Saturday, January 28, 2012

Halloween 1974 (Tiny Drawing Poem)

I got my Halloween costume in 1974 from Ben Franklin's. It was indeed Batman. Adam West TV Batman. The font here was the hardest part because I wanted to use Batfont, which emulates the pows and biffs and sock-os from the show, but it didn't match the somber nature of the poem. We finally decided the Carbon Type typewriter font was the most appropriate. 

In 1974 my family moved from Freeport, Illinois, to Byron, Illinois, and occupied an A-frame house my uncle Wesley had built on the ominously named Devil's Lane. My uncle and his family had seven children, so the house was huge. Our time there was short, but full of memories, as I was just starting to form my personality, but my most vivid memory is of Halloween, 1974. The usual rumors of razor blades in the apples circulated early, although no one on "The Terrace" was even giving out apples that year. There was an icy rain, and I remember asking my mother about the telephone wires, and she explained how all the voices of the world were transferred into signals and carried across those wires. 

I have a lot of unanswered questions about who we were as a family then, but there's no one left to ask. The poem expresses that longing to be able to talk to her again. 


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My Top Ten Favorite Hot Wheels of All Time


     Hot Wheels first appeared in 1968. I first appeared in 1969. It's a safe bet I crashed my first Hot Wheel soon after. If I recall the incident clearly,  the girl next door, named Jody, ran a stop sign and totaled my 1968 Fleetside. Orange in color. Girls, right? Here's where I say that pink Hot Wheels from the early years are some of the most valuable because the marketing department decided they didn't need to make very many because little girls would not play with them. Tell that to Jody next door who's pink Custom Volkswagon destroyed my first car. 


                                               1968 Fleetside                                               
       
     The first thing I can say about the original 16 Hot Wheels released in 1968 is that they are all favorites. I recently completed a full collection of the first year and I could spend a long, long time just collecting 1968 Hot Wheels. I love the Fleetside. Mine is orange. I'd love to have all the colors. By far the best year for Hot Wheels. They got it right the first time.


1968 Green Enamel VW

     My personal favorite Hot Wheel that I have because the green enamel paint floors me, but it also reminds me of four years old. We lived in Freeport, Illinois, and my uncle Bill tried to sell us a Volkswagon Bug at one time. Even the full-sized car seemed like a toy to my young mind. Every morning we followed the postman, Charlie, to the end of the block where there was a box he emptied. Jody lived around the corner. She didn't actually wreck my Fleetside. I just made that part up. 




                                                                           1970 Paddy Wagon

     The 1970 Paddy Wagon. Everything about this Hot Wheel just seems to come from a Saturday morning cartoon. How could a small boy (or girl) not love this whimsical creation?


1973 Alive 55

     The Alive 55 is the re-release of 1970's Nomad. All of the Nomads from 1970 had white interiors, and for some reason I don't care for a white interior, but I love this piece. It reminds me of the Brady Bunch wagon even though it's nothing like that. 1973. The year my favorite movie, Children Shouldn't Play With Dead Things was made, but i didn't know that for 12 more years. 

1974 Police Cruiser

     In 1974 my family moved across the river into Byron, Illinois, from the house we were renting from my uncle on Devil's Lane. Soon after I met a boy the same age as me, Brad. We were best friends for all the time I lived on River Road. Soon after we moved in they used the vacant field near the river to dump hundreds of heaps of dirt from excavating projects. Hundreds of small piles of dirt about five foot high. A paradise for five year old boys. Many Hot Wheels suffered I am ashamed to say, but can rest in Hot wheel heaven knowing they are fondly remembered. This particular car gives rise to a story I tell now for the first time, hoping the statute of limitations has lapsed. I love this car. Old 442. It's maybe my favorite of all. But in 1974 I didn't have one. But Brad did. So one afternoon I cleverly used a dime to remove all the paint from his police cruiser then took it home with me. let's just say he was not fooled the next time he saw it. Grand theft Hot Wheel. 


