Archive for the ‘Writers’ Category

Yesterday I wrote about infamous dates, an appropriate topic on Pearl Harbor Day.

Today is another one of those. Although not on the same scale of lives lost or immediate consequence, December 8, 1980 saw a moment that defines a generation, and world, thirty years after the fact of an act of murder.

The death of John Lennon put paid to an era born in the sixties and dying with John.

It could be the timing was coincidental … another decade had closed and the 80’s loomed large and voracious. Flower-power was giving way to the darker, disenchanted tones of Goth, Ronald Reagan was White House-bound and the 80s stretched before us like a ladder to be climbed one pricey rung after the other.

Could it be, however, it was the event that instigated at least some of the changes?

The violent death of a gentle musician and poet at the hand of a publicity-seeking nutjob seems a demarcation point.

Perhaps my rearview mirror has fogged over the past 30 years, but I recall the decades before Dec. 8, 1980 as hopeful … angst-ridden, yes, but that angst flowed from frustration that the world wasn’t moving quite quickly enough toward the peaceful garden we could still imagine at the time.

We’d seen our share of horrors, but felt we’d learned stuff … important stuff that could and would matter. We felt it was possible to actually give peace a chance.

Greed started driving the bus in the 80s and angst turned to the stone of cynicism. As communism fell by the wayside, that perceived specter morphed into the solid form of expanding markets, multiple debt crises, famine and a whole bunch of wars.

Hippies turned into Yuppies, Porsche became the new VW van and conspicuous consumption took over where conscientious objection left off.

Even the drugs got meaner as coke and crack took the place of acid and weed and ad copy became a viable outlet for poets since the pay was so much better.

I’m guessing those who missed the world John Lennon lived and influenced will consider this a geezer ramble … revisionist history not appreciative of the wonders of the past three decades, or not appreciative enough.

Could be. Could be.

But I can’t help but wonder how different the last thirty years might have been if that fuckwad Mark Chapman had not decided to stake his claim to fame by blowing holes through one of the world’s most important proponents of thoughtful consideration and hope.

The music, alone, we’ve been robbed of has left us poorer.

So … on this day, as every 8th of December, I celebrate the life and rue the death of John Lennon, wonder and imagine …

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I want to speak about bodies changed into new forms. You, gods, since you are the ones who alter these, and all other things, inspire my attempt, and spin out a continuous thread of words, from the world’s first origins to my own time.

Before there was earth or sea or the sky that covers everything, Nature appeared the same throughout the whole world: what we call chaos: a raw confused mass, nothing but inert matter, badly combined discordant atoms of things, confused in the one place. There was no Titan yet, shining his light on the world, or waxing Phoebe renewing her white horns, or the earth hovering in surrounding air balanced by her own weight, or watery Amphitrite stretching out her arms along the vast shores of the world. Though there was land and sea and air, it was unstable land, unswimmable water, air needing light. Nothing retained its shape, one thing obstructed another, because in the one body, cold fought with heat, moist with dry, soft with hard, and weight with weightless things.
~ Ovid, “Metamorphoses”

No, actually I don’t want to speak about changing bodies and I’ve spewed enough of my thoughts on Earthcentric views limiting human imagination, although Ovid does have the excuse of writing long before anyone had the technology to see stars as much more than interesting pictures in the sky.

It is, however, chaos filling my brain today … okay, most days … so imagine how thrilled I was, or wasn’t, to learn the etymology of ‘chaos’ also leads one to ‘yawn’.

Greek χάος means “gap, gaping void, chasm, abyss”, from the verb χαίνω, “gape, be wide open, etc.”, from PIE *ghen-, cognate to Old English geanian, “to gape”, whence English yawn.

Well, no bloody wonder I can have a head full of swirling shit and still be bored!

During a conversation the other day with my dear friend, Brian — he of the blog Truth is Freedom and a fab poet — he mentioned an interesting critter he described as, “chaos vital to creation”, apparently a beastie that can be traced back to ancient times and blamed for just about everything.

