Disney March Madness 7: The Semi-Finals and Finals

August 25, 2018

Bracket

We have come down to the wire so this entry is going to be more about the impressions I got from the final four films both initially and over time. As we get into the nitty-gritty, I am going to drop a spoiler warning here just in case.

Moana vs. The Nightmare Before Christmas

Moana was a revelation for me when it was released. It continued the evolution of Disney Animation Studios that Frozen had started. It took lessons learned in movies like Frozen and The Frog Princess and took them further. Moana was just such an interesting character. I could feel her frustration at not being able to satisfy her curiosity and her wanderlust. Having dreams but never getting to realize them is a very human experience. She also felt like I did as a teenager. You are tired of listening to your parents but you know they are both right and wrong about everything. Last time I did not talk alot about the grandmother character but she was so important. Most of us have that family member (or more than one) who wink at us and agree that our parents are full of crap. They encourage us by treating us like a human being rather than a child. Their behavior toward us is not as colored by fear for us and the other biases that a parent has. Moana is also about our internal compasses. There is that moment in our development where we stop using the compass that our parents and loved ones provided for us. We start to make decisions on our own. Sure that leads to us making a few mistakes but it is important to make our decisions and plot our own courses.

In direct opposition to the Moana, let us take a look at the love story in The Nightmare Before Christmas. Whereas a lot of previous Disney films had romance as their main plot, it is a subplot in this movie. Jack is not looking for romance like many Disney Princes or Princesses. He is looking for something that is missing from his life but it has to do with lacking a feeling of fulfillment in his life. As expressed, it is mostly focused on something lacking professionally. For Jack, the love story is treated as a bonus. It is something that he did not need but he allows himself to have in the end. Also, Sally is not your usual female in a disney animated film. She is not a damsel in distress and in fact she spends the whole movie trying to save Jack in somewhat of a reversal. As a literal captive, Sally wants a new life just as much as Jack does. On top of that, she repeatedly forgets about her own plight when she sees him hurting. She feels bad for her friend and wants to see him happy again. In turn, Jack sees her as a good friend but he loses sight of that due to depression and then excitement. When they come together at the end it is two friends who realize they fit together. They love each other and they are ready to start again at a new level.

Main Character: Both main characters are relatable to me but Jack edges ahead by being more universally relatable.

Supporting Characters: Nightmare has a lot more supporting characters than Moana. One of Moana’s is The Rock but each character in Nightmare is given a lot to do and a lot more personality.

Villain: The main villain of Moana has no lines while Oogie Boogie is one of the most dynamic villains in animation history.

Music: This is tough. I would actually say that Moana’s Lin-Manuel Miranda just barely beats Danny Elfman’s music.

Story: For me, the story of overcoming depression is more impactful than a journey to fix the world and find your place in it. It just felt more real.

Animation: While Moana’s animation is smooth and beautiful, there is something about the novelty of good stop-motion animation that just feels better to me.

Winner: The Nightmare Before Christmas

Coco vs. Inside Out

In Coco, Miguel is forbidden to play music and, possibly because of that, he is drawn into it further. He slowly develops a love for music and he seeks to achieve his dream of becoming a musician like his ancestor. I know a little bit about that. When I was in high school, I wanted to study theater in college. I was told that I should minor in theater so that I had a back-up plan. To me, that felt bad (though in hindsight it was spot on). When my folks told me that I could apply to major in theater, it was such a validation of my feelings and my dreams. In Coco, Miguel gets to have that same feeling. His living family tells him that he cannot pursue music. He travels to the underworld and his family there also tells him no and he is given the choice between music and life and he still finds that choice difficult. In the afterlife, he finally gets to perform in front of a crowd for the first time and he loves it. When he plays a second time, he finally gets that validation from a family member and it gives him even more courage. He is eventually able to convince his entire family, living and dead, to let him give music a try. In life, true validation comes from inside. Miguel knew he wanted to be a musician and when it starts to work out, he is sure of it. However, getting the blessing of his family is a welcome confirmation and it makes it easier to be happy and successful.

In Inside Out, Joy and Sadness are separated from mission control and are therefore unable to exert their influence on Riley. While this happens because of an accident (in Riley’s brain) it actually ends up illustrating a key point of emotional and neurological processes. Riley has been forced to move to a new city and she has to leave her comfortable routine and her friends behind. That is difficult enough for anybody but Riley is a young teenager and she has difficulty processing the feelings that come from that change. When Joy and Sadness are misplaced, it is exactly like depression. She does not feel sad but she definitely does not feel happy. She feels very close to nothing. That is what depression is. You just do not feel a lot of feelings and it takes a while for those feelings to return. One of the other key themes of the movie is growing up. While Joy and Sadness are separated from mission control, they are constantly in danger as the worlds inside Riley’s mind are literally ripped apart and new worlds start to be created. These worlds represent Riley’s interests and parts of her personality. As she loses interest in something, that world is destroyed and new interests create new worlds. Again, we see the effect of depression as the un-feeling starts to destroy any interest she has in anything and the worlds inside her mind start to crumble. That is also what depression is when you have no interest in doing anything.

Main Character: Miguel is a more rounded main character than Joy and Sadness who are fun but only aspects of personality.

Supporting Characters: Miguel’s family is a lot more varied and fun than

Villain: Inside Out does not really have a villain but Coco’s villain would win anyway.

Music: This is no contest as the Mexican guitar stylings far outweigh the more orchestral Inside Out.

Story: The supernatural journey that ends in a very grounded way beats a teenager’s emotional self-discovery.

Animation: The animation in the two is comparable but the art direction in Coco is so much better.

Winner: Coco

Coco vs. The Nightmare Before Christmas

I could go on and on about how I love the Day of the Dead but that is not the main reason that I love this movie so much. My grandmother had several strokes during her old age and those strokes and heart problems contributed to dementia. It started slow. She started to forget a few things here and there. Pretty soon after that, she was caught wandering the streets and had to be brought back home. Eventually, you could come into the room and remind her who you were, leave the room, reenter, and she would have already forgotten you. Eventually, she forgot everything. At its roots, Coco is about memory. Miguel does not know who his great, great grandfather is. He does not know because most of his family never met him. His great-grandmother is suffering from memory loss and has been slowly forgetting her father. At the end of the movie, we get to see the scene above. Miguel sings in a house without music for the first time and he sings a song that his great, great grandfather wrote for his daughter. We see that song stir her memories and that allows her to experience the joy of the memory of her father once again. It is a beautiful moment both because it is full of pure emotion and also because it is supported by the supernatural adventure that happens before.

