White Elephant parties explained

White Elephant gift exchanges can add a spark to your holiday party. Though as the host, be prepared to throw away 150 pounds of worthless crap that your guests leave behind. (Who wants to lug home a broken scanner/copier/fax with unused magenta ink cartridge?)

Shorty and Kim recently hosted a holiday party and their White Elephant exchange went very well. We had a wide range of packages, boxes and burlap sacks that filled the spectrum of textbook White Elephant gifts. I thought it would be a public service to utilize photos from the party to demonstrate the different types of gifts you will see at a White Elephant.

The Re-Gift
The simplest form of White Elephant is the re-gift. This is a present that was given to you by someone who thought you might actually need or want it. Be sure to wipe the dust off the box before you wrap it.

{S’Mores Maker – Comes with everything you need to make s’mores except marshmallows, graham crackers, chocolate and fire.}

The Re-re-gift
A classic! This is a gift that is given with the intention of having it re-gifted at a later date. The gift is usually campy and has a light on the inside of it. If you give a re-re-gift and see it sitting on your friend’s bookshelf, you have failed. If you receive the same re-re-gift back again ten years later at another White Elephant party, you have succeeded.

{Purse Lamp with Faux Fur}

The Closet Gift
Most White Elephant gifts are selected ten minutes before the giver leaves for the party. The Closet Gift is pulled from the bottom junk closet and shoved in a gift bag right before the party starts. The Closet Gift does not come in a box and is thrown in a gift bag or it is wrapped as is. This usually leads to a lot of guessing to the wrapped contents during the selection process. “Hmmmm, I wonder what is inside the gift that is Alvin with a hula-hoop shaped?” If you go to enough White Elephant parties, you can get your spring cleaning done months in advance.

{Hula Hooping Alvin with looping, audio track}

Dog Turd
This little known but enticing gift is exactly what you think it is. Be sure to put the poop in a plastic bag with the date you collected it. Labeling the breed on the bag is optional. It is customary to add a few of your unused senior pictures in the box along with the dogshit.

{Dog Turds}

Fruit Cake
Surprisingly, fruit cake is the closest evidence we have to proving the existence of God. At any given White Elephant party, someone will bring a fruit cake. But somehow, against all odds, only one person brings THE fruit cake. Usually God will come to you in a dream and request that you bring the fruit cake. It is an honor. For years, atheists have been trying to bring additional fruit cakes to nay say, but somehow these bogus fruit cakes are “accidentally” left at home or “somehow” forgotten in the car. It has been recorded that Calista Flockhart was converted to Christianity at a White Elephant party in 1992 when our Lord came to her in a dream, in the form of a sandwich, to give her the task of bringing the fruitcake.

It is customary to also give a humorous hand painted holiday sign along with the fruit cake. Almighty God, we beseech thee, Amen.

{Fruit Cake and Humorous Hand Painted Holiday Sign}

Not Useless Yet
Sometimes you have valuable items at home that will expire at year’s end. Why not share the last dying gasps of a gift’s life with a friend? Calendars are a great Not Useless Yet gift. Condoms that are about to expire are also desirable. Frozen foods and canned items are acceptable. DO NOT GIVE COUPONS, ASSHOLE.

{"365 Days of Duct Tape Fixes Calendar"}

Grab Bag
This gift is similar to the Closet Gift except that it is several smaller items tossed together. Visibly used items are the key here. You’ll want to stop at the Quicky-Mart on the way over to top off the selection of items. It’s also best to wrap the items inside a burlap sack. Burlap is the new cotton.

{Candles, Whoopie Cushion, Several varieties of mints, brass candle holder basket- All wrapped up in a burlap bag (not in photo.}

Fiber Optics
This one is sure to get traded back and forth at the party! The Fiber Optic gift is the hardest to part with, but reaps the greatest reward. The multicolored changing lights. The rush to find an outlet to plug it in. The secondary rush to find the switch to turn off the lights. The 15 minutes it takes to figure out how to take a clear photo of the fucking thing! Brilliant!