Some of our discussion involved various methods we’ve employed in attempts to rein chaos in long enough to force it to take form, allowing us to get on with things in ways … well … less chaotic, but throwing a lasso around “a rude and undeveloped mass, that nothing made except a ponderous weight; and all discordant elements confused, were there congested in a shapeless heap” … another translation of Ovid’s words … is not only difficult, but also an effort with consequences.

The exterior manifestation of chaos ... my office.

It shouldn’t come as any surprise that grabbing free-floating ephemera and wrangling it into concepts easily shared pretty much kills off the free-floaty bit and morphs any given ephemeron into engraving, nor that grabbing hold of a “ponderous weight and all discordant elements confused” might not feel too great.

If I had a choice in the matter I might very well let chaos bubble away in a primordial stewing on a back burner instead of constantly caving to the inclination to turn it into something I can serve up.

There sure are a lot of folks that can do just that, and I sometimes find myself envious of those without curiosity, people who manage to go through days and years and lifetimes never hearing the background noise, much less wondering where it comes from.

“Ever wonder why mosquitoes exist … other than as food … or vectors … or … ”

“No … fucking things … SLAP. Got any beer?”

I find it interesting that the words “random” and “hectic” are now synonymous, amongst the young and hip with excellence, excitement and … well … missing the style boat. Of course, youth is supposed to be hectic and random, and chaos fits like a sparkly glove when your biggest worry is parents reading your Tweets.

I Googled “random thoughts” and found 6,960,000 results … and managed to resist clicking on most of them in fear of the “ooooh shiny” thing since I do have work to do today … but this did nothing to advance my chaos theory that was to be the topic of this post.


In summation, then, I’ll simply ask, “Have you seen that story about living forever? I’m really not keen on the idea, myself, and can’t help but wonder …

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I very much doubt that, back in 1956, anyone congratulating Herbert Kubly — journalist-turned-university professor — on winning that year’s National Book Award could have imagined the life that would play out for a girl of ten at the time. If somehow a mid-1950s mind was able to wrap around what was later known as Punk, the idea of the woman eventually dubbed “Godmother of Punk” winning a National Book Award of her own might have brought on apoplexy.

It has happend. Yes, Patti Smith IS this year’s non-fiction winner for her book Just Kids.

It was the summer Coltrane died, the summer of love and riots, and the summer when a chance encounter in Brooklyn led two young people on a path of art, devotion, and initiation.

Patti Smith would evolve as a poet and performer, and Robert Mapplethorpe would direct his highly provocative style toward photography. Bound in innocence and enthusiasm, they traversed the city from Coney Island to Forty-second Street, and eventually to the celebrated round table of Max’s Kansas City, where the Andy Warhol contingent held court. In 1969, the pair set up camp at the Hotel Chelsea and soon entered a community of the famous and infamous—the influential artists of the day and the colorful fringe. It was a time of heightened awareness, when the worlds of poetry, rock and roll, art, and sexual politics were colliding and exploding. In this milieu, two kids made a pact to take care of each other. Scrappy, romantic, committed to create, and fueled by their mutual dreams and drives, they would prod and provide for one another during the hungry years.

Just Kids begins as a love story and ends as an elegy. It serves as a salute to New York City during the late sixties and seventies and to its rich and poor, its hustlers and hellions. A true fable, it is a portrait of two young artists’ ascent, a prelude to fame.

Patti came to music through poetry, a logical step that resonates on just about every level I have and made me a fan many years ago. Her lyrics have spoken , and with a generation I listened, absorbed and was absolved.

Her verse and voice still inspire:

Dancing Barefoot

she is benediction
she is addicted to thee
she is the root connection
she is connecting with he

here I go and I don’t know why
I spin so ceaselessly
could it be he’s taking over me…

I’m dancing barefoot
heading for a spin
some strange music draws me in
makes me come on like some heroin/e

she is sublimation
she is the essence of thee
she is concentrating on
he, who is chosen by she

here I go and I don’t know why
I spin so ceaselessly,
could it be he’s taking over me…

she is re-creation
she, intoxicated by thee
she has the slow sensation that
he is levitating with she …

here I go and I don’t know why,
I spin so ceaselessly,
’til I lose my sense of gravity…

And now, what has been called a “beautifully crafted love letter to Robert Mapplethorpe” has been oh-so-appropriately honored.

