Alton Anthem (F# major)

We named a street after Martin Luther King so you can

Shut up!

We’re renovating the Grand Theatre—all are welcome not like when it opened

Shut up!

We hired blacks in our factories okay the Feds made us but

Shut up!

We ended discrimination in our stores and restaurants ergo

Shut up!

We don’t redline anymore… mostly I think anyway

Shut up!

Are you black I don’t see color I see the person and you can

Shut up!

We reach out to you ask you questions why can’t you get over it so

Shut up!

We didn’t own slaves…our forefathers did but hey

Shut up!

We earned our way why can’t you

Shut up!

Africans owned slaves like everybody else… except me

Shut up!

Respect the police okay a rogue or two shot you just get over it

Shut Up!

There will never be a black mayor blacks can’t lead just saying

Shut up!

Superintendent J. B. Johnson: blacks don’t value education but but but now he gone so you

Shut up!

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Boy Uninterrupted

They walk into the diner, mother and father in their late forties, and towheaded Junior, maybe ten. They sit at a round table, Junior across from Dad and Mom at Junior’s left arm. Junior takes out an I-Pad, inserts earphones, and starts watching.

Dad gets up, pulls Junior up and removes his coat, Junior all the time absorbed with the device. Dad nudges the oblivious Junior forward until his waist bumps the table; Dad pushes the chair until it contacts Junior’s knees and Junior plops down, never once distracted away from his device.

Dad and Mom look at each other, not a word spoken. The waitress takes their order—Mom orders for Junior—and leaves. Dad says something angry to Mom and points an index finger at her. She shrugs.

They pull out their smart phones, each in their own world. Junior is lost in something on his I-Pad. It could be porn, for all his parents know.

This is Neo-America. Lifeless, bloodless, unspoken save for anger.

A teacher will have to deal with Junior tomorrow. He or she, by talking, will interrupt Junior’s life. He will be waiting and clock watching for the moment he can open his I-Pad, stuff in his earphones, block off all outside engagement and get back to Magic World where nothing is real. He is a quantum physicist and doesn’t know it.

I eat breakfast, grateful to get out of my house after the snowstorm. I glance at Junior from time to time. Only his fingers and eyes move.

The waitress brings their food. Mom takes her plate and Junior’s. Dad takes his. He digs in, she digs in, stopping between bites to remind Junior to eat. She contacts his left arm, he brushes her away and snarls.

This is Neo-America. Lifeless, bloodless, unspoken save for anger.

Why did Mom and Dad have a kid? When they courted, did they talk of having a kid? Did they name him “My Boy Bill,” and smile at the thought of the future? Did they kiss and feel each other, drench each other in each other’s holy sweat? Did they wake up after the honeymoon, Peggy Lee on the record player, singing, “Is That All There Is?”

I wanted to kidnap the kid. Take away his devices and take him on a hike. He will be attending to me in the old folk’s home, and he will hate my guts, hate my shit and sweat and sores and smells and quotes from Beckett and cries for my dazzling life my precious life.

“Brook Shields kissed me on a TV show,” I’ll cry, “when my first play was Off Broadway, and I sat next to Alexander Hamilton’s grave and ate my sandwich, on the way to the theatre, on 43rd Street.”

Junior will slap my face, stare dead-eyed at me, dare me to tell another story and another. He will take me out with a pillow on my face.

And I will deserve it. I invented electronics that suck life from children. I burned coal for heat and devoured everything in my path. I turned the Grand Canyon into the Grand Canyon Casino. I gave two dollars to homeless people and two hundred dollars for the latest machine that could smash fruit. I fucked my way through the seventies no thoughts and prayers for the girls that mistook Gene for Judas, a role I played. I deadened myself with any and all things that could put me to sleep.

So: A reckoning. Junior cometh.
This is Neo-America. Lifeless, bloodless, unspoken save for anger.
Coming soon to a nursing home near you.

 

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Genehouse Movie Review: “The Rider”

Genehouse Movie Review “The Rider”

“The Rider” is one of the most beautiful and moving films I have ever seen, uplifting, gorgeous (the canvas is the Badlands in South Dakota), haunting.

