Author Archives: T.Bonney

2018 -A Film Odyssey

Entering 2018, I wanted to try to post something new, fresh, honest and thought-provoking.

A lot of what I wrote sounded pretentious though. As such, for as much my own personal record as much as the next man, I’m going to try to answer the age old question which regularly bugs me when people ask it, and which I kind of feel I should know.

So here, subject to future editing, is my own personal Top 10 Films of all time

 

 

 

 

 

Note – This is a purely subjective list. It is not based upon artistic quality (as will be evident), it is purely a list of 10 films which matter to me, and which if someone were to ask me, I would attempt to list. As such, and since I can’t put them in order of preference, here they are in alphabetical order.

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Annie Hall (1977)

Director: Woody Allen

Stars: Woody Allen, Diane Keaton, Tony Roberts

IMDB One-line synopsis: Neurotic New York comedian Alvy Singer falls in love with the ditzy Annie Hall.

Why do I love this movie?

Annie Hall is one of Woody Allen’s finest works. A witty, beautiful story of love, loss, aspiration and regret, it is Woody Allen at his prime. It teaches us to love, and it teaches us that none of us are perfect. To me, it helped bring me even further in to Woody’s works (my first & favourite Woody film features later), it helped me to develop a wider grasp of what it is to love. To me, it also captured beautifully the way that we never say/do what we think. That one scene on Annie’s balcony where the two are beating themselves up internally whilst trying to engage in idle chat, it’s such a wonderful reflection of human nature, our insecurities, our vulnerabilities, our… humanity.

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Casablanca (1942)

Director: Michael Curtiz

Stars: Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman, Paul Henreid

IMDB One-line synopsis: In Casablanca in December 1941, a cynical American expatriate encounters a former lover, with unforeseen complications.

Personal Review: https://thenorthernmonkee.com/2013/04/21/casablanca/ (Written 2003)

Why do I love this movie?

It’s Casablanca! Seriously. The film is now over 70 years old, but it remains a classic. It regularly features amongst Top Rated Movie lists (36th on IMDB feels a bit insulting), it regularly gets cited by Directors, Writers & Actors alike as an inspiration. It’s just a magnificent, magnificent movie. The love, the sacrifice, the redemption story. From start to finish, it is a movie which lasts forever. Simple.

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Fever Pitch (1997)

Director: David Evans

Stars: Colin Firth, Ruth Gemmell, Mark Strong

IMDB One-line synopsis: A sports fan’s romantic courtship clashes with his obsession with his favorite football team.

Why do I love this movie?

Appropriately’s The Who’s “Baba O’Riley” just rocked up on my stereo as I began to write this. Fever Pitch, with a truly, truly wonderful soundtrack (The Who, The La’s, Van Morrison and more) was a football fan’s dream. It captures the beauty behind sport. It captures why we fall in love with sports teams, it captures why we belong to that club, it captures why we “belong”. It’s just a shame that it’s about Arsenal… 😉

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Garden State (2004)

Director: Zach Braff

Stars: Zach Braff, Natalie Portman, Peter Sarsgaard

IMDB One-line synopsis: A quietly troubled young man returns home for his mother’s funeral after being estranged from his family for a decade.

Why do I love this movie?

Talking of soundtracks… If you’ve seen Scrubs, you know that if Zach Braff is good at one thing, it is how to come up with a phenomenal soundtrack. Garden State is the pinnacle of this. Nick Drake, Simon & Garfunkel, The Shins, again the list goes on. Braff has a perfect ear for music. He knows what works where, what works when. In what is effectively a sweet story where not a huge amount happens, he punctuates the mood with pristine musical accompaniment, and he seems to do it effortlessly. The moment that Braff’s character (like most of us) discovers the Shins for the first time, as Portman smiles at him adorably, you’re there, you’re in the movie, you’re falling for Portman. It is just a perfect, perfect moment.

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Gladiator (2000)

Director: Ridley Scott

Stars: Russell Crowe, Joaquin Phoenix, Connie Nielsen

IMDB One-line synopsis: When a Roman General is betrayed, and his family murdered by an emperor’s corrupt son, he comes to Rome as a gladiator to seek revenge.

