Explorations (**BD2 Movie Spoilers!**)

General Discussion on the Twilight Universe

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December
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Re: Explorations

Post by December » Sun Aug 15, 2010 1:41 pm

Mod's Note:

Ok....I've now caught up with the thread. I'm sorry to have missed so much the last few days -- thank you to Openhome for holding the fort in my absence! I'm sorry too, that we seem to have got off to a less than happy start, because this seems to me a topic with great potential. I trust we're on a better track now.

You will find that I have been back over the discussion with my blue pencil and made a few more edits -- I meant what I wrote in the posting rules at the beginning of this thread! To recap one more time:

• I expect courtesy towards author and fellow posters at all times, no matter what the provocation.

• The point of being on this thread is to have open, relaxed and non-confrontational exchange of ideas. If the discussion is pushing your buttons, it's time to take a break. Come back and join us when you feel able to have fun here.

• We're not here to argue or convince, we're here to probe and understand.

If I might also suggest....kindness is a much under-rated virtue. (This is actually a whole other fabulous topic I want to return to at some point -- apropos of Twilight, I mean, not board etiquette -- but that's for another day!). Especially online, where misunderstandings multiply like mosquitoes after rain, there's much to be said for being unnecessarily nice to the people around you. Commit senseless acts of random kindness....

And now...back to the discussion!
________________________________________




And oh, there are so many things I want to respond to! I think I’m going to have to address them glancingly for now. In no particular order....
Knives wrote:The way Storytelling approaches its themes and ideas has all the subtlety of a brick to the face.

Do you think this unsubtlety is essential to stories which appeal forcefully -- melodramatically -- to the reader’s emotions? Or is it just that such stories can operate unsubtly? I'm inclined to agree with Openhome that Storytelling can be more nuanced than you suggest.


Grayce wrote:Knives - Maybe you should read the posts again before you determine that this is not a conversation/discussion...

Grayce: a minor clarification -- I think you maybe misread Knives’ comment (“Grayce, the purpose of these discussion isn't an attempt at conversion - in fact, I've gotten the Mod Smack of Doom more than once for taking that tack”) and mistook “conversion” for “conversation”. I take it he was responding to your remark that:

Grayce wrote:Nothing we say or example we give is going to convince you to change your preference because your mind is set. No further discussion is necessary or desired because you can not be swayed to like this series that clearly has no redeeming qualities in your opinion. I apologize again for misunderstanding your goal.

...and noting (rightly) that this thread was set up on the clear understanding that we’re not aiming to persuade each other or change minds, but simply to understand each others’ views better. Precisely because the (overt or covert) desire to proselytize (and/or sound-off) makes for shriller discussion than a genuinely open-ended exploration of opposing views. (See the posting rules for this thread). So I think this was a genuine misunderstanding (no conversion/no conversation) between the two of you!


Knives wrote:Storytelling rules, everything is skin-deep, and any further inference is on the part of the reader alone (think of it like a meditation aid).

Twilight as mediation aid -- now this is an intriguing thought (possibly connected to our early, fumbling attempts at identifying something “mythic” in the Twilight story, to which readers are responding). Clearly, readers are taking Stephenie’s rather schematic (dare one say archetypal? Or if you prefer: merely stereotyped) story and characters, and projecting a wealth of personal associations onto it. Now maybe only the most highly imaginative readers -- skilled fantasists and fic-writers -- actually develop those associations to the point of being truly like a meditation with Twilight for its springboard. But your right that there’s clearly a significant accretion of reader-generated imagining getting layered over the bare bones of Stephenie’s story.

(Hmmm, I think I’m now turning your trope on its head, because you were picturing the successful Storyteller-Author as fleshing out the intellectual armature of their novel with the storytelling, weren’t you? Ah well, good thing that metaphor is a flexible and living thing!)


works where Authorship is the dominant force are often characterized by a profound command of the language, blunt, short prose (ironic that flowery prose - "purple" prose - is less subtle than simple sentence structures), and deliberately crafted dialogue.

