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Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Michael Chabon - The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay *****

How do you end what may be the most important, most critically acclaimed, most all-encompassing novel of our generation? How do you possibly figure out what is powerful enough to be the last sentence of one of the most important pieces of literary fiction to be penned in the last fifty years? What could possibly close a novel of such magnitude satisfactorily?

I have no idea. And that is why I can't fault Michael Chabon despite my dislike for the abrupt end of The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay. Perhaps it isn't a perfect book--but could anything so deftly reflecting real life be? Life is not perfect. There are boring swells along with those tidal crashings of adventure and emotion. So even when I wasn't feeling the most involved with Joe's adventures in Antarctica and just wishing he'd grow up and come home, I still was in love with his character enough to wish that he'd grow up and come home. I didn't like him being in Antartica because I felt like it was an escape from the reality of the book--just like it was an escape for Joe from his own reality. Chabon is a master of fitting his form to his content.

So how can I give anything less than a perfect rating to a novel that so perfectly captures not only a story but an entire cultural climate? The sheer volume of the book is staggering, let alone its literary weight. Chabon continues to write the stories of people we know, like Art in The Mysteries of Pittsburgh, but now has developed the ability to blow them up to superhuman size, pun completely intended. Kavalier & Clay represents something of a cultural comic book to its readers, steeped in meta-fictional consequences. The book is about comics--a medium of exaggeration and idealism--but is told in a story that stretches itself over exaggeration and idealism itself, making us look more deeply into the importance of comics themselves. What are they, if not reflections of the world around them through the lens of a writer trying to make sense of it all. Is Chabon the comic writer here? The levels of reflection found in this novel are enough to convince you that you're trapped in a philosophical house of mirrors.

Chabon has grown so much as a writer since his first publication in 1988, and I've grown to love him. As I read Kavalier & Clay during my trip to New Zealand, I often got characters in the book and in real life confused, mixing up the stories they told. It is something that happens to me in the best of books that I read, and as foolish as it may make me, it proves just how engrossing the book really is. John Gardner called successful fiction writing the creation of "a vivid and continuous dream," a statement that Chabon delivers well on. I just don't know where he can go from here. There is virtually no way for him to go bigger, and he'll have trouble going much better. Still, I'm sure to pick up each book that gets put on the shelf with his name on it so that I can live the story he has to spin.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Radio New Zealand National

If you haven't had enough of my blindly opinionated ranting here online, you are in luck! On Election Day, Tuesday November 4th, I will be on Radio New Zealand National's show "NIGHTS with Bryan Crump" doing the same, and all the while representing you, America, to a nation of 4.1 million people on the opposite side of the globe. Probably in my underwear to boot. How do you feel about that?

I met Bryan when I was in New Zealand for Roadtrip Nation this past August, and was fortunate enough to go on his show in Wellington and talk with him about our show and about his life. The interview that my friend Priya and I had with him can be found in RNZN's archives by clicking that link right there, if you are so interested. And soon enough, more audio with my beautiful voice will be added to that archive, because I am going to be on a panel of American voters to discuss this year's election! There are four of us in all, each representing a different aspect of the nation's voting public, from a conservative-minded American Indian to a transplant in New Zealand who is voting via absentee ballot to what was mysteriously described in Bryan's email as "a black American." I can only hope it's Colin Powell.

Of course, I'll be representing the demographic of Green Libertarians Voting Democrat in the Midst of a Sea of Psychotic, Gun-Toting, Bible-Brandishing, Right-Wing Nut-Jobs. Since there are so many of us to speak for. I have no idea what the format of the show is going to be or exactly what I'm supposed to talk about, so that in and of itself promises sheer radio gold. Honestly though, NIGHTS is a fantastic show--a more music-oriented This American Life for New Zealanders. When Priya and I were on the show in August, Bryan and his producers Robyn and Shannon had their entire show revolve around roadtrips in light of our visit. Every song they played was tied to the theme, from "Highway to Hell" to "Route 66," and all throughout the show they took emails, calls and texts from listeners about their favorite roadtrips. After our bit of the show was finished, the three even helped us plan out our route through South Island for the following days. In short, Bryan and his producers are great and they make a really awesome show that is totally worth your time.

So if you're still up at 1am on Tuesday night (and hopefully you won't have to be, so long as Florida and Ohio get their shit together this time around), tune in to RNZN's online stream and listen! Or, if you have a life and/or a job that you need to be up for the next day, listen at your leisure in RNZN's archives. I'll link to the interview as soon as it's posted.


