The best poetry slam I've been to this year was in a room full of Alzheimer's patients at the East 80th Street Residence in New York City.
I sat in a circle with more than twenty senior citizens, all of them suffering from moderate to severe memory loss and other symptoms of Alzheimer's or Alzheimer's-related disease, watching spoken-word poet and author Gary Mex Glazner work the crowd. Before beginning, he walked the circle, looking deeply into the eyes of each attendee and clasping their hands. Then he started in with the poems -- all of them classics, designed to burrow deep in the memories of the bemused listeners, who responded at surprising moments.
"Tyger, Tyger --" Glazner began.
"Burning bright", a man in the back shouted out. They remember William Blake at the Assisted Living Care center on the Upper East Side, and they also remember William Shakespeare, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Edgar Allan Poe and Elizabeth Barrett Browning. That's really the whole concept: victims of Alzheimer's disease might not remember what they've done four hours ago, but they remember classic poetry, and anybody who doubts how much this might mean to them only has to sit in this circle and watch each person's eager, satisfied response.
Maybe I'd come here because I remember my Grandma Jeannette's painful struggles with Alzheimer's-related syndrome. When Glazner (a longtime friend of LitKicks who can otherwise be found hosting shows at the Bowery Poetry Club or writing books for Soft Skull about living the poet's life) told me about his latest activity, I had to go see a session for myself.
Like any good slam poet, Glazner doesn't work in isolation; he'd brought a gang of eager young poets from Study Abroad on Bowery's "Summer Institute of Social Justice and Applied Poetics" to work this room with him, turning the session into an encounter between multiple generations. The visiting poets read some of their own work and helped keep the "call and response" going, encouraging the sometimes confused patients to repeat, respond to and cherish each individual line they heard. Cherish they did.
At the end of the 45-minute session, Glazner said we would all write our own group poem, then asked each attendee to name "the most beautiful thing you can think of". "My child's face" won by a longshot, and we never even got to hear the assembled group poem, but it didn't matter.
The Alzheimer's Poetry Project is a growing movement -- you can find more information about it here.
1. The Beat Poetry Happy Hour will take place at the Bowery Poetry Club in New York City this Thursday, April 17 from 6:30 to 7:30 pm, featuring Tao Lin, Zachary German, Clarissa Beyah Taylor, Larissa Shmailo, Joy Leftow and, of all people, me playing bongo drums. How, you may wonder, did I end up playing bongo drums? Well, it has something to do with a recent Bowery Poetry Club Beat Poetry Happy Hour I attended. A drummer was struggling a bit onstage, and I casually sauntered over to host George Wallace and said "I can play bongo drums better than this guy."
I meant it in a sort of smart-ass generic way, the way I might also say, for instance, "My mother can pitch relief better than Aaron Heilman". The actual truth, though, is that my mother can't pitch relief better than Aaron Heilman. The actual truth is also that I don't know how to play bongo drums. However, George took me literally and signed me up, so I will fake it as best as I can this Thursday. I will also shout out a poem or two, and if you are anywhere near downtown New York this Thursday at 6:30 I really hope you'll come by. I guarantee it will be fun.
2. I'll be dropping by the Bowery Poetry Club for a quick poetry happy hour tonight at 6:30. The last time I read there, a bongo player was promised but never arrived, but tonight I am assured there will be bongos. Please come by if you can!
3. Via Quick Study, here's some alleged filmed footage of a late-in-life Friedrich Nietzsche staring into space from a hospital bed. There is some question as to whether or not this moving image is fake, but it does not appear fake to me. Nietzsche certainly does project a powerful presence in this film fragment, and that's a hell of a mustache.
4. Via Bill Ectric, Mystery Island presents an interview with Linda Lee Bukowski!
5. This brief Onion news item is strangely good, and reminds me of J. D. Salinger's "A Perfect Day for Bananafish".
I made a trip to the Maison de la Poesie in Paris on a recent evening to see a staging of Arthur Rimbaud’s prose poem Une Saison en Enfer (A Season in Hell). The performance room was in the basement, down a steep flight of stairs. It was like a catacomb, with bare stone walls and a stone floor: a fitting place to stage this work. The set was simple: a large metal cross, a table laid as if for Communion, with a loaf of bread, a glass of wine, and two candles. A blood red carpet covered the floor. The director/actor, Nazim Boudjenah, sat to the side, eyes closed, dressed in white.
