2016’s Greatest Hits

For Christmas day, I thought I’d put together all the most popular cards from this year’s posting on Tumblr. These aren’t necessarily my favorite, but they’re definitely the ones that went furthest this year. Some I expected, but others surprised me quite a bit. So here they are in no particular order:

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A perennial favorite. “Frog Murder Christmas” got up to 10k shares this year.

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By far the most popular Krampus card this year, which I thought was odd because usually the darker ones get the most traffic.

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Another non-surprise. This guy never fails to please.

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This was second behind Frog Murder this year. And I don’t get it. I just don’t get it. (Truthfully, anything with a cat was a hit, but I’m only including one because it’s my blog and I can do what I want so leave me alone you crazy cat people!)

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Who knew so many people liked frogs in boots carrying umbrellas?

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This. Why?

A Merry Xmas to You

I almost didn’t keep this one because it’s just an owl, but the more I looked at it, the creepier it seemed. A lot of people agreed.

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The bird parade really messed up a lot of peoples’ holidays, I think.

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I put this one up right after Thanksgiving, and it stayed popular the whole month.

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This Krampus card has always been popular, especially among the racier blogs that repost things from me. I’ll let you guess why.

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Christmas?

And finally…

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Everyone loves a Santa who’s willing to kill.

It’s different every year, and this year was about cats and killing. I guess that’s good enough for Christmas. And now… on to the New Years’ cards!

The Rabbit of Questionable Contentment

Sometimes I think far too much about these cards. This is one of those times. Fair warning that I really, really enjoy taking over analysis way too far in order to come to ridiculous conclusions about innocuous things. I promise to post more random pictures of funny things next time. But for now…this:

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I’ve never understood it. I mean, I get what it’s supposed to say, but the second I let my mind focus on any part, the logic starts going in crazy circles. And I end up thinking that somehow this card is incredibly anti-Christmas. Here’s my reasoning:

The top part says “Much Happiness at Christmas!” MUCH seems to be the kicker here. Not just a conservative, prudent bit of happiness, but MUCH. (See how “MUCH HAPPINESS” is all in caps? DO YOU!?) Fine.

The bottom says, “Content is Happiness.” That’s inelegant phrasing, I must say, but I get it: be content with what you have, and you’ll be happy.

But to be simply content would seem to contradict “MUCH” happiness. So we already have a problem.

BUT THEN, the rabbit has nothing. He’s looking at one tiny little piece of fruit or veg. So he’s not being greedy. I mean, look at the wasteland he’s sitting in. There’s absolutely nothing to eat, no vegetation, not even leaves on the stems all around him in that snowy, claustrophibic hell of a background.

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Nothing lives here. Nothing can survive here. This is a Beckett landscape.

So…what’s the conclusion?

Thesis 1: To be content with what you have is good enough. The rabbit shouldn’t seek anything new or anything at all really because it all comes to disaster. If he even tries to survive by eating the only edible thing in his world, he’ll be killed by a trap. Accept what you have, even if it’s nothing.

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Look at him: innocent, scared, indecisive…

But that’s awful. So…

Thesis 2: Realize that even the smallest thing you desire is more than you need. The rabbit already has life, but why should he want MORE life? To want more, even when “more” seems like the barest minimum, will lead to tragedy. So maybe desire itself is the problem? Now we’re getting very Buddhist. Desire causes suffering. So only contentment can bring happiness. So this is a Buddhist Christmas card? Maybe.

But that doesn’t solve the problem of the difference between MUCH happiness and contentment. The card wants to surf that limit. So let’s give it the benefit of the doubt. This card isn’t Stoic or Buddhist but is somehow a response to a Buddha-like angle that still finds happiness beyond giving up on desire.

And here’s where I get weird. This card is about the trap, not the rabbit. This card is about the person who set out to kill the rabbit. It seems like it’s using the rabbit as a lesson about not wanting too much and how it might be dangerous to desire things. But, no. It’s about the poor soul living in this wasteland who can’t survive without killing something through a kind of deception (offering food that really means the creature’s death). It’s about how the rabbit’s death will lead to the hunter’s survival. The rabbit’s dilemma is a distraction.

This card is about the sacrifice inherent in every moment of nourishment. To have too much contentment would be to side with the rabbit, to empathize with the reality that things have to die in order for others to survive. Is that empathy useful? Of course not. It means that we would die, that we couldn’t eat anything. After all, the rabbit has to kill the vegetable in order to survive. So are we any worse for killing the rabbit? We’re ultimately the same.

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This carrot/tomato/fruit/vegetable thing is just as tragic as the rabbit. Or us. Or any living creature caught in the cycle of eating things just to be eaten by other things later.

But if we’re supposed to empathize with the dude who laid out the trap, are we still really talking about contentment? A trap has a purpose: to kill in order to satisfy the trap-maker’s desire. That’s the opposite of contentment because it’s going out of your way to destroy something else for your own gain.

