Saturday, December 24, 2016

K.A.C. 2016 - T - 1 ...

     And so we come to the end of another year of entries for the K.A.C. - as usual, we always close with a traditional Christmas Ghost Story. 2016 has been a brutal year all around, smacking us silly in so many ways that it's only appropriate this year's selection involves Punch and Judy. 

     Before we get to the tale, however, there's an article that The Guardian (UK) just ran recently entitled 'Ghost stories: why the Victorians were so spookily good at them'. Take a moment to read this before going on to our tale, penned by a master of this type of story, M.R. James. As the article states: "It would also continue in the tradition started by M.R. James, the provost of King's College, Cambridge, who would invite a select few students and friends to his rooms each year on Christmas Eve, where he'd read one of the ghost stories he had written, which are still popular today." The article can be found via this link:

     Dr. James is no stranger to our K.A.C. pages, as his fine story "Oh, Whistle, And I'll Come To You, My Lad" closed out our 2010 year. Our tale this year is another fine entry from the good doctor (found for me by my son Justin) entitled, "The Story of A Disappearance and An Appearance", first published in 1919. I'll even give you two choices for how to obtain it. You can either read it directly via this link -

- OR you can turn off all the lights and sit in the dark and listen to this very well done reading of the tale by David Collings:


      A few final tidbits before we leave. It's not too late to take a page from the folks in chilly Iceland and share in their wonderful Christmas Eve tradition of  "jólabókaflóð", which literally translates as the Christmas Book Flood! Isn't that great?  :)  Read more about it HERE! 

      Rushing in at the Very Last Minute is this article from Atlas Obscura (thanks, Robin & Debbie!) entitled, "Victorians' Christmas Parlor Games That Will Leave You Burned, Bruised and Puking" ... and if THAT doesn't get you to click the link below, NOTHING else I can add will!

      Many years ago, when I started the Image of the Year contest, one of the first (and most talked about) winners was this fine piece: a Christmas morning scene where the PRESENTS were opening up their gifts, wrapped in HUMANS! Since then, there have been many variations on the painting, and to the right we have the 2016 edition: the Trees Revenge! Thanks to Blaze for posting it!



           And with one final quote to ponder upon, it is time for us to go - thanks for joining us for another year! I hope it somewhat lessened the stresses of the season and brought a smile or two to your face. And, like all the other holiday traditions, the K.A.C. goes back in the box to snooze and patiently wait until next year, when it will magically reappear to cavort and play the part of Holiday Jester. Merry Christmas and a Happy, Healthy and Prosperous New Year to you all ... Bye! 

Friday, December 23, 2016

K.A.C. 2016 - T - 2 ...

     So in our penultimate entry of the K.A.C. for 2016, we are left with a series of questions regarding our Weird Christmas Card entry, namely Mom forbade the four foolish frogs to go skating, but she's OK with them smoking? And just where does one GET frog skates, anyways? I for one am never looking at Frog Pond in the Boston Common the same way again ...

      Just like your last-minute holiday shopping, we here at the K.A.C. have late-breaking articles to show you - case in point: a few days ago we featured the crashed gingerbread Enterprise - not to be outdone, certain Star Wars fanatics have made the GIGANTIC Gingerbread Death Star! Read all about it: 

      Michelle posted this article with an excellent way to let your kids transition from belief in Santa to reality. It's a piece I wish I had available when Justin was young and it's one a lot of parents can use - give it a read:


     Following up our 'Jingle Bells' historical piece from three days ago, the BBC just ran this interesting and humorous piece on 'the surprising origins of famous Christmas carols' - fa la la la la, indeed! 

      Now WHERE was this story yesterday? Proving that not ALL the horrible Christmas stories come out of England, this late-breaking story from Winston-Salem, North Carolina, is just the thing for the K.A.C. ... an 'elf' who MACED a family for breaking the line to take pictures of Santa at a mall! My favorite part of this story is the talkbacker in the comments section who wrote: 
"She claimed it was Elf defence." 

      We close today with this: Christmas is almost here, so you can finally breathe that sigh of relief and relax - it was as harried as ever and you're glad it's done for another year. Ever wonder what Christmas of the future will look like? Take a peek in the crystal ball as futurologist Dr. Ian Pearson predicts Christmas in 2040!


