Book Report: Whoppers: Tall Tales and Other Lies Collected From American Folklore by Alvin Schwartz (1975)

Book coverI bought this book last year on an ABC Books order during the Great What-The-Hell-Were-They-Thinkingening.

The book reminds me of some of the Ozarks humor books I read. The chapters segment the book into different categories like Ordinary People, Ordinary Events, Fancy Clothes and Narrow Escapes, Animals and Insects, The Weather, and Putrefactions and Other Wonders. The zingers range from one sentence of hyperbole to a couple paragraphs or pages of a tall tale punctuated with cartoonish illustrations. (The celebrated jumping frog does not appear).

I picked it up for a quick read, and it’s not a deep dive into Paul Bunyan or Pecos Bill, but they make their appearances. I am sure the fact that it was a children’s book made it quicker; I don’t remember what I was thinking back when I ordered it, but I am sure I was not specifically seeking out children’s books for quick reads.

Although it sometimes happens that way.

An amusing hour or two’s worth of reading for kids or their adult equivalents.

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Book Report: I Remember Vince Lombardi by Mike Towle (2001)

Book coverI got this book at the same time that I bought Life After Favre, so I read it soon after the latter book as a palate cleanser.

This book is structured a little like Louder than Hell: The Definitive Oral History of Heavy Metal. The chapters represent different eras of Lombardi’s coaching career, from high school to West Point to the New York Giants and then, finally, as head coach of the Green Bay Packers (and the Washington Redskins, they tell me, but it was a very brief visit before he passed away). Within each chapter, we’ve got quotations from different people broken into blocks of a couple paragraphs preceded by their names and relationships with Lombardi. So it’s like an oral history.

You know what? I read books about Lombardi, and I’m fascinated. I mean, I read Run to Daylight, and I read Instant Replay (twice) where Lombardi appears, but this book reveals some of him that I’d have to go to a biography to get otherwise.

Like when he was a high school coach, he was also a teacher, and that he taught physics and chemistry. He went to Mass every day. And he knew Latin and liked to play Latin conjugation games with old school friends. Incredible. Here, I read an English literary novel and maybe a classic or two every year and think I’m something special. Sadly, in this day, maybe I am. But perhaps it would be better were I a dullard.

I flagged just a couple bits of trivia for noting:

Even Then
A player who started with Lombardi in the 1950s says:

As the defensive signal caller, that meant I would get on the headphones with him when I came to the sideline, and he would tell me what he thought we ought to call and why and what changes we ought to make and other things.

This was the middle of the 20th century. We think that the technology is fairly new, with the green dot headsets. But they did certain things even then. One has to wonder if the constant chatter in the helmet has made things better or worse. And whether putting the radios into other players would make them feel like video game characters instead of men (who are playing a game, but still, they’re the ones playing the game.


A sports columnist wrote about Lombardi going to coach the Redskins:

“It is true that our hero has treated us rather shabbily at the end. Vince Lombardi has gone off, without asking us about it, and made himself a deal in a foreign land to the east. He has cast us aside, rather roughly at that. It is probably true that our former idol has been crafty, calculating, even a little deceitful with us.”

Well, as you know, gentle reader, Aaron Rogers is playing the Brett Favre game this summer, perhaps for the first time, perhaps for the only time. Even Vince Lombardi left Green Bay, but he’s more fondly remembered than Brett Favre and probably Aaron Rogers will be because he didn’t drag it out. He just left. Of course, he died shortly thereafter with only some success in Washington. Who knows how it would have been if he’d lived longer and had beaten Green Bay a couple of times. Probably, though, the clean break would have been good enough.

At any rate, a pleasant read if you’re a Packers fan or if you like excellence.

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And We’re Back–The Excitement Awaiting Us At Home

So we returned from our vacation on Saturday–we got home about 1pm after departing around 9 from De Soto, and we had to re-route around a traffic incident on Highway 44.

