Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Nonie Crete at the Registry Theatre

Nonie, Eugene Rea on guitar, Ken Brown on bass, Michelle Josef on drums and HWSRN on keys.



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Saturday, May 23, 2009

I Wanna Have Rachel Maddow's Baby!

I'm not a regular watcher of MSNBC or Rachel Maddow, but occasionally I get directed in some nefarious way to a segment of her broadcast, and every time I do, I fall in love again! And she seems to be getting better with age too! I love her gleeful scorn directed at pompous asses and arrogant SOBs. I love the way she punctures rhetoric and manipulative discourse. Sometimes she gives miniature lectures, like this one, demonstrating how it's done...all the lies, the hype, the misdirection, the manipulation...all the techniques used to prevent us ordinary peeples from discovering the real truth or even learning how to uncover the real truth....

Really, I wanna have her baby!



Alas, dear friends, that is a desire destined to be forever frustrated, since Rachel is a lesbian. I certainly don't hold that against her. Because the odds of getting an opportunity to hold it against her are astronomical. So I guess I'll just admire her from afar and dream of the unborn children we never could have had...

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Monday, April 27, 2009

Werds By The Pound Pt. III


Now here's a real horrorshow raskazz that I've owned for a good long raz. My appy polly loggies if you don't kopat my govoreeting, O my brothers and sisters. You will just have to kupet it and read it, or itty over to the biblio and borrow it. Have yourself a tass of the old moloko-plus while you are at it.

And that's about all I can manage of the Nadsat language, with which A Clockwork Orange is replete. From the very first page, you know you are in for it:
"What's it going to be then, eh?"

There was me, that is Alex, and my three droogs, that is Pete, Georgie, and Dim, Dim being really dim, and we sat in the Korova Milkbar making up our rassoodocks what to do with the evening, a flip dark chill winter bastard though dry. The Korova Milkbar was a milk-plus mesto, and you may, O my brothers, have forgotten what these mestos were like, things changing so skorry these days and everybody quick to forget, newspapers not being read much neither.
And what you're in for is a taste of the old ultra-violence of disaffected youth...in the case of Alex, a case of love of violence for its own sake. And the follow-up is the violence perpetrated by the state for the purpose of preventing the violence of the disaffected youth.

I'm oversimplifying, but in these days of lawn order politicians, minimum sentencing and so-called stiff penalties for every little thing, oversimplifying fits very well with the zeitgeist.

Alex and his droogs commit several heinous crimes, and then, because Alex was a little too trusting of his droogs and miscalculated their loyalty, he gets nabbed by the millicents and sentenced to prison. And eventually submits to an experimental treatment whereby he is rendered incapable of violence. The very thought makes him violently ill. As an unintended side-effect, the treatment also robs him of his only redeeming feature, the love of music.

And then he gets released. Within hours his negative karma catches up with him. He meets his old droogs and gets the crap kicked out of him. He takes refuge with a previous victim who then turns him over to some political types who use him for their own purposes. He gets thrown out of the house of his own pee & em. He attempts suicide.

The bleeding hearts get themselves in an uproar and force the government to restore him to his original condition, an ultra-violent lover of Beethoven.

The end.

In the end, Burgess offers an indictment of both sides. Beware the demagogues and simple-solution advocates. Things are not that simple. What was done to Alex was an outrage (even tho he more or less agreed to it.) Put as oversimply as possible, the state has no right to remove one's humanity (limited as that humanity might be.)

But the other end of it is just as unsatisfactory. In the end, Alex reverts to his original state:
Oh, it was gorgeosity and yumyumyum. When it came to the Scherzo [of Beethoven's glorious Ninth] I could viddy myself very clear running and running on like very light and mysterious nogas, carving the whole litso of the creeching world with my cut-throat britva. And there was the slow movement and the lovely last singing movement still to come. I was cured all right.
But jolly old England was not a safer place.