     Coming Tomorrow: Our final entry for the year, all tidy and wrapped in a bow, as we ring out 2016 - we hope you'll come back one last time!




Thursday, December 22, 2016

K.A.C. 2016 - T - 3 ...

     This Gloomy Gus is a damn fine reproduction of your humble Conjure Cinema Curator every winter when the snow hits ... HATE IT! That's about as "merry" as I get with this weather, with this winter being no exception as I came down with a whopping cold two weeks out from Christmas and am only now on the last dregs of it.

     Which is a PERFECT lead-in for today's feature: people who have Had It With the Holidays - those lads and lasses who tried to put a brave face on it for family and friends, but who felt their resolve chipping away a piece at a time and have now thrown all caution to the wind.

     First up, the a cappella group Straight No Chaser entertains us with "Nutcracker" - and what a lot of folks are truly thinking when this yearly event draws nigh! 

      If you consider that weak sauce and want something MUCH stronger to vent your Wreath Wrath on, our next item is tailor-made for you! Best of all, it stars our very own Conjure Cinema mascot William Shatner (NOT to be confused with our K.A.C. mascot, Krampus - but guess what? They're BOTH in it!) - A Christmas Horror Story is currently making the rounds on Netflix and is just the thing when the shopping is done, the meals are all eaten and the food coma is setting in. An anthology film reminiscent of the old EC entries TALES FROM THE CRYPT and THE VAULT OF HORROR, it features four stories, ranging from Santa battling a horde of undead, infectious zombie elves, to a typical unloving family running afoul of Krampus, to a family who ignores the signs and local legends to stay off forbidden grounds and trespass to cut down their own Christmas tree ... and the horrible price they pay, to a fourth (and by far weakest) story of a high school camera crew investigating some fellow student's mysterious deaths on Christmas Eve at their locked-up school. Shatner provides the framing narrative as a radio disc jockey getting more and more in his cups during the countdown to the Big Day, trying to get people in the mood when most of them want nothing to do with him or the holiday. The ending has a final battle between Santa and Krampus with an extremely clever ending that I did NOT see coming! A bit of a gorefest in parts, so be warned, but a well-done independent Canadian feature worth a look!

      Want to move your guests along, get people out of the house and get some peace and quiet? Well, you COULD throw a drunken tantrum and cause a lot of hard feelings all around or you could let your TREE take care of them for you! How? Simple, just put a LIVE SNAKE up as one of your decorations ... think I'm making that up? Read on!

      And if the Live Snake in the tree STILL isn't giving people the hint that you've HAD IT with the holiday this year, then borrow a page from Dickens and turn your ENTIRE TREE into MARLEY'S GHOST ... THAT should do it!  :)


      Coming Tomorrow: We're two days away from wrapping up the K.A.C. for another year - tomorrow features as many of our last-minute stories as we can cram in one post and we end the year with our annual Christmas Ghost Story selection - join us, won't you?

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

K.A.C. 2016 - T - 4 ...

     With fours days left, let's take a break from the hectic last-minute rush and relax a bit - seeing as how today is Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year, what better time than now to watch some holiday shorts!  Now you don't have to dress to the nines like our attractive little piglet lass here, but she's got the right idea - she's bringing binocs in case she's stuck in the cheap seats trying to see today's offerings!

     As much as I love feature films (having worked in a film library for 30 years, been a projectionist for 3 1/2 years and had my own film collection since junior high), my real passion is film shorts and the thing I love most is finding new ones to show and share with people. Done with low budgets by aspiring and hungry filmmakers, shorts have always fascinated me. They only have so much time (usually between ten and twenty minutes) to tell you a tale and (hopefully) have you remember them and like them well enough to share them with others. Here are a few new entries I'm particularly delighted with.


