Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Paranormal Activity

When a flick gets press that says it’s the scariest film ever or shows audiences jumping and screaming in terror I am skeptical. And so it was with Paranormal Activity. I was so unimpressed I waited until it was on DVD to see it. After watching the first half and seeing where it was going, especially as I was alone in the house that night, I waited until the next day to watch the rest. Yeah, the hype and the potential fright did that, but it wasn’t necessary.

I was expecting tricks and stunts and blood and gore. I got none of that. I was full-on expecting that YouTube trick of the picture that doesn’t move and the friend who keeps saying "keep watching" only to have something jump out at you toward the end. I got none of that.

What I did get was actually a pretty coherent horror movie. And not any blood or gore either. This was an old-fashioned it’s-what-you-don’t-see type thriller. And when you do see stuff, man oh man. This was good. I can’t believe how good it was.

This was a great first effort from first time writer/director Oren Peli, and the acting, while stiff at times was more than adequate in bringing us into their world via a handheld camera. Nowhere near as shaky as you would think, and this is no gimmicky Blair Witch Project either. It’s just straight forward what it appears to be.

The acting of the two principals was so good at some points I was yelling at them. And this is a weak point in all horror flicks of a certain type. If you hear a noise downstairs – one you are sure is not a burglar… wouldn’t you turn on the lights so you could see better? Granted, if you don’t know, grab a bat and keep the lights off – but if you’re looking for your possibly kidnapped by supernatural forces girlfriend, don’t depend on the camera for a light source. Turn on the damn lights!

I don’t hold out much hope for the big budget sequel due out this Halloween, but the original is legitimately scary and recommended. Watch it with the lights on.

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Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Big Brother 12's Twist

The cat's out of the bag today as to what the twist on this season of "Big Brother" is. In past seasons we've had 'America's Player' who would do the bidding of the viewers via text or phone vote.

For "Big Brother 12" that twist may be a bit more disruptive as there will be a saboteur in the house - a player that doesn't care about the money or winning, he or she just wants to wreck havoc in the house. Fun fun fun. As if the players don't usually do that on their own, whether through their own stupidity or sadism. Oh boy. Can't wait.

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Monday, June 28, 2010

Robin and Ruby by K.M. Soehnlein

From the author, K.M. Soehnlein: ROBIN AND RUBY updates the story of the brother and sister of THE WORLD OF NORMAL BOYS. I wrote that novel over 10 years ago with no plans to write a sequel. But I never really let go of the characters. You don't have to have read the first novel to get into this one --- it's set during the summer of 1985 --- St. Elmo's Fire, Live Aid, the first HIV tests --- and it takes place in Philadelphia and on the Jersey Shore (in the same town as that trainwreck of a reality show).

Robin is now a theater major with a knack for drama; Ruby, his younger sister, has emerged from her God Squad days as a kind of New Wave atheist. They're both ending relationships and starting new ones. There's sex and romance and alcohol and cocaine -- it's the '80s after all -- but it's also about that moment in your early 20s when you realize the decisions are all yours to make, and no one else will solve your problems for you.

ROBIN AND RUBY, book trailer, a novel by K.M. Soehnlein from K.M. Soehnlein on Vimeo.

Visit the author's website.

Join the Facebook Fan Page.

Get the book.

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Sunday, June 27, 2010

Doctor Who: The Big Bang

This is it, the finale. Last episode it was truly a 1966 "Batman" cliffhanger – The Doctor was imprisoned in the Pandorica by all of his greatest enemies and Amy had been shot, supposedly killed by the Nestine/Roman/Auton Rory at Stonehenge in 102 AD.

After the scenes from last week we get the caption that says 1894 years later to see Amy as a child praying for someone to come and fix the hole in her bedroom wall. This is significant as it skewers the rumors that the Doctor actually picked up Amy from the 1980s rather than the present day. Do the math.

What we see is very similar to the opening of this season’s first episode "The Eleventh Hour" – except there’s no Doctor, and no stars in the sky. With other things like star cults and Nile penguins, it becomes quickly apparent that this is an altered timeline. Young Amy is led to a museum by a path of Post-It notes Alice-style where she opens the Pandorica and is confronted by her older self. Cue title sequence.

