Back to Text

It has been a while since I wrote my last posts. The last two posts where on predictions on what the future will have for us. However, lately I have been thinking a lot in the past on how we used to do things but more than anything how we are going in a new way to older practices.

When I was a kid, the biggest parent-children fight was to get the kids off the TV and the videogames. Was that the last piece of technology back then? Maybe. However, having a conversation with a woman in the theatre, she was telling me that the biggest struggle right now is to keep the kids off the Computer, iPhone and Blackberries. And what are they all doing? Reading and writing… This used to be a good thing when I was a kid! Not just the kids, lots of people are spending a lot of time in the computer and other devices and though we spend a really good time in Youtube, Netflix and Pandora, most of our time we actually spend it reading and writing indeed. At work I spend more time on e-mail than on the phone and my boss keeps texting everyone to see how things are going through BB Pin and Whats App . According to my parent’s generation (my professional research involves asking them and their friends) most of the communication time at work as spent on the phone.

Add up the time you spend using Facebook, Twitter, Reading Blogs, Google News, E-mail, MSN Messenger, SMS, and IM Texting. Put it all together and you will find out that we are reading and writing way much more than we used 5 years ago. Yes, it would be better if we were reading literature and writing essays but still text is becoming once again the MAIN communicating system. The main stream is becoming independent and individual, and communication is becoming one on one. To find out about an artist or the latest gossip you go to read the artist or the artist’s fans twitters. You join to people’s facebook pages and you read their blogs. There is no longer one stream that will present you selected information. You choose what you want to read from the people you want to read from.

When people were saying a couple years ago that blogging was the future of communication I have to admit that I was pretty sceptical. When Twitter came out announced as a “Micro-Blogging” I was not convinced with the Term, but watching how people connect and use it for I see what they meant and the vision that they had. And indeed we are all “blogging” now through Twitter. Meta information is starting to be crucial and there is nothing that news shows can do for that. Things become news as they become TTs on Twitter and by the time they reach the nightly news the TTs have changed and other things are happening that you won’t see until the day after.

Now what is next with text? I think we need to narrow things down. As I announced the death of SMS in my last post, we have too many options for Instant Messaging: SMS, BB Pin, Whats App, Facebook, PingChat, Messenger, AIM. And Facetime will gather strength in the next couple years. So now we have to open multiple services to stay connected with friends, and those apps that gather all are slow and not very effective. So we somehow need to find the service that will keep us all together. I think Facebook needs to step forward and create a useful and more efficient way to manage their messenger, and really push for it with iPhone, Blackberry and Android versions of it.I also think that Dictation development will finally be important to many users. My biggest issue is that it is dangerous to text and drive. My phone really needs to be able to take dictation and read text messages to me. In any case I believe we are still in phase 2 on discovering the internet and what it will do with our daily lives. Social Media will blend more with our activities throughout the day and the phone will more and more be an extension of our arms. Don’t be scared, embrace it.

It is so nice to be back and I want to thank you for READING this post and I hope you WRITE a comment or a tweet for this article. Remember to joing the Facebook Group of suscribe through RSS. And invite people you like to read. Cheers! and See you soon!

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11 Things we will laugh about in the future

I don’t know why I’ve been feeling pretty futuristic lately. Having some free time has allowed me to explore and immerse myself into social media and technology more than ever. This has me thinking in the future and what we will do and how communications will work. Last night I was having a conversation with a good friend Pako Mejía (@pakomr) on things of the past that now we laugh on like Pagers, Connecting through phone and waiting a minute to connect to the Internet, Movie Theatres with one movie, etc. Then I talked with my brother (@PabloValdes) on the future of cellphones. So I decided to predict things we will laugh about in the future (10 years I would say):

1. Land Lines: Yes, I believe that pretty soon we will drop our land lines. At least for personal use, I can count the times I used one to call a friend in the past month. Usually you do it when you want to have a long conversation that you can’t have on the mobile phone. Which takes me to #2.

2. Cell Phone Minutes or SMS: I believe that phone carriers will stop offering this service and everything will be through the internet. We will all mostly have the same plan with unlimited internet on our phones or at least many gigabytes of monthly usage. Our phone calls and messaging will happen through there with services like Twitter and Skype.

