Gifts to Delight the Maine Luddites in Your Life
It’s hard to be a Luddite nowadays. Technology is all-pervasive; many of us schlep around with pocket-sized devices on which we could, in theory, paint a masterpiece or shoot and edit a high-def movie, complete with soundtrack. Bangor developer Jesse Grosjean has even created an app to turn your iPhone into a circa-1980 word processing terminal.
Yet despite the power and seductiveness of all this tech, there is something about the simpler, slower, “analog” way of living that continues to appeal to modern Mainers. Which is something to consider in these final days of holiday binge-shopping.
Maine writer Nichols Fox put her finger on this widespread anti-technology sentiment in her classic 2002 history-cum-manifesto, Against the Machine. Luddism, she suggests, isn’t just for off-the-grid types anymore. “There is no litmus test,” she writes. “You may live in a mud hut, carry water, and chop wood by choice, or simply hate your computer, yearn to outdistance your cell phone, and wish you could buy a car without automatic windows. But at bottom you feel some identification with all those who are apprehensive about … the domination of the machine in our society, in our work, and in our individual lives.”
In that spirit, I’ve assembled here an assortment of holiday gifts to delight the technology-resisters in your life. You may even find something here to please your own inner Luddite.
A good place to start is Nichols’ book, which you can obtain directly from the author's own bookstore. It’s a great read and distinctly more literary than most works in this vein.
A pair of snowshoes. If your mental image of a snowshoe is a huge wood-and-wicker paddle nailed up in a rustic cabin, you should check out the state-of-the-art variety, like the L.L. Bean Winter Walker. Ultra-lightweight and cool-looking, these are just the thing for anybody who wants to get out there and enjoy winter but doesn’t feel like investing the time and energy involved in, say, ice-fishing or snowboarding. Don’t let the moose have all the fun of crashing around in snowy woodlands.
A fountain pen. Some of us still remember those Schaeffer cartridge pens from grade school. And most of us love to get a handwritten letter. As with snowshoes, the modern variety are much improved, with refinements like piston filling and smooth-flowing ink. The German-made Pelikan 150 and a bottle of Noodler’s Ink, available in a vast range of colors, will run you less than $80.
Liberty Graphics t-shirts. A Maine treasure, this small company in the village of Liberty has been turning out beautiful products since the 1970s, “with design emphasis on the wonders of the natural world and production methods that meet rigid ecological standards.”
A board game. Even in the age of video gaming, there’s something inimitably pleasurable about settling down at a table, or on the floor, with an old-fashioned game board and moving little pieces around. Settlers of Catan is a latter-day classic that falls into the “family strategy” genre (which means roughly that play depends on skill more than luck, and it’s pretty much fun for players of all ages). But what I’d really recommend is tracking down a used copy of the sadly out-of-print Mississippi Queen, in which players pilot tiny steamboats down a randomly twisting “river” that you assemble as the game progresses.
A good saw. From Woodbutcher Tools in Wiscasset, the Silky Zorin 370 is a kick to use, and even comes with its own holster-style sheath. Says the Shelter Institute: “This saw makes short work of pruning jobs, can cut a straight line if necessary and is great to keep in your truck if you need to get a tree out of your way in the woods.”
A real film camera. With hipsters everywhere snapping retro-looking photos with their cell phones, maybe it’s time to try out the real thing. The Diana F+, a more-or-less authentic reproduction of a 60s cult favorite, is sure to delight the cool kids in your life. It can even be fitted with an “instant” back attachment to turn out Polaroid-style snapshots while-u-wait.
That should do to be getting on with. Have a happy analog holiday!