Film


Food Rules by Michael PollanBestselling author Michael Pollan’s latest book, Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual, is a quick read, but is not light on information for anyone that eats.  There are a lot of long and exhaustive books that don’t get to the point, especially when it comes to diet and health.  Pollan however gets right to practical advice and scientific information with this slim book of ideas that span the space of a small page.

He makes interesting points, 64 in fact.  I tend to enjoy reading about health, and honestly, I find that a lot of these kinds of books are not quick and easy, or the advice is simply not good.  Not since I read You on a Diet have I felt so satisfied with a health advice book.

A lot of this was not new to me, but I tend to try to stay up on health news.  Even still, I found a lot to take away myself.  Pollan is an expert on food and the food industry, and informs us without a gimmick of weight loss.  Yes, you will lose weight if you follow his advice, but it is about being informed.  Like his other books and talks, he also discusses what has happened with the food industry and American society to cause our issues with food.

One thing that I loved about this book is that it didn’t focus heavily on meat vs. vegetarianism, but it did comment on it.  It is difficult when a book does not take into account the different perspectives of the potential readers.  It is a wonderful way to dip your toes into understanding food, but even people already knowledgeable will enjoy Pollan’s quick tips.  This book is really a great little read for anyone interested in being more mindful and healthy about what they eat with realistic solutions.

On Wednesday, April 21, the highly talked about Academy Award Nominated documentary film Food Inc. will be shown on POV.  Robert Kenner’s film features Pollan and other experts on food.  They explore the fascinating topic of how our food is making us sick, and what we can do to make it better.  Check your local PBS station listings.  You can even get a one time e-mail reminder from PBS so you don’t forget.

The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals

Because of this, PBS is featuring an excerpt from Pollan’s book The Omnivore’s Dilemma.  Unlike Food Rules, The Omnivore’s Dilemma is not quick tips, but rather a discussion of how our food industry is run and how we got to this point.  This is not to say it won’t help you make smarter decisions.  Rather, Food Rules is the distilled advice of Pollan, but is hardly exhaustive of his knowledge.

Additional information:

Official website: Michael Pollan

Interview: Michael Pollan on Democracy Now! (VIDEO) — highly recommended

Excerpt (PBS): The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan

Excerpt (WorldCat/GoogleBooks): The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan

Additional websites:  Food, Inc. trailer on POV and Food, Inc. reminder

Official website: Food, Inc. documentary film

Find these items at a library near you! Don’t forget, this website’s official list of library items can also be found here or in our side bar by clicking on the WorldCat logo.

Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual by Michael Pollan

The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan — There is also a GoogleBooks preview, which you can find on WorldCat by clicking under the image of the book cover.  Or, you can click here to be taken there directly.

Food Inc.

Food, Inc.

Food, Inc. documentary film

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"Stranger than Fiction" is a Funny & Smart Film

Karen Eiffel (Emma Thompson) is writing her latest novel.  She has a case of writer’s block, and doesn’t know how to kill off her main character, lonely IRS agent Harold Crick (Will Ferrell).  Little does she know that Harold Crick is a real person.  He starts hearing a mysterious voice that narrates his life, and one day that voice states that Harold Crick will die.  With the help of Professor Jules Hibert (Dustin Hoffman), Harold tries to find out what story he is in so he can save himself.  Along the way he meets a smart, sassy, and beautiful woman that is being audited (Maggie Gyllenhaal) that he begins to fall for, and develops a friendship with his co-worker Dave (Tony Hale of Arrested Development).  For the first time in his lonely life Harold starts to live his life, all the while with the narrator and the knowledge of his impending death looming over him.

Will Ferrell as Harold Crick

Harold writes down tick marks into columns of what his story is “tragedy” or “comedy.”  We are left to wonder this ourselves.  With drama and laughter, we find a moving film that is quirky and fun, while deep and meaningful all the same.

The life of Harold Crick is not only narrated.  Graphics pop-up to accentuate how he lives his life measured out precisely.  But it is just when his life gains chaos that it starts to really make sense.  This is an intelligent film that speaks to the audience, not above the audience.  It is a sweet and touching and soulful film, with humor and brilliant awkwardness that reminds us “you’re never too old for space camp.”