2. Chekhov's Mistress looks at the ecological cost of book publishing and a company called Eco-Libris that's raising awareness about the topic. The Eco-Libris website includes some basic statistics and names Random House as "the biggest publisher to go green" (today's news brings an announcement that Simon and Schuster is also "going green").
But printing on recycled paper is hardly the only way a book publisher can cease to be wasteful. Two avenues are unexplored here: how much more can be saved by printing smaller paperbacks instead of larger hardcovers, and how much can be saved if publishers and store chains pledge to work together to avoid the ridiculous practice of shipping massive print overruns of hopeful bestsellers, which in most cases are then shipped back unsold to the publishers and pulped. That's the question Eco-Libris should be asking.
3. NewCritics.com is running a series of articles on the art of comedy, inspired by M. A. Peel's question: What is the purest comedic moment you have ever experienced? I've contributed an article with my own answer, which I'll link to here once it runs. Hint: I wanted to cite something impressive and slightly highbrow, perhaps a wicked moment from a Preston Sturges classic or a subtle line from a recent Mike Leigh masterpiece. But I am truthful above all, and ended up writing about a dumb (but great!) comedy film from 1988 that I bet you laughed at too, even though it earns neither of us any street cred to admit as much. I'll update this post to link to my piece once it's up. (UPDATE: here's my article).
4. Via Syntax, a new movie called Obscene will tell the story of publisher Barney Rosset (Grove Press, Evergreen Review). More info here.
Me? I can't stand the new book (having skimmed about 5 pages), which won't surprise anyone who remembers that I named Roth one of the five most overrated writers of 2006. But being an overrated writer is not the same thing as being a bad writer, and in fact I have very conflicted feelings about Philip Roth (as I also do about Joan Didion and William Vollmann; I really dislike only two of my 2006 overrated writers, Cormac McCarthy and Jonathan Lethem). I was completely confounded by The Plot Against America, which I found utterly fascinating and memorable but also painfully insular and inexcusably sloppy. I loved the idea of The Breast but didn't see that the book had any purpose other than to instantiate the idea. I found Portnoy's Complaint surprisingly dated and unfunny. I loved The Ghost Writer when I first read it, but that's because I assumed it was going to be the only Zuckerman novel -- if I'd known Roth was creating a golem I might not have approved so much.
This points to a big basic problem with the Zuckerman series: who can possibly read all of these books? I haven't kept up with the many, many other narratives that lead up to Exit Ghost and neither have you, so both of us must approach this new book (if we approach it at all) with a feeling of distance and unfamiliarity. We're out of touch with the back story by the time we reach page one. Why is this good?
Other novelists have pleased readers with recurring characters, of course. Updike's given us Rabbit and Bech and the Maples, but something about the Zuckerman project feels less palatable than any of Updike's creations, and I wonder if Roth's embrace of gigantism amounts to an expression of hostility towards his audience. I remember reading a biography of the Beach Boys that suggested a psychological explanation for Brian Wilson's weight gain: he wanted to be so big that nobody could "eat him alive". Somehow this makes me think of Philip Roth.
Yet I will always feel a warmth and a familial affection for Roth. I mainly criticize him because I can't stand the idea that younger readers and wannabe writers will feel they have to slog through his entire life's work based on his stellar reputation. He's a great odd duck, but he's too cranky and emotionally stingy to be my kind of literary hero, and I can think of many more inspiring literary heroes for young writers to follow.
2. The next entry in the Does Literary Fiction Suffer From Dysfunctional Pricing? series will have to wait till next week. I'm still working on it.
3. Cost of Freedom is an anthology of stories about people in the American peace movement edited by Whitney Trettien and Mike Palacek. Not a bad concept for a book.
4. Jacksonville, Florida spoken-word poet Al Letson has won the Public Radio Talent Quest.
5. You can hear a raucous Ken Kesey interview from 1999 at Chris Comer Radio.
6. Fiction Volante: Lo-Fi Fiction For Today's Electro-Web. Yes.
2. Okay, so. My entire life I've been going to Mets games, and all these years I've watched foul balls go to the right of me, to the left of me, below me, above me. When I was a kid I brought my mitt to Shea Stadium; now I don't carry a mitt but I'm always ready. Even though I never thought it would happen.