My congratulations and gratitude to the National Book Foundation for their supreme good sense.

You can read an excerpt from the book here, but here’s a bit from that:

We used to laugh at our small selves, saying that I was a bad girl trying to be good and that he was a good boy trying to be bad. Through the years these roles would reverse, then reverse again, until we came to accept our dual natures. We contained opposing principles, light and dark.

I was a dreamy somnambulant child. I vexed my teachers with my precocious reading ability paired with an inability to apply it to anything they deemed practical. One by one they noted in my reports that I daydreamed far too much, was always somewhere else. Where that somewhere was I cannot say, but it often landed me in the corner sitting on a high stool in full view of all in a conical paper hat.

I would later make large detailed drawings of these humorously humiliating moments for Robert. He delighted in them, seeming to appreciate all the qualities that repelled or alienated me from others. Through this visual dialogue my youthful memories became his.

Although it was far from fairy tale fodder and did not end up in happily-ever-after, the Smith/Mapplethorpe relationship … two dedicated artists sharing the path … stirs in my heart and mixes the sediment lodged there into the fluid of what it takes to create.

Ladies and gentlemen, Patti Smith … Dancing Barefoot …

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Nora Ephron has a new book out, I Remember Nothing: And Other Reflections, and you can bet I’m ordering it.

In addition to the family connection … she and my brother have done a thing a couple of times … and starting long before that was made, the woman’s work has spoken to me … for me? … whatever … and very obviously, from what I’ve read so far, continues to do exactly that in this most recent work:

One good thing I’d like to say about divorce is that it sometimes makes it possible for you to be a much bet­ter wife to your next husband because you have a place for your anger; it’s not directed at the person you’re currently with.

Another good thing about divorce is that it makes clear something that marriage obscures, which is that you’re on your own. There’s no power struggle over which of you is going to get up in the middle of the night; you are.

But I can’t think of anything good about divorce as far as the children are concerned. You can’t kid yourself about that, although many people do. They say things like, “It’s better for children not to grow up with their parents in an unhappy marriage.” But unless the par­ents are beating each other up, or abusing the children, kids are better off if their parents are together. Chil­dren are much too young to shuttle between houses. They’re too young to handle the idea that the two peo­ple they love most in the world don’t love each other anymore, if they ever did. They’re too young to under­stand that all the wishful thinking in the world won’t bring their parents back together. And the newfangled rigmarole of joint custody doesn’t do anything to ease the cold reality: in order to see one parent, the divorced child must walk out on the other.


Nora first spoke to me with Heartburn, hands down the BEST getback any betrayed wife has ever pulled, made even more appropriately brutal when it was made into a film. It lobbed key lime pie directly at the crotch of ex-husband Carl Bernstein, one half of the team that uncovered the Watergate scandal and wrote a book about it, and made it bloody hard for the man to get a date for a very long time.

It is said that revenge is a dish best served up cold, but Nora’s Heartburn warmed the cockles of damaged heart in very healing ways. I laughed … oh! how I laughed … as she got up the thumb-like nose of the bitch who’d aimed her sites on the married man and let the world know just what a prize he wasn’t, no matter the idolatry he fostered widely, and if I was the sort of woman who cooked, I’m sure I would have made good use of the recipes included in the story.

And speaking of stories … here’s a true one:

Once upon a time, I was in New York City on a night out with friends. We’d eaten well in a fabulous penthouse apartment, then danced to Brazilian music at a fabulous club … New York is all about ‘fabulous’ you see. Deciding eventually it was time for some great coffee and rich desserts, we headed for the West Side and the restaurant of another friend on Columbus Circle where we took up residence at one of the larger tables, cramming in chairs from left and right and setting up a right ruckus as we did what New Yorkers do at 3 am — discussing everything under the sun, arguing points and enjoying being one-upped by people whose knowledge is deeper.

Coffee doing what it does, a ladies trip to the ladys’ took up a good 20 minutes, what with all queueing and makeup touchups such ventures into basement toilets require when 9 girls all have to go at the same time and the geography of hip spots in Manhattan puts the bathroom down two floors.

Reentry created the desired effect, and most of the seats we’d vacated were relinquished to us previous tenants, but there were some new faces at the table.