My first reaction is that Steven Moffet was just watching a bit too much Bill and Ted. There is a lot of Bill and Ted time travel buggery going on here. You know, jumping back and forth in time quickly to make sure what you need is where you need it when you need it. It’s fun. Once. Not several times. But I have to say, Moffet covers his bets and makes sure everything is explained regarding these elements.

There are lots of cool bits in this episode. It felt sooo good when Rory punches the Doctor in the mouth. It’s even cooler when River Song makes a Dalek beg for mercy. And Rory seals his image with the ladies with perhaps the most romantic artist’s rendering ever. There were scary moments of premature realization when I thought maybe Amy was an Auton or perhaps DoctorDonna. There’s also the fez that the Doctor wears for a short time, "It's a fez. I wear a fez now. Fezzes are cool."

There’s also an overlong backwards rewind through this whole season by the Doctor. In this we learn that not everything we have seen was the Doctor in his present time, at that time. It also serves to explain what I at first thought was an editing glitch in the Angels two-parter. When the Doctor is sans jacket, then with jacket and then sans jacket again – the jacketed Doctor was the Doctor from the future rewinding backwards.

"The Big Bang" was a somber and less special effects dependent finale than its first part, but it worked for me. It does suffer somewhat from Lord of the Rings-it is, in that it has far too many endings. The bad news is we don’t find out who River Song is, yet, so I cannot collect bets or pay folks off. I still think she could be the Rani...

So until Christmas... remember, in the words of Professor River Song, "the Doctor lies."

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Saturday, June 26, 2010

ATF! Podcast Returns

The All Things Fun! Podcast is back!

Season 2: Episode #6 - Back in the Saddle

Join Ed Evans, Wes Hitchins and Jess Williams as they return to the airwaves after a long break in this game-centric episode. The gang reviews Letter of Marque from Fantasy Flight Games, San Francisco Cable Car from Queen Games and Pony Express from Funforge.

Wes interviews game designer Bruno Faidutti. Jes spills the beans about the All Things Fun! Live Vidcast at the next All Things Fun! Game Auction and Ed announces the first All Things Fun! Facebook Contest. Win free stuff just for being a fan!

You can send feedback to or online at You can also call our new feedback voicemail number 1(856)448-GAME(4263).

Direct download: ATFPodcast_S2_Ep06_06_21_10.mp3

Wes and Jess record a quick promo to let everyone know about the Used Game Auction being held at All Things Fun! on Sunday, June 27, 2010 at noon.

Can't make it to All Things Fun! for the Auction? That's okay! Wes and Jes will be hosting out first LIVE Vidcast during the auction. Watch Ed auction off the games live as Wes and Jes make fun of him!

Please visit for details on how to connect to the live feed and participate in the conversation.

And don’t forget to check out the All Things Fun! Blogs by Allison Eckel and Glenn Walker.


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Doctor Who: The Pandorica Opens

I can’t believe it’s almost over. Here we are at the final story of the fifth season (series for you Brits) of "Doctor Who." As the title "The Pandorica Opens" implies, we’re going to get some answers finally, and man, are they something! Beware, there be spoilers ahead...

The Steven Moffet scripted episode opens with various characters from throughout the series – Vincent van Gogh, Winston Churchill, Prof. Riversong and Queen Liz all working to get a message routed through time via a painting and the TARDIS. The painting, by van Gogh is called "The Pandorica Opens" and depicts the TARDIS exploding.

Somehow we end up back two thousands years in the past with the Roman legions of Julius Caesar, with Riversong as Cleopatra. Don’t worry, it comes together. The Doctor, Amy and Riversong track the Pandorica to Stonehenge, and I half-expected an appearance of the Ogri from "The Stones of Blood," one of my favorite old school stories. No luck, but there is a very cool Raiders going on when they discover the Pandorica, which appears to be some sort of prison cell.