Well, I took Daniel to Monday night's game against the Atlanta Braves, and Yunel Escobar hit a tall foul ball off Oliver Perez's pitch that went way above our heads and bounced off the mezzanine wall. The ball then baubled down the loge level, hopping from one set of clutching fingers to another, till it fell again to our level, the field boxes, and rolled under a row of seats where Daniel dove for it, elbowed a few people out of the way, and grabbed the ball, as he tells it, from between the shoes of a guy who was trying to grip it with his feet. So, yeah. We got the ball. And the Mets won, 3-2.
3. It's the Brooklyn Book Festival! I had a nice time last year and I expect I will again this Sunday, September 18.
4. Sarah Weinman, longtime half of my favorite dynamic duo over at Galley Cat, has written a poignant farewell. But somehow I think we'll be reading more of her, not less, in years to come.
5. Matthew Bruccoli's analysis of the errors in Fitzgerald's Great Gatsby is fascinating (via Newton). But I am disturbed by the idea that editors might doubt even for a moment that, when Fitzgerald creates a character named Biloxi who is from "Biloxi, Tennessee", that geographic absurdity is a joke and not a mistake. How could anyone possibly imagine otherwise? Fitzgerald's sweet tones should not hide his natural acerbic irony. This is the writer who told us with a straight face about a diamond the size of the Ritz, after all.
6. Chad Post and Mark Binelli are in the middle of a lively chat about George Simenon's The Engagement at Words Without Borders.
7. I like Ed Champion's writing best when he gets philosophical.
8. This is really cute.
9. Scott Esposito asks: Kanye or 50? Mr. Esposito, the answer is Kanye. And I say this as a person who admired the hell out of 50 Cent's first album, Get Rich or Die Tryin'. That CD was a novel. Listen to it cover to cover and see what I mean. But his new and third CD Curtis Jackson is even worse than his second. The beats on "Straight to the Bank" and "I Get Money" are terrible, and the lyrics are even worse. Yeah, 50, you got a Ferrari, it's not that exciting anymore.
Kanye West, on the other hand, has never served up a stale dish of anything. He's a satirist, a wordsmith, and his new CD Graduation is as fresh as tomorrow's newspaper. Here's your sample Kanye West lyric of the day:
don't ever fix your lips like collagen
then say something where you gonna end up apolog'ing
I remember when 50 Cent's rhymes made me laugh like that.
Along with EPMD, this book will bring you memories and surprising factoids from Mobb Deep, A Tribe Called Quest, De La Soul, M. O. P., Beastie Boys, Run-DMC (of course), Biz Markie, Digable Planets, Keith Murray, Das EFX, KRS-One, Cypress Hill, Marley Marl, Redman and Onyx. I got a chance to interview the supreme interviewer myself, and found Mr. Coleman ready to compare notes on many topics relative to the state of hiphop and hiphop poetry today.
Levi: Let's start by focusing here on the lyrical content of the great old school hiphop you profile in your book. Of all the artists you cover, which are the ones you admire most strictly as lyricists? Can you share some examples of hiphop lyrics that mean a lot to you, and tell us why?
Brian: You can't discuss hip-hop music without going into lyrical content, so that's obviously always going to be a big part of any fan's appreciation -- me included. From my own standpoint there are two kinds of lyricists who have always impressed me: (1) MCs who are more straight-forward and have a lot to say and get their points across in a powerful way and, (2) technical MCs who just kick your ass with the complexity of their rhymes. If group #2 also has a lot to say and gets their points across, then that's obviously the ultimate.
From the first group I'll point to Chuck D and Ice-T as two of the ultimate examples. They never tried to get all tongue-twisting or never went for style over substance. They both spoke as much as they rapped (Chuck was just a bit more powerful, mostly because his voice is just so deep and strong), telling tales and speaking their mind. I'd point to a track like Public Enemy's "Don't Believe The Hype" (from It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back) and Ice-T's "High Rollers" (from Power) as great examples of how to be a powerful lyricist -- talking to listeners by either telling great stories or just speaking your mind and engaging your audience.
From group #2 you'd have to put Rakim at the top of that list, as a technical, "scientifical" rapper who was incredibly complex but also had so much substance to his rhymes. For example just check out "Follow the Leader" from Eric B & Rakim's second album (Follow the Leader), among many other of his classics. Big Daddy Kane also falls into that category, just below Rakim. "I'll Take You There" from Long Live the Kane is a great case in point.