      HIGH on the top of my list is 2015's Miracle on Canary Wharf. Shot in one night, Ain't It Cool News says: "Talented Filmmaker Bradley Porter brings us a lovely Christmas miracle of sorts. "Chloe is having a bad year, and dancing with Santa Claus on Christmas Eve may be all she needs to set things right. That is, if he actually IS Santa Claus." I dare you not to crack a smile when this short hits the end credits. With solid performances from Denis Menochet and Sarah Winter, this film is one for the (holiday) books." I totally agree and filmmaker Porter deserves watching. Here's the short:

     Next up is the humorous answer to exactly WHO Rudolph's REAL father was and where he got that red nose from - once again, courtesy Ain't It Cool News: 
     "Filmmaker Sam Martin and his crew over at XVP have brought us the ultimate holiday gift, a funny answer to the question of how our most prominent reindeer was born with such a nose. The animation here is simple fun, with a lovely twist I can say I never before thought of. Sam is a unique nut of a filmmaker, a guy who thinks just right outside of the box and always delivers laughs. I very much look forward to his projects and can't wait to see what he does next. "Rudolph's mother struggles when the real father of the red-nosed reindeer stops by to say hi to the family." " 

      Finally, when the internet kerfuffle happened over the Mall of America in Minnesota hiring a black Santa for the first time this year, I knew just the short to end this post with. The hit of the 2012 Finnish film festivals, it tells the charming comedy of errors tale of what happens when a set of harried parents forgets until the last minute to order a Rent-A-Santa to visit the house on Christmas Eve ... and how they all roll with the unexpected result. It's called 'Black Christmas' and it's an absolute delight - Enjoy!


     Coming Tomorrow: After a day of feel-good films, it's only fair we give equal time to those on the opposite end of the spectrum. If you're completely fed up, grumped up and Grinched up with the season, our next entry was tailor-made for you!

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

K.A.C. 2016 - T - 5 ...

     Ah, there you are ... good morning! We've been waiting for you - SOME of us more patiently than others, as you can see by today's Weird Vintage Christmas Card. Well, you're here now, that's the important thing - time for some history lessons!

     Our tomcats getting ready for a dustup are wildly apropos for our first stop today.  You know the lyrics by heart to the old holiday standby "Jingle Bells", right? Of course you do! But do you know the contentious history behind the song? Think carefully before you answer that - better yet, read the article below, WHICH I am proud to say, came from a fellow BU employee! Take a moment and put your learning cap on ... NOW how much do you want to sing it? 

      Next up is ANOTHER history lesson and one well worth your time. It's LONG (two parts worth), but fascinating nonetheless. Carolyn Emerick takes a look at the Snow Girl (pictured at left), Frau Holle and others (some of whom you'll recognize from my previous blog posts) in an article entitled 'The Lost Female Figures of Christmas' - read on! 

      So - we've covered the history of Jingle Bells, the history of Female Figures of Christmas ... what could possibly be left? How about the history of Santa Claus himself? Did you know he was really a shrunken elf left out in the cold ? What's that, you say? That's not how it goes? Well, read the article, then look at the pictures of how the Jolly One is seen around the world!


     Coming Tomorrow: Brand new holiday films for you to ponder and enjoy - see you soon!



Monday, December 19, 2016

K.A.C. 2016 - T - 6 ...

     Good morning! We're winding down the K.A.C. with only six days to go and, just like this slightly-demented Santa, are getting set for the holiday parties. And what makes a good holiday party? Good food and drink, good friends to spend time with and relax, knowing that another year is almost done. What else? How about some unobtrusive holiday music playing gently in the background? How about along with it a nice relaxing video of a cheery fireplace, logs all aglow, setting the mood? Seriously, I hear you say, a cheesy fireplace video? Nope, try FIVE cheesy fireplace videos! But that's not the best part - try a holiday fireplace video set at the homes of Captain America, Thor, Iron Man, Ms. Marvel PLUS the Guardians of the Galaxy's spaceship (complete with Dancing Baby Groot)!  All five are in 4K HD video and all an hour long, each set to reflect the character ... give them a look (and a listen) - and look at the assorted rooms for Easter (Christmas?) Eggs!

     As mentioned yesterday, we ran out of space during our look at the top 2016 holiday ads and never got a chance to look at some of the vintage ads from years past. Let's take a moment now to rectify that error. 
      The most famous vintage Christmas ad is making a resurgence all over the Web this season, which makes me happy as I remember seeing this when it originally aired. I was nine years old (and it is celebrating its fiftieth anniversary, first airing in 1966, so you do the math!) - give it a look! 