This film was directed by Marc Forster.

More information:  Official website

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Alice in Wonderland (2010)

Librarians agree:  Alice in Wonderland in 3-D is well worth the money and the entire country has Alice on the brain.  On opening week I organized a group of librarians and library students to attend a screening of Tim Burton’s latest film in the relatively new Real-D.  While I am certain this film will be amazing either way, it is truly a masterpiece in 3-D.  Without giving in to creating shots blatantly for the use of 3-D, it still manages to take full advantage of this feature.

This is clearly Tim Burton’s take on Alice in Wonderland.  For one Alice is older, and the film takes a much darker tone than the classic Disney animation (is anyone really surprised that this film might be too much for young children) and there are many twists and surprises along the way.  That said, it does not lose the sense of Wonderland for older fans of early imaginings of Lewis Carroll’s work.  I am certain that fans of Tin Man will be delighted to see this incarnation of Alice in Wonderland.  I know I am.

I was a bit nervous that it would be too Mad-Hatter-centric.  It was not, however.  The Mad Hatter (Johnny Depp) did play a large role and I understand why Disney would throw their money behind the star.  However, I felt the advertising for the film overshadowed the other amazing performances, none so much as Alice (Mia Wasikowska).  She is perfect as 19 year old Alice, who is expected to accept the marriage proposal of Hamish (Leo Bill), but thankfully gets distracted by a silly white rabbit.  It is not surprising that Tim Burton also cast Helena Bonham Carter in her role as The Red Queen, but it is not just favoritism.  Ms. Carter is amazing as the large headed and violent queen.  Anne Hathaway is no less brilliant as the flighty and hilarious White Queen.  Of course, the best part of the movie are the amazing creatures and world Burton and his team has created:  the White Rabbit, the March Hare, the Red Queen’s frogs, the Caterpillar, and the Cheshire Cat!  My favorite moment being when he is kneading (as cats do).  Lovely!

Fans of this film also might like to check out The Looking Glass Wars by Frank Beddor.  It has a very similar dark take and I am excited to reread the original to compare. In this first in a series of books, we learn that Alice is from Wonderland.  She was heir to the thrown until her aunt, the Red Queen, waged war against her family to cease control of Wonderland.  Alice escapes Red, her army of card soldiers, and an assassin with the help of her friends (including a Mad Hatter that is a skilled fighter himself), but she is cast out from Wonderland lost and alone.  Another related book that is on my to-read list was recommended to me by Laura Rancani.  She recently wrote about the historical fiction Alice I Have Been by Melanie Benjamin, so please visit her website for the full review.

In related news, to celebrate the release of the film, I visited the Rare Book & Manuscript Library at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign where there was an exhibit of rare Lewis Carroll items including original photographs taken by the author (my personal favorite), games owned and/or invented by him, books, and memorabilia.  They also held a tea party for children and had games that Lewis invented that visitors could try out.  I was very bummed out to have had to miss out on tea, but I was late for a very important date!  Still, I managed to quickly snap a few photos for your viewing pleasure.

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PenelopePenelope is a modern fairytale which redefines the genre for a new millennium.  Unlike the traditional princess tale, this modern reimagining features the strong princess, a contemporary setting, and a prince that is not exactly in shining armor.  While fans of Enchanted and Ella Enchanted will likely love this tale, I prefer Penelope for the positive body image storyline, which is a great change for young women.  This is an untraditional fairytale love story about learning to love yourself no matter what your short-comings may be.

Penelope (Christina Ricci) is born into a high-society family.  The world should be at her feet, but she due to a strange curse on her family, she is born with a face like a pig (and no, it can’t be fixed with plastic surgery).  The only thing that can reverse it is for a blue-blood to accept her as one of their own.  Her parents fake her death and keep her hidden away to protect her from tabloid reporters, specifically one named Lemon (Peter Dinklage) that almost got a picture of Penelope as a baby.   Once she is old enough, her mother (Catherine O’Hara) arranges to use a match-making service dealing only with high-society clients.  The suitors all come for the sizable dowry, but run once they see her.