“After a riding accident leaves him unable to compete on the rodeo circuit, a young cowboy searches for a new purpose.” If you are adverse, to “rodeo circuit” or “cowboy,” you are robbing yourself of an unforgettable experience.

The kicker is the story is not only real, but the cowboy and his autistic teen sister and his ne’er do well father are all actual family members, filmed in their real house and ranch, with chunks of the film showing their actual daily lives. And it works to perfection. A fourth character is a quadriplegic boy also hurt in a horrific accident, also played by the actual guy. The fifth character is the stunning landscape itself, reminding me of the wonderful film, “Nebraska” where the sky was a character.

Brady, Lilly and Tim Jandreau play themselves. Brady is a horse whisperer, a term I thought was made-up. In fact, you will see Brady win over three horses in real time. Lilly, clearly autistic, improvises, and her monologues (you’ll never forget her rant on bras) are exquisite. Add to the mix the actual townspeople (again, like “Nebraska”) and the genius director, Chinese American Chloe Zhao, whose previous work, “Songs My Brothers Taught Me” is also filmed on an Indian reservation in the Badlands.

You will see some rodeo, minus the macho. You will see boys who believe that cowboy is a sacred calling. You will see a shockingly handicapped cowboy, Brady’s best friend, heroically work his way through therapy. You will see a rare father/son relationship, flawed and utterly full of love. And you will see aching sunrises and sunsets illuminated in the purple haze of the Badlands.

This is a film that families can watch together. This is a film free of politics and judgement. This is a film that will fill you with emotion, wonder and awe.

I hadn’t heard of “The Rider.” A new librarian at the Hayner Library mall site, a kid with a passion for films and who knows my tastes, handed me the DVD of “The Rider.” I asked why I would want to see a rodeo movie. He told me to just sit back and watch, that I would be caught up instantly. And I was.

“The Rider” is a splendid, immersive film, one of the best about relationships without a single false beat.  “If an animal around here gets hurt like I did, they get put down,” Brady says. “I was only kept alive because I’m human, and that’s not enough.”

Indeed. If you long for beauty and uplift, if Nature wrenches your soul, watch “The Rider.”

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In the Forsythia Ballroom

In the Forsythia Ballroom

drab in winter but colored bird

song sparrows sin and sing scat

swinging cardinals dance the Bounce

The balcony section, Honeysuckle,

upside down, man, with nuthatches

powdered snow confetti raining down

 

In the Forsythia Ballroom,

Oh, dig them juncos’ dance on ice

the necking finches in their booths swaying

birds air trumpeting Bird

of a feather of titmice footprints

No chicks allowed no smoking

but drinking smashberry wine

vaping vamping very verisimilitude

you dig, no, really, you dig

 

In the Forsythia Ballroom

the lights fade to silver to thread

let’s kick back bug cocktails

make bird babies

let’s thrum throat drum let’s twist

whose bushes these are

this cheap motel branch

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A Christmas Story

Last night, I got up to pee. I walked into the bathroom in the dark, and released Gene Creek into the Great Basin, in the dark, when I looked down and saw a moving shadow in the bowl. Remembering that a friend of mine had a snake come into his house through the toilet, I jumped back and fumbled for the light.
 
It was a mouse, floating in circles in the wake of the Gene Creek release of water. It had a red tail. It had a corded red tail. Both of its white eyes were on one side of its head. It was a toy mouse.
 
As far as I knew, only one critter in the house could fling a toy mouse with a corded red tail into the air so that said mouse could fly and land in the Great Basin. That critter, a certain feline, was lying on her back, on the living room couch, fast asleep, and she was emitting a mother-in-law snore. You know: “wheeWheeWHEE-unhhhhh.” “wheeWheeWHEE-unhhhhh.”
 
Meanwhile, I had a toy mouse problem: how to extract it from the Yellow Sea. Maybe you have a relationship with your pee. I do not. With your pee, or my pee.
 
I settled on a pair of tongs, which I use to manipulate grilled chicken. I carried the tongs to the bathroom and plunged them into the Yellow Sea. The toy mouse, like a ship without a rudder, moved counter clockwise around and around the bowl. Finally, with the finesse of a jeweler about to cut a diamond, I slowly closed the tongs until they gripped the mouse.
 
