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Looking for something small and quirky to stuff a stocking with? Practice gonzo Christmas shopping, by stopping by a Distroboto vending machine. Pop in a toonie and support a Montreal artist.
The former cigarette vending machines have been rejigged by Louis Rastelli to sell locally made art: CDs, zines, comics, cards, fun fur bracelets, cassettes, handmade cat toys, finger puppets, animated flip-books. This time of year sees a surge in sales, Rastelli says. "Distroboto is perfect for gift shopping because at only $2 for all items available in the machines, you can get five or six peoples' presents for under $20. Since they are all packaged in painted former cigarette boxes wrapped in cellophane, they are already wrapped up too! And everyone loves explaining to the gift recipient that their present came out of a vending machine!"
To celebrate the season, the latest Distroboto will sell a short film, burned onto a 3-inch CD, called Oh, X-mas Tree!, produced by Cumulus Press, along with three small books with the same title.
The city's newest Distroboto machine will be launched at Petit Campus (57 Prince Arthur E.) December 12, 9 pm, with Goa!, Cacao People and DJ Sixtoo. Distrobotos are also at Casa Del Popolo (4873 St Laurent) and La Sala Rossa (4848 St Laurent).
Warm your chilled fingers and frosted soul with hot roasted chestnuts from the vendor in Phillips Square in front of the Bay. Three dollars gets you a paper cone filled with the traditional European snack. The shell crackles off beneath your fingers to reveal the slightly sweet, supple nut within. This will be the third winter Monsieur Marchand les Marrons has been selling his Italian-imported chestnuts downtown on weekdays, from roughly 11:30 am till 6:30 pm, and at local markets on weekends.
Bells ringing, folks dashing from place to brightly lit place, stamping snow off their boots. Sound like a holiday shopping frenzy? Well, end of semester exam time, actually...
For those who can't seem to find the time to get too far off campus to do their holiday shopping, we at the Reporter have compiled a little guide to Yuletide giving.
Ann Cunningham, the sales & promotion manager of McGill-Queen's University Press, says that three of their books by local authors have received great reviews and have been selling very well. These are Leo: A Life by Leo Kolber, HA! by Gordon Sheppard, and A Respectable Burial by McGill History professor Brian Young, on the Mount Royal Cemetery. All are available at the McGill Bookstore, 3420 McTavish (398-7444).
Because the snow on December 7's Family Day prevented a lot of people from coming out, the bookstore decided to extend the sale offer. All McGill employees will get a 25 percent discount on merchandise (with some exceptions) from Monday, December 15 through to the following Saturday. They close for the holidays at noon on December 24.
McGill-connected authors are noted on the shelves with a red sign, from the sublime (professor Anne Carson's The Beauty of the Husband: A Fictional Essay in 29 Tangos) to the frivolous (The Vice Guide to Sex and Drugs and Rock and Roll). But think of this as a general bookstore, too, where you can pick up the latest translation of Don Quixote, photography oeuvre Earth From Above or quirky guides to the city we live in, such as Montreal: The Unknown City or Barry Lazar's Taste of Montreal. Bookstore Manager Jack Hannan says that some hot sellers include Shake Hands with the Devil by Roméo Dallaire and Ann-Marie Macdonald's The Way the Crow Flies.
There's so much more to the bookstore than books. One item store staff leapt on is the Trading Spaces calendar, based on the popular TV show in which neighbours swap keys to transform a room in each other's home. "That's this year's weird present," Hannan chuckles.
"It's the time of year we sell a lot of pens," Hannan says, going by a display of fine pens with the McGill crest. Other McGill-themed tchotchkes include cute round brass bookmarks, pewter mugs, wine or beer glasses and picture frames. Travel mugs are always popular, and new to the store are thermos bottles to keep the hot hot and the cool cool.
Apparel includes all kinds of athletic wear, toques, scarves, ties (don't forget the tie pin, too) and undies. Hooded sweatshirts with front zips are big, according to Hannan, who adds that sweats emblazoned with "McGill Mom" or "McGill Dad" are popular with the out-of-town students going home for the holidays. The pet-lovers among them might bring back a logoed sweater for Fido. Annoying sister? Perhaps a "Little Miss Bossy" shirt would fit the bill, and who wouldn't give their main man a "Mr. Perfect" tee? Pick a card from their ample selection, and Rudolph's your red-nosed uncle.
The bookstore is also a handy place to pick up CDs put out by McGill musicians, such as the Late Late Show by the McGill Swing Band and movin' away by Effusion, an a cappella group of McGill students.
Joel Wapnick, the director of McGill University Recordings, says one of the favourites over time has been the 1989 Tangos, a recording of Argentinian tangos by pianist Arminda Canteros, when she was 78. He adds, "The Mahler symphonies is doing quite well, and the latest Jazz Orchestra CD, Conundrum, is a wonderful CD." You can also buy these and more at the ticket office (phone 398-4535 x4547) or contact Wapnick at email@example.com.
Deck your halls with an old-fashioned garland from the McCord Museum of Canadian History giftshop, at 690 Sherbrooke St. W. (398-3142). For present ideas, the shop's buyer Pascale Blais points out the photographic prints of 19th century Montreal by Notman and Sons. As well, there are scarves and blankets with the Canadian or Quebec tartan, handknit sweaters from Quebec City, some beautiful calendars and pottery with designs inspired from their collection.
Recently, someone came in and scooped up a passel of small stone Inukshuk figures. "People love them, men especially," Blais says. And any tea drinker would be keen to try the herbal tea from the arctic. A box of Northern Delights yields five different blends, from "Labrador" to "Cloudberry."
Temporary tattoos of North-western Native designs would make a good stocking stuffer, or slip them in with a Christmas card.
If you'd like to put something under the tree to go on your walls, think art. Award-winning artist Mark Laguë exhibited his McGill-series oil paintings last spring in the Macdonald-Harrington building. Go to www.marchantgallery.com to get in touch with Ron Marchant about buying Laguë's work.
Another treasure trove of canvases and pigment can be found at the graduate student headquarters, Thomson House. David Astrof represents a wide range of artists and shows their work at 3650 McTavish. Get in touch with him through www.artap.com or phone 286-2476 to arrange a visit or ask about piece that strikes your fancy.
Happy Holidays to All,
From the Reporter Staff