     Less well known, but also by R.O. Blechman and aired the same year was this ad called 'A Child's Wish', which deserves a new audience as well: 

      The most insidious commercial from my childhood had to be the Norelco Santa series. These ads started a few weeks before Christmas and ran All The Time - there was no way to avoid them. They were on every night, on every channel. Looking back, I can't imagine the advertising budget they must have had for these, as they ran for years and years. Heck, half the kids my age (myself included) believed Santa traded in the reindeer for one of these shavers to ride around on! Take a look at the link below for a selection of the stop-motion Santa's shaver shenanigans! 

      There's FAR too many to go into in this small post, but if you want more and feel the urge to be sucked into a Holiday Time Sink, here's a link to 100 vintage Christmas TV ads - see how many of these you remember!

     Finally, we'll end with an ad that SHOULD have been added to yesterday's post, but I ran out of time and space. This one is another serious contender for best holiday ad. The company is Allegro, the ad is Polish and it is called 'English For Beginners' - enjoy! 

     Coming Tomorrow: These last five days are just as hectic for us here at the K.A.C. as they are for you, the readers. So expect a number of different topics as I try to fit in all my remaining tales before I run out of room (as happens every single year, I might add)!

Sunday, December 18, 2016

K.A.C. 2016 - T - 7 ...

     Umm, Santa, I don't think that means what it USED to mean - you might want to rephrase that! Today's odd Victorian Christmas card is rather prescient, actually, especially if you live in the Chicago area - why? Because it is seven days until Christmas and it is December 18th, meaning it's time for the TV stations there to continue their tradition of playing 'The Three Little Dwarfs', better know to all K.A.C. followers as Hardrock, Coco and Joe! For those of you not familiar with Santa's favorite helpers and want their backstory, I refer you to my December 18th, 2010 entry - for the rest of you, it's time to click on the link for your holiday earwig ... DO IT !!! 

     Given the way 2016 has been circling the drain and being a suck year all around - and given where it looks like we're all heading in 2017 and beyond, I think it's past time to bring back the distaff side of Hardrock, Coco and Joe. Originally aired on Comedy Central's TV Funhouse (itself a spinoff from shorts on Saturday Night Live), "Christmas With Tingles" gives us a more realistic elf for these difficult times - Tingles the Christmas Tension! Enjoy! 

      Before we get to the main part of today's blog, I wanted to post this late addition to yesterday's Reader Submission Day posts - thanks, Steve! :)

     Now on to today's topic. If you've followed the K.A.C. over the years, you've seen our annual highlights of the best Christmas ads. While some of the major American advertisers go all out, they pale compared to the bragging rights for Best Holiday Ad over in Great Britain. Two grocery chains, particularly (Tesco and Sainsbury's) try to out-do the other every year. A number of the major retailers have gotten into the fray, as well, and here are the results for 2016.

      For the grocery chains, this year is no contest. Sainsbury's knocks it out of the park with their animated short The Greatest Gift, featuring James Corden singing the holiday message we can all get behind. Give it a look:

     BTW, Tesco did a series of short ads called 'Bring It On' which you can find on YouTube, should you want to see them, but they don't hold a candle to this.

Then there are the main department stores in the UK. John Lewis drew first blood this year, getting their ad out before ALL the other retailers. A cute short featuring Buster the Boxer (and foxes and badgers and hedgehogs and squirrels) - click on the link below: 

      Not to be outdone, fashion store H & M spent a bucketload of cash for their holiday ad, starring Adrien Brody as Conductor Ralph, making the best of a delayed train on Christmas for his passengers, and directed by Wes Anderson. Here you go!

     As cool as all theses ads are, however, my personal favorite for the year goes to the Marks and Spencer stores ad featuring Janet McTeer as Mrs. Claus, beating Santa at his own game when a sad little boy sends a last-minute plea after Old Saint Nick has already left in his sleigh. It gets you right in the feels, without hating yourself for tearing up over it. I think M & S have a keeper here and would LOVE to see the character return next year! Take a look at the best of the best:


       Coming Tomorrow: Whoops - we're out of space! We'll run the vintage ads tomorrow, as well as more holiday fun!


Saturday, December 17, 2016

K.A.C. 2016 - T - 8 ...

     Good morning and welcome back! Come take a stroll with me and my friend here - what's that, you say? Something wrong with him? No, no, he's fine - besides, it's impolite to stare. He's today's entry in our Weird Vintage Christmas Cards who's just reminding you to remember to eat your vegetables this holiday season, along with all that junk food. He's setting a rather lively pace this morning, so let's keep up with him as we take a look at all the reader submissions you've sent in!