Why do I love this movie?

It’s basically my generation’s Ben -Hur. It’s a historical epic with stunning fight scenes, intrigue, betrayal, murder and more. It’s possibly the easiest film to watch ever. I’ve seen it so many times, and I never get tired of it. Easy TV, on an empire sized scale.

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The Lion King (1994)

Directors: Roger Allers, Rob Minkoff

Stars: Matthew Broderick, Jeremy Irons, James Earl Jones

IMDB One-line synopsis: Lion cub and future king Simba searches for his identity. His eagerness to please others and penchant for testing his boundaries sometimes gets him into trouble.

Why do I love this movie?

Everyone should have a favourite Disney movie. It’s just a necessity of life really. For me, the adventures of Simba are fun, exciting, heart-breaking, scary and ultimately redemptive in so many ways. It also has some of the best music of any Disney movie ever. The stage show is pretty epic too.

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Singin’ in the Rain (1952)

Directors: Stanley Donen, Gene Kelly

Stars: Gene Kelly, Donald O’Connor, Debbie Reynolds

IMDB One-line synopsis: A silent film production company and cast make a difficult transition to sound.

Why do I love this movie?

To me, Singin’ in the Rain is the closest that anyone has got to cinematic perfection. If not for the brief Gene Kelly ego-trip cut-away (“Gotta Dance”), we’re looking at 10/10 on all levels. The songs are memorable & intoxicating, the cast faultless, the little easter eggs (here’s one: Jean Hagen was actually a great singer & Debbie Reynolds was the mime artist) numerous. It’s a heart-warming story which drags you in and keeps you watching throughout. There’s also far, far, far too many in-jokes within my family about this film. No, no, no. Yes, yes, yes. A masterpiece.

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Sleeper (1973)

Director: Woody Allen

Stars: Woody Allen, Diane Keaton, John Beck

IMDB One-line synopsis: A nerdish store owner is revived out of cryostasis into a future world to fight an oppressive government.

Why do I love this movie?

Well it certainly isn’t faultless. It’s not Woody’s greatest work, but it doesn’t have to be. This is the film that introduced me to the genius of Woody Allen. It is a wonderful tribute to Buster Keaton, cross-referenced with dystopian horrors and witty one-liners. Parts of it still make me chuckle to myself, even when I haven’t seen it for months. It is regularly one of the first films on this list when people ask me “that” question, and it has to be here now.

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When Harry Met Sally (1989)

Director: Woody Allen

Stars: Billy Crystal, Meg Ryan, the late, great Carrie Fisher

IMDB One-line synopsis: Harry and Sally have known each other for years, and are very good friends, but they fear sex would ruin the friendship.

Personal Review: https://thenorthernmonkee.com/2012/10/24/when-harry-met-sally/ (Written 2003)

Why do I love this movie?

I’m a romantic at heart. I’m a believer that out there is someone for each of us. I’m also a believer that in his day, Billy Crystal was actually funny…

Joking aside, When Harry Met Sally is that romance that hits a nerve every time. It’s just… yeah. Difficult to explain really…

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Young Frankenstein (1974)

Director: Mel Brooks

Stars: Gene Wilder, Peter Boyle, Marty Feldman

IMDB One-line synopsis: A young neurosurgeon (Gene Wilder) inherits the castle of his grandfather, the famous Dr. Victor von Frankenstein.

Why do I love this movie?

Just like Woody Allen, Mel Brooks has been a part of my movie watching life for longer than I can remember. Whether Spaceballs, Blazing Saddles or this beauty of a movie, he has been in my life from a young age. I still remember this movie starting on New Years Eve many decades ago, watching five minutes in the living room, being scared when the coffin opens and putting in a VHS to record it. We still own said VHS tape… Anyway, Brooks is a comedy God. His satirical knowledge of genres is faultless. He just IS Mel Brooks. And despite being over 90, he still hasn’t lost it. The theatrical version of this masterpiece is now showing in London’s West End. It might even better than the movie, if that is possible. I love this film. Might watch it again tonight…

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Anyway, that’s the 10 done (until I no doubt change them in a few weeks.