This is when things get very bad. The Pandorica is sending out a signal, and apparently calling various alien races to Earth, and not good ones – all ones with a hatred for the Doctor. First the Daleks, then the Cybermen, and as if that’s not enough, it seems they are all converging on Earth – the Sontarans, the Judoon, the Silurians, the Sycorax, the Slitheen, the Atraxi, and the Autons among others.

Yeah, it’s the final battle with all the baddies with fanboy giddiness. You can almost feel Steven Moffet grinning as he wrote this.

Just as I was starting to like Karen Gillan as Amy unhindered by Rory, the old boy makes a reappearance, believe it or not as one of the Romans. And she still doesn’t remember him. And just when you might think it just can’t can’t get any worse ... it does. Rory is an Auton.

Meanwhile Matt Smith’s arrogant promise-breaking Doctor has problems of his own with almost every one of his worst enemies in the skies. He momentarily holds off the warring alien races with smack talk, which would have been much cooler had it not been the same smack talk and the same trick he pulled at the end of "The Eleventh Hour." It definitely seems like arrogance is going to bite Matt in the ass just like it did David Tennant last season.

And then the Pandorica opens. Wow. Once all of the elements of this season come together, it makes sense, and man, is it nasty...

So until next time... "Hello sweetie" ... or should that be "Goodbye sweetie?"

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Friday, June 25, 2010

Mighty Avengers Finale

"WWJVDD" - my comic book review of Mighty Avengers #36, the final issue of the series, by writer Dan Slott and artist Khoi Pham, is now online at Avengers Forever.

The Mighty Avengers are gone, it’s Jocasta vs. Hank Pym, it’s three against three billion, Ultron triumphant, and What Would Janet Van Dyne Do? - all this and more - check out my review here:


And thank you, Dan and Khoi, for a great but brief ride.

If you want to discuss this review, this issue or anything Avengers, please check out the Avengers Forever Forum.

And if you'd like to make a donation to help keep the Avengers Forever website as mighty as ever, click here.

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True Blood: Beautifully Broken

There is so much going on, so many plots, subplots and plot twists happening all at once. "True Blood" is the perfect melding of the modern quick cut drama like "The Sopranos" and old school soap opera camp craziness of "Dark Shadows" with just a touch of "Twin Peaks." Yeah, it’s that good.

Our main cliffhanger from last week has Bill going custerfluck crazy on those werewolves, eviscerating them. Yeah, vampires are definitely superior to werewolves in this world – and almost in answer to this revelation, we learn that the wolf pack actually serves the Vampire King of Mississippi, who has plans for Bill.

Our other cliffhanger thankfully ends with Tara not taking her own life, but leads to some great acting by Rutina Wesley and Nelsan Ellis as Tara and Lafayette. There are actually more than a few spotlight performances in this episode. Debra Ann Woll’s Jessica also gets some good stage time. Surprisingly, Eric and Sookie, who are in a real life relationship as Alexander Skarsgard and Anna Paquin, manage very little passion or emotion in their scenes together.

The episode’s title bears out in the various plots, showing the broken relationships in this large web of characters, whether it’s Sam trying to find his family, Lafayette and Tara sticking together, or Jason and Sookie finally making amends – it is all broken.

We learn the nature of the werewolves. They are not just any werewolves. The silliness of that line alone had me giggling. And they’re not just Nazi werewolves either. Yeah, I know. I’m still giggling. There were lots of lines like that in this episode, as well as a cameo by Christine, and it made an otherwise uneventful episode better. From the unintentional one-liners from Eric to the intentional ones from Jason to the various ways to devour blood Bill is presented with – "Beautifully Broken" was a lot of fun.

So until next time... make sure you know where all the bodies in your crawlspace are...

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Thursday, June 24, 2010

Doctor Who: The Lodger

"The Lodger" begins with the Doctor kicked from the TARDIS, a machine that has proven in the past to be as temperamental as an agitated lover. I have to wonder at this point in the series, with only two episodes to go, if perhaps the TARDIS is being controlled by outside forces.

