Failing through Busy-ness? Stop.

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from Nan Russell’s It’s Not About the Time 

There are many types of pain. Feeling overwhelmed, chronically exhausted, or unable to stretch non-elastic time to t what needs doing is one kind. So is wanting to do one thing and having to do another; knowing the people you love most feel low on your priority list; or giving up hope you’ll ever move toward that life dream.

When you believe you can time-manage yourself out of that kind of pain, which is what I tried for years, life tends to offer its version of a wake-up call: head- aches, illness, anger, outbursts, insomnia, overeating or drinking—you name it. If the pain gets bad enough we seek change.

Consider whether you’re ready:
1. Do you want to move away from the pain of over- whelmed and busy-busy-busy?
2. Are you willing to try something other than more time-management techniques that treat only symptoms?
3. You consider with an open mind that your time- problem isn’t about time.
Consider the statements below. If you’ve had enough and want to change it, check it. If it’s out of control sometimes, but more okay for you than not, leave it blank.

  1. I’m tethered to work 24/7/365; people can reach me via cell anytime and they do.
  2. I use at least part of the weekend to catch up on work.
  3. My life and responsibilities are over owing my ability to get everything I want done.
  4. I don’t have any time to think or be creative and that hurts the quality of my work.
  5. I have out-of-control numbers of unopened emails and just ignore some.
  6. I need to delegate more but have no time to train or hire anyone.
  7. My New Year’s resolution was to improve work-life balance and I broke it in weeks.
  8. Significant others in my life complain about my lack of time and attention.
  9. I feel at the end of my rope more days than not.
  10. I can’t remember the last time I unplugged and relaxed, even on vacation.
  11. I feel compelled to check my phone every few minutes to make sure I don’t miss something important.
  12. I know that stress and pressure are affecting my health and well-being.
  13. I keep hoping things at work and home will change.
  14. 14. There are so many things I’d like to do, but I just don’t have time to do them.

Self-scoring: Only you know if something is too much, too little, or just right for you. However, typically if you checked eight or more, i.e. more than half, there’s a consistent problem that time-management alone is unlikely to solve.

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3 Sins of Bullshit Writing

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from Charles Euchner’s KEEP IT SHORT: A Practical Guide to Writing in the 21st Century (click on title to read more)

If you don’t know what your ideas are, if you haven’t flushed out details or set your purpose clearly, you might commit one, two or all three sins of bullshit writing. And that, says Euchner, is when “things get ugly. When we try to bull our way through sentences and paragraphs.”

The 3 deadly sins of bullshit writing are:

•We repeat ourselves.

•We use vague phrasing – adjectives and generalizations – instead of clear crisp logic                and details.

•We ramble, piling words and phrases, with a hope we will discover some telling detail  or concept, but usually moving further and further away from the point.

 

When you feel any of this creeping in, you know you’ve lost the grip somehow. Backtrack and flush the idea, plotting, character development, background research and how you are going to tell you story. We suggest beginners start with the beginning, move on to the middle and then give us the end.

If you see any of those those 3 deadly sins popping up a lot in that book in your hand, you may want to put it down and go get another. Life’s short and there are just too many great books to read.

Join us every Thursday on Twitter with the hashtag

#ThursdayWrites and tell us what you’re working on. 

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NOTHING TO DO BUT…….

SHUT UP AND DANCE 

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“No one today can match the limpid elegance and intellectual precision of his style, which recalls the heyday of Virgil Thomson.”   – The New Yorker 

“Holland has a remarkable ability to conjure up the essence of a composer or a piece of music in a few deftly chosen words. He is, I think, an aphorist of unparalleled virtuosity.”                                                – San Francisco Chronicle

“Perhaps the most important of this town’s arbiters.” – The Independent

Available wherever books are sold and here, online.

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AMAZON REVIEWS: On the Haters Trail

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I own a publishing company (with the magnificent Lisa Hagan, write books, edit books, work on film treatments and develop  television shows. It’s a living, sort of.