And the musical portion of any hip-hop track is a huge part, and all of the above had amazing tracks to rhyme over. Without that, they wouldn't be half as classic as they are. You have to have the mix.
Levi: I like it that your book hits on some of the literary connections in hiphop -- the fact that Phife Dawg learned poetry from his mom, the fact that Digable Planets reference Jorge Luis Borges. Do you think hiphop gets the respect it deserves from a literary/poetic point of view? And do you think this is a question that many of the top artists you've spoken to particularly care about, or not?
Brian: Hip-hop lyricists still haven't gotten the poetic respect they deserves, in my opinion. But I don't think that a lot of the top lyricists out there -- people like Rakim, KRS-One, Q-Tip -- really care that they're not accepted as poets in the poetry community. They care that their fans and peers respect them as lyricists. But I definitely think it's due to ignorance in the older academic or poetry community (or whatever term people would use to describe it) if there is that kind of disconnect. A lot of especially older academics seem to have a view of hip-hop like it's just a bunch of thug kids playing loud music and that's the end of it. Which is, of course, ridiculous. Younger poets and academics understand, because they grew up with hip-hop music. And they are the reason that hip-hop studies in academia continue to grow. I challenge any poet out there to go up against Rakim or Sadat X [from Brand Nubian] in a one-on-one a capella showdown, they'd lose. It may not be in the form they're used to, but like it or not, rappers -- at least the most talented ones -- are poets, no way to deny that.
Levi: What was the first hiphop record that grabbed you (and I'm going to disallow "Rapper's Delight" as an answer)? And how did you become involved in hiphop journalism?
Brian: I was only nine when "Rapper's Delight" came out, so I never heard that song until many years after that. And honestly I'm not 100% sure about the first hip-hop record that grabbed me. Unlike a lot of the artists in the book, I don't have that one moment when it all clicked for me in the beginning. My journey into hip-hop was a gradual one. I definitely remember loving the first Run-DMC album and I must have heard "Rock Box" first, and seen the video on MTV, to be drawn to it.
I was also a big fan of one of the most slept-on hip-hop groups of the early-to-mid '80s, the Fat Boys. Their first two records were both very popular and are both pretty amazing, and I loved both of them. Throughout the '80s I just kept paying more and more attention to hip-hop and it became more and more a part of my record collection -- alongside the rock (mostly punk) that I was listening to concurrently.
Regarding my foray into journalism, that was more by accident. It basically boiled down to the fact that I really just wasn't finding enough coverage of hip-hop in Boston media in the mid-'90s, so I took matters into my own hands. There was one guy in town who knew what was up -- Ken Capobianco from the Boston TAB, who still does lots of great work for the Boston Globe. But other than that, it was really sketchy and I thought that was ridiculous. So I just started writing for a local monthly paper called Boston Rock, for free. Covering groups like the Roots when they first started making waves, Organized Konfusion, that kind of stuff. That led to stints with Boston Phoenix, CMJ Weekly, CMJ Monthly and into national hip-hop mags like XXL and Scratch. It's been gradual and random and I've loved every minute of it. Right now I'm a bit bored writing magazine reviews and articles -- books are where I'd like to be. 500-word pieces don't really do it for me anymore.
Levi: Judging from the interviews in your book, it seems that different hiphop artists have widely varying approaches to being interviewed. For instance, I got the feeling that A Tribe Called Quest would have talked to you all day, whereas EPMD didn't seem to want to get too analytical or share too much. What strategies did you use to get the best interviews possible from these artists?
Brian: Actually, I think EPMD would have talked to me for a lot longer, but they were just really busy at the time I did those interviews, especially Erick Sermon. But even despite that, both of those guys gave me a lot of great info and I loved talking to them.
The thing I love about all the chapters in the book is that they each have their own personality. There's no set structure (although most of them are the same -- the Boogie Down Productions one is a notable exception), no set word count. They each just happen like they happen, and the quality of each is determined by how much time I'm able to spend with each artist.
My only real strategy in talking to the artists is really just talking to them person-to-person, on the same level. Not as fan-to-superstar or even journalist-to-interviewee. Of course I'm a fan and a journalist, and a lot of these artists are indeed superstars, but I try and push that to the side whenever I can. Surprisingly, every one of these artists seem to be fine with that.
