Tree People

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That’s a chilly smooch.

Look at it. I have no clue what’s happening.

I mean, sure, it’s a guy dressed in (or maybe who just is) a tree kissing a snowman. But…why?

There are quite a few riffs on this theme, and it was also a trend. Here’s another from the same series (both around 1909 and found sent in Iowa, according to John Grossman in Christmas Curiosities), and there’s another down further.

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There must be easier ways to light up.

These guys are almost the same as the English Jack-in-the-Green, but he’s usually associated with May Day celebrations. I can’t find anything about him being a Christmas figure. Nonetheless, the “tree man” shows up in a few different contexts, sometimes as a giant, huge, Ent-like creature:

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Maybe it’s just a really big evergreen cloak?

But there are also a lot of examples of people dressing in holly, which seems uncomfortable to say the least. And since it’s mostly kids, I’m guessing these images are mainly for the festive whimsy.

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Is that a cookie? Is his belt made of cookies?

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Kissing UNDER the mistletoe, kids — not while wearing it.

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That’s a questionable doll, kid.

But the ones I really like are the ones that show these “tree men” as kinds of winter spirits, and they really remind me of the “Green Man,” a figure often found in England, questionably Celtic, but who’s usually assumed to represent cyclical rebirth.* That’s obviously a good winter solstice image.

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She’s a bit young for you, bud.

I particularly like that the Green Man is often connected to the “Wild Man” or “Wood Wose,” a European legend about the mythic native man who’s like the remaining caveman or connection to nature. And, as I talked about in the first podcast, that ancient wild man is also possibly connected to the origin of Krampus, Santa Claus, and lots of other Christmas figures. (Most of that connection can be found in Phillis Siefker’s Santa Claus: ast of the Wild Men.)

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For Christmas, I want to destroy the geopolitical-corporate complex that threatens our planet…and a dolly.

But who knows. It might just be that the artists were pressured to get stuff drawn asap and thought, “let’s throw a face in a Christmas tree and go wassailing!”

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So…you married?

The simplest answer is usually right, but not the most entertaining.

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*There’s so much argument in research and online about who and what the Green Man actually is, so anything I link to, even wikipedia, is gonna piss off someone who’s involved with these debates. I apologize in advance for not choosing your favorite.

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!

 

 

Jellyfish Debunked!

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Oh, fickle faith…

I finally talked to the guy who made the jellyfish cards, John Holbo. They are not, as I had really really really wanted to believe, authentic. The jellyfish themselves truly are by Victorian biologist and illustrator Ernst Haeckel, but Holbo ‘shopped them together.

Here are the two places I’ve seen that present them as authentic, but both are incorrect (and, honestly, the io9 piece could very well just be very, very understatedly tongue-in-cheek).

http://io9.gizmodo.com/5110554/the-secret-career-of-19th-century-naturalist-ernst-haeckel

http://hyperallergic.com/261847/have-a-creepy-little-christmas-with-these-unsettling-victorian-cards/

Holbo was tickled that some people out there (like me) wanted to think they were real. But some weirdness is too good to be true. You can see all the ones he made at his Flickr site here:

https://www.flickr.com/photos/jholbo/albums/72157611177529561

He’s got some great design work in his other albums as well, and it’s a fascinating collection to browse.

So let’s shed a tear for authenticity but lift a cup of egg nog for some great images! Thanks, John.

UPDATE: Holbo is re-releasing the original parody these were made for.

(And thanks to @goddamnshinyrock for finally making me do the 3 minutes of research I could have done years ago to follow up on these, and to @obscuracurios for bringing them up this year.)

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Fine. Tons of Cats. You win.

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It’s just some cats with holly.

I’ll fill this with cat cards so you’ll keep reading. But I hate cats.

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It’s just a cat in a boot.

That’s no surprise to people who tell me I need to stop being so mean about cards that have cats. But I have my reasons. A few points:

First, be grateful I post them at all. You’re sick, and I harbor guilt and shame for enabling you.

Second, cats have no souls or inner goodness and don’t deserve respect, so your outrage is fundamentally misplaced.

Third…ok, maybe I should just explain where all this ire comes from. It’s a good story, so settle in.

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This one’s been shared on Tumblr over 500 times. I don’t get it.

After college, I “babysat” an ex-girlfriend’s cat for a weekend. The cat and I had never been on the best of terms to start. It was one of those semi-house cats that would disappear for days because she always let it out in the morning. She never worried if it stayed out for a night and showed up again sometime the next day. Once, it was gone for over a week, and only showed up once we’d gotten around to printing up flyers for the apartment complex (and this was before everyone had their own color printer, so it was an expensive and time-consuming ordeal).

To me, that’s just selfish ingratitude, and I always thought the thing was stuck-up.

But even when it was around, it would jump on me and hang on for no good reason, and it’s claws were sharper than other cats’ claws, or at least that’s how it felt when it was cramming its toe-razors into my thigh.

