2013 Holiday Gift Guide: Books and Documentaries

Whether you’re shopping for someone that likes to kick back with a good book or graphic novel, or enjoys watching documentaries and other non-fiction films, you’ll find several great suggestions here.

Click on the image next to each item to purchase it online, and for more gift ideas, check out the other categories in our Holiday Gift Guide.

Before Watchmen Collections

Have you ever wondered what happened before the events of “Watchmen”? Creator Alan Moore has been pretty outspoken about his thoughts on the matter, but that didn’t stop DC Comics from enlisting some of the industry’s best writers and artists to create eight new miniseries exploring the histories of characters like Nite Owl, Rorschach, The Comedian, Dr. Manhattan, Silk Spectre and Ozymandias. Serving as a prequel to the original 12-issue series, the “Before Watchmen” comics have since been collected in four hardcover editions, and the end result is a pretty mixed bag, especially since each collection features at least two characters per book. Though that’s good news for diehard fans, those that want to read J. Michael Straczynski’s Nite Owl series but couldn’t care less about his Dr. Manhattan story, for instance, are screwed. Additionally, some of the series are much better than others, with Darwyn Cooke’s Minutemen yarn the clear standout. Still, if you know someone who loves “Watchmen” that doesn’t mind that the property’s original creators aren’t involved, “Before Watchmen” makes for interesting supplemental reading.

American Experience: JFK

The story of John F. Kennedy is one of the most fascinating in American history. Regardless of your opinion of our 35th President, he will always be an iconic figure in American history, due to both the pivotal nature of his presidency and his tragic assassination. Debates will rage on about his performance in office and the circumstances surrounding his assassination, and his prolific adventures with the opposite sex have been fodder for the tabloids for decades. His story will captivate anyone who appreciates American history, so any documentary is likely to maintain the attention of viewers. But it’s hard to imagine anyone telling the story better than the folks at PBS who produce “American Experience.” They have consistently told the story of America through its presidents and other influential Americans in a series of compelling documentaries. “JFK” easily lives up to that legacy, and it’s a must-see, as this year we marked the 50th anniversary of that terrible day in Dallas. Like other “American Experience” documentaries, this is not just a story of the JFK presidency, but also the man.

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Dirty Sanchez Nation: The Ultimate Illustrated DICKtionary of Obscene Sex Terms

“Dirty Sanchez Nation” author Evan Marz acknowledges in the very beginning of his book that its sole reason for existing is for educational and offensive purposes only. He’s not suggesting that anyone do the things described here – he’s just compiling a a one-stop list of various acts of sexual depravity so that you’ll know what they mean when someone mentions them in conversation. And for that, we suppose that he should be thanked. God knows we learned a lot reading “Dirty Sanchez Nation”; as for the offensive part, well, that’s true, but not in the way that Marz might think.

Let’s put aside for a moment the commentary that comes with a book like this, that it is a symptom of just far pornography has crossed into mainstream pop culture, and whether that is a good thing. The real problem with “Dirty Sanchez Nation” is not the subject matter (though that is a problem) – it’s how the subject matter is handled. Simply put, Marz is an atrocious writer, both technically and creatively. When he’s not writing such grammatically plagued lines as these:

“Typically your so drunk you just keep eating.”
“Just as you’re about to burst, pull out and shot your load into her…”
“For all the girl’s who want to…”

He’s spinning poetry like this:

“When you hit her in the shitter with the one-eyed critter…”
“Smacking someone in the face with your purple headed yogurt slinger.”

Lame, lame, lame, lame, lame. It reads as if he wrote the entire book in an hour, and didn’t ask anyone to copy edit it. (There’s hardly a comma in sight.) The organization of the chapters is also laughably bad, with several call backs coming before the setup, a cardinal sin of comedy. For example, why list a variation on Butterface before listing Butterface, or create a section called “Cumshot Surprises” and list Facial, the most basic move, last? Lists like this should go from the simplest moves to more complex (or in this case, sicker) stunts, yes? And really, he couldn’t look up the proper spelling of Sasquatch? (It’s spelled ‘Sausquash’ here, ugh.) We’re also convinced that there is no such thing as a Flaming Amazon, because no woman would ever let a guy set her pubes on fire.

And yet, these many things still aren’t the book’s biggest problem.

No, the biggest problem is the book’s tone, which is of the ultra-misogynist, ‘Bitches ain’t shit’ variety. Take, for example, his description of a Strawberry Shortcake, missing punctuation and all: “Smacking some dirty whore in the face after you just blew your man goo on it creating a red and white pastry treat look.” Some dirty whore? Is Marz that unaware of the deep-seated self-loathing in his words? Another move begins, “While getting head from some skank…” Yes, the 17 girls you bragged of fellating you freshman year in your bio must be very proud to know that you think they’re skanks. The big question, though is: if you had sexual relations with 17 different women in a year, guess what that makes you?

The line between sex and violence here is stretched to the limit, and while Marz didn’t invent this stuff, he’s selling several of them like they might be fun to do, despite how humiliating, irresponsible or harmful they might be to the other party. There is a way to mine comedy from this subject; unfortunately, Marz couldn’t be bothered to take the extra effort to find it, and chose the easier, ‘ha ha girls are all dumb sluts’ path instead. We’re not sure which is worse: his demeaning view of women, or his lazy, lowest-common-denominator approach to comedy. Look at those chapter titles: “Gay Shit”? “Ugly Bitches”? This book is aimed squarely at the douchebag crowd.

“Dirty Sanchez Nation” is informative but needlessly hostile, not to mention occasionally ridiculous (is there really a phrase for blowing snot in a girl’s vagina, as if anyone would ever do such a thing?). It’s a book for people who think that any woman willing to get naked in front of them should be punished for doing so. Case in point: Mudslide, where Marz actually suggests that guys laugh after they blast diarrhea in a woman’s face. To quote the Avalanches song “Frontier Psychiatrist,” that boy needs therapy.

We’ll leave you with this, a line from Marz’s (obnoxious) bio: “…he began his career in acting, playing minor roles in both soft and hardcore pornography before finding his true calling in writing.” True calling in writing? That might be the funniest thing here. (Flying Armbar Enterprises 2010)