Love Your Solitude – Rainer Maria Rilke

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Love your solitude and try to sing out with the pain it causes you. for those who are near you are far away, you write, and this shows that the space around you is beginning to grow vast. And if what is near you is far away, then your vastness is already among the stars and is very great; be happy about your growth, in which of course you can’t take anyone with you, and be gentle with those who stay behind; be confident and calm in front of them and don’t torment them with your doubts and don’t frighten them with your faith or joy, which they wouldn’t be able to comprehend. Seek out some simple and true feeling of what you have in common with them, which doesn’t necessarily have to alter when you yourself change again and again; when you see them, love life in a form that is not your own and be indulgent toward those who are growing old, who are afraid of the aloneness that you trust. Avoid providing material for the drama that is always stretched tight between parents and children; it uses up much of the children’s strength and wastes the love of the elders, which acts and warms even if it doesn’t comprehend. Don’t ask for any advice from them and don’t expect any understanding; but believe in a love that is being stored up for you like and inheritance, and have faith that in this love there is a strength and a blessing so large that you can travel as far as you wish without having to step outside it.

~Rainer Maria Rilke

 

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Tom Hall

Use of Colourful Languages on Public Platform – A Sign of Smartness or Sickness?

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What kind of mentality induces some people to tarnish other’s reputation or attempt to do so? What instigates mudslinging, a continuous and mindless vilification of someone’s character? No, I am not talking of politicians who have a tendency of throwing rubbish over the opposition’s head with or without any provocation. At least, there involves quite a bit of interest behind such activities. A greed for grasping power, position and financial benefits proves to be far greater an impetus than maintaining common courtesies of life in such cases. Though that does not make the actions justifiable, it is still understandable. I am speaking of common people continuously speaking or rather writing nonsense about someone on a public forum without any apparent provocation.

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The questions I mentioned at the beginning of this article sprung into my mind after I repeatedly observed such behaviour on chats, forums, twitter feeds and Youtube comments section in past few months. More often than not when I read or watch any piece or interview of any prominent personality of today or of a bygone era, I find the comments section is swathed with such disgusting remarks. It is true that all of us indulge in verbal bashing of people, famous or otherwise, we dislike in private at some point of time or the other. It is also quite correct that everybody has a right to criticise whoever he or she chooses to. But aren’t we supposed to follow minimum amount of decorum while venting our disapprovals in writing on a public forum? Has calling names or using vulgar phrases to describe someone’s activities became so fashionable nowadays that it is no longer considered objectionable? Or, having an opportunity of expressing one’s opinion in public automatically grants the impudence of being slanderous in the ugliest of ways?

Only a few months ago Google started the policy of forcing people to sign in before posting a comment on Youtube comments section in the hope that people will be more careful about what they choose to write because that is going to show up on their Google Plus profile. Well, I doubt that such kind of people do care about what shows up on their profiles. In all probability they act with the same nonsense attitude even in reality beyond the web world. Then there are the smarter ones who create other ids to post comments on a public forum.

Using expletives even during our daily conversation is no longer considered such a taboo as it used to be in our parents’ time. But doing so excessively certainly does not increase anyone’s image, no matter how smart it looks on the big screen as in The Wolf of Wall Street (2013). Moreover, expletives may or may not be slanderous in nature. It depends on what context those are being used.

Psychologists and / or social scientists may define this phenomenon as young generation’s increasing need of venting frustrations at the condition of life or socio-economic status. But, I think frustrations and consequent stress have always been a part of any young person’s life. That does not necessarily induce everyone to foul mouth any well known person including musician, sport star, actor, author or other noteworthy personalities of the day and age. Since, mostly well known personalities are targets of such abusive languages, it is more likely the doing of a pathologically jealous mind than purely disappointed one.

When there is always an opportunity of turning over that page of magazine or newspaper and closing the browser window which shows someone who increases your irritation, it is normal that you’ll use it. Any sane person does so. He or she certainly does not waste time to write unmentionables. At any rate throwing cheap dirt at someone does not necessarily decrease one’s stature, but most certainly lays bare that person’s character who has attempted to do so. Remember that wise saying which says, ‘You must not throw mud at sun. It does not store your dirt to blacken its face, but returns the disgrace on your face only.’ No one reasonably can or need to stop such needless jibes. But it only reveals how hard we are at work to create a very sick society.

 

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Ben Cumming

Dear Common Flower – James Russell Lowell

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Dear common flower, that grow’st beside the way,
Fringing the dusty road with harmless gold,
First pledge of blithesome May,
Which children pluck, and, full of pride uphold.