Finally though, here’s a brief list of films I nearly included but had to miss out…

Blazing Saddles, Monty Python & the Holy Grail, The Producers, Reservoir Dogs, Shrek, Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, The Third Man

Right then, now to do something meaningful with 2018. Might go to the pub.

 

 

 

 

 

The 50s store…

He walked in to the blue signed bookshop. The floor mat a stripped lined blue & green monstrosity from the 1950s, but that was the bizarre introduction to this magical world of words & creativity.

The inside, filled with orange pine shelf after shelf of literary history from all walks of life shone like a forest in the early morning light. The wooden floor reflecting the artificial light creating a cosy yet well lit experience.

Behind the counter sat the owner. Her long brown hair and yellow flower covered green dress betrayed her age. A visage of the psychedelic 60s, her skin & features portrayed an age of less than 30.

She was busy, talking to two friends or would be customers. The pair in equally bright and vivid outfits stood around the book packed counter and chatted to the owner.

He paid no attention to their conversation, although would later imagine it involved the previous wild weekend of wine and drugs. For now his mind was purely on the location of the other 20 or so as yet unknown individuals that Phil had invited to the poetic reading.

Pines

There must’ve been 50 pines on that cactus.

He didn’t count.

The lines attached to the blurred drawing were insurmountable in quality and quantity.
The picture absorbed his mind. The indistinguishable background noise was difficult to focus on.

“It’s bullshit.”

“Mankind needs to plant that tree.”

“Oh, oh, oh, we got animals. And we spent 50 grand.”

The cactus stood still. As did everything on the paper.

He blinked. The picture faded from eye sight as he returned the real world.

The three of them sat round the table. A dull blue shade, made of wood, against the wall. He faced the painting, his companions either side, intently discussing the futility of society.

In the background, Patsy Cline sang of men in courtrooms & the morality of romantic existence.

The world went on. The smoke blew under his nose. The rolled tobacco doing the rounds. That beautiful, burning odour. The heat. The strong odour of charcoal. That intoxicating aroma. People have been hooked for centuries. It’s hardly a surprise.

Life was good.

La La Land

la-la-land-ryan-gosling-emma-stone-1La La Land (2016) – Originally written January 2017

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

La La Land, is a strange movie. There, I’ve said it.

It seems to leave the viewer with a somewhat split attitude, and will leave you pondering long after you’ve seen it.

It’s been a long time since I’ve seen a movie which has inspired me to write any sort of feedback, but La La Land has done just that…

Depending on which review you read on IMDB, you’ll either find a 10/10 which tells you that it is a musical masterpiece, hankering back to the old cinematic masterpieces of Kelly, Astaire and co, or you’ll read a 1/10 which criticizes each and every little detail of the movie.

Let’s be honest, neither review is of help.

La La Land is a good movie. It has some great tunes, and for large parts leaves you inspired. There’s no denying you’ll come out of it feeling a bit of an urge to jump on top of the nearest car and dance.

However… it is not the masterpiece that is so widely reported.

There are times when both Gosling and Stone characters are infuriating, mildly pretentious and really rather whinny. Neither actor is perfectly cast, but simultaneously it is impossible not to be impressed by the fact that they’ve obviously trained hard at singing, dancing and (for Gosling) the piano.

It’s a strange film. It really is.

I want to love it. I want to come out singing the praises and looking back at it with the fondness of old school movies, or even the more recent Artist. However, I can’t. Something feels wrong about it. The cinematography is a bit off, the tunes don’t always catch you, the story-line isn’t always clear. It almost feels like the film tries too hard to be good. It knows there is potential, but it tries to force this ability, and subsequently lets itself down.

I enjoyed the Jazz, and there are scenes I look back on fondly. I want to watch it a second time, to give myself a greater understanding of it, but simultaneously I’ve not come out of the cinema and thought “I need to see that again.” This is a bad sign.