Now, when I return home, I have a little trepidation about what might have transpired while we were gone. I generally shut down the computers and whatnot, and I don’t recall if I ever had an instance where the machine failed to start after a vacation–I had an old Packard Bell with Windows 95 that was prone to throwing a shoe on reboot, requiring me to restore from the company-provided CD many times, so it’s not outside the realm of possibility. And who knows what else? At the very least, a thorough housecleaning, at least as thorough as we get at Nogglestead even though we cleaned ahead of the trip. And lots of laundry.

The heavily armed pet sitter managed to keep the Vikings at bay. None of the cats were forgotten and locked into some confined space without food or water for days, emerging emaciated or not at all. But the trouble began immediately.

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Book Report: Rescue Run The Executioner #204 (1995)

Book coverAll right, then, let’s skip ahead. The last Executioner novel I read was Lethal Agent from 1994 when I was just embarking on a romance with the girl whom everyone thought I would marry. This book came out two years later, and I was on the verge of ending that relationship. Well, maybe not that close: I don’t have my resume handy, but at the end of 1995, I was done working at the industry magazine where I’d had a temporary Assistant Editor position for a special project, and I’d not shone enough to extend it, so I was only working at Sappington Farmers Market. I was at loose ends of a sort. But in a couple of months, I’d land my job as a printer that would put my workplace halfway to Columbia, and in about a year I would meet my beautiful wife. So that late mid nineties period is a bit of a blur of changing jobs and circumstances. Which is more than you hoped to get from a book report, gentle reader, but these subscription titles are also a prompt for me to reflect where I was when these books were fresh on the grocery store racks.

At any rate, this book takes place in Rwanda right after/during the unpleasantness of the middle 1990s. A visiting theatre/variety act troop including an aging woman star (she’s like old, man: she’s like forty), an older (sixties) star of westerns who dresses more like Roy Rogers than John Wayne, a young action star who thinks he’s God’s gift to women, and a makeup artist, escape renewed fighting while they’re performing–a native promoter leads them to safety and hides them in one of his hideouts. Bolan gets sent in to find them and rescue them because…. Well, I forget; essentially, it’s because this is an Executioner novel.

So the book goes between Bolan and his allies looking for the theater troupe and the theatre troupe on the run, a nice blend. A subplot involves the action hero behaving dangerously boorishly and a budding romance between the Western star and the actress.

One of the hard men who helps Bolan is nicknamed Tater, which is kind of funny in 2021, where a CNN host has been nicknamed Tater by elements of the conservative blogosphere, and picturing the CNN host as an action hero does not compute.

So worthier of a read than others in the series, like the next one which I’ll get around to reporting on in the next couple of weeks–movies, books, and audio courses are piling up, and I’m not spending a lot of time at my desk this summer.

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Good Book Hunting, Thursday, June 10, 2021: Webster Groves, Missouri, Book Stores

Gentle reader, it has been over a decade since we left Old Trees, Missouri. Back when we left or shortly thereafter, one could buy books at The Webster Groves Book Shop or Pudd’nhead Books in Old Orchard. My, times have changed. Now you can buy books at The Novel Neighbor and the (new) Webster Groves Book Shop. So it’s kind of the same, except that it’s not. Old Trees was very maskappy, with a lot of people masked up.

But they were near the old homestead, and I was jonesing for more books for my vacation. And I felt compelled to pick up something at each place.

At The Novel Neighbor, I had to wander the store a number of times before I finally picked up The Vintage Geek, a quiz book about “geek” stuff that I thought perhaps we could quiz each other on the ride home. As it stands, though, when the car starts, the devices turn on, and I watch the road and listen to lectures.

At the new location of The Webster Groves Book Shop, I was also kind of flummoxed as to what to buy until I found the local author’s section, where I found:

  • Coffee Is Cheaper Than Therapy by Ann Conklin Unruh.
  • Nuts About Squirrels by Don Corrigan.
  • Selected Poems by Mary Phelan.
  • White Knight Escort Service by Leah Holbrooke Sackett.

So that’s five books at full price. Which was expensive. But it might have saved my vacation, as it gave me a couple of interesting things to read not only at the resort in De Soto, but also into the future.