3. Home ISPs: As land lines will disappear, mobile internet will take over, for example now I can live with my data plan and thats it. I call through my mobile service and use the internet through them as well even in my desktop or laptop. I believe desktops and laptops will come with the equivalent to 3G (Some already do). But that will be the standard for the internet.

4. The Mouse: Yes, our old and faithful friend from the 80s will disappear and we will have greasy screens everywhere.

5. Cable and Satellite TV, and Show Schedules: Yes the internet will take over this one as well, we will pay for the shows we want to see on demand and more Product Placement than TV Ads. Show seasons on DVD are starting to prove that. Even live shows will happen through the internet.

6. Laptops: Ok, maybe this one won’t happen in 10 years but this format will disappear eventually thanks to touchscreen. We will not need a mouse nor a physical keyboard. It will take years before we get used to not have physical buttons, but the success of the iPhone proves that it’s not a big deal. Tablets will rule the world. The weird part will be getting used to the model: vertical screen-horizontal typing.

7. Paper Magazines and Newspapers: I believe that print media will reduce to special edition books like pop-ups or extremely graphic stuff. But the daily common Magazines and Newspapers will be also delivered directly to your screens.

8. Paper Notebooks, Exams and Homework: This one also will take probably more than 10 years. But if we want to keep our planet safe there will be plenty of alternatives that do not involve paper in schools, exams, homework and note taking will all happen through screens.

9. Wired Battery Charging: What? Is he nuts? No! The Palm Pre uses an inductive charger surface where you just put your phone on the surface and in it charges! No plugging! So I believe that this technology will spread as it becomes cheaper and we will have Charging Surfaces all over the place for our Phones, Tablets, Cameras, etc. In our desks in schools, Coffee Shops, Airports and basically everywhere so our gadgets will be constantly charging wherever you go without carrying anything else.

10. Life without GPS: Personal Geo Location is becoming a huge and scary technology that thanks to GPS on phones is starting to develop a whole new era of communication and tools. Imagine walking into a theatre and just by walking in you receive and interactive playbill to your phone. Or walk into a store and receive discounts, etc. If you want to start experiencing this try Gowalla on the iPhone or Google Latitude on any smartphone.

11. Cash and Cards: WHAT!!! He went even crazier! This will take definitely a couple decades but cash will considerably start lowing usage as we use more and more credit and debit cards. With something like Square where we can use our phones to accept credit and debit cards for personal use, combine it with a technology like Bump which allows for data transfer between phones just by bumping them together. So combine them and your dad will be giving you some money for the movies on your phone, which then you will use for pay for the movies, Starbucks, the stores and then lend some money to your girlfriend!

Haha, I will personally keep a copy of this and see if I’m right in the future. What do you guys think we will laugh about in the future? Please leave a comment and follow me on Twitter @PpValdes . Also remember to subscribe or join the Facebook Group and spread the word!

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iSlate? Apple’s New Tablet and Jetsons’ Theatre

Ok, that may not be the best title for this post but it could have been worse. I have posted earlier a bit on how I think things are starting to evolve but there are two main things that as a gadget geek don’t seem to stop impressing me: Apple and Social Media. Its no secret that I love Apple and why. But Social Media is something that I believe is just starting to take over, and that it will slowly will take over basically everything we do. I just started using Gowalla and I think its a tool that will start growing into something important.

The big thing for me is Theatre right? So how does Social Media and the new Apple Tablet (tentatively called iSlate, just speculation) come together with theatre. Well the truth is that it doesn’t but I dream of a close future where it does and this is how I think it should be. If you are reading Steve Jobs, think on us theatre guys more often please.

Us guys in theatre production carry around a whole bunch of papers: Scripts, Plots, Plans, Drawings, Calendars and Schedules mostly. Half of the day we spend it actually sharing these papers with a whole bunch of people, we do modifications to it, we share it, we reprint it and some of us started using laptops but we still go from one paper to the other because honestly, who wants to carry around a laptop onstage? Nobody.