It also smelled like a cat. And by “cat” I mean urine. I blame the ex-girlfriend for that, more than the cat, I guess.

But any of that is ultimately forgiveable and no reason for hate. I accept that. But then…oh, then. Let me change tenses for no good reason:

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The kittens did not write that poem. If you like cats, you might need that spelled out.

It’s the weekend I’m supposed to watch the cat, and I bring Cuddles (not its name) to my small one bedroom apartment, not really knowing what to expect. It seems a bit peeved at first, but we stay out of each other’s way. I feed it extra treats to make sure it knows I want a truce, and it pays me back by sleeping all day while I write. Things seem to settle into mutual, quiet disdain.

Around bedtime, I realize I hadn’t quite thought this through. At my girlfriend’s apartment, it would sleep on the bed with her. But it never liked it when I stayed over and would always paw at me in the middle of the night. (That was one reason I didn’t stay over that often, which is probably one extra nail in the relationship coffin.) But it’s my apartment, and I don’t share my bed with creatures. I make sure it has a very cozy pile of blankets in the corner it’s been hanging out in all day in the front room, and close the bedroom door.

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I don’t get this. No one gets this.

That lasts maybe five minutes. Then the scratching begins. And the mewing. This cat had wanted nothing to do with me all day long when I could have given it attention, and now, when I shut the door, it’s lonely. But it’s a creature, right, and it will get bored…right? No. I last maybe 15 minutes before I open the door and resign myself to a night of bad sleep.

Of course it hops on the bed and waits for me to nod off before it starts pawing at my leg, using just enough claw to cut through the blankets and sheet.

We wage a battle of silent wills until it finally curls up and leaves me alone. I’ve won, I think. So I sleep.

…for maybe three hours. And then it happens.

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This is literally just a picture of a cat with some Christmas-y words.

Around 2 in the morning, I hear a cat sound. Not a regular meow, although it’s obviously coming from a cat. But this meow is something deeper, something angry. And I’m groggy, the room is dark but hazy because of moonglow shining in off the snow. I hear the sound again, this time quieter, and I can’t see the damn cat. It’s not on the bed. I roll over to look over the bed and underneath…no cat. But I hear it once more, this time with a hiss.

I lay back down, sleepy and pissed, and look up…and see two yellow spots with black dagger-slits, things that careless people who can’t recognize windows to a true soul might call “eyes,” suspended some three or feet above my face, hanging in mid air.

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At least they slapped a festive collar on this one.

Understand that I was in grad school with no spare cash. The only things I had to decorate my apartment were left over posters from dorm rooms, books, and this one huge printed wall hanging that was basically a sheet with some cheap, trippy bad-head-shop fractal crap I’d picked up for next to nothing. That’s what hung behind my bed in lieu of a bedstand.

And right in the middle, somewhere above my head and below the ceiling, is the cat, hanging on that sheet. Upside down. Head looking straight down at me, teeth barred, and angry like Krampus on a humid April day.

How long had that goblin been hanging there, looking at me? What made it want to climb the goddam wall in the first place? Why right above my sleeping, defenseless head? The only conceivable reason was to create precisely this reaction in me, to bring about this panic, to crawl inside my comfort zone and blast it to pieces like a pipebomb. The only reason for what I’m staring at is hateful, spiteful evil.

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It’s a cat. What?

I scramble up, throw a pillow at the thing, and panic because it had jumped off, and now I can’t see it. But I can hear it. The sound of hissing moves around the room in irrational ways. And the moonlight off the snow upsets my vision, so I can’t focus. I stumble around, finally turning on the lights, and I see it sprint into the other room.

I only have one option. I open the front door and wait for it to leave. I wasn’t staying in the same walls with that creature. Hell, I wasn’t gonna breathe in the same room as that thing. It would find its way back to the girlfriend eventually, and any lie I had to tell about how it had gotten out would be a small price to pay to escape the evil demon hovering above my head while I slept. I finally see it sprint out into the moonlight, not even glancing back.

Although I finally got back to sleep, I woke up once thinking I heard a scratching outside my window. I didn’t bother to check because I was afraid it would be spelling something out like “Tuna fish or die!” or “REDRUM!” in the snow.

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Cats kill Krampus. Is that what you want? Pets killing beloved Christmas icons?

But that sealed it. Cats torment humans. It’s their purpose. All the cuteness is a show, and you’ve all been fooled and suckered. So I’ll keep posting these cards in the hopes that one day you’ll see through the facade and face the truth. And I’ll keep posting them for myself because, to me, they’re scarier than any image of Krampus ever will be, and, I admit, I’m a horror fan. So please realize that when I post cards with cute little cats on them, I’m posting that which is the spawn of all evil as far as I know it. When I post a cat, I’m posting a reflection of Satan’s soul. If you think it’s cute, that’s your problem.

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This is not cute. It’s evil waiting to pounce.

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