Sunday, December 29, 2013

The Magic of Christmas

Kevin Coolidge



Our American Christmas has become bright and shiny. Certain attitudes, practices, and beliefs have been trimmed away. It’s the nature of tradition. Some customs survive for centuries and others perish almost as soon as they are born, but if you aren’t afraid, I can show you a deeper, darker season.

It’s a popular belief that Christmas as we know it is essentially a Pagan celebration. It’s true that there are many pagan traditions that have become cherished Christmas favorites, but it’s only a fragment of the story. Some of the creatures introduced in The Old Magic of Christmas written by Linda Raedisch are certainly heathen, while others are from the imagination of Christian minds. The majority are a weird twisting of the two.

If I mention elves, you may think of friendly little creatures in Santa’s workshop, but the elves in this book have no interest in crafting toys. They have, however, always been a part of Christmas, even if their feast was held in October. According to many traditions, it is best to keep on the good side of these mysterious creatures, and that might mean gifts of milk, blood, or even gold.

Today’s children know to start behaving in early December, or they may not receive that one special present. The closer the 25th comes, the lesser the threat of an empty, or coal filled stocking. The truth is that there is little fear in the twenty-first century American Christmas.

Fear has a face for Czech children. It looks like an upright goat, but has the face and hands of a man. His foot-long scarlet tongue prevents you for mistaking him for either. It’s the demon Cert*. In one hand he carries a birch switch, and in the other an empty basket. Naughty children face the possibility of being carried off to Hell.

If you lived in Iceland, you could receive a visit from Jolakottur, the “Yule Cat” This Christmas Cat would begin his prowl in the autumn when everyone was supposed to be involved in the hard work of preparing for the harsh winter. This included spinning and knitting wool that had been shorn in the spring and weaving new garments for everyone in the household.

Anyone who didn’t pitch in would not get their yearly payment of new clothes at Christmas. If you were walking with holes in your trousers on Christmas Day, it marked you as a tasty meal for the Yule Cat. It’s probably not a coincidence that Icelanders put in more overtime than most Europeans.

Enjoy your fancy and modern Christmas, but before you rush headlong into Christmas morning, you might want to approach your stocking with a little extra care. Maybe take a little time to admire the wrapping paper, and the carefully placed bow that lies beneath the sparkling tree.

Was the gift last touched by elves? Does it still pulse with magic? Did you remember to leave milk and cookies for Santa and carrots for the reindeer**? And what about the old man in red? Just how can he still be so jolly and alive after two thousand years???

*Cert is also known as Krampus in Germany and Austria. What can I say, he’s a demon. He gets around.

** You are not going to believe this, but the origin of Santa’s reindeer is Sleipnir, the offspring of Loki from when he had shape-shifted into a mare and impregnated. He did gift this eight-legged, bastard, war stead to Odin. So, everything turned out great…

Light a candle? Or Curse the darkness? Email me at from_my_shelf@yahoo.com and let me know. Miss a column? The past is revealed at http://frommyshelf.blogspot.com Hobo, the bookstore cat, wishes all his readers a very, merry Christmas and cat filled New Year, but not Yule Cats, because that’s scary…




Monday, December 16, 2013

Santa's Little Snitch

Kevin Coolidge

He knows when you’ve been sleeping. He knows when you’re awake. That’s more than a little disturbing. How does he know? Satellites? Spyware? Wire tapping? Rats with cameras? The fat boy in red is too lazy to gather intel* himself and has a new weapon to fight the war on naughtiness: its name is Elf on the Shelf.**

The official propaganda is that at the start of each Christmas season, usually around Thanksgiving, this special scout elf is sent from the North Pole to help Santa Claus micromanage his naughty and nice lists, but you deserve the truth. This elf squirms his way into the household, often tricking the family into adopting and naming the little imp.

Each evening, when everyone is sleeping, the imposter teleports, using alien technology stolen from the government’s secret base, Area 51. He then narks to that overweight old man what information he gathered. It might be your social security number, your browser history, or where the good liquor is kept. Each morning he returns to a new location and to learn new secrets.