The part of The Nightmare Before Christmas that I love the most is actually about depression. It resonated with me a lot more later in life. Jack has been the King of Halloween for a long time. He has gotten so good at it that he has started to get bored and that has led to him falling into a deep depression. When I worked at a theater up in New Jersey, I eventually reached the same place. A lot of shows felt the same as the last and I got bored and tired. I eventually decided that I did not want to go back and I returned to Baltimore to start again. I got another job and I worked hard for years and then I got bored again and depressed again. Jack happens upon Christmastown and suddenly his life has a new purpose. He is excited by having this new thing in his life even if he does not fully understand it. However, even that does not last for long and once again he finds himself depressed again. In the song above, he pities himself but then he has a revelation and he realizes that he is what he is and he embraces that. Similarly, a year ago I realized something. My job cannot make me happy. My family cannot make me happy. Things cannot make me happy. Only I can decide to be happy and my life has been more positive ever since. Jack and I had that same revelation where he decides to find the happiness in what we do and who we are with instead of letting doubt consume us. It is the only way to live, even if you are an undead skeletion.

Winner: The Nightmare Before Christmas

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Media Update 8/23/18

August 23, 2018


Disenchantment

When I was in middle school, I got really into the Simpsons. I had watched the show for years but this is when I really got into it. Eventually, the show continued on but I stopped watching. During that time, Futurama debuted and I thought it was far better than The Simpsons. The characters had more heart and the show just seemed more clever somehow and the show felt like it had more charm. The characters also grew bit by bit. When I found out that Matt Groening and his crew were creating a fantasy show, I was excited. I am more of a fantasy fan than a sci-fi fan and I wanted to see what they could come up with. The show follows a tomboy princess, an outcast elf, and a demon and their adventures in a medieval kingdom. Princess Tiabeanie is a hard-drinking, fist fighting, gambling, princess who wants more out of life than the royal life. Elfo is a magical elf (Keebler style) who is tired of spending his whole life being jolly. The demon is the princess’ appointed personal demon who tries to get her to do the wrong thing but so far has only allowed her to make choices that make her happier. A lot of the voices are the usual suspects from Futurama and The Simpsons (minus the Simpsons main cast who would probably be too expensive now). The show felt like it had kind of a rocky start but by the end of the second episode, I felt like the show had found its footing. I had been ready to dismiss the show but by then I decided to check out a little more. I would recommend it.


The Worst Witch

On a whim, I decided to check this show out. Sometimes I just randomly pick something in my list on Netflix and roll with it. The show is apparently a British show based on a book series that started in the seventies. I had never heard of it but apparently, it was a thing.
Which is why a lot of people thought that Little Witch Academia was a ripoff of the book series and why I thought this show was a ripoff of Little Witch Academia. That is basically what this show kind of felt like. It felt like a live action version of Little Witch Academia. It is an all ages show about a young girl who stumbles into a school for witches and tries to bumble her way to better magic skills. It shares some beats with Little Witch Academia but I feel like the two went in different directions. They both share a similar message, though. The message that heart and enthusiasm can win the day. They also both have a message that the common folk can be just as successful as the privileged if they are given an equal chance. A few episodes in and The Worst Witch actually feels like Little Witch Academia mixed with Harry Potter. The acting is pretty good for what looks to be a fairly cheap kids show. The lead, Bella Ramsey, was apparently on Game of Thrones (though not a season I’ve watched) but she is a relative newcomer. She gets a lot of the right nuances of a young girl out of her element but just so happy to be there. I actually just talked myself into recommending this and watching more of it.


Ella Enchanted

I have not watched a lot of Anne Hathaway movies but I do know that I enjoy her acting from what I have seen. I had heard that this movie was an interesting take on the fantasy genre but I never got around to seeing it. I have seen many adaptations of Cinderella with Ever After as my favorite. This version was a surprise. The movie is a weird kind of update to the story. The movie felt like a mix between Shrek and Mel Brooks. However, the first part was a little difficult to get through as it felt more like the live-action Flintstones movie but that part thankfully passed and the movie settled into something a lot better. Part of that is the charm of Hathaway who plays a very genuine and beautiful character, inside and out. Hugh Dancy (Will Graham from Hannibal!) is really great as the prince and he has a kind of naive yet nuanced performance. Lucy Punch (aka Esme Squalor) plays the main villain and she is absolutely hatable. On top of that, there are great smaller roles played by Cary Elwes, Eric Idle, Vivica Fox, and Joanne Lumley. It is not a perfect movie but it definitely has heart. In addition, the movie is half-way a musical as Hathaway gets to sing and she is quite good at it. However, like many movie musicals at the time, the soundtrack is full of covers of modern songs. It is not my favorite adaptation of Cinderella but it definitely won me over by the end. I recommend it as a middle of the road movie.

Music of the Week:
Half•Alive – Still Feel

Neck Deep – Happy Judgement Day

Take That – Shine

Michael Franti & Spearhead – Say Hey I Love You

Kari Kimmel – It’s Not Just Make Believe

Weekly Update:
– This week’s theme is “Wizardry and Witchcraft”
– I finished the Following Season 3
– I finished Luke Cage Season 2
– I finished Supergirl Season 3
– I watched more Wynonna Earp Season 2
– I watched more Barry Kramer on YouTube

The Faith of the Raven Pt. 7

August 20, 2018

“Leave now or face the power and the might of the King of Crows!” A deep voice emanating from deeper in the woods said. After the sound of the voice, it felt like the whole forest was silent. In that silence, it was easy to hear Arne’s partially muttered response.

“More bullshit,” he said.

“What?” Carania asked. “What’s going on now?” If she was going to continue her greater quest, and she definitely was, she would have to study and learn. She needed to know these things herself. However, it did not hurt to have knowledgeable people along for the ride.

“It really is silly. The King of Crows is not one person,” Arne said. “It is a parade of necromancers each with aspirations of being the alpha necromancer. Most of them are crazy, all of them are dangerous.”

“There was a real King of Crows once,” Galath said. “He was a powerful necromancer who amassed an undead army in Alscines. He was in direct conflict with the Raven Queen and her followers. From what I know, he also had a Queen of crows with him. Sort of an undead bride. At least, those are the rumors. I read it in a book last year.” He shrugged.