     Confession time before we start: I've received SO MANY items from multiple people, both via Facebook and personal messages, that I'm completely flummoxed at this point of who sent what! So thank you all and give yourselves a shout out if you see your item listed here! Let's begin, shall we?

     First up, this rather ingenious design for a Christmas tree for cat owners. Rather utilitarian, perhaps (and Puss doesn't seem too happy with your choice), but it gets the job done. Who would do that, you ask? Obviously you don't own a cat ... ANY of the people in this video compilation would!



     Want to REALLY impress your guests this year? Skip the traditional gingerbread house and go large - REALLY large - with this 'crashed Enterprise'! The good folks over at show you how!

      Boy, I wish I had found this one when we started this year's edition of the K.A.C. - just THINK of the fun you could have had with the Grinch Drinking Game pouring your booze out of THIS! What's that, you say? It's not too late ... welllll, you're somewhat correct, but only if you've got DEEP pockets - to the tune of $20,000! That's one EXPENSIVE squirrel! To find out why, go here!

      The K-man returns, in this nice piece that just came out a few days ago (and true to form, I was INUNDATED by everyone with this link - thanks, I think!) - it's entitled, 'How To Blend In At An Alpine Krampus Parade', and it's good info - it's on my bucket list to attend one of these before turning up my toes!

     Finally, if you've got kids who are climbing the walls waiting for the 25th (or if YOU are), may we recommend the Google Santa Tracker, an interactive online funhouse filled with things to see and do - check it out!


     Coming Tomorrow: The best and brightest holiday ads of the year - and a few vintage contenders!

Friday, December 16, 2016

K.A.C. 2016 - T - 9 ...

     We're down to the single digits - today we're featuring All Things British, appropriately enough as Laura and I went to London this summer for our 30th wedding anniversary. It's a beautiful city and a lovely, historic country, and it beats us black and blue with their assorted oddballs. Let's take a look! 

     We begin today's post with a photo feature the Sun (UK) ran a few days ago which showed what Christmas in Britain looked like up to 100 years ago. I am particularly fascinated by the World War II photos, like the gas mask mistletoe smoochers at left. Take a look at the whole set via this link! 

      Continuing the history thread here for a bit, London also has bragging rights to the world's first Christmas card, sent in 1843 (the same year Charles Dickens published A Christmas Carol) - for the full story on it, click on the link below:

      Next up is the Royal Family all decked out in their Ugly Holiday Sweaters! Photoshop, you say? Not at all - this is an untouched photo, even though there does seem to be ... something off about it. Give up? It's the group portrait of the Royals at Madame Tussaud's Wax Museum in London. They are all dressed in their festively ugly sweaters (or 'jumpers', as they're known in England) for the annual Save The Children's Christmas Jumper Day (which is TODAY, I might add), which Wikipedia describes thus:  


"Christmas Jumper Day is an annual fundraising campaign in the UK organized by the charity Save The Children. On a specific Friday in December, people are encouraged to make the world better with a sweater and raise funds for Save the Children by wearing a Christmas jumper and making a minimum donation of £1.

Those taking part can wear a Christmas jumper they already own, decorate an existing jumper with festive decorations, or even knit their own. Christmas Jumper Day is popular with schools and workplaces. Groups may take part in additional fundraising activities on the day, as well as making donations. Save the Children launched their Christmas Jumper Day in 2012 on Friday, 14 December." 

     The Royals gave their full permission for the exhibit (LOVE the Corgi jumpers!) and it's something that has taken off in both schools and workplaces since it was first introduced.

      The British are nothing if not obsessive. Case in point: this report from the Sun (UK) of a woman who's gone COMPLETELY 'round the bend' regarding presents. At right is a picture of her 2016 tree, which you can barely see. Why? Because she has - wait for it - 96 presents PER CHILD underneath (and to the side - and bulging out of the room)! Did I mention she has THREE CHILDREN? Did I mention her bill for all these gifts tops out at over 2000 POUNDS ??? If ever there was a person who needed an intervention, it's this lady. She's heard all the criticisms and has been featured on British TV and is still defiant about it all - read the whole story here!


     Coming Tomorrow: Reader Submission Day, where we turn the whole kit and kaboodle over to you!