Tuesday, January 7, 2014

A Confluence of Gifts

My holidays were blessed with an abundance of well-chosen gifts from my family and in-laws. I’m often at a loss when gift-giving occasions arise (usually my birthday and Christmas, conveniently located at opposite ends of the calendar) and people ask me what I’d like; this year when I couldn’t think of anything, I simply referred folks to my Amazon.com wish list. It yielded some surprising and satisfying results.

I’ve maintained my Amazon wish list partly as a tool for reminding myself of various books, games, soundtracks, and films I’d like to add to my collection (and often forget about) and as a means of communicating with family and friends both specific and general ideas for gifts. They haven’t always used it in the past, but it offers both a means of buying exactly what I’d like as well as a guide to my general interests when buying other gifts. Sometimes they order directly from Amazon, other times they find the items in brick-and-mortar stores.

TrekAttackWingThis year my relatives unknowingly conspired to outfit me with a nice starter package for WizKids’ Star Trek: Attack Wing miniatures game. My parents – who usually manage to find a fun game-related gift for Christmas or my birthday – got me the game’s basic set. My in-laws ordered the Miranda-class starship USS Reliant and my brother-in-law’s family got me the Klingon IKS Gr’oth (D7) cruiser. We’ve already played a few games using the quick-start rules with the Little Guy, but I’m also looking forward to playing the full game using the more versatile standard rules (though it remains to be seen how well the mechanics translate from its Star Wars: X-Wing Miniatures Game origins to the Star Trek universe).

I suppose it helps I’m also vocal in my interests. Most folks know I enjoy learning about World War II. My in-laws have for several years renewed a subscription to WWII History magazine; while some articles cover familiar ground for me, each issue offers glimpses into new aspects of the war about which I’d not known or only heard about in passing. They (with some help from my wife) bought a book I’d noticed about a little-known tragedy: the sinking of the Wilhelm Gustloff. The German cruise ship served as a transport evacuating military and civilian refugees fleeing the Soviet advance in January, 1945, but was torpedoed and sunk by a Soviet submarine. Death on the Baltic sheds some light on this obscure but tragic event, which by some accounts claimed more lives (an estimated 9,000) than the Titanic disaster (which claimed about 1,500 lives). Unknowingly playing on this theme of German maritime disaster, my brother gave me two DVDs: the equally little-known Titanic film the Germans made in 1943, and a History Channel documentary about the making of that movie and its ironic behind-the-scenes drama.

The holiday season – which also includes our son’s birthday – also proved that we are passing on our interests to the Little Guy. Among the gifts from my wife’s friendly co-workers were a bulbous yet extremely plush Cthulhu and a gift certificate to the recently opened Friendly Local Game Store in town (he went and purchased an expansion for King of Tokyo, which he enjoys immensely). While one might argue gift-giving is an art form in knowing individuals and intuitively identifying meaningful gifts, our Internet Age and such tools as Amazon’s wish list can help both those seeking to give gifts and those hoping to broadcast their wishes on items to receive.

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