The way I see it, they've all done way too many interviews in the past that kiss their ass and just stay on the surface, so they all seem to find going in-depth like I try and do a refreshing change. I think that's too bad, that they aren't used to really digging into an interview. But I really have one rule -- I won't talk to artists on their "press days" when they have 10 interviews lined up and they just bang them out one after the other. That's a horrible way to do an interview, although it's obviously a necessity if you're a big, in-demand star. But I'd rather wait a month or two (or more) to get a real interview, rather than take a 15-minute slot.
Levi: Did you feel intimidated by any of these artists? Are there any hiphop artists so great that you would be too nervous to interview them?
Brian: I'd be totally full of shit if I didn't admit to being intimidated by some of these artists at first, just the thought of interviewing them. But not because I'm star-struck, because that's one thing I've never been. It's more because I just have so much respect for them and because their music means so much to me. So people like Chuck D or Ice-T or Rakim definitely got my butterflies going. But not for long ... once things got going that all went away. And, in fact, those guys were some of the most fulfilling interviews I've ever done. That's not surprising, though, because all of them are huge fans of hip-hop, and fans always have great conversations with other fans. That's really the dialogue I'm trying to get going -- to get the artists to, at times, step outside themselves as the artist and look at what they've done on a more objective level. To look at their albums like I look at them, as a fan.
Levi: Finally, if you don't mind I'd like to bounce a theory of my own off you. Obviously, your book pays respect to old school hiphop, but I've been wondering if possibly the current decade, rather than the decades before, will go down in history as the greatest decade for hiphop.
Now, before you tell me I'm crazy, here's the evidence: Jay-Z's Blueprint ... Dre's 2001 ... 50 Cent's first (and only good) album ... D-Block ... Fat Joe ... Mike Jones. Do you think the hiphop of today stands a chance of being remembered as equal to the legendary era, or not? And do you think you'll ever write a book about the hiphop that's on the radio today?
Brian: In my opinion, someone would be treading on thin critical ice by comparing D-Block or 50 Cent with actual hip-hop trailblazers like Public Enemy or Wu-Tang Clan ... I would have to respectfully disagree with anyone that said that the last decade's music can stand up to the innovation and artistry as the groups covered in Check the Technique [1986 - 1996].
And I think it's important to point out one thing: selling great numbers of records doesn't mean you're a great artist. It means that you're making music that people want to buy, for whatever reason. A lot of major label artists, in my opinion, have gotten it in their head that sales are more important than skills. Which is fine if you want to be rich. But don't equate record sales with artistic greatness. De La Soul and Vanilla Ice both went platinum back in the day. Are they both great artists?
On the other side of the coin, the other aspect of what makes artists and albums classics is how much impact they had -- on the industry as a whole, and on the music and artists that came in their wake. Will Mike Jones or Kanye have as much impact as Das Efx or Pete Rock & CL Smooth or the Geto Boys did? Maybe. Ask me in another five or ten years. I hold out hope that some of the stuff coming out today holds up in another five years and ten years. Every artist in Check the Technique does, to me at least. That's why they're in there.
As I've said in other interviews, as far as I can tell, there doesn't seem to be much reward in 2007 in the major label game (aka the stuff people hear on the radio) for being original or being great. In fact, if you want to get on -- or stay on -- a major label, you generally get demerits for being different and going against the grain. Outkast, Timbaland and the Neptunes are exceptions, but they've all had to put up with a lot of bullshit in the industry before they got their current "carte blanche" status. It's probably no surprise that those are the kinds of artists I'm drawn to -- innovators, whether they sell a ton of records or not. When you can innovate and get paid, then that's the best thing possible. I don't have much respect for rich rappers who don't have any real skills.
So ... sorry D-Block or Diplomats or Ying Yang Twins, don't wait around for my call about the next volume or the book. (I'm sure they'll be heartbroken!)
Brian Coleman will be appearing in New York City on August 9 and in Philadelphia (with Q-Tip) on August 18. Check his website for more info.