You’ll read a lot of praise for this film, you’ll read a lot of criticism. You’ll also read reviews a lot more detailed and knowledgeable than this one. I guess what I’m saying is that the film is not as good, or as bad as anyone says.

It’s a film you should see. You’ll need to make your mind up. Does it deserve the Oscars? Personally I don’t think so. Will it win them? Probably.

Give it a go, but go in with an open mind. The critics can’t help you with this one.

A Poet & he knows it…

After a prolonged absence, I could talk about life, I could update the events of 2016, I could discuss the ever collapsing political world, however I won’t. Instead, here’s a poem about assholes.

A fistful of assholes, by Mark Waddell

She’d woken up that morning

To find 

she was 

the 

proud owner

Of a fistful of assholes.
She could not remember 

where she had found them

Nor could she open her hand

To have a proper look.
Assholes were not attractive to her

But she knew they were there

Inside her clenched fingers.
She could feel them against her skin

Slippery

Pouting

Throbbing
She estimated there to be three assholes

Puckered

And alive
She was a mess now

And badly needed rid of them

Knowing them to be no good.
Running towards the lake

She stopped

And tried to force her fingers open

But the assholes

Struggled

Squirmed

And started

Making grunting noises

As her fist refused to budge.
She took an axe left by the woodcutter

And chopped her hand off

In one neat movement

Throwing it

Like a twisted Excalibur

In to the blue depths.
Three centuries later

An expedition from the Federation

Stumbled across the lake

Where a fistful of assholes

Rose slowly to the surface of the water.
As legend had it

Whoever has the strength

To prise open the hand

Would rule the world

Along

With

All

The other assholes.

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Mark is a 50 year old poet who has lived in Hull, Glasgow & God knows where else over the years.

Now based in Kentish Town, he is my landlord, flatmate & friend. Like a poetic Buckowski, his gonzo attitude is both crazy and brilliant.

His debut book, “On the Cusp of Greatness” is available now in the Amazon Store and I cannot recommend it highly enough.

Check it out today.

More to come from me soon. It’s good to be back.

Chat Show Charlie – A Tribute (of sorts)

_83439593_83439592“Liberalism is a political philosophy or worldview founded on ideas of liberty and equality. The former principle is stressed in classical liberalism while the latter is more evident in social liberalism.”

Formed in 1988 as a merger of the Liberal Party and the Social Democratic Party (SDP), the Liberal Democrats have been (for as long as I can remember) a key party in UK Politics focused primarily on the concept of personal freedoms and social equality and balance.

In my politically aware life, Lord Ashdown was the first leader, Nick Clegg the most recent. In the middle we’ve had Ming Campbell and Mr Charles “ChatShow Charlie” Kennedy. Charles Kennedy passed away on Tuesday, at the age of 55.

Charlie Kennedy was by all accounts an extra-ordinary man. Witty and charming, people felt drawn to him. Whether it was arguing about politics, or just simply spending time with him, he seems to have been well liked across the entire political mainstream.

As Liberal leader, he led us to our then greatest Parliamentary representation, bringing in more MPs to the House of Commons than ever before.

Always the way though, Charlie had his demons. Noticeable towards the end of his time as Leader, it became clear Charlie had problems with alcohol.

I discovered last night that in this country today, 1 in 10 men have problems with alcohol whilst 1 in 20 women suffer. This is a remarkable stat (and I’d be intrigued to know where the lady on QuestionTime got it), but it means Charlie was far from alone.

Despite being popular and claiming to be successfully treated for the addiction, Charlie would eventually lose his seat in May this year. After 32 years as an MP (having won his seat aged only 23), as well as losing his father earlier this year, it all seems to have got to him.

On Tuesday morning, Charlie was found by a close friend, slumped dead in a chair at his home (he lived alone after divorcing his wife in recent years, their 10 year old son living with her). After false rumours of suicide and all manner of explanation, we now know that he died of a haemorrhage linked to his alcoholism.

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Since his demise, there’s been a lot of talk about what Charlie’s legacy would be. A Liberal inspiration, further evidence that those with problems need a greater support network, much, much more.