~ James Russell Lowell

 

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It’s Quoted

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der LichtKlicker

Margaret Rutherford – As the Make Up Wears Out

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The name Margaret Rutherford is quite popular among the connoisseurs of old movies, particularly vintage British movies. Her characterisation of Miss Marple in such films as Murder, She Said, Murder at the Gallop, Murder Most Foul and Murder Ahoy!, based on famous Agatha Christie novels is admired even today. She started appearing on the big screen at an advanced age. Not being a conventional beauty also did not help her causes; in fact, she was derided by many for her looks who confidently preferred overlooking her superb acting prowess. But, thanks to her inimitable style of acting, she already created a firm footing for herself on stage.

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In last two years or so, while watching many of the old black and white films with my brother, I stumbled upon I Happiest Days of Your Life and consequently learn about the formidable acting skills of Margaret Rutherford. In the following months, we managed to watch The Importance of being Earnest (based on an Oscar Wilde story), Passport to Pimlico, I’m All Right Jack and Curtain Up among others. Our search also yielded a rare gem – an interview with Margaret Rutherford and her actor husband Stringer Davis conducted Down Under. The web world, despite the hype around the process of digitisation, is not exactly swathed with interviews of famous personalities of the yore. So you will understand why I call this a ‘rare gem’. The interview is also devoid of any clichés associated with such interactions with film stars. I am sure you will enjoy listening to this during an afternoon recess this weekend.

 

Margaret Rutherford’s role in The V.I.P.s earned her both Academy Award and Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actress. She was also bestowed with Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) and Dame Commander (DBE) in 1961 and 1967 respectively.

Unfortunately, her glorious success on stage or screen and a stable relationship with her devoted husband could not prevent her frequent lapses into depression and melancholia. Nearly all through her life, she was haunted by the fear of becoming mentally incapacitated. This fear primarily stemmed from her father’s violent insane spells that drenched the family into bloodbath. Though Margaret Rutherford (May 11, 1892 – May 22, 1972) was sent to stay with her aunt, Bessie Nicholson, since an early age the ghosts of the maladies existing in her family never really eluded her. As she started suffering from Alzheimer’s disease in the late sixties, these nervous breakdowns became even more frequent and acute. She was nursed by her beloved husband till her very last day. What she said about her work also applies for her life. That,

You never have a comedian who hasn’t got a very deep strain of sadness within him or her. Every great clown has been very near to tragedy … is quite apparent from the Margaret Rutherford story.

 

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Kate Gabrielle

Gerda Taro – A Talent Born to Blush Prematurely

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Wilfred Owen’s proverbial question, ‘Was it for this the clay grew tall?’, echoes through Gerda Taro’s life and work. She was one of the first female photographer to report events from the frontline. Eventually, she succumbed to the perils of war only when her career is starting to blossom.

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When I will Cease to Stand in Your Way …

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I saw you last week. Or, rather I saw the top of your hat. You walked past me without saying so much as “hello” to me. Was I surprised? No. Was I offended? Well, may be a little bit, deep down. No, I shouldn’t say I was offended. You see, when you expect someone to behave in a certain way and your assumptions turn out to be correct, you do not generally take any offence, however insulting one’s behaviour turns out to be. But you do not become overjoyed either, because you have been proved right. It is a strange kind of feeling. It accepts the fact, but continues to be sad nonetheless. It is a strange kind of pain too. It does not make you mad with anger. You do not seek revenge, because the object of it is too dear to you anyway. But this negligence gnaws at your heart nonetheless. In accepting the fact it feels defeated and yearns to cry out in desperation.

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When you appeared out of that grove this morning I could not help feeling how handsome you looked. You were surrounded by your friends. You may have failed to recognise me, but I have seen you growing up since a small boy. You often used to come here with Mr & Mrs ___ . You see, my relationship with you runs longer and deeper than you would care to admit, now that you have become such a big and successful person. But, blame it on my age, memories decades older than now seems to be so fresh to me. And, the past hour? I have forgotten already.
I vividly remember the days when you used to come here to gather flowers, chase that hapless butterfly or simply sit here awhile under the shade. To me it seems to be still only yesterday. In fact, I will let you out a little secret. Mr ___ too acted much the same way as you did when he was a child, though he did not admit it to you later on.

Then when you were a little older you managed to escape your nurse’s sleepy eyes to come to sit here. We talked and talked and talked. Or should I say, you talked and I used to listen. If I have ever intervened, you hardly used to take a notice of that. You used to tell me every story Miss ___ has read out to you on the day and weeks before. You used to narrate in minute detail what happened at home since the morning, why you are angry with your dad and mom and how you ran away without taking your breakfast. I remember once you revealed your mischievous idea of frightening little ___ by hiding a toad in her lunch box. You made me swear before revealing your plans of cheating at your homework to me. We had a long discussion on that and in the end you gave in to your conscience. But you did bind me in an oath nonetheless, so that I would not let this out to anyone. I never did because I knew we were friends for life. And, I never will because nothing will alter this truth for me, not even your perceived ignorance of the time gone by.