***
My copy of A Clockwork Orange doesn't quite predate the movie, but it does predate what later became the iconic images. I looked, but couldn't seem to find online an edition with a cover like the one above. So I scanned it and offer it to you. And in case you don't remember, here's what came out of the great success of the film:

Often when a book is made into a movie, the film doesn't quite live up to the book. That is not the case here. Stanley Kubrick crafted yet another masterpiece with A Clockwork Orange, and made Malcolm McDowell's career for him. Kubrick often managed to be ahead of the curve. In this case, among other things, the soundtrack by Wendy (then Walter) Carlos broke new ground with its use of electronic music. Electronic Beethoven what a concept!

Many years later I heard an interview with Wendy (previously Walter) Carlos, who described the incredibly painstaking process of creating this complex music with the (relatively) primitive, altho powerful, electronic instruments of the day, in particular the Moog.

Some of you may remember the early Moog synthesizers. They looked like telephone exchanges with a keyboard attached, and to change the sounds you had to plug things in here and put them over there and twiddle the dials, change the amplitude, the frequency, the wave form, and then unplug that so you could put it in this until the right sound came out, and then you had to get the notes right. Nowadays, sez HWSRN, you press one key and the arpeggiator does the work.

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Wednesday, April 22, 2009

April is Po-tree Month

Part I:
You may not have noticed, but April is national po-tree month. I'm not quite sure which nation we're talking about here. Maybe the nation of Murricanaduh. I dunno. I'm pretty sure it's Canaduh. And the US too. If not, so what? You don't need an excuse for po-tree.

So, in that spirit I present a pome from an old dead white guy who achieved a good measure of fame for his po-tree, name of William Butler Yeats. This comes from the Oxford Book of English Verse:

Where My Books Go

All the words that I utter,
And all the words that I write,
Must spread out their wings untiring,
And never rest in their flight,
Till they come where your sad, sad heart is,
And sing to you in the night,
Beyond where the waters are moving,
Storm-darken'd or starry bright.

***

Furthermore, in the spirit of national po-tree month, April, I too have a pome, inspired by this work of Yeats. It goes something like this:

All the words that I utter,
And all the words that I write,
Must span the ocean 'lectronic
Either ether or Uther & come to rest
In the Dark Age of the Dragon's Pen;
Or colonize minute interstices
'Mid rampant ignorant superstishies;
Or grind themselves in plates tectonic
Between Scylla whole reading & Charybdis phonic.
None may pass the spellcheck test
& retain the rubric "Larry's Best"
Lest philistines gobble clash & groan
And somehow make this pome their own.

***

I think I could not demonstrate with greater clarity why William Butler Yeats is in the Oxford Book of English Verse and Larry is in the Yoni School for Wayward Poets carrying on his Mental Blog.



Part II:
As proprietor of this here blog, Mental, I get the odd communication from people in the biz. This communication I am about to communicate to you was not so odd, however.

I received an email from Michael Douma who has developed a website called Poetry Through the Ages. I encourage you, if you are interested in po-tree, to visit this site. It has an interesting feature which Mr. Douma calls a nodemap...what I believe is a Java-powered version of "clustering", a technique with which many writers will be familiar. (There is now at least one computer version of this clustering technique called FreeMind, which I have used. It's a way cool -- and useful -- app. Poetry Through the Ages uses SpicyNodes, a web-based app.) What you can do with this map is explore different areas of the website by clicking on the balloons.

And there are many different areas to explore: the history of poetry; different forms both classical and modern; obscure forms; popular forms; notes about the biz of po-tree. There's even a shop where you can shop. And of course links to other resources.

Personally, I plan to revisit the villanelle.

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Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Canaduh's Central Bank Cuts Back

One of the "home" pages I use is Yahoo! Today, one of the lead articles was about the Bank of Canaduh cutting back its interest rate to .25%. Now that's low. Can't get much lower than that. In fact, pretty soon, if we can convince our chartered banks to actually pass on these cuts, they'll be paying me. Almost sorta like the old days. And if we ever get that far, I'm gonna make damn sure I charge them service fees! You wanna give me money? OK, it'll cost you though...

Anyway, to get back to what I intended to say. The Yahoo! article and headline had a thumbnail photo along with it. Here it is:
Now, that's what I call cutting back.

(I should say that the actual photo that went with the article had the complete name,
but I really prefer the poignant irony of the thumbnail.)