Personally, a friend of mine, following the news today about the cause of death, even asked me if losing a hero to alcoholism has made me rethink my drinking habits.

On reflection, no I don’t think it will.

Charlie was a great, albeit apparently troubled, man, but if anything, his demise should teach us 4 key things.

Moderation – Slightly cancelling out my earlier statement, Charlie has taught us that when possible, everything should be enjoyed in moderation. Towards the end, he had little control over the alcohol, but if we aren’t hooked, we should learn to pace ourselves and learn to savour rather than engulf.

Achievements/Goals – Like Charlie, I think I’ve probably under-achieved in life. Charlie could’ve been a leader of the opposition, maybe even a Prime Minister. Sadly his career was blighted by the bottle. It could be argued that I’ve suffered similar, albeit lower scale, limitations in life. I’ve had opportunities in life to grow myself, to achieve greater than I have. More often than not, I’ve backed away. Whether confidence or alcohol based, I’ve not lived up to my potential so far. Today is the start of something new.

The Struggle – Charlie had his problems. In a modern, faster paced world, we all seem to have them. Whether it is an addiction or an illness, people need help. Charlie didn’t get that it seems, or at least he more likely rejected it. What we need to realise is that when we’re in trouble, people are there to help us. We should never be afraid to accept that.

Happy – Finally, I think Charlie also showed us the one simple truth. The fact that in life, it IS possible to be a nice and caring person, yet not finish last.

Whatever his legacy, it is safe to say that Charles “ChatShow Charlie” Kennedy will be missed.

Rest in Peace Charlie.

Answering a Key Question in Life…

Amusingly, this weekend proved enlightening when a celebrity from the past helped solve one of THE biggest questions in my life.

First though, a memory…

I can still remember 1987. Sitting in my Grandparents living room. The green sofa and chairs dotted around the room, the electric fire in the centre of the room, turned off as the sun’s rays beamed through the lace curtains.

I’d arrived with the parents for a visit. Talking, the subject had come up about the relaunch of a TV phenomenon. With a whole new cast, set in a whole new time, this show would become implanted in my brain, still sitting there 28 years later. This show was the latest incarnation of one of the greatest brands of all time. This brand was Star Trek, and the show was The Next Generation.

I remember lying on their carpet, flicking through the latest RadioTimes, reading about the cast and crew (well, mainly looking at the photos). I remember seeing Pat Stewart’s bald head for the first time, I remember seeing Klingon Officer Worf (a character without real role/purpose until becoming Head of Security later in season 1) and thinking “this show has aliens”. I remember much more.

Sitting on the floor, resting my back against my Gran’s chair, I settled in with the family as the show began. Stewart walking through the ship, his opening monologue, eventually ending up on bridge with Denise Crosby’s Tasha Yar (I also remember the episode where she died, but that’s another story). The story would progress, I’d hear the theme tune for the first time and fall instantly in love. I remember thinking Troi was a wet excuse for a character (still true), I remember hating Wesley Crusher (he’s grown on me a little over the years, but the series was still better without him), I remember the early friendship between Riker & La Forge, I remember it like it was yesterday.

I also remember Wesley Crusher’s mother. The magnificent Gates McFadden.

I was young at the time, and let’s be honest, none of us can remember when certain things kick in during our lives. All I know is that all these years later, I still can’t see a Redhead without her catching my attention. It’s weird, like a strange addiction.

Fast forward now to May 2015 and 4am in the morning. I’ve been for a few beers with friends. Sitting at home, I’d decided to continue working through a SkyBox filled with the adventures of the Crew of the USS Enterprise NCC1701-D, I found myself compelled to post a solitary tweet.

This would’ve been the end of it. I thought it jokey. Perhaps it was the good Doctor’s fault all along. The following day’s response was wonderful however…

 

Star Trek has had a massive effect on me over the years. Many life lessons, memories, you name it. Has it left a psychological imprint on my mind regarding women too? I honestly don’t know. What I do know though is that when Twitter works, it works so, so well.

Gates, whether you are at fault for this or not, I do not know. A legend you are though, and for that, thank you.

