Image description: Front face of a Christmas card, in pale yellow with a dark red border. The top two-thirds is a photo of two tabby cats sitting with attentive expressions next to a miniature Christmas tree and wrapped presents. The lower portion is hand-printed text that reads, “Charlie and George listened patiently to what the mice wanted for Christmas, and then they ate them.”
Edited to add:
Since I posted the card on social media three hours ago I’ve had several comments/questions on both the image and the caption, so here are some answers.
The image is a Photoshop composite. Judging from questions and comments I’ve had, many seem to think that the cats themselves are digitally messed with. They’re not. Here’s the original photo
Getting the picture was a mix of luck and persistence. I’ve been thinking about this card for about a month. I knew what the caption would be, but for it to work I needed them to be sitting together and facing the camera. A vaguely bored look would be a bonus. So day after day I stalked them with the camera, and finally about ten days ago, just after breakfast, they made this pose. I knew they’d move any second—much faster than I could get there, so I gave the phone to Kelley, hissed at her to Get that picture, now! And got this. I was particularly pleased with George’s pose, especially the paws.
I was going to crop it to a rectangle to take out the platform on the right, then give Charlie a little red Santa hat and George a miniature tree by his paws. But the composition felt off. So I restored the original square and started again. First I put a Christmas tree on the right hand platform. I’m not exactly a photo-manipulation expert so this took some figuring out: find the stock image, abstract the image, size it, put it in the right place, figure out how to put in shadow and make it look as though it was sinking into the carpet covering. But eventually I did figure it out. At which point I realised the colour needed balancing with something on the other side. I tried hanging a Christmas stocking from Charlie’s platform but then it looked weirdly symmetrical. In the end I decided on a couple of little presents. Again, I had to find the image, abstract, resize, place, add shadow, add sinking-into-carpet. Yep, that would work.
What followed then was endless futzing with colour balancing, adding a purple frame, changing colour of the frame to match the Christmas baubles, deciding how big a box I needed for the text, changing the colour of that box, etc.
I did all this using a variety of apps on my iPad (with Pencil) and Mac desktop: Photoshop, Photoshop Fix, and the Apple Photos app. Then I had to write the caption.
I’ve known for a month exactly what the caption should say because around this time every year I think of a holiday card my good friend (and ex) Carol sent me from the UK, starring a cat called Buster. All that I retain of that card is a black and white photocopy of the front with no copyright info. I don’t know who originated either photo or caption. But the basic idea stuck in my head, and every now and again I do a desultory search based on that that old image. A TinEye reverse image search returns a variety of images of the original cat, but no copyright information. And I’ve found this site, with something very like the card, but not quite. A search for the original text brings me several products for sale based on reimaginings of the original (e.g. Etsy, CafePress) but all differently copyrighted. I’m pretty sure the original photo is by Kat Caverley, but the basic sentiment of the caption seems to be some kind of meme.
And that’s as much as I knew until earlier today, when I learnt from a Facebook conversation with Eric Cline that the meme goes back at least to Mark Twain, via Weinstein and Albrecht’s Jonathan Seagull Chicken (in which a chickens’ good friend, including Mark Twain and Moses) throw him a banquet, and then eat him, for, dear readers “…isn’t that just what a chicken is for?”), and probably a zillion other repurposings. We decided that is is an example of the kind of classical SFnal reversal parodied so effectively by Douglas Adams in the Hitchiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.
Aaaaanyway, seeing as I wasn’t using Caverley’s photo, and the caption idea is a meme, I felt pretty secure about my card. Now I just had to figure out how to do it. I wanted the caption to look handwritten. I experimented with a few fonts but none of them looked right. In the end I just opened the photo app on my iPad and wrote the text with my Pencil, then then finalised everything in Photoshop.
So there you have it: a simple card that took about ten hours to make. If you want to use it, feel free: just click on the image for a larger version, and download. Enjoy!
3 thoughts on “Holiday greetings from Charlie and George”
I’m struggling with my reply because during my life I’ve loved and been loved by several pets. I actually prefer them to many humans I’ve known.
Well done! That shows considerable patience on the part of Charlie and George, waiting for the mice to finish talking before eating them. ;)
It’s been so fun to be a fly on the wall as you become a cat lover!
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