One was a pleasant-looking gentleman seated to my left in the middle of an explanation to my friend sitting across from us on the ins and outs of dealing effectively with photographers from Architectural Digest invading a flat, his just having been featured, apparently.

Interesting enough a discussion, I suppose, but not one that grabbed my attention until some mention was made of the fact that he worked for the Washington Post.

At the time, I had a good friend working in the newsroom at the Post and the thought crossed my mind that perhaps this guy could fill me in a bit on how my buddy was fairing, so at a break in the conversation I asked, innocently enough: I’m sorry, but do you work for the Washington Post?

My friend on the other side of the table went apoplectic, perhaps embarrassed by what was apparently a blatant show of un-hipness causing my out-of-towner faux pas, and with barely an eye-blink passing … no time at all for the dude to respond to my question … she said:

Sandra … this is Carl Bernstein!

Light speed fast, the connections were made in my head: Woodward/Bernstein, Watergate, Washington Post, All the President’s Men … he’s shorter than I would have thought …

Yes. All that.

Now, it often happens that my mouth moves before my brain fully engages, and — blame it on the wine, the coffee, the hour, if you like — this was the case that night.

The very first thing I blurted out to this man who had just been impressing the shit out of the table with tales of fame and fortune and his apartment on the East Side was:

REALLY??? How cool. I LOVED your wife’s book!

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A post on a blog sent by a friend inspired mine today. Titled Musings on the Craft: Eloquence, I’m in complete agreement, but my mind took a wander.

What follows is the comment I submitted for moderation:

In my preteen years, my father handed me his copy of The Elements of Style with an admonishment to learn it all, but at my peril. Himself a slave to the rules for far too much of his adult life, his hope was that I would incorporate the niggley bits well enough to have them second nature and familiar to the point of contempt when appropriate.

Although driven to the destination called Distraction by the all-too-frequently cavalier typist-cum-writer — how many high school teachers dreaded my blue pencil — years of editing the work of others and multitudinous hours online harvesting info for fodder have honed my double-edged sword allowing swift cutting through crap even while noting a less-than-passing nod toward the convenient signposts of grammar and spelling.

Language as a living thing is a creature dear to my heart, and as it evolves, even through such bizarre mutations as text talk and mass rule, I’m comfy enough in the knowledge that the end of this road is beyond my alloted travel time to follow the bouncing ball when there’s enough to let me sing along.

Am I saying rules don’t matter? Nope. They do, and when I rule the world Strunk and White will be served up more often than Big Macs and the ubiquitous doyouwantfrieswiththat will come with punctuation.

In the meantime, however, I’m embracing the ease of communicating in writing that is opening channels and has peeps who had never contemplated what words look like punching in messages left and right.

As I have typed many times: No prob. This is chat, not lit.

So …

thx urgr8

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Sandra, you seem to put a lot of your personal life out there for all the world to see. You publish under your real name, write about life, love, fears, kids and just about everything else in your world. Doesn’t it bother you that people have so much access to what might be better kept private?

True, not quite, yes, and no … reasons follow:

1. Because I don’t trust writers who refuse to put their name to their work, it’s long felt important that people know who I am. By not disguising my identity, I accept accountability, and given that so much of my work over the years has swirled around controversial, contentious issues that could have impact on lives, stepping up and stating clearly who I am and where I’m coming from has been important.

2. Contrary to some perceptions, I don’t actually write about everything in my life. There are huge swathes of living that don’t come under the pen because a) it’s not interesting, b) there’s nothing of value to share with readers, c) it’s not my story to tell, d) I’m saving it for a book, or e) I don’t bloody want to.

3. I find life as an open book rewarding, personally and financially. I’m a writer; opening books is what writing is about.

4. Writing about pain is cathartic. It’s neither fun, nor easy, but not only does it feel right at the time I’m spewing, I reap rewards of validation and compassion that would be hard to come by were I to sit on my story and stew.

5. I’m a cockeyed optimist when it comes to honesty. I actually feel that the more truth there is in the world, the more chance there is for improvement. Like putting a brick in the toilet, recycling or driving an energy-efficient car, writing the truth feels like doing my bit.