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Monday, April 20, 2009

Werds By The Pound Pt. II


Yes, and in spite of the fact that Blogger setup never lets me setup quite the way I'd like to see it setup, I am still able to tell you that among the werds I've pounded in recent months are these two novels, Being There by Jerzy Kosinski, and The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers.

I have a specific and real reason for juxtaposing these two, although they are utterly different stylistically.

The central character of Being There is Chauncey Gardiner, depicted in the well-known film by Peter Sellers, and the cover of the book reminds us of this too. (This was a case of impeccable casting. No one could have played Chauncey better than Sellers.) Chauncey is, how would you say it, simple-minded. The house where he lives and gardens has been his shelter for as long as he can remember. When his "guardian" dies he is thrown out into the complicated and sophisticated world with nearly nothing.

Chauncey is neither complicated nor sophisticated. His thought processes are quite limited. But after suffering a slight injury in traffic (mostly his own fault I think…) he is adopted by a wealthy couple with very high connections.

Chauncey has no life experience other than his garden. And television. Therefore, everything he says relates in one way or another to these things. In his simplicity he utters profound truths, but he is not actually answering the questions people ask him. Nevertheless, everyone accepts his comments and before long he has become famous. He advises the president, he attracts women, everyone comes to dote on his words.

In The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter there is also a central character, named John Singer. Singer is deaf and dumb. He has one dear friend named Spiros Antonapoulos, also deaf and dumb, and they live together in a small town in the southern US. Antonapoulos is also feeble-minded and Singer does his best to take care of him. But eventually he fails and through the machinations of Antonapoulos’ cousin, Antonapoulos is taken away to an asylum. Throughout the novel, Singer single-mindedly focuses on somehow helping Antonapoulos.

Meanwhile, he attracts the attention of four people in the town: an alcoholic labour radical, a black doctor with a mission to educate his people, the owner of a bar/restaurant, and a fourteen year old girl. One by one each of them begins to visit him. They all come to talk, which of course he can’t do. So he “listens”. And they tell him their dreams, their hopes, their fears and frustrations, their rage and their sorrow.

Now I come to what it is about these two novels that makes me put them together. In both of them, the central character is a sort of empty vessel who comes to be filled by the other characters. In both novels the supporting cast members project their own thoughts and beliefs onto the main character. Chauncey Gardiner becomes the wise man with the universal truth (when all he’s really talking about is his own garden which he misses very much) and, in the course of The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter a raft of rumours arise in the town about the nature of Singer’s past and his current life. In the end, no one knows the real Chauncey Gardiner, nor the real John Singer. Everything about them has been dreamed up by someone else. And imagine the shock of Singer’s four friends when Singer kills himself after finding out that Antonapoulos has died.

I can’t help but turn this into a bit of dharma. Is this not what we are all doing most of the time…making up stories about who we are, who our friends are, what our lives are? I don’t know about you, but I personally find that most of the stress in my life revolves around what I project outward…beliefs, desires, resentments, anxieties…in other words, the things I am making up about other people or situations.

Carson McCullers’ characters, in particular, were tormented by their inability to mould people in their own images or according to what they thought was right and necessary. We’re constantly trying to stuff the world with ourselves!

Better to just let it be.


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Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Livestation: Internet TV


Livestation is an internet TV and radio website that can set you up with a wide array of media sources. If you're interested in finding alternate sources of information other than the usual suspects, this is a good place to start. It has 19 "partner" TV channels, not all English, and 6 "partner" radio channels, also not all English. And then it has a huge number of user-added stations in any genre which you can add to your personal Livestation.

You have to register with Livestation. Then you can download the Livestation player which is very slick and loads fast. From there all you have to do is click on one of the stations and within seconds you're watching or listening.

I hooked up with this mainly because I wanted to be able to watch Al Jazeera, which is available in English and Arabic. I tend to watch the English station. I don't understand Arabic. But I really wanted to have the Al Jazeera perspective. Of course, there's also BBC. And C-Span. And CNN. I even added a couple of Hawgtown radio stations to my list.

I haven't used it a lot yet, but I'm impressed.