1974 Rodger Dodger

     Although I didn't have the Police Cruiser, I did have the Rodger Dodger. I called it the Donny Osmond-mobile. I don't know why I called it that, I guess maybe I saw Donny Osmond wearing something purple on the television. Or maybe I felt like if Donny Osmond were to drive a life-size Hot Wheel it would undoubtedly be the Rodger Dodger. What I know about this Hot Wheel is that it is the last one I remember having as I soon developed an interest in baseball and by age ten can't remember having Hot Wheels anymore. This one I sold at my grandmother's garage sale for the neat sum of fifty cents. When i finally earn enough money to reclaim one in that condition it will cost me a hundred times that amount. 


1975 Ramblin' Wrecker

     No Hot Wheel saw more action than the Ramblin Wrecker. It was a must have. Because no matter how crazy things got. No matter what mass carnage occurred in a day, the Ramblin Wrecker always showed up at the end of the day to make it right. 


1976 Neet Streeter

     The next three Hot Wheels are especially fond to me because I remember receiving them as Christmas presents. If memory serves, Christmas 1976 my brother Dan and I received the complete set of 1976 Hot Wheels and a crisp two dollar bill. There's nothing not to love about the Neet Streeter. It's all things Americana.



1976 Street Rodder

     I seem to remember the Street Rodder was the star of the commercials at that time. If there were commercials, and I'm sure there were. 


1977 '56 Hi Tail Hauler

     And finally, the '56 Hi Tail Hauler. My grandfather had a similar truck in real life. I really adore this piece. It's probably the last of the great Hot Wheels. Probably the last significant redline. 

    When I set out to reclaim a part of my childhood by putting together a collection of Hot Wheels on Ebay I didn't know there was so much emotion invested in these little cars. There were times when I would see one and remember a story and literally start crying. Recently I was having a beer with one of my uncles and Hot Wheels came up and he said you probably don't remember this because you were too young, but your dad was mad for Hot Wheels. he used to buy miles of track and run them all over the house. And it would make sense: the person he was then is more than half my age as I write and younger. A boy. 

March 6, 2013 update: Life is indeed mysterious. I now own a very nice version of each of these Hot Wheels, except the Alive 55 which I insist on owning in the rare lemon yellow. That will have to wait. The two year old often looks at me with incredulity when he sees them in an acrylic case. Sorry, little guy, you'll get them later, but for now they are for display only. 

                                                           
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Friday, January 27, 2012

My Top 10 Favorite Zombie Movies of All Time That Even Zombie Fans Might Not Have Seen

My Top 10 Favorite Zombie Movies of All Time That Even Zombie Fans Might Not Have Seen


In the late 1980's when I started scouring the shelves of the local video stores for zombie movies the pickings were slim. And if the video store didn't have it, and if the Late Late Show wasn't running it, the only way to see it was rent or buy it from Facets Video, and that was very expensive. I can assure you zombies were not all the rage in those days. And if you were a fiend for this genre you often ended up trying to explain yourself to people who just couldn't understand what the fascination was. Now, over twenty-five years later, not only are zombies all the rage, there are hundreds of zombie movies to choose from. And you don't have to wait for them to arrive at your nearest video store. But this is a list from a previous era. A time when you did have to wait, and when you saw a new zombie title on the shelf it was a cause for celebration. These are ten of those movies. Not the ten best zombie movies of all time, but ten video store classics that I rented again and again in those days.


1) Children Shouldn't Play With Dead Things. 1973. Not only is this my favorite zombie movie, but it's my favorite movie of all time. For reasons that are as much emotional as intellectual. I first saw it on Elvira's Movie Macabre season 5 episode 17 when I was sixteen years old. The next morning I remember a cross country meet where I was running through the woods. Everyone on the bus had seen the movie the night before and what is forgotten in the descriptions of this movie as campy is that it's a scary movie. The scene where they look out into the night and the female zombie is eating Paul floored everyone. It was what everyone was talking about. Now it's more years since I saw CSPWDT for the first time than it was years since the movie was first made when I saw it that first time. Twice as many years, in fact, if any of that makes sense. 
                                                    "Satan: you tweeker of puppy dog tails... Hail!" 




