Friday, December 17, 2004 05:06 PM
Holidays; or, Of Pain and Gifts
 by Fëanor

Be prepared. This post has been mutating and gestating and growing all day. Now it has exploded out of all proportion and is monstrously large. Feel free to take a break in the middle; reading it all in one gulp may cause brain cancer or hair loss.

First, a quick link. It looks like the Penny Arcade boys are going to do a continuing Lovecraftian/Cthulhu mythos holiday story. God bless their twisted little hearts.

If you haven't seen it, immediately find and watch Angels in America, the HBO TV miniseries based on the plays, now on DVD. It's about being outcast in America, and being powerful in America, and being gay in America, and being sick in America, and it's about living and dying in America, and it's...well, it's about America, obviously. We watched it over three weeks at movie night, two hours each night each week, and it was really fantastically amazing. Acting, visuals, writing, etc., all top of the line. Meryl Streep and Al Pacino, two of the best living actors, are all over it, kicking metaphorical acting ass like usual. I've borrowed the DVDs from Peccable so poppy can check them out; she's a big fan of the plays.

Speaking of poppy, you may or may not know that in the last few days she's been in enormous amounts of pain, to the point where she couldn't really walk or stand or sit or lie down or breathe comfortably. Well, a doctor looked her over today, and noticed that one of her legs was longer than the other. This didn't seem right. Turns out her hip was dislocated. In layman's terms, her leg wasn't on right. So he jammed it back in there using brute force. So now the hip has been relocated, and poppy is resting and recovering nicely. Lots of "R" things. Arrr...

Today was a pretty busy day, so let's get going. This morning we had the annual tech breakfast before work, wherein a group of people in my company's tech department meet at a nearby diner, reminisce about the old days, gripe about Microsoft, and make fun of the salespeople. And eat breakfast, of course. It was a lovely morning, despite the part where the homeless guy with a garbage bag full of his belongings came into the diner and sat down, and two security guards came in and argued with him for a while, and finally got him to go away by taking his garbage bag full of stuff and throwing it outside. This was rather awkward. On the one hand, he was kind of creepy looking, and had a garbage bag with him full of stuff. But on the other hand, it seems to me like he had the right to be there, if he had some money and was planning to use it to buy some food.

Anyways. Today was also our holiday party at work, which means we didn't do much work, we gave presents to each other, and then we got out early. That's what I call getting into the holiday spirit! In fact, I ended up working even less than I might have, for two reasons. One, things have calmed down a bit at work, since I finished (or, at least, handed over for testing) a few big projects and am down to only a few little ones now. And two, the network went down. Unfortunately, the network went down as I was writing the first version of this post, and I didn't get a chance to post it earlier today, when it was much shorter and different. I was planning to post it before I left, but the network remained down the whole day, all throughout our holiday party (which consisted mainly of Primo's sandwiches, chips, soda, liquor, and music from Vis Major's iPod). I thought I'd just print the post, but of course the printers are on the network, too. And then I didn't want to wait until Monday to post it, or try to reconstruct it when I got home. So I decided to sit down and copy the whole thing down in long hand. There's a reason why they call it long hand! It's hard, and it takes a long damn time! And then of course, the network came back up just as I was leaving. Oy.

But about the presents. Last year at the holiday party, I got a really cool gift. John gave me a Lord of the Rings sound and action Cave Troll figure. It stands tall in a special place on my desk, and I make it swing its club or stab its trident and roar every day before I leave work.

But the year before that, I got a really lame gag gift, also from John if I remember correctly (maybe the troll was to make up for it) that was basically making fun of an email I sent to a bunch of people at work. This year, something very similar happened--gag gift based on a dumb email I sent. Luckily, this year the gift is rather useful.

I'd like to take these gag gifts all in good fun, but for some reason they just remind me of the stinging shame of high school. But I'm getting over it.