Contentment is more like realizing that the tragedy is necessary — it’s not about avoiding tragedy. I mean, are we supposed to give up on our desire to survive? Are we supposed to be like the rabbit who’s apparently afraid to keep living because it’s afraid to eat? Or are we supposed to recognize that any moment of survival is also a moment of something else’s demise on which that survival depends? After all, the rabbit is both prey and hunter (or veg) in the image. The image is ruthlessly realistic and unsentimental. Things die so that other things can survive. There’s no other reality.

Now…if the card, on top of that image, wishes us MUCH happiness at Christmas, it’s violating the cycle of sacrifice and survival it pictures. It’s breaking the cycle by saying that we can be happy without sadness, that we can have MUCH happiness even beyond contentment.

Christmas would be excess. Christmas would be outside of the circle of survival. Christmas, in other words, is unrealistic.

The very idea of Christmas as being about MUCH HAPPINESS goes against everything else pictured in the card. In other words, the card intentionally contradicts itself. But why would it do that? Because it’s malicious.

This card attacks Christmas as an unrealistic sham that creates hope which will only be dashed on the rocky shores of an uncaring cycle of survival. This, friends, is a cynical and evil card. It mocks us, it mocks our pain, and it mocks our celebrations. It points out problems it can’t solve. It wants me to be confused even while it pretends to celebrate my favorite season. It wants me to want impossible things and then to point out how impossible they are. It wants me to value contentment and then remind me that contentment is never enough. It wants me to admit that I can never be happy or fulfilled or content, especially at Christmas time.

I hate this card.

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Look at his terror! That is my terror!

I also think I’ve probably thought about it way too much.

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Krampus was a dame!

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The tongue gives it away.

Well, not really.

But there are quite a few German cards from early and mid-century that show a female version of Krampus. The above is one of my favorites because it looks like they took a stock image of a sweet young girl and just added the trappings — craftsmanship at its finest.   But some go a bit further:

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Krampus also has sex appeal, but men should let that cool/slide… [rough translation because my German’s out of practice]

It’s not a stretch, though. The central European tradition of Perchta (sometimes Percht or Berchta), a female witch figure who gives presents and doles out punishment, is still around. And she sometimes carries switches like Krampus or St. Nick or Knecht Ruprecht in older traditions. Sometimes she was even shown with horns, or at least hanging out with a Krampus:

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This picture scares me.

But even when male, it’s clear that Krampus is supposed to get some of his naughtiness from sex or from some kind of association with female iconography. I like how in this one a simple broom becomes the switches, as if suggesting that even your sweet little domestic goddess could turn into a demon at any moment, and her expression is anything but innocent, especially with those guys chained to the wall back there:

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I’ll sweep you into hell, sweetie.

Then there are the cards that show Krampus to be powerless against women, turning into a simpering puppy-dog figure when he sees a pretty girl. I’m never sure if these are supposed to “weaken” Krampus or just show that women are more powerful. But it’s a big theme:

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If you want to dance in the club, invite Krampus to your party today!

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What fine suitors she has.

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Looks like she said yes.

But then there are the ones that show women straight up taming and emasculating Krampus. Chicks got power, yo!

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This time the switches are a witch’s broom.

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That’s a beautiful story: A Krampus falls in love.

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She skinned him!

Some just go for the hard-ass bitch vibe. I’m down with that.

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The biker thing’s just an excuse to show panties. Not that I’m complaining…

But this last one is definitely my favorite. She’s a full on intentional Krampus collecting dudes in her basket. Men suck.

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Is the guy in the basket happy?

 

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Science Fiction Xmas Music Podcast

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This is Santa’s natural crowd.

It’s time for another podcast! This time I do all kinds of science fiction-y Christmas music. I was watching Santa Claus Conquers the Martians (ok, the MST3K version), and I was inspired.

And I had a bit of unintentional help from a blog that, I just realized after recording this, also mentioned me! So we love each other!

Music for Maniacs has this wonderful downloadable collection of sf Christmas music, and just click the link, listen, and support those guys (guy? girl?). The one person I’ve chatted with is Mr. Fab, and he’s fab. But, seriously, beyond the Christmas stuff, there’s great odd music on that site, so please check it out.

Here are the links to the podcast songs. Any that are missing are only available through Music for Maniac’s download.

Space Age Santa Claus – Ross Christman (I think I called him Ross Christmas in the recording, but I ain’t gonna edit.)

Christmas on the Moon – Troy Hess

Santa to the Moon – Sonny Cole

Zoomah the Santa Claus from Mars – Barry Gordon

Captain Santa Claus – Bobby Helms

Santa’s Rocket – Tim Dinkins

Rocket Ship Santa – The Bellrays

Go here for the Lothars stuff.