A couple more things to watch for in this movie. Notice in the beginning Alan pulls a shotgun out of his trunk of magical items, but when the shit hits the fan no one thinks to get the shotgun out again. That seems unlikely. Also, I want the viewer to contemplate when watching the movie whether it is Alan's Black Magic spell or Valerie's curse upon Satan that actually makes the dead rise from the grave. It's an interesting question concerning that the book of spells does apparently send the undead away temporarily, but if Val's curse called them from their graves why would Alan's counter spell be effective since it wouldn't have been his original spell that caused them to rise from the grave? 


Also, I have an original movie poster from CSPWDT, which I had framed at great expense. When it was sent to me it was wrapped in a 1970's meat wrapper from a national food chain. Seemed appropriate. 


2) Zombiethon. 1986. Ken Dixon. Okay, okay, before you propose I be drawn and quartered, let me explain this list is NOT a list of the top ten best zombie movies of all time, and as an executive decision I just decided the rankings are also irrelevant. I just saw Zombiethon on the list I had scrawled on my clipboard and wanted to talk about it. It's a clip show. A compilation of five zombie movies interspersed with original zombie shorts created by Ken Dixon. The shorts are actually the most original and entertaining aspect of this movie. This is a movie I found at Dollar Video, a store neatly tucked in behind the video arcade where I used to play Adam's Family pinball machine. Zombiethon was one of those big box movies. Who knows why some videos had enormous boxes. This one did. I won't tell you what the five, or is it six movies compiled are, because aside from one you'll never be able to find no matter how hard you look, the interstitial pieces are why you're going to watch this one over and over.


                       When is a really bad  movie a really good movie? Zombie fans know the answer.


3) Shock Waves. 1977. Ken Wiederhorn. This one combines zombies and Nazis. But here's the twist... underwater Nazis. That come ashore to cause mayhem on an abandoned island with a huge resort. Why they didn't do it in any of the thirty years previous to the main characters becoming shipwrecked there is anyone's guess, but nonetheless, these two events coincide, and as a teenager I couldn't have been any happier that they did. peter Cushing is in it, and that's a good thing. Also, an eerie, abandoned location, ala Session 9, The Shining, Ghostkeeper, Humongous, Mansion of the Living Dead... is a character in itself. 


The best of all the Nazi zombie movies? A bold claim. But possibly true.




4) Sugar Hill. 1974. Paul Maslansky. It's a blackspoitation film with zombies. And another desolate, eerie location. Seems to be a theme with me. This is one of those voodoo, revenge zombie movies. So far we have zombies created by Black Magic, wartime experiments on soldiers, now voodoo. I have another one later with a great zombie creating plot, but you'll have to wait for that. You're going to like this movie. Baron Samedi is in it. And some good swamps. 


                                               Where are all the white women? The Baron himself. 






5) Messiah of Evil. 1973. William Huyck I IMDB'd  to see if the director made any other movies so you can get an idea if he accidentally made something intentionally off center or if the whole thing was a mistake. No mistake here. Another very eerie movie, beautifully shot, with some magnificent scenes. One that gets a great deal of play on my DVD player, when I have one. One of the great mispronounciations of the composer Richard Wagner's name occurs in this movie, and is purported to be just a straight read of the script, not an intentional gaffe. 


A nice nuance to this movie is that the artwork is really something. 




6) Tombs of the Blind Dead. 1972. Amando de Ossorio. I used to joke that all I ever knew about the Knights Templar I learned from Tombs of the Blind Dead.  Of course I used to do the joke before that book came out so hardly anyone ever knew what the hell I was talking about. Even after the six thousand books over the past decade I still consider this the definitive document on the Knights Templar. It's the first of the Blind Dead series, and the best one, for my money. I'm a fan of the dry look with zombies, so I appreciate these bone-faced undead. I once composed a soundtrack to accompany the movie but it only had the words "Tombs of the blind dead" repeated over and over. I had meant at one point to contact de ossorio to see if he wanted to use that should he ever re-release the movie, but I moved on to other things.


                                              The dry look. No Karo syrup for these august gentlemen.


7) Mansion of the Living Dead. 1985. Jesus Franco. This is a bad movie and it's a stupid movie, but it has one of my favorite horror-inducing devices in the entire world... a desolate place. Even schlockster Jesus Franco can't mess up a location like this. He tries, with cheap sexual exploits, a really stupid plot, and not much to distinguish this from any of his other movies. But it's a Mansion of the Living Dead, and by mansion we of course mean abandoned resort. And if you're in an abandoned resort about to be attacked by the corpses of Conquistadors, or Conquistador Priests, or whatever the hell is happening here, I'm there with you in Rockland, Carl Solomon. 