6. I live on an island in the middle of nowhere. It’s not like every wacko in Waco can pop by for a stalking.

7. I live on an island in the middle of nowhere. It’s not like I can cultivate a local contingent of hundreds of brilliant conversationalists to keep me sharp and interested.

8. People who come into my world understand that parts of my life end up in print. If I were a painter, I’d paint it; as a poet I poem it. Art comes from life. Send me something profound and I’ll quote you. Impress me and I’ll publicize you. Love me and I’ll celebrate you. Hurt me and I’ll whine about you. If that wraps my accountability around others who would rather not have life repeat on them, well, they knew that on the way in the door.

Nuff said …

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As you see by the choice I made way back in the age when blogging meant knowing your HTML and I put Paradise Preoccupied up, I’m a fan of WordPress. Not only is it a stable blogging platform with cool themes that is simple to use and easy to navigate, it also provides stats that give a blogger some valuable info. Not only can I see how many people are reading, which posts attract, where people are coming from, what links they chose to follow, but a whole lot more.

One section of information is a day-to-day listing of search engine parameters … those words or phrases one types in when looking for something specific on the Net; interesting stuff, but I am often appalled by what leads to my writing.

Those who spend some time here on PP know that I’m far from prudish … shit, I swear like a fuckin’ sailor and blather on about unsavories when the mood strikes … but I don’t see myself catering to pervs. Perhaps, however, I’m floating down the river Denial.

People do find the blog by inputting my name, Paradise Preoccupied, adoption-related topics and fam affiliation, but what is more than odd is how often poorly spelled pleas for porn are Googled, and why the heck they send people my way?

Here are some examples of what pops up:

• girls pulling girls underwear out
• plastic boobs fail
• aside panties
• big panties
• plastic panties
• pedophile in paradise
• titty tether
• incest capital of britain
• tribe woman tits
• looking women in japan in panties
• long schlong
• titties on your face

I mean really! Who are these people?

It’s easy enough to suss out how my blog comes up in a search of some of these … my post on pulling on the big girl panties was provocatively titled, I know, and Panties Aside just aggravated the issue … but I’m at a loss to understand why some variation of “tits pointing up” appears almost daily — twice last Sunday.

Less salacious searches puzzle, too. How many people actually spend time looking for “the meaning of Scrabble”? (They’re sure to be disappointed with my answer.) And I apparently touched a nerve when titling a blog “Bill Mahre is hot, is he not?” since “Bill Mahre is hot” are words googled at least twice a week, as if a lot of folks are looking for confirmation of this irrefutable fact.

I get flack from some quarters for writing as often as I do on personal matters, but I swear on my iPad I have never claimed my tits point up.

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As mentioned in recent post, I have a tattoo on my wrist now that reads: Arcum tenderi Vertatum Dicere. It’s there to remind me as I work that writing true is a responsibility whether I’m writing fact or fiction.

Or even news.

There are rules to journalism, but once again a story from the BBC indicates that a rocko-socko headline, no matter how ridiculous, takes precedent.

Puts me in mind of a bit of Evelyn Waugh verse:

You cannot hope
to bribe or twist,
thank God! the
British journalist.

But, seeing what
the man will do
unbribed, there’s
no occasion to.

The headline that has me on this rant this morning?

Large waist size linked to ‘higher risk of death’

I’m not bothering to mention how annoying I find the BBC’s “compulsion” to wrap quotation marks around “random words” in headlines, as if “qualifying” their “shouts” makes them “less accountable” for “poor choices” and “lazy editing”, although I do find it “very annoying”.

What’s bugging me is the “higher risk of death” thing heading the piece and much of the copy that follows:

… very high waist measurements equivalent to UK size 24-26 in women and XXXXL in men appear to double the risk of mortality.

The study featured was conducted over a nine year period, so the research counted how many involved died over those years. Fine. There’s some science in that. So can we not be shouting from the rooftops that some folks have a “higher risk of death” than others?

Okay. I do understand that what they are trying to say is that obesity is known to cause health issues that may end up being the cause of death … perhaps “premature” death, meaning that extremely fat folks might live longer if they dropped tonnage.

