All posts by Richard S. Crawford

Day Nineteen: What We Do in the Snowfall

Paper cutouts of snowflakes
Snowflakes!

Okay, Narlee, having seen the madness of the honey bells behind the brittle façade of reality (represented by a shrub), is overjoyed and returns the Golden Key to the sisters. This whole adventure makes me think of Edgar Allen Poe and H. P. Lovecraft, even if neither writer would have ever deigned to have female main characters. This is a tale for a more modern and enlightened age. I’m not saying that ironically. Both authors were extremely problematic, perhaps Lovecraft more so than Poe.

At any rate, Narlee is so happy that he offers to accompany the two sisters on their journey to find the Magic Chest. We already know that the Magic Chest, when opened, will allow penguins to fly on Christmas Day, but will it let Pep the Lungfish and Narlee the Snow Monster fly as well? We shall see.

This story is taking on cosmic twists and turns I’m not sure the author intended!


Anyway, here’s some music for you, some of my favorite holiday songs. I’ve shared them before, but, you know, I can’t help myself.

First, “The Season’s Upon Us” by Dropkick Murphys, my favorite Boston-area Irish punk band. Loud and exciting, this really gets to the heart of a raucous family gathering which is probably nothing like yours or mine.

 

Second, “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Fishmen” by the H. P. Lovecraft Historical Society. I’m not sure who did the video, but it was definitely someone clever. If I researched it more, I’d find out. But here’s the weird little video to a weird little song:

 

And, finally, a Christmas classic: “Fairytale of New York” by the one and only Pogues. A classic, it was even featured in the Netflix miniseries “Lily and Dash”, which I highly recommend. Be aware that this song contains a couple of slurs, so you may wish to skip it.

There are plenty of Christmas songs performed by classic punk bands, and I definitely plan on checking some of them out, although for now I am listening to some classic crooners sing their Christmas tunes. At the moment, it’s Vince Guiraldi’s “Linus and Lucy”. Always a classic, even if not necessarily a Christmas tune.

‘Tis a cosmic and musical Holidailies!


Today’s entry in the Episcopal Advent Calendar (Go) reads, “Go out into your neighborhood today. Where is God at work? Ask God to show you how you can celebrate that good work and name God’s presence in your community.”

The Episcopal Church is not without its problems, including dwindling membership and a growing schism over the rights of LGBTQ+ members of the church (should they be allowed to be priest? Should same sex marriages be blessed by the Church? I say yes to both). However, I really like that the church places its emphasis on finding the divine not in splash and money and what-not but in neighbors and the community. The Baptismal Covenant reads, in part, “Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being?” (The response is, “I will, with God’s help”). Compassion is central to the tenets of the Episcopal Church, which is one of the reasons I love it.

Tonight I’ll be wandering into Trinity Episcopal Cathedral in downtown Sacramento to watch my wife perform with Vox Musica in their 2022 Christmas concert. I’ll keep an eye out for God in the midst of that.

Day Eighteen: Monsters REALLY Want…

Papercraft shrub with bells on
A blue shrub! With honey bells!

Narlee is really excited to see the jug of golden syrup, according to today’s narrative. “Golden Goo!” is what he calls it. It’s a mystical substance, apparently. In the mythology of Narlee’s people, when you pour Golden Goo onto trees and shrubs, golden honey bells will appear.

Now, I’m not sure what a honey bell is, or why you’d want one. Snow Monsters love them, though. Maybe for eating. Maybe for wearing.  And where do they come from? Does the syrup make them grow? Or what?

Personally, I like to think that the honey bells have always been there, and that the Golden Goo, like the Silver Key that got Randolph Carter into so much trouble in Lovecraft’s narratives, simply revealed the truth “behind the void” that was always there. Will this revelation drive the adventurers mad? Who’s to say? Stay tuned!