There are rules for the family, though he plays by none. Supposedly, his “magic” is lost if you touch him, and that means no gifts for you. I say: do it! Do you really want a little sneak reporting every little thing you do? Parents are worried. Kids are terrified. I hate him.

He won’t move or speak when anyone is awake. Some master spy. Anyone can be totally ninja if the enemy has to keep his eyes closed. His job is to wait, watch, and listen. You know, to be Santa’s little snitch until it is time to return to the North Pole on Christmas Eve. There he lurks until he infiltrates next year.

I say there’s no reason to make Christmas a terrible season. I won’t lead you astray, or to a dead end. Forget that creepy elf. He’s not your friend. I won’t give you a list of impossible chores. I won’t be preachy or make you mop floors.

I live in your drawer, and I like to have fun. I enjoy hanging out, playing games, and joking around. I was here before that darn elf. I won’t report you to the big guy just because you forgot to make your bed. That smug elf lets his mission go to his head. You don’t need fear to know what’s wrong. I’m going to make everything right.

It’s time you heard the real story. Not the one about the elf and the shelf, but the one about me. I am here all year long. I am always with you, and I deserve to be a new Christmas tradition. I’m The Dwarf in the Drawer***

*Intel is slang for military intelligence, which is an oxymoron if I ever heard one

**Elf on the Shelf is the evil plot of Carol Aebersold and her wicked daughter Chanda Bell.

***The Dwarf in the Drawer: A Mischievous Parody is the counterinsurgency operation devised by L. Van King and illustrated by Chuck Gonzales.

You’ve nothing to hide if you’ve done nothing wrong? Or Snitches get stitches? Email me at from_my_shelf@yahoo.com and let me know. Been naughty and miss a past column? You can make it all good by visiting http://frommyshelf.blogspot.com. Hobo knows three cats can keep a secret if two of them are sleepin, sleeping with the fishes that is, though he prefers chicken to fish…


Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Dickens isn't Dead

Kevin Coolidge

I just love Dickens of a Christmas in Wellsboro--strolling the streets, viewing wares, getting my pocket buzzed*. Every year it gets a little bigger, a little better. There’s hot food to fill my stomach, and song to warm my heart. I’ve even seen Scrooge himself. This year is the 30th anniversary, and will be the best one yet.

This year Charles Dickens will be there! I’ve finally earned my online degree in necromancy** and will re-animate old Boz for this special occasion. If you are lucky enough to see Mr. Dickens shambling across Main Street, please maintain a five foot perimeter. Keep small children, pets, and corn dogs away from Charles, and please no sudden movements.

Have you ever wondered what would have happened if Tiny Tim was infected with the zombie virus and ended up eating Ebenezer? Then you need to read The Undead that Saved Christmas edited by Lyle Perez Tinics. This heart-chilling anthology is filled with zombie-themed short stories, poems and carols, and comics.

Stories include Santa Claws is Coming to Town by Calvin A. L. Miller, Night of the Frozen Elf by Richard S. Crawford; and The Santa Epidemic by Mandy Tinics and more. There are rich illustrations by Jason Tudor and Chris Williams among others, and also an awesome assortment of comics by Nate Call, Mike Schneider, and many more.

The smell of gingerbread and nutmeg might have been replaced with the reek of spilled blood, and Santa’s helpers aren’t the cute elves from television specials. You can still feel good about feeding your need for a little brain candy. The proceeds from this book go to charity.

Net proceeds from The Undead That Saved Christmas will indeed help save Christmas for the children of Hugs Foster Family Agency. No author or illustrator has taken payment for their literary efforts, but instead they have used their brains to fill the hearts of children.

Zombies and the holidays go together like the colors red and green. Zombies are the perfect fit for the ravenous consumer frenzy that has become Christmas, and anyone who has survived the chaos that is Black Friday can attest to that. So, along with the box of shotgun shells and that new machete, stuff this book in a stocking. Remember the spirit of Christmas isn’t dead; it’s undead…

*Victorian slang for stealing, especially picking pockets. Nothing like a little verisimilitude to deepen the experience.