Hmmm. Maybe these days. But, um...Henry James? I grant you that nowadays good elaborate prose is as rare as snow in June, but that seems to me a fact about writers not writing. (And it’s a real puzzle why it should be so -- another interesting question for sometime). Mind you, for all the melodrama of some of Stephenie’s purpler passages, I would hardly put her writing in the category of ornate and flowery prose. Seems pretty damn simple and, well, vernacular to my ear....


About Tolkien... I’m interested that you include him in the ranks of the non-Storytellers. It’s true that he doesn’t have the realist novelist’s interest in (or gift for) creating complex characters, but I certainly found myself emotionally floored by his story -- at least as much as I was bowled over by the sweep and magnificence of his world-building.


Grayce wrote:Is that not, after all, the entire purpose of fiction lit? To escape into a fictional world so that your own problems or troubles seem insignificant?

I think Knives (and others) would dispute that this is the entire purpose of literature; but I have to agree with you that it’s one of the amazing things that literature can offer. Tolkien wrote a long essay in defence of so-called “escapist” literature, as being in its own way both more practical and heroic than realist fiction. Another subject for deeper discussion!


Knives wrote:I would like to note that both pure Storytelling and pure Authorship are inherently flawed; truly great works must have both, or inevitably they'll attract as many (or more) antis as fans.


Now this puzzled me -- and made me think that the phenomenon of “antis and fans” is one that deserves interrogating. On the face of it, it’s not obvious why disagreement about literary merit should harden into the formation of self-conscious factions “for” and “against” a book or author. I can see that to be great a work probably has to excel in both “Storytelling” and “Authorship” -- but I don't see why books that fall short of greatness (as most books of course do) should attract “antis”, as such. Unless by that you simply mean “people who didn’t like the book”. (Of course, even great books have their detractors too).

There’s no question that the phenomenon of stratospherically successful novels is roiling what seemed twenty years ago to be becoming a sleepy cultural backwater, viz: literature (or if you like: reading). Harry Potter and Twilight have catapulted books back into the limelight of pop culture, so I guess it’s not so odd that, at least with these “celebrity novels”, taking a stand for or against might seem necessary -- because (as you observed) it’s almost impossible to avoid them, so completely do they (for a time) pervade the culture.

It’s also true that passionate likes and dislikes simply burn high in some readers (and intolerance is the natural condition of the young: I was simply incandescent on the subject of writers I disliked twenty years ago). This compulsion to denounce despised authors can be hard to understand if you’ve never felt it (or have outlived it); I think a lot of the mutual incomprehension (and antipathy) between antis and fans revolves around this temperamental difference.

To you (for example) it’s axiomatic that contempt demands expression, and that bad books need criticizing. You’re prepared (grudgingly) to forgo the pleasures of really swingeing denunciation because I’m not going to let you write things here that are hurtful to the author or her fans; but you do genuinely think it’s vital that legitimate criticisms be aired. The idea of quietly disliking the damn books and going your own way bothers you. Even though we’re only talking about a pop teen romance (which will almost certainly peak in popularity soon and sink back into ordinary company of other popular novels).

Whereas to Jazzgirl (for instance) and many other fans, this driving need to take a stand against a slice of popular culture you personally dislike is mystifying. As JG says: “if you don’t like it, why not just move on?”. If one’s own impulse is to simply shrug one’s shoulders at other people’s foolish fancies, the anti’s need to voice their contempt looks a bit like sheer meanness. (“I don’t go trashing your favourite authors; why do you want to trash mine?”). In general, I think, Twilight fans are less troubled than antis by culture wars, the need to define literary canon, the establishment and defence of objective aesthetic standards etc. So it’s hard for fans to see why the antis are getting so het up about Stephenie’s writing except out of some kind of tribal antagonism (our people hate your people...).


Gah! Getting sidetracked here, and I haven’t even got to your original, very intriguing distinction between, if one could so describe it, books that appeal to the mind and books that reach straight for the emotions. You've definitely articulated something I wholly agree with (and that's been discussed here in passing before): Stephenie's preternatural knack for manipulating the reader's emotions so that they become immersed in Bella's immediate experience. But this is something I really want more time to think about: best save it for another post!