Carania shuddered. “That is incredibly creepy,” she said. “The less I think about that, the better. So this guy is just a pretender to the throne?”

“I don’t know,” Arne said. “He definitely has power. We’ve seen that much already. I haven’t seen anything yet that has wowed me, though.”

“Right,” Carania said. “But we can’t let our guard down. Not until we take this guy out.”

“Agreed,” Galath said. “He is referencing the undead god and he is the fan club of one of the worst necromancers in history, those alone are red flags. Nothing has changed. We’re following your lead here, paladin.”

“We continue going straight for the heart of the matter,” Carania said. “If we kill him, the rest will be disorganized and, in theory, no new zombies can be created. That means those that die will stay dead.”

“I like it,” Galath said. “Elementary tactics but sometimes simple is best.”

“Now we just wait for that plan to go wrong so we can improvise,” Arne said.

“So negative,” Carania said. “Try and smile for once wizard.”

There was a cawing sound from the branches up above and all three looked up toward the sound. However, only Arne was already smiling as he had a full understanding of what that sound was. He nodded up at Grimalkin and they seemed to share some silent conversation.

“Grimalkin has spotted the main camp and can lead us there,” Arne said. “Are we ready for that?”

“We are as ready as we are going to get,” Carania said. “Do you still have prepared spells left?”

“I’m good to go,” Arne said. “I haven’t run out yet.”

“I also have some left to burn,” Galath said. “It appears that we’re good to go.”

“Lead the way, Grimalkin,” Carania said and Arne nodded up at the bird. Carania had only read about the connection between a wizard and their familiar and it was interesting to watch.

They worked their way through the woods as they did their best to follow the raven familiar as it fluttered along through the trees. It felt extremely right for Carania to be following a raven into battle. It felt a little like fate.

The three of them reached the edge of a big clearing and they were assaulted by the smell of freshly burned wood and other things. It looked like the King of Crows had burned a large circle into the middle of the forest, creating a clearing. They were lucky that the fire had not spread and endangered the surrounding areas. The burned clearing looked alien and lifeless. There were more men with crow feathers adorning their clothes and there were zombies both in cages and shuffling around some tents. Arne looked up at Grimalkin as if to ask ‘are you sure?’ and the bird nodded.

“Shall I cause a little chaos, boss?” Arne asked with a smile. Carania smiled and then nodded.

Arne conjured five candle-sized flames and tossed them one at a time into the clearing. The flames hit a couple of tents and also a couple of zombies and started some fires. One of the zombies panicked and ran burning into another tent. Chaos had been achieved.

Carania vaulted into the clearing with Galath and Arne trailing close behind. Her sword was once again a whirling blur as she carved into both living and undead enemies. At one point, she ran into one of the men who had shot and killed her. They barely had time to register her before being cut to ribbons. Carania fought with no anger or at least that anger was quickly fading away. This was a noble mission and that was enough to fuel her.

The battle was fiercer this time and a couple of zombies rushed Carania and managed to injure her. Galath moved fast to heal her while Arne protected them with a shield spell from his umbrella. After some more battle with a few more injuries, the clearing was quiet again. The three companions stood breathing hard as they looked around for their true target who had yet to reveal himself. Carania looked for Grimalkin for guidance but the familiar was hidden somewhere and was no help at present.

“You have crossed the line and I cannot let you go. I will be with you in a moment,” the booming voice said. “In the meantime, meet my friends. When they are done with you, I can add your bodies to my army.”  The thought of that happening was enough to turn the stomachs of all three of them.

The earth in front of the three adventurers broke open and two very large humanoids clawed their way into the open air. Carania could only guess that these had been deceased goliaths, a very rare race she had only read about. They were too short to be true giants but they were far taller than the tallest human or elf she had seen. There were definitely parts of them that were missing and she could see some ragged flesh and bones showing in places. They were caked with mud which made their wide, pupil-less eyes all the more menacing. They lumbered straight for Carania and her friends.

The Panther Debate

August 18, 2018

Panther walked into the shadows where he knew his family was sleeping. He nodded at his son, Rock, who was whittling something and kept walking to find his wife Keeva. He could see her eyes glint in the night and he smiled in spite of himself. He was glad that neither of them was on guard duty as he had a lot on his mind. Keeva was his touchstone. There was nobody he trusted more these days.

“The girls are asleep,” Keeva said.

“Good,” Panther said. “I’ll see them tomorrow before we leave.”

“So you’re really going back there?” Keeva asked.

“Yes,” Panther said. “I have been ordered to go.”

Keeva shuddered. “So many bad memories there,” she said. “I do not envy you.”

“I can definitely understand that,” Panther said. “but everything I don’t want to do is usually for the good the tribe. Ash has ordered it and so it must be.”

Keeva watched her husband for a few beats. “He has given you more directives than that.”

Panther put a finger to his lips. “Shh,” he said. “For the good of the tribe.” He smiled and she smiled back and nodded.

“That is not the weight you carry then,” Keeva said. It was not a question, as she often had a knack for knowing his mind.

“No,” Panther agreed. “That is not the weight. They have asked me to bond with the Wood spirit.”

Keeva let that breathe for a moment, knowing how important that statement was. “And you think that this is a bad idea?” She asked, breaking the silence.

“Don’t you?” He asked. He looked a little quizzically at his wife.

“Yes,” she said. “Perhaps. But I asked you first.”

“Yes,” he said. “I think it’s a bad idea.”

“Why?” Keeva asked. “Why is it a bad idea?”

“You know the reasons,” Panther said. He had grown a little tense from her questioning even though he knew she was only trying to help. What sounded a little like betrayal was just an invitation to think out loud.”

“Calm, husband,” Keeva said soothingly and Panther did relax a little. “I know my reasons and I am sure we have some in common but I would like to hear yours.”

“Sometimes I forget that you don’t already know my mind,” Panther said. “Metalstone actually asked something similar earlier.”

“Your friend?” Keeva asked. “The one who made that beautiful vest?” She was teasing. It was obvious that she was teasing.

“Again,” Panther said with a mock sigh. “He’s not my friend and to refuse his gift would have been counter-productive. However, I am still trying to figure out what is wrong with it.”

Keeva laughed but nodded. “The reasons?”

“The first reason is the most obvious,” Panther said. “The spirits can be beneficial but they killed a lot of people at our naming ceremony.”

