Archive for December, 2013

The Angel in the Alley

Posted in Reflections, Uncategorized with tags , , , on December 9, 2013 by Justin S. Smith

This idea came from a brief text exchange with my brother after the Elf on the Shelf post. If you came here searching for an inspirational story of supernatural protection, you have made a grave error. Keep reading though, you may yet be inspired. – J.S.S.

I think I was clear about my opinions of the Elf on the Shelf. What if you agree with me but still want the fun of moving an inanimate object about your property convincing your children that it only moves when they’re not watching? Sure you could go full Toy Story on them, but isn’t that just another version of playing with dolls  like the Elf on the Shelf? Hasn’t the Doctor already given us the answer?

I offer you the Elf on the Shelf Whovian alternative: The Angel in the Alley (for those non-Whovians get some information here or here.)

Imagine, you send one of your children to take out the trash the day after Thanksgiving and when they open the back gate, an angel statue is standing in the alley. The next day they look out the window and see the angel in the yard blocking the gate. You can move it around a few times outside, maybe have a hand on the window to a child’s bedroom with the fanged mouth open and exposed.

Then you bring it in the house and place it in frightening locations for discovery: behind the shower curtain, right outside of a bedroom door, in the bedroom closet. Christmas morning the child awakes to find an angel by their bed reaching for them to toss them back in time. If you’re a real over achiever, maybe the angel is by the child’s bed on the morning of the 24th and they wake on Christmas to find the house altered to simulate that they have been sent back to a different era. Go as far as you want with it. The important things are to make sure they notice the changes and adjust to their emotional stability.

So, if instead of magic and whimsy you want to teach your children vigilance and fear of blinking; if you’d rather clean up the destruction made by an 8 year old trying to escape a statue than a mess you made yourself mimicking a mischievous elf;  if you want the fun of manipulating your children’s emotions but want to make sure that the fun is one sided (really, they’re already getting Christmas gifts, do they need a month of fun build up or do they need to really earn it?) I recommend the Angel in the Alley.

Any help lining up manufacturing, building a prototype or contacting BBC for permissions will be rewarded with a free set of angels (one per child) and/or equity in the business. – J.S.S.

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Writing about Writing

Posted in Reflections, Uncategorized with tags , , , , on December 5, 2013 by Justin S. Smith

A friend of mine has a site where he primarily writes about writing. For some reason, likely because he’d never read my blog before, he asked me if I’d like to fill a gap in his guest post schedule for today. He gave me a timetable on when he would like to see a first draft and said to just write something (around 500 words) about story telling.

It’s a little strange working with an editor; I’ve not been a fan in the past. I usually have gotten comments like “write it like this…” or “you should say this.” Essentially what I get is “I’m not going to put the effort into writing this, but I think it would be better said in my voice instead of yours so I’m going to tell you how to say it like I would.” Rarely among the amateur elite do you find someone who just gives you suggestions on improving without trying to mold you into a version of themselves.

I understand; it’s a tightrope. Having just taken over the duty of teaching writing to my 11 year old, I already know the effort it takes point someone towards better writing and telling them what to write.

My first draft was returned with 23  notes. Most quite useful (the guy really hates semi-colons for some reason,) some a simple request for rewording for clarity, and one referencing Dr. Who. All in all a good experience. We bounced drafts back and forth a couple of times, and he was overall pleased with the third version. I never felt like my voice was being trampled or that I had to fight against unnecessary changes (I even managed to retain a couple semi-colons in the final draft.)

Anyway, If you’re interested in reading my post Lying: a Folk Art, head over to In Brief look around while your there and tell Nathan you’d like to see more from me. If you got here from the link on my bio on that post, here’s a sample of the Historical Fiction I was talking about: 2800 miles/ 4 days (first of four parts) and here’s some prose I’m particularly fond of: A Song For Actors (first of three songs.) Feel free to look around and comment. Thanks for stopping by.

The Elf on the Shelf

Posted in Reflections with tags , , , , on December 4, 2013 by Justin S. Smith

I hate the Elf on the Shelf. I know some of you are saying “but, Justin, you’re not supposed to hate” or “it’s just a fun thing to do at Christmas with the kids.” To the first, I have no issue hating a piece of crap plastic and felt doll; to the second, fun is subjective and the elf is not fun for me. I hate him or her or it.

Why do I hate it? Well, the reasons are manifold. It represents a perpetuation of a myth that we sell our children every year. It is an increase on that myth taking to the next level of Santa Claus having a mischievous spy in the house reporting on whether you’re good or bad. Commonly this myth is sold to children of religious people who should be telling them that the judgment  of their actions is from the Almighty God of Heaven instead of a fat man living on the North Pole. Further, many of these Christians are screaming about the cashier at Wal-Mart saying “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas” while wholesale buying into this bit of commercialism and advertising it on Facebook. Which is the real reason I hate the freaking elf; the barrage of craptastically  cutesy Facebook posts that clog my newsfeed with vomit inducing sentimentality  throughout the month of December. For full disclosure, I have similar feelings about the thankful posts in November.

Maybe I should be more concerned about the myth and commercialization, but I’m not.  However you celebrate the holidays will not get much response from me. Have a tree or don’t; Tree topped with angel or star; ornaments with scripture verses or sports team logos or Mickey Mouse and Star Trek (shout out Jason and Shelly,) it really doesn’t phase me. Even if your clogging my newsfeed with the Elf on the Shelf, I’m not going to say anything about it…until you call me out.

Up until today, the most comment I’ve made about the Elf was a comment on a friend’s picture of a newly purchased one: “Ugh.” That was it. She knows me well and responded with a playful “Do you mean Bah humb”ugh”??? LOL.” I’ll take the jab that I may be becoming a grumpy old man prematurely. Then today this appears in my news feed (slightly clipped)

“I know some people don’t get into the Elf on the Shelf thing, but our Tinsel brings our house a lot of fun this time of year. I love creating memories for my children. If that makes me a bad mom, then I guess I ‘ll just continue to be a bad mom. Tinsel is here to stay. If you don’t enjoy seeing my posts, then do me a favor and unfriend me.“

My Response:

“I’m sure someone said something unwarranted to you to get such a rant, but unleashing it on the rest of us seems off the mark. I don’t like the EOTS. I usually skip over the posts because my opinion of your traditions at your house should be kept to myself, unless my opinion is called for a reason why I should cease being your friend. It seems if someone did say something negative about your elf, this response is equally bad.”

Maybe I should have just skipped it, but to me the tone says this Elf, this doll, is a sacred cow. It says “This elf that I will post pictures of for 25 days is more important to me than keeping a relationship with you.” Clearly it was because after my comment I was deleted as a friend. I’m still in mourning. It’s hard to type through the tears.

Look, if you want to play with dolls all month and post pictures, I’ll typically keep my comments to myself. If I have to approve of your hobby choice and enjoy seeing your pictures to be your friend, then it’s time we said goodbye and that’s one less person on my newsfeed posting Elf on the Shelf pics. Doesn’t it say something though about how social media has redefined friendship and how shallow we all are because of it?

But just to get in the spirit, here’s a few of my favorite elf pics:

Now you have some more ideas to keep it fresh.

Tomorrow I will have a guest post at Nathan Barra’s In Brief. More on that to come.

J.S.S.