Ouisa...ditto, in spades! This idea that the niceness of Stephenie’s vampires in some way expresses a shift in our attitudes towards the dark and dangerous side of sexuality....oh, I really want to think about this more!
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Re: Explorations

Post by Knives » Mon Aug 16, 2010 10:57 am

Do you think this unsubtlety is essential to stories which appeal forcefully -- melodramatically -- to the reader’s emotions? Or is it just that such stories can operate unsubtly? I'm inclined to agree with Openhome that Storytelling can be more nuanced than you suggest.
It certainly can be, but in my experience, most Storytold works don't bother. Since the only important consideration is the effect of one's work and forging a relationship with the reader, considerations like subtlety, technical prowess, layered symbolism, et cetera typically fall by the wayside. I can personally say that I've yet to meet a predominantly Storytold work that incorporates those elements, but I'll freely admit that it's probably out there, somewhere.
Twilight as mediation aid -- now this is an intriguing thought (possibly connected to our early, fumbling attempts at identifying something “mythic” in the Twilight story, to which readers are responding). Clearly, readers are taking Stephenie’s rather schematic (dare one say archetypal? Or if you prefer: merely stereotyped) story and characters, and projecting a wealth of personal associations onto it. Now maybe only the most highly imaginative readers -- skilled fantasists and fic-writers -- actually develop those associations to the point of being truly like a meditation with Twilight for its springboard. But your right that there’s clearly a significant accretion of reader-generated imagining getting layered over the bare bones of Stephenie’s story.
Emphasis Ghandi's. (Okay, I fess up, I did it. I just wanted to blame a famous dead guy >.>)

We've actually discussed this idea before in numerous other threads under the guise of numerous other concepts; Bella-as-Everygirl, Edward-as-Soulmate, et cetera, and this is one of the big reasons that Twilight comes under fire from academics a lot. People trained in literary critique tend to read the story straight and examine the concept of archetypes later, which is why you get a lot of antis from writing or college backgrounds giving the series flak for its characterizations and portrayal of relationships. Taken at literal face value, just about every relationship in the book (including Charlie's with Bella as a father) is dysfunctional, irresponsible, abusive, or any combination of the above. Taken more archetypically, these considerations fade out or move to the background. It's largely a matter of how much one project's oneself onto the novels.
(Hmmm, I think I’m now turning your trope on its head, because you were picturing the successful Storyteller-Author as fleshing out the intellectual armature of their novel with the storytelling, weren’t you? Ah well, good thing that metaphor is a flexible and living thing!)
Bend, metaphor, bend!
Hmmm. Maybe these days. But, um...Henry James? I grant you that nowadays good elaborate prose is as rare as snow in June, but that seems to me a fact about writers not writing. (And it’s a real puzzle why it should be so -- another interesting question for sometime). Mind you, for all the melodrama of some of Stephenie’s purpler passages, I would hardly put her writing in the category of ornate and flowery prose. Seems pretty damn simple and, well, vernacular to my ear....
Nowadays elaborate prose is not good. It's long-winded, needlessly complex, and confusing to the reader. Ms. Meyer's problem is not in her word choice, but in the fact that no one mailed her the "Less is More" memo. We only need so much description of the scene, and as far as Edward and Bella staring into each other's eyes goes, I was often able to skip those entire chunks without missing a beat of actual story. When your description detracts from the tale, you have a problem.
About Tolkien... I’m interested that you include him in the ranks of the non-Storytellers. It’s true that he doesn’t have the realist novelist’s interest in (or gift for) creating complex characters, but I certainly found myself emotionally floored by his story -- at least as much as I was bowled over by the sweep and magnificence of his world-building.
See, that second bit is my problem with his first bit. When I read The Lord of the Rings, I was trying to read an epic story, but this big fat planet kept parking its butt right in my way. His problem, like many writers of today, is that he didn't get edited. No one told him he was doing it wrong (or, rather, that he was doing two things very right, but that putting them together was wrong). Unlike most writers today, he didn't get edited because his doctorate in English was more or less considered to be Godlike Writing Skills, beyond any attempt at reproach. Most authors suffering from this problem today (Ms. Meyer, Mr. Paolini, the author of the Mortal Instruments series) either got published with no editor, or somehow ended up with an incompetent or a drunk monkey.

