(LIGHTS) It's a beautifully passive holiday tradition, light-gazing at places like Bellevue Botanical Gardens or Zoolights in Tacoma -- but you can make it less passive by contemplating where the hell all that electricity is coming from... the rivers and dams, the buzzing transfer stations, the lines overhead like scratches on the sky. It is amazing, is it not? What a century. TRACI VOGEL

Garden D'Lights, at the Bellevue Botanical Gardens, 12001 Main St, Bellevue, 425-451-3755, 5-10 pm, closes Jan 2, $3 donation.

Zoolights, Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium, 5400 N Pearl St, Tacoma, 253-591-5337, 5-9 pm, closes Jan 2, $3.95.

The Lights of Christmas, Warm Beach Camp, 20800 Marine Drive, Stanwood, 800-228-6724, 5-10 pm, closes Jan 30, $4-$6.

Northern Lights drive-through holiday light park, Marymoor Park, off Hwy 520, through Dec 26, 230-5280, 5-10 pm, $10, priced per person in car, price cut with canned food donation.

The Bobs

(LIVE MUSIC) A run-in with a toothless Slavic couple singing "Kalinka" in Berlin's Alexanderplatz reminded me that a cappella music started as the music of the poor, the drunk, and whoever else needed to make music without the luxury of instruments. But Seattle is not the old country, and although you can still get genuine "street a cappella" from time to time, gentrified and urbane versions -- from Yale's Whiffenpoofs to Manhattan Transfer -- are more common. The Bobs are a good case in point. The four former singing-telegram artistes will be at Jazz Alley inspiring bland amusement with ironic a cappella versions of Christmas songs. I, for one, will be in the alley outside, humming, "Kalinka, Kalinka, Kalinka Moya." NATHAN THORNBURGH

Jazz Alley, 2033 Sixth Ave, 441-9729, 8 pm & 10 pm, $13.50-$15.50.

FRIDAY 12/24

Christmas Cheer

(BOOZE) Unlike New Year's and St. Patrick's Day, getting drunk on Christmas is not a generally-accepted cultural event. Still, it is something many of us do -- after all, "family" is one of the most commonly used words at AA meetings. So, this Christmas, get blotto! Whether you manage to entice your family members to do the same, or sneak away to the bathroom to down a couple shots during the course of the day, it can help make the whole event bearable. Besides, Christ was a drunk, and so is Santa. Bradley Steinbacher

Mom and Pop's house, all day.

Santa's Little Helpers

(VOLUNTEER) Alternatively, you could help sort, load, unload, and deliver gifts for children in foster care this Christmas! It's got some advantages -- it gets you away from your family for a few hours, and it'll give you a high you'd never experience with that depressant, alcohol. TRACI VOGEL

Call 721-6838 to volunteer.


The Talented Mr. Ripley

(FILM) I know that when I think about Christmas, I immediately think "gay sociopath," or "frontal nudity." This year, fortunately, I won't be alone. Anthony Minghella, the Oscar-winning director of The English Patient, is back this season with the psychological thriller The Talented Mr. Ripley, another film that has epic ambitions, most of which revolve around the hope of seeing murderous homo Matt Damon drop his towel at least once. That dream is only fleetingly satisfied, but we are given a rewarding glimpse of Jude Law's Christmas stocking, and the film itself is just as long and appealing. What more could inspire you to thank the baby Jesus? STEVE WIECKING

Opens nationwide on Christmas day, check listings for theaters and showtimes.

Basic Plumbing

(CLUB ALTERNATIVE) Let's face it -- once you've opened your presents, taken in a movie, and had a filling holiday dinner, Christmas Day is awfully boring. Don't sit around in a restless stupor. If you're feeling like a ho ho ho, haul your Yule log over to Basic Plumbing for some final season's greetings. Roam the darkened maze of Seattle's favorite sex club, a gay mecca where you're sure to meet the lust of your life, or at least enjoy an umpteenth lobby screening of In & Out. Christ died for your sins, so the least you could do is blow some stranger. STEVE WIECKING

Basic Plumbing, An Alternative Club for Gay Men, 1505 10th Ave, between East Pike & Pine St, info hotline 323-2799, membership and photo ID required.

SUNDAY 12/26

La Dolce Vita

(FILM) As a helicopter delivers a large statue of Christ on a tow line to the Vatican, another man in another helicopter is flirting with women sunbathing on a roof top. But the noise of the helicopters makes it impossible for him to get their phone numbers. This is La Dolce Vita, which, like the American film actress being followed by reporters, is ridiculous and beautiful. Fellini made this extravagant film about moral loss, degeneracy, and impotence in 1959, and some of its images are still the most powerful in all of cinema. In fact, last night I had a dream I was with the American blonde by the famous water fountain. It was a happy dream. CHARLES MUDEDE

Grand Illusion Theater, 1403 NE 50th @ University Way, 523-3935, Sun-Thurs Dec 26-30, call for showtimes.

Wells Fargo Ice Rink

(ICE SKATING) It's no Rockefeller Plaza, but Seattle's own Winterfest ice rink at the Seattle Center Flag Pavilion at least offers you the chance to break some bones for charity, with all proceeds benefiting the Ronald McDonald House. They provide the skates, but if you bring your own (and so many of us around here own our own skates), you get a buck off admission. TRACI VOGEL

Seattle Center Flag Pavilion, Fri-Sat 11 am-9 pm, Sun-Thurs 11 am-6 pm, $6.

MONDAY 12/27

Wait in Line

(EXERCISE IN PATIENCE) These days should be as flannel-warm and sweet as a cherubic toddler waking up on Christmas morning and bouncing down to the tree to open presents. But the inevitable reality is that the country drops its holiday spirit quicker than a hot potato, and then all is wrong with the world again. The stores are filled with folks returning presents, the acrimonious memories of tight-lipped expressions of false gratitude fresh in their minds. And there will be frantic post-Christmas sales, and I shudder to think of the rigamarole of merchandising ploys that will herald a New Year with extra zeros. So, my advice is, take an afternoon off and go wait in the return line of a Fred Meyer or a Target and enjoy the parade of comedy, tragedy, and basic humanity that is a line. It's guaranteed to be more authentic and moving than any play, film, or concert because it's for real -- and if you crave more excitement, fake a seizure and watch hilarity ensue. ERIN FRANZMAN

Any Fred Meyer or Target, during normal business hours, free.



(DRINK) Thick and flavorful, eggnog may very well be the best thing about the holiday season. Just because Christmas is over doesn't mean you have to stop enjoying this artificially yellow nectar, but it does mean that grocery stores will start pulling it from their shelves. Now is the time to make yourself sick with joy by overdosing on this rich and creamy milk-based product, before it goes into hibernation once again. This year I may even do what the old Food Giant in Wallingford used to do, which is freeze a carton or two and thaw it in the middle of summer. Yum. ANDY SPLETZER

Available for a limited time in grocery stores around the city.


Cirque Eos Imaginaire

(CIRCUS) The most notable thing about Cirque Eos in post no-animal-performer Seattle is that they have never used animal performers, but instead rely on the world-regarded acrobatic ability of their human members. Those French Canadians certainly have a sense of the colorful, and here their stylish tendencies promise to delight the eye of any age. TRACI VOGEL

Mercer Arena, Seattle Center, through Dec 30, 7 pm, 2 pm & 5 pm on Dec 31, 292-ARTS, $12 adults/ $10 children.