Next we tumble into what seems to be a completely unrelated sedate drama about a platonic couple – the man of which cannot verbalize his feelings for the woman – and a troublesome upstairs renter. It has a certain British sitcom vibe to it, but the situation could easily be "Everybody Hates Chris," "Three’s Company," Duplex or Alfred Hitchcock’s The Lodger. But this is "Doctor Who," so you know there’s got to be more to it.

So the Doctor finds himself stranded with the TARDIS having ejected him and finds himself drawn into the above Britcom. Much like David Tennant did in the “Human Nature” two-parter, Matt Smith tries to blend in as both a human and a renter in the house, thinking that the upstairs tenant has something to do with what went wrong with the TARDIS. So the Doctor has some human misadventures, notably being wet, naked and in a towel (!) – has anyone else noticed how often he gets wet? And he also plays football (soccer for us Yanks). It’s a lot of fun until you take into account this aired the same day as the US/UK round of the World Cup – then it seems a bit forced.

While this is going on Amy is trying to get control of the TARDIS. She’s pushing and pulling controls left and right and taking the turbulent ride of her life while the blue Police Box is out of flux. In all the confusion I couldn’t help but wonder when she would stumble across Rory’s engagement ring.

And then things get bad. It all comes out all right though, for the moment. The universe is saved again, this time with a head butt and a kiss. There is of course still a question of where this second TARDIS came from. Only a Time Lord can build a TARDIS. Could it be the Rani? Or maybe the Doctor’s other personality the Dream Lord? No time to think about it, because then things get worse.

"The Lodger" was written by Gareth Roberts who has a long peripheral history with Doctor Who, having penned many novels in the New Adventures and Lost Adventures series of books as well as several of the audio dramas featuring the Doctor. He’s also written a few episodes of the series, some with Russell T. Davies and some alone. "The Lodger" also features a couple of previous Doctor cameos, and a bizarre and quite honestly hysterical new power for the Time Lord. Fun. Roberts turns in an interesting if oddball and madcap assignment here.

So until next time, remember... “Bowties are cool.”

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Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The Green Hornet 2011

There has been much worry and discussion about Seth Rogan's take on The Green Hornet. The trailer is above. It looks so much better than I or many thought it would be. The film opens January 2011.

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Monday, June 21, 2010

Doctor Who: Vincent and the Doctor

“Vincent and the Doctor” is one of those history episodes of “Doctor Who.” They used to do these all the time way way back in the old days of the show. We’ve had a few in the new series. The recent Dalek adventure in World War II springs to mind, as does the older “Daleks in Manhattan” two-parter, and then there were the episodes with Agatha Christie, Queen Victoria and Shakespeare. This one falls more in line with the historical personage than just standard period piece. The personage in this case is Vincent van Gogh.

Geek that I am, my first exposure to van Gogh was in the Peanuts comic strip – Snoopy had one of his paintings in his doghouse. Later, I learned what a genius the man truly was, even if he was a mad genius. As one of the greatest post-impressionist painters of all time, his work still resonates and affects the art world even today. And yeah, he’s a perfect choice for a character in a Doctor Who episode. Of course his presence in this episode begs one question, is his name pronounced ‘van goff’ or ‘van goh’?

Notable this time out is that “Vincent and the Doctor” is written by Richard Curtis, more famous for Four Weddings and a Funeral, Notting Hill and one of my favorite films Love Actually. He even brought along one of his favorite actors, Bill Nighy, for a pleasant cameo as a present day van Gogh expert. Good stuff.

Despite the ending of the last episode “Cold Blood,” Amy Pond seems pretty upbeat in this one, but of course she doesn’t remember she lost, or even had, a fiancée. It is a good upbeat though, and there is good chemistry between Amy and the Doctor this time. She is big and flamboyant. I like Amy here. Did Rory really make that much of a difference in her life? There’s a great moment when the panicked Doctor calls Vincent “Rory.” He’s taking Rory’s death harder than the clueless Amy.