I could not help but see you talking with Mr Palmer the other day. I came to know about your plans of clearing this area up for a new guest house. Perhaps, you have big plans for your new found friends some of whom seem to be considering this house their own residence! Of course, it is your land and you will use it the way you please. I am counting my final few days on earth anyhow. You know, I have stopped giving those beautiful blossoms for years now. You mentioned that during your discussion with Mr Palmer.

I was caught in a reverie thinking of how you so loved collecting the scattered petals of those pink flowers. You used to heave them on little ____’s head. You two were such cherubs. All my neighbours here, including me, used to see your performances with such delight. You two hardly used to be conscious of that. Such is the beauty of childhood. It accepts life unconditionally. For children the whole world is nothing but a plaything. That is why so easily could we bind ourselves in sacred threads of friendship. That is why you never failed to understand my language. My silence never offended you. We became so close to each other that only best pals could possibly be. We knew how to be happy in each other’s joy. We knew how to keep each other’s most intimate secrets safely locked in the inner most chambers of our hearts.

Thirty years on, you became skilled in many languages, you accomplished many things to be a proud member of your family, you also gained worldly possessions. But the one language closest to your heart became lost irretrievably. My words became foreign to you, my feelings unintelligible. You no longer run towards me or any of my neighbours to embrace us with your big hands as you once were so much in a habit of doing. You have become too grown up for that. Perhaps you will say, “Like every child I was a tad foolish.” I beg to differ, my friend. You have become stupid now.

I will not stand in your way for very many days now. If not by Mr Palmer’s ingenuous machines, I will succumb to Mother Nature’s ways. So, will be the fate of many standing here alongside me today. Together, we carry the history of this land that is worth hundreds of years. Perhaps, that is not worthy enough for you as an individual, but it is priceless for “you” collectively. And what will be your loss? You, my dear friend? Your loss will be dearer than the bittersweet nostalgia of an old friend who once used to cover this land with the torn petals of blushing pink blossoms.

 

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Noric Couderc

Shubho Nabo Barsho – Happy New Year

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Illuminate

Today marks the onset of another Bengali New Year. The day is known as Baishakhi, the first day of the lunar calendar month Baisakh. According to the lunar calendar, followed on all festive occasions in this part of the world, yesterday saw the culmination of vernal season. The occasion is celebrated with much delight not only in Bengal, but across many regions of India. In other parts of the world too, like in Thailand where Songkran is being celebrated at the moment, this period does not go unnoticed. The word Songkran was derived from Sanskrit word Sankranti meaning culmination or transformation of one season to another.

Nabo anadey jago aji, nabo rabi kiraney,
Shubra sundar, preeti ujjal, nirmal jibaney …

Rabindranath Tagore

Wake up to a new joy, the exuberance of early morning sunshine,
To be touched by the beauty, splendour and tenderness of life … (roughly translated)

In earlier time, this period used to bring additional joy because it coincided with the harvest season. It used to bring friends and families together. Young members of the family paid respect to the older members. Pujas (worshipping) were performed to show gratitude for the time elapsed and prayers offered for everyone’s well-being. Nowadays, the program has undergone changes and is only a curtailed version of what it used to be. Gifts, mainly dresses and jewelleries, are exchanged. People throng restaurants for the taste of good food and drinks. They no longer have the ‘time’ or intention of cooking a fine meal consisting of traditional dishes at home. I intend to be an exception here and so does my brother. So, we are off to prepare a sumptuous dinner for our family members and a few other close friends. Here is the menu – pulao (a delectable rice dish), prawn malai curry (prawn cooked in mustard paste, poppy seed paste and cream, i.e. malai), pigeon pea curry and tomato chutney. You are cordially invited to join in.

Of Friendship between Men of Eminence

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To Big–Hearted, Big–Souled, Big–Bodied friend Conan Doyle” – these were the very words mentioned on the front page of the Novel Notes, penned by Jerome K Jerome. A name made famous by his character Mr Sherlock Holmes, and not the other way round, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s life is a well documented one. Jerome K Jerome is no stranger to literature lovers either. Yet, I don’t think that too many people are aware of this enduring friendship between Conan Doyle and Jerome K Jerome.