“Hurrah,” I cried.
 
I lifted the dripping mouse up, which is how I knew it was dripping, which told me I had a further problem, how not to drip pee drops on the floor.
 
I lowered the mouse back into the Great Basin, only this time it boated clockwise. The feline now snored loud enough to cause a change on the Richter scale: “wheeWheeWHEE-unhhhhh.” “wheeWheeWHEE-unhhhhh.”
 
I walked back to the kitchen. Notice, English students, that perfect declarative sentence, clean and clear, direct. But… add one word: “Naked,” I walked back to the kitchen. Notice how “naked” adds drama. I walked back into the kitchen. Who cares? Naked, I walked back into the kitchen— “eeeew,” or “ooooh.” See?
 
You brazenly walk naked around your house, you know you do, like Donald Trump. Do you walk furtively? Like you were guilty of something? Yes, you do The Donald.
 
Naked (furtively), doing The Donald, I fetched the empty bag which held this night’s chicken bones, and with chicken bag and tongs, I walked back to the bathroom. And tripped and dropped the chicken tongs into the Great Basin.
 
Now (naked), I had a bag of chicken bones but no plucker. You can’t get far in the mouse toy fetching business without a plucker. Worst of all, I was waking up, and “The Little Drummer Boy,” the Bing Crosby version, began to play and replay in my head.
 
“Come, they told me, Parumpum-pum-pum!”
 
“wheeWheeWHEE-unhhhhh.” “wheeWheeWHEE-unhhhhh.”
 
Bing Crosby: “Come, they told me, Parumpum-pum-pum!”
 
I screamed for courage and lowered myself to one knee, plunged my right hand into the Great Basin and plunked the toy mouse with the red, corded tail into the bag of chicken bones, and plucked out the grilled chicken tongs, put my right hand into the bag of chicken bones and proceeded to the sink where I washed the soiled appendage and the plucker.
 
Bing Crosby: “Come, they told me. Parumpum-pum–”
 
The snoring had stopped.
 
The feline was standing in the doorway with yet another corded-tail toy mouse in her mouth. She lowered her head in preparation for a launch.
 
Quickly (and naked), I lowered the lid of the great basin, the motion of which made my “boys” … well, Bing Crosby: “Parumpum-pum-pum!”
 
The feline laughed. The effing feline watched my “boys” … you know, Bing Crosby: Parumpum-pum-pum! and laughed at me.
 
So, I skulked back to bed. I pulled on some sweat pants, to hide my furtive nakedness from myself, took a couple hits from that pipe you don’t tell Grandma about, and gradually I fell asleep.
 
I was having a pleasant dream. I was standing under a waterfall, and the jazz goddess Esperanza Spaulding was there playing her bass fiddle. I reached to touch her…
 
And I woke. Someone was in my bed. I reached and touched a bony shoulder. The owner of the shoulder turned and kissed me, beard stubble caressing—
 
Esperanza Spaulding has beard stubble?
 
He—HE—sang: “Come, they told me, Parumpum-pum-pum!”
 
And from the living room came such a clatter: “wheeWheeWHEE-unhhhhh.” “wheeWheeWHEE-unhhhhh.”
 
Merry Christmas from Gene and Scout.
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Read My Lips

For several minutes, Senator Bob Dole, wheelchair bound, sat in silence before the body of President Bush. His jaws clenched repeatedly; he might have been chewing gum. He watched unblinking, thinking, no doubt, of his old friend, of war.

And then an aide helped him up and out of the wheelchair, and Dole, for a split second, with support from two men, stood ramrod straight and saluted with trembling fingers, George H. W. Walker Bush.

I literally bawled out loud. This moment should have been the wakeup call for Republicans who have lost their way. Senator McConnell and his Ayn Rand-loving ilk should have come here and asked Bush and Dole for forgiveness. Begged for forgiveness. And resigned immediately. And left the rotunda with honor.

Only then, could I forgive them. For only now will a revolution restore order in a house of obsequiousness, of japery: of madmen.