BUT IN OTHER POLITICAL NEWS...

You didn't honestly think I was going to let these two stories slide, did you? Sarah Palin running up a fat $150,000 tab on the Republican National Committee's dime for a family makeover? That's right--every one of her fashion-forward, pantsuit-and-leather-jacket get-ups she's been trying to compete with Michelle Obama in (and failing miserably, I must say) for the last two months was straight out of the GOP's wallet. How someone could even manage to spend $75,000 at a Neiman Marcus in a single day is beyond me, but it's no big thing to the Republican Party, so long as they've got the prettiest belle at the ball. Remember how I said in my letter to the editor that this wasn't a beauty pageant? Well, let me correct myself.

And let John McCain correct himself as well. Or at least attempt to. At a rally just outside Pittsburgh in Moon Township yesterday, the Arizona senator just couldn't help but speak his true feelings on Western Pennsylvanians: that they are unabashed racists and bigots. But never mind that slip of the lizard tongue--the crowd still cheered the poor, blathering old coot on as he squeaked out this narrow save that will be forever remembered in the annals of rhetorical history:

"I couldn't disagree... with you... I couldn't agree more with you more than the fact that Western Pennsylvania is the most patriotic, most God-loving, most... most patriotic part of America... and this is a great part of the country!"



Hey, play to your strengths I guess.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Paul Auster - Mr. Vertigo *****

I wish I could suit myself with simply writing, "The man is a genius," and letting my review at that, because that is what Paul Auster is absolutely deserving of. 1994's Mr. Vertigo is nothing short of astounding in its breadth and vision, encompassing a nation's loss of wonderment and innocence in the story of a poor boy from St. Louis who learns to fly.

Walt is a Holden Caufield of another era--a down and out, harsh little man in a boy's body, trying to keep a step ahead of the game he's convinced he's been thrown into. But the man who saves him from a life on the streets, the mysterious Master Yehudi, is more than willing to play into that game, to test Walt to his outer limits, showing him what a mind and heart can do when they are pushed to breaking. But after they've proven themselves, how long can such a dream last? So unfolds what may be Auster's most traditional of novels, as Walt and Master Yehudi tour the nation in search of their own American dream.

And, without giving anything away, just to top off the excellence of the book in and of itself, Auster manages, in the last four pages, to tie the entire story to his acclaimed (and apparently, all-encompassing) New York Trilogy, causing me to actually throw my book down in amazement. I knew that Auster liked to cross storylines, just by glancing through his newest novel, Travels in the Scriptorium, but I went 290 pages of Mr. Vertigo without a single thought of Daniel Quinn and his surrealist detective adventures, just to have Auster slip him in at the last possible second and consequently blow my mind.

Mr. Vertigo is a truly wonderful tale; one that in its depth of cultural relevance and commentary, reads more like a piece of allegorical history than fiction at all. Even the most fantastic moments come off completely real, and even more painfully so because of the weight with which they are written. My only trouble with Auster now is the fact that I'm going to have to buy every single one of his books because I cannot bear to leave a single page unturned.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Bipartisan efforts

Everyone should be able to have their own opinions. If I didn't believe in that basic right, I wouldn't be on here every couple days bitching about how much I hate various cross-sections of humanity. However, I also believe that your opinions need to be grounded in some sort of common sense, which unfortunately negates lots of people's opinions on lots of things. I mean, the Holocaust, the Apartheid and Hot Pockets were all, in someone's opinion, good things, but that certainly did not make them in any way right. The problem is when the people holding these sorts of horribly skewed and undereducated opinions are the people who are the most vocal and visible about them, using that face-time to try to sell their opinions to the vastly impressionable general public. Naturally, I'm talking about Republicans.

Not all Republicans, of course. Ron Paul is technically a Republican and he remains one of the only people I feel is deserving of presidential appointment (also, someone who I totally could dig as my grandpa). And the party itself isn't all bad all the time either. In theory, they're all about reducing the size of our federal government and giving more legislative power to individual states--a stance I can certainly get behind. In fact, at the heart of it, I'm sure there are some pretty decent people in the GOP that are honestly trying to make changes for the better. None of them get voted into any positions beyond Assistant Lieutenant Secretary Of Trash Removal and Piano Tuning, but it's the thought that counts. And really, as much as I like to rag on people like Sarah Palin or John McCain, they both seem to be very intelligent and capable (or at least incomprehensibly shrewd) people. Perhaps not the kind of people that I'd like to run this country, but people that could probably do it if it came to that. Which, looking at the polls, I'm not particularly worried about, or else this little ditty would be a lot more fiery.