This is the same nightclub where Patti Smith does a raucous New Year's Eve show every year. But we're at a PEN reading now, so there's a two-hour time limit, and the audience is a little itchy after five days of festival cheer, so I'm not sure what to expect. A costumed comedian named Nona Appleby opens the show and bombs badly. We've already been told that this is New Yorker cartoonist Victoria Roberts in disguise (which kind of ruins the whole joke), and Nona's "weird old lady" outfit makes her look like a Dame Edna impersonator. The material is not fresh enough for this crowd, though a few members of the audience attempt to chuckle in sympathy for a few minutes until poor Ms. Appleby has the good sense to run off stage and let the poetry begin.
It gets better fast. Free-jazz musician Oliver Lake and Chinese poet Huang Xiang deliver a captivating short set of untranslated poems accompanied with blurts of saxophone and flute noise. Huang has a distinct style: he shouts, pleads, contorts, screams, or emotes every word, twisting his face into exaggerated masks of expression. I don't know what he's talking about (translations of his poems are on every chair, but the room is so dark they're impossible to read). I don't need to read the translations anyway, because primal screams are pretty much a universal language. I like this Noh-theatre-inflected style of performance poetry very much, though I'm sure it's not to every one's taste.
Mexican writer Guillermo Arriaga follows Lake and Huang with a straight reading, a scene from a novel, but I'm still tingling from Huang Xiang's set and don't find any traction here. Clearly, this night is going to be a fascinating mixed bag.
Spoken-word hero Saul Williams comes up next, decked out in a rock star jacket and sporting some odd sort of mullethawk hairstyle (Travis Bickle up top, Kim-Jong II in back). Saul proceeds to kill the crowd with a ferocious and totally on-spot performance. I've caught Williams at group events before, but this is the first time I see what all the fuss is about, and I am now a Saul Williams fan. He's angry at the government, he's angry at hiphop, he's angry at placid people everywhere. His rhymes are impeccable, his voice loud and strong. He goes on too long, but I really don't mind.
Sam Shepard doesn't do many live readings, and I'm more eager to see him than anybody else here (I've caught a couple of his plays, Curse of the Working Class and True West, and have always liked his sinewy, minimalist approach to drama). He comes up to the mic, tall and rangy and plain-spoken, and begins reading quietly from his Motel Chronicles, not attempting to compete with Saul Williams' previous theatrics. The crowd is with him, eagerly applauding prose selections that hint at social satire and political disaffection. His style is all masculine reserve (remember, this is the guy who played Chuck Yeager in The Right Stuff) and zen cool. He doesn't wow anybody, but Sam Shepard has never been a "wow" kind of personality. It's simply good to hear his words in his own voice.
Patti Smith is the big closer this night needs, but she looks surprisingly subdued and reserved as she hits the stage. Now, let me make it clear that Patti Smith has done enough amazing things in her career that she can do any kind of show she wants and I'm not going to criticize her for it. I also know that she's not a performing monkey and can't reach the heights of exstatis every night. But, I am very disappointed that she chooses not to bless this audience with the kind of performance I've seen her deliver many times before. Where's the laughing warmth, the climaxes upon climaxes, the sense of risk and adventure? She starts with "Dylan's Dog" (dedicated to her former live-in lover Sam Shepard, who she says told her to write down the dream that became this poem), then follows with another great oldie, "Piss Factory". She complains that the mic stands aren't the kind she likes, offers a short intro to a long poem about the Iraq War, and then finally picks up her acoustic guitar and sings a song about William Blake. It's nice, it's poetry, but I was hoping for some major punk-rock tension and release (and, honestly, I was hoping to see Lenny Kaye join her on guitar). I leave disappointed, because this is the first time I've ever seen Patti Smith turn in only half a performance. Maybe she thought a PEN poetry crowd wouldn't want or couldn't handle the Full Patti, but if so she's wrong.
I head home, facing up to the fact that I am too exhausted to go to the PEN event I was hoping to attend on Sunday, featuring David Grossman and Nadine Gordimer (who never got to sing along with "People Have The Power"). Saturday night was a good show, but overall it was a GREAT festival. Let me sum up as simply as I can: major, major props for Caro LLewellyn, Francine Prose, Salman Rushdie and all the other good people who organized this amazing series of events. PEN World Voices is absolutely *not* just another literary show-and-tell to fill up the readings calendar. It's one of the most comprehensive and progressive happenings I've ever witnessed, and I've witnessed a lot. I'm already looking forward to 2008.