In other news, we finally put the Christmas tree up this morning. We’ve been putting it off because I’ve not been feeling well, and the sheer effort of breathing has been leaving me short of breath. This morning, thanks to a course of Prednisone (boo Prednisone!), I am feeling much better. So the tree’s up! Here’s a picture of resident cat Guffaw investigating half the tree, just to make sure it’s going up properly:

Grey cat in Christmas tree
Guffaw approves

Also, apropos of nothing, here’s a portion of my computer’s desktop wallpaper:

A cartoon penguin in front of a tree
Pancake approved

It’s the Linux penguin! Dressed like Santa! In front of a Christmas tree! Now, I no longer use Linux as my desktop environment (Scrivener 3 was why I moved to Windows 10), but I still use Linux for my server environments. But this is still Pancake approved, I think.

It’s a mystical, fuzzy holidailies!


Advent  wreath with four candles lit
Fourth week of Advent

It’s the fourth Sunday of Advent, and today’s entry in the Episcopal Advent Calendar (Worship) reads, “Linger before leaving your worship time today. How is God calling you to hear and sing along with Mary’s Song? Read Luke 1:39-55.”

See, this is why I dislike the song, “Mary, Did You Know?” Because, based on our reading of Luke 1:39-55, we know that she already did.

Anyway, I may not make it to worship today. But, then, I haven’t been able to for a couple of years now. And not for a couple of weeks to come. But this coming year, I plan on making spirituality a focus for the new year, so hopefully I’ll get there more often.

Day Seventeen: What Monsters Want

Jug of syrup
A jug of delicious, golden maple syrup!

I must confess, I am disappointed in the big confrontation between Pancake, Pep, and Narlee. Was there a big boss battle? No, not even close! But perhaps they are saving that for Christmas Eve. I guess one can only hope.

In today’s installment, Pancake and Pep, realizing that they are in danger of losing their golden key to the gold-munching Narlee, decide to offer him a snack from Pancake’s backpack. We weren’t told at the beginning that Pancake had packed snacks, so this comes as a surprise, and is, narratively-speaking, therefore problematic.

Critique aside, Pancake removed pancakes from her backpack (of course, she loves pancakes, hence her name) and — ta da! — a jug of golden maple syrup!

It turns out (I assume, I won’t find out until tomorrow) that snow monsters love  golden syrup! Will he give up the key for the syrup? Will Pancake the Penguin and Pep the Lungfish get to the magic treasure chest at the end of their adventure? Stay tuned to find out!

A Suspenseful Holidailies!


Today’s entry in the Episcopal Advent Calendar (Rest) reads, “Spend at least 45 minutes outside today, without doing yard work or fixing lights or redoing bows on the  garland. Take some time to just sit outside and let the air wash over you, taking away the stress and worry of the moment. Read Psalm 100 before and after your outside time. See how this psalm may help you rest and recharge your spirit.”

No reflection on this, really, except to say that it’s pretty cold out and I’m still recovering from my asthma flareup. I think I’ll put this off until tomorrow afternoon.

Day Sixteen: Conversation with a Monster

Papercraft snowflake tree
It’s a giant snowflake tree! Or is it a bodhi tree?

In today’s installment of the grand adventure, sisters Pancake the Penguin and Pep the Lungfish realize that the snow monster is more scared of them than they are of it. Once everyone settles down, they all sit down under the snowflake tree and have a chat.

In this conversation, brief though it is, Narlee the snow monster attempts to understand the concept of using gold for anything other than food. “How does delicious Golden Key unlock treasure? It only unlocks my hunger…”

It occurs to me at this point that Narlee speaks improperly for a giant monster. Instead of saying, “I want golden!” shouldn’t he have said, “Me want golden!” I don’t get it.

At any rate, they sit under the snowflake tree just as Siddhartha Gautama sat under the bodhi tree to achieve enlightenment and discuss their mutual fear of one another. Will this lead to enlightenment and understanding? Will Narlee give back the golden key? Only time will tell!

‘Tis a hungry season of Holidailies!


Today’s entry in the Episcopal Advent Calendar (Turn) reads, “Turn away from the busyness of the world right now. Turn your heart and mind toward giving thanks for this time of reflection, refreshment, and renewal. Turn your attention toward how you will be resting tomorrow, and put things in place so you can make the most of your sabbath time.”