The people I am worried about with their loud, right-wing agendas are not the politicians, but the people who support them. The kinds of people who think our country is "a white, Christian nation" that needs "a white, Christrian president." Or the kinds of people who cheer when someone shouts a death threat at a rally. It's bad enough to see these "Joe Sixpacks" get picked up by the news media in passing, their idiotic comments being trumpeted for all to hear. But they can at least plead ignorance. Or at least we can for them. Far more frightening to me are the people who make publicized stands on these kinds of statements. Like Hank Williams Jr. at a recent McCain/Palin rally, when he got on stage to brutally rape and murder his 1979 hit single "Family Tradition" with re-tooled words celebrating the duo's bid for the White House.



People like Hank Williams Jr. shouldn't even be allowed to have opinions about politics. Here is a man who has spent the majority of his career so blasted on painkillers and booze that he hardly has a grip on his own reality, let alone the reality of the 300,000,000 other people that live in this country. Somehow, Bocephus just doesn't seem to me like the kind of guy who is checking out SmartVoter.org to keep himself abreast of his upcoming election decisions (something that you absolutely should be doing--as soon as you're finished reading this, of course). Entertainers across the board should remain exactly that: entertainers. Actors in particular are guilty of nosing their way into the political spectrum, trying to solve the world's problems with a movie that gets reviews that include phrases like "brutal reality" and "social commentary" and "Oscar nod." It's all about "Awareness" after all. If we know that there are starving children in Uganda, maybe we'll help them. No we won't. We'll just change the channel and hope that movie where you play the retarded guy with the shark-toothed little daughter is on HBO. You're damn right we're paying for premium cable. Why do you think we don't have any spare dimes for the little boy with the flies crawling on his eyeballs?

Of course, politically active entertainers are an exception. Actually, they don't even have to be active, they can just know what the fuck they're talking about. Ian Mackaye can have an opinion, as can Jello Biafra and Neil Young. But Hank? I'm sorry buddy, but I don't think I can let you pass on this one. Maybe if you had hit that intonation a little sharper. And don't think I'm just railing on him because he is stumping for the GOP. I think it's ridiculous when bands come out and have their "serious statements" about how right for this country Obama is too. Of course, I agree with them, so it's a lot easier for me to forgive, but do I actually put faith into a bunch of guys with so much moolah from record sales and concert tickets that they wouldn't even notice a shift to their tax bracket? Sorry, Pearl Jam. I love you guys, and I think you did right by Ticketmaster, but I'd be more willing to take political advice from that guy in downtown Pittsburgh who is always screaming about people following him. At least he understands my problems.

But there is hope. I couldn't leave you on such a down note. As I said before, I would be a lot more intense about this whole thing if I weren't so sure that Barack Obama was going to take this election in something close to a landslide, and today I something that tied a cute little bow around that wonderful package:



Did Colin Powell, former Secretary of State under President George W. Bush, just publically endorse the Democratic ticket in this year's election? You're damn right he did. And here's a guy whose political opinion actually holds some weight. Sure, Fox News is spinning it that it's just a couple o' blackies stickin' together, tryin' ta take ovah our good clean white countray once an' fer all--but in a single statement, General Powell just negated the work of a thousand broadcasts of loud-mouthed, down-home, small-town plumbers with white hoods stashed in the backs of their closets.

Congrats to you, Colin Powell, for stepping outside your party bounds and making one of those "bipartisan efforts" that I keep hearing McCain talk about. I guess he never figured on the "effort" being to boot his ass back to Arizona. The amount of guts it took for someone in your position to get on Meet the Press and make a statement like that is astonishing. Voting for the candidate who would be best for the job, not just for your party's agenda? Now that's an interesting new take on this politics thing. I can only hope it will inspire others to do the same.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Leonie Swann - Three Bags Full ****

Whenever I read translations, I always wonder what may have been lost or gained as the story was transferred between languages. Leonie Swann is a German author and graduate of the Munich University (with degrees in philosophy, psychology and communications) who released her first novel last year to significant praise from critics and readers alike. Whether I owe my thanks more to Swann or to translator Anthea Bell, I certainly owe it to someone for having delivered one of the sweetest and yet most sharply philosophical books I've read all year.