I find myself in my first role – that of publisher – checking Amazon reviews and rankings frequently. I build author pages for them. When it comes to amazon, I’m around.

So, imagine my delight when I bumped into the one-star review of the above book by one Barry Burek on amazon. One star?  Almost thirty years of criticism, interviews and reporting in the greatest newspaper on Earth gets one star? What is Mr Burek sniffing?

Unfortunately for him, he was like a cat hiding behind the curtain with his tail sticking out. A quick click on his name showed a trail of meticulous, often mentally-disturbed, reviews of an hilarious range of products.

CONSUMER’S GUIDE ACCORDING TO BARRY BUREK

He gives one star to Bernard Holland’s thirty years at The New York Times because Holland was a “professional leech”. This would be news to his employers who received 4600 reviews from him, including several Pulitzer Prize nominations. Sorry, Barry. No go on that one. He calls Mr Holland a bunch more names, which made Mr Holland laugh. As he  said, “haters mean I’m doing my job right.” So, according to Barry, don’t buy that book. According to Mr Holland, get a Barry Burek and feel like you’ve arrived.

Did I tell you Barry Burek creates an alter ego named “Lola” to answer himself? When he dolls out a single star, Lola backs him up. Barry is picky, and kind of a coward, it seems.

An organic sea salt got a whopping 5 stars from Barry because it tasted good and was EASY TO USE. I worry now that Barry has flippers instead of hands.

Intimately aware of his shoe size after reading his shopping history, the Santa Cruz slip-on-loafers were pretty good – 4 stars – but lost that star because, after arriving on May 20, Barry pushed his big toe through one on July 18. His perforated garden clogs lost one of their stars because they were not the originals, they were way cheaper. (And this is the clogs fault because….?) Barry’s Pali Hawaii Classic Jesus Sandals (brown, 12) take a direct hit of a few stars because Barry is really a 10 1/2 D and the 11 he ordered was TOO SMALL. He then ordered the 12 and it was TOO NARROW. What a world, Barry!

On a book about dementia, Barry let loose in the vein of his diatribe against Holland. (Classical music and deteriorating neural pathways are Barry’s hot spot?) His one star was followed with a cascade of name-calling and vitriol. The sane came out of the bushes and said “You need help, Barry. Please get it now. There is no shame in mental illness.” Predictably, Lola showed up to defend Barry.

Remember the next time you read those heaps and piles of unchecked reviews on amazon, most of them are silly. They are about the emotions and prejudices of the writer and not productive criticism. That is a skill and an art in itself that people like Barry Burek can’t imagine.

But he did like the wine stoppers and cat litter he ordered. Take note.

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I LEARNED IT IN HOLLYWOOD

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I have been editing, writing and publishing for about 25 years in New York City and it took a trip to Hollywood to get my head straight. That’s right: Hollywood. The light came on when I was jamming a giant turkey burger down my wattle at the Warner Brothers’ commissary.  My lunch partner and partner partner said it. It was electrifying.

Continuity.

“The treatment lacks subtext and continuity,” she said, smiling over tiny blanched vegetables.

For some reason, this word “continuity” word blasted through my brain in a way “arc of the narrative” never could.

“Bullshit,” I said.

“No, we’re fixing it,” she said, tiny purple carrot at the edge of her ruby red mouth.

I looked over at George Clooney’s basketball court and squinted.

“You know, I think you’re right,” I said.

You see, the hardest job a writer will EVER have is writing short. I had written a novel that had to be boiled down to a treatment (think beef glace here) and I wasn’t experienced or instinctive enough to achieve that goal. Three hundred pages needed to be thirteen. We got the action compressed but not the detail and back story that make a story a story. It had no ecology. We needed later pages of the treatment to feed off the first pages and I hadn’t put any tiny fish or plankton in and everyone was starving. At least INSIDE the book, I had extra Doritos.