Now there will be a new product that we don’t really know exactly what it will do but here is my dream if you are dreaming or if you develop software call me because we have some business to do:

Imagine that it will be magic paper where we can read all this information and share it. And this is where social media starts to kick in. Imagine that you can tell in a map where all your cast is, your designers etc, then you can send them information on rehearsals. That you can automatically have new versions of the script without loosing your notes when you are working on a new piece. Imagine that as an actor you can make blocking notes with pictures, voice recordings, videos right on your script, or you could pull those of a Stage Manager. Calendars that change automatically. Level sessions where you can take your piece of paper where you have your cues recorded and take pictures of your work at the same time. Where you can instantly video chat with a colleague just by clicking his name wherever he is. This will improve communications and the way we work.

So what is the problem? Dinosaurs. Yes, you may think those guys stopped being a problem millions of years ago but no. People still refuse to use e-mail in some places or you can’t count with people reading them. The very first step is to embrace technology and stop thinking that it is some kind of demon that will take over our souls. It is not. Our soul is not going to go through an e-mail. So please, step one, embrace technology and use it, to its full potential. The amount of free tools out there in the internet is ridiculous and with things like the iPhone and Nexus One they are just getting simpler and simpler but if us as theatre practicians don’t jump on that bus, we are doomed to expensive and long theatre productions. Let computers take care of the machine so we can take care of the art ok?

What do you think? Do you imagine a Jetson’s future for theatre production? Would you like it?

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Seriously? A decade since Y2K?

When we think of the 80’s or the 50’s it is clear what we are referring to in terms of fashion, culture, etc. I was having problems defining the 90’s and calling it a decade and now we are faced with the 2000’s. I can’t believe it happened already, it seems just like yesterday when we were so scared of Y2K. I called myself generation Y2K cause I finished junior high that year. So to be incredibly original I am going to do a recap of what Technology and Performing Arts did in the 2000’s. And what I think had big impacts on how we do things. No particular order.

1. Social Media . In the 90’s it was the internet, but this decade we really started to discover new ways to it that we couldn’t imagine before. Facebook, Blogs, Twitter, Wikipedia had brought information to new levels and privacy no longer exists. I just read two articles in TechCrunch about how now we choose what to keep private, instead of what goes public. They also talk about a website called Web 2.0 Suicide Machine where you can enter all your information, and a machine will delete yourself from the internet with no turning back. So far, more than 300 people have commited social media suicide. Bummer.

2. iPod and iPhone. I am an Apple sucker, I have to admit. But seriously what started as a cool MP3 player became standard for music. My parents call iPod now to any MP3 player. But not only that, then the iTunes store made music downloads legal and to many people who didn’t think it would succeed, it is now the #1 music retailer in the US and getting stronger worldwide. There are still good people out there. And the iPhone, well, just see how cellphones were made before and after the iPhone.

3. 3D Movies. I know this wasn’t invented in the 2000’s but it was until this decade that we start to see them in regular theatres all over the world. And I would like to use this opportunity to invite you to see Avatar in 3D. When will 3D Broadway will get here?

4. Cirque Du Soleil. You may disagree, but I think this a new way of artform. And even though they did a lot of work in the 90’s (Including their best show to my opinion “O”) it was this decade where it started to spread all over the world and they started opening shows like crazy. Good for them for raising the bar in performing arts.

5. Wicked. Avenue Q. In 2004 this two big musicals where conceived and why I think it is so important in the decade? Well Wicked unfortunately I believe is the only musical that will run for a long time and will become a classic of this decade. On the other hand, Avenue Q winning the Tony for best musical stated that you no longer needed 30 actors and a multimillion dollar production to win and to be good.

6. Harry Potter. Yes, again, I know that this started in the 90’s, but worldwide, it was until the 2000’s with the release of the movies that the Potter Mania really flourished outside of the english speaking world. I truly bow to the genius of Harry Potter the revival of Lord of The Rings, Golden Compass and Narnia. Kids needed to read something as they waited for the Potter books to come out. Hard to make a 7 year old read a 700+ page book in the PS era.

7. TV on DVD. I bet that no one in the 90’s had a full TV series on DVD. Suddenly we discovered that we could watch those shows that we love over and over again without commercials. We had seen a couple of good episodes on video, but nothing compared to what you see in music stores these days. Its a new way to pay for our content and it has been forcing advertising to rely a lot in product placement.

