Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Happy Anniversary, Doctor!

"Bow ties are cool"
"Have been."
"And Always will be."
The Doctor and the Doctor
Doctor Who Season 6 Episode 6, "The Almost People"




Happy 48th Anniversary!

The Doctor has been around for almost 50 years, making it the longest running television show in history. Some of our contemporary artists believe they owe an amazing amount of their creativity to his influence during their formative years. Unfortunately, I cannot say this, as I seemed to have always known who the Doctor was, but had never actually seen him in action. That was rectified the time I sat down with my husband and watched The Four Doctors. I have not been the same since, and when I finally began creating this blog back in April, I knew I owed it to myself and other Doctor Who fans to create something meaningful and worthy of discussion, perhaps even worthy of the Doctor himself. 


Doctor Who's official Facebook has found some amazing things in honor of the the Doctor. Like this video. Say hello to other Doctor Who fans from around the world. Don't forget to check out the other videos featured on this channel. 

Also, Doctor Who Season 7 has been pushed back for a good while, until the autumn of 2012. Their reasons are many. Read about it here

Happy Doctor Who Day, Readers!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Hey Nerds, The Werd is on Twitter!

The Squealing Nerd is now on Twitter!

Because I feel like Twitter screws us out of customization, here is a copy of the background image you can't see.

For those of you that are interested, the middle image--known in the Phontoshops as 'layer 4'--is part of my Final Fantasy VII tattoo that has been stretched to incorporate some color into what is supposed to be a header.

The Twitter account is for all the nerdy things that happen on a regular basis that are not long enough for a post.  Follow @SquealingNerd to get nerd updates too short for the blog. Also, The Squealing Nerd is on Facebook. Join up to get regular blog alerts and meet other nerds like ourselves.

Monday, November 21, 2011

The Texas Renaissance Festival!

Blacksmithing at
Texas Ren. Fair 2011
 My Lords, Ladies and Readers, I only put on a dress twice a year (three times if you count 2010, when I wore my wedding dress). Those two days in which my regalia involves something other than jeans and a tank top or t-shirt are crammed into the one weekend a year that I spend at the famous Texas Renaissance Festival in Plantersville, Texas, just a few minutes north of Houston (give or take two and half hours of traffic during festival time), and according to certain female comedians, past the Magic the Gathering, Quidich teams and the LARPers, but not before the war re-enactment clubs.


The Texas Renaissance Festival: Its attraction to Fencers

Saber fencer Rachel, 2009
Though I do not like to lump the two together, fencers are often nerds. Many of the same people I clashed steel with at fencing club were also people I played D&D with, watched Star Trek with, saw Lord of the Rings, Batman Begins, and many of the opening nights of Harry Potter with. The draw of real swords, chain mail, plate mail, leather armor and fancy dresses need not be the only alluring part of the Ren. Fair that draws nerds to it like flies to electric lanterns during a burn ban, but its a big part of it. The other part is getting together as friends to enjoy being what we are: nerds, somewhere between LARPers and Civil War Re-Enactment clubs. We donned our Lords and Ladies costumes and made our way through a mile of mud, pavement and more mud up to the front gates of the Ren. Fair in style.


Humble Beginnings

Epee fencer Jeremy 2009. 
Lidia (foil) and John (epee),
Ren. Fair 2009
I began attending the Texas Renaissance Festival in 2007 with our friends, The UTSA Fencing club. We didn't camp, and we soon found out all the reasons why we should. In 2008 we camped for the first time with my then fiance and his friends from work. In 2009 my fiance and I were roughing it alone until we stepped through the gates on Saturday and saw a line of fencers, all of our usual friends, standing inside the front gate waiting for Zarissa and Lidia to come out of the bathroom. There they all were, as if in a dream, and that night we re-pitched our tent next to theirs. In 2010 we were forced to skip Ren. Fair as my wedding, honeymoon, and trip to South Carolina put a damper on funds. This year we were glad to return with our couple's couple, Jeremy and Lidia.