This of your stories as you think of a pond or a meadow. One thing must fit into and feed off the rest. Nothing is separate, ever. (Quantum theory or a hallucinogenic drug trip explains this, you decide which.) This ecology must be intact no matter how short the joke, the paragraph, the chapter, or the book. No one can read your work and still be hungry.

Try writing short. It’s really hard. And because we know that, we’ll soon have something for you that will change your approach to writing forever.

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Write your own damn book.

 

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Synchronicity is not my thing. It’s too subtle and I’m a two-by-four kinda gal. But strange signals are coming to me in such rapid succession, even my gray matter is a’swirl.

The year began with a fall out over a book I wrote and three scenes I included – with permission – that, upon reading – made the permission-giver feel funny.  I had already had a contract with a film producer who LOVED those scenes and there it was, my childhood friend had peed on my livelihood. Regrettable. The issues got sorted on…mainly by me working up something with equal humor – and I went on my way, swearing not to hang out with people who didn’t understand where creativity came from.

After passing through my childhood friend’s first bad reviews, I encountered a readership that was wildly curious about how much of the heroine was me and what did my husband think about all this?  He read it and helped with typos. If a man knows art and creativity, it’s him. He was happy his wife was busy and fulfilled. Besides, he’s got better things to do, what with his own books and all.

Years after that first book came out though, my husband my husband – a man of few words – yelled “THAT BOOK WAS ABOUT ME!” Someone else had brought it up at lunch and I had forgotten I had written it.

I began remembering other scenes of writer discomfort. A friend, after writing an amazing memoir of how her father created a baseball team instead of a family, met me for dinner pale-faced and announced “my mother is reading the final draft” as she pulled up her chair.  I remember her talking about what a tense week that was.

To add fuel to my fire, I hit Elena Ferrante’s second half of her final book in the Naples series and it was all about her neighborhood hating her writing about her neighborhood. The Solaras threatened her and she saw how gross the place really is. I thought “same old shit” as I read but don’t tell me! I’m not finished with these remarkable books yet.

Finally, on a much more serious note, another writer, now in her late 80s, called today requesting I remove two pages of text that disturbed a family member. I heard the pain in her voice and I knew exactly where it came from: the creator inside wants to protect what is so difficult to show to the world.

I told her what I tell all my writers: You’re not going to do it, are you?

To a person, they say no.

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ONLY THE SUPERCOOL KNOW IT

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EINSTEIN CHANGED EVERYTHING

/Bernard Holland, excerpted from Something I Heard, Lisa Hagan Books, 2016

“EINSTEIN ON THE BEACH” changed my life. Everything I thought musical theater was abruptly wasn’t. St. Paul had his road to Damascus; mine was the Brooklyn-bound No. 4 train to Atlantic Avenue.

Philip Glass and Robert Wilson first brought “Einstein” to the surface in 1976 after exploratory trials in Europe with two performances at the Metropolitan Opera House. It reappeared in 1984 and 1992 at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. The first revival was my introduction. The second revival left me just as disoriented as the first.”Einstein,” or a lot of it, returns in a concert version at Carnegie Hall on Thursday, performed by the Philip Glass Ensemble. There have been two audio recordings that I know of, the one on Nonesuch, from 1993, perhaps better than the one on Sony Classical, from 1985.

He should, before its remarkable group of players, singers, stage directors

and set designers shuffle too far into old age.

For accounting purposes, “Einstein on the Beach” can be described asa series of stage pictures, dances and narrations lasting about five hours and set to music by a dozen or more chorus singers, a violinist (the Einstein of the title), more singers and a few woodwinds and electronic keyboards.”

Einstein” begins with a train and ends with a bus. In between are a courtroom, a jail, a glowing monolith moving in signature Wilsonian slow motion, a trip to the supermarket, lovers exchanging gooey vows on a park bench and much, much more. Einstein in a snowy fright wig and suspenders sits downstage and saws furiously on his violin through much of the evening. The chorus intermittently appears and disappears from sight.