Monsters’ Holiday – Bobby “Boris” Pickett and the Crypt-Kickers

Santa and the Purple People Eater – Sheb Wooley

Jingle Bells – Esquivel

Frosty the Snowman – Man or Astroman!? (the opening/outro are both from the Mexican movie _Santa Claus_, also done by MST3K and Rifftrax.)

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Christmas Frogs

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Aren’t frogs supposed to get wet?

I’m not going to pretend like I know why the Victorians liked frogs on their Christmas cards. But they did.

They liked cats more. And they liked dogs, dachsunds in particular — but who doesn’t love a good weiner dog? They also seemed to like monkeys, beetles, squirrels, rabbits, and dead birds.

But there are a surprisingly large number of cards featuring frogs.

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This dignified gent is a card within a card. Fancy!

I’ve wracked my brain to figure out why frogs might be a big Christmas theme. There were certainly plenty of cards for other occasions that featured frogs, like the one below, but never in such numbers as on Christmas cards.

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Not a Christmas card, but I can’t help sharing this one.

Some don’t even seem to have anything actually to do with being a frog. You could replace these guys with any other creature, and it would make just as little sense:

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“If jovial froggies / a skating woudl go; / They had asked their mamma, / but she’d sternly said, “No!” / And they all came to grief in a beautiful row! / There’s a sweet Christmas moral for one not too slow! / Just go!”

Some like the next one often remind people of Over the Garden Wall, especially because of the episode with the frogs on the ferryboat. I could explain it, but I won’t try — just go watch it.

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Most likely not actually Victorian or even English.

Most of them, though, are just bizarre:

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So maybe this is the one time of year when he’s not trying to eat bugs? Dunno.

Or they look like they just slapped “A jolly Christmas” on a picture of a frog:

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“Christmas is no time to croak / All the world should know it; / We mean to have our little joke, / As for care, why, blow it!”

The ones that try to give a moral seem like they’re trying to snag some Aesop’s fable vibe, but they also seem like they were dashed off so quickly that they didn’t really think about how the rhyme was supposed to match the image.

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“A goose and frog, they met in a bog. / A serenade was the reason. / And here is displayed my short serenade. / “The Compliments of the Season.”

But the last one, which has become pretty widely shared in the last few years, definitely is the summit of surrealism when it comes to these old cards. I’ve taken a stab (ha!) at making sense of it, and,  yeah, I got carried away. But, come on…what else can you do but realize that a card as odd as this one wants, no, DEMANDS to be taken as seriously as possible?

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Have a Frog Murder Christmas, everyone!

 

 

Dying Candle People

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That classic carol: “Oh, Holy GOD I’M ON FIRE!”

It’s a Christmas tragedy.

They’re on fire. But they celebrate and worship. People send them one another with good wishes…all while these tortured creatures sing and kiss and endure so much pain for the holidays.

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I sing for the children who are not on fire.

What’s the message here? Are we supposed to focus on their stoicism? Is it a lesson about sacrifice? Is it that they can endure the fires of hell while still focusing on their sacred singing? Or is it something darker?

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“I wonder what it’s like to be that nut and NOT BE ON FIRE!”

These cards are among the most depressing things I’ve ever found. It’s not that they’re in pain. On the contrary, it’s that they don’t look sad at all! And yet…they’re all clear images of imminent mortality. These candles are in the process of being consumed, dying, all while supposed to be images of celebration and light. But they’re not — they’re SO VERY not! These things are very calmly living through their last minutes, and we’re thinking happy, domestic thoughts and peace and light and decorating crap in our houses…WHILE THEY DIE BEFORE OUR EYES!

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One last embrace, a final kiss…

What about this is “merry”? Nothing. Not a damned thing. The fact that we are “amused” by these images just throws our own heartlessness right back in our fat, candy-cane filled faces.

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The bell this creature rings is tolling for us.

And, look, it doesn’t get any better in any other version or when they make the flame rather than the candle human. It’s just all hopeless and empty and, god, I need a drink…

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Weird Christmas Annoying Music Podcast

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The next Weird Christmas podcast is all about the strangest Christmas music I can find. Honestly, I’ve got way more than I could fit into hours of podcasts. So this is probably the first of many.

So much of this is inspired by Jim Nayder’s Annoying Music Show that used to air on NPR. Nayder died a couple years back, so this is partly my way of saying thanks to him.

Also, I only play clips on the podcast, but if, for some godforsaken reason, you want the entire songs, here they are:

“Christmas in Jail” – The Youngsters

“Santa Claus Boogie” – Hasil Adkins

“Christmas Fever” – Timmy Christmas

“Drummer Boy” – Marlene Dietrich

“Is Santa Really Six Foot Four” – Kay Brown

“Sleigh Ride” – DangerWoman

“O Holy Night” – Tiny Tim

“We Three Kings” – Eban Schletter

“Happy Birthday Jesus” – Little Cindy

“Fat Daddy” – Paul “Fat Daddy” Johnson

“Christmas Eve Can Kill You” – Dawn McCarthy and Bonnie “Prince” Billy