After the party, the company financed a bus trip for everyone to Atlantic City to do some gambling. I would have joined in, but I had a concert tonight I've been looking forward to for many months: The Musical Box is at the Keswick. As that link will inform you, they recreate Genesis tours from the 1970s. I'd seen them before and they're pretty awesome, especially if you're one of those poor folks, like bloginator and I, who love '70s era Genesis, but weren't alive to see them touring. The particular show they did tonight was a special treat--The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway tour, wherein they play the entire two-hour, double-album of the same name (bloginator's favorite Genesis album, btw), plus a few encores. It was pretty awesome. Great lighting effects, cool slides to connect with the music, and fantastic costumes. The drummer (who was a clone of Phil Collins) was particularly good; he looked and sounded just like Phil Collins, and played really well, too. But they were all good. My only complaints would be that the lead singer doesn't quite have Pete's range, and a few times tried to hit a note he couldn't manage. Plus, his flute playing could maybe use some work. And although the keyboardist was amazing, and the music he's playing is admittedly very complex, I felt like a few times he wasn't quite able to keep up with the pace of the music. Also, the songs in general sometimes have the feeling of being highly accurate and precise recreations, very technically proficient, but lacking a certain life.

But those were minor, infrequent problems. The show was really great; great sound, no technical difficulties. The Keswick is a good venue. Interestingly enough, my favorite song was probably "Waiting Room," which is one of my least favorite songs on the actual album. It's a weird, sort of improvisational instrumental track, full of strange, dissonant noises and crashing sounds. Live, it was amazing--loud and powerful and awesome, and the way they linked it into the story and used lighting and silhouettes (the Pete Gabriel clone dressed in an amazing Nosferatu-like costume, writhing behind a screen--very creepy) was just great.

UPDATE: Believe it or not, there's something I actually forgot to say here about Genesis and The Musical Box. Seeing Musical Box always makes me feel kind of uncomfortable, and the reason is, Peter Gabriel is a creepy guy! He always put on a real performance when he was playing live with Genesis, and a lot of the songs they did were sexual in a gross and perverted way. The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway is a coming of age story, so of course it's about sex and violence, but it's also incredibly surreal and strange and insane and kind of disgusting. And seeing it live, with slides in the background that illustrate each song, makes this only more obvious. I feel kind of dirty applauding. But the worst song for this, which is ironically probably my favorite Genesis song of all time, is "The Musical Box," which they played as an encore last night. This is a song which, on the album, is kind of creepy, but what it's really talking about is kind of hard to understand. It definitely has something to do with desire and time and possibly ghosts, but not much else is clear. Live, Pete (or a Pete clone, in this case) helpfully explains the story: a young boy is killed by a young girl with a croquet mallet, flies up to heaven, is rejected, and returns to Earth to find her in an attic playing with a music box. The boy is now in the form of a very old man for some reason and comes on to the little girl. For this part of the song, Pete (or a reasonable facsimile thereof) dons an old man costume and basically makes gestures of molestation on stage. The music is fantastic, but I kind of grimace as I'm clapping. I mean, eeww.

After the show, I had a great time just sitting in a coffee shop and talking with bloginator and his wife. Then I hurried home to finish up this blog post.

And all that was just the beginning of my weekend! It's going to be a busy one. Tonight I'll be heading over to bloginator's for his second annual Christmas Carol party, where we all take turns reading the Dickens book aloud, and then watch the best movie version. It's fun and literary and clever. He and his wife are also having a time travel-themed New Year's Eve party that I won't be able to go to, but that I will be contributing some time travel-themed movies to, so I have to put them together to bring over. Don't tell the RIAA, but I also need to copy a CD or two for him, and one or two for my boss, who, after hearing about last night's show, is interested to hear some '70s Genesis. Then on Sunday it's time for another D&D session. My player's handbook has arrived (God bless you, eBay sellers, every one), so I plan to study up and be well-prepared.

And somewhere in the middle of all that other stuff, I hope to spend time with poppy and help her make Christmas cookies. Plus, it'd be good if I could find time for some of my website projects. And I'd like to play some video games. But now I'm getting carried away, as always. And when that happens, it's about time to stop.

So just one more thing. I caught the "South Park" Critter Christmas special a night or so ago, and I don't know if it was this year's special, or they're rerunning it from some other year, but it is seriously messed up and awesome in a really sick, sick way. I can't even really describe any of it without getting way too graphic, but it involves really cute little animals having satanic blood orgies and learning to perform abortions. It's fantastic. I should really watch that show more often...or, you know, at all. I should watch "The Simpsons," too. But these are more things I don't seem to be able to find time for, or remember to do.

Okay, I'm really tired now, and probably you are, too, if you made it this far. So, good weekends to all.

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