....I just imagined a drunk monkey with a red pen and a copy of Twilight. And the results are hilarious. Just...just imagine it for one moment. It'll make your day.

I'm gonna get to the rest later, when I have more time. See ya'll!

- Knives
Openhome wrote:Knives, I believe that..
wait for it...
you are right.

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Re: Explorations

Post by December » Mon Aug 16, 2010 7:05 pm

People trained in literary critique tend to read the story straight and examine the concept of archetypes later, which is why you get a lot of antis from writing or college backgrounds giving the series flak for its characterizations and portrayal of relationships. Taken at literal face value, just about every relationship in the book (including Charlie's with Bella as a father) is dysfunctional, irresponsible, abusive, or any combination of the above. Taken more archetypically, these considerations fade out or move to the background. It's largely a matter of how much one project's oneself onto the novels.

So...it's never been clear to me why a literary critique of Twilight should concern itself with whether the relationships it portrays are desirable models for real life. I grant you that as a matter of sociological fact, the intersection set of readers who are bothered by the books' validation of Edward and Bella's relationship and readers with a background in literary criticism is pretty large. But I don't really see a substantive connection. If anything, I'd have thought that if you're going to give Twilight the time of day at all from a literary standpoint (rather than simply disregarding the books as pop fiction (which is a perfectly reasonable response)), the story's archetypal underpinnings is one of the first things you'd notice. Conversely, arguments over, say, how good a father we consider Charlie would seem to belong more to fan discourse than the realm of literary analysis. But perhaps I'm being naive (and outdated) about the extent to which the academic discourse of the new century concerns itself with literature's moral import. If we are back to the Victorian preoccupation with books' "improving" qualities -- and thus focussed on their "message" -- then I suppose it follows that, say, Twilight's feminist credentials become central to any literary evaluation. What can I say? I'm left over from an earlier century....


Nowadays elaborate prose is not good. It's long-winded, needlessly complex, and confusing to the reader

Hmmm. I think we can agree that long-winded, needlessly complex and confusing is not good. So if that's your definition of "elaborate", nolo contendere. But I can't say I'd agree that the only alternative is a Hemingway-like brevity or a journalistic punchiness. Seems to me that shapely prose was the norm, not the exception, in most writers born before the 1960s (and I'm thinking non-fiction as much as fiction -- pick up any old copy of the New Yorker). Agreed, it seems to be a lost art among our generation(s); but there's still plenty of it about the place. So we may have a simple disagreement of taste here....

About Tolkien...I don't think I'm quite following you. You found his world-building annoying? His geography? His prose style? Which element of his story do you think of as its epic aspect? As far as prose-style goes, it's probably important to distinguish between the deliberately grandiose language in which the heroic or epic passages of his story are written and the more natural style he uses to chronicle the small, intimate doings of his hobbit protagonists. To my ear (and I think to Tolkien's as well, judging from his own remarks on this subject) these are pretty distinct. Not sure whether you dislike one or both (what for example do you think about his letters -- if you've read any of those?)
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Re: Explorations

Post by ringswraith » Mon Aug 16, 2010 8:13 pm

I think that what Knives was getting at with regards to Tolkien is that the story was good, the world-building was good, but the way they were put together left a bit to be desired.

I mean, when you can take a simple scene as two friends sharing a meal, and involve the texture of the wood table (which comes from a specific region up north), the earthiness of the mead (brewed right here in ThisTown and has been for well over 200 years by the WeMakeMead family, descended from the WeFermentedBarleys who helped found ThisTown in the year of YesterCentury during the reign of HighandMighty the Fifth), the rich crunch of the apples brought to ThisTown by trading caravans that pass through once every three months, bringing with them goods from CitybeyondtheSea where the earth is (supposedly) bewitched to give them this distinct flavor, like honey and sugar blended together...

Yeah. :?