BUT … that not what they write. Well … not until you crawl down the page a bit and fill in some of the blanks, and it becomes the reader’s job to figure out what the heck instead of the writer’s responsibility to clearly report what the heck.

Let’s get something straight … everyone dies, and everyone dies once, so there is no possibility of “doubling the risk of mortality”, at least not until someone gets a handle on that immortality thing and is able to put it on the market.

As ‘infotainment” contaminates more corners of journalism and consumers of “news” are dumbed down daily … outFoxed? … those who see the difference between reporting and appealing, enlightening vs entertaining, sense and sensationalism, should bust the chops of anyone paid to post pap and remind them that when they don’t understand what they’re writing about to ask more questions, because not doing so and simply writing what scans results in a “higher risk of disparagement”.

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Today is my birthday, so I’ll assume that this offering of easy blog fodder is a gift for the occasion from my good buddy, Ben the Popester … or not.

Pope pens children’s book entitled The Friends of Jesus

Pope Benedict XVI joins a long list of celebrities looking for younger audience with release of book about apostles …

Following in the footsteps of Madonna and Geri Halliwell, Pope Benedict XVI has written a children’s book.

I confess that my own work has taken a turn toward the salacious lately, so perhaps that’s one reason the cliché Old Ben opens with … Once upon a time … followed by, “… there was a small group of men who, one day two thousand years ago, met a young man who walked the roads of Galilee,” has me giggling like a Catholic School girl and mentally replacing the subsequent 48 pages of the imagined actual text with all sorts of rude allusions that run in directions that would make Geppetto, fairy tale version of pedophile that he is, blush; not an easy feat for a guy so into wood, sperm whales and his heart’s desire turning into an ass.

It’s not like there’s any giant leap needed to get from Point A … “group of men”, Catholic, “met a young man” … to Point B … sexual abuse of children by priests … so it seems either stupid or arrogant an angle to choose for a debut foray into kiddy lit.

Could it be Ben’s trying to make a point? The prologue could be considered stirring the pot to any with an abuse/power/bondage thing going on in their head:

The pope “takes us by the hand and accompanies us as we discover who Jesus’s first companions were, how they met Him and were conquered by Him to the point that they never abandoned Him” …

Okay, I’m a cynic. Forgive me. But I can’t help thinking, given the present tone of Papal PR, Benny would have been better off writing a tale on some aspect of Catholic that had less potential for punny parallels … the four horses, for instance. A pony called “Apocalypse” would make one hell of a bedtime story.

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This post would be more correctly titled “Why I’m not Writing for Myself”, since I am writing loads, but for others.

Social media management is one fragment of my fragmented life these days, so I’m facebooking and Tweeting and such anonymously for others, and find I don’t at all mind the mindlessness of pretending to be someone else who has something to gain from glib verbosity. In fact, I rather enjoy plucking words from air that I’m not wed to … that’s the words, not the air, since breathing still commands my days and nights.

For those who haven’t sussed out the diff between my English and Ernesto’s, I patrol his pages and respond to all varieties of the sycophantic and moony-eyed, as well as the truly-impressed-by-genius, who post.

(sycophante, or via Latin from Greek sukophantēs ‘informer,’ from sukon ‘fig’ + phainein ‘to show’ ; the association with informing against the illegal exportation of figs from ancient Athens (recorded by Plutarch) is not substantiated.)

I do likewise … but sans the figs and the emotional attachment … with other sites, to some advantage to all.

I should also be turning my attention to the fiction that stews and brews and begs fruition, but life gets in the way these days. The Spicemans nag daily. and notes, thoughts and more drift constantly upward, only to be squashed under drifts of real life.

So …

Could I be writing about law suits and the feckless ex and real estate sales and dog-chewed bumpers and my dealings with Cleo (Queen of Denial) and the bazillion ways I can’t process Jaren, and my mother’s decent, and the Kon Tiki of fam issues, and being stuck on a rock and needing a break?

Mon pa think so, mon ker.

I hold hope that some Vesuvius erupts … although this week that would have to be an Eyjafjallajokull … forcing a disgorging of petrified prose newly molten, steaming and demanding flow, but it ain’t happening today.

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