Sadly, though, I only know one of the authors. Although Don Corrigan, the editor of some of the local free papers, did publish one of my letters back in the day.

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Someone’s Sense of History Needs Glasses

Springfield organization reminisces over the past by opening time capsule:

2020 marked 50 years for a local organization focused on making north Springfield a better place to work and live.

The celebration was pushed back a year because of the pandemic, but on Saturday, June 12, The North Springfield Betterment Association got to honor its 50th anniversary by opening a time capsule it hid in the courthouse 10 years ago, on the group’s 40th anniversary.

A ten-year-old time capsule? C’mon, man, I’ve got boxes in my store room that I haven’t opened in ten years. That’s not a time capsule. I’m just a pack rat, but not one that has to pet his Commodore or Texas Instruments peripherals that frequently. Come to think of it, the boxes in my store room contain more historical stuff than something tucked away in 2011.

However, I suppose it’s good for a press release to get one’s organization’s name on television.

Woman makes ‘weirdest’ discovery inside nightstand she bought at thrift shop:

A woman who bought a set of secondhand nightstands at a thrift store got a blast from the past when she found an old note stuffed inside, she claimed in a viral TikTok video.

TikTok user Valencia said the nightstands she bought from a Goodwill shop contained a note, clearly scribbled by a kid, with her home phone number from 15 years ago and her mom’s cellphone number, reported.

“The weirdest thing just happened, and I’m not making this up. I literally don’t care how many people comment and say ‘Oh my God, this was staged,’” she said in the viral video.

“My heart’s like a little trembly. This is really cool.”

Valencia said the note specifically said “Carly’s home number and mum’s mobile number” — and then explained that her little sister’s name is Carly and the home phone was her family’s landline in the early aughts.

Fifteen years? That’s the equivalent of pre-history. If it’s not on YouTube or TikTok, its truthiness is questionable, ainna?

Bah; I have stuff on hand here that has phone numbers where the exchange is spelled out, child, so don’t tell me about how landlines are old things only found in archeological digs.

My goodness, these people really do think that the world began when they hit puberty, ainna?

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Brian J. Underwhelms Himself On Vacation

You might not have noticed, gentle reader, that I was on vacation last week as I spent a little of my time on the normal twee postings here, albeit at a slightly reduced rate. Which might have left the larcenous corners of the Internet wondering, is he on vacation, leaving Nogglestead in the hands of an armed pet sitter or is he just not feeling it this week? Fortunately, this confusion served its purpose, and Nogglestead’s vast libraries remained unplundered and unburned by Vikings.

For a second year in a row, we called off a trip to Miami because of travel uncertainty and instead booked a week in a resort in De Soto (also sometimes spelled, confusingly on government signage as Desoto even though the man’s name was clearly two words), Missouri. Which is in Jefferson County and not far out of of St. Louis. So, basically, about 20 miles from where I lived in the trailer park and 20 miles from where I lived down the gravel road. When I lived out there, I was unvehicled until after college, so I did not get out to that part of the county except a couple of times for a sleepover with Jimmy T., whose father had moved from the trailer park to a new development outside of Festus. Later, after college, when I lived down the gravel road for another six months, my driving, working, and social life generally took me to St. Louis, not other parts of Jefferson County. So I was only familiar with the area in name only.

Gentle reader, I did not set myself up to have the most enjoyable vacation.

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The Spider-Man Age Check

I have recently devised a methodology to determine one’s age based on the person one thinks of when one thinks of Spider-Man on screen.

Take this simple test for yourself.

Whom do you think of when you picture Spider-Man on screen?

Actor: Nicholas Hammond Tobey Maguire Andrew Garfield Tom Holland
Your age: Okay, Boomer. Or old Generation X Generation X You have revealed yourself to be a Russian deep cover agent through your lack of understanding of American pop culture Millenial

I mean, really, the government would use this test to ferret out dangerous moles if it were competent.

And, c’mon man, we all know there’s only one Mary Jane Watson.