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Re: Explorations

Post by Ouisa » Mon Aug 16, 2010 8:15 pm

Again I wonder if this is a function of YA versus "adult" books or is it a question of modern books versus classics.....The three authors that Knives mentions are all YA authors and I wonder if this purple prose drunk monkey style is just the shape of how YA works. Perhaps the target audience feeds off all this expansive and elaborate narrative. If this is the case, well I'm a bit sad for our kids but that's a different topic. Perhaps that is the case because those three authors (Paolini, Clare and Meyer) are selling like hotcakes right now. At the same time, I think this trend can (and should be fought) because I think there is some well crafted (authored) YA out there as well. I'm personally fond of Suzanne Collins, Kristin Cashore and Megan Whalen Turner. Turner especially, has great vocabulary and plotting.

I wonder too if it is the inexperienced author syndrome. None of the three authors Knives mentioned really have a background in authorship. Paolini wrote Eragon as a 15 year old homeschooled kid, Clare is a fan fiction writer, and well Meyer was just writing down her dreams, so perhaps they weren't taught their craft? Perhaps instead they wrote their books and then had author status thrust on them. All three are considered Cinderella stories in the publishing world. (I am not sure what Collins, Cashore, and Turner's backgrounds are-it would be interesting to see).

I have to admit, as a teacher I've struggled with the idea of teaching writing to my students. It seems to me that fiction writing is more of an art (Storytelling) that an academic skill(authorship). I know I personally couldn't tell a story that emotionally resonates with my audience (story telling). I just don't have that in me. But on the other hand, I'm an excellent editor when it comes to authorship. (not being a drunk monkey) My girlfriend is writing a book right now and I'm loving it because I can cut through all the crap...I mean purple prose....that plagues so much of the YA I'm reading right now.

I really wonder how to explore this phenomenon in popular and YA literature.....

As for Tolkien....don't get me started on the blasted songs on every other page.....
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Re: Explorations

Post by Knives » Fri Oct 08, 2010 4:15 am

I LIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIVE once more! I've got a LOT to respond to:

@December (in general): Mine (and many other readers') objection to the relationship and character portrayals in Twilight and other books stems from the reactions of the fans. Indeed, we've just resurrected ("It's ALIVE!") much older discussion scatter-gunned between other threads about Twilight as a realist story, fan reactions, author responsibility to fanbase, and media ethics. Essentially speaking, when an Anti is screaming "It's a story about a hundred year old stalker who kills a teenager after he knocks her up!" it's because they've just heard some Twi-Hard say something like, "I hope I'll find my Edward," or "Twilight really changed my life!" or, my personal favorite from my own life, "Johnny was watching me through my window last night. Isn't he so sweet?". Whether we like it or not, a book series that sinks its claws THAT deep into its fanbase's heart-hooks is going to have a profound effect on their behavior, and often it turns out that they choose to behave in the dangerous ways portrayed in the books themselves.

Plus, y'know, someone's always going to get offended about the way the relationships are portrayed in the books, purposefully or otherwise. At the very least, there's a hard core of feminists in my home town that burns a copy once a month. I didn't have the heart to tell 'em that buying the copy did Stephenie more good than burning it hurt her.

On the subject of prose, I honestly think that shorter prose is a good evolution of writing. I mean, I'm not advocating Newspeak or anything here, but after the first semicolon has been dropped and you're reaching the end of your idea, it's time to kill the damned sentence. You can evoke beautiful description without having to pack twenty pages with whatever it is you're talking about.

Rings has expressed my feelings on Tolkein perfectly.

Now, as for the Anti vs. Fan thing, there's a reason folks like me always air criticism - because that's how people improve. Cheerleading only helps in sports; everywhere else, someone needs to tell you what you're doing wrong so that you can improve it. In many cases, it's blindingly obvious that no one bothered to do this, and thus do you get a core of antis (usually starting with nascent writers like myself) that air the criticism in lieu of whoever it is that got paid to NOT DO THEIR JOB. I mean, put yourself in my shoes for a moment. I've been spending five years honing my prose and getting rejection letter after rejection letter in an attempt to be published and then that crap (Twilight/Inheritance/Mortal Instruments/Whatever) makes it past the radar? In the genre I write in? To popular freaking acclaim? Good GOD there's nothing more infuriating. It's like watching all your hard work get spat upon and then thrown into a cesspool. What have I spent all that time learning to write for?
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wait for it...
you are right.