Texas Renaissance Festival 2011, November 18-20, Barbarian Weekend
Jeremy and Lidia, 2011

This year, like so many years that have come before, involved camping in the great out doors for two whole days and two whole nights. By Sunday afternoon, we had achieved a stink that was too historically accurate for comfort. However, this does not deter us from getting back out there the next year and doing it again

There was a certain something lacking this year. Its absence was noted mainly in that the bugs were a bit of a problem and it was dark. What was it?...Oh yea, we were not allowed to have a campfire...or smoke cigarettes (or a lovely pipe, as the case may be)...or hang our real kerosene lamps. Despite several days of moderate rain as a respite to almost a year of drought, the burn ban was still in effect. We were lucky they let us turn on propane cook stoves to warm our hot dogs in the pitch darkness that was camp without a fire pit. Magnolia, and most of Harris and Waller Counties, was still intact after the fires that spread to the railroad tracks just outside the fair grounds, part of the same fires that laid Bastrop to waste in August, prompting the Fire Marshall to keep us all on a tight leash. Even the stars were afraid the surrounding forest would spontaneously burst into flames if they let too much of their luster through. The skies remained mostly overcast, shrouding the pine forests of East Texas in even more shadow.

Despite the ban on fire pits, the lack of a traditional camp ground bon fire, the unseasonable warmth, the humidity and the looming threat of inclement weather, the camping experience remained largely the same. Rain pattered our tents at night, which sometimes we heard over the blare of heavy metal, techno and bagpipes. The loud music often stretches into the early hours of the morning. I usually wake up when the music stops, as the silence is usually more pointed at about 5 a.m. Saturday night I drifted off to sleep after congratulating the camp next to ours for allowing me all-night access to Blind Guardian's second album. For some reason, that was very relaxing for me. Our neighbor's cries of, "Hip, hip, Huzzah!" were as fervent as ever, and as usual, the wine did flow. At least in our camp it did. I have no doubt about the other types of alcohol that were being consumed all over the camp grounds, but our camp--that of myself, my husband Ben, and our friends Jeremy and and Lidia--reserves the right every year to maintain our dignity. We poured mead, bourbon, brandy, port and amaretto into our highly fashionable styrofoam cups rather than the other, more traditional, mixed and or shooting alcohols. By Saturday night we had quickly run through our supplies, forcing us to turn in early, before we had finished our discussion about the manifold qualities that made the French Revolution unique to revolutions, a subject we warmed to with a passion not seen among sober people outside of academia. Now, inebriate those academics, and you will have Lidia and Ben close to tears over the mind-boggling speed at which the French Revolution occurred.

Sights, Sounds, Food! 

The Nerd's new costume
Texas Ren. Fair 2011
Beef stew bread bowl.
Safe at last.
The fair itself is always exciting. Once you've been to one Ren. Fair, it does not mean that you have been to them all. There is always something to do, see, buy or eat at the Ren. Fair. As fond as I am of eating, drinking and spending money, one doesn't have to do any of those things to enjoy Ren. Fair. Sure its nice to have money to visit the vendors, but nine times out of ten you  never walk in anywhere to buy something. Even when I have money, the most I can afford is one really good piece of an outfit (like this red leather jerkin I saw with the black dragon embroidery), or several pieces of a cheap outfit. I mostly enjoy the eating and drinking aspects of the Ren. Fair--minus the Greek Agora. Trust me. There is no reason to eat there. Go to the King's Bounty or the Captain's Quarters for bread bowls of beef stew, or King Henry's table for scotch eggs, fish and chips or The Earl of Sandwich's once-a-year treat of a meatloaf sandwich. Mead is easy to come by at the Texas Renaissance Festival, as many of the beer and wine vendors sell the local brand found and Chaucer's Mead, which you can get at your local H-E-B (Texas, of course). However, if you are camping, one never has to eat or drink a thing in the park to enjoy themselves. You are allowed to come and go as you please with a hand stamp before six o'clock.You can go back to camp, eat and return to the park without much hassle.
Tartanic, the Gods of Bagpipe Rock n'
Roll! Texas Ren. Fair 2011.
Entertainment at the park is no big deal either. All of the shows are free, though the entertainers are often traveling folk groups and professionals whose sole occupation is performing at venues like the Texas Ren. Fair. It is important to tip them, even a dollar, and I try to give money every year to Tartanic, the Scottish gods of rock and roll bagpipes and drums, Sound and Fury and Cast in Bronze by Frank de la Pena (the big bells). If you have never seen Cast in Bronze, you are missing a vital part of existence. Rectify that with this video. Though this is not my video, this was taken the weekend we attended in 2009. I probably sat in the same area for one of these shows with the guy who shot it.