                                            They're dead AND they're Catholic. they're all messed up.


8) Let Sleeping Corpses Lie. 1974. Jorge Grau. back to interesting ways in which the dead are coaxed to tear themselves from the Earth and seek human flesh. Sound. I said it. Sound. There's a sound device the British government is using in the countryside to control pests. You know the rest, but it's one of the more interesting setups. A setup that has a pretty damn good payoff and a hugely entertaining cemetery scene. Near the end of this movie is one of the more entertaining out of the blue lines from a character that might have been part of the plot at one time but now is so non-sequitur it's funny. I'll let you figure out what that is, but this is a very good and well-shot movie.


                                                                "I'm mad for apples." Sorry


9) The Dead Hate the Living. 2000. Dave Parker. I was surprised when i just looked that this one was rated so low on IMDB. It's not a classic movie, to be sure, but it's better than the rating it gets there. And I like it for the abandoned hospital motif, and the colors. I could do without all the clever, self-referential noise, but I guess some writers want other people to know that they know something. You'll probably like this one. 


But we all hate Carrot Top, and that's the important thing. 




10) Pontypool. 2008. Bruce McDonald. I wanted some variety on the list, and maybe one new movie, and this one fits the bill. At first you'll probably react the same way I did, wondering why this guy who doesn't look like he should be in a movie at all, is in a movie. But you'll soon forgive that, and that it's set in Canada. It contains another unique method of zombie generation: the spoken word. The spoken word as a contagion that causes people to go bazonga. A good and interesting movie that takes a different path and succeeds. 


What the fuck do you mean I look like a fifth rate Lance Henricksen? I'm starring in this movie, bitches.


There are a handful of other movies that easily could have made this list, and I deliberately decided to not include more popular movies. This isn't a remedial list of the top ten movies of all time, nor is it a micro-examination of movies too obscure for the reader to probably enjoy. Just a list of pretty good zombie movies that are second-tier. 


Amongst some of those other honorable mentions I might list Hard Rock Zombies, Fido, Revenge of the Dead, City of the Walking Dead and revolt of the Zombies.


Not an exhaustive list, and if I had written it yesterday or tomorrow it would contain different movies. Please add to it. 

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Thursday, January 26, 2012

Shingetsu and the Tao of Prog Rock

Some afternoons there's more afternoon than things to do, so my mind wanders. On occasion I'll fall into a rabbit hole and end up somewhere I never expected. The afternoon I discovered the music of Japanese progressive rock band Shingetsu was such an afternoon. It began quite innocently. One thing I like to do is give another look at something I feel I may have overlooked, or dismissed without a fair trying out. Progressive Rock is one of those things. So, I started what became an afternoon long excursion into the heart of prog rock by listening to "In the Court of the Crimson King" by King Crimson. A natural entre into the early 70's world of prog rock, and one I enjoyed quite a bit. But the thing about You Tube is it branches out and you end up in places you might never have expected . This happened to me. By nightfall I had learned every country has it's own Prog Rock band. Shingetsu is Japan's.


Perceptive readers will surely note the figure in the Tiny Drawing is not playing a gong at all, but a drum. very true. Because the Tiny Drawing is inspired by a performance of Houston's Japanese drum ensemble, Kaminari Taiko. Tiny Drawings and Tiny Drawing Poems cannot occur simultaneously any more than two subatomic particles can occupy the same space at the same time. But after I wrote my tribute to Shingetsu I remembered the Tiny Drawing from the performance. 


The font is Atomic Sushi, not because I did an exhaustive search and Atomic Sushi was the most appropriate font, but because once I saw the words Atomic Sushi the search ended. as always please feel free to share Tiny Drawing Poems and if you're interested in purchasing a Tiny Drawing you can do so Tiny Drawings but probably not an original because only I have those.