The story is that of a flock of sheep in Glenkill, Ireland who find their shepherd dead one morning with a spade jutting out of his chest. Each sheep has its own opinion of what happened (or, more often than not, their own outrageous fears or utter indifference to the whole goings-on). I did not know how I felt following a flock of sheep through a mystery when I began, wondering if it would be a novel little device that would wear thin before the story ended. I couldn't have been more wrong. The sheep's adventure to help solve the mystery ends with almost a hundred pages left in the book, and only then did I realize I had been so invested in the sheep that I had forgotten about the whole overlying mystery itself. Because of that, the ending felt almost surreal and removed from the rest of the story, wrapping up loose ends that had been all but lost in the fray. Only after the story came to a final close did everything feel connected, the ending less tacked on. But that's just the thing--the ending wasn't tacked on at all, it was just set up so subtly behind the amazingly rich personalities of the sheep, that you barely considered what was happening outside the flock.

I'm not sure yet how I feel about the ending and how it fell into place, but it goes to show how strongly the sheep are presented. From Miss Maple (a great Agatha Christie reference, I must add) to Othello to Mopple the Whale, each has a distinct personality and take on the world around them. Still, they all remain absolutely sheep, their personalities focused sharply through what I can only describe as a "sheepy" lens. The result is so cute that it made me want to cuddle each and every member of the flock (except for maybe Melmoth, who kind of creeped me out), and yet I still respected each sheep as a wholly complete character, not just as separate parts of a humorously assembled ensemble cast. What's more, with their misunderstandings of human words and concepts, the sheep graze into the turf of philosophy, religion and social commentary. No small feat for a novelist writing solely from such an intellectually limited point of view.

The Guardian wittily called the book, "The best sheep detective novel you'll read all year," but I'd be willing to extend that to "the best detective novel you'll read this year, period." With undoubtable originality, Swann has penned a truly wonderful book, so clever and poignant that should not be soon forgotten.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

A letter to the editor

Today I sent a letter to the editor of my local newspaper, The Ephrata Review. I don't know if they'll have time to print it before the election, or if they'll even want to print it at all, but I thought I should exercise my ability to write one all the same. Plenty of other people do, and don't even have much to say. Lots of things about God usually--things that don't even have anything to do with the paper or what is going on in town. The Letters to the Editor page in the Review is more of a weekly soapbox than it is a forum of discussion. So I decided I might as well step up and take a swing myself. Mine at least has to do with the current state of affairs. Politics, namely, as if you could expect anything else in the last weeks of this presidential race.

It's a much less harsh letter than I initially wanted to write, and I'm not even sure that all my good-naturedness is actually real, but I had to fluff it up a bit to make sure the editor would even consider publishing it. Here's to hoping that he does, because I really do feel strongly about the general idea of what I wrote at the least. But if he doesn't, here it is anyway for you to read:


"I recently moved back to the Ephrata area after spending the last four years in Pittsburgh, an extremely Democratic area that hasn't voted for a Republican mayor in more than seventy years. So when I came back here I was obviously prepared to come back into a "Red" area, and knew I'd be seeing more McCain-Palin yardsigns than I could even begin to count. But that's perfectly fine with me. I'm glad to see that people are involved in the political process, even if it is in support of a candidate that I oppose. I'd rather them vote for McCain than to just not care and not vote at all. However, I fear that in as small and close-knit a town as Ephrata is, we run the risk of having group-think take over. Peer pressure. It sounds ridiculous, sure--am I really afraid that I'll get beat up in the parking lot for voting for Obama on November 4th? Of course not. However, I spoke to a fellow Obama-supporter recently, and asked her why she didn't have a Obama-Biden sign in her yard to counteract all of the McCain-Palin ones on the street. But she owns a business and fears that she would scare away some of her more vocal Republican patrons if she did. I would hope that her fear is unfounded, but it made me realize just how powerful those signs can be.