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Movie Report: Hot Tub Time Machine 2

Book coverAll right, all right, all right, now I remember where I got the sense that 21st century comedies were all crass crap: not long after I joined a local video store, I rented a couple of recent comedies, including Ted (which, in reviewing my comments on it, I was already knocking 21st century comedies) and Hot Tub Time Machine which I did not dislike as much as Ted.

In the first Hot Tub Time Machine film from 2010, John Cusack and some of his early middle-aged buddies go back in time to 1986 and hope to take a chance to make some changes for the better–however, Chevy Chase appears and tells them to try not to change anything, as it can have great repercussions in the future–their present. So what happens then is sex and drugs, mostly, and the fellows return to 2010, where some changes have occurred–one of them stayed in the past and became a billionaire based on his knowledge of the future.

This sequel takes place in 2015; One of the now-Cusackless grooup is shot, and they rush him to the hot tub time machine to find his killer. Instead of going to the past, they end up ten years in the future (which is 2025, or three and a half years from now). Where drugs and sex occur as they try to discover who the killer that travels back in time might be. Shockingly, it turns out that sex and drugs lead to the motive. I don’t want to spoil a movie you’ll never see for you, but I don’t want to spend much more time on the mediocre plot.

It doesn’t hold up, the picture of the future that they have from 2015, although perhaps the wide availability of hallucinogens might be presaged by the marijuana shops on every block these days. But all of the humor within the film is pretty base and obvious, and the whole thing lacks the depth that John Cusack brought just by being.

It was widely panned, and deservedly so. And, as I said when I watched Ted, I am back to actioners. And probably old comedies, although I might take a flier on National Lampoon films from the 21st century since the nearly direct-to-video films watched recently pleasantly surprised me.

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Say Its Name

In a story about the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s new dalliances with multi-verse based story lines (‘Loki’ on Disney+ is playing with multiverses — why that’s a slippery slope), the author mentions a DC crossover event that I remember, but it doesn’t mention it by name:

For what it’s worth, the multiverse concept didn’t end well for DC Comics. The storyline got so convoluted that by 1985, the publisher was forced to blow it up and start over.

The crossover series that ended this, as an fool over 40 (and not just those who read Worlds’ Finest Volume 2: Hunt Or Be Hunted) knows, this series was called Crisis on Infinite Earths.

Not being a DC fan, I didn’t follow it; I did have a comic that ended with the hero (Superboy?) getting pulled into a space ship with Harbinger and the big bad behind whatever the crisis was, and another DC comic I had had a special letter from the editor in the DC-wide column with a very somber Supergirl dies in that issue (uh, retrospoiler alert!). Also, I have a cat named Isis, so as you can well imagine I sometimes call her Isis on Infinite Earths.

Now, I’m not going to say the New York Post writer did not know the name of the series. If it’s one thing that the twenty-six-year-olds in the news rooms would know, it’s comic book esoterica. But what I want you to recognize, gentle reader, is that I know.

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The First One Since The First One. Maybe.

The front page headline of the New York Post story is misleading:

After all, some of who are not headline writers are old enough to remember Dennis Tito.

Inside, the story itself is titled Jeff Bezos to fly on Blue Origin’s first crewed spaceflight next month, and the record-breaking claim is a little more measured:

Barring surprises, the trip would make Bezos the first of the billionaire space tycoons to travel to space through their own companies. Elon Musk, founder and CEO of SpaceX, and Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Galactic, have yet to ride with their companies to space.

Which is a much smaller circle, but slightly less click- and snark-worthy.

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(Not Pictured: Kathy Ireland)

The New York Post has runs a story called Over 50 and fab: Nine of the finest OG supermodels are hotter than ever which includes luminaries like Christie Brinkley, Brooke Shields (the first victim in Alice, Sweet Alice which I might own on videocassette as it was one of the first ones my mother purchased when we got our first VCR in our trailer in Murphy, Missouri, in 1985), and, sorry, where was I? Oh, yes, Naomi Campbell, Elle McPherson, and a Helena C-something who was not in Fight Club.

No depicted: Kathy Ireland.