The episode is highlighted by many beautiful visual references as well as several bad puns to van Gogh, his life and his work. Amy taunting the artist with sunflowers comes off just as well as Rose trying to get Queen Victoria to say “I am not amused” back in “Tooth and Claw.” The performance of Tony Curran as van Gogh plus the music of Murray Gold produce a perfect shattered portrait of the tortured genius. The music has been notably stunning this season.

The story has the artist, along with our TARDIS crew fighting off a stranded monster, the Krafayis, a miracle of the non-special effects of the invisible – almost a homage to Forbidden Planet at times. Look for inky cameos of the first and second Doctors, along with some frightening moments, and a powerful powerful ending that I won’t spoil.

So until next time, remember... “Sonic never fails.”

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Sunday, June 20, 2010

Toy Story 3

Toy Story 3 is a good film. It could have been better, but it’s still a heck of a lot better than some of the crap we’ve gotten so far this summer. I might have some complaints about it, but don’t get me wrong, I liked it, a lot.

First things first, as with all Disney/Pixar features, this one begins with a short, and as always it’s just amazing. This short, Day & Night is just brilliant. Not just brilliant as most Pixars are, but also innovative, just pure genius. This is the type of thing that Pixar excels at – conceptual genius. Do not miss. For me, this alone was worth the price of admission.

We paid through the nose to see this flick in both 3-D and IMAX, but unlike many recent offerings, this was fully worth it. Toy Story 3 picks up years after the last sequel. Andy is leaving for college and hasn’t played with his toys in years so they are awaiting their destiny – a trip to the attic or being donated to a local daycare center. The queues for crying in the audience are a bit obvious and manipulative unlike the last two films

The theme is pretty much the same as Toy Story 2 - that kids are never as good as they seem, and abandon their toys when they get older. It worked for the last movie, but gets a bit creepy here the second time around. More than that, this is a much darker episode of the movie series. The Buzz and Woody Go to Hell sequence is especially scary, and downright frightening for the little ones. We’ve had bad kids and bad toys before, this time out we actually have evil toys. It’s a bit disturbing.

These problems may stem from the fact that what we are seeing is actually the original, rejected script, albeit rewritten, for the first film, and that a better concept had to be abandoned due to legal issues. It’s a shame, because it was good. The movie we got is still good. Ken (when he’s not being evil or creepy) is a hoot, and the highlight here. Some bits, like the rebooted in Spanish Buzz, seem out of place, but are still fun.

As I said, this is still the best movie so far this year, despite its flaws, and the ending is sweet and sincere as opposed to manipulative. I liked Toy Story 3 a lot. Recommended.

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Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Siege #4 Reviewed at Avengers Forever

"Loki the Avenger" - my comic book review of Siege #4, by Brian Michael Bendis and Olivier Coipel, is now online at Avengers Forever.

As the Sentry transforms into the demonic Void in the ruins of Asgard, it turns out Hank Pym was right about Loki, and then it’s the Avengers vs. the Angel of Death, with a far too tidy ending - all this and more - check out my review here:


If you want to discuss this review, this issue or anything Avengers, please check out the Avengers Forever Forum.

And if you'd like to make a donation to help keep the Avengers Forever website as mighty as ever, click here.

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Monday, June 14, 2010

True Blood: Pack of Wolves

First things first, I’m just damned thrilled to have one of my favorite series returning for its third season. But, and there’s always a but, I found the 'pre-game show' for this premiere episode was kinda misleading. It was more ads for other upcoming HBO shows than it was for "True Blood" itself. I did love the new intro to the actual show however, the usual ratings warnings now have a shifting blood background, nice.

At first glance the episode "Pack of Wolves" might seem like "True Blood" is cashing in on the Twilight phenomenon, but nope, it’s just coincidence, and besides, the rivalry between vampires and werewolves goes back a looong way, and not just to White Wolf games or even House of Frankenstein. And just as they have done with vampires, I have no doubt that there will be new rules and mythology for the werewolves as well. And we know from the "Postmortem" that the folks who make the show are using real wolves over make-up and CGI, so that’s interesting.