I remember young Bob Dole, pencil clenched in his fist, acerbic wit, flawed like the rest of us, loyal to a fault to his country, to its people. I remember George H. W. Bush, on “Saturday Night Live,” mocking himself, graceful and gracious. I remember these two men, with our fathers, facing the long day’s journey into the night of Europe and Japan, and they went forward, and they served. And yes, our troops were segregated, and only a few of our fathers came home and told us that secret, that segregation and Jim Crow infected us even in the trenches.

But they went forward. And our black fathers and brothers went forward.

Names like Nixon and Trump and Father Coughlin and McCarthy and Cohn, and now Gingrich and Hannity and Coulter and Huckabee, are affronts to decency, patriotism, world citizenry.

Bob Dole must have awakened this morning, having told his aides that he would stand and salute or die trying. He had a packed resume filled with “die trying” moments. There must have been muttering, over coffee, and venting about Mad King Donald. Millions of mourners, this morning, respecting the wishes of the House of Bush, must have also pledged to not let their feelings get the best of them: this was the day to honor and respect.

It is like meditation, willing a trance state to blot out myriad dark thoughts, to nerve block national pain, to remember the heroes, and to not mock the human viruses of our House, which are trying to subjugate us.

Republicans in North Carolina and Wisconsin and Michigan, even as a great Republican lies in state, are subverting the law, to steal the power of votes, to still resonant voices. They are doing this on our day of mourning. They should be dragged outside and put in stocks and let the winter shred their effrontery, let the gods of wind shriek in their ears.
In North Dakota, on this day, Ruth Buffalo, a Native American in full tribal dress, was sworn in to her state government. The pols standing behind her worked tirelessly to subvert the Indian vote. Yet, she did not gloat. She said she was ready to go to work.

In Southern Illinois, on this day, in the name of my fallen brother Ted Shobe, I am ready to go to work. In Upstate New York, on this day, my cousin Janet is ready to go to work. In Wisconsin, my brothers Fred and John, on this day, are ready to go to work. In Milwaukee, on this day, my sister Martha is ready to go to work. In Portland, Oregon, on this day, my brother James is ready to go to work. In Golconda, Illinois, on this day, my sister Liz is ready to go to work. In Florida, on this day, my brother Don is ready to go to work. In Elsah, Illinois, on this day, my sister Sheila S. is ready to got to work. In Jackson, Tennessee, on this day my brother Paul Jacobson and sister Vicki Stedman Pope are ready t go to work.In Atascadero, California, on this day, my brother David Mulvey is ready to go to work.

On this day, let us pause and give thanks for every decent human on earth whom faced adversity and persevered. Let us all praise President George H. W. Bush and Senator Bob Dole. Let us all plead for the silent Christians, who will not denounce the charlatans speaking for them, to find their moral voice.

Never: was a fight won with inaction, with blindness, with fear. Rise up, my loved ones. Sharpen your words
.
The time is now.

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Cookin’

 
I stopped by Farmer Orville and Quilt Queen’s house this afternoon. The kitchen was full of great-grandkids, babies mostly. The ones that could walk were scarfing M&M’s. Orville held Jude, who suddenly turned red-faced and exploded out the rear, and Orville handed him off to a daughter in law.
 
“Oh,” a great-granddaughter-in- law exclaimed, “you are the writer who made Grandpa famous.”
 
It’s true. A hundred people I know have stopped by just to meet my banty-rooster of a friend. Orville is known in California (Linda baby, Dave baby,) Texas (miss you, Teddy), Washington DC (hi James!), Tennessee (Jake and Vicki—yo!), Florida (Don-boy, love you), Chicago (Kimster and kin with no parking, Toni and girls—heart!), elsewhere, not to mention here (Sheila S., s’up?). He now charges twenty dollars for his autograph.
 
The adult parents of all the babies were out seeking wi-fi, and though I volunteered Genehouse, I look like loopy Uncle Larry who might grab a feel, so no one came.
 
Quilt Queen was cooking a twenty-six-pound turkey, which in many countries would feed the masses. There were five pies: three pumpkin, an apple for some weirdo, and a blackberry from last summer’s crop, and I was given a choice as to what kind of pie I would take home. I chose the blackberry, sure proof that I am sane, and Orville cut me a slice narrower than the width of my hand: “We got twenty guests tomorrow.”
 