It seems that the camaraderie between these two men existed for greater portion of their lives. Arthur Conan Doyle, an avid skier, travelled to Norway with Jerome K Jerome in the winter of 1892. The latter was one of the invitees present during Conan Doyle’s wedding with Jean Elizabeth Leckie in 1907. This small party also included such prominent names as J M Barrie and Bram Stoker. It is quite possible that Jerome K Jerome travelled to Switzerland at least once to meet his friend and be a part of his ski excursions.

Theirs were a friendship that aptly defines what Alfred Tennyson had to say on the matter,

So, friend, when I first looked upon your face, our thoughts gave answer each to each. Opposed mirrors each reflecting each, although I knew not in what time or place, methought that I had often met with you, and each had lived in other’s mind and speech.

Their companionship lasted during a particularly difficult phase of Conan Doyle’s life. Charles Altamont Doyle, Arthur Conan Doyle’s father and a talented illustrator himself, gave in to excessive drinking early in life. He soon succumbed to severe bouts of delusions which resulted in permanent insanity. More than a decade of his life was spent in an asylum. Charles Doyle passed away in the autumn of 1893. Arthur Conan Doyle’s first wife Louise was diagnosed with tuberculosis the same year. Conan Doyle planned a change of weather for his wife. This paved the way for his first visit to Switzerland. It does not come as a surprise, that Conan Doyle conceived The Final Problem, which indicated the assassination of Mr Sherlock Holmes much to the dismay of his fans, the same year.

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Holmes & Watson, Illustration by Sydney Paget

Friendship between kindred spirits may not be that difficult to spot, but such alliance during hours of crisis is not something so common. Another example that darts into the mind is the concord between Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec and Oscar Wilde. During one of his visits to London, Toulouse Lautrec, already an established artist by then, befriended Wilde. He painted Wilde’s portrait several times during their acquaintance. The most noteworthy of them all is certainly the one depicting a visibly exhausted but defiant Oscar Wilde during the final day of his trial. Toulouse Lautrec raised voice against Wilde’s imprisonment. The artist used his name and prominent position in the society to garner considerable support for Wilde from across the Channel. Though, Wilde escaped the execution he could not evade the sheer fatigue resulted from back to back trials. His health suffered breakdown and he eventually succumbed to a cerebral attack. Nonetheless, the friendship that existed between them stood the test of time.

Self-caricature & Portrait of Oscar Wilde by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec

The Spark of Opals

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The fiery play of colours, in black, blue or red backdrop, has a hypnotic effect enough to mesmerise even the most disinterested spectator. It is one of the very few gemstones which is coveted both in its faceted and cabochon form. The gemstone derived its name from Sanskrit word upala which means a precious stone. Like many other gemstones, it was first mined in India before being transported by seafarers and merchants worldwide. I am talking of opals and its many coloured spellbinding beauty, to describe which it is better to borrow George Eliot’s words,

These gems have life in them: their colours speak, say what words fail of.

Though known for ages for its radiant form, opals only received recognition as a gemstone of worth since 19th century. Its relatively wider availability (opal deposits have even been discovered even on mars) may have an impediment in appreciating its exquisiteness.

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Availability of Opals

Australia

Australia mines world’s 95% gem quality opals. Opal is also the country’s national gemstone. Since its establishment in 1915, some of the biggest and most gorgeous opals were mined in Coober Pedy. The 17,000 carat sized Olympic Australis is one of the many famous opals that originated from here. It is indeed ironic to consider the amount wealth that lay hidden under Outback’s arid surface. Though not as glamorous as Coober Pedy, but Andamoka, Yowah and Koroit too are well known for mining quality opals, particularly the highly treasured black ones.

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Miners and fossickers join hands to organise many opal exhibitions every year in this part of the world. One of most notable such exhibition is the Lightning Ridge Opal Festival. Besides rough gemstones and a variety of opals mined in the region, the show also displays stunning pieces of opals jewellery. This year it is going to be organised in late July – August. Yowah Opal Festival is scheduled to be held mid – July. Coober Pedy’s centenary celebration has already begun over the weekend. So if you happen to be in the region do drop in. And, don’t forget visiting The Underground Art Gallery and Umoona Opal Mine & Museum.

Peru

While Outback has proved to be a rich bed for opals, Andes harnessed very few yet unique variety of this beautiful gemstone. Such is the charm of Peruvian opals, that early inhabitants of the area believed, and not unjustifiably, these to be gifts from Mother Earth, Pachamama. Peruvian opals come in rich blue, turquoise or rubicund hues – pastel shades characteristic to the region. Due to their softness, these opals are cut into cabochons.

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Peruvian opals are also highly valued by alternative healers. These stones are often used to address restlessness, sleep depravity and other mental and physical ailments.

