The Omni Personal Shopper project rolls down the Mississippi with this conundrum from Linda:
The queries posted so far are too easy. If you can come up with something for my little brother - and millions just like him, you will be hailed as geniuses or possibly even genii. He lives in Mississippi. He is a truck driver. He plays in a band. He drives a van. It used to be kind of a cool old retro van but now he is over 40 and it's just a dull mini van. He has two great kids but does not live with them. He likes beer, not wine. He doesn't mind going to swap meets with our dad. It’s all good but we just don’t have much in common. Once he said maybe we should talk more because Mom would like that. When we were young, my brother was the plague of my life. He once covered my favorite cat from nose to end of tail with masking tape and then used my camera to take a picture of his work before untaping the cat. Impressively, he didn’t say a word and I didn’t find out until I had the film developed months later. He played the soundtrack for the Sound of Music over and over on my parents’ big console stereo. To this day, I cannot stand that movie. He hogged the TV and wanted to watch the Electric Company instead of Andy Griffith. If there is a book of instruction on how to be an irritating little brother, he must have read it three times. Other than that, I don't think he reads. I have never heard him mention a book he likes or seen him with a book in his hand. I used to hold him down and tickle him or give him noogies until he cried. I didn’t let him touch my records or come in my room. That’s all I can think of. Other than that, I’m sure I was very kind to him. This year, I rifled through the big bin of old LP’s at Goodwill. My little brother likes LPs. He likes the way they are a little bit scratchy. He likes that they sound old and come in big awkward covers that sometimes have amazing artwork and sometimes dorky photos. I don't know what kind of music he likes so I judged them by their covers and/or their smell. But they seem a paltry gift. Can you help?
First things first: Linda, we are sorry about your cat. But you had to know that giving him "noogies until he cried" might have come back to haunt you, or your cat. Regardless, here we go.
Many of our suggestions focus on his love of LPs. Mari suggests Goldmine Record Album Price Guide, 6th Edition, hoping that, as he’s driving around the country picking up scratchy old LPs, he can judge them by more than their smell—and maybe hit some vinyl motherlode.
Daphne, fresh off a trip to the Fillmore, reminds us that knows rock-show poster art can be better than the show itself. Gig Posters Volume 1: Rock Show Art of the 21st Century features perforated pages so your brother can frame the ones he loves best. She also recommends Rolling Stone 1,000 Covers: A History of the Most Influential Magazine in Pop Culture. Perfect for the music lover, it includes 1000 controversial, influential, provocative covers from Rolling Stone Magazine.
Lauren also has two picks, both about cover design. For the Love of Vinyl: The Album Art of Hipgnosis
recounts the inspiration of some of the most iconic cover art from the '70s and '80s, including covers from
Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, and Paul McCartney. The Man with Kaleidoscope Eyes: The Art of Alan Aldridge. Aldridge's career spanned 40 years, during which he influenced the Beatles' psychedelic transformation and designed album covers for the Rolling Stones, Elton John, the Who, and Cream.
Tom adds his own customary dash of eclecticism (as well as something that might be the perfect combination of old records and swap meets): The complete cover art collection of imaginary soul singer Mingering Mike. As a teenager in the '60s and '70s, Mike Stevens created over 50 album covers for his fictitious alter-ego, complete with liner notes and cardboard "records" inserted inside the sleeves. While browsing crates of records at a flea market, author Dori Hadar discovered this incredible catalog, eventually tracking down Stevens at his home, and ultimately producing this truly one-of-a-kind tribute.
Maybe we can discern his musical tastes from cues in his appearance. Is his hair long? Does he wear inordinate amounts of leather, or occasionally flash metal horns? If so, he might appreciate All Known Metal Bands, at first glance a simple catalog of metal band names. But between the lines, it's the story of dragons and demon-lovers, of werewolves and Walpurgisnacht, of unlikely umlauts and the power of power chords.
We'll now move away from the musical theme. When Brad saw Mississippi, vans, beer, and taped-up cats (which, let the record show, he doesn’t approve of) he immediately thought of the eclectic Southern spirit of photographer William Eggleston (born in Tennessee but raised in the Mississippi Delta and educated at Ole Miss) whose “democratic camera” has captured the very anti-Andy Griffith beauty in the run-down landscapes and streetscapes around us—whether it’s Graceland or a gas station. He suggests William Eggleston’s Guide and/or William Eggleston: Democratic Camera—Photographs and Video, 1961-2008.
Is he in love with his van (or the memory of another van)? Or does his his sense of humor lean toward the weird and warped? One of the devious geniuses behind the failed (and much mourned) The State, Michael Ian Black has probably taped his share of cats—and you wouldn’t want him in your room. But in the words of Amy Sedaris, he’s given us My Custom Van, a book that—like any good van—is ”luxurious, entertaining, spooky, disturbing, and hilarious.”
Or maybe, still, after all these years, he's still a cat-taping, irritating little brother. If so, we might suggest More Stuff on My Cat, a photographic of various objects and substances placed on cats, or the official manual for incorrigible boys, The Dangerous Book for Boys. It's never too soon (or too late) to drop the wisdom.
Good luck, Linda. If you think of anything else that might be useful, send it along. We want to help.