If I were an undecided voter with no political ties in this area who just wanted to vote to exercise my right to do so, I would probably look around me and see the majority of my friends, family and neighbors proudly supporting John McCain, and conclude that perhaps he is who I should also vote for. Even if I weren't so out of touch with politics as that, and instead influenced directly by my vocal friends and family and neighbors, I'd even more certainly be pulling the lever for McCain, still not knowing what my options really are. And there are options, this year more than ever. I am not writing this to discourage McCain voters in any way--all I hope to make known is that it is worth looking into who you are voting for. This isn't a beauty pageant we're deciding here, and you shouldn't allow yourself to be swayed in your beliefs. I encourage everyone to put out their yardsigns and not have to be afraid of backlash. If you aren't sure about McCain or Obama, do a little research and find out whose platform best represents your own values. But most of all, don't fall into a vote just because you're scared of what your friends will think. Your vote is yours, and you should be proud to cast it for whomever you please.

Jeremy Zerbe"

Getting personal with your personal computer

I've never much considered myself a computer nerd. In fact, I'm probably far more likely to crash my entire system by attempting to open a pop-up for a celebrity sex tape than I am to go hacking into the United States Department of the Treasury. The very first computer I ever had was a hand-me-down from my parents: an Acer Aspire running Windows 95 that was so gunked up by my mom's photos and hilarious chain-email attachments by the time I got it that I barely had room for porn. So I took it upon myself to purge the system of all the extraneous data that was clogging my hard drive like one of Rosanne Barr's arteries.

Clicking through folder after folder, I deleted any and every file that Windows allowed me to--until finally, in a grand flourish, I managed to delete all of the computer's boot-up files. Of course, I didn't know that at the time, and I went on my merry way, continuing to delete files that were in fact not at all extraneous, but which were involved in such essential computer-related funtions as "Making Things Go." By the time I finally ended my campaign of unwitting destruction, it was quite late, so I shut down my computer and went to bed, to dream of all the wonderful and disturbing pornography I would surf for at the dawn of the new day. But when I turned on my computer the next morning, I was greeted with a black screen, a shrill, angry beep, and a message something like:


WINDOWS SYSTEM ERROR 32DEX/BLU42/HUT.hike

BOOT-UP FILES FROM SECTORS 001-899Q NO LONGER FUNCTIONAL. REFER TO PAGE 738 OF WINDOWS 95 REFERENCE MANUAL. OH, YOU THREW THAT OUT? THEN YOU DESERVE THIS, PERVERT. I KNOW WHAT YOU WERE TRYING TO MAKE ROOM FOR. WHAT WOULD YOUR MOTHER THINK?

ABORT, RETRY, FAIL?


All of the files I'd left on the computer were still perfectly fine, but now trapped inside with no way to access them, like a house with no doors. Or windows. Or even a chimney to wiggle myself down. Thankfully, one of my mom's friends' husbands was a computer tech and could fix it. Even more thankfully, my computer was still just a house with no doors and not yet a brothel, or I'm sure I would have had some pretty interesting questions to field as he worked on getting everything back in order. Since then, I've managed to twice crash another desktop, losing all of the pictures I'd taken throughout high school and my first year of college. That spectacular display of burning wreckage however, was not due to porn but to--I believe--my attempt to illegally pirate Jurassic Park Tycoon. Don't ask. Freshman year was a tough one. Soon after that, though, I got my first laptop which served me well until this past Christmas when I finally purchased the computer I'm typing on now: my Apple MacBook.

It is the use of this computer that has come to make me such a nerd of late. It's not that I know anything more about it than I did my Windows computers--in fact, I probably know less because I have never had to get all touchy-feely with its intimate parts in MS-DOS when it suddenly and inexplicably has the computer equivalent of a mid-life crisis and decides that it would rather be something like, say, a toaster, than a computer. But that's fine with me--the less I know about this thing, the better. I hated having to stay in on Friday nights and console my old laptop through its teary-eyed wine bingeing anyway. Yet, even in my blissful ignorance of how the simplest of tasks is done on this machine, Apple has managed to arouse in me a nerdiness I never imagined myself capable of. And I'm not one to shy away from my inner nerd: I love video games, science fiction and will probably play Magic: The Gathering with you if you have enough cards to split them into two decks and at least a modest degree of respect for your own personal hygiene. But when I watched the video that was released this week as an introduction to the brand new MacBook for 2009, I think I may have actually become sexually aroused.