{Fiber Optic Rotating Glass Penguin Sculpture}

The Odds Beater
You don’t know that you’ve given an Odds Beater gift until it is opened. You thought it was a Closet Gift or a Re-Gift, but what you don’t realize is the receiver of this gift was at Wal-Mart just that afternoon, thinking about buying said item. There is usually a bit of jumping up and down and “Oh my Gods!” Do not mention that you thought it was a piece of shit. Try this line, “Oh I was hoping that you were going to pick mine!”

{6.5” 120 Watt (peak) dual speakers}

At the end of the night, I ended up with a DVD copy of “Badder Santa” (the unrated version) and Miss Sally received an educational “You’re it. Get Fit!” DVD. We’ve got the makings for a Grab Bag for next year’s party.

Calendar by BƎCK featuring Fake Dispatch

I write a Twitter account called Fake Dispatch. And there's a cartoonist named BƎCK that will take Tweets and turn them into cartoons/comics. You can see some of his work at this link: http://en.schneeschnee.de/daily/ . I think he's used about four of my Tweets to make cartoons.

A few weeks ago, BƎCK shared with me that one of my Tweets made his 2014 calendar. He then asked for my address and shipped me a copy for free! Click on any photo to embiggen.
Envelope front and back

The contents! Very nicely wrapped calendar with a postcard

Postcard back
Pink post-it with a message
Front of the calendar
I got to be January! 

Names of all the Tweeters who were in the calendar.

 It was an honor to be included in the calendar and I appreciate BƎCK sending me a copy. I assume the shipping was more than the calendar and so from the dark recesses of my heart I say to you, thanks!

You can check out the calendar and the other months here:http://beckcartoons2us.bigcartel.com/product/2014-cartoon-calendar. You should buy one of these so that BƎCK can continue to make more calendars and ship them to me.

Churches Running Out of Clever Sign Slogans

COLUMBUS, OH - The National League of Churches convened an emergency meeting this past Monday to discuss the scarcity of new, clever church sign messages. Head Writer and Deacon Paul Sims scratched at a sheet of paper attempting to resurrect some of his earlier gems, but to no avail.

“Ever since Pastor Virgil came up with ‘Do not wait for the hearse to take you to church,’ we haven’t come up with squat.”

Unbeknownst to local church goers, most of those clever signs aren’t original. “We have a network of sign writers and we rotate the clever messages on a weekly basis so that a parishioner is unlikely to see the same message twice. Your “Dusty Bibles lead to Dirty Lives” sign this week was the clever slogan last week in Glen’s Falls, NY.”

At the emergency meeting, writers from various churches and multiple denominations brainstormed to come up with a few slogans to get them through the next few weeks. Father Mike shared with me the sayings that floated to the top:

  • Put on your “O” face… your hOly face.
  • Don't wait for Jesus to touch your life. Touch Him first.
  • Not everyone gets a burning bush.
  • Jesus could kick Chuck Norris’ ass (but please don’t say anything to Mr. Norris.)
  • Come for the wine, stay for the guilt.
Sadly, the internet has brought the secret networking of the creative church-speak to a halt. Dispatcher Ron Creet of The First Methodist Church in Denver Colorado was quick to reveal the problem, “You can’t open the internet without seeing one of our clever church signs. Mrs. Roberta Samuels said she logged on to the AOL and saw her Lutheran Church sign from last week in a photo of a Baptist Church sign and almost had a conniption fit.”

The NLC has reached out to Hollywood in an attempt to rejuvenate their creative pool. Deacon Paul Sims laughed, “Those Godless bastards are funny as hell! We got Leno’s people to do a three week, limited, front end crawl with an option for Lent. But we had to fire them when we found out they were all Jewish. And of course, that's not the only fire they'll have to worry about at the end of the day. Oh! That's a good one... I'm going to write that down!”

Helpful Cooking Hints With HolyJuan: Butter

Butter is in every single recipe. If it is not in a recipe you are using, you are cooking incorrectly. Here's a simple trick I learned.

When using butter, they usually ask that you measure out the butter in tablespoons. Instead of getting out a an actual tablespoon and making a mess, use the stick of butter measuring lines.  I'm making mac and cheese and need 4 tablespoons of butter.