I suspect that she’s not depicted because she’s not actively posting sexy pix on social media sites these days unlike the others in the set who are posting clickbait pictures or posing topless for magazines even now.

Hey, I’m not saying that it’s wrong to either flaunt what you have or to be more reserved. But the list itself contains attractive women over 50 who are actively flaunting it for profit, whereas some take their profits in other things over 50.

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Film Watching: National Lampoon’s Loaded Weapon I (1993)

Book coverAfter watching the National Lampoon double feature (Adam and Eve and Dirty Movie) last week, I thought about watching this movie with my boys. It’s rated PG-13 instead of R, and I didn’t think it had any boobs in it (it doesn’t), so I queued it up.

It’s a send-up of buddy cop action movies, particularly the Lethal Weapon series although it has bits making mock of other contemporaneous films films as well. Emilio Estevez plays the rogue, gun-happy cop; Samuel L. Jackson, playing against type, is the straight-arrow partner Lugar who is getting too old for this stuff. Estevez’s Colt is mourning the disappearance of his K9 partner Claire when he gets assigned to a case where Lugar’s partner is murdered while trying to get microfilm to Lugar. The microfilm contains the recipe for turning cocaine into Wilderness Girls cookies for transit and distribution.

So that’s the story. The film includes appearances by Jon Lovitz as the stool pigeon; William Shatner as General Mortars, the bad guy; Tim Curry as his henchman; and Denis Leary, Phil Hartman, Corey Feldman, Frank McRae, Dr. Joyce Brothers, and Lance Kinsey in small roles. Erik Estrada and Larry Wilcox from CHiPs make cameos, as does Paul Gleason as an FBI agent. Charlie Sheen makes an appearance as a valet, and Jon Lovitz’s character has a meta gag where he says something like “Isn’t it funny that your brother is in Hot Shots! and you’re doing this?”

So a lot of the humor comes from then-contemporaneous (the then- is extraneous with contemporaneous, ainna?) understanding of movies and commercials, but some of the humor is not–enough that my oldest son liked it more than, say, Airplane! or the aforementioned Hot Shots!.

And, as for the judgment of the youngest: Well, when Colt and Kathy Ireland’s Destiny Demeanor (Allyce Beasley plays the same character, the head of the Wilderness Girls organization, before she lets her hair down) do the sharing of scars before lovemaking scene (riffing off a similar scene from Lethal Weapon 3), he declared he didn’t like ugly people because he is still scandalized by kissing in a movie.

What? Kathy Ireland ugly? Let’s review, shall we?

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Brian J. Snorts At The Library Cinemaphile Schedule

So while sitting in the vet’s parking lot yesterday, I had a chance to browse through the Springfield-Greene County Library’s current quarterly newsletter which generally includes a schedule of activities at the various branches. This quarter is pretty thin because semi-governmental and medical and psuedo-medical facilities are the last to give up on the late unpleasantness. Which explains why I was sitting in the parking lot of the vet’s office, killing time.

I guffawed (I am old enough, gentle reader, to be described as gruff instead of just an ass, and I can now guffaw) when I saw the virtual shared film discussions for this quarter.

July’s film is Hell Comes to Frogtown.

Pseudo Rowdy Roddy Piperaste will argue that They Live! is Piper’s masterpiece mainly because that’s the only film they’ve seen him in, but those of us raised on USA Network’s Up All Night in the 1980s know that Hell Comes to Frogtown is truly his pièce de résistance.

In it, Piper plays Sam Hell, who is a wanderer in a post-apocalyptic wasteland whom, the military medical corps discovers is virile–the apocalypse has left much of humanity incapable of bearing children, so the race is on to repopulate and have another go at the war. He gets drafted to impregnate some fertile females, but they’re kidnapped by a mutant warlord in Frogtown, so Sam Hell and two Army women have to go to rescue them.

I watched it once or twice on Up All Night and then I recorded it–so I watched it over and over during my college years. I eventually got it on videocassette, so I got to see that woman who played the psycho in the three part Hunter television series’s boobs–that scene with Rowdy Roddy Piper was cut from the USA Network version.

