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Cultural Passions

The Silicon Alleys gift guide for 2008 concerns the esoteric—or any possible interpretation of that word: the private, hidden, secret side of things normally revealed only to higher adepts. If one plugs "esoteric" into a thesaurus, the following words will be reflected back: Obscure, mysterious, abstruse, impenetrable, cryptic and arcane. The choice is yours. Figure out which one of those descriptions suits your fancy when you peruse these gifts for your loved ones. These are perfect holiday gifts that are somewhat obvious, yet somewhat hidden at the same time, casually overt, yet not quite in plain sight.—Gary Singh

Over at the San Jose Museum of Quilts and Textiles, works from the High Fiber Under Five show still remain. These are fiber pieces priced under $500, including three selected Chirurgi works by artist Lindsay Obermeyer. In these works, she juxtaposes medical texts with stitching, sequins and fiber. In her statement, Obermeyer explains: "One's skin is essentially a living fabric, a leather of sorts. The surgeon and the embroiderer skillfully mend the tears and cuts in their respective fabrics with needle and thread, leaving behind little evidence of their activity." Chirurgi is the Greek root for surgery, which translates to "hand-work." In this instance, the phrase refers to embroidery. These works make for splendid holiday gifts, proving that even for those with a medical fetish, the Quilt Museum rocks.

We've all seen those ridiculous refrigerator poetry magnets, you know, the ones where you rearrange all the words to make your own sentences, poetry or prose. They even have themed kits for gardener poetry, golf poetry and mixed-up country songs. But everyone knows the finest experiences with these kits emerge when people get drunk at someone's party and then have their way with the words on the refrigerator, only to wake up the next morning and find that their attempts at sentence-forming resemble hieroglyphs more than anything else. Well, why not just use real hieroglyphs instead? Magnetic Hieroglyphs at the Rosicrucian Museum even includes translations.


Since we're on the topic of museums, the San Jose Museum of Art contains numerous tidbits, including a reissue of The Fantod Pack by everyone's favorite macabre crackpot artist Edward Gorey. A hysterical parody of Tarot cards, the Fantod Pack was first published in 1995 and radiates all the Goreyesque pen and ink bleakness we've come to expect. For example, "The Insects" card predicts the following: folie deux, green sickness, false hopes, spasms, disagreeable news and threats. If you purchase this gift, make sure you open it while standing in front of the museum and watching the nuclear families ice skating on the outdoor rink. They will all turn into Gorey characters right before your eyes.

Since the Tech Museum currently hosts Leonardo: 500 Years Into the Future, they've decided to sell loads of Leonardo-related gifts in the museum store, especially Taschen's Leonardo da Vinci: The Complete Paintings and Drawings, a mammoth glossy 700-page tome that'll set you back about $75. On the cover is Leonardo's last painting, the one of John the Baptist with his right forefinger pointed toward, well, something. Conspiracy theorists who watched way too many In Search Of episodes in the '70s claim that the forefinger gesture indicates John's heresy and that he was the real Messiah, not Jesus. We do know for sure, however, that Leonardo was, at the very least, an esotericist. A great gift, even if you're not in the Priory of Sion.

Right at the bottom of them thar foothills of Los Gatos, one finds the aptly named Los Gatos Art Museum, as well as the Forbes Mill Annex, tucked away around the corner from Main Street. You'd literally have to stumble upon the place if you weren't looking for it. One particular book on their meager shelf is Ghost Towns of Santa Cruz Mountains by John V. Young. It's been around for a while, but it always makes a good gift for both natives and tourists alive. You'd never know what used to lurk in the cold green shadows off Summit Road. The legends are endless.

Shop Local

San Jose Museum of Quilts & Textiles

520 S. First St., San Jose, 408.971.0323

Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum

1664 Park Ave., San Jose, 408.947.3636

San Jose Museum of Art

110 S. Market St., San Jose, 408.271.6840

The Tech Museum of Innovation

201 S. Market St., San Jose, 408.294.8324

The History Museum in the Forbes Mill Annex

75 Church Street off East Main Street, Los Gatos 408.395.7375

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