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Or maybe I should say Joyeux NoŽl!, or even

The weather forecast looks worse every time I look at it. But for today, at least, there's no snow, no ice, no rain. Some scary looking clouds pass by, but otherwise here's the view from my window:


Yesterday, I got myself a Within Temptation DVD/CD pack as an impulse purchase. A DVD containing two live recordings, one show in Antwerp and other in Amsterdam, with two CDs of songs recorded at the concerts.

The lead singer is called Sharon den Adel...

...and her dress sense (there are about half a dozen dress changes in this performance) is as off the wall as ever... Yeah... She's wearing a lampshade, right?
They are often classed as "metal", but while they have elements of metal, their music tends towards gothic symphonic rock. If you have difficulty imagining what that could possibly be, listen to "The Promise", particularly a live recording. Or, maybe if you can find it on YouTube, pretty much anything from "Black Symphony".
A good rock song can be epic (there are many fans of many bands of many subgenres that would happily tell you the best ever rock song ever written). Now take it, guitar solos and all, and back it up with a full orchestra. Add a dash of gothic so it isn't "commercial". Then you'll have something that transcends epic. Something that demands a stage show that is more than "some people singing"...
What I thought interesting is that a fair number of audience shots in the video showed people that didn't exactly look like hardcore rockers.
Perhaps this is because their genre is, pretty much, defined as themselves. Their lyrics are not sappy love songs. The music is frequently quite involved and complex (as you would expect for an orchestral backing), and while a lot of metal and rock influences are present in the songs, once in a while something comes along that totally messes with your emotions. Try "Say My Name".
But, alas, they are what they are so slow motion fire effects are pretty much obligatory. It just wouldn't be right having it any other way...

From the first concert, two newer songs I'm enjoying: Fire and Ice and The Last Dance.


Mom got me a rubber duck for Christmas!


There was something else. Something wrapped in Playmo-paper (yes, it's a running gag, hadn't you noticed?):

What could it possibly be? Lego?
Nope! It's a Playmo-Me! (grey haired single guy with glasses)

Actually, I knew I was getting this, so I sorted singleton out with a wife and baby. Instant family! I like how the guy comes in a bright pink box and the woman-and-child comes in a blue box, it is as if there's a big middle finger being aimed directly at those who colour-code their boxes for "boys" and "girls" (though the Playmo-fairies are still in HelloKittyPink boxes, mind you).
The fireplace is pretty cool. It 'burns' for a minute, and starts off from embers to be a full fire, then dies back down to embers. It's a little detail that is really pleasant. One observation I do have is that I'm not quite sure how Playmo-Wife can sit down. Her legs are different to normal Playmo people in that they can move independently, however her skirt is something of an impediment to sitting, implying that in order to sit down she'd need to take her skirt off. Of course, Playmo-guy might not find such a thing to be a hardship. ☺
Doesn't this look cosy?


So, all that remains is to have some turkey and veg (though probably in a while as I've been eating hand made caramels while writing this!) and finish up with some various delicacies from the other side of the planet, while trying not to bang my head off the wall at what Moffat manages to do with Santa in Doctor Who.

Top left, a biological yuzu (it's a sort of lemon) drink. Top right, a funwari yaki, which is like two pancakes with red bean paste between them. Below, a selection of "gateaux" which is bread-like (not cake-like, despite the name) object containing various fillings. Upper left of the pack is a large "cake" containing red bean wrapped in a layer of white bean (I think). Upper right (the darker one) has pieces of chestnut in the pasty filling. The upper long row of smaller cakes is white bean and milk (I quite like this one). The middle row (white/pink/gold) is buckwheat paste (I suspect this will have a grainy texture). The lower row (white/green/gold) is a cake with green tea paste. Mom tells me that this is somewhat bitter, which is to be expected as it is green tea after all. I just tried one (hey, why not, it's Christmas!) and, actually, I found it to be quite sweet. Uh... Go figure!

Certainly, something I find interesting is that - Western influences aside - Japanese sweet things are entirely different to those that I grew up with. I'm trying to think of a sweet anything with beans and I draw a blank. The closest I can manage is a tin of Heinz Baked Beans and that's really not the same thing. So, then, it is nice to have the ability to be able to order these, a taste of something that is probably quite normal in a faraway place.
I wonder if the people who picked the little cakes off of the conveyor belt and arranged them into the plastic tray could have imagined that a geek (and his mom) would be enjoying them in France on Christmas Day? Well, they'll never read this, but メリークリスマス to you.



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