Penelope & MaxEverything changes when she meets Max (James McAvoy); a handsome, charming, and down on his luck gambler.  He is hired to get a picture of the “hideous pig faced girl,” but Max and Penelope fall in love.  Our unlikely couple are a wonderful match, but when the truth is revealed, Max leaves and it devastates our heroine.

Heartbroken, Penelope strikes out on her own for the first time in her life.  Along the way to finding herself, Penelope makes friends including a spunky bike messenger (Reese Witherspoon), and she learns to love herself.  She is able to really live for the first time in her life.

This story is an amazing example of a modern, likable princess that does not fit the traditional mold.  I cannot recommend this film enough.  The breathtaking beauty of the shots and amazing use of color is reason enough, but when combined by the moving, yet hilarious, story of this young woman you have a film that will stand the test of time.

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Marie Antoinette

Sofia Coppola’s genius as a filmmaker is showcased in her film Marie Antoinette; a masterpiece that blends popular music, historic locations, and a story thick with the luxury and loneliness of Versailles.  Based loosely on the life of Marie Antoinette (Queen of France), the film (written and directed by Coppola) takes a sympathetic look at one of history’s favorite villainesses.  Coppola takes on the task of making a bio-pic that isn’t just another film set in the past, while also not intruding on the story with modernity.  She succeeds with a film that captures both the time period and the timelessness of her desperation, drunken rock star youth, and utter loneliness.  Criticism has come from the lack of historical context or accuracy, but this is not a documentary.  Rather it is a piece of art about a lonely girl.

Kirsten Dunst as Marie Antoinette

Kirsten Dunst dazzels as the young royal.  The film is completely from Marie’s perspective, and Dunst does not disappoint with her subtle portrayal of the Dauphine of France.  Most of the film is told without words and Dunst is able to fit into the role convincingly.  She plays Marie as a teenager, which is what she was when she arrived in France and married King Louis XVI.  She is lonely, given to excess, and tries to woo her husband (knowing full well that everything depends on that).  There is no mistaking the pressure on Marie Antoinette to produce an heir to the thrown; her loneliness, her desperation to “inspire” her husband, her diversions in drink and shoping, and her desire to fit in with the catty crowd in the royal court are all perfectly portrayed by Dunst.

King Louis XVI & Marie AntoinetteJason Schwartzman is a wonderful choice as her husband King Louis XVI.  He is totally sexually uninterested in Marie Antoinette.  He would much rather make keys than make love to his wife (much to the dismay of the young woman, who clearly is not secure in her position without a male child).  Schwartzman is refreshing as a nerdy sort of king, with a good heart, versus a confident and sexually aggressive royal that blames his wife.  Rather, Schwartzman is just completely disinterested.  He tries to be kind, but it is clear that this is dysfunctional for both parties.

Obviously, what sets this film apart is the use of modern music such as Adam and the Ants, the Cure, Bow Wow Wow, and the Strokes instead of strictly period music.  Personally I was skeptical that I would even like this film due to the music.  Not that I don’t enjoy it, but making it work in this type of film is a huge challenge.  I was pleasantly surprised to find myself so deeply invested in the story, the visuals, and the sounds that it was not at all jarring for me when modern music was included and furthermore it added a sweet layer of the contemporary to the entire film.

However, it is also the visual splendor of the film that takes your breath away.  In making this film, it must be nice to be have Coppola connections.  They had unprecedented access to Versailles.  You cannot buy sets as lavash as the real thing.  There is no comparison.  If you want to see more, watch the special features (including the making-of and a humorous “Cribs with Louis XVI”).  Additionally, the costumes are divine.  It is not surprising that the film won an Academy Award for Best Costume Design.

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As as side note, you now can receive emails when there are new posts on Librarians are Weird (check the side bar).  Additionally, all items that are available from libraries that participate in WorldCat will be listed together.  You can click on the WorldCat icon in the sidebar to find our complete list or in each individual post you can still find links to “Find this item at a library near you!”  If you have a WorldCat account you can even follow the Librarians are Weird list.  This has been done in a further attempt to make your life even easier!