People smarter than I have expended a lot of brain power trying to figure out what “Einstein on the Beach” means. I don’t think it means anything. It is majestically two-dimensional. Its references to the atomic age, criminal justice, true love, air-conditioning and Patty Hearst are merely art materials, like red paint or blue. Those who want to link it to our inner beings or to outer space are welcome to try.

To best say what “Einstein on the Beach” is, consider first what it isn’t. Forget Aristotle, tragedy, unified time and place, beginning, middle and end, and all other cultural baggage. Something happens onstage; then Mr. Glass and Mr. Wilson change the subject. They do it without warning: no coda, no slowing down, no stretto, no summing up.

The music stops as if you were pushing a button on your radio. It starts again the same way. Charles Ives gave us a preview of no-ending endings about 1920, with “The Housatonic at Stockbridge.” The orchestral version floats along in a kind of misty indeterminacy and then, with a downward half-step in the violas, simply disappears.

Expect no overture from “Einstein,” nothing to put listeners in their seats and prepare them for what is going to happen. This is not Verdi; there will be no first-act finale to send audiences humming to the lobby bar. Indeed, there is no intermission. If you are bored or in need of the necessary, Mr. Glass and Mr. Wilson invite you to create your own private intermission. Take your time getting back to your seat. You probably won’t have missed a thing.

That is because “Einstein” likes to repeat itself. My fondest recollection of both revivals remains the delicious Lucinda Childs and her tape-loop- like recitation of a trip to “a prematurely air-conditioned supermarket.” With Ms. Childs’s every sing-song repetition, the allure of “bathing caps with Fourth of July plumes on them” is more hypnotic.

“Einstein on the Beach” is also different for musicians and tends to terrorize the unsuspecting and conservatory-trained who are asked to play it. One can be the best counter of rests and the master of tricky entrances in the orchestra, but those skills will have been mastered in European music based on change and development.

In Mr. Glass, so little happens so many times, with so many small additions and subtractions in line and rhythm, that sameness — or the illusion of sameness — becomes a series of traps.

 

What’s needed is a new performance technique, indeed a rewired brain. Classically trained musicians tell of complete mental exhaustion after dealing with this music. Not even the best symphony orchestras do it well. There is the tale of the principal double-bass player in an eminent Midwestern orchestra so confused by the demands of a Glass piece that one of the composer’s operatives had to stand behind him at performances and give verbal cues.

 

A friend of mine came upon Mr. Glass after a rehearsal during the Philadelphia Orchestra’s summer season in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., years ago. “How are they doing with your piece?” he asked.

Mr. Glass answered, “Are you kidding?” and walked away.

Like his colleague Steve Reich, Mr. Glass has relied on a core of New York professionals: instrumentalists and singers with one foot in the Juilliard School and the other in rock music. Michael Riesman has always led the Philip Glass Ensemble and continues to do so. Rock thrives on sameness, intractable repetitions and the patience to deal with both. A certain empty-headedness comes into play, but an exalted empty-headedness, actually a form of high intelligence.

One theory of education says that learning is not accumulating information but discarding what your mind doesn’t need. Musical people like me are too cluttered. I sweat when the music goes from 6/8 to 3/4 time and can only wonder at the ability of these players to do

 sameness and difference so confidently. A new generation of outsiders is a lot better at it than their immediate predecessors.

 

Mr. Glass found his style of composing as a student in Europe, when asked to transcribe a performance by the Indian sitar player Ravi Shankar in a film. “In Western music,” Mr. Glass has written, “we divide time — as if you were to take a length of time and slice it the way you slice a loaf of bread. In Indian music (and all the non-Western music with which I’m familiar), you take small units, or ‘beats,’ and string them together to make up larger time values.”

Mr. Glass’s going-nowhere-fast school of music synchronizes with the glacial going-somewhere-slowly visual art of Robert Wilson. In “Einstein,” the pace of physical movement acts in inverse proportion to the onlooker’s feeling of space: the slower the bigger.