“That’s a fair point but was it a lot?” Keeva asked.

Panther took a deep breath. “My mother and father? Died. Rena? Died. Large parts of the three tribes? Died.”

“You attribute the skyfire to the spirits?” Keeva asked.

Panther shrugged. “I don’t believe in coincidences and neither do you. And then after the skyfire, the spirits attempted to kill more.”

Keeva nodded. “The bone spirit.”

Panther nodded back. “Exactly. More relevant than all of that is that the spirit they want to bond me to turned children into trees,” he said. “Perhaps it did not kill them but it may be a fate worse than death and they are dead to the rest of us just the same. That was one of the scariest things that I have seen.”

“Same here,” Keeva said. “Bonding with a spirit who thinks so little of human lives does sound like a bad idea.”

“The spirits do not care about us,” Panther said. “They take our worship and they use it to gain power. I think? I’m not sure yet what their new end game is.”

“We just have to do the best we know how to do,” Keeva said.

“Finally, I think the spirits twist those they bond with or come in contact with,” Panther said. “Metalstone was a fairly harmless orphan until he was given the power to exert his will on the tribe. Green was a compassionate girl who now has a snake slowly replacing her conscience. Ro was a smart but pushy person who has now allowed herself to be blinded to the dangers of the spirits. It is no secret what happened to poor Brand and why he can no longer be trusted.”

“It is grim, husband,” Keeva said. “Is there anything positive?”

“I can’t see anything on the horizon,” Panther said. “I keep trying to have faith.”

“There is another reason,” Keeva said. She had a way of getting to the heart of the matter. He had spent more time alone with her than anybody else in the tribe. They had learned and loved together and they had bonded into a solid team.

Panther sighed again. “When this started, I was a scared little child. I did what I could to help with the crisis but mostly, like you, I stood by and watched them spring into action. Now I’m not that helpless little boy. But what I am, what I have achieved, is all me. I was offered a spirit back then but instead, I did it myself. I’ve gotten this far on my own. Why can’t I go on under my own power?”

Keeva nodded. “We have accomplished a lot without magic but that is probably why you are the best choice for this bonding,” Keeva said. “You never needed magic so you would not abuse it. Your strength inside and out means that the spirits have less chance of dominating you or tempting you,” She said.

“Do you want me to accept the spirit then?” Panther asked. He was flattered by her words but a little taken aback.

“It is simply something to think about,” Keeva said. “The choice is still yours.”

“And what if I decided to do it?” Panther asked. “What if I bonded with a spirit?”

“I will support you,” Keeva said and there was so much certainty in her words. “Your family is behind you always and forever, no matter what.”

“Would that include stopping me if I become a monster?” Panther asked.

“Of course,” Keeva said solemnly. “You would never see it coming.”

“Something to think about,” Panther said.

Media Update 8/16/18

August 16, 2018


Ingrid Goes West

I had been meaning to watch this movie for some time. I have been a huge Aubrey Plaza fan since first seeing her in Parks and Recreation. I became a bigger fan when I watched her various interviews on all three incarnations of Conan O’Brien’s talk show. She is so wonderfully awkward that I wanted to see her in everything I could. I am still working on that. This movie is listed as a “dark comedy” but I saw it more as a kind of new take on the horror/thriller genre. It was kind of a smart and softer take on those genres. I felt really tense and uncomfortable throughout the whole movie in a good way. The movie is primarily about social media and how people can take ownership of the people they are fans of. What made it so scary is that I have seen it in YouTube comments, on Reddit, and I have heard of scary incidents that streamers/YouTubers have had to endure. Plaza is great as usual as she revels in being weird and crazy but extremely personable. Elizabeth Olsen plays opposite her and does a great job at playing a more nuanced character that explores the manufactured reality that celebrities exude. We also get the second role of O’Shea Jackson who made his debut in Straight Outta Compton. The movie takes a lot of the biggest romantic comedy tropes and plays them straight and makes them super creepy and it makes me realize how many bad rom coms are basically stalker films. The movie is also shot very well and it looks very LA from top to bottom. I definitely recommend this movie.


Better Off Dead

This movie was very much hyped on the Harmontown Podcast while Curtis Armstrong was visiting during an episode (he’s a regular). The making of the movie sounded fascinating and the more I heard about it, the more I wanted to see it. Finally, I got a hold of this week. The movie is directed and written by “Savage” Steve Holland whose background is in animation. The movie is semi-autobiographical apparently as Holland created the movie from a couple of short films he made after his girlfriend dumped him when he was younger. He was in a very dark place but when he showed the films to his friends they found them to be funny. In the movie, John Cusack is dumped by his girlfriend and he goes to a very dark place but then he learns to be a better person. Oh and he also enters a ski competition and has to deal with high school. His character is not very likable when he first shows up but he grew on me. Curtis Armstrong plays one of his few friends and he is delightfully weird in probably my favorite role I have seen him in. Diane Franklin was such a delight in this and I fell in love with her character instantly (although her early scenes are pretty dark). The movie kind of felt like a parody of eighties romance adventure movies in the vein of Wet Hot American Summer. It was the same kind of parody as Airplane where there are plenty of over the top gags that play with the tropes of these movies but they still use most of those tropes. The movie is downright weird and I was constantly trying to figure out how to feel about it. In the end, I decided I loved it based on how it ended. I definitely recommend this one.


Fatal Attraction

I felt like this was the perfect movie to finish this week’s theme and I happened to have not seen this one yet. Everyone pretty much knows what this movie is about but I will drop a synopsis anyway. A married man (Michael Douglas) has an affair with a woman (Glenn Close) who becomes obsessed and then unhinged, making his life a living hell. In today’s climate, I could definitely write this movie and make Glenn Close the hero. Michael Douglas is great at shades of gray here but I definitely spent most of the movie hating him. They went to great lengths to depict him as a really good guy but the ease he has when cheating is troubling. Glenn Close is good most of the time but she gets a little over the top at certain moments. Anne Archer plays Douglas’ wife and she does a great job playing the truly injured party. The movie is obviously a classic for a reason but I think my expectations were too high. I did not really like the pacing as things were drawn out. This kind of lessened the tension of “thriller” aspects through most of it. It could have been helped by another pass in the editing bay to shorten it a little bit more to ratchet up the energy throughout. Still, it is a pretty good movie but you can skip it if you want.