8. Musicals on the Big Screen. The biggest and most appreciated revival for our circle. Moulin Rouge opened a Pandora box introducing again musicals on the big screen and followed by Chicago winning the Oscar, encouraged film studios to explore again musicals on film. I’m surprised that Les Mis is not out there yet.

9. YouTube. I think youtube is just the first step on how our computer will take over our TV, most teenagers now spend way much more time watching YouTube than open TV and therefore I’m sure advertising will get only stronger and stronger in here.

10. Hot Ticket. MET Opera Live. It was this decade that Sony’s Hot Ticket started bringing concerts and live events that only a few could enjoy to Movie Theatres worldwide. And the MET Opera started also broadcasting their opera’s in movie theatres. It is wonderful to see this and I hope this encourages producers to do this more often so we can spread the knowledge and invite new audiences in every town and therefore encourage local producers once they have a bit of an audience.

Ok, so this is my list people. Please feel free to add any suggestions on your comments. (Look for link next to the title). Then again if you would like to subscribe use the RSS button, or join the Facebook Group to receive updates through there and invite others who you think might like it.

Happy 2010 everyone.

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Theatre Etiquette – Chapter 3: During The Show

So this is the most important part of Theatre Etiquette, and if you think that I was sounding like your mother already just you wait and read. I suppose that by this point you have read both previous chapters: Choosing the Show, and Before The Show. So now you are in your seat (hopefully) and the show is about to start.

The Overture. This is not the case is many shows but if you are watching a good old musical there is going to be one, as well as in many operas and ballets. This is a piece that is not meant for you to grab a seat, or finish your conversation or finish your phone call. An overture is a piece that was written specifically to get you in the right mood for the show. Is the bridge between real life and theatre, they dim the lights so you can enjoy it and establish the tempo of the show. Yes, believe it or not, listening to music attentively will change your heart beat speed, and this will affect how you feel the piece. In any case, weather you want to change your heart beat or not, there are many people that do want to listen to this piece and interrupting it is as bad as interrupting any part of the show, so behave.

Now, to my favourite part. Things that annoy me and many others during the show I’ll try to keep it nice and easy:

Coughing. No, I am not saying you are not allowed to cough, it is only natural. To add to this, theatres are always places were there is a lot of dust accumulated and sometimes dry. In many cases there will be smoked during performances but it is harmless and it is specifically made to not make you cough, but many people do it as an instinctive reaction, so I’m saying this so just so you know and your mind doesn’t trigger the coughing. For these reasons, there are things you can do if you tend to cough a lot. My best recommendation is to have some candy in hand which takes me to the next item.

Candy and Snacks. In most theatres there is only candy but at least here in Mexico there are many many options. Including peanuts, chilli, etc. The clue is to keep it quiet. So please nothing wrapped would be a good idea. So the best thing I find is hard candy that comes in little tin boxes. They usually sell it at fancy theatres but if not, any Starbucks would have some and then you can refill with your favourite candy. I wouldn’t recommend anything crunchy (I know I’m getting picky, so what).

Chatting. Evidently it is not ok to chat during the show. I mean, the sporadical comment is ok from time to time, it is part of enjoying someone’s company in the theatre, but keep short and quiet and don’t make big conversations around it. There will be time for that.

Singing and Humming. No, it is not ok! The only place I would agree if you sing is in Jukebox musicals. Where everyone is expected to do so. (Well, that and rock and pop concerts). It is incredibly unfortunate to see people singing along or humming to a musical, opera or symphony concert. The saddest part is that most of those ‘singers’ do it to show off! Yes! Don’t deny it! Many people wants to show off that they know a specific song and stuff and they think that people around them will believe they are very educated, but not! It is of very very bad taste to do anything like that.

Pay Attention. This most of the times depends on the show more than in the audience. However, do your best, most likely you paid for the show and if not then someone invited you hoping you would pay attention. This means don’t spend the show text messaging, thinking about the future or distracting other people with stuff that has nothing to do with the show.

Intermission. (I’m almost done with this part, bare with me). Intermission is a place to give a rest to the performers and often to do a scene or electrics change over. Audiences should take a break, maybe have a drink or a smoke for those of you who really need it. And then again, we come to the bathroom topic. Go only if you really really need to (you won’t be able to enjoy the show if you count the seconds for it to be over), but if not, don’t make those lines longer. Think that many people really need to go, so let them have their chance and everyone will be able to be back in their seats on time. Many times there will be an Entr’act . Which is kind of like an Overture but after the intermission. Same purpose, same rules apply.