This year we saw a show that I had never seen before: that of Adam Crack and his famous fire whip routine. Sexy Adam Crack had just won the international award for whip cracking in Las Vegas and was eager to impress the crowd with the routine that had won him that award. He broke pretzel sticks out of his mouth with his whip; he snapped pretzels off the top of his head with his whip, and he spun fire around his head. He also impressed the crowd with a breath-taking harmonica solo.
Adam Crack and his fire whip.
Photo courtesy of Rebecca Latson
With so many amazing things to do at the Texas Renaissance Festival, it is no wonder that me and my friends return again and again. Its a nerdy tradition that goes back hundreds of years. This year was perhaps the most special, for Jeremy proposed to his long time live-in girlfriend, finally setting his feathered leather cap where it belonged--on a permanent peg in the hall closet of Lidia's heart.

Lidia's ring at the English Chapel
Texas Ren. Fair 2011
Though the Texas Renaissance Festival is mostly historically accurate, it is significant to a particular band of literary nerds who quote Shakespeare on a regular basis and are never too busy to load up our camping supplies, tighten our bodices, listen to bagpipes, eat shepherds pie and trudge around dirty, sweaty camp grounds in full regalia for two whole days.

I will be replacing many of the pictures of the performers on this post as my own become available to me.


Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The Ninth Day of the Month...


Happy Ninth Day of the Month, Readers! I am having a week of mixed reviews in grand, historical Charleston, South Carolina. I will go into more detail about some of the amazing sights to be seen.

This Ninth Day, the Ninth Day of November I am proud to bring you another mixed review: that of Maeve Gilmore's new novel, Titus Awakes: The Lost Book  of Gormenghast. I will be outlining how I felt about the novel in general, plus a look at how this lost book of Gormenghast is definitely Titus Groan's awakening. I wish I had the book to hand for this review, but unfortunately I had to leave it behind to make way for the novels I would need for my trip. I will do what I can without quotes and add them when I get back to Austin. For those who don't know, Maeve Gilmore is Mervyn Peake's widow, and her novel is an attempt to bring closure to the Gormenghast novels.

As I stated, I am of two differing minds about Titus Awakes. On the one hand I am immensely disappointed. On the other hand I was glorying in the little ways this novel reminded me of Peake's works. Not that I felt like I was reading a Peake novel, but that it was a pleasant reminder of how Peake's novels were, and the fact that my friend was reading Titus Groan in the backseat as we were headed towards New Orleans was, in a way, part of the disappointment.Several times I borrowed my friend's books and flipped through to my favorite parts of Titus Groan and Gormenghast. I then went back to reading Titus Awakes, and my few pleasant reminders, and the subtle tinge of disappointment.

The novel starts out with a small fragment from Mervyn Peake--how I wish I had the novel in front of me--that was meant to be part of something after the events of Titus Alone. I was happy to have read that, as it described Countess Gertrude and Doctor Prunesquallor. The next chapter never returned to them. Occasionally Titus would recall names, like Steerpike, Muzzlehatch and Prunesquallor, and many times Fuschia. My disappointment may stem from the fact that I really do not consider this novel to be a Gormenghast novel. As I understand it, a Gormenghast novel has to take place in a Gormenghast setting, which is either within the decadent confines of the citadel or the surrounding areas within the setting of the original novels. I don't really consider this book to be an actual Gormenghast novel, aside from the fact that the fictional timeline is the same and it follows the adventures of Titus Groan. I had thought that a "lost book of Gormenghast" would follow events that took place within the original fictional reality. I had been looking forward to the original cast of characters, or even a snippet of Titus' childhood. Apparently this was not the intention of this novel, and that was a hard pill for me to swallow. Had the tagline not followed the title of the novel, I think I could have looked on this book as a separate work designed to illustrate Titus' awakening into a functioning reality as if he had been sleeping his way through his life, his random encounters seeming almost like dreams. This, I feel, is what Maeve Gilmore was trying to accomplish. I would hate to think that "The Lost Book of Gormenghast" was tacked onto the novel to get it to sell, though my good friend seems to think that might have been the case.

