I spent a good part of last week in some of America’s national parks. It was refreshing to escape New York City for a bit and go into nature with no electricity, running water, or cell phone signal. And yet, I felt empty. Sure, the natural beauty was sublime. But where were the deals? It was only upon returning to our lodge, where I was immediately inundated with notifications of hundreds of early Black Friday sales unfolding all around me, that I truly felt at peace with the world.
And so, here to clog up your inbox is yet another holiday gift guide. Last year’s extensive and exhaustive Night Water gift guide—which featured a whopping three gifts!—featured absolutely no affiliate links. The internet runs on affiliate links. Gift guides, deal round-ups, and even product reviews only exist because the site gets a small sum every time someone clicks their link and buys something. Did going against the grain make me a more ethical gift guide journalist? Or was I just stupid for not cashing in?
We’ll punt that question to next year, because for 2022, I’m splitting the difference! It’s twice the size of last year’s gift guide and features two whole affiliate links, plus a mysterious third link that also benefits me directly! Which links pad my wallet? You’ll just have to read and find out!
Cometeer frozen coffee pods
For years, I made coffee every morning in a Chemex carafe, buying beans at my local coffee shop to grind and brew at home. If you cared about the taste, the price, and the environmental impact of your coffee habits, this was the way to go. But I’ll be honest: to me, coffee is like wine. I know when it tastes like shit, but after a certain price point, I just don’t experience a difference. I either get enough of a buzz to write this newsletter or I don’t.
Enter Cometeer. Cometeer brews good ass coffee in a lab somewhere and then flash freezes it into a little pod. They deliver those little pods to you in recyclable aluminum capsules. You can either melt that pod in a mug of boiling hot water or mix a melted pod with cold water and ice. You can also use it like an espresso shot in a latte or a martini, if you’re so inclined.
A standard box—which you can subscribe to on a monthly, bi-weekly, or weekly basis—contains 32 pods and costs $64, shaking out at just over $2 per cup of java once you factor in shipping. More expensive than brewing your coffee at home, but a lot more convenient and still cheaper than your local coffee shop.
Canned Tuna Spoon
No product has changed my life more in the last year than this Japanese canned tuna spoon. Originally designed for—you guessed it—canned tuna, it’s the perfect utensil for dishing out wet cat food.
At the spoon end, it’s got slots so that you can drain the fish juice from the can without losing any meat, plus a little pointy bit that can dig into the grooves of the can to get out every last piece of flesh. At the other end, there’s a slight wedge (one of man’s simple machines) to help you open the can’s pull tab. And if you prefer tuna/cat food from a pouch instead of a can, the handle features a clip that can help squeeze out every last drop.
Is it entirely necessary? Yes. What separates mankind (and some apes) from beasts is our ability to use tools. Celebrate what makes you human and get a canned tuna spoon. You can find these spoons on a variety of websites (Google “Japanese canned tuna spoon”) but you may also have some luck at your local Japanese supermarket.
Sea of Tranquility by Emily St. John Mandel
I am a big fan of Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel—which, as a story about finding hope after a worldwide pandemic that killed 98% of the population, experienced a mini-renaissance at the beginning of 2020–and was overjoyed when her follow-up, The Glass Hotel, seemed to take place in an alternate universe where that pandemic never happened, following some of the same characters who experienced untimely ends in Station Eleven.
The Mandeliverse continued this year with the release of Sea of Tranquility, a science-fiction novel about time travel, lunar colonies, and the mark we leave on the world, which features a mini-sequel to The Glass Hotel as part of the narrative (as well as its own pandemic storyline). But Sea of Tranquility is a stunning work in its own right, and readers need not be familiar with Mandel’s other work to enjoy.
You might be thinking that I’m just adding my favorite book of the year to this gift guide to sneak in an affiliate link to Bookshop.org and that I haven’t really put any thought into whether or not this would actually be a good gift item. You’d be right.