I went outside into the sun, the earth softening from the fifty-five-degree day, no sign of the six- inch snow from last week which lasted twenty minutes. Ruby Puppy and Bud (who should be dead: Orville dug a hole for the old hound, but he rallied nicely and now there is a grave awaiting a volunteer) made sure my face and hands were slick with dog slime.
 
I carried my piece of pie across the highway and sat on the stoop and watched the birdfeeder. In attendance were nuthatches, chickadees, blue jays, cardinals, tufted titmice, a redheaded woodpecker and some downy woodpeckers, juncos and finches. The nuthatches have tamed me now. If they think I’m not doing my job as the god of seeds, they perch upside down on the front of my sweatshirt and cluck at me.
 
There were Pilgrims, of course, but there was no first Thanksgiving back when. If the Pilgrims ate, it was eels and insects washed down with swill whiskey—you couldn’t drink the swamp water. After dinner, they slaughtered Indians for fun or got slaughtered back. There was no Monopoly or bingo to play, so violence—now we call it football—was the parlor game. They all had large families, which gave the fathers sexual choices girl-wise; the Little House On the Prairie was down the timeline a piece.
 
America is the biggest myth of them all, combining Norse and Dutch and German and African and Spanish and Indian and Asian myths all into our national glitter ball. But: you needn’t tell you kids that. They’re already high on Santy Claus and the Easter Bunny and White Jesus and the climate lie which will kill the babies—that’s enough sugar for one day.
 
Annie Hall—sorry, Ronan Farrow, actually, I’m not a bit sorry, you parlayed a fantasy into a seat on The New Yorker magazine—sends us all a la-di-da.
From Scout the Cat and loopy Uncle Larry Gene: Happy Thanksgiving.
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The Little Girls of Birmingham

“The Little Girls of Birmingham”
 
The little girls of Birmingham sing,
in their grandpas’ arms forever:
“Will there be a time, no struggles then,”
and the angel grandpas sing: “Never, never
Never, never,
No struggles never.
Never.”
 
The little girls of Birmingham
all sparkly from stardust,
Look down on earth and shake their heads,
Sing: They will never understand us,
Never, never,
Never, fornever,
Understand us ever,
Never.
 
The little girls of Birmingham,
the four of them our daughters,
Our tears fall on their broken bones,
The waters turn to River song:
River, River,
River, river,
Neverlasting river,
River.
 
The little girls of Birmingham sing,
In their aunties’ arms forever:
“Will there ever be no fear?”
The aunties whisper: “Never, never,
Never, never,
Struggles last forever,
Never no fear, ever,
Never.”
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“The Assassination of Jamal Khashoggi by the Coward Prince bin Salman”

Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, a former Saudi royal insider become dissident, has been tortured, murdered and mutilated inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey. He was a Virginia resident.

President Trump made it clear that Khashoggi’s death would not stop the profitable arms dealing between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia. Nor, one presumes, will it stop the close friendship between the smirking Fascist Jared Kushner and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who “Sixty Minutes” profiled as a hipster who allowed Saudi women to drive.

The blood of thousands of Yemenis, including women and children, is on the hands of the hipster, making him the hippest mass murderer in history.

Jamal Khashoggi was killed for speaking. Journalists are being killed at alarming rates around the world. Our corrupt president’s obsession with journalists at home and “fake news” makes it inevitable that an American journalist will be killed.

If you think if can’t happen here, consider that Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward, who brought down a sitting president, lived in constant terror during the Watergate period. After all, Nixon discussed surrounding American cities with tanks and soldiers and declaring martial law. Henry Kissinger was calling the shots, he of the democratically elected Chilean government overthrow scheme fame who, on tape, ordered Pinochet dissidents to be thrown from helicopters.

Current American journalists under death threats: CNN’s Brian Stelter, Sacramento Valley Mirror editor and publisher Tim Crews, Oakland Tribune intern Anna Galledos, American Urban Radio Networks White House reporter April Ryan, New York Times journalist Kenneth Vogel, Associate Press reporter Amanda Lee Meyers; and the list goes on.