**Necromancy, a form of magic involving summoning or raising the dead. Don’t worry. I worked my way up from hamsters. There’s almost nothing that can go wrong.

Jack Frost gnawing at your brain? Or It’s a Wonderful Life…with Zombies? Email me at from_my_shelf@yahoo.com and let me know. Miss a past column? The past is the future at http://frommyshelf.blogspot.com Looking a Christmas present about a cat’s past? Check out “Hobo Finds a Home”, a children’s book about a kitten who found a home, a friend, and a warm spot by the fire…


If you'd like to buy this book, why not buy it where you tried it? Simply click on the photo below, or the title, highlighted throughout this post, to purchase the book at From My Shelf Books & Gifts, and to support the writers of this fine blog ;) We thank you!


Monday, December 2, 2013

Deer Camp

Kevin Coolidge



I love hunting—tramping around the cold, snowy woods, then coming inside and having a bowl of hot soup. Going back out for one more drive, maybe I’ll get a shot at a buck, maybe I won’t. I know someone will get a deer. There will be jerky, chops, burger, or maybe my favorite, tenderloin. I love venison. Nothing is better at the end of a long day than some pan-fried deer meat. I swear I could eat it every day.

I don’t hunt much anymore. People are busy. I’m working all the time. I miss the guys getting together and shooting their mouths off as much as their deer rifles. We never had a fancy lodge with trophy-covered walls, or a massive stone fireplace. We all worked for a living, and a kitchen table with a searing hot woodstove and good friends was good enough, but a man can have a dream.

The Hunting and Fishing Camp Builder’s Guide can help with that dream. This book is illustrated with photographs and informative how-to diagrams. It will provide you with the concepts, plans, and know-how to bring a daydream to life.

The author, Monte Burch, is an architect and a construction expert, as well as an experienced hunter. This guide will show you the design and construction. From a simple, one room construction, or a fancy lodge suitable for several hunting buddies,
The book illustrates how to design and construct standard stick-construction lodges, pole and post-and-beam structures, and log buildings. It also covers fireplaces, wood stoves, insulating, and the foundation. You can even get all fancy like with a deck, porch, or a sunroof, and add that rustic touch with some sapling furniture.

It all starts with the land. Your real estate agent might exclaim that “the hunting is fantastic”, but not really have any idea. Ideally, you should have the opportunity to hunt on the land you are buying, but if it’s out of season, scouting may have to suffice. Well-managed hunting and fishing property will have a higher value than more marginal land, even in the same region.

Your building site is extremely important. Majestic mountains, a scenic lake, you want a great view, but other factors must be considered. If you are building more than a simple cabin, you might want a geological and soil report. Sand, clay, rock? Steep hillsides of clay can be prone to landslides. There are other hazards you should at least consider—such as danger of wildfires, or falling rocks.

You have a plan all picked out, but don’t forget the utilities. Electricity will probably be available in all but the most remote areas. If you plan to build far from the nearest service line, it can become extremely costly. Make sure you understand the maintenance procedures of the power line.

You have your plans, your tools and your friends to get started. Have you considered your needs? How often will you use your camp? Short weekend visits or longer trips? A smaller more economic structure, with “rustic” facilities may be more appropriate for shorter stays, and a more “home-like” structure with “modern conveniences” if you plan on also using your camp as a vacation property.

There’s nothing like the camaraderie of good friends and good times. It might be a prefab shelter with an oil-barrel stove, or it may be a grand hunting lodge with a trophy room. It still has the satisfaction and the pleasure all the same. Good hunting and good luck…

Trophy buck? Or Meat hunter? Email me at from_my_shelf@yahoo.com Miss a past column? Scout at http://frommyshelf.blogspot.com and read all past columns. Hobo, the cat is a terrible hunter, that’s why he works at the bookstore. It’s a good gig if you can get it.

If you'd like to buy this book, why not buy it where you tried it? Simply click on the photo below, or the title, highlighted throughout this post, to purchase the book at From My Shelf Books & Gifts, and to support the writers of this fine blog ;) We thank you!