Music of the Week:
E. G. Daily – One Way Love

Groove Armada – Inside My Mind

Blackbriar – Until Eternity

Walk The Moon – Shut Up and Dance

Post Malone – Psycho ft. Ty Dolla $ign

Weekly Updates:
– This week’s themes are “Obsessive Behavior” and “Problematic Behavior”
– I watched more The Following Season 3
– I watched more Glitter Force Doki Doki
– I watched more Barry Kramer on YouTube
– I watched more Luke Cage Season 2
– I watched more Wynonna Earp Season 2
– I watched more Supergirl Season 3
– I finished NCIS Season 15
– I want to see BlackkKlansman and Sorry For Bothering You so bad. Might do a double feature soon.

Why I Love Pro-Wrestling: WWE 30 Day Challenge Pt. 2

August 13, 2018

WILPW

5 – Favorite Current Tag Team

I would definitely have to go with The New Day who are currently 4-time tag team champions and the longest reigning tag team champions in WWE history (a record that had previously been held for 28 years). The team is made up of Kofi Kingston, Big E Langston, and Xavier Woods. The group is a great example of turning lemons into lemonade. The three of them were thrown together and as a new faction by the brass. Langston and Woods had come up from NXT and Kingston had been around for quite a while. When they were first put together, it looked like they were going to be a second coming of The Nation of Domination, a stand-in faction for The Nation of Islam (sort of). The idea seemed a little dated but thankfully they did not do that. Instead, they went with a sort of evangelical Christian vibe. Eventually, the three were able to interject their own ideas and they created a zany and nerdy fusion of outlandish ideas that has always been interesting. They started talking about unicorns, pushed the envelope of the PG era, dressed up like anime characters. The three of them are clearly really good friends with each other and they seem to really have a lot of fun doing what they do. They are also all three very talented wrestlers and the chemistry between them has only grown. Now the three of them are pursuing tag titles and potentially singles titles as well, but still together.

Runner-up: I also really like the Usos. Jimmy and Jey Uso are brothers who are the sons of Rikishi. They appeared on the scene and they were really good together but eventually, they got a little stale. More recently, they reinvented themselves and got way better on the mic and their in-ring style evolved too. I could listen to them cut promos with The New Day all day long.

6 – Favorite Tag Team from the Past

I would have to go with Edge and Christian who were a tag team a long time during the Attitude Era. Adam Copeland and Jason Reso were best friends growing up and they entered the business at about the same time up in Canada. When Copeland joined the WWE as Edge, he put in a good word for Reso and Reso earned his way into the company. When they were thrown together as a tag team, they were both thrilled. They started as The Brood, servants of a vampire named Gangrel. At the time, I loved the gimmick because I was a little bit goth myself back then. Eventually, they struck out on their own and that is when they really evolved. They worked hard at being the biggest jerks they knew how to be and they did it through comedy. They insulted the fans, they acted like cowards, they acted like they were God’s gift to the world, and they cheated to win every chance they could. Every match on television would be preceded by a “5-minute pose” so that the crowd could take pictures except that pose would usually insult the town they were in or their opponents. They were goofy assholes but they backed it up with skills in the ring. They were in some of the most memorable tag team matches in WWE history together.

Runner-up: This might be a surprise but I actually think of Miz and Morrison because of their incredible chemistry together. Miz and Morrison were two young guys put together in the WWE’s version of ECW and they were easily two of the brightest parts of it. Eventually, they moved to the main roster together. They had a brilliant comedy web show called The Dirt Sheet where they made up fake inside information, mocking other performers. In the ring, they pushed each other to higher heights and now both of them have been heavyweight champions.

 

7 – Favorite Current Faction

There are not a lot of official factions currently. I already talked about The New Day so I will talk about the main roster’s newest faction, Sanity. Eric Young has reinvented himself dozens of times in the business and has been a big name but all outside the WWE. So when he showed up in NXT, he went with a crazy cult leader. Sanity is a group of wild men (and one woman) who do not seem to care about wins or losses. They thrash their opponents and often draw disqualifications. Eventually, Young recruited Killian Dain from Ireland, Alexander Wolfe from Germany, and Nikki Cross from Scotland. It feels like it has been a while since there was a faction with both males and females and the female is not strictly arm candy. In fact, Cross is often tougher than the guys. The faction (minus Cross) is being allowed to get some traction on the main roster lately. Time will tell if they get treated right but they look dominant so far. I would love to see them tear things up like they did on NXT.

8 – Favorite Past Faction

I would go with D-Generation-X. When I was a kid, I was already a huge fan of Shawn Michaels so when he started his own faction with Triple H, Rick Rude, and Chyna, I was all in. I was just the right age to be amused by their sophomoric antics. When they added The New Age Outlaws and X-Pac, they had a little bit more talent to fill out their squad. The group constantly just seemed to have fun putting on skits and doing as many crazy things as they could. They were also really talented together in their various formations. They were always compelling and their history has been bound to the history of the WWF and the WWE. They will always be fondly remembered. Of course, the group eventually fell apart mostly because everybody hated X-Pac for real, not just as a heel. Before the group broke up they inducted Kane and I was very fond of the tag team of Kane and X-Pac at the time. Also, they were one of the first (if not the first) factions to have a woman who actually wrestled.

Runner-up: Pretty much any faction that CM Punk ever ran but namely the Straight Edge Society. CM Punk leveraged his real-life straight edge lifestyle to berate the fans and other wrestlers who drank or did drugs. He recruited two members to his society, Doc Gallows and Serena. The group ran roughshod over several other teams and did Punk’s dirty work allowing him to be smug and unbearable. It was great.

In the Shanti Desert

August 11, 2018

Saara thought that the camel smelled absolutely foul but she was sitting on it anyway. It was her first time on a camel and she did not see the appeal. Her people had horses but she had been told that camels were better for traversing long distances across the desert. Amil would have said she was pouting but he was nowhere in sight so he was in no position to criticize anything she did. She reveled in the pout, letting the dark cloud hang over her as if it could block the harsh sun of the desert and scare away everybody around her. For a moment, she could see the cloud hanging there, dark as the smoke from alchemist’s fire.