As I said, this novel seems to take place at a time when Titus is between realities: the one he has left behind and the one that is before him. He takes several mental hiatus' while he is traveling in the wilderness. He is perpetually between meals, he nearly freezes several times and is kidnapped more than once. The arrival and departure of a golden retriever companion does nothing to  influence his feelings on his self-inflicted exile, nor do the many people who enter Titus' life that he leaves with hardly more than a backward glance. There are several moments of the novel in which it seems that Titus wakes up more fully, even when he is actually awake. I believe the first time Titus wakes up is when he meets the man in the mental hospital, the artist who wanders with a restlessness that can never be fully satisfied, and who's desire to rove is mistaken for a type of madness, in which his personality is drugged into submission. He is taken from the mental hospital and released. Titus attempts to find him, though it is a futile effort that eventually leads to his wandering again. I believe that Titus begins to rise up from his self-inflicted stupor when he meets the restless spirit again at what appears to be a church where men go to find themselves. When the restless spirit is asked to  leave, Titus decides to follow him, and makes the first real step towards deciding his own future, instead of allowing others to decide it for him. Titus' sea adventure opens his eyes to what coming home looks like, as he discovers the restless spirit has finally found his. Though speculation could be made about what may lay in Titus Groan's future, it is safe to say that whatever came before, Titus is finally fully awake and in control in a way that he has never experienced before. Titus has always been asleep, in a way. He was led by the hand through his childhood, always staring and dreaming, and in his adulthood, when he had lost all that he held dear, he moved through life as if he were in a dream, letting encounters come, leaving whenever he chose to and knowing that he would be causing pain if stayed or went, knowing that he was powerless to prevent that. 

Titus' true awakening made me forget my disappointment with the novel's description, and put me at ease with the premise. I finally realized that I was looking for the wrong thing with this novel, and though I am not afraid to say that I was disappointed, I feel that it is unfair for me to remain so. Maeve Gilmore's novel  is a Gormenghast novel of a different sort, and I was happy to have read it. I encourage everyone familiar with Peake's Gormenghast novels to pick up Maeve Gilmore's Titus Awakes. 

As usual, I encourage us all to keep the Ninth Day in our own way. I am happy that I was able to review Titus Awakes this time. Have a Happy Ninth Day of the Month, and I will return in one month's time.

Friday, November 4, 2011

A Werd from the Nerd: On the Road Again...

The Squealing Nerd is going on the road again this week, this time to lovely, historic Charleston, South Carolina. Its tame by the standards of last weekend, when we went to stupid-haunted, historic New Orleans, Louisiana. I'll be visiting and blogging some very interesting, nerdy sights and possibly some original fiction in the process. I have decided to reboot--again--a long piece of fiction I'm working on called The Lord of the Plague. It is pretty original if I do say so myself.

Bet you didn't know I could ride a horse.
Well, I can!
But back to the traveling. This week's stay is prompted by more than just an acute case of Wanderlust. While it is impossible for me to stay in one place very long (i.e. home), I despise extensive traveling. If I do not have to leave my home city, I don't, except for the occasional vacation. I love going places and seeing things, but hate riding in the car, planes scare me and the train is expensive. That in mind, I'll be hitching a ride on a death-machine in San Antonio tomorrow and returning on a death-machine Saturday the 12th of November. The purpose of this year's long weekend is to visit my mother-in-law's family in the south east for a little get-together called Cuzzins Week. The Eargles, Hamiltons, Putnams and many other branches of the family tree get together and celebrate their family history, home cooking, knitting and whatever else they do. This is my second trip to see the Cuzzins, and I hope this year will be as enjoyable as last year was. And don't get me wrong, last year there was some discomfort. Ice was being broken. Assumptions were made. But overall, I think we were vastly contented to be among each other, and I love spending time with my mother-in-law, the indefatigable Cindy Balentine. Last year's adventures included horseback riding on the beach, fresh ice cream from Cuzzin Cheri, and my husband's Aunt Vivian's reunion with her estranged son and her grandchild. This year there are sights to be seen, people to meet and a whole lot of reading to get done. 

What to expect from the Nerd

Basically it will be business as usual. The Ninth Day of the Month fast approaches, and I have a book review of Titus Awakes that I will be glad to share with you. I was finally able to finish Maeve Gilmore's "lost book of Gormenghast" yesterday, and can't wait to give you the spill. For what its worth, it was good fiction, and I'll explain my general confusion towards the novel on The Ninth. Patrick Rothfuss and Gene Wolfe will be on the reading block this week as I barrel through my much increased reading list. 