We are all products of our hometowns, and one can imagine Mr. Wilson, who is from Waco, Tex., looking out over the vastness of the cattle range and seeing a lot of the same thing moving little, if at all. Maybe the reason Texans seem so much more vivid than the rest of us is that they need personalities strong enough to wrestle to the ground those hard gray-blue skies and seemingly endless stretches of land, devoid of contour and drained of color.

“Einstein on the Beach” is the ideal entertainment for people smart enough not to think too much. Relevance, allusion, historical significance, metaphor, symbol and myth may make the inquiring mind go round, but too much meaning can also clog the arteries.

Let “Einstein on the Beach” be your Lipitor. Look at it (if you have the chance) and listen to it. “Einstein” may well be speaking volumes to your subconscious without your knowing. Ask your subconscious if you must, but it will probably tell you to mind your own business.

 

Tap here for an excerpt of the Einstein on the Beach

To order Bernard Holland’s SOMETHING I HEARD for essays on the good, the bad and the ugly in the 20th century’s classical music scene from Shostakovich’s epic struggle with the Soviets to Yo-Yo Ma’s difficulty in traveling with a very pricey cello.

To order, click on the title: Something I Heard.

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THE GIRLS OF SUMMER: Fiction on Sale

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FAST FURIOUS FICTION ON SALE
TO FUEL THOSE POOLSIDE AFTERNOONS

 

The only time we get to read for pleasure is a long-haul plane flight or a summer weekend when the world is just a little bit slower. Oh, and those 8 minutes before we fall asleep at night, exhausted but determined to read a page or two to keep our heads alive. Below we offer the reader a range of rapid reads, all meant to entertain at a really low cost – say $2.99 – or less than the price of an iced latte. Lasts longer too.

Happy summer.

 

All she wanted was some donuts…a sugar rush to drown out her loveless suburban life and cheating bald husband. What she got was her true self back, with the help of two really young, really hot gang bangers. You’ll be done reading in 2 hours and you won’t know what hit you. But you’ll be smiling, that we can promise.

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Kindle is on sale for 2.99, paperback is 12.99

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“This is the most insane fun I’ve ever had reading a book in my life.

I called in sick so I could finish it.”

– T. Beckett Scotland, Film Producer, The Devil of Blue Mountain

 

If you like a Quentin Tarantino movie crossed with aliens and drug cartels, this is your book.  It’s so much fun, you just might snort out loud, alarming your seat mates.

KINDLE ON SALE 2.99

Paperback    10.00

 

 

51GaAnGWPcL._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg  KINDLE: 2.99     Paperback 12.99

White Deer of Autumn, author Gabriel Horn, has created an beautiful portrait of a young girl coming to grips with her heritage, her community, and a world where her highest ideals – those of the natural world – are being destroyed by seemingly unstoppable evil – the British Petroleum oil spill.

This beautiful young adult novel won the 2016 International Book Award winner, 2016 Indie Excellence Book Award winner, 2016 Paris Book Festival Award winner, the 2016 Award for Literary Excellence from the Friends of the Florida Library and a winner of the 2015 Florida Book Award.

 

 

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41sJGzMvtlL._SX311_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg“Johanna Baldwin is a magical and original writer whose unique voice has a gift for making allegory and fantasy surprising and emotionally plausible. Her delicate touch brings freshness to unexpected themes and opens a door to worlds hidden within the every day world.”

— Naomi Wolf,
The Beauty Myth

Kindle:  2.99    Paperback  15.00

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Drinking: A Career Strategy

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Hit Maxim to read their super cool piece.

As we move through graduation season, there’s a topic that few parents cover as their young’uns get ready to enter the workforce: Don’t go to a business lunch and order a Buttery Nipple. Or a Mind Eraser. Don’t ask for that Long Island Iced Tea. And please, no Fuzzy Navels.

in DRINK LIKE A GROWNUP, the League of Extraordinary Drinkers have written a short little bible of drinking for the up-and-coming business person. After years of our own experiences misbehaving with alcohol and colleagues, we finally got it: if you want to sit with the movers and shakers, drink like them.