It had been that sort of fire that had gotten her in this mess and that thought made her face grow darker and her gaze more distant. They had been on a heist and the boss had insisted on alchemist’s fire while Saara promised she could safely cause the blaze with magic. In the end, something had gone wrong with the magic and she and Amil had been spotted. She had not been prepared and she tripped over her own feet and she was arrested. If she had not screwed up the fire, Amil would not have fled and she would not have been caught. She wished she knew where he was.

“If you’re going to have a bad attitude, I’ll just leave you right here and let you walk back,” Arana said.

“Is that a promise?” Saara asked.

“This is the Shanti Desert,” Arana said. “You’d dry up and blow away so fast that you would barely have the time to know what happened. But I’d know.” There was a smug satisfaction those last three words.

“Why do you dislike me so much?” Saara asked. The thought of dying of thirst in the middle of the desert had dissipated the dark clouds above her head for the moment.

“I studied for years for an opportunity like this and you got here by getting caught committing a crime,” Arana said. “Besides, your magic comes from you with but a thought while mine requires careful thought through study and ritual, sorceress.” She spat that last word out like it was an insult.

Saara knew that those who possessed wild, inborn magic were often distrusted. Wizards studied and planned their magic and Warlocks were gifted reliable magic. There was something about a sorcerer’s magic that made people feel like it was more unpredictable and therefore more dangerous. Saara’s friends had never felt that way while they were working together as a crew. They had trusted her and she was not used to having her magic thrown in her face like this. She never chose to be born with magical blood, she just was. She huffed and was about to say something contrary but she thought better. She was in enough trouble already.

“Hey,” Saara said. “It’s not like I even wanted to be here.”

Arana sighed and adjusted her spectacles and sighed again. “That’s exactly the problem and it sums up my entire explanation for why I dislike you.”

“Oh,” Saara said and closed her mouth.

Arana let the silence fill the small space between them. “At least look at it this way,” she said. “Most people who did what you did get locked up or executed. You get to be a treasure hunter.”

“I guess that does have a more romantic air than ‘prisoner’,” Saara said.

“You’re still a prisoner,” Horu said, suddenly riding close on their right. The sudden sound startled her and she nearly jumped off of the camel. Horu was called Horseface Horu for a reason and now that her heartbeat was returning to normal, Saara had to fight not to giggle at that. She was also grateful that she had not used any magic in her surprise. She could have really done some damage.

“I know,” Saara said. “I couldn’t possibly forget.”

“Good,” Horu said. “You’d do best by keeping your thieving hands to yourself. I can’t believe we have to bring two thieves with us.” His voice then dissolved into unintelligible grumbling.

“Two thieves?” Saara asked. “I’m the only thief on this trip.”

“We’ve also got the infamous Ba’as Nimble Fingers with us,” Arana said. She looked pleased to once again know something that Saara did not.

Meanwhile, Saara’s jaw had dropped. “No way. He isn’t even real. He is a myth.” She would have folded her arms for emphasis but she did not want to let go of the camel’s saddle.

“That lie smells worse than the camels,” Horu said. “He’s probably your uncle or something.”

“Do you think all thieves are related?” Saara asked.

“Not exactly,” Horu said. “I figure you are like rabbits and you all come from the same warren.”

“Wow,” Saara said. “Not exactly.”

Suddenly, the wind started to pick up and Saara saw everybody start to get down from their mounts as the sand started to sting her skin. Arana scrambled down and held onto the camel’s reins and gave Saara a worried look.

“Do something!” Arana yelled. “I don’t have a spell prepared for this.”

Saara started climbing down and then fell to the ground face first. Thankfully, the sand was somewhat soft. She got up and started putting the spell together in her mind. She had used the spell once accidentally to lose some guards and she was fairly sure it would work. She pictured a wall of wind shaped like a wedge and thrust out her hands to form it. The sandstorm slammed into the wind wall but it held with some considerable effort from Saara. Everybody, including the camels, got close to the ground while they waited out the sudden storm. As the storm stopped, Arana shook Saara to get her to shut off the spell.

“Saara!” She yelled. “You can stop. You saved us. Thank you.”

Saara would later joke that it was the shock of Arana actually thanking her but it was actually the strain of the spell that caused her to pass out.

Media Update 8/9/18

August 9, 2018


Upgrade

This movie is listed as a body horror action film and that was exactly what it was. What you see in the trailer is the gist of what the movie delivers. However, there is more to it than meets the eye. This movie is about a man who suffers a tragedy and he is given his life back through technology. The body horror comes in two ways, telling you about either does not spoil much of the movie. The first is that the movie deals with the surgical modification of the human body to combine it with mechanical parts. The other is the possession of a human’s body. On top of all of that, there are some impressive gore effects. The movie is a simple little story but the psychology of it is very effective and very chilling. Mixed in is a little dark comedy to keep it from getting too dark too fast. Logan Marshall-Green plays the lead character and he is the perfect actor for this role. His physical acting is especially great as he struggles with control issues. Simon Maiden plays the artificial intelligence and he is both creepy and funny at different times, almost a mix between Freddy Krueger, Rain Man, and a toddler. The movie makes some twists and turns that I did not expect and I was definitely left stunned at certain points. I definitely recommend this one.


Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom

I was one of the few people of my friend group who enjoyed watching Jurassic World and to this day I cannot understand why. The first movie in the new trilogy was similar to Star Wars: The Force Awakens in that it felt nostalgic but it also felt innovative. It started to explore new facets of the original’s themes on man’s genetic tinkering and its effect on the Earth. I had no idea where this sequel could go after the first one was so crazy. This one further explores the dangers of genetics and greed but also explores the theme of animal rights and conservation. It does all of this by somehow upping the stakes even higher and leaving me wanting even more. I cannot wait to see where this franchise goes next which is something I did not expect to say. Once again, Chris Pratt was awesome and charismatic. Bryce Dallas Howard got a lot more of a character arc in this one and I want to see her grow even more in the third one. Newcomers Daniella Pineda and Justice Smith were both funny and cool characters who I was glad to meet. The real shocker was Isabella Sermon who is one of the best child actors I have seen and I was actually excited to have her around. I definitely recommend this movie.