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**As Neil predicted, the video is no longer available.  However, it was wonderful of Mr. Gaiman to share with us the link to his latest creative endeavor!  I hope it is available from Sky soon.**

Happy New Year!  When my friend, and fellow librarian, Jennifer Lu’Becke sent me this link to Neil Gaiman’s short film Statuesque I knew I had to share it with you fine folks.

Statuesque is the tale of a man that falls in love with a living statue.  It is a beautiful story told completely without words.  I certainly have a soft spot for both Neil Gaiman and for the short movie format.  Here is an excellent example how a story can be told in less than ten minutes, with no dialog, and can be more amazing than most full-length films currently being produced and sold to the public.  Also, I am slightly biased in my affection for this piece since it is similar to a script I wrote years ago that never got around to producing.  Perhaps I will have to tweak it a bit and give it a go in 2010.

Bravo, Neil!  You have done it again!  Cheers to you all and here is to a new decade and plenty more librarian geeky goodness!

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Ah! The air smells of pumpkin and wet leaves.  It is time for Halloween parties!  So, what to watch at these parties.  Well, there are some great choices for movies to watch this weekend.  Specifically some movies led themselves well to being on in the background.  This will be very brief!  Eep!

Black & White Classics

Psycho

This film is easily the scariest movie I have seen…ever.  That is especially impressive considering that the first time I saw it was on a big screen with a bunch of other people.

The Brain That Wouldn’t Die

Doctor take future wife on a trip.  Car wreck.  Severed head.  Saves head.  Doctor looks at strip clubs for new body to attach to head.

Night of the Living Dead

You know the drill.  Zombies, zombies, everywhere!  Assortment of people try to hold off zombies.  Good stuff.  **Watch the Entire Movie Online — Click Here**

Devil’s Night Favorites

The Crow

Eric Draven and his girlfriend Shelley are murdered on Devil’s Night.  Eric comes back a year later to exact revenge/justice.  One of the best movies ever (and surely will get an actual real review soon).

The Exorcist

Did these people on The Paranormal Hour learn nothing from The Exorcist.  Little girl plays with a talking board and becomes possessed.  Priest tries to save girl.  Apparently, a guy I know was an extra sitting under one of the trees.

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Tim Burton clearly is one of the kings of Halloween. So, for the 3 Days to Halloween blog I have selected a few Tim Burton movies.

Sleepy Hollow

One of my favorite movies is Tim Burton’s retelling The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. It is one of the most visually stunning and scariest Halloween films and certainly showcases Burton’s talents. Ichabod Crane (Johnny Depp) is an investigator sent from the city to investigate the mysterious murders that have taken place in the small town of Sleepy Hollow. There he not only finds murder and mystery, but the love of Katrina Van Tassel (Christina Ricci). The special effects and general mood of the film are an absolute must for Halloween. Ichabod’s contraptions are fantastic and the gore in this movie is not over the top, but exactly right (as long as you like blood and guts in your movies). Christopher Walken’s teeth alone are the stuff of nightmares…and that tree! If you have seen the movie, you know I’m right. It is a perfect tale for Halloween and certainly not for the faint of heart.

The Nightmare Before Christmas (2-Disk Collector’s Edition)

Getting this edition of the film is a smart choice. Not only does it feature the movie and a few others (see below), it also has special features of deleted scenes, behind the scenes, and trailers. The movie itself is about Jack Skellington, the Pumpkin King. Jack is sad and then he comes across the land of Christmas. He decides that all the ghouls and goblins should be in charge of Christmas this year. Of course they get it all wrong, because they just don’t understand holidays other than Halloween. Music, creepy fun, and even a little bit of romance are all part of this story about a skeleton that has good intentions, but gets it all wrong.

Vincent

Vincent is a short film about a boy who dreams of being Vincent Price. It is one of the many extras on The Nightmare Before Christmas 2-disk collector’s edition DVD. It is a clever little poem and stop motion animation piece that I find a delight to watch again and again. Also in the extra features, the original poem is read by Christopher Lee. If you like Vincent, you should also check out illustrator Edward Gorey’s Gashlycrumb Tinies, as I feel you would also get a kick out of his twisted alphabet.