Know your spirits, know how they are made. All vodkas are the same: you pay for the bottle and marketing. Bourbon and rye are uniquely American and single malt scotch knowledge will endear you to wealthy worldly business people anywhere. Impress you colleagues with your knowledge and how clean you drink. Sip only one at any given gathering.

And, whatever you do, do get hammered at a work event. You will never really recover. Wait until you get home to dive back into  whatever college-inspired buckets of ever clear and cheap juice you have learn to love.

OLD FASHIONED

1 tsp sugar

2 dashes Angostura bitters

2 dashes orange bitters

Maraschino cherry or orange slice

1.5 ounce rye whiskey

Add sugar to a low ball glass. Add both bitters and a little water, if you’d like. Muddle the sugar with the bitters until the sugar dissolves. Add the rye and fill the glass with ice. Stir few a few seconds and add the cherry or orange slice.

Of all the cocktails, many experts suggest committing the Old-Fashioned to memory. Adjust the levels of sugar and bitters until you find what suits you best. SIP.

Order Drink Like a Grown Up or purchase wherever books are sold.

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You Can’t Go Home Again, Writers

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th.jpegI have always wondered why people like Hemingway fled to Europe, why writers end up in bare rooms by the seaside in Greece. I think I now understand their flight: they had to find a place where the truth was safe. Truth could be put on the page without immediate threat. They had found a lie-free spot to work on their writing.

I recently wrote about about race and went into shock when some of my oldest friends on Earth read it and said, “I don’t want anyone to think you slept with a black man” or “I gave you permission to use that passage but I want it removed even though the film has been sold” or, worse yet, not one word of humor or praise or pride over my writing.

This of course has led me to contemplate the nature of friendship. Again. I have out grown them. They do not understand how the writer’s mind processes reality. They are provincial. They gossip and no one knows what vague innuendo and bizarre  untruths swirl around their gatherings. They love Trump. They liked Zimmerman and refused to acknowledge he murdered a young man.  Democrats lay low. This is Texas. I must leave them and their piles of guns behind.

I am not so much disappointed as disillusioned by the rules and regulations others put on friendship. Amongst the group, most of the marriages are long dead. Mine keeps ticking and at the 20-year mark, I will renew my vows on a beach in a long flowing gown on the other side of the world. At 10 years, he and I recommitted on the side of a mountain over the Zambesi in Africa. Our wedding dinner was on an island in mid-river glowing with oil lamps. He was a man my friends told me not to marry, he was too old, it wouldn’t last. He is the best thing that ever happened to me.

I choose my talent over everyone but my husband and my God. I will be gossiped about, called names, and sworn at by those “friends” that don’t think I’m doing it right.  They might as well be yelling down a hole for all I care.

I am a wife. I am a writer. Racism is particularly abhorrent to me and I fight the fight my Mother fought over 60 years ago.  I am what I want to be, I am a person I am proud of. I am making a Hollywood film of the book, a comedic portrait of the hilarious differences and similarities between whites and blacks, all wrapped in a happy ending. I am so proud of the work, the sensibility, the huge talent it has attracted for the film.  I wrote it for my Mother. I loved her spirit and her ideas. I will cry the day it opens because she will not be able to watch it.

I say to those women, those “friends” of mine, think about what you do. Think about who you hurt. Think about the course of your own life and leave mine alone. Stop ganging up on people, stop hating other women. Stop being afraid of every shade of skin darker than your own. Stop making assumptions about the motivations of others. No one died and left you Queens. Connect yourself to the world and not your tiny circle of gossip. Act like an adult citizen of the world which, if you haven’t noticed, seems to be aflame.

You should have been teaching a child to read in the time you spent whispering about me. I am ashamed of you.

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