I don’t lead a very fast-paced lifestyle. In fact, quite the opposite. I mean, aside from work, the fastest-paced I’ve been was driving 35 miles per hour to get to Target to return some gifts we’d purchased that were not what we’d intended. Even then, though, I hit some nasty traffic. And right now, since I’m sick with what my pulmonologist confirms is a nasty respiratory virus, I have no choice but to slow down a bit and ponder.

Be well, readers, and have a thoughtful day tomorrow.

Day Fifteen: “You have golden! I want golden!”

Papercraft monster with key in its mouth
This is Narlee the monster! All he does is eat gold. And he has Pancake’s golden key in his mouth! AAAIIIEEE!!!

On day fifteen, Pancake the Penguin and her sister Pep the Lungfish suddenly encounter Narlee the Snow Monster! Their location had been reported to him by Fuzz, his pet… whatever… who had seen the sisters the day before.

Scary!

The thing about Narlee the Snow Monster, who lives near Glacial Falls, is that he eats gold. What a weirdo. In the photograph above, he’s taken the golden key from Pancake’s backpack and is chowing down. “I want golden!” he shouts.

Pancake and Pep scream aloud, as one does when faced with a fierce monster. And Narlee, scared, screams back, as one does when faced with a fierce pair of sisters. (I have two, so I ought to know.)

Narlee is not a shoggoth, nor an Elder thing, nor one of the Great Race of Yith. Instead he sort of looks like a giant snowman with horns. Sort of. Maybe he’s the Thing from the John Carpenter movie and will suddenly mutate into something else even scarier. I don’t know. I can’t imagine. Only tomorrow will tell.

Me want Holidailies!


Today’s entry in the Episcopal Advent Calendar (Bless) reads, “Spend a significant amount of time today discerning if there is a special blessing or gift you can share with your church, a local ministry, or with your community. Ask God to inspire and equip you with the fortitude and tools to make this gift something truly memorable and heartfelt.”

Many years ago, when I was first learning all about how to do web development, I decided that the best way to break in and get experience was to do some volunteer gigs for organizations that I believed in. So I worked on a website for an organization that was doing ecological and appropriate technological education in Latin America, some designs for a Bay Area organization mapping organic materials in the San Francisco estuaries, and a site for a medieval studies professor at UC Davis. All these sites are gone now, like tears in the rain, because I did these sites twenty years ago, and nothing on the Web lasts that long, except for Amazon.

I have long suspected that one of my best gifts that I could share was my writing ability, but I write fiction and not copy. So web development and so on is what I can offer. I think I’m also good at working directly with people, so there’s that as well.

I think this entry is something all of us can benefit from pondering.

HEALTH UPDATE: Still wheezing. Now taking Prednisone. So grumpy and hungry too.

Day Fourteen: Looming

Papercraft sculpture of an animal of some sort
I DON’T KNOW WHAT HE IS!

As Pancake the Penguin and Pep the Lungfish make their way through the forest, they are spied upon. Who is the spy? Not the FBI or the CIA or MI5. Nope, it’s the creature pictured above: its name is Fuzz, and it belongs to the Snow Monster!

Now, I don’t actually know what Fuzz is, but he looks like a pink bunny. And Nea, the ice cream fairy who gave the adventurers the map they’re following, has warned them that the snow monster — whose name is Narlee — likes to eat gold things. Oh no! Will Narlee go after the golden key in Pancake’s backpack?

Also, Narlee’s name is suspiciously close to the word “gnarly”.

It only makes sense that there’s a snow monster in Antarctica, and that’s where our friends are. Or maybe not. Penguins (and here’s your scientific fact of the day, brought to you by my friend Theresa) actually live on several continents. Even more, if you include places like zoos and the California Academy of Sciences, which has a whole bunch of penguins on display.

Here’s a picture of some of the penguins at the San Francisco Zoo that I took many years ago, and which I share here because I think it’s a spiffy one.

Penguins lounging around
I took this photo in San Francisco many years ago, and I think it’s spiffy.

You may notice that not one of these penguins is wearing a scarf, unlike Pancake’s mother. That’s because it’s warmer in San Francisco than it is in Antarctica. More science for you.