Thanks for reading and later you will be able to read the final chapter: Ovation and After the Show.

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Mamma Mia! Here they go again!

So we all know that Mamma Mia! is a big success not just on Broadway but worldwide. But Mamma Mia! also opened a Pandora box in musical theatre. People really loved the fact that they knew the songs and how they were placed in a new funny context. And from that moment we were cursed with the band based musicals. They are endless: We Will Rock You (Queen), All Shook Up (Elvis Presley), Jersey Boys (Four Seasons), Good Vibrations (Beach Boys), Saturday Night Fever (Bee Gees), Lennon (Do I really have to?), Rock of Ages (80’s Rock) and in Spanish: Hoy No Me Puedo Levantar (Mecano), Besame Mucho (Boleros) and Mentiras (80’s Pop). They are called Jukebox Musicals. And even though some of them were made before Mamma Mia!, it was that production that proved that they could be an incredible success.

But why did they exploded like gun powder? It is simply. Thousands of people around the world discovered that they could now write a musical! Yes! You don’t need a composer now, you don’t even need a good plot, you just need a good CD collection and some time. Think on any story, find whichever song fits and just go for it! And guess what? People will love to go see it! Just because they want to hear the songs. Disney made a show called On The Record with all of their music, but I think something really clever is that they didn’t attempt to add a plot to it, it was more like a concert in Musical Theatre style, and that is what people wanted, to hear them played live with great voices and new arrangements.

I’m not saying that its not a good idea to do a Jukebox Musical, I honestly love All Shook Up (and that one is even worse cause the story is Twelfth Night). But I think that we are reaching the point were its enough of that. We still need original musicals, we still need composers and people that have never done musicals to back off and let musical composers work. If you ask around for people’s favourite musicals, unless they are big fans of a specific band, most likely they are not going to mention one of this Jukebox Musicals. It is clear that pieces like Les Mis, Phantom, Chicago, Cabaret live forever because the music was specifically wrote to match the story, by default naturally. I encourage producers if possible not to go for the safe bet of a jukebox musical, and embrace what could be the next best musical.

There is also the other point to cover that is musicals based on books and movies, or both. But I think this is a totally different case, because at the end the book and songs were written for that specific story, which makes the piece way more coherent. Also, by inspiring your songs and a book or a great novel or movie brings you the best of two worlds. I highly doubt that a brilliant composer is also a brilliant novelist (not that it couldn’t happen). If they inspire their work on each other you can get great musicals with great music and a great storyline, like Phanotm, Les Mis or Wicked. All of them brilliant theatre shows that will stay around forever. No matter what is playing in the radio.

What do you think? Is your favourite musical a Jukebox Musical? Leave a comment (next to post title) and let us know. Subscribe to the RSS. Remember you can join the Facebook Group (button on the right) to be notified when I write and you can invite others to see this posts. Thanks again and happy Xmas shopping!

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12 Wishes for this Christmas

Well, we start today the official countdown for Christmas. So in this 12 days of Christmas, I would like to ask for 12 wishes for me and all the Theatre and Technology community. (But mostly me). So please read carefully and set a plan into motion to make them come true (especially those for me). Please Comment (next to post title), Subscribe to RSS or join the Facebook group (link on the right) so you can receive updates and invite others to read me! (Please see Wish #6).

1. A new kick-ass-multimillion-here-to-stay musical on Broadway. Since Wicked I don’t think we have really seen a big musical that will become a classic for years to come and that revivals will be made forever and productions Worldwide will flourish. I mean Billy Elliot may be something like that and even Mary Poppins, but we all know we are not talking about the same proportions. Its been 5 years already and the decade is gone, is that it? One show of this nature in a decade?

2. More people in theatre seats. I know we all wish for this but we cannot continue blaming it on an ‘uneducated audience’. Or that audiences have no culture therefore they don’t go to theatre. “AUDIENCE” is not this abstract thing that has a spontaneous reaction to things. WE are all audiences and guess what, if we don’t have people in our seats its because WE are doing something wrong as theatre makers. Think in you raw audience, not in your fellow writers and actors, think on the general public, not in smart-ass critics. Then you may have a chance to actually appeal to your real consumers.