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Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Werds By The Pound

Since the beginning of the year I have been consuming books by the pound. Eg. I am currently (re-) reading Antonia Fraser's Cromwell: The Lord Protector. Now there's a book with some heft to it. More than seven hundred pages of the finest niggling detail you could possibly imagine. And that's my review of it more or less.

When I first read it, probably not long after it was first published, I devoured it then and thought it quite the work of biography. Now, on re-reading it, (and I'm about halfway through) I find it cluttered by the undergrowth of detail. Fraser somehow seems to miss the forest for all the trees and bushy bushes she's uncovered. So that, as far as I've come, I have no sense at all of how and why the Roundhead revolution occurred, what the political, social and religious situation was that gave rise to the Puritan phenomenon and how it was actually able to seize power in England.

It's a period (the middle of the 17th century) that perhaps many non-Brits don't know much about. And in a certain sense, they wouldn't learn much more from reading this book. Oh sure, they beheaded King Charles I. They (Cromwell) developed a new style of army, or new tactics, which affected military campaigns on into the future. They "subdued" Ireland. (Hah!) Quite viciously.

You might be surprised to learn that England was a "Protectorate" for some years...the "Protector" being Oliver Cromwell. A euphemism, really, for "Dictator" since at some point or other Cromwell, after having disposed of the king, subsequently "dismissed" Parliament at sword point.

But in this book, you don't get the impression of why this all occurred, what its roots were. I always thought that England was, after Henry VIII, essentially Anglican. Fraser does show that in the 17th century there was considerable dispute over the status of various Christian denominations. The Anglican church, represented by King Charles, was deposed as the state religion amid controversy and battles among Anglicans, Presbyterians, Roman Catholic bloody papists! and Puritans and a host of other Anabaptists and obscure sects. What Fraser doesn't give us is the historical context of it all. Instead she jumps straight into details of various battles won by Cromwell over Royalists (Cavaliers), Presbyterians, Irish and God knows who else...leprechauns.

So, now, the legend is that Murrica was colonized by the persecuted Puritans of the Mayflower, who fled England because they could not practise according to their religious conscience. Even Cromwell considered emigrating. But in Fraser we find that it was the Puritans who, for a time in England, trampled on freedom of conscience. Who knew, eh?

Unfortunately, by the end of this book, you may know it happened, but you still won't know why.

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Monday, April 06, 2009

Roberta Peary Discovers the True North Pole

Today, on the 100th anniversary of her great-great grandfather Robert Peary's "discovery" of the so-called North Pole, Roberta Peary announced, after exhaustive research on Wikipedia, that she had located the true North Pole. "And it ain't where everybody thinks..." she said via iPhone earlier today.

In a conscious echo of her great-great grandfather's message to the New York Times on April 6, 1909 (I have the pole, April sixth. Expect arrive Chateau Bay, September seventh. Secure control wire for me there and arrange expedite transmission big story. PEARY), Ms. Peary sent a tweet to all her followers on Twitter: "Have danced with the Pole, April sixth. Expect arrive Minsky's April seventh. Pole-dancing today. Table tomorrow."(113 characters -- with spaces)

If the North Pole is not where everybody thinks, despite the fact that the Navigation Foundation vindicated Robert Peary in 1989, just where is it? In a long conversation with Ms. Peary on MSN, she indicated the location of the North Pole on Google Maps. Here is the map:


As you can see, the North Pole is naturally in Poland. In the town of Wladyslawowo, one of the northernmost points in Poland, with a population of approximately ten thousand. Not only that, but the name of the North Pole is Wladyslaw Wowo, a retired longshoreman originally from Gdansk, where he practised counter-revolution with Lech Walesa. Mr. Wowo claims the town is named after him, but the town is not so sure.

In our drawn-out conversation, I asked Roberta Peary how she could be sure that Mr. Wowo was indeed the North Pole.

"He has the documentation to prove it. His profile is on Wikipedia. He has a page on Facebook, LinkedIn, MySpace, Beebo, and about 36 followers on Twitter. You can't ask for much more than that."

