feel like you’re on the field at Stamford Bridge or Emirates. Speed has never mattered more. Pissed that Cristiano Ronaldo could still be caught by a defenseman from Barnsley? No longer. But don’t expect the defensive A.I. to be weaker than Jell-O. Putting the ball in the back of the net is tough, but all the build up to a perfectly placed header feels perfectly in place at Emirates Stadium. “FIFA 09” is the closest you’ll ever get to playing soccer in Europe, minus the hookers and lingerie models.
“Mystery Science Theater 3000: 20th Anniversary Edition”
“Mystery Science Theater 3000” — the funniest show in TV history after “The Simpsons” — would make a great gift any time of the year, and this 20th anniversary box dropped right on time for the holiday season. It’s a bit pricey, but it’s worth it just to hear those riotous one-liners again as Mike Nelson, Joel Hodgson and their robot pals make wisecracks over four of the worst movies ever made. Especially hilarious in this set are “Werewolf” and the pathetic sci-fi thriller “Future War,” where rubbery dinosaurs attack a cast of woefully inappropriate-looking “heroes” (“Is this a halfway house for fat people?” Mike asks at one point). Plus, it comes with a bust of Crow T. Robot. Now that’s a gift.
Gibson Les Paul Supreme
Jimmy Page played a Gibson Les Paul. Pete Townshend of the Who impaled his hand on the whammy bar of a Les Paul. And Neil Young even named his Les Paul Old Black. The guitars’ star-studded users aside, Les Pauls are solid electric guitars with slim necks for fast finger working and solid bodies made of mahogany and maple woods. While Fender guitars might be the rock guitar your parents buy for your older brother, a Gibson guitar is the blues guitar you work 40 hours a week for and pay for with a debit card when you’re broke and starving. And who wouldn’t want to own the same kind of guitar Jimmy Page used for his Led Zeppelin violin bow solos?
The Darth Vader Toaster
If you like “Star Wars” and toast, which everyone should, then you owe it to yourself to pick up the most evil toaster known to man this holiday season. The Darth Vader Toaster burns an astonishingly accurate portrait of everyone’s favorite heavy-breathing father figure onto each slice of bread it toasts. Its sleek, black design fits both the dark-side aesthetic and any kitchen decor, and it includes all the features you expect from a modern toaster (apparently there’s more than one). With the unfortunate Star Wars prequels having tarnished the Vader name, this toast venture could be just the reputation boost he needs. If not, it should at least be a delicious boost for “Star Wars” fans everywhere. This holiday season, Sith Lords are part of a complete, balanced breakfast.