 I would like to introduce two pieces of fiction I am working on for the reading pleasure of anyone wishing to comment. I am working on the script for a series of comics that is so far without title, but has been growing in my head for some time. Also, I have been reconsidering vast portions of the story The Lord of the Plague, which I hope to send for publication sometime in the next year. 

News and Views

I will try to post pictures and brief blogs about where I go and who I'm with. Also, Cuzzin Elizabeth will be joining us this week, and hopefully she will sit down with me to go over the family tree as it leads up to Vlad Tsepes on the Hungarian female line. I've never looked forward to anything so fascinating...and fan-girly.

Speaking of news and Cuzzins, a relation of mine, not quite a cousin, but still a relation, published a novel. Its called Merciful, and you can go to her website and blog at http://caseyadolfsson.com/Merciful.html

That's all I have for now. See you all as I continue my weird and selective tour of the Deep South.

The Nerd

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Halloween in New Orleans

In front of the Basilica de St. Louis
There is a few square blocks in the heart of the Deep South that attracts both awe and splendor. Day or night these streets are teaming with life. By day, street performers entertain the thronging multitudes carrying cups of Royal Blend coffee and the bags they have accrued at shops selling pralines, Saints swag, and Mardi Gras masks. By night, the side streets are blocked off to make way for the biggest block party known to man. I speak of course of the French Quarter in downtown New Orleans, and the nights in question are those of the Halloween weekend.

When the sun goes down, the freaks come out.

The Freak: Steampunk
Mad Scientist
Or a singular Freak, as the case may be.

The Nerd took to the streets of New Orleans on Friday the 28th, admiring the gas lamp-lit streets and gazing longingly at the running lights of Harrah's casino. Entranced by having returned once again to dear New Orleans, my friends and I immediately set out for good food, and of course found the alcohol first. We took shots of Rebel Yell at a bar to the north of the French Quarter. Our desire to explore the city at night was inevitably put on hold, though.

This was also the weekend of the Cresent City Open, the Louisiana division annual fencing tournament. For two days some very legendary fencers came head-to-head to decide who the best in the south would be. Adam Brewer, Justin Mehan and Thomas Stusinsky are a mere handful of names that made fencing the Cresent City Open a worthy challenge. Though B-rated saber fencer and personal friend Adam Brewer did not win--as many of us hoped he would--nothing stops Adam for long, and you can guarantee that he will recoup his losses at his next event. He took 5th this weekend. The Polish saber fencer and World Cup winner of 2010 Thomas Stusinsky went on to win this year's Cresent City Open. Stusinsky is a studied fencer, whose tactics easily make any lesser fencer easy prey. Though I no longer fence, it was clear from the number of bouts I watched that there is no one as adept at the feint and disengage as Thomas Stusinsky. Many a fencer fell into his traps this weekend.

Jeremy Shoemaker
and a very real pipe.
After the tournament we were left to explore the French Quarter, mostly in search of a pipe and tobacco for my long-time friend Jeremy Shoemaker, and alcohol for the rest of us. By Saturday night, it was time to take to the streets once more, this time in costume. The mad scientist in me laid her now entirely blue hair over the floor and proceeded to allow my  husband to spray it into whorls of insanity. I donned my steampunk skirt, blouse, goggles and lab coat. My friend Lidia Plaza creeped us all out with her white-out contact lenses and black domino. My husband, Ben, and our friend Jeremy, did not dress up, though they looked smashing in their new clothes from the historically accurate Gap from the historical Riverside Mall, which overlooks the Big River herself, the mighty Mississippi. We took ourselves down to Bourbon Street, where already the mounted patrol were sectioning off the blocks of bars and cabarets on the second biggest night of the year. The packed street was crowded with costumed freaks, no less among them was myself in my lab coat and with my frizzy hair. However, we were never more than a block away from some very out-of-place protesters.

"Since Katrina," friend Adam Brewer said, "New Orleans is a very different town."