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Monday, January 23, 2012

Roller Girl (Tiny Drawing Poem)

In 2005 the paperwork to start the Rockford Rage flat track roller derby league was signed in the ladies room of  Castaways, the dive bar my brother and I owned at the time. For the first year while the league was going through the growing pains of learning how to find a venue for the bouts, recruit fresh meats and dot the i's and cross the t's or filing the legal and financial paperwork needed to field a professional sports league, Castaways was the home of the Rockford Rage. It was every bit of drama and chaos you would expect. And almost no one thought it would work. Until 1,500 people showed up to see one of the first bouts.


One of the early challenges of women's flat track roller derby was overcoming the stereotypes that it was the same roller derby people had seen in old footage, or the glamorized, phony version that had been shown on television only a year previously. This was flat track roller derby, and these women were really hitting and blocking and elbowing each other. For the first few weeks they practiced on an asphalt parking lot. These women were tough. And great athletes. They broke legs and fingers and arms and came back to play again


Anyway, this isn't meant to be an exhaustive history of women's flat track roller derby in Rockford, Illinois, just a short backdrop to this Tiny Drawing Poem. My co-creator happens to have been one of those original Roller Girls. This is her drawing and the poem I set to it. The font is AR Delaney. It seemed to convey the boldness apropriate for such a subject.
Women's Flat Track Roller Derby
Whole you're here why not check out our feminist webcomic Single Zombie Female

Jenny is going to have an art show displaying all the roller derby posters she has created for The Rockford Rage as part of our Zombie Logic Press design team.





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Saturday, January 21, 2012

The Fourteenth Way of Looking at a Blackbird

In 2011 several thousand blackbirds mysteriously fell from the sky in Arkansas. Prompting a storm of conspiracy theories concerning everything from weather modification to tests of electromagnetic pulse weapons. My suspicions of something nefarious being afoot were allayed soon after by hearing several credible ornithologists state that it's not a particularly uncommon phenomenon. It happens several times every year all over the globe. 


Last week the Baltimore Ravens beat the Houston Texans to advance to the AFC Championship game. One more win and they will advance to the Super Bowl. The team is named for the creation of a poet, but I doubt many of the hardcore football fans know that. Still, something about that tickles my sensibilities.


There is no real difference between a crow, a raven, and a blackbird. Only size. 


Earlier this week a mysterious figure who showed up every year at Poe's grave to make a toast to the writer failed to show up for the third straight year. 


I wrote this Haiku when I heard the news story about the blackbirds of Arkansas. The font is, of course, a Gothic font called Uberholme. And as all readers of poetry know, the inspiration for the poem is Wallace Steven's poem Thirteen Ways of Looking At a Blackbird. Here's what I did with a Tiny Drawing I remember Jenny had drawn earlier in the year...

And here is what a master of poetry did with the subject

Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird

Wallace Stevens

Among twenty snowy mountains, 
The only moving thing 
Was the eye of the blackbird.

II 
I was of three minds, 
Like a tree 
In which there are three blackbirds.

III 
The blackbird whirled in the autumn winds. 
It was a small part of the pantomime.

IV 
A man and a woman 
Are one. 
A man and a woman and a blackbird 
Are one.

I do not know which to prefer, 
The beauty of inflections 
Or the beauty of innuendoes, 
The blackbird whistling 
Or just after.

VI 
Icicles filled the long window 
With barbaric glass. 
The shadow of the blackbird 
Crossed it, to and fro. 
The mood 
Traced in the shadow 
An indecipherable cause.

VII 
O thin men of Haddam, 
Why do you imagine golden birds? 
Do you not see how the blackbird 
Walks around the feet 
Of the women about you?

VIII 
I know noble accents 
And lucid, inescapable rhythms; 
But I know, too, 
That the blackbird is involved 
In what I know.

IX 
When the blackbird flew out of sight, 
It marked the edge 
Of one of many circles.

At the sight of blackbirds 
Flying in a green light, 
Even the bawds of euphony 
Would cry out sharply.

XI 
He rode over Connecticut 
In a glass coach. 
Once, a fear pierced him, 
In that he mistook 
The shadow of his equipage 
For blackbirds.

XII 
The river is moving. 
The blackbird must be flying.