WordPress, their fancy little Reports and an Optimistic 2015.

Father TimeIt’s been a funny ol’ year. I don’t think there’s little point denying that one.

A year of transition with few high points and many low, 2014 can (to coin an East London phrase) “do one” now.

Actually, that’s a bit harsh.

2014 had some great times. In no particular order, these included:

  • Multiple Trophy winning team performances at One Day TagRugby competitions.
  • The Tag Christmas Party when “Tag Me Up and Down” walked away with the Most Improved Team award (and yours truly finished second in the Organiser of the Year award by 8 votes).
  • Watching the Dallas Cowboys win at Wembley
  • Joining a new 3rd TagRugby team & being the “newbie” again.
  • Multiple visits to the Twickenham Stoop
  • An amazing week in March, including two trips to Paris in quick succession (& a LOT of walking)
  • Leaving a company after almost 6 years, accutely aware that I’d made a difference. The minature rugby ball, heavily signed, remains in pride of place at home.
  • The days out with Autistic Students for a small charity, helping them to develop their interpersonal skills.
  • Convincing a friend to start her own food blog, and watching from a far (long story) as it has grown and developed and become Award Nominated. Meals with Mel is available here for those that’re interested.
  • Knocking out websites for family and friends.

There was more I’m sure, but those are the ones that remain in the mind.

By contrast to the highs, 2014 was also a year of stress, and a constant feeling of unworth and purposeless.

Unemployment, it turns out, is one of the most depressing experiences that I’ve personally known in the past 32 years of life on this planet. I don’t recommend it.

From redundancy to full time work, time lasted seven months. Out of those, four were spent feeling sorry for myself and feeling like life had no purpose.

In fact, it goes without saying that what kept me sane over the months was good ol’ Tag Rugby and managing 3 teams at a time. This regular organisation and focus on team news. It served a purpose nicely.

Having said all of this, as of 5pm on December 30th, there were no personal tragedies during the year. No close deaths, no major financial or physical issues. It was just one of “those” years.

Looking towards 2015, there’s renewed optimism. Back in work in an enjoyable job, Tag returns on January 5th after a month’s break. Purpose is restored. Harlequins are beginning to play well again, the Dallas Cowboys have made it to the Play-Offs in style. Hell, even Manchester United are playing well. Miracles DO happen after all.

So here’s to 2015, here’s to a better year. Here’s to more creativity (apologies if this rare post has been below usual standard. I’ve been somewhat out of practice). Here’s to more “Events” (already to mind there’s the big Duggen/Dennis wedding in March). Here’s to more sporting victories. Here’s to a prosperous New Year.

So to finish off, and since it probably needs mentioning since it was in the title, the WordPress.com stats team prepared a 2014 annual report for everyones’ WordPress sites. Here’s mine…

Happy New Year everyone!

Click here to see the complete report.

That 1st Ever Tweet – July 2009

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Food, Glorious Food

The sound of the city was deafening.

As cars of various shapes and sizes zoomed past along the narrow road, builders drilled in unison on top of a rejuvenated building. The faint wind blew gently against the white sheets labelled “Bennett’s Builders & Manufacturers” & the blazing sun’s light reflected back, dazzling anyone who dared to stare for too long.

Across the road, he sat. The base of an old fountain his rest, he felt the smooth marble’s chill through his shirt and down his spine.

A sink, probably used by many a late night drunk, hung to the right of his head. In the heat of the day, he didn’t care.

He opened the white carrier bag in front of him & pulled out a puffed up bundle of white paper. Gently unwrapping it, away from his legs afraid of leaks, he found a chibatta, neatly cut in half, resting inside.

The sandwich had been toasted with salad & mayo added later. No tomato at his request, but the cucumber tasted good.

He relaxed & raising a half of the sandwich to his lips, he took a bite. The contents filled his mouth with sensation and as he chewed, he smiled to himself. He looked to his right at the continental cafe, half deserted with orange cover & owner glumly flicking through his paper.

Shortly a coffee would be in order, but for now, he was going to enjoy his sandwich.

“Mmmm, chicken.”

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