FIRST: Get out your stick of butter and notice the marked lines.

SECOND: Cut the lines until you get to the 4 TBSP mark.

THIRD: We only need the 4 TBSP, so throw out the other chunks.

FOURTH: Put the 4 TBSP in the recipe. Done and done!

Look for more Cooking with HolyJuan tips in the future!

The Tin Man Sighed

The Tin Man sighed. Most tin men would just squeak. Or make chittering noises as their parts rub together. When there were armies of tin men, poised in front of the giant forests of Oz, they would clatter with the anticipation of the chopping. Oh, the chopping. But that was long, long ago when there were many tin men. By the time you met the Tin Man, he was only one of the five that still stomped upon Oz. Now, he was the only one left.

When you first met the Tin Man, He was frozen in time. Rusted. He was rescued from his oxidized prison and later figured out that he was more than just tin and solder and oil. He had a heart. They called it a heart. I think you and I would call it a soul. He had reason to live. He had reason to be. And he didn't want to stop being.

When you last saw the Tin Man, he was saying good-bye to Dorothy . What you don’t know is that wasn't the last time he saw her. Twice she came back to Oz. Once because she was needed. The second time she never left. The Tin Man has only cried twice. One you know about. The second time you can probably guess. After that, he promised himself that he would never let his heart get in the way again.

The Tin Man never asked for anything, but the people of Oz asked for him to be a leader. They needed a hero and the Wizard had died long ago. The Tin Man never wanted to be powerful, but many needed him to be. Over time, he shed his tin and replaced it with titanium that they borrowed from the Kreuger King’s mines. Mining is like chopping trees, but with a pick and no fear of the dark. In his new skin he led the Great Army of Oz against the Darkness.

And he lost.

The Darkness devoured his army. Then it devoured everything on the surface of Oz. Then, with nothing left to consume, it ate itself. And then it was gone.

The Tin Man survived.  He had no flesh for The Darkness to eat. He had no warmth for The Darkness to absorb. He only had his metal skin and a watch for a heart and maybe a soul. Perhaps The Darkness ate his soul because the Tin Man felt like there was nothing left inside of him.

The Tin Man sighed.

Tin Men are patient.

And so the Tin Man, no longer tin and never really a man, waited.

Lynch / Stemen Art Show: A review

Art is easy. Take some stuff and rub it on some other stuff. Maybe add some yarn and burn one of the edges off. It’s art. Good job.

Art shows are tough. You take your burnt cornered yarn thing and you put it out for the public to see and you hope that people understand or appreciate or even just show up to look at it. Fortunately, the Lynch/Stemen show had no burnt yarn art, many visitors and a whole lot of appreciation.

The Lynch/Stemen Art Show was held on Friday October 18th, 2013 at It Looks Like It's Open Gallery in Clintonville. Tom Lynch and Jeffrey Stemen displayed their art on separate walls that met in the corner.  This was a very clever way of physically denoting that even while their styles are distinct and separate, their works were still connected. (Either that or Jeffrey did a layout in Illustrator and this was the only way all their work would fit in the space.)  Tom and Jeffrey work at the same design/build company and for this art show, some of their works are based on work conversations across the desks. A third wall had two white boards for guests to write their names or draw upon. (Click any photo to embiggen.) 

Pages from "Dig" -  Lynch

Tom Lynch is a professional illustrator working out of Columbus, OH. His displays included the artwork from his recent graphic story/comic “Dig, a large number of pen drawings, 
several color illustrations and even a flip book.  Tom’s work is very clever. He is able to portray specific emotion in all his characters’ faces and postures. Emotion that is clear, even if it is an exhausted boxing chicken 

or the Tin Man who’s wondering if maybe he was better without the heart.  I can’t see a scenario where Tom doesn't continue to succeed with his seemingly endless talent.