XIII 
It was evening all afternoon. 
It was snowing 
And it was going to snow. 
The blackbird sat 
In the cedar-limbs.    
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Friday, January 20, 2012

The Perfect Crime (A Tiny Drawing Poem)

This is the poem I worked on today to accompany a Tiny Drawing by artist Jenny Mathews. The challenge here was that not only is this a Tiny Drawing, it is the tiniest of the Tiny Drawings. That flower is smaller than the head of a thumbtack, so every time I tried to use a font the text looked enormous. Finally I chose the Gabriola font. Also, I know it's against the unwritten rules to discuss a poem, but this particular Tiny Drawing is very atypical of the type of detail this artist puts into a drawing. I know this was done intentionally so I chose this drawing and coupled it with a poem I consider understated and minimalist. It's a scene I actually witnessed from my window overlooking one of the busiest intersections in my city. The Midway is a real old time theater on the next block. I like this. I want to try and make one of these every day, pairing a Tiny Drawing with a poem, using a different font for each one. Please feel free to share this if you like it. You can also see the entire gallery of Tiny Drawings at Tiny Drawings
More Tiny Drawing Poems

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Thursday, January 19, 2012

Why I De-Activated My Facebook Account and Covet a Freudian Couch

Last night at midnight I de-activated my Facebook account.


I had to. It was ruining my ability to write. 


These first two sentences are a perfect example of what I mean. I have literally started writing in status updates.


Which is fine for Shecky Green, or anyone who's life's ambition is to deliver one-liners in the Catskills.


However, at the age of 42 I still dream of being a poet when I grow up. 


Hopefully, as I ween myself from the habit of encapsulating of summing up an experience in 120 characters or less I'll regain the ability I once had to just keep writing until I felt what I wanted to say had been said. 


Today I started working on a project of combining my poems with Jenny Mathew's Tiny Drawings. This is the first one I finished. 

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Saturday, January 7, 2012

Submerged Structure: A Poetic Memoir of Schizoid Personality Disorder

     Because I doubt any interviewer will ever ask me this question, I will pose the question of myself. What does the title of your new book of poetry, Submerged Structure, mean?


    The title refers to Schizoid Personality Disorder, which I was diagnosed with at the age of sixteen. It has become a rather rare and archaic diagnosis these days, but the most common symptoms are


  • Neither desires nor enjoys close relationships, including being part of a family
  • Almost always chooses solitary activities
  • Has little, if any, interest in having sexual experiences with another person
  • Takes pleasure in few, if any, activities
  • Lacks close friends or confidants other than first-degree relatives
  • Appears indifferent to the praise or criticism of others
  • Shows emotional coldness, detachment, or flattened affectivity 
Although impediments to a career in sales to be sure, probably not so much a "career" in poetry. In as much as anyone besides Dr. Maya Angelou can be said to have a career in poetry in the modern world. 

     It's a disorder that involves something missing. But it's a paradoxical disorder because it's a disorder about something missing that the sufferer doesn't miss. Or doesn't know that they miss. At least emotionally. 

     There's a road sign, or was as of three years ago when the picture on the cover of the book was taken, between Byron and Oregon Illinois. The sign reads Submerged Structure, warning those who might be tempted to dive in to the water of the Rock River that something unseen is resident beneath the murky water. I grew up driving past that sign quite frequently, and each time I passed it the words seemed to become more and more personal to me. I would often wonder how many signs like this in the entire world there were. Not many I concluded. Maybe not even any. Maybe it's the only one in the entire world. 

     What lurks beneath the water there? I've never known. But to me it seemed like a perfect metaphor for those of us who suffer from Schizoid Personality Disorder. Except in our case there's no sign we can plant in the ground to warn others. Even if there were it would be virtually impossible to explain that some part of us has broken off and submerged deep inside our psyche, and is either just gone or nearly impossible to get to. 

     Nearly impossible.

     And that's the conflict. That's one of the ongoing challenges of my life. To find ways to be with other people. To reclaim what has been submerged, to bring it to the surface, and to keep it from sinking again.

     That's what the title means and by and large that's what many of the poems are about. About all the ways and all the situations in which I tried to drag myself to the surface, either successfully or unsuccessfully. 

     Thank you for asking.

     You can find out more about me at 


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