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Re: Explorations

Post by Jazz Girl » Sun Oct 10, 2010 11:16 pm

Knives~ Essentially, what you are getting into, then, is the core difference between an anti and a fan. When one says, "It's a story about a hundred year old stalker who kills a teenager after he knocks her up!", the other will always say, "Either you didn't read the book and are reacting to what you've been told happened or you read the book but only saw what you expected to see." It is a classic stalemate, an impasse, if you will. Because it brings the discussion back to, as you brought up, the conversations that have gone on in this and so many other forums about fan reaction and realism vs fantasy. An anti will always see what they want to see and interpret what they see to the negative. A fan will always see what they see and interpret it to the positive. And, if the sides are screaming, than no one is going to listen.

Although, I have to say, I fail to see how someone saying, "I hope I meet my Edward," or, "Twilight changed my life," would be a bad thing. On another forum, the question was asked if the character of Edward Cullen created unrealistic expectations for readers. I will answer the same way here as I did there. If by finding their Edward, they mean that they wish to find someone they see as a gentleman, who is caring, unafraid to openly show affection, intelligent and who learns from his many mistakes, then absolutely, I am glad that Edward has created unrealistic expectations. I think we should all hold out for someone who has those qualities. Granted, I know that you do not see Edward in the same light I do, the same light that the majority of us here do. But, I think that the larger picture of that statement is that that person isn't settling for something less than what they think is their ideal. They are holding out for a partner who meets those "unrealistic expectations" rather than accepting someone less just for the sake of having someone.

Twilight has definitely changed my life and for the better. Because of Twilight, I have met hundreds of new people, found new friends both online and in real life, opened new avenues of communication with my children, found new professional connections, identified new ways to discuss difficult concepts with the teenagers with whom I work, and found a new happy place to escape when real life needs a few hours off. I guess it keeps boiling down to the fact that what one person finds wrong, others may find very right.

Believe me when I say I can understand and identify with your frustration with those whom you feel are less technically skilled finding greater acceptance and success. But, the literary world is a very subjective one. There are many authors out there, very successful ones, that I have absolutely no understanding of how they are published, let alone read by thousands or even millions. Like any artform (and writing, as technical as it can be, is an artform), what resonates with one will not always speak to others.

And, as for your group of "hard core feminists"... well, they don't necessarily speak for ALL feminists. Speaking loudly doesn't always mean speaking intelligently.
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Re: Explorations

Post by Ouisa » Mon Oct 11, 2010 10:41 pm

Knives: I think in any profession it's easy to look at others and draw comparisons. I'm faced with the same dilemma in my chosen profession. There was a job I wanted, someone got it whose qualifications are (in my view) less than mine. The person is (in my view) doing far less than I would, and yet in the end it's his job. And though the rejection stung and it took three more months for me to get hired, in the end I'm happier for it. I can't say why my co-worker got the job he did and I can't say why other books far less well written than yours (not that I've read it) have been published and received with great acclaim. I'm not a fan (anymore) of the works you cite. In fact I'm frustrated with the YA genre as a whole. I think the quality of writing out right now is insipid. But just like my co-worker and I, there is nothing I do about it and focusing on his work keeps me from doing mine. In the end, perhaps one has to find their own peace with their life and the manner in which it unfolds.
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Re: Explorations

Post by rollie715 » Wed Oct 13, 2010 12:24 pm

Knives, I appreciate and even agree with you on many points. Even though I have defended Twilight various times in the past and shared my deep passion for many of it's attributes, I agree with the PG-13 rating which suggests that responsible adults help guide the impressionable youth through this journey. As with many other subjects, we need to be careful what we allow our kids to experience and be influenced by.
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Re: Explorations

Post by Knives » Wed Oct 13, 2010 11:59 pm

So ya'll know, the reason I'm not replying is that I'm waiting on Openhome to post. Blame her :P
Openhome wrote:Knives, I believe that..
wait for it...
you are right.

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