Jeffrey Stemen is an Ohio-born designer, writer and illustrator. Jeffrey displayed his storybook collection.
Each piece of art is crafted from the words and art that come from one book.
 Jeffrey said that once he gets an idea for a frame, he must scour his collection of books to gather the elements he needs to cut into pieces and reconfigure into his artwork.
I love how imaginative this is and Jeffrey’s determination to not stray from his rules.  You can see a running theme of video games in Jeffrey’s work while others portray childlike darkness.
Someday I will partner with Jeffrey on a project and you will all be jealous of me.

The Art Show was great show. I hope they make this a yearly tradition.

(More stuff below!)

Lynch / Stemen Art Show

On Friday, October 18th, local Columbus artists Tom Lynch and Jeffrey Stemen will be hosting an art show in Clintonville (https://www.facebook.com/lynch.stemen.) I was able to grab the two for a quick question and answer session.

Tell me about what I will see on Friday
Jeffrey:  You will see a lot of artwork, a lot of wine, and some cheese. The art work will be provided by me, and my art pal Tom Lynch. The idea of the art show came from discussion the two of us had about the love of characters and storytelling. We are both focusing on telling a story in the exhibit. His through a graphic novel/comic book approach and mine explores 24 pages from a variety of fictitious children's books from the 50s-80's.  Oh and I believe the wine and cheese idea also came from a discussion relating to what we should have on hand at the show for people to snack on. We decided on Trader Joes for that.

Should I wear a tux?
Tom: -YOU should, but people shouldn't feel the need to look fancy.
Jeffrey: You should wear two tuxes actually. The first may get stained with the awesomeness that will be flying off the art work in the gallery.

Tom, I saw that you inked a comic book recently.  How was that experience?
Tom: It was great. It was the first time I ever put that much effort into crafting a single idea. Finishing the comic gave me a true feeling of accomplishment that I haven't felt since I beat Sonic 3 on Sega Genesis.

Jeffrey, can I call you Jeffrey?
I actually go by Jeffrey.

What can we expect from you two in the future?
Tom: Right now I'm working on the next Issue of Dig, and a few freelance projects. Jeffrey is going to move to the wilds of Alaska to live off the land and commune with his spirit animal.
Jeffrey: Probably cleaning up the gallery and walking home. And then we’ll probably do another joint show next spring. I am already developing another style I’d like to explore more and then of course share in a gallery.

Let me know about your sponsors
PencilStorm.com is a group of freelance writers in the Columbus Music Scene and is highly entertaining. Colin from Watershed fame and Colin's Coffee runs it. Storyforest is a partnership between myself and Julie Standish and it’s another outlet for the reusing of old books and old materials. Winking Owl Studio is the Studio that developed Tom's Dig comic. Now that I think about it, a Storyforest sounds like a place a winking owl would live in. Winking Owl also sounds like a dirty sexual position. Pencil Storm does as well...hmmm...

This isn't going to be one of those art shows where some shaved head guy who thinks he’s a New York City DJ will be in a corner playing music, is it?
Jeffrey: Actually, that very person will be there. His name is Hugh. Prepare for his DJ skills to stain the other tux.
Tom: Hugh typically dresses as a west coast DJ.

The Lynch / Stemen Show is Friday  at 8:00 p.m. Where is this show being held? Will I be able to find parking?
Jeffrey: The show is being help at this really cool gallery in Clintonville at 13. E Tulane
Tom: -It is RIGHT next door to the Cup o Joe on Tulane and High. Parking seems to be typical street side parking.
Jeffrey: I actually prefer people to just jump out of their moving car in front of the gallery and just let the car park itself. You may need a third tuxedo though.

Tom Lynch is a professional Illustrator working out of Columbus, OH. He has made artwork for posters, t-shirts, playbills, albums, websites, and one time he painted a big bird on the side of his high school (legally). Right now he works at Roto, a full-service design and production firm specializing in first-hand experiences for museums and entertainment venues.

Jeffrey Stemen is an Ohio-born designer, writer, illustrator, whose art has been featured in such publications as the Columbus Dispatch, the L.A. Times and Boy's Life Magazine. He is currently a designer for award-winning design firm, Roto, in Dublin, Ohio. Freelance collaboration include Draw Me A Story with professional storyteller Julie Standish, as well as, Storyforest, which he hopes you will visit at www.etsy.com/shop/StoryForest.