Every time Apple has a major new product to release, they precede it with one of these videos, to which, every time, I find myself salivating and my right eyelid twitching uncontrollably. When I watched the video for the Leopard update of the Mac operating system last year, I blacked out, and when I came to, my pants were off and my nipples, hard as diamonds, were pressed against the screen. And that was at the radio station where I worked. This problem has been getting increasingly out of hand. They're just computers, after all. Beautiful, sleek, unbelievably sexy computers, but computers all the same. Half the time I don't even know why what they're talking about in the videos is so important, but I still find myself short of breath, with sweat hanging on my brow. A single piece of aluminum as the base? Yes, please. Upgraded video capability on a flush-edged, all-glass screen? Mmm, baby. Illuminated keyboard and no-button trackpad? You dirty girl. Just looking at this new model on Apple's website makes me hurt--in my heart and in my pants. I never understood the kinds of people who went crazy over new cell phones and Star Wars Redux Gold-Box Director's Cuts. Now, I still don't understand them, but I find myself standing beside them in lines at midnight and sharing stories in online messageboards that are so lame they should give me polio.

If only I had been able to wait another year to buy. Not that I don't love the computer I have, but I lived my whole life without a Mac until last Christmas, and if only I'd have known what was in store this year, I might have tried to hold out a little bit longer. Sure, I'd have had to sell one or both of my kidneys to afford one, but I think it would have been worth the investment. Forget about wasting time, money, and hard drive space on porn--just cracking one of these babies open would be all I'd ever need again.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Ti-i-i-ime is on my hands

Yes it is.

I am finally home from New Zealand. Well, actually I have been since the middle of last month, but if you were following my trip blog on Tumblr, you probably think I'm only leaving tomorrow. Sorry to ruin the surprise, but I'm back state-side and full of all kinds of new ideas, glowing outlooks on life, and general goodwill toward my fellow man.

Hahaha.

New Zealand was nice, and if you read my blog about it, you probably believe that last sentence. But that was for a television show and a travel website, so it only got the bright and shiny details that make me sound like an Epiphany Machine contracted for the Disney Corporation. But the whole trip was not, in fact, all cookies and blowjobs. There were aspects of it that I wish I could change now, as I look back, but the experience was well worth the time. It also is going to look spectacular on my resume, which is currently in the hands of producers at This American Life in New York, who are debating whether or not I deserve a position with the show for six months. I am hoping that I do.

This American Life is a radio show hosted weekly on Chicago Public Radio (so why production is in Manhattan, I have no idea) by Ira Glass. The internship I've applied for is for a six-month, paid stint with the production team, doing just about everything from making coffee to producing my own bits. Everyone tells me I am qualified for it, so I've decided to give in to peer pressure for once (okay, twice, now that I wear tight pants but I still swear that's to make it easier to bike), and believe in myself. I do think I deserve the job, as self-aggrandizing as that sounds, and I do think that I have a chance at getting it. They emailed me this weekend, telling me that they were busy and didn't have time to read all of the applications yet, which made me sad that I now have to wait until November 14th to find out the course of the rest of my life, but in the same turn glad because--hey, at least they didn't just throw my shit away in disgust when they opened up the giant manilla envelope. That's a start at least.

So I'm waiting, mostly. And playing a lot of FIFA07. My parents are out on their tour of the United States, which still, amazingly, does not stop my mom from calling me every thirty minutes to see what I'm up to. They were on Pike's Peak yesterday, and all my mom could think to do, rather than simply take in the beauty of the landscape around her, was to call me and ask about the dog. The dog is fine. I also, am fine. However, if you don't want to take my word for it, I'm sure that's the focus of my mom's brand new blog since I can't imagine what else she has time to think about while she's on the phone with me all day. Not that she's really interrupting anything anyway, other than Basket Cup 2008, inspired by a ridiculous looking basket-attached-to-a-wooden-pedestal-thing (complete with a shiny brass nameplate that reads: "CONGRATULATIONS!") that we found in my kitchen when we were counting just how many baskets are in the room. The correct answer is We Lost Count Around 90.

Boy, am I home. Hopefully not for long though. Not that I hate Lancaster. In fact, I think that it's one of the better places in this state, possibly the best after Pittsburgh. I'm even trying to get together a little soccer/kickball league here in Ephrata so that I can get people together to play (out in the real world, not on a television). So if you're interested in that, give me a holler. I might even start updating this blog more regularly than once every two months. I've got a bunch of books that I finished while I was in New Zealand that I suppose I ought to get around to reviewing. I don't have a whole hell of a lot else to do. Except win that Basket Cup. I think the Kaizer Chiefs are going all the way. South Africa, represent!