Dallas Buyer’s Club

I will be honest here and say that I actually tried to watch this movie twice in the past few weeks. The second time was this past weekend and I just could not finish the movie. I do not think it is a bad movie. I can see why the Academy Awards liked the movie and why it got so much press. The movie is about the AIDS crisis at its height in the eighties when the disease was ignored or mismanaged. It follows an oil worker who gets HIV and is highly troubled that he got a “gay disease”. While he seeks out different treatments, he is exposed to the LGBTQ community and he starts to change his ways. Matthew McConaughey is great as the irascible cowboy who sees a way to treat his disease and profit at the same time. Jared Leto is kind of fun but I wish they had cast an actual trans actor even though Leto is always dedicated to his craft. There is also Jennifer Garner but she does not really do much but she is good as a representative of the medical field. I just could not stand McConaughey’s character. He was too good at being an asshole. Also, it was uncomfortable sitting there and watching his body fall apart which is probably the point but I just did not want to do it. Also, the movie is irresponsible in its message of rejecting the opinions of medical professionals and the FDA to buy and try unapproved/untested medicines. I do not really recommend this movie.

Music of the Week:

Kesha – Dinosaur

Drake – Nonstop

Rachel Platten – Fight Song

Yours Truly – High Hopes

Arch Enemy – Enemy Within

Weekly Update:
– This week’s theme is “Making Improvements”
– I finished Agents of Shield Season 5
– I finished NCIS Season 15
– I finished Blue Bloods Season 8
– I started watching Glitter Force Doki Doki Season 2
– I finished Arrow Season 6
– I finished The Flash Season 4
– I watched more Barry Kramer on YouTube

Magical Earth Defenders Pt. 13

August 6, 2018

Magical Earth Defenders

Louis was working in the science lab during lunch which was not out of the ordinary. Louis did not have a lot of friends and when he had spent lunch periods in the cafeteria or the hallways, he had sometimes been bullied. He much preferred the quiet safety of the science lab. If he was being honest, and he was honest with the therapist his mother made him see, he would admit to being lonely. Except for Lennon, the other kids just literally did not understand. He was advanced beyond their level in all subjects except for PE. He hated that he had fallen into the stereotype of the weak-bodied geek. His coordination was faulty so he never really got into team sports. Instead, he went to the gym to stay healthy but it was so boring. His mind raced while he was on the treadmill, going nowhere.

It was even worse in classes, he was so far ahead on homework and studying that he could have practically recited the lessons along with the teacher. He found himself doodling schematics for his next big project instead of listening. He was always trying to think up new things to build. Either that or he was trying to reverse-engineer something cool he had found on the market. The only one who ever understood his excited ramblings had been Lennon but she had her own problems and she often worked on her projects at home. She had consulted on the earlier parts of Louis’ current project which was a fully automated robot. The mechanics all worked fine but he was having trouble coding a basic Artificial Intelligence program to get it functioning. It was a little frustrating that it had not worked yet but Louis found the process fun.

His creation, which he had named 2S or Twos since it was his second attempt, was sitting on the platform used for charging and linking. Louis was sitting at his laptop, trying to parse through lines of code. He was running the compiler for the third time during lunch and drinking coffee as he studied some possible new solutions. He was always trying to stay up to date with the bleeding edge of technology. Journals, websites, message boards and any scrap of techie text were all he read anymore. It was as exhilarating as extreme sports for him to pump up his mind with all of this new knowledge. If only he could solve this one problem, all the doors he wanted would open and his future would be assured. He could practically design his own major in any college. He might even be able to graduate high school early.

Suddenly, a chat prompt popped up in the lower right-hand side of his screen. Most of his contacts should have been at work or in class so he had not been expecting it. What he also had not expected was the chat request being from a name he did not recognize. Normally, he would have disregarded it and blocked the person but he was feeling tired and antsy from all of the coding. He clicked and requested the chat request.

ArvhanFan616: Hello?

Louis3K: Can I help you?

ArvhanFan616: Is this Louis Wilson?

Louis blinked at the screen. How had this stranger known his full name? He had never shared his full name with any of his online contacts. His mother had not raised a fool.

Louis3K: What do you want?

ArvhanFan616: I simply want to help you make your creation work.

Louis3K: What creation?

ArvhanFan616: I believe you call it 2S or Twos?

Louis was getting more and more frustrated. How did this stranger know all of this?

Louis3K: And how do you think you can help? Who are you?

ArvhanFan616: My name is Afolo and I am from somewhere you cannot even conceive of yet. I have a rare ingredient that was not available in your world until recently.

Louis3K: What are you talking about? The physical is complete, I don’t need any more ‘ingredients’!!!

ArvhanFan616: What about magic?

Louis was now convinced that this guy was a lunatic. He had a weird name and he was talking weird and he was waisting Louis’ time. However, something about the words made Louis believe that there was some truth in them.

Louis3K: Magic is not real, psycho. Stop wasting my time.

ArvhanFan616: Oh it is very real. I’m practically made of the stuff. I can show you how real it is.

Louis3K: Show me? How are you going to show me over the Internet?

ArvhanFan616: I have my ways. All I need for you is to ask for my help.

Louis3K: Sure.

ArvhanFan616: The actual words, please.

Louis3L: Whatever. Please help me make Twos work.

All of a sudden the lights in the science lab began to flicker and Louis could swear he could hear laughter like at the dumb carnivals he had been dragged to in the past. His laptop began to glow and then he looked and Twos was glowing too. Suddenly, it felt like gravity in the room started to lessen. Suddenly, tools and books were floating in the air. Then Louis himself was floating up out of his seat. He reached down grabbing for something to anchor himself with but he kept losing his grip. In his panic, he grabbed his laptop and it floated into the air with him. He briefly looked at the screen and it was full of script in a language that Louis had never seen before. He heard the demonic laughter louder now.

He looked over at Twos and the robot suddenly opened up like a piece of paper unfolding. All of its innards were suddenly on display and then cords from its core snaked out and caught Louis’ ankle. Louis tried to free himself, tried to wriggle away but the cord started to pull him through the air toward Twos. He screamed wordlessly. For once in his life, he did not have the words to express what he was feeling. He found himself slowly pressed against his own robot, more cords snaking out to tie him to it. Then the robot started to fold back up and that unearthly glow got brighter. Louis felt himself getting folded into Twos and it hurt. It really hurt.

After a while, he thought he should have been crushed. He should have died. Instead, he could feel a tingling sensation all over his body. It was like the buzzing of a million bees and the pain of being stung by all of them. Then the sensation started to disappear. In fact, it was as if all sensation in his body was disappearing. He thought he might be merging with Twos but that was not possible, was it? One by one, his nerves seemed to shut off. He wondered if this would kill him. However, it had not done so yet. From somewhere, he thought he heard a voice.

