Lucca Delicatessen, 2120 Chestnut (between Pierce and Steiner), 921-7873.
Not just for Halloween, this shop features handcrafted masks by 15 Venetian and Florentine artisans. The austere El Dottore--the white-beaked mask worn by doctors while attending to victims of the plague ($78), is haunting and appeals to the history buff. The "Don't Touch" policy doesn't exist here; dress yourself up in a velvet cloak and try on a satin farfallina (half-mask). Buy your loved one a royal blue velvet farfallina with a two-foot plume springing from the top ($138) and you might end up with an invitation to Carnival in Venice next year. Delicate farfallinas ($58), patriotic USA masks ($39.99), jester masks, sun masks, and El Gato masks are just some you'll be tempted to buy.
Mask Italia, 2176 Chestnut (between Pierce and Steiner), 409-4743. www.maskitalia.com.
Where in the world is Carmen Sandiego? Your 8-year-old will know the answer after playing this mystery geography game with her. Most toy stores stock Harry Potter, Thomas the Tank Engine, and Curious George, but where else can you get a beaded Zulu matron doll ($10-18)? In addition to the must-have toys of the year, Ambassador devotes shelves and shelves to helping kids appreciate the world around them. Give a My First Look at the World atlas ($6.95) or Amazing Africa: A Cultural Adventure card game ($10). Geography games like Carmen Sandiego or National Geographic Mystery Voyage Game range from $23 to $25.
Ambassador Toys, 1981 Union, 345-8698 (between Laguna and Octavia) or 1686 West Portal, 566-8081. www.ambassadortoys.com.
The world's in need of spirituality these days and Gity Hebel offers a bit of inspiration at her shop Gity Joon. Among the icons and paraphernalia from religions around the globe, you'll find a nativity crèche ($98) for your favorite Christian or a new menorah for your Jewish friend ($55). Buddhas range from $2.50 to $78. For the agnostic in the crew, jewelry is a safe bet. How about a silver necklace from Tahiti? Gity has that too. Imports from more than 35 countries include mini Egyptian pyramids and Chinese wind chimes, making a shopping trip to Gity Joon like a flashback to Disneyland's It's a Small World After All. If you go in late December, bring a gift for needy children. Santa will be there to collect them and to listen to Christmas wishes.
Gity Joons Treasures & Charms for the Heart, 1828 Union (between Octavia and Gough), 292-7388.
Smokers have a safe haven at The Humidor. With more than 100 kinds to choose from, you can give the aficionado a treat with a top-quality Dunhill aged cigar ($15.99). If your cigar-smoking buddy doesn't yet have a favorite, consider a cigar sampler--three or four different cigars for $22.98, on sale at $15.00. Dad smokes a pipe? Choose from 15 different pipe tobaccos from hazelnut to English Supreme. Fill up a humidor ($79 -$400) and earn eternal gratefulness or stock a smoker's stocking with a cigar cutter, lighter, and European hand-rolling tobacco ($5.99).
The Humidor, 2201 Union (at Fillmore), 563-5181 or 2050 Chestnut (at Mallorca), 561-0491.
New boyfriend's a little fashion-challenged? Sean can help. Sean Cassidy (no, not the Hardy Boy) owns an unpretentious boutique featuring French designer Pierre Emile Lafaurie. His trendy but tailored styles make certain mass-clothing retailers seem beige and bland. Give your honey a choco-brown fleece painter coat ($140) that will make him a standout among the black leather drones. Keep him warm with a cotton fleece sweater ($88) or scarf ($46) that feels like cashmere. Choose from Sean's stock of earth tones. Get your boyfriend hooked this holiday season and never be afraid to let him shop alone again.
Sean, 1749 Union (between Octavia and Gough), 474-7363. www.seanstore.com.
Giving a movie usually means one of two things: that a movie is good enough for multiple viewings, or that you want to expose someone to something you think is cool or educational. Tear-jerkers, surprise endings, and light romantic comedies don't usually hold up on review. Fine cinema, good special effects, cult films, and very clever comedies do. Well-made documentaries can be passed along. While most of these titles are available on tape, the superiority of DVD over VHS is a forgone conclusion. The widescreen format presents movies as the filmmaker intended, while the quality of digital audio and surround- sound, compared to that of VHS, approximates the difference between cassette and CD. Basic functions like chapter lists and language options are often accompanied by extra features such as director or actor commentaries that run along as the film is playing. These commentaries are great for auteur filmmakers, low-budget films, and effects-heavy action pictures. Scenes that had been cut for length reasons in the theatrical release are often included in the DVD version.
Throughout the gift section, items marked with a "*" have local angles to them.
Woody Allen Collection
MGM has three different box sets spanning the career of filmmaker Woody Allen. Go for the early work, beginning with 1971's Bananas to recall that Woody was wacky before he got deep. Some of his best films are here: the futuristic Sleeper, '77 Best Picture Annie Hall, the informative Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex , and his first black and white feature, Manhattan. All the elements are here that will define Allen's output--smart humor, great music, complex characters, and younger women. There are no DVD extras such as commentary or "making-of" documentaries. Nor are there any deleted scenes, because Woody makes exactly the movie he wants.