“Are you going?” my beautiful wife, also in the car in the veterinarian’s parking lot, asked.

Oh, but no.

I mean, what is there to talk about? That it’s a sterling example of the post-apocalyptic genre that we got fed a steady diet of in the 1980s (but not recently, though, even though a major national rival is currently threatening nuclear war with the United States if we don’t let it do whatever it wants). That the videocassette market and the new cable markets made for quite a collection of B, C, and D movies. Kind of like the streaming providers now are churning out, except they’re doing “series” instead which is more of a commitment of time.

Hey, I’ve just gotten used to having time to watch movies in my normal week, so I’m not about to start extending that to entire six- to thirty-hour blocks of time to watch series. Also, I’m skeptical of modern movies and television, and I have many, many fine films to go through in my newly rapidly growing again physical media library.

But Hell Comes To Frogtown? Perhaps I’ll revisit it sometime soon. And the virtual cineaste’s discussion is a month away. If I have nothing else going on that afternoon, maybe I will join the Zoom call.

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Do I Look Like An Amateur?

C’mon, man, I have more than 80 classic Atari games in my Atari drawer now.

As you might recall, gentle reader, I own over 350 Atari cartridges (but not Private Eye), but most of them are duplicates. The collection has not expanded much since I haven’t seen any Atari cartridges in the wild recently except for a couple of very common cartridges at an antique mall marked something like $8 each.

So now you know, gentle reader, why I have accelerated my purchase of physical videocassettes and DVDs at garage sales–because I know that sometime relatively soon, perhaps as little as ten years, you won’t find them in thrift stores or garage sales, and if you’re like me, it will only in retrospect that you notice they’re gone.

Kind of like it was with old computers and game systems–in the 1990s, you could find them with some frequency at garage sales for low prices. Then, when all the attics were empty, they were gone. Mostly into my storage cabinets, probably, but you can find them on eBay at a premium, but where’s the fun in that?

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Sparkly Vampire Fan Fiction Apparently Allowed

In 2004, I mentioned that Bravenet singled out the works of John Norman in its terms of service:

Funny, Frank Herbert, J.R.R. Tolkien, and R.A. Salvatore don’t suffer from the literary persecution John Norman does. Here’s section 8d of BraveNet’s terms of service:

(d) Associate Bravenet and any Products and Services with any adult material of any sort. This includes, but is not limited to, such things as nudity, any site, page, image or service requiring any adult verification service, anything that users to be 18 or older to view or join or access, and any text, image or likeness suggesting sexual and/or inappropriate and/or illegal acts of any sort. Without limiting the foregoing, you may not use the Products and Services to store, use, contain or display pornography, adult novelties, adult toys, XXX material, escort services, Gorean, bondage, BDSM, bigotry, racism, hatred, profanity, or any material which may be insulting to another person(s) or entity;

No Counter-Earth fan pages for you, children.

Well, I see today that Lileks added Bravenet forums to The Bleat, so I went a-looking to see if Gor is still prohibited.


Although it’s now in section 9, so someone has updated the terms in the last seventeen years, although nobody removed the Gorean prohibition. Probably they didn’t know what Gorean meant. Which, to be honest, is probably why few people post Gorean content using Bravenet widgets or services. Not because anyone but me reads these terms and conditions closely.

You can probably find all kinds of Fifty Shades of Grey knock-offs across sites using Bravenet components, though. Because that’s modern stuff and not really dirty like your grandpa might have liked.

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Brian J.’s Recycler Tour’s Biggest Hits

Well, maybe not my biggest hits, but June 2 has historically proven to be particularly good on my Facebook feed. Here are a couple of items from years (decades) past:


I’m starting a band called Meowy Vanilli, and we’re going to do nothing but meow covers of Milli Vanilli songs.
We’re going to be HUGE in Japan.


Brian J. Noggle doesn’t think he can actually explain what he meant when he told his three-year-old, “You’re such a cutie, you deserve a death cab.”

Brian J. Noggle complains, “Life has given me lemonade. What am I supposed to do with that?”

Well, maybe only two years in the past.

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