Mexico

Mexican fire opals are highly valued by gemstone connoisseurs and jewellers alike. The bright red flash that gives Mexican fire opals such fine lustre is the primary reason behind its popularity. Being a rare variety, these fire opals are sold at a higher price than usual. However, fire opals are not the only variety that is mined in Mexico. Cantera opal, nestled into the matrix itself, is another one of the Mexican specialties.

Rest of the World

Opal deposits in Ethiopia have only been discovered in early 1990s. Within this short period of time, Ethiopian opals earned considerable repute. Opal mines along Yita Ridge in Mezezo are renowned for producing opals of significant amount and sometimes of most brilliant quality. When it comes to opals, every region seems to be having its own peculiarities and Ethiopia is no exception. The famous prase opal, otherwise known as African Jade, is Ethiopia’s gift to the world’s treasure chest. The dark red to brown variety is also highly adored by the jewellery and gemstone industry.

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Tanzania is another African nation known for producing opals. Besides, opals are mined in Brazil, Honduras, USA, Czech Republic and Slovakia in varying quantities.

Play of Colour

This hydrated amorphous silica is often valued due to its unusual play of colours. Depending on this characteristic, opals can be divided in the following four categories:

  • Rolling Flash – In this type, the play of colour seems to shift along the axis if the gemstone is turned.
  • Pinfire – This indicates small of patches of set pattern.
  • Flame – As the name suggests, this signifies the presence of sweeping dazzling red tone across the gemstone.
  • Harlequin – Often the most expensive variety, harlequins showcase a checkerboard of gleaming patches of many hues.

Opals for Gemstone Aficionados & General Buyers

Gemstone and jewellery lovers collect opal attracted by its splendour and quality. But like purchasing any other precious or semi–precious gemstones, buying opals require a considerable amount of research and care from the buyer’s side. For the beginners here are my suggestions,

  • Do decide on a budget and stick with it. But do not fall for gemstones that are extra cheap.
  • Always insist on a certificate of authenticity provided by reputed international gemmological research units like GIA, AGI, EGL or AGS. For more detailed information on this please refer to my article here.
  • Never opt for synthetic opals, available aplenty in Japanese and Chinese markets, unless you have specifically decided to own those.
    Whether you are buying a cabochon or faceted stone, don’t opt for lustreless ones. Avoid opals with ugly black patches or other kinds of marks that obstruct its beauty.
  • It is preferable to buy loose opals and have them set in a piece of jewellery. It gives you a greater chance of evaluating the gemstone.
  • It is highly recommended that you shop for your gemstones using traditional methods, instead of buying online. It helps in having a greater clarity of the quality of your gemstone. Besides, colours seen on screen sometimes differ from the actual tone due to limitation of screen resolution, availability of light while capturing the photograph etc. But I must admit, I have bought gemstones from reputed dealers online and never found myself dissatisfied with my purchases.

If handled with care, opals are reasonably tough to withstand general wear and tear. A piece of precious opal can be an asset for your family for generations and it won’t lose its lustre along the way.

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Opals for Collectors & Investors

It is not surprising that what buyers find so attractive, investors would find lucrative too. Investment in Australian opal mines have slowed down due to stringent government regulations. This was also fuelled by some misleading information possibly spread by competing miners of the same area. But at the same time newer markets like Ethiopia opened up. Collectors collect rough opalites and investment quality opals to exhibit for sometime before selling off at a higher price, often succumbing to a newer fancy.

Opal in Art

Even artists find themselves deeply influenced by the charm of opals. Beautiful sculptures are made using rough opalites. Small gemstones are set together into intricately designed mosaics. Few years ago, artisans of Kashmir created a carpet studding painstakingly detailed floral motifs with 400 black opals. Though not for sale, this stunning piece of craftsmanship was valued at USD 100,000.

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Opal has been a centre of much devotion and superstition for ages. Earliest civilisations worshipped its beauty as well as its talismanic quality. In recent times, superstitions stemmed from misleading information spread by competitors willing to have commercial gain based on this. While opal’s metaphysical benefits are still hotly debated and will continue to be so for some time to come, don’t become a victim of such advertising gimmicks as opals are only fit for people born in a certain month or zodiac sign. As we have seen, opals are available in many colours. So select the one that suits you most aesthetically, astrologically or metaphysically and adorn yourself. Alternatively, you may consider gifting this beautiful gemstone to someone you love. Remember, Romans considered this gemstone fit for offering to God.

 

Image Courtesy:

Opals-On-Black.com, James St. John, John Hritz, Duremi, Gery Parent, Tim Evanson

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