Notice the banners
in the background.
Different indeed. From over the heads of the thousands of people walking the street, two very large, white wooden crosses could be seen, surrounded by five or six people holding signs and banners proclaiming that all who did not at once repent would be condemned to Hell. At one intersection, just such a group carried a banner damning drunken rioters, homosexuals, heretics and adulterers (among other things) while one of the protesters shouted into a megaphone. Off to the right, a crowd of a different sort was gathered around a man on stilts, dressed as a brightly lit, intimidating Devil. People offered him tips and took pictures with him. One woman got a picture of her kissing his obscene lips. Fortunately, he was the only one who seemed to be responding to the protesters, and this he did without a single word. No one who passed them seemed to pay them much heed, or address them at all. They were part of the road block as far as the revelers were concerned. Other than to comment in passing that perhaps they were going about their tactics the wrong way, no one interacted with them, which was probably due to the fact that several mounted patrol officers were stationed near-by and that everyone was already too drunk to be offended that strangers were passing judgement on them on a party weekend. I was as non-plussed as the others, though in a state of utter rebelliousness, and simply because I could, I took a picture with the Devil. My lack of reverence you can attribute to the fact that I don't believe the presence of a man in a costume has any bearing over my morals. I do, however, enjoy a flare for the ironic on occasion.
Me and Techno Satan
Come to find out, you cannot smoke weed on the balconies of pubs. We stopped in order for Jeremy to get better acquainted with his pipe, allow those who had not eaten to eat, and of course, order more drinks. We were not the ones smoking weed, though. The faint smell of dog poop and grass came to  us from one of the tables further down, which kept our waitress from taking our order for a few minutes. However, we were all pleasantly buzzed and had no intention of getting up. We drank, talked and inhaled second-hand pipe smoke. Some of us clung to life with digging fingers, as we were all exhausted from a late night, early morning, long walk and then alcohol. However, we couldn't leave the relative disorder of Bourbon Street without partaking of a cabaret, in the best sense...sort of. We sought a place with no cover, thinking that perhaps we would get a cheap show. Definitely cheap, to the point that perhaps we may have been bait-and-switched. Lets just say the signs told us one thing, and then four very intoxicated people got a dose of reality. Apparently, there are some things you just can't get without the Internet. We left in bitterness and disappointment, until Lidia found a sticker that was blinking on the sidewalk. Order had been restored.

Street vendors selling art and jazz performers to name but a few of the sights
in front of the Louisiana State Museum, next door to the Basilica de St. Louis
The next day we walked the French Quarter, taking in the sights, spending money, and eating. I eat a lot in New Orleans. We were forced to pass up the Cafe du Monde, as there was a waiting list to the next block--literally. We ate a long, leisurely meal, and continued on to the shops.

It is hard for me to describe the feeling I get walking through the French Quarter. I am often struck with how young I feel. I am surrounded by architecture and style from a part of a city that is hundreds of years old. There are times when I step out of my year and am transported in time. We were interested in sitting most of time, so Jeremy could study his pipe and waiting for Adam to join us. A coffee shop caught our eye, though the door to the shop was not immediately visible. Lidia led us out of the warm street and under an alcove, following the signs to the coffee shop. We stepped out of New Orleans in 2011 and into a French courtyard in the mid-eighteenth century. I remembered stepping through the door of a pub, The Druid's Head, in Brighton, England, and it was the same feeling. The courtyard was cool and shady, trees not native to the area and creepers covered the peeling white-washed walls, and taller buildings helped to block out the sun light from the street. The Royal Blend coffee shop occupied the bottom floor of a building cadi-corner to the courtyard. The french doors to the sitting area and food counter opened on the courtyard. An orange and white striped tom cat came out immediately to greet us. I never could get his tag around to see his name, but he sat with us for a few minutes and followed me up to the register. Dusty tables and chairs lined the walls in a way that was neither orderly nor trendy. One girl stood along a chipped and warped counter using the all-too modern free wi-fi offered by the shop. We ordered our coffee and spent a half an hour under the vines and leaves in the cool arbor. Lidia and I contemplated the upstairs area over the coffee shop, wondering if it was inhabitable and planning our futures as a starving artist and an anthropologist perpetually in school. Our respective husband and live-in boyfriends speculated where they fit in to our plans. We confessed that we did not know.

Our stay was cut short by a phone call that was to herald our departure. We left with about as much ceremony as we when we arrived--arguing in a PC fashion over who should drive and why a Dodge Caravan is not a go-cart. We had a few set-backs this weekend, but nothing that could truly take the fun and grandeur out of visiting one of the most romantic cities in the United States. Au revoir, New Orleans. See you next year.

Enjoy this video, dear readers, of the biggest block party I've ever seen, next to Mardi Gras and St. Patrick's Day. Not bad for a video shot on my HTC Inspire, on the Fastest 4G Network. In case you can't tell, that's sarcasm.