“Welcome to the club, Junior!”

And then there was an explosion.

March Madness 6: The Pixar Quarterfinals Pt. 2

August 4, 2018

Bracket

Ratatouille vs. Inside Out

Ratatouille is the story of a young, foodie rat who joins up with a human in order to realize both of their dreams of cooking and love. Fundamentally, it is a story about being out of place and then finding a new place that accepts you for who you are. I never felt that way with my family like Remy but I did feel like that in high school. I watched this movie after I had found a new tribe among the theater people in college. It was the first time I had felt somewhat accepted but even then I still felt a little out of sync. The highlight of the movie is Remy the Rat played by Patton Oswalt. Oswalt, like me, was born a geek and knows a lot about being out of place and then finding your tribe. He really embodies the ennui and frustration of dealing with a family that does not understand him. He also uses his well-honed skills to be as likable as possible which is difficult when you’re dealing with rats animated to actually look like rats. His main co-star is Lou Romano who is not only an actor but also a member of Pixar’s production art team. He is lovably awkward but unfortunately largely forgettable. As are many of the other supporting characters who are performed by great actors like Brad Garrett, Brian Dennehy, Janeane Garofalo, Peter O’Toole, Will Arnett, and Ian Holm. The animation was a great leap forward and the art style was stylized to be more French and different from the humans in the earlier Incredibles.

Inside Out is the story of a little girl and the swirling emotions inside of her. While we do get to know the little girl, the main characters are the embodiments of her Joy and Sadness. All of Riley’s emotions just want the best for her but Joy also wants her to be happy all of the time. At its heart, the movie is about finding emotional balance during the hard times. Joy and Sadness go on an adventure through Riley’s mind and begin to learn what their connection is. I watched this one in theaters early on a rainy Saturday morning and it was perfect for that. The animation is great as there are two different art styles. One is as we watch Riley and her parents interact and the other is inside Riley’s brain which is far more fluid and delightfully weird. Joy is played by Amy Poehler who brought happiness to the role but also determination. Phyllis Smith played Sadness and brought to the role a sadness it was hard not to feel sympathy for but also some intelligence. They are supported by Lewis Black, Bill Hader, and Mindy Kaling who play Anger, Fear, and Disgust respectively. Riley’s imaginary friend is played by Richard Kind and he is so engaging. Kaitlyn Dias, Kyle MacLachlan, and Diane Lane play Riley and her parents and I loved spending time with all three of them. Like most Pixar movies, there were so many grown-up moments among the fun silliness but this one especially was relatable.

Main Character: The creation of a true partnership between Joy and Sadness was fun and engaging to watch which topped Remy’s journey for a place in the world.

Supporting Characters: The supporting cast of Inside Out is more engaging and likable than Ratatouille. The humans in Inside Out are also way more interesting than the humans in Ratatouille.

Villain: Because Inside Out really did not have a villain, the villain of Ratatouille wins here.

Music: I thought that the French-styled music in Ratatouille was better than the respectable mood music from Inside Out.

Story: I felt like the story and experiences in Inside Out were more fundamental to the human experience and therefore had more impact. It was also just more fun.

Animation: The animation and dual art styles of Inside Out were naturally more superior as the technology and creative process had evolved.

Winner: Inside Out

Monsters Inc. vs. The Incredibles

Monsters Inc. is a story about monsters (of the under the bed or closet varieties) who discover that their world is not quite what they have been told it is. Mike and Sully are a partnership, a true friendship that must deal with the biggest crisis their world has ever seen. At its heart, the movie is about both overcoming prejudice and also corporate culture. The two heroes must rise above their blue-collar background and challenge the very system they have relied on for their entire lives. I saw this one four years after it was released while working for a summer camp and I felt sad that I had missed it for so long. Mike is played by Billy Crystal and he is the brains of the operation but also the more anxious character. Sully is played by John Goodman and he is the warm, generous one of the pair. They are opposed by James Coburn, Steve Buscemi, and Frank Oz with a slimy corporate air. They are supported by Jennifer Tilly, John Ratzenberger, and Bob Peterson (another memorable Pixar woman played by a man). The animation is very good and a lot of credit goes to the art team for creating such unique and varied monsters to populate their world. The worldbuilding is a lot of fun and they created a lot of interest in how that world worked (which is why they made the prequel).

The Incredibles is a story about a man looking back at his youth and being somewhat dissatisfied with where his life has gone. He took joy in his life with his kids and his wife but something is missing. That thing that is missing is his superhero career. At its core, the movie is about figuring out that the future can be better than the past if you work to make it that way. I watched this one on DVD well after it came out. Arguably the main character, Bob Parr, is played by Craig T. Nelson who had experience playing a dad and brought a real middle-aged gravity to the role. His wife is played by Holly Hunter and she is so good that many wanted her to be the main character. They are supported by Wallace Shawn, Spencer Fox, Sarah Vowell, Samuel L. Jackson, Brad Bird, and Elizabeth Pena. Brad Bird is particularly hilarious and charismatic as the fashion maven Edna Mode. The villainous Syndrome is played by Jason Lee and he is so hatable. The animation is absolutely beautiful and much of it styled like what live-action superhero movies would soon look like when Marvel really got going. One of my favorite things about the movie is the way the characters move and this is the first 3D animated movie that really nailed human beings in a way that kept away from the uncanny valley.

Main Character: The Parr Family are much like most families I have met and are a little more relatable than working stiffs Mike and Sully.

Supporting Characters: The supporting characters of Monsters Inc. are a little forgettable while the supporting characters in The Incredibles are given some of the best lines and more personality.

Villain: The toxic masculinity and toxic fanboy nature of Syndrome is so relevant to our world and is way better than the fairly bland corporate villains of Monsters, Inc.

Music: I prefer the dramatic full orchestral score of The Incredibles over the simpler Monsters, Inc.

Story: I feel like the story of a family learning to be on the same page while literally defeating the ghosts of the past is better than uncovering corporate lies.

Animation: These two are actually pretty comparable but the slight edge goes to the cinematic camera angles and composition of The Incredibles.

Winner: The Incredibles


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Damyanti Biswas is an author, blogger, animal-lover, spiritualist. Her work is represented by Ed Wilson from the Johnson & Alcock agency. When not pottering about with her plants or her aquariums, you can find her nose deep in a book, or baking up a storm.

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