3. A greener production process. I have met a couple production companies that are recycling sets. (Yes, this is also to save money) but if we start sharing as a community our sets we won’t only save money but we will also save wood, and therefore trees. (I don’t know why it always comes down to trees). Also, it is unbelievable the amount of paper we waste on this production process from scripts, to lists, to calendars. We need to find a solution to do our little part on it and maybe serve as an example to other industries where a change would have a greater impact than ours.

4. A Kindle. Yes people!!! I would loooove a Kindle. I write so much about it and all the things that could potentially we do in our industry with it and I’m even designing my own Theatre friendly prototype and I don’t have one! So if you are wondering what you could send me over this Christmas? Don’t hesitate, its a Kindle. (Or maybe a Nook would do as well). For those of you who don’t know what on earth I’m talking about the Kindle is an e-book reader from Amazon. Nook is new competition from Barnes & Noble.

5. A Direction. I didn’t direct anything artistically this year and that is annoying me. I know I’ve been busy doing production but every once in a while I need that to fulfill my artistic needs. Working on a couple projects thank god.

6. Social Media Response. I have been trying hard to keep up with this Blog and Twitter and fortunately it has grown into something. However, I would like to reach a bit further than my friends and colleagues. Not that I mind at all writing for them. So for that it takes me to keep up with what I hope is good content and for you to subscribe, comment and spread the word if you like my letters.

7. ¡MUCHA MIERDA! Is the spanish version of Merde (Lots of Shit!) and that is also how we wish good luck in Mexican theatre. However this time it refers specifically to my new upcoming Video Podcast called exactly like that. I have a great lineup for interviews which is amazing. (And by the way I would like to thank them for their support, its quite moving). So if you speak Spanish stay tuned for its launch in January. And if you don’t speak Spanish, also subscribe so you see me talking funnily.

8. An HD TV and a PS3. I don’t think this needs further explanation.

9. A trip to Vegas. Hehe, not only is my best friend’s Bachelor Party over there but also there are so many new shows going on there that its worth a trip just to see what is new with Cirque. They are opening an Elvis show and I haven’t seen Love. I am excited about this shows but honestly, does Cirque really need to go into this formula of using a band’s success to have a good show? I don’t think so. Elvis and Beatles are ok, but lets leave it there, please. Cirque du Soleil is amazing on their own.

10. A Musical Movie. I know this wish is granted with Nine and Fame coming soon to Theatres near you but having one in line is not so bad. If you asked me, I would love to see Into the Woods turn into a movie. Maybe Miss Saigon would work as well and Wicked of course, but since Wicked is doing so well in productions Worldwide and many to come, maybe its not time yet for that. On the other hand I loved what Sony did with RENT: The Live Performance. I would really love to see more of that, specially with shows that already closed (they have nothing to loose that way). Maybe Beauty and The Beast the Broadway show on Movie Theatres? That would be awesome!!!! Then be able to own on DVD, priceless! (Well, usually around 30 bucks).

11. The Apple Tablet. As many of you know there have been so many rumors on this product and Apple’s competition to the netbooks. I think Apple has the right to establish how the tablet era is going to work (they did it pretty well with Mp3 players and Cellphones). So I can’t wait for that mobility on a desktop and all the applications that we could potentially develop for theatre production, specially stage management and PMing. (See my post: Technology Sluts? I mean slots..)

12. Love. Awwww. Yes. It would be great if we could improve the love for us and people like us, then we will be able to love more people beyond our comprehension and status, and eventually love people in general (that is in general, you may still hate a couple ones). Love in movies, in shows, in poems, in arts and in conversation. Love in strangers and specially those we know. Hehe, I had to finish with something utopic and Christmasy.

Thank you for reading and hope that you enjoy this 12 days of Christmas and joy. Don’t be a Grinch and get caught up in the spirit, even if it seems fake its a good excuse to give a hug and a present and eat a lot of good food. I would love to hear about your wishes so please visit, comment, subscribe and share. PEACE.

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