Frankenweenie

Frankenweenie

Frankenweenie

This short film is also featured on this edition of The Nightmare Before Christmas and will eventually be done as a feature length film. The story is about a young boy who brings back a beloved pet, but of course the creation is misunderstood by the neighbors. I was a bit unsure about the story when I was younger, but I gave it a go again once I was older and watched the whole thing and found it to be excellent as long as you watch the entire movie.

Tomorrow: 2 Days to Halloween, Halloween Black and White Classics


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Zombie Girl: The Movie poster

Zombie Girl: The Movie poster

Emily Hagins is a twelve-year old girl (thirteen by the end of the film).  Emily Hagins is also making a feature length zombie movie.  Zombie Girl: The Movie (2009) (available free to stream from SnagFilms until Thursday, August 20, 2009) is a documentary about the making of that movie that was shown at Comic-Con this year.  Emily reminds me a lot of myself and how I would have been if I had the opportunity to make a movie earlier in my life.

Videographer Emily Hagins

Videographer Emily Hagins

In an industry that still is male-centric behind the lens, Emily makes me proud as a feminist and a videographer.  Here is this little girl that starts out with a dream and she makes it happen.  She is having the opportunity to make her own zombie movie and she makes mistakes, but she also works hard and doesn’t give up.  I am passionate about videography and the power it has as a medium for the people.  This is exactly the kind of movie that I think anyone, kid or adult, that wants to make a movie would benefit from watching, but specifically anyone that wants to build a collection for a media literacy program centered around videography.

Emily shows her mom footage

Emily shows her mom footage

The documentary is about much more than a zombie movie (Pathogen, 2006).  It is about that passion we all hope to have.  It is about a girl with a vision and parents that support her every step of the way, but it isn’t all sunshine and roses.  As with any movie, especially a super-low budget indie, there are problems — including long nights, an overworked mom, re-shoots, and lame-o people that actually turn down the chance to be in a zombie movie.  The documentary is also framed by interviews with not only the people involved in the video, but also people that can put into context the significance of the availability of videography to the masses.

Emily Hagins frustrated with editing "Pathogen"

Emily Hagins frustrated with editing "Pathogen"

The great thing about this film, in terms of adding it to your collection to promote media literacy, is that it does go through the good and the bad. Making a movie sounds fun, and it is, but it also is a lot of hard work (especially for the independent videographer that also has other responsibilities and limitations). The beginning of the film is about how Emily got started and what she has done. As the movie progresses we see the successes and fun as well as the very real stresses for anyone setting out to make a movie.

And as I know, you are all dying to see what Emily came up with.  Here is the trailer to Pathogen, which is available from www.cheesynuggets.com/pathogen.html for purchase for $8.00 plus shipping and handling.  I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait to get my copy!

One of the stars of "Pathogen"

One of the stars of "Pathogen"

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Molly Ringwald, 80's It Girl, as Andie Walsh

Molly Ringwald as Andie Walsh in "Pretty in Pink"

John Hughes defined the teen movie in the 1980′s, and no more so than in one of my favorite John Hughes films “Pretty in Pink” (written by Hughes, produced by Lauren Shuler, and directed by Howard Deutch).  Even today, the characters and the story works.  It is pretty impressive that I still care if Andie chooses Duckie or Blane in the end.

“Pretty in Pink” has all the qualities that a good 80′s movie should.  First and foremost, it stars 80′s It Girl Molly Ringwald.  Ringwald is cast here as a fashion forward high school senior that makes up for lack of wealth with the smarts to get a scholarship to a preppy school.  Andie (Ringwald) is so cute and fun and completely out of place that it is easy to identify with her. The role literally was written for Ringwald, but shockingly they were considering “prettier” actresses.  Ridiculous! This part was not just meant for her, but she actually was the age of the character which helps the realism of the film.  Molly Ringwald is Andie Walsh.