The werewolves don’t actually show up until the last cliffhanging moment of "Pack of Wolves," but the underlying theme of wolves flows throughout the entire episode. It’s that sort of wink-wink inside jokes that make the show so cool. I have to wonder if Jason’s aborted ménage a trois included two werewolves – they were veterinarian students after all who thought they could psychoanalyze dogs.

The episode picks up immediately where it left off. Bill is kidnapped, Jason shoots Eggs, and nobody remembers anything that happened when Maryann the Maenad was in control of Bon Temps. Sookie’s house notably still bears the décor of Maryann. Neither the viewer nor the characters literally have had a chance to breathe. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. Somehow, this "24" vibe suits the series.

Apparently Bill’s kidnappers are working for Eric who’s also in trouble for his V-selling. They try to drain Bill, and this brings up an interesting supposition. The kidnappers were draining Bill for his blood. Were they also werewolves? What happens to werewolves on V? Sookie gets Jessica to help her find Bill, while Bill himself seems lost in Mississippi, the land of werewolves.

There are half a dozen subplots either continuing or manifesting at the same time. This is a soap opera after all. As with the first two seasons of "True Blood" they all revolve around sex and blood. There is an especially hot scene when Sookie goes to see Eric. Tushy alert for the women and men. Speaking of that stuff. Whoa for the homoerotic vibe between Sam and Bill. It seems that saving a life with vampire blood does that sort of thing. What Sookie has for Eric, Sam now seems to have for Bill. Dream or not, it was hot.

There are other things going on. Jason is haunted by killing Eggs. Jessica tried to make a vampire. The powers that be are bearing down on Eric. And Tara, Tara, upset by Eggs’ death is driven first against Sookie, then to her mother, and then to attempted suicide. "True Blood" is back, and it rolling full speed ahead with a loud howl.

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Jimmy Dean Passes Away

Most folks knew him as the visible head of his sausage company, but generations previous knew him for his music and his television series. Yesterday Jimmy Dean passed away at the age of 81.

We all know Jimmy Dean Sausages but I remember fondly his crossover hit "Big Bad John" and even its two sequels. I also remember his various TV shows that first featured the piano-playing muppet Rowlf the dog, who was notably the first muppet star - even before Kermit the Frog. And then there's his film role as Willard Whyte in one of my favorite James Bond flicks Diamonds Are Forever. He'll be missed.

Below is an October 2009 performance at the Grand Ole Opry by Jimmy Dean of his classic "Big Bad John." Enjoy.

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Sunday, June 13, 2010

True Blood Primer

Sex and blood, blood and sex. This is the core and attraction of the vampire, and it’s been the driving power of HBO’s "True Blood" which premieres its third season tonight. Like most HBO dramas, the series is propelled by intriguing plot twists, compelling characters and a breed of soap opera that has folks coming back again and again. Whatever it is that HBO has, I wish they would bottle it and sell it to the other networks, because nothing they have even approaches what HBO produces on a consistent basis.

But back to the sex and blood. "True Blood" is loosely based on the Sookie Stackhouse Southern Vampire Mysteries books by Charlaine Harris, and created and produced for television by Alan Ball, late of "Six Feet Under." As with other book-to-cable shows, like "Dexter" for instance, it has developed its own style and continuity. This is a good thing, as even readers of the books don’t know what might happen next. It keeps everyone on their toes.

For those of you who came in late, Anna Paquin plays Sookie Stackhouse, a waitress who can hear people’s thoughts and is in love with Bill Compton, played by Stephen Moyer. Bill’s a vampire. Vampires have recently 'come out of the coffin' per se to live among the humans now that a new beverage called 'Tru Blood' exists that mimics the nutritional qualities of human blood. This makes humans not so much prey any more.

When the vampires come out we learn that they have secret societies and governments that have been around for ages, and also that they are not the only supernatural creatures that exist. We have seen shape-shifters and something called a maenad. We have been promised werewolves in this third season.

The series revolves around not only Sookie and Bill, but all of their friends and family in the town of Bon Temps, just like any intricate soap opera would, and the fun rolls from there. Enjoy!

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