Anyway. Tomorrow the monster may appear. What kind of monster is Narlee? A shoggoth? An elder thing? WHO KNOWS?

‘Tis a creepy season of Holidailies


Today’s entry in the Episcopal Advent Calendar (Pray) reads, “Pray along with the Collect for Advent 3, found on page 212 in The Book of Common Prayer. How will prayer guide you through the rest of the week? Set aside special time today to focus your intentions on stirring up peace and spreading joy.”

First of all, I want to mention that I dearly love the Book of Common Prayer. I don’t know why. Maybe it’s just something about having a wee little book that I can bring with me or pray with when I need to.

That said, I sometimes feel comfortable with praying the Collects, primarily because they’re meant to be spoken in church with other worshippers.

But anyway.

I’m feeling sick and kind of blue right now, so spreading joy and stirring up peace is a little difficult at the moment. I was cheerful with the person who took my order at Round Table Pizza, so there’s that. Again, I’ll ponder this further.

Day Thirteen: Mysteries Deepen

Two papercraft snow-covered pine trees
I know. I, too, was disappointed that it was only trees.

As Pancake the Penguin and Pep the Fish (I still can’t believe Pep is a a fish — I hereby declare that Pep is a lungfish because most of these adventures can’t happen underwater) make their way from the Cave of the Snow Fairy, they enter another forest. According to the map they discovered yesterday, an Icey[sic] Monster lives here. Shhh. Be careful!

And indeed, as they pass through (according to the official narrative that accompanies these little papercraft elements), they hear a mysterious rustle and other loud noises. Oh no! Can they make it out of this forest alive? I don’t know! The suspense is killing me!

When I opened this morning’s little packet, I was hoping for a monster to build, but it was just these two little trees. I unfolded them and took this picture, then put them up on the crown molding I’m using to display this adventure. I’m a little disappointed but we’ll see what tomorrow brings!

Lung Fish
This, by the way, is a lung fish. This is what Pep looks like.

‘Tis a mysterious season for Holidailies!


Today’s entry in the Episcopal Advent Calendar reads (for Learn), “Read Luke 1:59-80. When Zechariah’s speech returns, he praises God. If you lost the power to speak for nine months like Zechariah did, what would be your first word of praise? Share this with your family, friends, and on social media.”

To be honest, I’m not sure what mine would be. These days, when so much of what we say we say online in social media, losing the ability to type might be as much a hindrance as losing the ability to talk. I’m pretty sure my first communication to the world after regaining the ability to communicate would be something like, “Thank God!”, which is a much weaker version of “Praise be to God”.

Day Twelve: X Marks the Spot

A Map of Antarctica, I guess
In which we discover the name of Pancake’s home village

Waddleberg. That’s the name of the place where Pancake the Penguin set out for her journey to find the mystical treasure chest that will give her the power of flight on Christmas Day. I’ve never heard of such a place, and it doesn’t come up when I do a search for it on Google Earth. I doubt such a place exists, particularly in Antarctica.

There is a forest called Snowflake Forest that will be part of the journey of Pancake and Pep, and apparently an icy monster lives there. Beware! I wonder what fate will befall our adventurers?

I am about 95% sure this adventure is happening on the land, and I still think it’s unfair that Pep the fish does not have a backpack with a land-SCUBA outfit. How is she supposed to survive on the land? Poor little fish.


In writing news, I submitted my 100th manuscript today! Now I’m going to take a break from submitting until the new year. My stats for the year (so far):

SUBMISSIONS: 100

ACCEPTANCES: 2

REJECTIONS: 87

OUTSTANDING SUBMISSIONS: 11

One of those acceptances, “Blank” is up and available on the Dark Recesses website (see my “Bibliography” page for the link). The other will be published soon in LOLCraft: A Compendium of Eldritch Humor, and when that goes live I will be sure to let you know. I had dreams of making a professional sale this year, but apparently that was not meant to be in 2022.

‘Tis a navigatable season for Holidailies!