Andie’s mom left, a fact that Andie and her father, Jack Walsh (Harry Dean Stanton), deal with over the course of the film.  He clearly was devastated by the abandonment and Andie has become a caretaker to her father.  Andie and Jack’s relationship is a highlight of the movie.  But the real story here is one of young love.  It seems that a “richie” (a rich kid), Blane, is crushing on Andie just as much as she is on him.

Andrew McCarthy (Blane) with Ringwald

Blane (Andrew McCarthy) making eyes at Andie

Blane is just the kind of kid a girl like Andie would like, passionate/awkward kissing and all.  Apparently, they originally wanted a “hunk” instead.  The men involved in the film wanted the classic jock type, but Ringwald threw her 2 cents in for Andrew McCarthy.  She knew that McCarthy was more the type than Andie would fall for.

Blane is sweet and someone I can see Andie with, but I for one fell in love with Jon Cryer in this film and I would prefer Duckie any day (although I understand her crush on Blane). How could I not love The Duck Man?!  Duckie is Andie’s bestfriend and not-at-all-secret admirer.  As much as I love Andie and her budding romance with Blane, Duckie steals the show and I can’t help but to pull for him to get the girl.  Throughout the film his unrequited love for Andie is hilarious and heartbreaking and you really want Duckie to get some lovin.’

Jon Cryer (Duckie) looking fantastic with Andie

Duckie (Jon Cryer) looking fantastic with Andie

Some of the most memorable lines from the film are lines Cryer came up with himself (“candy machine” and “Blane!?  It’s not a name, it’s a major appliance!”).  And don’t even get me started on his dancing to Otis Redding.  Fantastic.  Can’t forget that he made Iona’s “thighs go up in flames!”

Speaking of Iona, Annie Potts gives a wonderful performance as Andie’s quirky and hip boss that owns a New Wave record store in Chicago’s Chinatown.  She fills the role of friend and mentor in the absence of Andie’s mother.  She is like a big sister, worldly in the ways of men and “wishful makeuping.”

And what movie would complete without a villain.  Steff is the perfect rich jerk to counter Blane’s sweetness and gentle-pushover attitude.  James Spader plays a jerk so well it is hard to imagine hating anyone more.  He is rude to Andie and is a horrible bestfriend to Blane.  As much as the snotty rich girls are annoying, it is Steff that really works to screw things up.  The fight scene is fantastic.  I’ll say it again.  He plays a jerk perfectly.

Steff harassing Andie

Steff (James Spader) harassing Andie (Molly Ringwald) for a "date"

I haven’t even mentioned yet the awesome music, a score composed by Michael Gore.  It probably is part nostalgia, but the 1986 music is such a huge part of the film that I can’t write this without mentioning it.  Of course the soundtrack features “Pretty in Pink” by the Psychedelic Furs.  “Wouldn’t it Be Good” by Danny Hutton Hitters  is almost as iconic for fans of the film when you listen to it. The prom song, “If You Leave” by Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark  brings a rush of emotions and seriously who can forget the high drama of Duckie on his bike with “Shellshock” by New Order playing?  He isn’t going to ride by her house anymore.

Pretty in Pink: Everything's Duckie Edition

Pretty in Pink: Everything's Duckie Edition

I would highly recommend the “Everything’s Duckie Edition” of the film.  “Zoids and Richies” is a look back at the casting of the film with interviews.  “Volcanic Ensembles” is about the work of costume designer Marilyn Vance.  There is even a lengthy discussion about the original ending of the film.  Even though it is a disappointing to only see grainy shots and you don’t actually see the original cut, it still was interesting to hear that in the original cut she ends up with the other guy and their reasons for changing it.  That said, it is a wonderful film and as far as DVD extras go, this DVD is mostly entertaining and fun.  Other extras included are the making of “Pretty in Pink,” a feature all about Molly, prom stories, favorite scenes, commentary by the director, a wrap-up, and a photo gallery.

Rest in peace, John Hughes.  You made some pretty fantastic films.

*Note*  Last week there was no posting because I was finishing my degree at UIUC.  Congratulations to all my fellow graduates!

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