During the pandemic, I got hooked on playing online asynchronous Risk on a site called WarGear. WarGear is a site out of another era, when everything on the internet looked kind of shit. According to the Internet Archive, the site’s design essentially hasn’t changed since it was first launched in 2009. (One major difference? The games now work using HTML5 and not the original Adobe Flash implementation.)
There are hundreds of live games happening at any moment on WarGear, on boards ranging from facsimiles of the original Risk world map to variations like “Mobs of New York,” “War Of The Roses,” and even a map based on the January 6 insurrection. Everyone on the site is a touch insane, with some leaving long public messages calling out other players for allegedly unethical alliances and attacks. It’s a true joy to be there.
While the site is totally free to join and play games, you can support WarGear and get additional features by paying for WarGear Premium. Those features include unlimited active games—you’re otherwise stuck with 10 at a time, which feels high but once you get sucked into it, it’s stifling—tons of stats, and, most importantly, vacation days so that you can take a break while traveling without fear of being booted out of your games.
You can get WarGear Premium for the incredibly reasonable prices of $10 for 3 months, $30 for 12 months, or $99 for 5 years. And you can gift another player Premium straight from your settings screen. It is what all of my friends will be receiving for Christmas this year, whether they play WarGear or not.
Literally any Blu-Ray
We live in a streaming world, who needs physical media, yada yada yada. Yes, streaming is incredibly convenient, but it also kind of sucks. It feels like the majority of titles on Netflix are algorithmically generated, low-quality filler, and even the services that do produce interesting shows and films are hemorrhaging money and are hiking up their prices. Meanwhile, our cultural history is less accessible than ever—75% of the films on Netflix were made in the last ten years! And while services that cater to classic films do exist, you can’t expect a household to pay upwards of $100 every month just to keep access to every platform in case they want to watch a movie made before 2012. And these days, you need to subscribe to all of them since movies and shows keep flicking between them like pinballs. Used to be, when you wanted to watch a movie, you could walk into a retail store and rent it for just a few dollars! And they used to put movies in theaters, too! Theaters, I tell you!
All of this makes literally any Blu-Ray a surefire fantastic gift this holiday season. Think about it—the special person in your life probably has a favorite movie and would love to have it available to watch at literally any moment in high definition with bonus features and director’s commentary. If they don’t already have a Blu-Ray player (pro tip: most modern game consoles with disc drives can play Blu-Rays), you can find a decent one for less than $100. The Criterion Collection is a great place to start looking—they have contemporary hits like Uncut Gems and hard-to-find collections like the 7-disc World of Wong Kar Wai box set.
What do you get for the Night Water reader in your life who already has Cometeer, a canned tuna spoon, Sea of Tranquility, WarGear Premium, and every Blu-Ray? Socks, maybe. Everyone always needs socks. Or, dial this shit up to 11 and give them the gift of Day Soda.
Speaking of movies, Day Soda is kind of like the DVD extras for Night Water. Every month or so, paying subscribers get a newsletter chock full of interesting (to me) little asides, like how to digitize a cassette tape and exclusive vegan food mini-reviews. All of that money is then invested back into the free newsletter you know and love in a variety of intriguing ways.
If you think about it, you’re killing hundreds of birds with one stone here, as not only do you get a gift for a friend or loved one, you’re also giving a gift to me and every single person who enjoys reading Night Water. So whether you’re giving Day Soda to a friend or treating yourself to a little daytime content, rest easy knowing you’re spreading holiday cheer far and wide.
What gifts would you guide people to?
Another year, another gift guide. Didn’t find the perfect gift for your Secret Santa or secret lover? Interesting—I think I did a pretty good job of putting together an exhaustive list for every vibe, but okay! Whatever you say, boss.
Have a gift idea you think Night Water readers would love? Throw it in the comments below! Just make sure to disclose any affiliate links before the FCC comes knocking on my chimney.
Cousin to the affiliate link. ↩