The lovely and talented Judith and I spent Christmas Up North, with my in-laws.

As a result of leaving Madison early to avoid a snowstorm that never materialized, and a friend’s birthday on Boxing Day, we never actually got to open our presents to each other, which are still under the tree.

We’re trying to decide whether to have our Christmas this Saturday (technically the Sixth Day of Christmas, though “the Sith Day of Christmas” sounds far more interesting), or wait until the following weekend – Russian Orthodox Christmas.

(A benefit the Russian Orthodox Church would do well to publicize: you can pretty much celebrate Xmas at half off the normal price, minimum, as godless heathen stores clear out their holiday items December 26 onwards, giving you two weeks of insane secular bargains before the most holy day).

A bonus to waiting for Russian Orthodox Christmas is that we’d be celebrating the same day as Louisa, in Siberia. So it’d be our first family Christmas. Even though she’s 11 time zones separate us. Which, by the way, is sheer hell. But I want to keep this post upbeat.

Anyhoo, between my family and the in-laws, whose presents were indeed opened at the appropriate hour, I raked. Of course, letting Judith know (and spread the word) precisely what I wanted well beforehand helped.

This year, the loot included some terrific gems, the mere thoughts of which had long caused paroxysms of Pavlovian proportions in me:

* The Firefly DVD boxed set. (I’ve been waiting to watch Serenity until I plough through the series).

* The Thin Man box set. (“Mrs. Charles can not sleep, and therefore I am awake.”)

* An electric kettle (I’m shocked I never thought I needed one before – tea and coffee now take half the time).

* A Panini Grill (after spending time this Autumn at Lucca, Italy, this item graduated from luxury to must-have status).

* A Spaetzle Maker (Alton Brown loves items that multi-task: I, on the other hand, live for objects that do one job well. Kitchen implements are my life.)

* America: The Book (from Dr. Blink cohorts Chris and Melissa, whom I had chance to dally with Christmas Eve afternoon)

****

For some reason, I’ve been hit by a series of panic attacts these last few days.

Fortunately, I’ve a fine book to read inbetween, lent to me by my pal Sean Michael Dargan.

Killing Bono – by Neil McCormick

Not the greatest literature ever, but a riveting memoir of a school chum of Bono’s, who had a less successful musical career. An easy, fun, terrific read for anyone trying to make it in any creative career.

From Publishers Weekly:

The author of this exuberant rock memoir went to school with the members of super-group U2 and stayed friends with Bono (ne Paul Hewson) as he rose from garage-band front-man to rock colossus to world dignitary thanks to his stumping for debt relief for the world’s poorest countries. But the book is less about the distant figure of Bono than about McCormick’s feverish quest to emulate his success in a series of bands; he spent 10 thrilling, agonizing years on the brink of making it. The result is a funny, jaundiced celebration of rock ‘n’ roll fantasy and reality, chronicling the music, the debauchery, the search for band mates who can play an instrument, the philistinism of major label A&R reps, the wasted talents of the wannabes they crush, the seething resentment toward those who make it and the intoxicating rush of live performance that transfigures even those who don’t. McCormick, now the rock critic for Britain’s Daily Telegraph, includes some overwritten analysis of Bono’s lyrics and musings on God and the meaning of life, but his book is also full of trenchant observations of the 1970s Dublin punk scene and the shifting styles of 1980s New Wave and pop. McCormick’s is an authentic, gripping rock ‘n’ roll voice, veering between self-importance and self-loathing on an unsteady journey toward self-knowledge.

John

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