I asked Roberta Peary about her background in arctic exploration. "After dropping out of high school," she said, "I spent several years dispensing Coke from a Coke machine. That was a tough job. Very cramped conditions. Cold on one side...the cooler part. Hot on the other...the compressor part. I knew I had to escape from the machine. Nobody likes to be a slave to the machine. And the tips were lousy. Sometimes I just swallowed the coins and didn't give people their Cokes. Then they'd start banging on the machine or rocking it back and forth. Scary, I tell you."

"As I say, I did that for several years, but I really got my big break when I discovered on-line search engines and on-line research. I started with my great-great grandfather's Trip-tych, which the American Automobile Association made out for him to get to the North Pole. It seemed to me that he had taken a wrong turn at Peoria. I dug further into the resources of Wikipedia and everything I found seemed to confirm this. From there, I just followed the links and they led me to Wladyslawowo and Wladyslaw Wowo."

I asked her, "For a hundred years, more or less, the world has generally accepted that it was your great-great grandfather Robert Peary, who reached the North Pole. Do you feel that you have undermined what, at the time, was considered to be one of mankind's greatest accomplishments?"

"No, certainly not," she replied. "I feel as if I'm setting the record straight. It's always the women who have to keep men in line, keep them on the straight and arrow, make sure they straighten up and fly right, and my great-great grandfather, as great-great as he was and is, didn't fly right, didn't sail right, didn't drive right. No, he took a wrong turn and ended up trudging through the snow in some God-forsaken arctic tundra when he could have just taken the train to Wladyslawowo. Not to mention the fact that he denied Wladyslaw Wowo his rightful due as the true North Pole, strong and free."

I thanked Ms. Peary for her time and asked if she could put me in touch with Mr. Wowo. She gave me his phone number. So I cranked up my Skype and when the operator came on I called out, "Mayfair, give me Pennsylvania 6-5000," and through the miracle of modern technology was connected to Mr. Wowo within thirty-two hours.

"Mr. Wowo, how does it feel to be finally discovered?" I asked.

"A little chilly," he said. "You want wodka? We share bottle wodka. Keep warm. Tell story of Nort Pole."

"Yes, all right. But let me ask you, why do you think Robert Peary went astray?"

"Stupid man! He not take enough wodka. Get cold. Cannot think straight."

"As you know, according to the New York Times, Peary's first communication after reaching the pole..."

"He not reach Pole! I never meet him!"

"Yes, sorry," I said, "His first communication was to the New York Times, and his second was to the Associated Press, in which he said, Stars and Stripes nailed to the pole. PEARY."

"Yes, I hear this story. There is famous photograph of flag. Here, I show you."

Mr. Wowo sent me the photo by email. Here it is:


The photo clearly indicates a flaw in Robert Peary's claim. Yes, the flag is there, but it's planted right next to an inukshuk, known throughout the universe as an Inuit artifact. Therefore, either Peary had not discovered the North Pole, free and clear, or he was not the first human to arrive.

I asked Mr. Wowo about this. He said, "Yes, there is story about this. Reporters ask Peary about this, this, this, inuktitut whatever, and he bluster, he splutter, he make rolling in the eyes, and then say, 'Well, naturally I just naturally assumed that it was a natural phenomenon and put it down to the natural curiosity of polar bears...' This is very hard for me to say like Murrican...You want more wodka?"

"Yesh, thankew," I said.

He poured me a straight shot, but since I was in Canaduh sitting at my computer and he was in Poland sitting at his computer, he had to drink it himself. Which he did with obvious relish.

"Do you think I could have a photo of you to post on Mental Blog?" I asked.

"No! No photograph! People must not see who is Wladyslaw Wowo the North Pole! There are too many -- how-you-say -- Minnie the Moochers. Is like winning Polish State Lottery! Everyone will say, 'Ah! So now Wladyslaw Wowo is rich man, and famous! He will give us money!' Then everyone tries to get a piece of Pole. No. No photos. But here...I will give you photo of my True North Pole installation which is in front yard of my house. It is like this Robert Peary's, only is the true flag planted next to true Polish inuktithingy."

Here is the photo Mr. Wowo sent me over the Internettle:*


"Thank you for the photo, Mr. Wowo. Are those wodka, I mean vodka, bottles that you used to make the inukshuk?"