Two private jets loaded with Saudi hitmen, an autopsy specialist and a bone saw landed in Turkey, and were driven to the Saudi consulate. On tape, Khashoggi can be seen walking into the consulate (he needed papers that would allow him and his fiancée to wed). He does not come back out. Two hours later, his car is towed. The Turkish government has said they have audio recordings of Khashoggi being tortured and dismembered (it is rare that a government reveals what we all know, that countries bug their embassies).

According to Bob Woodward’s book “Fear,” Trump is a big fan of right-wing dictators. He is constantly on the lookout for ways to suppress free speech. Today’s plan is to ban protesters from the Washington Mall. Yesterday’s plan was to locate and censor Trump critics on Facebook. Not going to happen, head-in-the-sand Facebook users?

I in no way put myself on the journalist list. A column in the Alton Telegraph doesn’t qualify. Yet: a trusted friend was approached in his church, asked if I was his friend (I had written about him) and told to tell me I had better stop writing what I write. You need to get a gun, the friend told me.

The journalists I mentioned have had to hire security details, arm themselves, purchase attack dogs bred to fight. For whom are they fighting? For whom are they risking their lives? For what? How do they bear our seeming indifference?

For the truth. Even if the truth kills you.

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Rude Hogs

Remember the W.C. Fields film “If I had a Million?” Our hero inherits money, buys an endless string of cars and drivers, and takes off on the highway, deliberately crashing into cars he perceives to be a public menace. After every crash, W.C. shouts, “Take that, you road hog!”

Which led me to think: Genehouse, what could you do to be part of the solution? And then it hit me.

I have previously stated that conceal carry is a practice of cowards. The actual perceived “need” for conceal carry, of course, is to keep yourself safe from black people. Your gun makes your dick bigger, right?

But I’m rethinking my stance on the issue. IF. If conceal carry advocates will agree to channel their aggression away from black people and perform the following public service.

1. Shoot all users of scooters in St. Louis. Yes, tourists and fat St. Louis residents are using rental scooters to ride around St. Louis. They ignore the “no riding on sidewalks” rule, and scoot along and shout, “Excuse me, excuse me!” Oh, to see a conceal carrier wheel around and shout, “Oh! Excuse me, you rude hog!” And blast the scoots to the Kingdom of Hell.

2. Tailgaters. Drive along Route 3 in Godfrey. When a tailgater approaches your bumper, slam on the brakes, get out of your car, wait for the driver to give you the finger, then pull your Glock 9 and shout, “I’ll shoot my gun, gun, gun till my daddy takes my pistol away, you rude hog!” Then send that (usually a millennial) kid (usually a female) to that place where they roast kids for din-din!

3. People in the express checkout line at Schnucks with 21 items. When the offender places that 21st item on the belt, pull your Ruger and say, “Remove that item or I will plug your melons!” And if that item remains, and the customer tells you to chill, shoot that sum bitch to that warm resort south of Earth’s crust where he will have to wait in line for eternity.

4. Rude diners. This is a wait-staff conceal carry provision. When your customer says, “Hey girlie, you’re new here, I want you to know your tip depends how you treat me (I swear to god, I heard this yesterday),” Pull out your .45 and say, “Enjoy THIS tip, you rude hog” and fill that hungry scumbag with lead and sesame seed dressing.

5. Walmart shopping cart speeders. You’re walking along, reading aisle signs, when a speeder on a cell phone whips out of aisle 6 across your bow, forcing you to stop or crash. Stop. Shout, “Hey, Trumpy, phone this, you rude hog!” Pull your .22. Aim. Think of the speeder’s ass as a target, with his asshole the bullseye. You get 5 Walmart dollars for a hit, 10 for a crack shot and 20 dollars for the bullseye. If you’re in the appliance area, the shit hits the fan!

It’s a win-win! No blacks shot, no stand your ground bullshit, BUT you get to ejaculate bullets and we will cheer!

Genehouse Inc.: Solving problems since 2015. Our motto: “Take that, you rude hogs!”

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