Today’s entry in the Episcopal Advent Calendar reads, “Take a new or different route to work, or school, or out to run errands. See how using a different route requires you to see the world differently — to pay a different kind of attention. What do you notice along the way that makes you stop and take a second look? Does anything on this new route inspire your faith journey or remind you of lessons learned?”

This is a really difficult one for me to put into practice, since I work at home 100%, and my commute is literally from the bed to my workspace at the dining room table. Most days, I don’t go anywhere. I have plans to go to Target tomorrow evening, but that’s about it.

I’ll keep pondering this, though.

Day Eleven: Well, I Was Wrong

Papercraft fairy shaped like an ice cream cone, with cat in the background
The ice cream fairy! With bonus Potpourri in the background!

Well, there were no monsters in the mysterious ice cave. Instead there was an ice cream fairy named Nea. Now, I don’t know if the fae folk actually have outposts in Antarctica, or if they are as trustworthy there as their counterparts in other parts of the world (that is to say, not at all). In the picture above, you can see Nea the ice cream fairy, along with our foster kitty Potpourri.

Nea claims to know about the shining key that Pancake the Penguin carries. “But it’s been hundreds of years since I’ve seen one,” she says. This, of course, brings up the possibility that there’s a whole slew of these keys that open the treasure chest at the end of Pancake’s journey. Are there other adventurers wandering around, looking for keys and treasures that grant penguins the gift of flight on Christmas Day? Will there be a flock of flying penguins?

I suppose we’ll just have to wait and see.

But kids: DON’T TRUST FAIRIES!

‘Tis the season for fairy holidailies!


Advent calendar with three lit candles
It’s the third week in Advent, so we light the third Advent candle

Today is the third Sunday in Advent, but I didn’t go to church today, because we had people over for our monthly board game session. I’m a bad Episcopalian.

Today’s Episcopal Advent Calendar entry (worship) reads, “Imagine the faces you’d like to see at church — an all-star list of folks you want to worship with. This could be people you know from summer camp when you were a kid, people who might have already died, people you work with — all your favorites. Commit to pray for those folks this week. And make a commitment to ask one of your all-stars to come to church with you in the next month.”

I have a long list of “all stars”, people I’d like to go to church with, from friends to long-lost family. Most of my friends are either atheists or agnostic. I think my family is too. We’ll make something work, though.

Day Ten: Deep into the Mysteries

Papercraft cave in a mountain
Pancake and Pep encounter a cave! Oh no!

On day ten, Pancake and Pep encounter a mysterious cave in the mountains they’ve been traversing, just beyond the ice cream trees. The light gleams off the key, and shines into the cave, and there are mysterious noises coming from within…

I think we all know how this story goes.

You may recall H. P. Lovecraft’s tale, “The Beast in the Cave“. In this story, a man who was part of a tour group in some caves gets separated from the rest of the party, and gets lost in the caves. He encounters a MUTANT GIANT ALBINO PENGUIN, of all things (always a source of great amusement to me), and then is stalked by a creature, the titular Beast, which is apelike, hairy, all white, and blind, hunting the lost man by sound alone. In the end, we learn that the best stalking the narrator was once a human being who had gotten lost in the cave himself, many years ago!

Spoiler warning for a story that was published over a hundred years ago and that resides in the public domain.

You can tell that Pancake and Pep are probably going into the cave, since there is a Pancake-shaped opening in the front. My theory is that they go in, Pep finds a nice pond to swim in, and Pancake becomes the penguin that stalks the narrator of “The Beast in the Cave”.

That probably won’t happen, exactly in that way.

Let’s see what tomorrow brings.

Fun fact: Lovecraft wrote this tale at age 14.

A Scary Tale of Holidailies for You!


Today’s entry in the Episcopal Advent Calendar centers on the theme of rest and reads, “Set aside 30 minutes to spend in silence with your best friend today. Sure, it may feel a little weird to be silent on the phone or while sitting next to each other on the couch or across the table. Just give it a try. Make sure to set aside time after your silence to pray for each other and to say thanks for the time of rest.”

This would be easy if my best friend weren’t Jennifer the Agnostic. We do sit in silence quite often, reading or snuggling the cats. But praying for each other afterwards might be hard for her.

Awkward.