"Yes, very good Polish wodka. I get them from my cousin. I must tell you, my cousin, he is South Pole. He is true South Pole! Here! I send you map of location of True South Pole!"

Here is the Google App Map Mr. Wowo sent me:


"Next month this Ms. Roberta Peary she will come to see me and we will visit my cousin in Krakow. Yes, in Krakow is definitely South Pole. His name is Jerzy Milkski. He is wodka salesman. He is on the road very much."

"You mean he's a travelling salesman?"

"No. I mean he is on road falling down often. Too much wodka."

"Ah," I said for lack of anything better, "But Krakow is not in the deep south..."

"Yes, he lives in winter more south but in summer he moves to Krakow. He lives at 4 Biwa Lane, Krakow, Poland. He is for sure South Pole waiting to be discovered. You should come visit. Especially April is wonderful in Krakow. There is famous song...April in Krakow. But Jerzy Milkski will make Krakow more famous for South Pole. You will see. We could hit road together, drink wodka. Lots wodka from Jerzy. You could write on Mental Blog...a series! Call it On Road. What you think?"

"Thanks, Mr. Wowo. I'll have my people call your people."

So.

That was my foray into arctic and antarctic exploration, via Internet. What an adventure, eh? And the people you meet! Roberta Peary is now my friend on Facebook. Jerzy Milkski wants to connect with me on Plaxo. And the truth of the true North Pole has finally been revealed.

*Some hypercritical critics might suggest that these photos are not authentic. They will say that the inukshuk in the Peary photo is nothing but a clip-art picture with a Murrican flag (and not even the proper one for the period!) photoshopped in. And the vodka bottle inukshuk is clearly a photographic mashup, they will murmur. But not so! These photos were subsequently authenticated by the Royal Wikipedia Society, and if that ain't good enough, I don't know what all is!

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Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Signs of Spring?

Spring is sprung,
the grass is rizz,
Here is Max,
the Bichon Frizz.

Suzy Homemaker has been working for some months on a computer course built around Corel Paint-Shop Pro. She prepared this photo at my request. (I should mention that the stuff she has learned to do goes way beyond the silliness above...)

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Saturday, March 21, 2009

HWSRN Reports on Chuck Mangione


Last night HWSRN went to see Chuck Mangione and his band play at the old Square Centre of the Round Hole in good ol' Lunchbucket Ontariario. Now, it's been many years since Chuck Mangione was a major major, but that doesn't mean he can't still blow a mean flugelhorn.

And HWSRN reports that he surely did. He played a medley of his hit. And brought the house to its foot.

Some of you may know that Chuck lost nearly half his band in that plane crash a while back near Buffalo. I don't know, and neither does HWSRN, which players they were, but he says that the bass player and sax player were the only two on stage with music stands, so that's a pretty good indication. Nevertheless, the band was mighty hot. They played songs from Chuck's album, Fun and Games. They played Bellavia, named after his maiden mother's maiden name...a lovely Italian sort of ballad. They played Land of Make Believe, which is one of my favourite all-time tunes. They played be-bop...an interesting thing called Dizzy and Miles...which featured a poem at the beginning and the refrain "All the world smiles at Dizzy and Miles"...and then each took be-bop solos accompanied only by the drums doing light swing with brushes. They featured the bass player on Fun & Games. Chuck let the young sax player blow and blow on several tunes. Then they played Children of Sanchez, with the drummer singing...and playing an entirely different rhythm from what he sang...something quite difficult to do...(don't forget, the drummer's already moving all four limbs in polyrhythmic patterns, and then to add the voice!)

This was the last song of the set. Chuck said goodnight. And left the stage for about thirty seconds. Then he came back.

Of course, he'd forgotten to play the song everybody came to hear. Feels So Good.

Well, no, he didn't really forget. It was the encore of course. But for HWSRN, it seemed a bit lacklustre after the tour de force of Children of Sanchez. It was like, "Hey, let's get the tune over with and go back to the hotel room..."

Exactly ninety minutes. Contractual obligation fulfilled. Feels fairly good, maybe, kinda, sorta.

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